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Video Game / Mass Effect

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The hero(ine) with a thousand faces. Literally.
"Not just for our own sake but for the sake of every other species in Citadel Space, Saren must be stopped. And I promise you all: we will stop him."
Commander Shepard

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. They are 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 vs. Cynicism; you are a hero either way, but your heroism can range from Knight in Shining Armor to Unscrupulous 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 emulator.Details 

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.

  • 100% Completion: The main storyline can be completed in roughly 10 hours, 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.
  • 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.
  • Action Bomb: Rachni Workers, very small bugs that throw themselves at you and explode, doing poison damage that completely ignores your shields.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Several. One example is when Shepard has to decide whether or not to let the Rachni Queen live.
  • Admiring the Abomination: Both Liara and Shiala express regret over the destruction of the Thorian as it was a unique and ancient life form.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Benezia and Saren are under "indoctrination", a subtle form of mind control, and depending on your choices may kill themselves if you make them see it.
  • Alignment-Based Endings: Depending on whether you were a Paragon or Renegade and whether or not you saved the Council, the ending speech Captain Anderson or Ambassador Udina gives will differ. The Paragon ending has a Rousing Speech basically along the lines of "We will rebuild, and we will fight side-by-side." As a Renegade, the speech consists of how humanity will protect the galaxy at any cost.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: The Battle of the Citadel. Makes for a pretty awesome and very definitely final dungeon.
  • Almost Kiss: Between Shepard and their Love Interest, just before the Point of No Return.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: One uncharted world has an area with a number of corpses and wrecked vehicles bearing signs of geth weapons fire. Unfortunately for the geth, this happened in a thresher maw nest. For another layer, you'll likely find this after killing said thresher maw.
  • 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 them a means of preventing the return of the Reapers.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • On Noveria, to reactivate the Peak 15 VI, you can either fiddle around with a Tower of Hanoi puzzle or you can just spend 100 omnigel. It's a good idea to convert the crap gear that drops at low levels so you can have the omnigel recquired.
    • Also on Noveria, once you deal with Benezia and the rachni, the game automatically fast travels you from the hot labs back to the Normandy, sparing you a long, boring return trip.
  • Apocalyptic Log
    • The message in the Prothean Beacons. Vigil, however, takes this to a Logical Extreme.
    • In "Bring Down the Sky", there are three missing miners you have to find as part of a sidequest, one of which leaves an Apocalyptic Log that is definitely a Tear Jerker.
      Hymes: If I don't make it, tell my family I love—*BOOM*
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The eponymous mass effect, which is the effect on matter that causes it to gain or lose mass, enabling anti-gravity, artificial gravity, and Faster-Than-Light Travel, among other things.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: You can recruit up to six squadmates, but can only take two with you at a time.
  • 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. Ashley and Soldier Shepard, the most combat-focused characters, have access to medium armor from the start and can unlock heavy armor. Wrex is the only exception to this rule. He's got biotics and has medium armor that can unlock heavy armor. However, he's a centuries-old cunning warrior from a species of walking tanks, so he's likely put in the time necessary to become skilled with it. The later games in the series remove armor classes.
  • Armor of Invincibility: Several.
    • 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).
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The Thorian can only be killed by attacking the neural clusters that are scattered around its mammoth body.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: As befitting a game that pays homage to early 1980s sci-fi flicks, the end credits feature an '80s style rock ballad that has almost nothing to do with the events of the story.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant:
    • 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, who even at that point in their history had a larger military 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. And then along comes Shepard, who shows them what they're capable of. Note that this is twenty-some years after what the turians refer to as the "Relay 314 incident" and humans call the "First Contact war", where a turian force initially forced the surrender and occupation of a human colony, then had their asses handed to them when the Alliance sent the bulk of their fleet against the relatively few number of turian ships holding said colony.
  • 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.
    • High Explosive Ammo causes very heavy splash damage to anything near whatever you shoot with it, but its massive heat penalty makes it this in any weapon except Sniper Rifles (which have a very slow rate of fire anyway). That said, it tends to produce hilarious results when combined with the Lift power.
    • The SSV Normandy SR1 is considered to be this In-Universe (with an emphasis on 'impractical') by a human Alliance admiral. Basically he considers the Normandy's stealth system to be useless and would have preferred that the funds and resources had been used to create a more conventional warship instead. He is very wrong.
  • 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 both a howitzer and a 50mm autocannon.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Applies to some of the Cool Ships. Shepard's ship is the Normandy and the asari flagship is called the Destiny Ascension.
  • Badass Boast: Happens a fair amount throughout the game, but there's a great example from Sovereign.
    Sovereign: Your words are as empty as your future.
    Sovereign: You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: Chora's Den, on the Citadel. It used to be a much nicer place, until Fist took over. Now it's the perfect place for corrupt cops or disgraced generals to wallow and get drunk.
  • Battle in the Rain: Virmire, although the PC hardware requirements for weather effects were pretty high for its time and it does not show at all on the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.
  • 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.
    "We'll have exclusive footage later today."
  • Betrayal by Inaction: What essentially happens if you choose not to save the Council aboard the Destiny Ascension at the end of the game. The Alliance fleet will ignore their requests for help, and their ship will then be destroyed by the geth fleet. You could argue that it's a Karmic Death, considering the Council pretty much ignored every warning Shepard gave them regarding the Reapers in the first place. It gets even darker if Shepard tells the Alliance to "Let the Council die," as opposed to just "Concentrate on Sovereign."
  • Betting Mini-Game: The quasar slot machines. Nowhere near as fun as pazaak, though.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: The Battle of the Citadel.
  • Bilingual Bonus: It's not like binary is an official language, but those who know it will be able to read the Luna VI's final message. HELP! You learn in the third game that Cerberus answered that distress call and repurposed the VI into none other than EDI.
  • Black and Grey Morality: The Renegade playthrough takes this light.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Should you be playing Paragon, the central conflict between Shepard and Saren seems to take this light, but there is a large amount of grey in between.
  • Blatant Item Placement: The lootable Soviet Luna 23 on the Moon.
  • 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 their actions. They made the conversation 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.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality:
    • When Shepard asks Vigil why the enemy do what they do, Vigil replies that being a race of machines, their reasons might be beyond the comprehension of organic species.
    • Taken literally in-game. The Paragon morality meter is blue, while the Renegade meter is orange.
  • Body Horror:
    • 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.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Can be done on most enemies you face off against (without any difference in damage from shooting any other part). Saren may do this to himself as well, if you can convince him that he's been indoctrinated by Sovereign.
  • 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. On the planet Nonuel that unlocks only with a high enough Renegade score, there is a freaking thresher maw in this red zone. Convenient if that thing erupts up and you just want to survive, since the Normandy rescues you, but a real pain if you want to kill it for the XP. Your best bet might be to wear thermal armor to nullify the heat hazard and fight the damn thing on foot.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • 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! If you load your pistol with the best heat sinks possible (such as Frictionless Materials) and use Marksmanshipinfo , 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.
