Explains how the game awards karma bonuses and encounter ranks, helping you to maximise your murder coolness and achieve the coveted five stars. Also includes a list of every possible style bonus and general tips.
What Boosts Karma
In chapter 1 of the game, a few combat encounters in, the game introduces the player to the concept of karma bonuses with this infuriatingly vague popup. Like most people, I assumed this meant using multiple attacks and varied weapons, but I eventually learned through experimentation and observation that this was wrong.
So what does boost it? We’ll get into the particulars soon, but the short version is this:
It’s the style bonuses listed on the screen and nothing else.
Style bonuses are awarded when the player kills or injures an enemy in an interesting way, such as cutting their head off with the katana (Beheaded), removing one of their limbs (Shredder), killing them while stunned on the ground (Sleepyhead), on fire (Merciful), or within a few seconds of another kill (Massacre). By default they are displayed as floating white text above a dead enemy; they may alternatively be shown on the left-hand side of the UI if changed in the options.
The more of these bonuses the player gets in a combat encounter, the more bonus karma they will get at the end, and the higher score on the five-star ranking system they will be shown. The threshold for each rank is per-encounter based on how many enemies there are, and of what type.
What DOESN’T Boost Karma
Things that have absolutely no bearing at all on karma bonuses include:
- Time taken to complete the encounter
- Variety of different attacks used, or lack thereof
- Damage taken
- Being forced to use Drain Soul
- Score on previous encounters
- Difficulty setting
- Any other stylish method of fighting not listed below
- Literally anything else that is not that floating white text
The likely reason so many people thought things like time and variety mattered (other than that bastard text popup) is the true wildcard style bonus, Massacre.
Massacre is awarded for kills in quick succession, and I do not fully understand how it is awarded, because it has a lot of criteria that changes how many times it is given. The maximum multiplier is 5 Massacres awarded per kill, seemingly based on the length of the killstreak, time between kills, killing multiple enemies in a single shot, and probably several others I haven’t figured out. Since Massacre means the player can get huge karma bonuses for kills one after the other, it’s easy to see how people might misconstrue this as raw speed providing more points.
List of Style Bonuses
And so, here is every style bonus it is possible to attain, to the best of my knowledge:
|Aviator||Enemy killed while lifted into the air by Flux||Also awarded if the enemy is in the process of being lifted, but not if they are falling back down|
|Beheaded||Enemy decapitated using the Katana’s slash, or any of its three special ki attacks||Also awarded when a Warlord dies and drops its head as a usable item; this is the only time Beheaded is not mutually exclusive with Headshot|
|Defused||Killing a Mother without it ever attempting to self-detonate|
|Demolition Man||Enemy killed by environmental explosive||Explosion must not come from the player’s weaponry, e.g. Rocket Launcher. Sources include explosive barrels, chandeliers and vehicles|
|Detonator||Enemy killed by a Sticky Bomb detonation from the Crossbow’s alternate fire||Killing shots from the bolt itself rather than its explosion do not count.|
|Headache||Enemy killed by the Demon Head in any circumstance||The beam from the Demon Head penetrates targets and travels in a slight arc, behaving like a fast-moving stream of liquid|
|Headshot||Enemy killed by a shot to the head from a firearm||Mutually exclusive with Beheaded in most circumstances. Can be attained by the Shotgun only if the killing shot damages no body parts except the head|
|Heart Attack||Enemy killed by the Demon Heart in any circumstance||Demon Hearts instantly kill any small enemy at point-blank range directly in front of the player (i.e. within their field of view). Gained by cutting open a demon’s chest. Also functions on humans, but cannot be acquired from them|
|Massacre||Killing an enemy within two seconds of killing another enemy||Multiplies up to 5x per enemy, based on complex criteria including kill chain length, time since last kill, and simultaneous (or near-simultaneous) kills|
|Merciful||Enemy killed while on fire, by something other than fire||Mutually exclusive with Toasted|
|Merciless||Enemy killed while crawling on the ground due to having their leg(s) destroyed||Unless the enemy is a human, who are incapable of combat when dismembered due to their weak pathetic human bodies|
|Nailed||Enemy killed and pinned to a wall by a Crossbow bolt||Only shots to the torso are capable of this. Attachment of limbs is not necessary|
|Raiden||Enemy killed by electrocution from environmental electronics||Sources include air conditioning units, vending machines and arcade games|
|Shredder||Enemy is dismembered in any location other than the head||Awarded in all cases of dismemberment as long as the player is in combat, including non-killing shots, damage to corpses, attack-disabling variants (such as a Troll’s shield arm) and cleaving the torso. Can be awarded multiple times for the same enemy|
|Sleepyhead||Enemy killed while stunned on the ground by Shockwave||Not awarded if the enemy is in the process of getting back up|
|Specialist||Enemy killed by any of the Katana’s three special ki attacks|
|Toasted||Enemy killed by fire damage||Sources include the Flamethrower, Sticky Bombs, the Rocket Launcher and environmental explosives|
|Tranquillizer (sic)||Enemy killed while it is enraged||Also awarded if the enemy is in the process of transforming|
Tips to Maximise Karma Scores
That sure is a lot of boxes full of words, Cosmic, but how do I actually use these white numbers to get more karma?
