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Mass Effect: Tropes I-L

The rest of the list found here:


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    I 
  • I Did What I Had to Do: The turians and salarians never apologize for anything they did with the krogan. In Mass Effect 3, "those were desperate times" is almost becoming their Catch Phrase.
    • This is pretty much Renegade Shepard's philosophy.
  • I Do Not Speak Nonverbal: The elcor's subtle body language is the reason why they have to clarify everything they say.
  • I Found You Like This: In Mass Effect 1 Shepard collapses from an overwhelming amount of visions being given to him or her via a Prothean artifact. He/she awakens in the Normandy's medical bay.
    • In Mass Effect 2 Shepard is thrown out into the vacuum of space with a punctured space suit and begins to fall into a nearby planet's atmosphere. Cerberus collects what remains of Shepard's body from Liara and uses experimental technology to bring him/her back to life. Shepard awakens inside a Cerberus facility.
      • Better yet, Cerberus found the body after Shepard fell through the atmosphere, likely burning up, hitting the ground at terminal velocity, and to top it off, frozen (since the planet is completely covered in snow and ice with a surface temp of -22 C). No wonder it took 2 years for Cerberus to rebuild Shepard.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Until the Homeworlds comic series, all Expanded Universe titles were single abstract nouns ending in "-ion".
    • And all the multiplayer expansion packs' names, except Earth, began with "Re-": Resurgence, Rebellion, Retaliation, Reckoning.
  • Idiot Ball: Mass Effect 3's Leviathan DLC reveals this to be the origin of the Reapers.. The Leviathans attempted to solve their rebellious AI problem with an AI. Genius. This from the "apex species" ruling the galaxy at the time. Unsurprisingly their AI rebelled too. It drove them to the brink of extinction and converted them into the first Reaper. And then the AI inherited the Idiot Ball and decided that the best way to fulfill the goal of protecting organic life from synthetics was to build an army of synthetics and use them to slaughter organics.
  • Ignored Expert: Rather a lot of scientists in both games, particularly people who believe in the existence of the Reapers. There are also the scientists who think that maybe resurrecting a dead race of insects that tried to wipe everyone else out while at the same time making a biowarfare superweapon just may be a bad idea. Although the first decision may not have been such a bad idea after all, even if that wasn't the original intention of the resurrectors.
    • Shepard could be considered the Ignored Expert of the series. The Council doesn't believe Shepard's initial warnings of Saren being a traitor, the threat of the Reapers, and that they must get to Ilos to stop Saren. Shepard even lampshades how many more times they have to prove they are telling the truth before the Council will actually listen.
      • If you saved the Council back in the first game, then in the third game, when Udina betrays the Council and allows Cerberus to invade the Citadel, and Shepard exposes this to the Councillors and they are skeptical, the asari Councilor points out that every time they've disbelieved Shepard it's come back to bite them.
    • If you convinced Tali and Legion to put aside their differences in the second game, then Tali becomes this in the third game to the rest of the Migrant Fleet.
    • Garrus also becomes this to the turians between 2 and 3, though they do give him some token resources to prepare.
  • Immortality Begins at Twenty: Averted by the asari. They leave childhood at the age of forty, and are considered mature at the age of eighty. That's forty years of puberty. Played straight by the krogan.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause:
    • The asari are long-lived and enjoy sex as much as humans do, but thanks to Fantasy Contraception they can't get pregnant until they actually want to start a family, so asari population stays fairly consistent.
    • Krogan, on the other hand, live longer than asari do, and krogan breed like rats. Granted, this is because their homeworld is so hostile only one out of a thousand survived to adulthood anyway, but once they moved off-planet, this became a wee bit of a problem. Which is why the salarians made the genophage!
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: What you do to make Husks. Also how a few characters can die in the second and third games.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: The mass relays, along with a few weapons in the sequel.
    • The Crucible in the third game, along with several weapons noted to be of asari, turian, salarian, geth, and Prothean design.
  • Improbable Age: Completely averted. Most crew members are the age they should be to hold military jobs or achieve the accomplishments you're seeking them out for. And the ones who are pretty young are established to be rare cases of genius while still being at the very least twenty-one (or their race's equivalent).
    • Ashley Williams reached the rank of Gunnery Sergeant by the age of 25, although this age doesn't make her serving as a special forces soldier improbable. This is, however, made up in gameplay, where she is the combat specialist, dealing out direct damage only rivaled by Shepard.
  • Improbable Cover: True of most "heavy" weapons, including rocket launchers, anti-materiel rifles, and grenades: all of them are stopped by the flimsiest of cover. However, in Mass Effect 3, enemies have learned to throw grenades behind your cover — and you can return the favor by grabbing a heavy sniper rifle and sniping enemies through cover.
