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- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Cerberus, the Blood Pack mercenaries, Spectre, the Reapers as a species or individuals.
- Also, why would anyone want to poke a stick at something known as The Leviathan of Dis?
- Never My Fault: The krogan have this attitude about the genophage. They blame the Citadel races exclusively for them being effectively neutered into neutral population growth even after helping with the rachni, despite the fact that the krogan were aggressively expanding, overrunning the galaxy, and eventually started to "colonize" worlds that were already under the ownership of another species.
- Nigh-Invulnerability: The Reapers. They can be killed but it takes an ENORMOUS amount of effort. At the end of the first game it took two whole fleets to bring down just ONE, and only when it was focusing its energy on fighting Shepard. Some sight-seeing locations imply that a dedicated anti-Reaper weapon was used to fight a previous, ancient invasion, and it took its target down — but the shot glanced off the target and devastated an entire planet.
- No Biochemical Barriers: Averted. Turians and quarians are based on dextro-amino acids, unlike the rest of the galaxy. They need their own food (with some exceptions), because ours can cause anaphylactic shock.
- Actually a minor plot point in ME2. If you pursue a romance with Garrus, the issue of... ingestion comes up. This also applies to Tali, as the quarians have severe allergic reaction to foreign organisms; she explains this when Shepard asks about it during the romance arc.
- There's also the volus, who must live in high-pressure, toxic environments - or environmental suits.
- Noble Male, Roguish Male: Paragon Shepard (Noble Male) versus Renegade Shepard (Roguish Male). Paragon Shepard also has this dynamic going with Garrus to the point it resembles a Buddy Cop Show.
- A bit of this with Cortez (noble) and Vega (roguish) in the third game, who can usually be found together in the shuttle bay.
- Non-Combat EXP: The series, despite relying heavily on combat, did away with XP-for-kills starting with part two, instead handing it out for quests and some item pickups. Even in Mass Effect 1, some XP was gained upon unlocking each Codex entry, i.e. from simple exploration and interacting with the environment.
- No Paper Future: Averted. You never personally use paper, either for money or for information, but it still exists; you can even see it if you look closely enough. It's just that paper money is almost exclusively used for illegal purposes due to being less efficient and harder to trace than electronic transfers, and, well, a military ship needs the space too much to store a printer and paper supplies. Datapads work just fine.
- Books also still exist, but they are not as popular as digital media. Doctor Chakwas seems to have several books and binders in her lab, Kasumi has quite a few in her observation deck home. Donovan Hock has several shelves of books in his manor and one can purchase books themselves in Mass Effect 3.
- No Points for Neutrality: Played straight in both games. You get no benefits whatsoever for doing so in the first game, and in the second game this can actually cause you harm.
- Bioware took pains to avert this in the third game, turning the Karma Meter into a reputation system. Shepard's ability to sway other powers depends on his or her reputation, whether that reputation is for even-handedness or ruthlessness. However, much also depends simply on general reputation, with Paragon or Renegade opening new options or influencing the outcome. Many actions build reputation but are morally neutral, causing both Paragon and Renegade values to rise at the same time, but keep the same ratio with regard to each other as they do.
- No Scope: Possible to do with sniper rifles, but so difficult it's more effort than it's worth. And even if the enemy is close enough for it to work, well, you have a shotgun (or, at the very least, a heavy pistol).
- No Such Thing as Alien Pop Culture: Averted; a few alien films are mentioned in the games proper (such as the asari film Vaenia and the turian/quarian film Fleet and Flotilla), and even more tidbits of pop culture in Cerberus Daily News (such as a volus comedienne who hosts a late-night talk show). The most notable one is Blasto, the hanar Spectre.
- Notice This: By putting symbols over important items, per BioWare standards.
- No Transhumanism Allowed:
- In-universe, by Citadel law. Humanity actually made a disturbing amount of progress in this direction before becoming part of Citadel space and being forced to abandon their experiments. You get to see a few examples in all three games, though, almost all of them related to Cerberus.
