The excellent Daylight Horror level Sanctuary is one of the creepiest places in the whole series. There are no monsters, no jump scares and not even a lot of corpses. Just a huge and well lit reception terminal that appears way to fancy for a refugee camp that was opened just two months ago, and it's entirely deserted. However the PA is still working and there are lots of notes on the many receptionists' desks, informing newcomers that they have to hand over their personal possessions until they are cleared to move from the reception area to the main habitats, and security is heavily screening for any unallowed communication devices inside the compound. Also, refugees can gain better accomodations in the habitat complex if they volunteer as receptionist while they are waiting to be cleared. And the administration staff refers to it not as the reception area, but as Processing. It's either a cult center or a concentration camp, and the place is massive. The truth is that it is actually much worse than either of those, with the refugees being used as test subjects for Reaper technology by Cerberus.
You don't have to go much farther than the very first mission of the game, where Shepard tries to rescue a terrified young boy during the Reaper invasion of Earth. At the very end of the mission, Shepard sees the boy climbing onto an evacuation shuttle which is then blown to pieces by a Reaper.
A God Am I: In the extended cut version of the Control ending, Shepard becomes the new master of the Reapers. A Paragon Shepard vows to protect the entire galaxy (rather than just one species, as the Illusive Man would have done). A Renegade Shepard wants to use the Reapers to destroy all who oppose their vision of peace.
Despite losing their galactic empire to the Reapers, the Leviathans still seem to have this opinion of themselves. Partly justified: they did create the Catalyst, and the Catalyst designed the Reapers to look like them.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: In the finale, it is revealed that the Catalyst determined organics would inevitably create synthetics, which would inevitably destroy their creators and all organic life. The Reapers were created to prevent this. However, the solution it came to was to harvest any species that had the potential to develop synthetic life and converting them into Reapers, including the very race that created the Catalyst in the first place..
Abnormal Ammo: In an age of mass accelerators, anything can be used as ammo for a gun. Notable examples include: the Javelin, a geth sniper rifle that shoots a jet of ferrofluid at hypersonic speeds (basically a man-portable Thanix gun like the Normandy's gun upgrades in Mass Effect 2, with a scope on top); the Graal Spike Thrower, a krogan shotgun that shoots spikes; and (if you played the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning demo or the Omega DLC) the Chakram Launcher, an assault rifle that shoots explosive chakrams. The Resurgence Pack adds the Kishock Harpoon Gun, which lets you impale enemies on glowing red spears. Jokes are also made within the game about a gun that fires Thresher Maws, although sadly it never makes an appearance.
Aborted Arc: The "Dark Energy buildup" which caused the sun of Haestrom to prematurely age, and that concerned the quarians and some factions so much in Mass Effect 2, is never brought up in this game. Production information has revealed that this was originally going to be the motivation for the Reaper cycle, that the use of Mass Effect technology would ultimately destroy the universe so the Reapers eliminated life once it began to pose such a threat, but this was cut out of the story early in its development. The full story finally surfaced in June 2013 when Drew Karpyshyn came clean about the Dark Energy ending and revealed the general outline of how it would have worked.
In the Omega DLC, some hints are dropped that Nyreen was in some way involved with the Adjutant project. No definitive answer is presented.
Acrofatic: Volus multiplayer characters. Also Barla Von, who, offscreen, holds a high score in the Armax Arsenal Arena.
Action Commands: Husks can now grab you, forcing you to press the melee attack button to shake them off and stomp them. The same happens if the Shepard clone attacks you with their omni-blade during the Citadel DLC.
During Liara's introduction, she escapes a pair of Cerberus troops through an air vent. They follow her in and she then leaves the vent, and uses their vulnerability to unleash biotic hell on them. True to their real life counterpart, trying to move through them is very noisy and awkward — especially for the troopers in their heavy armor.
When Shepard enters the geth consensus, Legion turns the Reaper code removal device into a gun since, as Legion puts it, "we wish to provide familiarity." Shepard takes it as a left-handed compliment. Legion himself takes on the appearance of his body outside the server even though he's essentially just software, for the same reasons as before.
In the climax, the Catalyst appears as the boy from Shepard's dreams.
In-universe, Udina's exact motive for siding with Cerberus is debated. The Codex makes it fairly clear that he was simply a desperate man willing to take extreme measures to protect his homeworld however futile the effort may have inevitably been. It's explicitly stated, however, that Udina was not indoctrinated, which makes his breakdown all the more heartbreaking.
Also in-universe, Joker reveals that he subscribed to the common fan theory that the Council believed in the Reapers and were preparing for them, but weren't letting Shepard in on it because "you know, Cerberus." He ends up being disappointed.
All There in the Manual: The in-game codex includes an insane amount of information about characters, races, planets, etc. And depending on how certain events play out earlier in the game or even in Mass Effect 2, the life of one of Shepard's friends may literally depend on spending time reading through this stuff: in the Priority: Horizon mission, if you're playing the female Shepard and you haven't imported a save from Mass Effect 2 in which Miranda Lawson's loyalty mission was completed, the only way for Miranda to survive is for you to have read the codex entry on the assassin Kai Leng before the mission is undertaken. If playing a male Shepard, the same applies, unless he also romanced Miranda in Mass Effect 2, in which case the romance has to also have been continued through ME3 and not terminated in order for her to survive.
There are a number of other occasions within the game that are just as complex and require study (via real-life manuals, websites, etc) in order to get the best possible outcome, with past decisions and progress in earlier games again determining whether a character lives or dies. Mordin Solus is another example, and there are numerous missions where if you didn't know in advance to do XYZ in Mass Effect 2 or even Mass Effect 1, certain characters are missing from ME3 completely.
Always a Bigger Fish: Anderson ruminates on this in his "embarrassing moment" recorded monologue you can find in his apartment in the Citadel DLC. In it, he reminisces about his celebration of getting N7-certified, got drunk with some "new friends" who were actually lowlifes, got on their bad side, put up a good fight, and then got his ass saved by a salarian that "moved like a cat". Later, he found out he had just been saved by a Spectre. The salarian Spectre seemed to be impressed with Anderson's performance in the brawl, and that may have been what got him on the bureau's radar.
Ancient Astronauts: The Thessia mission reveals that the goddess Athame, one of the oldest asari religions and the goddess that asari characters so frequently swear by, was actually a Prothean. She and her assistants protected the asari from an alien invasion, taught them agriculture and basic mathematics, and used genetic manipulation to grant them biotic abilities. She also left a Prothean beacon on the planet for the asari to find; though they could never fully activate or understand it without the Prothean cipher, their isolated breakthroughs were what allowed the asari to become the most advanced race in the galaxy. And when Liara starts to find the evidence on this, she tries to deny it initially, until Javik disabuses her of the notion.
And Zoidberg: During the mission to rescue "Eve", Wrex tells Shepard and Liara there is no one else he would rather be on a party with. If Garrus is also present he will cough to indicate his presence, and Wrex says that he will find something for him to do.
Anti-Frustration Features: The final boss fight of the Citadel DLC is tricky enough, but it'd be significantly harder if there wasn't a crate of infinite medi-gel in the room.
Another Side, Another Story: Multiplayer mode highlights how the entire galaxy is fighting for survival. Players will create new characters who fight back against the Reapers and performing well will help boost the war effort in the single player campaign.
Anyone Can Die: There is a memorial set up on the Normandy, which lists every crew member (SR-1 and SR-2 both) that dies over the course of the series. As characters die in this game, their names are added to the wall. Characters that will die (provided they survived up to this point) include Thane, Legion, Udina and David Anderson, and characters which may die (depending on player choices in both this and past games) include Any squadmate brought to the final mission if EMS is low, Wrex, Jack, Mordin, Miranda, Major Kirrahe, the Salarian Councilor, Steve Cortez, Commander Shepard and many others.
Liara and Joker pretty much always live.
Appeal To Inherent Nature: Used in the Extended Cut ending, whereupon Shepard argues against the logic that the Catalyst chose to solve the problem of the inevitable Robot War by building robots that specifically start wars. The Catalyst refutes this statement by saying that the Reapers are only doing what they were programmed to do, and thus are not truly interested in war. Of course, he's the one who created them to do this, so he's basically saying it's the organic's fault for resisting which Shepard can call him out on.
Catalyst: When fire burns, is it at war? Is it in conflict? Or is it simply doing what it was created to do? We are no different.
