What should I be going for as a soldier?

  • 5
    Can you specify single-player versus multi-player? And if single-player, which difficulty?
    – Sterno
    Mar 16, 2012 at 20:51
  • Single-player, I was thinking I'd do insanity but I'm not sure. Mar 16, 2012 at 21:09
  • Adrenaline Rush duration is 6.80 secs. Now you said to take Combat Mastery, Rank 4 25% Duration. Well that will make Adrenaline Rush 7.80 secs. That is what is shown in the skills. Why would 1 sec more be better than 5% Weapon+10% Ammo Damage Bonus.
    – user31114
    Aug 20, 2012 at 22:58
  • @kalec For my play style at least, on Insanity I needed more help surviving hits than I did putting enemies down. An extra second of damage reduction when I was in hairy situations mattered more to me than chopping off a fraction of a second in how long it took to kill someone. As I said, I preferred heavy hitting, slower-fire weapons (or quick bursts), so often the shot that killed an enemy "overkilled" them anyway, meaning the 10% damage bonus was wasted unless it managed to cut down on the total number of shots needed to kill someone. Your mileage may vary.
    – Sterno
    Aug 21, 2012 at 18:27

2 Answers 2


I've been playing a soldier on Insanity. I started at level 30 with an imported character, so my experience might be a little different than someone starting at level 1. My advice below is specifically for Insanity difficulty, where you tend to need to focus more on single-target damage abilities and survivability.

As an overview, the main abilities I use are Incendiary Ammo, Adrenaline Rush, and Frag Grenades (for tough enemies). I found concussive shot to not really be worth the trouble, since it does weak damage and as a soldier I tend to carry a bunch of weapons and thus have a poor recharge time. I probably wouldn't even use Frag Grenades if they didn't effectively have a zero cooldown time.

Adrenaline Rush

This is your "Get out of jail free" card on Insanity and the active skill that you will use most. The time dilation effect is best for lining up sniper shots or getting yourself into a better position if you get cornered. You want to focus your upgrades on survivability rather than damage output for Insanity.

Recommend upgrading as follows:

  • Rank 4: Take the damage reduction upgrade
  • Rank 5: Take the duration increase
  • Rank 6: Take the shield increase.

Frag Grenade

These are nowhere near as useful in single-player as in multiplayer. Sure, sometimes your enemies will group up nicely, but there is a lot less opportunity to create choke point situations where you can hit many enemies at once like there is in multiplayer. Plus, the damn things rarely end up where you want to throw them. So what are they good for? Well, they have pretty much zero cooldown, so they're great at applying burst damage to a tough armored enemy. Maybe they have better utility as AOE scrub-killing weapons on lower difficulties, but on Insanity, they just don't work well in that capacity.

Recommend upgrading as follows:

  • Rank 4: +30% damage
  • Rank 5: Increase grenade capacity by 2 (since the point is to nuke an armored target quickly, which might not even be organic, not burn it down over time)
  • Rank 6: Increase armor damage by 50%.

Incendiary Ammo

This stuff is great. If you've got to choose early on between it and disruptor ammo, go with incendiary, because even on Insanity you run into a lot more targets that just have health or armor than those that have shields. Those that do have shields, other than the big bads, tend to have pretty weak shields that a single teammates overload can take out. Or even a little bit of regular gunfire. Overall, you'll get a lot more utility out of the incendiary ammo. Your other option is Cryo ammo, which will do less damage but slightly increase survivability due to the fact that you're slowing/freezing targets. I think it comes down to preference between Cryo and Incendiary, with both being ahead of Disruptor. Choose just one or the other, though. You won't run into enough situations where it's worth your time to switch between Incendiary and Cryo, so save your points for where they are more needed.

Recommend upgrading as follows:

  • Rank 4: Take the squad ammo upgrade. Giving 50% of this to your allies is worth a lot more than an extra 6% to yourself.
  • Rank 5: Take the headshot damage upgrade, unless you have trouble with aim or will never bother trying for them. I find the increase in ammo capacity is fairly worthless.
  • Rank 6: I settled on the explosions upgrade simply because it looks cooler. However, I've used both, and in practice I don't really see a difference between the two. Not a strong preference here.

