Mass Effect: Andromeda might seem familiar at first, but a lot has changed since Mass Effect 3 arrived in 2012. Character builds are more open-ended and can be swapped in an instant with the profile system.
Here’s a breakdown of the myriad choices you’ll face when building your Scott or Sara Ryder before you even start tackling the choices in the narrative.
How profiles work
Skill points are doled out in bulk upon leveling up. Finishing critical path story missions will provide experience points en masse and are the best way to earn them. Since Mass Effect: Andromeda allows players to return to their save file and the open world after the completion of the campaign, you shouldn’t be scared of running through it. Which leads us to the main overarching mechanic that experience points feed into: profiles.
Think of these like classes from an MMO that your avatar to swap to at any time, even in combat (just go to the profile screen, press select/change view button, and assign it as a favorite). Each of them have their own perks, dictated by their rank, which is unlocked or enhanced by putting points into one of the three different trees (more on that below).
As you rank up, a profile provides additional bonuses based on that archetype. So soldiers will gain bonuses for their health and gunplay, adepts will have stronger biotic abilities, and so on.
Here’s a basic rundown of how each one operates, so you can pick your favorite right away.
This is the profile most players will start with, as it’s very straightforward. Soldier provides bonuses for weapon damage, accuracy and defenses. If you’re having trouble staying alive in certain fights and aren’t great at dodging, this is going to be your go-to profile, as it bestows the most effective defensive bonuses.
Soldier also grants players marksman’s focus, a damage bonus provided by killing enemies in rapid succession. Since most waves are limited to three or four foes at a time, it’s benefits are minimal at best, but all of the other passives more than make up for it. In other words, you don’t have to ever think about playing as a soldier. It just makes you better.
If you decide to invest most of your points into the tech tree (see below), playing as an engineer is your best bet. It boosts the health of your tech (objects like turrets), as well as their defenses and damage output. The only cross-class bonus is extra combo damage, which can apply across all three skill types.
Your engineer profile power is combat drone, which recharges your tech powers quicker. It’s something that only benefits players who use two or more tech powers, and it self-destructs if an enemy comes close. Do not actively stay in the engineer profile unless you’re using tech abilities constantly.
Just like the engineer, the adept profile is a one-sided affair. It focuses entirely on biotics.
Unfortunately, an adept doesn’t have any benefits for other skill trees, and is very light in terms of defensive buffs. This is known as a glass cannon style of play, where your abilities will dish out tons of damage, but you’re leaving yourself more vulnerable than any other profile. It’s perfect for taking out regular enemies in the open world that don’t pose much of a threat, but elite enemies and bosses will give you a lot of trouble.
Adept’s profile skill is biotic echoes, which can chain explosions off of biotic-specific combos. It also makes your jump and evasion skills more flavorful with a blue biotic theme, though it’s cosmetic. If you want a more useful teleport power, consider picking up the explorer profile.
Now we’re heading into the hybrid territory with sentinel. If you find yourself unable to choose between tech and biotic powers, this is the place to be. Both skill types are granted extra recharge speeds, although you won’t get the fancy movement animations from adept.
Sentinel’s unique power is tech armor, which absorbs extra damage periodically after your shields have been depleted. If you’ve invested some points into the combat tree (especially combat fitness) and have some extra health to spare, swapping to sentinel for boss fights is a great idea. Allowing an extra buffer to prevent instant death scenarios will help you avoid starting a fight over.
Although it’s technically a hybrid of combat and biotic skills, vanguard is more of a berserker-centric profile that focuses on melee attacks. You might get extra shields that benefit your player character in any situation, but the main role of a vanguard is to keep moving and surgically take out lone enemies with enhanced melee damage.
Vanguards have access to siphoning strike, which restores your shields by way of melee attacks. This effect, often called leeching in RPGs, is alarmingly effective because it constantly tops-up your shields rather than your health. In other words, you aren’t constantly fighting to stay alive, as a health meter stands guard as an extra line of defense while you’re keeping your shield active. Keep in mind that many major fights don’t allow for melee attacks at all, so it’s not a great pick for bosses.
You do get those fancy jump and evade effects though, unlike the sentinel.
While this profile isn’t as sneaky as it implies, it is a mashup of combat and tech playstyles. Its main function is to enhance your awareness on the battlefield, while providing general weapon and tech bonuses.
Its big gimmick is battlefield awareness, which highlights enemy positions through walls when you’re using a scope mod. Keep in mind that you not only have to find a scope mod for each weapon type, but it has to be equipped, and the ability only works while you’re looking through it. The cloaking augmentation that it adds to your evasion is anything but limited, as it takes the heat off of you momentarily while you find cover, and you can spam it indefinitely.
