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Mass Effect Legendary Edition beginner’s guide, tips, and tricks

Help for new and returning Commander Shepards

FemShep in Mass Effect Remastered melees an enemy Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts

Whether you’re a seasoned Shepard or new to the series, Mass Effect Legendary Edition brings all three titles together for one grand adventure. To make it all the way through the series, you have to play through the original Mass Effect first. While we know about the changes the Legendary Edition brings to the franchise, starting the game is the same as it ever was.

In this Mass Effect Legendary Edition beginner’s guide, we’ll help you begin the series with confidence. We’ll give you tips on how to create the character you’ll be using across the trilogy and explain classes, combat, and more.

Table of Contents

Pre-service History and Psychological Profile

When you load up the original Mass Effect, you’ll have to construct the profile for your character, Commander Shepard. While you can only choose between a male or a touched-up version of the female version, you’ll have many options that affect your character’s personality.

Much of Mass Effect’s story and lore comes from the hours of conversations you’ll have with dozens of characters. Your Shepard’s history plays a part in how you navigate discussions and where your point of view comes from.

When creating your character, you’ll have to choose two options that affect your dialogue choices: Pre-service History and Psychological Profile. Both of these options develop your commander’s background story, change how your character reacts to certain situations, and alter what they say to certain characters.

The pre-service history screen in Mass Effect
Your background affects your dialogue
Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Your Pre-service History explains what led you to become a soldier representing the human race. Choosing a background as a Spacer makes you someone who’s used to traveling between spaceports with their military parents. As a Colonist, you’ll play a character who had their simple life turned upside by raiders who killed their family. As an Earthborn, you decided to trade in your tough life on the city streets for military service instead.

Your Psychological Profile determines how you understand and process conflict. As a Sole Survivor, you’ve endured physical and psychological torment that would break other people. If you choose to be a War Hero, then you know what it’s like to put it all on the line to save your team despite impossible odds. A Ruthless Shepard is the kind of soldier who has a reputation as someone who can get the job done, even if that makes some people wary of you.

Military Specialization (classes)

While your personality dictates how you act in conversations, your Military Specialization determines how you perform in combat. You can consider each choice as a different class in the Mass Effect universe. Each specialization focuses on a single combat capability or a mixture of two of them.

These classes determine your strength in three categories while also changing what abilities you have access to.

  • Classes that have a focus on biotics allow you to use special attacks that disorient and disrupt enemies. You can also shield yourself and your party members.
  • Tech-orientated classes allow you to hack security systems, disable enemy weapons, and modify equipment.
  • Classes that focus on weapons will have a wider array of weapons to use and more access to higher-grade armor.
The military specialization screen in Mass Effect
These specializations determine your combat skills
Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Consider which of these three aspects of combat suit your play style when picking a military specialization.

While Adepts can only use light armor and specialize in pistols, they make up for this with powerful abilities. This class has a stronger command over talents that fling objects and enemies around the battlefield. You’ll also be able to better shield yourself from damage to offset your lack of physical protection.

Engineers can only don light armor and wield pistols, but they are masters of tech skills. They succeed in battle by disrupting enemy weapons and destroying their shields. This class also has a much easier time hacking into locked boxes and security systems.

The Infiltrator combines weapon and tech skills to dispatch enemies at a distance. They can use their abilities to impact enemies from afar while using their specialization in sniper rifles to pick off opponents.

Sentinels pair biotic and tech abilities to help their allies. Their skills give them several options to damage their foes while also shielding themselves and their party. They’ll have to make good use of their dual sets of talents as they have no weapon types they excel at.

If you want to master every available weapon in the game, play as a Soldier. They can use heavy armor, which allows them to storm into battle with great protection while mixing up close, medium, and long-range damage from their assortment of firearms.

Vanguards excel at using skills on enemies to get in close. They combine a specialization in biotics and weapons to shatter enemy defenses and finishing the job with their enhanced ability to excel with shotguns.

Unlocking new skills

As you play through Mass Effect, you’ll gain experience points. Adding points to each section of your talents increases the strength of that skill. For instance, the biotic skill Throw deals more damage the more skill points you put into it.

Adding skill points into a talent can also unlock new skills when you reach a certain skill point threshold. Locked skills will be darkened. You’ll need to increase the strength of the skill above it to unlock new talents.

The level up screen in Mass Effect
Leveling up talents unlocks new skills
Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts via Polygon

To gain access to locked talents, keep adding points to the skill above it until you upgrade the skill with the plus (+) symbol in that talent section. Doing so will unlock the skill below it.

