Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mass Effect 2 Class and Squad Guides

Mass Effect 2 Class and Squad Guide - Introduction

Commander Shepard Classes
Our philosophy on Commander Shepard character builds is to have a solo-capable character whenever possible. For combat situations, there are basically three areas that need to be covered: Protection, Regeneration, and Melee. There is also the matter of Squad Point distribution and Advanced Weapon Training. We assume that all Loyalty Powers are unlocked and available during the character creation stage. (For more information on Loyalty Powers and how to unlock them, see our post on Advanced Training / Loyalty Powers).

For Squad Points, Shepard automatically starts with 1 point in two Powers and 1 point in the Advanced Training Power. However, these points are theoretically not mandatory because you can Retrain (available after the Horizon mission) to unassign all points.

Protection is basically Shields or Barriers, and then Armor. For power-focussed characters, it is important to tear these down quickly so that you can begin to apply the special effects of powers. For gun-focussed characters, it is even more important to handle them properly to conserve ammunition in combat so that you don't run out of ammunition.

A fairly good number of powers stop regeneration permanently. For gun-focussed characters, it is very useful to have at least one of these powers reliably available so that you can make continual forward progress toward killing something before your ammunition runs out: Incendiary Ammo, Incinerate, Reave, Warp.

Melee from enemies on Insanity difficulty is less lethal than it was in Mass Effect, but all gunfire is more quickly lethal, so engaging in melee when exposed to gunfire is extremely dangerous. Enemies are typically not knocked down but staggered, so quickly following up with melee is essentially for taking down an enemy. Shields and armor both count against melee strikes. Krogan are less dangerous than before, but still so threatening that squad members will call out a warning specifically against krogan appearances and when krogan start to charge.

The best way to handle non-krogan in melee is to melee them back. However, this is extremely risky if you will be exposed to gunfire from other enemies. Also, while melee tends to stagger enemies, this is unreliable no matter the amount of button mashing you do because enemies tend to back off and try to shoot. A point-blank shot from their weapon (shotgun or automatic weapon) will typically kill you on Insanity difficulty, so you will also want to have some sort of disabling power as insurance, no matter how brief the duration.
Against krogan, they are rarely staggered but their charges will stagger you severely. Also, once started their charges are basically unstoppable even by powers.

Having some kind of emergency power is very helpful, but only if you also have the ability to strip Protection fast enough that you can expose the enemy to the effects of powers. Some powers, like Singularity, Shockwave, and Flashbang Grenades, can very briefly stagger protected enemies.

Squad Point Distribution
Shepard can have up to 51 points (including Advanced Training). Valid distributions are:

4 4 4 4 4
4 4 4 4 4
4 4 4 4 3
4 4 4 3 3
4 3 2 3 3
1 2 2 3 3
1 2 2 3

Advanced Weapon Training
The Collector Ship Mission allows Shepard to have training in one additional weapon (or to pick up a superior weapon). Depending on whether you do this mission early or late game, it will either be useful or irrelevant.
  • If you have completed Mass Effect 2 already, re-playing the game with the same character gives you the weapon from the start of the game, but does not let you pick another weapon during the Collector Ship Mission.
  • You can use Gibbed's Mass Effect 2 Save Editor to unlock whatever you want, whenever you want. You can also edit the coalesced.ini file, which will not interfere with the Collector Ship Mission.
    • If you give a character every weapon type, they cannot equip a Heavy Weapon. The submachine gun is meant to be made obsolete by the assault rifle (and therefore the Soldier, which has the most extensive weapons training, does not use a submachine gun).
Initially, weapon choices are severely limited except for the Soldier, which also means ammunition is limited. However, because Powers have very long range, it is no longer as supremely useful to pick the Sniper Rifle. The Sniper Rifle on Insanity Difficulty is also no longer as useful as it was before due to ammunition limitations (whereas in Mass Effect, you had unlimited shots but were limited by having to manage overheating).

