This is a guide intended for a novice binocular user. Perhaps you used the binoculars of a friend during a trip or event, or you found binoculars going through a closet or attic, or you are interested in a hobby like birdwatching or stargazing that gets you outdoors more. Choosing the right binocular can be intimidating with the different specifications and features. This guide is meant to summarize the conventional wisdom and help you prioritize what meets your needs. Types of observing
. Binoculars can be used for a variety of tasks where you need to make something small, dim, and/or far away bigger, brighter, and closer. Travel, astronomy, nature, events, and security are some of the most common settings where you will encounter binoculars. Each of these different types of observing has different demands that should lead you to prioritize some kinds of features over others. If you are just getting started, something like a 6x32 or 8x42 in the US$100-150 budget may be the most versatile option. Set your expectations
. You are not going to get Hubble Telescope deep field images of the stars or telephoto close-ups of players' reactions on the field. The iconic images you see in newspapers, posters, and online were made using highly-specialized and expensive equipment while binoculars are general-purpose and inexpensive equipment. As long as you set reasonable expectations about what binoculars can do, you will be able to enjoy your excursions, events, and trips more.
If you are on the market for binoculars, you might be confused by some of the jargon. Some of the most important terminology is summarized below followed by links to resources if you want to dive deeper. Magnification and aperture
. (Very high importance). These are the most important specifications for binoculars. Common examples you see include 6x32, 8x42, and 10x50. The first number refers to the magnification
, or how much the optics enlarge a target. The second number refers to the aperture
, or the size of the front glass element (in millimeters). There are engineering constraints and usability trade-offs when changing the magnification and aperture. Greater magnification brings you "closer" but too much magnification can result in shaky views that require stabilization like a tripod. Magnification also magnifies your hand shake: 10x is generally the upper limit for most people’s tolerance for magnification when hand-holding though you may be able to get away with 12x or 15x with unusually steady hands or mechanical stabilization with a monopod or bracing yourself. Greater aperture allows you to collect more light to improve the quality of a magnified image but also makes the binoculars heavier and more expensive. The amount of light that a lens gathers scales with the square of the aperture: a design with a 50mm aperture gathers twice the light of a 35mm design and four times the light of a 25mm design. The right combination will depend on your use case: binoculars for astronomy often tend towards more magnification and aperture (15x70, 20x80, 25x100, etc.) that demands a mount while binoculars for nature, hunting, and events should be lighter and lower magnification (5x25, 6x32, 8x42) to hold comfortably in your hands. Field of view
. (High importance). The field of view (FOV) is the amount of a scene the optics can take in. For optical instruments like binoculars, this can be described as either an angular
field of view or a linear
field of view. An angular field of view is specified in degrees and for most binoculars is in a range between 4° and 8°, with higher magnifications necessarily having smaller FOVs and lower magnifications having higher larger FOVs. Your fist at arm's length is about 10° and the Moon is about 0.5°. A linear field of view is specified as a ratio like "322ft/1,000 yards" or "98m/1,000m" which means that you could see 322 feet/98 meters of width and height of an object 1,000 yards/meters away. Angular measurements are more common for astronomy and linear measurements are more helpful for travel, nature, events, or security. You can use a small-angle approximation
to convert between angular and linear FOVs. For imperial distances (ft/yards), divide the linear FOV (in feet) by 52.4 to get the angular FOV: 322.5/52.4≈6.1°. For metric distances (meters), divide the linear FOV (in meters) by 16 to get the angular FOV: 98/16≈6.1°. You can obviously multiply the angular metric by these small-angle approximations to estimate the linear FOV as well. Interpupillary distance
(IPD). (High importance). This is the distance between the centers of the pupils of your eyes, typically measured in millimeters. This distance varies by gender and race/ethnicity from the low 50s to the high 70s with an average around 60mm. If your IPD is smaller or larger than a binocular's designed IPD range (typically 55-70mm), you will not be able to use the optics comfortably. You will want to measure your IPD
