Created for the "Ultimaet Mass Effect 3 Prize Pack" contest, this guide provides some insights into effective strategies for an Insanity difficultly playthrough of Mass Effect 2's Vanguard class.
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CREATING YOUR SHEPARD
If this is your first time playing a Vanguard on Insanity, do not choose New Game Plus when you are creating your Shepard. Feel free to use an ME1 import. You just don't want to start at level 30. The enemies will have upgrades and you will not, making the game much more difficult than it would be if you started at level 1-5.
Your first priority is to level up Charge. Choose Heavy Charge when evolving it for the best defensive bonuses. Your second priority is to level up your class's passive skill: Assault Mastery. When evolving the passive, choose Champion for the best recharge bonuses. After that, Incendiary Ammo (evolved to Inferno Ammo for area of effect crowd control) is next in line. Finally, acquire Cryo Ammo (evolved to Squad Cryo Ammo).
Charge is your lifeline. Charge is your bread and butter. But until you know how to use it, Charge will kill you more often than it saves you. To get some familiarity with Charge, target foes that are separated from their allies. Once you arrive, pause the game and look around. Where will you go once you kill your target? Always have an escape route planned in case your Charge isn't recharged in time to save you.
Try to keep at least one recharge on your team available at all times. You never know when a quick stagger will save your life.
If the enemies are too closely grouped for you to Charge comfortably, strip the defenses off of one of them with a sidearm (SMG or pistol) or squadmate power. If you Charge the defenseless opponent, it will be at least temporarily removed from the fight, allowing you to more safely kill the enemies near it.
Do not feel the need to Charge every opponent right away. Wait until you gain some familiarity with it and until you have leveled it up.
Finally, be aware of Charge glitches. If your back is pressed against a wall, Shepard will likely be unable to Charge. Shepard also has trouble Charging through some doorways.
Use whatever pistol you want. It makes little difference. For SMG's, the Locust is a good option and helps cover your weakness at long range combat. Shotguns are where things get interesting. They are all fairly well balanced. Find one that works for you. The Claymore is probably the least friendly to newcomers (you'll need to learn to cancel reload animations to get the most out of it), but it is very, very powerful. The Geth Plasma Shotgun is a strong choice in that it lets you fire from a distance, but its shooting delay might cause troubles with the Vanguard's time dilation after a Charge. Personally, I find myself using the Claymore and Katana a lot. As for heavy weapons, swap them out depending on the mission. The Arc Projector is a great choice, though.
When you get to the disabled Collector vessel and must choose a new weapon, all options are viable. I would not choose the assault rifle option unless you have the Firepower DLC, as the Mattock is the best option for a Vanguard. If this is your first Insanity Vanguard, I do not recommend choosing the Claymore. The sniper rifle is a safer bet, and gives you the option to thin out crowds of enemies to make your first Charge safer. Use the Viper.
Stasis is a solid choice for any class, especially if you learn to take advantage of the fall of death glitch. Shoot an enemy as it falls out of Stasis for a massive damage increase. If you'd rather not take advantage of exploits, Stasis is still a good choice for removing a dangerous enemy from the fight. Barrier is a fine option. Use it between fights to make your first Charge safer. Finally, consider using Slam. It allows you to set up a Warp bomb without investing in Shockwave and Pull.
THE EARLY GAME
During the first few missions, you will not have a wide selection of squadmates. Fortunately, Jacob and Miranda are all you could ever need. Focus on acquiring Miranda's Unstable Warp and Jacob's Squad Incendiary Ammo as soon as possible. Jacob will cover your lack of decent ammo power and Miranda will help you with defenses. Once you get Inferno Ammo, Jacob loses his appeal. You'll want to keep using Miranda for basically the whole game, though, as only Kasumi and the temporarily available Liara come close to outclassing her. Speaking of Kasumi, her loyalty mission should be near the top of your to-do list. The Locust SMG is fantastic for Vanguards that aren't familiar with Insanity difficulty Charging, and still has its uses once you gain that familiarity.
THE DISABLED COLLECTOR VESSEL
This part gives a lot of Vanguards trouble on their first Insanity playthrough. Consider bringing the Arc Projector. As the first platform lands, blast the Collectors on it once or twice to remove their defenses, then use squadmate powers to finish them off as quickly as possible. As a general rule, if you kill them too slowly and Harbinger appears on that first platform, you're in for a rough ride. If you want to avoid Charge glitches in this segment, do not Charge from behind cover. Leap over it first. It's annoying, but knowing this will likely save you some frustrating re-loads. If you have Stasis, use it on the scions as their platforms move. With a little luck, they'll be left floating over an abyss as their platforms abandon them.
THE LATE GAME
Focus on acquiring upgrades and squadmates that synergize with your playstyle as quickly as possible. Heading to Tuchanka early is a good choice as there are defensive upgrades and shotgun upgrades available. Save recruiting Tali until after the Disabled Collector Vessel, as she is not especially effective in combat and the upgrades and weapons found on her recruitment mission won't help you much.
Tailor your squadmates to the mission at hand. If you've played through the game already, you should have a good idea of what you're facing. Bring Garrus, Zaeed (with Squad Disruptor Ammo), or Kasumi against geth and Blue Suns. Bring Thane and Mordin against the Blood Pack. Bring Miranda against the Eclipse. Heck, bring Miranda everywhere. She's a bit of a crutch in that she seems almost overpowered for Insanity, but that shouldn't bug you on your first Insanity Vanguard playthrough.
- FINAL WORDS
If there's one thing to remember when playing an Insanity Vanguard for the first time, it's that YOU SHOULD NOT BE AFRAID TO PAUSE THE GAME. Bring up the power wheel and look around immediately after a Charge. Plan out your next move. Before you unpause, line up your sights on the enemy you want to kill. Admittedly, pausing the game doesn't make for the most action-packed gameplay. But it's a great way to learn how to Charge on Insanity.
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