The first game in the Mass Effect series.The year is 2183, thirty-five years after humanity has discovered a cache of technology on Mars from a long extinct alien race. This technology enables them to travel great distances throughout the Milky Way and join a community of alien races based at an ancient complex called the Citadel.The plot revolves around one Commander Shepard, a human military officer who becomes the first human Spectre, a member of an elite interplanetary peacekeeping force. S/he is tasked with tracking down a rogue Spectre, Saren, who has apparently allied himself with the geth, a race of murderous robots. As the storyline progresses, Shepard explores a variety of worlds, encounters a wide range of sapient species, and uncovers an ancient plot involving the coming doom of every sapient organic being in the entire galaxy.There is a selection of plot-relevant missions and, if you focus exclusively on those, the game would be in the realm of 9-10 hours, but being an RPG, there is an entire galaxy for you to explore as you engage in side missions, expanding the game to upwards of 25 hours or more. The game lacks a traditional good/evil Karma Meter, and instead gives you options on how to proceed with each encounter based on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism; you are a hero either way, but your heroism can range from Knight in Shining Armor to Anti-Hero. You can choose whether to recruit all of the characters optioned to be part of your crew or ignore them and do it all yourself. You even have the option of different characters to pursue a romantic relationship with if you so desire (including a possible Love Triangle).The weapons within the game do not have ammunition, instead replacing it with an "overheat" meter that limits how long you can fire your weapon before you need to pause for a cooldown, but there are modifications available within the game that allow for non-stop firing. You are also able to customize the equipment of yourself and your squad, including which specific weapons you take into battle, the armor you wear and various perks and enhancements.The game was widely praised for its story, World Building and interactivity, but received a cooler reception for its gameplay. Main criticism points were a menu system that over-complicates the RPG elements, unrefined Third-Person-Shooter gameplay, and overuse of Copy And Paste Environments in non-plot-related missions. Choices made during the course of this game transfer over to its sequel, and from there into the third game.The game received a lot of media attention and criticism for a sex scene between Shepard and a romantic option late in the game, which was drummed up as meaning this was a sex emulatorDETAILS Fox News talked to an author of a book on media influence, Cooper Lawrence, who proceeded to pick apart the moral values of the game despite admitting she had never played it and did not understand the game at all. In contrast, a game reviewer was also interviewed and explained in detail what the game was about and that it was just a cutscene and did not actually "emulate" a sexual encounter (i.e., giving the player options on what to do during the act). When Lawrence later watched approximately two hours of gameplay, she recanted her criticism and stated that "I’ve seen episodes of LOST that are more sexually explicit." Jack Thompson, of all people, believed that the media storm was overblown and unnecessary.
Mass Effect contains the following tropes:
Please do not add any character tropes to this page. The Characters page for the entire series can be found here.
Abandoned Mine: Many, many side missions take place in these from recovering missing Alliance intelligence to killing husks of a mining team that Dug Too Deep.
Abnormal Ammo: The player can modify what kind of bullets their weapon can fire. These range from the fairly mundane anti-organic and anti-synthetic rounds, to the bizarre (and more awesome) bullets that cause enemies to burst into flame, get poisoned (by radiation, no less), or freeze. A full list can be found here.
All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": If you're wondering why the Reapers, Protheans, and so on haven't been mentioned yet, it's because they are only really appearing near the end (at the end of the second-to-last mission for the Reapers, and then you get an Info Dump on the plotlines in the middle of the last mission) of this game. They also take a much lesser role (for example, only Sovereign, a single Reaper is present at all and even he is not featured much, compared to, say, Saren).
Ancient Keeper: Vigil, a Prothean virtual intelligence which maintained the facility on Ilos in the hopes that an organic race would reach the planet before the next Reaper invasion. It survives long enough to point Shepard towards the Conduit and give him/her a means of preventing the return of the Reapers.
Armor and Magic Don't Mix: The greater the character's focus on tech or biotics, the less heavy the armor they can equip. Tali, Kaidan, Liara, and Adept, Sentinel, and Engineer Shepard can only wear light armor, and Liara and Sentinels don't even have any options for improving their competence with it. Garrus and Infiltrator or Vanguard Shepard start out with only light armor available but can invest skill points to unlock medium armor. Wrex, Ashley and Soldier Shepard, the most combat-focused characters, have access to medium armor from the start and can unlock heavy armor. The later games in the series remove armor classes.
The Colossus Armor sold by acquiring the Kassa Fabrication license has the highest damage reduction in the game and is available in light, medium, and heavy sets for your human, asari, quarian, turian, and krogan squadmates to wear.
The Predator Light/Medium/Heavy armors sold after getting the Armax Arsenal license has lower damage reduction than the Colossus but makes up for it by having much higher shields, making them better alternatives for any squadmate that has the "Electronics" skill.
Wrex has the Krogan Rage/Berserker/Battlesmaster Heavy Armors sold with the Geth Armory License and Garrus can wear the Light Phantom Armor sold from the Serrice Council License (the same armor worn by Nihlus Kryik in the beginning of the game).
Artificial Limbs: Though it is never commented upon in the game, Saren's left arm is actually a geth arm.
The turians were a newly discovered neutral race during the Krogan Rebellions, until the krogan attacked some of their orbital habitats in an attempt to intimidate them. This brought the turians, with more military might than the other Citadel races combined, into the war against the krogan.
The Codex entry on the human military points out that the rest of the galaxy sees the Systems Alliance as a sleeping giant. The Systems Alliance has only 3% of the total human population in uniform, a far smaller number than any of the established (and more numerous) Council races. The entry uses the actual "sleeping giant" term, and explains why the rest of the galaxy tends to treat humans with kid gloves: they're terrified of what the Systems Alliance might be capable of if sufficiently motivated by fear, anger, or desperation.
Awesome, but Impractical: On Ilos, you can hack some computer terminals to activate four Geth Colossi fighting on your side, making mincemeat out of any other geth trying to oppose you in this area, even the toughest ones. The problem is: you first have to get past said enemies to reach the terminals. Good luck trying that with a Geth Prime around.
Awesome Personnel Carrier: The Mako is a three-person all terrain vehicle that can be dropped from orbit, achieve sub-orbit itself through the use of thrusters and a mass effect field, and possesses a cannon and a 50mm autocannon.
Badass Boast: Happens a fair amount throughout the series, a great example from Sovereign.
Sovereign: Your words are as empty as your future.
Battle in the Rain: Virmire, although the PC hardware requirements for weather effects were pretty high for its time and it did not show at all on the Xbox 360 version.
Beat: Punch out reporter Khalisah Al-Jilani and you may hear (5:08) this in a Citadel elevator:
"Reporter Khalisah Al-Jilani recently attempted to land an interview with Commander Shepard, the first human Spectre. When pressed on the issues however, Commander Shepard reportedly lost control and assaulted the reporter.
Bleak Level: Post-Virmire Normandy, complete with sad music (which, incidentally, happens to be the game's Love Theme).
"Blind Idiot" Translation: The Russian localization changed phrases' meaning to their complete opposite. The most notable one is making Khalisah Al-Jilani sound like a patriot who praises Shepard for his/her actions. They made the conversion wheel options completely unrelated to the actual responses, failing to understand the meaning of both and they even went as far as making things up, especially in the Codex. Like calling quarians complete atheists whose science proved that Religion Is Wrong. The translators also failed to accentuate the Paragon/Renegade choices in many But Thou Must situations, making these even more apparent than in the original. A notable example is when the player is railroaded into accepting Ashley Williams into the team on Eden Prime. All of Shepard's responses to Kaidan's suggestion on having a useful "extra gun" in the team are nearly identical ("Good idea"/"Good"/"Good, let's go"). This caused the phrase "extra gun" to mutate into a somewhat derisive nickname for the game.
