Last week I claimed to be a Grandmaster at the original Mass Effect, and I’d like to stand by that claim today by saying that I can total that game any day I feel like. But when it comes to complete domination and beastly skill, Mass Effect 2 is where I really shine. There are very few games on my 360 that boast a 100% completion rating as demonstrated by a complete achievement score, but Mass Effect 2 is somehow on my list, partly because I love it so damned much and partly because I forced myself to challenge every single skill I had by playing on the hardest difficulty setting. You may not have believed me last week, but this week make no mistake, these are Tips From a Grandmaster for Mass Effect 2.
Pick the Correct Shepard (Again):
As I’d mentioned last time, picking which version of Commander Shepard you’ll be playing, including gender, play style, and class type, is of the utmost importance as it will determine a lot of how you play the game. I stuck with my setup from last time, with the Paragon Male Soldier Shepard and the Renegade Female Vanguard Shepard, and they certainly played different again. This time around, the Solider class made it a breeze to coast through skirmishes as Soldiers are masters of all weapons, making them versatile, whereas Vanguards are skilled in only pistols and submachine guns, as well as a smattering of biotic abilities.
Oddly, while I could do much, much more with my Vanguard, her biotic abilities were heavily nerfed when playing on the hardest difficulty setting, not because the powers are weaker, but because every single enemy is given an extra health bar in the form of a shield, some armor, or a barrier, and if they have any of those, strong biotic powers do not work on them. Seeing as how the gameplay of Mass Effect 2 is geared much more heavily upon cover-based 3rd person shooting, strategy favors the Soldier, though one of the most valuable bits of advice I can give you regarding the Vanguard class is that as soon as you get the option to either snag the Claymore shotgun or master either assault rifles or sniper rifles, learn to use sniper rifles immediately. This will give you a valuable edge against the Collectors later on.
Learn to Conserve Ammo:
Regardless of which Shepard you pick, playing on the hardest difficulty is going to be a challenge due almost entirely to enemies getting that extra health bar/defense against biotic powers. While you can hurl a group of enemies with Shockwave, it will be useless against them if they all have armor.
What this means is that you’ll need to learn to conserve your ammo and switch to the appropriate ammo type to fit the situation. Electric ammo can damage shields best, plasma ammo disrupts barriers, and fire ammo shreds through armor amazingly well, plus it stops Krogans and Vorcha from being able to regenerate (more on that in a moment). You should always have one of these ammo types selected for your guns and the guns of your partners (should they have the ability).
Along with this is the need to play smart. Headshots are going to be the most useful, especially when it comes to the YMIR mechs. If you’re not hitting shots right, you’ll be left with only the ability to use your biotic abilities, something that’s essentially useless against armored/shielded/barriered enemies, or your melee attack, which works well enough if you just have one enemy left but is a death sentence with anything more than that, and definitely not against certain enemy types. Still, you’ll want to learn to use those powers and your melee to help conserve ammo at every step, and don’t use up your heavy weapons ammo except in large boss encounters or when you have no other choice.
Speaking of those enemies, you should absolutely always know which enemies need to go first in any given situation. Krogans are beasts and will not stop until you’re dead, so when they make a charge, put them on the ground immediately. Asari specialists can do a lot of damage from far away, but you can easily beat them down with your melee attacks, something you’ll have no such luck with when we’re talking about Krogans. Every Krogan enemy has armor, so pull out the incendiary ammo or use a fire-based biotic ability and strip away their armor, then hit them again so that their regeneration ability is disrupted.
Probably the most important enemy to subdue is the Harbinger whenever one assumes control of a Collector soldier. Harbingers can keep up a constant barrage of strong attacks, always in a pattern of shooting weaker energy blasts, then one strong black energy blast that can push you out of cover if it hits anywhere near you. Learn their firing pattern and pop up to take shots when you have the chance to whittle them down to nothing. In between openings, take out any Collectors within range since these will become Harbingers once the main one is disposed.
The goal is to eliminate the immediate threat. YMIR mechs, while super imposing, are not typically the immediate threat and can be dealt with at a distance, also having a simple firing pattern of submachine gun fire, followed by a rocket. They can easily sneak up on you, but they can be conquered by finding a simple pole or column or something that you can circle around, always keeping them in the dark. However, regular mechs will keep coming if you’re not looking, and while one YMIR mech can be strafed around, multiple mechs will create an inescapable situation very fast.
