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- Nerf: A mild case. In the first game, Biotics were pretty much a Game Breaker. Now, save for Stasis, Biotics like Pull and Throw only work on enemies with no protection, balancing it out. Warp and Reave are both effective against Biotic Barriers and Armor, but not Shields, which are the most common form of protection by a wide margin. In addition, both have a longer travel time, making them useless against enemies in cover.
- Neuro Vault: 'Grayboxes', which are basically implanted computers, allow memories to be stored in them as well as enabling perfect recall. Kasumi's loyalty mission (from the Downloadable Content) is to retrieve one of these, containing her ex-partner's memories of their time together... plus some sort of giant secret about the Alliance.
- Never Trust a Trailer:
- Except for being a Badass, Legion is nothing like the trailers described it. The trailers make it seem like it's stalking Shepard. In actuality, it doesn't even show up until the start of the last act, which triggers the events leading to the climax of the game. And instead of being a Stalker with a Crush, it's a super calm, super nice robot, a geth version of Conrad, yet completely sane.
- They also tended to make the destruction of the first Normandy seem like a pivotal act II show stopper. It's certainly show-stopping, but it happens during the opening cutscene.
- You know that really awesome "Fight For the Lost" speech? Yeah, that's not actually in the game.
- Grunt was revealed in the Omega trailer, heavily implying that he would be recruited or at least important there. In the main game, there is nothing on Omega that has anything at all to do with Grunt. Not even an interesting encounter.
- New Game+: With some exceptions, carried over characters will be exactly as strong as a newly created one, which is to say, not at all. A level-60 character carried over from the first game, however, will start at level 5 and get a whole slew of other bonuses as well. Additionally, a rich character carried over from the first game will start off the second game rich. You can start a new game with a Mass Effect 2 character. You keep your levels and your abilities, but not your squadmates (though their levels are tied to yours, and they still have the same number of stat points available to distribute) or your upgrades. You do have to mine for those again.
- NGO Superpower: The game places you in the hands of Cerberus, a human supremacist terrorist organization which owns multiple deep-space habitats, funds multibillion-dollar resurrection projects, builds bleeding-edge spacecraft, and decks its people out in spiffy uniforms. They take good care of you, and all they want in return is for you to give humanity galactic supremacy. After the abuse you'll take from the Council, you might just give it to them. Subverted in that, though they have absurd amounts of capital, EDI will eventually tell you that there are approximately 150 Cerberus OPERATIVES organized into three cells according to EDI, something that is quite believable given how terrorist groups organize in the real world. Case in point, the "Black Hand"/Unity or Death, which had less than 400 members total and even fewer in the inner circle, but who caused World War I. They're basically the IRA In Space.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- On the second lava planet in the Firewalker DLC, you activate a panel that brings an abandoned base's generators online... which disturbs the lava flow to the point that the whole region starts to erupt.
- The ending of Arrival. BIG TIME. Sure, you stopped the imminent Reaper invasion by literally minutes, but at the cost of 300,000 batarian lives. And they know you're to blame. As it turns out, Shepard gets to spend the time between the end of Mass Effect 2 and the start of Mass Effect 3 in prison, not because he's being tried for what he did, but because if he wasn't, the Batarians would go to war with the Alliance. On top of that, you just BLEW UP A FUCKING MASS RELAY!
- To a lesser extent, after the Purgatory mission, Shepard receives an email from one of the serial killers that got free as a side-effect of the whole freeing Jack-thing.
- Nine Out of Ten Doctors Agree: Parodied with the increasingly unsettling Tupari Vending Machine on the Citadel. "Nine out of 10 Tupari drinkers recommend Tupari to their friends! The last one is on my list."
- Nintendo Hard: Expect to reload a lot if you play on Insanity difficulty. Ordinary gunfights that you blew through in Normal difficulty suddenly become lengthy, tactic-driven encounters where the slightest mistake will get you killed.
- Insanity on a new level 1 character tends to go past Nintendo Hard into Probing Uranus Hard, though not for any fault of the game itself. Rather, lacking any powers or upgrades means that taking down even one foe can use up all of ones ammunition. Ironically, though, this also means that as you progress through the game, Insanity gets easier.
- When you fight mercs on Insanity, it's challenging but not too bad. Any place where you fight Collectors or products of the Reapers will have you crying like a little bitch.
- This inverts if you're playing as an Adept. You can munch through the Collectors' biotic barriers like they're toffee, whereas the mercs' shields are like kryptonite. Blazing through the Collectors probably sounds appealing... but the cost? Every other character in the game becomes impenetrable, and you're expected to cut through them with a pistol and a sub machine gun. Good luck! However, if you are playing with a bonus talent from the start, take Energy Drain (Tali's Loyalty power) so you can cut some slack on your tech-oriented squadmates.
- Possibly the MOST FRUSTRATING BATTLE on Insanity (and most other difficulties) is the final "room" on Horizon, where you have to deal with a pair of Scions. With a couple waves of Husks for fun. If you get hit by both Scions at the same time, you're dead. If both are after you and one of them clips you, the other one WILL hit you too. And you will be dead. Hell, if one hits you with two Shock Waves in a row, you're dead. All while you're scrambling back and forth trying to avoid the Husks coming at you from both sides. It's no wonder many players exploit the fact that those scions won't attack until you enter the room, but they can still be seen (and thus sniped to death) if the player positions themselves correctly. There is also possibility of exploting the room architecture to almost completly eliminate danger Husts pose to Shepard by climbing on one of the large crates lying in the area. This makes fight significantly easier.