Husks, who were once people, and Saren, who gets put through a similar process.
Garrus's optional quest has you chasing a criminal doctor who grew extra organs within his test subjects, without their knowledge. When they were ready, he would recover them and patch up the victims, badly. Garrus mentions multiple cases of subjects bleeding to death from stitches reopening. When you face the mad doctor in his own ship, you end up facing a bunch of mutant zombies that resemble what an ancient Eldritch Abomination created.
Border Patrol: If you venture too far outside the box on any side world, the Normandy will pick you up and drop you back off at the starting point. Normally unnoticeable, but for some reason there's a few resource points in the red zone on a couple of worlds.
The other cool ammunition to load into your gun have nifty effects against your enemies, but basic armor-piercing and anti-personnel ammo for synthetics and organic enemies provide more benefit from their simplistic yet significant damage increase to your weapon.
Heat sinks. Sure they have no flashy effects or cool damage animations, but being able to fire longer without pause sure gets the job done a lot easier!
Heck yes, heat sinks. If you load your pistol with the best heat sinks possible (such as Frictionless Materials) and use Marksmanshipinfo , which temporarily dramatically increases your rate of fire to near assault rifle levels while slowing down how quickly your gun overheats to compensate, you can actually fire continuously without overheating until after Marksmanship runs out. By the end of the game, when you have probably maxed out how long Marksmanship lasts, you'll end up able to kill multiple enemies with your little handgun in one go.
Boss Remix: A combination of Sovereign and Saren's themes.
Broken Faceplate: In Bring Down the Sky, a survivor of the attack mentions that the batarian terrorists killed engineers working vacuum by smashing their faceplates.
Mira: User alert! Main reactor shut down in accordance with emergency containment procedures. Manual restart required.
"ENEMIES EVERYWHERE!" "GO, GO, GO!" "ENEMIES EVERYWHERE!" "I WILL DESTROY YOU!!!"
Shepard: "I've lost shields!"
Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Sure, killing Sovereign was awesome, but no matter which option you chose there are still thousands of deaths, and the damage to the Citadel itself will take seven years to fix. In a literal example, after the fight, Shepard shows up cradling his/her arm to his/her body, indicating that s/he actually broke it in the final battle and its aftermath.
Sometimes Shepard says the same thing regardless of what option you pick.
Midway through Eden Prime, you meet a trio of colonists; at one point, one of them accidentally mentions that they have weapons. You have to take the pistol, there is no option to let them keep it for self-defense, which would be very reasonable given that the area is a combat zone, and no one at the time knows if more geth are on the way. (They aren't, but that isn't known at the time.)
Later, though we learn that Legion will arrive on Eden Prime, looking for Shepard. This isn't seen in Mass Effect 1, though.
On Virmire, there's no option to agree with Wrex about not destroying the cure for the genophage, the disease that's killing his people. There are just different ways to make him agree with you or kill him.
At the end of the Pinnacle Station DLC, when Shepard insists that the safeties are turned off for the final simulation, just so (s)he can look cool.
Mako Fu: Ramming infantry enemies can result in one hit kills, but the larger enemies do not suffer any damage. It does, however, temporarily stun them. Makes it much easier taking out armatures, colossi, juggernauts, and primes, because they fall over and take a while to get back up. Killing things with the Mako, however, reduces the experience you get by a significant factor.
Driving over a monkey on Eletania earns you Renegade points and results in companions' wisecracks. This only works once, though.
Cat Fight: Played with, then averted. If the player chooses the "Catfight!" option when Ashley and Liara confront Shepard, he will say "I love it when women fight over me." Ashley then tells him that isn't going to happen.
The Cavalry: Joker, Admiral Hackett, and the entirety of the Alliance Fifth Fleet when Sovereign attacks the Citadel. Crosses over into Big Damn Heroes territory if you choose to save the Destiny Ascension.
Circling Monologue: Both Shepard and Saren try to convince each other at the end of the Virmire mission to join the other side.
Collapsible Helmet: The helmets function this way, being actually parts of the armor that pull over the wearer's head, convertible-style.
Collection Sidequest: Several, including many in space and one on the Citadel. Most of them have to do mainly with space exploration, though a couple involve Shepard investigating lost remnants of battles and explorers who came before him or her - which given the general theme of the game is very appropriate, if somewhat sidetracking.
Colony Drop: You stop one of these from happening in the "Bring Down the Sky" DLC.
The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Snipers can kill you in one shot. Sure, you can do this as well, but they aim much faster than you (once their laser sights are visible, you have about a second to get out of its way). Oh, and did we mention how they have infinite ammo?
Cop Killer: Discussed. One of the missions on Noveria has you fight through the facility's security force to retrieve incriminating evidence on the corrupt boss of the place. On the way out, you run into the irate sergeant, herself going behind her captain's back, who says, "You know what they do to cop killers on my world?" If Wrex is present, he retorts, "You know what they do to corrupt cops on mine?"
Copy Protection: The original standalone (i.e. non-Steam, and non-Trilogy edition) PC version of Mass Effect only allows you to install it three times on different machines/hardware configurations. The previous version of the copy protection involved regular "calling in" periods to a remote server, resulting in a non-functional game if the program was unable to connect to the authentication server. This got a Take That, Us in Mass Effect 2 courtesy of a salarian video game salesman on the Citadel.
Noveria is a entire planet devoted to this: it exists outside of Council Space and therefore is not subject to its jurisdiction - corporations use it to conduct R&D that is normally illegal. In fact, you come across an executive that is being investigated not because he is on the take, but because it has reached the point where he is turning investors away.
Binary Helix, a human genetics Mega Corp., brought the rachni back from the dead to mass-produce an army (some of which found their way to Cerberus). They were also working on a biological weapon, adapted from a plant pesticide. Oh, and they work for Saren.
ExoGeni Corp purposely infected colonists with alien spores to see what effect it would have. When knowledge of this got out, they decided to repurpose the colony. They also shipped a number of Husks and Thorian Creepers off to Cerberus.
Corrupted Data: How the game justifies letting the player select Shepard's family and psychological background.
Courtroom Antic: During the first Council hearing regarding Saren's involvement with the Eden Prime attack, Anderson tries to submit a dream into evidence (granted, it was a prophetic dream, but he had no way of proving that and even if he could, it didn't directly implicate Saren). The trope is quickly subverted, as it goes about as well as you would expect, and Anderson is Kicked Upstairs shortly afterwards. In Anderson's defense, he was kind of desperate.
Crutch Character: The Mako. There is no option to upgrade it while your weapons keep improving, so eventually you will be best off leaving the vehicle and fighting on foot (avoiding the hefty experience penalty associated with using the Mako in combat). Subverted in the sense that Mako shielding and, most importantly, speed remain unmatched and can always topple Geth Colossus and Armatures.
And then brought back to being played straight, in that while the Mako's shields scale with level, shield regeneration does not. You might as well get a good book if you plan on using the Mako in firefights (or as cover during firefights) because it can take up to five full minutes for the shields to regenerate fully at the highest levels.
There is, however, a workaround. By saving and reloading, the Mako's shields will be completely restored.
Cryonics Failure: The fate of most of the Protheans on Ilos who went into stasis to escape the Reapers' purge of the galaxy.
The Cuckoolander Was Right: Manuel on Eden Prime sounded like he got a little unhinged by the attack. Later on in the series, however, you slowly realize that his manic babbling was more than just hallucinations. In fact, he's so spot on some theorize that he managed to access the Prothean beacon, but couldn't handle the alien information inside.
Curb-Stomp Battle: The squad vs. Dr. Saleon. If you convince Garrus not to kill him, or if you leave Garrus behind, Saleon will try to kill you, but goes down in one shot.
