No class: Understanding combat profiles in Mass Effect: Andromeda

Mass Effect: Andromeda will be releasing next week, and players everywhere are dipping into the game's preview build via EA Access. 

Mass Effect: Andromeda shakes up the series’ formula by introducing a completely classless skill system. Instead, its new combat profile setup is essentially the opposite of a class system: it lets you build your class based on how you play.

The Three Skill Sets

Your character has access to three skill sets: Combat, Biotics, and Tech. You then gain “profiles” based on how many points you spend in each. Here’s an overview of each set, along with a few recommendations for players just starting out.

Combat

The Combat set is the most straightforward set of skills. It includes six passive skills, available immediately, as well as three active skills that are only available if activated. All Combat skills pertain to the game’s FPS elements. If you’d rather have more of an FPS experience than an RPG experience, the Combat set is for you.

The Combat set’s passive skills are easily it’s most valuable. This is where you spend points to increase weapon proficiency. You can increase your damage, accuracy, reload speed, and more with your gun of choice (Pistols, Shotguns, Assault Rifles, and Sniper Rifles). You can also spend points to increase your base stats like health, shields, and movement speed. This is also where you unlock new weapon slots.

The Combat set’s active abilities all feel like secondary weapons in an FPS. You have grenades, mobile cover, proximity mines, concussive shots, and more. These skills are primarily utility skills rather than damage dealers. If you are investing in the combat set, your primary method of dealing damage will always be your gun.

Biotics

Anyone familiar with the Mass Effect series knows that Biotics users are essentially the “mage” class. The Biotics tree focuses on power “combos,” skills that work together in order to deal incredible damage to the enemy. If you are looking for the “attack spells” of the game, this is where you’ll find them. On the more defensive end, Biotics can help to buff your shields, but these abilities are few and far in between.

The set consists of nine active abilities, all of which deal damage or incapacitate the enemy in some way, and three passive abilities, all which buff you and your teams shields and biotics. Just like in the Combat set, three skills in Biotics are locked at the outset of the game and can only be accessed by investing enough points in the skill set. So if you plan on putting any points in Biotics, plan on specializing.

Before you invest in the Biotics tree, you are going to want to take points in an ability that “primes” an opponent for combos. All of these abilities are skills that incapacitate the enemy in some way, the most basic being “pull.” Then, you’ll want to start specializing in damage abilities that detonate combos. Early on you’ll just have single target abilities to choose from, but later level abilities can prime and damage multiple enemies at once. Note that most priming abilities only work on unarmored, unshielded enemies, however.

In general, the Biotics skill set make Mass Effect: Andromeda play more like an MMO than a FPS. With a Biotics concentrated build, you will be spending less time pulling the trigger and more time stringing your finger across your number keys to activate abilities. A character fully spec-ed in Biotics can actually play in such a way that they can completely leave firearms behind.

Tech

Finally there is the Tech set, which focuses on debuffing enemies and striking at their weak points. All tech abilities have weird and interesting effects. You can lay down turrets, freeze enemies, become invisible, poison enemies with nanobots, and much more. Tech abilities have a sort of JRPG feel to them, since you have to use the right one on the right enemy to do any damage.

Tech abilities are divided into six active abilities and three passive abilities, with two active abilities locked until you spend enough points, and one ability locked until you investigate enough alien technology. Tech passives increase the power of your squad and the power and flexibility of your tech abilities.

While the Tech skill set requires points to unlock some of the better abilities, just like the Combat and Biotic sets, you are actually better off not specializing if you go for a tech build. You are going to want to have access to as many Tech abilities as possible, so that you can use the right ability for the right situation.

As I said before, Tech abilities have a JRPG sort of feel to them, and that’s exactly what they make the game play like. Players who specialize in Tech will find that combat slows down quite a bit. Every new enemy creates a new puzzle to find the right ability to use, use it, and then follow up with another ability to take advantage of the situation. If you are the type of player who loves to spam your abilities then this isn’t the tree for you, but if you like slow, methodical combat, then you might want to give the Tech set a look. Also, if you are the type of player who likes summoner and necromancer classes, the Tech skill set is right up your alley.

Combat Profiles

There is an incredible amount of flexibility just in the three skill sets alone. Every ability can have three points invested in it, and the last three points allow you to choose between two different upgrades. There are so many variations, no two characters will be alike.

