Some strategic decisions are financial investments in the sense that they cost credits in the present but give back more credits in the future. Financial investments can be compared by how many missions it takes for them to break even and then start producing a profit.
Investments are generally best made early in the campaign, so that there is more time to receive a bigger return on the investment, and because credits are generally more valuable the earlier you get them. When making multiple financial investments, each investment starts paying for itself as soon as you make it, even if one investment is a prerequisite for another; for example, if you pay for two Anarchy upgrades at the same time, then they pay for themselves in parallel.
Note that most financial investments also have non-financial costs, such as inventory space, augment sockets, or AP. The analysis here ignores these costs since it is not feasible to assign them values in credits.
The return on investment for Anarchy skill upgrades is difficult to calculate accurately, because it depends on how many guards you use that agent to steal from in each mission, which types of guards occur (as different types have different amounts to steal), and the mission difficulty level which also affects how many credits can be stolen. However, even a rough estimate shows that Anarchy skill upgrades take much longer than other financial investments to break even. The table below shows how long it takes to break even, assuming that you steal from three typical human guards at mission difficulty 2.
|Beginner, Experienced||Expert, Expert Plus|
|Anarchy 3||~11 missions||~15 missions|
|Anarchy 4||~10 missions||~13 missions|
|Anarchy 5||~17 missions (expected)||~17 missions (expected)|
Upgrading an agent's Anarchy skill is therefore not good as a purely financial investment, but can be worth it so that the agent can also use items with an Anarchy skill level requirement, such as Buster Chips or Paralyzers. Investments in Anarchy 3 and 4 are better if you choose Chief Financial Suite missions, where the Financial Executive has many more credits to steal than typical guards; and an investment in Anarchy 5 is also better if you steal Charge Packs or Med Gels to use them rather than sell them, and you otherwise would be buying them.
If you do not already have an agent with Anarchy 2, then upgrading to Anarchy 3 is more expensive and takes even longer to pay off; if you have more than one agent with an Anarchy 2 or higher, then it is financially best to upgrade just one of them, and use that agent to steal.
An Econ Chip costs 800 credits and can be used at Consoles to gain credits instead of PWR. Buying an Econ Chip can be one of the best financial investments in the game, depending on how many Consoles you use it on; if used on just a few Consoles per mission, it has a reasonable return on investment, but if used greedily on every Console in every mission then it pays for itself almost immediately. Perhaps more importantly, buying an Econ Chip creates the opportunity for more good investments in Hacking upgrades to gain more credits when using the Econ Chip.
The table below shows how long it takes for an Econ Chip to pay for itself, depending on your agent's current Hacking skill level and the number of Consoles used for credits per mission. These times are calculated assuming a typical distribution of Console base PWR, and assuming the Econ Chip is used on the Consoles with the most PWR first. Note that the agent may also require a Speed upgrade to use the Econ Chip; the cost of upgrading Speed is not accounted for here, on the presumption that you would want to upgrade Speed anyway.
|Hacking 1||Hacking 2||Hacking 3||Hacking 4||Hacking 5|
|1 Console per mission||5.3 missions||4.0 missions||3.2 missions||2.7 missions||2.0 missions|
|2 Consoles per mission||3.2 missions||2.3 missions||1.8 missions||1.5 missions||1.1 missions|
|3 Consoles per mission||2.3 missions||1.6 missions||1.2 missions||1.0 missions||0.7 missions|
|4 Consoles per mission||2.0 missions||1.3 missions||1.0 missions||0.8 missions||0.6 missions|
|5 Consoles per mission||1.8 missions||1.1 missions||0.8 missions||0.7 missions||0.5 missions|
|6 Consoles per mission||1.6 missions||1.0 missions||0.7 missions||0.6 missions||0.4 missions|
|7 Consoles per mission||1.6 missions||0.9 missions||0.7 missions||0.5 missions||0.4 missions|
|8 Consoles per mission||1.6 missions||0.9 missions||0.6 missions||0.5 missions||0.3 missions|
Therefore, buying an Econ Chip is generally a very good financial investment, even if you do not use it on every Console. However, unlike other investments, using an Econ Chip costs more than just the 800 credits to buy it in the first place; you also don't get the PWR from Consoles. This can be fine in low-PWR-usage loadouts such as when starting with Parasite; however, it may be a deal-breaker in other loadouts.
The table above does not account for the fact that the Econ Chip can be sold for 400 credits before the final mission of the campaign. This is usually not significant, but it does mean that if you buy an Econ Chip near the end of the campaign then it pays for itself a bit faster than shown in the table above.