Played With, in a non-combat example, with the first Citadel trial against Saren. Saren proceeds to utterly dismiss and annihilate every piece of evidence Anderson and Udina try to raise. However, the second trial doesn't go as well for him.
Cult Colony: One sidequest deals with a cracked military officer and his colony of devoted followers.
Cut and Paste Environments: Almost every sidequest in the game takes place in (1) a mine that's a big room with two smaller ones branching off the back, (2) a building with an exterior overhang that's just one big room and a balcony, (3) a boxy bunker with a "T" junction in back leading to two small rooms. Or, (4) a freighter (or sometimes space station) that has a short entryway, a large main hold and a crew/cockpit area with three small rooms. About the only variation is the crates/computers/boxes/whatever placed inside and how they're positioned. If the designers were feeling particularly creative, you might get some combination of the three. It doesn't help that on quite a few of these missions you're fighting geth and husks, i.e. the same enemies you fight for most of the main storyline.
Types 2, 3, and 4 are justified if they are considered mass-produced prefabricated structures. As for the mine layout, it's quite a stretch to assume that miners cut the exact same passages on a dozen different planets at different times.
The Mako is flipped over and rendered inoperable from impacting the ground after traveling through the Conduit, to ensure players don't falsely assume, by The Law of Conservation of Detail, that they're supposed to drive to the Citadel Tower. In gameplay, you can jump off a sheer cliff without repercussions. Justified, since in the previous section the Mako's HP automatically falls all the way to zero when you approach the Conduit. IFVs, no matter how badass, aren't really built for faster-than-light travel.
Upon arrival at the entrance to the Prothean ruins on Therum, Shepard and squad are met by a geth dropship that delivers an armature and several snipers and hoppers. Do they run, head for cover, or open fire? Hell, no! They stare in slack-jawed amazement until the geth start shooting.
After the other colonists are down on Feros, Fai Dan appears in a cut-scene, gun in hand, and defies the Thorian by taking his own life instead of attacking Shepard. Shepard makes no attempt to stun him with a gas grenade — particularly aggravating if s/he's already done that to everyone else.
Cut the Juice: Happens on Feros to Lizbeth Baynham. The geth cut the power once they invade, inadvertently preventing her from sending a message to Colonial Affairs about the Thorian.
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: A pettier example than usual. In Flux, a salarian needs your help testing out a device he built to cheat at Quasar. If you foil his plans, he'll be crestfallen that the years of work he put into making the device have gone to waste, wondering what he will do now. Your squad members suggest that he could use his skills to get a real job.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: An odd chronological example. Most people who have played the PlayStation 3 version probably played Mass Effect 2 first, and so were used to using R1 to shoot, R2 to bring up the power wheel, L1 to zoom in and L2 to bring up the weapon wheel. The PS3 version of the first game has those buttons reversed.
Similarly, in the Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect 2, the Select button puts away your guns. In the original game, it throws a grenade. Muscle memory sees Shepard hurling grenades in celebration for winning battles.
Additionally, when exploring by ship in the PS3 version, you press Square to go to places and leave orbit. In the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2, you press Circle to leave orbit and Square to go back to controlling Shepard.
In most shooter games, the "Reload" function is default to the "R" key. Mass Effect 1 has no reload button, and the "R" key instead is default for "Throw grenade". Imagine the look on a first time player's face as he, out of habit, tries reload after a fight and gets a grenade blowing up in his face (luckily it does no damage). Fortunately all controls are easily reconfigured.
On PC, F is "First Aid", which draws from your limited supply of medi-gel. Bites players coming back from the sequels, which use F for "melee attack".
Decontamination Chamber: Apparently standard procedure is for all personnel entering the Normandy to be decontaminated before being allowed to board, no matter where they are returning from. It's actually a carefully-disguised loading screen, just like the elevators.
The Thorian, a planet-wide sentient plant that you defeat by shooting its weak points For Massive Damage.
The conclusion, where Sovereign, the millions-of-years-old Reaper, is destroyed by (depending on your interpretation of the game) either you personally destroying its Saren-avatar, or by the combined might of the Council and the Systems Alliance.
Difficulty Levels: Fully customizable throughout the game, running from Casual to Insanity. Be warned, however, that if you want to get the achievements for completing Hardcore and Insanity, you'll need to change it before approaching the beacon on Eden Prime and leave it there for the rest of the game.
Disc One Final Dungeon: It is established that you have to go to Ilos to stop Saren before he finds the Conduit, but then during the mission on Ilos, it is revealed that the Conduit is a mini mass relay that leads to the Citadel, which ends up being the Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
Distress Call: A large number of sidequests are triggered by picking up one of these as you're flying by a planet/derelict ship.
Distressed Damsel: Though they are all competent and helpful companions once past their introduction, every female member of your team is recruited while rescuing them from attack.
Ashley is recruited on Eden Prime after you and Kaidan save her from geth pursuit.
Tali is recruited on the Citadel when you protect her from assassins sent by Saren.
Liara is recruited on Therum after you free her from a Prothean force field that she accidentally activated while being hunted by geth and a krogan battlemaster.
Door To Before: Most places just have one door and aren't that complex. But there is a force field in the ExoGeni building on Feros you have to deactivate before using the door, and on the other hand on Ilos you have an elevator which will not work before you plugged it in again, after a long walk around it of course.
Double Tap: If Wrex dies, his killer puts three more bullets in him when he's on the ground. Shepard will also tell the squad to do this to Saren in the endgame.
Donut Mess with a Cop: If you talk to the ERCS Guards on Noveria after the fight in the Synthetic Insights Offices. One of the replies they can say is "You know what I could go for? A doughnut". Hilariously, even turian guards will say this, despite being physically unable to eat human food.
In "Bring Down The Sky", Charn is The Dragon to Balak.
Driven to Suicide: Several characters, including Fai Dan and potentially Saren himself.
Dummied Out: Kaidan and Ashley were going to be same-sex romance options in the first game and were close to being implemented; modding your gender flag in the save file to make the romance possible will result in near-complete voice acting for the dialog when it is played through, although Shepard's gender will magically change during the love scene.
There's an audio file alluding to the possibility of saving both Ashley and Kaidan on Virmire — see Noodle Incident below.
Matriarch Benezia can break free of Sovereign's indoctrination only after you have mortally wounded her, where she can give you just a little bit of information before succumbing to her wounds, on Noveria.
If you have enough Charm or Intimidate points, Saren can be forced to realize that he is indoctrinated and playing into the Reaper's hands, turning his gun on himself in a last-second redemption, at the end of the game.
Fai Dan breaks free of the Thorian's control after the party returns from Exo Geni headquarters, on Feros.
Dynamic Entry: Driving through the Citadel's relay in the Mako at full speed. Those two geth never knew what hit them.
Dynamic Loading: Elevators. Though the team managed to soften the blow in some cases, giving your squad members unique dialogue and adding some amusing news reports in a lot of them, they swiftly become mind-crushingly tedious. Gone, and even lampshaded, in Mass Effect 2. And given another one in the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3 — both by Garrus. Also in 2, it turns out Tali hates it just as much as most players:
Garrus: You ever miss those talks we had on the elevators? Tali:No. Garrus: Come on, remember how we'd all ask you about life on the flotilla? It was an opportunity to share. Tali: This conversation is over. Garrus: Tell me again about your immune system! Tali: I have a shotgun. Garrus: (hesitant) Maybe we'll talk later.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The sequels adhered to a strict cover-based-shooter model where this one allowed a more freewheeling run-and-gun style. They also streamlined the weapon and character upgrades, and ditched the mandatory driving segments and infinite ammo with cooldown. The second game also introduced headshots dealing significantly more damage than other hits.
Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Averted; the seat of the galactic government is the Citadel. Earth only really matters because it's humanity's homeworld, and even then they've been colonizing other systems at a rapid pace. In fact, the capital of the Systems Alliance isn't even Earth but Arcturus Station.
Easter Egg: In "Bring Down the Sky", if you go to the highest peak, Shepard will find a radio shack built by engineers housing a music station called Radio X57. Turning on the broadcast plays all of the elevator music.
Easy Exp: Like most BioWare games, most of your early exp will come from talking to various people.
Eldritch Abomination: The Reapers warp and degrade the minds of their followers simply by existing; just being within their body will eventually indoctrinate you.
Some of the ammo types when equipped to the right gun; for example, a sniper rifle equipped with high explosive rounds is capable of one-shoting just about anything in the game and anything standing next to it; or a shotgun with sledgehammer rounds can knock any enemy over.
The "Toxic" ammo type with any shotgun: It causes enough health damage that for any infantry enemy, if your first shot doesn't kill them then they will take enough damage that your second shot will.
The End of the Beginning: The game ends this way, with Shepard and whoever you elected to lead the Council (human or otherwise) promising to take the fight to the Reapers, and Shepard striding off.
Equipment Spoiler: You can get armor for turians, quarians and krogan before Garrus, Tali or Wrex join your party, including finding armor on Eden Prime before you even know of the existence of that species.
Exposition Beam: The Prothean beacon. Subverted, though, due to the fact that since they were designed for use by a different species, not to mention the fact that they've been lying around for fifty thousand years, renders the message incomprehensible to any human or turian that happen to stumble across them. Shepard eventually finds a way to understand the beacon's message on one of the main quest worlds.
Fake Longevity: In order to get every achievement, you have to play through the first game a grand total of three times without skipping too many of the sidequests.
Fanservice: The game essentially had a strip club in it; while none of the asari dancers actually showed anything, you can be assured there is plenty of dancing around poles. And there is an empty spot for you to sit and watch one of the dancers on the sidelines of the club. It even allows you to choose between your character relaxing back in their chair or leaning forward.
Fantastic Racism: Due to the multilateral setting, this is present throughout the setting, with even your crew members not being exempt from this. Pressly and Ashley will often come across as a Noble Bigot due to their distrust of aliens. Garrus mentions that turians are taught that the krogan are all thugs and that Wrex is a credit to his race, and most people's opinions of quarians like Tali is that they're all beggars and thieves. However, depending on your actions, Shepard can change their opinions for the better. Even Shepard him/herself will be on the receiving end of this if they have the Spacer background, as Administrator Anoleis on Noveria dismisses spacers like him/her as nothing more than a collection of vagabonds and tax-dodgers.
Final Boss Preview: The first battle with Saren is on Virmire, and then you fight him as the Final Boss on the Citadel. With enough Charm/Intimidate points, however, you can skip the part of the boss fight similar to Virmire and jump straight to fighting the Sovereign-possessed Saren husk.
Fixing The Game: Schells the scientist. After he gets thrown out of Flux, he complains that he wasn't cheating, he was just gathering data so that he could cheat. If he wanted. Which he doesn't. He's just going to sell his system to people who might. If they want.
Fling a Light into the Future: The Prothean scientists who understood who and what the Reapers were realized that there was nothing they could do to stop their own extinction. Their solution was to leave beacons directing future species to Ilos to get them to speak to the virtual intelligence "Vigil". Most of the remaining Protheans put themselves in stasis, hoping someone would come, but they knew their lives were not as important as maintaining Vigil's power, and eventually all of them were shut off. A dozen Protheans snuck onto the barren Citadel to reprogram the Keepers to not respond to the Reaper signal to activate the mass relay to allow them to catch the resident species in time.
Fist. You face him and two auto-turrets; either shoot him or destroy the turrets, either way ends the fight.
Matriarch Benezia, who sends out waves of commandos and geth which need to be killed before you can damage her.
The Thorian, too. As you attack its weak points, more and more of its Thorian Creepers awaken and attack you. Plus, it will at regular intervals spawn an Asari Clone to aid the Creepers. Though killing these flunkies is not necessary to end the fight, it will make it a lot easier if you don't have acid-vomiting plant-men swarming you while you're trying to take out the Thorian itself.
When exploring the Normandy, before setting down on Eden Prime, you can participate in introductory conversations with many of the background characters of the game as they explain the fictional universe. During the conversation with Dr. Chakwas and Corporal Jenkins, they outline the upcoming plot of the game in a theoretical discussion about the Spectres, including pointing out that Shepard would make a good Spectre, questioning how a Spectre could get his official status revoked and also how the Council would retaliate.
When first visiting the Council Chambers in the Citadel Tower, your party members may comment on the layout of the room and how it looks like it was designed to defend against invaders. Sure enough, the Council Chambers are the scene of the final battle in the game, but the player is the invader.
On the Citadel, you can learn about the Rachni Wars, which were ended by xenocide, and the Krogan Rebellions, which were stopped by the use of the genophage. Later, you encounter and fight the rachni, and an entire mission is based off preventing the curing of the genophage by the Big Bad to make an army of krogan.
On the Citadel's Presidium level, there is a statue of a mass relay. Talking to Kaidan near it reveals that something about the statue is causing interference with his biotic systems. It's the receiving end of the Conduit from Ilos, with which you make a Dynamic Entry in the Mako in the finale.
Garrus comments on how he never sees the Keepers going anywhere near the statue of the Mass Relay on the Presidium, which always struck him as odd. The mission to Ilos reveals that the Mass Relay monument is not a part of the Citadel itself, but is a functional Mass Relay that the Protheans had constructed.
Checking your map in the Citadel Tower. Only in retrospect will players realize that the Council Chamber is shaped like a Reaper.
Form-Fitting Wardrobe: Every piece of armor you pick up fits whomever you give it to perfectly. The form-fitting factor ties in with the "Early '80s Sci Fi Styling" theme of Mass Effect.
Free Sample Plot Coupon: The Prothean beacon in the end of the first mission proves to be the first in line of Mac Guffins you have to collect before you can beat the Big Bad, namely, the Prothean Cipher that can decode the beacon's message, the MacGuffin Girl Liara who does the actual decoding, and the coordinates of the Point of No Return kept by the Rachni Queen.
The Future Is Noir: Most of the places you go have either been abandoned for a long time or have recently been attacked. The lighting on the Normandy sucks, too.
Gameplay Ally Immortality: It is impossible to damage your squadmates or NPCs that are not pointing a gun at you. Friendly fire versus squadmates can be enabled in the PC version, though.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: Later in the game, you go against the Council, getting yourself and your accomplices (Anderson) in trouble with the law. Despite this, Admiral Hackett still sends missions your way (the Event Flag is you entering the system to take place in).
Sort of, if you are a female Shepard and pursue a romance with Liara, who is an asari. The asari are of a single gender, so technically are neither male or female; however, they look and sound feminine and are referred to in the Codex as an all-female race. They even use female pronouns.
Giant Mook: The geth Destroyers, Juggernauts, and Primes are twelve-foot tall geth with Vertical Mecha Fins, each increasing in strength and height in that order. Destroyers are simply huge and tough and carry an assault rifle/shotgun combo. Juggernauts are resilient to your combat abilities and carry an assault rifle/short-range rocket launcher combo. Primes are even tougher, bigger, carry a pulse rifle/rocket launcher, and provide all geth in the area with increased accuracy, damage, and firing rate. All have a tendency of charging you to bring their powerful melee attacks to bear.
Guide Dang It: There are some quests that, if done in the wrong order, can screw up a 100% Completion run (although they do not make the game unwinnable):
Visiting Barla Von and hiring Wrex skips a few scenes (discussion with Harkin, and Wrex introduction scene). Also, Garrus becomes missable.
