One hundred seventy five hours and eighty two levels later, I completed a second play through of Mass Effect Andromeda on Insanity Mode. The combat in ME:A is a fresh new look for the franchise, and gets even more fun when you turn up the heat. Hardcore mode was very satisfying, but I could not resist the ultimate challenge of Insanity mode. It was well worth the effort. Below are a few tips that helped me.
New Game Plus
Even if you’ve completed the prior Mass Effect trilogy on Insanity mode, I do not recommend attempting Andromeda on Insanity mode the first play through for reasons that have nothing to do with skill. Once you have finished it on normal or hardcore, you can choose “New Game Plus” mode, and keep all of your skills, gear, upgrades and squadmate skills except for specific abilities unlocked via story. You also keep your research, rare consumables, and other critical resources. If you take your time and get the most out of your first play through you could be upwards of level 60 with multiple profiles at maximum rank, with squadmates at the level cap. This makes that first return to Eos on Insanity mode a lot more do-able, and will better prepare you to tackle the boss fights later on.
Use Multiple Profiles in the Favorites Wheel
The critical stat bonuses provided by the top ranks of each profile are useful in different situations, and quite frequently in the course of the same fight. Shielded heavy ranged opponents require a different approach when you find your cover compromised and with only three moves you need to be able to switch between maximum damage output and maximum survival on the fly. Experiment with the favorites wheel and different profiles to find out which work best for you depending on combat situations. I kept profiles for optimal sniping via Infiltrator, well rounded close quarters combat with Adept or Sentinel, and variations of each optimized for high damage output or immediate shield recovery with key tech and combat tree skills.
Stack Anti-Shield Attacks
By a large margin, the hardest part of Insanity mode are the blue-shielded heavy opponents. Not the bosses, not the big hairy armored beasts, but the quite common “normal” shielded foes like the Observers and Kett Heavies. Because shielded opponents fully regenerate their blue bar if you cannot sustain enough damage to deplete it in a timely manner, they recover while you waste ammunition. On Insanity mode that definitely will take a turn for worse fast. My main profile stacked three skills out of a handful that can be upgraded to do quite a bit of shield damage. Overload is a signature anti-shield move that can be charged to also hit other enemies nearby even if they are in cover. Pull from the biotic tree can be upgraded to do reasonable shield damage, has a quick recharge and doubles as a super effective knock-down on unshielded opponents. Energy Drain does great damage to any target including shielded ones and is the best self heal in the game. There are other anti-shield moves, like Lance, but I find they are not as well rounded as the above three for most situations. For any of these moves, be sure to pick up passive bonuses from the skills at the bottom of the biotic or tech trees, which could boost your damage or defenses significantly.
It wouldn’t be Insanity mode if you didn’t find yourself neck deep in melee critters, flanked by half the Kett marksmen club and low on ammo with squadmates dropping. This is business as usual in several parts of the story no matter how good your aim or approach is. One of your favorite profiles should have tactical cloak. If you are careful not to uncloak on accident you can interact with terminals and revive teammates without being seen. There are numerous opportunities to hack turrets that you can get to at the start of a very tough fight only if you use tactical cloak, turning a nightmare encounter into a fun one as the turret wrecks their heavies instead of your squad. Tactical Cloak is also a life saver when you need to make a big position change for new cover or fresh ammo/health boxes during a long fight.
DIY Armor and Weapons
Another big benefit from starting from New Game Plus is keeping all of your research data and progress, and higher end crafted gear and enhancements are substantially better than the random loot you’ll find or vendor bought weapons. A tier VIII or higher crafted sniper rifle like the Widow or Black Widow with max mod slots and proper level mods may be the most valuable piece of equipment you’ll ever carry. Use AVP to unlock as many Science and Market options related to special merchant inventory (for rare mods) and crafting as possible to make the best gear you can and it will keep you in the fight.
Know Your Consumables
When push comes to shove, the boss fights and encounters with monsters like fiends can demand more than you have to spare in a pinch. Ammo consumables like Incendiary or Cryo rounds are too rare or expensive to use constantly, but are amazing in specific encounters. A Cobra RPG can turn a surprise ultra encounter around, and Incendiary rounds can cut the time to kill a fiend in half. Cryo rounds are best when combined with an AR against a swarm of unarmored foes like Kett Chosen or Raiders, as they will snap freeze your targets long enough for you to reassess cover or close for a melee kill. Finally, Overcharge boosts a few key stats and instantly recharges your current abilities so they can be used, which can make the difference between death and narrow escape if you needed a Tactical Cloak or Energy Drain right now. This trick saved my bacon in at least one of the tough fights towards the end of the game, and prevented a frustrating reset to the last auto save spot.
Bring More Ammo, Not Less
Some mods, including tasty fusion mods have a negative trait of reduced ammo or clip capacity. Insanity mode will push your ammo conservation and recovery skills to the limit. Avoid tempting critical hit bonuses that trade for reduced ammo, as most encounters are quite capable of expending all of your ammo and anything to be found in crates no matter how good you are with headshots. With proper investment into crafting you can choose mods with reasonable damage bonuses without penalties or trade-offs.
In conclusion, I was pleasantly surprised at how fantastic the combat would be in Mass Effect Andromeda, and thrilled at how well the fun scaled with the challenge. I found I enjoyed the game even more the second time through.