Selecting 'Start New Career' from the game start menu brings you to the character creation screen. At first you are given two options; you can choose to start with the pre-made Soldier character, John Shepard, or you can select 'Enter New ID' to create your own. Selecting the second option brings you to another screen where you must then select the gender of the new character. Character gender does not have a profound effect on the storyline or any on gameplay, so it all comes down to personal preference. The 'Quick-start Male' and 'Quick-start Female' options allow you to jump right in with a Soldier, an ideal class for beginners. Choosing a Quick-start character limits you in terms of customization, only allowing you to change your character's first name.
By selecting either the 'Custom Male' or 'Custom Female' option you are able to customize your character to its full extent. You can change the character's first name, Pre-service History, Psychological Profile, Military Specialization and Appearance. Your character's last name is Shepard and cannot be changed due to Mass Effect's spoken dialogue.
The Pre-service history and Psychological Profile options that are selected affect your character's morality, as outlined below.
The Pre-service History that you choose for your character will affect not only certain dialogue sequences, but also the amount of morality points he or she receives when an amount is given. It would be best to decide which type of character you would like to play-either Renegade or Paragon-before you begin and make your choice that way.
Note that there are a few Pre-service History-specific assignments.
'Both of your parents were in the Alliance military. Your childhood was spent on ships and stations as they transferred from posting to posting, never staying in one location for more than a few years. Following in your parents; footsteps, you enlisted at the age of eighteen.'
Selecting the Spacer Pre-service History for your character gives him or her a point bonus when receiving Paragon morality points.
'You were born and raised on Mindoir, a small border colony in the Attican Traverse. When you were sixteen slavers raided Mindoir, slaughtering your family and friends. You were saved by a passing Alliance patrol, and you enlisted with the military a few years later.'
Selecting the Colonist Pre-service History for your character gives him or her partial point bonus when receiving Paragon or Renegade morality points.
'You were an orphan raised on the streets of the great megatropolises covering Earth. You escaped the life of petty crime and underworld gangs by enlisting with the Alliance military when you turned eighteen.'
Selecting the Earthborn Pre-service History for your character gives him or him or her a point bonus when receiving Renegade morality points.
As with your character's Pre-service History, the Psychological Profile that you select will affect some dialogue as well as your character's morality. It would be best to decide which type of character you wish to play, and then matching his or her Psychological Profile up with the Pre-service history that yields the same morality's point bonus (ex., Spacer and War Hero for a Paragon or Earthborn and Ruthless for a Renegade).
'During your service, a mission you were on went horribly wrong. Trapped in an extreme survival situation, you had to overcome physical torments and psychological stresses that would have broken most people. You survived while all those around you fell, and now you alone are left to tell the tale.'
Selecting the Sole Survivor Psychological Profile gives your character a partial point bonus when receiving Paragon or Renegade morality points.
'Early in your military career you found yourself facing an overwhelming enemy force. You risked your own life to save your fellow soldiers and defeat the enemy despite the impossible odds. Your bravery and heroism have earned you medals and recognition from the Alliance fleet.'
Selecting the War Hero Psychological Profile gives your character a point bonus when receiving Paragon morality points.
'Throughout your military career, you have held fast to one basic rule; get the job done. You've been called cold, calculating, and brutal. Your reputation for ruthless efficiency makes your fellow soldiers wary of you. But when failure is not an option, the military always goes to you first.'
Selecting the Ruthless Psychological Profile gives your character a point bonus when receiving Renegade morality points.
The most important choice you have to make during your character creation venture is that of your character's Military Specialization. 'Class' may be a more familiar term if you have played an RPG before. The class that you select will greatly influence how you experience Mass Effect. For example, someone playing as an Adept or Sentinel will have a vastly different gameplay experience than a player who is playing as a Soldier or Infiltrator. Each of the six classes have their own strengths and weaknesses in three different fields: Combat, Tech and Biotics.
Each class is briefly outlined below. If you are unsure of which one to select, your best bet would be to start as a Soldier, as it is the easiest class to use and therefore best suited for the beginner.
'Soldiers are combat specialists ideal for the front lines of a firefight. Soldiers get improved health, can train in the use of all weapon types, start with the ability to use medium armor, and can specialize in heavy armour.'
Weakness: Tech and Biotics
Shotguns - Four points in Pistol talent.
