Dirty Bomb is a pretty good F2P-Shooter that does a lot of things different than the competition. However it’s also a quite steep learning experience for beginners because the game is fast-paced and loaded with experienced players. However, due to the Javellin update a lot of new players have come into the game. This means that now is a great time to start loading up on information and get ready for battle. You will get better as you learn from your mistakes, and sometimes you need to give up old habits to be successful in this game.
While reading this, please keep in mind that I’m a veteran in this game but not a pro-player by a long shot. However I still think that my opinions and tips can help you a great deal, and I’d be glad to hear back from you within the comment section.
Further down within this article I’m also trying to evaluate all currently available mercs based on their value you get for your money. I’ll try to keep this posting updated as I go.
Tip 1: Play with your team!
Altough team-based shooters are commonplace nowadays, this may be unconventional to get used to: Dirty Bomb really rewards you for team play. Don’t try to focus too hard on kills. Infact, getting a lot of frags is quite difficult for beginners as the gunplay and time to kill takes getting used to. Your Kill/Death ratio is not even shown until the match is finished! Progress through XP can be earned in so many ways in this game, and most of the rewards are based on teamplay:
- You get more XP for sticking together
- You get XP for staying near the objective
- You get XP for reviving and re-supplying your teammates
- You get a lot of XP for playing the objective (repairs, destruction)
- You get XP for…well i think you see where I’m getting at.
And yes, as a veteran you can be quite successful playing solo, but you will notice that more experienced players usually know their strengths and weaknesses and try to stick in groups of at least 2 or 3 mercs. You’ll be amazed how much longer you stay life simply by acting together.
Tip 2: Learn the maps and objectives
Every day I still see tons of players that simply ignore the objectives. Not only does planting C4, supplying ammo or repairing objectives help your team to progress, it also rewards you with much more points and thus credits at the end of a mission. Even if your team does badly overall you can still leave your mark the score table, making the loss much more endurable in terms of money and XP gain.
Another mistake is to not use the map routes to your advantage. On each map there are usually more than two ways to approach an objective or flank the enemy team by opening side-routes with C4 or repaired gateways. Don’t be that guy that blindly runs into chokepoints over and over and over again – because that’s what mad or angry people do. If your team hits a brick wall of defenders for more than 2 minutes it may be a good time to reconsider your strategy. Every map offers side-objectives and additional pathways or bridges which can be opened by destroying or repairing generators spread throughout the map. Inform your teammates about it if necessary. Just 2 or 3 teammates in your back you can make a huge difference in a surprise flanking attack, drawing a lot of attention and pressure away from the rest of your team.
When attacking and picking your approach you also need to keep the round timer in mind: don’t get stuck in standoffs when there’s just a minute left on the timer. Press on somewhere else – make a difference! On the defending side however you don’t wanna run around and overextend when the last objective is at risk. Respawn times in this game are rather short, so try to make a last suicidal effort run for your goals if need be, play agressive as if there’s nothing to lose. A last-minute C4 or defusing interrupt can decide the final outcome of a game, and you’ll feel great for doing it afterwards!
Tip 3: Learn, change and play each class!
The starter classes in Dirty Bomb (Aura, Proxy and Skyhammer) are all great. Try to get comfortable with each merc type so you know how their abilities and gun loadouts feel like. Each of the mercs has advantages and weaknesses you should learn about first-hand – so make use of the weekly free merc rotation and step out of your usual comfort zone to fill gaps in your team setup. When trying or buying a new merc, don’t just look at raw damage output or gun loadout. Instead keep things like agility, HP pool and abilities in focus to select what the situation on the map currently requires! Get used to switching mercs frequently during a match – the scoreboard shows swhich mercs your teammates are currently using, so complimenting the team might bring you a lot further than just “going with what you feel like”. You can also ask teammates to switch if you feel like a certain class is needed. If you keep it friendly, a lot of players are happy to oblige.
