|This article is about the combat mechanics of the first Mass Effect game. For other uses, see Combat (disambiguation).|
Mass Effect's open-ended combat occurs in real time. Most foot-based combat utilizes the third-person view, though the player has the ability to pause the action in order to give commands to the squad using the Power Wheel (360, PS3) or the HUD Screen (PC), similar to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, an earlier BioWare game. Using the scope on a sniper rifle or the Mako turret changes the view to first-person.
Combat typically involves a squad consisting of the player character and two non-player character ("NPC") allies using weapons in tandem with biotic, tech, and other abilities to defeat enemies and complete missions in order to level and improve combat prowess. Grenades can also be thrown by the player only. The player and allies are protected in battle by health and recharging shields and can wear armor for additional protection. Various types of other equipment can be found or purchased, including upgrades that can be used to modify weapons or armor. Defeating enemies and completing missions earns experience enabling the player and allies to level and further increase their combat prowess.
Legendary Edition: Many of the combat mechanics in Mass Effect are changed significantly in Mass Effect Legendary Edition. However, BioWare's stated goal is to improve the overall experience without significantly changing the core feel of the trilogy. Legendary Edition differences are usually marked in this and other gameplay-related pages with orange notations.
- 1 Combat Controls
- 2 Talents
- 3 Weapons
- 4 Melee Combat
- 5 Health
- 6 Shields
- 7 Cover
- 8 Squad
- 9 Combat Difficulty
- 10 Game Options
- 11 Combat-Related Bugs
- 12 See Also
- 13 References
Mass Effect Controls
- Press UP to send the squad to the targeted location.
- Press DOWN to order the squad to rally to the player's position, then follow the player.
- Press RIGHT to order the squad to stop moving and hold the position.
- Press LEFT to order the squad to attack a specific enemy.
- Legendary Edition: Squadmates can be individually directed similarly to in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3.
2. Sprint: On the PC, LEFT SHIFT while in active combat causes Shepard to run or sprint, moving rapidly for a short period of time. A fatigue meter will be visible on the left and once full, a FATIGUED warning will flash above the bar, and the player will be unable to sprint again for a period of time (the bar must completely drain).
- Legendary Edition: Shepard can sprint even out of combat.
3. Grenades: On the Xbox 360 gamepad, press BACK (PlayStation 3: SELECT) to throw a grenade, and then press the same button again to detonate. On the PC the 'R' key functions the same way. Grenades that aren't manually detonated will explode on their own after several seconds.
The main combat screen in the PC versions of Mass Effect is often referred to as a "heads-up display" ("HUD"), while on console versions it is sometimes referred to as the "Power Wheel", the screen's most prominent feature.
Power Wheel (X360, PS3)
The Power Wheel is the in-game menu that allows the selection of different abilities or weapons for each party member in combat. The center of the power wheel is used as a crosshair for targeting with the menus around the ring.
To access the party's weapons, press and hold LB (L1 on PS3). Use the left thumbstick to browse each member's weapons, and press A (cross) to equip. Tap LB (L1) to switch quickly between your current weapon and the last weapon used.
To access the party's talents, press and hold RB (R1). Use the left thumbstick to browse each member's abilities, and press A (cross) to queue an ability up as an action, which will be used when you release RB (R1). You can also press X (square) to map the ability, but note that there is no way to unmap it. Tap RB (R1) whenever you want to quickly activate it in combat. Weapon abilities are interchangeable -- for example, if Marksman is mapped and you are carrying a shotgun with Carnage unlocked, tapping RB (R1) will activate Carnage.
HUD Screen (PC)
The PC version uses a HUD screen instead of the Power Wheel. The screen is split into three sections:
- On the right and left of the screen, the player can view the talents and abilities of the squad, and issue order by clicking with the mouse on the talent, weapon, or squadmate orders icons. To bring up the ability menus, SPACE BAR must be pressed and held, which also halts the game's action to allow the player time to make their choice of which abilities to use and which orders to issue to squadmates. This function is also called the "Tactical Pause" and is a recurrent feature in subsequent games of the Mass Effect series.
- On all versions, squad health and shields can be viewed at the bottom left of the screen, along with Shepard's currently selected weapon, as well as counters for grenade and medi-gel stocks.
