Friday, March 21, 2014

Mass Effect 2 - Mission/Assignment Rewards Summary

Mass Effect 2 Mission / Assignment Rewards Summary

This list of missions and assignments summarizes the available rewards and on which planets N7 missions are located. Missions / Assignments which follow another (e.g., loyalty missions obviously require successful completion of the associated dossier) are listed in an indented line following the mission. Minor rewards like Medi-Gel and Power Cells are not listed.

Leftover missions from one stage of the main plot can be done after, even after the main plot has concluded. This means romances can be started and continued after the main plot.

Prologue
  • Prologue: Save Joker
  • Prologue: Awakening - 3750 credits, 3750 funding
Freedom's Progress
(Immediately after Prologue)
  • Mission: Freedom's Progress - Heavy Weapon Ammo, 10000 credits, 10000 funding, 2000 iridium
After Freedom's Progress
  • Citadel
    • Crime in Progress - 1000 credits
    • Krogan Sushi - 1000 credits
    • Khalisah al-Jilani
  • Dossier
    • Archangel - M-15 Vindicator Battle Rifle, Tech Damage, Submachine Gun Damage, 20000 credits, 20000 funding, 500 eezo
    • The Convict - Damage Protection, Shotgun Damage, 15000 credits, 15000 funding, 500 eezo
    • The Professor - M-6 Carnifex Hand Cannon, Assault Rifle Damage, Medi-Gel Capacity, 23000 credits (+2000 for letting Batarian die), 25000 funding, 1000 eezo, 2000 iridium, 2000 palladium, 2000 platinum
    • The Master Thief
    • The Veteran
    • The Warlord - Krogan Vitality, Sniper Rifle Damage, 20000 credits, 20000 funding, 2000 platinum
  • Project Firewalker
    • Geth Incursion - 2500 funding, 5000 palladium
    • Rosalie Lost - 7500 credits, 7500 funding
    • Prothean Ruin - Biotic Damage, 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 1500 eezo
    • Survey Sites Located - 1250 credits, 1250 funding, 5000 platinum
    • Volcano Station - 375 credits, 1250 funding, 5000 iridium
  • Loyalty
    • Stealing Memory - M-12 Locust, Tech Damage, 30001 credits, 30000 funding, 2000 platinum
    • The Price of Revenge (save miners) - M-451 Firestorm, Heavy Weapon Ammo, 30000 credits, 30000 funding, 2000 palladium
    • The Price of Revenge (kill Vido) - M-451 Firestorm, Assault Rifle Damage, 24000 credits, 15000 funding, 1600 palladium
  • Normandy
    • FBA Couplings - -100 or 100 or 500 credits
    • Serrice Ice Brandy - Medi-Gel Capacity
    • Special Ingredients
  • Normandy Crash Site - 3750 funding, 500 eezo
  • N7
    • Abandoned Research Station (Eagle Nebula - Strabo - Jarrahe Station) - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 iridium
    • Eclipse Smuggling Depot (Hourglass Nebula - Frayar - Daratar) - 190 credits per crate (maximum 3750), 3750 funding, 500 eezo
    • Lost Operative (Omega Nebula - Fathar - Lorek) - 4125 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 platinum
    • MSV Estevanico (Hourglass Nebula - Ploitari - MSV Estevanico) - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 iridium
    • Hahne-Kedar Facility (Titan Nebula - Haskins - Capek) - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 500 eezo
    • Wrecked Merchant Freighter (Eagle Nebula - Amun - Neith) - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 platinum
  • Omega:
    • Archangel: Datapad Recovered
    • Batarian Bartender
    • Struggling Quarian
    • The Patriarch - 3000 credits
    • The Professor: Missing Assistant
  • Overlord
    • Atlas Station - Heavy Skin Weave, 7500 credits, 7500 funding, 2000 palladium
    • Investigate Project Overlord - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 palladium
    • Prometheus Station - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 platinum
    • Vulcan Station - 5250 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 iridium
Horizon
(Immediately after Dossier: Archangel, Dossier: The Convict, Dossier: The Professor, and Dossier: The Warlord, whether Grunt is released from his tank or not)
  • Mission: Horizon - Collector Particle Beam, Biotic Damage, Heavy Skin Weave, 30000 credits, 30000 funding, 2000 platinum
After Horizon:
  • Arrival: Rescue Dr. Kenson - Heavy Skin Weave, Heavy Weapon Ammo, Medi-Gel Capacity, 17550 credits, 3500 funding, 1500 eezo, 2000 iridium, 1500 palladium
  • Citadel: False Positives / Found Forged ID - 1000 or 3000 credits
  • Dossier
    • Tali - M-9 Tempest Submachine Gun, Geth Pulse Rifle (Hardcore or Insanity difficulty), Assault Rifle Damage, Heavy Pistol Damage, 30000 credits, 39000 funding, 2000 iridium, additional iridium from container glitch
    • The Assassin - M-97 Viper Sniper Rifle, Submachine Gun Damage, 30000 credits, 30000 funding, 500 eezo
    • The Justicar - M-27 Scimitar Assault Shotgun, Biotic Damage, 21000 credits, 30000 funding, 2000 platinum
  • Illium
    • A Troublemaker / Conrad Verner
    • Blue Rose of Illium
    • Gianna Parasini
    • Indentured Service - 2000 credits
    • Medical Scans -  credits
    • Liara: Systems Hacking - 2000 credits
    • The Assassin: Salarian Family Data - 1500 credits
    • The Justicar: Smuggling Evidence - 9000 or 4200 credits
    • The Justicar: Stolen Goods Found - 1500 credits
    • The Observer - 4500 credits +500 credits if character imported from ME1
    • The Prodigal: Lost Locket Found - 500 credits
  • Lair of the Shadow Broker: Damage Protection, Heavy Pistol Damage, 54000 credits, top-up-to-90000 funding, 1000 eezo, 4000 palladium
  • Loyalty
    • Eye for an Eye - Sniper Rifle Damage, 13800 credits, 15000 funding, 2000 iridium
    • Old Blood - Heavy Weapon Ammo, Krogan Vitality, 15000 credits, 15000 funding, 2000 iridium
    • Rite of Passage - Shotgun Damage, 15000 credits, 15000 funding, 2000 platinum
    • Sins of the Father - Heavy Pistol Damage, 30000 funding
    • Subject Zero - Biotic Damage, 15000 credits, 15000 funding, 500 eezo
    • The Ardat-Yakshi - Assault Rifle Damage, 30000 funding
    • The Gift of Greatness - Heavy Pistol Damage, 15000 credits, 15000 funding, 500 eezo
    • The Prodigal - Medi-Gel Capacity, Submachine Gun Damage, 15000 credits, 15000 funding, 500 eezo
    • Treason - Geth Shield Strength, Tech Damage, 30000 credits, 15000 funding, 2000 palladium
  • N7
    • Abandoned Mine (Minos Wasteland - Fortis - Aequitas) - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 iridium
    • Anomalous Weather Detected (Pylos Nebula - Dirada - Canalus) - Damage Protection, 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 palladium
    • Archeological Dig Site (Rosetta Nebula - Enoch - Joab) - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 500 eezo
    • Blood Pack Base (Shrike Abyssal - Xe Cha - Zada Ban) - Heavy Weapon Ammo, 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 palladium
    • Blood Pack Communications Relay (Crescent Nebula - Lusarn - Tarith) - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 platinum
    • Blue Suns Base (Sigurd's Cradle - Decoris - Sanctum) - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 iridium
    • Captured Mining Facility (Crescent Nebula - Zelene - Helyme) - 7500 credits, 7500 funding, 4000 palladium
    • Endangered Research Station (Caleston Rift - Solveig - Sinmara) - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 palladium
    • Imminent Ship Crash (Pylos Nebula - Nariph - MSV Broken Arrow) - 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 iridium
    • Javelin Missiles Launched (Sigurd's Cradle - Skepsis - Watson) - 7500 funding, 2000 palladium
    • Mining the Canyon (Caleston Rift - Talava - Taitus) - 7500 funding, 5000 platinum
    • MSV Strontium Mule (Omega Nebula - Ploitari - Arinlarkan) - Heavy Skin Weave, 3750 credits, 3750 funding, 2000 iridium
    • Quarian Crash Site (Hades Nexus - Sheol - Gei Hinnom) - 7500 funding, 2000 palladium
  • Omega: Packages for Ish - 2250 or 1125 or 4500 credits
  • Tuchanka:
    • Acquire Urz (no Journal Entry)
    • Combustion Manifold
    • Killing Pyjaks
    • Old Blood: Missing Scout
Collector Ship
(Immediately after 5 missions if 8 squad members have been recruited. Grunt does not count as recruited until released from his tank.)