Disruptor Ammo

Not as useful as Incendiary or Cryo Ammo. If you've got the points to spend on it late in the game, sure, grab it so you can blow through shields and barriers more quickly. For minor scrubs with weak shields, I normally don't even bother switching ammo types, as their shields drop so fast it isn't worth it. That tends to be the sort of thing I spec my squadmates for, as EDI or Garrus's overload can one-shot a weaker enemy's shields. When you do use this, you'll be swapping to this specifically to blow down the shields/barriers of a tough target such as a Banshee, and then switching back to Incendiary or Cryo. Even on Insanity (though maybe it's different on New Game+), the number of enemies with strong shields and barriers is a lot less than it was in Mass Effect 2, which is why I find my Disruptor ammo not getting much use.

Recommend upgrading as follows:

  • Rank 4: Give your squadmates the upgrade so they can help you focus fire on shielded/barriered enemies when you switch to this ammo type.
  • Rank 5: Increase headshot damage
  • Rank 6: Increase shield/barrier damage bonus. It's why you're using this ammo type in the first place!

Cryo Ammo

Originally I hadn't tried this, but now that I have, I'd put it slightly ahead of Incendiary Ammo. It won't do as much damage but the slowing effect (and freezing, when it happens) helps a little bit with survivability. Honestly, though, I feel it's close enough that it comes down to preference, and both are still head and shoulders above Disruptor Ammo. Until you're near max level with nothing else to spend your points on, though, I'd take only this or Incendiary Ammo, rather than both. There simply won't be enough incentive to swap between them.

Recommend upgrading as follows:

  • Rank 4: As with all the ammos, I recommend squad ammo. Particularly with Cryo, it's nice when your teammmates can slow down or freeze up an enemy you weren't even shooting at.
  • Rank 5: Increase headshot damage. Ammo is plentiful so why waste and upgrade on it?
  • Rank 6: Improve the odds of slowing the target and increase their speed penalty. If you were going for damage, you'd be using Incendiary ammo instead, so ignore the damage upgrade and choose the one that boosts utility instead.

Combat Mastery

This is a skill I want to love, since I tend to prefer passive skills, but it's simply not that great. Yes, you'll end up with 15-20% damage bonus and some other minor perks, but they just aren't a strong sell. Sure, it's nice at higher levels when you've got plenty of points to play around with, but early on your points are better spent elsewhere.

Recommend upgrading as follows:

  • Rank 4: Increase power duration by 25%. This will mean Adrenaline Rush lasts longer, and again, Adrenaline Rush is your "oh crap" button on Insanity.
  • Rank 5: I like the headshot damage upgrade here, but I'm playing on PC where headshots are a lot easier. Mainly it helps with burning down the tough enemies more quickly, which is the key to survival on Insanity. It isn't usually the scrubs that get you. If you have a hard time pulling off headshots, then obviously the squadmate damage bonus will help you more. Luckily, your squadmates seem to last a long longer in ME3 than they did in ME2.
  • Rank 6: Go for the damage bonus, but understand that the 40% increase in ammo damage means take your current bonus multiplier and multiply it by 1.4, not take your current bonus multiplier and add 40% to it. It ends up being a pretty minor increase in damage. But, the flat 10% weapon damage bonus isn't bad, and your alternative of the 50 point weight increase won't mean much to you, because as a soldier you aren't popping many powers anyway.


Unlike Combat Mastery, this is a passive skill that I like on Insanity, because it keeps you alive. It's pretty simple to decide how to upgrade this one too... ignore the melee perks. Attempting to melee on Insanity as a soldier is just going to get you killed quickly in any situation other than "the enemy is already on the ground and he's the only one left".

Recommend upgrading as follows:

  • Rank 4: Upgrade health and shield bonuses.
  • Rank 5: Decrease shield-recharge delay.
  • Rank 6: Increase health and shield bonuses.

Concussive Shot

I found this to be completely worthless on Insanity. It simply doesn't do enough damage to be worth your time, and you probably have fairly crappy recharge time due to the weapons you're carrying. Sure, you can pair it with other powers like Liara's Singularity so that you can push floating targets around, but while that looks cool, it's rarely actually useful unless they're near a ledge, and to do it they probably had to be down to just their health bar already, which means you could have just spent that time shooting and killing them instead. It didn't seem particularly effective at knocking over any of the big bads on Insanity, which is the only reason I'd really want it. If you do insist on using it, focus it on doing single-target damage. Splash damage simply doesn't work well on Insanity.