- On the bottom, the player can view Shepard's talents and abilities and, by clicking with the mouse, select what ability to use, or weapon to swap to.
- Ability icons can be dragged with the mouse to the menu bar at the top of the screen where they will be assigned a "quick use" button (NUMBER KEYS 1-8). Talents/abilities assigned to the top bar can be deployed in "real-time" without the need to use Tactical Pause, which some players may prefer.
- The player can also right-click and hold the mouse button to zoom the crosshair for more precise aiming, though this can only be done if the player has training with the selected weapon type (see below for more information).
HUD Screen (Legendary Edition)
In Mass Effect Legendary Edition the HUD is redesigned to mimic the style of more recent games in the series, putting Shepard's health in the bottom-center of the screen with squadmates' health and the medi-gel count underneath. Shields are represented by a bar above the health meter rather than as block segments next to it, and grenades are displayed above the weapon icon.
The skills or abilities used in combat in Mass Effect are called talents. The talents of Commander Shepard and NPC squadmate allies can be increased in power by gaining experience and leveling up, earning points that can be invested in talents of the player's choosing. Many talents must first be unlocked by investing points in prerequisite talents.
The talents available to a character vary depending on that character's class. Some talents that provide only "passive" benefits also possess secondary "active" abilities that can be used during combat; these abilities can only be unlocked by reaching certain levels of the base talent. These "active" components can be considered talents themselves and are sometimes referred to as such.
Many enemies also possess abilities that are similar and often indistinguishable in effect from the talents available to the player and squadmates.
Legendary Edition: Some talents and abilities are rebalanced. For example, Immunity grants a powerful defensive buff that lasts a brief period of time instead of a smaller buff that can last indefinitely.
- Main article: Biotics#Mass Effect
Biotics is the ability of some lifeforms to create mass effect fields using element zero nodules embedded in body tissues. These powers are both accessed and augmented by using biotic amps. Biotic individuals can knock enemies over from a distance, lift them into the air, generate gravitational vortices to tear obstacles or enemies apart, or create protective barriers.
- Main article: Tech#Mass Effect
"Tech" refers to abilities based around reverse engineering or hacking various technologies, including hardsuit systems, weapons, and synthetic enemies like the geth. Tech talents are deployed with omni-tools.
In combat, tech talents have many uses, from destroying enemy shields and disabling their weapons to healing the party. Outside of combat, tech proficiency can be required to access, hack, or bypass various gameworld objects such as doors, crates, and computer terminals.
Abilities that are neither tech or biotic are sometimes just referred to as "combat" talents. Training with these abilities can grant more proficiency with various weapons; increase melee damage; improve a character's resistances to damage of various types; and allow a character to wear heavier and more powerful body armor. Honing these skills can grant access to secondary abilities with even more useful effects in combat, such as massive temporary boosts to weapon damage, damage resistance, shield strength, and more.
Combat Talents Chart (Player Classes)
Note: The Sentinel class lacks all of these talents.
There are four main types of weapon in Mass Effect: Pistols, Shotguns, Assault Rifles, and Sniper Rifles. All player and NPC squadmate classes can equip and use all four weapon types, but certain classes are more proficient with certain weapon types than others depending on their weapons training (see below). Another important and unique feature of weapons in Mass Effect is they never need to be manually reloaded. Instead, weapons suffer heat buildup as they are continuously fired, and are capable of overheating (see below for a full explanation).
Changes to weapon mechanics in Mass Effect Legendary Edition:
- Weapon Models: Weapons have different firing modes depending on the manufacturer such as a three-burst sniper rifle, a slug-firing shotgun, and a three/five-burst assault rifle.
- Headshots: Weapons can deal bonus damage with headshots against almost all enemies with heads (or head analogs). This mechanic does not exist in the original version of Mass Effect.
- Accuracy: Accuracy is tuned up across all weapons to enable players to maintain more consistent firepower while still managing their overheat meter. Aiming down sights (ADS) camera view is tighter on combat to ostensibly aid accurate aiming (like the second and third games), and automatic aim assist is increased to provide better precision. Weapons can be used by any class without penalty, and sniper rifles do not sway.
- Stability: Reticle bloom is more controlled.
- Weapon Heat: Weapons cool down from overheating significantly faster and several weapon-related abilities are much more effective at dissipating heat.