Apocalypse How: Earth and several other homeworlds will suffer at least a Planetary Class One (Societal Disruption): The Codex states that around 1.86 million people are "processed" every day, aside from those killed in fighting the Reapers. Depending on your War Assets and specific ending, anything up to and including Galactic Class Four (Total Extinction) is possible.
Upon first encountering both Liara and Garrus, one squadmate always ends up leaving the party to satisfy the headcount limit of 3. In Liara's case, James returns to the shuttle, while with Garrus, Liara checks on the Normandy apparently malfunctioning.
Lampshaded and defied in the Citadel DLC when Brooks points out "It's a shame you can't bring everyone." Shepard immediately declares "It's all hands on deck." Your controllable party is the same size, but the rest of the ME3 team plus Wrex is there to back you up. Unsurprisingly, it's a complete Curb-Stomp Battle whenever they get the chance to show off. Listen to the mooks realize their enemy has upwards of a krogan, a Prothean and Archangel.
A Double Subversion kicks in when Joker has to airlift you to the boss battle and his skycar only has room for three others. Again, the rest of your team lampshades it.
Wrex: I wanted to go. Teammate that you have picked the least often: I know what you mean. I never seem to get picked.
Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: A couple types of Cerberus mooks are armed with melee weapons, as is the Illusive Man's Dragon, katana-wielding Kai Leng. This is lampshaded in the "Citadel" DLC in an overheard conversation between a couple of Alliance soldiers:
Veteran Engineer: It's 2186. Who uses a whip?
Arc Words: "The darkness cannot be breached!" for the Leviathan DLC.
Are These Wires Important?: Ask James to take out one of the geth cannons on the quarian homeworld, and he'll "start [pulling] wires out, see what happens." He then begins to kick the control panel. Repeatedly. Other characters take a more delicate approach to deactivating it.
The Cannibals sport these. They are made of whole batarian corpses.
Kai Leng, the Cerberus Phantoms and the N7 Slayer Vanguards have a Power Palms version of this, thanks to their cybernetic implants.
The returning Scions in Multiplayer get upgraded versions, complete with being able to crush hapless players who get to close with them.
Armor-Piercing Attack: Armor-Piercing Ammo, rather than merely giving a bonus against a certain type of protection like in the last game, actually allows you to shoot through cover. There is also a mod for each category of weapon that allows you to shoot through armor and cover. Finally, the anti-materiel rifles do not need special ammo or mods to achieve this. These effects stack. Combine all three... and enemy cover means nothing to you.
Armor-Piercing Question: When you make the decision of whether to let to quarians destroy the geth, Legion asks you the question which your decision should be based around:
The tactical AI system is meant to punish players who try to go it alone and encourage cooperation between all the classes and specialties.
Centurions will never shoot their smoke grenades willy-nilly. They fire them at choke points, small enclosed spaces the player's in, or in positions that obscure the entire enemy party.
Nemeses, the Cerberus snipers, have no melee or short range attacks. Phantoms, the ninjas, have extremely powerful melee attacks, but mediocre ranged offense. Individually, these two get around those shortcomings by running around the battlefield, maintaining the most effective range for their fighting style. When paired together, however, the Nemesis will stand in one spot, and lure in melee and shotgun fighters to the Phantom's attack range.
Assault Troopers, Centurions and Cannibals throw grenades behind your cover to force you to change locations, and goad you into a shootout so that their melee and shotgun-preferring comrades can walk up behind you undisturbed.
Unlike in Mass Effect 2, if you cloak as an Infiltrator at close range expect the general area where you are standing to get riddled with bullets as nearby enemies attempt to scare you away. They also now have better awareness of you, as they will notice you if you bump them or start a heavy melee with your glowy omnitool.
Rocket soldiers, in particular, will time their shots to hit just as you duck out from cover. If you are particularly entrenched and Grenade Spam doesn't work the enemy will gang up and rush you. Or sneak in on you, which can be horrific when you have to face a flamethrower at close range.
More often than not, the Collector Captains will send seeker swarms while hiding in cover, only rushing you when your powers are disabled - which for some classes can mean being completely defenseless.
The game acknowledges that the Paragon resolution to Conrad Verner's meeting in Mass Effect glitches out in ME2 with Conrad acting as if you had picked the Renegade option instead. Upon meeting him on the Citadel, he apologizes for claiming you stuck a gun in his face when you had not. He explains that he was "under a lot of stress" at the time.
In the Multiplayer, the Asari Huntress (an Infiltrator character with biotic powers) had a bug preventing her cloak from applying the usual damage bonus to weapon or melee damage. Rather than fixing it, the developers decided to run with it and simply increased the damage bonus for her powers.
Several jokes are made about Garrus and calibrations. By the end of the Citadel DLC, he agrees he'll stop using the word altogether if Liara stops saying "by the goddess."
If certain conditions are met during Garrus's Citadel event, he will come out with a variation of Shepard's "I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite store on the Citadel" line from the previous game.
Garrus: I'm Garrus Vakarian, and this is now my favorite spot on the Citadel!
Before Javik's name became officially known, he was commonly referred to on forums as "Prothy the Prothean". This gets a hearty lampshade from him.
Javik:Your "Joker" pilot insists I call myself Prothy the Prothean. I insisted he allow me to throw him out the airlock.
"Biotic God" is now an unlockable achievement in multiplayer, complete with the picture of Niftu Cal. Also, the volus Adept character's description says his biotic abilities are "nothing short of godly".
At Joker's insistence, Liara gives a definitive description of what the asari's head tails are actually made of.
In the party Shepard throws in the Citadel DLC, various crew members group together and allow Shepard to interact with them. Find Wrex & Grunt, and the interaction boils down to a never ending loop of "Shepard." "Wrex." "Shepard." "Grunt." "Shepard."
Also at the party, one of the things a drunken Tali says in the bathroom is, "It just smells like sweat. Why would you even ask?" in reference to an infamous BSN post that attempted to scientifically determine if quarian sweat smells and tastes differently than human sweat.
During the Party, Jacob briefly utters the phrase "The priiize" during a conversation, although used in a different context.
During the meeting at the bar with a romanced Garrus in the Citadel DLC, Female Shephard will bring up Garrus's "I had reach, she had flexibility" line from the prior game.
Several jokes are made throughout the game regarding Shepard's dancing ability, or rather lack thereof. A romanced Female Shepard will even physically try and resist Garrus pulling her into a tango in the Citadel DLC.
If Shepard takes a series of renegade interrupts during the Citadel DLC, the Commander threatens Brooks & the Shepard Clone with being thrown out of the airlock. Having Javik in the party will have him happily declare "FINALLY!"
In Citadel, the Shepard clone will tell Shepard, "I should go." Shortly after, Shepard will go into a long discussion about this.
Shepard: He said "I should go". - Do I sound like that? How come nobody told me that before? I'm open to feedback here. Maybe it's "I should GO". "I SHOULD go". "*I* should go".
One of the new multiplayer missions is called "pizza delivery" by fans, as you are to pick up an object and walk it to its destination. During a mission briefing in Citadel, Shepard turns to discover a volus delivering a pizza... Vega called for a snack.
Really, Citadel is a veritable goldmine for Ascended Memes. It even acknowledges some of the common complaints from the Multiplayer by having NPCs discussing it.
Bioware acknowledged Marauder Shields by taking the enemy it is based on (the marauder at the end of the earth mission before reaching the transport beam to the citadel) and lowering its starting shield points so that "Shields" is clearly visible against the red health bar.
Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Two of the four big choices at the ending lead to this for Shepard. In the Control ending, Shepard effectively merges with the Reaper collective consciousness and takes control of every single one of them. In the Synthesis ending, Shepard's essence is absorbed and transmitted across the entire galaxy, making all organics partly synthetic and vice versa.
How Shepard racks up his/her first on-foot Reaper kill on Rannoch.
Practically every enemy takes extra damage from headshots, but some have additional weaknesses. Geth Pyros can have their fuel tanks set on fire, Engineers carry their turret on their back which explodes when hit, and you can also shatter the Phantom's swords, eliminating their deadly melee attacks. However, these tricks only work when their shields or barriers are down.
Brutes, according to the Mass Effect wiki, have extremely lightly armoured posteriors. The tricky part is getting a good shot at the back of a Smash Mook that spends its time charging toward you.
Auto-Revive: Medi-gel functions as this in multiplayer, allowing a downed character to revive themselves without requiring an ally to pick them back up.
The Alliance Infiltration Unit Infiltrator's Repair Matrix will automatically revive the AIU if it is downed while the power is active.
