Hello. So there are some people out there who are new to Mass Effect, and don’t know anything about the classes. Which one is the most fun, or the best for a first playthrough? If you look for an answer for this question on most forums, the response you usually get is either Soldier or Vanguard, with people often decrying the other four classes. The truth is that all the classes can be fun in their unique ways. In this guide, I will explain the play-styles and differences between the classes of Mass Effect.
Mass Effect has six classes: the Soldier, the Vanguard, the Adept, the Sentinel, the Engineer, and the Infiltrator. There are also three skill areas: combat, biotics, and tech. Each class is either a specialist in one skill area, or a hybrid of two.
Combat talents focus on increasing damage output and personal survivability.
Biotics are the manipulations of mass effect fields. Biotics are used to pick up enemies, throw them around, and other magical tricks.
Tech focuses on disabling enemies and controlling situations. Tech can destroy enemy shields, overheat enemy weapons, and even turn synthetic enemies berserk.
A few quick notes before we start:
- Synthetic enemies are any robotic enemies you encounter in the game. Living enemies are called organic enemies. All enemies fall into one of these two categories.
- All classes can use all weapon types, but not all classes can receive training in each weapon type. If you don’t have any training in a weapon type, then your damage and accuracy with that weapon will be hampered.
There are four weapon types in Mass Effect. Each class can carry around one of each weapon type, but a class’ proficiency with a weapon can be severely hampered by not having any points put towards that weapon. Weapons use a cooldown system. If you fire too frequently without letting your weapon cooldown, it will overheat, and you will be unable to fire for a while.
Pistols can be improved by any class, and should not be dismissed as a weapon-type. They are powerful, midrange weapons, and they unlock the Marksman ability. Marksman gives you extra damage and fire rate while reducing your heat build-up for a short period.
Shotguns can be improved by the Soldier and the Vanguard. As you probably suspect, Shotguns are good for close range, and putting points into the Shotguns talent will unlock the Carnage ability. Carnage makes your next shot an extremely powerful projectile that travels in a straight line. This can be used to take down tough enemies, or enemies that are outside of the shotgun’s effective range.
Sniper Rifles can be improved by Infiltrators and Soldiers. They are slow firing, powerful long-range weapons. Sniper Rifles unlock the Assassination ability, which makes the next shot extremely powerful while reducing the bob of your scope to nothing. With a fully leveled sniper rifle talent, and crouching, the sniper rifle’s reticule becomes the size of a shotgun’s, and can even be used in extremely close quarters situations the same way. If you plan on using sniper rifles, you may want to stick with pistols until you can level up sniper rifles. Unleveled sniper rifles have a maddening amount of sway when looking through the scope.
Assault Rifles can only be improved by the Soldier. They are excellent medium-range weapons, and they make use of the overkill ability, which reduces heat buildup and increases accuracy for a short time.
Weapons: Pistols, Shotguns, Assault Rifles, Sniper Rifles
The Soldier is the default class, and the most played class. It is also often called the best class. It has access to all four weapon types: pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, and sniper rifles. The is the only class that has access to assault rifles and the only class that can wear heavy armor. The Soldier’s talents all focus on increasing damage, defense, health, and health regeneration.
If you like running and gunning, and being able to engage enemies at any range, then the Soldier is the perfect class for you. The soldier lacks any biotic or tech abilities, though, and not all enemies are easy to deal with using only firepower. You may want to bring squadmates with a good set of biotic and tech powers to deal with those unique situations.
Weapons: Pistols, Shotguns
The Vanguard has a very strong focus on offensive abilities and play-style. It has access to pistols and shotguns, and offensive biotic abilities. The Vanguard can use Lift and Throw to stun enemies, and then run up close to finish them off with a shotgun blast. For defense, the Vanguard can unlock medium armor, and can use Barrier to give itself a temporary shield boost.
If you love being up close and personal in fast-paced action, then the Vanguard is probably your class. The Vanguard can be difficult in the early game when it doesn’t have a strong defense, which makes getting close to enemies a problem. During this time, you may want to stick with pistols and medium range fights. The Vanguard’s main weakness is long range fights. This can be fixed by closing the distance to targets as quickly as possible, but during that time, the Vanguard is left open in enemy fire, especially enemy snipers.
