Monday, February 24, 2014

Mass Effect 1 - Classes - Sentinel (on Insane Difficulty) and Kaidan

Mass Effect 1: Classes - Sentinel (on Insanity Difficulty) and Kaidan

In this article, we discuss Sentinel builds for Insane Difficulty.

The Sentinel talents are:
  • Throw → Lift
  • Barrier → Stasis
  • Decryption → Electronics
  • First Aid → Medicine
Recommended Builds:
  • Shepard (90/102 points)
    • Throw 12, Lift 12
    • Barrier 12, Stasis 1
    • Decryption 9, Electronics 9
    • Sentinel 6, Bastion 6
    • Spectre 11
    • Bonus Talent: Sniping Rifle 12
  • Kaidan (79/82 points)
    • Throw 12, Lift 12
    • Barrier 12
    • Decryption 9, Electronics 9
    • First Aid 5, Medicine 12
    • Sentinel 6
The Sentinel is probably the easiest career to play as it has the core and most directly useful powers: Lift and Decryption. It even has a bit of weapon skill overloaded into the Sentinel Talent, culminating in the Marksman power (but not for Kaidan). Electronics combined with Barrier give the Sentinel very strong shields. For getting out of hand-to-hand combat, you have the choice of Throw, Lift, and Stasis.
We have de-emphasized Stasis because in the late game, it won't last very long. But even in the mid-game, you can get good time with it, either to reposition or to shoot someone to death while they are held in stasis (assuming the Bastion specialization).

Biotics are so strong and useful in the game that the Medic specialization is not favoured. Considering the number of times you might want to use medi-gel (probably never, even on Insanity difficulty, if you manage combat properly), the Medic specialization is also pretty much a waste of Talent points. The build does have points left over, however, so an option is to aim for just the basic level of Neural Shock as yet another way to slow enemies down. The description is that it "knocks out" an enemy for 1 second, but in practice you have several seconds because they still need to get up off the ground.

There is no point specializing Kaidan in Stasis because he cannot get the Bastion specialization. Therefore, Kaidan has a lot of points left over to get the Master level of Neural Shock. There's lots of waste here because you will rarely use medi-gel, but he's got nothing else to use his Talent points on. Just remember Kaidan for the times you may want someone with First Aid on your team -- i.e., When fighting lots of creatures that ignore shields, such as Thorian Creepers or Rachni.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mass Effect 1 - Classes - Vanguard (on Insane Difficulty) and Wrex

Mass Effect 1: Classes - Vanguard (on Insanity Difficulty) and Wrex

In this article, we discuss Vanguard builds for Insane Difficulty.

The Vanguard talents are:
  • Pistols → Shotguns
  • Assault Training → Tactical Armor
  • Throw → Lift
  • Warp → Barrier
Recommended Builds:
  • Shepard Solo Build (90/102 points)
    • Assault Training 12
    • Throw 7, Lift 12
    • Warp 12, Barrier 12
    • Vanguard 6, Shock Trooper 6
    • Spectre 11
    • Bonus Talent: Sniping Rifle 12
  • Shepard Biotics Support Build (95/102 points)
    • Pistols 8
    • Assault Training 12
    • Throw 7, Lift 12
    • Warp 12, Barrier 12
    • Vanguard 6, Shock Trooper 6
    • Spectre 11
    • Bonus Talent: Decryption 9
  • Shepard Close-Quarters Combat Build (93/102 points)
    • Pistols 8
    • Assault Training 12, Tactical Armor 12
    • Throw 7, Lift 12
    • Warp 6, Barrier 12
    • Vanguard 6, Shock Trooper 6
    • Spectre 11
    • Bonus Talent: Damping 1, Decryption 1, or Electronics 1
  • Wrex - Krogan Battlemaster (82/82 points)
    • Assault Rifles 8, Shotguns 12
    • Combat Armor 12, Fitness 12
    • Warp 12, Throw 7
    • Barrier 12, Stasis 1
    • Krogan Battlemaster 6
Like the Turian Agent (Garrus only), the Vanguard has the interesting ability to quickly refresh a full range of dangerous powers, in this case their biotics. For this reason, they make very good battlefield control characters, although their powers are not as versatile as those of a Sentinel: Against flyers, they have nothing to shut them down and will have to rely on a team mate or their Barrier (tricky against rocket-launching enemies).
  • For the Biotics Support Build, you could swap the Sniping Rifle for a mix of Pistol and/or Shotgun talent, and take Decryption. Decryption turns off weapons, which is good against the robotic drones in the game that cannot be affected by Throw or Lift, and have only one weapon. For long-range engagements, close to a shorter range with Barrier or use Marksman with your Pistol. Weapon skills are severely reduced in this sort of build unless you make sacrifices elsewhere, such as with Warp.
  • Also, if you take the Sniper Rifle, then your Vanguard weapon bonuses are basically wasted, though there will definitely be times when you will want your pistol.
The Vanguard is supposed to rush into close quarters. Unlike the Soldier, however, the Vanguard does not have Fitness (and the associated Immunity skill), so on Insanity difficulty, fighting enemies who fight back with hand-to-hand (which ignores shields, including Barrier) is a bad idea since you probably can't outlast them.
Many enemies, however, like to back away from melee -- which makes the Vanguard, with their Barrier skill, quite survivable by trying to outshoot them because you can outlast them with Barrier. Vanguards can put up a strong barrier, and if it drops from fire, put it up again quickly using Adrenaline Burst. They are probably one of the few characters who can expect to go close quarters with a rocket-launching enemy on Insanity difficulty and survive.

Given that hand-to-hand is extremely risky and annoying to micromanage, it is probably better to play an Adept as a close-quarters-capable support character. But if you insist on rushing Shepard in, here are some considerations:
  • If you are fighting a biotic or tech specialist, they can use their skills at any range, which means you are in trouble. You could open with Damping and quickly take them out with melee if you cannot consistently stay in melee distance and keep them knocked down.
  • Enemies won't use Immunity until they are hurt, so instead of Warp to counter Immunity, you can use Damping before attacking them. This can save you 8 Talent Points to further invest elsewhere.
  • As mentioned before, your biotics can't neutralize flyers, and they can be quite dangerous (e.g., Rocket Drones), so Decryption would make a more "all-situation" biotics build. You could also just try to tough it out with Barrier.
  • If you are always going into hand-to-hand when at close range, don't invest in Shotguns, but make sure you have a Barrier up against enemy shotguns. And remember that Barriers won't help against enemy hand-to-hand, so Krogans will still destroy you because you don't have Immunity to help at all.
    • Instead improve your Pistol skill to get higher proficiency with the Marksman power, to help with long-range engagements.
If you forgo the Sniping Rifle skill, you can try to make up for it with a combination of Pistol and Shotgun skills. A pistol is pretty good at long range already, so you can follow up Marksmanship with the occasional Carnage blast from a shotgun. Carnage has no spread to the (slow) shot, and does a lot of damage. Between the two, you should be able to handle enemies at long range, though not as efficiently as with a Sniper Rifle and without the usual ability to exploit minute deficiencies in enemy cover (like a very small exposed portion that you could normally snipe).