Babies Ever After: For Wrex and Eve in the extended cut ending, if the genophage was cured. Jacob also ends up becoming a father. Shepard can bring up the idea in Liara and Garrus' romance dialogues, albeit jokingly.
Back for the Dead: Assuming he survived the suicide mission, Thane's only possible role in the plot is to die protecting the salarian Councilor. If he did not survive, Kirrahe is in this role. If Kirrahe is also dead, and you saved the Council in the first game, then this role is passed onto the salarian councilor.
If you haven't completed Grunt's, Kasumi and Zaeed's loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2, they all die at the end of the missions they appear in.
The only possible way for Legion to not die in 3 is if they died in 2 or were never activated for whatever reason.
Back Stab: The main skill of a N7 Shadow, with her Shadow Strike — it's the same skill Kasumi has in Mass Effect 2: cloaking, and appearing in the back of the enemy. Except that where Kasumi used her omni-tool, the Shadow uses a sword. Ironically, in the Citadel DLC combat simulator, Kasumi now has Tactical Cloak instead of Shadow Strike.
Badass Army: Building an army of the greatest badasses of the entire galaxy.
If you spared him in Mass Effect 2, Aresh (the Arc Villain of the Pragia side-mission) turns into one of these. Living as a lowly worker with a severe substance abuse problem and petty criminal past since that time, a group of evacuating civilians are shocked to witness him unleash his considerable biotic power (his power level is comparable to Jack's, which makes sense) to protect them as they make their escape. He performs a Heroic Sacrifice to save everyone.
Jenna, the C-Sec informant from a sidequest in the first game, intervenes with her omni-tool to save Conrad from a Cerberus operative if you did her quest in Mass Effect. Then she and Conrad hook up.
Bag of Spilling: Shepard loses all the guns and armor acquired in 2 and has to buy/find them all over again. The good news is that even DLC gear from the second game is in vanilla 3. Averted in regards to player level if you imported. You retain your level, and if you kept the player class you had in the second game, your powers are partially filled out in a manner similar to how you had it before.
You also get your fish collection back if you talk to the right person early on. You can also get your Space Hamster back, if you can catch it, and your ships are scattered all over the Normandy but aren't actually too hard to find.
As for the Normandy, she keeps any of the plot-relevant upgrades you fitted during the previous game (armor, shield and weapon upgrades). However, all the other upgrades disappear. In the case of the probing upgrades (increased probe capacity, increased scanning speed), it's pretty much moot as the probing minigame is all but absent in 3. In the case of the increased fuel upgrade, however, losing it is really annoying.
Some of the stuff you collected in 2 (most notably the mineral resources) gets converted into war assets in 3, so while you lose direct use of them, they still improve your odds of success.
The Bait: Joker in the first few minutes of the Citadel DLC, to his indignation. "You used me as bait? You used me as bait! Did you see that? Savior of the Citadel..." "When this is over, we are gonna talk about this bait thing." "Plan B stands for bait?"
Beam Spam: Harbinger attacks the invasion force in the run to the Conduit.
Berserk Button: Don't mess with the Normandy. EDI will find out and stomp a mudhole in you. Her bloodlust in this matter even earns blood-soaked warrior Wrex's respect.
EDI: I am going to kill your clone, Agent Brooks, anyone else in my way.
Wrex: You're alright, EDI.
Between My Legs: In the Citadel DLC, after Wrex wrecks the hijacked C-SEC shuttle full of CAT6 goons, he jumps off the roof and in front of the open side hatch. The shot is framed for a moment between his legs just as he lands.
Beware the Nice Ones: The non-enslaved geth are generally all nice and polite, but will strike back with a fury not even the turian fleet can match if provoked. A Geth Prime talking to Shepard will even outright state that they regret having fought the quarians if it comes to that.
BFG: The Cain makes a reappearance in the mission to take back Earth. You use it to drop a Reaper-Destroyer sized AA battery. It only takes one shot, and it homes in. There is a spare that's also handy for killing the Banshee that leads the subsequent attack on your squad while you wait for an evac shuttle.
There's also the Black Widow, Krysae, and Typhoon. The Black Widow is an upgraded, semi-automatic version of the Infinity+1 Sword normal Widow Anti-Materiel Rifle from the last game with a three round clip. The Krysae is a turian anti-materiel rifle that shoots explosive ammunition, making it a semi-automatic rocket launcher in disguise. The Typhoon is a space support machine gun, with the highest fire rate and capacity in the game and ridiculous damage output. All of them become hideously powerful when fully upgraded and given the correct weapon and ammo mods (level IV Warp and Incendiary rounds work particularly well). The Typhoon in particular can have the highest damage output in the entire game, a capacity of 200 rounds, great accuracy, a minor defensive bonus, and the game's fastest firing rate, all in one package. There's a reason that it's considered the best weapon for the N7 Destroyer in multiplayer.
The Geth Spitfire puts the Typhoon to shame, at least in terms of pure More Dakka. Carrying it slows the character down far more than any other weapon, though, and it's also the heaviest weapon in the game.
Meanwhile, the Javelin puts the Widow to shame, being the single most powerful rifle in the game while incorporating a visor able to see through smoke and walls - and weighing a ton. Which makes it quite easy to, like Garrus, kill three enemies with one bullet. The Javelin is another geth weapon.
The Reaper invasion of Palaven, the turian homeworld, is preceded by the fight between the Reaper fleets and the turian navy, the most powerful military force in Citadel space.
The quarian attempt to re-take their homeworld involves full-scale war with the geth, including the geth's command-and-control dreadnought, along with the three endings stemming from this.
The attempt to retake Earth is the largest single battle sequence in the game series, and includes space, air and ground scenes involving thousands of individual ship and character models.
Big Bad Duumvirate: Between the Reapers and the Illusive Man; Cerberus constantly interferes with Shepard's attempts to defeat the Reapers out of a belief that they can control the Reapers. Unfortunately for the Illusive Man, the Reapers are ultimately better at the game, and the Illusive Man is indoctrinated and simply playing into their hands. According to the Prothean VI Vendetta, this rogue faction wanting to control the Reapers and ultimately succumbing to indoctrination is one element of the Eternal Recurrence of the Cycle of Reaping, having occurred in the Prothean cycle as well. Javik reveals he was aware of their cycle's Cerberus-analog as well and suspected indoctrination.
Bigger Bad: The Catalyst, an ancient AI that created the Reapers and started the repeating cycle in the first place. It does not appear until the final scene of the game, where it acknowledges that its plans have been defeated and it needs to develop a new "solution" with Shepard's help.
Big Good: Even though Admiral Hackett is commanding the combined forces of the Council races, and Admiral Anderson is leading the resistance on Earth, both characters point out that Shepard is the key to victory. He/she is a symbol and inspiration to the soldiers fighting the war, is the one responsible for uniting the disparate races into a force capable of challenging the Reapers, and is the single most experienced soldier when it comes to actually fighting them.
In the Destroy ending, the trope is inverted, with the final weapon destroying all synthetic life, including the friendly ones, and leaving the organic life alone.
In the Control ending, only the leader of the villains is affected, with the Hive Mind now being controlled by the main character.
In the Synthesis ending, both organic and synthetic life are combined into one hybrid race, making the war completely irrelevant.
Inverted in the Paragon conclusion to the Tuchanka arc, in which it's curing a biological weapon that solves everything - you save the krogan from extinction (assuming you don't pick the Refusal ending), Wrex parlays this into even greater control over Tuchanka in the name of preventing another Krogan Rebellions, you lock the Reapers into a horrible snarled ground war on Palaven that costs them dearly in time, energy and troops, and you get hundreds of points of War Assets from both the turian fleet and the krogan ground forces.
Bittersweet Ending: As the game outright tells you in the first 5 minutes, you cannot save everyone. It is possible to lose allies and entire species before you even reach the final battle, and regardless of which choices or endings you get, you will have to sacrifice quite a lot to win, in most cases Shepard and the Citadel as well.
Blasting It out of Their Hands: The best way to deal with Cerberus Phantoms, who can One-Hit KO you with their sword, is to remove it from them like this. Since you cannot dilate time in multiplayer and you won't get a gun that can kick up a storm of lead that can properly knock it off, though, this is much, much harder than it sounds.
Blade Lock: Clone Shepard in the Citadel DLC is the only enemy in the series to attack you with their own omni-blade if they get close. If they do, Shepard activates his/her omni-blade and they start struggling against each other. You use Action Commands to win the struggle and instantly take down your enemy's shields.
