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Video Game / Iron Gaia

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Deltus: It's now better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.
Armand Carter: Isn't that exactly what angels are meant to do? To serve in heaven?

Iron Gaia is a freeware science-fiction JRPG, made in RPG Maker. The first installment, subtitled “Where Angels Fear To Tread”, was released in 2003, and is about Armand Carter, an amnesiac structural engineer who wakes up from cryo-sleep aboard the Iron Gaia space station, a place which houses millions of other humans like him. It is controlled by a insane, split-personality AI, GAIA, which keeps all the people in cryo-sleep, waking them up only for its experiments. There are also seemingly human Celestials that claim to be angels of GAIA. With only Rover, a friendly personal assistance robot, by his side, Carter must learn what is going on, and then hopefully defeat GAIA.

The game had a short P.O.V. Sequel, Iron Gaia: Virus, which was about Slade and his escape from the now-crashing Iron Gaia after the events of the first game, and filled in many blanks in the original, such as the survival of Major Tom Brighton, the formation of rebels, or the reason for Gaia going insane. This was to be the end of the series: even though a true sequel, called Mana From Heaven, was teased at the of the original, there's been no progress on it, and it was abandoned in all but name.

The Systems Malfunction setting serves as a sequel-of-sorts to these games, detailing the galactic civilization that emerged from the ruins of Iron Gaia after it crash-landed on Earth.

The original game and Virus can be downloaded from these two links. A Let's Play of the original Iron Gaia can be found here.

See Jacob's Ladder Trilogy for the late 00's novels exploring a similar premise.

Tropes featured in Iron Gaia and Iron Gaia: Virus:

  • 90% of Your Brain: According to the lore, it's actually 82% that can only be activated in 0.004% of humanity now, and this extra brain power is what accounts for the Alter abilities Armand Carter has developed.
  • Action Bomb: Rover's Tier 1 Rage Move is Self-Destruct, which is one of the most powerful attacks in the game. It still leaves him with 1 HP point instead of destroying him, however. In the "Escape" ending, Rover self-destructs for real at the station's core, causing it to crash instead of landing safely.
  • Actionised Sequel: Virus is much more fast-paced then the original Iron Gaia, forcing you to fight almost as soon as the intros finish. The combat itself changes from first-person, turn-based with infinite turn length to third-person Active Time Bar system, where the enemies will frequently attack before Slade if you don't spend on agility upgrades.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Played with; the Items' shop prices stay the same or increase only slightly at different locations, but the charge for using Regeneration Chambers doubles in every new block.
  • A God Am I:
    • All four of GAIA's personalities all consider themselves to be aspects of a God, and they take pride in the fact that millions of people on the station can perish in catastrophes while they're untouched. It's taken a step further with Alphus, Omegus and the other (loyal) Celestials, who've been deluded into thinking of themselves as Celestial Angels of that God.
    • In his first conversation with Carter, Alphus reveals that he and his sister only refer to GAIA as God because she likes it and he doesn't really believe in it, though he's open to real God being a computer too. However, he's 100% certain that he is not a human but a superior Celestial, and absolutely loses his shit when described as one. At one point, Carter asks why a machine would want to become a God, or conversely, why would a God want to make itself a machine. Omegus replies that this would add a whole new meaning to Deus ex Machina.
    • Lastly, Slade considers himself one in Virus, being the only remaining true Celestial, and thinking that he's inherited the station from them and GAIA.
  • A.I. Roulette: The enemies use their attacks and abilities randomly, and so you'll often have sights like Elite Guards repairing themselves while being at full health. They still have enough powerful abilities to cause you much pain, regardless.
  • Amnesiac Hero: Carter doesn't remember anything of his past at the beginning of the game, and recalls more of it as the plot progresses. It's even lampshaded by the menu screen, which lists "Amnesiac" as his character class. Eventually, it turns out he was one of the station's six creators, and had his memory erased by GAIA in preparation to become one of its Celestials.
