Note: This post contains huge spoilers for the final mission of Mass Effect 2. Read on at your own risk!
All of Mass Effect 2 leads up to one powerful, frightening climax: the Suicide Mission to save the galaxy. With the release of Mass Effect Legendary Edition, players can revisit the iconic climax, or take it on for the first time. Even if you have experience with Mass Effect 2, it’s a tough mission, but you can do a lot to prepare for it–and the more you prepare, the better the chances that you and your crew can put the term “suicide mission” to shame. Still, like lots of things in the Mass Effect franchise, your success is largely determined by choices you make during the mission, along with previous actions you may have not known were counting toward a moment of truth.
To get the best possible ending for Mass Effect 2, you’ll need to put in some work, spanning the course of almost the entire game. Here’s everything you need to know to make it through the final mission of Mass Effect 2 with the best possible outcome for Shepard and their crew.
If this is your first time through Mass Effect 2, however, you might want to take on this mission fresh, with no additional info–maybe on an alternate save file. While it can be rough going through this mission blind, the Mass Effect series is at its best when you experience the consequences of your actions and decisions. The best version of Mass Effect 2 isn’t the one where you do everything perfectly, but where the story adjusts to you. With that in mind, we suggest playing through the game and its finale on your own, and returning to this guide on a second playthrough or to make adjustments to get your preferred setup for the start of Mass Effect 3.
How The Suicide Mission Works
Three elements factor into how Mass Effect 2’s endgame shakes out: Normandy ship upgrades, the decisions you make about which crewmates you assign to essential tasks during the final mission, and whether each member of your crew is considered “loyal” to Shepard.
The ship upgrades have to be made ahead of the final battle with resources you gain from probing planets, which we have covered below. We’ll also walk you through the crew decisions to make during the final battle. The most time-consuming and important part is loyalty, which you’ll secure by working through each character’s specific loyalty mission. The good news is, these are some of the best parts of the game and deepen the story significantly, so you’ll enjoy seeking them out. Check below for more details.
Talk To Everybody
Several elements you need access to for your preparations for the endgame of Mass Effect 2 require input from your crew, so talk to everyone–a lot. Conversations will open up your opportunities to make upgrades to the Normandy, while also helping unlock each character’s essential Loyalty missions. Make sure you’re spending time with your crew between missions to exhaust their dialogue options; as the story progresses, new conversation opportunities will open up. Invest time in talking to your crew throughout the game to get everything you need from them when the time comes.
Upgrade The Normandy
As you advance through the game and talk to your teammates, you’ll eventually start to add upgrades for your ship to the Research terminal. Your crew will suggest several upgrades, and of those, there are a few essential ones that will help you survive the final assault. All the Normandy upgrades appear on the Research Terminal, but not all of them are essential. There are three that you definitely need:
- Heavy Ship Armor, suggested by Jacob
- Kinetic Barriers, suggested by Tali
- Thanix Cannon, suggested by Garus
The decisions you make during the final mission can help keep your teammates alive, but it’s possible to lose some of them before you even get there if the Normandy isn’t properly outfitted. If you don’t have these upgrades, the run-up to the final mission can claim some of your teammates, or for each upgrade you fail to install.
Do The Loyalty Missions
Apart from being pretty much the best chunks of Mass Effect 2, each character’s loyalty mission goes a long way to whether they survive the climax of the game. Talking to each of the characters between missions will eventually bring about moments in which they will ask Shepard for help with some personal issues. Each one has you joining in to help them deal with their issues, and those missions add a lot to their backstories. Completing them successfully–a few can be failed if you’re not careful–makes your teammates trust Shepard’s leadership, which drastically helps with keeping them alive during the game’s toughest battle.
It is possible to get through the final mission and not lose anyone without securing every character’s loyalty, but it’s a lot tougher. More on that below.
Loyalty missions are pretty straightforward and you can play them in just about any order. They become available after you complete the mission that takes you to the derelict Collector ship, and you want to knock out almost all of them before you go on the mission to retrieve the Reaper IFF. Make sure you get as much done as you can before you go after the Reaper IFF! This kicks off the next portion of the game, and what you do and when you do it following that mission has serious consequences. More on that in a minute.
The thing about the loyalty missions is that some of them can be easier to fail than others, so it’s better to leave a few of them toward the end of the batch so that you can advance your Paragon or Renegade points as far as possible before you hit them. The missions you can fail are Thane’s, Tali’s, Zaeed’s, and Samara’s. It’s pretty clear as you play them how you can mess up:
- Losing Thane’s target
- Getting Tali’s father in trouble
- Letting Zaeed’s target get away and failing to convince him to drop the issue
- Messing up distracting Morinth
As mentioned, you can play loyalty missions in pretty much any order, but the ones you might want to leave for last are the ones mentioned above.
The last loyalty mission you should do is Legion’s, after you get the Reaper IFF.
Don’t Linger After Retrieving The Reaper IFF
Once you get the Reaper IFF, Mass Effect 2 changes significantly but not obviously. Completing that mission triggers a silent countdown; after you complete one or a few more missions, a major story beat initiates in which the Collectors attack the Normandy while you’re away, kidnapping the crew. You’ll then have the ability to head to the final mission to rescue them, and how long it takes you to get there has serious consequences.
Therefore, you want to try to create a situation so that the only important thing you have to do after getting the Reaper IFF is completing Legion’s loyalty mission. Play that mission and any others until the Collectors attack, and then head into the Collector base mission. If you wait and complete more missions after the Collector attack, it’ll affect which members of your crew you’re able to save.