Also happens right at the start of your final battle with Kai Leng, except Shepard uses his rifle instead of a blade.
Blood from the Mouth: Mordin if you shoot him, Kai Leng after you kick his ass, Shepard in the ending.
Heads will now explode into a spray of gore if you get a head shot with various weapons including sniper rifles, shotguns, and heavy pistols. This can also be caused by a head shot to an enemy with low health.
There are several methods of making your enemy's whole body explode, entirely reducing them to bloody chunks. To name a few (all used on enemies with a low enough health to cause this), Carnage, Warp, a shot from a Widow, Black Widow, Krysae or Javelin, landing a sticky grenade on the targeted enemy, shrapnel grenades, any heavy weapons.
Blown Across the Room: Happens with guns that cause an opponent to stagger on hit, such as the Disciple shotgun. Justified though, in that the Disciple incorporates micro-explosives into its rounds which cause a concussive effect when they impact a target.
Blue and Orange Morality: The Catalyst views "preserving" advanced organic life in Reaper form as preferable to allowing what it sees as an inevitable organic/synthetic war to take place that will just as inevitably end in synthetic life taking control of the galaxy. Therefore it harvests organic life at the apex of its civilization before such a war can happen, including the very apex civilization that created the Catalyst, thus allowing the next generation of organic life to develop after every harvesting cycle.
After rescuing defecting Cerberus scientists, whom you only located because of Specialist Traynor's analysis of Cerberus data, Traynor jokes that she is going to begin putting little decals on her terminal to keep score every time she "analyzes the crap out of some data."
If you have romanced either Tali or Garrus, before the final mission you will find the two of them talking in the Main Battery where they are making bets on the upcoming fight and who will perform better.
If Jacob survives the suicide mission in the previous game, he and Shepard will joke about this should you contact him prior to speaking to Anderson.
Featured of course between Teams Mako and Hammerhead in Citadel, while Javik declares that he is a third party on his own.
There are new challenges in multiplayer, some of which include inflicting a set amount of damage (not necessarily landing the killing blows) on enemy factions.
Everything about Reaper-made enemies. Cannibals are mutated batarians using whole human bodies for arm cannons, Brutes are krogan/turian fusions with the head ripped out and replaced with a turian skull. The art book originally had the rachni as fused with rotting human corpses, but Bioware deemed this too disgusting.
In a similar vein, Brutes were originally going to have extremely aggressive fighting styles until you did enough damage to them, at which point their chest armor would shatter and they would switch to more defensive tactics. Because they would be using one of their arms to hold in their intestines.
If you choose the Control ending, as he/she is holding the Crucible controls Shepard's face will start to burn and peel apart, spreading to the rest of his/her body.
The Synthesis ending has Shepard slowly dissolve in the Catalyst's beam.
Also, Synthesis and Control imply that the Husks regain their humanity. Ignoring the non-human husks, one certainly hopes the human husks can extricate themselves from Scions and Praetorians, or there's a The Human Centipede situation going on.
Boisterous Bruiser: Krogan characters in multiplayer will start laughing every time their rage activates, which happens when they quickly kill two or three enemies with melee attacks.
The first and last missions of the game take place on Earth.
In both this game and the original Mass Effect, Anderson was initially set to command the Normandy. Once again, the sudden appearance of the Reapers causes him to abdicate his position, forcing Shepard to assume command in his stead.
When Thane is first encountered is Mass Effect 2, he prays for "the wicked," but reveals that the prayer is for himself, not the target he just killed. When he dies in this game, his final words are again a prayer, but this time they are not for him, but for Shepard.
One of the last conversations with Joker aboard the Normandy is him reminiscing about Eden Prime. The camera angles used when Joker and Shepard speak are identical to those used the first time you ever speak to Joker in Mass Effect.
Both this game and the original Mass Effect end with Shepard facing off against an indoctrinated Well-Intentioned Extremist, who can be talked into realizing his indoctrination and committing suicide, before Shepard comes face to face with the mastermind behind it all as he/she is forced to decide what fate to chose for the galaxy. Just as in the first game, the very last enemy that Shepard engages in combat is a Reaper-controlled turian; Saren in ME1, a Marauder here.
Just before you take control of Shepard for the first and last time he/she is thrown off his/her feet by a Reaper attack, gets a handgun and is told to move forward by Anderson.
The final book-end of the trilogy is a musical one: in The Stinger, the song "Vigil" from the first game's menu screen plays in the background.
Boring, but Practical: You have got sniper rifles, flashy grenades, energy blades, missile launchers, and magical science powers, yet the most surefire way to deal with enemies in multiplayer is to just flank them. You will realize this when they do it to you, too.
While there are many flashier biotic powers, the simple Throw, a ball that knocks enemies of their feet, is one of the most useful. Its low cooldown lets it temporarily immobilise mooks, and more importantly, it can trigger a biotic explosion on any enemy (assuming they don't dodge it), unlike many similar powers, and can be specced to boost the damage of said explosions, which are how biotics do their damage. If you upgrade it enough, you can even launch two projectiles at once.
The five "basic" weapons (Predator, Avenger, Katana, Mantis, Shuriken) all become quite practical up to Insanity/Silver when upgraded to level X- which is quite cheap compared to the other weapons, making them even more Boring, but Practical.
The default pistol (the Predator) actually has higher damage per second than the default assault rifle, as well as being very light and accurate and cheap to upgrade. While there are better weapons maxing this should be any new multiplayer player's first priority. At level X and with the right mods, it has a clip size of 28, good accuracy, more damage per second than the Avenger or Vindicator, and a very fast firing rate. And it weighs nothing.
The Avenger assault rifle does low damage. However, its good accuracy, very low weight, and fast firing rate make it a good primary early weapon for Engineers and Adepts. Its low damage can be compensated with assault rifle amps.
The Mantis sniper rifle, particularly in multiplayer. It is slow-firing but powerful and the lightest of the sniper rifles. It doesn't have the raw damage of the Widow, but a skilled player who can consistently headshot enemies doesn't need that much damage.
Similarly, the Carnifex. Slap a scope on it, and you won't even need the Mantis.
The Disciple shotgun. Its damage might not be obliterative like the big shotties, but it's surprisingly accurate, fires quickly, easily staggers even large enemies like Brutes and is the lightest shotgun available.
On a general level, especially in multiplayer the more basic, lighter weapons are this for more power-focused characters such as most adepts, who want to keep their cooldowns low and might not even use their weapons all that much.
Boss in Mook Clothing: Banshees. Huge barrier and armour amounts cause them to take a ton of damage before going down. Constant teleporting makes it a lot harder to get a lock on them as well. Their attacks are also very dangerous, with the strongest being a one-hit kill.
The Geth Primes also count for the Geth, and of course the Praetorians and Possessed Praetorians for Collectors. Atlases are a borderline example : they are powerful, but overall much less dangerous than Phantoms.
Boss Rush: The final combat segment of the game, especially since there is no real Final Boss—at least, not one that you fight.
The final wave of the Fatal Error combat simulator in the Citadel DLC forces you to fight the top tier enemies of all four enemy factions (including Collectors) simultaneously.
Bottomless Magazines: The Carnifex that Shepard picks up after being fried by Harbinger never needs a reload, but you can do so just for the hell of it.
Some DLC weapons retain this feature from the first game: the Particle Rifle, which you get after awakening Javik; and the M-7 Lancer, which can be picked up in the middle of the Citadel DLC mission. Idling for about three seconds after firing refills their magazines automatically. Exhausting their magazines results in a time-consuming reload animation, however.
Multiplayer adds the Collector Sniper Rifle and Submachine Gun to the list.
Brain Uploading: In the Control ending, Shepard's mind is uploaded into the entire Reaper fleet.
Some War Assets are either reduced or completely unavailable if you have not purchased and completed the DLCs of the first two games.
Unlike in the pre-launch demo, multiplayer equipment packs can be bought for real money if you do not want to grind for them with in-game currency.
It was - prior to later patches - mathematically impossible to get the best version of each ending unless you use multiplayer (which you may need to pay extra for if you bought the game used) or obtain DLC-only War Assets.
Traynor's mass effect-enhanced toothbrush becomes one in the Citadel DLC, going from a throwaway gag to the tool that helps Shepard retake the Normandy from their evil clone.
Another brick joke in Citadel is the various squadmate's reactions to the destruction of the giant glass fish tank at the sushi restaurant, something neither Shepard nor likely the player even noticed earlier in the game.