Mission: Collector Ship - Advanced Weapon Training, Damage Protection, Tech Damage, 37500 credits, 37500 funding, 500 eezo.

Reaper IFF
(Any time after Collector Ship)
  • Mission: Reaper IFF - Heavy Skin Weave, Shotgun Damage, Sniper Rifle Damage, 25000 credits, 25000 funding, 2000 platinum.
After Reaper IFF:
  • Loyalty: A House Divided - Geth Shield Strength, 15000 credits, 15000 funding, 2000 palladium
Suicide Mission
(Any time after Reaper IFF)

Any open Missions and Assignments can be completed after the Suicide Mission.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mass Effect 2 - Squad Builds - Power Support (on Insanity Difficulty)

Mass Effect 2 Squad Builds - Power Support (on Insanity difficulty)
(Click here for all Mass Effect 2 Builds)

In this post, we cover builds for Kasumi Goto, Liara T'Soni, Miranda Lawson, Mordin Solus, Samara, Tali'Zorah vas Neema, and Thane Krios. They are "Power Support" squad members because they have an attack power that removes protections, and is not reliant on the target being unprotected.

Garrus Vakarian
See our post on Fire Support squad builds for a discussion on Garrus. He also counts as a Power Support character because he has access to Overload, although Armor Piercing Ammo is probably his best Power.

Kasumi Goto
Shadow Strike 3 → Overload 2
Master Thief 4 (Master Infiltrator)
Flashbang Grenade 4 (Improved)

(with Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC squad member respec)
Shadow Strike 4 → Overload 0
Master Thief 4 (Master Infiltrator)
Flashbang Grenade 4 (Improved)

Shadow Strike is powerful, but can require a lot of micromanagement on your part. You need to make sure Kasumi will survive when she reveals herself to strike the target. This is not important against a single target since they will likely be incapacitated, but if there are too many enemies with guns nearby, it is generally too dangerous to send her in unless she is behind them all (enemies typically do not turn around to look for targets). After she returns and uncloaks, you need to send her back into cover if she is exposed. If you do this too early, it can abort her invisible return and she walks the rest of the way, not protected by invisibility.
Also, it is not always clear when she cannot use the power against a target and it can be very annoying trying to manually send her somewhere. Generally it will be easier to set Squad Use of powers on, and just let her manage herself -- but keep an eye on her position, especially when she returns.
Cooldown for the Shadow Strike starts only after she returns, so even though the power can do a lot of damage, if she walks a long way there and back, it might not be worth the risk and time. For this reason, Rapid Shadow Strike is recommended, and the target should be softened first to maximize the chance of a kill. Once she is back, the 80% cooldown reduction typically means she can go again in less than 2 seconds.

Overload is useful during the first fight in her loyalty mission, so you will likely have at least rank 1 there. If Shepard can handle that battle without her having Overload, then try not to put any points here so you don't have to respec.
Overload is quite generically useful, so you may want to develop it, but there are other squadmembers who have the power that you don't have to rely on Kasumi. Instead, develop her unique powers and choose her because of them.

Because Kasumi is a Power Support squad member, we recommend the Master Infiltrator evolution for the improved cooldown.

Although the Flashbang Grenade has great utility and ease of use when launched by Kasumi, it does not appear to reliably work against protected enemies -- some effects can work against some enemies some of the time. Why it won't work later is not clear. Example, if she FlashBangs an armored Husk before it is damaged by anything else, that Husk will fall down and be automatically killed instantly. If her FlashBang fails because the protected target has been hit by something else, all further attempts against any protected target will only inflict damage and no additional effects.

Liara T'Soni
Singularity 2 → Warp 4 (Unstable Warp)
Asari Scientist 4 (Asari Controller)
Stasis 3

Liara T'Soni only has up to 29 squad points. Normally, a squad member has a loyalty mission which unlocks a fourth Power that automatically starts at rank 1. Liara T'Soni does not have this and instead starts with four powers.

Her Singularity power has a massive 20-second cooldown, meaning it is pretty much useless. Singularity is used to hold unprotected enemies and set them up for Warp detonations. At 20 seconds, Liara is locked out for too long compared to its utility, especially as she doesn't have any strong weapons with which to shoot in the meantime. Use her for Warp and let someone else set up her Warp Detonations.

At rank 4, Warp has the curious attribute of having a 12-second cooldown for Heavy Warp, but only a 9-second cooldown on Unstable Warp. Not only does Unstable Warp therefore have a slightly better damage-per-second rating but it comes with additional benefits of a wider detonation and frees Liara from cooldown lockdown faster.

The difference between her Asari Scientist evolutions is 7% to damage or 7% to power cooldown. She only has minimal weapon training, so go with the improved power cooldown.

Miranda Lawson
Overload 4 (Heavy Overload)
Warp 4 (Unstable Warp)
Cerberus Officer 4 (Cerberus Leader)
Slam 1

Miranda (and Jacob Taylor) are the only squad members who can have 31 Squad Points, because they start with two skills at rank 1. Miranda also has two core powers that let her deal with all three types of protection effectively -- Shields, Barriers, and Armor -- making her one of the best choices as a squad member for all missions. She can cover Shepard's weaknesses in those areas, and it is recommended that Overload and Warp be maximized early so that Shepard can concentrate of his career power and the associated Morality and cooldown bonuses.

Heavy Overload is favoured for its concentrated power. Shielded enemies typically do not have any other protection (unless they are a boss, in which case they also have armor), so once you take that off you can hit them with another useful effect. Also, despite the improved area in Area Overload, you are rarely going to hit more than one or two targets.

See Liara T'Soni for the discussion on choosing Unstable Warp over Heavy Warp.

Because squad members tend to be good at managing their shields to keep them from completely falling, the health bonus is not as useful as the weapon damage bonus from Cerberus Leader. In any case, the difference is only +7.5%, so either is fine.

Slam is sadly a poor power for Miranda on Insanity difficulty where just about every enemy starts with some protection. Damage is weak, and it only affects unprotected targets. Miranda has a 9-second cooldown, so only a high-rank Slam will leave the target disabled longer than her cooldown (whereas Shepard has a 3-second cooldown with Slam). Against an unprotected target, Overload and Warp are better choices.

Mordin Solus
Incinerate 4 → Cryo Blast 3 (Deep Cryo Blast)
Salarian Scientist 4 (Salarian Genius)
Neural Shock 2

(with Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC squad member respec)
Incinerate 4 (Heavy Incinerate) → Cryo Blast 4 (Deep Cryo Blast)
Salarian Scientist 4 (Salarian Genius)
Neural Shock 0

Mordin can be given an Omni-Tool that improves his tech damage by +20%, making him a very strong tech choice if you need Incinerate, especially after stacking squad tech improvements.

