We're knee-deep in the 30 Days of Mass Effect series, and an even tougher hill to climb as things come to a head, so I thought I'd discuss some of the basic survival tools I gained by playing through the game on its toughest difficulty. While some of these abilities are class-specific, others can be used by different classes - as well as some squadmates- and in essence can be considered optimal choices to develop to make your gaming experience easier. Of course, this list is based on my own personal gaming style and might not suit some readers. Some of these skills will be emphasized more than others; however, this list is not one denoting value in any shape or form. Feel free to offer your own preferred choices in the comments section!

1) Overload

This is probably one of the most useful abilities to use in the entire game. Don't believe me? Overload can not only be upgraded to stun enemies, it can also be used to affect neighboring enemies in a stream of electrical energy similar to the Arc Projector of ME2, setting them up for deadly biotic or tech combos. Since most of the enemies you face will have shields of some form, Overload is invaluable as an ability in tougher firefights and can make work of enemies that are especially annoying, such as Engineers. The bonus that comes with Overload however, is that it's also a great way to eliminate biotic barriers as well; this will become vital later when players encounter Phantoms and enemies shielded by biotic generators, giving it great offensive as well as defensive capabilities. Being able to dramatically multiply the damage to enemies with shields and barriers also makes Overload essential late in the game.

2) Warp

The mother of all biotic abilities, Warp is the holy grail of biotic skills, capable of draining your enemy's health in addition to detonating other biotic effects for maximum carnage. Upgrade the ability appropriately and you can do anything from dramatically increase the force of biotic explosions to send enemies flying, or you can evolve the ability so that it easily weakens the armor of stronger enemies, leaving the rest of your squad to mop up the rest. While not as strong against biotic barriers, it's main strength is that it's usually a great way to set up or finish a detonation combo - using Warp on an enemy trapped in Singularity or Pull are a couple of my favorite combos, while finishing a Warp with a powerful Throw is also useful. My favorite strategy with Warp however, is to use it on an enemy and then shower the opponent with shots powered by Warp ammo. With the additional bonuses to damage that Warp ammo causes in this state it rapidly depletes the health of even the strongest enemies.

3) Adrenaline Rush

A very useful skill for the Soldier class, both as an offensive and defensive skill. This ability temporarily slows time, allowing Shepard to either deal increased amounts of damage in a short period of time. This ability is a great way to finish off enemies when one's being swarmed by small groups of enemies like Cannibals and Marauders. Or, Adrenaline Rush allows players in a tough situation to weasel their way into cover. One thing I especially love about this ability is that players can evolve the skill so that they're able to use an additional ability while it's active. Nothing like a good ol' Concussive Shot to add the finishing touch to the combat mayhem.

4) Concussive Shot

Unquestionably a useful offensive skill for soldiers, while Concussive Shot doesn't fare as well against enemies with shields and barriers, it will stagger most enemies you encounter, and can be tweaked to impact small groups of enemies. What I especially love about Concussive Shot is that you can either evolve it to decimate organics or - my favorite choice - evolve so that each shot takes on the properties of whatever ammo ability that players are equipped with; using the Incendiary ammo ability causes wonderfully powerful tech bursts, while Warp ammo turns Concussive Shot into a powerful detonator when paired with the right biotic combos.

5) Throw

Offensively, Throw is probably the most convenient biotic skill that players can use. With a fast cooldown time, players can spam this ability to their heart's content, and the raw force of each impact can easily damage weaker protected enemies and husks, making Throw an excellent ability players can spam to gradually bludgeon them to death. I also have to say that it's a great detonator skill, and with its incredible speed and recharge make it an efficient way to take out heavily-armed opponents on the field through this method. Did I mention that you can evolve this power so that you can fire TWO of these bad boys at once? Priceless.

