"I'm the tyranny of evil men," scowled Samuel L. Jackson, rather memorably. "But I'm trying, Ringo. I'm trying real hard to be a shepherd". He could have saved himself a lot of silly bother by simply waiting fourteen years for Mass Effect to come out, since you can't help but be a shepherd in this one. Commander Shepard, to be precise (oh it's a perfect segue) and it's his/her adventure we're continuing today.
As with part one of our guide to the Mass Effect galaxy, we're not walking you through the story missions - which are rather straightforward and much more fun to discover by yourself anyway - but shining a light in the more obscure corners of the game, showing you how to find the many optional assignments and advising you as to their worth.
Having completed the Citadel missions, you're now free to roam the galaxy in the Normandy so we'll take things one solar system at a time, starting with the ones you'll be visiting to continue the chase for Saren...
We'll be highlighting the locations of some artefacts and other collection quest objects, but you should get into the habit of scanning all non-habited planets and scouring each planet surface for mineral deposits. Always give asteroid fields a sweep with your cursor as well - there are often mineral-rich rocks floating around in there.
Many assignments have different names depending on when and where you activate them, and also whether you complete them as a Paragon or Renegade. If the name of a mission doesn't sound familiar, read the description - you may still have it in your list.
- System: Hercules
- Planet: Eletania
This mission comes in via transmission from the leathery tones of Lance Henriksen when you arrive at the Hercules system. You need to retrieve a probe module from the planet surface but, when you get there, the Geth have beaten you to it and you'll have to fight a few of them off. Not that they had any more luck getting the probe - it's been stolen by a space monkey, in one of the best plot twists in any game ever. Rather than search every monkey colony, just drive around until you find the one near a mine entrance. Enter the mine, search the monkeys inside, fight some more Geth, job done. You can actually save yourself some time and trouble by going straight to the mine, ignoring the probe altogether, while those chasing Renegade points can earn some by slaughtering the monkeys.
Worth doing? Yes. Can't you read? It's got space monkeys.
BONUS: This planet is also home to a mysterious globe, a Prothean relic. If you've got the trinket from the Asari Consort assignment you can use it here to get a short flashback to Cro Magnon man's first encounter with the Proteans. It's a bit of a weird reward for such an obscure combination of location and item, especially since it's all told in text. Still, there it is.
- Planet: Syided
BONUS: There's a League of One medallion here.
- System: Theseus
- Planet: Feros
Geth in the Tunnels/Power Cells/Varren Meat/Water Restoration
Here are four assignments you can complete in a relatively short space of time. After you clear the tower of Geth, talk to Fai Dan and ask him about getting the colony operational. He'll tell you who to speak to regarding the colony's power, food and water problems, and also mention a Geth transmitter in the tunnels that is coordinating their attacks. Quickly nip around and talk to all the people he mentioned to activate all the quests, then head down into the tunnels. This is a small area, though well populated with enemies, so you really can't miss the assignment objectives. When battling the Geth in the side corridors, keep your eyes open for the three water valves. The first crossroads you come to will lead to the heavily guarded transmitter, over the small bridge, and to the varren nest and power cells towards the collapsed highway. Chat to the nutter at the far end, make sure you've cleared out all the item boxes along the way (there are some kick ass weapons and ammo down here) and head back to Zhu's Hope to spread the good news around.
Worth doing? Definitely. This quartet of quests yields loads of XP and credits, as well as a ton of Paragon points. Not so handy if you're trying to fill the Renegade gauge, but you'd be a fool to turn down this buffet of goodies just for that.
Halfway along the Skyway, you'll have the option of stopping to check in with the survivors of ExoGeni hiding in the weigh station. While there, speak with Gavin Hossle and he'll ask you to retrieve some of his data from the ExoGeni HQ. The console you're looking for is up a flight of stairs after you discover the Geth claw - but be warned, it's guarded by Krogan.
Worth doing? Sure. Gavin is a generous tipper, and it's not as if you haven't already got business in the HQ anyway.
Hack the console in the room opposite Davin Reynolds in Zhu's Hope. This will activate the Investigate Shipments assignment, for which you'll need to visit the Voyager cluster.
