========================================== Mass Effect (PC): Character Optimization Guide, by Erik Fasterius, firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2008 Erik Fasterius ========================================== --------------------- 0.0 TABLE OF CONTENTS --------------------- 1.0 INTRODUCTION What this guide is about, who I am, and so on... 2.0 WEAPONS Four different weapons make four different styles. 2.1 Pistols 2.2 Shotguns 2.3 Assault Rifles 2.4 Sniper Rifles 3.0 TECH SKILLS A more defense-oriented skill tree. 3.1 Decryption 3.2 Electronics 3.3 Hacking 3.4 Damping 3.5 First Aid 3.6 Medicine 4.0 BIOTIC SKILLS Skills more designed around offensive power and crowd control. 4.1 Throw 4.2 Wrap 4.3 Lift 4.4 Singularity 4.5 Barrier 4.6 Stasis 5.0 CLASS SPECIFIC SKILLS One class, one skill - each one unique and unattainable to others. 6.0 GENERIC SKILLS These skills will give a boost to your general combat prowess. 6.1 The Three Armour Skills 6.2 Assault Training 6.3 Fitness 6.4 Charm and Intimidate 7.0 ACHIEVEMENTS Stuff that opens up some very interesting optimization choices! 7.1 List of Achievements and rewards 7.2 Easy ways to get them 8.0 PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER Now you know what you want, let's make sense of it! 8.1 What's your game? 8.2 Choosing your class 8.3 Choosing your Bonus Skill 8.4 Allocating your skills 8.5 Picking Companions 9.0 SAMPLE CHARACTERS Here are some indications of what an optimized character might look like. 10.0 CREDITS, VERSION HISTORY, ETC You know... the rest! 10.1 Credit where credit is due 10.2 Version History 10.3 Who's allowed to use this guide 10.4 Special Thanks ---------------- 1.0 INTRODUCTION ---------------- Hey there, and welcome to my guide! I'm Erik, just a guy from Sweden who spends alot of his studying time on the computer instead of actually... you know, study. I make guides because I like doing it. It's a way to collect all the experience I've gained from a game and give it out to all you people. I occasionally lurk on the GameFaqs-forums, but I rarely contribute with anything. Hence, the guides! ^^ I consider myself very fluent in english, but there will of course be mistakes anyway. If you find one, be it grammar and/or spelling, feel free to email me about it. You can find my email at the top of this page. I am currently trying to learn the difference between american and british english, so I'm trying to write all this in BRITISH english. If you see me writing in american, please let me know so I can learn the correct phrase. I also welcome criticism on the guide in general. It's quite alright to tell me you liked it, as well! =P There is a simple and quick way to find what you're looking for in a guide. I've numbered all the sections from 1 to 10 for quick reference. If you want to quickly find a section you simply press Ctrl + F, write in (for example) "6.5" and press enter. That'll take you to the first place in the document where 6.5 is found - the Table of Contents. If you press enter again you should come to the only other place in the guide where the number is found: the section itself. This guide is just that - a guide. That means it's NOT a walkthrough of any kind. If you're stuck or want a walkthrough there are plenty of those to go around on GameFaqs already. This guide is aimed towards the optimization of your main character, Commander Shepard, in the Mass Effect game. It is not a straight route towards making the "perfect" character, as there really can't be such a thing with so many options and different playing styles. Think of this guide as a way to learn more about the skills and abilities in the game, which ones are good and bad, and the best way to utilize their maximum potential. Think of it as a way of finding not "the" perfect character, but YOUR perfect character! One might ask, "why make a character optimization guide for a dialogue-heavy game like Mass Effect?" Yes, this is a game that is very RPG-intense (and very good at it, no less!) but there's still alot of combat going on. I know myself to be quite the powergamer when it comes to making characters (I do the same for all games =P) and I think there's a little powergamer inside all of us, just waiting to get out! That being said, if you want to clear the higher difficulti- levels in the game, you will need all the optimization you can get... You might be reading this guide because you want some ideas for a second play- through of the game, or you might be in the middle of your first time. You might be a veteran looking for new ideas or starting out fresh for the first time. Regardless of the case, I believe this guide can be helpful to you. Use it as a collection of thoughts based on experience, and compare it to your own. Before I start, please note that I play Mass Effect on my PC. This guide is written with the presumption that you, the reader, know the basics of the game already (i.e. controls, environments, knowledge, etc), as I won't be providing them. Right, let's get on with it! ----------- 2.0 WEAPONS ----------- So, we have in the game access to four different kind of weapons, each with a unique style of play. In this section I will go through each weapon, discuss it's pros and cons, it's uses, improvements, and so forth. Each character, regardless of class, can use every weapon with the help of Achievements, so what you need to do here is to find your favourite. 