Unlocked by putting a nominal amount of points into all three skill trees, explorer is the ultimate hybrid. It buffs weapon damage, increases your defenses and enhances both tech and biotic powers, albeit less so than a specialized profile or other hybrids. It’s perfect for folks who are unwilling to choose between any given playstyle or put an equal amount of points into each tree.
Biotic blink is one of the best profile passives, as it turns your evasion into a teleport. It has a huge range to it, allowing you to dodge more effectively and easily put more distance between you and an imposing enemy. If you get into a tough battle out in the open world, try explorer just for biotic blink. Otherwise, sentinels are better suited for bosses found in enclosed arenas.
There’s three main skill trees open immediately
You aren’t forced into any specific role, as Ryder’s ability to adapt to nearly any combat style and a complete lack of a canon background is written into the story. If you want to go full biotic commando right away you can, but spreading your skill points around will help unlock more of the aforementioned profiles to test out in various scenarios.
Players can use up to three powers at a time, but the ability to swap profiles to change your powers up is an option. Just know that profile swapping does reset the cooldowns of your abilities, so you can’t just send out a massive volley, swap and then send out another.
This is the easiest skill tree to work with and the one most Mass Effect veterans will find familiar. Several skills are directly tied to a unique resource called power cells, which can be replenished by touching ammo crates stashed throughout the open world and provided in excess in boss rooms or linear mission areas.
Because so many combat abilities hail from other shooters and are tied to an easily understood resource, it’s a perfect choice to pour points into if you aren’t particularly well-versed with RPGs.
Biotic powers are akin to magic. They’re governed by cooldowns, which recharge over time and allow you to use the ability again.
While it’s possible to maintain a style that uses all three types of skills, biotics hinge heavily on your willingness to pump more points into their tree, which provide biotic-centric bonuses like more spell damage or lower cooldown times.
As always, you can opt for a more balanced approach, but keep in mind that biotics are more top-heavy than the others. In other words, pouring points into them will mostly benefit just this tree, whereas other skill trees can impact your entire character.
Just like biotics, tech skills are tied to cooldowns. Many powers spill over into similar magic territory (like the lightning-based overload that destroys enemy shields), but they have more of a thoughtful approach to them. Tech abilities don’t just do damage, they often have a secondary function, like dishing out extra damage to enemies who do or don’t sport shields (with overload and incinerate respectively) or priming combos for extra damage.
If you’re the kind of person who wants to inject a little more strategy into the mix, go with tech.
What to level up first
Given that you can put points into any skill you want from the start, you don’t need to think about min-maxing (putting all of your eggs in one basket). Points are given out in bulk when leveling, and it only costs one skill point to unlock and use an ability.
Here are a few you should pick up first.
Even if you aren’t interested in going the biotic (magic) route, singularity is one of the best skills in the game for both bosses and crowd control situations alike. Grab it early, even if you don’t plan on leveling it up.
Singularity’s big perk is its easy combo potential. Nearly any ranged attack combos into it, providing a massive damage boost with a very easy setup. It’s important to remember that even if enemies aren’t caught in the gravity well itself (this is referred to as crowd control, where you nullify an enemy entirely with singularity’s stun), you can cast it, then blast it for extra damage. This works even against bosses.
If you aren’t doing sidequests, Mass Effect: Andromeda sports an unforgiving difficulty curve with bosses that can one-shot kill your character. Leaning on some defensive options early on is a great way to stay alive and avoid pesky restart screens. To that end, barricade is one of the best abilities in the game.
You’re going to get caught out at some point, whether it’s due to an enemy flank or errant fire blasting through some flimsy cover. Barricade can instantly negate a combat disadvantage by deploying an energy barrier, which is not only a makeshift point of cover, but a passive buff to your shield regeneration.
This can be further enhanced to provide damage bonuses while you’re behind it, and you have the option to turn it into a full-on shock barrier.
Regardless of what type of abilities you’re using, you still need health and shields to get through the day. Combat fitness applies massive baseline bonuses that benefit any build.
At the end of the biotic and tech trees are two passive bonuses that increase the offensive and defensive capabilities of that particular tree. We wouldn't recommend that you pump points into them unless you’re trying to specialize, but combat fitness, found in the combat tree, is an exception. Providing massive bonuses to your maximum health and shield rating, as well as regeneration, weapon loadout counts, maximum weight (which in turn boosts your shield regeneration) and weapon clip sizes, it’s useful for every type of build.