Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mass Effect 2 - Advanced Training Powers (on Insanity Difficulty)

Mass Effect 2 Advanced Training / Loyalty Powers (for Insanity difficulty)

You can unlock powers for Advanced Training either by completing Loyalty missions or using the UnlockAchievement console command.
  • If you use the console, Achievement #18 (Doppelganger) gives you the Reave power. To get the Dominate power, you need to recruit Morinth or use the console command GivePower Self SFXPower_Dominate_Player. If you already have a Loyalty power, this will give you an additional power. If you later unlock Dominate, you can research Advanced Training on the Normandy to fix your character.
When you get Advanced Training, you automatically receive 1 Talent Point in it. You can move this Talent Point out of Advanced Training by using the Retrain research (available after the Horizon mission) if you need it elsewhere.

Although there are many Advanced Training powers, at Insanity difficulty where almost all enemies have some sort of protection, there are really very few useful choices.
  • In general, you have to strip all protection before you can affect a target with something other than inflicting damage. This greatly reduces the value of many powers. If you already have something strong against unprotected enemies (e.g., Cryo Blast), then choose something else.
  • If your character is too heavily reliant on ammo (e.g., Soldier), then the most useful Power is an attack power that will do significant damage against enemy protection.
  • If you pick a redundant power, then you are probably wasting Squad Points, unless you mean to completely replace your character's default powers and save Squad Points.
    • For example, a Sentinel needs Throw 2 to get Warp. If you choose Reave, you can drop both because Reave strongly overlaps Warp.
Ammo Powers: Armor-Piercing, Shredder, Warp
Taking an Ammo power means you intend to use your gun to make up for a deficiency in handing an enemy type or situation, or you intend to use your squad for fire support and will take the rank 4 evolution to give your squad the ammo type. This latter is a 10-point commitment and has a certain amount of redundancy if they already have ammo of their own.
  • Armor-Piercing: +30% to +70% versus Armor and Unprotected
  • Shredder: +40% to +80% versus Unprotected Organic
  • Warp: +15% to +50% versus Barriers, Armor, and Unprotected; double bonus versus targets currently affected by a biotic power.
The double bonus for Warp ammo really only comes into effect when the target is Unprotected and can be hit with Lift or Singularity for the longest possible exposure. Of the three, Armor-Piercing is therefore probably the most useful choice.

Shield Powers: Barrier, Fortification, Geth Shield Boost
These powers basically add to your shields. On Insanity difficulty, shields get torn down very quickly, so unless you are very good at keeping your shields up, you may want to adjust your overall tactics and abilities instead of taking a Shield power.
One of the difficulties on Insanity difficulty is time pressure. This is not always a mission-imposed time pressure, but could be something like having to handle shotgunners or Krogan advancing on your position. You need to handle them quickly or reposition, and shields get taken down very quickly when you are exposed to fire on Insanity difficulty. Using a Shield Power as an emergency defense will cost you 12 seconds (base time), and Fortification being neither Biotic nor Tech will not receive cooldown reduction bonuses from research. Instead of this long cooldown during which you cannot use another power, you could instead have chosen two to as many as four attack powers.
A lot depends on your fighting style and how aggressive you are willing to be. If you are willing to be pretty aggressive and will fight with your shield down, try Reave instead.
  • Barrier and Fortification can last up to 180 seconds, which is good if you can keep your shields up, meaning you don't have to reactivate this power.
  • Geth Shield Boost can give you a weapon damage bonus at rank 4, which is good for snipers trying to squeeze every ounce of damage into a one-shot kill.
There is a start-up time during which the target doubles over and is basically incapacitated. This lasts for several seconds and counts against the overall duration. The mind-control really starts when the target is outlined in light. At rank 1, Dominate is therefore basically only good for temporarily incapacitating the target, and getting your opponents to kill them for you. You will be lucky if they turn around and get off a shot, but if there are a lot of enemies near it, they will all be busied for a few seconds. This is fine IF you are not under time pressure and have a safe spot to just wait things out.

For better results, you really need to invest in Dominate. The main difference between Dominate and an incapacitating attack power is that once fired, the mind-controlled target doesn't require further action from you to either get itself killed or to attack others. If you can repeatedly control a high-health target with this power, it can be really useful. You are generally better off just using a power to kill it off immediately, however.