2.1 Pistols ----------- Pistols are the weakest weapons in terms of pure damage, but very accurate and gain small amounts of heat. Being relatively weak does not make it a bad weapon. Pistols can be very dangerous in the right hands. Being accurate and "cool" enables pistol users to put out quite a bit of damage per second. By putting points into the Pistol Skill you will increase it's damage output (+20% at level 11) and it's accuracy (+30% at level 11) as well as gaining the "Marksman"-trait, a very useful ability. It will greatly increase your accuracy, shots per second and reduce heat gain (+60%, 2 rounds/sec and -50% heat at level 12). This ability will last for 16 seconds at it's max level, with a recharge time of 45 seconds. Pistols are great for those areas where there isn't much cover to be had. Without cover you can't really stand around and wait for your weapon to cool off without being constantly hit by your enemies. With pistols you can shoot a steady stream of bullets towards whatever you want to kill while moving around alot and avoiding their bullets. The Pistols Skill is a basic skill for Soldiers, Engineers, Infiltrators, Vanguards and an unlockable skill for Adepts. 2.2 Shotguns ------------ Ah, the coveted shotgun... You can find it in many a games, a favourite of many. The idea is that the shotgun does massive, if not directly fatal damage up close but less and less damage as the distance to your target increases. Mass Effect holds true to this statement but for the fact that the ME shotgun can actually be quite accurate even on a medium range. Putting points into your shotgun skill will make it's damage and accuracy go up (+20% and +30%, respectively, at level 11). It will also give you the "Carnage" ability, which is an excellent skill for clearing up big packs of enemies. Carnage will increase the damage output as well as splash the damage to others around the target. This is a very, very useful skill, when you've learned how and where to use it. Shotguns are very good for close-quarters encounters. The closer you are to your target, the higher the chance that all your pellets will hit. As far as I can see, the shotgun consistently fires 3-5 pellets per shot. I tested this with standing as far away as possible from different walls, shooting them, and running up to see how many shadows I saw on the wall. 5 was the figure that I came up with most of the time, but 3's and 4's were also present. I didn't actually keep statistics, but I'd say about 50% 5, 15% 4 and 35% 3. Assuming that the "3-5 pellets"-theory is correct (which it might not be, of course! =P) the damage is unevenly distributed across different shots. For simplicity's sake, let's say one shot equals 100 points of damage. In a shot with 5 pellets, that means 20 damage per pellet. In a shot with only 3 pellets, that's 33 damage per pellet, a 65% increased damage per pellet. This means that the fewer pellets there is in a shot, the more damage they will do - IF THEY HIT. This would be another variation of the shotgun-concept: the less pellets, the more the damage, but also less pellets to hit with. (This is all just me thinking and applying what I've seen in the game. If you have another theory on how it works, please let me know and I'll add you to the guide.) All in all, shotguns are a very good weapon, well-suited for staying under a cover and poking your head out every other second to blast something to smithereens. Don't be afraid to use your shotgun even at medium range, you'll find it can be surprisingly accurate! The Shotgun Skill is an unlockable skill for the Soldier and the Vanguard. 2.3 Assault Rifles ------------------ This is Mass Effect's all-around weapon - the assault rifle can be used both as a long range weapon as well as on medium to short ranges. It can give you quite a bit of DPS, but it's not as accurate as the pistol and generates more heat. In fact, the pistol and the assault rifle is very, very similar except for the above mentioned things. As with all the weapon skills, putting points in Assault Rifles will increase their damage and accuracy (+20% and +30% at level 11) and give you the "Overkill" ability. Overkill will reduce heat gain by quite alot and increase accuracy (-60% heat and +40% accuracy at level 11) and lasts for 15 seconds. This is very useful for when you need to focus your fire for long periods of time on, say, a boss or a dangerous enemy. Overkill will allow you to just hold your attack button down and aim at them and see their shields and hit points tick away. Pistols and assault rifles are indeed similar. They even have the same ability - they do different things, but ends in the same way: loads more DPS. They are both "constant-fire" weapons in that they don't require long periods of cooldown between each shot. While being less accurate than the pistol, the assault rifle can still get it's fair share of damage output - but try to get behind a cover to let it cool when it's needed. The Assault Rifle Skill is a basic skill for Soldiers. 