dead island 2 skills guide

Dead Island 2 Skills Guide: Building the Perfect Zombie Slayer

At first, you may think that Dead Island 2 is about a group of survivors trying to find an escape from the horrifying undead of Hell-A. You’d be wrong. It’s actually about killing zombies in the most stylish way possible.

There are just over seventy skills in Dead Island 2 to unlock and customize your slayer to ignite, explode, maim, and pulverize zombies to paint the walls red with gross zombie blood.

Throughout your travels in Hell-A, you will be tasked with dispatching the undead in a manner of creative ways. The skills in this Dead Island 2 skills guide are the very best that you can unlock for killing zombies.

So without further ado, let’s jump into the action!

Selection Criteria

There are over seventy skills in Dead Island 2, so in creating this best skills guide, I conducted a lot of research. I’ve completed Dead Island 2 three times now and have experienced each available slayer. (and yet, I still can’t work out how to unlock that curious gate in Beverly Hills…

Its got to be for DLC!) While playing Dead Island 2, I’ve experimented with skill combinations and character builds. The funny thing is you could play the second half of Dead Island 2 without touching the game’s skill system. I know because I did that on my first playthrough.

But before you close down this tab, know that the skills aren’t necessary because the game is a breeze. They significantly enhance your experience with the game, and its fun to build your character!

To narrow down the best skills in Dead Island 2, I chose skills that synergize well with each other to provide greater results and impact in combat. Moreover, since this is a “Best Skills guide,” I ranked them on how many zombies they could kill.

For example, you won’t find any Dash Strike-related skills in this guide since I found Dash Strike to be the weakest of the active abilities. However, that doesn’t mean that Dash Strike is a terrible ability.

Well, on its own, it is, but when combined with Hammer Fist and Lightning Strike, you’ve got yourself a wicked ability. It just doesn’t compare to the carnage that can be created with a fully upgraded Ground Pound.

Best Ability Skills

dead island 2 skills
Dead Island 2: Drop Kick Skill Card in Action – Image by Alex Maksymiw


  • Defend yourself from zombie attacks by timing your blocks well; you can replenish your stamina and stun zombies, creating an opportunity for a powerful counter-attack.

The most powerful ability in the game, from my experience anyway. Holding the block button and spamming the counter button allows you to stun every zombie that attempts to attack you.

It may seem like a mad hot take, but you could easily get through the entire game using Block and counter. Zombies cannot hit you, even in large swarms; every zombie will be stunned by the counter, so it far surpasses the Dodge ability.

Ground Pound

  • Pound the ground to cause a forceful impact on the ground. This attack drains the stability of the affected zombies.

The Ground Pound is one of my favorite basic abilities in the game. You can unlock new skills at higher levels to enhance it’s potency.

The Ground Pound fits every situation and is delivered swiftly, making it superior to the Dash Strike skill. The Ground Pound is unlocked early into the game as Ryan and Carla, but Amy and Bruno will have to wait much longer. 

It’s like Dambuster Studios are trying to guide you into building Amy and Bruno in a specific way; however, I say F-that and equip the Ground Pound.

You can get much more use out of Ground Pound than Dash Strike as Amy and Bruno since they are very squishy and do not fight well in zombie swarms.

War Cry

  • you can unleash a war cry that enhances the toughness of both yourself and nearby squad members. Additionally, it weakens the nearby zombies.

War Cry is a Tank’s best friend; it’s the most supportive ability in the game, capable of benefiting other slayers in the party. Amy and Bruno could benefit from the War Cry skill since they have low Toughness. As a result, I’d prefer using War Cry over Dash Strike.

Drop Kick

  • a powerful jump-kick that drains a large amount of stamina but launches regular zombies through the air.

The best kick skill in the game. Drop Kick has enough power to finish off zombies and throw them from rooftops and ledges. Drop Kick is a staple to my Slayer’s build.

Overhead Smash

  • While in Fury Mode, activate Overhead Smash to release a devastating ground pound of immense power. This is the same attack used by Crusher Apex Zombies.

Overhead Smash is my favorite of the abilities, it’s devastating and is great for when your Fury Mode is about to run out, and you want to clear the area before you turn back into a human.