- The Derelict Reaper is basically the same one-two combo of Scions and Husks, but given that you'll be a higher level and can generally see the Scions coming from further away it's usually not QUITE as bad. Still vastly more difficult than anything else the game throws at you which doesn't involve both Husks and Scions at the same time. But it'll be okay. You've been getting all your upgrades, right?
- Having the Widow sniper rifle by this point makes this a whole lot easier as well, with each shot being capable of taking out up to a fourth of a Scion's armor, minimizing the need to resort to heavy weaponry.
- The usually short side mission where you have to defend an injured quarian from a pack of varren as your shuttle moves in to pick-up? On Insanity, it can effectively become That One Mission. If the quarian dies, it's a Non Standard Game Over. Instead of placing your squadmates in cover, you're better off using them as obstacles to keep the varren from getting to the quarian, since at least the varren mostly ignore your squadmates.
- Let's take a moment to talk about the Collector trap on insanity. Whoever thought that it would be fun to stick you on an isolated platform with virtually no cover while scions, collectors, and the ever-taunting Harbinger beat you mercilessly and repeatedly into the ground needs to be kicked in the beanbag. Due to the arrangement of the platforms in this room, your squadmates will die so often and so easily that you will come to despise them.
- No Endor Holocaust:
- Soundly averted. Sovereign's death and subsequent explosion did significant damage to the Citadel, adding to the thousands of casualties from the geth attack. Anderson notes that even with the station's army of engineers and the Keepers, full recovery will take at least five years. It's been two already.
- Averted in Arrival. The destruction of the Alpha Relay wipes out an entire system, killing over 300,000 Batarians... and Shepard spend the time between the second and third game in prison as a result, lest the Batarians go to war with the Alliance.
- No Except Yes: Cerberus isn't a human supremacist group, they're a human survivalist group. That operates by treading upon other spacefaring species whenever convenient. There's a difference there. Yep. It's not that they hate aliens, it's that they love humans! And they hate aliens.
- Nonstandard Game Over:
- Very late in the main game, Joker being Impaled with Extreme Prejudice by a Collector during the ambush results in one of these.
- You also "enjoy" one by getting it on with Morinth, provided you ignore the game's MANY warnings against doing so.
- Any ending where Shepard does not survive the suicide mission counts, as that savegame can no longer be imported to the upcoming sequel.
- If you do not unlock the valves for your chosen Tech expert during the Suicide Mission. It will lead to an abrupt Game Over.
- The ending of the Overlord DLC: if you fail to stop the rogue VI from uploading itself to the Normandy, you are treated to a scene where it takes over EDI, presumably setting off a technological apocalypse.
- During the Arrival DLC, if the ever-present timer of Reaper Apocalypse actually runs out, you get treated to a cutscene of the Reapers harvesting the galaxy, including major characters. Afterwards, you get a Critical Mission Failure.
- Also during Arrival, if you waste too much time while escaping from the asteroid, a cutscene will play showing the collision with the Alpha Relay, presumably expunging Shepard and his/her crew.
- No One Could Survive That: Prazza leads a company of quarian marines against a YMIR heavy mech. The YMIR promptly curbstomps them. Jacob even utters this trope almost verbatim.
- No One Gets Left Behind: There is literally an achievement for this, if everyone makes it out of the Suicide Mission alive.
- Gathering the dog tags of those who perished from the first Normandy is a touching posthumous version of the Trope.
- No OSHA Compliance: Lampshaded by Shepard during the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC.
- Averted elsewhere: there are handrails and safety notice everywhere in the geothermal plant on Aite, and the oil refinery on Zorya, and on the Ceberus installations onboard the derelict Reaper.
- Nothing Is Scarier:
- There isn't a single enemy to fight on the way through the crashed geth ship in the Overlord DLC, which does nothing to prevent it from being downright terrifying due to the atmosphere and the constant threat of the Scare Chord-like screams of the VI. Fighting several dozen geth on the way out is far preferable to having to take the "safe" route a second time. The fact that you're walking past dozens, maybe hundreds of inactive geth, makes it even worse. At any moment, you expect them to stand up and start shooting... but they never do. Player with fragile nerves tend to freak out more and more as nothing continues to happen.
- The same thing goes for the supposedly disabled Collector vessel. The regular appearance of convenient chest-high walls, which usually indicate an upcoming firefight, don't help.
- There's also a sidequest on a space station where everyone's been killed by the computer virus corrupting the station's VI. Throughout the mission you expect to have it turn on you at some point, but it never happens. Even knowing this on subsequent playthroughs, it still doesn't make the mission any less creepy.
- Notice This: It's very important to keep stocked up on ammo, and spare clips are very small. Good thing they shine and glint to make them easier to find.
- Not Playing Fair with Resources: When the heat clip mechanic is introduced in the second game, Shepard is apparently the only person in the galaxy who is affected by it.
- Not So Different:
- If you destroy the Collector base in the Suicide Mission, Legion comments that Shepard chose the path of technological self-determination, the path that the true geth took when presented with Sovereign's offer, and then makes a comment that says basically this.
- Renegade Shepard is gradually being shown to be this way with Saren. Particularly notable at the end of Arrival, with Hackett warning Shepard that, Spectre or no, s/he will be called to task for killing three hundred thousand batarians, just like Saren was being called to task for attacking Eden Prime.
- Specifically called out in the final fight with the asari Spectre in Lair of the Shadowbroker. When you accuse her of going too far in causing the death of innocent civilians just to protect an information source, she asks if you've done anything morally different. Of course, if you are playing a Paragon Shep, yes, yes indeed you have. She still calls you out on working for Cerberus much like how she worked with the Shadow Broker.
- Now You Tell Me: Happens several times.