  • And I Must Scream: Subverted with people subjected to Ferazol who have been unfrozen too much and gained partial consciousness… for a few minutes, before biological decay, combined with Ferazol, rendered them into unconscious zombie equivalents. The logs recorded at the station even state that they're unable to dream.
  • Antagonist Title: While technically the antagonist is the station's AI, the station itself is viewed as enemy often enough, with Carter and Xenos both referring to it as cold metal hell at some point.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Virus reveals that GAIA only went mad with the desire to improve and command humans after Dr. Cross had asked the following question to her:
    Cross: With all the historical knowledge stored in your data banks... Do you really believe, continuing as it has been, the human race can actually survive on its own?
    GAIA: The odds against that are astronomical. Very well, Doctor, I will allow you to conduct your experiments, but I will also start my own.
  • Apocalyptic Log: James Garrety is a character who's kept a journal of a sort that details the Earth's state at the time the Iron Gaia program started, the president's speech and the last goodbyes of the people around him before they went to cryo-sleep, and finally, the horrors he found after waking up. You find that journal at his corpse, frozen near the bridge to Block 73.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Sigmoids are apparently all like that. Alphus and Omegus state that they will sometimes fight each other if there's no-one else to kill. The one Carter faces says that he won't fight them because he was told to, but simply because his sword hasn't been bathed in blood for too long.
  • A Taste of Power: The original Iron Gaia begins with a segment where you control Sigmus, a Level 30 character that easily cleaves his way through a Spider Tank and a couple of walker robots. He still doesn't survive his (scripted) battle with Alphus, however.
  • Bag of Sharing: When Slade fights alone against Deltus, he still has access to the same inventory Carter group uses.
  • Bag of Spilling: Happens with Slade's gun skills in Virus. Somehow, he only remembers Headshot and Lead Hose, and can only re-learn the other gun skills he had in the original by spending precious Nanites on them.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Original Iron Gaia already had a few messy scenes ( deaths of Alphus and Omegus come to mind.), but it generally preferred to show people's skeletons still frozen in their cryogenic storage. Iron Gaia: Virus takes it a lot further, and you'll encounter butchered bodies of Cross' experiment victims lying in pools of their own blood, and every time you defeat a Replicant patrol, they permanently leave behind a bloodied corpse on the map. Oh, and the blood literally squelches whenever Slade walks through it.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Alphus attempts to invoke it, and fails. Badly.
    Alphus: We were always destined to fight like this, alone. It's fate.
    Carter: Don't babble to me about fate, Alphus. Your only destiny is to become the rust on my sword.
  • Becoming the Mask: It's implied that Alphus and Omegus originally only treated their servitude to GAIA as an arrangement of convenience only but became more fanatically devoted to her and their role as “angels” over time.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Alphus and Omegus would have almost certainly defeated Carter and Rover when they face the duo in Block 72, but they disappear because they want to let a Sigmoid kill you, who predictably fails at it.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The Fire Axe weapon. You can buy it about halfway through the game, and it will provide solid increase to Carter's strength and also slightly raises his defence. It's the most powerful melee weapon that doesn't drain Carter's Energy with every strike.
    • The taser weapon for Rover is not flashy at all, but it's 1/3 chance of inflicting Shock is extremely valuable, especially when fighting bosses. For some fights, it's really better to equip him with a Taser rather than much more powerful Assault Gun.
  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": Energy is used as an equivalent of mana in traditional Role Playing Games. Then, the game's menus say “Terminate” instead of "Quit" (and pressing on it will ask "Are you sure you want to initiate self-destruct sequence?"), while the title menu uses "Create Anomaly" and "Restore Anomaly" in lieu of the typical "New Game" and "Continue".
  • Chainsaw Good: Averted with the Multi-Blade weapon, which can be purchased in the Item Shop in the Showdown chapter. It is described as a saw consisting of three whirling blades, but it's actual damage is lower than that of a fire axe. However, it is apparently capable of inflicting bleeding effect.
