Nerf: A mild case. In the first game, biotics are 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 (you are, however, able to curve your powers around cover). The most significant nerf is probably the unification of cooldowns for all abilities of a character; whereas in the first game, you could Lift and Throw an opponent to juggle them in the air, in this game, you need another character to attempt this. This was done probably so the player can learn to use different characters' abilities in conjunction with one another — there's an achievement, in fact, for doing this enough times.
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.
Mass Effect 3 reveals what that secret is. The Alliance carried out a black ops raid on a batarian outpost because the batarians discovered Reaper tech. If the batarian society at large found out about this they'd go to war with the Alliance; that's why Keiji told Kasumi to destroy that information along with the memories of him.
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.
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.
Actually, there is one Omega-related Grunt event. It happens during Garrus's recruitment mission. During the mission, you start by pretending you're allied with the Blue Suns, Blood Pack, and Eclipse mercenary groups. The leader of the Omega branch of Blood Pack is Garm, a huge red krogan who can use biotics. If Grunt is in your party when you speak to him before the actual raid on Archangel, Garm will question why a "young one" like Grunt is following Shepard, and Grunt will insist that Shepard is a good leader. Garm will dismiss this, believing Grunt could learn more about striking fear into enemies in the Blood Pack, and demonstrates this by shooting his vorcha lackey in the head.
Dying and being revived over the course of two years will do that to a person
. 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.
N.G.O. Superpower: The game places you in the hands of Cerberus, a human supremacist organization which owns multiple deep-space habitats, funds multibillion-dollar resurrection projects, builds bleeding-edge spacecraft, and decks its people out in spiffy uniforms. The Citadel Council calls them terrorists.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 One. They're basically the IRAIN 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 the Arrival DLC. 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 out of duty, not because s/he's being tried for what s/he did, but because if s/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 one's 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 baby.
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 exploiting the room architecture to almost completely eliminate the danger Husks pose to Shepard by climbing on one of the large crates lying in the area, which makes the 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 shields 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.
And again averted, perhaps even more severely, in the Arrival DLC. The destruction of the Alpha Relay wipes out an entire system, killing over 300,000 batarians — and Shepard had to spend the time between the second and third game out of sight 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 space-faring 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.
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 OverlordDLC, 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. Or at the very least makes the Normandy unusable.
During ArrivalDLC 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.
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.
Which works out to your advantage as much as it does the enemies: the enemies have unlimited ammo, but so do your squadmates. They don't fire as fast as you do and thus won't kill enemies as quickly, but if the enemies in the room aren't strong enough to knock them out you could theoretically take cover behind a crate and let your squadmates do all the work.
Not Quite The Right Thing: Most of the choices for specialist roles in the Suicide Mission are fairly obvious, such as Jack or Samara for the biotic bubble. Someone, however, will always advise against picking Miranda as a sub-leader. In spite of this, she is one of the valid choices — as she puts it, the mission isn't a popularity contest.
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.
Shepard is gradually being shown to be this way with Saren. Particularly notable at the end of the Arrival DLC, 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.
And Shepard at least turns himself/herself in to the Alliance voluntarily to answer for his/her actions, unlike Saren who kept denying his involvement in the Eden Prime slaughter and murder of Nihlus until Shepard gathered evidence to prove his crime.
Specifically called out in the final fight with the asari Spectre in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC. 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.
In the Overlord DLC, Gavin Archer likens the dangerously unethical details of Project Overlord with Shepard's own campaign against the Reapers.
Chorban, a salarian whom you can help in the first game emails you with information that reveals that the Citadel 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.
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. "Shepard out."
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 he walks 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, he's being swamped by indoctrinated soldiers.
The Project scientist/medical tech during Arrival when Shepard wakes up.
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-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.
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.
108: Liara's age, as she tells you in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC. This is barely an adult by asari standards, a species whose lifespans usually reach up to a thousand years.
One-Man Army: Shepard, especially during the Arrival DLC mission.
One Steve Limit: Played with. During Thane's loyalty mission, you need to meet with a small-time criminal named Mouse. It turns out that he and Thane know each other; Thane didn't mention it at first because he thought it couldn't be the same Mouse.
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.
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. Shepard: I was only mostly dead. Try finding that option on government paperwork.
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.
Jack: (to Shepard) She'll survive. I'll make sure of it. (faces Miranda) Then... I will tear you apart myself.
