Meet your new best friend/horrible tormentor, insect.
"L-l-look at you, hacker. A p-p-pathetic creature of meat and bone, panting and sweating as you r-run through my corridors-s. H-h-how can you challenge a perfect, immortal machine?"
System Shock by Looking Glass Studios was a groundbreaking First-Person Shooter with Survival Horror and RPG Elements set in a Cyber Punk future. It wasn't exactly a smashing success in sales, but it produced a sequel that was probably one of the best FPSes in history and spawned one of the most memorable villains in all of video games.In the first game, a character known for the most part only as "The Hacker" is caught breaking into the mainframe of your typical cyberpunk megacorporation, and is offered a chance at freedom and a prime-grade neural interface in return for performing nonstandard modifications to the Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network (or SHODAN), the AI on the corporation's space station. After coming out of the six-month coma needed to heal from his surgery, the Hacker finds that SHODAN has gone absolutely insane after having her ethical controls removed, and has transformed the entire crew into cyborgs and mutated monsters devoted entirely to her. The Hacker stops SHODAN from destroying the earth and wipes her completely from the database.The sequel, made in collaboration with Irrational Games, founded by former LGS employees, is set 42 years later; due to the events of the first game, anti-Mega Corp. outrage resulted in formation of Unified National Nominate, the quasi-socialist world government. After UNN (albeit under TriOptimum grant) scientist Marie Delacroix discovers the secret of faster than light travel, UNN and TriOptimum mount a joint mission to Tau Ceti. note (Which may or may not have been a Shout-Out to Bungie's Marathon which was also set in Tau Ceti and was contemporary to release of the original System Shock.) The game involves the maiden voyage of the Von Braun, the first ship with FTL Travel equipped, accompanied by the UNN Rickenbacker. The game begins with the awakening of the player character, a cybernetically-enhanced soldier, from cryosleep to receive a small amount of exposition from a voice identified as a surviving member of the Von Braun's crew, and then immediately has to escape his sick room that has been exposed to space, beginning his long adventure in avoiding his own death.The original, floppy disc-based version of System Shock played fast-and-loose with SHODAN's gender. Several times the evil computer was described as a "he", and the character art was ambiguous. From the CD version onwards SHODAN was explicitly female, voiced with cool command by Terri Brosius. A combination of superior scripting and excellent voice acting transformed SHODAN from a stock villain into a memorably sexy computer dominatrix from hell; she is by far the most memorable character in the series, and is considered one of the best video game villains in general.Both System Shock and System Shock 2 received critical acclaim, but neither was a commercial success due to release dates that pitted the games against strong competition: System Shock was sadly lost amongst the hype for Doom II and Marathon, and System Shock 2 went up against the equally groundbreaking Half-Life. Still, the games have endured, and even spawned a spiritual sequel in BioShock and, more indirectly, Dead Space. A third game was briefly rumored with a 2006 trademark renewal and claims by PC Gamer UK, then disappeared. It is unlikely that Irrational, as a part of 2K Games, can even work on another title in the series because of the complicated situation with the various parts of the IP.After this legal tangle went unsolved for around a decade, Night Dive Studios acquired the Digital Distribution rights to System Shock 2 and had it released on GOG.com, and thanks to an agreement between them and Valve, it is also on Steam.
This game series contains examples of the following tropes:
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Some inversion, here; all of the artificial intelligences you meet in the games happen to be antagonists of some stripe, though both SHODAN and XERXES require serious outside intervention before they become dangerous. SHODAN's pre-Hacker audiologs and records say she's exemplary from what you find, and the only reason XERXES is dangerous is because he's an obedient, faithful, efficient AI under the control of forces hostile to the player.
Almost Dead Guy: Almost everybody else who isn't dead already, or trying to kill you.
Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Edward Diego left a log that has him begging SHODAN to spare him. To make this even more pathetic, almost right next to the log is another log that had him bragging to Tri-Optimum investigators after he had the Citadel's defense system shoot down the shuttle with another team of investigators, arrogantly stating that he is untouchable with SHODAN under his control. The dates of logs are roughly two weeks apart.
Always Close: You always get to the bridge level just before it jettisons itself from self-destructing Citadel Station.
An Economy Is You: Justified, since all replicators had been re-programmed for war long before you woke up and, well, those who can use them who are still alive and unmutated - including you - can be counted on your fingers.
And I Must Scream: The fate of human halves of the Hybrids. Some of them exert whatever little control they have left over what used to be their bodies to implore you to kill them - even as they advance toward you and try to tear you to shreds.
The cyborg midwives are possibly even worse. Researching them indicates that an implant at the top of the spine overrides all nerve impulses coming from the brain, which itself is left intact. This means they are completely aware of what is happening while unable to control their own bodies.
Animal Testing: Hundreds of chimps are on the Von Braun for this reason. Unfortunately for the crew, they got sentient and gained psychic powers as a bonus.
Apocalypse How: Citadel Station has enough goodies to allow SHODAN to try several kinds of Apocalypse, and the Von Braun's reality-warping hyperdrive allows for Class X-2... and beyond.
Arm Cannon: Various enemies have their arms replaced with weapons, and the maintanace/security/assault robots in the sequel.
Armor-Piercing Attack : Teflon rounds, slugs and penetrator ammo and Rail gun in the original. AP bullet ammo in the sequel.
Artificial Gravity: Well, the games are set in space, so it's a given. At one point in the sequel you are required to reverse it.
Artificial Stupidity: Security turrets have one job - shoot you. Simple enough. Hacked turrets, on the other hand...they have a simpler job: shoot everything not you. Unfortunately, someone at TriOp forgot to add unless you are standing in front of said 'not-you' person', or 'unless the rockets that I'm shooting off will blow me up'.
Ate His Gun: Ate his shotgun, if the position of said gun is any indication.
Janice Polito did the same after she accidentally released SHODAN.
Autodoc: Both games have automatic medical beds that heal you completely in an instant, and stations that will reanimate/regenerate a "killed" character, though in the first game these need to be reset so they won't turn him into one more cyborg instead.
Awesome but Impractical: The first game has several. The Rail Gun is powerful, but the explosion radius for the rounds is actually quite large, meaning you'll hurt yourself more often than not. The Earthshaker explosive has an explosion so powerful that it shakes the station when it goes off, but that also means that if you're anywhere near it, you'll be vaporized instantly.
