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Combat (Mass Effect 3)

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Disambiguous This article is about combat in Mass Effect 3. For combat in Mass Effect 2, see Combat (Mass Effect 2). For combat in Mass Effect, see Combat.

Combat Controls Edit

Mass Effect 3 Controls Edit

Controls are mostly retained from Mass Effect 2 regardless of platform, but with some significant improvements in behavior.

  • Fatigue is now removed; Shepard can sprint indefinitely if the button for sprinting is held. On PC, it is still the spacebar key, and is now shared with a wide variety of context-sensitive cues.
  • Shepard can now perform a variety of actions with tapping the shared action button while holding a directional button, depending on context.
    • If on open ground, combat rolls can be performed in whichever direction fancied.
    • Getting into cover can be done in three different ways: moving into it and tapping the shared action button, via combat roll, or by sprinting into it.
    • Shepard can dart from cover to adjacent cover, also known as a swat turn.
    • Shepard can vault over low obstacles or cover. It can also be done while sprinting toward the obstacle for minimum loss of momentum.
    • Shepard can now jump over gaps.
  • Rounding cover turn is now possible. On PC, a middle mouse click must be performed if on the edge of an L-shaped cover feature.
  • Shepard can traverse ladders simply by moving into it, automatically traveling to whichever elevation the ladder's end point is.

Power Wheel Edit

Hold the RB (on Xbox 360), Shift (by default on PC), R2 (PS3), or R (Wii U) to bring up the power wheel. This pauses the game, and allows you to access all the available powers that you and your teammates have at their disposal. Powers capable of usage are orange, powers in cooldown are greyed out, with a visual aid to show how close they are to cooling down, and powers currently ineffective are red with a down arrow on them. From the power wheel you can choose to use up to three powers (one per teammate, and one for you), and when you exit the power wheel, you and your teammates will use the selected powers.

HUD Screen Edit

The Heads Up Display, or HUD, shows all the vital information needed during combat. The HUD shows the targeting reticule, which gun you are using, how much ammunition you have left (in the clip and in reserve), and your quickslots. It also shows which teammates are in your present squad while indicating their status (by means of colors), and the status of Shepard's shields and health. Moreover, when Shepard uses a power, a small pair of faint-red semicircles will begin moving from the left and right toward the center of the screen (see the HUD screenshot). When these semicircles meet at the center, Shepard's powers have cooled down, indicating that the player can use a power again.

If an enemy is within a certain range and in Shepard's present field of vision, a special reticule will appear telling you the type of enemy and indicating the relative strength of this enemy's health, armor, and shields or barrier (if any of these apply).

Combat Powers Edit

Main article: Powers (Mass Effect 3)

Power Combos Edit

Main article: Power Combos

Melee Combat Edit

Melee Combat is a more important feature than in previous games. Like with Mass Effect 2, pressing a specific button will trigger a melee attack which involves striking an enemy with whatever weapon is being held. This standard attack can be chained together with subsequent presses of the melee button to perform a melee combo. Different weapon classes produce different melee attack animations. Like Mass Effect 2, melee attacks with pistols and SMGs still provide the highest attack speed for regular melee attacks.

Heavy Melee Edit

Mass Effect 3 introduces a new form of melee, called "heavy melee". The attack is accessible by holding down the melee button. Heavy melee is significantly more powerful than a standard melee attack, and the animation shown varies depending on which class the player chose at the game's start. It should be noted that heavy melee attacks vary in the damage they deal, e.g. the Adept's heavy melee is significantly less powerful than the Soldier's (though it does produce a disabling knock-back effect that varies in power relative to melee damage).

All classes can not only increase their melee damage permanently, but they can also invest in rank evolutions that increase damage of subsequent melee hits, weapon damage or power uses for several seconds after a heavy melee kill is achieved. If close enough to an enemy, whilst having them in your crosshairs, you will effectively lock on to the target upon pressing the melee button, i.e. your attack will always connect even if the opponent moves. Also, as mentioned above, melee combos can be entered by repeatedly tapping the melee button; however, if a particularly clean rhythm is maintained throughout, (i.e., a tap as soon as you start swinging each time) the final 3rd blow in the combo is a heavy melee attack.