Note: The following information applies to the player only. While NPC squadmates do have accuracy mechanics, they are not quite the same; for more information see the Squad page.
Each weapon has a uniquely-sized circular targeting reticle visible in the HUD when weapons are unholstered. The size of the circle expands or contracts during certain actions, indicating decreasing or increasing accuracy, respectively; it also provides a visual indicator of the time required for aim to recover. Increasing a weapon's accuracy shrinks the default circular reticle; any weapon's reticle will expand when moving or after firing. Crouching, either in the open or by clinging to low cover, effectively doubles the base accuracy of a weapon. Standing, even when standing while clinging to cover, does not aid accuracy.
Aiming down sights (ADS) or zooming also increases accuracy (shrinking the reticle) and can be done with any weapon provided Shepard's class possesses training with that weapon type. "Possessing training" means there is a weapon talent where points can be invested to increase proficiency with that weapon, however no points actually need to be invested into said talent for Shepard to be able to ADS/zoom with that weapon. All six classes have pistol training by default and can zoom/ADS with them.
If zooming is possible with a sniper rifle, doing so will look through the rifle's scope. While scoped, the targeting reticle will sway in a circular motion unless Shepard's accuracy rating with sniper rifles is high enough, in which case the sway will either be much less severe or even come to a complete stop after a short time. Sniper rifles are the most inaccurate weapon type when moving unzoomed; when scoped, taking fire will disrupt aim. It is possible to extend a sniper rifle's zoom farther by pressing the Interact ("use") button.
Many talents in Mass Effect impose a temporary accuracy penalty for using them, causing the targeting reticle to bloom immediately after use but then recover. Accuracy recovery time can be reduced by investing points in the Spectre Training talent.
"Stability" is a weapon attribute closely related to accuracy governing how long it takes for a weapon's targeting reticle to swell to maximum size during continuous fire. Higher stability increases the time it takes for the circle to bloom, meaning weapons will stay more accurate longer during sustained bursts. Stability is most relevant for Assault Rifles, as sniper rifles are usually fired while scoped (and not fired continuously), pistols are fairly accurate by default, and shotguns are fired at close ranges where accuracy is less important. Stability can be enhanced by equipping certain weapon upgrades. Despite the name, stability in this sense has nothing to do with weapon kickback, or the recoil that causes the reticle and weapon muzzle to climb with a shot (most pronounced on shotguns).
Heat builds up while firing a weapon due to increased friction that will eventually cause the weapon to overheat. When overheated, a weapon will not fire, requiring a cooldown period before it can be used again. This leaves the user vulnerable, so a good strategy for armed combat is to use short controlled bursts of fire to prevent excess heat build up. Alternatively, weapon upgrades such as a Heat Sink or Frictionless Materials increase heat absorption, allowing the player to fire more shots before their gun overheats. However, some upgrades such as Scram Rail or a High Caliber Barrel decrease heat absorption, making guns overheat faster. Other upgrades may indirectly affect heat build up by slowing down or speeding up rate of fire - it might be a good idea to pair up upgrades that speed up overheat with ones that slow down rate of fire (thus partially countering the effect, while gaining the - usually substantial - benefits of both).
Sniper rifles and shotguns tend to be the worst offenders for overheating, while assault rifles and pistols build up heat more slowly. Enemy weapons can also be deliberately overheated with Sabotage rendering them unable to fire. Enemies that possess Sabotage such as Geth Hoppers can do the same to Shepard and the squad in return. This effect only works on the currently unholstered weapon, so switching to a different gun at least temporarily is the usual solution. Squadmates and rare enemies that possess multiple weapon types can do this automatically.
Since the in-game text of the High Explosive Ammo Upgrades states that it adds "+500% Heat Generation" it can be assumed that:
- A "Heat Generation" attribute exists for every weapon.
- since the "+500% Heat Generation" is a multiplying variable instead of a set number, there must be different "Heat Generation" values for different weapons.
- since the "Shots before overheat" value not only varies by Weapon Type (Assault Rifles, Pistols, Shotguns, Sniper Rifles) but also by model and version numbers, the "Heat Generation" values are also affected by these factors.
