Mass Effect: how to bypass Decryption & Electronics skill too low prompts

As you journey the galaxy in Mass Effect and explore the first game's various uncharted worlds and story-critical planets, you're sure to come across a dreaded message at least a couple of times: Decryption Skill too low. On some other items, you might also encounter an Electronics Skill too low message.

Depending on your choice of Shepard's character class in ME1, you may or may not have enough of a head start in this to open a bunch of the items you'll find as you begin to explore. If you don't, however, you'll be hit with that Decryption Skill too low message - and therefore be unable to unlock things like Wall Safes, Containers, and all the other items that are ME1's spacebound version of treasure chests. That in turn will lead you to miss out on items, armor, and weapon mods - which if not equipped, can at least be sold in service of unlocking and using some of the best weapons in the game.

On this page, we quickly explain how to get around that pesky decryption skill too low & electronics skill too low message to open all of ME1's containers - even if you don't want to pump precious skill points into the decryption skill. 

How to bypass Decryption Skill too Low or Electronics Skill too low in Mass Effect

As you travel across the worlds of Mass Effect in between tackling the main planets as laid out in our ME1 mission order, there's a huge number of containers that you can open to get your hands on loot that can be equipped, broken down for omni-gel, or sold. Omni-gel and cash are always useful, as is better gear - so you'll want to open as many containers as possible. Any container that requires you to go through the decryption mini game also grants you a small amount of EXP, too - helping you to level up to the level cap. Basically: you want to do it.

However, many chests across the Mass Effect 1 universe actually have a skill check in place in order to open them. These can come in two forms: Electronics Skill or Decryption Skill. The Electronics Skill is generally used for certain side quest-related items - while Decryption is more commonly used to unlock items that are otherwise sealed - meaning it's used to prevent you from getting items. 

As the warning suggests, these messages are directly tied to two skills you'll find in Shepard's repotoire. At a base level, increasing the relevant skill will allow you to interact with the objects in question - but there is a way around it.

  • Decryption Skill: Available to any Shepard of the Engineer, Infiltrator, or Sentinel classes.
    • Level 1 allows you to Decrypt easy rank containers, Level 5 Medium, and Level 9 Hard. 
    • Each rank will also improve various related skills like Sabotage and tech explosions.
    • In your squad, Tali and Garrus can both learn this skill in your stead.
  • Electronics Skill: Available to Shepard in the Engineer & Infiltrator classes by default, plus the Sentinel class later on.
    • Level 1 allows you to open Easy Objects, Level 5 Medium, and Level 9 Hard.
    • Additionally, each Rank improves your tech skills, including the vitally important Overload skill.
    • In your party, Tali has this skill naturally, while Garrus and Liara can learn it as they grow.

As you might notice, as well as Shepard being able to learn these skills - depending on their character class - so too can two of your squad members, Tali and Garrus. This is vital since half the classes for Shepard don't have access to this skill at all; so if you're one of those classes, you're strictly relying on these squadmates.

Meanwhile, if your Shepard has access to either or both skill, you have to choose if you want to dedicate resources to it. The Decryption and Electronics skills are not just useful for the interactions, however - they bring powerful boons in combat, if you use the related skills. 

As for Tali and Garrus - these two are the tech experts, and so appropriately have access to Electronics & Decryption skills. Tali is the better of the two, with access to both out of the gate, but later in the game Garrus is totally valid for this job, too, and of the two he's the better overall fighter when you hit trouble.

As you might've guessed, the skill check when you go to interact with objects isn't just for Shepard, but is for your whole party. What this means is - if you have one of these two characters in your party and they have the relevant rank in either Decryption or Electronics, you won't see the 'Too Low' message even if Shepard has zero points in that skill, or doesn't have access to it at all.

As noted above, each container is either Easy, Medium, or Hard - and you'll need a skill of Rank 1, 5, or 9 respectively in order to unlock them. If you want to prioritize this, don't automatically spend your skill points and instead manually allocate them to reach these unlocks as quickly as possible.

Generally speaking, however, we recommend you don't sweat this too much. Begin to make Garrus or Tali a regular member of your Uncharted Worlds exploration team in particular just in case you come across any decryption or electronic skill checks - but also be aware that nothing critical to Mass Effect's side quest assignments is found in these containers. It's just randomized loot; so grab what you can and don't panic too much if you have to leave the occasional chest untouched.