Barbarians are one of the 11 Classes in Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, and in this Guide we’re going to take a look at how they work in order to not only help you make a better Barbarian, but also help you to determine if this is the class for you. If you are new to Pillars of Eternity 2 or just need a refresher when it comes to Class selection and Character Creation, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Let’s get started…
Barbarian Builds and How They Work
Barbarian’s in Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire are a melee class that specializes in AoE and Crowd Control. All Barbarians have a passive ability called Carnage that allows them to hit enemies in an AoE around the target they are striking for a portion of the damage they deal. This makes them ideal for situations where there are many enemies grouped up, but less effective when there is only one tough solo enemy.
Barbarians use Rage as their resource, and it is what allows them to buff themselves, debuff enemies and use powerful attacks in combat. Unlike most Classes, Barbarians can actually refund Rage during combat by using some Abilities. This allows them to be more aggressive with their Rage, spending it more frequently, and increasing their overall damage output.
Barbarians do not possess much in the way of self heals or defense and therefore rely heavily on Second Wind or other party members to keep their Health topped off. Athletics is therefore very important to the Barbarian, and should be prioritized when placing points into Active Skills.
Because Barbarians are not as complicated to play as some other Classes, we’ll spend more time exploring Multiclassing options than we do in our other guides. In order to do that though, we need to talk a bit about the Subclasses and how they impact the Barbarian.
Barbarian Subclasses, Which to Choose
In this section we’re going to take a look at the Subclasses of the Barbarian and see why you might choose one of them, or not. As mentioned above Barbarians use Rage to buff themselves and damage enemies, and the Subclass you use has a significant effect not only on how often you can return Rage spent, but also on how the key Barbarian Ability Frenzy affects you. Let’s take a look at what the Barbarian Subclasses are, and talk a bit about what sort of Builds you can make with them.
Berserkers are a high risk high reward style of play. They outperform other Barbarians in terms of total damage, but it comes with a cost that may or may not be suitable for your party. This Subclass is not recommended for new players.
Berserkers take Raw Damage over time, cannot to see their own Health, get -5 Intellect, and lose the ability to distinguish friend from foe (with their Carnage damage) while using Frenzy. In exchange, they gain other benefits while using it, that offset these somewhat. Specifically, Berserkers receive +2 Penetration and +2 Armor, in addition to 30% of Hits converted to Crits with Melee Weapons on top of the usual benefits Frenzy provides. This is a HUGE boost in damage.
Battle Axes also further increase Critical Damage by 20%, and are the ideal choice here for Barbarians. Consider using the One-Handed Style for increased Hit to Crits or Two Weapon Style for decreased Recovery Time and double Battle Axes.
Players opting to play as a Berserker will have to manage them effectively to not only prevent them from damaging other party members, but also from dying because you can’t see their Health. Combat is already hard enough for new players, which is why this isn’t recommended for them. Note that Resolve reduces the negative effects of Frenzy without reducing the positive ones.
Soul Blade Ciphers gain a huge increase with Weapon Damage and can use Soul Annihilation for very high damage attacks. If you dual wield Rapiers you can use the ability Needle Strike to gain increased Accuracy, allowing you to dump points in Perception and pump Might, for increased damage. Since the upgraded version of Barbaric Blow refunds the cost of it if you kill the target, you can create a rotation of that alternates between mostly these two abilities.
Fighters have the Passive Ability Constant Recovery, which heals you over time. The Devoted Subclass of Fighter, works even better because you gain +25% Critical Damage (and +2 Penetration) with your chosen weapon. Disciplined Strikes also increases your Hit to Crit chance by 50%!
If you choose Paladin you will gain access to many defensive Abilities that will help keep you alive while you are using Frenzy, along with a few heals. The Kind Wayfarers Subclass of Paladin also allows your Flames of Devotion ability to heal nearby allies in an AoE, which could help to offset some of the damage they may take from your Berserker.
Monks although Swift Strikes will not increase your Action Speed on top of Frenzy, it still provides Dexterity and the upgraded version gives you a chance to attack again if you Crit. In addition, they get a similar effect from the passive ability Heartbeat Drumming, which gives them a 25% chance to attack again on Melee Weapon Crits.
