Best Dead Island 2 Slayer characters: Tier list, skills, stats, and more

Dead Island 2
(Image credit: Deep Silver)

After a nine-year wait, multiple studio changes, and some serious development hell, Deep Silver's zombie beat 'em up Dead Island 2 is finally here and is available on Windows PC, Xbox, and other systems. Like the franchise's previous games, the sequel features multiple different playable characters to choose from, dubbed "Slayers." Each Slayer has a pair of unique skills that give them distinct advantages in combat, along with attributes that determine things like max health, damage resistances, critical hit bonuses, and more.

Dead Island 2 has six different Slayers to choose from, and in this guide, we'll go over everything you need to know about each one so you can make an informed decision when picking which one to use. This includes a tier list that ranks all of the Slayers based on overall power and viability, a look at the best characters for beginners and solo players, and an in-depth guide for each Slayer's stats, skills, and ideal playstyle.

Dead Island 2 best character: Slayer tier list

(Image credit: Deep Silver)

While all of Dead Island 2's Slayers have their strengths, some of them are definitely better than others in terms of overall effectiveness. Using our experience playing through the game with these characters, we've put together a definitive tier list for them below that ranks each of them based on how powerful they are compared to other Slayers.

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ACarla, Jacob, Dani

Note that just because a Slayer is in a lower tier doesn't mean that you can't succeed or do well with them. In fact, having a Bruno on your team during co-op sessions can be incredibly beneficial, and Amy is strong in certain situations too. Lower rankings just mean that the characters in question are generally a bit less effective than other Slayers in most scenarios, making them more situational and niche.

This list was made with the launch version of Dead Island 2 in mind. If developer Dambuster Studios makes balance adjustments to buff or nerf certain Slayers in a future patch, we'll update these tier list rankings if we feel it's necessary to do so.

Dead Island 2: best Slayer character for beginners

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If you're a new player and want to use a more forgiving character for your first foray into Hell-A, we strongly recommend going with Carla. Her stats allow her to tank lots of damage very effectively, and she also gets a damage boost against crowds of zombies. These advantages make it pretty hard to get overwhelmed and killed while using Carla, making her an excellent Slayer for beginners.

The major downsides with Carla are that she's slow and doesn't deal much critical hit damage. However, these drawbacks aren't that significant, and in most cases, you'll be able to finish off most zombies before feeling like you need to retreat or try to land bursts of crit damage.

Dead Island 2: Best Slayer character for solo play

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If you're determined to make your way through the undead-infested streets of Los Angeles without any backup, the best character to choose is Ryan. Like Carla, he's quite tanky, though Ryan also possesses a skill that heals him when he knocks zombies down. Since knockdowns are easy to achieve with the character since he has another skill that boosts the knockback force of his strikes, you'll be constantly healing any damage you take. Knockdowns also happen to be particularly useful while playing solo since they temporarily render enemies unable to attack and make them more vulnerable to your own hits, which is very handy while dealing with crowds.

Ryan's slow speed and low crit damage means that most fights can't be escaped and won't end quickly, but the amazing survivability and crowd control utility offered by his kit makes up for that tenfold. Without a doubt, he's the best Slayer for single player, though he's also fantastic in co-op as well.

Dead Island 2: Jacob skills and stats

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  • Innate Skill 1: Feral — Jacob gets a stackable minor damage boost when attacking in quick succession.
  • Innate Skill 2: Critical Gains — Critical hits with low stamina boost critical damage and regain stamina. 
  • Attributes: 3 Toughness, 4 Stamina, 2 Health Recovery, 3 Critical Damage, 3 Agility, 5 Peak Health, 1 Resilience
  • Strengths: Very high damage, long-lasting offensive capabilities
  • Weaknesses: Very weak to elemental damage, slow health recovery

If you'd prefer to play as a Slayer that goes all in on offense, you won't find a better one than Jacob. With the damage and critical damage boosts he gets from both of his skills, this stuntman is capable of tearing through crowds of the undead in seconds. His high Stamina attribute paired with the stamina regen from the Critical Gains skill allows him to keep up the pressure against the horde for long periods of time, and thanks to his exceptional Peak Health and solid Toughness, he can take quite a few hits, too.

