Mass Effect

From Before I Play
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The Absolute Minimum

  • The "Rich" achievement requires 1 million credits in your account, and unlocks Spectre weapons. Other gear isn't really worth buying, you'll find enough as you go as long as you don't try to keep everyone even.
  • Regularly sweep your inventory to make a reserve of omnigel, then sell anything that's not bolted down.
  • The classes aren't quite balanced. Full-fight or any of the fight-hybrids are the easiest, full biotic is arguably the most powerful. Biotic/tech is the hardest by a fair margin.
  • Try to make sure your party always has at least some of all three types, but otherwise bring who you want. Characters have different inter-party banter based on who they're with, if that affects your decision.
  • Don't neglect Electronics and Decryption. Either max them out yourself, or keep someone on hand who's got them maxed out.
  • Talk to all your squadmates after every single mission. Especially after every big mission. Especially if you think they're cool characters and you want to unlock more character development. Especially if you want to romance them, and they're either human or blue.
  • Go either all Paragon or all Renegade. Like most Bioware games, ME1 punishes you for sitting the fence.
  • Do Noveria last, the boss at the end is significantly harder than the other two.
  • It's fun to just run stuff over with the Mako, but enemies killed while you're inside it are worth half XP (and even less than half on higher difficulties!), even if the Mako isn't actually what killed them. Feel free to weaken a tough enemy with the Mako's guns, but make sure you're on foot when the enemy dies. This is especially important considering that there's a finite amount of XP in the game (unless you're cheating, then go hogwild).
  • Save often, the game's a tiny bit buggy.

Miscellaneous but Good to Know

  • The Biotic power Singularity will kill a whole room in hilariously short order. If you want to breeze through the mid/late game, make sure at least one party member (you or the blue one) can cast this. Also use Lift/Throw to paralyze strong fighters. If you throw them off the map, you win.
  • If you accidentally or intentionally tie the romance counter, and you don't pick one side in the dialog that happens, the game defaults you to the blue one.
  • To get ally achievements, you have to have them with you for pretty much the entire game - that INCLUDES the sidequests before you get your ship, so you have to skip those and come back later. Pick your partners and keep them with you throughout the entire game. Its best to hold off on any quests at all until you have the members you want.
  • Especially Liara, don't do any side quests before you pick her up. And never let her leave the party.
  • 99% of the things you can buy in stores are useless. You get so many items just by exploring that you will never need to buy normal things. The exceptions are (1) the permanent upgrades to your healing item and grenade capacity; and (2) "Spectre" class weapons, which you can begin buying once you've amassed one million credits.
  • Complete Wrex's armor quest before going to Virmire. You will not regret it.
  • If you plan on playing a non-combat character, you'll benefit strongly from some Achievement synergy. First create a soldier, get some weapon achievements to unlock weapon abilities with the Assault Rifle and Pistol, and restart.
  • If you're worried about the morality wheel and missing important choices, there is an infinite-repeating dialog that you can use to 100% both sides of the wheel. Those options are also gated, so you can miss them if you're not expecting it. Guide it if you care. The end of the game requires your persuasion skill be maxed with like 80% morality to pass the final gates, which is pretty steep for your first time playing. You have been warned.
  • There is a New Game +, which you might not use if you're playing through the trilogy, but you can use NG+ to max out both sides of the morality wheel to see all the "best" dialog in the game, without resorting to fancy tricks.
  • If you plan on playing through your game multiple times, say three or more times, then don't invest any points in either Persuade or Intimidate. You can gain up to 4 points in each skill per playthrough, reaching the max 12 on your third time through.
  • Your party members don't all work with the same class structure as PCs either. Wrex is a "Krogan Battlemaster" and Liara is an "Asari Scientist" (or something like that) which allows them different bonuses / skill combinations.
  • Grind some sidequests in between those planets, by the way. Even if you do some medium-level grinding, that's enough XP for you to plow over the rest of the game. I completed a handful of side-quests on my play-through and I really just steamrolled over the rest of the bosses in the game. Mass Effect is kinda easy like that.
  • All achievements like "use skill X 75 times" or "kill 150 enemies with X weapon" have to be done by Shepard.
  • Have targets in mind when you allocate skill points. Your targets should always be ranks that unlock new skills or improve the skill's active ability.
  • When you're on an uncharted planet, there are always more things to be found than your map lets on. Explore areas of the map that are far away from the marked location - ou'll find hidden stuff. This is critical for completing a few annoying item collection sidequests.
  • Let your allies do whatever they want, they're either generally smart enough to do what you want them to do anyway, or too dumb to not immediately die no matter what you tell them. Use your cooldowns basically whenever they're up, there's no downside to using them other than that you won't be able to use that one for the next 45 seconds or whatever and they make things much easier.
  • The options menu lets you choose how you want your squad to use their powers. You can tell them to not use anything unless you say so, or to go nuts and use everything they've got. It's usually better to just let them use their powers on their own unless you like crazy micromanagement.
  • There's one power, stasis, that squad members won't use unless you tell them to. It's theoretically really useful but since I either forget about it or don't care to micromanage that much it doesn't give me any value.