Mass Effect 2 was arguably where the original Mass Effect trilogy peaked. This isn't to say that the first and third Mass Effect games were bad, as both were excellent titles - it's just that Mass Effect 2 was just so memorable from the start down to the very end. Mass Effect 2 has the most expansive lineup of quirky heroes, with as many as 14 companions that range from a spiritual assassin to a "mobile Geth platform" composed of more than a thousand Geth programs working together to form a collective consciousness.
Below is our Mass Effect 2 companions guide, where we've rounded up all of these unlikely protagonists as well as where and how you recruit them.
Jacob is one of the two characters in Mass Effect 2 that joins your squad by default and he's also one of the most effective and straightforward.
A shotgun-wielding biotic with an Ammo Power and Pull, Jacob is a Cerberus Operative who at max level can deal a lot of damage. You can combine Pull and Warp to disable multiple enemies for a long time, allowing the rest of the squad to wail on them. At the same time, Jacob has access to Incendiary Ammo. This comes in handy when dealing with the Krogan and Vorcha as it stops their insane health regeneration.
Similar to Jacob, you encounter Miranda very early on in the game as they are both members of the second Lazarus Cell who will come aboard the Normandy SR-2.
In terms of specialty, Miranda is a jack-of-all-trades. She can do everything and anything, making her handy in nearly every mission. The challenge here is to learn where and how to invest in her numerous powers to utilize her best. However, arguably the best way to utilize Miranda is to max out and evolve Overload as soon as possible followed by Warp so you can take care of both shielded enemies and biotic barriers with relative ease.
Once loyal, Miranda gets a huge power-up with Slam. It's her lone true disable that doesn't need more than the single point it gets the moment you receive it. You're better off investing your other points to max out her class, Cerberus Officer, that passively improves the health and weapon damage of the entire squad.
While you do get Miranda and Jacob early on, it's tempting to stick with both for the rest of the game due to how insanely powerful their pairing with Warp and Incendiary Ammo are.
Garrus Vakarian becomes available at the end of the "Dossier: Archangel" mission in Mass Effect 2 where you're sent to Omega to recruit a vigilante leader who's apparently so good at his job that he and his twelve operatives alone have forced the three of the Terminus Systems' most powerful mercenary groups to set their differences aside and band together in an attempt to take his group down.
Similar to the first game, Garrus retains his long-range proficiency in Mass Effect 2. His class, Turian Rebel, also lets him one-shot enemy shields with Overload when maxed out. Then, once you're finished with his loyalty mission, he gets access to Armor Piercing Ammo, which effectively makes him the lone squad member that can kill shields and do a lot of damage in a single shot.
We recommend maxing out and evolving Overload as soon as possible, and skipping Concussive Shot in favor of Armor-Piercing Ammo.
You can recruit Grunt via "Dossier: The Warlord" where you're sent to Korlus to try and recruit the military strategist, Okeer.
Okeer is an extremist who believes that the only reason that the genophage was weakening the Krogans was that it forced the race to care for even the weaker ones in an attempt to prevent the entire race from dying out. He believes this went against the ancient Krogan philosophy that only the strongest will survive. This belief led him to create genetically enhanced super-soldiers, with Grunt being his most successful creation yet.
With that said, you end up recruiting Grunt instead of Okeer, who is of the Krogan Berseker class and is the most durable member of your squad by a mile. In close quarters, his melee attack involves charging at characters and pinning them down. He can also wield the M300 Claymore Heavy Shotgun, which is the most powerful shotgun in the game.
As a bonus, Grunt gets access to Incendiary Ammo, which we recommend maxing out and evolving so you can share it with the rest of the squad.
Jack's recruitment mission in Mass Effect 2 is titled "Dossier: The Convict" where you head over to Purgatory, a Blue Suns prison ship, for what seems like a simple retrieval mission that ends with Shepard and the rest of the crew fighting for their lives due to the betrayal of the prison warden.
Similar to Jacob, Jack is a shotgun-wielding biotic. However, unlike Jacob, Jack's abilities are geared towards offense. She's the only squad member that has access to Shockwave, a very useful situational ability that can either stagger or knock enemies off of their feet. You can also use it along with other biotic skills, often resulting in a quick environmental death.
Jack's bread and butter is her Warp Ammo. It's the perfect skill to use against Collectors. We recommend evolving it so you can share it with the rest of her squad. You can choose to max out her Subject Zero class as well. This greatly improves her power recharge times and allows her to cast more of her abilities in a fight. However, to make the most of Jack, you'll need someone that can strip enemies of their defenses for her.
Mordin Solus is also available in Omega via the "Dossier: The Professor" mission. We recommend recruiting him first of all the other members. Once he's onboard the ship, you'll unlock the tech lab on the CIC deck of the Normandy, which allows you to take advantage of the numerous tech upgrades you'll find while recruiting the others.
As a squad member, Mordin Solus' strength isn't evident without closer inspection. He is of the Salarian Scientist class and only has Tech powers. However, he can't disable or takedown enemy shields and barriers, which is just weird. Where Mordin excels in is doing a lot of damage using Incineration Blast.