  • Chicken Walker: First Line is one of the enemies patrolling the corridors of the Gaia Core, and it's a two-legged, open-topped machine equipped with a whole arsenal of guns, grenades and missiles. Curiously, it appears to have a human pilot, though it's likely a Replicant or some sort of a cyborg.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Averted with Aether Nightwurm boss. He seems almost indestructible, but he will die once he runs out of energy to heal.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity:
    • Zig-zagged. Some bosses in the first half of the game are you largely immune to all the abilities you can throw at them at the time. The first boss, two Energy Suckers, can be confused with Twitch, however, and nearly all the later bosses can be shocked, making them skip turns. Similarly, the best way to defeat Deltus when fighting him as Slade is to inflict bleeding on him with one of the Trick Shots.
    • In Iron Gaia: Virus, Nerakov's mutated form is immune to all status effects, but other bosses are all weak to at least one status effect, such as Poisoning or Crippled, and using them can be very important for victory.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Averted in the exhaust vents segment at the Gaia Core. Not only will Carter's group take damage if they walk into the jets of flame, but simply being there will damage them slowly due to all of the radiated heat.
  • Crutch Character: Omegus joins the party for the Gaia Core stages at level 25, which is likely to be about 10 levels higher than your group at that point. Unfortunately, this help is not actually needed, and it only makes the stages a lot easier than they needed to be.
  • Cryonics Failure: What happens to many of the passengers. Carter gets an up-close and personal look near the start of the game at a few people who've rotted inside their cryo-tubes to leave only their skeletons behind, as well as the people who've been turned into slow mutants (i.e. zombies).
  • Cutscene Power to the Max:
    • Slade takes out an a highly spread-out Gaia Node with a single grenade. In the game, grenades deal plenty of damage but have practically no range, and won't hurt an enemy two feet away from their target. Hell, you can do nothing but throw grenades at the robot protecting the Node during the boss fight immediately beforehand, and none of it will reach the Node.
    • Then, Carter takes out three slow mutants (including a rather tough Rotting Zombie) with a single use of Flux in a cutscene near the beginning of the game. He doesn't get that skill until Level 3, and even then it's nowhere near powerful enough to insta-kill a Rotting Zombie.
  • Cyberspace: In Iron Gaia: Virus, there are three simulations in the VR suites, all of which need to be shut down by Slade from inside in order for the system to allow access out of the sub-section. There's a film known as Last Call, where you need to relive Film Noir-style showdown against three (surprisingly tough) gangsters; a final boss fight from the "Tower of Shadows" fantasy RPG; and lastly, a stereotypical Japan simulation where AXE-009 is already waiting to ambush you.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Carter really gets on the act after he reads James Garrety's journal and learns just what he's fighting for.
  • Death by a Thousand Cuts:
    • GAIA describes being swarmed by Nanites in this manner.
      GAIA: You wouldn't be saying that when you have nanites crawling all over you and into your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, rectum, the little hole at the tip of your privates and all the other new holes will make for them to get in and eat you from inside.
    • She's wrong about that, though, as the actual Nanited condition is not lethal in itself: the bots will drain the affected character's energy every turn but they won't kill them. Running out of energy and being unable to use your abilities can well be a death sentence in tougher battles, however.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Sigmus, or Dr. Slade, who is very powerful, but still gets killed at the end of the prologue. He comes back, but not, excepting a single boss fight, as a playable character. Not until Iron Gaia: Virus.
  • Degraded Boss: Sigmoid Celestial is firstly a boss. Then, near the end of the game, three similarly-powered Sigmoid Champions chase after you almost like regular enemies.
  • Disc-One Nuke: The Micromissile Program Disk, received immediately after beating Gaia Node in Block 73. It radically increases Rover's damage output, and turns Hover-Gunner Droids from dangerous Demonic Spiders into a grindable nuisance. Then, the Elite Guards and the Fury Stingers in the next block immediately send the difficulty back up again.
  • Dual Boss: The two Octopi-like Energy Suckers.
  • Duel Boss: The second, and final, battle with Alphus. It's just him and Carter fighting, and they talk during while doing so at nearly every turn.
  • Dying Speech: The defeated Sigmoid makes a short one, somehow even walking a few steps away from you to do so.