Reporting the death of Admiral Kahoku's men to him has him leaving the Citadel, thus preventing you to ask him about Banes in Dr. Michel's sidequest.
Ending the sidequest of the Consort before speaking with the elcor about his leaked secrets prevents you from receiving an item that, in turns, unlocks an event in the Attican Beta system.
On Noveria, directly going back in the fortified labs to blow the neutron bomb, as the mission log advises you, makes you miss a few sidequests, a merchant, and an NPC that will prove necessary for another sidequest... in Mass Effect 3.
Guns in Church: Justified, somewhat; you are a Spectre, and numerous events prove that you are not safe from attack anywhere you go, so it makes sense for your party to walk around fully armed and armored at all times. It does get a little weird when you can draw and fire your guns (though not at people) and set off grenades all over the place and nobody bats an eye.
The gravity, volume, rotation times etc. of planets are measured in comparisons to Earth instead of using specific units of measure.
One of the side quests has Admiral Hackett asking you to diffuse a nuclear weapon that he explains has the same power as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Averted when discussing the improvised nuclear weapon on Virmire, which dialogue indicates also has the same explosive power as the Hiroshima bomb — approximately 20 kilotons — although this is probably due to Kirrahe being a salarian, and therefore unlikely to make this reference.
Hitchhiker Heroes: Apart from Kaidan, who is actually part of your squad at the beginning of the game, and Liara, who you are specifically sent out to pick up, every squadmate joins of their own free will, or because Anderson thought they might be useful.
Holy Ground: Wrex tells Shepard of how his father, Jarrod, called him to a Crush, a meeting between rival krogan clans, at the Hollows, as close to sacred ground as krogan get. Weapons and fighting are not allowed. Of course, it's a trap, and a fight breaks out, ending with Wrex killing Jarrod.
A Homeowner Is You: Complete Admiral Ahern's custom mission on Pinnacle Station and you're rewarded with his pre-fabricated home on Intai'sei. Sadly, it never shows up again in later games (although it can be argued that by the third game's Citadel DLC, you probably won't miss that apartment anyway).
100% Completion: The main storyline will probably only take about 10 hours to complete, but there are dozens of sidequests as well, and there is an achievement for players who complete 75% of the game. And one each for completing said 75% with each squadmate in your squad.
There's a unique mission only available to each of three background options, plus a mission unlocked for filling up each of the Renegade/Paragon bars, meaning it's impossible to reach more than 99% completion in a single playthrough.
Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The geth do this to their victims when transforming them into husks. This is also the fate of Saren if you don't meet the Paragon/Renegade check.
Impossible Item Drop: Can seem like this when you recover assault rifles from apparently naked and weaponless cyber-zombies, and advanced ultra-tech materials from lost, 1960s-era Soviet lunar probes, but ultimately subverted by reading the Codex carefully. It reveals your omni-tool is a mini-factory which assembles the loot you find from the raw materials you scavenge from various satellites, dead enemies and containers.
Incredibly Lame Fun: Quasar (basically space blackjack) is an incredibly dull adding game with two buttons, yet it has entire casinos dedicated to it.
Infinity Minus One Gun: The Geth Pulse Rifle. Eventually found as a random drop from killed geth troops, this gun lacks the ability to be modded in any way. It does, however, have the second highest damage of any assault rifle in the game, only beaten by its Spectre Master weapon variant. It also has the highest accuracy of all assault rifles.
Interface Spoiler: Dialogue subtitles will often give the name of a character long before they actually say it. Ashley is the first case of this, in the video feed Joker picks up before the Normandy touches down on Eden Prime.
When you first encounter the rachni on Noveria, the label above them calls them such, even though Shepard doesn't find this out for another 20 minutes.
Likewise, when doing the Cerberus side quest (which can be easily done before Noveria and Feros) you run into rachni and Thorian Creepers who are labeled as such.
During the Cerberus side quest an update will tell you that you haven't found Admiral Kahoku even though you never had any reason to think that he was on the planet until that moment.
Just getting the game menu to select teammates every time you visit a world spoils exactly how many teammates you'll have in the game, their genders and what species they are.
It's a Small World After All: Anything worth visiting on a planet - pirate bases, Prothean artifacts, crashed space probes, mineral deposits - can be found within about two minutes' drive from where you land.
Japanese Honorifics: One security officer on Noveria, Captain Matsuo, uses these. The encounter drives home the fact that you're using Translator Microbes and everyone isn't really speaking English. The event also leads fans to suspect that there is a hardcore otaku on the BioWare dev team.
Join or Die: Saren's response to Shepard's resistance is this. Join the Reapers - 'cause if you don't, you're guaranteed to die.
Saren: Is submission not preferable to extinction? [...] Everyone you know and love, you will all die.
In "Bring Down the Sky", the Paragon ending has you let Balak go to save the hostages. If you go into Mass Effect 2 without importing a save where the DLC was completed, he kills the hostagesand gets away. He may get his in Mass Effect 3, or you may choose to let him go again (if severely humbled) in order to gain the batarians as a War Asset.
ExoGeni gets no comeuppance for turning a human colony into a control group while testing the effects of Thorian's Mind Control. While Shepard can kill an ExoGeni Yes-Man who was trying to pursue their interests, this doesn't hurt the company at all. One NPC even lampshades it if you convince said Yes-Man to help the colonists.
Karma Meter: The scale does not reflect "good" or "evil" choices, but instead grades based upon what the game terms "Paragon" and "Renegade" depending on how you achieve victory. The options on each decision tree fall on opposite sides of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, and Paragon and Renegade points stack up on separate meters; gaining in one area will not reduce the points in the other.
Kill 'em All: An alarming amount of the sidequests where you're sent to find someone end up with them dead by the time you get there.
Killed Mid-Sentence: If you leave Ashley or Kaidan to die on the AA tower on Virmire, then just before Saren shows up at the bomb site you hear a brief transmission of whoever was left at the tower shouting some orders to the salarians, then you hear the start of what sounds like either a gunshot or an explosion before the transmission cuts off. That's the last you see or hear of that person in the game.
Knighting: Spectre induction, complete with swelling orchestral music.
Laser Sight: Played straight with the Assassination skill, but only with enemies, making their shots somewhat easy to dodge. It would return in the later games even though the skill itself was removed.
Leeroy Jenkins: Richard L. Jenkins. He dies two minutes after the opening cutscene, on his first ever mission, without firing a shot. To be fair, he was ambushed, on point, per Shepard's orders, and those drones tear through Shepard's shields as well. The developers have mentioned more than once that the naming and manner of death were deliberate.
You cannot complete Feros sidequests that take place in the ExoGeni facility if you have already "finished" that mission and headed back to the colony. You also cannot complete certain Feros sidequests if you kill the colonist that gave it to you when they are under the Thorian's control.
After a certain point, you cannot return to the Citadel, and thus you cannot complete any sidequests involving it.
Love Theme: Heard during the love scene. It also plays earlier after escaping Virmire. For bonus points, the trope name itself is the actual title of the song on the game's soundtrack.
Love Triangle: It is possible to flirt with both Kaidan/Ashley and Liara at the same time. Eventually the two will approach you simultaneously and demand some sort of conclusion; you have the option of rejecting one or inviting them be in a relationship together. Liara is willing to have an inclusive relationship, but the human will refuse. The game will interpret this as you choosing Liara, and she will become your main love interest.
Luck-Based Mission: Trying to kill a Thresher Maw by Hit And Run attacks. Aside from being a really tough opponent to begin with, if you get too far away, it will burrow and pop out, resulting in an insta-kill. One tip: the Thresher Maw usually prefers to pop up on low ground; standing on small hills will protect you from it popping out and killing you.
