Mass Effect 2: Vanguard, Insanity Difficulty - Bonus Powers, Companions, Safe Charge Tactics
I am not by any means claiming to be an expert on the Vanguard path or the game, so although the main purpose of this post is to give some quick and dirty tips for beginners and players choosing the Vanguard for the first time, my secondary objective is to prompt the Mass Effect 2 community here for their own input, tips, and feedback.
So feel free to provide polite, constructive criticism, while realizing that we all discover new things that take us by surprise sometimes. And add your own tips and discoveries.
The Charge tactics of this short guide are about ONE method of fighting, considered the safe one. It is NOT the only way to play Vanguard; another very popular method is Charging as much as possible and focusing on using a lethal shotgun, and there is plenty of info elsewhere on that st-yle.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive or thorough guide; just information on bonus powers, companions, and safe charge tactics.
I'll also be using the word path instead of "c-l-a-s-s", and st-yle spelt that way, because of a strange restriction here on the forums; they're working on it.
Recommended Bonus Power:
Remember to choose a Bonus Power that compliments the companions that you will choose (see next section). Starting with most highly recommended:
- Reave: works on armor, can be used without staying out of cover for too long, boosts your health if used on a stripped enemy (one without shields or armor), so a bit of extra survivability
- Inferno Grenade: effective on armor, can be used without staying out of cover for too long
- Armor-Piercing Ammo: effective on armor, benefit can be shared with squad if you desire
- Fortification, Barrier, or Geth Shield Boost: extra survivability
Remember to choose companions that compliment the Bonus Power that you chose (or will choose again using the Research terminal).
- Miranda: Overload (for shields) and Warp (for armor).
- Garrus: Overload and Armor-Piercing Ammo.
- Zaeed: Disruptor Ammo (for shields) and Inferno Grenade (for armor).
- Whoever the heck you want!
- Treat Charge as a battle finisher; so either the final blow to kill or the one that precedes a few melees to finish off the enemy.
- Use Charge only on enemies that have been stripped of their shields and armor (with a red health bar).
- Use Charge on enemies near cover, so you can immediately move behind that cover. Know your next move after you Charge.
I've read a few times on forums that many people think that the Vanguard is "underpowered". So I'll be trying to prove this claim false, show you that the Vanguard is actually a typical "high-risk, high-reward" path, and--partially--because of that, it can be arguably the most fun path in the game for many people. How come? Mainly due to how you need to think tactfully and strategically (on Hardcore and Insanity difficulties at least) for a minute or two of fighting to soften enemies up, all for the final sweet reward: Charge of course!
Yes, one way (certainly not the only) to enjoy and love this path is to think of the "Charge" power as a final reward for each challenging battle. And it is one heck of a battle finisher really. There is another method of fighting, but I'll come to that later.
Recommended Bonus Power:
Some people recommend Warp Ammo, and I think that's mainly due to its multi-purpose nature. Warp Ammo works moderately well with armor and shields, and it is potently lethal against red-healthbar enemies under the effect of biotics (mainly Pull really as I don't see any other biotic possibility for a Vanguard or his companions to allow you to effectively shoot the enemy for a few seconds).
From my experience with Warp Ammo as a Vanguard, I felt that it was a "lazy" option, and its main strength (naked enemies under the effect of biot...Pull) is actually counter-productive with respect to fun. I mean, if the enemy is naked of any shields and armor, then what the heck am I doing, shooting it? I should CHARGE the damn thing, and if I can't Charge it for one reason or another, then Shredder Ammo, for example, won't require me to Pull before I can shoot it effectively. I reckon Warp Ammo should be a lot more useful when Pull and Singularity are being heavily used.
I would personally always go for something else, specifically an anti-armor power: either Reave, Inferno Grenade or Amor-Piercing Ammo. This is because a lot of the hardest bosses and enemies in the game come with walls of armor, so an armor-eroding power will come in handy and allow you to rain anti-armor powers continuously on enemies.
