Like many modern action games, Atomic Heart allows you to upgrade your character by purchasing unlockable skills. Naturally, the ability to upgrade your character in such an “RPG-like” way has left fans wondering about the best skills in the game and the best ways to build your character.
While there are some incredibly powerful skills in Atomic Heart that you’ll want to prioritize over other abilities, the game’s approach to unlocking skills and building your character makes it difficult to talk about the best “build” in the traditional sense of that phrase. You didn’t come here to hear that, though, so let’s look at some of the best ways to upgrade your character in Atomic Heart and the kind of character build you’re ultimately aiming for.
You Should Constantly Be Respeccing Your Character In Atomic Heart
Atomic Heart not only allows you to respec your character by refunding skill points (which come in the form of collectible Neuropolymers), but it allows you to respec your character as many times as you want (so long as you are interacting with a NORA machine). So while you can eventually gain access to many of the skills in Atomic Heart, the better approach is to constantly change your skills around based on what the situation calls for.
So, if you’re in a part of the game that requires you to battle larger groups of enemies, you’ll want to focus on AoE abilities. If you’re coming up on a boss fight, you’ll want to respec into single-target skills.
Because the game is so generous with its upgrade system, it doesn’t require you to rely on traditional, and more limited, styles of character building. Having said that, there are some “base build” rules you should keep in mind.
Atomic Heart: Best Character Build
While you’re going to be changing your character skills throughout Atomic Heart, there are a few basic character-building tips you can follow in order to make things easier on yourself.
First off, you should focus on your Character, Shok, and Energy Management skill trees above all others in Atomic Heart (in that order). Those are the skills you’ll have access to through most of the game (regardless of the situation), so they should be the focus of your earliest upgrades. If you need to refund some of the points you spent on those trees for specific situations, you always have the option to do so.
From there, you’ll want to focus your upgrades on the Frostbite tree. Atomic Heart allows you to assign two abilities to your “Ability Slots,” and Frostbite is by far the most useful of those slotted, optional abilities. You’ll use it through the entirety of the game.
The remaining Ability Spot should be flexed between Mass Telekinesis and Polymeric Shield. Mass Telekinesis will help you survive fights against multiple lesser enemies, while Polymeric Shield is your best friend during most boss fights. Neither is a priority above the other skill tree options, but you’ll want to flex your skill points into them when needed and upgrade them when you have the extra resources.
To summarize, you’ll want to spend your early upgrade points on the best skills in the Character and Shok trees. From there, the Energy Management and Frostbite trees should get be the focus of your permanent upgrades. I prefer focusing on Energy Management first because of the power of Energy Weapons, but Frostbite may be better for your playstyle. Mass Telekinesis and Polymeric Shield become the priorities after you’ve acquired the essential skills in those other trees, though you’ll be flexing resources into both as needed until then.
Atomic Heart: Best Shok Skill Tree Upgrades
Shok is a unique ability that is separate from your two main “ability slots.” That means you always have access to it, which makes it inherently more valuable than some other options. It doesn’t hurt that a properly upgraded Shok ability also happens to be one of the most useful overall abilities in the game.
Generally speaking, I recommend trying to acquire every Shok upgrade possible. If you’re looking for the best of the best, though, there are a few abilities you should focus on.
This basic upgrade not only increases Shok’s base damage but allows it to push enemies away from you. It’s just an objectively powerful upgrade that is key to unlocking Shok’s full potential.
Another relatively simple upgrade, Resistor Malfunction increases the damage that electrified targets receive. This ability synergizes incredibly well with the upgrades you really want from this tree, so it’s definitely worth picking up early.
As you probably guessed from the name, Chain Lightning allows your Shok charges to bounce between multiple targets. This is the upgrade that really showcases Shok’s full potential, and it’s arguably one of the best overall skills in the game.
This incredible ability ensures that any secondary Chain Lighting targets receive the full damage usually reserved for the primary target. Combined with some of the other skills you’ll be taking on your way to acquiring this upgrade, this upgrade ensures that you can rely on Shok as a primary source of damage.
Atomic Heart: Best Character Skill Tree Upgrades
Much like Shok, you’ll honestly want to try to acquire every single Character upgrade in Atomic Heart. Since these upgrades offer constant benefits regardless of which weapons/abilities you’re using, they are significantly more valuable than other upgrades. Many of them are also pretty powerful in their own right.
These skills are being grouped together for the simple fact that they all increase your max health. They’re not the most exciting upgrades, but you’ll want them all at some point. Which one you acquire first kind of depends on which of the following Character skills you’re targeting.
Neuro-Compression Tactical Backpack (X2)
You can unlock these upgrades very early into the game, and you absolutely should. They increase your maximum storage space, which happens to be an incredibly valuable (if, again, boring) upgrade in a game where you are constantly acquiring items.
I don’t know why there isn’t a proper sprint option in Atomic Heart, but I can tell you that there are many times in the game when you’ll find yourself wishing for the ability to run just a little faster. Thankfully, this skill allows you to do just that. It’s not a huge upgrade to your run speed, but it definitely helps.
Arguably the most useful skill in the entire Character tree, Juggler lets you use a Neromed capsule with one hand, which means that you can then use your free hand to defend yourself while healing. It’s just an absolutely essential upgrade that you should go out of your way for.
Simply put, Second Wind grants you an extra dodge charge at all times. Given that you’ll be relying on your dodge ability for the entire game, this is a no-brainer choice that you’ll want to acquire as soon as possible.
The immediate upgrade to Second Wind, Sleazeball shields you from all incoming damage while you’re dodging. Not only does that increase the margin of error for your dodges, but it ensures that you can’t be blindsided by one enemy while dodging another. It’s not as essential as Second Wind, but it’s a good later-game upgrade to shoot for.