Also a very important point for beginners: Not using your mercs abilities when they are off cooldown means you’re wasting potential. Place ammo and medpacks in your team’s route whenever it is off cooldown, relocate your healing injector to follow the fight. As a medic, learn to hear and interpret the screams when players go down and revive even within a firefight to overwhelm enemies with numbers. When other fire support mercs are around you can place airstrikes whenever you see a good opportunity, not just on an objective. In Dirty Bomb there’s always something different to do than just shooting – and it often can be done in less time needed than reloading your gun!
Tip 4: Hipfire is good for you!
With its action-oriented approach Dirty Bomb has very little recoil or actual realism to its guns, also no travel time or velocity to think about. This means that you can pray and spray to your hearts content most of the time. Aiming down your sight is something only few classes ever need to do, exceptions can be made when you are in cover or not hard-pressed to stay mobile. In genreal it’s important to learn to hipfire correctly and go for the enemy’s head for double damage. Once you learn how the guns work in this game you’ll be amazed how you can strike down enemies at a much faster pace than before, simply by learning to control your guns firerate, recoil and spread. On a related sidenote: headshots also work great on shotguns!
And for the people in favor of aim-down-sight based play: this doesn’t mean that ADS is always bad in Dirty Bomb – it’s just very situational. You’ll lose a lot of walking speed and expose yourself to headshots and easy sniping, so try to hipfire whenever possible and find cover before aiming down your sights. All guns are pinpoint accurate on the first hipfire shot and you can easily make that work for your first 2-3 hits.
Tip 5: Try multiple loadouts for each class
Loadout cards are quite easy to get in this game, altough very random due to the current business model. You might not get the best quality drops right from the start, but you can work towards your desired loadouts by trying to craft something more suitable with the unwanted loadouts you convert to currency. For any merc you intend to play more often you should get a bronze level loadout as having the 3 perks on it yields an noticeable increase in power. Bronze level loadouts can be bought from the shop for ingame credits or just crafted (with random perks) with just little effort involved. For the low costs of a bronze card you can even affort different loadouts for the same merc. Testing combinations of perks and guns can completely turn your initially negative impression of a merc around.
Tip 6: Learn to improve your movement
As mentioned before this game is fast-paced and quite similar to games like Quake or Unreal Tournament. The movement of Dirty Bomb allows you to jump off walls two times successively, rapidly increasing your speed in the process. Not only does this make you less predictable to enemies but it also allows you to climb up to elevated points or take shortcuts. A lot of these spots are spread throughout the maps, so learning the movement is a base element that separates good from very good players.
The following moves can be performed:
- Double / Triple Jump: Look slightly in direction of a wall, then jump again. You can do this twice in quick succession.
- Long Jump (coil jump): Run, quickly press crouch then jump for a longer more speedier jump. Quick classes like Nova or Proxy will get boosted quite a bit by this.
Always keep in mind that your walking speed is greatly influenced by the weapon you are currently holding, so take out your melee weapon (usually 3-key) whenever possible – including at respawn – to get back into the action more quickly. Switching to the knife also allows you to jump wider gaps or get out of a risky situation more quickly if need be. Learning the map layouts and practicing specific jumps or unexpected paths can also give you an edge over the enemy, as only few players tend to look up to elevated spots. Many players simply do not expect flanks or unexpected angles (i.e. a Bushwacker turret placed at an elevated point) which can give you the game-deciding seconds in a firefight.
Tip 7: Get the right mercs for the job
In the following section I’ll also try to rate the current available mercs towards their value and power in a star rating. This doesn’t mean that a merc with fewer stars is bad per-se, but harder to master or be effective with. It can also mean that the merc is more situational or niche compared to other mercs of the same class. In the end however it comes down to your choice and how well you feel with each merc, so please take this part just as a recommendation.
In case you need a purchase decision, I marked some recommended mercs with a (recommended) after their name.
Aimee: Aimee is in a real tough spot between Vassili and RedEye. Her Snitch-Device is nice to spot and debuff enemies with (adds additional damage), but also harder to place correctly and requires follow-up shots to be really effective. She has a wider selection of rifles at her disposal than Vassili and is also more agile, but fragile at the same time, making her susceptible to counter-sniping. This and the added fact that Snipers are very niche in Dirty Bomb make her a very special choice and definitely not a recommended pick for beginners. Avoid unless you REALLY need a sniper to work with and can’t warm yourself up to the other mercs.