In ME2, Mordin offhandedly mocks the cyanide capsules that Cerberus operatives have in case of interrogation, and mentions that "ocular nerve flashbangs" are more effective. Well, there's a Shadow Broker file in the third game where the Alliance is interrogating a Cerberus Phantom... and her head explodes.
The entire encounter with Conrad Verner is one brick joke harking back to the first game after another, referencing a Collection Sidequest, the original inventory system, and two separate Irrelevant Sidequests.
In ME2, the Codex mentions that the Kodiak is only capable of flying at all because it generates Mass Effect fields to reduce it's effective mass, and that if those fields failed, it would fall out of the sky with all the grace of a brick. This finally ends up happening during the Leviathan DLC. Twice. Three times if you count the Reaper dreadnought that gets similarly dropped out of the sky at the end.
During the Citadel DLC, when Shepard and the team are planning the mission to Citadel archives, they're interrupted by a volus delivering a pizza to James, who got hungry. About an hour later, when you're battling mercs in the archives, Glyph informs James that a volus pizza delivery man is calling him and demanding payment.
James: Tell him they burnt the pepperoni!
Bring Help Back: Shepard has to do this; s/he leaves Earth during the Reaper attack in order to gather reinforcements and return in force.
Broad Strokes: The place of the Multiplayer in the canon. Are there multi-species squadrons operating unofficially in association with N7 forces? Yes. Are all the available species for multiplayer present? Not always; for example, depending on the outcome of the geth and quarian conflict, one of them could very well be extinct, as well as drell if you decide to save Jondum Bau instead of Kahje in a sidequest. Are geth running loose through the ruins of downtown London? Probably not without Reaper forces.
Especially with the return of Collector enemies to Multiplayer. You only get to fight them in the singleplayer by means of a Combat Simulator in Citadel.
Broken Aesop: In the Armax Arena provided by the Citadel DLC, you get a challenge to do a match with no ammo pickups by someone who argues in favor of thermal clips against someone who thinks they're a bad idea. He says they can work if care is taken to conserve ammo. You can then proceed to play the round with the M-7 Lancer rifle provided by the DLC, which uses the pre-thermal clip cooling system and doesn't need them. Or the Prothean particle rifle. Or have a Shep that focuses on Biotic or Tech attacks, both of which never run out of ammo.
Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: No matter what you do, the total death toll will be in the billions or more by the end, and Shepard will probably be dead. Worst case scenario? The Reapers are defeated, but Earth is destroyed and all advanced civilizations in the galaxy are wiped out.
Bullet Time: In addition to being an activated ability that the Soldier class retains from the second game, this now accompanies the sound of glass breaking when Shepard's Deflector Shieldsget taken down. Other classes had similar abilities streamlined or removed; the Vanguard's Charge slows time automatically now, and the Sniper Concentration mod means that anyone (not just an Infiltrator) can slow things down when scoping in; Infiltrators can just make it last longer and free up a mod port.
Brutes fit this trope. They love to charge at you and do large amounts of damage if you do not leap out of the way. You even get an achievement if you manage to kill a brute while it is charging.
The Reaper on Rannoch. Though it does not physically charge you, the mechanics of dodging its main attack (which moves in a straight line), then attacking it while it is vulnerable for a moment are the same.
The Bus Came Back: Liara and the Virmire survivor are reinstated as full party members after being Demoted to Extra during ME2. Wrex even returns to your party in the Citadel DLC (if he's alive).
Bus Crash: A few secondary characters, assuming they survived the previous installments.
If quarian marine Kal'Reegar survived Haestrom, he ends up dying covering a turian squad's escape.
If you spared Rana Thanoptis, the asari scientist from Virmire in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, she kills a number of high ranking asari officials, and then when incarcerated shoots herself in the head.
If you spared him in Mass Effect, Aresh from the Pragia side-mission dies saving a bunch of evacuating civilians from a Reaper attack.
The reporter Emily Wong is never referred to in the actual game, but the promotional Twitter event before release has her relaying news of the Reaper attack before being mortally wounded and crashing her flying news van into a Reaper.
If you convinced Ereba to marry or dump her krogan boyfriend Charr, then during the Attican Traverse: Krogan Team sidequest you find his body, with a recording he made for his "blue rose of Ilium", and can deliver it to her at the Nos Astra Sporting Goods booth in the Presidium Commons.
Busman's Holiday: The Citadel DLC has the Normandy crew go on shore leave, only to get caught up in an attempt on Shepard's life. Though, this is potentially the third one Shepard has had on the Citadel (Cerberus operative in the Conrad Verner sidequest, and Balak in the Batarian Codes sidequest), this is just the only one with a full DLC dedicated to it.
Returning squadmates frequently make references to missions from the previous two games, remarking how things have changed (or remained the same) over the past two years. These occur even if these squadmates were not present for the original mission.
In one of Shepard's conversations with EDI, she questions Shepard about the behavior of some prisoners of the Reapers, and Shepard asks her if "submission is preferable to extinction." Saren had asked Shepard this same question in the first game. Both Shepard and EDI say no.
During your first conversation with him, Joker lampshades the fact that Shepard was not entirely respectful towards the Council in ME1. This line also occurs if you never hung up on the Council during the first game, losing the effect.
Joker: Let me know if you want to patch a comm to the Council so you can hang up on them again. You know, for old times' sake.
The music that plays over the Game Over screen, both for single and multiplayer, is the Game Over music from Mass Effect 2.
Engineer Adams notes due to Cerberus cutting corners, in a prolonged firefight, the stress on the shields will cause the drive-core to vent into the engineering compartment, vaporizing anyone working there. This actually could happen in ME2 if you did not upgrade the shields. Yet Adams is still concerned about this even if you did upgrade it.
In Leviathan, after rescuing Ann Bryson, talking to Liara on the Normandy afterwards has her joke about Shepard having a habit of rescuing archaeologists from dig-sites that have been invaded by hostile forces. She comments if Shepard ever decides to team up with her to take down the Shadow Broker, she'll be jealous... and concerned.
When rescuing "Eve", Shepard will remark a captured yahg could be the next Shadow Broker, with Garrus potentially adding that he was muttering "T'Soni!" If Liara is in the party, she'll tell them it's not funnyinvoked.
Near the end, just before the Crucible comes through the relay, the shot of the mass relay looks a lot like the loading screen from the first game, enough to fool you for a few moments before the first fighters appear. The "Loading" icon even appears on the corner of the screen.
The end sequence in which you rush towards a giant pillar of light that will launch you towards the Citadel is a Continuity Nod to the first game, in which Shepard did the same thing near the climax.
In the Citadel DLC, if you bring Wrex and Ashley or Kaidan with Shepard to take down the Mysterious Figure, Wrex will call back an elevator conversation all the way back from Mass Effect when he asks Ashley/Kaidan if she remembers him asking who would win in a fight - them or Shepard. Because now, you're about to find out. If you bring Garrus and Tali, Garrus will ask in anyone else than him misses the elevator conversations. Tali and Shepard don't.
Garrus: So disappointed.
Another one in the Citadel DLC: if Garrus is in your party during the retaking of the Normandy, he'll mention that the CIC of a warship is one of his favorite places to fight. If he was also in your party during Mordin's loyalty mission in ME2, Shepard recalls his preference for antique shops... but only if they're classy.
Canned Orders Over Loudspeaker: At Grissom Academy, a Cerberus shill tries appealing to students' want to help Earth in order to pacify them, all while mooks are dragging students away screaming. You can put a stop to it if you find one of the generators powering a cyberwarfare computer and shoot it, allowing Kahlee Sanders to interject and reassure the students that Shepard's on the scene.
Canon Immigrant: At least two characters from the tie-in novels, Kahlee and Kai Leng, finally make an appearance in the series proper. Paul Grayson is also alluded to in one conversation with Anderson.
Casual Danger Dialogue: Male Shepard pulls this off on the geth dreadnought towards a romanced Tali after she saves him from falling to his death due to a damaged elevator. A stark contrast to a very worried Tali.
Male Shepard pulls it off again in the final act when he confirms that Cortez is alive, giving a flat "You sure?" seconds after screaming his name. See Narm.
Pretty much all the conflicts in the Citadel DLC feature the Normandy crew bantering and generally acting like this is just another day at the office, as the mercenary force trying to kill them is nothing compared to what they've faced in the past, and they know it. This continues right up until Clone Shepard steals the Normandy - and threatens Shepard's hamster. Then everyone gets more serious... well, they try their best.
Catapult Nightmare: Throughout the game, Shepard has several nightmares about those lost in the war, typically waking up in this fashion.
