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I lost my saves from Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2. I'm aware that there is a site that has several, but they just wouldn't feel as mine.

What would I miss beside continuity in my actions? Is it "game breaking" if I start fresh?

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Of course not. That would be a pretty terrible business strategy on Bioware's part. The game accounts for newbies to the series and those without saves, and even asks you a background question so that you can somewhat determine who died in the previous games. You'll start at level 1 instead of whatever level your imported character would have had, but the game will still be entirely playable.

Of course, if you played Mass Effect 1 and 2 and made a bunch of decisions, you may get confused at times when the assumed decisions of the default character don't line up with your own, but it won't be "game-breaking".

You will miss out on some small bonuses if you don't import a character, but missing out on them is not "game-breaking".

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I disagree, though I guess it depends on whether you consider the game to be about the journey or the cut-scene at the end. You can get to all 3 major cut scenes without an ME2 save, and maybe even the 'secret' ending if you have played enough MP, but you won't get most of the emotional weight of the story and you won't be able to save half the people that you can with a good ME2 save. You can play with no ME2 save, but honestly it won't be half as good. –  Keith May 29 '12 at 20:45
    
@Keith That's a valid viewpoint, but I think it ultimately comes down to what you consider "game-breaking" or "major disadvantage". Your story won't turn out as well, but I don't feel that the gameplay itself is harder or "broken", which is what the question appeared to be asking about. –  Sterno May 30 '12 at 13:45
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There are several disadvantages. The most obvious one is that you will not get the experience bonus (Up to level 30, starting the game halfway to the maximum level of 60), which will likely mean you won't be able to hit level 60 on your first playthough. You will also not receive the War Readiness bonus of 100 points for having a lot of mineral resources at the end of ME2. Some major characters will die if you haven't saved them in ME1 and 2, though you may not care much about them, not having had time to get attached to them.

You also won't get the achievement for completing the game twice or once with an imported character on your first playthrough, if that's a thing if care about.

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You may also have to procure some Normandy upgrades that were available in ME2, but I don't know for certain whether they are imported or just given to you regardless. The ones I have listed, after having fully upgraded the Normandy in ME2, are armor, shield, and cannon upgrades. –  kotekzot Mar 6 '12 at 18:36
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It is not game breaking.

You would be missing out on a feeling of this being "your story" by not having that continuity. The game was built from the ground up as a trilogy, hoping to take the player on an arc from start to finish.

Having played the first 2 games, you'll at least have a point of reference of the ME Universe.

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Surprisingly, it's game breaking.

A lot of situations for ME3 where if you're trying to get the "best" (in the loosest possible terms) ending require some previous decisions made using an imported Shepherd from ME2 (and in a few cases those decisions are based off of ME1).

A lot of outcomes for the first act are dictated by Wrex's survival in ME1 which is the deciding factor of who rules clan Urdnot which could really determine how to navigate the conflicting Salarian/Krogan interests. Also they could changed by the survival of Mordin Solus who may not be present without an import.

Same thing with the Quarian/Geth conflict. It is impossible to resolve that conflict peacefully without some decisions made in ME2. Tali and Legion's survival as well as resolving their conflict are paramount to resolving that one without losing possibly everything.

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It definitely affects the way certain stories play out, but I don't think that qualifies as "game-breaking". All endings can still be achieved. –  Sterno May 9 '12 at 3:00
    
@Sterno I think the three main cut scenes can be reached, but most of the actual outcomes along the way will be pretty lame. –  Keith May 29 '12 at 20:50
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Major spoilers:

  1. With an ME2 save you can save Wrex and make sure Morden has the genophage data.

    If you didn't save Morden you get not-Morden, a new character who's similar but who you meet and then he dies, or you kill him, whatever. He doesn't know any Gilbert and Sullivan. Wrex dies or doesn't, Eve dies either way, I mean who cares?

  2. With an ME2 save you can exonerate Tali and save Legion

    If you didn't save Legion you get not-Legion, possibly the lamest 'can we use the same cut scenes' crap ever. You oversee genocide of either Quarians or Geth, with a good ME2 character you save both.

  3. With an ME2 save you'll get more resources

    The ending varies on how many people you can save/get on your side. The higher the better. It is much easier to get all 3 basic endings (including the 'good' ending where you unify synthetics and organics, saving both) and get the best versions of each (where Earth isn't destroyed) with an ME2 save.

  4. You can get to all the endings without an ME2 save

  5. ME1-3 is a single narrative. It seriously makes me want to go back and play the first 2 again playing 3. Frankly, if you haven't played ME1 and 2 you'll miss 90% of the story in ME3. It's kind of like watching Jedi, having never seen Empire or Star Wars. Or reading Return of the King without Fellowship or the Two Towers. The explosions and space battles are cool, but you won't know who the hell anyone is or why you should care about them.

It sounds like you have played the first 2, which puts you in a hard place - the ME3 starting 'defaults' are pretty lame, but they only affect story. The game's still playable and then end's still reachable.

Full details of all the effects of preserving ME1 and ME2 saves are on the wiki.

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