- Including Shepard by the time of the second game, which is practically taken to Samus-esque levels where it is questionable just how human Shepard is anymore, particularly if you buy all the upgrades that involve screwing with your biology (namely your bones, skin, and muscles) in fairly major ways. Hammered home when it is revealed that Shepard is apparently mechanical enough to be hacked in the Overlord DLC.
- This becomes a minor point of angst for Shepard during a couple of moments in the third game. In a conversation with EDI, Shepard is mildly disturbed by the implication, but EDI reassuringly says Shepard's brain is organic and thus s/he isn't a true transhuman, despite his/her multitude of cybernetic implants. A brief existential crisis can also occur during the raid on Cerberus HQ, if Shepard views footage from the Lazarus Project.
- Can be forcibly averted for all organic life in the galaxy in one ending to the third game.
- Not Quite Dead:
- The Human-Reaper in Mass Effect 2
- And the Prothean species, as luck would have it.
- Also the Leviathan of Dis, as the batarians learned to their sorrow.
- Not Worth Killing: This is the ultimate insult a krogan can give an enemy. As a Proud Warrior Race, krogan status is determined by who one's enemies are. This extends to other races as well; the Mass Effect Rogues Gallery is exactly why most krogan see Shepard as the most badass creature in the galaxy.
- Not Using the Z Word: In-universe; the term 'robot' and 'artificial lifeform' have been legally changed to 'synthetic'. Also, despite running into husks and Thorian creepers, no one takes the opportunity to shout the Z-word. It's only mentioned once in the game, during a conversation.
- Now, Where Was I Going Again?: As usual for a Bioware game, you have a journal which lists all of your quests, where you currently are in terms of progress, and what you need to do next. It even separates main story quests from sidequests. Although 3 has certain issues where this is involved; the journal doesn't keep track of whether you've already retrieved Item X from Planet Y on behalf of Person Z and just need to deliver it, or if it's still on Planet Y and you have to go and get it, and just for additional hilarity several of them either don't tell you where to go, or tell you which planet it's on but not where that planet is.
- Numerical Hard: Borderline between aversion and playing it straight. Most of the changes in difficulty do just change how long it takes to shoot the enemies to death, but there are behavior modifications as well.
- Fully averted in the 3rd game. Especially the multiplayer mode.
- Oddly Small Organization: Apparently, Cerberus, despite being so shadowy and influential, only has about a hundred and fifty actual members. In an organization that spans half the galaxy and has enough resources to build a supremely advanced frigate and bring Shepard back from the dead.
- In the third game, they get a fleet of capital ships and an endless supply of mooks. The game actually goes to some trouble to justify both.
- Oh Crap:
- A villain gets a particularly satisfying one. After being one step behind him for the entire game, watching and hearing Saren lose his cool for the second time time when the Mako comes flying out of the sky like a goddamned missile on Ilos is nothing short of delicious. note
- The first half hour or so of Mass Effect 3 is pretty much one continuous Oh Crap.
- The ending of ME2: The Reapers are coming - THE ENTIRE ARMADA!
- During Miranda's loyalty mission, a Renegade interrupt results in a hilarious example, as you take out four out of five mercs aiming at you in a matter of seconds. You can almost hear the fifth one saying it.
- During Thane's loyalty mission, when Mouse turns around to see Thane and Shepard standing behind him. "Be still, Mouse. You can change your pants later."
- When Shepard wakes up during the Arrival DLC, the Project scientist looking after him/her has a very satisfying one.
- Prior to that, during the stand-off against waves of Project security near the Reaper device, you can hear them growing more and more upset that Shepard just won't stop.
- Garrus responds this way to awkward surprises such as bombs or EDI passing out.
- Oh My Gods!: Since the galaxy, by and large, has not Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions in this future, various deities of various species are invoked on a fairly regular basis. Liara's catchphrase, in particular, is "By the goddess."
- The phrase "Oh my gods" is actually uttered verbatim during Thane's loyalty mission, when facing down Kolyat; during the hostage situation, the Renegade option is to shoot the hostage yourself, prompting said phrase from Kolyat, and Shepard claiming "Hostages only work when your enemy cares if they live or not."