Update: I've played around with this bit more, in particular pairing it with Cryo Ammo, as some users in chat suggested I try. I still don't think it's worth it on Insanity. The utility is minor (I can apply the same effects simply by shooting the target), and the damage, even when you spec for it, is abysmal. If you're going to pop a power at the enemy, pick a bonus power you like instead. I used Energy Drain a lot, since it increased survivability as well as taking down shields/barriers.

Recommend upgrading as follows:

Don't. Just don't.


You're going to want to carry an assault rifle, a sniper rifle, and maybe a pistol.

Sniper Rifle

For the sniper rifle, I used the Mantis until I had enough credits to afford the Black Widow (which is basically a 3-shot Mantis). I mod it with increased damage and the scope that lets you see through smoke. You pull this baby out when you're pinned down by a lot of enemies at once and can only peek out from cover for a few seconds at a time. Headshots will usually be one-hit kills against targets who are down to just their health, even on Insanity. So have EDI or Garrus pop overload to destroy the target's shields, then pop out and blast them with a headshot. For bonus fun, have Liara pop a singularity bubble on them, because who doesn't enjoy a floating, headless body? Stasis works too. Plus, it makes lining up the headshot easier since their movement will be more predictable.

Assault Rifle

I tried a variety of assault rifles and finally settle on the Mattock as my favorite. With a scope, it basically become a rapid-fire, low-damage sniper rifle, which is exactly the sort of thing you need on Insanity. You need to be able to poke out of cover, land a few well placed shots, and hide again. Long, sustained bursts tend to get you killed.


For pistols, my favorite is the Scorpion. I can't actually say it's the best, just that it's the most fun. You're pretty much only going to be pulling this out when you need to take down a heavily armored target, and even then, on Insanity you're probably best off simply hiding and taking a few sniper shots while your squadmates use their warp/incinerate/etc powers on the target. Again, on Insanity, poking your head out for an extended period of time (like the time it takes to empty a pistol clip) gets you killed. That's probably why I like the Scorpion. It's got a small clip, which helps encourage me to only take a few shots before returning to cover, and it also has delayed damage, which means if the target (such as an Atlas) is busy firing at one of my teammates, it probably won't turn towards me until the first shot explodes... at which point, there are already another 2 shots attached to it waiting to go off. All that said, if you want to get your weight down, ditch the pistol. Until the end of the game when Banshees and Brutes are getting thrown at you left and right, you probably won't need it.

SMGs and Shotguns

If you don't have a bonus power you like, you can carry a SMG and a Shotgun anyway if you want, since you won't much care about the weight since Adrenaline Rush is the only recharging power worth using. For the SMG, you can slap a weight-reducing mod on it and it would be practically free to carry anyway. Not that you'd ever find a reason to use it, unless you're a terrible aim who chews through ammo like a madman. But if that describes you, you probably aren't playing on Insanity anyway.

I wanted to like the shotguns. I really did. But on Insanity, if you get close enough to an enemy to use it, you're probably already dead. It's usefulness is situational at best. However, since you don't care so much about your power cooldown due to Adrenaline Rush really being the only power you're going to activate, you can probably carry one around with you anyway if it suits your style. I did for a while and ended up dropping it since it just kept sitting there unused.

Bonus Powers

I didn't try out a lot of different ones here, so let me just say that I'd pick one that helps with shields. You already have a good array of abilities at your disposal to deal with armor, and usually you're going to want to save your cooldown for Adrenaline Rush anyway, but once in a while you want something that can strip the shields off a tough target fast.

I liked Energy Drain best, because not only does it strip shields off of the target, but it replenishes my own. Anything that adds to survivability is nice on Insanity. I would have loved to try out Reave, as it might have been even better since banshees' barriers were probably my roughest thing to deal with, but I didn't have Kaidan alive in my playthrough, so I can't say for sure how it would have worked out.