My second option would be one that I can "test" with, feeling my way for more fun, i.e. more risk, for greater rewards; basically, a protection power like Fortification, Barrier, or Geth Shield Boost (they're all the same with respect to functionality). The idea is to boost your shield (defenses), then take higher risks when you Charge, or do it more often. And because that's the use of such a power (testing and taking more risks in the hope of more fun), I would recommend that you go for an anti-armor power instead the first time you choose the Vanguard path on Hardcore or Insanity difficulty.
Because the recommended safe Charge tactic in the summary was to use Charge only on enemies stripped of their shields and armor, think along the lines that you are most powerful against stripped enemies.
This is mainly what makes it very tempting to assume that you're underpowered, but you need to remember that it's about strategy and tactics for you: you are immensely useful and powerful in controlling the battlefield, drawing enemies and firepower away from your cornered teammates and to the other corner of the room or area after you've charged a distant enemy, flanking the enemy, and so on.
And because you are most powerful against enemies stripped of shields and armor (using this st-yle or method of fighting), it is fair to say that you are going to be fairly weak against these 2 forms of protection. Thus, it makes sense to choose companions who will compliment you perfectly, i.e. companions who have one or more powers to offer against shields (Overload and Disruptor Ammo) and against armor (Warp, Incinerate, Inferno Grenade, Armor-Piercing Ammo).
Accordingly, Miranda happens to be a main partner for me all the time, because she has Overload for shields and Warp for armor, and I find specifically these 2 powers very effective.
Garrus has Overload and Armor-Piercing Ammo (which he can eventually give to the whole squad so you also get a boost to your armor damage), plus his ability to use a sniper rifle (to stay far from the action while you distract the enemy), and he comes highly recommended as a second option on my list.
Zaeed has Disruptor Ammo (for shields) and Inferno Grenade (for armor), plus the sniper rifle, so a 3rd good option.
Finally, Mordin is good for armor with his Incinerate, and his Cryo Blast is very sweet just before your Charge...alllows you to quite literally "shatter" the enemy, but he comes without a concentrated anti-shield power.
Beyond those options, I don't find myself in great favor of any others from a productivity or effectiveness perspective, but I am open to learn about other players' experiences.
And, of course, you may very well just choose to take your "sweetie" wherever you go, regardless to her powers. For example, I found that Tali's bots are actually sometimes a godsend, especially with very powerful bosses; they distract them for a few very precious seconds that sometimes mean the difference between death and victory.
As I mentioned earlier, instead of thinking of this power as just your strongest--but completely suicidal and thus useless--power, think of this power as your strongest, and your reward: the battle finisher, the final blow. That is the first step of succeeding in and loving this st-yle of Vanguard play.
Having said that, and as a result of some feedback I got on the forums, I would like to emphasize that this is not the only way to have fun with this path. My tips will suit those who like to think strategically, fight "safely" (not relying on the trusty Load button too much), and play as if they're trying to not die even once, adding a bit more realism and immersion to the whole thing.
The other path of Vanguard playing that I learnt about relies on charging almost everything on your path, including enemies protected with shields and/or armor, then intending to one or two-shot them with a shotgun (mainly the Claymore). This st-yle may be good for no-brainer, brute-force fun. Lots of people are going to love it for obvious reasons.
My tips rely on "delayed gratification"; they help you save your most fun ability or power, Charge, to use as a battle finisher, and it becomes a sweet and definitely very satisfying reward from a visual and effects perspective. The path that I'm suggesting allows you to see and feel that Charge is overpowered, and is your most powerful ability; the other path easily positions your shotgun as your most powerful asset.
Use Charge only when an enemy's health bar is red, i.e. the enemy has been stripped of any shields and armor. Yes, you can use Charge to weaken shields and armor, but this is too risky and heavily denies you the satisfying visual results when you only use it on stripped enemies. The best visual result that you can hope for if you Charge a protected enemy is seeing them just stagger a step or two backwards, but the best result that you see if you Charge a stripped enemy is you sending them literally flying or them almost getting yanked backwards, after the impact, in slow motion.