- Older than They Look: Any asari you run into is apt to be old enough to be your great-great-grandmother, at a minimum. Considering that the average asari lifespan runs around a millennium, this also skirts the edges of Really 700 Years Old.
- Humans, thanks to better medical science. One of the characters in the Expanded Universe is in her forties, but looks like she's in her twenties. Miranda Lawson is thirty-five, though you wouldn't know it by looking at her. While Miranda explicitly mentions she was genetically engineered for superior longevity among other things, normal humans enjoy benefits of advanced medical science as well. Dr. Chakwas says she's lived a full life and certainly comes across as grandmotherly, but doesn't look it quite so much. She was with the Alliance during the First Contact War. In ME1, she says she joined "right out of medical school". The First Contact War was about 30 years prior to the game, so depending on how long it took her to graduate med school and how long she served before the War, Dr. Chakwas is either in her late 60s or early 70s.
- It's been explicitly stated average human lifespan has increased to roughly 150 years, barring unnatural causes. This may be in part due to sheer ubiquity of grafts and cybernetic augmentation, which implies everyone with a medical insurance is likely to have at least a few organs replaced during their lifetime.
- Old Save Bonus: Decisions you've made have an impact throughout the entire trilogy. Even if it's just an e-mail from someone you helped saying how they're doing or an incidental news report, most actions are at least referenced. Bigger decisions have much larger impacts.
- On a mechanics note, you can also receive in-game bonuses like starting with a higher level and extra money if you imported a rich, high-level character; and on a meta note, you can get the "Long Service" achievement after playing through Mass Effect 2 once if you import a character from the previous game, rather than two playthroughs with new characters. The same achievement is also in the third game, and is achieved the same way.
- Honestly, this series is probably qualifying for the Trope Codifier on this. While other series have doubtlessly used the concept before, few, if any, have paid so much attention to continuity being maintained throughout the franchise as a result of using it. Granted, it's not completely perfect, but you likely won't be able to look at games which merely import character names and a few altered statistics the same way.
- Old-School Dogfight: Theoretically averted in the Codex. Ships are mentioned to engage each other over humongous distances. However, played notoriously straight in every space combat cutscene actually shown. Justified because these situations are not waged under typical circumstances and engagement at unusually close range is a part of the strategy specifically to confuse and outmaneuver the enemy.
- Fighter-to-fighter combat specifically is rare; their purpose is more to harass larger ships and overload their missile-defense systems.
- Well, the codex does mention a specific class of fighters, called "interceptors".
- They act more like Skirmishers, drawing fire so that Point Defense lasers will overheat, letting the bombers do their thing.
- Omniscient Morality License: The Illusive Man and Cerberus as a whole seem to think they hold one; they constantly spout off about saving the human race and helping them to get ahead, despite committing atrocities against human worlds on par with batarian pirates and, if in-game events are anything to go by, being responsible for more Alliance casualties than the First Contact War. And let's not forget Jack ("This is a bad place."). Registration for these licenses is also pretty much fifty percent of Spectrehood.
- The Catalyst puts all of the above to shame.
- Once is Not Enough: Krogan. Unless you have some kind of regeneration-killing ammo equipped, don't be fooled when they fall. Keep shooting until the bodies dissolve.
- One-Gender Race: The asari, who default to the "child-bearing sex" (i.e., female) as they are biologically monogendered.
- One-Federation Limit: One Alliance, one Republic(s), one Hierarchy, one Union, one Hegemony, one Flotilla, one Collective...
- On closer examination, this is likely averted because of the turian foreign policy: There are stated to be more 'client races' besides the volus. So, more than one Protectorate.
- One Nation Under Copyright: Noveria and Illium are entire planets controlled entirely by corporations.
- One Riot, One Ranger: Spectres.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. There are four Jacobs. The guy on the MSV Worthington, the deceased husband in the sidequest Family Matter, the previous guy's son and the party member in Mass Effect 2.
- Also, there's Jack Harper.
- There are also two characters named Delan: A hanar merchant on the Citadel in the first game (short for Delanynder in this case), and a human mechanic on Horizon in the second.
- The Cerberus Daily News for May 7th, 2010 quotes a turian relief worker named Saren.