Energy Drain

Recommend upgrading as follows:

  • Rank 4: Take the damage upgrade. It's about tearing down one big target quickly.
  • Rank 5: Take the shield restoration boost. Your cooldown is going to be awful either way, and by the time it's up you'll probably have already stripped the shields off your target, so you won't really need the extra speed.
  • Rank 6: This one's really a toss up. I went with the damage bonus. I know I usually say I like survivability, but bringing down a banshee's shields a little more quickly will probably save me more than the 15% in damage than then 10 seconds of damage reduction would. If you were instead specced for quick cooldowns and spammed this skill like mad, then I think the damage upgrade would be the better choice.


Quick Version

Choose Liara for Singularity, and EDI or Garrus for Overload.

Long Version

I'm not going to break them down one by one. I'm just going to say this. Liara's Singularity will save your life on Insanity. Spec her for Singularity so that she gets down to about a 3 second cooldown and she can work as crowd control on almost every enemy in the game. Okay, it won't work on an Atlas, Banshee, or Brute, but just about every other enemy is one quick shield-drop away from being wrapped up by Liara's singularity field. Got guys charging you? Singularity is the answer. Got a guy hiding behind cover? Singularity is the answer. Having trouble lining up your sniper shot because the enemy is moving erratically? Singularity is the answer.

Your other companion doesn't matter too much as long as they have a decent way to strip shields off the enemy. Both EDI and Garrus have the means to do this, and you get them early in the game. My preference was EDI since she also had Incinerate to help deal with heavily armored targets.

Combat pretty much works like this: You grab some cover and have Liara start dropping singularities on unshielded targets that you want to shoot at. That's going to be most of them in the game, and it's like shooting fish in a barrel. If you run into a shielded target, have EDI/Garrus/whoever drop a shield-reducing power like Overload on them. You can help out by choosing a bonus power which drains shield, such as Energy Drain. Once their shields are down, guess what? That's right, Liara with the Singularity. Pick the weaker targets first and take them out one by one... Liara's singularity recharges so quickly that it's a breeze. Occasionally you have to roll away from a grenade. This strategy should carry you through just about any encounter on Insanity that doesn't involve an Atlas, Banshee, or Brute. And it'll carry you through a good chunk of those, too.

Early leveling advice

I started with a level 30 imported character, so I could be off here. But this is my best-guess. Don't be afraid to respec and shift points around. Unless you're upgrading all sorts of weapons you don't even use, you'll have plenty of credits.

  • Get Frag Grenade to rank 1
  • Get Fitness to 2
  • Get Adrenaline Rush to rank 4.
  • Get your preferred ammo power (my vote is Incendiary) to rank 4.
  • Max out Frag Grenade and your ammo power
  • Somewhere in here decide if feel like you're missing a secondary ammo power.
  • Max out Fitness
  • Max out Adrenaline Rush
  • Get Combat Mastery to rank 3. Maybe rank 5 if you just love headshots.

Final Mission Advice

I beat the game on Insanity with pretty much the build described above, but the last bit of the game gets pretty intense. It might be worth respeccing some of your powers and lightening your weapon load so that you can focus on quick cooldowns. You'll definitely be wanting your "oh crap" Adrenaline Rush button more often, and due to all the large targets you have to take down at the same time, the faster cooldowns might pay off better than the higher damage outputs.

  • I've seen this answer word for word in a blog post.. Can't find it though.
    – DeanMc
    Mar 20, 2012 at 22:01
  • @DeanMc Heh, I googled and found it here. Looks like they took my answer and mixed it in with their own. Oh well, must just mean it was good!
    – Sterno
    Mar 20, 2012 at 23:21
  • @Sterno Does that not bother you though! They didn't even try to hide it!
    – DeanMc
    Mar 21, 2012 at 19:34
  • 1
    @TonyR I didn't try out a lot of bonus powers, partially because I had a good feel for what I liked in ME2, but also because a lot just didn't fit my play style. But I've added some info about what I used.
    – Sterno
    Apr 3, 2012 at 2:33
  • 1
    It's worth noting that concussive shot pairs VERY well with ammo powers. Concussive shot completes biotic explosion, tech burst, cryo explosion, and fire explosion. See masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Power_Combos for the full list of combos you can finish with concussive shot. Feb 27, 2013 at 10:35

Make sure to level up your ammo powers, modify your weapons to your liking, and get the best armor you can. More sheilds = more effective soldier.

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