Mad Doctor: Dr. Saleon, who used living people to grow illegal organs, and kidnapped them to use as hostages when he was discovered. He made some... other changes... to them before Shepard finally caught up with him.
Mad Oracle: Dr. Manuel, the raving, medicated scientist at the Eden Prime research camp, somehow knows exactly who Saren is andwho he works for.
Liara: No one calls me "Pureblood" to my face, but ...
Mayfly-December Romance: The asari seek out Interspecies Romance, but have a much longer lifespan than most other races - salarians, for example, live for about 40 years, and humans rarely make it past 150. Asari, on the other hand, can make it to 1000.
Saren seems to share a name with Sarin, a chemical warfare agent that destroys the ability for the victim's nervous system to control their body.
Captain Kirrahe: named for the mountain, Currahee, on which U.S. paratroopers trained in Georgia for WWII.
Commander Shepard him/herself, named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Shepard's default first name is John/Jane, a reference of John/Jane Doe (the names used for an unidentified male/female body).
Quasar is the name of a game played on gambling machines with flashy colors that money disappears into. Quasars are luminous envelopes around supermassive black holes.
Mecha-Mooks: The geth. The achievement for killing synthetic enemies is named "Geth Hunter", in fact, although turrets count towards this number.
Menu Time Lockout: When you go to your equipment inventory, you can pause time and change your weapons, armor, clothing, all other equipment on yourself and your two companions who are currently on the other side of the room in the middle of a heated battle.
Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The story very, very quickly escalates out of control. It starts with a standard shakedown run of a prototype warship, then you learn it's actually a covert pickup of a Precursor communications beacon. Which is then complicated by an invasion of robotic aliens trying to get the beacon. Which then turns into hunting down a rogue government agent, who intends to use the robotic aliens and the knowledge in the beacon to attack humanity. Which then turns into a desperate, clandestine battle to stop a race of mechanical gods from wiping out every organic sentient in the galaxy.
Moment Killer: Joker interrupts what's about to be the first kiss between Shepard and his/her love interest.
Money for Nothing: It is possible to equip all characters with top-tier equipment by the end of the game, rendering all vendor stock useless.
Monster Closet: This trope it's been almost entirely replaced by "Ah, they're coming out of the air vents!" in video games. For instance, this game does this with some of the rachni on Noveria. Though the exact same problems apply to those as do to the monster closets.
It's possible to mod an assault rifle to the point where it never stops firing. But it's just not enuff dakka. It's never enuff dakka.
The Marksman talent for pistols temporarily buffs their rate of fire, accuracy, and cooling. With the right armor mods, it can be maintained indefinitely, giving a mere pistol the ability to spray a never-ending river of lead with a fire rate comparable to an assault rifle. More dakka indeed.
Mundane Utility: Towards the end of the game, we see a minor character using one of the high-tech holographic omni-tools as a flashlight.
Multiple Endings: Several of them, and each one has variations based on whether the player has made predominantly Paragon or Renegade choices. The end result is relatively similar though: you win. Also, humanity gets at least one spot on the Citadel Council. The variables are: the choice between saving the Council or leaving them to die, and the choice between Anderson and Udina for the human Council seat.
Neck Lift: In the confrontation with Saren on Virmire, Saren pulls this on Shepard, who answers by punching him in the face.
Never My Fault: Balak tries to pull this in Bring Down The Sky, claiming that he does what he does because the batarians are ostracized by the rest of the galaxy. Shepard can point out that the batarians' mess is entirely of their own making, since they cut off all galactic contact outside of their territory after the Council and humanity wouldn't take them attacking one of their colonies lying down.
New Game+: The game's NG+ lets you restart the game with your Shepard's (and the rest of the party's) levels, skills, and inventory intact; the only thing that doesn't carry over is your reputation (Paragon/Renegade). This is required to get to level 60, for two reasons: one the first time you play through the game there is a first game level cap of 50, and two since there just aren't enough experience points to get from level 1 to level 60 in one playthrough.
Noodle Incident: An odd meta-example occurs in this unused dialogue from some non-existent scenario where you save both Kaidan and Ashley on Virmire. Both characters are glowing in their admiration for... that thing you did.
Not a Game: Uttered by Shepard during one sidequest; as always when this trope is mentioned in a video game, it is amusing.
Not So Different: Balak from the Bring Down the Sky DLC tries this on you if you sacrifice the hostages in order to apprehend him and prevent him from crashing and asteroid into a colony. This becomes Harsher in Hindsight in the Arrival DLC of the next game where you use a repurposed asteroid to destroy a Mass Relay, destroying the star system in a supernova-sized blast, its 305,000 batarian inhabitants included.
Not That Kind of Doctor: Used in Peak 15 on Noveria. The doctors there are Ph.Ds, not MDs. One of them even lampshades it.
Not the Intended Use: Since the Mako's usefulness in combat drops off as players climb the level ladder, higher difficulties see Shepard and crew getting out of the heavily-armed tank during firefights and using it as cover instead.
Nothing Is Scarier: A few side missions send you into familiar spaces (yet another mine, yet another freighter) with a main room that normally throws a crowd of mooks at you... only there are no mooks. Until you explore a bit more and suddenly they're behind you. Or they come pouring out of the normally empty rooms at the back. Or... nothing. Until you get outside.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: One of the main perks of being a Spectre is that they aren't subject to the rules and red tape that normally apply to police and military forces. Adminstrator Anoleis on Noveria, the Citadel Council, and Ambassdor Udina, however, do their best to prevent that. Anoleis refuses to let you leave Port Hanshan and continue with your mission, likely because he was on the take; Udina convinces the Council to ground the Normandy to prevent you from chasing Saren to Ilos.
Of Corsets Sexy: Ashley mentions one of her sisters wearing corsets in addition to her sword training. It apparently does wonders for her figure, although she never appears in the game.
Off Model: Elanos Haliat (the criminal leader responsible for the Skyllian Blitz) was supposed to be a turian, but was accidentally given a human model instead, resulting in him having a baffingly bizarre face◊note it also gives some truly baffling dialogue where he rants about 'the humans' even though his model is one.
Offscreen Inertia: You can visit Noveria, Feros, and Therum, in any order. It's generally presumed that you will visit Therum first, since that is where you recruit Liara, the last member to join your squad. However, if you visit the other two planets first, her dialog suggests that she's been in the exact same situation held in place by a stasis field that whole time, and is now a bit delirious.
One Riot, One Ranger: The Council appoints Shepard as a Spectre specifically to hunt down Saren, as an alternative to sending an entire fleet after him. The Codex comments that the assignment of a Spectre to a developing situation is a last resort before all-out war. One of the few times the Council really shines; you have to actually ask to do it alone.
One Size Fits All: Played straight with human armor: it is unisex (and magically changes shape for each sex) and your asari squad member can also use human armor. Averted with quarian, turian and krogan armor; they are not interchangeable, but you only have one of each on your squad.
One-Woman Wail: Used within the game. When you defeat the vanguard of a geth invasion, they inform their comrades of their defeat with "a lone quarian singing a single, haunting wail over a hushed mass".
Optional Sexual Encounter: The asari Consort at the start of the game. This is one of the places where the conversion wheel fails. If you're dissatisfied with her gift of words, she has sex with you. Also occurs at the end of all three romantic subplots, but you can turn them down.
Organ Theft: Garrus tells you about an elcor who was killing and hacking up people for their organs on the Citadel.
Piecemeal Funds Transfer: Encountered during the Citadel AI sidequest; when it threatens to self-destruct, the countdown timer is the progress of its account. The quicker you shut it down, the more money you get as a reward.