- Chorban, salarian whom you can help in the first game, emails you with information that reveals that the Keepers are deceptively malevolent, and that they're really ticking time bombs working for a hostile alien species. Though you can find that out in the first game easily enough.
- Shepard's response during Legion's loyalty mission, after the latter mentions that they have three minutes to escape.
- NPC Amnesia: Particularly frustrating when talking to Tali or Garrus after successfully pursuing the Romance Sidequest, since they go back to saying they'll "find a way" to make it happen... when you already did. Later fixed in a patch.
- Obligatory Swearing: The writers apparently decided to live up to the enhanced rating.
- Offhand Backhand: A Renegade Interrupt in the Project Overlord DLC gives you the option to do this to a Loki mech that your team mates have recently disarmed.
- Offing the Offspring. Samara's duty, which leads to one of the more painful scenes when she talks about why she has to kill Morinth.
- Oh Crap: Joker's reaction to a Collector cruiser dropping out of FTL right on top of the Normandy SR-1.
- Later in the game, when the Collectors do it again to the SR-2, he starts with "Oh, Shit!". He then follows it up about a dozen times during his subsequent panic.
- Mouse, during Thane's loyalty mission. He turns around to find Thane and Shepard wanting to talk to him. Thane advises him to change his pants later.
- During the Arrival DLC, Shepard has this reaction when they walk into Object Rho's storage room and sees the big, indoctrination-inducing Reaper artifact sitting right out in the open, with no precautions or protection to prevent its influence from affecting the Project's personnel. A minute later, Shepard is being swamped by indoctrinated soldiers.
- The Project scientist/medical tech during Arrival when Shepard wakes up.
- Wilson, in the opening mission, reacts this way - very briefly - to Miranda turning out to still be alive.
- Once Killed a Man with A Noodle Implement: Professor Mordin once killed a Krogan with "farming equipment". Lair of the Shadow Broker de-noodlifies the Noodle Implement: he stabbed a Krogan. In the eye. With a pitchfork. It's also the reason why his head's all wrong.
- One-Hit Kill: Once you upgrade it some, the Widow anti-materiel (i.e. anti-tank) sniper rifle can easily take down most non-boss enemies in a single shot. Especially satisfying to use on Harbinger mid-transformation.
Harbinger: ASSUMING DIRECT CON-*headshot*
- The M-920 Cain can also kill most enemies, and several bosses, in one shot. On the lowest difficulty level, there are only a couple of enemies that
aren't killed with a single Cain shot, most notably the final boss, and even it is reduced to a sliver of health (although the Cain might not kill the Geth Colossus in one shot either if you don't fire it at the right time).
- Even on Insanity, where all enemies have additional layers of shielding or armor, a charged shot from the DLC Geth Plasma Shotgun, along with the right damage upgrades, is still powerful enough to kill a merc.
- One-Way Trip: Any ship going through the Omega-4 mass relay isn't coming back. That's been the case for as long as records can remember. And it's up to Shepard to break that streak.
- One-Man Army: Shepard, especially during the Arrival mission.
- One Bullet Clips: In every case except for the one-shot-per-clip weapons (the Widow and Mantis sniper rifles and the Claymore shotgun).
- One Size Fits All: Averted. Only Shepard can change his/her armor.
- Only Mostly Dead: One of Shepard's responses when encountering the guard outside the Citadel.
Guard: Our scanners are picking up false readings. They seem to think you're, uh, dead.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Both the Paragon and Renegade options in settling the dispute between Jack and Miranda lead to this as Jack vows to keep Miranda alive during the attack on the Collectors so that Jack can rip her apart herself.
- Only Sane Man: Quarian Admiral Zaal'Koris vas Qwib-Qwib. While, yes, Koris is a Jerkass when you meet him, his motives in the trial are to prevent the Migrant Fleet from going to war with the geth, because he feels the quarians wronged the geth in the first place, and that it would be suicidal to do so as well. Of course, anyone who's spoken with Legion knows that geth want nothing more than to be left alone and develop their civilization without interference, at least according to it. They don't even live on the quarian homeworld, having only mobile platforms to clean up the wreckage and decontaminate the ruins from the war. Somebody give this man a medal.
- Operation Blank:
- Project Lazarus. Which brings Shepard back to life.
- Project Overlord from the Overlord DLC. Also a Meaningful Name: the purpose of the VI is to act as figurehead to the geth in the same way as Saren, and thereby avert a major war with them.
- Subverted with the Project in the Arrival DLC. It's simply known as... the Project.
- Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: Holoscreen or not, everything seems to be monochrome and lo-res.
- Our Vampires Are Different: The ardat-yakshi kill the people they have sex with for pleasure, and gain both intelligence and biotic strength in the process, effectively feeding off their victims.
- Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future: Most guns are pretty sleek, but it is universally agreed upon that the M-300 Claymore shotgun is a brick with a barrel.
- When the M-98 Widow sniper rifle is folded up and attached to the back, it looks very much like a hexagonal tube.
- Outlaw Town: Omega. It's been this for centuries, and sometimes, it'd be wiped out or abandoned, only to get turned back into a Hellhole.
- Out with a Bang: Some asari are ardat-yakshi, "Demons of the Night-Winds", born with a rare genetic disorder that causes their Female-To-Whatever Universal Adaptor to barbecue the nervous system of whoever they couple with... stealing their Life Energy and enhancing their intelligence and biotic powers in the process. That's right, some of these Space Elves are Horny Devils! Those in question insist that the experience is the most pleasurable thing imaginable even in its lethality, but would they say otherwise?
- People Puppets: In the Overlord DLC, Shepard is briefly controlled through his/her synthetic implants by the human/VI-hybrid.