For Specialization, the Shock Trooper is probably the better choice. The Nemesis gets improved biotic abilities, but you can have more flexibility by improving your ability to re-use your biotics again rapidly (by reducing the cooldown on Adrenaline Burst). Also, the additional protection afforded by the Storm Trooper specialization helps if you are going into melee, which you might as well every time it is safe to do so since you are maximizing Assault Training as a side effect of getting the highest level of Adrenaline Burst.

For Wrex, Stasis is taken only to 1 level and as a crisis power because the enemy cannot be harmed while in Stasis. Take it in mid-game as an emergency escape trump card.
I recommend maximizing Shotguns instead of Assault Rifles because the Carnage power is very accurate with no spread. Also, close-quarters proficiency is more critical than squad mid to long range engagement ability since at mid to long range, Shepard can typically solo anyway.

In the early game, get Throw and some Immunity to help survive other Krogan. Even Wrex goes down very quickly on Insanity difficulty, and unlike "real" Krogan, he does not get a second wind and get up.

Wrex has very strong hand-to-hand potential, but on Insanity difficulty, it is quite dangerous to send him in. If you use an attack order, he tries to shoot. If you issue a move order, he goes to the location, which is not necessarily where the target will be. Also team mates typically have trouble pathfinding, so you could lose valuable time arranging melee. The best option is probably to rely on his Barrier and shotgun if you want to send him in at all.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mass Effect 1 - Classes - Infiltrator (on Insane Difficulty) and Garrus

Mass Effect 1: Classes - Infiltrator (on Insanity Difficulty) and Garrus

In this article, we discuss Infiltrator builds for Insane Difficulty.

The Infiltrator talents are:
  • Pistols → Sniper Rifles
  • Tactical Armor → Fitness
  • Electronics → Damping
  • Decryption → First Aid
Recommended Builds:
  • Shepard (88/102 points)
    • Pistols 5, Sniper Rifles 12
    • Electronics 12, Damping 12
    • Decryption 12
    • Infiltrator 6, Operative 6 or Commando 6
    • Spectre 11
    • Bonus Talent: Lift 12
  • Garrus - Turian Agent (70/82 points)
    • Assault Rifles 1
    • Tactical Armor 8, Assault Training 12
    • Decryption 12, Damping 12
    • First Aid 7, Electronics 12
    • Turian Agent 6
If you take Hacking as the bonus talent and Operative as the specialization, you essentially have an Engineer-Operative, but with slightly better class bonuses -- Instead of tech power cooldown, you get increased damage and improved weapon cooldown.
Also, Hacking improves cooldowns on tech skills, so it is very tempting to further specialize in that. Even so, I recommend Lift just because it gets a character out of trouble in melee very quickly. If you want a high-survivability melee-viable character using Fitness/Immunity, I recommend playing a Soldier instead. On Insanity difficulty, however, melee is too hard and annoying for any Shepard build and when everything else is already quite easy, surviving a difficult melee against Krogan is a reasonable build goal.

Both specializations are good. Since you will use a Sniper Rifle frequently, the Commando specialization makes sense as every percentage of damage can help with a Sniper Rifle get a one-shot-kill (especially in the very late game where one-shot-kills are virtually impossible on Insane difficulty), and improved Assassination cooldown will see a lot of action. The Operative improves tech damage and cooldowns, and is recommended if you take Hacking, to minimize your cooldown times.

Notice we have not allocated any points to Tactical Armor or Fitness (but there are 13 points left over). Electronics provides additional shielding, and the rest Shepard will have to make up with cover. You could certainly use 3 points to get Shield Boost, or 10 to get Fitness and basic Immunity. However, an investment in Pistols is also recommended, to get Advanced or Master Marksman for those times when it is too awkward to use a Sniper Rifle (especially if you are going for the Commando specialization).

Garrus has Assault Training, but melee is really too dangerous on Insanity difficulty (especially without Fitness and Immunity) so I recommend against putting Garrus (or any other teammate) in that position. We have nevertheless maximized Assault Training because of Adrenaline Burst: On a tech character like Garrus, Adrenaline Burst is very interesting because it can reset all his tech cooldowns, allowing him (i.e., Shepard, through having Garrus in his team) to immediately deploy another three tech proximity mines. No other tech character can rapidly deploy "grenades" so quickly. Damage potential is very good as tech grenades are accurate and fast enough to be instantaneous.

As with all teammates, skill with Sniping Rifles is discouraged as in play it is weak on teammates. See our discussion on Talents. We have also allocated only 1 point to Assault Rifles because the gameplay style we recommend is a solo Shepard up front, using team mate powers as support, so team mates stay behind. With 12 points left, Garrus can still easily maximize Assault Rifles to provide fire support at all ranges, improve Tactical Armor, or be one of the few characters to develop First Aid if you really need that in your squad.

Mass Effect 1 - Classes - Adept (on Insane Difficulty) and Liara

Mass Effect 1: Classes - Adept (on Insanity Difficulty) and Liara

In this article, we discuss Adept builds for Insane Difficulty.

The Adept talents are:
  • Basic Armor → Pistols
  • Throw → Lift
  • Warp → Singularity
  • Barrier → Stasis
Recommended Builds:
  • Shepard (88/102 points)
    • Throw 12, Lift 12
    • Warp 12, Singularity 12
    • Barrier 4, Stasis 1
    • Adept 6, Bastion or Nemesis 6
    • Spectre 11
    • Bonus Talent: Sniper Rifles 12
  • Liara - Asari Scientist (82/82 points)
    • Throw 12, Lift 12
    • Warp 12, Singularity 12
    • Barrier 12
    • First Aid 4, Electronics 12
    • Asari Scientist 6
With several biotic powers, the Adept should find controlling melee fairly easily. Engaging enemies in melee is not recommended, but you can at least control the battlefield and keep enemies neutralized. This is what an Adept is best for: Controlling the battlefield. If the enemy can be kept from taking actions through chaining the use of Throw, Lift, Singularity, and Stasis (with the Bastion specialization), fights are basically won. For this reason, try to have either Kaiden or Liara in your party and keep them in the back for support instead of exposing them to fire.