Arty: Arty has been improved a lot lately, but still is in a weaker spot compared to Skyhammer. His choice of mid- to long range weapons demands a higher skill curve and his artillery strike is highly situational and map dependent. You need an open area and some channeling time for the spotter to work – and there is no indoor use as with Skyhammer’s grenade. Especially for a beginner I’d recommend sticking with your (free) Skyhammer merc instead: He’s much more effective as his airstrikes can wipe a much wider area with tons of damage, plus his gun doesn’t feel as weak in close combat. You can switch over to Arty once you got the hang of it and want to cover some long-range needs whilst still being supportive to your team. And don’t get me wrong: Arty is fun, but mastering him takes dedication and a bit more luck.
Aura (starter): As one of the default starter mercs I found Aura to be amazing to play. Yes, you are more fragile than SawBonez or Phoenix but the healing station can make a huge difference whenever you have to hold your ground on defensive maps. Playing or moving the station at the right time can make you super tanky and ensure sustained fire from 2 enemies at once. Both Weapons of Aura are quite usable and her access to the Remburg shotgun is a devastating thing if you can handle the gun correctly. Next to Proxy and Sparks, Aura is super agile and can surprise enemies with a longjump-shotgun combo. Practice your movement and positioning with Aura, you won’t regret it.
Bushwacker (recommended): Very recommended pick if you need a first objective specialist that also has a very simple ability and some HP to last. Bushwacker is awesome for defensive missions, but also can put up a lot of pressure with his turrent and a decent main SMG. Being an objective specialist makes you quickly repair, plant and defuse. The turret dies quick when focused, so you need to learn the maps to use him right. Bushwacker is a solid alternative pick to Proxy, however I do see her as more versatile in offensive case scenarios.
Fletcher: Being the most offensive engineer, Fletcher is a nice alternative to Bushwacker or Proxy. His sticky bombs are a kind of separate primary weapon in itself: they are versatile to use, recharge fast and pack a punch, making Fletcher also viable when it comes to damaging the EV, flushing out enemies or locking down a path effectively. Fletcher is a useful asset to every team, but his tricky-to-use sticky bombs have a very small detonation radius and require good aim and flanking skills. He’s a challenging character to play, but also tons of fun once you learn to master his moves. Compared to the other engineer mercs he’s not played very often, but experienced players can work magic with him.
Kira: Kira is not quite as easy to master as she is both quick and fragile. Her ammo dispenser and orbital laser strike are both quite powerful, but can backfire hard as you need to stay nearby to keep aiming the laser and make sure that your ammo station isn’t (ab)used by the enemy team. Even if it doesn’t cover a wide area the laser can be more effective and devastating than Arty’s artillery or even Skyhammer’s Airstrike as you can reposition while firing and surprise enemies from behind with it. Kira is more for the more advanced players, which is why I cannot blindly recommend her to newcomers. In professional hands however she is devastating and very satisfying to play!
Fragger (recommended!): You’re good at shooters but not so good at movement? Then go with Fragger as your get-go-grunt. He’s the second most durable merc in the game and has powerful weaponry at his disposal. His grenades require some skill to use, but can be “pre-cooked” in his hand before thrown, allowing for pretty nasty and unavoidable surprise attacks. Fragger has been brought down a bit due to his high damage output, but he still consistently scores very high in most (competitive) games and excels at the frontline role. It’s a merc made for killing your enemies, not very original, but unique within the merc roster.
Guardian: As a recent addition to the roster, Guardian provides long-range revival support like Sparks, a decent HP pool and access to stronger weaponry on top, which makes playing her more forgiving that Sparks. Her drone prevents decent utility against the many explosives / grenades and airstrikes in the game, but does not protect against direct weapon fire or kira’s laser, which is something to keep in mind when picking her in escort situations. The reason why I “only” give Guardian 3 stars and rate her lower than other medics is because her kit is demanding high situation awareness. You can’t heal with guardian, so you have to wait for your teammates to get knocked down. However, your revive is on a cooldown, so you have to it count and not miss a downed merc. Her drone is useful, but needs good placement and timing. All this makes her an overall “good” merc, but still a 2nd-rate pick towards any of the other medics in the game as you will most-likely require a 2nd medic to keep your team going.