There are some great abilities to combine with Overhead Smash, like Pyro, which ignites zombies on impact, and Quake, which increases the force of the attack sending zombies flying on fire.


  • While in Fury Mode, activate Scream to release an aoe that weakens zombies in close proximity.

Scream is a useful ability if you need to take zombies out of the fight temporarily. However, Scream is not my first choice. The ability breaks up combat in Fury Mode and can waste precious Fury Mode meters. In Fury Mode, I strive to cause as much carnage as I can before it runs out.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for stunning annoying Apex Zombies and giving your slayer some breathing room. It’s great for countering other Screamer zombies to stop them from attracting zombies to the fight.

Build Your Fury Meter with Ability Skills

dead island 2 ability skills
Dead Island 2: Block Ability in action – Image by Alex Maksymiw

Whether you’re playing as Amy, a fast attacking athlete specializing in Frenzy weapons, or Carla, the buff tank specializing in Bulldozer weapons, you will be unleashing Fury Mode.

In Fury Mode, you tune into your mutated zombie blood to unleash devastating attacks. This mode can be customized with Skill Cards.

You can build your character around Fury Mode in several ways. Such as optimizing your character to extend Fury duration or maybe using your Fury meter as a support role. Many skills contribute to building your character’s Fury. However, I found these to be the greatest:

  • Blood Rush: Eliminate zombies and execute counter attacks to accumulate fury.
  • Surgical Focus: Build Fury by maiming zombies. However, taking damage will decrease your Fury Meter.
  • Street Brawler: Inflict damage on zombies through melee attacks or weapon throws to accumulate fury; however, your fury meter will decrease unless it reaches its maximum capacity.
  • Served Cold: Build up your fury by either blocking enemy attacks or allowing yourself to take damage from zombies.

Best Survivor Skills

Bob and Weave

  • (Amy and Bruno exclusive) Execute swift dodges to gain a moderate boost to attack speed and agility, capable of stacking.

Bob and Weave is an essential skill for Amy and Bruno and should be used at all times because it greatly enhances their agility, granting them a better chance to dodge zombie attacks and deliver a faster rate of critical hits using Frenzy Weapons.

Amy and Bruno cannot afford to be hit by zombies, so dodge in a circular motion around zombies. This will grant a better chance to land crits like Bruno and avoid other zombies’ hits.


  • A well-timed, timed block triggers a forceful explosion, depleting the stability of nearby zombies.

Since Blockbuster is passive, you’ll trigger it every time you perform a well-timed block; therefore, you can equip Ryan with Blockbuster and spam the counter to gain bonuses from Retaliation and Blockbuster.

This ability works very well against hordes of zombies and can stop apex zombies in their tracks.


  • Carla and Ryan exclusive) The Drop Kick ability triggers an explosion, depleting the stamina of nearby zombies.

The Dropkick is my favorite kick ability in the game. It’s super fun and impactful. Warhead increases its potency. I recommend using Warhead when zombies are near ledges and elemental hazards.

Note that while Drop Kick drains more, Stamina Warhead depletes zombies making this kick ability more viable in combat.


  • (Exclusive to Carla and Ryan)  blocking multiple attacks, gain a stacking boost to toughness and force.

A passive ability that greatly improves your ability to defend against zombie swarms. This ability doubles the effect of Ryan’s Retaliation skill giving double the force of his attacks.

This will basically launch any zombie that comes into contact with your bulldozer weapon. Remember that while you can block using guns, you cannot counter zombies or execute a well-timed block. 

Steadfast is arguably the best skill card for Ryan as it also helps support his Seesaw Innate Skill that triggers health recovery when attacking zombies that are on the ground.

You could equip the Seismic Stomp skill for extra bang for your buck, as this knocks back any nearby zombies with force and applies the bleeding effect.

Serial Killer

dead island 2 serial killer
Dead Island 2: Electrocutor Weapon Mod – Image by Alex Maksymiw
  • Dani and Jacob exclusive) Kill a zombie to receive a slight increase in damage.

This ability will only turn Jacob and Dani into killing machines. The trick is to time your kills to chain, as you have a short window before the ability deactivates.

You could improve your chances of stacking the Serial Killer Skill by using curveballs like the Electric Star and Shuriken. Shock damage is incredibly powerful due to its ability to arc to zombies. 