either by yourself or at your next eye appointment so you know what kind of binoculars to look for. Porro and roof prism
. (Moderate importance). There are two distinct types of designs for binoculars: "porro" and "roof" prisms. Porro prisms are an older design with a simpler light path that (all else being equal) provides better image quality and lower cost, but they also tend to be bulkier, heavier, and harder to waterproof. Roof prisms are more compact, lighter weight, and easier to waterproof, which makes them more durable but they also tend to be more expensive. Porro prisms are generally better for astronomical applications and roof prisms for nature/hunting and event applications. Eye relief
. (Moderate importance). This is the distance from the exit of a binocular where the full viewing angle can still be obtained. "Longer" eye relief (>10mm) is almost always desirable, especially for people who observe with eyeglasses or sunglasses. Eye relief cannot be easily computed from other specifications, but binoculars with higher magnifications and larger fields of view generally have smaller eye relief. Binoculars with both long eye relief and high magnifications can be found, they just cost more. Some binoculars are designed with foldable or removable "eye-cups" that protects the lens from the naked eye but allows eyeglass-wearers to get closer to the optics to make up for short eye relief. Exit pupil
. (Low-Moderate importance). This is the aperture that the light leaves the instrument and enters your eye. Ideally the exit pupil of the instrument matches your eyes' pupil diameter so that light is neither lost (exit pupil is too big) or vignetted (exit pupil is too small). Your eyes' pupil diameters change in the day (smaller) versus the night (larger) as well as with age (smaller over time): A twenty-year-old's pupil diameter ranges from 4.7-8mm while a seventy-year-old's pupil diameter ranges from 2.7-3.2mm. You can calculate the exit pupil of a binocular by dividing the aperture by the magnification: an 8x32 binocular has an exit pupil of 32mm/8=4mm and a 10x50 binocular has an exit pupil of 50mm/10=5mm. Older people and daylight applications can probably tolerate binoculars with smaller exit pupils than younger people and night-time applications. Focusing
. (Low-Moderate importance). Binoculars typically offer two options for focusing: center focus (CF) and individual focus (IF). CF binoculars have a single mechanism that focuses both lenses simultaneously. IF binoculars have independent mechanisms that focus each lens separately. IF eyepieces are simpler, more robust, and easier to tailor to the differences in your eyes' vision, but they can also be more frustrating to calibrate, use out in the field, or share with others. Glass and coatings
. (Low-Moderate importance). Binoculars advertise a variety of features like the kind of glass and coatings used in the lenses or prisms. The differences in performance are typically negligible for general-purpose use compared to the features above: paying for these features will not deliver a 10x or even 2x experience that often accompanies their prices. Binoculars using extra-low dispersion
(ED) glass can reduce the color fringes ("chromatic aberration") in high-contrast scenes (bright against dark) but this glass is only found in the most expensive optics. Apochromatic ("apo") lenses offer the best correction of chromatic and spherical aberrations, but they are heavy and expensive compared to achromatic lenses and rare to find outside of large astronomical optics. Binoculars may also be advertised with different kinds of prism glass: BaK4 is potentially better than BaK7 but these differences are slight for general-purpose use. Finally, all optics have some kind of coating
applied to them to protect the glass from the elements and to reduce reflections and glare but there is an enormous amount of marketing hype and little in the way of standardized terminology to differentiate. Optics that are "fully multi-coated" through more of the light path (lenses, prisms, eyepieces) are better and more expensive. Chassis material
. (Low importance). Polycarbonate plastics are often used in the least expensive binoculars, but this does not make them bad since it's also easier to waterproof and for the optics to remain well-collimated. Aluminum chassis are also common and have a better feeling of substance and quality to them while magnesium is found in the highest-end binoculars because of its high strength and low weight. Metal chassis are prone to corrosion if they lose their coatings/shell. Knowing how well-manufactured the mountings for the internal optics (lenses and prisms) is also important but hard to quantify and generally not advertised. Image stabilization, night vision, etc.