    • The Soldier class in general. It lacks the uniqueness of any of the other classes in favour of using only guns, and it only has one unique skill that isn't tied to a gun: Immunity. Immunity makes you Nigh Invulnerable, capable of taking on threats that normally require the Mako on foot and win. It also finishes recharging right as it ends if you have it fully upgraded, meaning it's very near impossible to die as a Soldier.
    • Snowblind Rounds are an ammo type that's only found in drops or available for sale once you hit Level 43. It slows the firing rate of whatever weapon you equip it with way down, but dissipates the heat generated by firing so efficiently that even if you also equip heat-increasing modifications like Scram Rails, it's literally almost impossible to overheat even with constant firing.
  • Boss Remix: A combination of Sovereign and Saren's themes.
  • Braving the Blizzard: The icy planet of Noveria is one of your stops during Shepard's investigation. Any weather there would naturally be blizzard-like, but there is a particularly bad one hovering over Peak 15, which, wouldn't you know, is right where you need to head to. It's so horrible that the only vehicle that can safely travel through it is the Mako, and leaving the Mako will cause the player to freeze to death.
  • Breaking the Glass Ceiling: When Commander Shepard becomes the first human Spectre, it's considered a big deal for humanity, as the Alliance had been pushing for a presence in the Spectres for some time.
  • 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.
  • Broken Record: Some:
    • Mira: User alert! Main reactor shut down in accordance with emergency containment procedures. Manual restart required.
    • Shepard: "I've lost shields!"
    • Also, everyone at Zhu's Hope evades questions by telling Shepard to "talk to Fai Dan", or some variation thereupon. And should you talk to Fai Dan, he's just as evasive.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Sure, killing Sovereign was awesome, but no matter which option you choose, 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 their arm to their body, indicating that they actually broke it in the final battle and its aftermath.
  • But Thou Must!:
    • Sometimes Shepard says the same thing regardless of what option you pick.
    • Thou shall not turn away any of your female squadmates. Don't want Ashley to join your crew after Eden Prime? Tough, Anderson's the one in charge. Think the Saren hunt would be too much for Tali? Tough, Udina overrules you. By the time you rescue Liara, Shepard seems to have gotten the hint and can only snark about how they have every other alien species, so why not add an asari. Of course, there's no rule which says you ever have to use them in your squad.
    • After Feros, Liara will offer to meld with Shepard to try and figure out the Cipher. There's no real option to refuse, the closest being a grouchy "fine, let's just get this over with" when Liara insists.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": The "space monkeys" on Eletania, which were named "pyjaks" in the sequel.
  • Car Fu:
    • Using the Mako to ram 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 to take 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.
    • Killing the 'cows' on Chasca, Nodacrux, or Ontarom, doesn't elicit any response from your squadmates. They probably just want Shepard to save them a steak.
  • Cassandra Truth: You'll probably be banging your head on the wall whenever you talk to the Council and warn them about the Reapers. They'll more or less dismiss anything you tell them about it, only to then beg you to save them at the end of the game once Sovereign shows up at the Citadel's doorstep.
  • Cat Fight: Defied. 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Mass Relay Monument on the Presidium. Which turns out to be an actual, fully functional mass relay, allowing Shepard and their squad to enter the Presidium after Saren closes the Citadel's arms during the endgame.
  • 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 they have infinite ammo.
    • On Feros the squatting creepers are invulnerable to anything you could use on Thorian creepers, including the Anti Thorian gas grenades. However, they activate and swarm you only after you bypass them - often in conjunction with a different mob of creepers coming at you head on. Basically the computer forces you to fight your way out of a Thorian creeper pincer envelopment with a crossfire of acid attacks. And that's not including the asari commando enemy that spawns for each time you destroy a part of the Thorian.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Drive (or walk) as close to the lava on Therum as you like, you'll be fine. Just don't actually touch it.
  • Conversation Casualty: This is how the conversation between Nihlus and Saren goes.
  • Cop Killer: Discussed. One of the missions on Noveria has you fight through a seemingly closed off part of Port Hanshan'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 points out that her superior, Anoleis, would just toss you offworld for your actions and says, "You know what we did to cop killers on my world?" If Wrex is present, he retorts that she's taking a bribe for doing a dirty deed for Anoleis and adds "You know what we do to dirty cops on my world?"
  • 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.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: A recurring plot point.
    • Noveria is an 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.
  • Cosmic Horror Reveal: You're initially in pursuit of Saren, a secret agent bent on using synthetic organisms to wipe out humanity, via summoning an ancient machine race called "the Reapers", who wiped out the previous galactic civilization. Then it turns out they've done this several times over.
  • Could Say It, But...: The proselytizing hanar on the Citadel is too humble to suggest the C-Sec officer telling him to go away is biased. Yeah...
  • 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.
  • Crooks Are Better Armed: Discussed and defied when Shepard gets involved in an operation to trace a shipment of illegal high-power weapons. The C-Sec officer points out that the reason those weapons are illegal is so that C-Sec always has the edge when they have to fight criminals.
  • Crutch Character: Zig-zagged with 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), though the Mako's shielding and, most importantly, speed remain unmatched and can always topple Geth Colossus and Armatures. However, 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 if you don't have a high Electronics score (or a squadmate with a high Electronics score). There is, however, a workaround. By saving and reloading, the Mako's shields will be completely restored.
    • You can also blast your target within an inch of its life from the safety of the Mako, then get out and finish it off on foot. Doing this completely negates the XP penalty. It's a great strategy for Geth Colossi and Thresher Maws if you have the quad to risk it.
  • Cryonics Failure: The fate of most of the Protheans on Ilos who went into stasis to escape the Reapers' purge of the galaxy. In fairness, they realized this might happen and specifically programmed Vigil to cull non-essential personnel first, leading Wrex to snark that he doubts said non-essential personnel were told about that probability.
  • 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 Kyle, a cracked military officer and his colony of devoted followers. Depending on what backstory you gave Shepard, Kyle might have been his or her CO in the past. Depending on the choices you make in this sidequest, you can either terminate Kyle and his biotic cult or convince him to surrender peacefully for the good of his "children."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cutscene Incompetence:
    • 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 they've already done that to everyone else.
  • Cutting the Knot: Oh no, there's an AI is threatening to blow you up! You have to override its programs in the short amount of time given to you! ...or you could just blow up the power conduit right next to it with a shotgun or well-placed pistol shot. If you take the easy way, though, you won't be able to salvage the huge pile of credits the AI had amassed.
  • Da Chief: Executor Pallin, providing a foil for the appearance of Cowboy Cop Garrus.
  • Damage Is Fire: The Mako, which catches on fire that becomes more intense as it takes more damage.
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: The game's final opponent, Sovereign-Saren, has significantly more health than any other enemy in the game, including the Geth Prime or Colossus, a krogan mini-boss with Immunity activated, or even the past two boss fights against Saren. Even at level 50 with level 10 Spectre weapons (at which point you can effortlessly cut down even a Geth Prime), you'll still spend several minutes dumping ammo into him until the fight ends. This is likely done to prevent the fight from ending instantly, as several major cutscenes are supposed to play in the middle of the fight.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!:
    • An odd chronological example. Most people who have played the PlayStation 3 version probably played Mass Effect 2 and 3 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. Fortunately, it also includes the option to switch to a scheme in line with 2 and 3.
