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I know that the mission itself must be completed before the Priority:Tuchanka mission, and that's not what I'm asking about. Within the mission I hear a lot of hollering of "save me" from the civilians that Cerberus are attacking.

Meanwhile this area has tons of hidey holes with stuff to find.

Will I be penalized for moving slowly through this area and farming instead of hauling butt to save the civilians? (Sort of like how it's okay to put priority missions as the last thing on your to-do list?)

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

No, the N7:Cerberus Attacks mission is not internally time-sensitive. You and your crew can dilly-dally all day long before you rescue those ungrateful civilians.

You can refer to the IGN Guide for that specific mission or the vgfaq mission walkthrough for any concerns you have about timing or, more importantly, hidey holes and stuff to find.

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