If you choose Rogue you will gain the access to Smoke Veil, allowing you to become invisible. This not only helps to reduce the damage you take, but will increase the damage you deal because of Rogue Passive Abilities. The Streetfighter Subclass works well here because it increases the damage of your Crits and Sneak Attacks when Flanked, as well as reduces Recovery Time. This is a very high damage Build, that shines in AoE scenarios.
Chanters give you access to Offensive Invocations, as well as passive Chants that can heal you or deal damage in an AoE around you. The Skald Subclass gains a Phrase 50% of the time when you Crit with a weapon, so there is very good synergy here because of the high Crit chance. Your AoE radius will be reduced because of the penalty to Intellect, but the good news is that you will gain Carnage AoE and Chant AoE radius for each point you add to Intellect.
Corpse-Eaters can replenish their Rage and heal themselves by devouring the corpses of certain fallen foes during combat. They make excellent Multiclass candidates, because having another resource pool to pull from while they wait for a downed enemy is a tremendous asset.
Penalty: All Rage abilities are increased in cost by 1.
Corpse-Eaters gain the Flesh Communion ability, allowing them to eat certain types of enemies to replenish Health and Rage. In exchange, the cost of their Abilities is increased by +1. This gives them higher potential damage in some combat situations, where there are a lot of these enemy types for them to devour, because they can spend more Rage. It also gives them a way to heal, which is a weakness of this Class in general. When in combat, aim to down Kith, Wilder or Beasts quickly in order to take full advantage of this ability.
Because Corpse-Eater Barbarians have higher Rage costs, it is advised that they Multiclass in order to pick up some other abilities that don’t require Rage. This will give them Abilities to use when they run out of Rage if an appropriate enemy type has not yet died. Chanter, Cipher and Fighter are all great choices here.
Chanters need to increase their Duration and AoE radius with Intellect, much the way Barbarians need to for their Carnage passive ability. This allows them to get mutual benefit out of pumping this Attribute. When Multiclassing with a Chanter you will want to choose a Skald and pick primarily Offensive Invocations, and some Phrases that benefit a melee character.
Ciphers gain bonus damage with Weapons, so there is a natural fit here. The Soul Blade Subclass also gives you the Soul Annihilation ability that deals substantial damage that cannot be resisted, and gives you Concentration when you down an enemy. Choosing Cipher also gives you access to some Shred Abilities that work well in melee range.
As mentioned earlier, Fighters give you access to Constant Recovery which allows you to heal over time and helps to fill in that weakness of the Barbarian. There are also many good martial Passives that the Barbarian can benefit from like: Confident Aim and Armored Grace. You really can’t go wrong with Fighter.
Mage Slayers specialize in taking out magic-casting enemes with disruptive strikes that can make spells fail. Because Mage Slayers detest anything magical, they cannot use Potions or Scrolls and only gain 50% Duration of beneficial effects. This Subclass is recommended for new players because mages hit very hard in Pillars of Eternity 2.
Bonus: Successful melee weapon attacks (or Carnage hits) add Spell Disruption to the target, causing Wizard, Priest, Druid, Cipher, or Chanter spells to have a chance to fail when cast. Gain passive Spell Resistance.
Mage Slayers are able to disrupt the casting of magic users with some regularity. Successful Hits will apply “Spell Disruption” to the target giving them a chance to fail their next cast. Unfortunately the tooltip does not show exactly what the likelihood is that the spell will fail, so take that into consideration. This is a very solid Subclass for dealing with mage type enemies effectively, which can be very useful. This is especially true for new players because mage enemies typically hit the hardest and can often wipe entire parties if you are not prepared.
Because Mage Slayers only gain 50% Duration on beneficial effects, they will not use Frenzy, and they should stay away from similar buffs that will become much less effective. Instead they should focus on effects that have a permanent Duration because only the length is affected, not the buff itself. Keep this in mind when Multiclassing, and choose either Cipher or Ranger because their effects are permanent.
Ciphers will give you a permanent bonus to weapon damage, and picking Soul Blade will give you Soul Annihilation which is deadly. You can also use some Offensive Invocations which won’t be affected by your debuff.
Rangers come with a permanent companion which fits well here. In addition, many of the Abilities they use effect other targets, not themselves, preventing you from losing out.