The Salarian Scientist evolutions are both good as the difference is minimal. Since squad members manage their shields well already, weapon damage is probably more generally useful.

Neural Shock is basically useless because Mordin has Cryo Blast, which is not limited in effect to organics and which can damage protections (but not freeze a protected target). If you have the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, which lets you respec squad members, it is highly recommended to drop Neural Shock altogether and maximize Cryo Blast because at rank 4, Mordin's cooldown halves from 9 seconds to 4.5 seconds (same as Shepard), and is faster than Neural Shock (9 seconds). However, since both powers are really only useful against unprotected targets, this is not a priority.

Cryo Blast can damage protections (but not health), so you can use it to attack instead of just to freeze. Damage per hit is less than Incinerate, but Mordin can fire it almost three times in the same period he can fire Incinerate just once. Net damage is still slightly less than with Incinerate, so you will have to decide if the flexibility with cooldown reduction is more useful to you. If you don't want to think so much, just go with maximum Incinerate. If a target only has a bit of protection left, you can take that off with Cryo Blast, then Cryo Blast again to freeze them.

Samara
Throw 2 → Pull 3
Asari Justicar 4 (Sapiens Justicar)
Reave 4

Samara's Reave is very useful not just for taking down Barriers and Armor, but for its initial disabling of the target, during which time they take extra damage. This makes it a sort of combination Pull plus attack, making Pull unnecessary except to set up Warp detonations for other biotics.

As Power Support, we recommend the Sapiens Justicar evolution of her Asari Justicar power, which emphasizes power cooldown.

Tali'Zorah vas Neema
Combat Drone 3 (Attack) → AI Hacking 1
Quarian Machinist 4
Energy Drain 4 (Heavy)

Like Legion, the Combat Drone has greatly reduced utility for a squad member on Insanity difficulty because of the long cooldown and low survivability rate of the drone. For this reason, once you get Energy Drain for her, that becomes your primary attack. Since AI Hacking is of limited utility and possibly less useful at rank 2+ (see our notes on AI Hacking in our Engineer Build Guide), consider getting the rank 4 Attack Drone for Tali or just 1 rank of AI Hacking.

Both of her Quarian Machinst evolutions are good. The Quarian Engineer duration bonus is especially good if you have developed AI Hacking for her because it helps her continually control one synthetic with her Power. However, since this Power is specific to synthetics, it is not particularly important to take the Engineer evolution because of it.

The special perk of Energy Drain is to absorb shields, but it can damage synthetics, barriers, and armor, making it a general purpose attack Power.

Thane Krios
See our post on Fire Support squad builds for a discussion on Thane. He also counts as a Power Support character because he has access to Warp. An interesting squad choice is an Adept Shepard who can Lift for Miranda and Thane to Warp detonate because Lift has a very short cooldown for Shepard and Warp hits instantly when used by squad members.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mass Effect 2 - Squad Builds - Fire Support (on Insanity Difficulty)

Mass Effect 2 Squad Builds - Fire Support (on Insanity difficulty)
(Click here for all Mass Effect 2 Builds)

In this post, we cover builds for Garrus Vakarian, Grunt, Jacob Taylor, Jack, Legion, Morinth, Thane Krios, and Zaeed Massani. They are "Fire Support" squad members because of their stronger emphasis on using guns and their Powers mainly work only on unprotected targets. Our builds focus on weapon damage.

Many characters here have Ammo Powers, so if you find yourself using two members with Ammo power frequently, you may need to adjust the builds to avoid overlap since you cannot have more than one Ammo Power on any firearm at one time.

For weapon choice, based on how squads typically fire, favour weapons with the highest damage output per round fired. Squad members have unlimited ammunition, and tend to fire either a single shot from a semi-automatic, or a very short burst from an automatic weapon, before pausing or returning to cover.

Garrus Vakarian
Concussive Shot 4 → Overload 0
Turian Rebel 4 (Renegade)
Armor-Piercing Ammo 4 (Squad)

Concussive Shot is very strong against Barriers but otherwise not that great since it has low damage and the knockdown works against unprotected targets only (but can very briefly stagger protected targets). Nevertheless, we suggest you maximize Concussive Shot instead of Overload because Overload is already available with various other squad members, and powers strong against Barriers are not common.

Garrus is both Fire Support (Armor-Piercing Ammo) and Power Support (Overload and Concussive Shot). His Concussive Shot goes well with Armor-Piercing Ammo as that targets either have armor or no more protections after Barriers, and Armor-Piercing Ammo has bonuses against armor and health.

Grunt
Concussive Shot 2 → Incendiary Ammo 3 (Inferno)
Krogan Berserker 4 (Pureblood)
Fortification 4 (Heavy)

There are enough power and ammo builds that you don't really need another, so for Grunt, you can make an exception and emphasize survivability with maximum Fortification and maximum regeneration to help you on certain missions. In general, having fast powers at your disposal help more, but when you are rushed by the enemy and damage is unavoidable, then having a sturdy squad member can help (e.g., when you are swarmed by Husks or when Scions shockwave your location).
Unlike having a defensive power on Shepard with a long cooldown, squad defensive powers have approximately the same cooldown as their attack powers.

Jacob Taylor
Pull 1
Incendiary Ammo 4 (Inferno)
Cerberus Operative 4 (Specialist)
Barrier 4 (Heavy)

Jacob (and Miranda) have 1 extra Squad Point (for a maximum of 31 points available) because he starts with two Powers at rank 1 instead of just one.

Pull is left at rank 1 because it is really only good against unprotected enemies, and to set up Warp explosions for Shepard and Miranda.
Because squad members tend to be good at managing their shields, and because we don't need him to use his Pull that often, we opted for the stronger Heavy Barrier evolution.

Jack
Shockwave 2 → Pull 3
Subject Zero 4 (Vanguard)
Warp Ammo 4 (Squad)

Since Jack is supposedly a strong biotic, it may seem strange to put her with Fire Support characters. But both her biotic powers (Shockwave and Pull) are really only good against unprotected targets. She doesn't have any real biotic attacks like Warp or Reave to help tear down protections.

Shockwave is harder to use because of its limited range. It does work against targets in cover because it ignores barriers, but only very briefly staggers protected enemies. On Insanity difficulty, almost all enemies have protection. If you do strip the protections from an enemy, you might as well Pull them into the open to be shot.

Pull is useful to bring enemies out, and while they are under its effects, Warp Ammo has double the damage bonus.

Legion
AI Hacking 2 → Combat Drone 3
Geth Infiltrator 4 (Assassin)
Geth Shield Boost 4 (Improved)

See notes on AI Hacking in our Engineer Build Guide. Unfortunately, to get to Combat Drone, we need to have at least 2 ranks of AI Hacking.
Unlike the Engineer's Combat Drone, squad Combat Drones have an extremely long 30-second cooldown. Combined with the generally short lifespan of drones on Insanity difficulty, you have to really think carefully about how to get the maximum benefit from a drone. The Engineer's 3-second cooldown means they use them like water. But because of the global cooldown, using Combat Drone from a squad member locks that squad member out from all powers for a very long time.
If you do want to deploy a squad drone, don't target it at any particular opponent. This makes it less likely to be exclusively targeted. Alternatively, pair it with an Engineer's drone so that between the two of them, they can keep the target stunned.

Morinth
Throw 2 → Pull 3
Ardat-Yakshi 4 (Malian-Yakshi)
Dominate 4

Morinth's powers all rely on the target being unprotected, and for that reason we have put her with Fire Support. Once protections are stripped, she is still better for Fire Support, by being able to Pull enemies so that others can shoot at it, or by using Dominate so that it shoots for you.