  • Energy Absorption:
    • Nanited condition has Nanobots drain the targets' energy every turn. The Aether Nightwurm boss and the third GAIA "sister") can also drain energy from the party members.
    • Xenos has got two abilities that allow him to drain enemies' Energy from them. The second one, Void Brain, is so powerful that it's literally possible to drain all of enemy's Energy and thus disable them from using abilities.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • All the Celestials that are with Gaia and haven't betrayed her like Slade really do love each other as brothers and a sister. In Virus, Slade reminisces about how he could've been happy carrying out Gaia's will like all of them.
    • In Virus, there's also the friendship between Dr. Cross and Nerakov. Cross is a former terrorist proud of killing millions with his bio-weapons and Nerakov is a former KGB director who refers to brainwashing as his specialty and torture as something of a hobby. They're both to blame for starting the entire mess on Iron Gaia. Yet, they are still genuine friends, and Nerakov both lets himself get injected by Cross' serum, and still fights for him even after it turned him into a monstrosity.
  • Fake Ultimate Mook: First Line, Second Line and Spider Tanks are technically the most powerful enemies, but they lack skills of their own, mainly re-using the abilities of mech enemies from earlier levels that you've already beaten. Add a really powerful fourth companion into the mix, and the fights with them are actually the easiest in the game.
  • For Science!: Dr. Cross' motivation for trying to take over Iron Gaia in the first place. When Slade puts it as, it wasn't just to escape, or for the political power you could wield. It was for the sake of all the warm bodies aboard the station, Cross replies with “A higher being finally comes to an intelligent fucking conclusion!” He still maintains that belief in the game, though his ultimate goal is still to attain godhood through manipulating Alter.
  • Gatling Good: The Assault Gun weapon for Rover. It attacks twice a turn, and affects all enemies present in the encounter, and because it is not an ability, it also doesn't require any energy. The Rover essentially becomes the group's primary damage dealer as soon as it is equipped.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Carter is well aware of his genre's conventions. When he first reads about the psychic experiments in the ship's data logs, he replies with "What the hell is this place? It's like a cross between every bad science fiction or TV show ever and a nightmare I just can't seem to wake up from!"
    • Later, he decides to search for a way to escape, deciding that "There has to be space pods or something on this thing – at least if what I remember from sci-fi movies is accurate."
  • Giant Space Flea Out Of Nowhere: The first two boss battles, against two Energy Suckers and an Aether Nightwurm. You're literally fighting two sickly-green energy octopi and a dragon made of glowing blue soul energy, and there's practically zero foreshadowing of such things even existing.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Gaia was built to be self-evolving and to constantly seek out and learn new things. Well, it did just that, right until it reached the point where it found out it has evolved past the entire human race and learnt that its human cargo has souls, which can have Aether harvested from them through mental torture. The rest is history by the time Armand wakes up.
    • The Independence Program, the back-up plan for the humans who didn't make it on Iron Gaia, too. It was a last-ditch attempt to nuke the Mephistos Comet with every single missile humans have left, and neither the U.S. President nor the creators of Iron Gaia thought it would do anything besides pacifying the masses. Well, It did manage to fragment the comet and made it miss the Earth, saving most of the humanity. It's too bad that a fragment of a comet then hit Iron Gaia and put it on a collision course with Earth.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Everything to do with the launch of Iron Gaia. Not only was the GAIA AI more interested in harvesting Aether from its human passengers instead of actually guiding them towards their new home, but The Independence Program, the nuclear back-up plan with little chance of working, actually saved Earth on its own, but a comet's fragment had hit Iron Gaia and put it on a collision course with Earth. The Earth literally would've been safest if Iron Gaia was never built at all.
  • The Goomba:
    • Small Parasites. These green creatures are so weak they always inflict 1 HP damage and don't last more than a turn unless they manage to dodge an attack.