I feel that the Bastion specialization is better than Nemesis because it makes Stasis another enemy-neutralizing ability. Without the specialization, Stasis of course also neutralizes an enemy, but you cannot harm them. With the Bastion specialization, you can get it cheaply to add another power, along with Throw and Lift, that can help you manage melee crises.
That said, if you are going to play a Bastion, however, I recommend instead playing a Sentinel. In exchange for Warp and Singularity, you get Decryption and Electronics, both of which have generally more straightforward application and are easier to use. Plus, you would get an omni-tool, which gives shield bonuses.
If you do want the Bastion specialization, then early on consider whether you want to focus on Stasis or leave it at 1 rank, and focus instead on Basic Armor and Barrier.

The Nemesis specialization has applications which are perhaps too specialized. Duration bonuses are small because base duration is already quite small. Expanded area on Lift is interesting, but the opportunities to find it applicable are probably too few.

Liara does not have the Bastion specialization, so there's no point taking Stasis unless you really need more emergency crowd control. Keep her in the back for support. You will probably use her for Throw and Lift, both of which Kaiden also has, so she's interchangeable with him.

Mass Effect 1 - Classes - Engineer (on Insane Difficulty) and Tali

Mass Effect 1: Classes - Engineer (on Insanity Difficulty) and Tali

In this article, we discuss Engineer builds for Insane Difficulty.

The Engineer talents are:
  • Pistols → Basic Armor
  • Decryption → Hacking
  • Electronics → Damping
  • First Aid → Medicine
Recommended Builds:
  • Shepard (95/102 points)
    • Pistols 12
    • Decryption 12, Hacking 12
    • Electronics 12, Damping 12
    • Engineer 6, Operative 6
    • Spectre 11
    • Bonus Talent: Lift 12
  • Tali - Quarian Machinist (76/82 points)
    • Pistols 6, Shotguns 4
    • Basic Armor 12
    • Decryption 12, Hacking 12
    • Electronics 12, Damping 12
    • Quarian Machinist 6
The challenge for an Engineer is what to do when you are rushed in melee. You do not have Immunity or Assault like a Soldier, so you definitely want to get clear enough to start shooting again. Damping is useless for stopping power despite a 3-second stun.
See our discussion on the Soldier class and why Lift is the best choice for Shepard's Bonus Talent to handle melee crises. However, this means you can't get Sniper Rifles, so you'll have to make do with your pistol for long-range engagements. Which actually isn't that bad as a Pistol has good accuracy, so you can do quite a lot of things that a Sniper Rifle can, and without having to zoom in. The minimum spread means you don't have the same precision to do very cheap shots like shooting someone in the foot, but it's better than nothing and in the general case, you can get away with just a pistol and no fire support from your team.

If you can handle melee (i.e., with biotic teammates) and do want Sniper Rifles as your bonus talent, don't play an Engineer: Play an Infiltrator-Operative with Hacking as the bonus talent instead. They have slightly better class bonuses (damage and weapon cooldown): In comparison, the Engineer has 14% faster tech cooldown, but this is negligible after stacking on various other tech cooldown bonuses. They have stronger tech protection, but tech attacks don't happen that often, and in any case completely neutralizing an opponent with Damping or a biotic like Throw or Lift is better than toughing out an attack.

There is really only one choice for a Specialization since First Aid and Medicine are very weak Talents (see our discussion on Talents) so there is no point in being a Medic. Even if you did want a Medic, their bonuses are poor: Recharge time on Medical Talents only, and reviving party members can be done better with the Spectre training Unity talent, which requires no medi-gel.

Tali has frighteningly good shields because on top of Electronics, she has further shield bonuses from being a Quarian Machinist. Even so, because the combat AI for teammates isn't that great, try not to rely on her in combat. Instead, get her tech skills up first and keep her in the back while you take point and spam tech skills -- remember that when you use your teammates' tech skills, they deploy as if you deployed them, and they do not need to have line of sight to the target location.

With her remaining points, there are basically two options:
  • Improve Pistols and aim for higher Marksman skills: Do this only if you have Tali for mid to long range fire support.
  • Maximize Shotguns: Only if you know what you are doing with squads in close combat. Otherwise, Tali is too vulnerable in melee as she has no melee-crisis powers like Throw, Lift, or Immunity. Carnage sounds nice to have, but having a properly located squad member to shoot one on demand exactly when you need it is tricky at best.
  • Get some First Aid. But if you are not kamikaze in combat, you will hardly ever use medi-gel.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mass Effect 1 - Classes - Soldier (on Insane Difficulty) and Ashley

Mass Effect 1: Classes - Soldier (on Insanity Difficulty) and Ashley

In this article, we discuss Soldier builds for Insane Difficulty.

The Soldier talents are:
  • Pistols → Shotguns
  • Assault Rifles → Sniper Rifles
  • Combat Armor → First Aid
  • Assault Training → Fitness
Recommended Builds:
  • Shepard (97/102 points)
    • Pistols 4, Shotguns 8
    • Assault Rifles 7, Sniper Rifles 12
    • Combat Armor 7
    • Assault Training 12, Fitness 12
    • Soldier 6, Shock Trooper 6
    • Spectre 11
    • Bonus Talent: Lift 12 (or Damping, Decryption, or Electronics)
  • Ashley Williams (70/82 points)
    • Pistols 4, Shotguns 12
    • Assault Rifles 12
    • Combat Armor 12
    • Assault Training 12, Fitness 12
    • Soldier 6
For the Soldier, the challenge on Insanity difficulty is to stay alive when rushed by melee or shotguns. Varren are not so bad, but Krogan are deadly (as they are against all characters). In the early game this will be very hard, so focus on surviving a Krogan rush (or you can instead avoid melee encounters by knowing where they occur in the game, but that is restrictive and artificial). Surviving Krogan is best done by having biotic teammates for support, but if you want Shepard to do their part, then you need to enhance survivability early.
Since even a good pistol will get you through most encounters (except melee), don't worry about getting your combat skills up too early. Since melee encounters are rare, you can focus on biotics to get you through the few times a Krogan crisis comes up.