Her weapons are the submachine gun and the assault rifle, both of which are better against shields. Therefore, she is best used on missions involving shielded enemies, which typically do not have armor.

Thane Krios
Throw 2 → Warp 4 (Unstable Warp)
Drell Assassin 4 (Marksman)
Shredder Ammo 3

On a squad member, Throw has a long 9-second cooldown. Combined with it being only useful on unprotected targets, we are only taking enough ranks to unlock Warp.

Thane's Marksman evolution has a very strong +50% weapon damage bonus, putting him on par with Zaeed and Shepard.

His Shredder Ammo power is very strong against unprotected organics, and you could certainly avoid missions where you encounter a lot of synthetics, but even so, because it only works on unprotected targets, we have gone with maximizing Warp instead -- stripping protection is more important than making it easy to kill unprotected targets. Once a target is unprotected, all sorts of things can be done to them, and killing them quickly isn't necessarily the optimal tactical choice at that point. They could be used to set up a Warp detonation, for example.

Zaeed Massani
Concussive Shot 3 → Disruptor Ammo 4 (Squad)
Mercenary Veteran 4 (Warlord)
Inferno Grenade 2

With Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC:
Concussive Shot 4 → Disruptor Ammo 4 (Squad)
Mercenary Veteran 4 (Warlord)
Inferno Grenade 0

As with Garrus, you could specialize Zaeed for anti-Barrier with Concussive Shot. If you are not sure of the type of enemy defenses you will face, then Zaeed makes a fairly good choice of a squad member because Concussive Shot will help against Barrier and Squad Disruptor Ammo will help against Shields. The only weakness is Armor, and bosses tend to have armor under Barriers or Shields.
Team Disruptor Ammo is recommended because it gives everyone the ability to overheat enemy weapons.
If you have the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, you can respec him to maximize his core skills and make him very strong against Barriers as well, at the cost of not having any anti-armor from his Inferno Grenade.

Inferno Grenade is annoying to use as Shepard because you have to lob a real grenade. If you use Zaeed's grenade and he is not on screen, it fires immediately, accurately, and with no arcing -- you can't send it over a barrier, but you don't have to fool around with throwing it either. Also, at 9 seconds, the cooldown is shorter than most squad powers with a 12-second cooldown.
Either evolution is fine if you want to maximize this, but Heavy Inferno Grenade is the conservative choice since you are guaranteed more damage on your initial target. Relying on the secondary explosions to hit something is chancy at best unless enemies start out massed closed together.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mass Effect 2 Class Build - Vanguard (on Insanity difficulty)

Mass Effect 2 Class Build - Vanguard (on Insanity difficulty)
(Click here for all Mass Effect 2 Builds)

Powers:
Assault Build
  • Incendiary Ammo 4, Cryo Ammo 1
  • Charge 4, Shockwave 2, Pull 3
  • Assault Mastery 4 (Champion)
  • Advanced Training: Reave 4
  • Weapon Training: Claymore
Anti-Barrier: Reave
Anti-Shield: None
Anti-Armor: Reave
Anti-Regeneration: Reave
Anti-Melee: Charge

Incendiary Ammo
One of the best ammo powers. The fire-panic that temporarily neutralizes unprotected enemies is good enough that you typically do not have to switch to Cryo Ammo for outright immobilization.

Charge
This is a very difficult power to get any consistent benefit from:
  • Some of the time, enemies will be completely inaccessible (e.g., across a rift or on a balcony) and the power is useless.
  • Some of the time, you think you have a path, but for unclear reasons you will power up but not charge.
  • Most of the time, enemies are too numerous that being out of cover for more than a few seconds is suicidal on Insanity difficulty. Knowing where your enemies are, and preferably being able to channel them instead of having them spread out can help a lot.
  • Damage appears to be based on what happens to the target once it is impacted. The force itself will do some damage, but whether the target is knocked into anything and how far it flies also appears to affect damage, so that sometimes you can do a lot, other times you will do very little -- a situation very similar to Throw.
    • You will stagger protected enemies and knock down unprotected ones. Regardless, as soon as you are out of the Charge, you will likely need to shotgun whoever is still left standing and/or head for cover.
Unless you really want to experiment with the Charge power specifically, play an Adept instead. If you want to fling targets around, play an Adept or Sentinel and use Throw.

Both evolutions have their benefits, but the Heavy Charge is safer for Insanity difficulty because you get more shield recharging and a brief time dilation. Enemies are typically too spread out for small area effects to hit more than two targets.

In the video below, notice that the kills are mostly done with weapons and that Charge often does very little damage compared to other options. It moves you in safely, and restores your shields.



Shockwave
On Insanity Difficulty, where almost every enemy has protection, this is often useless. See our notes on Shockwave in our Adept build guide.

Pull
You will generally want a good duration with this to support Charge and Shockwave, both of which benefit from a target made weightless. If you are good at keeping teammates alive, Jacob and Jack can also Pull for you, so duration is less important. Also, Pull has a short cooldown, so you can use it on its own and shoot at the target with Incendiary Ammo.

Assault Mastery
The reduced cooldown and increased duration from the Champion evolution trumps any damage bonus from the Destroyer evolution, which may or may not apply to physics-based damage such as enemies falling from a Pull or knocked back by a Charge.

Reave
The Vanguard suffers the same ammo-dependence problem as the Soldier, so a solid attack Power is highly recommended for those times when ammo is scarce. Against organic enemies, Reave has the additional benefit of disabling the enemy briefly, and healing you, which can be important if you are stuck in a bad tactical position after a Charge.

Mass Effect 2 Class Build - Infiltrator (on Insanity difficulty)

Mass Effect 2 Class Build - Infiltrator (on Insanity difficulty)
(Click here for all Mass Effect 2 Builds)

Powers:
Assault Build
  • Disruptor Ammo 2, Cryo Ammo 4
  • Tactical Cloak 4 (Assassination), Incinerate 4, AI Hacking 1
  • Operative 4 (Agent)
  • Advanced Training: Energy Drain 3
  • Weapon Training: Shotgun
Anti-Barrier: None
Anti-Shield: Energy Drain
Anti-Armor: Incinerate
Anti-Regeneration: Incinerate
Anti-Melee: Tactical Cloak

Control Build (48/51)
  • Disruptor Ammo 4, Cryo Ammo 3
  • Tactical Cloak 4 (Assassination), Incinerate 4, AI Hacking 1
  • Operative 4 (Agent)
  • Advanced Training: Dominate 1
  • Weapon Training: Shotgun
Anti-Barrier: None
Anti-Shield: Disruptor Ammo
Anti-Armor: Incinerate
Anti-Regeneration: Incinerate
Anti-Melee: Tactical Cloak

Stealth Build
  • Disruptor Ammo 4
  • Tactical Cloak 4 (Assassination), Incinerate 4, AI Hacking 1
  • Operative 4 (Agent)
  • Advanced Training: Inferno Grenade 4
  • Weapon Training: Shotgun
Anti-Barrier: None
Anti-Shield: Disruptor Ammo
Anti-Armor: Incinerate
Anti-Regeneration: Incinerate
Anti-Melee: Tactical Cloak

Although the description for the Infiltrator seems to talk about sniping a lot, if you actually want to snipe, play a Soldier instead: Adrenaline Rush has a +100% damage bonus to all weapons (not just the sniper rifle) at rank 1 and you can be under Adrenaline Rush pretty much all the time.