Weapons may vary greatly in the amount of heat they produce but they all share the same maximum level of heat and a dispersion rate that only varies between weapon levels. Heat is dispersed at a constant rate and if this rate is overcome while firing the weapon, then heat will build until either the player stops firing or the weapon overheats. In the event that a weapon overheats, the weapon will be unable to fire again until it has completely cooled down at a penalized rate of dispersion. The player can monitor the heat level of their current weapon from an indicator bar located on the left side of the HUD. The game stores a weapon's current heat level as a value ranging from 0.0 to 1.0. A Level 1 weapon will have a dispersion rate of 0.24 per second which increases in increments of 0.01 per weapon level until 0.33 at level 10. The overheat dispersion rate is 0.16 per second at Level 1 increasing at the same 0.01 per level until 0.25 per second is reached at level 10.
A full heat indicator bar (ignoring overheat penalty) would empty in 4.1667 seconds with a Level 1 weapon and 3.03 seconds for a Level 10 weapon.
An overheated weapon will take 6.25 seconds at Level 1 and 4.0 seconds at Level 10 before it can be fired again.
Heat is the limiting factor in sustained fire, so selection of equipment and talents to strike a good balance between duration, accuracy and fire power is important. Though accentuating one of those attributes at the expense of others can yield interesting results, such as placing two Rail Extension VII's and High Explosive Rounds X on a sniper rifle, disregarding heat entirely to create a veritable one shot cannon with high splash damage.
Heat Generation can be influenced in any of five ways:
- Several Weapon Upgrades have positive or negative heat production attributes.
- There are two Ammo Upgrades that increase heat production as a trade-off for their special properties.
- Weapon skill talents such as Overkill and Marksman reduce heat production while Carnage produces no heat at all.
- The Infiltrator class talent reduces heat buildup on pistols and sniper rifles by 5 to 10% based on points invested in the talent.
- Rate of fire. Snowblind Rounds reduce your rate of fire which can take some of the conscious effort out of conserving your shots.
Overheat Bug: There is a serious bug relating to weapon overheating on some machines or versions of the original game. For more information see the bugs section below.
In Mass Effect, both Shepard and squadmates can perform melee attacks on enemies if the enemy target is extremely close and the primary fire button is pressed. Melee attacks, also called "smash" attacks by the game, are swipes or rifle butts performed with the currently equipped weapon. Hits deal light to moderate damage and are often forceful enough to knock infantry enemies to the ground. The force and damage of melee attacks can be improved by leveling certain talents or by equipping certain Armor Upgrades. Some enemy types in Mass Effect have melee attacks of their own, and a few, notably krogan enemies, are extremely dangerous close combatants.
Legendary Edition: Player melee attacks are mapped to a button press and do not occur automatically merely from being in proximity to enemies when attacking.
- See also: Hazard
Health of the player and non-player characters (NPCs) including enemies appears as a solid red bar in the HUD. By default, only Soldiers regenerate health automatically. Other classes need to rely on Armor Upgrades or the Krogan Ally achievement. Out of the six squadmates, only Ashley Williams and Urdnot Wrex can regenerate health without Armor Upgrades thanks to their class talents.
When a character's health is reduced to zero that character is killed. At the end of combat, squad members will automatically revive, but if Commander Shepard's health is depleted, you must reload an earlier save. Health can be restored either by natural regeneration, though this happens very slowly especially for non-Soldier classes, or with medi-gel, which is deployed via the First Aid talent available to Shepard by default. If a non-player character (NPC) squad member is killed they can be revived with Unity, with medi-gel if the Medic specialization is chosen, by entering the Mako, or by entering or exiting a building.
A character's health is usually protected by their shields; they will only start taking health damage once these are destroyed. However melee attacks, explosions, environmental damage, collisions, and toxic attacks ignore shields completely. Toxic damage not only directly injures health, but leaves the character more vulnerable by reducing that character's ability to heal. This is signified by the character's health bar changing from red to green.
All characters gain a small increase to maximum health when they level up, and the Fitness talent significantly adds to the health bar. Adding a Medical Exoskeleton or Medical Interface to wearable body armor will improve health regeneration and toxin resistance. Damage to health can also be mitigated by heavier and better armors and armor related talents or upgrades. The Immunity ability also provides a substantial but temporary bonus to damage protection during combat.