- Percussive Pickpocket: In the mission The Crime in Progress", Shepard has to settle an argument between a volus and a quarian. The volus on the Citadel accuses a quarian of intentionally bumping into him and stealing his credit chit while the quarian denies it.
- Pet the Dog: Cerberus. They revive Shepard and the crew of the Normandy consists of a lot of nice people who just want to protect humanity. Some players can't even understand why Ashley/Kaidan calls Shepard out on working with Cerberus.
- Also done much more literally on Tuchanka, with a merchant's varren that Shepard can pet.
Shepard: Good varren.
- Planet of Hats: Justified. At one point, Mordin Solus remarks on the atypical genetic diversity among humans compared to other spacefaring races, and how this encourages other species to use them for experimentation.
- Playable Epilogue: If Shepard survives, the player can go back and finish everything that hadn't been previously completed. In addition, the DLC packs Lair of the Shadow Broker and Arrival are intended to be played after the main campaign is finished, although they can be completed at any time.
- Please Wake Up: Tali has this reaction to a particular body found during her loyalty mission, thinking that they're Faking the Dead and there's no way they could actiually have died. Makes it all the sadder when it sinks in that they're not faking.
- Plot Armor: Miranda won't die before the final confrontation with the Human-Reaper, even if she's not loyal. In fact, she can still get carried off by Collector swarms (certain death for anyone else) and pop up fine in the very next scene, with no comment from anyone. Shepard is arguably even aware of this; if anyone else gets carried off, Shepard screams their name in horror. If Miranda gets carried off, Shepard just stares after her, as if saying 'eh, she'll be fine'. Once the final boss shows up, Miranda can die like any of the other crew members.
- Plot Tailored to the Party: The Suicide Mission hinges on the player's ability to invoke this. Picking the wrong person for a specialist role will get them or somebody else killed.
- Porn Stash:
- You can collect one by buying the "Fornax" magazine on Omega.
- Joker's "entertainment bookmarks" contain a few kink sites apparently illegal in Citadel Space, according to EDI. Unless that is a joke.
- If you wait next to Joker long enough, he'll accidentally send to his main console speakers a porn feed he intended for his bluetooth earpiece, a literal case of The Immodest Orgasm.
- Grunt, of all characters, has a stash of asari porn and several back issues of the krogan edition of Fornax, as seen in his dossier files. Notable for including "Vaenia" (the same vid Joker suggests you "re-enact" with Liara after the Shadow Broker mission) and "Asari Confessions 26: True Blue."
- However, it seems like everyone regardless of species has watched Vaenia. Apparently, the actresses play very glamorous characters.
- According to his dossier, Jacob also owns a copy of Asari Confessions 26.
- Post-Mortem Comeback: The derelict Reaper still influences those that were tempted enough to board and live in it, like the investigation team by Cerberus. It would make H.P. Lovecraft himself raise a brow.
Research Log: The god is dead, but even dead gods can dream.
- Post Cyber Punk: Kasumi's loyalty mission.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: Various Cerberus projects, but Overlord kind of stands out.
David: The square root of 906.01 is 30.1... it all seemed harmless...
- Power Perversion Potential:
- The possibilities inherent in dating a biotic are intriguing.
Mordin: [about Shepard and Jack, one of the most powerful biotics in the game] Biotic ability also gives benefits. Forwarding booklet to your quarters; includes diagrams, exercises, inventive uses of mass-effect fields...
- The nerve stimulation systems for the encounter-suit-wearing species are supposedly there to allow tactile interaction with the world outside the suit. But the potential for so much more is so obvious that discussion of those uses are pretty much the only times the systems are ever mentioned (see the quarian in the "Eternity" lounge and the volus at the Serrice Technology sales stand, and Tali, whose Shadow Broker dossier uses this to suggest some degree of sexual frustration).
- Precision F-Strike:
- The one rule on Omega: "Don't fuck with Aria."
- Also, during Garrus' loyalty mission, if you play it as a Paragon:
Shepard: (deliberately blocking Garrus' shot) I'm the only thing standing between you and a hole in the head.
- Press X to Not Die: Reconstructed with the "Paragon/Renegade Interrupts", where you hit a button during a conversation to administer a Cooldown Hug, a Talk To The Headbutt or even throw a jerk out a window. They're optional, often heavily foreshadowed, there's no real penalty for not doing them, and they're not supposed to be at all difficult to hit. They allow a lot of extra options that wouldn't work in a normal speech without being awkward, like interrupting someone while they speak... a necessity with Mordin.
- Prison Rape: Implied, by one comment by a male prisoner in the Prison Ship Purgatory:
Prisoner 780: [...] And you got to watch out...damn, but someone's always after your stuff. Your smokes, your clothes, your... pride... (looks away uncomfortably for a moment) I haven't taken a shower in three months.
- If you take Jack into the Citadel's restroom up in the Dark Star nightclub, she recalls an incident where she was ambushed by both prisoners and GUARDS in a bathroom, killing two in the process, but failing to stop the rest back in Purgatory. She never forgot. And neither did they.
- Prison Ship: The Purgatory, a type 2 dumping ground for the worst criminals who don't even belong on a planet. That said, the ship isn't run by any government; it's run by the Blue Suns, a mercenary group that uses it as just another pirate setup: taking on prisoners for money, or releasing them into the hands of whoever pays them, using it as a holding place for hostages, and threatening to release the most psychotically violent monsters in their holds onto systems whenever they need a bit of cash.
- Private Military Contractors: Plentiful, primarily among them the Blue Suns, Blood Pack, and Eclipse.