Planet of Hats: Done mildly and often played with, but in general the trope is there. The hats are:
Plotline Death: On the planet Virmire, you're forced to choose between saving Ashley or Kaidan. Prepare to feel extremely guilty no matter what you choose. The game even piles it on if you were romancing one of them — either you sacrifice them, or you save them and they demand to know if your feelings for them had anything to do with it. Wrex may also die earlier in the mission.
Psychic Nosebleed: In a conversation with Kaidan, he'll mention that one of his colleagues at Jump Zero "reached for a glass of water instead of pulling it biotically. She just wanted a drink without getting a nosebleed, you know?"
Rainbow Pimp Gear: Ever wanted to get in touch with your feminine side? Equip Phoenix armor and you too can slay demons while looking like Combat Action Barbie/Ken. Devlon armor in any variant tends to be very brightly colored, owing to its anti-environmental-hazard status, and Colossus, particularly on a female Shepard, is just... amusing. The "hidden" armors in the PC version take it Up to Eleven, complete with Power Crystals and even more outrageous color schemes.
Ramming Always Works: In the final battle, a turian commander places his ship directly between Sovereign and the closing arms of the Citadel to stop the attack. Sovereign simply plows through him without even slowing down.
Read the Freaking Manual: A possible quip made by Ashley or Kaidan when Liara expresses confusion at the function of various computers in the Noveria labs.
Rescue Romance: Every romantic option is introduced by a rescue. The game goes so far as to switch up which characters are put in jeopardy by the beacon activating depending on the gender of the player character to make sure that they include a start-of-story rescue.
Mass Effect 2 reveals that Tali's crush on a Male Shepard started when he rescued her, making this trope span two games instead of just one, as she is not a romantic option until the second game.
Retronym: Though not an official one, the game is often referred to (as in the title of this page) as Mass Effect 1 to distinguish it from the franchise as a whole.
Reveal the second: the Conduit is actually a miniature Mass Relay that connects to the Relay Statue on the Citadel. The Citadel is actually an enormous Mass Relay that connects to Reaper Central: Saren will invade the station and give the order for it to open. The Reapers purposely designed the Citadel so that galactic civilisations would establish their capital there. When the Reapers invade, they simultaneously kill the leadership of the galaxy, seize control of vital documents, destroy the majority of their fleet and take control of the Relay network.
Ribcage Ridge: Not a ribcage, but still, a skull that is fully a quarter the size of the Mako makes for an interesting landmark.
On one story mission, two separated party members come under heavy fire and you only have time to save one of them. You cannot Take a Third Option. There is no Deus ex Machina. The one you don't help willdie. And no one else will make the decision for you. Leadership sucks like that. Especially if you're romancing one of them, and left questioning whether you made the choice for the right reasons.
The most sadistic choice in Bring Down the Sky is not forced upon Shepard him/herself, but upon the mild-mannered scientist Kate Bowman. Either she allows a fellow hostage to be shot in front of her, or she gives away Shepard's position and, with it, any hope of saving Terra Nova. She takes the first option. Turns out it was her brother who was executed.
Near the end of Bring Down the Sky, Shepard's decision to either save the hostages or let the hostages die to capture/kill terrorist leader Balak ripped a page out of the Jack Bauer playbook.
Saved for the Sequel: The Terminus Systems (and the tense political relationship between them and Citadel Space) are given a few brief mentions. A lot of Mass Effect 2 takes place there.
Cerberus is introduced in this game through the various experiments they conduct with the rachni and Thorian Creepers. Except for these sidequests, however, they're practically irrelevant in the context of the main story. To say that the group plays a significant part in the second and third games' stories is a huge understatement. Lampshaded in that game when Shepard only vaguely remembers them.
You can pick any background and profile for Shepard you want, from a distinguished war hero to a ruthless jerkass. No matter what kind of history you have, it will be the reason why Captain Anderson selects you personally in the opening cutscene to be his second in command.
No matter whether you kill the rachni queen or let her live, the Turian Councillor will blast you for it in terms appropriate to a hypothetical offspring of Sauron and Hitler.
Schrödinger's Question: In a few places, pieces of Shepard's past (religion, for example) are only decided when they come up in conversation and the player is given a choice.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: One AI, when you trace it, announces that it knows you are going to kill it, refuses to listen to explanations, and activates a self-destruct countdown. If it had not done this, a Paragon Shepard might have let it live.
Senseless Sacrifice: Fai Dan. He chooses to kill himself rather than be forced to fight Shepard, apparently unaware that at least a Paragon Shepard can use nonlethal methods.
Shipper on Deck: Ashley's sisters will ship her and Shepard in a voice mail or - if Shepard tells Liara that he and Ashley are "just friends" beforehand - her and Kaidan. The latter she laughs about. The former depends on how you treat her. note A tip for those romancing Ashley: don't chew her out for second-guessing you having aliens on board the Normandy.
From Bring Down the Sky DLC: The terrorist just blew up the hostages and declares that it's Shepard's fault they died. What's one of Shepard's potential responses? Fire warning shots each time the terrorist opens his mouth until he finally gets the message after taking a few bullets.
"Who's the real terrorist here?" "You. But you're dead." *BANG*
If your Charm/Intimidate scores aren't high enough and/or you just plain don't feel like it, Shepard can interrupt Saren's villainous monologue right before the final showdown at any point by shout "I've done arguing with you! Let's end this!" and jumping immediately to the fight.
"She's pointing a gun at us and she's surrounded by geth! SHOOT HER!"
"We don't have time to deal with this idiot. CHARGE!"
Shut Up, Kirk!: Shepard gets handed one by Executor Pallin while discussing humans on the Citadel:
Shepard: The Council treats us like second class citizens. We have to fight for everything we get. Pallin: Good. Then fight for it. But don't expect the rest of us to just sit back and let you take it.
Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Noveria (and any other planet with a similar environment). You don't slide around so much, but you do take damage from the cold.
"Simon Says" Mini-Game: Nearly every puzzle or action requires this on the 360, from hacking to mining to breaking and entering. Fortunately, the PC and second game made things a bit more sophisticated.note There are still a few Simon Says games, but most tasks are achieved with what amounts to Radial Frogger.
Sniper Pistol: At lower levels, not so much, but if you put points into the Pistol skill and get better pistols, they wind up doing just as much damage as assault rifles, and their firing rate becomes almost ridiculous. Slap on some upgrades to improve accuracy, and bingo. About the only thing sniper rifles have on them at that point is higher base damage and the ability to zoom.
Sniper Scope Sway: The game features ridiculous amounts of Scope Swaying for any player who has not invested significant points into the Sniper Rifle skill. However, when the skill is maxed out (or when you activate Assassination), the rifle is steady as a rock. Crouching also helps minimize the swaying.
Socketed Equipment: Upgrades are available for armor, grenades, ammunition and your weapons. There are ten tiers for each upgrade, but the unclear comparison between upgrades was a criticism of the game that left players unaware of which upgrades were better for a particular mission.
Nihlus's death. The cutscene ends with Saren pointing his gun at the back of his head, then as you regain control of Shepard you hear the distant shot.
One DLC has you find a mangled corpse, along with a recording of the explosion which killed her. A few other cases show up, though they are only described in the mission log, not heard.
Space Battle: The Codex gives a lot of information on the history, tactics and technology of battles in space. The climax of the game comes during a conflict between Sovereign and the geth forces and the Council Fleet guarding the Citadel. The Systems Alliance comes in at the end to help finish off Sovereign.
Space Is Air: There are no fighters encountered in the game, but ships in space maneuver as if they were flying through an atmosphere. The Codex entries show that the writers were aware of the realities of space combat, so this can probably be attributed to a desire for cooler looking space battles.
Space Marine: Human Systems Alliance Marines: Gene therapy strengthened, light exoskeleton, shield generators and portable railgun ordinance. Everything a 22nd century warrior needs.