When you save this power for the red health bar, and either see the low-health enemy shattering instantly, or you start to pound the incapacitated enemy mercilessly with a few melee hits, as it lies on the ground under you, until it collapses, you get part of that "high reward" that every Vanguard talks about.
Then you understand the essence of this path: you are not just an actually overpowered bad ass, but you are also a wall! Think about it, a power with a short cooldown, which stuns any red-healthbar enemy and sometimes even knocks them down, while simultaneously slowing down the world around you and boosting your armor immensely...does that really sound "underpowered" to you? Done at the right time, in the face of the correctly positioned red-healthbar enemies, Charge is overpowered, and literally turns you into a wall.
You are the wall that holds the wide cover, behind which you and your teammates are hiding, as you biotically head-butt to oblivion those Krogan that thought they could kick you three from behind cover!
So we know what is the right time for Charge according to these tactics. Now what are the right places for Charge? Well, the right places are always going to be dictated by your enemies' movements. That is exactly the "high-risk" or big challenging part of this power. So what you're doing is waiting for a red health bar, and a good spot.
Put very simply, good spots are always near cover, only a few steps away from cover, with one exception: a single last enemy that is about to die--you can Charge that one anywhere it's standing.
The idea is to know exactly which cover you'll dive behind as soon as you're done sending the enemy flying or done pounding them with melee hits.
Yes, in the beginning, you may very well make mistakes and Charge enemies near cover, but realize that the spot is actually exposed to an enemy you didn't "feel" was going to be a problem, or enemies you weren't even aware that they were there, and you get yourself caught in crossfire. That is part of the learning curve of that path. If you keep practicing, I can promise you that you'll start to "feel" those perfect spots.
Stand behind a wide cover, at the left edge, waiting for that enemy to come turning around the right edge, trying to flank and shoot at you alongside the cover, then charge them. As you take one or two slow steps back from the Charge, you'll find yourself behind the right edge of the cover, ready for the next enemy or finishing off the previous incapacitated enemy with a few bullets while relaxing behind the cover.
While fighting, keep your eye on the different spots for cover, choose an enemy that is well positioned for a flank against the rest of its group, focus firepower, anti-shield and anti-armor powers on it, and weaken it a bit if you have time, then Charge it. This is an instant flank against the enemy, and you didn't have to run from cover to cover to get to it, while alerting the rest of the enemies to what you're trying to do.
Are you getting outnumbered where you're hiding? Take a quick look and find an enemy at the far opposite side of the area, then charge it: instant escape from death.
One of the enemies got too brave, separated from the rest, eagerly charging closer to you? It just made the job of advancing forward easier for you: concentrate firepower on it until it's stripped of any shields or armor, wait for it to be near a box or cover, charge instantly, then take cover. Your henchmen will see that and naturally follow you forward, one enemy down, and the other enemies now not so bold to advance.
Take it slow, but keep thinking about and searching for those sweet spots. With time, you'll start to naturally identify them, without even putting it into words.
Pull: put in mind that you can direct your Pull power and slightly change its path in an arc, so you can shoot it slightly over enemies behind cover, then skillfully drop it right on the enemy's head, snatching them beautifully from behind cover and up into the air, for you and your henchmen to do whatever you wish with. Using Throw, Warp, Slam, or even Charge--when applicable--at this point is highly recommended for fun; Warp Ammo is also fairly effective, although less explosive and less fun.
As I mentioned in the beginning, feel free to provide polite, constructive criticism, while realizing that we all discover new things that take us by surprise sometimes. And add your own tips and discoveries.
Keep in mind that this short guide is not intended to be THE guide for Vanguard, but simply one option and st-yle of playing, considered the safe path. It focuses on the Charge power as a reward and battle finisher, makes it feel powerful, and allows you to see the results on stripped enemies, rather than focusing on one's shotgun as their most powerful asset in the another st-yle of play.