    • 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 on PC, 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 they, out of habit, try to reload after a fight and get 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".
  • Dead Guy Puppet: The Rachni Queen uses a dead asari's body and voice to talk to Shepard, as her natural body can't communicate in the human vocal range.
  • Decade-Themed Filter: There is special graphics option to apply grain filter over all visuals, specifically to invoke 1970s movies.
  • 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 disguised loading screen, just like the elevators.
  • Deployable Cover: The beehive barriers the geth are so very fond of plonking down everywhere.
  • Deus ex Nukina: A converted ship drive core. Used on Virmire to destroy Saren's base.
  • Developers' Foresight: See here.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
    • The Thorian, a planet-wide sentient plant that you defeat by shooting its weak points.
    • 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.
  • Discount Lesbians: The asari are a mono-gendered race, technically neither male or female, but their appearance is uniformly feminine and they use feminine pronouns. All relationships between two asari are Discount Lesbians and your party member Liara provides a Gay Option Romance Sidequest.
  • 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.
  • 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 (due to the translator everyone uses).
    • It's plausible that the turians have an equivalent. After all, in one of the other games in the series, reference is made to turian chocolate.
  • Door to Before: Most places just have one door and aren't that complex. However, there is a force field in the ExoGeni building on Feros you have to deactivate before using the door, and on Ilos you have an elevator which will not work before you plug 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.
  • Downloadable Content: "Bring Down the Sky" is a full-on expansion to the story, treated as canon in the later games, where Shepard and company must stop the batarians from destroying the colony planet Terra Nova with an asteroid. "Pinnacle Station", meanwhile, is a completely optional location which lets the characters participate in a series of battle simulations of various difficulties, whose completion rewards you with a new location to requisition gear and items, most of them quite rare and inexpensive.
  • The Dragon:
    • Benezia to Saren, and Saren to Sovereign.
    • 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.
  • Dying as Yourself:
    • 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.
    • To a lesser extent, the Decontamination Chamber on the Normandy. You'll be hearing that "decontamination in progress" sound clip a lot.
    • Textures load as the player goes around the game, creating an extremely noticeable "popping" effect throughout the entire game. On consoles or weaker PCs, it is entirely possible to outrun the game's dynamic loading (you don't even need to sprint to do it), forcing the game to briefly freeze with a "Loading" message until the lowest-quality textures finish loading. This is especially noticeable in the Citadel Wards.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: That rogue VI on the Luna base? That's EDI.
  • Early Game Hell: Due to a severe case of Gameplay and Story Segregation. Our very first look at Shepard is accompanied by Captain Anderson telling us that (s)he's the best fighter humanity has to offer, and being part of the most elite Special Forces unit in human history, one should expect Shepard to be exceedingly well trained and equipped. Alas, this game is part RPG, so you start out with the combat skills of a rookie straight out of boot camp to the point where you can be glad that Shep knows which end of a rifle to point at the enemy. Even worse is your starting equipment. Your armor and shields offer next to no protection, your Lancer I assault rifle is so ridiculously inaccurate you can barely hit anything that's farther away than 5-10 meters, aiming through a sniper rifle's scope feels like Shep is epically drunk due to the enormous sway, and so on. The only weapon class that doesn't suck at this point (and at no other point in the game, that is) is the pistol. It takes quite a while before you get some proper gear. Of course, starting a New Game+ completely averts this issue and turns the entire game into one long Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The sequels adhere to a strict cover-based shooter model, whereas this one allows for a more freewheeling run-and-gun style. The weapon and character upgrades are also streamlined, and the mandatory driving segments and infinite ammo with cooldown get ditched. The second game also introduces headshots that deal significantly more damage than other hits.
    • The Protheans have a completely different implied appearance in this game, being depicted as tall, bony creatures rather than the form we later see. Mass Effect 3 implicitly retcons this as the "Prothean" statues on Ilos actually being of the Inusannon, a race that dominated one of the previous cycles.
    • You can actually go down to planets' surfaces and drive around approximately a square mile, laying beacons next to resources and downed satellites. In the sequels, you scan the place from orbit and drop a survey probe on goodies.
    • The Hacking Minigame is a bog-standard "match the random button press" (on consoles)/"basically ''Frogger" (on PC) sequence quick-time event. In the sequels, they're a lot more involved and usually involve matching a byte of data to one shown on-screen or matching two chips on a circuit board.
    • Lorewise, it's clear they haven't pinned things down on the side of alien cultures or backgrounds—Wrex refers to the krogan having "tribes," while 2 and 3 refer to them as "clans," the batarians only appear in the "Bring Down the Sky" DLC, and, if you're playing without it installed, the codex on them has a different concept image. There's also an implication that there are many races that aren't even seen or mentioned specifically within the universe, and that several of these unnamed species hold sway over the Terminus Systems, rather than just the later mercenary gangs that operate out there. Tali is the only quarian that features in the entire game, despite them playing a significant part in the lore as the creators of the geth.
    • The romance subplot is more akin to a high school romantic comedy, with lots of petty jealousy and snide comments between potential romantic partners. For instance, the opposite-sex human to Shepard is hostile towards Liara even if she and/or they aren't being romanced, object to any compliment or personal interaction she has with Shepard, and resent Shepard flirting with them. This sort of jealousy doesn't appear in any game except 3, and only if Shepard dumped their original Love Interest in favor of a new one in either the second or third game. Also, both Liara and the romanceable human often give Shepard a Longing Look or a blush at points when they say or do something nice; the human does it if Shepard doesn't blame them for getting trapped by the beacon and Liara does it if Shepard brushes off the krogan that's come to capture her.
    • Humans are portrayed as a minor faction that punches considerably beyond their weight, with only a very small presence outside their own homeworld and fledgling colonies and a tiny minority population on the Citadel. From the second game onwards humans are portrayed as a dominant race on the Citadel (to the point that security is almost exclusively human) and has produced at least two criminal groups (Blue Sun and Cerberus) that are players on a galactic scale.
  • 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 and Shepard'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. You can also gain experience points by just looking at things and unlocking codex entries.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Reapers warp and degrade the minds of their followers simply by existing; just being within their vicinity will eventually indoctrinate you.
  • The Elevator from Ipanema: The Citadel's elevators play muzak arrangements of several of the game's more dramatic songs.
  • Elite Tweak:
    • 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-shotting 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.
  • Entitled to Have You: General Septimus Oraka towards the asari consort.
    Septimus:: She rejected me! ME!!!
  • Evil Is Easy: On Noveria the Paragon path through the first area involves getting involved in internal politics, involving several conversations in all areas of the station and a firefight with dirty cops. The Renegade path is to accept a smuggling job and then turn in your employer to the corrupt authorities, which means all you need to do is have two conversations and pick up a box on the dock, as opposed to the more convoluted methods involving a falsely-accused manager and an undercover Internal Affairs officer.