In the latter half of the game, several types of zombies will attack you; the Burster is one of these zombie types. They easily killed but deadly up close.

Killing them will cause them to explode, dealing damage to anyone around them, including zombies; therefore, you can kill bursters first before engaging in combat to trigger the Serial Killer skill effect.

Pain Threshold

  • blocking or dodging an incoming attack, you will receive a minor increase in damage output.

Amy and Bruno will get a lot of value out of Pain Threshold, as dodging is a key aspect of their combat. Although Amy and Bruno can learn the superior Block skill later in the game.

I would still keep Dodge equipped, as Amy and Bruno don’t have the toughness to survive many hits in combat. 


  • Your ground pound attacks receive a substantial boost to force, capable of launching regular zombies into the air.

If zombies surround you and you need an escape, Quake is the skill for you. While the Grund Pound attack is more fitting for Ryan and Carla. Amy and Bruno can use this combo to their advantage, as they don’t perform as well in zombie swarms.


  • Killing zombies replenishes your Fury meter while in Fury Mode.

Ravenous is one of my go-to abilities, as you can practically stay in Fury Mode forever. However, I use it more to get around maps since your slayer’s movement speed increases while Fury Mode is active.


  • Counter-attack zombies to regain additional health.

Invigorating is a life-saving skill in the early game where you have few unlocked abilities. During the counter-attack animation, you’ll be invincible, allowing you to recover health without getting hit by other nearby zombies.

Flare-up (Autophage

  • Ground Pound attacks ignite zombies, but they also deplete your health.

Flare-up + Quake = carnage! This skill is a blast to play, literally! Combined with the right skills, you won’t ever need to use your weapon again. (excluding fire-resistant zombies, of course)

Best Slayer Skills

dead island 2 slayer skills
Dead Island 2: Voltaic Scream – Image by Alex Maksymiw

Hack and Dash

  • (Exclusive to Dani and Jacob)  When a zombie is maimed, you’re granted a boost to your attack speed.

Hack and Dash is an essential skill for Jacob and Dani. Since both characters gain boosts from killing enemies within a short window, however, I’d argue that Jacob gets more value from this skill, since his Feral Innate Skill increases Critical Damage.

So pairing Jacob with Frenzy weapons and Hack and Dash should be at the base of your build.

Second Wind

  • (Exclusive to Dani and Jacob)  When a zombie is maimed, you’re granted a boost to your attack speed.

Hack and Dash is an essential skill for Jacob and Dani. Since both characters gain boosts from killing enemies within a short window, I’d argue that Jacob gets more value from this skill since his Feral Innate Skill increases Critical Damage.

So pairing Jacob with Frenzy weapons and Hack and Dash should be at the base of your build.

Group Therapy

  • Exclusive to Dani and Jacob) Slay zombies in quick succession to recover your stamina.

Dani and Jacob have great Stamina stats, and Dani has the highest stamina of any slayer. However, this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t tire in combat.

The Group Therapy skill adds to her regenerative capabilities. She will both recover stamina and health thanks to her innate ability making her less likely to tucker out in battle and allowing her to strike with more Heavy Attacks.

Far From Done

  • (Exclusive to Carla and Ryan) Blocking or taking damage grants you a damage boost. This boost can stack multiple times.

A solid ability that increases your attack damage across the board. No matter what you’re doing in combat, you’ll always benefit from this skill.

However, the stacking effect makes this skill brilliant for Carla and Ryan. You can seriously up your damage from blocking and countering before decimating a horde of zombies.


  • Overhead smash attacks receive a substantial increase in both damage and force. Additionally, these attacks contribute to building your fury.

Dani, Ryan, and Carla can get a lot of value out of Juggernaut during Fury Mode. However, It’s a shame that this skill does not impact the Ground Pound skill. As a result, there are much better options to improve the Overhead Smash, such as the Pyro skill.

Voltaic Scream

  • Your Scream attack electrifies nearby zombies, dealing damage and stunning them.

Voltaic Scream has led me to switch out Overhead Smash for Scream. It’s incredibly powerful if there are nearby bodies of water. It extends the stun time by shocking zombies. Moreover, electricity will arc to other zombies so zombies outside the scream range can still be stunned.

