Choose your class, give Shepard a funny face, and get on Captain Anderson's ship. We're going to Eden Prime with Nihlus where (you guessed it) something will go awfully awry.
BEFORE YOU GO, Anderson and Nihlus will be talking big-boy talk when they'll ask you if you're ready to leave. YOU'RE NOT. Investigate >> Protheans. It's the only way to get a Codex entry for your Scholar achievement. (If you missed it, just do it in another play-through.) If you want to play it safe on the Scholar achievement, though, I recommend watching this video so as not to miss the future dialogue options on the Citadel. I believe that the Protheans is the only missable codex entry, though.
Eden Prime is straight-forward, and I don't want to spoil it for you. Just finish the level.
From here on out, you should be aware of and actively working towards your abilities/biotics, ally, and weapons achievements. As suggested on the previous page, if you haven't planned out your strategy for classes/abilities/biotics/levels/allies, you should. Now. Hell, it's an RPG. You need to make sure you're putting your eggs in the right baskets!
Squad members' biotics/abilities DO NOT count towards these achievements. Shepard MUST cast them himself. If you are an adept or engineer class, you should diversify your powers and work on these as you progress to level 60. If you are a different class, you can start a new game when you're done with your three run-throughs/level 60 to work on these achievements specifically. The sentinel, infiltrator, and agent have some of the engineer's tech abilities, but not all. You will still most likely need a separate run for the engineer if you are not one during the main run. If you are grinding these at any point, the numbers aren't kept in your save but in your profile, so you may reload the save over and over to rack up the numbers.
Some of these powers need a target and others do not. A target can be an enemy or one of the transport terminals in the Citadel, as long as the reticule comes up that identifies it as a target. If it doesn't need a target, you can just map the ability to RB and press it as often as you can during your run.
Biotic (adept) abilities that need a target: Throw, Lift, Warp, Stasis:
Use biotic Throw 75 times
Use biotic Stasis 75 times
Biotic (adept) abilities that DON'T need a target: Barrier, Singularity
Use biotic Barrier 75 times
Use biotic Singularity 75 times
Tech (engineer) abilities that need an ORGANIC (having life) target: Neural Shock [using it on the Mako also counts]:
Use Neural Shock 75 times
Tech (engineer) abilities that need a ROBOT (having AI) target: AI Hacking [turrets, Geth are fair game]
Tech (engineer) abilities that DON'T need a target: Sabotage, Overload, Damping Field
Use Shield Overload 75 times
Use Damping Field 75 times
Shepard chooses two of the six possible squad members for every mission. The ally achievements are for completing the majority of the game with a single squad member. The "majority" of the game consists of between 45-50 individual missions as they appear in the journal (on the start menu). Ideally, you want to minimize the missions completed before acquiring the squad members you'll do your run with. You'll know you're getting close to the ally achievements when the Completionist achievement pops for Shepard himself.
Do side missions and hold off on the Noveria/Feros/Virmire main story until you've done a fair amount. When you get bored, do the main story, and go back to side missions. The DLC will help boost your mission count, here.
Pick your allies such that they balance you out. If you're an adept (biotic), for instance, you should ideally bring a combat and tech specialist with you at any given time. Do not plan on doing a run with both Ashley and Kaiden together. Suffice it to say that you won't be happy after Virmire.
Liara, the Asari, is generally the hardest ally achievement to get. I suggest saving her for your second (hardcore) run, once you know how the game works.
Complete the majority of the game
Complete the majority of the game with the Alliance sentinel squad member
Complete the majority of the game with the krogan squad member
Complete the majority of the game with the asari squad member
Complete the majority of the game with the quarian squad member
Complete the majority of the game with the Alliance soldier squad member
Complete the majority of the game with the turian squad member
Weapon, kills, and medi-gel achievements
Your class may not be trained on using a shotgun, sniper, or assault rifle, but you can still use them towards getting kills (albeit the weapon will be less accurate). If you need to grind these after your three run-throughs, you can load the Chora's Den scene or any other situation with many people, spray, reload your save, and do it again. Using medi-gels works the same way. It may even be faster to use the medi-gel and reload the save instead of waiting for it to recharge. (Again, the numbers count in your profile, not your save, so loading without saving again is fine.)