  • Experience Penalty: Killing enemies while riding the Mako cuts experience gain by 60%. Thankfully, attacking enemies with the Mako doesn't instantly qualify for a penalty, so you can whittle an enemy down to a few hit-points with the Mako's weapons, get out of the tank and kill the enemy with your own guns for full experience gain.
  • 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 happens to stumble across them. Shepard eventually finds a way to understand the beacon's message on one of the main quest worlds.
  • Expository Pronoun:
    • The Hanar consider it rude to refer to themselves in the first person. Therefore, they often refer to themselves as 'this one'.
    • The Prothean ruins on Eletania contain the memories of a Cro-Magnon hunter that the Protheans were studying; they can only be accessed if you acquire a trinket from Sha'ira on the Citadel.
  • Fake Longevity: In order to get every achievement, you have to play through the first game a minimum of three times without skipping too many of the sidequests.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: The names of the systems in the Armstrong Nebula are all named after famous astronauts, save the last found, Grissom, after the Mass Effect character John Grissom. Though it's Downplayed, since it's possible it was also named after Gus Grissom, one of the three astronauts that died in the Apollo 1 disaster.
  • Fanservice: The game essentially has a strip club in it; while none of the asari dancers actually show 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 noble bigots due to their distrust of aliens. Garrus mentions that turians are taught that the krogan are all thugs and he tells Wrex that he is a credit to his race; the asari often make mention of their unfortunate (and misguided) reputation of being...well, "easy," due to the nature of their reproductive abilities (they can procreate with literally any gender of any 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 humans aren't exempt, viewed by some alien races as entitled, simple-minded, rash beings with little patience or foresight.
    • Even Shepard themself will be on the receiving end of this from Corrupt Corporate Executive Anoleis. Spacer background? Nothing more than a collection of vagabonds and tax-dodgers. Colonist? A bunch of socialist protectionist rubes, all of them! Earthborn? Excuse him if he has no inclination to deal with anyone from that smog choked acid wash! Apparently he can't ever meet a human that he likes.
  • Fictional Political Party: The game introduces the Terra Firma party, a human political party that mainly seeks to oppose humanity's involvement and integration with the rest of the galactic community, believing that humanity needs to stand on its own if they're to remain strong. Commander Shepard (as well as their squadmates) can comment and give their opinion on what they thinks of such a platform, and the player can choose whether Shepard endorses the Terra Firma party or not.
  • 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.
  • Flavor Text: Plenty of it, which is to be expected for a BioWare game.
  • 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.
  • Flunky Boss:
    • 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.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • 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 War, which was 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.
    • A massive case with the Side Quest where you hunt down a signal that was funneling credits out of a quasar machine, only to discover the signal originated from a hostile artificial intelligence that hoped to rendezvous with the geth. If you try to reason with it, it shoots you down and informs you that organics can only ever control or destroy synthetics. (Sequel spoilers follow.) Guess what your big, final choice is at the end of the third game? Unless you choose Synthesis, of course.
    • In an elevator conversation, Wrex asks Liara why her people didn't use their natural biotic ability to conquer the entire galaxy. Liara replies that her people just aren't inclined towards warfare and conquest. If only both of them knew that the Protheans genetically engineered the asari with biotics so that they could conquer the galaxy to unite it against the Reapers. And that the asari never lived up to this role, choosing diplomacy and soft power instead of warfare.
    • A side-quest has Shepard encountering scientists who've been turned into Husks, with no sign of geth involvement, and far away from their stomping grounds. It's a big hint that the Dragon's Teeth are not actually geth inventions.
    • One conversation with Ashley has her mention how she doesn't like the Terra Firma party because of their bringing up Shanxi as an excuse for their actions. Post-Virmire, should Ashley survive she can be brought along to a meeting with them, and the player gets to see their leader try this, much to Ashley's displeasure.
    • A codex entry unlocked extremely early in the game mentions off-hand that the human fleet is unique among galactic powers for keeping only a minor garrison at each world so that their forces can be rapidly deployed en masse to trouble spots. In the end this pays off when a massive human fleet is able to arrive as The Cavalry for the Battle of the Citadel on almost no notice.
  • 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 MacGuffins you have to collect before you can beat the Big Bad; namely, the Prothean Cipher that can decode the beacon's message; Mundane MacGuffin Person 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 with some tweaking, though.
    • Shepard doesn't even point a gun at a friendly NPC, holding it upwards instead.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • Later in the game, you go against the Council, getting yourself and your accomplice (Anderson) in trouble with the law. Despite this, Admiral Hackett still sends missions your way (the Event Flag is you entering the system the mission takes place in).
    • Dialogue frequently refers to Saren getting more cybernetic as the story nears the end, but his model never changes. It also comes off as ridiculous in the early game where his alien implants and Geth arm really should have raised some eyebrows.
  • Gay Option:
    • 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.
    • There was originally a same-sex romance between Shepard and Kaidan/Ashley. The conversations are still buried in the code, but not the sex scene.
  • Genre Shift: Peak 15 more closely resembles Survival Horror than Space Opera—difficult-to-kill enemies with few places to restore medi-gel.
  • Ghost Planet: Ilos. It has no respirating life above insects, just mile after mile of abandoned city, filled with creepy statues. The party members all comment on just how wrong the place feels (except Wrex, who's more interested in killing geth, and Liara, who's having the time of her life).
  • 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 to charge you to bring their powerful melee attacks to bear.
  • Godwin's Law: If you tell Charles Saracino that you believe humans should negotiate with aliens, he's quick to invoke comparisons to "peace for our time."
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Every suicide scene in the first game cuts away at the actual moment of death. Except Saren's.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Rachni War that ravaged the galaxy some thousands of years ago, the Krogan Rebellions a thousand or so years before the current date which lead to the turians joining the Citadel races and the creation of the Genophage, the Morning War between the quarians and the geth that forced the quarians into the Flotilla, the Skylian Blitz, and the First Contact War/Relay 314 Incident that was humanity's introduction to galactic society. The First Contact War is the reason why the Citadel races are softer on the Systems Alliance, as they had fought the turians, the backbone of the Council races military force, to a draw over the course of 3 months. This also caused relations to turn sour as the Council species and humans developed a mutual xenophobia towards each other.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Sovereign.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: The asari appear hardly any different from humans, and they are all female. Naturally, some of them have to be sexy.
  • Grow Beyond Their Programming: The geth.
  • 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 (the discussion with Harkin, and Wrex's 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 turn, 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 and a merchant.
    • The Spacer-background sidequest requires you to bump into the right NPC in the stairway between the Presidium and the Wards, an area that apart from one optional sidequest there is otherwise no reason whatsoever to ever visit.
  • 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.
  • Hammerspace:
    • You can carry up to 150 items, whether this be weapons, armor, biotic implants or omni-tools, as well as upgrades for the first two.
    • Averted for the four weapons you have equipped, which are attached to the exterior of your suit.
  • Harder Than Hard: Most agree that the Insanity difficulty setting is just that. You can't even play on it until you've already gone through the game at least twice.