Tools of the Trade

dead island 2 tools of the trade
Dead Island 2: Tools of the Trade – Image by Alex Maksymiw
  • Killing a zombie with a melee weapon creates a moderate damage boost for your ranged weapons. Slaying a zombie with a ranged weapon grants a similar damage boost for your melee weapons.

Tools of the Trade is a core skill that you should always equip. This is because no matter what weapon you are using in combat, you are actively boosting another. It’s great for end-game characters that have access to the Bodycount Assault Rifle and Peggy Hunting Rifle.

No Mercy

  • When attacking zombies with a detrimental status effect, your damage receives a moderate boost.

No Mercy is a unique skill that you should use if you enjoy wielding weapons with elemental weapon mods.

I highly recommend initiating combat with Liquidator-modded weapons as this applies the Melting effect to zombies increasing the damage of elemental damage from Fire and Shock further.


  • Maiming zombies generate a moderate damage boost effect.

You should always equip this skill if you are playing Dani, Jacob, and Amy. It’s a core skill used by slayers that specialize in Frenzy and Maiming weapons. Easily one of the best skills in the game. With the Surgeon skill active you should never aim for a zombie’s body.

It’s not only the strongest part of the zombie but dismembering limbs will knock the zombie off balance especially if you deal damage to their legs. 

The Limb Reaper

  • Maiming zombies recovers your slayer’s health.

The Limb Reaper should be paired with the Surgeon skill. With this skill active on Dani, you’ll further increase her regenerative abilities. You can optimize Dani’s Stamina and health recovery to counter her abysmally low Resilience stat.

Even if you don’t use a maiming weapon, you’re bound to decapitate or bash the arms off zombies. The Flesh system does not care what weapon type zombies are hit with, smack a limb enough times, and it’s coming off. 

Bruno is super squishy, and although he specializes in Headhunter weapons, he should always carry fast-attacking Frenzy weapons with him in case a swarm of zombies surrounds him.

His high Agility stat grants him high attack speed resulting in greater health recovery using The Limb Reaper skill.

Janus Rage

  • Gain a moderate boost to Toughness when your Fury Meter is full, and gain a minor damage boost when it isn’t.

If you enjoy regular combat over Fury Mode, Janus Rage is a perfect skill. It brings value to the Fury Meter outside of Fury Mode. Amy and Bruno benefit greatly from the Janus Rage Skill Card as they have the weakest Toughness stats in the game.

If you enjoy regular combat and neglect Fury Mode you will find that Amy and Bruno become a lot stronger and capable of taking more hits. 

Heavy Hitter

  • Heavy Attacks decrease your health but gain a major damage boost.

I think this is a great late-game skill that is viable once you have built your character to have enough health recovery. I use this skill with Dani since her Heavy Attacks from Bulldozer weapons can decimate zombie swarms.

You can deal some serious damage using Heavy Hitter but minimalize the trade of health damage with Dani’s Innate Skills and with the Surgeon Skill.

Best Numen Skills

dead island 2 best numen skills
Dead Island 2: Born Survivor Skill Card – Image by Alex Maksymiw

Numen Skills are unlocked towards the very end of the game’s campaign during “The Search For Truth” main story quest. Numen Skills are some of the most powerful skills in the game.

They greatly impact how you play your slayer, and weaknesses that they may have had now become strengths at the cost of new weaknesses.

While they don’t take a lot of skill to utilize, you still need to be careful when equipping Numen Skills, as their power usually comes at the cost of stripping your health.

Born Survivor

  • A forceful explosion triggers upon death, causing your Fury Meter to deplete and your health to recover.

I’ve often used Born Survivor while playing Dani, as it pairs well with the Heavy Hitter skill. Moreover, it’s an essential skill if you don’t care for using Fury Mode in combat, as it uses the Fury Meter to replenish your health.

Fury Mode is fun and all, but after a while, it does take away the fun of brutalizing zombies with makeshift weapons. That’s why I run Born Survivor, as it allows me to walk on the edge of critical health without worrying about dying.

Glass Cannon

  • Get a moderate increase to Critical Damage and a major boost while your health is low at the cost of your Slayer’s toughness.