Register 150 Pistol Kills
Register 150 Shotgun Kills
Register 150 Sniper Rifle Kills
Register 150 Assault Rifle Kills
As you play, you'll also work on the "kills" achievements (which count from run-though to run-though):
Register 150 organic enemy kills
Register 250 synthetic enemy kills
And back to the walkthrough
Now you're on the Citadel. Nice job. Go meet the Council and take your favorite allies to investigate your business. Remember to only do the quests you NEED to right now until you have the allies you want to do missions with. (This means investigating what Anderson and the Council want you to investigate and not the side-missions. e.g. Meet Garrus and Wrex.)
On your way out, this achievement will spoil the plot for you:
You can finish up the Scholar achievement (mentioned above) as you leave, or you can always come back. You probably only need to talk to the virtual guides at this point.
Find all primary Alien: Council Races, Extinct Races and Non-Council Races codex entries
Now you're in the wide-open universe and can choose what you want to do. I suggest doing side missions first, because they'll bore you less now than later. If you explore a cluster with no specific mission and find one, you'll get:
Land on an uncharted world
But if you want to get on with it, Noveria is a good place to start because it has an infinite conversation option to max out your renegade/paragon, which will, in turn, allow you to max out your charm/intimidate to receive better conversational options. If you don't want to do that, you earn renegade/paragon by doing things for and talking to NPCs/people (specifically with side-quests).
Accumulate 75% of total Renegade points
Accumulate 75% of total Paragon points
Liara's Dig Site/Therum is a fun mission to do before you start with the core story. If you are looking to level fast, there is also a leveling trick to be had when reloading a save right after activating the laser in the basement. Liara will join your team after this mission (which is available right after leaving the Citadel).
Locate Dr. T'soni in the Artemis Tau cluster
Before you go on with the core story, be sure to chat it up with your crew, if you want some romance in the endgame. This typically means getting warm with Kaiden or Ashley (depending on your sex), though Liara is an option, as well. I'm marking this here to remind you to SPEAK WITH your love interest after EVERY mission of the core story if you want to get them to love you (life tips from Commander Shepard).
Complete any romance subplot
You will also want to trade up on your weaponry as often as you can to generate some cash flow. If you do side-missions, you should be there in no time at all. Also, if you help out Dr. Michel on the Citadel, she will give you a discount that will make your weapons a positive investment on buy-back from another dealer, but you wouldn't exploit that, would you?
When you're ready (or are tired of working on side-missions for finishing the ally/completionist requirements), it's finally time for the core story:
The first place you can get the Charismatic achievement is on Virmire. I won't spoil it, but you'll need to have level 8 in either charm or intimidate to be able to do this. (Get that renegade/paragon up!) Your next opportunity to get this will be at the end of the game, so do this now.
Use Charm or Intimidate to resolve an impossible situation
Now that you're at the endgame and have hopefully finished your Completionist/ally and Paramour romance subplot, save the universe and collect two shiny achievements:
Complete 1 Mass Effect Playthrough on any setting
The Tactician achievement will also pop at this time. If you did not get it this play-through, make sure that you take less damage to your health than you take your shields on your next playthrough. You can improve your chances by upgrading your shields and avoid combat when they are low.
Complete playthrough with shield damage greater than health damage
Round 2 (Hardcore)
When you're ready, jump back in for round two with your same character class. Make sure to switch (and save) your difficulty to the newly unlocked HARDCORE mode before you finish Eden Prime again. You can start a new one at level 1 if you want, but you'll have to go back for the level 50/60 achievements sometime! If you don't start over, you'll most likely hit level 50 in this run. My only advice is to enjoy yourself and not to lose sight of your ally achievements. It's easy to forget to do the majority of the missions in order to finish sooner. The enemies have better shields now, that's all.
Reach 50th level with one character
Complete 2 Mass Effect Playthroughs on any setting
Complete 1 Mass Effect playthrough on the Hardcore difficulty setting. Do not change the setting.
Round 3 (Insanity)
And, at long last, your insanity run. If you've been a beast, you can make it to level 60 in this run, but it depends how you've been playing. Keep leveling! (Or remember that rendezvous with the laser in Liara's Dig Site?...) Finish your last two allies and TAKE IT SLOW. Use your biotics. Do Noveria last. Remember that gaming is harder with a broken your controller.
Reach 60th level with one character
Complete 1 Mass Effect playthrough on the Insanity difficulty setting. Do not change the setting.
And congratulations! Now you can definitively say that ME2 was better than ME1.
Mass Effect 2 Advice
If you plan to transfer your character into ME2, keep in mind that if you move the save between storage devices you will have to beat the game or last level for it to be able to transfer into ME2.
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