Note: The Shotgun Omni-Blade attachment requires Mass Effect 3: Omega.

Grab Edit

Mass Effect 3 also introduces a new form of melee called the "Grab" which involves pulling an enemy over from another side of cover and stabbing or biotically punching them. While this attack is instantly fatal regardless of difficulty, health, shields, barriers or armor, it requires specific criteria: There must be an enemy close enough to the cover, the cover object must be low and not too long and the player must be crouching on the other side.

Opportunities to grab are indicated when a fist symbol appears while crouching, and the attack can be triggered by tapping the melee button. Most enemies will move away or jump the cover fairly quickly when this opportunity occurs, unless they are unaware of the player.

Keep in mind that this tactic does not work against every enemy. Enemies with armor bars cannot be grabbed (including Geth Pyros as of Patch 4 and armored enemies new to the game with Mass Effect 3: Retaliation). Minor enemies like Swarmers, Seeker Swarms and their possessed counterparts, Combat Drones, Turrets, and Geth Turrets are likewise excluded. Finally, Phantoms cannot be grabbed.

Health, Armor, Shields, and Barriers Edit

Health Edit

Represented by a red bar, health is the most basic status indicator of lower-tiered enemies (higher troops such as Ravagers and Atlases possess armor in place of health), as well as Shepard and the squad. Several enemy types, such as Cannibals and Assault Troopers, only possess health and no other inherent defences.

Unlike Mass Effect 2, where Shepard's health bar was a continuous meter, Shepard's health bar in Mass Effect 3 is split into 5 segments. Rather than being able to fully regenerate your entire health bar, only the health of one partially depleted segment can be regenerated automatically if damaged; you must use medi-gel to replenish further segments. There is a Health Gate effect which prevents you from being killed by a single powerful shot if not down to your last health segment yet. Both health and shields can be increased through the Fitness power and various upgrades and armor pieces.

Most enemies cannot regenerate health. Cannibals can, however, after gaining armor plating from Marauders or by consuming other fallen enemies. Their regeneration can be easily halted by several ammunition types and powers, e.g. Incendiary Ammo, Warp, and Cryo Blast.

Visibility of an enemy's health bar means the enemy is more vulnerable to the effects of powers like Throw, Pull and Shockwave, which will otherwise be of little use against defences. Exposed health also allows an enemy to be frozen (as opposed to simply "chilled") by powers like Cryo Blast and Cryo Ammo, or stunned/panicked by powers such as Overload and Incinerate (although note that several enemies are immune to panicking). Certain ammo powers such as Warp Ammo and Armor-Piercing Ammo produce a weapon-damage bonus against health.

Note that the effects of powers on health can differ depending on whether the enemy is organic or synthetic. For example, Energy Drain will replenish shields when used against synthetic health, but not organic, though it will stun both enemies.

Armor Edit

Represented by a yellow bar, armor is a common form of protection used by enemies. It replaces the health bar on most heavier enemies, making them immune to being fully affected by control-type powers such as Pull or Stasis.

Moreover, armor reduces weapon damage. Although it cannot negate such damage completely, armor generally reduces any incoming weapon damage by an absolute amount: [1] [2]

  • Narrative/Casual/Normal/Bronze: -15 damage
  • Hardcore/Silver: -30 damage
  • Insanity/Gold and Platinum: -50 damage
As such, armor is best countered by weapons that fire single powerful rounds as opposed to numerous weak ones, especially on higher difficulties. Therefore, against any armored opponent, it is advisable that selected individuals have either a powerful Heavy Pistol or Sniper Rifle. Although Shotguns can do lots of damage per blast, each blast typically consists of 8 (weaker) pellets, and each pellet will suffer armor's damage reduction; thus for the typical shotgun (including the Claymore), even a direct hit on an armored target will lose up to 400 damage on the highest difficulties. Heavy Pistols, which are typically semi-automatic and fire large bullets, may be less effective at taking down armor than sniper rifles but more effective at it than most Shotguns, Assault Rifles, and Submachine Guns (for example, an unmodified Avenger assault rifle—which deals up to 48 damage per shot—will be reduced to the minimum damage on the highest difficulties).