Sniper Rifles - Seven points in Assault Rifle talent.
First Aid - Six points in Combat Armor talent.
Fitness - Five points in Assault Training talent.
'Engineers are tech specialists. Using the holographic omni-tool, they can decrypt security systems, repair or modify technical equipment, disrupt enemy weapons or shields, and heal their squad. Engineers can only use light armour, and can only receive weapons training with pistols.'
Weakness: Combat and Biotics
Basic Armor - Six points in Pistol talent.
Hacking - Seven points in Decryption talent.
Damping - Four points in Electronic talent.
Medicine - Five points in First Aid talent.
'Adepts are biotic specialists. Through upgradeable implants they can use biotic powers to lift or throw objects, shield the squad and disable or destroy enemies. Adepts can only use light armor, and can only receive weapons training with pistols.'
Weakness: Combat and Tech
Pistols - Five points in Basic Armor talent.
Lift - Six points in Throw talent.
Singularity - Seven points in Warp talent.
Stasis - Four points in Barrier talent.
Infiltrators combine combat and tech abilities to specialize in killing or disabling enemies at long range. Infiltrators are trained to use omni-tools, focusing on decryption and offensive abilities rather than healing. They can use pistols or sniper rifles and medium armour.'
Strength: Combat and Tech
Sniper Rifles - Five points in Pistol talent.
Fitness - Six points in Tactical Armor talent.
Damping - Four points in Electronics talent.
First Aid - Seven points in Decryption talent.
'Sentinels combine biotic and tech abilities. Typically they use biotic abilities and advance healing skills to defend allies, though they can also disrupt opponents with biotic or tech attacks. They are more efficient at tech and biotics that other classes, but at the expense of combat. Sentinels can only use light armour, and receive no advanced weapon training.'
Strength: Biotics and Tech.
Lift - Seven points in Throw talent.
Stasis - Six points in Barrier talent.
Electronics - Four points in Decryption talent.
Medicine - Five points in First Aid talent.
'Vanguards are biotic warriors. They combine biotics and weapons to take down opponents, and are especially deadly at short range. They use pistols and shotguns, and can specialize in medium armour.'
Strength: Combat and Biotics.
Shotguns - Six points in Pistol talent.
Tactical Armor - Five points in Assault Training talent.
Lift - Seven points in Throw talent.
Barrier - Four points in Warp talent.
Appearance and Combat Difficulty
Once you have selected a class for your character, you are then presented with the option of changing his or her appearance. You can select one of the preset faces by using the 'Cycle Presets' option, or you can shape your character's appearance yourself using the sliders in the submenus. Be sure that you are completely happy with your character's appearance before you hit Finalize, as there is no way to make any changes once in-game.
After hitting Finalize, you are then asked to confirm your selections. Look over the character summary to ensure that everything is in order. You can tweak the Gameplay options once your character has been created, including the Combat Difficulty option. The difficulty level that you select affects the level of the Minions, Sub-bosses and Bosses that you will encounter during your adventure.
Casual, Normal, and Veteran are unlocked from the beginning, but two more difficulties can be unlocked by first completing the game on any difficulty level to unlock Hardcore, and then completing the game on Hardcore to unlock Insane. But don't worry about that, selecting Normal is probably your best bet. You can move on to harder difficulty levels with subsequent playthroughs.
Casual: The combat levels of Minions, Sub-bosses and Bosses are scaled down based on player level. Most enemies have no special protection or immunities.
Normal: The combat levels of Minions and Sub-bosses are scaled based on player level, but Bosses are scaled up based on the player level. Some enemies have special protection.
Veteran: The combat levels of Minions are scaled down based on player level while Sub-bosses and Bosses are scaled up. Most enemies have special protection.
Hardcore: Unlocked by completing the game once on any difficulty level. Most enemies are scaled up based on the player's level. All enemies have protection, and Bosses have immunities.
Insane: Unlocked by completing the game on Hardcore without changing the difficulty level.
Auto Level-Up should remain off, as it is more beneficial to allocate the points between talents yourself rather than having them automatically assigned to various talents. By manually leveling Shepard's allies you can tailor them to compliment Shepard's class. Tinker with the remaining options and then hit the A button to continue. Keep in mind, these options can be changed once in-game.