- Product Placement: You can hear an advertisement for Exoderm while on Illium.
- Profiling: The "Crime in Progress" sidequest.
- Psychosomatic Superpower Outage: Implied slightly. Your squad unlocks their final powers after Shepard helps to resolve any "distractions" they have.
- Punch Clock Villain: The mercs Shepard fights in most missions are just doing what they're paid for and don't have anything personal against the hero. The ones who teamed up to take down Archangel are an exception, since they actually wanted to kill him and no one hired them to do it.
- Pyrrhic Victory:
- The (non-canon) worst ending. Shepard succeeded in destroying the Collectors, but at the cost of everyone aside from Joker. Joker is left alone to try to warn the entire galaxy about the coming of the Reapers without any of the unique skills Shepard and co. brought to the table and just enough data recovered to show that the Reapers are on the march.
- The end of Arrival. Shepard defeats the Reapers and buys the galaxy some time. However, an entire solar system was destroyed by Shepard's hand, the batarians are looking to use that as an excuse for war with the Alliance, and Shepard must stand trial. And the Reapers haven't been stopped, only delayed...
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The heroes, at first. They coalesce in a more or less tight fighting team under Shepard's command, but some inner conflict still pops up here and there.
- Rainbow Pimp Gear: Whether this is averted or played straight is under the player's control, as you can now fully customize the color, camouflage patterns and tint of your armor. Played very straight at the start of the game: Ashley, Liara and Kaidan will run up to you in white/pink Phoenix armor during the opening scenes. Justified for Ashley as this is her default outfit from both games, but heads into full-on "WTF?" territory with Kaidan, as his default armor is a very plain dark grey Onyx armor.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The loyalty sidequests include blowing up a facility where children were experimented on, helping hide the sister of one of your allies from her abusive father, and assassinating gang leaders and space vampires. Jacob's mission is to find his father, whose ship had sent out a distress beacon ten years after it went down. Those ten years were spent eliminating the male members of the group and breaking down the women to serve as sex slaves. One resolution to this mission is to allow Ronald to be left to the zombies who are now trying to kill him. Among your team are gang leaders, killer Mecha-Mooks, gang leaders, intergalactic thieves and Ax Crazy Psychoes for Hire, every one of them approves this fate.
- Reassignment Backfire:
- In Tali's loyalty mission, one of the admirals officially transfers Tali to the Normandy on the assumption that her human captain will either refuse to defend her or defend her inadequately at her court martial. Yeah, he was pretty much ignorant of the walking Crowning Moment of Awesome and Father and/or Mother to His/Her Crew that is Commander Shepard.
- Another variation is Miranda. Explicitly assigned to the Normandy to keep an eye on Shepard and represent Cerberus interests, if you complete her loyalty mission, take her into the final battle, and choose to blow up the Collector base, she pretty much flips the Illusive Man off when he orders her to stop Shepard.
- Recruiting the Criminal: Most everyone you recruit for your squad are either outright psychopaths (Jack), assassins (Thane), mercenaries (Zaeed), thieves (Kasumi) or otherwise operate at least a few degrees outside the law (Samara). Then the ones who work directly with Cerberus (Miranda, Jacob and other crew members) are working for a shady organization with unclear goals. Outside that, some have questionable pasts (Mordin) or are just dangerous to have around (Grunt, Legion). The only people who have given you no reason to mistrust them are Joker, Garrus and Tali.
- Recurring Riff: The soundtrack reuses a certain cello solo throughout. For reference, it appears from 4:16 to 4:26 in "Tali". Judging by the songs it appears in (including "Tali", "Jack", "Humans Are Disappearing", "Horizon", "Suicide Mission", "The Illusive Man") it may be a Leitmotif for loss or grief.
- Recursive Ammo: Zaeed's Inferno Grenades from the free DLC (that the Player Character can equip with Advanced Training research), use this to great effect, often knocking people over even if they have shielding. Upgrading this power, will increase the number of sub-munitions.
- Red Shirt: In the opening, there is a crewman on the Normandy identified only as "Ensign". She dies.
- Redshirt Army:
- The (non-Tali) quarians tend to fare poorly in the battles you observe.
- Averted with Kal'Reegar, who really is wearing a red shirt and yet does quite well.
- Redundant Researcher: Remember Chorban from the first game? You get an email from him saying there's something fishy with the Keepers. Really? But his email contains conclusive proof of the extinction cycle, yet he has just as much luck as Shepard getting people to look at it.
- Religious and Mythological Theme Naming:
- The FENRIS, LOKI and YMIR brands of defense mechs. FENRIS mechs resemble dogs (a side character even addresses them as literal "dogs" instead of mechs). YMIR mechs are huge. LOKI mechs don't seem to fit their name at first until you realize that, of all the mech types, they by far cause the most trouble (often by malfunctioning or being hacked).
- The biblical references throughout the game:
- Miranda's loyalty mission is called "The Prodigal", a parable from the Bible.
- Legion is named after a passage in Mark: "My name is Legion, for we are many."
- Legion's loyalty mission is called "A House Divided", from a passage from Luke.
- Legion reveals Sovereign's real name to have been Nazara a.k.a. Nazareth.
- The Reptilians: The krogan and the drell.
- Rescue Introduction: Archangel, Jack, Grunt.
- Retcon: A handful show up.
- If you blow Conrad Verner off with a Renegade option in the first game, a news report will state that he died while trying to stop a crime, but he's alive and well no matter what. Additionally, regardless of if you used Charm or Intimidate to get Conrad to back off in the first game, the game assumes that you took the Renegade option, with Conrad claiming you "shoved a gun in [his] face." This is due to a bug in the save file transfer system.