Disruptor Ammo
If you have nothing else to quickly break down shields (although Incinerate does a pretty good job), then maximize Disruptor Ammo to reduce your ammunition reliance. Instead of trying to get both Disruptor Ammo and Cryo Ammo and switching back and forth in combat, specialize in Disruptor Ammo to at least rank 3, which gives you the chance to overheat weapons: An enemy who can't fire is basically neutralized (unless they are a krogan who then charges at you). Freezing them with Cryo Ammo makes them vulnerable to further shots, but you need to first strip protections and you are probably switching ammo as well, on top of having to spend Talent Points developing two Powers.

Cryo Ammo
It generally takes one second of gunfire to freeze something. A slower-firing weapon therefore has a higher chance of freezing with each round fired, whereas an automatic weapon requires a burst to trigger freezing.

Tactical Cloak
The cooldown on Tactical Cloak does not start until the cloaking effect ends, but you can still use squad powers, and if a squad member is not on the screen, their power fires instantly.
  • You could Cloak in cover, emerge to fire off a squad power, then move back to safety. If the enemy cannot reach you or do not advance on your position (and you therefore have a lot of time), you can safely launch attacks this way.
Although Tactical Cloak gives you a damage bonus at rank 2+, given how dangerous firefights are in Insanity difficulty, that should not be your focus. Instead, use Tactical Cloak to flank.
  • Your presence is ignored. So if a squad member is behind you, you might end up getting shot because the enemy is shooting at your squad.
  • Position your squad first. Make sure they are in cover before you Cloak because they will become the focus of the enemy, and in general squad members aren't that great at getting to cover.
  • Pause the game and look at your cover choices carefully. You only have a few seconds to get there and get in cover. Or, if you want to shoot someone, you won't have long to get into cover afterwards.
  • If you get into a good position where the enemy is exposed to you, ideally they will spend more time repositioning than shooting at you. While they reposition, they are out of cover, so your squad will hopefully be able to get free shots at them.
If you do want to use your Tactical Cloak for damage, get into cover first, activate the Cloak, then line up your shot. Aiming with a sniper rifle gets you about a second of slow motion time to preferably line up a head shot. You could also instead Cloak and close in on an enemy to headshot them with a shotgun, then run for cover.

The Enhanced Cloak evolution gets you 2 extra seconds, but the basic 6 seconds is already really quite long, so the Assassination Cloak is recommended. In any case, if you are using Tactical Cloak mainly to reposition and flank, then leave it a rank 2 until you maximize Incineration, which is very useful as an attack power for the times when you run out of ammunition.

Incinerate
This is a very good all-around attack power, and should be maximized early to conserve ammunition for taking down Shields and for strategic one-shot-kills with high powered weapons such as sniper rifles.

AI Hacking
For notes on AI Hacking, see our post on Engineer builds.

Operative
The differences between the two rank 4 evolutions are not very big, but there are more powers with duration than straight damage, so the duration bonus from the Agent evolution is more generally useful.

Assault Build: Energy Drain
Taking Energy Drain for the Advanced Training Power would further reduce your reliance on ammunition in tearing down shields, and it covers Incinerate's weakness against synthetics. With the points saved from having to invest in Disruptor Ammo, we can maximize Cryo Ammo.

Instead of maximizing Energy Drain, use Incinerate on an enemy with a partially drained Shield. Energy Drain cannot damage organics, so if a non-synthetic enemy has a partially drained shield, using Energy Drain will just strip the remainder and excess damage is wasted.

For the Assault Build, use Tactical Cloak to reposition. Use Energy Drain and Incinerate for tearing down defenses. If low on ammo, use Incinerate for kills. Otherwise, use the submachine gun or pistol and its plentiful ammunition to trigger a freeze in the target, then switch to a pistol or sniper rifle and turn on Tactical Cloak for your follow-up shot while they are frozen and vulnerable, to maximize damage.

Control Build: Dominate
The Control Build focusses on maximum enemy disruption. For notes on AI Hacking and Dominate, see our post on Engineer builds and why you should leave both at rank 1.

Stealth Build: Inferno Grenade
This build focusses on keeping hidden. Inferno Grenade is very interesting for its ability to be lobbed at locations requiring neither line of sight nor a target. For a power to be launched at a location without at target selected typically requires line of sight as the power then fires directly at the cursor location. Inferno Grenades are thrown and have physics similar to an actual grenade, except that it immediately explodes on impact.
With Inferno Grenades, an Infiltrator could move from locations of total cover (e.g., around a corner or behind a tall wall), and try to remain undetected or at least not-targetable by the enemy. Without breaking cover, they can use Inferno Grenades to launch attacks. Whether this can be maintained or not is largely irrelevant as the Inferno Grenade retains its utility, and regular assaults are possible.
Of course, all classes can do this, but the Infiltrator can do it better because of Tactical Cloak to move around the battlefield safely.




Friday, March 14, 2014

Mass Effect 2 Class Build - Soldier (on Insanity difficulty)

Mass Effect 2 Class Build - Soldier (on Insanity difficulty)
(Click here for all Mass Effect 2 Builds)

Powers:
Soldier Build
  • Adrenaline Rush 4, Concussive Shot 1
  • Disruptor Ammo 4, Incendiary Ammo 4
  • Combat Mastery 4 (Shock Trooper)
  • Advanced Training: Reave 4 or Slam 4 (Crippling)
Anti-Barrier: Reave
Anti-Shield: Disruptor Ammo
Anti-Armor: Incendiary Ammo, Reave
Anti-Regeneration: Incendiary Ammo, Reave
Anti-Melee: Adrenaline Rush

Soldiers are self-sufficient builds IF they have enough ammo. You therefore have to be good at shooting, and watch out for enemies that can regenerate their protections or health. There are ways to stop health regeneration, but if enemies are able to raise their protections again, that can be a huge drain on ammo. Also, there are missions where you face endless waves of enemies until you reach certain invisible checkpoints or accomplish certain goals.
The only attack power that doesn't involve ammo is Concussive Shot, but that inflicts weak damage and the knockdown will only work on enemies without protection.

Adrenaline Rush
Double damage. You want to maximize the duration of this so you do not have to constantly invoke it.
The difference between Hardened Adrenaline Rush and Heightened Adrenaline Rush on rank 4 is a hard choice. If you play very aggressively and are willing to fight when injured, go for Hardened and the damage reduction. If you play conservatively to avoid damage AND prefer to place single high-damage shots, then go for Heightened Adrenaline Rush.
The damage-per-second is actually higher with Hardened Adrenaline Rush:
  • Hardened: DPS x 0.5 time x 200% damage = 100% DPS
  • Heightened: DPS x 0.3 time x 240% damage = 72% DPS
However, DPS is only relevant when you are using weapons with a high rate of fire, and it is relative to the time passing for YOU, not the enemy. With Hardened Adrenaline Rush, 10 seconds of time for you is 5 seconds of time for the enemy. With Heightened Adrenaline Rush, 10 seconds of time for you is only 3 seconds for the enemy. Damage per shot is 200% with Hardened and 240% with Heightened. To maximize the value of your ammunition, go for Heightened Adrenaline Rush.

Concussive Shot
This fires a round at the target, but uses no ammunition. We use Shepard's last talent point here instead of Cryo Ammo because of this, but it really doesn't matter unless you do not choose an Advanced Power that does damage, in which case definitely go for Concussive Shot since it then becomes your only damage alternative if you run out of ammunition (i.e., thermal clips).
Concussive Shot is very strong against Barriers, but of course does not knockdown until all protections are down.