2.4 Sniper Rifles ----------------- The last of the four weapons, the sniper rifle really shines when it comes to taking out it's targets at long ranges. The ME sniper rifle is pretty much what you'd expect from any sniper rifle in any any - powerful, hard to aim and with a long cooldown period. Bla bla bla, +20% damage, +30% accuracy bla bla level 11. The "Assassination" ability of the sniper rifle can really shine in certain situations. Getting +225% damage on your next shot can help take out those pesky bosses and tough- to-kill Krogans. It's pretty easy to use, provided you can use the sniper rifle, that is - just hit the ability and fire away. I would say that the sniper rifle is the hardest weapon to use in this game, simply because it can be really, really hard in aiming against a flying target not far away from you. The closer your target is to you, the harder it is to shoot. If it's moving, that won't help either. Shooting a non-moving target is a no-brainer: just aim and shoot. A target that isn't moving hasn't seen you, so there's no rush. As soon as you hit the target, however, all it's pals will be coming to get you. The good thing is that the thing you just shot will most likely be dead - that's how powerful the sniper rifle is. Another thing to note when using the sniper rifle is aiming motions. If you stand up while you aim, the crosshair will be moving around a bit, to account for you not being "stable" enough. If you crouch down, however, the aiming will become much more stable, after a second or two of delay. This is only useful to know for two reasons: 1) when you're making that first shot, and 2) when your companions are in front of you and the enemies are busy with them. To use the sniper rifle effectively you must know how to use your companions. While their AI may be stupid and slow, you can still send them forward or make them defend a position, all the while you find a good firing position. You must also learn to "aim without taking aim". This basicly means that you try to aim at your target BEFORE you press the right mouse button (dunno what the controls are on XBOX) and instantly shoot the second you see your target inside the crosshair. "Why?" I hear you asking. The reason is that if you shoot without waiting just when you started aiming you won't get any of that motion to screw it up. You basicly make sure the target is in the middle of your screen, aim and shoot. This can be quite tricky, as the target reticule for sniper rifles while not being aimed is very, very large (covering most of the screen, in fact), especially when moving. As far as I know, there is no such thing as a head-shot in Mass Effect. The Sniper Rifle Skill is an unlockable skill for the Soldier and the Infiltrator. --------------- 3.0 TECH SKILLS --------------- The Tech tree is a collection of utility skills with some defensive and offensive manouvers tossed in. Most of these abilities function much like your grenades does: a small mine is thrown at your target and does whatever the ability is supposed to do. Use Sabotage, for example, on a wall and you'll see what I mean. Techs is what enables your group to open locks, hack computers and repair the Mako. If you don't want to go around leaving every crate and box behind you I suggest you bring a Tech user with you. If that is such a big disadvantage or not comes later in this guide... 3.1 Decryption -------------- This is the skill that opens locked crates and computers. Having this skill will let you get more info, more items and more assignments than you otherwise would. Putting points into Decryption will give your tech mines +30% more damage at level 12 and also give you the "Sabotage" ability. Sabotage will overheat the targets' weapons, forcing them to either wait or go in to melee range with you. At max level (9) it does 150 damage +4 damage per second, has a 10m radius, 25 second duration and a 40s recharge. This ability is quite mediochre, as alot of enemies can be quite alot more dangerous up close than at a range (krogans, for example). All in all, Decryption is a skill to pick if you want to get all that extra loot and info, and you DO want that, right? If you're doing your nnnnth playthrough on insane difficulty, it might be another thing, though... Decryption is a basic skill for the Engineer, the Infiltrator and the Sentinel. 