Citadel Security (C-Sec) is the law enforcement agency for the Citadel itself and the surrounding space. Their authority extends to the Mass Relay and they cover the criminal investigations, customs and military protection of the area. As of 2183 they are beginning to accept human applicants in sufficient numbers to no longer merit special treatment or protection, but none have yet reached the rank of 'Captain.'
The Spectres (Special Tactics and Reconnaissance) are an enforcement arm of the Citadel Council without direct supervision. They are granted extraterritoriality rights in all Council territory, including several systems which are technically outside the Citadel's authority, which essentially puts them "above the law." A Spectre's status can be revoked if it is determined that they are no longer acting in the best interest of the Council, but until then their actions (regardless of damage to property or loss of life) are officially beyond reproach or recrimination.
Take That: In "Bring Down the Sky", you can find a radio station where one of the logs states that people who have not listened to it are complaining about its subversive messages.
Take a Third Option: On Noveria, in order to get a garage pass to go to the labs, you have to go through a long series of conversations and sidequests in order to find evidence of Administrator Anoleis' corruption and then choose whether to give it to Anoleis, Parasini, or Qi'in. Or you can just give Opold's smuggled package to Anoleis and he'll give you a pass pretty much as soon as you get there.
Tech Points: You can spend skill points on Persuade/Intimidate levels, but you have to unlock them with the Paragon and Renegade meters first.
Teleporting Keycard Squad: Three separate occasions where you could just swear you killed everything in the room, and then on your way back out, it's full again. The first is in Fist's bar near the beginning of the game, when you have to rescue Tali. The second and third occur with lots and lots of rachni immediately after you have set a rather large number of explosives.
Of course, at Fist's bar, the thugs were all in the room with the main entrance, so they could have been called in as reinforcements. The rachni of course love hiding in air vents and other tight places to launch ambushes from, so it's consistent that they'd pop up in a previously empty room, even if it doesn't make sense that they'd wait until you were done setting the timer.
Thanatos Gambit: The plan of the Protheans who sabotaged the Keepers and built the Citadel relay.
Theme Tune Cameo: The a muzak version of the main theme is one of the songs that can play in the elevators.
Talitha, the girl in the "I Remember Me" sidequest (which is available only to a Colonist Shepard), speaks like this as a coping mechanism to handle her traumatic experiences.
The hanar wear it as their hat to only refer to them in the third person when talking to strangers.
The Three Trials: Sure, you can explore the galaxy, but the plot is prepared to wait as long as it takes for you to visit Therum, Noveria and Feros. Oh, and check out that mysterious transmission from Virmire, would you?
All enemies seem convinced that their group of badly armed, badly trained thugs will somehow prove more apt at killing you than the other dozen groups that have tried the exact same thing on a dozen different planets. Wrex puts it best:
Wrex: Anyone who fights us is either stupid or on Saren's payroll. Killing the latter is business. Killing the former is a favor to the universe.
Anyone who doubts Shepard's Spectre status counts as well. Special mention must go to the ExoGeni research team that has been overrun by Thorian Creepers. They themselves note that they were unable to defeat the Creepers, and that your ability to drive them off saved their lives, but with the right dialogue choices they still attack you. Though it is justified in the dialogue - they do not really think they could win, they just do not want to go into prison after what they have done.
Subverted when Shepard encounters a pair of thugs while fighting through the club of a local crime boss. The Renegade dialogue choice "I just killed fifteen guards to get in here. What do you think I'll do to you?" convinces them to leave.
The Council trusts C-Sec to investigate Saren's activities when he is accused of the attack on Eden Prime, then give them such a low security clearance that the officers involved can access literally nothing relevant to his actions.
Translator Microbes: The DLC mission "Bring Down The Sky" provides a Codex entry explaining that different races (and different nationalities within races) communicate via ubiquitous machine translation.
Troperiffic: The Mass Effect article had to be split into four main pages and over a dozen sub pages; one for the main series, this page, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. There are also relevant character pages, Crowning Moment pages, additional sub pages for tropes that became too numerous to include on a single page, and additional pages for the books.
Underrated And Overleveled: This can occur if you wait to rescue Liara as long as possible. Liara's strength is not that unreasonable if she is rescued near the beginning of the game when she expected to be saved (being a mage in a world where her people are presented as the strongest biotic users). However, if the player waits to rescue her until near the end of the game she can come out of suspended animation as powerful as now-legendary characters, but the plot will still play her as the weak and inexperienced character she was supposed to be in the beginning of the game.
Unexpected Gameplay Change: The Pinnacle Station DLC has Shepard participating in simulations that are similar to FPS multiplayer modes.
Useless Useful Ammo: There's ammo that does extra damage to organics, and ammo that does extra damage to synthetics. However, there's also an ammo type that not only affects both organics and synthetics, but does more damage than either of the "specialized" ammo types and prevents regeneration - meaning, among other things, that when krogan go down, they stay down.
Vendor Trash: In the form of high-rank versions of the guns and armor you got at the start of the game. They're likely to be so horribly outclassed by new models that their only purpose is a cheap source of credits. For example, the Avenger I Assault Rifle, the weapon you start off with, is incapable of hitting anything less than five feet away from you.
Video Game Caring Potential: Your party members. You don't actually get Renegade or Paragon points for how you act towards them, but their reactions to you tend to be so heart-wrenching when you're a giant Jerk Ass that it's hard to play as one. Thus making the problem of sacrificing one of them at Virmire all the more painful.
The Voice: Admiral Hackett, Hannah Shepard (only if Shepard has the Spacer background).
The War on Terror: An endgame side-plot has a pro-human protest group who shout "No blood for aliens!". This is of course a take of the "No blood for oil!" rallying cry for anti-war American protesters.
Wake-Up Call Boss: Assuming you play the game in the developers' intended order, the Geth Armature on Therum. After several minutes of blasting geth to shreds in the Mako followed by the still relatively easy task of killing them on foot, you come face-to-face with a gigantic machine that has tons of health and can easily kill you with a single hit. In fact, it's not uncommon for the Armature to kill Shepard as soon as the battle begins, which is a surefire sign that stronger shields and/or armor might be called for.
The War Has Just Begun: Shepard's endgame speech. Anderson or Udina also make one, depending on your decisions.
There is a realm of existence so far beyond your your own you cannot even imagine it. I am beyond your comprehension. I...am Sovereign.
Also, this line from the conversation with Vigil on Ilos:
Vigil: The Citadel is the heart of your civilization and the seat of government. As it was with us, and as it has been with every civilization that came before us. But the Citadel is a trap. The station is actually an enormous mass relay - one that links to dark space, the empty void beyond the galaxy's horizon. When the Citadel relay is activated, the Reapers will pour through. And all you know...will be destroyed.
What Measure Is a Mook?: Multiple missions can have the final confrontation resolved peacefully if you have enough Charm or Intimidate points to get the enemy to surrender voluntarily. However, to get to this point you often need to shoot your way through the initial guards, and afterwards you will still be congratulated on resolving the issue peacefully, despite the guard body count.
Where It All Began: The final confrontation occurs in the Citadel Tower, also one of the first places the characters visited after the introductory mission.
With All Due Respect: Kaiden to Ashley on which one gets to put their life on the line for the Salarian STG. Ashley's reply provides the page quote.
Ashley: Why is it that when someone says "With all due respect", they really mean "Kiss my ass"?
World Building: Dialogue with other characters and the Codex (An Encyclopedia Exposita) can reveal information about the history, culture, society, religion, sexual mores, biology, government, family groupings, combat styles and economy of all the alien races of the universe, including some which are never even encountered in the game.
Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: In "Bring Down The Sky", you can actually take out The Dragon with a sniper rifle instead of talking to him, since the game expects you to walk up and have a cutscene with him first.