Ammo Powers: Disruptor, Incendiary, Cryo
Whereas Power-using classes use various powers to strip Protections, Soldiers use special ammunition to further improve the damage value per shot. This obviously relies on having ammunition. It does not modify Heavy Weapons.
With Ammo Powers, also switch weapons to deal with different types of protections, and thereby maximize damage versus any one type of protection.
Our recommended build ignores Cryo Ammo because it really only works on targets with no protection. Against such as target, there are various options to keep them neutralized -- the fire panic from Incendiary shots, weapons overheating from Disruptor shots, or a Concussive Shot to knock it down, and whatever we have from our choice of Advanced Training.
Shepard's squad is generally more useful in the background to provide Powers, so we recommend not taking the Squad version of ammunition powers.

Combat Mastery
Although Incinerate can be arced, it almost never hits a target in cover unless they stand up, which they can be made to do with Combat Drone.
Incinerate does half damage against synthetics, so once armor is down, Overload is better against synthetics.
Against targets without much shielding left, switch to Incinerate since Overload damages Health only against synthetics. For this reason, the Control Build does not try to maximize it.

Advanced Training: Reave
Reave is chosen for Advanced Training because it is good against Barriers, against which the Soldier does not have an Ammo type. It is also generically useful as an attack power, and has additional benefits against unprotected organic enemies:
  • The initial period of disability combined with the animation that lifts the target provides a period of fairly easy targeting, even without Adrenaline Rush.
  • Heals you and temporarily boosts health beyond the normal maximum.
If you take Reave, Concussive Shot is not important. Concussive Shot has the same cooldown except the cooldown time cannot benefit from Biotic Upgrades -- so you might as well use Reave as your backup out-of-ammunition attack.

Advanced Training: Slam
If you are not worried about running out of ammo stripping enemy protections, then Slam is a very good alternative to Reave. Like many powers, its effects really come into play only against unprotected targets. Slam has the advantage of having a very fast cooldown (3 second cooldown for Shepard) and the Crippling Slam rank 4 evolution will leave the target prone on the ground for 8 seconds and vulnerable to aimed shots, after which it is still helpless for a couple of seconds because it has to get up.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mass Effect 2 Class Build - Engineer (on Insanity difficulty)

Mass Effect 2 Class Build - Engineer (on Insanity difficulty)
(Click here for all Mass Effect 2 Builds)

Powers:
Assault Build
  • Overload 4
  • Combat Drone 4, Cryo Blast 4, AI Hacking 1
  • Tech Mastery 4 (Mechanic)
  • Advanced Training: Reave 4
  • Weapon Training: Shotgun
Anti-Barrier: Reave
Anti-Shield: Overload
Anti-Armor: Reave
Anti-Regeneration: Reave
Anti-Melee: Combat Drone

Cryo Shatter Build
  • Overload 4, Incinerate 4
  • Combat Drone 4, Cryo Blast 1
  • Tech Mastery 4 (Mechanic)
  • Advanced Training: Armor Piercing Ammo 4 or Warp Ammo 4
  • Weapon Training: Sniper Rifle
Anti-Barrier: None
Anti-Shield: Overload
Anti-Armor: Incinerate
Anti-Regeneration: Incinerate
Anti-Melee: Combat Drone

Control Build (48/51)
  • Overload 4, Incinerate 4
  • Combat Drone 4, Cryo Blast 3, AI Hacking 1
  • Tech Mastery 4 (Mechanic)
  • Advanced Training: Dominate 1
  • Weapon Training: Shotgun
Anti-Barrier: None
Anti-Shield: Overload
Anti-Armor: Incinerate
Anti-Regeneration: Incinerate
Anti-Melee: Combat Drone

Engineers are pretty self-sufficient builds, with only a weakness against the armor of synthetics. Incinerate and Cryo Blast arc but depending on how much the target is exposed, invariably hits cover. Something you can do is to arc it at a target that is still in cover because it will track, and by the time your Power gets there, the target will have changed thermal clips and popped up, just in time to get hit.
The Combat Drone power makes this one of the easiest and most interesting classes to play.

Overload
Overload can be used against Barriers or Armor, but with no bonus damage.  If you are stuck for Talent Points, maximize Incinerate over Overload since Overload cannot inflict Health damage except on synthetics. If the enemy only has partial shields, go for a strong Incinerate instead unless it is synthetic and has no armor, since leftover damage becomes wasted.

Incinerate
Although Incinerate can be arced, it almost never hits a target in cover unless they stand up, which they can be made to do with Combat Drone.
Incinerate does half damage against synthetics, so once armor is down, Overload is better against synthetics.
Against targets without much shielding left, switch to Incinerate since Overload damages Health only against synthetics. For this reason, the Control Build does not try to maximize it.

Combat Drone
Combat Drone is one of the most useful Powers available to any character. No other Power works against protected enemies or spawns an expendable character.
  • You can spawn it at a target completely behind a barrier, as long as you are close enough to have the target selected (bounding box around the target and health stats at the top of the screen).
  • It spawns behind a target and typically gets a first strike.
  • It can automatically move toward enemies that are not yet on your radar and have not yet detected you.
  • If it is near a target or if it attacks a target, that target almost always gives it highest priority and switches targets.
    • This almost guaranteed distraction combined with the short cooldown means an Engineer can confront single powerful enemies (e.g., YMIR mechs) quite safely as long as the distraction can be managed and kept up -- even out in the open with no cover between them. The Engineer would probably need to take down the enemy with gunfire, however, since all power usage would be devoted to spawning Combat Drones.
  • A hit will knock a target out of cover. If a target has to turn around to engage it, the target will also typically stand up if it were it cover..
  • Its basic attack damages shields and briefly stuns any target even if they have protections. Unless it has the Attack Drone evolution, it cannot actually kill anything, even targets that have only shields and no Health.
    • Although Barriers work like Shields, they are not the same and a Combat Drone cannot damage them unless it has the Attack Drone evolution.
  • Rocket-launching enemies typically have no other weapon so they will rocket a drone even at melee distances, thereby hurting themselves or others near the drone with the blast radius.
On Insanity difficulty, Combat Drones rarely last very long once they come under attack by several enemies. Against a single opponent they can do quite well because of their ability to stun, but against two or more you can expect them to be destroyed quickly, though generally not so quickly that you are not already out of cooldown and ready to use another power or create another Drone. Only in rare instances are the enemies so numerous that your Drone is destroyed almost as soon as it is created. In such a case, AI Hacking or Dominate will typically be more useful despite having a longer cooldown.

The attack cooldown appears to be affected by tech upgrades because it is not as long as the 3-4 seconds listed. You can count on at least the first attack to hit if you specified a target for your Combat Drone, so if the target isn't regenerating, continually sending out Attack Drones will theoretically let you win by attrition. Some few enemies can't or won't do anything to the Drone (e.g., Scions, Geth Recon Drones), so without the Attack evolution, the drone can only remove their shields.
The attack is quite weak, but you can still send out the Attack Drone on an already injured enemy instead of trying to shoot it

The Explosive evolution at rank 4 is fairly good, but you will rarely catch more than two enemies in the blast radius (despite it being 6 meters), so the overall wider utility of the Attack Drone (being able to damage more than just shields) is generally better.

Cryo Blast
For the first second or so, the target is still freezing so it can still act. Afterwards, it typically falls over frozen (if behind cover, this puts it back behind cover, so you'll have to shoot at a foot sticking out from cover or something), during which time it is highly susceptible to gunfire damage (but apparently not to power damage).

It is remarkably hard to just one-shot shatter a frozen target for an instant kill (and it may actually not be possible -- one-shot kills might be high damage combined with temporary susceptibility in the target), so don't count on it. Instead, during the susceptibility interval, follow up with a weapon while your Cryo Blast is on cooldown, or use a squad member's power.