3.2 Electronics --------------- The best part of this skill is that it increases your shields by a HUGE amount, +270 at max level! It will also improve your ability to repair the Mako, although that is a minor buff. With electronics you can also gain access to damaged equipment as well as computers and "anomolies" (as seen in the map on uncharted worlds). The ability associated with electronics is called "Overload". Overload will do three different things: 1) 150 damage, 2) 600 shield damage and 3) -30% on enemy defenses for 10 seconds (all at max level). This is an excellent skill to use on powerful enemies such as the later Geth monstrosities (Destroyers and the like). Electronics is an awesome skill to have for ANY character! Massive shield boosts coupled with a really good ability makes electronics one of the top skill to have, regardless of class! Electronics is a basic skill for the Engineer and the Infiltrator as well as an unlocked skill for the Sentinel. 3.3 Hacking ----------- Hacking basicly reduced the recharge timer on your other Tech Abilities (30% faster at max level) and gives you the AI Hacking ability, which will make your target (which has to be mechanic, read: Geth) attack it's friends instead of you. AI Hacking can be a very useful skill, if used correctly. In one way, it removes one of your enemies from your back, and in another, it gives you a temporary ally. Throw AI Hacking on the largest Geth in the pack, and you'll get yourself a nice damage boost from it. At maximum level, you can even use AI Hacking on the turrets outside Geth bases! That can severely hamper their defenses. Hacking is an unlocked skill for the Engineer. 3.4 Damping ----------- This increases the radius of your other Tech abilities (+30% at max level) and gives you Damping as an ability. Damping does 100 damage, increases the targets' Tech and Biotic recharge timers by 60% in a 10m radius and stuns almost all enemies for 3 seconds. 40s recharge timer. This skill is mostly useful for taking down biotic terrorists and asari commandos, as they are the ones who uses techs and biotics the most. All in all, a pretty situational skill. I haven't found much use in it, yet. Damping is an unlocked skill for the Engineer and the Infiltrator. 3.5 First Aid ------------- First Aid only does one thing: increase the health gained by Medi-gels. It starts out at level 1 with 40 health and is increased in increments of 10 (except levels 6 and 12) to a maximum of 180 at level 12. This skill is cumultive between party members, so if the whole group have it maxed it means that your Medi-gels will heal for 540 health. For most of us, this is a must have. You basicly throw in as many points in it as you can, but more often than not you use your companions' points rather than your own. Companions may provide damage and abilities, but it's always YOU who'll be doing the majority of any fight. If you really want to powergame, though, make sure all your companions (and you) have some sort of health regeneration. That way, all you need to do after a fight is wait for them to refill. If you survived, that is... First Aid is a basic skill for the Engineer and the Sentinel as well as an unlocked skill for the Soldier and the Infiltrator. 3.6 Medicine ------------ Medicine will reduce the recharge time on your First Aid skill (30% at max level) and give you access to another ability: "Neural Shock". Neural Shock will stun enemies for 5 seconds and do 120 toxic damage to them (45s recharge, max level). As with some of the other Tech abilities, Neural Shock is very situational. Five seconds is quite enough time to kill anything if focused on, but it only works on organic targets. I haven't found this very useful myself, but if you have, please tell me how and why. ----------------- 4.0 BIOTIC SKILLS ----------------- While Tech skills are mostly defensive with some offensive capabilities, Biotics are mostly offensive. Biotics manipulate the environment and the things in them, and are excellent for keeping enemies at a leisurly distance. A Biotic user can do quite alot of damage with all his abilities, but will need the support of combat if he's to make use of it all. 4.1 Throw --------- This ability is great for keeping charging enemies from getting to you. How far you can push (which is more what you're doing, rather than throwing) and with what force is increased as you level the skill. At max level, Throw has a 6m radius and a 40s recharge timer. In some cases you can knock an enemy off a ledge and insta-kill them. Throw is one of the best abilities in this game! It packs quite a punch and disables enemies for far more than the measly 5 seconds you gain from Neural Shock! See, when an enemy is on the ground, what you want to do is run up to it and KEEP KICKING IT. It'll be permanently stunned, and then it'll be dead. What more can you ask for in a skill? Throw is a basic skill for the Adept, the Sentinel and the Vanguard. 4.2 Warp -------- Warp does two things. One, it does 10 damage per second and two, it lowers enemy defenses with a whooping 75% for 20 seconds! (40s recharge, max level) This is an awesome skill for hard-to-kill enemies and bosses! Not worth it on the lowly trooper, but can make a difficult bossfight into a cakewalk. Just throw it on your target and pummel him with whatever you got in those 20 seconds and he'll be dead before you know it. Warp is a basic skill for the Adept and the Vanguard. 