. (Depends). Advanced features like image stabilization, night vision, and range-finding can be found on specialized binoculars, but you should only invest in these features if you know what you need. In addition to being significantly more expensive, these features can involve compromises in other important design considerations like image quality, robustness, and weight.
If you want to use binoculars for a variety of purposes like travel, events, nature, and astronomy, you'll want a mid-sized and rugged model. 6x32, 8x32, 8x42 and 10x42 are very popular general-purpose designs that balance portability and image quality: you can find models for less than US$50 to well over US$2,000 using these designs. Bigger designs may be too heavy to comfortably wear or pack and smaller designs may not have the light-gathering power or magnification to be useful. Look for long eye-relief and center-focus features to improve usability, waterproofing and rubberized for ruggedness, and something light-weight, compact, easy to hold in your hands for comfort, and potentially not too expensive in case they are lost or damaged. The biggest and baddest binocular is probably a poor choice for a general-purpose binocular until you learn more about what you like to do when viewing.
This could include hiking, tours, museums, and cruises. Zoom binoculars can be versatile but make other compromises in quality and can be difficult to manage in the field and generally aren't recommended. Lower powers like 4x-8x let you take in a whole scene and you can often "zoom with your feet" if you need more magnification. A lighter weight should also be prioritized if you're going to be carrying binoculars around your neck or in a bag over your shoulder for hours. Because the weather can shift and accidents happen, you will also want to make sure your investment is waterproof, rubber-coated, and generally robust to getting knocked around. Designs like 6x32 and 8x42 are good choices.
Whether you're interested in casual stargazing or an experienced amateur looking for something less cumbersome than your telescope setup, binoculars are a great way to easily explore the night's sky. Our brains are much better suited to bino-viewing than squinting through a single lens, so bino-viewing can resolve more detail than mono-viewing for the same aperture. Aperture is far-and-away the most important feature to consider when choosing binoculars for astronomy. A 70mm gathers about twice as much light as a 50mm and a 100mm about twice as much as a 70mm. But more aperture means more weight, so only buy what you'll use: a "grab-and-go" 10x50 you use every other week is better than a giant 25x100 if the latter ends up sitting in a box for months because it's too much hassle to haul them out to mount on a tripod. Handholding is possible (particularly when reclining), but you'll want to make sure there's a tripod socket for mounting the binoculars to a tripod. Magnification choice really depends on the kinds of targets you'll be looking for: taking in the Milky Way or Andromeda galaxy is better under low magnifications like 7x and zooming into the details of the Moon, planets, or deeper sky objects would benefit from high magnifications >10x. Exit pupil plays a role here too: your pupils will be largest at night (4-8mm) so too much magnification for a given aperture could lead to severe vignetting: a 10x50 (5mm exit pupil) is probably a better choice for astronomy than a 16x56 (3.5mm exit pupil). Beyond "large" (50-70mm) astronomical binoculars, there are also "giant" (>70mm) binoculars specifically designed for astronomy. Common designs in the giant range include 15x70, 20x80, 25x100, and even larger binoculars exist that incorporate premium features from telescopes like ED glass, apochromatic optics, and 45° or 90° diagonals with swappable eyepieces for easier viewing. Because you will spend so much time looking upwards, consider investing in a parallelogram mount that can support the weight of your binoculars (Farpoint UBM
($$), Orion Paragon Plus
($$),Orion Monster Mount
($$$), Oberwerk PM1
) ($$$$), or 10 Micron Leonardi BM100
($$$$$$). 10x50 is a good starting place for astronomical binoculars that could still be re-purposed for other uses. A 15x70 or 20x80 paired with a good mount and tripod is an excellent option if you wanted to start a dedicated stargazing setup.
The goal here is to focus on the details rather than taking in a whole scene, so prioritize the highest magnifications you can comfortably hand-hold: 8x or 10x is a realistic upper limit unless you have a monopod or image stabilization. You may also be working in conditions with variable light (shade, twilight, etc.) so consider larger diameters to get brighter and higher-resolution images above 35mm. If you only plan to be out in sunny and bright conditions, you can use smaller apertures below 35mm. (Remember, a 50mm aperture collects about twice as much light as a 35mm, which collects twice as much as a 25mm). If you're interested in birding or other kinds of wildlife viewing (whale-watching, safaris, etc.), sizes like 10x32, 8x42, and 10x42 are popular. You will likely have these around your neck or be taking them in and out of a backpack repeatedly, so durability and waterproofing are important: roof prisms are ideal.