Note that most of the above also applies to the health of enemies. Certain enemies such as krogan are able to regenerate health rapidly, but toxic attacks and certain abilities such as Warp can hinder or prevent this healing.
Shields, also referred to as "kinetic barriers" or just "barriers", are visible in the game's HUD as light blue rectangular segments next to the red health bar of the player, squadmates, and enemies alike. There can be anywhere from 1-6 segments. When there are less than 6 segments, each one represents approximately 50-60 total shield hitpoints; when there are 6 segments they no longer correspond to a fixed amount of shield hitpoints and instead each segment represents an equal percentage of the maximum. Maximum shield strengths can potentially go into the thousands.
Legendary Edition: Shields are not displayed as segments but are instead visible in the HUD as solid bars just like health, which is shown underneath shields. Player health and shield indicators are positioned prominently in the center of the screen, with the indicators for both squadmates underneath.
As stated in the above section on health, shields will completely or at least partially protect health from the attacks of most standard firearms as well as certain tech-based attacks. Physical hits or impacts from enemy melee attacks, explosives, and collisions are not usually stopped by shields; neither are the effects of toxins or hazardous environments. Shield segments dim as they take damage and brighten as they recharge.
Shields will automatically and fully recharge over a period of time at a fixed rate if no damage is suffered for several seconds. When maximum shield values are high, automatic recharge from depleted to full shields can take some time. The Shield Boost ability can restore shields rapidly even while taking damage in combat. A few talents can increase maximum shields, such as Barrier. Shields can also receive improvements to their strength or recharge time from armor, armor upgrades, and various other types of equipment.
Numerous objects and environmental features provide cover and protect characters from incoming enemy fire. Using cover gives characters the opportunity to recover lost health and shields, allow abilities to cooldown, and plan an attack or counterattack.
Low-rising cover causes characters to crouch and usually provides the greatest field of view, allowing more of the battlefield to be targeted. High-rising cover allows characters to remain standing, but restricts the field of view to either left or right of the cover object at any one time; in some cases, characters can alternate between left and right stances, but this makes the opposite side a potential blind spot. Characters can also stand behind objects or environmental features to protect themselves from enemy fire without "adhering" to those objects for cover. This often restricts the field of view to an even greater degree, but characters retain complete freedom of movement.
Legendary Edition: Entering and exiting cover is more reliable; snapping back into cover after firing a shot takes longer.
A squad is the group of team members which the player can select to accompany Commander Shepard on field missions, or while visiting one of the main civilized centers such as a space station or planet. A squad is typically made of three members: Shepard and two squadmates. When selecting a squad, Shepard can review for selected team members how squad points have been distributed among their different abilities.
Choosing a Squad
Each squadmate has varying strengths in three fields: tech, combat, and biotic. These attributes can be seen as color bars in the squad selection screen to inform players of their squad's overall effectiveness in handling situations for each field. Keeping the party (including Shepard) as balanced as possible between the three areas is a good idea; tech talents help strip enemy shields, disable enemy attacks, and control synthetic enemies; biotics counter enemy mobility and make them much easier to kill; and powerful combat abilities enable both absorbing and dealing damage. The bars on the squad selection screen help in this regard: if Shepard is likely to face the geth, for example, bringing a party with extra tech strength is a good general plan. The right choice of squadmate can also help balance out the weaknesses of Shepard's chosen class.
Legendary Edition: Hardcore and Insanity are unlocked automatically. It is no longer necessary to complete the game to unlock those difficulties.
On new profile in the original Mass Effect, a player can choose amongst three difficulty settings:
- Casual - All enemies, including bosses, are scaled down relative to the player's level. Most enemies have no special protection or immunities.
- Normal - Bosses scaled up based on the player's level. Some enemies have special protection.
- Veteran - Bosses and sub-bosses scaled up based on player level. Most enemies have special protection.
After finishing a playthrough on any of the above difficulties, the Hardcore difficulty will be unlocked.
Hardcore is the penultimate difficulty setting. It will be unlocked by completing one playthrough on any difficulty.
While playing on Hardcore:
- Most enemies are scaled up based on player's level
- All enemies have protection
- Bosses have immunities
Once a playthrough on Hardcore is completed, the Insanity difficulty will be unlocked, provided the difficulty is not changed at any point (players can scale up or down the difficulty, until the end of the Eden Prime mission). Completing a Hardcore playthrough will also unlock the Distinguished Combat Medal (25 gamerpoints/silver trophy). As an additional reward you will also unlock a Saren gamer picture (not available for PC).