4.3 Lift -------- This is an excellent crowd-control ability: it will lift your targets into the air, making them unable to take any action whatsoever. They are prime targets for any shots you can afford to aim at them, and they'll take additional damage as they hit the ground. Once they are on the ground, you can run ahead and give them a few kicks until they stay down more permanently. 6m radius, 12s duration and 40s recharge time at max level. All in all, just an awesome skill. If you're using a sniper rifle, lifted targets are much easier to aim at than a running target. Lifted targets will drift higher and higher, so you will always know where they're going (which is not often the case with running targets). It might not always be wise to shoot the lifted targets and ignore the ones still on the ground, however. You have to learn when to use Lift as purely crowd-control or as a means of getting easy shots. Lift is an unlocked skill for the Adept, the Sentinel and the Vanguard. 4.4 Singularity --------------- Singularity creates a black hole of sorts that sucks enemies closer to it. At max level it has a radius of 8.5m, 8s duration and a 40s recharge timer. Singularity and Lift are very much alike, and you can use them in pretty much the same ways. Singularity won't move targets high into the air, but rather in towards it, and doesn't have as long a duration as Lift has. Nevertheless, Singularity and Lift works very well when used in tandem with each other: start with either one, kill some enemies, use the one not on cooldown, kill more... Rince and repeat. As with Lift, enemies will fall to the ground (although not as far as with Lift) and need to get up before they can attack you again. Use it to your advantage. Singularity is an unlocked skill for the Adept. 4.5 Barrier ----------- Barrier will temporarily increase your shields by the staggering amount of +1000! (40s recharge, max level.) It is very good for when you need to get into a dangerous area without sustaining too much damage while doing it. Vanguard characters may find it very useful in running into packs of enemies and killing them without much threat to themselves. Coupled with Adrenalie Burst and a good Biotic Amplifier, you can keep Barrier up almost forever. If you have Shield Boost (from the armour skills) to use when your normal shields drop you can consider yourself pretty hard to kill. At least by weapons-fire... Thresher Maws are still large and dangerous! Barrier is a basic skill for the Adept and the Sentinel as well as an unlocked skill for the Vanguard. 4.6 Stasis ---------- This will stun a target for 21 seconds (40s recharge timer, max level), but nothing other than that. There's not many situations where you might feel the need for this, seeing as if you have Stasis, you most likely have both Throw and Lift. It's not like you can damage the target you have in stasis... A purely defensive ability. The very few instances where this is a useful skill is when you're being surrounded by alot of enemies and need to take one our of combat for a while. Target a big Geth with Stasis, and it'll be unable to hit you for a while, giving you time to take down the smaller geth. Stasis is an unlocked skill for the Adept and the Sentinel. ------------------------- 5.0 CLASS SPECIFIC SKILLS ------------------------- These are the skills that you get from being of a certain class. As usual, all stats are given at their max level, which for class skills is level 6. There's not much to discuss as to their being good or bad, as it's just stat increases and no abilities. Soldier ------- +14% health and +5.5 health regeneration. Engineer -------- -14% Tech Recharge time and +21% Tech Defense. Adept ----- -14% Biotic Recharge time and +21% Biotic Defense. Infiltrator ----------- -10% Heat on pistols and sniper rifles, +15% Tech damage. Sentinel -------- -10% Biotic and Tech Recharge time, +12% pistol damage and +18% pistol accuracy. Vanguard -------- +21% Biotic Defense and +10% shotgun and pistol damage. ------------------ 6.0 GENERIC SKILLS ------------------ These are the other skills that don't fit in any other place. They might be called Combat skills, and sort of increase the general fitness of your character, but I prefer to have them separate from the weapon skills. 6.1 The Three Armour Skills --------------------------- These are all the same, except they work for different armour. Basic Armour works with Light Armour, Tactical with Medium and Combat with Heavy. Which one you have is basicly up to what class you have. They all give the exact same stats, however: +20% defense and +20% hardening and the "Shield Boost" ability. Shield Boost will recharge all your shields in two seconds at max level, a very useful ability. Putting points into your class' corresponding armour skill is a good idea for any character of any class. 