But there’s even more power hidden within these skill sets, and that is the power of combat profiles. By investing enough points in any particular set, you will unlock a profile based on an old Mass Effect class that grants you bonuses in certain areas. You can equip these profiles on the fly, tailoring your character to particular combat situations.

The combat profiles are as follows:

Soldier

The Soldier profile unlocks when you invest 6 points in the Combat skill set and ranks up as you invest more. This is the profile for players who want one thing and one thing only: to shoot bad guys in the face. It grants you bonuses to weapon damage, accuracy, clip size, and damage resistance, and grants you further damage bonuses every time you kill an enemy. It’s simple, it’s powerful, it’s violent, and it’s perfect for shooter fans.

Adept

The Adept profile unlocks when you invest 6 points in the Biotic skill set and ranks up as you invest more. Much like the Soldier is the profile for players who want to focus on guns and only guns, the Adept is the profile for players who want their biotic abilities to be as strong as possible. This profile grants you bonuses to biotic force, damage, area of effect, duration, and even grants you new and interesting combo abilities. It also replaces your jump-jets and evasion tactics with enhanced biotic levitation abilities.

Engineer

Much like the Soldier and the Adept were the pure Combat and Biotic profiles, the Engineer is the pure Tech profile. It unlocks in the same way, after six points are invested, and specializes in increasing your tech damage. However, the real bonus you get here is to your tech constructs as their health, health regeneration, damage, and defense all go up immensely. In fact, in terms of raw numbers, this profile gives you the largest bonuses, though they are mostly to your constructs, not to yourself. Choosing this profile also grants you control over a combat drone that improves your tech recharge rate and self-destructs when enemies get near.

Vanguard

The Vanguard profile is a hybrid Combat and Biotic profile, but in reality it’s geared toward melee combat. If you decide to specialize in the biotic ability “charge” then this is the profile for you. It unlocks when you invest 3 skill points each in Combat and Biotics and gets more powerful as you continue to evenly distribute them. It gives you bonuses to melee damage and force, biotic recharge speed, and shields. It also makes your melee attack restore your shields and gives you the biotic jump and evade abilities of the Adept profile. Playing this profile is very simple. Just get into the enemy’s face and punch them to death… sci-fi style.

Infiltrator

The Infiltrator profile is a hybrid Combat and Tech profile, geared around stealth and sniping. It grants massive bonuses to weapon accuracy and stability as well as a tech recharge bonus and a bonus to shooting an enemy’s weak point. It also gives you the “battlefield awareness” passive ability, which lets you see through walls when using a scope, and the “cloak evasion” ability, which activates a cloaking device any time you use an evasion ability. As you might expect, it unlocks when you spend 3 points in Combat and Tech and upgrades as you spend points evenly in both categories. The major bonus here is the weak point bonus, which balloons up to near double damage at rank 3. If you are the type of player who likes to one-shot kill enemies with sniper rifles, then this is the profile for you.

Sentinel

The Sentinel profile is a hybrid Biotic and Tech profile, and its focus is damage, damage, damage. It gets the largest combo damage bonus of any profile in the game, and grants passive bonuses to shields in order to absorb damage coming your way. Sentinels are perhaps least dependent on their profile buffs. Most of the buffs granted by this profile are geared toward survivability, except for the combo damage buff, which is exactly what you will be using to kill enemies. Tech abilities allow you to chew through shields and armor, and unshielded, unarmored enemies are exactly the type of enemy weak to biotic abilities. Utilizing these abilities in tandem will allow you to absolutely chew through enemy health without firing a single bullet. This profile unlocks when you spend 3 skill points in Biotics and Tech and upgrades as you spend more points evenly.

Explorer  

Finally, we have the only profile not based on an older Mass Effect class: the Explorer. Unlocking when you spend 2 points in every category and increasing as you spend points evenly, the Explorer is a jack-of-all-trades profile that buffs just about everything to a small extent. You’ll get a small increase to weapon damage, damage resistance, tech recharge speed, biotic power damage, and power restoration. Your special ability in this profile is blink, which changes your evasion ability into a short-range teleport that can even phase through matter. This makes the Explorer the most mobile profile in the game, and if you aren’t actively in combat it’s a good profile to default to.

We have only begun to scratch the surface of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s skill system and when the game comes out we will be sure to give you some of our recommended builds. What profile will you be specializing in? Let us know in the comments.