  • Heal Thyself: Necessary to survive once your shields go down. You use up medi-gel to do so, which, in complete defiance of video game standards, is exactly where you would expect it to be--everywhere.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": An Elanus officer down the Rift Station in Noveria, standing alert to repel the rachni forces.
    "Science pukes. Should just bug out and leave 'em to die. All their fault anyway. Heh. 'Bug out.' Heh heh heh heh heh."
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Whomever you leave behind on Virmire.
    • You can order the Alliance fleet to save the Destiny Ascension and the Council at the end of the game. Many human ships will be lost in the rescue attempt, but you'll save the Council and the Destiny Ascension. This will also cast humanity in a more positive light towards most of the alien species and earn them a seat on the Council, in comparison to when the Council is left to die and humanity becomes its leader to pick up the reigns at the cost of interstellar relations.
    • The Prothean scientists on Ilos. They set up Vigil to warn someone, anyone in the next cycle about the Citadel's role with the Reaper invasion. Even more heroic and critical, they went on a suicide mission to the Citadel to reprogram the Citadel so the signal for the Reapers would not work, forcing Sovereign to try to do it itself, and forcing a delay to the Reaper invasion that eventually leads to the defeat of the Reapers. In other words, the entire trilogy hung on the actions of Heroes Of Another Story.
  • He Was Right There All Along: One of the things which make thresher maws so freaking hard.
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure:
    • 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 deactivate 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 either 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 have. 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).
  • Hope Spot:
    • If you pick one of the two Renegade options at the game's climax, the Alliance ships will pour through the relay. The Council and the crew of the Destiny Ascension think the Alliance ships are there to save them, but are ignored and left to perish as the Alliance moves to destroy Sovereign.
    • The sequel turns the Paragon ending into one of these. It ends with the new Councilor giving a Rousing Speech about how the Council races will come together to defeat the Reapers. Two years later, Shepard comes back from the dead to discover that not only are the Council not working on the Reaper problem, but they're actively undermining those who are.
  • Idle Animation: Each squadmate has a unique idle animation. For example, Ashley puts her hands on her hips and poses her hips; Tali has coffee jitters. Tali also sometimes performs the same post-fight/post-level animation of strength-based player characters in Jade Empire, another BioWare game released two years prior to Mass Effect.
  • Ignoring The Fan Service: An asari on Noveria complains that her attempts at seducing a human competitor have failed. When you talk to the human it becomes rather obvious that he is gay and therefore not attracted to the feminine-looking asari.
  • 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 a lost, 1960s-era Soviet lunar probe, 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.
  • Inappropriately Close Comrades:
    • You can read an email from Ashley Williams to her sister in which she describes the problem:
      There's all sorts of problems that can happen when two people in the same unit get together. Let's say your unit is in a tight spot. [...] Someone has to be left behind. You think it's going to be someone you're sleeping with? [...] I hope I never have to decide who lives and who dies. But if I have to, my decision can't be muddled up by magic-sparkly-hearts-and-stars feelings.
    • Later on, that situation can cease to be hypothetical, although it's not Ashley making the choice but players. Either Ashley or another crew member, Kaidan Alenko, must be left to die, and players may indeed be in a relationship with one of them when it happens.
  • 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 -1 Sword: 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.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Spectre Master Gear. Comes in all four weapon flavors, expensive as hell, and utterly devastating.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Occurs in several places, most prominently in a "one-way" drop on Feros. It's only about the height of Shepard.
  • Intelligent Forest: The Thorian is a sentient plant-like thing. As researchers in-game commented, no one really knew what to classify it as. At first they thought there were a bunch of plants along the surface of the planet, but later they realized it was just one big plant.
  • 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.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: The Infiltrator loses first aid, adrenaline burst, assault rifles, and shotguns... for pretty much all of the Engineer skills (when you pick AI hacking as the bonus skill.) They start out as an Engineer with Sniper Rifles but at high levels pretty much out damage everyone and are unkillable thanks to Immunity (which cools down faster than it lasts!).
  • 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.
  • "Join the Army," They Said: If you speak to the surviving marines on Nepmos after helping them Hold the Line, they'll say, "'Join the marines, see the galaxy.' Hell."
  • Jump Scare: One mission takes place on a supposedly derelict ship, with a tightly packed maze of containers... and as you step foot in it, hordes of Husks, not shown on the HUD, pop up to attack you.
  • Just Think of the Potential: A sidequest involving a dead soldier's body and whether or not it's right to keep it from her husband for study.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • 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 hostages and gets away. He may get his just desserts 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 the 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 vs. Cynicism, and Paragon and Renegade points stack up on separate meters; gaining in one area will not reduce the points in the other. Keep in mind that a lot of actions you take in this game will carry over if you play the sequels and use your save file from the first game, such as sparing the Rachni Queen, who will contribute to your fight against the Reapers in the third game if you save her again.
  • 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. Occasionally, you end up having to kill the person you were sent to find.
  • 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 whomever 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.
  • Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: The krogan are Proud Warrior Race Guys after all.
  • 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.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Many people are aware that the real villains of the series are the Reapers. To a lesser degree, the choice between Kaidan and Ashley was widely spoiled after the game's release.
  • Laughing Mad: A crazy colonist by the name of Ian Newstead is squatting in the tunnels under Zhu's Hope in an attempt to escape the fighting, spouting nonsense. As he tries to explain something to Shepard and the squad, he starts screaming in pain and laughing maniacally. He's trying to tell them about the Thorian, but it won't let him.
    Ian: Not looking for, looking to get rid of. [The geth] are a thorn in the side of the—AAARGH! get the—AIEEEE! HA-HA-HA! HAHAHAHAHAHA!
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: The Elanus Risk Control company acts as security on the planet of Noveria, which is pretty much Corrupt Corporate Executive Land. Naturally, corruption is rampant.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Richard L. Jenkins. He dies two minutes after the opening cutscene, on his first ever mission, without firing a shot. Ironically, 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.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Therum, where you rescue Liara.
  • Living Gasbag: Some of the native wildlife on Eden Prime consists of these. The tutorial lets you use some for target practice.
  • 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 them before Shepard finally catches up with him.
  • Mad Oracle: Dr. Manuel, the raving, medicated scientist at the Eden Prime research camp, somehow knows exactly who Saren is and who he works for.
  • Made of Iron: Anything using the Immunity power. Awesome for yourself, annoying when your enemies have it (Warp mostly counters it).
    • Given the way difficulty levels work, almost every enemy in the game counts when you play on Hardcore or Insanity. Enemies can be lifted into the air and pushed off mountains and still require you to empty an assault rifle directly into their faces for a number of seconds before they actually go down.
  • Make Sure He's Dead: Shepard re:Saren, word for word. Played with; Saren is indeed dead, or close enough as to make no difference, but that doesn't stop Sovereign from assuming direct control of his corpse.
    Shepard: Make sure he's dead.
    Squadmate: (administers Double Tap)
    Other squadmate: (over comms) He's dead.