6.2 Assault Training -------------------- This is a very good skill, especially for a Vanguard! It will give +9% weapon damage, +64% melee damage and the ability Adrenaline Burst. The weapon damage boost speaks for itself, but not many know how good going into melee can be. The target is knocked down and can't do anything until it gets up, which might take a while if the character keeps knocking it down! Assault training makes going into melee ever better than it already is. Adrenaline Burst is kind of a no-brainer. Do you like your other abilities? Would you like to be able to use them in quick succession? If the answer is yes, then get this skill. Assault Training is a basic skill for the Soldier and the Vanguard. 6.3 Fitness ----------- Will grant +30% health at max level as well as the "Immunity" ability. Immunity will give you +80% defense for 20 seconds (30s recharge, max level), which will almost make you invulnerable. Very good ability to use when you're low on health and shields, or just want to charge into a group of enemies. Fitness is an unlocked skill for the Soldier and the Infiltrator. 6.4 Charm and Intimidate ------------------------ These are the conversational skills in Mass Effect and can be very useful, especially if it's the first time you're playing the game. You can however make do without if you're trying out the higher difficulties. ---------------- 7.0 ACHIEVEMENTS ---------------- This is what you gain from doing certain things inside the game. For example, getting a 150 kills with any one weapon will give any new character you create the choice of that weapon as a bonus skill. Achievements is what makes more detailed character optimization possible, as you can get, for example, Lift for a Soldier, who normally won't have access to Lift. 7.1 List of Achievements and rewards ------------------------------------ I will only list the achievements that are actually useful in terms of optimizing your characters. There are alot more, you can find them all under "Cheats" at the Mass Effect GameFaqs-page. For the skills, fulfilling the requirement gives you the option to give new characters that skill as a bonus (only one bonus skill can be chosen per character). This applies to all skills, except the pistol (since everybody can use it) which will improve the Marksman ability, instead. 5% Increase in Weapon Damage Complete the Game Twice +10% Experience Bonus Complete 75% of Game +10% Health Bonus Kill 150 Organics +10% Shield Bonus Kill 250 Synthetics +5% Experience Bonus Reach 50th level 10% Shield Increase Sustain More Shield Damage than Health Damage on One Playthrough 10% Hardening Bonus Complete 75% of Game with Ashley 10% Reduced Cooldown for Barrier and Stasis Complete 75% of Game with Liara 10% Reduced Cooldown for Lift and Throw Complete 75% of Game with Kaiden 10% Reduced Cooldown for Overload/Damping Complete 75% of Game with Garrus 10% Reduced Cooldown for Sabotage/AI Hacking Complete 75% of Game with Tali Regenerate 1 Health per Second Complete 75% of Game with Wrex Spectre Grade Weapons for Purchase Attain 1,000,000 Credits. +25% Marksman Cooldown Bonus Attain 150 Kills with Pistol Shotgun 150 Kills with Shotgun Assault Rifle 150 Kills with Assault Rifle Sniper Rifles 150 Kills with Sniper Rifle Decryption Use Sabotage 75 Times Electronics Use Overload 75 Times First Aid Use 150 Medi-gel Hacking Use AI Hacking 75 Times Medicine Use Neural Shock 75 Times Damping Use Dampening 75 Times Throw Use Throw 75 Times Lift Use Lift 75 Times Barrier Use Barrier 75 Times Statis Use Statis 75 Times Warp Use Warp 75 Times Singularity Use Singularity 75 times 7.2 Easy ways to get them ------------------------- For the first two sets of achievements in the list there isn't really any shortcuts to get them. Just do them, and you'll get the achievement. To get the weapon achievements you just have to kill stuff. One easy way to do this is to go to the Attican Beta Cluster, Hercules, Eletania. Once there, find the closest monkey colony with the Mako, go out of the Mako and save the game. Once done, kill the monkeys, reload your game, rince and repeat. Most of the other abilites just requires you to use them, but not necessarily ON anything. This applies to all abilities except AI Hacking and Lift. For those two, you'll simple have to find targets to use them on. --------------------------- 8.0 PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER --------------------------- By now you're probably very tired from reading about all those skills and abilities... But it's now that we're going to try to make some sense of it. If you want to really min-max your character to the best of it's potential, you need to know everything there is to know about it's different aspects - hence all the descriptions and tactics concerning aforementioned skills and abilities. The first thing we're going to decide, or rather, YOU are going to decide, is what kind of style you want to play... 8.1 What's your game? --------------------- We are all different, and we all like different things and do things differently. There are various ways in playing Mass Effect (or