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Mass Effect Legendary Edition guide: Everything to know before your intergalactic adventure

Mass Effect tips
(Image credit: Bioware)

If you’re wondering which Mass Effect class to choose and how to best create your Shepard, you’re in the right place. The Mass Effect trilogy is an epic space saga focused on Commander Shepard and their (hopefully) loyal squadmates’ war against the Reaper threat. Intricacy and choice drive the trilogy, and while figuring out how the games work is part of the experience, it can be overwhelming at first.

This Mass Effect beginners guide compiles a list of helpful tips for newcomers or returning space veterans in time for the remastered Legendary Edition, including important early-game decisions, morality, and what each class has to offer.

Tips

(Image credit: Bioware)

Mass Effect tips: What beginners need to know

The Mass Effect games are vast, so these simple starter tips will help you make your way through the galaxy with ease and get the most out of each game.

Pick your morality early, and stick to it

Mass Effect features a binary morality system: Paragon means good and Renegade bad. Paragon or Renegade choices show up as blue and red dialogue decisions respectively, though some will be blocked off unless your morality percentage is high enough. 

Mass Effect 2 and 3 calculate morality as the percentage of choices you’ve made as one side or the other from all the choices you make, so pick your desired morality early and stick with it. It’s best to seek as many side quests and dialogue options as possible to ensure your percentage is high enough for when it counts.

That said, if you’re wondering if choices matter in Mass Effect, it varies. Moral choices don't count too often. You can play through the trilogy as Renegade Shepard and still salvage your crew and get a good ending depending on other choices you make. Crucial decisions, such as trying to resolve confrontations in ME 2, only require a high enough percentage of other morality, but still offer the same results.

Complete as many side objectives as possible

Experience as much of the trilogy as possible, and not just to take in BioWare’s excellent world building. Aside from quests, that may impact your Paragon or Renegade score, it’s possible to miss a few squadmates. 

Completing side quests and exploring planets also contributes to your Effective Military Strength, the score that determines your Mass Effect 3 ending, and speaking with your squadmates after major missions is an important part of developing platonic and romantic relationships with them.

Always bring a tech character

Mass Effect talents work outside combat as well, particularly the tech talents related to Electronics. Decryption works like a lockpick on containers and doors, while Electronics itself salvages equipment you find and helps repair the Mako if it’s damaged.

Avoid auto-leveling

You can allow Mass Effect to automatically apply your talent points when leveling up, but you shouldn’t. The game tends to spread points evenly among all talents, which isn’t the best approach. Take the time to figure out which specializations on which you want to focus.

Character creation

(Image credit: Bioware)

Mass Effect character creation guide 

Mass Effect’s character creation presents you with some branching choices that will shape certain aspects of your story. Note the Shepard you create will be the same Shepard in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 in most cases.

Pre-service history

This is the first choice you make. Each of the three choices results in a unique scene and set of interactions, though they don’t influence Shepard’s abilities. Below are spoilers for the differences in your game depending on what you pick, so skip it if you don’t want to know:

Spacer

  • Can have a conversation with Shepard’s mother Hannah, the only background where one of Shepard’s parents remains alive.

Earthborn

  • A former gang member approaches Shepard in the Citadel Wards and asks for help in a unique quest.

Colonist

  • A Mindoir survivor requests Shepard’s help in a unique quest.

Psychological profile

This determines how many bonus Paragon or Renegade points you begin the game with and unlocks special dialogue in a certain mission. It doesn’t matter which profile you pair with your personal history. Again, spoilers, but here are the differences you get:

Sole Survivor 

  • Begin with bonus Paragon and Renegade points
  • Special dialogue in UNC: Dead Scientists mission

War hero

  • Begin with bonus Paragon points
  • Special dialogue in UNC: Espionage Probe mission

Ruthless

  • Begin with bonus Renegade points
  • Special dialogue in UNC: Major Kyle mission

Classes

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Which of the Mass Effect classes should you choose? 