  • Incest Subtext: There is a strong taboo against asari mating with other asari and a strong stigma associated with Ardat-Yakshi, asari suffering from a genetic disease that is believed to be connected to being born as a "pureblood". However, there are still a number of pureblood asari in the games, including Liara, Samara, and Samara's daughters.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: In a series swimming in deadpan snarkers, is this really a surprise?
  • Infant Immortality: Averted at the start of the third game, and implied throughout.
  • Informed Flaw: Shepard's dancing. Also a case of Special Effect Failure or even Take Our Word for It, with characters commenting on how bad Shepard's dancing is while being indistinguishable from those around her, and some of the characters even using the exact same animation. Subverted in the Citadel DLC, but only with a romanced Garrus.
  • Individuality Is Illegal: Rare heroic case with the geth. The conservative geth are the ones who want to stay a collective, resist the Reapers, and make peace with the galaxy. The individualistic geth are the ones who want to worship the Reapers and force the rest of the geth to do the same by means of using a "mind-control" virus on their own people.
    • Until the 3rd game, where you get the option to grant individuality to all geth, at the cost of the first true individual you meet.
  • Insectoid Aliens: The rachni, keepers and Collectors. Considering that two of these races were genetically altered by the Reapers, it's reasonable to say that the Reapers sure like bugs.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Earth really has no importance in the first game. Then again, neither does any other race's homeworld.
    • Except Tuchanka, as of ME2.
    • The quarian, turian, salarian, and asari homeworlds (Rannoch, Palaven, Sur'Kesh, and Thessia, respectively) all appear in ME3. And the trope is finally subverted, with Earth taking center stage as the Reapers literally take the war there.
    • Possibly justified in Earth's case, as the Systems Alliance operates out of the Arcturus Station. This is because the Arcturus Relay has several relays in the vicinity that allow for rapid fleet deployment, but conversely doubles as the only relay leading to Earth.
  • In Space Everyone Can See Your Face: Teetering between playing it straight and aversion; the second game heads more into straight territory, though.
  • In the Future, Humans Will Be One Race: Not quite yet, but genetic studies claim this will be the case a few hundred years down the line.
  • Instant A.I., Just Add Water: And they don't like you. Ever. So much so that actually creating an AI is prohibited by interstellar law. A few are made by accident, including the geth and the VI controlling the moon base on Luna.
    • The latter of which, when augmented with Reaper tech, becomes EDI, who does like humans, especially Joker.
    • And the former get a bad rap due to the actions of about 5% of their members. The vast majority just want to be left alone.
  • Insufficiently Advanced Alien: Everyone except the Protheans, whose technology the rest of the galaxy is stealing. Though it turns out they stole it from guys before them.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Between some of the older members of the crew.
  • Interspecies Romance: Many examples both in party and with NPCs.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Emily Wong.
  • Intrigued by Humanity: If they don't hate you, they're curious about you. In the worst case, curious enough to consider your entire race for a very special purpose...
  • In-Vehicle Invulnerability: Justified by the Mako and Hammerhead's constant use of gravity-altering mass effect fields.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: One of the biggest complaints about the first game, right after the elevators and the vehicle sections. Completely gone in the second game, leaving behind a stunned group of RPG fans mouthing how they wanted the feature fixed, not axed.
  • Invulnerable Civilians: Everywhere except the part with the Thorian-possessed civilians in Mass Effect 1.
    • This gets averted to an almost sadistic degree in Mass Effect 3.
    • And there's a sidequest in the first game where you have to infiltrate a research base that's been taken over by biotic extremists who have drugged the researchers inside so that, instead of running away from the inevitable firefight like any sane person would do, just walk through like nothing's going on. Your task is to take out the extremists while keeping as many of the researchers alive as possible. Also in the first game, on Feros, you decide whether to kill the Thorian-controlled civilians on Zhu's Hope or to simply knock them out with gas grenades. Every casualty or incapacitation will give 2 Renegade or Paragon points each.
  • In Working Order: Partly played straight, partly averted. The mass relay system is still working perfectly after thousands of thousands of years of nobody knowing how the hell they work, but considering how the Reapers intended for no one to know, they probably built them to last. Maybe do some maintenance when they're done liquefying the other sentient species. Also, this seems to be the case on Ilos, but when you stop to look around, you realize that everything is barely functioning, on its last legs, and in fact shuts down soon after you leave the planet.
  • Irrelevant Sidequest: The games do a good job of getting you to take quests that Shepard would actually be interested in (profit, moral grounds, advancement of mission, etc.) but the inane quest slips in every now and then.
    • One of these, about a couple's child from the first game, is lampshaded in the second:
    I don't know. Maybe we should ask random people on the street what they think.
