I played the trilogy for the first time recently using the Engineer class on 'Normal' and playing the Suicide Mission in ME2 was probably one of the highest peaks of gaming experiences I've had. Listening to its music made me want to re-play the trilogy to reach that specific point again, but ...
I started again from ME1 with a Vanguard and on the difficulty setting that's one notch higher than 'Normal' and it is becoming a chore. I'm usually OCD about exploring every explorable planet but I'm wondering if it's worth trudging through the cloned environments again and again just to level up. My fully leveled up squad absolutely breezed through the latter stages of the game on 'Normal' but in this playthrough I'm having to resort to playing hide and seek with enemies constantly either due to squad mates dying (typically Ashley and Tali) or Shepard's shields being reduced to zero every time I peek out of cover.
Is there any benefit to doing any side missions in this game if all I want to do is get to ME2? Will it make the end sequences easier? Any tips on how to play Vanguard?
Oh and can I intimidate Wrex into backing down on Virmire? Or will I need Charm?