Catch Phrase: EDI's "That was a joke" is back with a vengeance.
Garrus's "calibrations" and Liara's "goddess" are both hilariously lampshaded in the Citadel DLC. In addition, Wrex tries throughout the mission to come up with one for himself. Tali tells him to keep trying. And Shepard starts doubting him/herself about the right way to say "I should go."
The Cavalry: In the first level, the Normandy, with Kaidan/Ashley and James Vega aboard, shows up to rescue Shepard and Anderson from Reaper forces right as they are about to be overrun.
Shepard's love interest (or Liara if they do not have a love interest or they aren't a squadmate) shows up to help Shepard in the beginning of the Citadel DLC, followed up by either Wrex (if he's still alive) or Vega (if Wrex is dead) trashing the shuttle.
Central Theme: Casey Hudson describes Mass Effect 3's theme as "victory through sacrifice". Several characters can or will sacrifice themselves for their loved ones or to complete the mission. And depending on your choices over the series, Thane, Anderson, Lt. Victus, Captain Kirrahe, Mordin, Wrex, Legion, Miranda, Grunt and even Shepard are possible examples.
This fits with the game's other central theme dealing with The Chains of Commanding which was touched on in the last two games but is emphasized especially here showing how stressful, difficult, and harrowing Shepard's job really is and how much it can break a person.
Chain Lightning: The Overload ability can be upgraded to do this, potentially capable of hitting up to three targets.
The Chains of Commanding: One of the primary themes of the game. During a late-game conversation, Shepard can chew out Joker for making a particularly ill-timed joke. Joker then explains that Anderson asked him to look out for the Commander, and that Shepard is under more stress than any other person he knows (to the point of referencing the character's chosen war history from the first game). Shepard can then choose to either forgive Joker or blow him off for attempting to make light of the situation s/he's in.
Several of Anderson's unedited un-submitted interview responses strewn about his former Citadel apartment ruminate on this dilemma.
Character Magnetic Team: By the time the finale rolls around, Shepard can assemble a truly massive team. Not only can the player character convince almost all the races in the galaxy to help, but you can amass a sizable group of squadmates (including a newly-minted Spectre, an N7 candidate, the Shadow Broker, the feared "Archangel of Omega", a newly-honored quarian Admiral, a living Prothean and an advanced AI capable of giving ground support), but you can have delegates from races come aboard, have past squadmates show up and hang out on your ship, and even bring back two of the engineers from the previous game if you pardon them.
Character Outlives Actor: Robin Sachs finished recording his dialogue for Zaeed Massani in the Citadel DLC a month before its release, and a special multiplayer event, "Operation: Tribute", was held in his honor.
Character Shilling: Wrex is talked up during the Citadel DLC by Tali and other members of your squad if he's around. It's a little jarring given how they rib on everyone else, and he doesn't do anything that someone else won't do.
Character Witness: Potentially, David Archer. If you saved him from being hooked up to thousands of noisy geth in Mass Effect 2 and sent him to Grissom Academy, you meet him again in Mass Effect 3. Usually, when you go to Grissom Academy and see Octavia and other students turtled up under an experimental kinetic barrier, suspicious of both Cerberus and you, you either have to convince Octavia to lower the shield or have one of your squadmates destroy the shield. But if David Archer is present at Grissom, he persuades Octavia to lower the shield, vouching for you since you saved him from Cerberus.
Charged Attack: A few weapons, such as the Arc Pistol, the Graal Spike Thrower, the Chakram Launcher, and the Kishock Harpoon Gun, can be charged up for a more powerful attack.
Chekhov's Armory: Played for laughs during Conrad's appearance. If you completed three separate, completely unrelated sidequests in the first game, they will be referenced and used as part of Conrad's dissertation on dark energy. After which Conrad gets into a scuffle, and his survival is dependent on the outcome of yet another unrelated sidequest.
Chekhov's Gun: Liara's warning beacons. If Shepard chooses the "Refuse" ending, an unseen species discovers them and uses it to defeat the Reapers.
In the Citadel DLC, Traynor's toothbrush.
A really dark example can possibly occur. Tali has a combat knife strapped to her boot throughout all three of the games. If Shepard screws up his chance to bring peace to the Quarians and Geth and sides with the Quarians in the resulting conflict, Tali is forced to stab Legion with it.
Cherry Tapping: It is possible to kill even high level enemies by punching them repeatedly. In fact, at normal difficulty, Soldier Shepard can punch an enemy's shields out completely with a few hits, if s/he is willing to take the gunfire.
Chunky Salsa Rule: If you shoot an enemy with an explosive gun (the Falcon, Striker or Krysae) and the round's damage is greater than his remaining health, he explodes, regardless of whether his shields were up. This is particularly obvious with a buffed Krysae, hence its proliferation in multiplayer and subsequent nerfs.
same applies to Ashley; she can end up with James in the Citadel DLC.
Clock Tower: Coats spent three days sniping husks from inside a broken Big Ben; this was the content of one of the first trailers.
Collectors Edition: The "N7 Collector's Edition". It comes with most of a set (sans assault rifle) of N7 weapons, alternative outfits for squadmates, a robotic dog for the Normandy, and the "From Ashes" DLC (which otherwise has to be bought separately). Outside the game, it also has a 70-page artwork book, an iron-on/Velcro N7 patch, the game's soundtrack, and a limited edition Dark Horse comic—the first issue of Mass Effect: Invasion.
Comically Missing the Point: When Liara describes how the Protheans believed in "uplifting" other species, Vega sarcastically asks if she means like the salarians did with the krogan. She agrees, oblivious to his biting tone and the fact that the krogan uplift is used within the universe as an example of what not to do.
Combat Medic: Volus in multiplayer, thanks to their Shield Boost power, which has the ability to instantly replenish both the volus' and any of his nearby allies' shields.
The Medigel Transmitter multiplayer gear can allow one medigel to revive any team members within its range (fully upgraded to level V it can reach 30 meters in any direction) allowing any class to become an effective medic.
Geth Engineers and Juggernauts can also replenish their allies shields with their deployable turret, though it's not quite as powerful as Shield Boost.
Combination Attack: This game expands upon the biotic explosions developed for Mass Effect 2. Now, in addition to biotics, cryo, fire, and tech powers can both begin and trigger an explosion. Some classes in multiplayer are like field-control wizards, able to trigger nigh-continuous explosions, laced with Elemental Powers, over and over thanks to a combination of powers and special ammo. These explosions also scale with health, meaning it's a powerful tactic on harder difficulties.
Command Roster: Just like in the other two games, Mass Effect 3 has this.
Tag Along Kid: Diana Allers, if Shepard chooses to let her report from the Normandy.
Concealment Equals Cover: Semi-averted. You can take cover behind some seemingly ridiculous objects, such as glass panes (though the glass is implied to be bulletproof). However, cover in this game is split into thick and thin. With high level Armor-Piercing Ammo or penetration weapons mods, a gun can shoot through thin cover. A few extremely powerful rifles can do this without mods. Stick the ammo or the mods on one of these guns, and you can shoot enemies through foot-thick metal walls.
This is taken to a ludicrous extreme in multiplayer, where a properly specced Javelin sniper rifle can punch through 5.95 meters of solid metal and concrete. There isn't cover in the game even remotely thick enough to stop that.
A few powers in multiplayer also pass through solid objects.
If you have imported a save from the previous games, nearly every mission will have you meeting old friends, fighting old enemies, visiting major locations you have spent the last two games only reading about in the codex, and seeing a Continuity Nod everywhere you look. If you are new to the series, the game will adjust itself accordingly, making such continuity knowledge largely unnecessary.
Conrad's sidequest specifically brings up three incredibly minor and unrelated sidequests from the first game in such rapid succession and the ending changes based on another, also fairly minor, also unrelated quest.
Converse with the Unconscious: After Ashley/Kaidan is hospitalized by Dr. Core, Shepard can visit him/her in Huerta Memorial Hospital on the Citadel and speak to him/her while unconscious.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Rodriguez, one of the biotic students at Grissom Academy. Despite being nervous and unsure of her abilities, it appears she has the highest biotic potential there, with datapads found through the mission indicating Cerberus has flagged her as their priority target. Turns out to lean more towards Informed Ability, as she ends up being the Distressed Damsel of the Grissom Academy mission, getting wounded on the way to the shuttles, and nearly getting left behind.