No Subclass Barbarians have the freedom to Multiclass without incurring penalties. No Subclass is a great choice if you are new to the class/game or aren’t sure just exactly how you’d like to build your character. This is also a good choice if you’d just like to pick up some passive abilities like Carnage.
No Subclass Barbarians are recommended for new players and those who aren’t quite sure how they want to play their Barbarian yet, but don’t want to pigeon hole themselves before they figure it out. Just keep in mind though, Barbarians will always play a melee Build, because Carnage does not work with ranged attacks and many of the Barbarian’s passives only affect Melee Weapons.
No Subclass Barbarians can Multiclass with any of the above Classes mentioned, without fear of making a huge mistake, which is the major upside of No Subclass. You can play a combination of any of them effectively, but if you’re totally unsure, I’d suggest Fighter, Chanter or Monk. Constant Recovery is a tremendous asset to the Barbarian and makes you extremely hard to kill. Chanters and Barbarians both make good use of Intellect while not having to cast spells, so there is a natural synergy there. Monks have incredible Attack Speed from using Swift Strikes, and when paired with Frenzy, you will attack once every 1.5 seconds or so, which is crazy!
Attributes and Races
In this section we’re going to cover Attributes and Races and how they affect the Barbarian. The game recommends Dexterity and Intelligence and highly recommends Might and Constitution. Dexterity increases your Action Speed, Intelligence increases the AoE of your Carnage attacks, Might increases your damage and healing and Constitution increases your Health, which allows for you to be Bloodied with a considerable Health pool left.
Just exactly how much of these you should have depends on the Subclass you selected, and I will make my recommendations along with Race below:
Berserker – Prioritize Might, Constitution and Resolve . Might will increase your damage and healing. Constitution allows you to be Bloodied (increasing your damage) without having low Health. You will also be taking Raw Damage from Frenzy. Resolve will make you harder to kill and will reduce the Duration of the negative effects of Frenzy. Humans make perfect Berserkers, not only because they grant Might and Resolve, but because they give Fighting Spirit when Bloodied or Near Death. This will tip you off that your Health is low, and increase your damage to boot!
Corpse-Eater – Prioritize Might and Constitution. Might increases your damage and the healing from Flesh Communion, while Constitution gives you a big pool of Health to keep you alive and make use of frequent Communions. Dwarfs make an excellent candidate for Corpse-Eaters because they give precisely these two Attributes. This may change if you Multiclass, however.
Mage Slayer – Prioritize Might and Constitution. Might for damage and healing and Constitution to stay alive and allow for being Bloodied sooner. You can add points to Intellect to help with your AoE and Duration, and this could help with the penalty you take. Dwarf is another solid choice here or Aumaua.
No Subclass – No Subclasses should prioritize Might, Constitution and Resolve. Resolve will help keep you alive and is always a good Attribute to put into any character. Human, Aumaua or Dwarf all work well here.
Barbarians should try to use very light Armor so that they have low Recovery Time. This is more important for Barbarians then some Classes, because Barbarians hit multiple targets due to the passive ability Carnage. Attacking faster means that you hit many targets often, making full use of the class. This goes doubly for Mage Slayers because they need to strike often to keep enemy mages from being able to cast effectively. Try to take Abilities that increase defense instead of wearing heavy Armor if you can. Two Weapon Style also works well here for the decreased Recovery Time.
Barbarians don’t generally Multiclass well with casting Classes because they need to melee to benefit from many of their Abilities. Casters don’t do well in melee range because they usually have lengthy cast times that can be interrupted. If you do Multicass with a casting class, be sure to pick Abilities with the shortest cast times, if possible.
As mentioned above, Second Wind is the primary means of healing for a Barbarian so pumping points into Athletics is vital. Laborer is a great starting Background as it gives +2, but there are several that give at least +1. Be sure to look for them during Character Creation.
Lastly, be sure to position your Barbarian where it can have the most impact. It excels at hitting many enemies, so be sure it has many to hit. Disengage and re-position if you need to to get maximum effect. You can take passives that help reduce the likelihood of being struck when doing so if you need to, and increasing your Intellect will help widen the area you can hit with Carnage.
Stay tuned for more Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Class Guides as we cover all 11 Classes as well as Character Creation! What did you think of the Guide? Was it helpful? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.