    • Averted in the third game, if only because every minor sidequest adds up either to Shepard's reputation or war assets to help in fighting the Reapers.
  • Item Amplifier:

    J 
  • Jerkass: Several throughout the series but the turian Councilor really takes the cake. He also borders on Too Dumb to Live. Until he becomes the Only Sane Man in the Council come Mass Effect 3.
  • Jossed: Fans had plenty of theories as to the true identity of the Shadow Broker. The Asari Consort? The Council? The geth? Nope. The truth is that he was a member of a seemingly Always Chaotic Evil species never before mentioned in the series, proving nearly all the fan theories about the Broker wrong.
    • There's also a line in the Extended Cut of 3 where the Catalyst specifically rebuts the Indoctrination fan-theory by stating that the Illusive Man's indoctrination made him unable to control the Reapers, but Shepard is still free-willed and thus can take control if you choose.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: No matter how ruthless or forgiving they may be, Spectres epitomize this trope. They can quite literally do whatever the hell they want, heedless of laws, as long as they do what the Council wants done. Asari Justicars also fit this. There has also been at least one case of a Spectre and a Justicar clashing over this.
  • Just a Machine: Used to justify the Fantastic Racism of the setting towards AI.

    K 
  • Karma Meter: Less "Good vs. Evil" and more "Idealism vs. Cynicism". Do you cooperate with people or do you coerce them with threats?
  • Killed Off for Real: Any squadmate who dies in a cutscene. Lots of characters, some major and some minor, in the third game.
    • Specifically in Mass Effect 3, there are only two major deaths that can't be avoided no matter what you do: Legion is either dissolved to upgrade the geth or killed by Tali and Thane dies preventing Kai Leng from assassinating the Salarian Councilor if he didn't already die in Mass Effect 2. Everything else depends on previous actions you've taken: if their loyalty missions weren't completed in Mass Effect 2, Grunt, Miranda, Kasumi and Zaeed will be killed during the course of various missions. If you spared Morinth, she'll be waiting for you as a Banshee on Earth. If Wrex and Mordin are both alive when you visit Tuchanka, only one of them will make it out: Wrex attacks you if you kill Mordin to sabotage the cure, and Mordin dies if you let him finish the job (you can convince Mordin to sabotage the cure if Eve is dead and Wreav is in charge). Finally, if you can't convince Kaidan/Ashley of Udina's guilt, you'll have to gun them down too.
  • Killer App: The series is considered a mainstay of the 360 system...
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Weapons in the game aren't traditional Energy Weapons, rather, they are loaded with a block of metal, and when fired, a piece of the block, about the size of a grain of sand is loaded, and fired using a mass accelerator.
    • Personal energy weapons have an advantage simply because kinetic barriers can do nothing whatsoever to stop them; it's just that nobody aside from the Reapers and their slaves have figured out how to make them work on small-scale.
    • However, said people also have weapons that look like lasers but are not. Instead, they shoot molten metal at relativistic speeds.
      • Actually, the GARDIAN ship defense system is indeed a laser-based weapon. It actually exercises its ability to pierce shields as explained in the Codex entry.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: You'll probably feel terrible if you loot the wall safes of abducted colonists, such as those on the worlds of Freedom's Progress and Horizon or of slum residents (not to mention their ATMs and gambling machines) in the second game. You don't get Renegade points for doing this, though. The same applies to some extent to the first game.
    • In the second game, BioWare pokes fun at this fact with Conrad Verner.
    • Double Subverted at on point in the third game. You're generally expected to strip any place you're visiting from any and all weapons or mods you find, but during a mission on Tuchanka, if you pick up a certain shotgun, a krogan warrior standing nearby will growl at you that the gun is his. He still lets you take it though, saying you'll have to return it after the mission, then he conveniently dies in the next cutscene.
      • In the "Citadel" DLC in the third game, you're also given a chance at one point to hack ATM Machines with a device you're supposed to use to disable security measures. Doing so will give you Renegade points.
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: Many facets of Earth culture have become of interest to non-humans. To name a few examples: asari love Egyptian artifacts (Egyptian hieroglyphics are similar to asari hieroglyphics), turians have an interest in Zen Buddhism and Confucianism, Mordin Solus does Gilbert and Sullivan musical numbers, Grunt likes to read the works of Ernest Hemingway when not playing with action figures, and there's even an elcor rendition of Hamlet.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Sovereign, full stop. The series is fairly serious from the beginning, but once Sovereign shows up in the first game, the apocalyptic mood of the rest of the series sets in.
    • In the second game, the Collectors immediately set the tone.

    L 
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: A Running Gag, mostly sexual context. More evident from the second game onward.