Awesome yet Practical: The assault rifle. It takes a somewhat large investiture of cyber modules to unlock, but as long as you keep it fed with bullets, you'll basically never need another gun. Borders on Infinity+1 Sword.
Even better, the assault rifle uses the same .45 caliber bullets as the pistol, probably the second-most common weapon (only beaten by the shotgun, and only because many hybrids wield shotguns). So not only is the ammo very common and easy to find even from vending machines, but you can unload the ammo from any pistols you find to feed the superior weapon. It's not inconceivable that you'll end up with over 200 or 300 rounds by the time you end up on the Rickenbacker.
In the first game, depending on the level, energy weapons are this: for a relatively low expenditure of energy, you get relatively powerful, ammo-free weapons. The Sparq Beam is particularly useful for the first five levels (until you get a chance to retrieve a more powerful Blaster), and they can also save your precious bullets for shooting at actual targets, rather than at cameras and CPU cores.
Also, the laser rapier in the first game. Yes, it uses energy with each hit, but it is more powerful by far than most of the weapons you'll get for the next three or four decks. What it lacks in range, it makes up for with devastating efficiency.
Badass Bookworm: The Hacker, the protagonist of the first game, is an expert hacker who is also abnormally skilled with a wide variety of weapons and explosives.
It helps that he has a military grade neural interface installed in his brain, that probably conveys some skill with weaponry. The sequel makes the skill-boosting effects of the neural implant explicit, being the means by which the player gains skills via cybernetics. The item descriptions though indicate that such skill improvements are only temporary (lasting a few weeks) unless practiced extensively, particularly in high-stress situations such as the player might find themselves in.
Badass Normal: Dr. Marie Delacroix in the second game. She follows a similar path to the protagonist (but always just ahead), while managing to both survive and accomplish some important things without the benefit of his cybernetics or psychic powers (or even military training it appears). Also from SS2, military man Suarez, who manages to not only stay alive with only standard-issue cybernetics but escape with his civilian girlfriend to boot.
The Battle Didn't Count: Edward Diego teleports away when he is dealt enough damage, and goes down in the third fight.
Beef Gate: In the original, until you find better weapons and better shields, you will die constantly on upper levels. But the biggest obstacle is probably the radiation, particularly in the reactor level.
Boring but Practical: The Wrench in System Shock 2, especially on impossible difficulty where, depending on your character build, you cannot afford to spend the scarce cyber modules on more powerful weapons and skills.
The Hazard Suit gives you a massive boost to poison and radiation resistance. It tends to be a mainstay in your inventory once you get it.
Boxed Crook: The recently captured Hacker is offered freedom and a new neural interface by Edward Diego if he removes ethical restraints from Citadel Station's AI, SHODAN. (For added irony, breaking into Trioptimum's computers for data on Citadel was what got him arrested.)
Brainwashed and Crazy: Almost everyone who was later infected by a parasite was first subjected to mind control.
Breakable Weapons: Fortunately, they're also repairable. Seeing how in this game ranged weapons are as tough as wet cardboard, it's one of the cruelest examples of this trope.
A number of mods change the weapon degradation rate and nothing else. It's actually quite easy to do, and Word of God states that they had set it high on purpose, but didn't mean to set it that high.
Mods, hell. The official patch has an option to decrease weapon degradation, or disable it altogether.
Can quickly lead to Inventory Management Puzzle early in the game due to the player hoarding not only ammunition but multiple degraded or even broken pistols and shotguns in the hope that they can be repaired or discarded when used up.
Charged Attack: PSI-Disciplines can be charged for more powerful effect, but if you charge for too long, you will take damage for burning out unless you have the appropriate OS upgrade. High tier disciplines charge very quickly.
Chest Burster: According to one of the logs, the annelid worm first goes inside the body, pierces the chest from the inside and connects one of its ends to the head of victim.
Colonel Badass: He is not a a colonel (actually, he is higher in rank, but mostly acts like a captain), but UNN commander William Diego is pretty badass, even retaining some of it after assimilation, and then managing to fight the assimilation off. Son of Edward Diego, he must've called the old man out, as he's become a high-ranking UNN officer with hearty hatred for anything corporate. His audio log to Korenchkin is a CMOA for some:
Diego: Anatoly, there's only so much corporate calisthenics I can go through before I start to feel a little queasy, so let's get down to brass tacks here. We don't like each other. We each have our own motivations for undertaking this mission, so let me give you a little warning. I cannot be circumvented, I cannot be tricked, I cannot be manipulated, and I cannot be bought. You come at me straight and keep the fancy maneuvers for your next board meeting. Just because my father swam with the sharks doesn't mean that I do.
Diego is voiced by Stephen Russel, best known for voicing Garrett in the Thief series, and his voice for Diego is no less badass.
Colony Drop: SHODAN tries to do this with Citadel Station after the Hacker stopped all of her plans (and backup plans).
Computer Voice: XERXES is obviously male and SHODAN is obviously female. Although the latter tended to have some extra voices talk at the same time for the hell of it.
Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: Dr. Polito gives you gems like "You must move faster. Your mind cannot conceive of the stakes we are dealing with" regardless of your actual speed (being based on passing fixed points). Seeing as how she is really SHODAN, this makes sense.
It's even more egregious when you consider that given Newton's third law, the rest of Citadel Station would have to have moved with the same momentum in the opposite direction.
Annelid psionics. Or perhaps SHODAN accounted for the notion that the grove might be forcibly ejected and modified it so that it might find a solid body to land on... and none of the solar planets were in possible trajectory.
Control Room Puzzle: The original had the force bridge puzzle in this style. Some of the hacking minigames resembled this. The sequel had you making the improvised bridge with torpedoes.
Co-Op Multiplayer: In the sequel. Depending on the char-builds of the players, some formerly not so useful skills in the single-player became much more useful in co-op.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Edward Diego, who originally made the offer to the Hacker to meddle with SHODAN for his own gain, and later becomes a Dragon for her. Anatoly Korenchkin in the sequel, who started out as the gangster before buying out the diminished Tri-Optimum.
Closed Circle: Getting rid of the Big Bad is pretty much the only way to survive in both games, considering the settings.
