This guide will help you get a strong start and assemble the cheapest most powerful (cost efficient) team.
Best and Cost Efficient Mercs
First, create a custom character using the ingame website. Skip the quiz and just go straight to stat distribution. Make sure Wisdom, Leadership, Marksmanship, Agility, and Dexterity are set to highest value possible, Medicine, Mechanical, Explosive set to 0. The rest of the points go towards Health (more useful for combat) or Strength (more carry slot). Make sure to give all leadership and marksmanship stat books to your custom merc later.
Not creating custom character will make the game much more difficult because you don’t get a free character (custom merc doesn’t need to be paid), and also deprive you of a good leadership person, there is no cheap very high leadership stat recruit in the game.
After you’re done with this, it’s time to recruit mercs. The most important stats for combat in this game are Agility, Dexterity, and Marksmanship. Don’t bother with expensive mercs, they are not worth the cost especially early game. Who you should recruit:
- Fox. The best most cost efficient merc. Covers medic slot, but most importantly, has a very powerful talent. Great as stealth sniper that you control at the beginning of the map to thin down enemy, basically gets like 2 free open shot with her talent.
- Barry. The other best most cost efficient merc. Strong talent, he is your explosive guy in the team. Good all around stats. He can use handgun and explosives. Good candidate for shotgun user.
- Now we need a mechanic. There is 3 candidate, Livewire, Steroid, and Kalyna. Fox doesn’t like Steroid, so might as well go for Livewire who has the highest stat. Steroid is a good carry mule though. Kalyna might be a decent shooter in the start (she needs to train dex, not efficient because everyone else in the team will be training in marksmanship) but her all around stat sucked and her mec is much lower so no reason to not just go Livewire and efficiently train together in marksmanship with the rest of the team.
- Mouse. Quite useless talent but godlike agi and dex. Also cheap salary. Train her in marksmanship and she becomes overpowered also as stealth sniper. Her high agi will allow her to shoot twice with like winchester and kill 2 enemies in one turn. If she doesn’t want to work with Fox, just hire Blood or Igor instead (or other cheap merc with good agi and dex).
This should be all you need for first island. For the sixth slot I recommend Wolf, he and Fox likes each other, and he has high strength for strength check (and able to carry lots of stuff), and talent that makes your operation faster and thus save time. Only get him once you secure the north most mine.
How to Progress
First just clear the starting island. It’s basically a tutorial island, explore all sector and do all the side quests, you can do this with 4 or 5 units, actually doesn’t matter because the mercs I told you to recruit are cheap, just make sure to only hire them only on 14 days period for discount.
Don’t bother with revolver, it’s better to use its ammo for Winchester later (you can get 2 soon after you finish the main island. 9mm pistol ammo and 7.62 WP ammo seem to be the most plentiful from enemy loot, don’t waste too much of the NATO ammo with assault rifle (at least wait until you get the modded 4 bullet burst fire assault rifle), using them on sniper rifle is fine however. Feel free to waste as much as explosives, shotgun shells, etc as you need on the first island, later on the need of explosive goes down a lot once you have lots of good sniper rifles.
Don’t bother training just yet at this point, just rush clear first island and after you’re done, head to the north most port that is beside a diamond mine. Why north? This mine will give good income, like 7k, instead of the 3k income that the mine to the right give, and also going north will give you quick access to many good sniper rifles, you can get 2 m24 (and some chips for mod, mod 1 of these with thermal scope, 2 Winchester (1 from Flay who you can recruit in the top area), and a Dragunov (comes with the OP thermal scope) for sale (for some reason my shop refresh after taking the bounty hunter quest from Pentagruel, not sure if that’s intended so now I have 2). Mod those with things that increase accuracy basically, and silencers. Abuse stealth with Fox to thin down enemies before combat.
After you capture the north port, capture the mine, this will be the hardest battle so far yet so just use all your resources it doesn’t matter. If you have difficulty capturing this mine, feel free to hire an additional merc so you have a full party at this port (you can train marksmanship while waiting for the new merc to arrive on this port). After you get this mine you will have positive income so at this point you should hire the 6th merc of your choice. You can take Wolf, or alternatively stop using Livewire (or whoever mechanic you hired) and replace her with Vicki who is a much better mechanic with a very powerful talent useful for combat.
Either way after getting your final full party, camp here and spam training leadership with your custom merc as teacher and everyone else as student. Do this until at least 1 other person can no longer be trained by your leader, by this point, you have already assembled an elite team, and soon, with all the nearby good obtainable sniper rifles, nothing can pose a challenge anymore. While training, it is possible that enemy outpost launch a strike team to Ernie island, there’s ways to combat this. One way is to save scum until the raid team choose the north mine as its target, the other way is to recruit Kalyna at Ernie island and keep training militias there until she can’t anymore, even with just her defending here, this place should be impossible for the opponent due to the machine gun emplacement and 8 veteran militias.
Feel free to progress wherever you want, I recommend making a beeline towards the south to capture the outpost so it doesn’t spawn raid party and capture the other mine there, then clear this area.
By this point you might think the game is too easy and difficulty is nonexistent. If so, restart the game, do not hire custom merc, and forbid yourself from hiring Fox, Barry, Mouse, and/or do not ever use “hidden/stealth” command ever again. Also, make sure to never use train merc command ever.