The cooldown is short enough that with additional cooldown reduction bonuses and the fact that the target has to get up afterwards, you could continually Cryo Blast a target even at rank 1. Cryo Blast is therefore also good in melee to keep an enemy frozen and incapacitated while you hit them (although you will generally not want to get into melee to begin with). All levels of Cryo Blast have basically the same utility, so it is not really necessary to have more than 1 rank except to access AI Hacking.

Cryo Blast can take off some protection, but cannot inflict any Health damage. If you need to quickly take off a bit of shielding or armor, you could use Cryo Blast for its shorter cooldown. For this reason, on the damage-focussed Assault Build, we have maximized Cryo Blast but you can reduce that to 2 ranks and improve AI Hacking instead.

At rank 4, because Cryo Blast freezing only really affects unprotected targets, either evolution will be fine. The Deep Cryo Blast is preferred even at only two seconds longer because you will rarely hit more than one unprotected target at a time.
The Full Cryo Blast only has a 3-meter radius, and in many fights you will be lucky to still get more than one target in it unless they start out massed to begin with. Even then, you will need to strip their Protections, and on Insanity difficulty, just about everything after the Prologue mission has Protection of some kind.

AI Hacking
Unlike Dominate, hacking works instantly -- there is no projectile to fly to the target, and unlike Dominate there is no period of disability to waste your Hack duration and enemies react to it almost immediately if they can see it.  Hacked targets will not attack you even if there are no other enemies, so you can approach and melee if you want. AI Hacking therefore can be used to quickly get you respite from being shot at, not only from the hacked target but from almost all enemies that can see it.
You can typically hack a target that is behind another as long as you have it selected as a target. Hacked targets will freeze if they see no enemies -- that is, they won't turn around to look unless they are attacked from behind.

Hacking a synthetic once its protections are gone is typically safer than killing it yourself, because you expose yourself only briefly to enable the hack, then you return to cover. The more enemies there are, the more attack your target and take their attention off you and your squad, even if only briefly. It doesn't matter who kills who, but your mind-controlled ally typically stays out of cover, so you can keep renewing your hack.
Hacking a target at rank 2+ gives it a shield. Since ultimately you will have to neutralize all enemies, it may be more convenient to leave AI Hacking at rank 1 so that either your target gets killed by its allies or you have a weakened target you can finish off later.
Once a target is hacked, you have various tactical options:
  • If it has drawn a lot of fire, you can emerge from cover to aim and shoot or fire off your own power. You can also direct the fire of your squad, who are also briefly safe from fire.
  • You can help kill the target if it is dangerous and too close to you to risk re-hacking or some other distraction, or if it is in a bad position to help you draw enemy fire.
  • You can attack a different target to take off its protections, and thereby set up your next hack.
This is a specialized-situation skill and any all-or-nothing limited-options power should be considered carefully before investing too many points. Even with the short rank 1 duration, you could renew your hack right after it expires once you have some bonuses to cooldown time.

If you do develop AI Hacking to rank 4, the area effect option is an interesting one because as each controlled target strips the shields off another, each time you hit the area with AI Hacking you get another ally. It's fun to see, but in the grand scheme of things probably too infrequent to really invest that many points, and the net result might just be a bunch of enemies you still have to kill yourself because they all have strong shields that they may not be able to shoot off each other during the hack duration.

Tech Mastery
Because so many Powers are duration-based, the Mechanic evolution is preferred for Engineer builds.

Assault Build: Reave
By substituting Incinerate with Reave, we lose a bit of anti-armor power against organics, but gain an anti-Barrier attack, anti-armor against synthetics, superior disabling effects against unprotected organics, and healing from unprotected organics.
Reave also strikes faster than Incinerate, but Incinerate can be curved around barriers. This drawback can be mitigated somewhat by drawing enemies out of cover with Combat Drone.

The Reave Assault Build is the most straightforward to play and has the fewest redundancies.

Cryo Shatter Build: Armor Piercing Ammo
You can try to maximize gun damage against a vulnerable frozen enemy with Armor Piercing Ammo (Shredder Ammo has a higher bonus, but only works on organics). For the Assault Build, drop Reave and take Armor Piercing Ammo, and develop Incinerate for anti-armor. Warp Ammo is another good choice as it helps against Barriers, and therefore makes a more generically applicable Ammo choice.

The Cryo Shatter Build is really only good if you use your gun frequently. The Engineer has enough powers and a good enough cooldown to kill everything with Powers, and in practice any gunfire is quite dangerous on Insanity difficulty where enemies pretty much never miss and damage is high. Unless you insist on using your gun, another Engineer build will see more utility from your Advanced Training power.

Control Build: Dominate
Dominate basically hits instantly and is fairly reliable against targets partially in cover, presumably because the small round bolt it fires is quite small. Where a target might not be affected by Overload or Incinerate, you could probably still hit it with Dominate.
Dominate starts with a period of incapacity in the target, during which it cannot act. Once it can act, it is outlined in light until the Dominate fades. At that point, it attacks the nearest visible target, which can include Shepard and his squad. This makes rank 2+ Dominate tricky because they now get a Barrier, so if you are targeted, you have just made them tougher to take down. If you are not sure whether it will become an ally or not, or whether it will get killed by the enemy or not, go for Cryo Blast instead.
Against Krogan, the duration is generally too short unless an enemy already has it in sight and can shoot at it. Krogan tend to use shotguns, and unless they are ready to use their Carnage shotgun power, you won't get much damage out of them. Use them against Krogan when it has several allies with automatic weapons; otherwise you are probably better off using Cryo Blast or Incinerate.

If you try to Dominate a second target before the first Dominate expires, that first target will retain whatever Barrier from Dominate (rank 2+) remains, but will no longer be under the influence of Dominate.
Rank 2+ Dominate grants a Barrier to the target, and if you use Dominate on the same target, the power usage will start to refill that Barrier.

During the period of incapacitation, you could close with the target and start melee, following up with a Combat Drone to further distract it. At rank 2+ this becomes useless because the target gains a protective Barrier. If you have Cryo Blast, use that in melee instead.

As with AI Hacking, repeated application of the area control version can lead to a growing army of dominated targets under the right circumstances.

The Control Build is costly in Talent Points so in the early game, so if you are aiming for even just 1 rank in AI Hacking in the very early game, you need proper team support to strip defenses quickly to apply Dominate and AI Hacking. If you can do so, you can slow down enemy advances, draw them out of cover, and have them kill themselves or keep them in a controlled state almost continuously (especially if you have the Mechanic evolution already). With any luck, your mind-controlled target can also strip the protection from another target so that you can control another target without having to tear down its defenses. In this way, the Control Build can be very viable, especially when enemies are strong enough or numerous enough to quickly destroy your Combat Drone.
If you aim for AI Hacking too early, you might have trouble with time-pressure fights, such as when several shotgunners advance on your position (e.g., the first fight in the Convict recruitment mission), or you need to clear enemies quickly (e.g., the Archangel recruitment mission). Miranda is probably the best teammate to have at least until your Overload and Incinerate start to improve.
Other than this early drawback, the Control Build is one of the easiest to play--maybe too easy to be challenging even on Insanity difficulty--given that you can distract any target on the field with Combat Drone, and distract many targets at once with AI Hacking and Dominate.

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.
Dominate
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.

Reave
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.

Slam
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).