any game, for that matter). Some are offensive in characters, others more defensive. Some may be catered to heavy roleplaying, while some may be tailored to the most efficient way to annihilate your opposition. This section covers how different weapons, skills and abilities differentiate in terms of gameplay. This is viewed from a purely action-based point; if you want dialogue and utility, get the skills appropriete, they don't have much with combat to do. Weapons: Pistols, Assault Rifles - Versatility, equally good at any range, Easy to use, targets one enemy Shotguns - Extremely deadly at close range, very good damage output, can be coupled with melee for crowd control and more damage, can hit multiple targets. Sniper Rifles - Best at long range, very high damage output, can be very hard to aim, targets one enemy, can quickly kill one specific enemy. Techs: Sabotage, AI Hacking, - Disables enemies, letting you kill Damping, Neural Shock them in a safer way. Electronics - Increases your overall defenses, Overload can cripple enemy shields. First Aid, Medicine - Increases your staying power, letting you take more damage by making you better at healing. Biotics: Throw, Lift, Warp - Offensive, damaging abilities, can all be used to complement and help other skills. Throw, Lift, Singularity, - Crowd-controlling abilities. Stasis Barrier - Short bursts of high defenses. Go through all these, you might even go back up to read each skill's own section again, and figure out what type of character you might want to be. Do you want to have a high damage potential? Do you want the damage to come from your weapons or biotics? Do you want to be a defensive character? Do you want the defensive prowess to come from being able to soak up damage, or just avoiding it? When you've got an idea of what you want to play, head on to the next section... 8.2 Choosing your class ----------------------- There are six different classes to choose from, and they all carry a skillset of their own. What you want to do here is to find the class which corresponds best to your idea of your character. One thing to note when choosing class (and companions, later on) is that the "power bars" of your group (Combat, Biotics and Techs, respectively) don't mean squat. Even if your group might consist of only ½ biotic user, that doesn't mean that he isn't all you need (and want). If you happen to like the skills Throw, Warp and Barrier, and don't care much for the others, then just ½ Biotic user is more than enough to get those skills. So, when choosing class, go by the SKILLS and ABILITIES you like, not the class itself. Here is a list of all the classes and what their skills are: Basic skills Unlockable skills Soldier Pistols Shotguns ------- Assault Rifles Sniper Rifles Combat Armour Fitness Assault Training First Aid Soldier Engineer Pistols Basic Armour -------- First Aid Medicine Electronics Damping Decryption Hacking Engineer Adept Basic Armour Pistols ----- Throw Lift Warp Singularity Barrier Stasis Adept Infiltrator Pistols Sniper Rifles ----------- Tactical Armour Fitness Electronics Damping Decryption First Aid Infiltrator Sentinel Throw Lift -------- Barrier Stasis Decryption Electronics First Aid Medicine Sentinel Vanguard Pistols Shotguns -------- Assault Training Tactical Armour Throw Lift Warp Barrier Vanguard 8.3 Chosing your Bonus Skill ---------------------------- So, now you've found your class, great! Now it's time to augment that class with something you missed - because I'm sure you can't have found a class that has exactly EVERYTHING you want, right? So, what skill or ability does your character miss, what could it use to grow even better? Some common choices are Electronics for Vanguards (to make up for their lack of defense), Sniper Rifles for Sentinels (to make up for their lack of combat options) or Lift for a Soldier (to give it some crowd control). One way to choose your bonus skill is to pick whatever your character is missing (as in the case with the above examples). Another way entirely is to pick something that further gives you more options for something you already have. For example, you could give a Vanguard the Sniper Rifles skill, to grant him the potential to be equally deadly at both close and long range. You could give a Soldier the Medicine skill, to enhance it's staying power. Think outside the box! There are numerous combinations, I've just scratched the surface on what can be done here. Then there's the actual gaining of the apropriete achievement as well... 8.4 Allocating your skills -------------------------- There are two ways to playing Mass Effect. Either you just complete the main campaign, skipping most (if not all) side-quests, or you try to complete as much as you can. You can of course play the game in between those extremes as well, but it's to illustrate an important point in skill-allocation. For example, if you rush through the game, you'll be much lesser level than if you did all you could. This means that players that are on the "rush" side of gameplay