The Soldier is the premier combatant in Mass Effect, having access to all four weapon talent trees and being the only class which possesses Combat Armor, the upside of which is that it’ll give Shepard the ability to wear heavy armor. Their ability to dish out damage with gunfire is unmatched, as is their resilience thanks to their aforementioned heavy armor and abilities like Immunity. That said, they’ll need companions to handle Decryption and Electronics for them, and bringing along a biotic who can debuff enemies is also helpful.
Soldier Bonus Talent
Due to the Soldier’s rather uninspired suite of offensive talents, they’re spoiled when it comes to choices of Bonus Talents. Just about anything you throw on them will make them significantly more well-rounded in combat, and the urge to toss Barrier on them to make them even tankier is understandable… but it also conflicts with Immunity, which should provide sufficient protection on its own. Without the damage reduction provided by armor or Immunity, those extra shields offered by Barrier just won’t last long, especially on higher difficulties.
Instead of making the Soldier a marginally more impressive tank, we suggest focusing on abilities that can debilitate enemies, render them helpless, make them easier targets or perhaps deal some damage. Or you can just grab Lift and do all those things at once. Hard to overstate how useful Lift is, as it floats an enemy harmlessly in the air, unable to defend itself, an easy target for a predatory Soldier, and even if you fail to finish it off during Lift’s generous duration, crashing back down to the ground just might. This means you’ll have to grind out Throw and Lift on another character before making your desired Soldier, but it’s a small price to pay to add such a potent tool to a Soldier’s arsenal. The only downside is that, despite possessing a biotic ability, your equipment potential will not be expanded to include a Biotic Amp. You’ll never be as powerful as a genuine biotic, but Lift doesn’t really need the boost to make it a great pick.
Soldiers have access to all four weapon talents, and while there’s an argument to be made for each one of them, depending on the situation, you’re better off focusing on one… perhaps with limited investment in another (enough to reach the first ability unlock). Now that the massive accuracy penalty from the original game has been done away with, all weapons are viable right out of the gate, and to compensate for removing such a hefty handicap (something that used to be left up to the weapon abilities themselves to do), each weapon’s ability is now considerably more powerful.
Sniper Rifles and Shotguns now deal considerable single-shot damage via their Assassinate and Carnage abilities while Pistols and Assault Rifles gain hefty, sustained damage boosts thanks to Marksman and Overkill.
Hard to pick a real winner here, as the Legendary Edition made sniper rifles useful enough without any talent investment that you can use them in the somewhat rare cases where you need a long-ranged weapon and don’t have the Mako and not feel like you’re underpowered. That x3 damage boost from Assassinate might be worth dropping three ranks in, however. Shotguns are likewise somewhat niche, excelling at close range (and there are an awful lot of facilities, ships and other indoor areas in this game) but losing significant damage potential at longer ranges. No good reason why you can’t use shotguns as a primary weapon and switch to sniper rifles for the enemies content to lurk out of effective range, although having to drop four ranks in Pistols just to unlock Shotguns does make it somewhat less appealing.
Pistols and assault rifles are less niche, suitable for both close and midrange combat, with pistols gaining an accuracy edge over assault rifles at midrange… at least, until you start getting some decent assault rifles that can more reliably put bullets downrange more reliably. What both of these talents lack in raw damage compared to Shotgun and Sniper Rifle, they make up for in rate of fire.
All in all, we’re content to focus on Assault Rifles as our primary weapon and drop some points into Sniper Rifles for when we need them.
Early on, drop a point into Soldier just to get your health regeneration going, and if you plan to use Assault Rifles (or Sniper Rifles for that matter), Overkill is just one talent point away. Pistols and Shotguns are less respectful of your talent points, the former requiring three ranks to unlock Marksman and the latter requiring four to unlock Carnage… not to mention the four ranks in Pistols it takes to Unlock Shotguns.
After that, diversify. Unlocking abilities in your various talent trees - Shield Boost, Adrenaline Burst, and Immunity - should be your goals. Abilities are incredibly powerful and have painful cooldowns, so the more you have to use at a time, the better off you’ll be. A few levels down the line, unlocking Fitness for the aforementioned Immunity ability and advancing through Combat Armor enough to unlock heavy armor should be your goals, as this will significantly improve your durability.