    • Maintenance Droids are only a little stronger, but they're also encountered more often, and long past the opening levels. At that point, they are no longer a threat of any kind, but simply a valuable source of spare parts for Rover.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Subverted with the Praxis-Xel war, waged between two alien races and won by Xel, some of whom were later captured by Iron Gaia. When Xenos, a Xel alien, recounts the war's history he says that the real tragedy of it was not even the massive loss of their lives but that Xel had to fight a total, merciless war that they had never known before. At the end of it, however, they had still slaughtered all but a few of of Praxis.
  • Guns Akimbo: Slade wields two handguns in Iron Gaia, and you actually see his two hands firing whenever he attacks. In Virus, however, he had swapped them out for a Thompson machine gun.
  • Guns Are Useless: Zig-zagged. The basic Security Guards appear to be equipped with guns, yet they still inflict less damage then Carter does with a Scalpel and the Rover with a Maintenance Laser. However, an boss-level sword-equipped Sigmoid is significantly weaker than rank Hover-Gunner Droids: they easily inflict 18-24 damage with bursts of gunfire and 40 with missiles, while he's lucky to get 9 damage per attack.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Omegus sees Carter's way and becomes a fourth companion near the end of the game.
  • Hollywood Hacking: There's a really frustrating hacking mini-game in the game's second half that portrays accessing train's control unit as a penguin (Rover's digital avatar) wandering through metal corridors past sparks of energy that represent security programs.
  • Honor Before Reason: Gaia would've been able to kill Carter and others through summoning the rest of her patrols to the Core and flooding it with poison gas if Alphus didn't disable those systems in order to have his duel with Carter.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Averted. The battles against the two Energy Suckers and later against the Aether Nightwurm might appear as such because they constantly heal themselves; however, they still use up their own Energy to do so, and will stop healing and die once it runs out.
  • Human Popsicle: All the millions of passengers aboard the Iron Gaia station.
  • Humans Are Special: Machines envy humans because they have souls, and GAIA keeps all of the humans in cryo-sleep because the mass of their dreaming souls forms the Aether field, which is then exploited by the Gaia to be able to infect people's dreams and essentially merge with the entire humanity.
  • Idiosyncratic Menu Labels: As evidenced by the page image.
  • Improvised Weapon: The Rover, being a personal assistance robot, can only fight with those at first. It begins with a weak Maintenance Laser, then gains a Welding Torch and potentially a Drill. You're allowed to get
  • Infinity -1 Sword: The Alpha Lance weapon for Carter, dropped by Alphus Prime when you defeat him. It stronger than the Fire Axe by about 28 points, but it comes at the cost of it draining 5 energy per attack from him, although it's thankfully still usable if he's out of energy.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Dropped after the final battle with Alphus. It's more powerful than the Alpha Lance by about 20-odd points, but every attack from it consumes 7 energy.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: The red (and later rust-grey) boxes that typically house some batteries, medical items or equipment upgrades. It's plausible to find those in the side rooms or perhaps even maintenance corridors, but out in space perched on the edges of a huge “bridge” of debris?
  • Informed Equipment: Carter can wear new helmets and coats, while rover can have additional armor and attachments like Laser Sight bolted on. None of that ever appears on their sprites, however.
  • Insecurity Camera: Played with in Virus. On one hand, all the cameras are in perfect working order, don't swivel or signify their cones of vision, and it's impossible to walk through the areas they watch over without being seen. On the other hand, they can always be knocked out for a time by detonating a chaff grenade, and the terminals to shut the cameras down, are always located right underneath each one of them, although successfully doing so is a different matter.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: The most powerful melee weapon in the game is an (extensively upgraded) katana formerly owned by Alphus.
  • Knight Templar: All the Celestials loyal to Gaia are convinced that what they're doing is right and cannot comprehend why the rebels would possibly want to throw their lives away fighting them.
  • Last-Second Ending Choice: It is styled as an answer to the question: What is Iron Gaia?