  • Large and in Charge: Played straight by the geth; the biggest models always seem to be leading the others when you encounter them. Justified when in the second game you discover that the bigger the geth, the more programs it houses. The more programs it houses, the smarter it is. So the biggest models are the smartest ones. The one exception to this is Legion, who's no bigger than most geth troopers. Average geth mobile platforms house about hundreds of geth. Legion? One thousand, one hundred and eighty-three.
    • The Shadow Broker..
    • In the third installment, this seems to hold true for Reaper ground troops, as well. The bigger they are, the more damage they can deal and the more punishment they can take.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The trailers for each sequel spoil the previous entries.
  • Latex Space Suit: Underneath all the ceramic armor plates, all combat-grade hardsuits are this: they appear to work on Mechanical Counterpressure instead of bulky airtight suits. This results in all the suits being very sleek in form instead of baggy and bulky.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The whole freaking galaxy. Repeatedly. Nobody's managed to survive yet.
  • Law of Conservation of Detail: Played straight with moons in that if you see a moon, odds are there's a mission taking place there. Averted with many of the actual planets, some of which are there simply to add flavor.
  • Leaked Experience: BioWare's standard method for fighting Can't Catch Up.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Richard L. Jenkins. He's the first one to die because of it.
    • You also can't take his helmet off.
    • This is actually a subversion, as Shepard orders Jenkins to take point, which is justified as Jenkins is a Soldier and specializes in direct combat, and the only other people available are Kaidan, who is a tech and biotic specialist, and Shepard him/herself, who is the commanding officer.
    • In the second game, there's Prazza on Freedom's Progress. Though he's not playable.
  • Leitmotif: In the second game, each squad member has their own distinctive leitmotif except for Zaeed and Morinth. The most distinct non-squadmate leitmotif, however, is that of the Illusive Man. Some of these even carry over into the third game, particularly those of Samara and Tali.
  • Lensman Arms Race: The reason why weapons go through so many roman numberals in the first game, why the 2nd & 3rd have thermal clips (thank you, Geth), and likely a reason for the Reaper's galactic xenocide to prevent anyone from getting beyond them technologically.
  • Limited Sound Effects: See Most Annoying Sound.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Mass Effect 1 and 3 play this mostly straight. Mass Effect 2 averts it on higher difficulties, where the direct damage dealers (Soldier and Infiltrator) become more useful.
  • Living Relic: Javik in the third game.
    • Leviathan DLC adds a whole race of Living Relics called the Leviathans, from which the very first Reaper was made millions of years ago.
  • Living Ship:
    • The mysteriously missing Leviathan of Dis.
      • Revealed to have been a Reaper corpse in the third game.
    • The Reapers are revealed to be this near the end of the second game. While they're assumed to be purely synthetic constructs, it turns out that they are actually a hybrid of synthetic and Organic Technology.
  • Lizard Folk: The krogan and the drell, who play perfectly into the first and second types respectively. Oddly, the drell remind most people of fish, not lizards, despite the fact that they have an inevitably fatal lung condition caused by exposure to too much moisture.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: This series currently has seven different character pages.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: The first game was infamous for its elevators, which were hidden loading screens. The second and third games replaced them with more traditional load screens.
  • Loads and Loads of Races: Humans, turians, asari, salarians, batarians, quarians, geth, krogan, hanar, drell, elcor, volus, vorcha, Rachni, Reapers, Protheans/Collectors, yahg, inusannon, Leviathans, good god it never stops!
  • Location Theme Naming: Of a sort. All Alliance ships are named after significant places, events, or people on Earth, each class of ship getting a specific kind of landmark to be named after. So, dreadnoughts are named after mountains (Kilimanjaro, Everest, Shasta), cruisers are named after cities (Cairo, Tokyo, Warsaw), carriers are named after people (Einstein), and frigates are named after battles (Agincourt, Iwo Jima, Normandy).
  • Long Game: The Reapers and their master play a very, very long game. One that depends on the development of galactic civilizations. And that they've been playing for a billion years at the very least.
  • Longevity Treatment: Humans commonly live to 150 or so due to gene therapies and drugs. This puts us in the mid-range for lifespans in that universe.
  • Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: A cryptic carving on the ruins of one of the random scannable planets in ME1. The planet doubles as a Shout-Out to Forbidden Planet.
  • Lost Technology: That the entire galaxy runs on. And does little to no research into copying for themselves. Just the way the Reapers want it.
    • Until, that is, the Crucible, which turns out to have been passed down through various extinction cycles.
    • Averted with the Protheans who succeeded in making their own mass relay before going extinct. It's the only reason there is a Mass Effect 2. Or a Mass Effect series for that matter.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Most can't decide this and Cosmic Horror Story.


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