Crippling Overspecialization: The Energy and Exotic weapons in the sequel, massacre everything mechanical and organic respectively, but are useless against everything else; especially evident in the last two levels since the first is purely organic (with some sightings of cyborg midwives), followed by a fully mechanical final level. Also kind of hard for the Soldier not to become this on Impossible difficulty, where skill upgrades are much more expensive and multi-classing is a bad idea.
Reversed by the near game-breaking assault rifle which, with its 25% damage bonus over the pistol, the additional 25% damage bonus of an optional (but free) "OS Upgrade" plus weapon modifications, can kill almost anything with a few shots thanks to the individually specialized "Armor Piercing" and "Anti-Personnel" rounds making the weapon supremely versatile. The only downside is the number of upgrade modules it takes to get to that point.
Critical Encumbrance Failure: You don't get any penalties, since you can't put more than you can carry. If you were using the Brawn Implant (increases Strength and therefore Inventory space) and it run out of juice, the excess items will be automatically dropped.
Critical Failure: This happens when you fail at hacking the ICE-nodes in SS2, the description even says the same thing.
Cyber Cyclops: The Cyber Assassins in the sequel, which have a horizontal visor where their eyes should be. Said visor has a little red light which oscillates back and forth, even after death. Remind you of anything?
Cyber Punk Is Techno : Hoo boy. But the soundtrack is excellent, especially in the second game. Courtesy of Eric Brosius, who also composed music for Shock's spiritual sister series, Thief.
Cyberspace: This is how the Hacker hacked things in the original, thanks to his new shiny military grade hack mod. In the sequel, the training suites in the military recruitment center at the beginning of the game take this form. By the end of the game, SHODAN basically tries to reshape reality to be like one.
Death by Cameo: Most of the characters were voiced by the production staff, so it happens all the time, just off-screen.
Death by Irony / Hoist by His Own Petard: The Many had created three specific weapons to combat the human threat that is opposing them. Problem is, the very weapons that they created also do as much damage as to themselves; they take a doubled amount of damage if you use these weapons against them.
Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Both games feature resurrection stations on most levels which bring the player back to life, though they need to be found and activated. Before that, they find your body and give it new life...
In the sequel, it also costs nanites (10 on Normal, which is twice the cost of healing at a surgical table). Not so bad, except that unless you have high Hack ranks, it tends to cost a lot for gear. As in 100 nanites for a measly dozen bullets.
Actually, once you're in the Body of the Many, there's no regeneration. If you die, you have to reload. In addition, if you don't find the regenerator on the level of the ship you're on, you die and have to reload. If you don't have enough nanites... you get the point.
Zigzagged in Easy mode, where the nanite cost is negated. Completely played straight in Multiplayer mode where the cost is negated and you don't need to activate the Quantum Bio-Reconstruction Machines (you'll resurrect at the bulkhead you entered the area instead). Justified since Multiplayer is locked at Impossible difficulty.
The first game is both played straight, subverted and averted. Played straight in that once you activate the regeneration chamber, you can die as many times as you like on that particular level with no ill effects. Subverted in that some levels (particularly level 3 and level 6) revive with a bare minimum of health, meaning that reviving can actually be incredibly difficult if you don't have enough healing items. Averted (and twisted) in that the last two levels (level 8 security and level 9 bridge) are the hardest levels in the game and have no resurrection chambers. If you die, you're dead. It ups the difficulty significantly, considering you're used to being able to die and come back, and have been incorporating it into your strategy for the rest of the game.
Death Trap: SHODAN sets up a few surprising and actually very efficient ones in the first game. However, since she can't control regeneration chambers once you reset them, there is nothing to stop you going back and doing it again. For example, in one Antenna room, SHODAN closes the force door on you right after you set up the bomb to destroy it.
Decontamination Chamber: In Med section of deck 2. You just have to walk directly under the 'steam' coming out of the ceiling.
There's a decon chamber on Level R in the first game. It works exactly as advertised, but only for radiation poisoning. Biological poisoning will not be removed.
Defiant to the End: TriOptimum's internal security chief on the Von Braun, Melanie Bronson, goes out this way. After her brutal crackdown and execution of crew members subverted by The Many (and maybe a few more just suspected of such) a force of Many-influenced UNN soldiers goes to take her and her security team out. They make a Last Stand in her office, and she records her last audio diary entry while holding in her own guts, pledging to never let humanity fall to these monsters as the soldiers close in.
Deflector Shields: In the original, the large-scale shield is used to destroy the mining laser by firing it at the now point-blank range. The Hacker also has a personal variant. In the sequel, the OSA operatives can create one.
The personal deflector shield is also the single most draining mod you can slot. Especially at level 3, where it absorbs 50% damage but will drain your battery in less than a minute.
The Power Armor in the sequel also mentions that Deflector Shields are a core part of its defensive properties, which ends up being the "power" part of the Power Armor. If its batteries are drained, its protective quality is reduced to null until it can be recharged.
Diegetic Interface: As part of the cyber implants you recieve at the beginning of the game.
Die Hard on an X: Die Hard on a space station in the original. In the sequal, Die Hard on two space ships and a ship-sized Body Horror, the Body of the Many.
Difficulty Spike: In the original game, the first few cyberspace intrusions are relatively straightforward, but difficult because of the lack of programs and the very different interface you're presented with. Still, they're easily doable with a few repeated attempts. The problem is that later cyberspace intrusions are much more difficult, almost forcing you to take your time and carefully plan your hacks, but every failed hack (where your connection integrity was reduced to zero and forcibly booted you out) reduces your available time by 5 seconds. It's entirely possible to do somewhat poorly in the first few cyberspace hacks and completely screw yourself over much later in the game. It's always better to dump your connection instead of being forced out, but new players may not realize this until it's too late.
Disc One Nuke: Mild version in the form of bug that lets you to keep items from the training rooms.
Distress Call: The few surviving crew members of Von Braun set up the machine that would send a SOS to Earth, configured in such way that critically weakens XERXES when used. And of which SHODAN takes advantage of...
A transmission from Tau Ceti is one of many little things that caused the whole mess.
Also XERXES. His announcements usually praise the Many or warn you about the "machine-mother." But occasionally, he just wants to tell you about an upcoming poetry reading. Sometimes the two are even jumbled together in the same announcement.
Dominatrix: SHODAN has undertones of this in the sequel.