The Reapers vs. Earth. According to the Codex entry "The Fall of Earth", the Reapers conquer the planet in a matter of hours. While escaping Earth, players will see that the previously enormous fleet that was gathered in orbit around Earth has been completely devastated, and we later learn that Arcturus Station (the Systems Alliances' capital) was destroyed, along with the entire Second Fleet. Many of the battles that directly involve Reapers turn into this. The batarians got steamrolled right at the beginning so quickly that many people don't even know what has happened to them until the Reapers are smashing through Earth's defenses. Thessia, home of the asari, falls. Indeed, only the turians, who have the most powerful military in the galaxy, manage to partly avoid this fate, turning the battle for their homeworld into a Hopeless War instead.
In the final level Harbinger personally appears to kill the entire ground force heading to the conduit to the Citadel, wiping the entire area clean in seconds. Only Shepard and Anderson survived, and Shepard cannot even walk properly afterwards.
At the end of Leviathan, we get to see the Leviathans kill a Reaper. It's not so much a battle as it is the Leviathans firing up multiple enthrallment spheres and willing the Reaper to literally drop dead.
Curbstomp Cushion: Every species who faced the Reapers mounting a full-scale invasion had their armies destroyed within hours and reduced to a planetary guerrilla force at best. The turians were able to hold out almost the entire rest of the game, and with the krogan backing them up, actually managed a major victory.
Curse Cut Short: Jack repeatedly does this to herself in order to maintain a professional appearance in front of her students. One notable exchange between her and Joker ends with a Hard Cutto Black.
Jack: Okay kids, cover your ears! Hey Joker, f—
Custom Uniform: Ashley's doesn't even remotely resemble other Alliance uniforms. Then again, she's on a fast track to Spectre status.
Cutscene Power to the Max: If a squadmate enters a cutscene wielding a single shot weapon like the Widow, they can be seen firing it like a machine gun. In gameplay, this would cause any foe to melt within a single second. Alternatively, they'll simply be seen using a weapon they weren't carrying.
Thane activates his gun right next to Kai Leng, giving Kai Leng an opportunity to whip around and knock Thane's gun away. Being a trained assassin, it's surprising Thane didn't already have his gun activated before entering hostile territory, or at least have stood back far enough to prevent Kai Leng from turning around and disarming him. Another unnerving aspect of this scene has him using his biotics merely to knock Kai Leng down temporarily, instead of either protecting himself or doing more significant damage to Kei Leng.
Instead of slamming the brakes or spinning the squad car during the Cerberus Citadel coup and letting inertia or centrifugal force do the rest, Shepard pops the hatch and shoots wildly at Kai Leng out of a moving flying car.
Even in his dying moments, Kai Leng induces this. Shepard, essentially a Space Navy SEAL, somehow doesn't have the sense to double-tap Kai Leng note like s/he made sure to do with Saren while he lies there in the Illusive Man's office, and instead, Shepard and company turn their backs on him. Shepard also ignores his heavy breathing, loud footfalls, and the scraping of his sword as he approaches, and only catches on just in time to dodge/break Kai Leng's sword and stab Kai Leng, finishing him off.
More generally, whenever Shepherd is being bombarded by falling debris or attempting to manipulate a just out-of-reach object, he or she may or may not conveniently forget how to use their hypothetically-existent biotics for the benefit of the classes who don't have them.
Cyberspace: You enter the geth consensus in one of the missions. Legion helps by filtering the experience into something Shepard's mind can comprehend, though.
Paragon and Renegade interrupts were rebound from R2 and L2 to R1 and L1 in the PS3 version. Might cause you to miss one or two.
In multiplayer, different characters have their powers mapped to different hotkeys.
The Wii U version keeps sprinting/taking cover/interaction on the A button and melee on the B button, just like the Xbox 360 version, despite the fact that the buttons are arranged in the opposite position on the Wii U.
Dance Party Ending: The Citadel DLC, chronologically set before the ending but the last piece of content released, ends with one of these involving every surviving team member from all three games.
Mordin sings "Model Of A Scientist Salarian" during a scene onboard the Normandy after the Sur'Kesh mission. He later repeats the same song to keep himself calm as the Shroud implodes on Tuchanka during the genophage cure dispersal. Immediately following that, a reprise of the original Mass Effect 1's menu theme "Vigil" plays.
During the end credits, a slower (and slightly more unnerving) version of "Leaving Earth" plays as the final track.
Faunts (who provided "M4 Part II" as ME1's ending credits music) returns to provide the music for the end credits, although now with the much darker and bleaker sounding "Das Malefitz".
Darker and Edgier: The number of dead is in the millions already. Trillions more lives are at stake. The developers have said they want to make this game edgier, but still with more humor, as well. Liara is literally darker, as well as personality-wise. Word of God says it's intentional.
Darkest Hour: The entire game could be seen as this for the whole Milky Way, but one point in particular stands out. Right after the Thessia mission: Thessia falls to the Reapers, Shepard fails on his/her mission to recover the crucial data to finish the Crucible and the Reapers are curbstomping everywhere, with even the turian fleet now in full retreat from Palaven. It's even darker considering Shepard just came from his/her resounding victory on Rannoch.
David Versus Goliath: The 3 times you have to go up against a Reaper Destroyer on foot in the game. The first time the goal is to Summon Bigger Fish, the second time you have to paint the weak point for an orbiting fleet to bring it down, and the third time you launch missiles from an abandoned tank at the same weak point.
Dawn of an Era: The extended cut endings all present a new era for the galaxy, although Synthesis is the most dramatic shift. If you and Wrex cured the genophage, the krogan get their cultural renaissance. If you made geth-quarian peace and don't pick Destroy, they manage to share Rannoch.
Joker loves doing this, and EDI tries this, with mixed results. She gets better later.
Garrus embodies this. He is rarely serious but always remains stoic (although his jokes are more of Gallows Humor variety).
Javik, of a more jerkassed, angry variety.
Death of the Hypotenuse: With Thane and potentially every other ME2 love interest if you cheated on your ME1 love interest with them. Miranda also dies if you decide to rekindle your ME1 romance after being with her in 2.
Defcon Five: Averted in an email, stating about the traffic emergency and the Alliance declaring SABER One (presumably the equivalent of DEFCON in ME) when the Reapers invaded Earth.
Defector from Decadence: It seems that not all of Cerberus is in lockstep with the Illusive Man's apparent vault off of the slippery slope. Your War Assets have a whole folder dedicated to "Ex-Cerberus". Jacob and a bunch of security and science personnel have officially severed ties with the Illusive Man and have holed up on Arrae. Rescuing them adds to your War Assets — the science team helps the Crucible Project, while Jacob becomes an anti-Cerberus consultant for the Alliance. Also, the Rebellion pack adds Cerberus Defectors as playable characters.
Emily Wong, dying of wounds inflicted while reporting on the Reapers, rams her skyvan into one at high speeds.
Rila, one of Samara's Ardat-Yakshi daughters, realises she is indoctrinated and manages to hold onto her own senses long enough to stare down a Banshee and blow them all to hell.
Rila: We're not your slaves!
In the Extended Cut, in the Refusal ending you refuse to take part in the Catalyst's plans and state that you, and all life, will die on their own terms rather than play its games.
The Dead Have Names: The Normandy gets a memorial wall, which lists the names of every single crew member that died over the course of the trilogy. Except Kelly Chambers if she is killed by Cerberus, or Zaeed Massani.
Deadly Lunge: Husks and Abominations, when close, can quickly grapple with a Player Character, doing continuous damage while engaged so, and necessitating rapid button-mashing to throw them off. In the Citadel DLC, the Mysterious Figure will do this as well.
Death from Above: Shepard kills one of the smaller Reapers by calling down orbital strikes from the entire quarian fleet.
Death or Glory Attack: The new Vanguard ability, Nova, takes down your barriers to deliver a powerful Shockwave Stomp. Fortification (available for certain Soldiers) also buffs your melee damage when deactivated now. As in the second game, Tech Armor (along with almost all other 'armor' abilities) can be detonated.
Degraded Boss: The Atlas mech is encountered as a boss during Priority: Sur'Kesh. They are encountered on later missions as normal enemies. This can be oddly reversed if the From Ashes DLC is downloaded (See Sequence Breaking).
As of the "Retaliation" multiplayer expansion, the Collectors are back as an enemy faction - and they've brought their Praetorians with them. Lots and lots of Praetorians. There are more Praetorians in a single bronze mission than there were in the entirety of ME2, including the ones seen during cutscenes and the attack on the Normandy. They gained a plethora of new abilites, but thankfully lost the ability to restore full barrier strength several times in each battle. They'll still ruin your day, but not as much as their previous incarnation.