In the room with the giant Geth claw through the wall, and a bunch of Geth shock troopers and snipers, hack the console in the corner. You'll discover transmissions suggesting you should check out the Nodacrux system.
In the same room, up and over the stairs, you'll find a server that can be hacked. This reveals concerns from a Dr Gamorle about some samples supplied to the Cerberus group. The Maroon Sea cluster is where you need to look.
- Planet: Sharring
BONUS: There's a Prothean Data Disc here.
- System: Sparta
- Planet: Edolus
This mission is activated by talking to Admiral Kahoku in the Citadel Tower, although - like many of these missions - you can also save time by simply going straight to where the action is and finding it by "accident". In this case, locate the marines (not hard) and then deal with the Thresher Maw that appears as you approach (quite hard). It'll dive into the ground and pop out again, smashing the crackers our of the Mako if you're nearby. It'll also spit acid at you. Keep driving until you see the Thresher Maw reappear on the radar, then fire off a few shots from a safe distance. If you're really cowardly, you can restrict your attacks to the times when it pops out and isn't facing you. Keep moving and shooting, retreating to patch things up if the Maw hits you, and you'll eventually whittle the thing down. Once it's dead, investigate the dead marines and then report to Kahoku when you get the chance.
Worth doing? Yes, since this mission opens up a new subplot and a series of follow-on assignments with plenty of opportunities to hone your combat skills.
BONUS: There's a Salarian ID Tag here as well.
- System: Macedon
- Planet: Porolan
BONUS: There are some Matriarch's Writings here.
- Planet: Sharjila
Fly to Attican Beta and Nassana Dantius, the Asari diplomat, will contact you. Should you pay her a visit at the Embassy Lounge on the Citadel, she'll ask for your help in dealing with her wayward sister, Dahlia. Alternatively, you can skip all that guff and just head straight for the pirate base on Sharjila. Storm the base, watching out for snipers, and kill all the criminals, including Dahlia. Pick up whatever you can find and return to the Citadel to tell Nassana the good news.
Worth doing? Absolutely. The battle against the pirates can be tough - they have a Krogan, and snipers galore - but not only does Nassana pay handsomely for your services, you can also earn access to rare Armali Council items at shops.
BONUS: There are some more Matriarch's Writings here as well.
- System: Athens
- Planet: Pharos
BONUS: There's a Turian insignia here.
- System: Knossos
- Planet: Therum
This is the location for the story mission, Find Liari T'Soni.
Horse Head Nebula
- System: Strenuus
- Planet: Xawin
This is a mission you can pick up from Garoth in the Citadel Tower should you pop back there during the whole Feros/Therum/Noveria phase of the story. His brother's trading ship has gone missing, and he wants you to look into it. You'll find the ship, the MSV Majesty, near the planet Xawin with clues suggesting you investigate the planet surface. There's a mercenary base here, with heavy fortification outside. Once you've taken down the snipers and gun batteries, head inside and polish off the rest of the mercs using your now-honed combat expertise. The body of Captain Willem is upstairs, so find him, take his datapad and return to his brother to complete the assignment.
Worth doing? Not really. The only major benefit is the combat XP you'll clock up defeating the mercenaries.
BONUS: There's a Turian insignia on Xawin, along with three mineral deposits. Feel free to ignore the debris (it's just a crashed probe protected by a Thresher Maw) and the anomaly in the north (it's a Geth trap).
- Planet: Veles
There's a Matriarch's Writing here.
- Planet: Yunthorl
There's a League of One medallion here.
- Planet: Noveria
Speak to Opold, the merchant, when you first exit the elevator on Noveria. He'll ask you to fetch a package from outside the Normandy and bring it past the security desk. What you do with that package after you pick it up...well, that's for you to decide.
Worth doing? Might as well. The rewards aren't great, but it's a quick and easy assignment and one that can be done as soon as you land. Opold specialises in alien armour, so he can be a useful contact.