Mass Effect has six classes, three basic ones and three combination classes, each with a set of specializations and talents. They stay the same across the trilogy, but the talents and their power change in each game.

Whatever class you choose, investing talent points in Spectre Training and Unity is highly recommended, as Unity lets Shepard revive fallen squadmates in combat. Given the many branching skills Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 introduce, this guide focuses on getting started with the best initial talent sets for the first Mass Effect.

Soldier

  • Best weapons: Shotgun, Assault Rifle
  • Best support characters: Kaidan for biotics and tech, Garrus for tech and bulk, Liara for biotics.

Soldiers are Mass Effect’s frontline fighters with hefty defense and a unique health regeneration ability. Focus talent points on Combat Armor for increased defense, Assault Training for improved attack, and Fitness for Immunity, which increases health. 

Soldiers can specialize as defense-oriented Shock Troopers or powerful Commandos with increased damage output across all categories. 

Adept

  • Best skills: Warp ( to unlock Singularity) and Barrier (to unlock Stasis).
  • Best support characters: Tali or Garrus for tech, Ashley or Grunt for strength.

Adepts are biotic-oriented characters, which means they excel in special attacks. Leveling up Pistols enough to unlock Sniper is a good way to make up for no long-range combat options. Otherwise, Warp, Singularity, and Stasis should be your priority for dealing heavy damage over extended periods of time. 

Adepts can specialize as Bastions for greater defense or Nemesis for stronger Warp and Lift skills.

Engineer

  • Best tech attack: Overload, Damping.
  • Best support characters: Garrus, Ashley, or Samara for power, Miranda or Liara for biotics.

Engineers are Mass Effect’s support class, and almost every talent is worth investing in. Basic Armor is a necessity since the Engineer has low defense. Electronics unlocks Overload, which damages enemy shields. Hacking is worth a few points to reduce cooldown, and Damping increases tech mine power, while Decryption deactivates enemy weapons and strengthens your tech mines.

Engineers can specialize as Operatives, with reduced cooldown times and stronger attacks, or Medics, taking advantage of the Engineer’s healing talents. Medic isn’t great for Shepard, though, since other squadmates can handle healing.

(Image credit: BioWare)

Vanguard

  • Best weapon: Shotgun.
  • Best biotic ability: Barrier, Lift.
  • Best support characters: Garrus for tech and long range, Miranda or Liara for biotics.

Vanguards are a combination of Soldier and Adept, excelling in close-range combat and a few biotic skills. Lift incapacitates enemies and gives Vanguard some breathing room, while Barrier (Warp level four) boosts defense. Alternatively, invest in Tactical Armor to boost defense through equipment.

Vanguard can specialize as Shock Trooper for increasing defense and enabling more attack options or Nemesis for honing in on biotic attack.

Sentinel

  • Best abilities: Lift, Throw, Overload.
  • Best support characters: Tali or Legion for boosted tech cooldown, Wrex for power, Miranda or Jack for biotics.

Sentinels are a squishy, yet potent combination of Engineer and Adept. You won’t be charging ahead of the squad as a Sentinel, but you can hurl and disable enemies. Lift, Throw, and Electronics (for Overload and shield boosts) are ideal talent sinks, as well as Decryption and Sabotage.

Sentinels specialize as Medic for extra support—though again, that’s not ideal for Shepard—or Bastion, helping you stay alive and fire off biotic skills more often.

Infiltrator

  • Best weapon and skills: Sniper rifle, Damping, Sabotage.
  • Best support characters: Any good biotic. Otherwise, Infiltrator fits with nearly any squad combination.

Infiltrators fuse Soldier power with Tech ingenuity, switching between short and long-range combat while stunning and disabling foes in the process. Almost any talent combination is effective. Use Shotgun, Sniper, and Tactical Armor for a robust offensive Infiltrator, or Sniper, Electronics (for Damping), and Decryption (for Sabotage) to incapacitate enemies before picking them off.

Infiltrators can specialize as Commandos to maximize offensive capabilities or as Operatives to make the most of their own tech abilities and any other tech squadmates, too.