Mass Effect 2 Point of No Return: what mission you should finish all your quests before starting

Mass Effect 2 has an open-ended narrative that lets you take on most of its main story quests in any order you like - and while you're at it, the game is constantly throwing a slew of side content at you. That naturally presents a classic worrying dilemma - that of finding the point of no return, the point at which the story takes that freedom off you and carries you along towards the end.

We've put together a separate page to answer the larger question of the optimum Mass Effect 2 mission order for the main and DLC quests, but beyond that, if you're going your own way, you should absolutely know about the point of no return. ME2 has a couple of them - and in a way how hard and important each point of no return is depends on what sort of Shepard you're playing.


Mass Effect 2 Point of No Return explained

The structure of Mass Effect 2 is an hourglass shape, repeated. You start out on a single path, then can branch out to a number of missions - then after all those missions are handled, it shrinks back to a single line again - before fanning back out. That means there's a few points at which control is wrested from you.

The important thing to note is that no missions in ME2 disappear if left unfinished for a time. You can let missions linger for as long as you like, and even revisit them in the new game plus mode. However, if you're aiming to get the best possible ending of the game, one point of no return strongly influences ME2's finale.

Anyway - here's all the times that Mass Effect 2 takes control off you, and what you need to know about them as Points of No Return:

  • After getting the Normandy, you will be gradually given 4 standard character recruitment Dossiers (The Professor, Archangel, The Convict & The Warlord) and 2 DLC character recruitment Dossiers (The Master Thief & The Veteran). You can do these in any order you like, but after the 4th of the standard dossier missions is completed, you will be forced to undertake a story mission on Horizon.
  • After the events on Horizon, you'll be set loose on the galaxy again. After completing 5 main missions, you will again be forced to undertake a specific story mission on the Collector Ship.
  • After your visit to the Collector Ship, you are again set loose to complete any missions you like, including loyalty missions. Eventually, you will open up the option of the Acquire Reaper IFF mission. Starting the Acquire Reaper IFF mission is the 'soft' point of no return in ME2.
  • The absolute final point of no return of ME2 is when you travel through the Omega 4 Relay. This will begin a sequence of events that leads to the credits, though you will also get a post-game save where you can mop up any remaining quests. 

Acquire Reaper IFF as a point of no return

The reason why we say the Acquire Reaper IFF mission is a 'soft' point of no return is because once you start this mission, a clock begins ticking. Specifically, after you acquire the Reaper IFF, you will have the time to complete exactly one mission before a major story event takes place that is designed to force you to travel through the Omega 4 Relay and initiate the end of the game.

If you delay and complete more than one mission after getting the Reaper IFF, you will not be able to get the absolute best ending of ME2. This is all explained in more detail, with more spoilers, in our Mass Effect 2 Suicide Mission & endings guide.

So, we recommend you treat the Reaper IFF as your ME2 Point of No Return. Endeavor to complete every side quest and especially complete every ME2 loyalty mission, plus buy any upgrades or weapons you need before starting and completing the Reaper IFF mission, and you'll have the best chance at the end of the game. The only exception to this might be the Lair of the Shadow Broker (Give Liara Intel) and Arrival DLC missions - which arguably work better if you save them for the post-game. Good luck!

We've got this same guide for the next game, if you want to be prepared: Mass Effect 3 Point of No Return explained