A guide for the uninitiated into exactly how damage works in Spiral Knights. Also explains how to use and anticipate damage types.
One of the things that I have sometimes noticed when playing is that people don't always seem to fully understand exactly how the damage system works. This guide will aim to give an overview of the damage system, and help you learn how to get the most out of your weapons and armour.
The Types of Damage
There are four types of damage: Normal (represented by red auras and symbols), Piercing (represented by yellow auras and symbols), Elemental (green) and Shadow (purple). Each of your weapons will deal one or two types of damage, and your armours and shields will grant resistance to one or more types of damage. UVs (Unique Variants) can allow your armours and shields to resist addition types, or to resist the types they normally resist better.
Normal damage is dealt by many early sword, guns and bombs, and, in fact, continues to be dealt by many swords right the way through the game. It is not particularly effective against anything, but nor is it resisted particularly by anything. All armours and helms give at least some normal damage resistance, meaning that even at high tiers, you're never going to be entirely defenseless. However, don't get cocky. Just having a five-star pice of armour doesn't mean that you're invincible.
Piercing damage is commonly associated with spikes and rapiers. Slimes and beasts deal piercing damage. Fiends and beast are particularly weak to piercing damage and slimes and constructs resist piercing damage.
Elemental damage is associated with energy. Constructs and gremlins deal elemental damage. Constructs and undead are particularly weak to elemental damage and beasts and gremlins are particularly resistant to elemental damage.
Shadow damage is associated with darkness and the colour purple. Undead and fiends both deal and are particularly resistant to shadow damage, and slimes and gremlins are particularly weak to shadow damage.
Status effects are caused by many weapons and monster attacks, and have a wide variety of effects. Certain status effects deal damage over time (in "bursts" rather than as a steady trickle), and some others deal damage whenever a certain trigger is met.
The statuses are as follows: fire, stun, freeze, shock, poison, sleep, curse.
Fire is a simple status to understand. While a knight or monster is on fire, it will quite literally be on fire, and will take normal damage over time. If a knight or enemy that is on fire is frozen, the fire is put out, ending the effect. The fire status has a flame as its symbol.
Stunned knights and monsters move and attack much more slowly. The stun status has a star as its symbol.
Frozen knights and monsters are surrounded by ice and are unable to move, but can still attack, although only in one direction. If a frozen knight or monster is hit, whether by an enemy attack or by a friendly attack, the ice will break, ending the status. However, if the ice goes unbroken for sufficiently long, it will spontaneously break, causing a "spike" of normal damage. the freeze status has a snowflake as its symbol.
Shocked knights and monsters will occasionally be surrounded by sparks, take a small spike of elemental damage, and have any action they are taking at the time interrupted - this includes being shielded! As such, shock is one of the most devastating status effects that can be inflicted. The shock status has a lightning bolt as its symbol.
Poisoned knights and monsters have green bubbles rising from them and have lower attack and defense. If a poisoned knight or monster would be healed, it takes normal damage instead. The poison status has green bubbles as its symbol.
Sleeping knights and monsters have teal "z"s rising from them, cannot move and heal over time. If a sleeping knight or monster takes damage, it wakes up, ending the effect. The sleep status has a blueish-green "z" as its symbol.
Cursed knights and monsters have an eye above them. When a cursed knight or monster used a weapon or attack that is affected by the curse, it takes a spike of shadow damage. The curse status has an eye as its symbol.
Inflicting status effects doesn't seem to be understood very well. Whenever an attack that could cause a status hits, a hidden roll is made to determine whether the attack will cause that status. If it does, the attack deals slightly higher damage and causes the effect. This roll is affected by the resistance of any armour, shield or helm worn by a knight.
Weapon Strengths and Weaknesses
Weapons come in three types: swords, guns and bombs. Swords are close-range weapons and deal medium damage. Guns are long-range weapons and deal weak damage. Bombs are explosive weapons and deal strong damage.
Swords come in three varieties, which I'll call "light", "medium" and "heavy". Light swords are based more on dealing lots of rapid, low-damage hits than dealing big spikes of damage. However, a light sword with a status effect can reliably inflict that status, meaning that it may be preferable to use, say, a light sword which inflicts shock over a medium or heavy sword which doesn't. Medium swords are generalist weapons, neither landing lots of blows in a short period of time nor dealing immense damage with a single blow. However, they are by far the easiest to use effectively. Heavy swords are the exact opposite of light swords: they're very slow. To compensate, they usually deal lots of damage and have a relatively high chance of inflicting any status effect that they can inflict.