Spectator sports, concerts, and theater are generally very well-lit so aperture is less of concern but you will want something compact and with higher magnification like 8x30 or 10x30. For outdoor sports and large venues, 8x-12x is best. Concerts and theater, you will probably want something compact and lightweight in the 4x-8x range. Waterproofing is obviously more desirable for outdoor sports than indoor concerts.
Features to consider here are magnification, ruggedness, and versatility. Magnification is important to get you as much detail about the target as possible. Because they are likely observing in non-ideal situations and these binoculars might be stored in a car trunk for extended periods of time, make sure the chassis is robust, waterproofed, and rubberized. You will likely want a center-focus mechanism to keep things simple if you're tracking a moving target. Zoom binoculars are appealing in theory, but they do require compromises in optical quality and you will likely be at maximum zoom most of the time. Depending on your application, you may need something as large as "border guard" binoculars (like the Oberwerk 25/40x100
) or use more traditional hand-held binoculars paired with something like a car window clamp mount
, There are specialized binocular options with image stabilization, reticles, range-finding, or night vision that may be worth considering here depending on your specific needs.
Here are links to general information, manufacturers, and retailers.
- Seronik, Gary. Binocular Highlights: 109 Celestial Sights for Binocular Users. Second Edition. Sky & Telescope, 2017.
- Tonkin, Stephen. Discover the Night Sky through Binoculars. Self-published, 2018.
Like many other industries, binocular manufacturing has been "off-shored" in recent years. There are a number of manufacturers based in Japan and Europe, but the vast majority of retail binoculars are rebadged versions of models made by a handful of Chinese and Taiwanese original equipment manufacturers
like Kunming United Optics
), Yunnan Optics
, and Gosky
. Chinese-sourced optics can be as high quality as Japanese or European-sourced optics, but because most cheap and low-quality binoculars are made in China, Chinese optics get a bad reputation. Superficially similar-looking models may use different internal components, different quality control processes, and pre/post-sale support from the retailer, so don't judge a binocular only by its case. As with most things, always do your research and you get what you pay for.
Most manufacturers have online stores you can purchase directly from as well. A coarse approximation of the cost of typical models is also included, low ($) to high ($$$$$).
- General purpose
System Shock 2: A Guide To The Impossible
System Shock 2 is one of the greatest RPGs ever made, and yet I feel like most people don't appreciate much of what it has to offer. They either don't play it, or play just once and put it down. But System Shock 2 is a game that really comes alive only on the 2nd playthrough, and especially
only on impossible difficulty.
Impossible is the hardest of four possible difficulties in SS2, and it's not messing around. The very first enemy you meet in the game can one shot kill you with his standard attack, and almost every enemy you encounter can 2 or 3 shot you. On normal you start the game with 35 HP - on impossible you start with just 10. On impossible every cyber module upgrade cost is increased (179% of normal), enemies spawn more frequently, drop less loot, items cost more nanites at replicators (200% of normal), endurance gives you less HP. Survival is not to be expected.
And yet impossible is also amazing fun. The severe resource restrictions and your low health combine to encourage an extremely Dark Souls-esque playthrough. You will need to use your wrench and fancy foot work to handle most enemies you encounter, because bullets are simply too precious. Normal difficulty is a fairly standard run'n'gun experience, but impossible is terror and scrounging and begging for every last nanite. Well, at first. Another thing that makes impossible so fantastic is the sense of progression you get over the course of the game, going from you being scared of everything to everything being scared of you. By the last 2 levels of the game, you are slaughtering the toughest enemies with a snap of your fingers - or ignoring them all together - and after hours of dying to monkeys and spiders at the start it feels so satisfying.