If you find yourself constantly low on health as Amy, Bruno, or Jacob, the Glass Cannon is the perfect skill for you. You can inflict serious damage with Jacob if you can quickly land attacks.

Moreover, you could combine Glass Cannon with the Hack and Dash skill to further increase your Critical Damage.

I recommend that you equip Glass Cannon alongside Born Survivor since you can only equip two Numen Skills at a time. Glass Cannon and Born Survivor work well together as Glass Cannon rewards you for having low health, and Born Survivor acts as the safety net.

This allows you to take on dangerous fights without worrying about dying. I managed to fight five Firestorm Slobbers in the Metro while batting off Firefighter runners using this combination.

Anger Management

  • When your Fury Mode Meter depletes, your health will begin to drain to keep you in the Fury state.

This is a great skill if you like to spend more time in Fury Mode than in regular combat. It’s not the greatest skill; however, you’ll be unstoppable when paired with Surgical Focus and Blood Rush.

In my first playthrough, I used the Anger Management Skill a lot. It was great for saving my weapon’s durability and getting around the map, thanks to Fury Mode’s boost to movement speed.

You don’t need to worry about your health becoming too low, as there are a ton of zombies spawning around you all the time. In addition, you will be kicked out of Fury Mode if your health gets too low.

Seismic Stomp

dead island 2 seismic stomp

  • Skull stomp triggers a forceful explosion, depleting nearby zombies’ stability and applying the bleed status effect.

Seismic Stomp is an essential skill for Dani, Ryan, and Carla, who use forceful attacks and smash zombies to the ground. You can cause a chain reaction of zombies to fall to the ground. The Stomp mechanic is great for saving weapon durability, and it’s so damn cool.

Well, it might not be as cool as Issac Clarke’s stomp, but with the Seismic Stomp Skill Card equipped, you’ll blast nearby zombies out of your way. 

Thanks to his Retaliation Innate Skill, Ryan can exploit the Hell-A out of this skill. Seismic Stomp might seem like an odd choice for the best skill cards in the game.

However, the stomp action should not be disregarded as it is an extremely powerful ability you don’t have to equip, so why not invest in it?


Question: What do Autophage Tiers Determine in Dead Island 2?

Answer: Autophage skills are unlocked during “The Giant-Slayer” main story quest. Autophage skills are very powerful as they grant your slayer extra stat boosts. You can upgrade your slayer’s Authophage Tier by equipping multiple Autophage Skills.

At Tier 3, you will gain a substantial boost to your health and damage, but this will come at the cost of no Health Recovery and limited health regeneration from health items.

Question: Where Can I Find Skill Cards in Dead Island 2?

Answer: Skills are generally obtained by leveling up your slayer. However, there are a few Skill Cards that can be found in Hell-A:

Heavy Hitter: Obtained by unlocking the Ocean Park Ride Photo Booth.
Carnage: On the desk of the SKOPE Server Room in Ocean Avenue.
Clear Sightlines: Found on the autograph table in Monarch Studios.
Invigorating: In Emma’s room in Bel-Air.
Janus Rage: Found in a train cart in the Metro.
Lightning Strike: Found in Randgate Lab on Ocean Avenue.
Pyro: Arcade Office in Santa Monica Pier.
Seismic Stomp: In the Metro, passed the burning area with Firestorm Slobbers.
Thick Skinned: On the balcony of the LA24 building on Ocean Avenue.

Question: How Can I Improve My Slayer’s Stats in Dead Island 2?

Answer: Leveling up your character will increase their Peak Health and attributes. You can significantly boost all slayers on your account by completing challenges.

Bone Crunching Conclusion

Phew! Every single Skill Card in Dead Island 2. This guide was a lot of work, but it was interesting. Even though Dead Island 2 was criticized for having poor character building.

This guide really makes you think that if Dambuster Studios implemented difficulty levels in the game, players could make more use of their abilities. Then maybe critics would have a different outlook on the character-building side of the game.

There is an abundance of Slayer builds that you can create, and although I’ve pointed out the best skills in the game in this guide, I encourage you to experiment and get creative.

Over seventy skills are giving you more than enough to double down on a Drop Kick build or Dash Strike build.

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