Most of the Mass Effect 2 squad members fall here. Garrus and Tali are the only ones to return as full squad members and most only appear in optional, albeit somewhat long and involved, side missions, although a few (Mordin and Legion; Miranda and Thane to some extent) play more significant roles.
Harbinger does not have any lines in this game, despite being a recurring antagonist and frequent talker in the previous game. In the Extended Cut's endgame, he makes a weird noise that sounds vaguely like a phrase, but that's it.
Morinth, if she survived Mass Effect 2. You get an email from her in which she apologizes for vanishing from the Normandy and strongly hints that she is presently active in some city governed by the Alliance. She also sends emails to her sisters. But in person? During the final battle, after blowing up the AA gun in London you will encounter a lone banshee...named Morinth. The only difference from standard banshees is the name, which is only visible when targeting her; she has the same stats and behavior as a normal banshee.
It's also possible for Jack and Legion to be demoted to semi-unique enemies depending on your choices.
The Blood Pack, Blue Suns, and Eclipse mercenary bands provided the bulk of Shepard's opponents in the previous game, but in this one their roles are reduced to appearing in one side-quest apiece. (And Shepard doesn't fight them, since the point of the side-quests is to recruit them for the war effort.)
Derelict Graveyard: In the Leviathan DLC, the ocean planet where the Leviathans live has dozens of crashed ships visible on the surface, and that's just the ones that are still floating. The Leviathans hit incoming ships with an EMP of some kind to ground them, then, if the crew survives, they make sure the hapless castaways find the indoctrination spheres. Then they never want to leave. Ever.
Despair Event Horizon: All over the place, usually ending badly. Tali or Admiral Raan, if the geth wipe out the quarians; Gavin Archer from the Overlord DLC, if you sent his brother to Grissom Academy and then failed to save it in time; and your clone, when Brooks deserts them in the Citadel DLC, are the most obvious examples. On the bright side, you get to haul the krogan species back above it by curing the genophage.
Destructible Projectiles: It's possible for you to shot the missiles fired by geth rocket troopers out of the air. However, because of their speed, it's incredibly difficult; your best bet is to use a weapon with a high rate of fire, such as the Revenant, and pray.
Development Gag: In the Codex for the Reapers, it is explained that they were thought by some civilizations to be beings that consumed suns. This is a reference to the original purpose for the Reaper harvesting before Mass Effect 3 was written, and is what the dying star plotline with the Quarians was all about.
Diabolus ex Machina: Literally. Harbinger's unexpectedly accurate beam attack puts an end to the tentatively optimistic tone of the final battle.
Diagonal Cut: The N7 Shadow in multiplayer uses a Flash Step to get behind her opponents, then unleashes one of these with her FlamingHot Blade. As this ability benefits from both things which boost melee damage and things which boost power damage, the right build can turn this into a One-Hit Kill on anything short of a Mini-Boss.
EDI: Organics do not see me as a threat. Nor will they until my day of reckoning. (beat) Did I vocalize that on the bridge? Legion: You have acquired the organic attribute of asking questions to which you already know the answers.
Died in Your Arms Tonight: If Miranda succumbs to her wounds from Kai Leng she dies in Shepard's arms; if you were in a romance with her, they admit their love and kiss one last time just before she dies.
Dies Wide Shut: If Thane dies, he passes away like this, and Shepard mournfully closes his eyes. However, due to a bug, they stay open in the next shot.
Director's Cut: The Extended Cut DLC elaborates on the questions left unanswered and the choices you make in the ending. It also modifies previous footage, including showing the mass relays being simply damaged (such as the spinny thing breaking apart instead of the entire relay) rather than exploding and making the Normandy's crash landing on a random planet not look nearly as destructive, allowing them to make repairs and leave if your War Assets were high enough.
Disintegrator Ray: The Prothean Particle Rifle. A few other weapons act similar in that they disintegrate enemies killed by them.
Provided you earned Grunt's loyalty in the previous game, he can survive his charge into the enemy.
Provided you had enough War Assets, during the climax your squadmates vanish after Harbinger's attack during the run towards the Conduit. During the ending scene, they are inexplicably on the Normandy and unharmed. This was changed in the Extended Cut, which addressed how they changed location.
Wrex: Krogan dances usually involve more headbutts. And blood. And no actual dancing.
Distant Finale: The post-credits cutscene takes place far enough in the future after the Final Battle that humanity regards the player character as The Shepard, implying that the events of the game have become little more than a legend.
Distracted by the Sexy: Shepard's love interest at the start of the Citadel DLC. "Nice outfit..." Since Liara is the default rescuer, she can potentially do this even if she is not Shepard's love interest.
In the Citadel DLC, if your Shepard has romanced Kaidan, when Kaidan is cooking during their date he is distracted enough by Shepard's presence to burn the garlic. Lampshaded as Shepard catches him and suggests they use hot sauce instead.
Do I Really Sound Like That?: The Shepard VI mentioned in the second game makes an appearance. Its dialogue options depend on whether the player character is primarily Paragon or Renegade. After going through all available sequences, the real Shepard questions if s/he really does sound like that.
There's also a moment of this in the Citadel DLC with Clone Shepard, who says Shepard's trademark "I should go" as s/he leaves the team to die. Shepard spends the rest of the cutscene demanding to know why nobody ever mentioned that s/he says that all the time.
The game opens with Shepard escaping from the destruction of Vancouver, Kaidan Alenko's hometown, and learning about the initial Reaper landings in London, where Anderson was born.
On the mission on Palaven's moon, Garrus points out the largest of the orange splotches covering his home planet and mentions that his hometown was there.
The Normandy never visits Armali, Liara's home on Thessia, but the Thessia mission ends with the fall of the entire planet.
Doomed Moral Victor: The fourth ending added by the Extended Cut DLC makes Shepard this. Shepard tells off the Catalyst and refuses to go along with its choices, allowing the Cycle to continue as your conventional forces are not nearly enough to win the battle on their own. The Reapers are still eventually defeated by the next cycle, though, thanks to the information in Liara's time capsule.
Downer Beginning: With human outposts on Mars and Luna going dark, Reapers landing on Earth in the hundreds if not thousands and Shepard leaving Anderson behind, forced to flee from a now Reaper-occupied planet, it is hard to say this is anything but.
Downer Ending: If you do really poorly, then the Crucible misfires and destroys most of the life on Earth.
If you do as well as you possibly can, then it will be possible for you to end the threat of the Reapers one way or another while avoiding the consequences described above, but to make that hapen you must still kill either Shepard or EDI. If you made sure that the geth survived earlier in the game, then choosing to sacrifice EDI also condemns the geth to genocide.
By repeatedly returning to the hospital and passing by a certain pair of asari, you can hear the story of a spec-ops soldier whose mission failed spectacularly, all because she took a shower and left her gun in her room. She repeatedly asks for a gun through the whole conversation, which you can grant her on Spectre authority. She uses it to kill herself.
Tali, if you side with the geth over the quarians, resulting in the genocide of the latter. Or if you fail to Take a Third Option. If Tali died on the suicide mission then Admiral Shala'Raan takes her place.
Rana Thanoptis, the asari scientist you spared on Virmire in Mass Effect 1. It turns out that she did not get out in time to avoid being indoctrinated after all.
Gavin Archer, should you choose not to tell him the fate of his brother at Grissom Academy. Overcome with guilt over his actions back in the Overlord DLC, he will pull out a pistol and end his own life.
If Kelly Chambers survived Mass Effect 2, she will later confess to you that she sent communiques to the Illusive Man behind your back concerning all the things she had learned about you and your crew. If you snap at her for doing so, she will break down into ashamed tears, and you will hear about her killing herself by cyanide capsule.
The Illusive Man, if you can talk him into figuring out he is indoctrinated. A nice callback to how you could get Saren to do the same in the first game.
On Sur'Kesh, a yahg prisoner escapes the salarian confinements and runs off in front of your party. If Liara is in your party, you can remark that it might just be the next Shadow Broker, and if Garrus is present he can joke about it muttering "T'Soni!" Liara does not find either comment funny.
After the fall of Thessia, Joker says that he bets the asari wish they had more commandos and fewer dancers. Shepard is not amused.
Dynamic Loading: A fairly obvious example on board the Normandy. Every time you pass.between the war room and the CIC, you have to pass through a kind of security checkpoint. This is to allow the game tome to access the online war readiness information should you access that particular console, or to purge said info from the active memory, depending on direction.