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  • Angst? What Angst?:
    • Appears to be played straight, but ultimately subverted by Garrus. He appears to take his new scars well, but by speaking to Kelly or Garrus himself, you'll find out he's in serious pain (emotionally and physically) and just putting on a brave face for the sake of the mission. When you're romancing him, when he tries to dissuade Shepard, he says: "Look, Shepard, I'm not—" He stops there, but his hand is touching the scarred side of his face for a moment before he drops it. His Lair of the Shadow Broker dossier also reveals that he won't go on video chat with his sister since he was injured. In the third game, however, Dr. Chakwas mentions that she's discussed dermal regeneration with him, but he refused, as he seems to like his scars.
    • The amount of trauma Tali is put through is almost comical, yet she remains outwardly optimistic, polite, and helpful through it all. Ultimately subverted, as demonstrated when Shepard speaks to her on the Normandy, saying that Tali deserved better. Tali will state that life isn't about what you deserve — and that she thinks her father would have found it fitting that she mourned him by blowing up a lot of geth. In addition, if you read Tali's dossier on board the Shadow Broker's vessel, it reveals that Tali tried to write to the families of the quarian soldiers that died on Haestrom, but put her email aside for the moment when she was unable to think of how she could justify their sacrifices. She also downloads a book on grief and loss, although whether its about the loss of her father, squadmates on Haestrom, or Shepard during the original Normandy's destruction, or some combination thereof, is up to the fandom's interpretation.
    • For someone who lost the most advanced ship in the Alliance at that time and was responsible for getting the captain killed, Joker shows no angst at all about his confidence in being able to fly the new Normandy and handle the mission that he is on. Could be justified in that he has the EDI to automatically correct any mistakes he might make, and he's had two years to come to terms with the guilt. Subverted somewhat in Mass Effect 3 when you find out he feels tremendously guilty about Shepard's death.
    • Then of course there’s Shepard him/herself. He/she DIED and yet seemingly takes it all in stride over the course of Mass Effect 2, casually joking that he/she “got better” to virtually anyone who brings this up. Its possible Shepard believed that he/she thought he/she was only severely wounded and that the line “only mostly dead” was the truth, but in Mass Effect 3 when you invade the Cerberus base, you find some data logs about the Lazarus project where it is put to rest once and for all that Shepard was DEAD. Full stop, deader than a door nail, DEAD. Shep reveals that he/she has actually been having an existential crisis, wondering if he/she is just a clone or an advanced VI that only thinks it’s Shepard. Made worse when you realize that the Citadel DLC has to happen before this moment to be canon and Shepard literally has to fight his/her clone.
  • Anti-Climax Boss
    • The Final Boss, The Human Reaper Larva is fairly easy though it's somewhat of a relief considering all the crap you went through to get to it.
    • At the end of Grunt's loyalty mission, killing Uvenk and his minions is quite easy compared to killing or surviving against a Thresher Maw.
  • Best Level Ever: The infamous and much-touted "Suicide Mission" of Mass Effect 2. Considering it is essentially what the entire game is building up to, it better be worth it, and by god is it intense. From the initial run through the Omega-4 Relay to the furious assault upon the Collector Base itself, with all the firefights and interesting gimmicks being thrown at you, having you on the edge of your seat the entire time because you are on pins and needles about whether all your decisions throughout the game were enough to have your team make it through — and make no mistake, if you didn't do enough, they will die. And then the final boss comes. It's a monstrous (thankfully not even close to being finished) construct that turns out to be a human Reaper, built out of, and feeding off of, all the human colonies that were abducted. Shepard then proceeds to Punch Out Cthulhu for the second time in their career. And even after all of that, if you didn't do things right, Shepard themself will die! It's rare for a game to spend its entirety building up to one intense mission, but it all paid off in the end. Unless, you know, you lost your favorite party members.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Ask about Mordin's singing career. Although it is completely in character for Mordin.