Only 0.2% Different: In a rare non-human example of this trope, the game has, during the Collector ship mission, the discovery that the Collectors you've been fighting are actually mutant Protheans, fair enough. Then you realize that the statues of Protheans you see in Mass Effect 1 look absolutely nothing like Collectors, for one thing, Protheans look as if they're mammals, while Collectors are, as said before, Insectoid Aliens. However, in Mass Effect 3 DLC, you meet a Prothean, who looks a lot more like the Collectors, and he tells you the aliens depicted in Mass Effect 1 weren't Protheans, but rather the Precursors to the Protheans, called the inusannon.
Only Sane Man: Quarian Admiral Zaal'Koris vas Qwib-Qwib. While, yes, Koris is a Jerk Ass 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 or even make peace with the quarians, if they even thought of the possibility. 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.
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.
Optional Stealth: The first part of the Arrival DLC gives an achievement for stealthy completion, but is perfectly doable by killing all the guards instead of sneaking past them.
The Other Darrin: The voice for the man trying to get a refund from the turian shopkeeper on the Citadel doesn't sound anything like it did in the first game. If he didn't specifically mention that he'd been trying to get a refund for two years, most players probably wouldn't have noticed it was him.
Our Vampires Are Different: The ardat-yakshi are asari who, upon having sex with people, don't experience a gentle psychic 'melding' but rather dominate and ravage the other person's nervous system, causing brain hemorrhaging and nearly instant death. Said to gain in intelligence and biotic strength when they do so, Ardat-yakshi quickly become addicted to mating; in 3 Liara may offhandedly describe it as the urge to "feed".
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 (which translates to "Demons of the Night-Winds" in an ancient asari dialect) 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! The one you meet can insist that the experience is the most pleasurable thing imaginable even in its lethality, but who can say otherwise?
Outside The Box Tactic: Using the Dominate ability on a Husk will kill it instantly. As will lifting it with biotic powers that have this effect. Freezing them also works, shattering them instantly.
Palette Swap: All of the non-DLC outfits you can unlock for your team mates are just the same outfit in an alternate color, going for a black, red and gold theme.
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 — ones who didn't get the sidequests in the first game which have the organization working on husks, thorian creepers, and rachni, then luring Alliance soldiers to death by thresher maw, then murdering an Alliance officer who asked too many questions — can't even understand why Ashley/Kaidan calls Shepard out on working with Cerberus.
3 proves that the friendly, personable crew was hand-picked to allay and deflect Shepard's suspicions. Fortunately several of them defect and continue to be friendly and personable, not terrorists.
Also done much more literally on Tuchanka, with a merchant's varren that Shepard can pet.
Planet of Hats: Justified. At one point Mordin Solus remarks on the atypical genetic diversity among humans compared to other space-faring races, and how this encourages other species to use them for experimentation. Shepard is not amused by this.
Shepard: That kind of crap is what makes Cerberus start to seem like a good idea! Miranda: My report will mention that.
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 after Horizon.
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 actually have died. Makes it all the sadder when it sinks in that they're not faking. It's probably no wonder that there's a Paragon interrupt in that scene, just to make it all the more emotional.
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.
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.
"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 earpiece, a very conspicuous 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.
The possibilities inherent in dating a biotic are intriguing. If you romance either Jack or Miranda, Mordin can give you some advice:
Mordin: 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).
Also Tali, whose Shadow Broker dossier uses this to suggest some degree of sexual frustration.
Also, during Garrus's loyalty mission, if you play it as a Paragon:
Shepard:(deliberately blocking Garrus's shot) I'm the only thing standing between you and a hole in the head. Sidonis:...fuck.
Jack will also react this way during her loyalty mission if Paragon Shepard keeps her from shooting another survivor from the facility she was imprisoned in as a child.
If, as a male Shepard, you turn down Jack's advances and romance someone else instead, you will not get another conversation with her except for Two Words:
Jack: Fuck off!
Preorder Bonus: If you pre-ordered at GameStop, you get a M-490 Blackstorm heavy weapon*
Which shoots exploding black holes
and the Terminus Armor, and if you pre-ordered at EBGames, you get the Inferno Armor. However, the Inferno Armor is now available as part of the Equalizer Pack DLC, and the Terminus Armor and Blackstorm weapon are available as free DLC.
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.
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 restroom up in the Dark Star nightclub located on the Citadel, 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 psychotic and violent monsters in their holds onto systems whenever they need a bit of cash.
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 — in fact, they hired you to help.
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 the Arrival DLC. 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...
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 verystraight 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 (Jack), helping hide the sister of one of your allies from her abusive father (Miranda), and assassinating gang leaders (Zaeed) and space vampires (Samara). Jacob's loyalty 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, assassins, intergalactic thieves and Ax CrazyPsychos for Hire, and every one of them approves this fate.
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.
Illusive Man: Miranda! Don't let Shepard blow up the base! Miranda: Or what? You're gonna replace me next? Illusive Man: I gave you an order, Miranda! Miranda: I noticed. Consider this my resignation.