Equipping your weapons with either High-Velocity, Shredder, or Piercing Weapon Mods mitigates the damage reduction provided by armor, thus effectively increasing the damage of every bullet. These mods help shotguns and rapid firing weapons deal with armored targets. Note that "projectile" weapons are a general exception to the foregoing, since they ignore armor's damage reduction completely (e.g., the Graal Spike Thrower, the Scorpion, and the Acolyte).

Armor can also be countered by a variety of powers,[3] particularly those with armor weakening effects. Combat powers are probably the least effective with the exceptions of Adrenaline Rush and Proximity Mine. As for tech powers, although many are unremarkable against armor, among the best are Incinerate, Flamer, and Carnage, since these not only deal extra damage to armor, but can prime the target for a fire explosion (which itself deals extra damage to armor). There are also Cryo Blast and Snap Freeze, which mitigate the damage reduction enemy armor provides. Offensive biotic powers are very effective against armor, since most deal extra damage to it (exceptions include Biotic Charge), as do all biotic explosions. Warp also inherently "weakens" armor (i.e. mitigates armor's damage reduction), and has an advanced evolution to weaken it even more. As for ammo types, Incendiary Ammo, Warp Ammo, Cryo Ammo, and Armor-Piercing Ammo are all effective against armor, though in different ways. Many powers also have evolutions which can further increase the damage they do to armor.

All armor weakening effects function by reducing the damage reduction by the stated percentage. E.g. -50% armor effectiveness would reduce the damage reduction on platinum from -50 to -25.[4] Finally, multiple distinct sources of armor-weakening stack additively, meaning it is possible to completely negate an enemy's damage mitigation.[5]

Shields Edit

Represented by a blue bar, shields are the most common form of protection, found on enemies, Shepard, and many squad members alike. Shields tend to be strongest against biotic powers (in some cases, enemies cannot be affected by biotics until their shields are removed; in some other cases, biotics deal less damage to shields).

Despite frequent wording in-game, shields are no more vulnerable to fast-firing weapons than slow-firing ones (unlike armor, which does impact weapons of varying rates of fire differently).[6] However, some weapons do have special bonuses against shields (e.g. the M-358 Talon). A fast-firing weapon is less likely to be severely impacted by an enemy's shield gate effect however, due to less of the damage being attempted to be front-loaded in a single, slow shot that can be mostly cancelled out by shield gate. Above all, most shotguns are least harmed by shield gate (see the section on Shield/Health Gate, below).

Powers like Overload, Energy Drain, and Disruptor Ammo are very effective at dealing with shields. In multiplayer, Phasic Rounds are also very effective.

Enemy shields will replenish themselves if the enemy equipped with them is not attacked for a period of time.

Barriers Edit

Represented by a purple bar, barriers are used by biotics as a replacement for shields. New to Mass Effect 3, shield-stripping tech powers are now very effective against barriers. Tech powers like Overload and Energy Drain, along with biotic powers Reave, Warp, and Dark Channel, can do massive damage to them. Concussive Shot can also be effective.

Like shields, despite much of the in-game text, barriers are no more vulnerable to fast-firing weapons than slow-firing ones. The slight exception to this is that fast-firing (and thus low damage per shot) weapons are less likely to be severely negatively impacted by an enemy's shield gate. Similar to the case of Shields, shotguns are usually the least impeded by Barriers' shield-gate effect.

Some ammo powers like Warp Ammo and Disruptor Ammo are very effective at dealing with barriers.

Enemy barriers will replenish themselves if the enemy equipped with them is not attacked for a period of time.

Armored Plating Edit

One of the less common types of defense, armored plating protects select enemies (such as Brutes, as well as upgraded Husks and Cannibals) with visible slabs of armor. Rather than being represented by a colored bar, armored plating exists on the physical model of the enemy.

Gunfire hitting armored plating will produce a distinct metallic impact sound, but deal no damage whatsoever to the target it is protecting. Instead, delivering enough damage to the piece of armored plating will eventually cause it to be destroyed, exposing that part of the target.