- The Reveal:
- Collectors are Protheans, although the process of re-purposing them really makes them Prothean in name only; there is nothing left of the people they once were in the Collectors.
- Sovereign's name is actually Nazara, as revealed by Legion. Sovereign was a name given by Saren.
- The Reapers commit mass-genocide in order to reproduce. There isn't quite enough information on this to give definite details, but a Reaper 'fetus' bears a striking resemblance to the species it is made from. Since the ending briefly shows the dormant Reaper fleet and they all look like Sovereign, as well as the human Reaper being nowhere near as large as a completed Reaper, even if it had been fully formed, the current theory is that the species-specific construct becomes the "core" of a finished Reaper. Mass Effect 3 reveals that this is far more complicated.
- The Shadow Broker's identity is revealed in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC. He's a yahg, an eight eyed, sharp toothed, pre spaceflight race of highly aggressive brutes, larger in size than the krogan and on par with salarian intelligence. The previous Broker got one as a "pet", but ended up being usurped by the yahg after he grew smart enough. He wields the Revenant one-handed and a large energy shield in battle, and can be viewed here.
- Revive Kills Zombie: Using the Dominate ability on a Husk will kill it instantly.
- Roaring Rampage of Rescue: Shepard gets to go on several including Archangel and Tali's recruitment missions, Miranda's loyalty mission and of course for the crew of the Normandy should s/he choose to.
- Robots Enslaving Robots: More or less the function of the heretic virus in Legion's loyalty mission. Though, interestingly, it's used not just to show what Jerkasses the heretic geth are, but also pose the central moral dilemma of the mission.
- Romance Sidequest: There are several romance subplots: Miranda Lawson, Jack/Subject Zero, Tali'Zorah vas Normandy, and Kelly Chambers for males, and Jacob Taylor, Thane Krios, Garrus Vakarian, and Kelly Chambers for females.
- With the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, Shepard (male and female) can reconcile with Liara and pick the relationship back up
- Rousing Speech: Played straight and still awesome when Shepard gives a quick speech to his/her team at the end of the mission on the Collector base, right before the final confrontation.
- Rule of Symbolism:
- Shepard dies and comes back to life. S/He goes to Afterlife (which has a distinct flame motif) to recruit Archangel. At the end of the game, assuming you got everyone through the Suicide Mission intact and you have all the DLC squad members, s/he has twelve squad members. Sound familiar?
- Legion's name comes from The Bible, and the Cosmetic Award for completing his loyalty mission is called "A House Divided", which also comes from the Bible: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
- After going to the Afterlife, one of the first recruitment missions takes you to Purgatory (the prison ship). Later on Illium, you go to a bar called Eternity.
- Running Gag:
- Sacrificial Lion: Poor, poor Normandy SR-1.
- The Sadistic Choice: In an optional mission, Shepard must fight his/her way through a military base captured by batarian extremists to activate self destruct mechanisms on a couple of nukes heading towards a nearby colony. Once you get there, however, you learn you can only destroy one of the missiles and must choose whether to spare the urban area where most of the colonists live, or a vital industrial area that would, if destroyed, result in the eventual economic death of the colony and the evacuation of those same people that you just saved.
- Sapient Ship: The Normandy itself becomes one of these near the end of the game after EDI's shackles are removed and she takes complete control of the ship.
- Saved for the Sequel: The quarians are worried over a remote star dying far faster than it ought to be. Tali hypothesizes it's due to dark energy affecting the interior of the star, but remarks that no race has the ability or any particular motive to destroy one. Nevertheless, she voices concern over the possibility of an adversary powerful enough to take a star out. The explanation is left open for Mass Effect 3.
- If Shepard runs into Gianna Parasini on Illium and asks about her future plans, she'll remark: "A lot of people are suddenly interested in dark energy. My bosses want to know if it's something to worry about."
- Scavenger World: Tuchanka is revealed to be largely this in the second game. Since most krogan can't get their act together to establish a system of government, off-world trade is right out. Most tech is either brought from off-world by unusually high-minded individuals, stolen from other clans, or salvaged from some of the many wrecks and various other detritus that dots the landscape. This is one of the many things that the head of Clan Urdnot is trying to turn around.
- Scenery Gorn: The Normandy SR-1 getting torn apart by the Collector cruiser. Punches the Player in the gut. Hard.
- The Crash Site. Dedicated players have an emotional connection to that ship. Seeing it get torn apart hurt, but walking through the crashed wreck and getting small flashbacks to the first game can be almost painful.
- In Arrival, the very graphic destruction of a Mass Relay.
- Scenery Porn: Planet Aite of the Overlord DLC. Even the Hammerhead VI points it out: "Geologic formations suggest an asthetically pleasing view nearby. Organic lifeforms may wish to take note."
- Really, this game is full of them. The sets and places that Shepard visits look so gorgeous. Illium and Omega are two brilliant examples.
- Schmuck Bait:
- Schrödinger's Gun: This makes a triumphant return, where no matter how the first game ended, Miranda will crow that Shepard did everything exactly right, and specify how so. "And still it's not enough."
- In the previous game, the decision of who will represent humanity on the Galactic council occurs after the final save file is created, so the choice is not reflected when the save is imported. To address this, a player who has imported a save will be asked by Miranda who he or she selected (with the justification being a test of Shepard's memory). Either choice is considered corrected and will determine who the Council member is later in the game.
- Khalisah Al'Jilani from the first game will criticize Shepard regardless of their decision in the end battle
- Schrödinger's Question: Was originally going to be used in for new games in which Mass Effect 1 saves weren't imported, but was scrapped at the last minute. However, one of these questions survives in the final release: the one asking whether Udina or Anderson became the human representative to the Citadel. This is because the auto-save which is imported into Mass Effect 2 is created by Mass Effect before the conversation when the choice is made occurs.