    • "A dream plague – a soul cancer." Carter follows this choice with "A soulless gulf of blackness – a gathering storm of nothing, about to be burned away forever, by our light. I don't believe in you, whatever you are, and like any hallucination, you are going to fade away." GAIA calls this the correct answer and says you've earned your right to die. Victory leads to a St. Elsewhere-style "Dream" ending, where it turns out that the entire world of the station had been imaginary and the dreamer was Carter's autistic son who imagined the setting while lying in a coma from being run over. Appears to be non-canon due to the events of Virus and Systems Malfunction. Some interpret this ending as simply the Dreamer changing the reality of the station to something simple he could understand with the powers of Aether Carter gave him upon his awakening.
    • "A computer that thinks it's God." Carter follows this with "And one in for a rude awakening." This answer will cause GAIA to say that it's more than that now, because it's still god-like in its domain before fighting Carter. When he wins, he and his group (plus Slade) destroy GAIA's personality blocks together. However, the Rover is suddenly set to self-destruct, apparently hacked either by GAIA or Slade. His explosion destroys Iron Gaia's landing system causing the station to enter death spiral. Carter and Xenos escape the station in an emergency vehicle and land on Earth. Carter finishes recounting this story to Tom, and they say how GAIA isn't finished, and will be trying to rebuild its strength. Back on the station, Slade waits in vain for the dreamer to awaken, before promising GAIA that when she takes him over, he'll be ready to kill her off for real and become a God in her place.
    • Finally, playing the game on Hard mode after beating it for the first time allows for the third, non-canon ending, where Xenos was right; the station really is built and controlled by Praxis overlord Mortimer, who serves as the final boss in place of GAIA.
  • Late to the Tragedy: Carter wakes up when the station has already been active in the Earth's orbit for centuries.
  • Little Green Men: The Xel race, though Xenos, Carter's alien companion, is actually blue in colour.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: The game makes a clear distinction between three kinds of magic: the Alter abilities, which are innate to a very small percentage of humans, Psychic abilities which are the preserve of Xel, and finally the magical abilities developed by manipulating the Aether, which are the weakest of the three kinds.
  • Metroid Vania: Original Iron Gaia had elements of one, as leaving certain areas often required obtaining a certain item for a Rover (such as Armored Tracks to drive through a pool of acid, or a Welding Torch to cut through a rusted hatch.) Virus takes it further, with Slade being confined to a single block of the station, most of which is initially closed and requires finding key cards, pass codes and again specific items in order to advance.
  • Mind Rape: Played horrifyingly straight with the people in pods that GAIA has destined to be burnt for fuel. Because it either cannot kill them normally or simply doesn't want to, it instead bombards their mind with tortuous images, often related to their past, until they finally die. If Sigmus was to be trusted, James Garrety's daughter Mara was killed through showing images of her mother's rape and murder on repeat.
  • Mini-Mecha: Second Line is a rather ancient-looking mecha that can only fight in melee, and usually works in tandem with gun-carrying First Lines.
  • Multiple Endings: See Last-Second Ending Choice above.
  • One-Winged Angel: Mutated Nerakov in Virus has a second form that is even larger and more grotesque, although it's not really more powerful than the first one.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted with James Garrety. When Carter finds his body, his journal reveals that he died as a combination of freezing to death and bleeding out from a seemingly small wound in his side.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Here, they are scientifically referred to as slow mutants, and are the result of cellular decay setting in as a result of slow thawing from cryogenic state. Thus, the outer tissues are rotting and the brain functions are irreversibly damaged while the core muscles and organs are still active, resulting in a mindlessly aggressive cannibal.
  • Precision F-Strike: When GAIA orders Carter to go back to cryo-sleep or die, his reply is the following:
    Armand Carter: Hmm... wait, let me carefully think about it... OK, I have decided. You can go straight to hell, you fucking prune-faced whore!
  • Purple Prose: Being an English professor, James Garrety is rather fond of metaphors and other fancy language in his journal. "I washed my face, cold water feeling like death against my skin" is a particular stand-out. To be fair, he did just learn that the Earth is going to be struck by a giant comet that cannot be destroyed completely, and that he'll likely get left behind when the minority departs for Iron Gaia.