So I wanted to write up this little guide that goes over the weapons, powers, stats and tech skills in the game, and give a brief over view of which ones I think are amazing and which ones are best to avoid. As much as I adore SS2, it is from a far more brutal era of video games and it's very easy to screw yourself over with sub-optimal choices. I'm writing this guide under the assumption you've completed SS2 once on normal, and so know the very basics of the plot. Generally I'll avoid going into control details as I assume you picked all that up on your first run, but I make two exceptions:
1) Walk up to a ledge and hold space. Your character will pull himself up onto the ledge. This makes the platforming in the game so much less frustrating, as you don't need to be able to jump on
to platforms only grab an edge.
2) You can swap psi powers on the fly with the F1/2/3/4/5 keys. The tier of power corresponds to the number of the f key. So F1 cycles through your tier 1 psi powers, F2 cycles through tier 2 psi powers, F3....you get the idea.
So without further ado, let us discuss stats: Strength
: This allows you to carry more items and determines how much damage you do with melee weapons. There are also strength requirements for certain items in the game, most notably light armor (needs 2 strength), power armor (needs 3 strength), and heavy combat armor (needs 6 strength). I recommend getting 3 strength at some point, so you can wear power armor without needing to use a strength implant. Beyond that, this stat is useless even for melee users. Endurance
Increases your HP, and reduces the damage of environmental hazards. You get so little HP on impossible from endurance I bump it to 3 and then leave it alone. Most of your defenses in late game come from armor and psi powers so raw HP isn't super vital. Agility
Makes you faster and more agile, and reduces the kick from automatic weapons. This is the god stat on impossible, being faster lets you dodge attacks and land your own more consistently. You could easily get this up to 6 and not be wasting cyber modules. I still prefer to keep it at 3 though, because you get a psychic power you can keep on basically 24/7 that brings it up to 5 and then get a cyber implant that brings it to 6. I'm fast as f*ck boi Psi
Determines how well you can use psychic powers. Sometimes increases damage, sometimes duration, sometimes potency - it depends on the specific power. I like to get it to 4, and use a cyber implant that grants +1 psi to bring it to 5. Further, when you're casting a psychic power if you hold it until the line reaches the yellow part of the bar you will "overload" the power and cast it as though you had +2 psi than you currently do. Finally there is something called a psi booster in the game that grants you +1 psi for 5 minutes. Thus bringing you to the very impressive total of psi 8, which is the maximum score for almost every single power in the game bar one. Cyber
Makes you better at hacking. This skill is probably the least important, but it's not useless
if you intend to do any hacking (and you do). I bring it to 3 (noticing a pattern here?) and then leave it.
Next let's talk about tech skills and why you should never ever invest most of them. Hacking
This is a fantastically useful skill and why we don't leave cyber at 2. At level 1 it lets you hack security, and disable turrets and cameras (a godsend on the engineering deck). At level 2 it lets you hack crates. At level 3 it lets you hack vending machines. At level 4 it lets you hack turrets (hacked turrets fight for you). I personally prefer to get hacking to 3 so I can hack vending machines to get better prices, but getting to level 4 is also not completely useless- it's just not as amazing as the previous 3 levels of hacking. Modify
This skill is completely redundant. It is supposed to let you tweak your weapons to improve them, but there is an item that already does this in the game for free called a French-Epstein device. There are 4 of these things scattered around on impossible, and each ranged weapon can only be modified twice anyway. So just use 2 French-Epstein devices on your assault rifle, 2 on your shotgun, and never invest in modify under any circumstances. Repair
If your items get low enough in quality, they can jam. At that point they don't work anymore and only be fixed by using the repair skill or
an auto-repair item. Similar to modify, the existence of an item that does this skill's entire job without costing cyber modules renders it utterly redundant. Maintenance
This skill isn't quite as useless as modify and repair. This lets you fix your weapon up and improve its quality. Items with very low quality have an increased chance of jamming. The disposable maintenance tool requires
this skill to use, so unlike French-epstein devices or auto-repair tools it doesn't render the entire skill worthless. However the existence of a psychic power that makes your weapons never lower in quality makes it ... kind of not fantastic. Get it to 1 or 2 at most, but don't bother taking it higher. Rely on the psychic power to keep your high end weapons from breaking down. Research
Items you find in the game need to be researched before you can use them. Research 1 is mandatory for story progression, but there are a few very powerful items you'll find in the game that need more research to function. I like to bring it up to level 2, then equip a cyber implant that gives +1 research, so that I can research the worm mind implant (more on that later). Higher levels of research aren't that useful, as they only give you access to some pretty questionable items. Though melee users will want to get research 3 so they can research the crystal shard (using the +1 research implant).
