I love a good challenge, which is why I’m always trying to tackle the hardest difficulty in every game I play. I played the original Mass Effect trilogy that way, so I had the same goals in mind for Mass Effect: Andromeda.
While I did spend most of the earlier bits of the game sniping, I always had plans to explore a melee build I was theorycrafting. Thankfully, that build turned out to be as awesome as I’d hoped, and I wanted to share it with all of you this week. Keep in mind, this isn’t a build you can jump into right away. I would suggest you have 84 skill points at a bare minimum to begin exploring this build.
The Slicing and Dicing Human Bullet
For skill evolutions: A=Top Evolution, B= Bottom Evolution
Recharge is king with this build, due to the penalty imposed by Annihilation, so you’re definitely going to want the Vanguard profile. Also, you’re obviously going to appreciate the +melee damage, being a melee build and all.
- Charge (4A, 5A, 6B)
Charge is your staple skill in this build, which should be familiar to anyone who's played a Vanguard in the original trilogy. This skill is used primarily for mobility and shield management. Taking too much sustained fire on Insanity is sure to pop your shields, so charging often will be key to keeping your shields full. The key evolutions here are 5A (for melee damage) and 6B for the extra shield restoration and the 75 damage resistance. It’s true that it’s possible to keep your shields up using 6A by having enough Power Restoration, so the extra recharge can appear attractive, but it’s really the 75 DR that puts 6B over the top. Experiment on your own, but I’ve found 6B to be the winner here.
- Overload (All B)
Most similar builds won’t include a tech skill, but there are two reasons I opt to use Overload in this build. The first is that Overload is an amazing anti-synthetic and anti-shield skill and your toughest opponents typically have shields, so being able to blow them away at the outset is certainly valuable. The second reason, and this is something I really haven’t seen anyone mention just yet, is the synergy with 6B in Team Support. Basically, with the 6B evolution in Team Support, any tech skill usage will heal you over time. In Andromeda, there are almost no ways to restore health outside of health boxes, so Overload ends up doing double duty as an anti-shield tool and health management skill. It’s also a combo detonator, which is nice. We choose all B evolutions here to maximize the recharge rate and anti-shield capabilities.
- Annihilation (4B, 5A, 6A)
This is the skill that gels the entire build together. Annihilation is a PBAoE DoT toggle power that automatically primes everything in its radius for combos. Annihilation ensures that combos are popping off every time you charge, every time you Overload, and every time your companions use detonating skills. Annihilation’s 5A evolution is a great debuff that will stack with the 5B evolution of Offensive Biotics for a continuous extra 40% dmg against all targets afflicted by the power’s massive area of effect. The 6A evolution will stack with your Shield Oscillator to provide you with at least 55% of your shields restored on every kill. The recharge penalty is rough, but the tradeoffs are worth it.
- Combat Tools (4B, 5A, 6B)
There’s really only one reason you’re taking this skill to the max rank and it’s for the 6B evolution. Once you ramp up in combat (roughly three kills), you’ll be an unstoppable force with the +65% melee damage the 6B evolution provides you. This passive is key to keeping the murder train rolling.
- Combat Fitness (4B, 5A, 6A)
This skill has a number of uses, including adding to your shields, decreasing weight penalties for the weapons you’re bringing into battle (staying at 100% recharge is critical for this build), and stacking health regeneration with Team Support’s 6B evolution, but the real hero here is the 6A evolution. This isn’t critical to the performance of the build, it’s more of luxury than anything else, but in the instances your shields get popped and you get chunked down to low HP, 6B will grant you 200 damage resistance to give you a chance to claw your way back into the fight. This upgrade stacks well with the 6B evolution of Barrier (which refills your shields to full triggered off of the same condition).
- Barrier (4A, 5A, 6B)
Maxing Barrier is important for increasing your maximum shield capacity, as mitigation, particularly in melee, is incredibly important on Insanity. Things hit hard. The 5A evolution synergizes with your Annihilation aura to provide a constant 40% extra shields (!) when in range of enemies. The 6B evolution is great for the reasons outlined above in our explanation of Combat Fitness.
- Offensive Biotics (4B, 5A, 6B)
You’re mainly upgrading this skill for the 4B recharge boost and the 5A evolution to stack with Annihilation for the aforementioned 40% damage buff. The 6B evolution offers some useful +melee damage, but it’s not critical to the performance of the build.
- Containment (4A, 5A, 6B)
Containment is a workhorse passive in your build. It’s not very flashy with what it does, but it makes a huge impact. The 4A and 6B evolutions allow you to skip the radius evolution in Annihilation so that you can reduce the skill’s recharge penalty. Containment’s 5A evolution also pairs well with Overload as an anti-shield combo detonator to amplify its shield busting capabilities.
- Team Support (4B, 5A, 6B)
Team Support is primarily taken for the 6B heal we covered earlier, but the extra buffs for you and your team’s mitigation are helpful on Insanity. Additionally, the Power Restoration granted by this power further amplifies your shield restoration potential.
- Weapon Skills (Sniper Rifles, Shotguns, etc.).
These are really choice, but the most relevant skill to upgrade here is the Shotgun line as you can get a 40% melee damage boost from the 6B evolution. I also recommend taking at least 4A in any of your chosen weapon lines to ensure that they aren’t impacting your recharge rates.
- Sniper Rifle or Assault Rifle
Face it, there are moments in the game where melee just isn’t viable. Such as fighting Remnant Architects or when facing off against enemies that will sync (insta) kill you if you get caught in melee range. In these situations, being able to switch off to a longer range weapon is helpful.
- Pistol or Shotgun
This is mostly preference, but you can get a 40% melee damage boost by weaving in a shotgun attack every 3 seconds. Personally, I haven’t found this necessary, so if you prefer pistols for whatever reason, go ahead.
- Asari Sword (Mandatory)
The Asari Sword is one of the strongest melee weapons in the game, which is reason enough to recommend it here, but what makes it mandatory is the blink on attack. This skill is basically a mini-Charge, allowing you to close distances with targets and take them out. The blink animation also features invincibility frames, which means you won’t be taking damage while melee attacking, something I’ve found critical to my survival in melee on Insanity.
- Hyperguardian Armor
This is a straightforward melee centric armor set. It offers +melee damage, shields, and max health.
- Augments: Shield Oscillator (25% Shields on Kill), Choice
Shield Oscillator is a critical augment to managing your shield restoration. Add whatever you like after that.
- Mod: Fusion Mod of Shielding (+50% Shields, -50% Health)
Shields are a far better at mitigating damage than health is and there are infinitely more ways to restore shields over health (especially in this build), so there’s no reason not to make the trade off here. No brainer.
Got any of your own builds for crushing Andromeda on Insanity? Post ‘em in the comments below!