Dead Island 2: All skill cards and their effects, explained

Dead Island 2
(Image credit: Deep Silver)

Dead Island 2 is very similar to the previous games in Deep Silver's melee-focused zombie series, but one major difference between it and the first Dead Island is that it features a skill card system instead of a traditional skill tree. As you play, these cards can be used to put together a skill deck for your chosen Slayer that gives them new combat abilities, powerful defensive and offensive buffs, and more.

There are tons of skill cards to find in Dead Island 2, all of which belong to specific categories and have unique effects. In this guide, we've gone over everything you need to know about the game's skill card system, including how it works, how you can find additional cards, and a complete list of every skill card in the game.

Dead Island 2: Skill cards and deck explained

Every character in Dead Island 2 starts with Innate skills, but will acquire skill cards for other talents throughout the game. (Image credit: Windows Central)

In Dead Island 2, collecting and using skill cards is the primary way you'll get stronger as you level up. While you'll only have your character's two intrinsic skills and a pair of empty slots for additional skill cards at the start of the game, you'll gradually unlock more cards and slots for them throughout your playthrough. Notably, unlike talents on skill tree branches that have strict prerequisites, you can mix and match most of your skill deck any way you want (some cards only affect specific abilities, though).

The primary way you'll unlock new cards to use is by leveling up, which you can accomplish by killing zombies and completing quests. However, some skill cards can also be found in the environment, rewarding players that thoroughly explore Hell-A's various locations.

There are five different categories of skill cards in Dead Island 2: Innate, Abilities, Survivor, Slayer, and Numen. In the sections below, you'll find a complete list of every skill card within each of these categories, along with a quick overview of both the categories themselves and the effects of each card.

Dead Island 2: All Innate skills

(Image credit: Deep Silver)

Innate skills are unlike other skill cards in that they're exclusive to a specific character and are permanently active for the entire game. They, in addition to attributes, are what differentiate the Slayers from one another. When building your deck, try to pick cards that synergize well with these base traits.

  • Feral (Jacob): Jacob gets a stackable minor damage boost when attacking in quick succession.
  • Critical Gains (Jacob): Critical hits with low stamina boost critical damage boost and regain stamina.
  • Backstab (Bruno): Bruno gets a moderate damage boost when attacking zombies from behind.
  • Rapid Reprisal (Bruno): Avoiding attacks with block or dodge boosts Agility.
  • Mosh Pit (Carla): Carla gets a minor damage boost when close to multiple zombies.
  • Dig Deep (Carla): Carla gets a moderate toughness boost while her health is critical.
  • Thunderstruck (Dani): Dani’s heavy attacks trigger a forceful explosion on impact.
  • Bloodlust (Dani): Dani regains health when slaying multiple zombies in quick succession.
  • Retaliation (Ryan): Ryan gets a moderate force boost when using block or dodge to avoid an attack.
  • Seesaw (Ryan): Ryan regains health each time he knocks down a zombie.
  • Relief Pitcher (Amy): Amy regains stamina when hitting a zombie with a weapon throw.
  • Divide and Conquer (Amy): Amy gets a minor damage boost when she attacks isolated zombies.

Dead Island 2: All Abilities skills

(Image credit: Windows Central)

The Abilities category is unique since its cards fall into one of five subcategories, with each one determining what one of your five combat abilities will be. You can only choose one card for each ability type, so you'll be forced to make some important decisions when putting together a build. For example, both Block and Dodge go in the Defense Abilities slot, so you must choose one or the other.

Here are all of the Abilities subcategories and skill cards:


  • Block: Well-timed blocks regain your stamina and stun zombies, leaving them open to counter-attack.
  • Dodge: Well-timed dodges regain your stamina and stun zombies, leaving them open to counter-attack.


  • Drop Kick: Perform a forceful Drop Kick attack that can send regular enemies flying.
  • Flying Kick: Perform a powerful, damaging jump kick attack.


  • War Cry: Let out a fierce yell that boosts toughness for you and nearby squad members. It also weakens nearby zombies.
  • Ground Pound: Drive a forceful blow into the ground that drains the stability of nearby zombies.
  • Dash Strike: Dash forwards and strike zombies, leaving them weakened.


  • Blood Rush: Slay zombies and perform counter-attacks to build Fury.
  • Served Cold: Blocking or taking damage builds Fury.
  • Surgical Focus: Autophage skill. Maim zombies to build Fury. But don’t lose focus – taking damage will drain Fury.
  • Street Brawler: Autophage skill. Damage zombies with melee attacks or weapon throws to build Fury. But stick with it - the Fury meter will slowly drain unless it's full.


  • Overhead Smash: In Fury mode, let loose and unleash a powerful Ground Smash.
  • Scream: In Fury mode, emit a piercing wail that weakens nearby zombies.
  • Spitting Cobra: In Fury mode, vomit caustic bile on unsuspecting zombies.

Dead Island 2: All Survivor skills

(Image credit: Windows Central)

Survivor skill cards enhance your overall survivability and defensive utility in combat. This is accomplished with buffs to defensive actions like dodging and blocking, as well as enhancements and effects that make it easier to disable zombies and make it harder for them to fight back. Note that while there aren't many restrictions on what Survivor cards you can equip, some can only be used by specific Slayers, and others improve specific talents from the Abilities category.