  • Broken Base: The Lazarus Project has been a hotly debated topic since the release and continues to be controversial up until today. While one half thinks of it as a great start for the game, properly introducing Cerberus, its vast resources and the lengths they are willing to go to succeed, the other half of the fandom thinks of it as stretching the Willing Suspension of Disbelief too much, especially considering that Shepard didn't just die, but was spaced, suffocated and then their body re-entered the atmosphere of a planet.
  • Captain Obvious Reveal: Archangel, scourge of Omega's underworld, turns out to be Garrus. Nobody who'd previously played the first game didn't see this coming.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome:
    • The Reave power is considered by many to be the best bonus talent in the second game, period. There is thereby no point in using any of the others.
    • The DLC weapons outclass all of the ingame weapons or are on par with the Infinity +1 Sword weapon of choice found halfway in the game. There is no reason to even pick up any of the other weapons like the Tempest and Vindicator when you already have the Locust and Mattock for example.
  • Contested Sequel: Most fans point to ME2 as the high point of the series, citing its improved combat and streamlined inventory management and its in-depth exploration of individual characters thanks to recruitment and loyalty missions that function as A Day in the Limelight for individual crew members. There's also a significant faction that prefers the first game for its greater complexity, deeper RPG elements, and greater sense of exploration and scale and considers the second installment to be too streamlined. Another common point of criticism is that some characters have way less development and lines than others, and that the main plot got neglected in favor of the Loyalty missions. These two factions have a tough time reaching common ground.
  • Crack Pairing: Jack x Miranda presumably interprets their dislike of each other (and possible Love Triangle with male Shepard) as Belligerent Sexual Tension.
    • Lampshaded in the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3, where Shepard can propose that they hook up. Both immediately ask for another drink.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Some of the Renegade interrupts are hilarious in their sheer audacity.
    Random Mercenary: (After Shepard has been interrogating him) I've got nothing more to say to you. If you-
    Jack: Damn, I should be taking lessons from you.
  • Demonic Spiders:
    • Scions. Their shockwave attack can instantly deplete your shields and prolong your regeneration, it can hit you even if you are behind cover, and it has very long range. On top of all that, Scions can take a lot of damage before going down. Scions are the reason that the Reaper IFF mission has become That One Level for many players.
    • The various Pyros also qualify, as the flamethrower mechanics and the game's lack of Mercy Invincibility means that if they get close to Shepard and score a hit, Shepard will likely end up trapped in the hit animation as the Pyro roasts them to death. Not that it takes them long to do that in any event, as their flamethrowers can cause a lot of damage. The only saving grace is that Pyros only have a basic health bar (except, of course, on Insanity), although even then they can take more punishment than most mooks.
    • The Engineers that Eclipse, the Shadow Broker and The Project deploy. They are shielded, spam combat drones to flush you out of cover, then nail you with incinerate attacks. And like good Engineers, they prefer to stick to cover.
    • On Insanity, by far the most dangerous enemies are the basic mooks with assault rifles. The Elite Mooks tend to use shotguns and burst-fire rifles while their lower-ranked minions fire on fully automatic; normally this is balanced out by the elites having better accuracy and higher damage per shot, but when every enemy can hit 100% of the time anyway, the grunts' DPS really begins to tell. This is quite noticeable on Korlus and Tuchanka; sections full of nothing but krogan berserkers are a cakewalk because their low ROF means they can't insta-kill you or suppress you. The minute a single vorcha walks on to the scene, on the other hand? Your shield is stripped in about a second and you're forced to hug the nearest thick stone wall. Simply shooting you with an assault rifle is so disproportionately effective on Insanity that enemies who stop to do practically anything else (like an engineer who throws an easily-dodgeable fireball) are less of a pain.
    • Harbinger, appropriately creates this through Demonic Possession. While he can only possess a single mook at a time, killing one will merely cause Harbinger to possess another on the field.