Jacob's main weakness is his pitiful Resistance, which makes him very susceptible to elemental damage types like fire, shock, and caustic. Be particularly careful when zombies or environmental hazards that inflict these kinds of damage are present. Also, while Jacob has a ton of health, it takes him quite a while to regain it since his Health Recovery attribute is low.

Ultimately, Jacob is one of Dead Island 2's better Slayers, and he's a great pick for folks that like aggressive playstyles. Using lots of Frenzy weapons with him is highly recommended, as they crit a lot when you land rapid attacks — something you'll be doing all the time with Jacob.

Dead Island 2: Bruno skills and stats

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  • Innate Skill 1: Backstab — Bruno gets a moderate damage boost when attacking from behind.
  • Innate Skill 2: Rapid Reprisal — Avoiding attacks with block or dodge boosts Agility.
  • Attributes: 2 Toughness, 3 Stamina, 3 Health Recovery, 5 Critical Damage, 4 Agility, 1 Peak Health, 3 Resilience
  • Strengths: Massive burst damage, quick movement
  • Weaknesses: Very low health and durability

Players that enjoy sneaky playstyles will likely gravitate towards Bruno, a hustler known for his persuasive charm. Between his maxed out Critical Damage attribute, high Agility, and the Backstab skill that boosts damage when attacking from behind, he has some of the best movement and highest damage-per-hit potential in the entire game. 

With that said, Bruno also has the lowest health of any Slayer, and the second worst Toughness as well. This makes him the worst character for direct melee combat, and as a result, you'll have much less room for error if you choose him. And while it's true that stealth allows you to mitigate this weakness, you're not always going to be able to sneak up on every zombie in Hell-A.

Bruno is definitely one of the hardest Slayers, and for solo play, we don't recommend choosing him unless you're experienced. In co-op, though, a teammate using a more resilient character can often hold the horde's attention, making it much easier to take advantage of Bruno's opportunistic nature. For maximum burst damage, use Headhunter weapons that give you guaranteed crits when hitting a zombie's head.

Dead Island 2: Carla skills and stats

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  • Innate Skill 1: Mosh Pit — Carla gets a minor damage boost when close to multiple zombies.
  • Innate Skill 2: Dig Deep — Carla gets a moderate Toughness boost while her health is critical.
  • Attributes: 4 Toughness, 3 Stamina, 3 Health Recovery, 1 Critical Damage, 2 Agility, 3 Peak Health, 5 Resilience
  • Strengths: Very resilient, easy to play
  • Weaknesses: Very low critical damage, slow movement

The adrenaline-loving motorcycle racer Carla is one of Dead Island 2's tankier Slayers, and she's also the easiest and most forgiving one to play by far. Her high Toughness and Resilience and the Dig Deep skill make her quite difficult for the undead to kill, and her Mosh Pit skill also buffs her damage whenever you're fighting multiple enemies at once.

Carla doesn't have any particularly significant weaknesses, though her terrible critical damage limits her potential a fair bit. She's also on the slow side, so escaping bad situations will be tougher with Carla than it is with most other Slayers.

If you're looking for a beginner-friendly character to pick, Carla's your girl. Despite her low max damage potential, the fact she can take a ton of hits and is effective against crowds makes her a strong choice in both solo and co-op play. Keep an eye out for Bulldozer weapons to use with her, as these make quick work of rank-and-file zombies and synergize perfectly with Mosh Pit.

Dead Island 2: Dani skills and stats

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  • Innate Skill 1: Thunderstruck — Dani's heavy attacks trigger a forceful explosion on impact.
  • Innate Skill 2: Bloodlust — Dani regains health when slaying multiple zombies in quick succession.
  • Attributes: 3 Toughness, 5 Stamina, 1 Health Recovery, 3 Critical Damage, 3 Agility, 4 Peak Health, 2 Resilience
  • Strengths: Effective against zombie crowds, high uptime
  • Weaknesses: Weak to elemental damage, very low health recovery

Dani is very similar to Jacob in that she has a high Stamina attribute and lots of HP, though she trades a bit of that health for crowd control specialization. Between the area-of-effect damage and staggers caused by Dani's Thunderstruck skill and the health regeneration she gets from rapid kills thanks to Bloodlust, this Irish hothead can bring the pain.