As the only class with both Assault Training and Fitness, the Soldier is pretty much the only choice if you want to try hand-to-hand combat in Mass Effect on Insanity Difficulty, IF the enemy fights back with hand-to-hand. If they prefer to back off and shoot, then the Vanguard is equally viable. If they will go toe-to-toe with you, then you need Fitness and the Immunity skill.
However, the opportunities for close combat are quite rare, especially when sniper rifle and rocket-launching enemies will often one-shot-kill you and you are usually outgunned 2-to-1 (at least). Entering melee is therefore safer for a Vanguard who has the Barrier skill and might survive one direct hit from a sniper rifle or rocket. The alternative is to use Lift on the enemies first, but biotics are mid-range at best.

For Shepard, getting Lift as a bonus talent will help alleviate a lot of frustration in hand-to-hand combat on Insanity difficulty, where shields don't count. You need tech skills to hack terminals and unlock containers but you need biotics to survive Krogan. That means in the very early game you should take Kaiden and specialize him in Lift. Once you have Throw and Lift to decent levels, you can branch him out to do tech skills -- that is what Sentinels are for: Versatility and Support.
Initially, minimally improve Kaiden's tech skills (e.g., increase ranks there only if you can't hack a terminal or open a container) because once you get Tali she can take over. Once you have Liara (for a biotics poor party, I recommend you recruit her early), you can choose between the three of them.
Having Lift for Shepard means you always have one additional use of a biotic power that can get you out of a melee crisis quickly.

Even with Kaiden and Liara, I still recommend Lift because they might get knocked out early and then you are stuck; or you might want a different team for other aspects of your mission. Other good choices for a bonus power are:
  • Damping - Briefly prevents enemy biotics and techs, which are most dangerous against your Soldier, especially as medium and heavy armor have less protection against these effects. Damping is not reliable and generally depends on pre-emptive use, which is not always possible. The bonuses (radius increase) are also weak for a character that has only one tech power.
  • Decryption - Good if you want to melee. Zap them with this and rush in. Especially good for neutralizing shotguns, which are dangerous to you at mid to short range. Also excellent for handling robotic enemies who typically only have one weapon and do not melee (e.g., drones).
  • Electronics - Probably the best choice. Overload helps strip shields so you can get at them with your weapons, and each level improves your shields, so this skill is passively good all the time.
If you don't want Lift and want to enhance survivability at hand-to-hand combat distances (i.e., against melee combat and shotgunners), aim for Fitness and the Immunity power early. Along the way, grab Adrenaline Rush to re-activate Immunity if you need it.
As an early-game build, Immunity is not unreasonable since enemies are not so numerous or strong that you can't rush into melee, even if you have to go from one to another to keep them knocked down for your allies to shoot or a quick shot from your Sniping Rifle (zooming onto a stationary/knocked down target is pretty easy, after all).
Against Krogan, it is still not advisable to engage them in hand-to-hand because they are hard to knock down, they typically have Immunity also, and their hand-to-hand damage bonus is obscene (just look at Wrex) -- They can outlast you and outfight you. Use some cheap tactic on them and kill them quickly.

In general combat, the sniper rifle will be primary, assault rifles secondary against targets that constantly move, and shotguns up-close. Also, the Carnage power from shotguns (which fires a slow fireball that moves straight ahead with no spread) can be used as a type of grenade.
For the remaining 4 talent points, you can either maximize Carnage from Shotguns (recommended) or squeeze as much out of Combat Armor as you can for maximum survivability in melee. By mid to late game, however, you should have biotic teammates to help you survive melee situations so Combat Armor can be deprioritized.

For the specialization class, I recommend the Shock Trooper because an instant power cooldown from Adrenaline Burst gives more flexibility and options than bonus damage and faster cooldown on Assassination and Marksman. Cooling down Adrenaline Burst helps with re-using Assassination/Marksman as well. Also, if you are going for maximum survivability, then the Shock Trooper also has defensive bonuses.

Same as for Shepard, and you might want to control her use of defenses personally when in close-quarters combat, pausing the game frequently.
Sniping Rifles are useless for teammates who are probably better off using Assault Rifles at the distances at which they will engage enemies. They CAN snipe, but they're also not that smart about cover that they can't press themselves against, so even if you could trigger a long-range encounter for them, they are generally too vulnerable to enemy sniper fire whereas you can control Shepard to deftly step behind a hill or step back from a ledge. And on Insanity difficulty, a single sniper shot will typically take down any team member.

That said, Ashley does have an excess of Talent Points, so she could take Sniping Rifles. Or, if you need someone with First Aid, she has the most "free points" available to specialize in that.

Mass Effect 1 - Talent Analysis (for Insanity Difficulty)

Mass Effect 1: Talent Analysis (for Insanity Difficulty)

For the most part, Mass Effect 1 is a very easy game, even on Insanity Difficulty. Only certain circumstances and personal challenges will make it hard (for example, if you insist on fighting a Thresher Maw on foot for maximum possible XP award).
Any career or talent mix will do because you can make up most talents Shepard is personally missing by having companions, but you can save yourself some Talent Points by carefully considering skills and deciding whether to invest in them or not.
(A handy chart of Talents and Careers is available here)

The overarching principles for choosing Talents are, in this order of importance:
  • Defeat enemies with as few resources and with as little risk as possible.
  • Control the battlefield to completely neutralize the enemy.
  • Output damage to quickly kill the enemy.
  • As a last resort, rely on defense or defensive powers to endure enemy retaliation long enough to win.
I recommend you turn off squad use of offensive powers, and instead pause the game to issue attack commands. Tech Powers from your squad launch as if Shepard used them, and none of your squad need line of sight to the target. Biotics and attack powers (like the Shotgun Carnage power) launch from your squad.
There is a cooldown period for power use from your squad -- if you try to immediately launch another power, their controls will be blanked. Also, your squad is notoriously stupid at how they take cover, at not shooting you in the back, or in handling themselves at hand-to-hand distances; so it is generally better if Shepard can solo encounters without relying on fire support or powers. Biotics are especially useful and in some cases critical, so Shepard should have at least Lift for emergencies.

They key talents for Shepard are Lift and Sniper Rifles. If you have nothing else, get these.

  • Lift is probably the best defense against being rushed in melee or close-quarters combat, which is extremely dangerous on Insanity difficulty. Throw lets you control the direction, but doesn't last very long. In the late game, something to hold the enemy or at least prevent them from fleeing is virtually necessary for taking down soldiers, who tend to flee quickly and can quickly regenerate health. Combat becomes very tedious otherwise, as you struggle to isolate them and kill them before reinforcements charge your flanks.
  • Sniper Rifles lets you win with very cheap shots, and is pretty much the only way to handle very-long-range engagements. Also, your team can't use sniper rifles properly, so it's really up to Shepard to handle it.

