The first few story missions in Arknights might seem like a breeze, but this soon changes as you complete more of the tutorial and face off against increasingly difficult enemies. To keep progressing through the campaign, you’ll have to upgrade your “core” operators at a steady pace. From time to time, you’ll even have to level up a non-essential character due to their special abilities.
Unfortunately, upgrades are rather expensive in this game. Once your operators hit level 30, pushing forward will require intensive farming and strict prioritization. Below, we’ve included all possible operator upgrades so that you know exactly how to plan your resource expenditures.
Experience and Level Ups
One of the most basic and most important ways to upgrade an operator is to level them up. Unlike in other mobile games, however, characters do not gain any experience from being involved in fights. It doesn’t matter if you bring the same five core operators to every mission. They will still have no advantage over other characters that you never use.
As such, the only way to load an operator with experience is to feed them EXP battle records. To complete the process, you’ll need both battle record and a ton of Lungman Dollars (LMD). For more information on farming LMD, you can hop on to our guide to currencies. Battle records, on the other hand, can be farmed in the “Tactical Drill” supply mission, which is available every day of the week.
Leveling up is the only way to boost an operator’s health, physical defense, resistances, and attack stats. This ensures that, as the enemies grow stronger, your team is able to keep up the pace. It’s also the only way to prepare a character for a promotion, which can only be carried out if the former has already reached max level. For 3-star rarity units, the first promotion becomes available at level 40. In the case of 4-star units, the max level is 45, whereas 5- and 6-star units peak at 50.
Promotions and Talents
Once an operator reaches max level, you have the option to promote them to Elite level 1. If the promotion is carried out, the character can once again receive EXP battle records to continue to improve their stats. In addition, several new features are unlocked, while previous traits become even stronger.
In the case of Exusiai, for example, a promotion to Elite level 1 increases the character’s attributes, unlocks a new skill, activates a new talent, and increases her range. The new skill, Overloading Mode, is essentially an upgraded version of her default ability, Charging Mode, and allows for manual triggering so that you have better control of the character in battle. This is not always the case. Some operators acquire skills that are entirely different once they are promoted, which means that they can be used to fulfil different functions than before.
Talents can also bring major improvements to an operator. Our trusty medic Ansel, for example, now has the chance to heal an additional target following his promotion to Elite 1. Higher rarity characters feature more attractive talents and can be promoted twice, but all in all, you can complete the most difficult missions in the game using only Elite 1, max level 3-star operators.
Using skills in combat is just as important as positioning and other strategic elements, but as enemy units grow stronger, an operator’s default skill becomes less impactful. Since these abilities are essential for perfect victories, you’ll have to upgrade them as much as possible while leveling up your characters.
The issue is that, like most other operator improvements in Arknights, skill upgrades can be exorbitant. Although the process does not consume LMD, it does require the character to reach certain level thresholds and to use scarce materials. To push Liskarm’s Charged Defense skill to level 5, for instance, we first need to promote her to Elite 1. Then, we have to accumulate enough Skill Summaries by farming the “Aerial Threat” supplies mission on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
Finally, we have to farm the right story missions to obtain the necessary reagents (4 pieces of Oriron, in this case). Alternatively, we can buy these reagents from the various shops, but only if we’re lucky enough to spot them on sale. Given that skill upgrades are so expensive, you might want to promote a high-rarity operator to Elite 2 and inspect all available skills before you go all in on one of his or her abilities.
The potential of each operator can be improved up to 6 times in order to unlock various bonuses. Angelina, our favorite supporter, becomes cheaper to deploy and gains additional attack damage, as well as talent power from potential improvements. However, since she is a 6-star character, it can be tremendously difficult to perform this upgrade. For just one boost, we need either a copy of Angelina or 4 Royal Supporter Token. Needless to say, it will take some time before we can max her out.
However, not all characters are this demanding. For F2P players, it might make more sense to choose a few excellent low-rarity operators and focus all upgrades on them. Although less flashy than other operators, these characters require far less effort in terms of potential and can be used to clear most missions in the game.
Acquiring Fashionable Outfits
Last, but not least, you can change the look of your operators with outfits, but this aspect of the game is mostly locked for F2P players. The vast majority of outfits can only be purchased with premium currency and most players who do not buy Originium with real money will prefer to spend it on pulls. Still, you can obtain a few outfits from various events and, most importantly, these items are purely cosmetic. They do not improve your character’s performance in combat in any way, but whether or not this stops you from buying them is up to you.
Between leveling up, promotions, skill upgrades, and potential boosts, your operators will quickly gobble up all of your initial resource deposits. To avoid spreading your materials too thin, try to focus on a “core” team of characters and 1-3 specialists or supporters on the side. Once upgrades become too costly, you can use your buffed-up team to farm for EXP battle records, skill books, chips, and other necessary materials. Your progression might temporarily come to a halt, but after you upgrade 1-2 characters for each main class and subclass, you’ll be able to down one mission after another.