The most obvious way of dealing with an armor plated enemy is to hit it where the plates don't cover. In addition to that, all non-weapon sources of damage (such as melee attacks or powers such as Flamer and Incinerate) ignore armored plating. Further, some attacks will cause a portion of their damage even when impacting armored plating; specifically:

Shield/Health Gate Edit

Enemies Edit

Shield gate[7] is a mechanic introduced in Mass Effect 3. When an enemy's shields or barriers are destroyed by a non-melee weapon hit[8], excess damage from the shot that passes through to health or armor is reduced by a certain percentage according to the difficulty. The reductions are as follows:

  • Normal/Bronze: 50%
  • Hardcore/Silver/Gold/Platinum: 75%
  • Insanity: 100%

For weapons that fire multiple pellets, such as most shotguns or the M-358 Talon, the shield gate will apply to the pellet that destroyed the shields/barriers, but the rest of the pellets will cause full damage.

Weapons that do not fire bullets ignore the enemy's shield gate effect, except for the Krysae Sniper Rifle in multiplayer.[9]

Players Edit

Shepard and player characters in multiplayer receive a slightly different version of the gate effect on both their shield/barrier and health.[10] Instead of a reduction in the "excess" damage that would have bypassed barrier/shield, players gain a temporary immunity to any damage once their shields/barrier is depleted ("shield gate") or they hit 5% remaining health ("health gate"). This invulnerability is dependent on difficulty and lasts as follows:

  • Narrative: 1.0 seconds
  • Casual: .75 seconds
  • Normal/Bronze: .5 seconds
  • Hardcore/Silver: .25 seconds
  • Insanity/Gold: .1 seconds
  • Platinum: .01 seconds

There is a further "cooldown" on each of the gate effects to prevent players from being invulnerable too often (as would be otherwise possible on low difficulties with low shield regen delays thanks to powers and gear). The shield gate has a cooldown of 4 seconds and the health gate has a cooldown of 3 seconds.

As an example: a player playing multiplayer on Bronze difficulty is being attacked by a Phantom at range. The player gets hit by a shot from her palm blaster, which does more damage than the player has shields. The player is brought down to 0 shields, but shield gate kicks in and nullifies the rest of the damage. Another shot hits the player within .5 seconds, but the damage is cancelled out. The shield gate wears off after the half-second, and the player uses an Ops Pack to regenerate all of their shields. Another shot from the palm blaster hits the player, but this time the shield gate effect is on cooldown, so the player loses all of their shield and some of their health. Another shot hits the player and brings them to 5% health, at which point health gate kicks in and nullifies any further damage. After half a second, a missile hits the player—this time there are no further gate protections to the player and the player dies from the hit.

There are a few types of attacks that completely bypass all gate effects and can instantly kill the player from full health/barrier/shield:[11]

Cover and Damage Reduction Edit

Various powers and effects (such as Fortification or Barrier) may bestow "damage reduction." All such sources of damage reduction stack additively (as opposed to multiplicatively), so for example a character girded with Fortification standing inside a Biotic Sphere would get 80% total damage reduction (40% from Fortification + 40% from Biotic Sphere). This has a ramification that each point of damage reduction actually bestows increasing returns.[12]

However, the full effect of the damage reduction is only applied when your character is physically "attached" to some form of cover. If your character is simply running around or standing (even if standing behind an obstacle), then your actual damage reduction is ~71.2% (10/14th) of its base total value, which means that in order to achieve "complete" damage reduction requires a gross total of 140%, not 100%.[13]

Moreover, if your character is hiding behind cover, you have an additional 90% damage reduction against attacks that come from in a cone in front of you, where "front" refers to a direction relative to the camera view, not your character's physical orientation (which may be facing towards the camera when hiding behind cover). In other words, this bonus damage reduction does not apply to shots or attacks that hit you from the side or from "behind" the camera. However, if your character leans out to do anything (such as blind-firing or using a power), then this bonus damage reduction rapidly drops to 0% over the course of .5 to 1 second. If your character "detaches" from cover, this bonus damage reduction disappears instantly. Note that in many cases you may not actually notice this bonus damage reduction since by definition of being behind cover, most attacks that come from a frontal cone will hit the cover not you.[14]

Squad Edit

See also: Squad Members Guide (Mass Effect 3)

The squad in Mass Effect 3 is made up of, as in the rest of the Mass Effect trilogy, Commander Shepard and two NPCs who the player can select at the beginning of a Mission. These NPCs may become available at certain points throughout the game, or may have to be unlocked by downloading DLC. In addition, after certain plot choices, certain members may become unavailable. In some missions, the squad can sometimes be reduced to two members (Shepard and a NPC) or just be Shepard alone.