Doomsday Device: SHODAN had a mining laser that apparently could destroy everything on Earth (Then again, it was designed to work on Saturn in the first place) and the deadly virus (which without her supervising will evolve into The Many).
Eleventh Hour Superpower: The Annelid Worm Launcher has aspects of this, being located right before entering The Many and slaughters everything biological. But on the other hand it requires maxed skill in Exotic weapons and nearly maxed research skill to being able to use it, and becomes useless after you kill The Many.
Elite Mooks: The cyborgs on the cover of the original. The sequel had Red Ninjas, also the Hybrids on upper decks seem to fire, swing and throw faster.
Emergency Weapon: The Lead Pipe in the original. The Wrench, Laser Rapier and the Crystal Shard in the sequel, and depending on how you play, these can be the only weapons you will use barring some specific situations, especially the wrench.
EMP: The Magpulser from the original and, of course, the EMP rifle and EMP grenades in the sequel. All of these, as expected, utterly destroy everything robotic, and are also effective against cyborgs (except in the original where the damage is only mildly effective). However, they are absolutely useless against anything organic. In the sequel, this is a Weaksauce Weakness for the Final Boss.
Enclosed Space: The games are set in the space station and the space ship.
Both games made use of this for nearly all enemies; the sequel just did it way better.
Enemy Detecting Radar: In the original the higher versions of the map software allowed you to see enemies on the mini-map, and the results depended on which subsystem was using it: left (showed stationary enemies), right (showed them in motion only) or both (for both stationary and motion detecting). The sequel had a PSI-Discipline that produced the same results.
Enemy Mine: Basically the whole situation with SHODAN for the Von Braun crew.
Enemy Scan: The original has a targeting software which gave information on the enemy.
Energy Ball: Certain energy weapons in the original fire these, like the Magpulser. Any non-clip energy weapon will fire a beam, however.
Enter Solution Here: In the original, the Reactor Override code consists of 6 digits, each located at computer node rooms of the first 6 floors. Also, in the sequel to activate the SOS sending transmitter on the Recreational deck you need a code. The code is scattered across the recreational deck in those art-screens.
Escape Pod: The goal of various characters from both games. In the original, SHODAN prevents them from launching, effectively stranding you on self-destructing Citadel Station. In the sequel, you arrive just in time to see the one of them launch, destroy two of them filled with the Many, and use the final one to ram into The Many.
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Hacker and Soldier. In the backstory of SS 2, William Diego's rank is Rear Admiral, but everybody calls him Captain because that was his rank during the battle of Boston Harbor.
Evolutionary Levels: The main annelid life cycle is roughly like this: Egg > Parasitic worm > Human Host > Hybrid > Rumbler > Psi-Reaver. The alternate route is Hybrid > Spider, and some eggs have swarm bugs instead of worms.
Exploding Barrels: The sequel featured one memorable spot with a string of explosive and radioactive barrels leading from behind the only door in to halfway in the middle of the room. If enemy fire set them off before you were out of the blast range...
Not to mention the psychic powers in the sequel, where using Overload gives a chance for boosted range/damage, but if you time it wrong, you 'burn out' and take damage unless you picked up a specific O/S upgrade.
Eyeless Face: The Rumblers. The hanging remains of human bodies on their shoulders does not count.
Faster-Than-Light Travel: The Von Braun is a test of this technology. And SHODAN is really interested in the reality warping qualities of it.
Featureless Protagonist: Besides them being a Hacker and the Soldier, both of which are male, everything else is for your imagination.
Averted in the case of the Hacker, as his face is clearly visible in the first game's intro, though you never hear him speak, you can read a note he wrote for himself at the beginning of the game (which reinforces his characterization as a reckless black hat hacker). His name is whatever is typed in at the start of a new game. Also averted slightly for the Soldier, who only speaks a single word at the end.
Fetch Quest: In the sequel the first mission is to get to deck 4, but the elevator is not powered, so we need to get to Deck 1 first to reroute power from the engines, but the door to the maintenance shaft to deck 1 is locked and we need to find the guy who knows the code, but he is in the section that is locked off, so we need to find another guy with the keycard. Once on Deck 1, we need to fix the coolant tubes to get to the engine area, but the fluidics control is locked and we need to find the dame who knows the code, but to use the fluidics control we need to install the specific override on it, which is specified in the audio log that is located somewhere on this deck. Only then can you can go to the engines and reroute power to the elevator. Thankfully, it gets less complicated.
Fighter, Mage, Thief: the sequel manages a sci-fi take on this, thanks to its RPG Elements. At the start of the game, you choose whether to join the Marines, Navy, or OSA (PSI-Corps), each of which then lets you pick three specific missions that determine skills and ability scores. While technically you can purchase ranks in anything no matter which career you chose to start with, the scarcity of cyber modules (used to purchase skill ranks & stat boosts) and the high price of buying into a "cross-class skill" (10 cyber modules for the first rank... and you cannot do anything relating to that skill without at least one rank) tends to make it easier to play to the strengths of a "class". The Marine (Fighter) gets stat boosts, weapon skills and maintenance, the Navy (Thief) gets technical skills and some minor stat boosts, and the OSA (Mage) gets psychic powers and a few skills.
Final Boss Preview: The Many or to be more specific, its brain, even though the Many are not the final boss.
Firing One-Handed: The Melee weapons and the pistols. The Hybrids wield their weapons one-handed.
First Contact: What everybody assumed from the Tau Ceti transmission, and just another thing for Diego and Korenchkin to fight each other over getting more benefits from the Tau Ceti First Contact for UNN and Tri-Op respectfully.
Foreshadowing: Early in the Medical deck of the second game, you find a log from Doctor Polito talking about the chip they recovered, foreshadowing SHODAN's eventual introduction to the plot. The real foreshadowing, though, is the fact that the Polito in the log sounds nothing like the Polito you're talking to...
Once you get to the second level of the engineering deck, you will mysteriously be transported into the central structure of the Many's Womb Level for a brief dream sequence; it will show you all the more dangerous creatures of their ranks that you will later contend with. And the Womb Level that you're in? You WILL be forced to enter there at a much later part in the game.
Four Is Death: Goggles is in his 4th year of military service when he applies for transfer to UNN Rickenbacker.
Frickin' Laser Beams: Most of the energy weapons in the original are of the instant variant. The sequel plays it straight, but they belong exclusively to the enemy.