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Kasumi does this during the Lock and Load Montage in her loyalty mission.
- The devs make many, many jabs at themselves during the game, ranging from subtle comments on the appearance of characters to a random merchant making pointed comments that come very close to breaking the fourth wall.
Shepard: Remember when you could just slap omni-gel on everything?
- If you crash several times in the Chase Scene, this happens:
Shepard: You okay?
- Sequel Difficulty Spike: Sort of. The game isn't really any harder than the first, for the most part. However, the redesigned combat mechanics mean that fighting like you did in the first game is a good way of getting yourself totally slaughtered, even on the easiest difficulty setting. Once you get used to the new mechanics (or if you're coming in fresh without having played the first game), the difficulty rapidly evens out. However, the change in mechanics and the streamlining of the character building process means that you'll never be able to throw yourself into combat without worrying about tactics like you could eventually do in the first game. So it's less about the game getting harder, and more that it doesn't get easier as much.
- Sequel Escalation: The first game was somewhat extreme. But BioWare seemed utterly determined to outdo themselves for the second.
- Sequel Hook: Arrival sets up the basis for Shepard being in prison at the beginning of the third game.
- Sequence Breaking:
- A collision detection bug (the type which normally results in the game becoming unwinnable) on Omega allows you to enter Afterlife's VIP area and complete Samara's loyalty mission before Samara's recruitment mission ever becomes available. A similar bug on the Normandy lets you enter the tech lab to research upgrades before recuiting Mordin, although since his recruitment mission is available as soon as you gain control of the Normandy, there's not much point to using it.
- A rare example of this trope letting you complete a portion of the game later than intended. It is possible to complete Mordin's loyalty mission after the suicide mission. That isn't this trope: nearly every non-story mission can be completed after the "end" of the game. What is this trope is the fact that you can complete Mordin's loyalty mission even if Mordin is dead.
- Serious Business: You play Frogger for hacking tasks and a memory card game for opening locked doors and crates.
- Service Sector Stereotypes: Most games, the barman is the local repository for news and gossip, right? Apparently, in Mass Effect, that is the function of the news kiosk. The barman just serves drinks. Humans are always making that mistake.
- Not just the news kiosk. In the prequel comic book Redemption, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to this when an elcor Liara is trying to get information from sarcastically asks if she thinks he's the bar's information minister.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: Unlike the first game, you don't really get to see much of the sex scene that results from a romance, via a combination of fade to black and these.
- Shaped Like Itself: Used by the Extremely High Biotic God Niftu Cal. "I am a great wind that shall sweep everything before me like a... a great wind!"
- Shell-Shock Silence: Briefly: when Shepard experiences a near-hit from an explosive device, the sound goes fuzzy and muted for a few seconds. But only a few seconds, still nowhere near long enough to avert Steel Ear Drums.
- If you stand (in cover) too close to a YMIR Mech when it explodes, the Shell-Shock Silence can last until the end of the mission.
- Sherlock Scan: When you first encounter Mordin, if you don't choose to immediately reveal the group you're working for, he deduces it on his own in a matter of seconds.
- Ship Sinking: Shepard has three opportunities in Lair of the Shadow Broker to ask about the nature of Liara and Feron's relationship. The answer all three times is that it's strictly platonic.
- Shock and Awe: The entire point of the Arc Projector DLC heavy weapon. Also, the Overload tech power and Disruptor Ammo.
- Shoot the Hostage: An option for both the player character and some NPCs in missions.
- Short-Range Shotgun: Played straight for most shotguns. Averted somewhat by the Eviscerator, which doesn't suffer as steep a damage falloff, but still scatters just as much as the others. Averted mostly by the recent Geth Plasma Shotgun. Its most damaging pulse fires fairly dead center, but the other two shots it fires are off axis. But for the ones that don't avert it? You can aim straight at an enemy three meters away and have all eight projectiles miss.
- More like 'Short Range Firearms' in general. Yes, shotguns have an effective range of ~10 meters, and this is unrealistic. Meanwhile, assault rifles have an effective range of ~25 meters, and sniper rifles around 100 meters... and these are also unrealistic. In real life, assault rifles have listed effective ranges in the hundreds of meters, and many sniper rifles can hit targets a kilometer or more away.
- However, this is less a fault of the game itself than a fault of the terrain design: Shepard's team never fights long-distance.
- More like 'Short Range Firearms' in general. Yes, shotguns have an effective range of ~10 meters, and this is unrealistic. Meanwhile, assault rifles have an effective range of ~25 meters, and sniper rifles around 100 meters... and these are also unrealistic. In real life, assault rifles have listed effective ranges in the hundreds of meters, and many sniper rifles can hit targets a kilometer or more away.
- Shout-Out: See Mass Effect/Shout Out.
- Show Within a Show: Type 4. When you return to civilized space, one of the things you can learn is that the first game is being made into a movie entitled Citadel. Fans are hoping for this to appear in the third game.
- Shut UP, Hannibal:
- A gameplay feature allows players to dynamically and instantly alter (or end) conversations at some points. This can range from just telling the person to shut up, or tossing him out a window.
- Related: Mordin gets no less than two QTE interruptions when you first meet him, and another when on the Normandy. Hilarious, as he's the famous Motor Mouth.
- The Paragon ending. The Illusive Man calls up to give you hell about destroying the Collector base. You can either reason with him or basically tell him to shut up and fall in line.
