Mass Effect 2 Bonus Powers - what Advanced Training research to pick

The RPG systems in Mass Effect 2 are streamlined when compared to the first game in the series, but in many ways ME2 offers improvements and adjustments to make the role-playing progression you can do more satisfying. One key pillar of this is the Bonus Powers that Shepard can recieve - one extra power that's picked via the Advanced Training research project that becomes available part-way through the game.

The function of the Advanced Training is pretty simple - it allows Shepard to pick up a bonus power that's based directly on one of his squadmates. In some menus, these are also called Unique Squad Member Powers. With that name, it's not a surprise to say your squadmates are also key to unlocking the bonus powers. Each bonus power is unique, and some are better than others, with the exact suitability depending on your character class and play style. With your Advanced Weapon Training, this allows you to customize your class more than you'd first think.

On this page, we run down all ME2 Bonus Powers available through Advanced Training, and drop our picks for the best bonus powers. 

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ME2 Bonus Powers and how to unlock them in Advanced Training

There's one Bonus Power for each member of the main playable cast of squadmates and party members in Mass Effect 2, plus one extra bonus power for ME1 squadmate Liara T'Soni, who has a significant appearance in one DLC mission strand.

Each bonus power is basically a unique skill that up until that point is exclusive to the character in question - and they're all unlocked by completing each character's loyalty mission and securing their loyalty. Bonus powers actually remain unlocked into New Game Plus and other subsequent play-throughs of ME2, also - so you can begin to spec characters in interesting ways right from the start if you're inclined to play the game more than once.

Shepard can only have access to one bonus power at any given time. To bequeath your Shep with a bonus, simply go to the research terminal aboard the Normandy in Mordin's science lab and use the Advanced Training research. This costs 5000 Element Zero, and allows you to teach Shepard one of the bonus powers, which will then appear as a bonus skill on their character screen.

This research can be repeated, which means you can experiment with a bonus power and then swap it for another if you wish - the skill points spent on the power will be refunded. Just try not to do it too much, though as Element Zero is by far the rarest of the elements.

Here's the Bonus Powers, and which character unlocks them:

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  • Armor-Piercing Ammo - Garrus
  • Barrier - Jacob
  • Dominate - Morinth (replaces Samara)
  • Energy Drain - Tali
  • Flashbang Grenade - Kasumi
  • Fortification - Grunt
  • Geth Shield Boost - Legion
  • Inferno Grenade - Zaeed
  • Neural Shock - Mordin
  • Reave - Samara
  • Shredder Ammo - Thane
  • Slam - Miranda
  • Stasis - Liara (Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC Mission Reward)
  • Warp Ammo - Jack

You might notice there are 14 bonus powers when there are only 12 party members in ME2. The two bonuses are deliberate. During Samara's loyalty mission, under certain circumstances she can be replaced with Morinth; Morinth has a different power. Liara is not a permanent squadmate in this game, but joins you briefly during the Lair of the Shadow Broker quest - after that DLC quest line (which is included in Legendary Edition) is completed, you can research her bonus power, which is a skill she had in ME2. 

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The Best Bonus Powers in Mass Effect 2

As with many choices of this nature, there is no absolute right answer as to the single best bonus power in ME2. It will depend on your character class of choice, your play style, which are the best weapons for you, and generally how confident you feel in battle. However, we do have some recommendations of load-outs and the like where certain bonus skills from advanced training stand out in particular. So, without further ado...

  • Reave - the best biotic option: while there's a couple of Biotic powers on this list, if you want a powerful bonus biotic move, this is the one. Reave is a versatile skill, doing double damage to armor and barriers while also restoring health to the user when used on organic targets. You have to be in range to actively target an enemy, though - you can't blind-fire it. We'd go so far as to say it's the best biotic skill in the game, really. It is a wrecking ball once you get used to using it, and on Insanity the manner in which it tops up your health can make Shepard feel very, very tough. 
  • Geth Shield Boost - a great option for survivability & Infiltrators: if you're an Infiltrator Class, or you just want more survivability in battle, the Geth Shield Boost power shouldn't be overlooked. While you probably won't have Legion loyal until very late in the game if you're following our ME2 mission order, the Shield Boost will provide great extra cover during the suicide mission. As well as a high-powered new shield, one of the evolutions you can pick when the skill hits rank 4 also allows the shield boost to give a boost to your weapon damage, making it not entirely passive. It works particularly well on infiltrators, but will make any class more of a bullet sponge.
  • Armor-Piercing Ammo - the best ammo bonus: there's a few bonus powers that are focused on ammo, but the best of them is Armor-Piercing Ammo. While Warp Ammo is great for shredding barriers, the truth is that Barriers are the least common sort of damage protection you'll be up against in ME3 - you'll see way more shields and armor. Bosses and larger enemies always have armor, even if it's underneath their shields. This power gives a massive bonus against both armor and health, and was so powerful that it ultimately gets massively nerfed in ME3. It's a great pick for Soldiers who are entirely gun-focused.
  • Stasis - for controlling the battlefield: you can only cast stasis on one target at a time, but it's powerful - it stops an enemy dead in their tracks. They also can't be damaged in that state, but it means you can freeze a powerful foe in place to control the flow of battle briefly. It works on all enemies - even the final boss - which means you can use it to lock down a powerful foe to take down their minions, making crowd control in difficult battles easier. In addition, after Stasis wears off enemies fall to the ground, and while they're briefly downed they take bonus damage. It has an added boon that is perhaps unintended in that if you Stasis enemies on floating platforms that then move, or flying enemies like Scions above bottomless pits... they'll just fall into the abyss, to their doom, instnat kill. It's not the most exciting of powers, but it is extremely high utility.
  • Barrier - for the defensively minded: keeping in mind what we said above about the Geth Shield Boost, Barrier is the power you should pick if you really want maximum defenses and aren't as bothered about also getting an offensive damage boost on the back-end. It's a safe power, and is especially useful for classes that have less natural defenses, or for a class like Soldier that is constantly in the enemy's face.
  • Dominate - for ruining an organic's day: if you like the AI hacking power where you can turn one enemy on their allies, Dominate is basically that - but for organics. It's a good, strong power, and most of the enemies you face in the main plot will be organic. If you also have AI Hacking, it means you'll never come up against an enemy you can't brainwash. The downside - you'll have to sacrifice Samara to get it. 
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