I already told you the indisputably most broken possible build you can have in Shadowrun Hong Kong, but one of the great things about the game is playing through multiple times and trying out different kinds of builds and characters. Having played through the game a dozen or so times with all kinds of different builds, let me give you some general advice on builds and highlight a few builds that stood out as being particularly strong.
First, every character you make, you’re going to want to dump 4 points into charisma and two points into spirit summoning. The four most important etiquettes are Security, Gang, Shadowrunner and Academic in that order. Security gets you 2 extra karma. Shadowrunner and Gang both give 1 extra karma. Shadowrunner isn’t necessary if you have a physical character who will have 4 strength at the start, but it does come up fairly often, so it’s still good for flavor text. Academic doesn’t grant any karma, but it does come up incredibly often and opens up some valuable options. So, for etiquettes, pick Security and Gang/Shadowrunner/Academic.
No spoilers, but there’s a very important Charisma check late in the game that requires 7 Charisma. This is why you need to put 4 points into Charisma on every character. You don’t need 7, though. You might need 5 depending on what you do with your cyberware. You can buy 2 totems from the spell shop that grant Charisma, and then a 0 essence cost cyberware that slots into skin. That brings you to 7. Honestly there should never be any reason to buy one of the other skin cyberware unless you want to use a second-best armor for cosmetic reasons.
After that, I’d say the following Shadowrun Hong Kong builds are the strongest, ranked strongest to weakest:
My combat rigger build >>>> Cyberware Street Samurai > Physical Adept > Tanky Mage >>>>> everything else.
Cyberware Street Samurai
For the cyberware street samurai, you just dump everything into cyberware, quickness, ranged weapons and rifle. Equip a rifle and a monofilament whip. Wrecking ball. You can outfit yourself with +4 quickness, +2 ranged weapons, +2 dodge, +16 hp, +6% accuracy and the busted Wired Reflexes body (+1 AP), You probably even have enough karma left over for another skill line. I’d suggest drone control, then you get my gamebreaking 9 AP/round build, but you could also do decking. You won’t have any spell slots, so that kind of limits you.
For the physical adept, which is probably the most fun build, you’re going to want to go full Strength, Close Combat, Willpower and Qi Casting. Troll is the ideal race to pick for this (max strength/body), but you could do Dwarf (max willpower) as well. Depends, do you want maximum damage or martial defense 2 (on-demand medium cover)? Personally I think the male dwarf model is unacceptable looking, so it’s no contest.
From there, you can put 6 points in cyberware in order to get 2 free affinity without affecting your spell slots or cooldowns, and you can snag the Wired Reflexes and 2 Muscle Augmentation biowares (total of +2 strength/+2 quickness). I know it sounds wacky but getting the last two points of strength (14 and 15 karma -29 karma) costs more than spending 21 karma to get 6 points in the cyberware line. You can also get a free point of willpower by putting a second point into intelligence and grabbing the Pain Editor bioware (+1 willpower, -1 intelligence). That’ll get you martial defense 2. So I guess there’s no reason to go dwarf afterall.
There’s no room for any other skill lines in this build, so you’re just a straight fighter, but you are basically an untouchable killing machine. To top it off, you want to grab the Racing Fulmination sword which gives +1 AP on kill, and maybe the Blood Calls to Blood fist as a backup (but you’ll never need it). Seriously this build is ridiculous. You can’t die, everything explodes, anything that doesn’t die in one hit is stunned for multiple rounds and you rack up tons of extra turns.
Basically you want to pick Dwarf, take the Willpower and Spellcasting lines all the way to their maximum, max out body, get 6 points in cyberware for the 2 free essence (take Wired Reflexes and 2x Renraku Skillwires (+2 Dodge). The reason you want to be as tanky as possible is that for mages to be any good they have to stand on Dragon Lines, which are almost always right out in the open. Don’t bother with any other skills, nothing is worthwhile. Theoretically, you could take drone control and get it to a decent level, replace one of your skillwires with a datajack, which would probably be pretty broken (drones are stupid broken). You might be tempted to go Charisma/Willpower to get all the spells, like I did. Let me save you some time. Conjuring is completely utterly useless except for Haste 4, which requires Quickness 6.
Here are some things that you should never do:
1. Full conjuring focus. Terrible, just terrible. Spirits are a consumable, and this game gives you a very limited amount of money. Every conjuring spell is useless except haste. Seriously, they are not worth the turn they take to cast. You would be investing all your karma to be a haste bot for 1 spell, and you have a party member who can do that.
2. Melee weapons without being a physical adept. Melee weapon skills are garbage. All the best melee weapons are adept specific. Because adept skills (Chi Onslaught, etc), don’t use the weapon skill in their calculation, this means every single melee weapon line is totally worthless to spec into. The only other physical weapons worth using are claws/spurs which, once again, don’t require melee weapon skills, just strength and close combat.
3. Any gun other than rifle and (potentially) pistol. Rifles are far and away the best gun type in the game, and are actually a twofer, since they give you proficiency in sniper rifles as well. So they cover your main weapon and your backup weapon. Pistols have some neat skills that for the most part are cheap on AP, so might be a good secondary weapon for a mage or conjurer (basically an upgrade to powerbolt). Other than that, shotguns are bad. SMGs are bad.
4. Decking is worthwhile only if you want to not use Is0bel in your party, which is a questionable decision, because Is0bel is probably the strongest combat party member after Duncan and, maybe, Racter, mostly thanks to her grenade launcher. But you could. The cyberware street samurai build above is probably a good option to combine decker with.
That about does it for Shadowrun Hong Kong builds. Check out the games section for more articles.