When you have an Econ Chip already, you can spend credits to upgrade your agent's Hacking skill in order to gain more credits when using the Econ Chip at Consoles. The table below shows how long it takes for each Hacking upgrade to pay for itself, depending on the number of Consoles used for credits per mission.
|Hacking 2||Hacking 3||Hacking 4||Hacking 5|
|1 Console per mission||10.0 missions||12.0 missions||14.0 missions||10.0 missions|
|2 Consoles per mission||5.0 missions||6.0 missions||7.0 missions||5.0 missions|
|3 Consoles per mission||3.3 missions||4.0 missions||4.7 missions||3.3 missions|
|4 Consoles per mission||2.5 missions||3.0 missions||3.5 missions||2.5 missions|
|5 Consoles per mission||2.0 missions||2.4 missions||2.8 missions||2.0 missions|
|6 Consoles per mission||1.7 missions||2.0 missions||2.3 missions||1.7 missions|
|7 Consoles per mission||1.4 missions||1.7 missions||2.0 missions||1.4 missions|
|8 Consoles per mission||1.2 missions||1.5 missions||1.8 missions||1.2 missions|
Hacking upgrades with an Econ Chip are therefore generally good financial investments, especially if you are using the Econ Chip on most or all Consoles in each mission. There are also significant positive side-effects: the upgrades also give you more PWR at Consoles when you don't use the Econ Chip (potentially even allowing you to use the Econ Chip at more Consoles), and the agent will be able to use items with higher Hacking skill level requirements such as EMP Packs or Portable Servers.
The augment MicroSLAM Apparatus gives credits at the end of each mission in proportion to how much of the facility is explored, up to a maximum of 300 credits per mission. It can sometimes be bought from Monst3r for 520 credits after the first mission of the campaign; this is a purely financial investment.
Generally, buying MicroSLAM Apparatus from Monst3r is a good financial investment, especially since it can be done so early in the campaign. The table below shows how long it takes MicroSLAM Apparatus to pay for itself, depending on how much of each facility you explore.
|Beginner, Experienced||Expert, Expert Plus|
|Minimal exploration (40%)||4.3 missions||5.8 missions|
|Some exploration (60%)||2.9 missions||3.9 missions|
|More exploration (80%)||2.2 missions||2.9 missions|
|Full exploration (100%)||1.7 missions||2.3 missions|
MicroSLAM Apparatus is also sometimes available for free from an Augment Grafter, in which case it is often worth installing. However, since there is no cost in credits, it does not make sense to analyse this decision as a financial investment.
A Vault Access Card can sometimes be bought from Monst3r after the first mission in the campaign for 400 credits. This can be a purely financial investment, if the Vault Access Card is used in a Vault mission to get more credits from Deposit Boxes or Research Experiments in the inner vault.
Having a Vault Access Card to loot the inner vault is worth an extra 800–1100 credits in Beginner or Experienced modes, or 600–825 credits in Expert or Expert Plus modes, compared to just looting the outer vault. Therefore, if there is a Vault mission on the world map already, then the Vault Access Card takes 0.4 or 0.6 missions respectively to pay for itself; this is one of the best possible financial investments in the game. If there is no Vault on the world map then it may take a few missions to find one, but buying the Vault Access Card is still generally a good investment, although it is a much higher-variance one than most other investments.
The Vault Access Card can alternatively be used in a Cybernetics Lab mission, but buying it for this purpose is not a financial investment.
The program Brimstone passively gives a +10% chance of daemon reversal, so that the Fortune algorithm is triggered more often when Brimstone is installed. Each Fortune gives the agency 200 credits, so in principle buying Brimstone for 450 credits can be partly a financial investment in addition to the other benefits of having Brimstone installed.
On average, 67.5 daemons will be triggered before Brimstone pays for itself via Fortune. If the agency triggers an average of 3–7 daemons per mission, then Brimstone breaks even as a financial investment after roughly 10–23 missions. This makes Brimstone a poor choice for a purely financial investment, but it is comparable to Anarchy upgrades. Of course, Brimstone also has the non-financial benefits of breaking firewalls and protecting against harmful daemons.
When playing with Ritual from the Nintendo Switch edition of the game as a starting program, the agency might trigger many more daemons; more than 20 per mission is not unlikely. In this case, Brimstone is expected to pay for itself in about 3 missions, and its other benefits are also significantly more useful.