Since you can fire only one type of weapon at a time, investing in multiple weapons is generally wasting points. You can switch weapons while one is cooling down from overheating, but this is generally a temporary situation.
You can get away with NOT mastering any weapon if you know what you are doing, but generally you will want at least Pistols with the Marksman ability.
At mid or short range, don't worry too much about weapon cooldown if you have powers ready to use -- If your weapon overheats, just switch to throwing out powers. By the time you have used one or two, your weapon will have cooled down.

This is a remarkably versatile weapon class. If you only want to invest in one weapon skill, choose this. It's not sexy, but it is good at any range. Even at long range, pistols retain good accuracy and you can get even more accuracy by using the Marksman ability. You can therefore "snipe" at far-off enemies when there is too much weapon sway with your sniper rifle to make it useful, or if you have nothing else. As long as you can keep landing at least one hit, the enemy's shield cannot fully regenerate, and it becomes only a matter of time before you win. Against enemies that regenerate health, use poison rounds like Chemical or Polonium. On Insanity difficulty, this can take a long time if enemies are far enough that there is still too much spread to your shots. But it's better than nothing.
At short ranges, Marksman is also good for reducing the spread in your shots, allowing you to shoot at whatever partial body part is exposed by the enemy from cover. The enemy thinks it has cover and will often remain in cover because it is shot at or being hit, but against your sharpshooting, it has effectively no cover.

Assault Rifles
Assault Rifles are actually not as good as Pistols if you only want one weapon. Their special power is Overkill, which is not as good as Marksman at long range. To maintain accuracy at all ranges, you need to fire only short bursts at a time, which makes it little better than a pistol.
Where the Assault Rifle is better than a pistol is at short or medium range against exposed targets.

The spread and low fire rate (before overheating) means this is a tricky weapon to use on Insanity difficulty. Enemies have so much staying power that you can't do the same thing they do, which is charge in and get a one-shot or two-shot-kill.
For Shepard, I recommend not sinking Talent points here. Even when untrained, you can use Shotguns in close quarters, if only to knock down or stagger enemies like Varren. And if the weapon overheats, whack them with hand-to-hand. If you can keep them down, keep whacking.

Sniper Rifles
For Shepard, I highly recommend every career take this Talent, even if they have to take it as their Bonus Talent, UNLESS you do not have Lift at your disposal. Lift or something like it is recommended over Sniper Rifles because it helps with the most dangerous situation of being caught in melee, whereas Sniper Rifles are more of an extreme convenience. With a Sniper Rifle, a Shepard of any character class can solo most encounters and just about all long-range encounters.

At extreme ranges, on Insanity difficulty, the Sniper Rifle is useless unless you have enough levels that you can quickly stabilize the gun sway or you can one-shot-kill an enemy with Assassination (extremely doubtful against any enemy on Insanity difficulty, especially in the late game). As soon as possible, get this skill up to 9+ levels so that you can completely stop the sway shortly after zooming in on the scope. At lower levels of skill, the gun sway never stops, and the lower the skill, the wider the sway.
At 9+ levels, if you can wait it out, the gun sway after each shot will eventually return to its initial resting position, so if you have good cover, just wait and fire again.
The Assassination ability also zeroes your sway for you to take a shot, but the cooldown time is long enough that you can't rely on it on Insanity difficulty since enemy shields will have regenerated between uses of Assassination.

At long ranges, Shepard can often engage enemies before the party can react to them. This is extremely helpful because the long range gives Shepard plenty of time to avoid rockets and artillery-level fire. Only enemy snipers will be dangerous, but they are poor at taking cover whereas a human-controlled Shepard can look for cover first before sniping.
Remember that you can zoom a second time and look even further, by using the "use" button while zoomed. On the PC, this is "E".

At medium range, enemies like to stay in cover unless they have a Shotgun or like to melee. If you can position yourself so that the enemy remains in cover but you can snipe at a body part like a foot or knee or elbow (or even their gun, sometimes), you can quite safely win with attrition without using other powers, while staying in good cover yourself. Often this is just a matter of facing the enemy from a diagonal instead of head-on.

At short ranges, the Sniper Rifle has too much spread but you can quickly zoom in and fire a shot. When zoomed, the sniper rifle has perfect accuracy where the crosshair is pointed, no matter what the range. You need either a static target, predictable target moment, or a fast aim. (Or, you can pull out your pistol or shotgun).
At close engagement range against an aggressively approaching enemy (because they have a shotgun or they intend to go hand-to-hand) use ammunition that can help you knock down the enemy, since a knocked-down enemy can be easily zoomed-in on for another shot, or whacked with your gun in hand-to-hand combat while your rifle recovers from cooldown.
Also, crouch if you can to instantly reduce the spread of your shots so that you don't have to zoom in at all.

When fighting enemies, especially if they are using rockets or artillery (like the energy bolts from Geth walkers), try to locate cover where the enemy thinks it can hit you, but their shots will in fact slam harmlessly into cover. Typically they will not reposition, which means you can safely sit and aim. Unlike other weapons, when zoomed in a sniper rifle has no spread, so you can pinpoint even a very small body part. You can sometimes hit small exposed areas with a pistol (especially with the Marksman power active) but there is still quite a bit of spread.

For Shepard's teammates, skill in Sniper Rifles is generally useless: They will often not engage at very long ranges where Sniper Rifles really shine. At shorter ranges, you might as well let them use an Assault Rifle or Pistol because those are more forgiving if they miss.
Also, the AI for cover is very weak. In outdoors settings where there is frequently little or no cover that a character can press their backs against, they do not generally know to just duck behind an obstacle or move out of the way of a rocket. This means at long ranges, team mates are generally easy targets for even assault rifle and pistol fire.

There are two cases where the Sniper Rifle should work but does not:
  • When an enemy is crouched behind cover and the top of their head sticks out, it is often not possible to hit that, even at fairly close range.
  • When an enemy is extremely far away -- far enough for even large targets like automated turrets to be small in your sights. If you do not see a visual cue of having hit (shield blur, blood, or enemy hit reaction), then you may be too far away.
Generally not critical if you learn how to strafe (moving laterally while shooting) and positioning yourself for cover. Using the pressed-against-and-object cover mechanic is not critical, and how it hampers your movement makes it inferior to careful positioning and agile movement.
Armor is also generally useless on Insanity difficulty. Either you are properly in cover (which stops an infinite amount of damage) or the enemy is in melee distance. And if they are in melee distance, you are in very serious trouble. On Insanity Difficulty, this means you are basically dead if you cannot immediately control the battlefield: A single Krogan or a couple of Varren in melee can wipe your whole party, and relying on Armor isn't going to help much. Instead, invest in talents that are not so specific in application.
In general, do not spend points here except to unlock Talents and powers that you want or if you insist on doing everything in hand-to-hand. Instead, learn how to move in combat and learn how to use your powers.

