The life of a runner can be a short one, and it always pays to know who has your back in the shadows. Shadowrun Hong Kong’s companions are among the most developed in the whole series, in mechanics as much as personality. In our Shadowrun Hong Kong companion guide, we’ll walk you through specializations for Gobbet, Is0bel, and Duncan, and help you weigh up which choice to make at each upgrade tier.
Shadowrun Hong Kong: Gobbet
Gobbet is always on hand with a cautionary tale of a run gone wrong, but your resident Rat Shaman’s magic can be as destructive as her stories are instructive. Boasting skills in spellcasting and conjuring alike, Gobbet can fit a wide number of niches in combat.
Gobbet’s first upgrade path – Territoriality – allows you to build her up as an active spellcaster, focusing on damage, HP removal, area control, and buffing. Alternatively, you can focus more on Gobbet’s spirit summoning abilities by taking the Spiritualist path, increasing the power and reliability of her summoned spirits, and giving her powerful tools to instantly take enemy spirits off the board.
Gobbet’s first Territoriality skill is Ranged Combat, and her first Spiritualist skill is Spirit Control.
- Ranged Combat grants Gobbet an extra point in her Ranged Combat and SMG skills. This further increases her accuracy and damage potential when wielding her chosen firearm.
- Spirit Control makes it so that – no matter how many AP you give them – Gobbet’s spirit summons have a 0% chance of escaping in the first two turns they are summoned.
There’s a clear winner when choosing between these two skills, and it isn’t even close. Companion characters will never hit the highest end of their key stats, so the additional points that Ranged Combat offers are nice, but the issue is that Gobbet is simply more effective as a caster than as a Raged Combatant, whether you take this skill or not.
You should only really be using Gobbet’s SMG if no other options are available, or if you really need an enemy finished off and her offensive spells are on cooldown. Spirit Control provides an incredibly useful boost to Gobbet’s summons, allowing you to load them up with AP on their first two turns without fear of them breaking out of your control.
Best pick: Spirit Control
Gobbet’s Tier 2 skills both revolve around dealing with enemy spirits.
- Territoriality: Destroy Spirits gives Gobbet a new skill that allows her to instantly kill a hostile spirit.
- Spiritualist: Steal Spirit lets Gobbet Hijack enemy spirits and control them, with the further ability to control two spirits at once when her Spirit Control stat reaches rank 5.
While the choice between these skills isn’t as clear-cut as Tier 1, Destroy Spirit tends to be more broadly useful. While stealing control of an enemy spirit can potentially turn the tide of battle, it’s often more beneficial to simply get rid of them altogether, especially since Destroy Spirit has a relatively short cooldown.
Best pick: Destroy Spirit
- Territoriality grants Augment Spell: Poison Fog at tier 3.
- Spirituality grants Shrine Spirits.
The Territoriality improves Gobbet’s Poison Fog spell by turning it into Acidic Fog, which reduces enemy AP on contact as well as dealing damage. Shrine Spirits allows the spirits that Gobbet summon to stay in battle for an extra turn, improving their longevity.
It’s another clear winner at this tier. Having spirits around for one more turn is a nice benefit, but Acidic Fog’s AP damage is simply too useful to pass up.
Best Pick: Augment Spell: Poison Fog
- Plague barrier is Gobbet’s tier 4 Territoriality improvement
- Spirit Control grants Devil Rat Spirit Fetish.
Plague Barrier adds a whole new spell to Gobbet’s toolkit, which creates a heavy cover barrier that deals damage and reduces AP. Devil Rat Spirit Fetish adds an item to Gobbet’s inventory that allows her to summon a Devil Rat Spirit on each mission.
This is the first tier that can prove to be a tough decision. Both upgrades can be incredibly useful, and your choice really comes down to whether you’d rather go for instant gratification or play the long game.
The Devil Rat spirit can be very useful when it first unlocks but slowly becomes less integral the closer you get to the endgame. Plague Barrier can be tricky to make the best use of, but can be devastating to an enemy team when cast in the right spot, and its usefulness never wanes.
Best Pick: Plague Barrier
- Territoriality brings Augment Spell: Haste at tier 4, improving Gobbet’s already powerful Haste spell.
- Spirit Control gives Gobbet a brand-new ability at this level – Consume Spirit. This ability destroys a hostile spirit, healing Gobbet and granting her 1 bonus AP for two turns.
If you thought tough decisions were here to stay at the higher tiers, you’d be wrong. Your Tier 2 choice is all you need to deal with enemy spirits, making Consume Spirits an extraneous pick.
