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Infiltrator: Strong combat class with good utility skills. (Pistol skills are just as effective as the Assault Rifle in ME1.) Can invest in Fitness or high shielding for defense. ME1 offers a couple of different build options (see below). ME2 shifts the class heavily towards a sniper play style with sniping bonuses not also available to the Soldier.Vanguard: An attempt at making a shotgun-focused class. Not successful in ME1 in part due to redundant defensive and biotic control abilities. In ME2 the class was revitalized by giving it a unique playstyle that centers around the new Biotic Charge ability.Engineer: The human omni-tool. ME1 was more of a traditional RPG, and this class had a skill focus for interacting with things in the environment such as doors, locks, and robots. In practice, it was essentially a weaker version of the Infiltrator. In ME2 some of those things were replaced with mini-games, and the class leaned more in the direction of a pet class or caster and has a better variety of damage types than most classes.Adept: The caster of Mass Effect. ME1 Adepts follow the traditional trajectory of feeling weak before eventually being able to control the battlefield. Due to the way the global cooldown functions in ME2, the Adept was considered weaker and less enjoyable to play than ME1. It also lost some abilities/power as part of streamlining. In ME3, the cooldown can be made shorter and additional synergies with biotic combo detonations make it possible to play through the game as a pure caster.Sentinel: This is a defensive support class in a game where the entire premise is that the player needs to lead. Even those attracted to support classes should look elsewhere. Other classes have better ways to control the battlefield or apply splash damage. The Sentinel can't even boost team damage because it has no ammo powers. I don't believe anyone on the dev team was ever motivated to work on this class.Class recommendations:ME1: Infiltrator (Most of the Soldier benefits plus skill self-sufficiency)ME2: Vanguard (The cooldown changes encourage gunplay and Biotic Charge is fun)ME3: Adept (Biotic combos and cooldown synergies)Recommended Character BuildsTo my knowledge, there isn't a nice talent calculator for Mass Effect that allows people to easily craft and share character builds the way that you can for WoW or D&D. So here's a wall of text and a picture."Jack" Shepard (ME1 Infiltrator)Part of the reason I enjoy this build is because I don't think it was intended by the designers and it is no longer possible in ME2/ME3. The general idea is that you charge into combat like a SWAT team breaching a building by deploying your AOE damage abilities to erase shields, overheat weapons, and stun enemies, then activate the pistol Marksman ability to clean up any stragglers. By the time you make it to the next encounter your abilities should be ready again.
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Pistols: rank 3 ASAP, rank 12 sooner than laterSniper Rifles: this weapon can still be useful on some missions, but don't spend points hereTactical Armor: rank 8 to unlock Shield Boost and medium armorFitness: Immunity is one of the strongest abilities. Immunity's duration has been drastically nerfed in the remaster. Probably to make enemy soldiers easier to kill. Alternatively, you can rely on regenerating shields for defense.Electronics: rank 4 ASAP for Overload and to unlock Damping, additional ranks as needed to increase shieldsDamping: rank 1 ASAP for Damping ability, additional points improve all tech abilitiesDecryption: rank 1 ASAP for Sabotage ability, additional points improve all tech abilitiesFirst Aid: no ranks, a squad mate will always have thisInfiltrator: rank 6, this is great and each point makes everything you care about marginally betterOperative/Commando: solid, but lower priorityAssault Training (cross-class): rank 3Charm/Intimidate: keep topped up for additional dialogue optionsCross-class skill: Assault Training for Adrenaline Burst to reset the cooldowns on all of your abilities.Subclass: Both are good options. Operative's cooldown reduction may be better for those without Adrenaline Burst."Rush" Shepard (ME2 Vanguard)A pretty standard Vanguard build, but enjoyable to play because you can create opportunities instead of waiting behind cover until they present themselves. Note that if you are playing on Insanity you will probably want to select a class with a sniper rifle. The limited survivability on that difficulty level will strongly encourage using cover and fighting at range.The Geth shotgun is amazing for removing defenses and fairly accurate compared to other shotguns.Avoid putting more than minimal points in Cryo Ammo and Shockwave. Neither works against enemies with shielding/armor and significant enemies will have at least one of those.A point in Shockwave can be useful against husks because physics attacks kill husks in one hit if they don't have armor.Don't feel constrained to only the shotgun.Take the Area Charge option for Biotic Charge.Take the Champion option for Assault Mastery.Pick Inferno Ammo if you will mostly use squad mates that have their own ammo points. Otherwise, squad ammo is a good choice."Gambit" Shepard (ME3 Adept)The difference between building a ME3 Adept that feels like slick space wizard and one that feels like an ivory tower hack is understanding the biotic cooldown and combo systems. This playstyle involves sticking to cover and casting biotics to create chaos. Unlike most builds, you choose targets and can curve shots around cover, but you don't need to worry about aiming or headshots.This build benefits more than any other from having an imported ME2 character.The main source of damage will be biotic combos, which means the priority is minimizing cooldown time and having a high level primer/detonator. That means carrying minimal guns to stay at -200% power recharge speed.Throw evolutions: Force, Detonate, Double ThrowPull evolutions: Radius, Expose, Double PullWarp evolutions: Detonate, Expose, Recharge Speed (can prime shielded targets for detonations)Singularity evolutions: Radius, Recharge Speed, Expand (less useful than Pull)Biotic Mastery evolutions: Damage & Force, Damage & Capacity, Power Mastery (increases damage)Fitness evolutions: Durability, Barrier Recharge, Fitness Expert (increases surviability)Cluster Grenade: A challenge to aim, low priority for skill points. If you throw several at an Atlus mech it can function like a heavy weapon.Shockwave: Not worth any points on higher difficulties.As far as bonus powers go, Defense Matrix is the best defensive choice, and functions similar to the defensive powers in Mass Effect 2. Due to the way it increases power cooldowns, you will want to leave it off and then use it twice to restore shields.Lash (Detonate, Recharge Speed, Shield Penetration) is an interesting offensive bonus power alternative. It functions like a Pull that can be used on shielded enemies. It also offers another Detonate evolution to boost the damage of all biotic explosions, which means it can be of value even if you never use it. Unlocked after the Omega missions. Note: you may not want to rush to Omega due to some notably difficult combat encounters.Garrus and James are good squad choices. They do enough weapon damage to kill some enemies on their own, provide Overload to address the Adept's biggest weakness, and have more survivability than other options.