  • Male Gaze:
    • The first shot of Matriarch Benezia is her ample chest, before she coughs and the camera moves up to her face, possibly Leaning on the Fourth Wall to say My Eyes Are Up Here.
    • No matter what gender Shepard is, the romantic scene contains a lovingly rendered female rear end. If you are a female romancing Kaidan, you get to see yours as well.
    • Also, when you go in to meet the asari Consort, you get a completely gratuitous close-up of her secretary's shapely rear end.
  • Master of None: In a case of Overshadowed by Awesome, both the Vanguard and Sentinel lose out on the Adept's room disabling Singularity skill ... to gain less than optimal replacements. Bioware's realization that Vanguards put shields up and manually ran up to targets with a Shotgun is why they got Charge in the sequels.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Inverted. The asari have a strong cultural preference for Interspecies Romance, and Liara is unusual in having two asari parents. It is further suggested in the sequel that the stigma has its roots in the Ardat-Yakshi genetic disorder (which causes brain hemorrhages to whoever they bond with, which includes mating practices), which only shows up in the offspring of two Asari.
    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.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • With a name like Nihlus, you can't expect him to live long.
    • Vigil, whose job was to keep a vigil for as long as possible for someone, anyone who had a chance at breaking the extinction cycle.
    • Private Richard L. Jenkins. Like no one knew what was going to happen to him.
    • 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 World War II.
    • Commander Shepard themself, 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.
  • Membership Token: The salarian League of One and their medallions, which you can collect in pursuit of 100% Completion.
  • Menu Time Lockout: When you go to your equipment inventory, you can pause time and change your weapons, armor, clothing, and 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.
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Many of the protagonists constantly proclaim that killing any of the Reapers' indoctrinated slaves is doing them a favor. At least one victim agrees, though some squadmates occasionally question the decision.
    • The Rachni Queen asks you to do this to some of her own children, who were driven mad when the scientists separated them from her before they could handle the "silence."
  • Mildly Military:
    • Zigzagged. The Systems Alliance itself is fairly spit-and-polish. The Normandy is less so, with Shepard potentially encouraging a True Companions vibe on board. Shepard can get the subordinates back into line, but these are Renegade actions. Shepard can tell off a minor military officer on the basis of this.
    • In their love scene, Kaidan also brings up "regs against 'fraternization'" with Shepard, but by then they've defied the Council and stolen the Normandy from the Citadel. So they conclude, "Might as well, we're going to get court-martialed anyway."
  • Military Moonshiner: No one is directly implicated, but Ashley lampshades that a still is one of the first things soldiers set up on any ship.
  • 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.
  • The Modest Orgasm: The Consort is apparently very...controlled.
  • Moment Killer: Joker interrupts what's about to be the first kiss between Shepard and their 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 has 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, although the exact same problems apply to those as to the monster closets.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • For most of the game, even if there are dark moments, they're relatively in line with a Space Opera. When the Big Bad first appears at Virmire, the tone of the game changes very quickly, and the true stakes of the series is established. The music punctuates this, as it is completely unlike the Vangelis-styled score.
    • The debriefing after the Wham Episode may be immediately followed by a relationship argument.
  • Mook Commander: The geth Prime; having them around makes the rest of the geth fire faster and hit harder and more accurately. The story reason for this is that geth have communal intelligence, and the larger platforms have more programs in them then the smaller ones, making them all smarter and more dangerous.
  • More Dakka:
    • 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.
  • More Hero Than Thou: At the end of Virmire, Shepard is forced to choose between saving Kaidan or Ashley. Both of them will insist that Shepard leave them and save the other.
  • 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: whether the Council was saved or wiped out, and the choice between Anderson and Udina for the Council seat.
  • 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.
  • Neck Lift: In the confrontation with Saren on Virmire, Saren pulls this on Shepard, who answers by punching him in the face.
  • Neutral Female: Liara crouches down in the middle of the floor in the final fight on Therum and does not attack the krogan battlemaster in any way; however, she is faint with hunger and lack of sleep.
  • Never Mess with Granny. Helena Blake.
  • 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.
    • Harkin also pulls this, complaining about how it's everyone else's fault that he was suspended from C-Sec. Numerous times on C-Sec, he had committed numerous misdeeds. He complains about all the red tape on C-Sec and about how every time you make a "little mistake", a note gets added in the file. (Considering he had been working for 20 years, it was far more than "a little"). If Shepard tells Harkin to take responsibility for himself, he just brushes your words aside, telling you "this ain't no church."
  • New Game+: The game's NG+ lets you restart the game with 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: 1) there is a first game level cap of 50, and 2) there just aren't enough obtainable experience points to get from level 1 to level 60 in one playthrough.
  • No-Harm Requirement: In the Feros section, taking the Paragon path means you have to disable infected colonists with special grenades or melee attacks. If you go Renegade you can just kill them, which is much easier.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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-So-Harmless Villain: Remember the pod crabs on Virmire? Those huge but gentle things you thought were completely harmless? Apparently not.
  • 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.
  • 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 appear in the games.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: The game ends with the Normandy flying off into space.
  • 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. It also gives some truly baffling dialogue where he rants about "the humans" even though his model is one. If one didn't know the details, one would think it was foreshadowing a very humanoid species, since it was mentioned that the terminus systems were home to renegades.
  • 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.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Council races appear to have had a moment of this during the First Contact War, in which humanity both introduced itself to the wider galaxy and proved they're as good at war as the turians are. Turian battle doctrine is to not only defeat an enemy but to keep them from ever being a threat again, usually with the employment of weapons of mass destruction and things like the genophage, and given our species' history it's hard to argue that humanity is much more forgiving. So just before these two almighty armies started wiping each other out, the Council called a halt and formally invited humanity to join the Citadel.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: The Council appoints Shepard as a Spectre specifically to hunt down Saren, as an alternative to sending an entire fleet instead. 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 conversation wheel fails. If you're dissatisfied with her gift of words, she has sex with you, despite the dialogue wheel (and other instances of a Renegade Shepard refusing to do sidequests for free) implying that the option is asking for money.
    • 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.
  • Palette Swap: All of the planets Shepard visits are basically the same terrain type, just randomized and with different colors and skyboxes, though some of the skyboxes can be impressive.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Most Renegade options for dealing with various bad people. Especially on Noveria.
  • Permanently Missable Content:
    • 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.
    • Taking a third option on Noveria by ratting out Opold to Anoleis in exchange for the garage pass you need locks you out of the entire Gianna Parasini/Lorik Qi'in mission path, also meaning that Parasini won't appear in Mass Effect 2.
  • 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:
    • Salarian: science.
    • Krogan: honor and warrior prowess.
    • Asari: wisdom and reserve.
    • Turian: competence and rigid hierarchy.
    • Batarian: hatred of humans.
    • Volus: financial prowess.
    • Elcor: reserve and conservativeness.
    • Hanar: politeness.
    • And of course, humans: decisiveness, aggression, independence.
  • 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.
  • Point of No Return:
    • Stealing the Normandy from the Citadel after completing all four plot missions is a soft point of no return, preventing you from returning to the Citadel until the very end of the game and automatically failing any unfinished sidequests you may have had there.