Her weaknesses are also very similar to Jacob's, as she has horrible Health Recovery and Resilience. If you opt to play as Dani, make sure you don't get careless around elemental threats, and try not to take too much damage since it'll take a long time to get it back with healing items.

With his higher overall damage potential, Jacob will generally be stronger in co-op. However, Dani is arguably the better Slayer for solo play, as the value of her crowd control and Bloodlust healing goes up when you don't have allies at your side. While using her, try to use Frenzy weapons to take advantage of their rapid attack crits.

Dead Island 2: Ryan skills and stats

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  • Innate Skill 1: Retaliation — Ryan gets a moderate force boost when using block or dodge to avoid an attack.
  • Innate Skill 2: Seesaw — Ryan regains health each time he knocks down a zombie.
  • Attributes: 5 Toughness, 3 Stamina, 3 Health Recovery, 2 Critical Damage, 1 Agility, 3 Peak Health, 4 Resilience
  • Strengths: Very tanky, excellent crowd control
  • Weaknesses: Very slow, low critical damage

While there isn't a definitive best character in Dead Island 2, the exotic dancer-turned-Slayer Ryan definitely comes the closest. Both Retaliation and Seesaw are top-tier skills that synergize excellently, as the former makes it easier to knock zombies down while the latter heals you for doing so. Paired with Ryan's maxed Toughness, high Resilience, and solid Peak Health, this allows you to become an unstoppable, unkillable beast.

Like Carla, Ryan is slow and doesn't deal much Critical Damage. Therefore, your focus with him should be taking advantage of knockdowns to mitigate these weaknesses. You may not be able to easily escape threats or directly kill them as quickly as other Slayers can, but you can easily knock them down and then finish them off with moves like the iconic Dead Island skull stomp.

Ryan is undoubtedly one of the best Dead Island 2 Slayers, knockdowns are insanely powerful in both solo and team play. He's also quite forgiving, so consider picking him if you're a new player. He's even more effective if you use Maiming weapons with him, as they're great at breaking or cutting off limbs. When this happens to a zombie's legs, they'll get knocked down, which will proc the Seesaw perk.

Dead Island 2: Amy skills and stats

(Image credit: Windows Central)
  • Innate Skill 1: Relief Pitcher — Amy regains stamina when hitting a zombie with a weapon throw.
  • Innate Skill 2: Divide and Conquer — Amy gets a minor damage boost when she attacks isolated zombies.
  • Attributes: 1 Toughness, 3 Stamina, 3 Health Recovery, 4 Critical Damage, 5 Agility, 2 Peak Health, 3 Resilience
  • Strengths: Very fast movement, high critical damage
  • Weaknesses: Very low damage resistance, low health

Amy is similar to Bruno in that she's an opportunist, though instead of dealing extra damage when attacking a zombie from behind, she specializes in taking them down while they're isolated. With her strong Critical Damage, she can slaughter individual monsters with ease, and her extremely high Agility is useful for kiting enemies around. She's also the only character in Dead Island 2 with an innate skill for weapon throws, as she gets stamina back when using them thanks to Relief Pitcher.

The problem with Amy, though, is that even with her speed, it's often very difficult to isolate zombies from other nearby undead in many of the game's locations. This, along with her very low health and damage resistance, makes her very difficult to play.

Amy might be a superstar athlete, but in Hell-A, she's unfortunately the worst of the Slayers. Her kit's niche just isn't very useful compared to what other characters bring to the table, though some players will inevitably relish the challenge of making her work. If you choose her, make sure to use Headhunter weapons and go for thrown weapon headshots.

Dead Island 2 is available now, and it's easily one of the best Xbox games available if you love zombies. With its addicting and satisfying melee combat, clever level design, hilarious B movie-tier writing, and goretastic presentation, it's sure to delight action horror fans.


Dead Island 2

Dead Island 2 is everything a fan of the original game could ask for. Between its brutal melee mechanics, satirical writing, and awesome presentation, it's a must-play for any zombie lover.

See at: Microsoft (Xbox) | Epic Games Store (PC)

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.