- There's even multiple Steves; Lieutenant Steve Cortez and Admiral Steven Hackett.
- Also possible for Shepard, depending on the first name you decide to give him/her. This is, of course, never said in dialogue.
- One World Order: Subverted. The Council presides over most of the galaxy, but is more like a more influential United Nations than anything else, and most species have a single government that rules them. Subverted in that there is definitely separation, though, and few species seem to answer entirely to one government. Even the Alliance is only the group elected to represent humanity to the Citadel.
- Especially highlighted in ME2 where Shepard spends most of the game in the rather extensive Terminus Systems and interacts heavy with other non-Citadel, non-Terminus cultures.
- Humanity itself is mentioned as comprised of distinct countries and politics.
- The third game repeatedly emphasizes that the asari aren't remotely united - their government is the Asari Republics, and their fleets operate largely independently. This... does not serve them well, compared to more organized species.
- Only a Flesh Wound: In the games, shooting a breathing enemy in the legs will slow them down. That's it. No bleeding, no breaking, nothing. They just stumble for a moment and then keep going. This is definitely at odds with the flesh-pulping, bone-pulverizing properties of mass effect weaponry described in the books. Averted with husks and their relatives, abominations. They will die if you hit them in the legs, regardless of actual damage done.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Mark Meer (the male Shepard) has a noticeable Canadian accent in some lines. Then there's Donovan Hock, whose accent starts at Afrikaans and mutates into something completely incomprehensible.
- Done deliberately with Brooks in the Citadel DLC, whose accent hits virtually every English-speaking country at one point, but rather than being Australiamericanadienglish, she has a fairly straightforward English accent and is just not as good at faking an accent as she thought she was.
- Opening Scroll: Used to bring the audience up to speed in both games.
- Opening the Sandbox: All three let you loose after a few hours of tutorial.
- Optional Character Scene: Aaaaaaaaaaall over the place. The second game even has optional character missions... well, optional in that they aren't needed to finish the game. If you want a better outcome, however...
- Orbital Bombardment: Using kinetic weapon strikes for the most part. The first game mentions that during the turian occupation of Shanxi the turians were more than happy to demolish away city blocks from orbit to take out single squads of human soldiers. During a sidequest, Shepard offers to have the Normandy hit a rachni hive from orbit. In Mass Effect 3 one of Diana Allers's news stories mentions that the Reapers blew away Adelaide, Australia with an orbital strike. And then of course there's the battle with the landed Reaper destroyer on Rannoch, which Shepard takes out by painting its weak point as a target for the Normandy and the entire quarian fleet. Last but not least, the fluff mentions that during the Krogan Rebellions the krogan reacted to turian attacks by aiming asteroids at turian colonies, which just pissed the turians off even more.
- The Order: The Spectres fit the bill, even thought they're sci-fi as opposed to fantasy.
- Organic Technology: Present in pretty much everything of the Collectors.
- Our Space Elves Are Better:
- From the way asari are described in the Codex—the first race to discover the Citadel, having some of the greatest political influence in the galaxy, perfect democracy, long lives, great technology, universally strong biotic abilities and producing some of the best warriors of any race—you'd think this trope would be played straight. But in-game asari as a whole are treated with no more or less respect than most other races, and the entire superiority attitude is completely deconstructed by an asari in the second game. Then completely deconstructed in the third game: it turns out that all the advantages the asari had were given by the Protheans, including, among other advancements, altering their genes to make them innate biotics.
- The quarians get a bit of this in the third game, specifically as space wood elves. If Tali is any indication, they even look the part.
- Even the Protheans seem to be this before being deconstructed. Like everyone else, they acquired technology from previous cycles — in their case, from the Inusannon, who are actually the ones depicted in the statues on Ilos.
- Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future: Most of the weapons in Mass Effect 2 follow this trope, particularly the krogan Claymore shotgun, the design of which resembles a cinder block with a trigger.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Husks. Victims of Reaper indoctrination or defeat at the hands of minions of the Reapers. Skewered on special spike machines and slowly turned into cybernetic zombies. In the first game, there's just your basic Husk. The sequel introduces Abominations, Scions and Praetorians.