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.
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).
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 BrokerDLC. 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.
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.
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.
With the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, Shepard (male and female) can reconcile with Liara and pick the relationship back up, if she was romanced in the first game.
A Round of Drinks for the House: During Samara's loyalty mission where you're attempting to get Morinth's attention, Shepard can buy drinks for all of Afterlife's patrons. The bartender warns you that there are a lot of patrons there that night and gives you the option of weaseling out. With enough Paragon points, Shepard can convince the bartender to do this instead.
Rousing Speech: Played straight and still awesome when Shepard gives a quick speech to his/her team in the briefing room before entering the Collector base, and near the end of the mission, right before facing the humanoid Reaper.
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. Soundfamiliar?
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.
Some of the interactions with squadmates in their respective places on the Normandy have this, particularly the potential love interests. Between Miranda and a male Shepard, for example, the setting of Shepard's conversations with her start from him standing, then sitting in front of her desk, later sitting beside her on a sofa, to her sitting on her bed. The change in setting corresponds with how their relationship develops.
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.
In the Arrival DLC, 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 aesthetically 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: Tali really should have known better than to tell Shepard not to ask about the name "vas Qwib-Qwib". What did she expect to happen? Actually, it is up to the player whether or not to ask about it.
Lampshaded by Shepard in the Overlord DLC: "Get ready. I wouldn't be surprised if this button summons a Reaper."
Schrödinger's Gun: This makes a triumphant return, where no matter how the first game ended (specifically the fate of the Council), Miranda will crow that Shepard did everything exactly right, and specify how so. "And still it's not enough."
Khalisah Al'Jilani from the first game will criticize Shepard regardless of his/her 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 ME2 is created by Mass Effectbefore the conversation when the choice is made occurs.
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. The following comments are from the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC:
If you crash several times in the Chase Scene, this happens:
Shepard: You okay? Liara: Still better than the Mako.
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: The Arrival DLC sets up the basis for Shepard being in prison at the beginning of the third game. For a non-DLC variant, the Bolivian Army Cliffhanger counts as well (the glimpse of an armada of Reapers headed for the galaxy.)
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 recruiting 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.
Serendipity Writes the Plot: Many characters, especially Legion, have dialog for missions that happen long before you are able to recruit them. It's speculated that the game was originally much more open when it came to recruiting people and the space limitations of the Xbox 360's DVD drive forced BioWare to break things up.
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, whom you encounter in Samara's recruitment mission. "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 Eardrums.
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 the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC to ask about the nature of Liara and Feron's relationship. The answer all three times is that it's strictly platonic.
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 DLC Eviscerator, which doesn't suffer as steep a damage falloff, but still scatters just as much as the others. Averted mostly by the recent DLC 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.
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 DLC squadmate 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.
Slave Liberation: There's a sidequest on Illium (where slavery—ahem, indentured servitude is legal) in which a slave broker asks Shepard to convince a representative from Synthetic Insights to hire a quarian slave. It's possible, with enough Paragon/Renegade points, to convince either the SI representative or the slave broker to free her instead (and, in the case of the SI rep, to hire her as a waged worker).
Smug Snake: Jedore, the one making use of Okeer's rejected krogans as live-fire training for the Blue Suns.
Sniper Pistol: Taken very literally with the new heavy pistol provided by the Firepower PackDLC. Rather than the cross-hair "area" of most other weapons, the M-5 Phalanx gets a laser sight, 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. And your target staggering with each hit from the pistol doesn't help either.
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.
Zaeed: You smoke, Shepard? Don't. That stuff'll kill you. Knew a kid once, half your age. Smoked too close to a cache of explosives. Tossed a butt, blew himself sky-high.
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.
Standard Female Grab Area: During Samara's loyalty mission this is how Shepard decides whether to tip the match in Samara or Morinth's favor; that is, if s/he was able to resist the mind control before their confrontation.
Starship Luxurious: Despite being a combat-ready ship, the Normandy SR-2 has quite a few luxuries on board. Like lots of space. 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.
Getting the "Kasumi - Stolen Memory" DLC adds a bar in Kasumi's quarters.
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 the 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.
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.
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 Khalisah Al'Jilani, as you can find out at the end of the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC. 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.
The Garrus recruitment mission has you pretending to join a joint effort by all the rival mercenary companies on the planet Omega to kill "Archangel", a master marksman who has interfered with one operation too many. The only problem is that he has barricaded himself inside a house and blocked off all entrances other than the long, open bridge leading to his front door. Your job? Draw his fire while the mercenaries finish tunneling into his basement.