are going to have to prioritize their skills much more than the other players need to. You need to be careful and decide what skills you want maxed out first, and which ones can wait. This is, again, completely up to you and your preferences. Just make sure you have a gameplan, don't run in there blindly. A rule of thumb is to quickly level those skills that you're going to be using most. If you are a tough soldier with pistols, you might want to level Combat Armour and Pistols first in the same way as a sniper wants to level his sniper rifle skill first. It's a no-brainer, really, but it's worth keeping in mind. 8.5 Picking your companions --------------------------- You have six to choose from, so pick wisely. When picking companions all you need to do is to figure out what you don't have in your character that they could bring. If you're an up-front, close-quarters type of character, you will want support with Biotics and healing behind you. If you're a support character yourself, you will want something big and hunky in front of you to take care of you. You should know alot about all the skills in the game by now, and you can utilize all that knowledge in optimizing your companions to suit your specific needs as well. Sure, they don't get a bonus skill, but they have other skillsets than the normal classes. Simply check your companions' skillsets, figure out what your character lacks or needs, and give them that. Controlling what your companions do during a combat situation becomes more and more important as you get higher in difficulti. Enemies do more damage, and leaving a teammember out in their range can prove fatal, both to him and you. Learn to position your teammates behind cover, learn when to retreat, when to stand your ground and when to rush in with everything you got, and you'll be just fine. --------------------- 9.0 SAMPLE CHARACTERS --------------------- Here are some quick overviews over three different characters and their gameplay. Infiltrator ----------- Bonus skill: Lift. Focus on: Sniper Rifles, Tactical Armour, Electronics, Lift and Fitness Companions: Wrex (Focus: Combat) and Liara (Focus: Crowd control Biotics). This is a pretty well-rounded character with good offensive options and amazing defenses. Lift helps when it comes to aiming close charging krogans and other annoying enemies. Wrex takes care of front-line duties and Liara can help with disables. Vanguard -------- Bonus Skill: Electronics Focus on: Shotguns, Assault Training, Tactical Armour, Electronics, Lift, Warp Companions: Tali (Focus: Support Techs) and Ashley (Focus: Combat) This is the type of character that charges in, shoots everything in sight, and hope he's still alive when the smoke clears. Electronics and Tactical Armour enhances it's staying power while Lift and Warp helps with those annoying hard- to-reach enemies. Ashley helps by giving medium to long range support damage and Tali gives general support. Sentinel -------- Bonus Skill: Sniper Rifles Focus on: Throw, Lift, Electronics, First Aid, Medicine, Sniper Rifles Companions: Wrex (Focus: Combat) and Garrus (Focus, Combat) The perfect support character now has another reason to stay behind and let his companions run into the fray! Some offensive abilities coupled with good support for his companions and sniper rifles lets this character really shine as a long ranged fighter. ---------------------------------- 10.0 CREDITS, VERSION HISTORY, ETC ---------------------------------- So, this is the end of the guide! I hoped it has given you an insight and deeper understanding of the mechanics behind the game Mass Effect. If you have any questions, comments, criticism or praise concerning the guide, please send me a mail. You can find my email on the top of this page. 10.1 Credit where credit is due ------------------------------- The people in this list has contributed to the guide as it is now, in one way or another. A big THANKS, to all of you! Alex Duryee Alex Host Christian Buckley Hsien Yan Siaw 10.2 Version History -------------------- ver. 1.05, 11th of July, 2008 - Added info on AI Hacking. - Added info on Singularity. - Added info on Barrier. ver. 1.00, 24th of June, 2008 - Initial release. 10.3 Who's allowed to use this guide ------------------------------------ If you wish to put up my guide on another page, you will need my permission to do so first. Simple send me a mail asking if it's alright to put it up on your page, and I'll probably say yes - I've yet to refuse somebody. Keep in mind that the guide need to be presented in it's entirety, un-altered and free. The following sites are allowed to use my guide: Gamefaqs.com Supercheats.com 10.4 Special Thanks ------------------- Bioware - You keep giving me these awesome games to play, I LOVE YOU! My new computer - You can run this game at max settings without too much lag! Gamefaqs - For continuing to be one of my daily clicks, if only for the polls! All kind emails - It's for you I make these guides! And that's the end of the guide, have a good one, people!