- And in the third game we go Up to Eleven with huskified batarians, turians, asari (Ardat-Yakshi specifically), krogan/turian hybrids, harvesters and rachni.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: An interesting take on the subject, but not played anviliciously straight. The Codex offers details on the religions and cultures of the major races (for example: it turns out that Confucianism and Zen Buddhism have found a niche among the turians) but religion doesn't have a large part in the actual game.
- One of the conversation possibilities with Ashley reveals that she is religious and that this is considered unusual. Shepard can also proclaim that s/he's religious. Legion and EDI also know the Christian Bible.
- That isn't so strange. The Bible would more than likely have been posted on the galactic
internet extranet as part of Earth's history, which EDI would certainly have access to and Legion more than likely would have come across in his study of organics.
- Even on a secular level, the Bible is still one of most important books in Western culture. Many things people take for granted did originally originate there, even basic, everyday sayings like "go the extra mile" or "scapegoat." If an alien creature wanted to get an understanding on Western culture, the Bible would be one of the best places to start.
- Mordin also claims he studied religions "looking for answers." Justified in his case.
- Even the geth are religious; Legion states that this is because they're synthetic life forms.
- The Shadow Broker's file on Cerberus states it arranged the assassination of the Pope so that a new one with militaristic beliefs and an attitude of forgiveness towards the salarians (apparently this was to improve relations with the turians since they both were responsible for the genophage... it's not very clearly explained) would take power. The Catholic Church is clearly still a major political power.
- In a bitter irony, one of the Mass Effect 3 live action trailers features a church scene.
- Overheating: In the first game's background, all guns had ammunition stores that would number into the thousands (the "mass-accelerator" technology allowed the guns to shear off a small piece from a block of metal inside the gun and accelerate it to ridiculous speeds, allowing small arms to be very deadly and be capable of shooting thousands of shots with one block), therefore ammunition stores are non-problematic for a single engagement and don't show up in-game. However, the guns still gave off heat, so a gun that fires too often overheats and must wait for it to cool down to fire again.
- The second game, however, went for reloading. What is reloaded, however, is the "thermal clip" heat sinks for the gun — as opposed to a magazine being depleted to be reloaded, the number of shots you may fire before reloading represents how many shots the gun fires before a new heat sink must be inserted due to the old one being overheated; the magazines of the guns are still capable of holding thousands of shots. While a player technically should be able to wait for their heat sinks to cool down and fire later instead of being forced to eject them after too many shots, the game no longer gives that option. There are also a few other nitpicks about the new system.
- As a minor point: if the heat dispersion mechanism is chemical in nature (i.e. heat is absorbed to convert the sink material from a high energy to a low energy state), they would be unusable after being depleted and no amount of waiting would reverse that. Even if was just a mechanical "dump this heat into a metal or other material as quickly as possible," most metals with high melting points and high thermal conductivity would also take an eternity to cool down on their own in a normal atmosphere, and ejecting them would be the only practical way to use them. Of course, then there's the issue of ejecting near-molten metal tubes through the air in cramped quarters during a firefight...
- Continued in the third game, with at least one exception: a Particle Rifle, a weapon made by the Protheans.
- Overly Long Name: Ask a salarian for his full name. Better, don't.
- There is one point on Noveria where you can overhear a salarian businessman trying to dig up some dirt on the administrator of the facility, asking his brother if he is ready before reading off the full name: "Rannadril Ghan Swa Fulsoom Karaten Narr Eadi Bel Anoleis." A (different) salarian on Feros will give you an explanation of what each of his names mean.
- Arguably qualified as an example of this trope: Tali'Zorah vas Neema nar Rayya, which literally translates as "Tali of the clan Zorah, crew of the Neema, child of the Rayya," the Rayya being the ship she was born on. Fittingly, it is only used once in a highly official context, otherwise being shortened to different lengths.
- The soul names of hanar also qualify apparently. One name that Thane mentions in the second game is "Illuminates the Folly of the Dancers." Another that turns up in the third game is "Regards the Works of the Enkindlers in Despair."