The Adept gets access to every biotic talent, including exclusive access to Singularity. The Adept only has access to light armor, and the pistols talent, which may make it sound weak. Don’t be fooled. The Adept can pick enemies up off the ground, toss them around, and generally neutralize enemies before they become a problem. If things really become difficult dangerous, the Adept can catch pursuing enemies in a Stasis field, rendering them unable to shoot or move, or it can use Barrier to temporarily give itself a massive shield boost.
The Adept’s main strengths are against human-sized enemies that can be easily knocked around. They have access to Warp, which deals damage over time. This can be quite useful against enemies like krogan, who regenerate health over time. The Adept’s main weaknesses are large enemies like Armatures, Colossi, and Primes, which are more difficult to knock down. This shortcoming can be remedied by bringing along complimentary squad members.
The Sentinel only has access to light armor, but no armor talent to improve it. It also does not have any weapon talent. This may make the Sentinel seem like the most defenseless and useless class. That sentiment could not be farther from the truth. The Sentinel has access to Electronics, which gives it a major passive bonus to shields, and Barrier, which can give it an even larger, temporary shield bonus. The Sentinel class talent also improves pistols, and even unlocks Marksman at rank 6.
The Sentinel has a skill set that lets it take on any enemy type with relative ease, whether they be big, small, organic, or synthetic. Throw and Lift can be used to toss around small enemies, Barrier and Stasis help keep the Sentinel alive, Decryption and Electronics can be used to overheat enemy weapons and destroy their shields, and First Air and Medicine keep the squad alive. The Sentinel’s primary weakness is damage output. While the Sentinel can easily control any situation, they can sometimes have trouble resolving them. Bringing combat-oriented squad members can help.
The Engineer has access to light armor and pistols, but its true strength lies in its full array of tech abilities. The Engineers has access to every single tech talent, and is the only one who can use AI Hacking. Overload can destroy shields, Sabotage can overheat weapons, and Damping can prevent enemies from using abilities. These three abilities are deployed in tech mines, which do their own damage. Leveling up Decryption, Damping, and AI Hacking will improve the tech mines’ performance, which means leveling up one talent improves multiple abilities. AI Hacking can make a synthetic enemy attack anything that moves. Affected units will target their former allies, and vice versa.
The Engineer has access to First Aid and Medicine, which makes it excellent for keeping your squad’s health up. The Engineer’s main weakness is melee enemies, because the engineer has low defense and not many abilities to knock enemies off their feet. Enemies like krogan and Geth Destroyers can rush an engineer and easily kill it. The Engineer can use Neural Shock to temporarily stun a rushing organic, but a safe back up would be to bring squadmates with biotic abilities.
Weapons: Pistols, Sniper Rifles
The Infiltrator uses pistols and sniper rifles, and is well suited for long range combat. Early game sniper rifles can be difficult to use because of the sway, so you may want to stick with pistols. Late game, though, they can be very satisfying. Most light enemies can be easily dispatched by the Infiltrator’s sniper rifle, but for those stronger enemies, the Infiltrator can use Overload, Sabotage, and Damping, which means they can strip an enemy of its shields, overheat its weapon, and remove its ability to use abilities.
Once an enemy has been rendered completely helpless, the sniper rifle can finish the job. The Infiltrator is best at long range, but it can wear medium armor, has good defense, and can use a pistol for closer fights. The Infiltrator’s lack of biotics, Neural shock, or AI Hacking means it doesn’t have any abilities to stun enemies that cause problems or get too close. This is somewhat fixed in the late game when enemies can be knocked down by shots from the Infiltrator’s sniper rifle.
- Strengths: Use any weapon type, heavy armor, and high survivability
- Weaknesses: No tech or biotic talents for unique situations
- Strengths: Shotguns, Close Quarters Combat, high damage output
- Weaknesses: Long range, initially low defense
- Strengths: Full range of biotics, can control any situation physically
- Weaknesses: Large heavy enemies, low damage output
- Strengths: Strong shields first aid, can confidently fight all enemy types.