Assault Training
The main reason to invest in Assault Training is to get Adrenaline Burst, which lets you immediately reuse a power in an emergency. This is actually a really good power, but for Shepard only the Soldier and Vanguard careers have it.
Melee, even without Assault Training, is strong because it ignores shields and you can typically knock down enemies of your size or smaller. Once knocked down, you can keep pummeling them or back off to shoot a bit before knocking them down again. You are vulnerable to other enemies, and you are often in the way of your allies trying to shoot the enemy, but if there aren't other enemies around then you've basically won.

The main reason to get Fitness is to get the Immunity power. You can experience just how annoying it is when enemies use it against you, and they frequently do on Insanity difficulty. You cannot always expect to do the same, but if you want to survive a Krogan in hand-to-hand with you, then Immunity helps a lot.
I prefer to control the flow of battle instead of subjecting the team to situations that would require Immunity to survive, so I recommend against investing in this Talent, unless you insist on going into hand-to-hand. Hand-to-hand, if you can master it, is very fast and powerful even without Assault Training, but the opportunities are limited and can be tricky to set up without getting Shepard killed. In general, it involves rushing to the enemy. When your shields are down, turn on Immunity. When you are in trouble, back off and use another power to restore some of your shields as you flee for cover.

Except for hacking, Tech skills are basically free grenades with side effects. Like grenades, you can hit targets behind cover because of the blast radius. Even against enemies with no technology to disrupt, they still inflict a good amount of damage and can be deployed in rapid succession much faster than regular grenades.
Party member tech skills can be invoked by Shepard. When this happens, it is as if Shepard uses the skill: That is, the tech proximity mine that delivers the effect originates from him. The party member doe not have to have line of sight to the target. The mine continues to move forward until it encounters an enemy in its blast radius, whereupon it explodes. If it doesn't explode, it will stick to a surface or hang in mid-air, and shortly after will disappear. During the period it is in existence, if an enemy comes into its blast radius, it explodes with the appropriate power effect. You can therefore stack several as a big explosion trap, then rush in to quickly finish off the weakened enemy.

This is a pretty specialized talent that is generally not critical until the mid to late game. Until you start encountering several biotics or techs, it basically gives you another tech grenade to throw. If you do encounter dangerous biotic or tech power users, then it becomes another talent you can chain to keep them neutralized. The best defense against biotics and techs, however, is to keep your distance or moving out of line of sight. Biotic and tech powers are best in short range. Many biotics can be dodged at mid-range because there is a visible and not-that-fast pulse. At long range, they don't extend far enough and are therefore useless and you are safe from them.
The stunning effect lasts only 3 seconds. After applying any Hardening from talents or armor, this is basically nothing useful. If you need to stop something cold, use biotics like Throw, Lift, Singularity, or Stasis.

Decryption / Sabotage
This ability works on even artillery pieces like Geth Armatures. And since they cannot simply pull out another weapon, they are essentially helpless. If two or three characters in the party have Advanced or Master Sabotage, you can effectively keep an Armature helpess and safely shoot it to death at close range. A mix of Sabotage and Biotics can do the same to keep the Armature helpless.
Enemies can pull out another weapon, if they have it. If this happens to be a shotgun, you may have made the situation worse because now they will probably charge you. You could sabotage a shotgun, but that might just make the enemy close for hand-to-hand, which ignores shields and is very dangerous on Insanity difficulty. Fortunately, only Krogans like hand-to-hand; everyone else typically prefers to back off and keep shooting, even if they were the ones who closed the distance first.
Sabotage can also cause an enemy to retreat if their fighting style does not favour hand-to-hand.

Electronics / Overload
Because of the bonus to shields, investing in Electronics is better than investing in Armor skills to use heavier armor.
Overload is the first skill to use against enemies since it blows off shields. If you use other powers first, they would have to contend with shields which you could have collapsed.

Hacking needs only line of sight and does not require a tech proximity mine or pulse of energy or anything like that. This means you can sight an enemy through a small opening that might otherwise intercept a tech proximity mine. The effect is also immediate.
Enemies must have line of sight to react to each other, so if you are the only enemy visible, they will still attack you. However, enemies will react to hacked allies as if they were enemies.
If you are patient and can stay hidden, you can let robotic enemies kill themselves. However, since you can kill enemies in so many ways, this should not be the main reason to get this Talent. Instead, the cooldown bonus of up to +30% is the main draw for developing the Hacking talent. Even so, you will want to consider that there are many other ways to reduce power cooldown, and therefore that 30% has diminishing returns. A predominantly tech character like an Engineer or Infiltrator will have maximum use of this. As a bonus talent, it is generally wasted on anyone else.

These are associated with Tech users, but on a separate cooldown reduction period from Damping / Decryption / Electronics / Hacking.
On Insanity difficulty, tactics relying on healing yourself are a losing game. Also, medi-gel is a limited resource on a mission. If you are in trouble, go for cover instead.

First Aid
If you absolutely have to have First Aid, have a party member develop it instead of Sheperd.

Medicine / Neural Shock
Neural shock is the only reason to take this Talent, but it is a very weak one unless you are insisting on grabbing as many powers as possible that will completely neutralize an enemy. The cooldown is very long, the duration is very short, and the prerequisite of First Aid can be useless. Also, toxic damage is not "real" damage per se. It inhibits regeneration of actual health by forcing all healing to neutralize toxic damage first. Ammunition that delivers a good amount of toxic damage is easily available, so that is even less reason to take this Talent.

At mid to long range and/or fast-moving enemies, Biotics are annoying to use because of line of sight issues compared to the large energy pulse that can get intercepted by obstacles and which requires you to lead your shot. Also, the pulse that accompanies the use of some powers travels quite slowly, so sometimes you will need to lead your shot.
Nevertheless, biotics are extremely powerful for controlling the battlefield: Several biotic powers will completely neutralize an enemy from taking any actions, so chaining them together, especially by having one or two biotic teammates, can theoretically keep dangerous enemies at bay and harmless for a long time. Against enemies that cannot simply pull out another weapon, biotics can be further chained/combined with Sabotage. Once you get your cooldowns down with gear, between Shepard and his biotic companions, mid to short range fights can become laughably easy if you can control the direction the enemy approaches you. Even if you can't, Lift or Throw can clear an area and let you reposition.
If you want an easy game, have lots of biotic powers in your team (Liara, Kaidan, and/or a biotic Shepard). If you want a challenging game, reduce the number of biotic characters. If you want a really challenging game or the frustration of getting wiped in melee frequently, play with no biotics.