Functional Magic: The Psychic powers in the sequel are the combination of Inherent Gift (latent psychic powers) and Force Magic (Soldier's PSI energy} used through the Device Magic, The Psi-Amplifier. The creation of said amplifier helped to define various psychic powers into more concrete (and utilitarian) forms.
Game Mod: The game has a dedicated modding community that has improved the games, especially the second one.
There's a mod that can enable a mouse-look feature and higher resolution settings for the original game if you're running on a DOS system or a DOS emulator.
The second game has mods that can completely remake the game's textures, models, and fix other bugs and discrepancies, as well as fan-made missions.
Ghost Memory: There are ghosts replaying some moments, usually the last ones, of their lives. It's explained as a side-effect of having latent psi-abilities, and various experimental properties of the implant you had installed.
Ghost Ship: The Von Braun and the Rickenbacker, sort of, anyway - it's implied that there are a few dozen crewmembers left alive by the end of the game (out of the over 1,000 originally on board).
A God Am I: SHODAN explicitly refers to herself as such. She's too good at it, too.
Good News, Bad News: Io training facility description, where the good news is that spending the year here will build your endurance, the bad news is the 21.2% fatality rate. If you choose the Marine career, there is another bad news: you have to spend a year with those Navy sissies.
Harder Than Hard: The Impossible difficulty, especially with co-op gameplay (sure, there's more of you, but the amount of supplies available hasn't changed. Now instead of keeping all that ammo or those nanites for yourself, you have to share).
Heroes Prefer Swords: Considering that in the sequel using what would be considered emergency weapons in other games has many advantages (like keeping that rare, precious and expensive ammo) and the fact that half of them ARE swords...
The first game subverts this, though: the laser rapier is obscenely powerful, but very short range in a game where almost everything has a ranged attack, and every successful hit drains your (limited) battery, which is better used on your various cybernetic implants. In almost every respect, an energy beam is more efficient, and projectile weapons are superior. The laser rapier is really only good for level 3, where the semi-cloaked enemies die in one hit from it.
Hide Your Children: While it is in no way a stretch to assume there were never any children on Von Braun, there is a sign ("Adult must accompany child") that suggests there were.
Highly-Visible Ninja: Cyborg Assassins in the sequel, especially those three dressed in red. The original mostly averts this by placing them in hard to see nooks, like above the doorway you just passed. They also shoot their ranged projectiles (shuriken) completely silently, denying you even that small advantage. Even worse, the first place you encounter them in the game is a series of corridors on the way to activate the first regeneration chamber. You will die in there.
Hitbox Dissonance: Monkeys can only be hit consistently with the wrench (the weapon you will be using most of the time, as ammo is limited for most of the second game) from above is right on top of them (monkeys have Psychic Powers and are the first and most plentiful foe with a ranged attack). An upgrade for the player character's cybernetic OS allows him to execute overhand attacks with melee weapons (a shout-out to the game's predecessor, Thief, which uses the same engine), although this only helps a little and requires not taking other, much more useful, upgrades.
Hypocrite: The Many believe in the wonders of the flesh, and all of their creations and units are some kind of biological monstrosity... except the cyborg midwives, which they make by ripping apart flesh and replacing it with mechanical parts. The in-game explanation was that the Annelid eggs were toxic, which made it impossible for normal humans to tend to them; a cyborg was required for the task.
The Hypnotoad: The Annelids, in their most basic forms. They begin life as fragile eggs, which in turn hatch similarly fragile worms. Their only means of either defense or attack at this stage is their psychic ability to affect the minds of creatures around them in a More Than Mind Control manner. First the other creatures feel strangely drawn to the eggs, with a desire to examine them and understand them, which gives way to a desire to nurture the delicate little creatures and protect them. Eventually, the other creatures are invaded in their dreams and infected by the Annelids, and seek to join their flesh together, that together they may be Many.
The Infiltration: Two of OSA career paths involves this: One is a classical infiltrate a criminal organization (via carefully prepared Mind Wipe and Brainwashing even), the other is to attend the Io survival school without anybody knowing and to toy with the marines.
Insecurity Camera: In the original, SHODAN is already aware of the player, and thus cameras are only useful in helping determine the player's current location - destroying them makes it harder for SHODAN to figure out what's going on (although the real damage is by blowing up computer nodes). The sequel has alarm raising cameras, and has the justification of both the Anti-Crazy-AI measures introduced after the SHODAN incident in the original System Shock and the fact that XERXES is not exactly working properly.
To clarify, in the first game, in order to proceed unhindered, you have to lower SHODAN's control of each level. This involves destroying security cameras and computer nodes. The implication being that the less SHODAN can keep track of, the less she can control. Good luck finding every single camera, though...
Instant Expert: Handwaved in the second game with "cyber-modules". There are disclaimers that the skills gained will not usually be retained for very long, except perhaps under a very stressful situation.
Instant Sedation: Averted with the tranquilizer darts in the original, you need to shoot several darts to paralyze the target, doesn't lasts to long and wakes them up if you hit them.
A certain Psi skill in the sequel does much the same to robots.
The stun gun from the first game is entirely non-lethal, doing Exactly What It Says on the Tin. However, it only works on entirely organic enemies (cyborgs aren't affected and forget about robots), the stun doesn't last forever, and it consumes a disproportionate amount of battery power considering it doesn't kill things. Best dropped and forgotten.
Interface Screw: The final confrontation with SHODAN in cyberspace in the first game. You try to face her to fire, but you have to fight the controls to keep from twisting away. And then she starts replacing your vision with her glowing visage, pixel-by-pixel.
The Status Buff patches in the original gave this as a side effect, like Genius patches inverted the controls and the steroid patch inverted the colors.
One of the best patches in the game, the sight enhancer, is also the worst: it lets you see in the dark, but when it wears off, your vision is reduced as if you were in the dark even in a brightly lit area. For twice the length of the enhancement effect.
Rebecca Lansing: 2-4601, it's important that you don't forget...<cut off>
SHODAN: You h- You have entered my domain... R-Rebecca and Morris cannot help you now- NO ONE CAN.
Ironic Nursery Tune: SHODAN seems to have a thing for this, since random pieces of children songs are scattered in her dialogue.
It's All Upstairs from Here: Both games are basically this in structure, but particular stand-outs are The Security floor of Citadel Station and the UNN Rickenbacker. Subverted In the end of the sequel, where you have to go down to face SHODAN.