    • Going to Ilos triggers the full point of no return...which the game doesn't warn you about, leaving unsuspecting players unable to complete any sidequests they hadn't gotten around to yet.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Some of the ammo upgrades add chemical or even radioactive poisons to the bullets you fire.
  • Possessing a Dead Body: Saren Arterius's One-Winged Angel form consists of the Reaper Sovereign reanimating his body, already killed by Shepard (either in battle or by talking him into suicide in a cutscene), using Saren's cybernetics. This evidently involved some form of mind transfer as well, because destroying the One-Winged Angel causes Sovereign the starship's Deflector Shield to fail, letting the Alliance Fifth Fleet finish him off.
  • Pretender Diss: The geth worship Sovereign as a god. Sovereign is not flattered.
  • Pretty Little Headshots:
    • Headshot animations are not included in this game, so during gameplay there is no differentiation damage-wise between shooting somebody in the foot and shooting them in the head.
    • The mechanics of Saren's suicide shot are a little odd. When Sovereign animates his corpse, you can see the hole where one of your companions shot him a second time, but not the actual killing wound.
  • Production Throwback: At the end of the game, Shepard comes out of the wreckage holding his/her chest and limping, exactly as the player character did in Knights of the Old Republic when they were injured.
  • 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?" However, this may not be in reference to the biotic trainees getting nosebleeds because of using their powers and more a reference to the biotic trainees not having full control over their abilities, resulting in something as simple as grabbing a glass of water being dangerous and possibly causing the person to bash themselves in the face with said glass...resulting in said nosebleed. Within the context of the conversation and what the characters were talking about before that line was spoken, it's more likely that Kaidan was referring to the latter example.
  • Purposely Overpowered: Master Spectre weapons and Colossus armor. They are for Insanity.
  • 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.
  • Regenerating Health: Ashley and a Soldier-class Shepard get this as their Soldier class benefit. Wrex (as well as all enemy krogan) get this due to their biology. Everyone else is reliant on either regular use of medi-gel, health-regenerating armor, or the First Aid Interface or Medical Interface armor upgrades (which provide much less of a health regeneration bonus than the Soldier or Krogan Battlemaster class skills).
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: Cerberus to the Human Systems Alliance.
  • Rescue Introduction: Ashley, Liara, Tali.
  • Rescue Romance:
    • Every romantic option either is introduced by a rescue (Ashley, Liara) or has to be rescued very early on (Kaidan, if you're playing as female Shepard). 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 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.
    • Mass Effect 3 hints that, if Shepard is male, or if FemShep didn't romance him in the first game, Kaidan's feelings for them really kicked into gear after Virmire, potentially making this trope span the entire trilogy.
  • 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.
  • The Reveal: Three of them.
    • Reveal the first: The Reapers didn't just wipe out the Protheans, they wiped everyone before them too.
    • Reveal the second: Saren is not the true villain; his Cool Ship Sovereign is actually The Man Behind the Man, an Eldritch Abomination.
    • Reveal the third: 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 civilizations 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.
  • Roar Before Beating: Thresher Maws.
  • Robot Religion: The geth worship Sovereign as a god.
  • Rousing Speech:
    • Shepard's speech after taking command of the Normandy. The Paragon conclusion of the speech is the quote on top of this page.
    • Captain Kirrahe's epic "hold the line" speech.
    • Anderson's/Udina's speech at the end of the game (depending on which one you choose to be on the Council).
  • Romance Sidequest: Three of them: xenophobic but principled Ashley Williams, soft-spoken and thoughtful Kaidan Alenko, and awkward but caring Liara T'Soni. The first two are strictly attracted to opposite gender Shepards only, while Liara can go either way.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Jenkins is killed off before you fire your first shot and Nihlus gets it in the back of the head a few minutes later.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Kaidan/Ashley. One of them has to die on Virmire, serving to highlight the danger of the final conflict with Saren.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • On Virmire, Ashley and Kaidan 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 will die. 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 themself, 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 rips a page out of the Jack Bauer playbook.
  • Sand Worm: Thresher Maws.
  • 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 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 the beginning of the second game when Shepard either only vaguely remembers them or doesn't remember them at all.
  • Schmuck Bait: On Feros, there is a locked door with Easy Decryption, and beyond it is a small room with a lootable container and an object that is obviously of geth origin. If you loot the container, the object will activate. It's a Geth Armature, a huge Spider Tank that you normally never see unless you're inside your own tank. Good luck fighting it on foot. There's a chance of a glitch happening where it will already be active before looting the container, but won't be hostile, allowing you to kill it at your leisure.
  • Schrödinger's Gun:
    • 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.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The nuke used in Virmire is supposed to have a yield around 20 kilotons (roughly equivalent to the one dropped on Nagasaki). The blast seen from space looks like it destroyed a good chunk of the continent.
  • See the Whites of Their Eyes: The Alliance fleet closes to within a few kilometers of Sovereign during the Battle of the Citadel, despite the Codex explicitly stating that capital ships are ill-suited for this kind of "knife fight". Justified in three ways: one, their target was both enormous and stationary, making it basically impossible to miss; two, the massive dust cloud that surrounds the Citadel meant that long-range fighting was impractical if not impossible; and three, Admiral Hackett was likely afraid that the Citadel's arms would close again, preventing them from destroying Sovereign in time.
  • 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 on Feros. He chooses to kill himself rather than be forced to fight Shepard, apparently unaware that at least a Paragon Shepard can use nonlethal methods.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: General Septimus, Corporal Toombs.
  • Shipper on Deck: Ashley's sisters will ship her and male 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.
  • Shout-Out: See ShoutOut.Mass Effect.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    • From the "Bring Down the Sky" DLC: Terrorist Balak 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.
    • Another way the same conversation can play out:
      Balak: I gave you the chance to save them, but you let them all die, so who's the real terrorist here?!
      Shepard: 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 shouting "I'm 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!" (This gets the response "I like your style.")
  • 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.
  • Sidequest Sidestory: The Cerberus quest line from Admiral Kahoku.
  • Skippable Boss:
    • The Geth Armature mentioned under Schmuck Bait above. Since it's behind a locked door, you don't ever have to go in and fight it.
    • At the Battle of the Citadel during the endgame, it's possible to skip the first fight against Saren if you have a high enough Charm and/or Intimidate score.
  • 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. The PC version and second game makes things a bit more sophisticated.note 
  • 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 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.
  • Someone Has to Die: At the climax of the Virmire mission.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: One sidequest revolves around a scared soon-to-be mother, worried about the safety of her child after the father died of a heart defect.
  • Sophisticated as Hell:
    • If you help Gianna arrest Anoleis:
      Administrator Anoleis: You! Shepard! I demand that you place this bitch under arrest!
    • The infamous moment where you can punch a reporter:
      Shepard: I've had enough of your snide insinuations! [punch to the face]
    • Shepard has the option to antagonize the turian councelor:
      Turian Councillor: I believe you humans have a saying: "Even a broken clock is right twice a day."