Like armor skills, Barrier should not be relied upon, especially as they are as useless against melee as regular shields. Even if you had talent points to spare to get Advanced Barrier or Master Barrier (both of which absorb an astounding amount of damage), tactics which require such are questionable at best. I recommend getting no more levels of Barrier than are necessary to get Stasis.

Lift instantly neutralizes an enemy, making it one of the few reliable choices for getting yourself out of trouble when engaged in melee. The area effect also means it is forgiving of targeting mistakes and can grab targets from behind cover (cover that is light can be lifted along with them, so they may still end up being behind cover). Maximize Lift to eliminate guessing whether you have enough power to affect a particular target or not.
Lift does not stop momentum. Combine with Throw to help you push enemies into normally inaccessible areas, which results in an instant kill no matter the enemy's health or shields.
Hitting objects while Lifted, and falling from a Lift, inflict an unpredictable amount of damage.

Lift does not work against flying or hovering enemies (like Drones). Fortunately, those enemies only have one weapon, so Sabotage will neutralize them almost as effectively.

Singularity is like Lift, but generally harder to use. Whether it has a weight limit or not is unclear.
The effect of Singularity is to pull enemies "toward" itself. But in practice, they drift randomly near the centre instead of simply being sucked directly toward the centre. Enemies behind cover are affected and can be drawn up and over cover by this drifting effect. If their cover is light/movable, it will get pulled along with them, so they may still be behind cover. However, that cover may also crash into them and thereby inflict damage.
Targets that wander into a singularity field once it is active will not be affected by the field but may be affected by whatever is floating around.
Where Singularity is theoretically superior to Lift and Throw is in choosing the direction to pull an enemy. Enemies can be pulled into environmental hazards or off into normally inaccessible map areas for an instant kill (e.g., off a bridge). This is highly situational, however, especially as Singularity fires outward and stops when it hits something. If you want to pull something somewhere, you must first "anchor" the Singularity effect by having it collide with something that is in the direction of where you want to pull the target. In the best case, you may have to hope for their drift within the Singularity to send them in the right direction.
In play, Singularity is effectively another use of Lift as an enemy-neutralization / battlefield-control power.

I would recommend Lift instead of Singularity because Lift works for a longer time, plus there is falling time (and damage), and time required for the enemy to get up off the ground afterwards. High ceiling also benefit Lift favourably as enemies have a longer drop, further increasing effect time.
Like Lift, Singularity does not work on flying creatures, including ground-level hovering enemies like some Drones.

Stasis gets you instant respite against a single target, which makes this a rather specialized situation since you can't hurt them during that time. One level of this should be enough, if any, UNLESS you are an Adept or Sentinel with the Bastion specialization, in which case it becomes on par with Lift for neutralizing an enemy in the early game.
Where the Bastion Stasis Specialization is better than Lift is the duration and weight limit: It lasts longer and it is not dependent on the target's mass.
In the late game, the duration (presumably modified by improved armor worn by the target or the target's talents) can be too short against some targets at basic levels of Stasis mastery, but it can still get you a few critical seconds if you have nothing else.
Stasis has limited ability to stop momentum, so an enemy going for cover can still slide behind it and be in stasis behind it.

Like Lift, Throw also instantly incapacitates an enemy, though for typically less time. You typically still have several seconds, however, as an enemy needs to get back onto its feet.
Throw fires off a pulse of force, so multiple Throws from multiple biotics can be combined. It is not clear whether this will affect a target normally too heavy to be affected by each separate Throw used.
If enemies are thrown into normally inaccessible areas, they are instantly killed.
Being Thrown into an item inflicts an unpredictable amount of damage.

Throw does not work against flying or hovering enemies (like Drones). Fortunately, those enemies only have one weapon, so Sabotage will neutralize them almost as effectively.

Warp reduces damage protection, which in turn is dependent on whether they have armor or appropriate talents. Obviously it is best used when an enemy has Immunity, which temporarily grants very high damage protection.
Other than this specialized usage, Warp does not inflict a lot of damage quickly, so unless you have no better talents to buy, get some other power with a better side effect.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mass Effect 1 - Console for the best game experience