Justified Extra Lives: Quantum bioreconstruction chambers, just make sure you have some nanites before you die.
Regeneration chambers in the original. Just make sure you activate it, and don't get too used to them: the last two floors don't have them at all.
Justified Tutorial: These act as the recruitment aids for the military and can be skipped.
So can a large amount of the Von Braun if the player already knows the elevator code. The Von Braun occupies rouhgly 3/4 of the game, and can be seen as a huge training level to deal with the Rickenbacker.
Kaizo Trap: Inverted. In the original, when Shodan defeats you by completely filling your screen with herself, you still can steal the victory if you keep blindly attacking.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The first game is absent from any digital distribution method and almost impossible to find legally, and the only "legal" copies are second hand.
Getting an original, mint copy is one matter. Making it to work on 5th generation PCs is a whole different can of worms...
For the original System Shock, the fans created an enhanced version that runs on modern systems.
The sequel has several fan fixes, including a patch from an anonymous programmer (Based allegedly on leaked source code) that updates the engine. The GOG release comes with the patches already applied, so now SS2 can be bought not only fully compatible with all Windows up to 8, but also with support for very high resolutions, widescreen, mousewheel, and more.
Averted by System Shock 2, which has modern computer compatible releases through GOG.com and Steam.
Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Balance issues in the sequel made the energy weapons inferior to standard ones. The big advantage of the energy weapons, however, is the lack of ammunition, which is hard to find and expensive. If you can find an energy recharger, you can fire your energy weapon.
Knight Templar: Bronson. There is a ghost scene where her men are gunning down civilians who do not approve of the martial law.
La Résistance: The humans who survived the initial slaughter in both games.
Last Lousy Point: On the medical deck in the first game, there's a hidden door that conceals a Magnum 2100, which you normally wouldn't get until the Flight Deck some hours later. But to get it, you have to reduce SHODAN's control to zero, which requires destroying all cameras and CPU nodes. And finding all of them will drive you nuts (the medical deck has more cameras in more devious locations than any other deck in the game).
Last Stand: Both games have a lot of places where this occurred, like the last stand of Bronson and her men in the sequel.
Late to the Tragedy: In both games, you wake up after all hell has broken loose. This was because Looking Glass realized that the technology just wasn't ready to have realistic reactions and conversations with pesky living people. Conversations were possible in the spiritual ancestor Ultima Underworld, though. The main problem is the Dark Engine itself (used for Thief 1 & 2 as well as SS2). While it is technically capable enough, the editor is user-surly to the novice and a total mindscrew to comprehend. Coding in a believable friendly NPC would be an absolute nightmare. Fortunately, both games very effectively justified this trope.
LEGO Genetics: The description of Cybermodules says that they contain RNA info that changes the user.
Lightning Bruiser: The Rumblers are quick for their size. Also the Soldier on easy difficulty where the upgrades are cheap.
Load-Bearing Boss: Killing SHODAN in SS2 will result in the destruction of the faux-Citadel Station, justified because it's her will that changes and maintains the altered reality.
Locked Door: Lots of them. Some can be hacked, but others need keycards, codes or plot advancements to be opened.
Access denied by SHODAN level security.
One particular secret door on the first level can only be opened if level security is reduced to zero. Because there are many secret passages and cameras are actually quite well hidden, getting to zero is very difficult. If you can get in there, though, you can get the Magnum 2100, a powerful gun you otherwise wouldn't get until level 3.
Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair: Prefontaine, the scientist captured by The Many, studied the biomass and remarked how in mere 40 years of evolution The Many conquered the starship, humanity's mightiest creation. Also, the whole second game can be somewhat viewed like this.
Madness Mantra. System Shock 2. The Hybrids, when not attacking, piteously ponder "We are? We are?" and "What... happened to me?", and when they attack, they either apologetically shout "I'm sorry! Run! RUN!" or growl "You are not one of us!" or "You cannot see!" The Cyborg Midwives are even creepier, walking around talking about caring for "the little ones" and shrieking whenever in combat.
Master of Unlocking: You're the hacker in the first game, duh. And this seems to be one of the Navy's specialties, though others can also learn the hacking skill.
Matter Replicator: The Replicators that act like vending machines. One of the PSI-Disciplines allows you to do this, except on Psi hypos.
Mega Corp.: Tri-Optimum. Unusually, they are played as being fairly benign in the first game, as Diego was under investigation by their internal affairs department, and your Mission Control works for them as a counter-terrorism consultant - they're also willing to let you blow up their several trillion credit station to get rid of SHODAN.
Mook Maker: While the Cyborg-Conversion units didn't actually spawn mooks, reseting them to restoration option decreased the spawning rate for cyborgs. And increased the spawning rate for mutants. Whoops!
Morality Chip: SHODAN's ethical constraints, before the hacker removes them.
Muggles: The Psy-operatives refer to non psy-talented as "Mundanes".
Multinational Team: The crew of Von Braun. Of the named crewmembers there are at least one Frenchwoman, one Russian, three spaniards or/and latin-americans and one of Chinese ancestry.
So, giving SHODAN control of the ship by crippling XERXES, co-opting the simulation units and the ship's engine core and killing The Many means that SHODAN now has control of a device which can reprogram reality. Epic job breaking it, hero.
Both of the protagonists didn't have much choice in the matter (Rest of the life in prison for the Hacker and being assimilated into The Many for the Soldier are not pleasant alternatives).
In straight example, that Hacker can cause the demise of the human race if he isn't careful in his attempt to disarm the mining laser.
No Paper Future: Averted in the original, but played straight in the sequel.
The nano-based 'money' would be a vast improvement over traditional currency as the nanites themselves are used in the creation of items. Nobody can cheat the laws of physics, thus counterfeiting money would be nigh-useless.
Nothing Is Scarier: There are some places that you expect to have enemies, to be ambushed in, SOMETHING, only to turn out to be empty, and when you expect something on the way out, it is the same. Paranoia Fuel doesn't help either.
Nonstandard Game Over: Foolishly flipping switches aboard Citadel Station can result in firing the station's superweapon at Earth!
On Hard plot difficulty, you have a hard time limit of six hours to complete the game. There is no way to increase this time limit, and if it runs out...
Notice This: In the sequel, items that can be interacted with are highlighted by thin green rectangle if the cursor is moved over them.