Well, here’s some wisdom from my personal experience to help:
- I strongly recommend setting combat readouts to UI mode. It makes it much easier to monitor what bonuses you’re getting in the heat of battle.
- In general, you want to get several bonuses at once from enemies as much as you can. For example, instead of just hacking a Crawler’s head off (Beheaded), you could wait until it’s enraged, hit it with a fully charged Shockwave, and poke it in the head with Divider of Heavens when it’s on the ground (Beheaded, Specialist, Sleepyhead, Tranquillizer). Set up stunts. Get crazy. Coolness over efficiency.
- Shoot environment objects. The game space is absolutely layered with explosives, and some of the things that can explode are patently ridiculous, so just shoot things when demons pass nearby and see if they blow up. Great for combos!
- Merciful can be stacked on top of almost any other bonus – setting an enemy on fire is free extra karma, as long as it dies before extinguishing. It’s like pepper for murder.
- The two enemy-disabling spells, Flux and Shockwave, are a great way to both add another bonus and get several demons right where you want them for Massacre.
- Demon Heads award a free bonus and penetrate targets, making them very effective against clustered enemies, lines of demons lifted by Flux, and trolls using their shield.
- For planned manoeuvres, but especially Massacre, consider gradual damage sources like the PDW or Flamethrower to soften up enemies, making getting them all at once easier. The Birdman mounted gun encounters are basically all this: sweep the line of fire over them briefly, then chain together as many as you can for ludicrous Massacre numbers – 50x, easily.
- In the late game, the Revolver is best used for weakening larger enemies, to maybe get a Toasted or Massacre off them. Greater demons are immune to many attacks like Shockwave, Flux, and Demon Hearts, but every little helps.
Closing Remarks & Special Thanks
Above all, though, I don’t want you to treat cheesing the game for extra karma as gospel. Do not let chasing after pictures of ninja stars dissuade you from enjoying cutting shadow beings in half on your own terms. Shadow Warrior is a fascinating little hack/slash/shooter that wants you to play around and experiment with its components, so don’t let my suggestions restrict you. Do whatever.
This is the part of the guide where I ask you to give it a thumbs up, and I genuinely mean it this time. More people need to know about the wonderful gameplay systems SW2013 has going on under the hood, Your support could bring psychotic, violence-absorbing smiles to hundreds of players, and help them really enjoy what Flying Wild Hog put together here.
Special thanks to KindaRandomUsername, whose 2016 video on the topic I found while researching, and who I stole the screen capture of five stars in the thumbnail from because I wasn’t good enough to get it myself on demand. It’s an entertaining watch, and they also show a highly effective cheesing technique in the video if you’re of a game-breaking disposition.
That’s all, folks. Happy wanging.
Hope you enjoy the Guide about Shadow Warrior – Style Bonuses Work + Awards Karma Bonuses and Encounter Ranks, if you think we should add extra information or forget something, please let us know via comment below, and we will do our best to fix or update as soon as possible!
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