Mass Effect 1: Using the Console for the Best Game Experience

Obviously, using the Mass Effect Console is cheating. So why would you do it? The main reason is to SAVE TIME. In order to have the best and most complete game experience, you need to play the game a second time. When you play the same character in a second game, many things are different:
  • Enemies can be different. Not everywhere, but in some places you will have a different and more challenging experience if you are on a re-play. For example, you can encounter Geth Rocket Drones very, very early on Eden Prime.
  • Bonuses to Charm and Intimidate conversation skills from having high Paragon and Renegade scores are retained. Therefore, theoretically, if you play the same character several times, you can have 12 levels in both Charm and Intimidate without having to spend any Talent points. Using the console, we can short-cut this.
  • You can reach level 60. You actually only need to finish the game once with any one character with the correct Achievements. Subsequent new characters will be able to reach level 60.
    • If you start a new game with the same character, beginning the character at level 1 (see how below), and if you do every Assignment and both DLCs, you can reach approximately level 58. The final levels require a ton of experience points so it is unlikely you will get to level 60, so just before the final boss fight, bump your level to 60 for the best export into Mass Effect 2.
  • You get more starting bonuses when you import the character into Mass Effect 2 by being level 60.
  • Unlocking more achievements gives you more starting character options, such as Insanity difficulty and bonus talents.
Here is what to do, and why:
  • Unlock all Achievements.
    • Do this instead of making multiple-playthroughs to unlock achievements.
    • If you don't want to unlock everything, the key one to unlock is the one that lets you play at Insanity difficulty. Others to consider are the Achievements that unlock Bonus Talents, and the Achievements that give you an experience bonus. I recommend you just unlock everything.
  • Start a new character.
    • Existing characters do not get to choose bonus talents, even on re-plays.
  • Do one speed run
    • Until you finish the game once with the correct Achievements, all characters are limited to level 50.
    • You will obviously see the ending, but there is still a lot of gameplay that will enhance your experience.
    • We will talk about how to set up your speed run later.
  • Replay the character, but reset starting resources to what you normally start with at level 1 (or, start an entirely new character).
    • Your level is now unlocked to level 60.
    • Even with +20% experience from unlocked Achievements, it is unlikely that you will reach level 60 without experience exploits, so toward the end and before the game creates a Safe File Transfer character save, use the console to maximize your Experience and your Paragon and Renegade scores.
How to set up your first-play speed run:
  • When you start the game in the Normandy, give yourself the following gear:
    • GiveSuperArmor command three times to give three sets of Devlon Survivor X with 8000 shields and lots of protection.
    • GiveSuperGun command three times to give three assault rifles that do 25,000 damage.
    • These will help you zoom through the speed run, and you can still save actual combat experience for your actual game play.
    • Do NOT sell or reduce to omni-gel any basic gear. You will need it back later when you play the same character.
  • Use the console command GiveXP -20000. This puts you at negative XP. On the speed run, you won't get anywhere near that much. Even if you played through only the plot missions, you probably won't get more than 10,000. Therefore, you will end your speed run still at level 1.
    • Console commands can reduce XP but cannot reduce your level.
What to do on your first-play speed run:
  • DO NOT SPEND ANY TALENT POINTS on Shepard. Points spent on crew will be reset when you start your re-play, but points spent by Shepard will not.
  • Use the superspeed console command to run around very quickly. Superspeed basically adds acceleration. The longer you keep moving, the faster you move.
  • Dialog: I recommend you take the middle road all the time and do NOT take any Charm or Initimidate options. Whenever possible, just choose the middle option on the right side of the dialogue wheel. Save full investigation of options for your second "actual" gameplay run.
  • Ignore all sidetrips, hacking, and containers. Don't buy anything.
  • Ignore enemies when you can, just to save time. If there is a lot of driving, get out of the Mako and use superspeed to not only move more quickly than in a vehicle, but to run past enemies.
  • Whenever you get any inventory items, instead of adding them to inventory, convert them to Omni-Gel.
Speed Run Method 1: Skip to the End
  • The recommended method because it hides most of the game from you, and it's a heckuva lot faster.
  • Use the console command At BIOA_END00 Start_END80_00 to skip to the end game.
  • You cannot run past the Geth Dropship because the exhaust from the engines will kill you, even in your spiffy superarmor. You MUST wait for the rocket guns in the area to destroy it.
Speed Run Method 2: Plot Missions Only
  • You can play through the game very quickly by doing only the plot missions.
  • After Eden Prime and the Citadel, you have the choice of three systems to investigate as part of the Main Plot: Noveria, Feros, and Artemis Tau.
    • I recommend doing Artemis Tau last because after each main plot Mission, there is a staff meeting. By doing Artemis Tau last and therefore adding Liara last, you can save all her staff meeting input for your re-play.
    • When Ilos becomes available, do that first to kill off as many characters as possible so you can hide their input during the staff meeting.
    • Liara also has different dialogue if you rescue her after Noveria and Feros instead of rescuing her early.
  • Noveria
    • You can short-cut Peak 15 and avoid the Hot Labs by instead going deeper into the soldiers' area and looking for the locked door. You are at the right one when you get a warning when you approach. Hack it and go to Benezia for the showdown.
  • Ilos
    • You can do most of the Trench Run portion on foot, but you MUST use the Mako at the end. Before the long no-return drop, get back in the Mako. When you are in sight of the conduit but before the countdown starts, also get back in the Mako.
How to set up your re-play:
  • Normally, when you start a game, you start with +30 XP (or up to 36 if you have experience point adjustments from Achievements), 5 units of medi-gel, 5 grenades, 15 units of omni-gel, and 50 credits. We will aim to restore this state.
    • Look through your inventory. Companion inventory will have been dumped into general inventory. Restore basic gear to Shepard and convert everything else to omni-gel.
    • Using the following commands, reset your inventory to starting totals:
      • InitMedigel 5
      • InitGrenades 5
      • InitSalvage 15 - Sets omni-gel to 15.
      • InitCredits 50
  • Use GiveXP until your XP total is 30 plus any experience point adjustment.
  • You should now be reset to what a level 1 character normally starts with.
  • If you want to start at a higher level, use the GiveXP console command to increase your level, and then the AdjustCredits console command to give yourself spending money.
  • If you intend to use the Dr. Chloe money exploit, you might as well give yourself a lot of credits through the console.
  • Maximize your Charm and Intimidate skill:
    • Use SetParagon 340 to maximize your Paragon score. This adds some points to your Charm skill. Use SetParagon 0 to zero it. Repeat to add even more points to your Charm skill. Keep doing this until your Charm skill is maximized.
    • Do the same using SetRenegade to maximize your Intimidate skill.
    • Reset your Paragon and Renegade scores to 0 when you are done.
What to do on your re-play:
  • Since you have maximized your Charm and Intimidate skills, you can now explore all dialogue options and "speak your mind" whenever you want without being artificially constrained by thinking about whether a dialogue option is going to increase your Paragon or Renegade score.
  • Do Artemis Tau first so that you can get Liara's input during mission debriefings.
  • Maximize your level with the GiveXP console command before the final fight -- You will likely reach only level 58 on Insanity difficulty.
Additional Tweaks:

I highly recommend changing the maximum number of credits you can hold and the maximum number of items you can carry. The default limit is 150 items and 9,999,999 credits. However, in the mid to late game, you can start pushing the item limit and easily have more than 10 million credits (40+ million by the late game, and nothing to buy).

In \My Documents\BioWare\Mass Effect\ (or wherever the save game directory is located), there is a Config directory. In this directory are various INI files that are text files which can be edited.

In BioGame.ini find:


You can change Grenades, Medigel, and Salvage (Omni-Gel), but I would leave them alone. Just change m_nMaxCredits=9999999 to m_nMaxCredits=2000000000 (2 billion), which should be more than enough. Likely you won't even pass the 100 million mark unless you started the game at a very high level.
Omni-Gel awards are rare in the game, and you might not see more than 300 if you never convert anything to omni-gel and never spend any of it.

In BioParty.ini find:


Add a zero to the end of both entries. At 1500 maximum inventory items, it is unlikely that you will hit that limit. This lets you continue with missions and accumulate items to sell without having to run back to a merchant frequently.
In the late game, when you are looking for the highest-tier items (tier X), it is more convenient to play the convoy lottery at Sheperd's Apartment than run around stores waiting for them to restock. Even faster than this is to just use the console to give yourself items.

In BioGUIResources.ini find:


This parameter controls how many shield points one shield bar represents. In the early game a value of 60 is meaningful, but by mid-game, it will seem like everyone has 6 bars because enemies have been scaled up in difficulty. Instead, change this to 100. By mid- to late game, you may even want to change this to 200, so that you can get a better idea of how much shielding you are up against, especially compared to any Overload powers your party has.