Especially if you have just rank 1 of Dominate, try to use it on a target that either has line of sight to one of its allies (so it doesn't have to look around for a target) or that is visible to its allies. That way, as soon as it comes out of its incapacitation phase, it can immediately attack or be immediately gunned down by allies.

Energy Drain
This interesting power temporarily boosts shields and can raise shields immediately. Its use is limited to shielded enemies and synthetics, and once enemy shields go down, they do not restore so you cannot just keep someone alive to drain their shields. Overall it is quite limited, but if you have no other Power to handle shields then this is your only Loyalty power option.

Flashbang Grenade
The FlashBang Grenade is the only power you can bounce off a surface. Also, you do not need a target (with auto-targeting powers, you require a target to be highlighted before it will arc). Against protected enemies, FlashBang will stagger them very briefly. If Shepard is caught in the blast, there is apparently no harm but some temporary visual distortion from the flash.
Flashbang Grenades are good for their wide area, but extremely annoying to use:
  • You need to have good instincts about where it will bounce (or have a lot of time to experiment).
    • It will not detonate until it bounces three times. This also means it won't detonate for about three seconds after you throw it and it is very hard to precisely place.
    • It will bounce off enemies harmlessly.
    • It is basically useless at close range because of the mandatory bounce, so to use it for delaying an enemy you have to start early. Minimum range is about 2 meters from you because the first bounce is long and the second and third are almost negligible.
    • It is useless if the enemy is on a narrow walkway since it must bounce, so it won't have enough "runway" to land.
  • It does not always work, and it is not immediately intuitive when it will not work. For example, you can affect humanoid LOKI robots, but not FENRIS dogs or Sentry Bots, whether they have protection or not.
When it does work, it works brilliantly and can knock down enemies (they basically lie paralyzed on the ground and have to get up afterwards). Overall, this is probably too difficult for Shepard to properly use. If you really want its functionality, keep Kasumi in your team and out of sight so you can fire her power on target instantly.

Inferno Grenade
Like the Flashbang, you can lob this over barriers blindly, but it is a bit easier to use because it explodes immediately on impact. The secondary explosions generally spread too widely for any target to be hit by more than one piece, but the range also gives you a good chance of hitting something, especially if you threw it blind. It has friendly fire, so it is dangerous to use in close range.
It could be used as anti-armor, but Reave is the better choice.

Neural Shock
Neural Shock disables enemies and at rank 2+ impairs their accuracy by an unspecified amount. Because it only works on organics, Slam is preferred.

Good against both barriers and armor. If you have Incinerate, you can consider swapping it for Reave. You lose some armor damage but are not at half strength against synthetics, which take reduced damage from fire.
Against unprotected organic targets, there is a fairly lengthy period of disability against the target, during which time it is suspended slightly above the ground and a fairly easy target for headshots. Afterwards it falls and has to get up. All this adds up to a lengthy period in which you can fire back safely.
  • Note that if you hit a target with Reave while it is in the initial disability animation, the disability period will not be extended. Instead, the target will just finish its current animation and be back to normal action. Any continuing damage will continue and drain health.
For aggressive players who are willing to break cover with shields down (e.g., to direct squad powers), Reave also offers healing so you can keep going. Because of its healing power, if you cannot reliably set up Warp explosions yourself or with your squad, you could consider replacing Warp with Reave.

This is an interesting Loyalty Power to consider taking because it has a very short cooldown of just 3 seconds for Shepard. By the time the enemy gets up off the ground, your cooldown may have completed and you can just Slam them again. An unprotected target basically has no chance. The Crippling Slam is especially good as the duration of disability far exceeds the cooldown.
If you have enough Powers to handle enemy protections, then this is an interesting option if all your other powers have longer cooldowns (generally 6 seconds).
Against targets to heavy to lift, Slam can sometimes stagger them for its lift duration (e.g., rank 1 Slam verus an YMIR).

This freezes enemies even if they are protected. However, during that time, they appear phased and cannot be attacked even to move them. When they come out of stasis, they are very briefly vulnerable and take more damage when hit.
If you are going for defensive stopping power (i.e., to give yourself immediate respite) or bonus damage, leave it at rank 1. There is very little reason to take it otherwise.

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