Javelin: As the most recent addition to Dirty Bomb, Javelin is exceptionally good at distributing ammo with no effort involved on the player’s part – it’s just an aura around her. The reason I don’t fully recommend her lies in her rocket launcher: It’s not very effective at taking down objectives and requires good aim to get more than 1 kill at a time. Her ability to one-shot people with the rocket is annoying and will most-likely get nerfed pretty soon, reducing her to being overall less useful than Skyhammer. All of this is putting Javelin in a similar niche than Arty or Kira, however with the added benefit that the rocket launcher works on any map, not just those with open ceilings.
Nader: Nader is one of those “I really like her, but..” mercs. Her main gun is not top-tier and her grenades – while offering suppressive support and side-objective killing potential – can be rather easily avoided by skilled players. Even direct hits can’t kill a lot of mercs in one hit, making Nader a pick only for people who know how to follow up on those hits. On the other side she’s unique to play and usable for almost every map. Alternatively you can dive deeply into a crowd of enemy players and still be useful as a “human bomb” after you die, an ability which is easily avoided by most experienced players, unfortunately. Nader is well-balanced overall, but definitely not a first pick in a heavily objective-based game.
Phantom: Phantom is a niche character for the stealthy (read: dirty) approach on Dirty Bomb. When playing him you will experience a wide contrast of emotions, ranging between mass-murder with a Katana and utter disappointment, as his efficiency greatly depends on the enemies capability of spotting you. His main strength is to pick apart weak, unattentive or separated team members by using his cloak and powerful melee at an opportune time. With his EMP disabling passive he has gotten a decent buff against deployables such as Proxy Mines, Aura Healing Stations, Turtle shields, Bushwacker Turrets. This is granting him a unique niche role that no other merc currently has. For this I’d love to give him a higher rating, but he’s still hard to play right, dies quickly in hardened-front situations and therefore should be only bought when you know what you’re doing.
Phoenix (recommended!): Phoenix fills a niche in between SawBonez combat abilities and Aura’s “multi-people” healing capabilities. His self-revive is not really a tool you should always rely on to play Rambo, as most experienced players will finish you instantly before even activating it. His heal has a long cooldown, but is instantaneous and can heal a whole team around you instantly – something that other medics can’t do. Phoenix has an awesome set of SMGs to choose from, making him a viable choice for front-line combat whilst sacrificing some of the healing power that the other medics can provide. Get him when you feel comfortable with your positioning. Otherwise try SawBonez first to see if you like him more as a more durable alternative to Aura.
Proxy (recommended!): Quick objective specialist with a powerful shotgun or smg choice. If you like to play a “Scout” from TF2 you will love Proxy. Compared to the other fire support mercs Proxy is not made for frontal assault, but for agile flanking situations and fast offense. Use map opportunities to surprise enemies around corners. The Remburg-Shotgun on her loadout enables you to one-shot most mercs with a well-aimed blast. Her proximity mines are also easy to use and allow for some nasty “around the corner” surprises as you can blow them up with own gunfire. I found proxy to be a ton of fun to play: She’s cheap to buy, fills up your roster with a much-needed objective specialist and offers a ton of versatility. She’s my recommended pick to complement your starter merc set with a much-needed Engineer.
RedEye: RedEye is a tough one to describe: He’s a mixture of Vassili with some Phantom thrown in. He can mark enemies with his IR goggles and snipe well with this selection of semi-auto rifles. His smoke also allows to counter enemy snipers, but also has potential to screw up your team big-time. He’s definitely one of the most challenging mercs to play right but has tremendous potential. The fact that the smoke can easily be countered with any kind of explosive makes RedEye rather easy to counter, but on the other hand the smoke also counters fire and narrow stand-off situations. RedEye is definitely worth a pick when you are looking for the truly unique experience, but be ready for a long learning experience to follow.