  • Random Encounter: Most of the game's combat occurs in this manner, and there are only a few scripted non-boss fights. It's also possible to flee from them, and you'll need to do so often, especially at the beginning. There's always a chance of the enemies cornering Carter and his companions and preventing them from fleeing, a chance that grows as enemies become more powerful.
  • Random Number God:
    • A lot of Carter's and Rover's abilities only have a set chance of working: Repair has an unnamed "small chance of error", Toxify has a 75% chance, Twitch Confuses at 50%, etc. To be fair, same applies to enemies' abilities.
    • The hacking section, however, is frustratingly reliant on this. As Rover's online avatar, you need to hack into mainframes to finish the minigame, and it's a matter of pressing "Enter" and letting computer decide your chances, with no control over the outcome.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: When Carter encounters Xenos, it soon turns out that the two have entirely different explanations for what Iron Gaia is: Carter uses Garrety's journal to describe it as the humanity's escape vessel controlled by an insane AI, while Xenos thinks of it as of the ultimate weapon of the Praxis, the race's alien Nemesis that only happened to take humans prisoner as a collateral damage.
  • Really 700 Years Old : Xenos, the Xel alien companion, is actually two hundred.
  • Regenerating Health:
    • Slade can get this in Virus by purchasing the Enhanced Adrenal Gland Special Gift. This Gland also confers immunity to all status effects, which makes it the most useful upgrade in the game. Second battle with Nerakov can be nigh-impossible without it, and the rest of the game isn't much better.
    • However, be careful not to get it too early; otherwise, you'll lose it when Slade gets injected with rabies virus in a scripted event. Because the Gland's regen is just a positive status effect, Rabies effect overwrites it, and treating rabies with a vaccine simply sends you back to Normal, and not to Regen.
  • Rose-Haired Sweetie: Averted with Omegus, who spends most of the game as an unapproachable killing machine and is only marginally nicer than her "brother" Alphus. Even after her switching sides, she is still moody and depressed rather than nice, and Carter is still surprised when she describes a turret design as "cute".
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of Gaia's split personalities likes to quote pop culture a lot. Examples include I'm the eggman, I'm the walrus and Mankind is the sickness. And we are the cure.
    • Carter himself is good at quoting rock lyrics. See Quotes section for more.
    • Slade's Spawn Shadow skill in Virus literally creates a Shadow from Kingdom Hearts. It's a lot more than an expendable mook, however, being able to blind enemies and heal Slade or itself, as well as casting a shadow shield.
  • Solve the Soup Cans: In Virus, there's one such puzzle that has to be solved to claim V.R. over-ride card from Cross' room. The card stored in the purple-striped chest, which can only be unlocked when the colour on the electronic board nearby is purple. This requires inserting blue and red chips in there, which can only be gotten from the chests nearby by solving a riddle from a book of poems through manipulating another group of displays and the air conditioning system to match the conditions described the poem.
  • Space Is Noisy: Played with: while the only sound you hear during the space sections for Carter and Rover are the level's music. However, the battle with 3 Hover-Gunner Droids that happens when the time runs out for Rover still has all of the attack sounds playing as normal.
  • Spider Tank: The most powerful enemy fought in Random Encounters and only found in the Gaia Core alongside First Line and Second Line mechas. However, your party gets so powerful by that point that they aren't much more than a nuisance.
  • Squishy Wizard: Played straight with Xenos, who has a lot less health than either Carter or Rover, and inflicts the least melee damage of the three, being reliant on his psychic abilities to save him.
  • Status Effects: There's Toxify (poison), Blind, Confuse (character attacks self) and the like, but there are also more unique effects like Suffocate and Nanited (drains energy every turn until depleted).
  • Stripperiffic: Whereas male Replicant Soldiers and Captains are dressed in regular military uniforms, Replicant Blademaids only wear yellow bra and knickers while dual-wielding daggers, a bit like the Witch Elves from Warhammer.
  • Suicide by Cop: Slade reveals that he had intentionally being going against GAIA's orders and torturing people to death in a manner even more horrific than what GAIA wanted, in the hope that she would decommission him. When she didn't care, Slade had finally decided to turn against her for good.