      Shepard: Here's another saying: Go to hell!
  • Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: Ten tiers. Four weapon types. More than a dozen manufacturers, each of which with multiple models of the same type of weapon. It rapidly gets confusing.
  • Sound-Only Death:
    • 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.
  • Space Nomads: The quarians.
  • Space Police:
    • 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.
  • Squad Controls: The Ring Menu allows you to order your teammates to hold back, follow on you, or press forward. They don't seem to consistently work the way they should, but you can at least try to order them around.
  • Squishy Wizard:
    • Adept (full biotic) characters get limited-to-no weapon training, forcing them to rely on Soldiers and Engineers to kill the enemies once their biotics have disabled them. It should be noted though, at high enough level with proper gear you can keep enemies permanently crowd-controlled as your abilities last longer than it takes them to be ready again. It's also recommended that Adepts take Assault Rifle as their bonus skill... every little bit of extra damage helps.
    • It's noted that the asari are physically much weaker than humans but have naturally powerful biotic powers.
  • Starfish Language: The hanar communicate via bioluminescence.
  • Stock Video Game Puzzles: Towers of Hanoi on Noveria, 3 + 5 = 4 on Feros.
  • A Storm Is Coming:
    • When you land on Virmire, it is sunny, but ahead of you are dark clouds with flashes of lightning.
    • If you ask Wrex why he wants to join you, he says: "There's a storm coming, and you and Saren are right in the middle of it."
  • 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.
  • 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. This is a reference to the incident where a guest on Fox News denounced the game as a "sex simulator" despite admitting to have never played the game.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Up to and including Saren.
  • 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 amount of explosives.
  • Thanatos Gambit: The plan of the Protheans who sabotaged the Keepers and built the Citadel relay.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: A muzak version of the main theme is one of the songs that can play in the elevators.
  • Third-Person Person:
    • 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 themselves 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?
  • Tongue on the Flagpole: Ashley will tell people not to lick any poles if you talk to her on Noveria.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Many, many characters:
    • 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 don't really think they could win, they just don't 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.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Zhu's Hope is essentially the sci-fi version of this.
  • 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.
  • Uncanny Valley: Invoked when you're talking to a corpse that's being used as a People Puppet.
  • 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.
  • Unlockable Difficulty Levels: Completing the game unlocks the hardcore difficulty setting. Beating that in turn unlocks the "insanity" level.
  • Unobtainium: Element Zero, which explains everything considered "supernatural" by contemporary science.
  • The Un-Reveal:Wrex reveals early on in the game that he had met Saren once before joining up with Shepard; Wrex was part of a crew of Krogan mercenaries hired by Saren to raid ships in the Terminus systems. However, he only actually saw Saren once; when the mercs had taken a large Volus cargo ship, and Saren was silently walking through the ship, seemingly looking for something. Wrex then got a feeling that there was something ''very'' wrong with the whole situation, and fled before receiving any payment. Turns out his hunch was right; all of the other mercs turned up dead within a week after the job was finished. Despite this, it's never revealed whatever Saren was after on the ship or the exact reason why all the mercs were killed to hide it.
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: One of the simulation modes on Pinnacle Station - Survival - requires you to Hold the Line against increasingly more powerful waves of enemies for as long as possible. The round doesn't end until Shepard is incapacitated, which can actually turn into a problem. If you tackle these missions on a low difficulty setting with a high-level team equipped with end-game gear, Shep becomes next to impossible to kill even when you position them in front of every enemy on the map and stop doing anything. Your squad mates will continue to massacre all hostiles without your help, and Shep's shields (and their health as well, provided you have the right class or upgrades installed) will usually regenerate the Scratch Damage they received before the next wave arrives. Finishing these simulations without having a bottom-tier armor to change into can take a long, long time while you wait for Shep to finally fall. Best grab a book while you wait.
    • The Singularity biotic power is an incredibly useful crowd-control tool. Unfortunately as well as enemies it also picks up physics objects, and should those physics objects fall and block Shepard's path afterwards, little can be done about it. It also breaks a particular sequence in Noveria, as Rachni come out of a floor vent while you're defending the survivors; if Singularity is used, it has a habit of picking up the vent cover, and then it's almost guaranteed that the vent cover will fall and block the enemy's spawn point (and thus prevents them from spawning and stalls the sequence). This one is somewhat downplayed, as there's nothing to stop you from just leaving, but when you return the security head gives you a What the Hell, Hero? for abandoning them mid-fight.
  • Useless Useful Spell: 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.
  • The Usual Adversaries: Geth and husks, who, coincidentally, are also the only enemy types to appear throughout all three games. However, (sequel spoilers follow) the geth are a subversion, since the second game reveals that they aren't Always Chaotic Evil and the geth you fight in the first game have been indoctrinated by Sovereign.
  • 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; the Avenger X may be better than the Avenger I, but by the time you find it you'll have found models whose IX or even VIII ranks outclass it.
  • 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 Jerkass 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 and Hannah Shepard (the latter only if Shepard has the Spacer background).
  • 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.
  • Wham Episode: Virmire is basically Planet Wham. Not only is the true identity of Saren's ship Sovereign revealed (specifically, as an Eldritch Abomination Man Behind the Man), but you find yourself forced to leave one of your crew members to their death, and possibly either kill another yourself or have another party member kill them.
  • Wham Line:
    • When talking to Sovereign on Virmire:
      Sovereign: There is a realm of existence so far beyond your your own you cannot even imagine it. I am beyond your comprehension. 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, one of the first places the characters visit after the introductory mission.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Major Kyle. Apocalypse Now (and, thus, Heart of Darkness).
  • 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, even though the game expects you to walk up and have a cutscene with him first.
  • With All Due Respect: Kaidan 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 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.
  • Worthy Opponent: Saren eventually comes to see Shepard as this. This speaks volumes for Shepard given how much Saren hates humans.
  • Wreaking Havok: Biotics can sometimes have this effect. And it is nothing compared to the flips and stunts you can convince the Mako to do on rough terrain.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: In the final battle, a turian general places his cruiser between Sovereign and the closing arms of the Citadel in order to stop the attack. Sovereign simply goes through his ship.
  • You Watch Too Much X:
    • Dr. Chakwas admonishes Corporal Jenkins for confusing the Spectres with their fictional representations, specifically telling him that he has seen too much spy fiction. Could also be a Shout-Out to the James Bond films, as SPECTRE is an organization that serves as the character's nemesis.
    • Lorik Qui'in remarks that whoever started the rumors about an "ancient evil" and a "plague from distant suns" at Peak 15 has been watching too many horror vids.
    • One of the scientists trapped at Peak 15 will mention that he used to have "nightmares like this" when watching too many cheap horror vids before lights out.
  • Zombie Puke Attack: The Thorian Creepers (grotesque clones made from an ancient and powerful alien organism) are a close analogue to zombies. They vomit green fluid onto the protagonists to deal damage.


Video Example(s):


Saving The Council

The fifth fleet move in.

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Example of:

Main / TheCavalry

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Main / TheCavalry