Mass Effect Tips And Hints
Mass Effect's tutorial kind of throws you into the combat without giving you much of an idea as to what to expect. Here's a few pointers as to how to go about shooting things to death in Mass Effect.
One quick tip to keep in mind: enemies will appear with red targets on your HUD when they're close to you. This will let you get a readout on their health and shields, and let you know when you're registering hits; it will also let you target an enemy for the purposes of a tech or biotic power. However, even if an enemy is too far away to have the red HUD marker, they can still be shot if your aim is good enough. Many a time has our trusted pistol taken out an enemy that was too far away to get a health checkup on. You won't be able to see their health going down, of course, but you will still be able to hit them if you can aim accurately. Pistols and sniper rifles are better for this than assault rifles and shotguns, obviously.
Notes on Tech and Biotic Powers
Your powers, and those of your teammates, are all controlled via the right bumper button. It can take a bit of time to get used to casting things in this manner, but when you do get used to it it'll let you cast both your own and your party members' powers at the precise spots that you want them.
In our case, however, we usually found it a little easier to simply set Squad Power Usage to "Active" in the options menu. By default, this is set to "Defense Only", meaning that your party members will use powers like Barrier and Shield Boost, but not any of their offensive powers. Since most of the fights in Mass Effect are relatively easy (at least on the default difficult setting), allowing your party members to cast all of their abilities is simply a convenience; you may find that your teammate has used his or her Singularity power in a non-optimal fashion, but even so, the mistake probably won't be your downfall. On Veteran or Hardcore difficulty, though, you may wish to revert to the default "Defense Only" and use powers manually to maximize their effectiveness.
One aspect of the radial menu casting is that it apparently allows your teammates to occasionally ignore line-of-sight. We've noticed on a few occasions that if we spot an enemy that is as yet unseen by Liara, and tell her to cast a Singularity on it, she won't move to a spot where she can see the enemy; instead, she'll simply cast it through the obstacle between she and it. It's unlikely that this works for every power, but it might bear further investigating.
Just keep in mind that there's no mana cost or anything for using your powers; you can use them as often as you like, so long as the cooldown is up. The only penalty for using them is an accuracy penalty after casting them, but that usually winds up being a minor penalty. For specialists like Liara, it's a good idea to find amps that lower the cooldown as much as possible.
Ignore The Cover System
One of the early tutorials will introduce you to Mass Effect's cover system. If you have your weapon out, you can press against a wall or other surface, sidle over to the edge, then hit the left trigger button to pop out and fire. Your teammates will
Unfortunately, it's almost never necessary to actually use the cover system as opposed to simply strafing out from cover, firing a few times, then strafing back behind another cover object. In the early stages of the game, it can be handy, as you're likely to lose your shields after just a few shots from your foes. As you get up into the teen levels, though, you're more likely to have better armor and defensive skills. When this occurs, using the cover mechanic simply wastes time.
(One exception to this rule are the sniper rifles. When you zoom in with a sniper rifle while standing free, the reticule will take a couple of seconds to lock into position. However, if you use the cover system and click the left trigger to move out and aim, you won't have to repeat this fuzzy-reticule adjustment, making it a lot easier for you to draw a bead on your foes.)
There's another reason why the cover system doesn't work so well, but only if you follow our next tip…
Let The Enemies Come To You
Combat in Mass Effect can take place in a number of terrains and environments, but in most cases, if you attack a group of enemies, they will start coming your way and attempt to overwhelm you. In some cases they'll stick with their defensive positions, but usually they will attempt to chase you down. You can use this to your advantage, though, by placing grenades in their line of travel and blowing them when they walk over them.
What's more, though, is that enemies that rush you will be easier for your team to take down if you stick together. If enemies bunch up as they approach, then abilities like Singularity and Overload will wear them all down simultaneously; if they separate out, you can take them down with concentrated fire as they come near.
Encouraging enemies to come to you will also let you keep your party members behind cover, which they'll normally find automatically in combat. If you're always rushing forward into combat, your weaker party members will wind up dying a fair amount of the time, especially early on.
Grenades are kind of an optional aspect to combat in Mass Effect; you don't need to use them very much, and can definitely get through the game without every throwing one. When thrown (with your select button), grenades will move in a straight line towards whatever you were aiming at, so you'll need to expose yourself to fire in order to throw them at an enemy; you can't arc them over an obstacle, for instance. You can manually detonate them in mid-air by tapping the Back button again. If they travel to a surface, they'll stop, where they become proximity mines and will detonate if an enemy travels near them. Otherwise, they'll detonate after 15 seconds or so of inactivity.
This is all a little frustrating to deal with, so you'll be excused if you prefer to simply jam on the fire button and plink away at your targets. With that said, though, grenades can come in handy in some situations. If you know there's a group of targets up ahead through a door, you can lay a grenade down in the doorway, get the enemy's attention, then detonate it as they chase you. Or, if a group of enemies is swirling around a Singularity, they won't be able to do much to get away from your grenade's explosive radius. They're also handy to use against Krogan enemies, who will often rush at you in a straight line.
Grenades can be tough to use, but if you tap your noggin you may find a situation or two where they can be handy.