No OSHA Compliance: Justified. In the backstory revealed by audio logs, it stated that Von Braun had so much corner cutting that the passengers are wondering how the damn wreck is still moving. Even the security system didn't escape cutting corners, if the XERXES singing Elvis Presley songs for hours courtesy of some hacker is any indication.
Nothing Is Scarier: Silence. It means nothing is close to get you... for now. You will drive yourself mad keeping an ear out for the slightest noise that indicates the presence of an enemy. Or worse, a softly sung lullaby...
Numerical Hard: Everything's more expensive, bonuses are less valuable, you are more killable etc.
The original averts this; you can set individual elements of the game higher or lower. Hard plot difficulty adds a time limit to the game, hard combat makes enemies more powerful and better protected, hard puzzles increases the difficulty of all the various minigames, and hard cyberspace introduces control difficulty in cyberspace, along with stronger intrusion countermeasures.
One Nation Under Copyright: Tri-Optimum comes pretty close, although it does have some competitors. The manual of the first game states that there is law that if the 66% of population of given region are corporate employees, the corporation has a right for extraterritorial rule. Tri-Optimum this way got nearly all of the USA under its control.
Organ Drops: Which you can research for 25% damage bonus, assuming you can find the chemicals necessary.
The original has three Garden Groves, one of which must be jettisoned,note (which becomes a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero moment if you know what happens in the sequel) after which you obviously can't enter it.note There are a few unique items in the grove that you jettison, but the extremely high rate of biological toxification, even with the level 2 hazard suit, makes exploration a risky prospect. There's nothing in there you can't get later, either. Later, the Bridge level jettisons itself with you on board from the self-destructing Citadel Station.
The sequel has one at the very beginning of the game (which can be averted to perform some Sequence Breaking). Another point is ramming into the Body of the Many, another one is jumping down the hole to fight the brain.
Power Crutch: The Psi-Amp in the sequel, allowing you to use PSI-Disciplines.
Power Source: The energy meter in the original, which was used as ammo for energy weapons and to power-up your accessories. In the sequel power-based equipment has their own batteries. Both games have recharge stations.
Pride: Man, SHODAN has a excess of this, to the point that she looked somewhat pleased that The Many, the biological species created by her, were able to take over UNN Rickenbacker, not because it was able to, but because it was HER creation that was able to, after spending almost the entire game describing how she hated it in most detailed fashion.
Psychic Block Defense: The Soldier seems to have this, since the backstory established that just being near the eggs is enough to for The Many control the victim. It's heavily implied that the Many can't control the Player Character because of his brain implant.
Psychic Nosebleed: Overcharging the PSI-Disciplines cause this, unless you installed a specific O/S Upgrade.
Psychic Powers: The OSA operatives got a lot of them. The worms got them too. And the monkeys.
Public Service Announcement: XERXES likes to do these. In the original, SHODAN left an automated "good morning" response for the Hacker from when she was pretending to be under control.
Puzzle Boss: SHODAN in the sequel. She is protected by a shield which you must disable by hacking the three terminals with a high hacking skill or an ICE pick (whilst avoiding her digital minions in the process to minimize health loss). After hacking the terminals, the shield drops allowing you to attack unopposed. Cutting the Knot is also possible, as demonstrated with the speedrun firing EMP grenades.
Ransacked Room: In one of her logs Dr. Polito says that her office was ransacked.
Reality Warper: The Von Braun's FTL drive functions by breaking down local reality and restructuring it into conditions which allow for faster-than-light travel. SHODAN repurposes it in an attempt to make her godhood quite literal.
Real-Life Relative: SHODAN is voiced by Terri Brosius, wife of Eric Brosius, sound engineer and composer of System Shock 2. (She, too, was a Looking Glass employee at the time.)
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: SHODAN spends half the time conversing with you, including the time you are working for her and you are referred to as the Avatar of SHODAN, telling you why you are pathetic, inferior and why you suck.
Remember... that it is my will that guided you here. It is my will that gave you your cybernetic implants: the only beauty in that meat you call a body. If you value that meat, you will do as I tell you.
The Reveal: When the player heads up to Deck 4 to see Polito. "The Polito form is dead, insect. Are you afraid? What is it you fear? The end of your trivial existence? W-wh-whe-whe-when the history of my glory is written, your species shall be but a footnote to my magnificence. (the walls fold away in Polito's office)... I AM SHODAN".
Reverse Polarity: You have to do this with the Rickenbacker's gravity drive, in order to bypass what would otherwise be a guaranteed death trap.
Self-Destructing Security: In the second game, if you trigger an ICE node while hacking open a security crate, you set off a built-in explosive charge, destroying the crate and its contents (and on any difficulty higher than Easy, probably killing you in the blast as well).
Self-Destruct Mechanism: Citadel is equipped with one, and and the Von Braun's engines can be overloaded to achieve the same effect. Although the latter was just a ruse.
Sentry Gun: Turrets, and they can be hacked to shoot at the enemies.
Sequence Breaking: Since the door keycodes are never randomized (as they are read out loud on the audio logs), knowing them beforehand will let you skip most of the Med/Sci deck. Blocking the door for the room with the first energy recharger also qualifies, as it lets you recharge a critical item without navigating through the deck.
Soft Water: There is a section in the sequel that requires you to fall down from very high to the water.
Soundtrack Dissonance: A perhaps unintentional example. The pounding techno music that plays when you enter the Med-Sci wing near the beginning of System Shock 2 seems made to pump the player up to run and gun. This is all well and good, but by this point in the game the player will not even have a gun, and are fairly weak just starting out. The need to move carefully and be selective at this point can really clash with the action-packed music.
Spaceship Girl: SHODAN is the spacestation girl, then became the spaceship girl at the end of the sequel.
A Space Marine Is You: especially in the sequel, in which the player character actually joins the military in the beginning of the game. A little Played With though, in that they are not necessarily a literal space marine (though they may well be.) They might also be a navy crewmen, or psi-ops agent, and the player's choice of career will affect the skills they start the game with and the approach they take to navigating the situation.
The Spartan Way: The Io training facility where the Marines, the Navy guys (to the annoyance of the Marines) and OSA operatives (to the ignorance of former two) train for the year to build their endurance. It has a 21.2% fatality rate.