If you immediately go to the final mission after the kidnapping, you’ll save the entire Normandy crew. If you complete between one and four additional missions before going to the Collector base but after the attack, you’ll only save half the crew. If you wait any longer than that, only Dr. Chakwas will make it out–so if you want to save your Normandy pals, make sure you’re ready to go to the climax before grabbing the Reaper IFF.
Make The Right Leadership Choices In The Final Mission
The final determining factor for who makes it through the climax of Mass Effect 2 is your leadership throughout the mission. At key points, you’ll need to assign members of your team to take on different roles. Picking the right person for the job is essential to making sure those people are successful in completing their tasks. Whether they make it through completing their job comes down to whether they’re loyal to Shepard or not.
As a note, at different points characters will haggle about who should do what job and even volunteer for missions, but just because someone wants to do a dangerous job doesn’t mean they should. It’s up to you to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses–or at least to read the guide below.
Technical Specialist And Fireteam Leader
The first obstacle in the final mission requires you to send a technical specialist through a ventilation duct to hack enemy defenses, while another team distracts the Collectors so the specialist can get through without getting killed along the way. The people you choose to head into the vent and lead the fireteam decide whether everyone makes it through this section.
First, you need to pick someone with high tech skill. The characters best at tech on your team are Tali, Legion, and Kasumi, so you’ll want to send one of them. Any other character, or any of these who aren’t loyal, won’t make it.
For the fireteam, you need a strong tactical leader, so choose either Garrus, Miranda, or Jacob. If your choice isn’t loyal or you pick anybody else, your tech specialist won’t make it through.
The Crew’s Escort
Next, you’ll find survivors who need to head back to the Normandy, but they’ll need an escort to help them get there safely. Whoever you send will be out of the mission for the duration, so it’s key to send someone you can spare. Your choices here are Tali, Jack, Kasumi, or Mordin. The best bet, if he’s loyal, is Mordin–he’s not really useful in any other role throughout the rest of the mission, so this is a good way to get him off the roster. However, if you send someone who isn’t loyal, they won’t make it back to the ship, and if you send no one, the survivors won’t make it.
The Biotic Specialist And Fireteam Leader
The obstacle you face after choosing your escort is cutting through a swarm of Collector Seekers. To do that, you’ll need a biotic specialist to create a big biotic barrier that can protect the rest of the squad, while a second fireteam distracts the Collectors to minimize the number of other threats you face during this section. So first, you need a powerful Biotic who can stand up to the pressure–either Jack, or Samara or Morinth, depending on which teammate you picked up during the loyalty mission. Your other biotics just aren’t powerful enough to hack it, so if you pick someone who’s not ideal or not loyal, you’ll lose a squadmate to the swarm.
For your fireteam, you’ll have the same major choices as last time: Garrus, Jacob, or Miranda. Again, pick someone who’s loyal, or the leader you choose won’t make it to the end of this section.
Your Squad And The Defense Team
Finally, you’ll pick your team to go to the final battle, while leaving a group to hold off the Collectors and cover your escape. Anyone you don’t choose to take with you will hang back to play defense for the final push. Each character has a defensive ranking, which is increased if they’re loyal or not. The good news is that everyone can survive even without everyone being loyal, provided the total defense ranking is high enough.
Generally, you want to leave behind at least some of your toughest (remaining) teammates, like Grunt, Garrus, and Zaeed, who all have the highest scores as defenders. If you’re low on squaddies here, you might also consider taking loyal characters with lower defense scores to the final battle, since that’ll keep them from potentially dying while holding the line. The defense scores for each character shake out as follows; if the character is not loyal, subtract one point from their score.
- 4 points: Garrus, Zaeed, Grunt
- 2 points: Samara or Morinth, Jacob, Miranda, Thane, Legion
- 1 point: Jack, Mordin, Tali, Katsumi
There’s some behind-the-scenes math at play here but the simplified version is that the average defense score for your team determines whether and how many people in this group die. That’s why you want to leave Grunt, Zaeed, and/or Garrus behind, especially if they’re loyal, because they can drastically pump up the total. That’s also why it’s a good idea to ditch Mordin as the crew escort, since he carries a low score.
You want an average of 2 points per character or better for them all to survive. Factors vary after that, but if your average is 1.5 points, you’ll lose one character. An average of 1 point gets you two deaths; 0.5 points or lower will result in three deaths. The order of deaths shakes out generally in the order of weakest to toughest fighter, like this: Mordin; Tali; Kasumi; Jack; Miranda; Jacob; Garrus; Samara or Morinth; Legion; Thane; Zaeed; Grunt.
It’s also worth noting that even a small defense team can survive if you have strong characters, since deaths are determined by the average of defense points, rather than each character’s individual score.
Keep all this in mind as you choose the two characters who are going to come with you so that you leave a strong defense team while also picking strong teammates. What’s more, you can get some extra story tidbits if you bring along your romance character, should you have one, and Miranda, who has extra dialogue at this moment.
As always, you want to make sure you add loyal characters to your personal squad for the final battle, or you’ll lose anyone who’s not loyal in the end.
One last note: It’s possible to lose Commander Shepard in the Suicide Mission along with anyone else. Shepard’s survival depends on your overall performance throughout the mission; it’s determined by how many people you’ve lost throughout the course of the mission. The good news is that as long as you haven’t absolutely devastated your team, Shepard will make it.
The numbers boil down like this: If two or more teammates survive in total, Shepard survives the Collector base. If only one other teammate, or no other teammates, make it out, Shepard won’t either. In that case, you’ll see one final cutscene between the Illusive Man and Joker, who takes Shepard’s role in giving a final report. But you won’t be able to continue onto Mass Effect 3 with that save file, since Shepard will, in fact, be dead. Sorry.
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