Even in higher difficulties, Mordin is the only member in Mass Effect 2 that can tear through armored enemies with ease. Paired with his Omni-Tool upgrade and a maxed-out Cryo Blast and you can use Mordin to incapacitate and weaken multiple enemies in one fell swoop.
Following the Collector attack on Horizon, the Illusive Man gives players four more characters to recruit, and one of them is Thane. The "Dossier: The Assassin" mission takes you to Illium, where you'll have to track down this assassin. By tracking him, you inevitably help him out as well, and when offered to go on a suicide mission, Thane seems to have no issue at all and joins Shepard free of charge.
Once recruited, Thane can effectively be used as a biotic version of Garrus. His prowess with the sniper rifle and Shredder Ammo is particularly useful in lower difficulties. However, we recommend utilizing Thane's biotics in higher difficulties. This lets him be more versatile and allows him to control crowds easier, even from afar.
You can pair Thane with another biotic with Pull to devastating effect, especially if you evolve Warp so that it recharges faster.
In Act 2 of Mass Effect, you'll receive a list of new characters that you can recruit, which includes Samara via her mission, "Dossier: The Justicar". What makes Samara's recruitment mission unique is that you can choose to either recruit Samara or her daughter, Morinth. However, of the two, we recommend Samara. Although they have similar abilities, Samara is the more interesting character of the two. Either way, both belong to classes that benefit from faster recharge speeds when maxed out.
Another reason why we recommend Samara is her loyalty power, Reave. Functionality, Reave works similarly to Warp. This makes it just as effective to use against armors and barriers while not being as useful against unprotected enemies. Maxed out and evolved, Reave is your best bet when dealing with multiple barriers, such as when fighting against the Collectors.
Tali'Zorah vas Neema
Tali returns in Mass Effect 2 during the second act of the game after her recruitment mission, "Dossier: Tali".
Of the squad members that you get a chance to recruit during the latter parts of Mass Effect 2, Tali is arguably the least effective. She's only useful when a mission involves fighting synthetic enemies, which aren't that many until much later on. But, once that happens and you unlock and max out Energy Drain and AI Hacking, Tali becomes indispensable against enemy synthetics.
Legion is arguably the last squad member that you'll get a chance to recruit in Mass Effect 2. This is because its recruitment mission, "Reaper IFF", starts a countdown for the suicide mission that will result in dire consequences the longer that you deal with it. Thus, we recommend only recruiting Legion once you've recruited everyone and completed each of their loyalty missions.
Once recruited, you'll have few chances to see Legion in action. However, Mass Effect 2 does put Legion in a good position to flex its capabilities. Case in point, it is the only squad member in Mass Effect 2 that can use the M-98 Widow sniper rifle, which, when combined with all of its other abilities, gives Legion the highest weapon damage in the game.
Legion is also fairly resilient, perhaps second only to Grunt because of its innate shield strength and other upgrades. You can also use Legion to hack other synthetics and use Combat Drones in battles. However, we don't really recommend doing so as Legion is far too reliant on others to strip enemy defenses for it.
Kasumi is one of the two DLC-only squad members available in Mass Effect 2, so the only way to activate her recruitment mission, "Dosier: The Master Thief", is to purchase the Stolen Memory DLC or play Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.
With that said, Kasumi is a unique party member. She has access to Overload, which is ideal for dealing with enemy shields. But, what really makes her such a valuable squad member are Shadow Strike and Flashbang Grenade.
The former allows her to deal the highest single-target damage in Mass Effect 2 and the latter is her loyalty power, which stuns enemies and knocks down those that are unprotected. It has a large blast radius and can be used against enemies that are even protected. It also overheats weapons and disables biotic, as well as tech abilities. Paired with her Master Thief class that improves her ability's recharge speed, Kasumi is a powerhouse and a nuisance on the battlefield.
A feared bounty hunter and mercenary, Zaeed's recruitment mission, "Dossier: The Veteran", becomes available upon purchase of The Price of Revenge DLC or if you play the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.
Zaeed is a long-range combat specialist and is the only non-Shepard character in the game that has access to the Disruptor Ammo. This alone makes him a valuable addition unless you're playing as an Infiltrator/Soldier Shepard. Even then, because Zaeed is available so early, you can utilize him to great effect against synthetics and shielded enemies.
Most probably won't utilize Zaeed as much later on in the game, but he's a fun addition to the squad if only for the sake of bringing in a grizzled veteran.
What's The Best Squad in Mass Effect 2?
Another reason why many believe that Mass Effect 2 is superior to Mass Effect and Mass Effect 3 is because of how it forces you to utilize different squad combinations. Each squad member brings something so distinct and different to the proverbial table. As a result, you can't just mix and match whoever and expect to get decent results, especially at higher difficulties.
Unlike in the other Mass Effect games, the limited powers at your disposal, as well as the relatively fragile shields and health, means that you'll need to really think of who you're bringing along with you.
Perhaps, this is by design. Mass Effect 2's plot has all thirteen of you diving headfirst into your respective deaths. Thus, by essentially forcing you to switch up squad members depending on the mission, you have a chance to get to know each member at a more intimate level.