Rhino: I’ll be honest – I haven’t played him much at all, because I dislike slow characters in DB – and Rhino for sure is among the slowest. With that said, being on receiving end of his minigun is not a lot of fun. Rhino has the biggest HP pool in the game, making him near indestructible with a medic like Aura in his back. If your team doesn’t have grenades to flush him out of a room with a healing inject you will have a bad time fighting him. His high HP pool makes him a viable alternative to Fragger to break those tough situations, but also keep in mind that you are playing a very slow-moving (thus more defensive) tank that can’t do much at long-range. He excels greatly at killing the whole enemy team IF he has the proper team-support and handles the minigun cooldown correctly.
Sawbonez (recommended!): SawBonez is a very recommended medic alternative to Aura, as he has a larger HP pool and easier-to-use medpacks instead of the healing station. He also uses different weaponry, which can be a good thing if you don’t like Shotgun or SMG selection of Aura. However keep in mind that unlike Auras healing station his medpacks don’t heal when you’re getting hit, meaning that you can’t simply tank damage while standing in a heap of medpacks. Still I highly recommend SawBonez due to his high team value, easy to use kit, well-rounded stats and straightforward playstyle as well has his cheap acquisition costs.
Sparks: Sparks has a unique long-range revive gun that allows her to stay out of trouble unlike most other medics. Her rather weak main TMP is a tradeoff for the fact that you can also “snipe” enemies with her “Revivr”, given that you are patient and skilled enough to charge and aim it well. Headshots with that thing can be deadly, but also mean that Sparks has a much higher learning curve than Aura, Guardian, Phoenix or SawBonez. Her small medpacks and low health pool make her risky to play, but also very unique in her support role. Due to the high risk involved I’d not recommend buying her early as a Beginner. However if you can rely on speed and your good aim, go for it.
Skyhammer (starter): Ammunition for your team, sturdy, good choice of weaponry and an Airstrike that can easily pick apart 3-4 enemies at the same time if placed correctly. His abilities are easy to use and “fire and forget”, so you can’t go wrong with picking Skyhammer. He’s a must-have in any mission where you have to attack the EV (vehicle) as one airstrike instantly destroys it (and usually the team behind it). Important for beginners: Pick up the habit and never forget to supply your teammates with ammo (E-Key) constantly, even when they do not ask for it. You’ll be rewarded with a lot of points.
Stoker: As a quite different kind of support merc, Stoker offers versatile molotov cocktails that provide more of an area denial instead of offense. His loadout of guns is equal to that of Skyhammer, but his molotov ability kinda funnels him exclusively into narrow map situations where his fire really shines bright. A clear downside is that the fire can be extinquished by explosions and smoke, further reducing its use. Additionally the fire is quite easy to avoid by experienced players, making it hard for you to score kills as easily as any of the other support mercs. Stoker is an overall solid choice, but not a must-pick for beginners.
Turtle (recommended!): Turtle is a solid choice for beginners, his shield is easy to use and provides good team utility. Being an objective specialist he ideally compliments your starter selection of mercs, but the shield kinda tunnels him into the defensive role of things, which is why I personally recommend buying Bushwacker or Proxy first for handling all-around situations. Since he revolves around good placement and having a team around to actually rally behind your shield I cannot give him a full recommendation. Furthermore, experienced players will know how to play around the shield, which makes Turtle a more situational choice than the other objective mercs.
Vassili: It’s a sniper. He snipes things. You like sniping? Get a sniper. Vassili is one of the few characters with access to a bolt-action rifle, and if you always hated playing objective based games, go for him. Stay in the far back while showing of your mad aiming skillz, but expect comments by other players when you do badly. And yes – Vassili is not my class, also because I think that RedEye offers way more utility. I don’t see a lot of need for backliners in a team-based and objective focused game. Vassili’s low hiring costs and a rather useful but easily detectable heart rate monitor (which makes enemies visible through walls) barely give him the 3 star rating. Detection is a unique addition to the game and can benefit a team if used correctly.