Traditionally, a player will attempt to pick two NPCs whose areas of specialty fill in their own gaps - an Adept (pure Biotic), for example, might choose Ashley (pure Combat) and Tali (pure Tech) in order to fill out their areas of weakness. This allows them to be an all-round squad, able to tackle all foes. However, if it is known that the player is only going to be fighting the geth, a player might choose to have both Tali (pure Tech) and Garrus (Tech/Combat), as Tech powers are most effective against geth enemies and they would therefore have the upper hand when compared to a more 'balanced' team; similarly, one might choose a mix that can exploit powerful combos, such as EDI (Incinerate) + James (Carnage) or Liara (Singularity) + Javik (lift grenade)...etc.

As an alternative school of thought, since Mass Effect 3 features more involved dialogue and interactions between squad members during missions than the previous games, it is perfectly reasonable to select squad members more for the potential character development they'll have and less for the valuable skill sets they may bring. This may put players at a disadvantage from a strictly gameplay point of view, though put in another way it adds an extra difficulty "challenge" in forcing people to adapt less conventional tactics given the "non-optimal" squad combination.

Combat Difficulty Edit

Narrative Edit

This difficulty level is intended for players who are more interested in story than combat. Shepard and squadmates are stronger, weapons are easier to handle, and enemies are weaker and less aggressive. This is a nonrepresentative Mass Effect 3 combat experience.

Casual Edit

This difficulty is intended for players inexperienced with shooters. Shepard is stronger and does more damage, weapons are easier to handle, and enemies are slightly weaker and less aggressive.

Normal Edit

This difficulty is intended for players with experience playing shooters and RPGs. This is the baseline Mass Effect 3 combat experience.

Hardcore Edit

This difficulty level is intended for players looking for a challenge. Enemies are powerful and aggressive. Advanced gameplay skills required.

Insanity Edit

This difficulty level is intended for players seeking the ultimate challenge. Enemies are tenacious, react quickly, have heavily upgraded weapons, and use their powers mercilessly.

Game Options Edit

Auto Level-Up

  • Off: Powers must be manually activated and evolved in the Mission Computer's Squad screen each time Shepard or a squadmate gains a level and earns points.
  • Squad Only: Powers are automatically activated and evolved for squadmates as they gain levels and earn points. Shepard's powers must be manually assigned in the Mission Computer's Squad screen.
  • Squad & Player: Powers are automatically activated and evolved for Shepard and squadmates as they gain levels and earn points.

Squadmate Power Use:

  • On: Squadmates will automatically use their most effective powers in combat.
  • Off: Squadmates will only use defensive and ammo powers automatically. All offensive powers must be manually ordered.


  • On: In-game instructions and directions are displayed.
  • Off: In-game instructions and directions are not displayed.

Action Icons:

  • On: Displays indicators when an action like exiting cover is possible.
  • Off: Does not display indicators when an action like exiting cover is possible.

Weapons Edit

Every class now has access to all weapons, although restricted by weight (see above). They can be upgraded up to the X (10) series. The first five upgrades are available in the Normandy Shuttle Bay on a character's first ME3 playthrough. The last five upgrades must be acquired by using the Import ME3 Character option when creating a New Game. This will carry all weapons, upgrade levels, and mod levels over, and allow you to purchase two additional upgrade levels in the Normandy. Picking up the weapon once more during the second playthrough will automatically upgrade the weapon by three levels. Spectre and downloadable weapons will have all ten levels available for purchase in the Normandy.

Shepard can equip all five weapon types at once if desired. Squad Members are restricted to two weapon types (for example, Garrus can equip Sniper Rifles and Assault Rifles, Liara SMGs and Pistols). Multiplayer characters can equip any weapon type, but only up to two at a time. However, they can also carry up to six Cobra Missile Launchers.