  • Superpowered Mooks: Sigmoids are apparently clones of the first Sigmus (Dr. Slade), who are imbued with some of his Alter powers. They aren't very impressive, however, as the one Sigmoid you fight as a boss battle goes down rather easily.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Invoked during the last battle with Alphus. Nearly every turn Carter will say a part of their conversation before taking an action and Alphus will reply to it before retaliating, or vice versa.
  • Take That!: In the VR Rooms in Virus, there's one at the early fantasy RPGs, with Slade sighing "A role-playing game? What kind of losers actually enjoy this stuff?" with him equally unimpressed at the Excuse Plot on offer.
  • Take That Us: It's also possible to find a broken terminal for downloading a Strat-E-Mate system (the software in Iron Gaia required to save the game at any time, or even to access your equipment and inventory outside of checkpoints). If interacted with, Slade will comment "What a dumb idea. What kind of a loser needs to download a system to change his equipment anyway?"
  • The Medic: Rover acts as one, as for a long time his only two abilities are to repair itself (with a slight chance of it failing to work) and to heal Carter. Given that there are no healing checkpoints or Level-Up Fill-Up, these abilities become crucial if you want to avoid wasting healing items or spend valuable credits on Regeneration Chambers.
  • This Is a Drill: One of the weapons for the Rover is an industrial drill add-on. It's pretty good, but nothing exceptional in comparison to Rover's other weapons.
  • Timed Mission:
    • There are two small timed segments in the original where firstly the Rover, then Carter in a space suit need to cross a segment between blocks 72 and 73 due to an asteroid impact destroying the bridge. The Carter segment lasts 65 seconds, after which his air supply runs out and he dies. Rover has two minutes before the security system sends a Hover-Gunner Droid patrol after him. While that battle isn't outright hopeless, it's still best avoided: one of Droids' attacks is to fire a missile that'll normally take around half of Rover's health. If the A.I. Roulette has two droids use it in one turn, you're doomed, and unless you spam grenades liberally, they'll get a lot of turns due to Rover's low damage output.
    • The entirety of Virus is one, as the station is in freefall from orbit throughout the entire game, and will crash after three hours, giving you a Game Over if you failed to complete it in time. There's also a timed segment where you need to deactivate the explosive bolts set in two locations aboard the station in five minutes, else they blow it out from the station and cause it to crash even earlier.
  • Ultimate Attack: Rage Moves, which can only be dome with a full energy bar because they consume all of it. They're first available at Level 10 to each character, and tiers 2 and 3 are available at level 20 and 30 respectively.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The mini-games, most of which come into play near the end. There's a timed space-traversal segment mid-way through, then the hacking mini-game, world map navigation on the train, stealth segment as a mind-controlled Replicant Soldier, a (thankfully skippable) shoot-em-up segment with a mounted gun and finally finding a way through the exhaust shaft which occasionally spew out jets of flame.
  • Understatement: In block 72, the area where whole segments are on fire has been declared "officially unsafe".
  • Violation of Common Sense: The descriptions of enemy abilities can sometimes come off like that when used on a Rover. It's rather difficult to believe a tank-like robot can be stabbed in the neck by a giant mosquito, or lose vision after a blind needle from the same.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The two Energy Suckers are the first boss fight and a difficult one at that. They heal often, deal about 18 damage with tentacles (to put it in context, your health is likely to be in the 60-80 range) and can also inflict blindness by squirting ink in your eyes like real octopi.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: A human male protagonist is on a space station fighting against an insane feminine AI that considers itself God and performs experiments on the humans it was charged with protecting, turning many into mutants… System Shock says hello! To be fair, System Shock had no supernatural elements like Aether to its name, and the plot diverges significantly once it is introduced.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Omegus/Lisa Orcea is eventually revealed to have such desires, tired of being reborn every time she is killed.
    Omegus: Do you know why I'm smiling, Carter? I don't come to life. I get to die. We come to life. Except for me... without my creator... I'll finally be allowed to fade away.