6) Incinerate

Now this ability takes the cake for being unquestionably useful. Considered the "Warp" of all tech skills, Incinerate can quickly damage any shield, barrier, or armor it impacts, and has the added bonus of damaging the enemy's health. Organics it impacts will panic while they burn while mechs will be damaged as well. Both will explode whenever killed in a combo. Since enemies impacted by this will disintegrate upon death, it's a great way to keep Cannibals from regaining their health and is incredibly useful on most of the Cerberus fodder you'll run into. The only fault it has is that synthetics like Geth aren't weakened as easily by this skill. However, they are freezable, and when combined with Incinerate, are easily made quick work of. Its ability to affect small groups of enemies is an excellent tradeoff, and by the time you've fully evolved this skill, the type of enemy you face really won't matter anymore; everything burns after all.

7)  Ammo Ability


I haven't mentioned a specific ammo ability in my list since each has its own merits and can be evolved to deal incredible damage or weaken opponents when the situation calls for it. One of the best abilities to use out of those available for players on Insanity is Armor-piercing ammo. Many of the enemies - aside from the basic ones - will now have armor or will take cover more often. Armor-Piercing ammo not only weakens the armor effectiveness of your opponent but is the only ammo ability capable of piercing through enemy armor, and with the right evolution, even through cover, an ability that is normally obtained only through upgrades attached to your weapons (the Black Widow and the Javelin automatically have this ability, however).

Disruptor ammo is an excellent ability to use against synthetic enemies and those with shields; granting this ability to your entire squad is invaluable. Incendiary ammo is a great skill that can cause most of the weaker enemies you encounter to panic once they're lit aflame, and can even cause powerful explosions that affect other enemies. Cryo ammo is an excellent skill to use when you want to prevent normally agile enemies from flanking your squad - and what's not to love about watching them shatter into dozens of pieces with the killing shot? Then there's Warp ammo, the skill that's excellent when combined with other biotic powers like Warp and Throw. There's an ammo ability tailored to any possible playing style; don't be afraid to experiment.

8) Energy Drain

Hands-down, I consider Energy Drain to be the best defensive tech skill you'll find; I would've chosen tech armor if they hadn't weakened it in the third game so much. So, basically Energy Drain allows you to deplete the barriers and shields of your opponents to replenish your shields, making it a great ability to use when you're in a pinch- those Marauders are a prime target. With higher evolutionary skills Energy Drain becomes an excellent crowd control tool against Geth, and it's great recharge time essentially means you can rapidly eliminate large groups while remaining protected with little strain or opposition, especially if you have the skill upgraded to temporarily grant you an armor boost. With players lacking defense, this is a powerful if not essential skill; with stronger classes, it turns players into indestructible tanks.

9) Pull

While it's basically a poor man's Singularity, Pull nonetheless holds greater pragmatic value in my opinion. Like Singularity, it traps an enemy - or several if you upgrade it properly - for a few seconds and pulls them in whatever direction they're impacted, leaving plenty of time for players to pick them off or focus on tougher enemies. Since its primary focus is as an ability that sets up enemies for attacks rather than individual damage, Pull is best used in a combo, preferably a biotic one since it makes a great detonating skill and has a superb recharge time. Did I mention that you can evolve the ability to use two at a time also? Since both Pull and Singularity serve the same basic function with subtle differences, I recommend that only one of them be leveled up so that ability points can be spent elsewhere.

10 ) Singularity

This is an incredibly useful skill, great for slowing the momentum when waves of fodder begin appearing - namely, Cerberus agents, husks, and Cannibals. The ultimate crowd control ability, you can use it to capture most enemies before they even have a chance to attack, and all but the largest and strongest enemies will be affected by it. Nonetheless, it's a great setup for a good detonation skill - Warp, Pull, or Throw for instance - and can be given Warp-like properties and gradually deal damage to enemies trapped in it. It's incredibly fast recharge time makes it a prime ability to spam while other players focus on eliminating enemy shields and armor, especially if the character using it is Liara. It may be the last ability I've mentioned, but it's certainly not the least useful when used effectively.