Naturally occurring elements are not a new thing in the Mass Effect series; they have been present since the first game, in which these elements could be either found as treasure or by surveying different worlds.
The trend was further refined in Mass Effect 2, in which a rather lengthy yet enjoyable survey method was implemented to search for different vital elements on remote and some inhabitable worlds. But this enhanced and slightly more complex method of element searching was accompanied with better rewards, which were really noticeable towards the end of the second game.
Mass Effect 3 will continue the Element searching trend, as like in the second game, and they will be vital for enhancing different equipment like weapons, armor, and even possibly your ship as well. However, BioWare has confirmed that this Element mining process will take a different form in the game
So, there is obviously no reason not to search for Elements in the game, as not only can they provide hours of optional entertainment, but also stack up to give you massive survivability boosts towards the end of the game, which may or may not directly affect the end outcome.
In the Mass Effect world, the four most important elements are:
- Element Zero
Perhaps the most important element of all, Element Zero or ‘eezo’ is the central power-fuel of the most advanced technology in the galaxy. It is even believed that the Reapers themselves run on eezo.
Element Zero is found in places where a Supernova has occurred (a death of a star through a massive explosion), and hence is a very rare element to find. Thus, it is mostly searched in fresh nebulae in newly born planets.
Moreover, eezo can also be found in other dangerous areas such as debris and asteroids orbiting pulsars and neutron stars (which also form after supernovae).
Eezo is believed to run all the Mass Relays in the galaxy which allow faster-than-light (FTL) travel. Equipment-wise, they can enhance the performance of various equipment types. It is obviously the rarest element in the game.
Iridium is a real-life element with the atomic number 77, being a very hard and brittle metal. In the Mass Effect world, it is a naturally occurring element. Iridium is usually found in hot and dense atmosphere planets.
Due to its high-strength mechanical properties, it is useful in enhancement of assault rifles, sub-machine guns and heavy weapons.
Palladium is a real-life element with the atomic number 46. It is also a hard metal.
In the Mass Effect series, it can be found in relatively icy planets, and is perhaps the most abundant element in the game. Palladium has lots of general uses – mainly used to upgrade shields, armor and light weapons.
Platinum is slightly rarer than Palladium, but can still be found more easily than eezo. Platinum is also a real-life element with the atomic number 78. It is a hard and expensive metal.
In Mass Effect 3, it is used to upgrade assault rifles, shotguns and medical equipment.