Stasis
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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mass Effect 2 Class Build - Sentinel (on Insanity difficulty)

Mass Effect 2 Class Build - Sentinel (on Insanity difficulty)
(Click here for all Mass Effect 2 Builds)

Powers:
Shield Build
  • Throw 2, Warp 4
  • Tech Armor 4 (Power Armor), Overload 3, Cryo Blast 1
  • Defender 4 (Raider)
  • Advanced Training: Energy Drain 4
  • Weapon Training: Shotgun
Anti-Barrier: Warp
Anti-Shield: Energy Drain, Overload
Anti-Armor: Warp
Anti-Regeneration: Warp
Anti-Melee: Throw, Cryo Blast

Assault Build
  • Throw 1
  • Tech Armor 4 (Power Armor), Overload 4, Cryo Blast 4
  • Defender 4 (Raider)
  • Advanced Training: Reave 4
  • Weapon Training: Shotgun
Anti-Barrier: Reave
Anti-Shield: Overload
Anti-Armor: Reave
Anti-Regeneration: Reave
Anti-Melee: Cryo Blast, Throw

Our Sentinel builds revolve around maximizing damage with Power Armor and Raider evolutions (of Tech Armor and Defender skills, respectively). The main problem with the Sentinel on Insanity difficulty is in keeping your shields up. Enemies are very accurate and shields go down very quickly. All shield skills have a fairly long cooldown (12 seconds base). Without the advantage of Tech Armor, the Sentinel is nothing special. If you cannot keep up your Tech Armor, play an Adept or Engineer instead.

Tech Armor
Power Armor is favoured here unless you insist on a close-range melee build, which is generally suicidal on Insanity difficulty, unless you can control how much exposure to gunfire you have, and have a retreat route if you cannot clear all enemies in melee quickly. Also, the Power Armor option synergizes with the Raider evolution of Defender, which also has a damage bonus.

Overload
Overload has some overlap with Energy Drain, but we nevertheless opt for rank 3 to have weapon overheating. In any case, it is good against synthetics as well.
Cryo Blast
The duration is fairly short, so quickly following up with a weapon is generally better. A sniper rifle helps us get shattering shots at any range. While frozen, targets take a lot more damage even if they do not shatter.
It appears to have the same auto-targeting as biotics so you can aim it over or around barriers.
Defender
The Raider evolution is favoured here to maximize damage, with synergy with the Power Armor damage bonus. You can go for slightly faster cooldowns with the Guardian evolution, but the difference is generally less than one second.
Shield Build: Energy Drain
This Sentinel build seeks to maximize shields by boosting it with Energy Drain when possible. Unlike using Barrier or Geth Shield Boost, this Build will not have superior shields without targets to drain. If you want an additional weapon damage bonus, then take the Geth Shield Boost.

Assault Build: Reave
This build focusses on damage and uses Advanced Training to bypass developing Throw and save a few Squad Points. Five maximized skills and token Throw for close range once you have taken down their protections. Because Throw has such a short cooldown, you can continually keep the enemy down and use gunfire or melee in between until they are killed.
Reave is also interesting for the healing ability. It lets you play more aggressively against organic opponents because you can heal and keep going when your shield is down. However, the point of a Sentinel is to keep your shield up for the damage bonus, so this is more of an emergency feature for a Sentinel.


Mass Effect 2 - Class Build - Adept (on Insanity difficulty)

Mass Effect 2 Class Build - Adept (on Insanity difficulty)
(Click here for all Mass Effect 2 Builds)

Powers:
Recommended Build
  • Warp 4
  • Singularity 4, Pull 4, Shockwave 1
  • Biotic Mastery 4 (Nemesis)
  • Advanced Training: Energy Drain 4
  • Weapon Training: Shotgun
Anti-Barrier: Warp
Anti-Shield: Submachinegun, Energy Drain
Anti-Armor: Warp
Anti-Regeneration: Warp
Anti-Melee: Singularity, Pull, Shotgun

The main benefit of biotics is the ability to arc behind barriers. To do so, make sure the enemy is targeted but your crosshair is not directly on the target. The biotic bolt will travel to the crosshair then start homing in on the target. Depending on the distance, it can take a couple of seconds to actually hit, but you can snipe in this way at targets far enough away to haul out a sniping rifle. Sometimes it just doesn't work for unclear reasons, in which case you need to reposition Shepard.
This build is very self-sufficient early, even without Energy Drain, so right away you can focus on Biotic Mastery to get your cooldowns reduced.

Warp
Along with Singularity, Warp is your primary attack Power. It is in fact a very well rounded and useful power that has the bonus of being able to "detonate" (create a blast) at any target suspended by biotics, including Singularity, Pull, and Slam (the latter typically being of too short a duration to exploit except possibly by an instant Warp hit through squad power usage).
If you want a different Advanced Training power, then Warp will also have to handle Shields.

Throw
Good for moving an unprotected target, but nothing else. Damage is extremely unpredictable and generally weak even at rank 4. The main benefits of this power are the short cooldown (base 3.0 seconds) and that it generally knocks the target down, so you get a few extra seconds of target neutralization.
Targets fly further if they already have their weight neutralized by Pull or Singularity.
If you are in melee you can knock down your target, melee it a few times, then knock it down again. Arc your bolt so it hits in the direction you want your target to be thrown -- either far away from you, or into an object close to you so you do not have to chase it down.
Throw cannot move a shielded or armored target, but it will slightly damage their shield or armor.

Singularity
The long duration of the Singularity effect can be used in various ways:
  • Set it up first, then strip off the final shields or armor. That way, your target is immediately vulnerable inside the Singularity and will be grabbed. Your next action can then be Warp to detonate them.
  • Use it to control a choke-point:
    • The radius is uselessly small so the chokepoint must also be quite small for this to work.
    • Enemies cannot walk through the centre of a singularity if they cannot be affected because they have shields or armor.
  • Briefly stall a protected target: A protected target is only slightly damaged by the singularity, but it cannot seem to occupy the same space. During the brief time it is pushed out or it moves out of the centre of the singularity, it cannot do anything else including shoot at you. This is better than nothing in an emergency.
Pull
You cannot pull protected targets, but their topmost layer of protection will be slightly damaged. Same cooldown as Throw, but I recommend using this instead because it lasts longer and you can detonate them with Warp.
Pull is more or less redundant with Singularity since Singularity will also float a target, but there is really nothing else better to develop with this build.

Shockwave
The range is short enough in most engagements to make this power less useful than whatever else you already have. Trying to hit targets on a different elevation is also tricky. It will hit targets behind cover, but you can already do that by arcing biotics.
You can use it on protected targets and it will stagger them very briefly, but generally not to be useful enough. However, because they do not fall over, you can try to immediately follow up with gunfire to further stagger them and keep them from dodging or ducking back to cover.
Against unprotected targets, you can knock them out from behind cover. A target being Pulled can be knocked high and far, possibly behind you (since Pull starts to move them toward you).

Biotic Mastery
Nemesis is recommended on this build because most of the powers are instant. Pull and Singularity are the exceptions, but you really need them only long enough to Detonate, and in any case Pull has a very short cooldown so you can use it again before the enemy takes any actions.

Energy Drain
This is a somewhat specialized Power choice because it only damages armor, barriers, shields (x2), and synthetics. Of the four choices, you only need it against synthetics.
The side effect is a boost to your shields which can immediately re-erect collapsed shields. Considering that biotics can be arced around cover and therefore repositioning in combat isn't as necessary for an Adept, even this is of limited benefit.
Nevertheless, because the most powerful biotics can only be used on unprotected enemies, stripping them of shields as quickly as possible makes this a worthwhile investment. Go for Area Drain to get the maximum shield boost.

Shotgun
With so many ways to hit targets from afar and from behind cover, the main vulnerability is melee. A shotgun can help you strip off the remaining protection so you can hit them with Pull or Singularity and then Warp-detonate them -- you only need one target ready for detonation to hit everyone nearby with the Warp blast.