This unique skill allows you to essentially tuck and roll in order to avoid significant fall damage. It’s certainly situational, but I found myself getting a lot more use out of this one once the game opens up a bit.
Atomic Heart: Best Frostbite Skill Tree Upgrades
With the exception of Shok, Frostbite is hands-down the most valuable upgradeable ability in Atomic Heart. You’ll probably want this to be one of your two accessible abilities for the majority of the game.
Few action/adventure games emphasize resource management and resource gathering as much as Atomic Heart. This skill allows you to acquire additional resources from defeated, frozen enemies, which means you’ll want to unlock it as soon as possible.
Increased Polymer Generation
Increased Polymer Generation allows you to fire your Frostbite ability for longer amounts of time. Along with Neuro-Polymer Accelerator (the prerequisite for this skill that reduces Frostbite’s cooldown time), Increased Polymer Generation ensures that you’re able to rely on Frostbite far more often and make it an essential part of your combat strategy.
Diffuse Spray Head
Diffuse Spray Head alters your Frostbite ability to allow it to fire in a cone-shaped area. Among other things, that means this skill allows you to freeze multiple enemies at once. Regardless of how you choose to build your Frostbite ability after you acquire this skill, you’ll want to acquire this skill as soon as possible.
Atomic Heart: Best Polymeric Jet Skill Tree Upgrades
Truth be told, Polymeric Jet is probably the least powerful ability in Atomic Heart. While this damage amplification ability has its uses, you’re generally better off relying on other abilities that have more of an immediate impact. If you’re going to lean into this ability, though, then here are the skills you want.
Neuro-Polymer Air Defense
Neuro-Polymer Air Defense allows you to use your Polymeric Jet ability to slow down flying enemies. I don’t like having to invest quite so many resources into this tree to unlock this skill, but it will help you during some especially annoying fights.
Increased Chemical Reactivity Distance
Arguably the cornerstone skill of this entire tree, Increased Chemical Reactivity Distance applies Combat Polymer effects to multiple nearby enemies. It’s not as useful as the other AoE abilities in the game, but it’s quite powerful during compact fights.
This basic skill increases the damage output of your Combat Polymer effects. If you’re choosing to build ou the Polymeric Jet ability, you will need to acquire this skill at some point.
Atomic Heart: Best Mass Telekinesis Skill Tree Upgrades
One of the best AoE abilities in the game, Mass Telekinesis allows you to handle multiple enemies at once with relative ease. While that means that it’s not particularly useful during a lot of boss fights and other encounters against powerful single enemies, it’s still an ability you will rely on from time to time.
Forced Fall Acceleration
Forced Fall Acceleration ensures that enemies take fall damage whenever they are “freed” from the Mass Telekenisis effect. I’m not sure why that isn’t just part of the base ability’s functionality, but you will want this skill as soon as possible.
This useful little skill increases the DPS output of your Mass Telekinesis ability. While not a game-changer, it’s a nice damage upgrade that makes that ability a little less situation than it was before.
This incredible skill allows you to lift “heavyweight” enemies with your Mass Telekinesis ability. This skill makes it significantly easier to turn to Mass Telekinesis during most fights against multiple enemies, which obviously makes that ability significantly more valuable over the course of the game.
Atomic Heart: Best Polymeric Shield Skill Tree Upgrades
As the only “defensive” ability in Atomic Heart, you may be tempted to pass over Polymeric Shield in favor of other options. While you often will rely on those other options, there are times when this shield offers benefits that no other ability can possibly match. It’s especially useful during boss fights and other battles against tricky targets.
Possibly the most useful overall Polymeric Shield skill in the game, Sponge Effect allows you to recharge your Energy meter whenever your shield takes damage. Given the power of Energy weapons in this game, you can easily justify running a shield for this skill alone.
Kinetic Reflector not only reflects incoming melee damage but actually doubles the output of that reflected melee damage. Combined with Sponge Effect, this skill allows you to soak a hit, destroy the attacker, and use your Energy weapons to focus on other nearby foes.
Kinetic Reflector Upgrade
This incredibly expensive upgrade increases the amount of damage you can reflect with your shield and allows you to block critical damage. It might not sound like much, but I’d argue that this skill is essential for higher difficulties where critical damage is coming at you from so many more angles.
While I tend to prefer focusing on the melee skills in the Polymeric Shield tree, this useful skill allows you to reflect all ranged attacks. There are some fights where this skill can be valuable, though it tends to be a bit more situational.
Atomic Heart: Best Energy Management Skill Tree Upgrades
As Energy weapons are especially useful against robots and other automated foes, most Atomic Heart players will rely on Energy weapons through most of the game. Energy weapons are honestly a little overpowered in that respect, but you can usually justify prioritizing Energy Management skills above other upgrades for that reason.
This skill converts any lost health into extra Energy. While you ideally don’t want to lose health in Atomic Heart, it will happen from time to time, so it’s nice to have a little insurance for those times.
This simple skill allows you to add more Power Cells into the recirculation chamber and essentially increase the capacity of your Energy Weapon “magazines.” You can actually purchase two versions of this upgrade, though you’ll certainly want the cheaper one at the very least.
Greedy Guts increases the amount of Energy that is restored to the Recirculation Chamber whenever you land a melee hit. Melee/Energy is a viable combo for most of Atomic Heart, so this skill soon proves to be worth its weight in Neuropolymers.
This incredible (though expensive) skill reduces the amount of Energy your ranged attacks consume. It’s a shockingly powerful upgrade that helps make Energy weapons even more valuable than they already were.