Next up on the docket, psychic powers! These things are utterly fantastic for any
play style and so everyone should invest in some of these. Tier 1 Psycho-reflective screen
15% damage reduction. Stacks with all other forms of damage reduction to make you a tanky boi. Neuro-reflex dampening
Eliminates kick from guns. If you have been investing in the god stat of agility this isn't useful, but if you are a crazy person and have kept your agility low then it is useful to control the spray from the assault rifle. Kinetic redirection
Force pull. Yanks objects nearer to you. Only works on items and not enemies. This skill is useless. Any items perched on high ledges can be knocked off by hitting them with cryokinesis which imparts momentum. Psychogenic agility
+2 agility. This is an amazing power, and it's one that I keep activated for literally the entire game. From medsci all the way to the body of the many it's by far the best power on this tier. Psychogenic cyber-affinity
+2 to your cyber stat. Pretty useful for hacking hard to hack crates. Projected cryokinesis
If you start as an OSA agent, this your only ranged attack until you get enough cyber modules to unlock a gun. It's fairly low damage but will do damage to anything. Once you get access to a firearm you will never use this thing again. Remote electron tampering
Make active alarms time out faster. Useless. Just run up to a security panel and click it to instantly turn an alarm off completely. Tier 2 Anti-entropic field
Makes your guns not degrade. This is the power I mentioned above that makes maintenance kind of redundant. Turn this power on, and then start hosing down the bad guys with your machine gun. Cerebro-stimulated regeneration
A heal power. Because you have so little health on impossible, this is the only healing power you will ever need. It will heal you from 1 HP to full from the start of the game to the end. Psychogenic strength
+2 strength. Useless. Adrenaline overproduction
Multiplies your melee damage by a factor equal to psi. This power is why strength is irrelevant for melee users. It multiples only the base damage of your weapon, and then your strength modifier is added on afterwards. This means you'll be doing 200+ damage with the main attack...and then getting a piddly little +2 damage bonus added on to that from strength. Ya no, invest in this skill and a high psi if you want to bash things with sticks. Strength is worthless. Neural decontamination
80% reduction in radiation. There is a suit of armor you can find, the hazmat suit, that gives you the exact effect of this power. So useless? Yes mostly. I personally get it just because it's a vague hassle to have to lug the hazmat suit everywhere. But it's hardly amazing or mandatory. Recursive psionic amplification
Doubles the psi point cost of your powers, but gives you +2 psi stat when using them. Useless. You can already get to the psi cap easily in several different ways without this power, and resources are precious on impossible difficulty - every power sucking up twice as many psi points is not good. Localized pyrokinesis
This power makes you immune to the explosions of protocol droids (suicide bomber robots you first meet on the engineering deck) and crates. It does not
make you immune to the explosions of security robots. I always get this power because the suicide droids are so freaking annoying. Oh also worth mentioning this power technically
is supposed to just generate a ring of fire around yourself, and the immunity to explosions thing is a glitch. The power generates the same effect around you that a protocol droid explosion generates, so to prevent his power frying you whenever you turn it on the developers made the player immune to that kind of damage for the duration of the effect. Some mods "helpfully" fix this "oversight" and remove the only useful thing about this power, so be careful in investing in it if you're playing a modded version of the game. Tier 3 Molecular duplication
Lets you spend psi points and nanites to replicate an item in your inventory. Very useful for getting enough bullets to survive tough times, or making enough anti-toxic hypos to stay alive. You can't duplicate psi hypos, but not a huge deal. Great power totally recommend. Electron cascade
Recharges the batteries of an item in your inventory. A very useful power for anyone who uses power armor or implants (aka everyone). Probably the best power on this level. Neural toxin-blocker
Awful power. This won't cure
you of toxin, it will only mean you can't get infected by it. Which is the exact opposite of what would be useful. Enhanced motion sensitivity