- Even Zaeed invokes this upon himself when he attempts to justify leaving civilians to burn so he can exact his revenge. Strangely enough, only Paragon Shepard cuts him off, and how successful it is depends on how Paragon he is.
- Sidequest Sidestory: The game has you tracking back the source of infected mech VIs in order to prevent further outbreaks, and the Blue Suns quest line in which you shut down a piracy operation.
- Sigil Spam: Cerberus is really fond of their logo.
- Skele-Bot 9000: The Human Reaper.
- Smug Snake: Jedore.
- Sniper Pistol: Taken very literally with the new heavy pistol provided by the Firepower Pack DLC. Rather than the cross-hair "area" of most other weapons, the M-5 Phalanx gets a laser designator, and your shots will always hit where you're pointing the laser. On the other hand, it has higher recoil than the M-6 Carnifex Hand Cannon, meaning your aim will be disrupted significantly with each round.
- So Long and Thanks For All the Gear: Averted in the Suicide Mission, where characters can die, but they don't have any gear they can take into the grave.
- Somebody Else's Problem: What's that, Shepard? Saved the Council? Destroyed a Reaper in the middle of the Citadel? They promised you support in your hunt for the rest of the Cosmic Horrors and their eternal gratitude? Not so much.
- Space Clothes: The ESRB rating describes generally the events of Shepard's romances, one of which involves "unzip[ping] a future-blouse". They're not generally silly enough to qualify as Space Clothes, being about as different from modern clothes as modern clothes are from 19th century clothes. It's more an aversion of No New Fashions in the Future.
- Space Is Noisy: Averted at the beginning, when you take a walk through the bridge of the Normandy, which has had most of its top blown off. Otherwise played painfully straight.
- Mass Effect 3 reveals that sound in space is a result of sound emulation software: it's not noisy, it just appears that way because that's what people expect, and set up systems to allow them to "hear" what's going on in space.
- Space X: The Space Hamster Shepard can buy.
- According to the ESRB, Miranda wears a Space Blouse, which can be removed.
- Squee: If you saved the Council in the first game, the turian salesman at Rodam Expeditions is awfully eager to be talking to Shepard; he even says he'll name his firstborn after him/her.
- Stalking Mission: Thane, being an assassin, has Shepard participate in this during his loyalty mission. Somewhat subverted though, since the target you're stalking is not Thane's, but someone else's.
- Starship Luxurious: Despite being a combat-ready ship, the Normandy SR-2 has quite a few luxuries on board. Like lots of space. And a bar. And leather seats. But not decent food (you can remedy that last part, if you want). Joker himself is very excited about the fact it has leather seats.
- Stealth-Based Mission: The first part of the Arrival DLC has an optional stealth component. Being stealthy isn't required to clear the mission, and the combat you engage in if you go gung-ho isn't that difficult, but you get an achievement/trophy for completing the area undetected.
- Stealth Pun: Zaal'Koris vas Qwib-Qwib states not all quarians can serve aboard ships with great names such as the "Defrahnz" or "Iktomi". It would be very embarrassing for English-speaking humans to have the last name of "vas Defrahnz" or "vas Iktomi".
- Illium, a world run by corporate interests that exists for the sole purpose of commerce and trade, has a news network which goes by the initials F.E.D.
- Sticks to the Back: Most egregiously, that big, chunky, awkward-looking Collector beam gun.
- Stock Puzzles/Stock Video Game Puzzles: A logic grid puzzle as a part of Liara's quest in the sequel. There are five persons: turian, salarian, etc, and five jobs: merchant, killer, observer, etc. If you saw one logic grid puzzle, you saw 'em all. You need to find out who is Shadow Broker's assistant, the Observer. The correct answer is none of the above because all five are male, and Observer referred to herself as a female once. The whole thing is fake, and the Observer is actually her secretary.
- An insultingly easy Light and Mirrors Puzzle is part of a sidequest.
- Another part of this quest is a Set Piece Puzzle where Shepard must use three computers in an order that will open all of a series of doors.
- The scanning minigame, Liara's terminal hacking sidequest, and part of Kasumi's loyalty mission are implementations of the Metal Detector Puzzle.
- The Overlord DLC has two Set Piece Puzzles: one involving moving giant tiles so you can get to the other side of a flooded room and another involving using several controls in order to summon a broken elevator.
- An insultingly easy Light and Mirrors Puzzle is part of a sidequest.
- Stock Scream: You really have to feel sorry for poor Wilhelm. He can't even get a proper factory job without Zaeed trying to come and blow it up.
- Storming the Castle:
- Going through the Omega-4 Relay to assault the Collector Base, arguably the whole point of the plot.
- When Shepard and Liara go to Hagalaz to confront the Shadow Broker.
- Story Overwrite: The game does a good job of porting most of your decisions from the first game via save file, but bugs wipe a few results (most notably the resolution to the Conrad Verner sidequest). Nothing majorly important, fortunately.
- Straw Hypocrite: The Illusive Man and the annoying reporter. Despite their pro-human views, TIM hires alien prostitutes and the reporter has an asari girlfriend.
- The former is used as evidence by many players that TIM is being serious when he says he isn't anti-alien. He may want to put humanity on top, but that doesn't necessarily imply throwing the other races down. Except IN BED.
- Stuff Blowing Up: Mass Effect 2 features exponentially more explosions than its predecessor.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Shepard, along with a large number of the first Normandy's crew members.
- Suicide Mission: The aptly-named "Suicide Mission", of course.
- Swirly Energy Thingy: The Collector base is close to one of these. Given that the base is at the center of the galaxy, the object is most likely the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*.
The rest of this list can be found at:
- Dying and being revived over the course of two years will do that to a person.