Payday 3 best skills to get first

If you want to conquer the most formidable heists in Payday 3, you’ll need a loadout full of useful skills to smooth over your inevitable mistakes and buff your paydirt potential.

If you’ve played Payday 2, the first thing you’ll notice is that the skills system has changed considerably with Payday 3 — we’ll explain how skills work in Payday 3, and with that in mind, the best skills to get first. Happy heisting!

If you’re looking to cater your loadout to a specific playstyle, then our best stealth build guide may help.

How skills work in Payday 3

Image: Starbreeze Studios via Polygon

Before you enter a heist, you must choose individual skill trees to research and unlock, and as you earn XP, you will eventually unlock the base skill of that tree. Then, you must select the base skill of any tree and continue earning XP to unlock the subskills associated with that tree.

Depending on how many skill points you have, you can progress multiple skill trees at a time by selecting multiple base skills, but you need to have researched the skill tree first.

It’s slightly confusing, but you’ll get used to it eventually. Fortunately, it means that if you like the look of certain skills, you can get to them fairly quickly by focusing on specific skill trees.

The Glitch Protocol skill in Payday 3

Image: Starbreeze Studios via Polygon

Additionally, when you kick off your criminal career in Payday 3, your skill point allocation will be severely limited. For reference, I’m Level 38, and while I’ve researched every skill tree in its entirety, I still only have 11 skill points to allocate.

Your level only dictates how many skill points you can have active at any one time; you can access any skill you want as soon as it is researched, even at a low level. In the early game, this means you’ll need to be wily about which skill trees you research first and which skills you commit to your build.

It’s also worth mentioning that many of your skills in Payday 3 are tied to a new trio of buffs that can be activated and refreshed with certain skills:

  • Edge: You deal 10% extra damage
  • Grit: You take 10% less damage
  • Rush: Your movement speed is increased

Whatever you choose — you can also refund all of your skill points at any time, so nothing is set in stone if you don’t like your build.

The best skills to get first in Payday 3

At a glance, we’d recommend these as the best skills to get first in Payday 3:

  • Secure Loop (Hacker)
  • Quick Fingers (Infiltrator)
  • Battering Ram (Escapist)
  • Open Mic (Grifter)
  • Stockholm Syndrome (Manipulator)
  • Glitch Protocol (Hacker)
  • Bagger (Infiltrator)

Rather than incremental buffs, our recommendations cater to the skills that will give you the most tangible early-game benefits across stealthy and loud heists. Let’s go through all these skills, one-by-one.

Secure Loop (Hacker)

A view of a corridor from a hacked security camera in Payday 3

Image: Starbreeze Studios via Polygon

Nothing is certain except death, taxes and cameras in a Payday 3 heist. They’re everywhere, on every difficulty, whether you’re casing the joint or gunning your way through it. Secure Loop is the second skill in the Hacker tree, and it allows you to hack a camera and loop its footage so it won’t spot you slinking towards a vault in a secure area or engaging in any kind of criminal activity, for that matter.

If you’re not yet adept at courting a camera’s perspective or simply too impatient to wait, Secure Loop lets you proceed where you would otherwise be stuck.

Quick Fingers (Infiltrator)

The lockpicking minigame in Payday 3

Image: Starbreeze Studios via Polygon

Another certainty in Payday 3 is the humble lockpicking minigame. It’s often what stands between your heisting crew and copious wads of cash. Quick Fingers allows you to instantly finish the minigame with a single successful jiggle if you have the Rush buff activated. Thankfully, you’ll need to have the base Infiltrator skill unlocked to use it, and the base skill provides you with Rush when you pick a lock or kill an enemy with a throwing knife.

Primarily, this means that if you’re in a room with multiple locked doors or a bank vault with a ton of deposit boxes, after you pick the first door, you can crack the rest in quadruple time and get away before the next assault hits.

Battering Ram (Escapist)

Going through a doorway in Payday 3

Image: Starbreeze Studios via Polygon

Battering Ram is the final skill in the Escapist tree, and it allows players to barge through any locked door by sprinting at it, as long as they have any of the three buffs active. As well as being a good chaser to any Edge or Grit build, you’ll need the initial Escapist skill to activate it, which gives you Rush if you sprint consistently for 3 seconds.

This is mighty useful in many situations, and it’ll often happen naturally, but it also means you can run in a circle quickly to earn Rush and then barge through any door that would usually take ages to lockpick.

Open Mic (Grifter)

Answering a radio in Payday 3

Image: Starbreeze Studios via Polygon

The Grifter tree is mainly concerned with helping you during maskless stealth runs, where you’re trying to get in and out without even leaving casing mode. Every skill in this tree is very useful for stealth, but one that persists across all manner of builds is Open Mic, which allows you to answer radios 50% faster.

This means that if you have to shoot multiple guards to avoid getting found out, you have a much higher chance of answering each radio and delaying the assault for a little while longer.

Stockholm Syndrome (Manipulator)

Looking at a tied up hostage in Payday 3

Image: Starbreeze Studios via Polygon

It’s already worth progressing the Manipulator skill tree for the initial ability, which lets you tie up and trade hostages 50% faster, as whether you’re going loud or creeping around, you’ll be interacting with civilians in some regard.

However, if you are more of a guns-blazing type, it’s worth progressing to the end of this tree for the Stockholm Syndrome skill, which allows you to shout at hostages or cowering civilians and make them revive you. This is especially useful during solo runs, as the AI bots can be a bit spotty with the pick-ups.

Glitch Protocol (Hacker)

Hacking a radio in Payday 3

Image: Starbreeze Studios via Polygon

A second Hacker skill makes the list, but not without reason. Glitch Protocol allows you to hack a guard’s radio and distract them for five seconds. Primarily, you can use this brief window to steal a key item or slip into a secure area undetected.

However, it’s also helpful if you get caught. If you hack a guard’s radio when they’re escorting you, they’ll forget about it and start patrolling. Similarly, if they’re about to arrest you, they can be hacked to enter Search mode instead.

Bagger (Infiltrator)

Picking up jewellery in Payday 3

Image: Starbreeze Studios via Polygon

Once you’ve tied up your hostages, picked all the locks, deactivated cameras and answered the guard radios, the only thing left to do is secure your loot. The Bagger skill in the Infiltrator tree offers a simple 50% speed boost when you’re picking up precious cargo, and it can be the difference between escape or certain death when you’re besieged by an army of cops. You need the Rush buff to activate this benefit, which will activate if you pick a lock or kill an enemy with a throwing knife, thanks to the base skill of the Infiltrator tree.

You could also grab the base skill of Escapist to make this easier, which allows you to activate Rush by sprinting. Across both stealth and loud approaches, the speed boost will benefit you greatly when you’re compromised and need to get out of dodge.

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