Psychic radar. Only works on organic enemies. Useless if you have ears (enemies are very noisy in the game). Projected pyrokinesis
Does huge damage to organic enemies, but no damage to robots. Very powerful if you plan on going psychic only, but gets overshadowed by guns fairly quickly. Psionic hypnogenesis
Puts the organic enemy you hit with it to sleep. If you do damage to them they'll wake up. Very useful power, especially in combination with adrenaline overproduction. Hit them with this power, turn on adrenaline, and whap them with your wrench for massive damage without any risks. Energy reflection
50% damage reduction against energy attacks. Very useful power, as most ranged enemies in the game will be using energy based weapons. Not useful against melee attackers, but you can't have everything. Tier 4 Photonic redirection
Invisibility. Works on every enemy in the game except the very very final boss. Amazing power, probably the best psychic power in the whole game. It lets you just walk through entire crowds of enemies like a ghost. Also you can hack things while remaining invisible, so if you do get your hacking to level 4 you can turn this power on and run around making turrets shoot your enemies with no one being aware you were even there! Electron suppression
Stuns a robotic enemy for a while. Not that useful for a gun user, but an absolute god-send for psi-only players. Unlike the tier 3 power hypnogenesis, you can hit the robot while he's stunned with this power and he won't wake up. Psychogenic endurance
Gives +2 endurance. Not amazing, endurance isn't a very good stat on impossible. Molecular transmutation
Converts items into nanites. This is a ...really complicated power. Whether you make money using this or lose money is something you need to calculate for yourself, and varies depending on what deck you're on, what your psi is, what the item you're breaking down is, how good your hacking is, and whether or not you have pharma-friendly and/or replicator expert. As a bit of friendly advice: You will always make a tidy profit using this power on prisms, jars of worms, armor-piercing bullets, and disruption grenades. All other items you need to figure out for yourself and your particular situation. Remote circuitry manipulation
Useless. Lets you hack from a distance, but you can already hack while invisible so what good is that? Cerebro-energetic extension
Turns your psi amp into a sword. The best melee weapon in the game, or 2nd best if you are using the smasher glitch with the crystal shard. Tier 5
To unlock this tier requires 135 cyber modules on impossible (you only get 820 cyber modules in the entire game), so consider most of the things here "nice to have" rather than essential. Advanced Cerebro-stimulated regeneration
Heals you. The big daddy of the tier 2 heal power. On lower difficulties it has a point, because you have enough HP that tier 2 heal power doesn't fully replensih your health bar. On impossible though, this power is trash. Soma transference
Lets you suck the life out of organic enemies, dealing damage to them and healing yourself. Not a good power, the damage is far too low. Although an interesting note is that this is the only attack that can go through metacreative barriers, so it's got that going for it. Imposed neural restructuring
Hack enemy organic creatures and have them fight for you~! Not that useful, but it's fun to have a rumbler fighting on your side for a while. Metacreative barrier
Conjures a wall of force in front of you, that can't be pierced by any attack in the game except soma transference. I love this power, it makes the final bosses so much easier. Eternal psionic detonation
You drop a psychic proximity mine where you're standing. Useless. Psycho-reflective aura
Reduces incoming damage by 60%. Oh my god that's the cheesiest thing I've ever heard of. Get power armor (50% damage reduction), the tier 1 power psycho-reflective screen (15% damage reduction), while wearing the worm-mind implant (25% damage reduction) and combine them with tihs power and you're nearly unkillable. Note "nearly". Damage reduction in this game scales multiplicatively, not additively. So with this setup you're only going to get to 87% damage reduction, not 150% damage reduction. Instantaneous quantum relocation
I really like this power. It saves you a non-trivial amount of back tracking and annoying platforming in the final level. It also almost pays for itself if you're clever with it in the shuttle bay.
