OMG OMG OMG OMG
Just start emailing me.
After that space opera discussion we had I was so amped to play Mass Effect again because it is a truly satisfying experience for craving great scifi story fun. I assume you saw my thread, I'm replaying it now and about done with ME2.
It is totally overwhelming at first, but you'll get used to it, I promise. ME1 is especially kind of clunky just because at this point it's old. Just get through it, 2 and 3 and much smoother, prettier and amazing. But ME1 sets up the whole story...
Here's a few things to keep in mind--
1. As you go through places look at every little box, crate, locker you can-- this is how you find a lot of gear. The inventory system is terrible (they fixed it later) and you have to stay on top of it. Always upgrade to the best options (more on this in a sec) and take the extra stuff you don't need. Little stuff you need to break down into omnigel (which you need to do all sorts of stuff), bigger gear you want to sell to the requisitions officer on your ship to make money to buy better stuff.
2. In ME1 they stupidly give every character every class of weapon, but it's really hard to be effective with unskilled weapons. From your squad page you can look at your team's skills. Not which weapon they have skill in, and during play bring up the weapon wheel to make sure everyone is selecting said weapon. Also, these are the weapons you need to upgrade, you can upgrade the unskilled ones, but it's not a huge difference.
3. UPGRADES are key to make everything a lot easier. From that squad page you can select equipment and gear-- when you select a weapon you'll see comparisons between what you're holding and what you have in your inventory. Just compare the numbers and always equip what's best. As you progress the booty you find goes up in quality and value. Something I didn't even see until my second playthrough is weapon upgrades-- you'll find lots of "mods" liked types of ammunition or weapon upgrades. You have to equip them on to your weapons in your inventory (X button). Pay attention to the details of the mods. For example, tungsten rounds are meant for synthetics, shredder rounds work better on organics. If you keep rounds handy in your inventory, once you get into a mission and see who your facing, you can switch up the ammo for the target. It's a little detail, but can make a huge difference when you can drop a target with two shots instead of ten. When you're on your ship, go to the lockers and you can quickly equip everyone ahead of a mission and make sure everyone has what they need.
4. Skills-- make sure you are upgrading your skills when you get points. You can set it to autolevel up, or you can do it yourself. I personally try to make out my primary weapon, the skill associated with my class, the Spectre skill and either charm or intimidate first. Some skills are kind of just there, others seriously effect game play. They say in their description what they do. One that is important is decryption (and/or electronics) which is what allows you to crack security on locked items. You need to get this up to find goodies. Keep in mind too that when on a mission, you have the combined skills of your whole party. So if you don't have decryption, make sure you bring along somebody who does.
5. Combat-- Another thing I didn't master until very late in the game-- powers. In combat, use powers, yours and your team mates. In the options you can set how your team reacts, whether their powers are on autopilot or if you use them. Autopilot it at first, but as you get used to it you'll want to take over. When a fight starts, hit the power wheel (which handily pauses the action) and deploy your powers. They depend on your character class, but powers can make a fight go a lot easier then running around trying to shoot people. Example, the OVERLOAD power will take down a target's shields. Some of the biotic powers have an area effect that can scatter a cluster of enemies. You have to play with them and find the right team members to take so you have a variety of things to do. When a fight starts, bring up the power wheel, select the nearest or biggest targets, unleash the powers, and follow with your character's weapon of choice. Once the powers "cool down" and are ready for use, do the same thing. Also-- get good at take cover. In ME1 that means standing behind something, in 2 and 3 you can actually run, crouch, jump, etc. Taking cover lets your shields/health regenerate. If you stand in the open and shoot you'll die fast every time.
6. Talk to any and everyone you can-- there's extra missions and quests everywhere and the more you do, the more XP you earn and the stronger your character is. On my third play through I'm still finding things I haven't done before.
7. The Paragon/renegade thing-- commit to one early on. The more you build this up, the more you get access to "locked" dialog options that make some things a little easier. It really only comes into play in a big way a few times, but they are big. If you want paragon, stick to the upper right on the dialog wheel, renegade the lower right. Once you get high enough in one, feel free to start plying with the other. People say it's hard to do both to get benefits, but it's not impossible. For example, I'm supernice to everyone save for douchebag authority figures and villains. I'm full paragon and half renegade in the last 3rd of ME2 which allows for me to have most dialog options unlocked.
I'm totally not an RPG gamer normally-- I hated Final Fantasy. Running around and levelling up for hours to play a bit of story is not my idea of fun. Mass Effect is not like that-- it's pretty organic and once you get used to it, it's not that hard.