Insanity is the highest difficulty setting. To unlock Insanity, you must complete one playthrough on Hardcore without changing the difficulty during the game. On the PC, it can also be unlocked by modifying the game's configuration files (doing so will still allow the player to get the achievement). Playing on Insanity difficulty with a brand new (level 1) character is very tough as enemies can deal a lot of punishment.
While playing on Insanity:
- All enemies are scaled up relative to player level. Bosses and sub-bosses scale radically.
- All enemies have protection.
- Bosses and sub-bosses have immunities.
Once you complete a playthrough on Insanity difficulty, you will unlock the Medal of Valor (50 gamerpoints/gold trophy). As an additional reward you will also unlock an "N7" gamer picture for use on your profile (not available for PC).
- Off - Points must be manually assigned using the SQUAD screen each time Shepard or any squad member gains a level.
- Squad Only - Points automatically assigned to appropriate talents each time a squad member gains a level. Points must be manually assigned using the SQUAD screen whenever Shepard gains a level.
- Squad and Player - Points automatically assigned to appropriate talents each time Shepard or any squad member gains a level.
Target Assist Target assist is designed to make combat easier for players not accustomed to third-person shooters, or possibly players struggling with the game. Target assist does not improve the player's accuracy - in other words, it will not decrease the size of the crosshair. Instead, the game interprets shots close to enemies as shots at enemies.
- High - Target assist at maximum to make combat easier.
- Normal - Target assist at default.
- Low - Target assist at minimum to make combat more challenging.
Squad Power Usage This option governs how squad AI use their talents and abilities:
- Disabled - Squad AI will not use any talents unless ordered by the player.
- Defense Only - Squad AI will only use defensive powers to protect themselves or others.
- Active - Squad AI will use all available talents.
- It is sometimes possible for enemies to become trapped in unreachable locations (usually, inside or behind walls), which makes it impossible to kill them. Using Throw, Lift, or Shotgun with High Explosive Rounds can sometimes dislodge them. Alternatively, switching to the "Flying Camera" and shooting them from the location they are in also works (PC version only). If this bug happens inside a "zone", base, mineshaft, etc., simply "zone out" or exit the structure and the enemy will reset its position inside the zone. Otherwise returning to the Normandy should trigger the reset.
- If a cutscene initiates while you are lifted or thrown by biotics, you can get stuck inside walls or above ground, unable to move when the cutscene ends.
- While in combat, it is possible that your squadmates will not follow you after the battle ends. They respond to every command except the "rally on Shepard" command, where they stop moving. This can be partially overcome by telling them where to go, so they "follow" you, or simply by reloading a save. Saving on the spot when it happens will not save them in that state, so if you do not want to restart anything you did not save, just save when it happens and load that save.
- There are a limited number of powers on the Power Wheel. Therefore, if you are an Engineer or an Adept, your bonus Talent may disappear when you unlock all your abilities. You can work around this by mapping the talent to RB before the power disappears, or by selecting a weapon talent. This bug also makes Liara's Electronics disappear when you put the first point into Stasis.
The Overheat Bug
On some machines, it is possible to trigger the "Overheat bug" that locks a weapon in its overheat state until the game is reloaded, or your party returns to the Normandy. This bug is the result of the Dog of War and Geth Hunter achievements. The only solution here is to remove those achievements from the profile.
Note: A possible fix for this issue is deleting the profile file in the save folder (
Documents\BioWare\Mass Effect\Save\Profile.MassEffectProfile) and then reloading the save from every profile to rebuild the file and restore achievements. (See: Instructions to "Fix" the Overheat Bug Below)
You can also use the unofficial Critical Mass editor to remove the Geth Hunter achievement.
Instructions to "Fix" the Overheat Bug: This Thread has a method by which to fix the Mass Effect Overheat Bug without "losing" achievements. This should be done prior to obtaining the Level 50 or 60 Achievements as, according to the thread, resetting the L50/L60 achievements does not unlock the ability to take a character to L60. (Note: This fix requires use of the console to re-apply your achievements.)