Guns come in two varieties, which I'll call "light" and "heavy". Just as with swords, light guns focus on dealing rapid, low-damage hits rather than dealing spikes of damage. Similarly, they are good at inflicting status effects. Heavy guns, meanwhile, tend to fire more damaging shots but more slowly, and also tend to affect your movement more.
Bombs come in two varieties, which I'll call "blast" and "haze". All bombs have a blast radius and a charge time, both before and after being placed. Being damaged while charging the bomb to place it interrupts the charge, requiring you to restart the charge (unless it's fully charged, in which case it retains the charge). Blast bombs deal one big spike of damage, going "BANG" once. They tend to be good at moving enemies around, and deal large chunks of damage, but tend not to cause much in the way of status effects. Haze bombs, on the other hand, tend to inflict status effects and deal damage over time in an area. However, they're less good for pushing enemies around.
One good trick that can be used with a bomb is placing a bomb to remove freeze from yourself.
Making the Most of Your Newfound Knowledge
While it is probably tempting to delve into the Clockworks now, assuming you know everything there is to know, hold tight for a bit. It's not enough to "merely" know the facts, to become a better player you have to apply them.
The first thing to know is that it's very, VERY rare that you'll ever only need one type of damage to have a leg up on your foes, so bringing, say, a shadow sword and a shadow gun is not generally a good strategy. A better idea would be a sword with one type of damage and a gun or bomb with another - the sword to deal with the dominant type of enemy, and the gun or bomb to deal with anything that resists your sword.
The second thing to know is that bringing only one type of weapon (only swords, for instance), renders you either ineffectual unless you're very good, or dead very rapidly. Bringing only swords to the Royal Jelly Palace (something I have seen done, and, in fact, part of the impetus for writing this guide)? Yeah, you're wasting your time and sparks there. Bringing only guns to a Wolver Den? Again, you're wasting your time, although you can, eventually, probably, beat the level. Just don't expect it to take less than about an hour.
The third thing to know is that your armour affects your survivability. Being armoured to the nines against elemental damage in the Royal Jelly Palace (again, something I've seen done) isn't going to help you very much. You're much better off bringing a piercing-defensive set in that situation.
The fourth thing to know is that being armoured against the damage type of the level won't fully protect you against the monsters of that level. Nearly all levels have at least a couple of monsters outside the theme of the layer, and some more than others. You're almost always far better off going for a balanced loadout, with a focus on the damage type of the level, than going for an all-out defense.
Unique Variants, or UVs as they're commonly known, are bonuses that rarely appear on weapons and armour when they are crafted, or can be applied by one of the gremlin smiths in Haven. They can do things as diverse as increase damage dealt to specific types of enemy, increase charge speed or increase damage dealt on weapons, or increase movement speed, increase resistance to a damage type or increase resistance to a status effect on armour. Each piece of equipment can have up to three UVs, and unbound equipment with strong, relevant UVs can go for millions of Crowns on the Auction House.
However, if you're reliant on your UVs, you're a bad player.
I'm not saying that UVs are bad, or even that they're not awesome. However, if you're being forced to use a UV to ensure that you survive or to ensure that you're effective, you're adventuring in tiers that are too high-level for your gear (or possibly for your skills). As such, you need to recognise your limitations, and adventure at lower tiers, build up your equipment, and come back later. If it's a boss you're having trouble with, then you may simply want to avoid gates with that boss for the time being.
Many high-tier players will have equipment with lots of UVs. This is partly because they've been playing for a long time, so they're naturally gathered equipment with UVs, but it's also partly because they recognise that having UVs which enhance their equipment for specific situations is incredibly useful, allowing them to be much more effective than they would normally be. Having an Acheron with no UVs: awesome, and good for high-tier adventuring in slime- and gremlin-heavy levels. Having an Acheron with UVs for high damage bonuses against slimes and gremlins: amazing, relevant and ludicrously good for high-tier adventuring.