Here's every Survivor skill card in Dead Island 2:

  • Blockbuster: Well-timed blocks trigger a forceful explosion, draining nearby zombies' stamina.
  • Bob and Weave (Amy/Bruno only, requires Dodge): Dodge attacks in succession for a stacking buff to Agility and attack speed.
  • Corpse Bomb: Any zombie you kill in Fury mode will explode and deal area-of-effect damage.
  • Flare-Up (requires Ground Pound): Ground Pound sets zombies on fire, but it will also drain some of your health.
  • Greased Pig: Automatically break free whenever you're grappled by a zombie, including Mutators.
  • Hot-Footed: Drop Kick sets zombies on fire, but also drains your health.
  • Invigorating: Counter-attacks will restore extra health.
  • Lightning Strike (requires Dash Strike): Dash Strike electrifies zombies, but also drains health.
  • Pain Magazine: Well-timed dodges and blocks boost the recharge rate of your Curveball throwables.
  • Pain Threshold: Successful blocks or dodges boost your damage slightly.
  • Quake (requires Ground Pound): Ground Pound's force is boosted, allowing the ability to send rank-and-file zombies flying.
  • Rallying Cry (requires War Cry): War Cry restores health and removes harmful status effects from both you and any nearby allies.
  • Ravenous: While in Fury mode, zombie kills will restore your Fury energy.
  • Safe Space: Using a medkit causes an explosion around you that knocks zombies back and staggers them.
  • Safety First: Well-timed dodges and blocks restore a small amount of health.
  • Serial Killer (Dani/Jacob only): Kill a zombie to receive a minor boost to your damage.
  • Shin Shrapnel: Slide attacks are more powerful and can knock zombies away from you.
  • Short Fuse: Allows you to enter Fury mode when the Fury meter is only half full.
  • Steadfast (Carla/Ryan only): Block multiple attacks in succession to gain a stacking boost to Toughness and Force.
  • Surgeon: Maiming zombies gives you a moderate damage boost.
  • The Limb Reaper: Maiming zombies restores health.
  • Thick-Skinned: Slightly raises Toughness, but also lowers Resilience.
  • Vivisuction (requires Dash Strike): Dash Strike restores health when you hit zombies with it.
  • Warhead (Carla/Ryan only, requires Drop Kick): Drop Kick causes an explosion that drains the stamina of nearby zombies.
  • Wrecking Ball (requires Jump Kick): Jump Kick inflicts the Weakened status effect.

Dead Island 2: All Slayer skills

(Image credit: Windows Central)

Slayer skill cards are basically the opposite of Survivor ones, as the benefits they provide raise your damage, improve your offensive uptime, and add unique capabilities to other skills. Like some Survivor cards, a fair number of these ones are exclusive to certain Slayers or require the use of specific Abilities.

Here's a list of every Slayer skill card:

  • Breakdancer: Land a slide attack to gain a moderate boost to Agility and attack speed.
  • Carnage: In Fury mode, your melee attacks gain extra damage and Force but drain Fury faster.
  • Caustic Blight: In Fury mode, your melee attacks melt zombies but drain Fury faster.
  • Clear Sightlines: Knocking down a zombie gives you a moderate boost to damage with your Curveballs, thrown weapons, and firearms.
  • Cull the Weak: Attacks against zombies at low health deal significantly more damage.
  • Deadeye: Hitting zombies with Curveballs triggers a stacking boost to your Curveballs' recharge time.
  • Far From Done (Carla/Ryan only): Gain a minor stacking damage boost whenever you block an attack or take damage.
  • Group Therapy (Dani/Jacob only): Zombie kills in rapid succession will restore stamina.
  • Hack and Dash (Dani/Jacob only): Zombie kills temporarily boost the speed of your attacks.
  • Hammer Fist (requires Dash Strike): Dash Strike gains a significant boost to Force.
  • Hunting Season: Hitting a zombie with a ranged attack boosts the damage of your melee attacks.
  • Janus Rage: When Fury is full, you get a moderate Toughness boost; when Fury isn't full, you get a minor damage boost instead.
  • Juggernaut (requires Overhead Smash): Overhead Smash increases Fury, does more damage, and hits with more knockback Force.
  • No Mercy: Gain moderate bonus damage when attacking a zombie affected by a negative status effect.
  • Pay it Forward: Your damage goes up significantly whenever you have a negative status effect applied to you.
  • Pummel: Multiple successive attacks receive a major stacking Force bonus, but your first hit has reduced Force.
  • Pyro (requires Overhead Smash): In Fury mode, melee attacks and Overhead Smash both ignite zombies but drain Fury faster.
  • Second Wind (Amy/Bruno only): Attack a zombie while sprinting to get a boost to your damage.
  • Skull Skewer: Headshots with thrown weapons cause zombies to explode.
  • Tools of the Trade: Melee kills boost the damage of ranged weapons.
  • Unrelenting: Get a minor damage boost when you attack a zombie that's been knocked down.
  • Volatile: In Fury mode, your melee attacks make targets explode, but also drain Fury faster.
  • Voltaic Scream (requires Scream): Your Scream attack will electrify nearby zombies.

Dead Island 2: All Numen skills

(Image credit: Windows Central)

Numen skill cards are very powerful, and you won't unlock them or the ability to use them until Dead Island 2's late game. They allow you to take advantage of the infected blood coursing through your veins (good thing you're immune to the disease!) and channel it into extremely powerful combat abilities. However, several of these also have a significant downside, so you have to be careful when using them.

Here are all of the different Numen skill cards:

  • Anger Mismanagement: Your Fury mode will use health as its "fuel," and will only end on its own when you hit critical health.
  • Born Survivor: When you hit critical health, you explode and trigger Fury mode. During this Fury mode, attacks will restore health.
  • Corpse Blossom: Zombies that die from a status effect explode, and the explosion spreads that status effect to other zombies.
  • Glass Cannon: Critical hits do significantly more damage, especially if you're at critical health yourself. However, your Toughness is reduced significantly.
  • Seismic Stomp: Skull Stomp causes an area-of-effect explosion that drains stamina from nearby zombies and also inflicts Bleed.

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. Make sure to get the Deluxe or Gold Edition if you want access to the first two Character Packs.

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.