The waltz continues on to weapons: Standard Weapons
Includes the wrench, pistol, shotgun and assault rifle. The best weapons in the game, useful against any enemy type with the right kind of ammo. The assault rifle is an utter beast and can slice and dice even the hardest of enemies like they're butter. Heavy Weapons
Includes the grenade launcher, stasis field generator, and fusion cannon. The grenade launcher is a fantastic weapon, and competes with the assault rifle for being one of the best guns in the game. But the statis field generator and fusion cannon are both awful, awful weapons I don't wish on my worst enemy. Energy weapons
These guns (and one sword) are specialized robot-killers, dealing bonus damage against mechanical enemies. Because robotic enemies become less and less common the further you go in the game, I can't recommend these guns. The energy pistol does pathetic damage, the EMP rifle costs way too many cyber modules for a gun that can only
damage robots, and the laser rapier is a melee weapon - in a game when all robots explode when they die. Think about that for a moment. Exotic Weapons
Includes the crystal shard, the viral proliferator, and the annelid launcher. As energy weapons are specialized robot killers, exotic weapons are specialized organic killers. And like energy weapons, that specialization makes them fairly niche compared to the versatility of standard or heavy weapons. The exception is the crystal shard. The crystal shard is amazing
if you've got the smasher upgrade. But more on that ....uhh right now actually.
4 times over the course of the game you'll get the chance to upgrade your rig with an OS improvement. These range form amazing to absolute garbage, so let's talk about them. Tank
+5 hit points. Not great, not terrible. Lethal weapon
Increases melee damage by 35%. Very good, both for general purpose smashing things and for use with adrenaline overproduction. Pack-rat
Gives extra inventory slots. Useless. Tinker
Reduces the nanite cost of modify by 50%. Useless. Strong metabolism
Reduces damage from radiation and toxins. Useless. Spatially aware
Automatically draws your map when you enter a new area. Useless. Smasher
God-tier. There is a bug with the crystal shard where instead of increasing the damage by the 27% to 33%, the damage is instead increased 125%. This turns the crystal shard into the most damaging melee weapon in the game, and combined with adrenaline overproduction lets you one shot kill any enemy in the whole game. Sharpshooter
+15% damage for ranged non-psychic attacks. Really, really good if you intend to use guns at all. Security Expert
+2 to hacking when trying to hack security. Useless. Speedy
+15% movement speed. Fantastic. One of the better upgrades here. More speed means not dying. Replicator expert
Reduces the cost of replicator items by 20%. Super useful on impossible, you need to stretch every nanite as far as you can. Power psi
Overload a psi power too long and it will "burn out" and damage you. This upgrade means burn out no longer hurts you. Useless. Just don't hold psi powers too long. Pharmo-friendly
All hypos are 20% more effective. Another great upgrade. You will be relying on hypos for the entire game so 20% more effectiveness means you need to buy 20% fewer hypos which means your precious nanites last a little longer. Naturally able
Grants eight free cyber modules. Useless. OS upgrade slots are too valuable to waste on this. Cybernetically enhanced
God-tier. Lets you have two active cyber implants, meaning you have a lot of flexibility in what stats you want to have buffed and want abilities you want active. Cyber-assimilation
Robots sometimes drop a cybernetic med-kit. Useless.
So now that you've read all that, I wanted to show a little video demonstrating that - as frustrating and difficult as the early game can be - it gets better. And that by the end of the game, the world is your oyster to do with as you see fit. Do be warned though, this is going to show off the last two levels of system shock 2 so
MASSIVE SPOILERS // MASSIVE SPOILERS // MASSIVE SPOILERS
If you haven't already done your first playthrough of SS2 on regular, do not watch this video. SS2's story is as good as its gameplay, so don't ruin it for yourself. https://youtu.be/i4ARyNmuqU8