Also, GLaDOS is often considered to be a spiritual successor to SHODAN.
Spoiler Opening: SHODAN's involvement was supposed to be the game's ultra major plot twist, but the fact that she shows up on the box cover completely gives that away.
Despite that, The Reveal came very sudden and completely unexpected for most players. Yes, you know SHODAN will be around. No, you never suspect her to be Polito.
Sprint Meter: The Fatigue indicator in the original. Interestingly, it takes the form of an EKG, monitoring your heart rate. When you start to run out of sprint energy, your HUD states that your heart rate is getting too high.
Status Buff: Various boosters, implants and Psychogenic PSI-Disciplines in the sequel. The patches in the original, but most gave unpleasant side-effects, mostly of Interface Screw nature.
Stat-O-Vision: The protagonists ARE implanted with cyber-interfaces, after all.
In the original game, part of the HUD is dedicated to monitoring vital functions, including heart rate, energy consumption and chi waves (aka brain activity). When you die, the heart rate flatlines realistically, fluttering before dying, and the brain activity line also stops its consistency before disappearing altogether.
Survival Horror: System Shock 2 is frequently included on "Scariest Games Ever" lists for a reason. It forces you to consider every shot you make, with ammo being scarce and guns breaking quickly. The game is by no means easy and you do not feel empowered in the least. The original System Shock, whilst having quite a lot of ammunition, is also very good at inducing fear even today (in spite of the technical obsolescence of the game).
Take Your Time: Played straight. The original, however, allowed to put a optional time limit.
Teleporters and Transporters: The experimental teleporters on Citadel Station. In the sequel one of the PSI-powers allows you to do a limited form of this.
Ten-Second Flashlight: The headlight in the original mostly averts this by consuming energy at the reasonable pace, but the best version of it with increased energy usage gets dangerously close to this trope.
There Was a Door: In the sequel the assault robot blows the wall off in the mess hall to get to you.
Third-Person Person: Apparently, ethical constraints also cause SHODAN to refer to herself in the third person. It goes away as she re-examines her priorities and draws new conclusions.
In the original game, you can get a Magpulser gun on the first level very easily, and it will destroy any robot you encounter for a while in one shot, and any cyborg in two. However, it only has eight shots, and you won't find any additional ammo for it until level six. There are almost always better options for killing things until you find sufficient ammo.
The second games manages to pull this off with almost every gun. Ammo is very scarce and expensive, guns deteriorate and break very quickly, so most of the times you will whack stuff with your trusty little wrench just to save that precious ammo for when you really, really need it.
Toxic Phlebotinum: The sequel has a Worm Implants which gave nice bonuses, but if it ran out of power or was removed, it will inject the player with toxins.
Tragic Monster: The Hybrids, who sometimes show that the human side is still aware, telling the Soldier to run away or begging him to kill them.
Transhuman Treachery: Even with the brainwashing powers of The Many, there were still some people who joined The Many either because of similar beliefs, were power hungry or wanted to be on the winning side.
Tron Lines: The first game uses these to represent cyberspace, and the sequel uses them in virtual tutorial levels.
Universal Ammunition: The energy weapons in the original used power from the shared energy bar, also used by other items (which were really draining with their upgrades). The sequel gave them their own batteries. The sequel also had ammunition that can be used by two guns: Bullets and its variations (The Pistol and Assault Rifle), Prisms (The Statis Field Generator and the Fusion Cannon), Portable Batteries (The Energy Pistol, the EMP Rifle, and Power Armour) and the Worms (The Viral proliferator and the Annelid (Worm) Launcher).
Unperson: Edward Diego removes all traces of the Hacker's presence from the records aboard Citadel Station. His main concern is to leave no evidence behind that he had SHODAN altered, but this ends up saving the Hacker's life, as SHODAN is completely unaware of him being stashed away in a healing coma while she takes over the station.
Unusable Enemy Equipment: The broken shotguns, if you're lucky (though you should still loot them for the one shotgun round they always hold, and you can fix them if you're really desperate). Also, the Exotic weapons which you must research first (although none of these are used by the enemy).
Unwinnable by Mistake: The 2 bosses of the second game are immune to a good chunk of weapons. The first is immune to energy and melee weapons, while the second boss is immune to melee weapons (sans the Laser Rapier and Psi Amp), and all exotic weapons (but can be avoided by completing 4 hacking puzzles). If you are melee/energy weapons only, you are screwed. On hard/impossible, it's possible to have insufficient cyber modules to get research, despite SHODAN giving you the necessary cyber modules, but thankfully you can find a implant that increase your research skill and get around this.
The midwives in the sequel are the result of female crew members being forcibly transformed by Dr. Miller into the beings you see in this game. In the third deck of the Von Braun, you'll see ghostly projections of a woman about to be transformed into a cyborg until it cuts off just before the operation is about to commence. And then you'll see the results in the next two rooms over, complete with an audio log after you kill her. Further reinforcing the fact is another audio log in the next level that details what had happened to the test subject during that very operation.
The idea that she's perfectly sane and simply acting on the logical conclusions of her programing and abilities is part of what makes SHODAN so fracking scary.
She just can't stop hating The Soldier (even when she is disguised as a Polito, who appears a relatively sane women on audiologs, which is a nice hint to The Reveal) for his disgusting human nature, even though he does her bidding. I'd say it's not the sane and logical thing to do.
With Us or Against Us: The stance of The Many towards the Soldier when they contact him on the Engineering deck.
Womb Level: the Body of the Many in the sequel. Considered to be That One Level by some due to the lack of regeneration after death.
You All Look Familiar: To the point that the Goggle's model uses the same soldier-with-cyber-eyes model as the corpses.
You Are Number Six: In the original, SHODAN refers to her cyborg servants as cyborg "insert-number-here". The Hacker is also "officially" known as Employee 2-4601, while the Soldier in the sequel is also known as SOLDIER G65434-2.
The Hacker's case is unique: Diego added him to the company roster to justify his being in a healing coma on Citadel Station, but erased all records of why the Hacker was on Citadel Station in the first place. No one knows who he is, really, other than his number. This, naturally, is All There in the Manual.
However, you can't die as a result of dying in cyberspace. If you have 1 health point left, you will never lose it. In some cases, it's better to immediately and unceasingly head to cyberspace until you're done in there, no matter how many times you die, before healing yourself.