When setting up the game for the first time, you have the option to manually add skill points or let the game automatically do it for you and your squad. If you want more manual control of talents and how they unlock, you should set this process to manual. When set to automatic, the game will evenly distribute points. However, if you are going for a certain build or play style, manually level up your skills.

How dialogue works

Speaking with other characters is a large part of the Mass Effect experience. The personality you developed when creating your character affects certain dialogue options throughout the game. While most of those traits won’t have a major impact on the story itself, the decisions you made will occasionally give you unique reactions and dialogue choices when speaking with others.

Having conversations in Mass Effect happens through a branching dialogue tree. When you begin a chat with someone, you gain several options that appear on a circular selection wheel. Choosing an option furthers a conversation based on the choice you made. Some choices move a discussion forward to its conclusion, while others allow you to learn more about topics mentioned by another character.

A dialogue tree in Mass Effect
Asking questions will continue a conversation
Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Choices on the left of the circle usually expand and further your conversation. You’ll often see an option to investigate or ask a question about something mentioned in your discussion. From there, you’ll see a new set of options that let you dive deeper and learn more about something that a character said. These choices usually expand on the lore of a character or the history of the Mass Effect universe.

Choices on the right of the circle usually lead to ending a topic of conversation. There’s no penalty for ending conversations early, so don’t feel obligated to squeeze every bit of dialogue out of everyone.

Paragon and Renegade, Charm and Intimidate

Depending on how you act in situations, you will gain points toward your Paragon and Renegade alignment. Choices that affect your Paragon status are usually kindhearted, empathetic, and helpful. Decisions that affect your Renegade status are typically ruthless, dangerous, or vengeful.

As you make more choices in either alignment, you’ll also increase the skill level of two abilities: Charm and Intimidate. Add skills points into either of these two talents, and you’ll gain access to dialogue choices that fit either alignment and get more conversation options that can either calmly or violently resolve conflicts.

The status menu in Mass Effect
You can see your Paragon and Renegade status on the left
Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Not only does adding more skill points into the Charm and Intimidate talent pool increase your Paragon and Renegade dialogue options, but it also increases the strength of two other passive stats. The more points you have in Charm, the better discount you get while shopping at stores. By adding more points toward your Intimidate talent, you’ll gain more credits when selling items.

Control your squad with Squad Orders

With Squad Orders, you can tell your squad who to attack or where to position themselves. You can control the location and ability of your teammates, issuing commands to move your squad around the battlefield, and deciding which weapons and skills they use.

Squad commands in Mass Effect
Use these commands to move your squad around
Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts via Polygon

These commands give you the ability to focus fire on a single target or have your squad spread out. This comes in handy if you are pinned down and can’t safely attack on your own. By controlling your squad, you can still attack important targets without putting yourself in harm’s way.

You can also choose which abilities your party uses by bringing up the Power Wheel, which shows you a list of your abilities as well as those of your squad. You can aim and fire any of your talents with this menu.

The power wheel in Mass Effect
Your powers on the bottom, squad on the sides
Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts via Polygon

When the Power Wheel is activated, time slows down. This allows you to navigate your combat options and aim abilities freely. With the menu open, you can use any of your talents or the skills of your teammates. Once a command is selected and used, time flows normally once again.

By taking control of everyone’s skills, especially if you have a well-balanced team, you can fight effectively by mixing up when talents are fired. For instance, you might want to control a teammate’s biotic skills to shield your party while you control a tech teammate’s skills to disable enemies. With your team protected and your enemies disrupted, you can roam the battlefield and take shots at enemies.

If you don’t want to manually control when your squad uses their skills, you can have them automatically use their abilities by going to Options > Squad Power Usage. You can still manually control your teammates' talents if you use this selection, but left alone they will use their skills based on the options you choose.

The squad select screen in Mass Effect
Choose squadmates to round out your team’s strengths
Image: BioWare/Electronic Arts via Polygon

To make sure your team has a good balance of talents, be mindful of your squad’s specializations when starting missions. Just like you, your teammates have different talents they excel in. Each character has a different focus on biotic, tech, and weapon skills.

Whenever you start a mission, you’ll get to choose who joins you. When you select team members, you’ll see how your current squad’s abilities stack up. Always choose a party to offset the talents you can’t master. A more well-rounded squad will give you the best set of options when dealing with the dangers of each mission.