Augment Spell: Haste grants Gobbet an upgrade to what is already the most broadly useful spell Shadowrun Hong Kong has to offer. Consume Spirits relies on the presence of Spirits to be effective, but Haste can, and should, always be cast in any Shadowrun Hong Kong combat encounter.
Best Pick: Augment Spell: Haste
Shadowrun Hong Kong: Is0bel
If there’s one thing The Shadowrun Trilogy teaches you early on, it’s that you should have a Decker with you whenever possible. And in Shadowrun Hong Kong, Is0bel fills that niche with style. Almost any run becomes easier with Is0bel on hand to deck into cyberspace and mess with enemy systems.
Thankfully, Is0bel isn’t only a whizz in the matrix, her combat skills in meatspace are no slouch either.
Her first upgrade path is Sabotage, improving her combat abilities through upgrading her tools and imbuing them with debuffing properties. Stuns, armor reduction, and damage-over-time are all unlocked through this path.
Is0bel’s other upgrade path is Espionage, primarily improving her decking skills. Program upgrades and cyberspace buffs are the benefits of this path, as well as a reduction in the harmful effects of taking real-world damage while decking.
Is0bel’s first upgrade tier provides:
- Augment Weapon: Mini-Launcher from the Sabotage path.
- Tar Blaster from Espionage.
Mini-Launcher customizes Is0bel’s grenade launcher and allows it to place remote proximity mines, which can also be triggered manually. Tar Blaster augments Is0bel’s Blaster program; it now forces enemies to stay in one place on a successful hit.
The Mini-Launcher can make for an effective area-denial tool, but in most situations, it’s simply more useful to hit an enemy with the launcher’s main mode of fire, instead of waiting until their turn and hoping they detonate the mine before getting a shot off on you. On harder difficulties, enemy programs in the matrix can be lethal, and preventing them from swarming you while you pick them off is a very handy ability.
Best Pick: Tar Blaster
- Is0bel is granted Steady Shot from Sabotage at tier 2.
- Espionage comes with Augment Ability: Mark Target.
Steady Shot is a skill that adds 30% to a single shot from Is0bel’s pistol, whereas Mark Target augments the skill of the same name to reduce enemy armor by 1 when used.
Steady Shot is useful when you really need to hit a specific enemy, potentially to finish them off. But Mark Target is useful in almost any situation, and armor reduction is an incredible boost to Is0bel’s late-game combat utility.
Best Pick: Mark Target
- Is0bel’s Tier 3 comes with a second Augment Weapon: Mini-Launcher for Sabotage.
- Boost program for Espionage.
This time around, the grenade launcher will be updated to ignite enemies and inflict 6 further damage. The Boost program increases Is0bel’s speed in the matrix by 40% when used.
The additional damage for the mini-launcher helps Is0bel keep up with your other runners in terms of damage input, turning her into an area-igniting menace. And while increased matrix movement speed is handy, especially for later infiltrations, this upgrade is rendered worthless because you can buy a boost program for Isobel and loan it to her instead, allowing her to effectively receive both upgrades from this tier if you take Augment Weapon: Mini-Launcher.
Best Pick: Augment Weapon: Mini-Launcher
Both of Is0bel’s tier 4 upgrades allow you to modify the dwarven decker with cyberware.
- Sabotage provides the BrightLight system, which is installed in her cybereye and allows you to blind a single enemy for 2 turns.
- Espionage lets you install a JoltAlert system, which brings Is0bel back to 1AP whenever she loses enough AP to become stunned.
The BrightLight system inflicting blindness is useful for sure, but the hefty 6-turn cooldown takes away from what would otherwise be a fantastic ability. JoltAlert is one of Shadowrun: Hong Kong’s most useful cyberware upgrades, and being able to install it on an ally is fantastic. While it may not come into play as often as the BrightLight system could, you’ll be incredibly glad you chose it whenever it activates.
Best Pick: JoltAltert System.
- Isobel’s final Sabotage upgrade is one last Augment Weapon: Mini-Launcher. Its grenades now remove 1 point of enemy armor every time they deal damage.
- Her Espionage ability at this tier is Pain Suppression, which reduces incoming meatspace damage to Is0bel by 3 per hit whenever she’s connected to the matrix.
Is0bel often only takes serious damage while decking if you leave her undefended, and in those cases, a damage reduction of 3 per hit is negligible. Consistent armor reduction with every shot is simply too good to pass up. It has the potential to make or break fights with heavily-armored foes in the late game.
Shadowrun Hong Kong: Duncan
Your fellow adoptee from the Barrens, Duncan Wu has come a long way from the angry street kid your runner once called brother. Duncan joined Lone Star in an attempt to learn control and boundaries, giving him impressive resilience and lethal firearm skills.