Weapons can be customized further in a manner similar to Mass Effect, although more streamlined using Weapon Mods. Each weapon has two slots for mods, with every weapon type having a different variety of mods that can be equipped once acquired. Each mod can be upgraded in a similar fashion to the weapons themselves and used in as many weapons as desired. Some mods exclude each other.

Common types of mods include scopes (higher accuracy), barrel extensions (higher damage), ammo capacity upgrades (either a larger magazine or more total ammo depending on the weapon type), melee combat enhancements and piercing mods (allowing shots to penetrate cover). Other mods are only available for some weapon types, such as the Concentration Mod for Sniper Rifles.

Unlike in Mass Effect 2, players cannot carry Heavy Weapons in Singleplayer. However, they can be found in some places to help out with difficult fights. If the player switches weapons, the heavy weapon is automatically dropped and cannot be carried far from where it was found, especially not between missions. In a few situations, special weapons that could be considered Heavy Weapons are available and Shepard will automatically equip them for those segments.

In Multiplayer, the only heavy weapon available is the Cobra Missile Launcher, of which every character carries a limited supply of into each mission. Because of these limitations, Heavy Weapons cannot be modded and are unaffected by ammo powers.

Weapons Heat and Thermal Clips Edit

Mass Effect 3 uses the same system as Mass Effect 2, where weapons fire a certain number of shots and then the current Thermal Clip must be ejected and a new one inserted. If you do not have any Thermal Clips for a specific weapon, then you cannot fire that weapon. Unlike in Mass Effect 2, there are more ways to increase reserve clip capacity and even increase the amount of rounds that a weapon can shoot before a replacement clip is needed through weapon mods. There are also ways of increasing reserve ammunition through Rank Evolutions in any ammo type, provided your character class has access to it. If you run out of spare clips, a loud beeping can be heard indicating the weapon has overheated, and cannot fire due to lack of thermal clips.

Like in Mass Effect 2, clips can be replenished by picking them up from downed enemies that use weapons that take clips, and in multiplayer, by visiting ammo boxes scattered around the map.

A few weapons use a heat system more like the Mass Effect system, recharging their "ammo" when they aren't being fired. However, they have no reserve clips and if depleted entirely, they have to be "reloaded" via lengthy cooling animation before they can fire again.

Weight Capacity Edit

Unlike previous games in the series, any class can carry any weapon in Mass Effect 3 and use it with full effectiveness. Instead of limiting what kinds of weapons each class can carry, the game assigns a weight to each weapon, and imposes a weight capacity on the player. Each class can carry up to their weight capacity without penalty, with Soldiers possessing the highest capacity, and Adepts and Engineers the lowest.

Exceeding the weight capacity of the character will incur a penalty to powers' recharge speeds. Staying below the character's weight capacity provides a bonus to powers' recharge speeds of up to 200%, while vastly exceeding it may result in a penalty of up to -200%. The penalty is proportional to how far the player's weight capacity has been exceeded. Carrying below capacity greatly helps all power-reliant character builds, such as the power-focused Engineers and charge-heavy Vanguards.

Upgrading weapons also reduces the weapon's weight slightly, and it can be modified further with weapon mods—Ultralight Materials modifications decrease a weapon's weight, while some other mods increase a weapon's weight but have greater effects than standard mods.

In multiplayer, different classes have different default weights, and maximum weight capacities. Some classes also benefit more or less from their respective skill trees. For example, Alliance Training and Asari Justicar grant 10 weight capacity from rank 1 of said trees and 20 on rank 4 evolutions, whereas Turian Veteran grants 15 weight capacity with the first rank and 25 from the rank 4 evolution. Many classes also have a rank 6 evolution in their passive that decreases the weight of one, some, or all types of weapons by a certain amount. These weights have a significant impact on power recharge speeds.

While each character in multiplayer can equip two weapons, power-focused characters might prefer only having one or none at all (though it is possible to retain 200% and still equip a weapon or even two with Ultralight Materials).

In single player, weight does not affect the power cooldown times of squadmates.[15]

See Also Edit

References Edit

  12. Going from 0% to 5% damage reduction, for example, is a simple 5% reduction in incoming damage (a theoretical 100 to 95). Going from 75% to 80% damage, however, is a whopping 20% reduction in incoming damage (a theoretical 25 to 20).

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