Head up the elevator to the hotel, and an Asari will try to get your attention. She needs you to distract a salesman at the bar by posing as a potential customer while her hacking device uploads viruses to his databanks. If you agree, all you have to do is keep him talking until the device beeps. He's a tough businessman, so general chit chat is out - but if you've been building up your Charm skill, this assignment is a doddle.
Worth doing? Yep. You get at least 500 credits (more, if you're charming enough) and it's all done in one location.
Doctor at Risk
Hack the computer terminal upstairs in the hotel and you'll find a transmission about a doctor in the Newton system who may be in danger. Head to Kepler Verge to begin this assignment.
- System: Hydra
- Planet: Metgos
Unusual Readings/Distress Call
This is the assignment you activated at the computer console in the very first room on the Citadel, and it's pretty basic stuff. Investigate the source of the readings and you'll walk into a Geth trap. Kill them. Kill them all.
Worth doing? Only if you want the chance to practice Mako combat, and earn some XP in the process.
BONUS: This planet also holds a Turian insignia.
- Planet: Tuntau
Wrex: Family Armor
This crew assignment is unlocked after getting Wrex to open up about his past. With the right prompting, he'll explain how his family's ancestral armour was taken after the war between Krogans and Turians. It's now in the hands of a Turian who deals in stolen Krogan artefacts. Head to Tuntau and make for the Hidden Structure on the map. Defences are light outside, but the inside is swarming with enemies. Take Wrex with you and, when all enemies are defeated, crack the safe upstairs to find his armour.
Worth doing? Not really. The armour has no practical purpose - Wrex can't equip it - and there's no other reward. The pirate base yields some cool loot, but that's about it.
BONUS: You can also find a Matriarch's Writing here, along with a groovy Prothean pyramid.
- Planet: N/A
There's also an asteroid in this system with a Prothean data disc.
Hades Gamma Cluster
- System: Antaeus
- Planet: Trebin
Missing Survey Team
You'll pick up this mission from listening to news reports on the Citadel. Just investigate anything suspicious on the planet surface, and you'll soon find the clues lead you into an old mine. Inside you'll find the missing surveyors, who've all gone a bit husky. Put them out of their misery to complete the assignment.
Worth doing? Only if you're chasing more combat experience. There's no other reward.
BONUS: This planet also hides a Turian insignia.
- System: Farinata
- Planet: N/A
This one can be tough, so tackle it when you've got a nice strong team with plenty of biotic defence. A group of fanatical biotics has kidnapped a politician and is holding him on a derelict freighter. Take down the biotics, and save the Chairman if you can.
Worth doing? If you've got the combat skills, yes. There are decent amounts of Renegade and Paragon points to be had, depending on how you resolve things.
- System: Century
- Planet: Presrop
Strange Transmission/Major Kyle
A former Alliance soldier has gone all David Koresh and set up a biotic cult commune. Investigators have been murdered while looking into the group, and it's up to you to bring them to justice. If your Charm skill is high enough, it's quite possible to talk Kyle into surrendering, in which case you simply walk out of there with some saintly Paragon points. Or you can go in like the FBI and clock up some combat XP and Renegade points.
Worth doing? Yes, it's one of the few assignments where you can earn different rewards depending on your approach.
BONUS: There's a Turian insignia here as well.
- System: Sol
- Planet: Luna
It's off to Luna, or "the moon" as we like to call it, for this assignment. Yes, it's homeward bound as Lance Henriksen makes another booty call, asking you to help deal with a Virtual Intelligence in charge of military training. It's gone nuts, you see, and is gunning down recruits. Head for the training facility on the lunar surface. There are three structures, each defended by two heavy turrets. Take these down, then head inside each structure and deal with the robotic drones before destroying the VI conduits. With each set of conduits you destroy, the VI will unleash something new to make your life trickier - nerve gas, kinetic barriers, additional drones. When all rogue synthetics are destroyed, the mission is done.
Worth doing? Absolutely. Not only does this mission earn you a massive amount of XP and valuable items, it also unlocks a Specialization Class based on the class you've been playing as. This will give you an additional boost in lots of key areas and abilities.
Next up: Virmire, the return to the Citadel and lots and lots of elevators.