Duncan’s first upgrade path is Lethal Force, upgrading his already impressive combat skills through reducing foes’ armor, increasing accuracy, and adding several new tools to his equipment.
His second path is Crowd Control and focuses more heavily on AP reduction than outright damage. This allows Duncan to swing the action economy in your squad’s favor, removing enemies’ ability to act for a turn or more, letting his allies move in for the kill.
- Duncan’s First Lethal Force upgrade is the Firepower Round, an assault rifle ability that deals 2 extra damage and bypasses up to 2 armor.
- Crowd Control grants the Underslung Beanbag ability at this tier, which deals 2 points of AP damage and has a short, 2-turn cooldown.
Firepower Round isn’t a bad choice if your team composition doesn’t include many other methods of reducing enemy armor. Armor becomes much more prevalent – and much trickier to deal with – in the late game. Some form of armor bypass or reduction is a must. But other squadmates have much more effective methods of dealing with armor, and Duncan isn’t exactly lacking for offensive options given that he specializes in Rifles, arguably Shadowrun Hong Kong’s best weapon type.
Underslung Beanbag offers an early-game option for disabling foes for a turn, and, thanks to its short cooldown, stays relevant throughout the whole main campaign.
Best Pick: Underslung Beanbag
- Mercy Kill is Duncan’s Tier 2 Lethal Force ability.
- Subdue is granted by Crowd Control.
Mercy Kill is a rifle shot that is 99% guaranteed to hit, and deals two extra damage, but is only capable of hitting targets at 25% of their overall health or less. Subdue augments Duncan’s Subdue ability by reducing its cooldown from 3 rounds to 2.
This is a fairly tough choice and balances broad usefulness against allowing Duncan to fill a specific Niche. Subdue is a useful ability, but requires Duncan to be up close with foes, as opposed to dealing damage with his rifle from afar.
Mercy Kill is great in specific scenarios, but can’t be activated outside of those conditions. Mercy Kill slightly wins out, but only because there’s no other skill in the game that offers such near-guaranteed success in taking out weakened opponents.
Best Pick: Mercy Kill
- Lethal Force grants the Nail Grenade at tier 3.
- Crowd Control gives Duncan the Modded Flashback.
Both options add a grenade item to Duncan’s regular equipment. The Nail Grenade deals an additional burst of damage in an area, followed by 4 additional damage to those caught in the blast for 2 subsequent turns. The Modded Flashbang has the same effects as a regular flashbang but has a wider area of effect.
The Nail Grenade’s additional damage over time is significant, especially if you catch multiple enemies in the blast. However, the Modded Flashbang is more likely to affect multiple enemies. Its effects are more helpful to the other runners on your team than simply applying a chunk of damage.
Taking into consideration that these are both once-per-run items, the Flashbang has broader utility as opposed to the Nail Grenade’s hefty source of damage.
Best Pick: Modded Flashbang
- Duncan unlocks Recoil Compensation at Lethal Force tier 3.
- The Shock Baton from Crowd Control tier 3.
Recoil Compensation removes the usual 10% accuracy penalty from the rifle’s full-auto fire mode. The Shock Baton is a new melee weapon that’s added to Duncan’s equipment, which deals an incredible 2AP damage per hit but needs recharging after every two hits.
The Shock Baton is an amazing new part of Duncan’s arsenal. The Ability to deal a total of 4 AP damage to an enemy team’s pool is a shortcut to swinging the momentum of a fight back in your direction. If this was any other tier it would be a sure-fire pick.
But unfortunately, the rifle’s full auto mode is one of, if not the hardest hitting methods of attack in all of Shadowrun Hong Kong. If the Shock Baton didn’t require Duncan to get up close to enemies, then it might just have the edge, but Recoil Compensation is too good to pass up.
Best Pick: Recoil Compensation
- Duncan’s highest upgrade tier comes with the Shiawase Magnet Arm for Lethal Force.
- The Gas Grenade for Crowd Control.
The Magnet Arm has Duncan automatically catch incoming grenades and redirect them to the person that threw them. The Gas Grenade deals ongoing AP damage in an area of your choosing.
Unfortunately, enemies are unlikely to stay in the cloud for more than one turn if they can help it, so unless you manage to place the gas at a choke point, its usefulness is mostly limited to a single round of combat. And later in Shadowrun Hong Kong’s campaign, grenade-throwing enemies become plentiful. The Magnet Arm becomes an incredible defensive tool for Duncan at this point, negating heavy damage to the party and dealing it to enemies instead.
Best Pick: Shiawase Magnet Arm
That does it for our Shadowrun Hong Kong companion build guide.