Biotics are Necessary:
Now, while I’ll tell you very openly that the stronger biotic powers are ineffective to guarded enemies, once you drop their shields/barriers/armor, biotic powers become monstrously powerful. Crippling Slam, for instance, can pluck an enemy up and slam them against the ground, doing a good deal of damage but better yet disabling them for a short period of time. Shockwave is another amazing ability as it will blast through anything, hurling whomever it touches. Half the time all you’ll need to do is take away an enemy’s armor and then hit them with Shockwave, sending them off a cliff.
Going along with this, using powers that do real damage to the health modifications of enemies are valuable beyond reason. While Shepard doesn’t really get these, his/her teammates do, so make sure to be spamming those attacks as much as possible. Speaking of which…
Learn What Your Team Can Really Do:
My strategy for the first Mass Effect was to pick a team and stick with it, no matter what. That strategy doesn’t entirely work in Mass Effect 2 as you’ll need different teammates for different situations, as well as the fact that half of the missions in the game are Loyalty missions that require you take along a specific party member anyway. This is actually very important as it shows you what these characters can really do and how specialized they can get.
It will become tricky to decide who to take on a specific mission as you can never really be sure when you’ll be going up against since some missions have enemies that predominantly have armor and others that have enemies that predominantly have shields. Therefore, for the safest strategy in any case, bringing along one teammate that specializes in dealing with each is wonderful. Garrus and Mordin are always strong choices as Garrus has Overload (strong against shields and mechs) and Mordin has Incinerate (strong against armor, Krogans, and Vorcha). I can’t stress how annoying it is to find yourself in a mission where all the enemies have armor, only to find that you have nothing but shield-busting powers.
Once you understand your teammate’s basic assistance powers, remember to make use of their offensive powers as well. Jack can prove to be more than skilled with some devastating biotic powers, while Garrus can prove to be quite useful with his concussive shots.
Be aware though that all of your computer-controlled allies are, more or less, complete children when it comes to strategies. I’ve actually watched as Garrus climbed up onto a barrier in front of him to stand up in the middle of the firefight, just so he could take very slow sniper shots at enemies that were just a few feet away. You have to be a good babysitter and tell them the correct guns to use (assault rifles or submachine guns most of the time), and where to stand to Not Die in any given situation. They rush through that tutorial at the beginning, but if you haven’t learned to send one ally behind the barrier to your left and the other to the barrier to your right, you’ll be wasting a lot of health packs just to revive imbeciles.
Probe Every Planet, Crack Every Safe:
With the previous tactics you should be set during actual combat, but that’s only half the battle. When outside missions, just bopping around the galaxy, you should always be probing planets and searching for additional missions. This is to increase your credits and collect resources vital for new armor, weapons, and enhancements. Taking the time to search is just part of the game, so while you can skip planet mining and teammate conversations, your abilities will be stifled quite a bit.
Once you have Mordin and can actively upgrade weapons, armor, and biotic powers, start doing so out of a compulsive habit. You will need to be pimped out with the strongest everything to be a decent fight against the Collectors on their ships, so the more resources you have stockpiled, the better set you’ll be for tough encounters.
This extends to any and all opportunities to crack safes, hack terminals, and bust open locked doors. Learn how to perform the hacking minigames quickly, but be careful to take your time. You actually have a lot longer to figure things out then you’d think, so use that time to do things wisely. If you keep locking yourself out of bonuses, shame on you indeed!
If you follow all this advice, no, you won’t be able to instantly skip through the game like it’s nothing. Playing on the hardest difficulty setting will result in death after death after death, so get in the habit of saving after pretty much every encounter, lest you find yourself at the wrong end of a sneaky Krogan, which will happen far more times than I’d like to admit.
Mass Effect 2 is one of my favorite games of all time, and not just for the action. Everything just works for me, with the action being the icing on a very wonderful cake. Blasting through on the hardest difficulty setting isn’t easy, but it’s also not anywhere near impossible. This is a war of attrition, so if you keep at it, you’ll come out on top.
See you for Mass Effect 3!