- Weaknesses: Low damage output
- Strengths: All Tech talents, excellent against synthetics, can control any firefight
- Weaknesses: Low defense against melee units
- Strengths: Sniper Rifles, long range, can disable enemies
- Weaknesses: No stunning or distraction abilities
When you reach level 20, Admiral Hackett will contact you with a special mission. After completing this mission, you will be able to unlock one of two advanced classes that will add points 7 to 12 to your passive class talent.
Electronics and Decryption
During your travels you will come across locked containers and computer systems. You will need a high enough Electronics rank or Decryption rank, depending on the situation. Only one squad member needs to have the ranked up ability, so you can fully upgrade these two talents on Kaidan or Tali, and just bring one of them along to handle any of these situations.
After completing the game and using certain abilities enough times, or killing enough enemies with a weapon class, you can unlock that talent for future classes to use as a bonus talent. Whenever you start a new game (unless none have been unlocked), you will get to choose one bonus talent. You do not have to put any skill points into it, if you don’t want to.
The bonus talent can be used to give the non-combat classes some more firepower, or to give the combat classes more versatility. Be warned that while every class can equip every weapon type, only tech classes can equip omni-tools, and only biotic classes can equip bio-amps. Omni-tools are items that generally improve tech abilities, and bio-amps improve biotic abilities.
I recommend that you do not go with the Soldier when you play Mass Effect. It has access to all the weapon types, which appeals to some people, but you miss out on the more interesting parts of Mass Effect. I played the Soldier for my first playthrough because I didn’t want the complexity to overwhelm me. By the middle of the game, I was bored with the Soldier’s simplicity, and upset that I had turned Mass Effect into just another simple shooter. However, I did end up unlocking all the weapons as bonus talents for future plays as other classes.
The Engineer is one of my favorite classes. With it, I can prevent enemies from shooting, destroy their shields, and prevent them from using abilities. Late game, the cooldowns of these abilities is shorter than their effects, so I can basically prevent enemies from shooting until they are dead (convenient for taking out Armatures on foot). The Engineer has the Pistols talent, so if that’s leveled up it can still output a solid amount of damage.
The Sentinel originally seemed to be the weakest class to me, with no weapon or armor talents. I was put off with the idea of my Shepard being merely a support unit in the squad. That is not how Sentinels work. Their class talent gives them pistol upgrades, so they can still output damage. Their mix of biotics and tech means they can shut down enemy shields and weapons while also lifting them off the ground and rendering them helpless. The Sentinel really, truly can control any situation. With a strong pistol to offset the low damage output, the Sentinel becomes unstoppable. This also means you also don’t have to worry about covering Shepard’s weaknesses with squad members, and you can experiment with different squad compositions.
Sometimes Shepard is forced into tight fights, but for an Infiltrator with a full Sniper Rifles talent and a good rifle, this is no problem. The sniper rifle’s reticle, when crouched, can become about as small as a shotgun’s, and the power to knock enemies back make it function almost the same as one in close situations.
The Infiltrator shines at long range, and for this reason, I love using it when exploring the galaxy. While the main mission worlds may be linear, the side missions take place on open planets that you can explore in the Mako. I love pulling up the map, looking for the enemy bases, plotting a route that will set me on top of a hill looking at them, and setting the waypoint. Once there, I can calmly take down the enemies at range while their shots are so inaccurate that they can’t even drain my shields fast enough. The sniper rifle’s range-finder does not work beyond 400 m, but your shots do.
The Bastion is an advanced class available to the Sentinel and the Adept. It improves the defensive biotic abilities Barrier and Stasis. Stasis is used to hold enemies still while you deal with their friends. Unfortunately, enemies in Stasis cannot be hurt by you or your squad. That is, unless you have a full level Bastion. This means you can just hold tough enemies (krogan, for example) in stasis and fill them with rounds while they cannot activate any of their annoying survivability abilities.
The Medic is an advanced class available to the Sentinel and Engineer. This further improves the medi-gel cooldown. Early in the game, healing the squad (using medi-gel) takes forever to cool down. The Medic means you can easily keep your squad at full health. If a squad member is downed in a fight, Shepard has to use Unity (granted by the passive Specter Training talent) to revive them. A fully leveled Medic can revive squad members with medi-gel, and do it better than Unity. This makes it incredibly useful, especially if you want to bring along weaker squad members along on missions on Insanity difficulty.
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