If you have the Firepower Pack DLC, the M-5 Phalanx has a laser sight that helps with long-range targeting of powers. You cannot arc auto-targeting powers such as biotics using this (a target must be selected) but you can accurately launch powers at distant targets. Without this weapon, you can use the basic M-3 Predator pistol, which has a very tight spread when aiming. A sniper rifle is not really required, but can certainly help at very long distances.

If Shepard does not have an assault rifle or shotgun, then those are the best choices, depending on what you want:
  • Assault Rifles are good at various engagement ranges and against all protections, and combined with their larger clips and ammo reserves, they greatly improve the viability of non-soldiers using guns.
  • Shotguns are better in a close-quarters emergency. Fewer shots per clip, but each shot (assuming all pellets hit) can do a lot damage quickly and each clip has more damage output than an assault rifle clip.
Enemies fight in two ways: At range, or up close. Enemies with powers or assault rifles stay at range, and you can just fire Powers at them until they are killed. Animals ignore cover and try to close immediately; and shotgunners move from cover to cover, but steadily approach. These create time pressure to kill them before they flank you and maul you or shotgun you point-blank.
Because the latter situation is more dangerous, I recommend the shotgun. You will not always have time to whittle down an enemy with sustained gunfire or powers before they approach. If you did have a lot of time, you wouldn't need your gun in the first place.
Gun stats may help you choose. For squad members, clip capacity will not be a concern since they have unlimited ammo.

Squad Members
Our philosophy on squad members is not to rely on them. On each mission, it is only logical to bring members that complement Shepard's skills or cover his weaknesses, but you don't always get to choose who you will have, nor will you always have the foresight to bring exactly the right person with the right build.

Except for Liara T'Soni, everyone has a Loyalty Mission which gives them 1 additional Power that starts at rank 1. With the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, you can respec the squad member and move that 1 Squad Point elsewhere. Theoretically you can therefore have 3 maximized skills on all Squad Members except Liara.

There are basically two types of squad members: Fire Support and Power Support.

For fire support, we are relying on them to cover Shepard's ammunition conservation/shortage. This means making sure they survive combat by properly being in cover, and stopping enemy regeneration for them if possible.
Squad members have unlimited ammunition but begin at about -40% damage output compared to Shepard. They manage ducking in and out of cover very well IF you initially place them carefully. Otherwise they follow you and expose themselves, or they might not go for nearby cover. On some maps, their pathfinding is very strange and they will take circuitous routes to what are apparently straightforward cover positions (in some cases going to cover by first walking between enemy fire and said cover).
You will typically also need to manage melee-distance combat for them because they don't go for melee strikes, which are generally very good for staggering the enemy.

Fire Support characters are generally better when a lot of enemies are closing quickly or you are under very tight time pressure to take down a swarm of enemies. This is because squad power cooldowns are very long compared to Shepard's, so they cannot be relied upon; meanwhile, someone with a bigger gun can keep firing (squad members have unlimited ammunition). There are not many situations like this, fortunately. Most battles can in fact be won solely with powers from Shepard if the enemy stays at range.
  • Garrus Vakarian
  • Grunt
  • Jacob Taylor
  • Jack
  • Legion
  • Morinth
  • Thane Krios
  • Zaeed Massani
Mass Effect 2 Insanity difficulty gives almost every enemy protection of some kind, which has been upgraded since Mass Effect to be proof against the special effects of powers. Whereas in Mass Effect most enemies (even bosses or large enemies like Geth Armatures) can be neutralized with biotics like Lift, any protection in Mass Effect 2 will block such special effects, making many powers worthless until protection is stripped.
If you don't like this, you can try Flash's Mass Effect 2 mod, which removes these restrictions. You will, however, have an easier time because more cheesy tactics against bosses become available.

Ideally the squad member won't even have line of sight to the target, which causes their power to launch faster. Their cooldowns are generally twice as long as Shepard's, so they are complementary rather than to be relied upon, unless Shepard doesn't have any useful powers (e.g., You start the early game going for morality bonuses and developing class mastery Powers instead of attack Powers).
  • Garrus Vakarian
  • Kasumi Goto
  • Liara T'Soni
  • Miranda Lawson
  • Mordin Solus
  • Samara
  • Tali'Zorah vas Neema
  • Thane Krios

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