  • Even Better Sequel: This is considered amongst the fandom to be The Empire Strikes Back of the Mass Effect trilogy. It even ends the same way, with Shepard looking out at the galaxy and the cliffhanger that the Reapers are now very close. The pack Lair of the Shadow Broker can be seen as this for the previous DLC packs, which makes it an Even Better Expansion to an Even Better Sequel.
  • Fan Nickname: The Space Hamster has been dubbed "Boo" by the fanbase, since it was obviously included as a Shout-Out.
  • Faux Symbolism:
    • A Shepard dies and and is resurrected by the Lazarus Project. Shepard must go to Omega and then a bar called Afterlife to recruit an Archangel. Later, Shepard must go to another bar named Eternity and a prison named Purgatory. With all the downloadable content, Shepard will have twelve followers they receive help from in order to save humanity.
    • There's also a gun called the Revenant.
    • Go ahead and pick the Renegade ending in the Overlord DLC. Does that final image look familiar at all?
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • During his mini mission, Joker wonders if he's dooming the galaxy by hooking up EDI. At one point, he mutters, " I have to spend all day computing pi because Joker plugged in the Overlord." Then comes the Overlord DLC...
    • A YouTube user made a video that depicted the series ending like Neon Genesis Evangelion. It was meant to be a joke, but it turned out to be prophetic when the third installment came out and the fans' reaction towards the endings being similar to Evangelion's 16 years earlier.
    • One of Jack's lines is "If I die, I'm haunting you, Shepard," a typical Badass Boast that shows her Hidden Depths that she believes in that sort of thing. In Mass Effect 3, those who have died haunt Shepard.
  • Game-Breaker: With a level 3 or higher Charge, the Vanguard's signature move goes from being a Death-or-Glory Attack to just Attack! Attack! Attack!. Since charging and shotgun blasts stun lock your opponents when they don't outright kill them, you can use Charge to get up close and tank with even the toughest damage sponges like Krogan, Scions, Enyala, Eclipse Commandos, YMIR mechs even multiple Scions at the same time. All you have to do is Charge, blast away at opponents, wait till Charge cools down and use it again. Charge has the same knock back and barrier boost effect even if done to an opponent already in melee range.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • The ship that Morinth left Illium on is the Demeter. In Greek mythology, Demeter was an extremely powerful goddess who lost her daughter Persephone to the underworld and walked the earth endlessly searching for her. Sounds a bit like a certain justicar... which makes this a literal Mythology Gag. For bonus points, the Demeter was also the name of the ship the Count traveled on in Dracula.
    • Does the name of Jacob's father's ship (the Hugo Gernsbeck) sound familiar to you? If you're a sci-fi buff, it should. Hugo Gernsbeck is generally considered the father of modern science fiction and founder of the Amazing Stories magazine. It's who the Hugo Award is named after. Although considering that the ship named after him is populated in the game by a bunch of self-centered jackasses who routinely perform Mind Rape on their crew, it's not the best tribute they could have given the father of modern science fiction...
    • One of Legion's random comments when hacking geth rocket turrets during their loyalty mission is "Executing sudo command." "Sudo," short for "superuser do," is Linux syntax that allows an admin to give other users temporary admin privileges. "Geth do not use windows" indeed...
    • Another thing from the Legion loyalty mission, you are told that the Geth virus affects the AI decision making process by changing the result of one calculation to be out by a very small amount. In real artificial neural networks, each artificial neuron has an activation threshold. If all its inputs add up to be equal to or greater than the threshold, the artificial neuron will fire, otherwise it won't. A small error in the sum can influence whether a given neuron will fire or not when it normally should, and if it fires in error it will have a knock-on effect on all the downstream neurons. If geth use artificial neural networks of the sort understood by current computer science then a small maths error is a plausible way of getting a geth to reach a different conclusion than it normally would.
    • This remark from Shepard when commiserating with the tech store clerk on the Citadel for a discount:
      Shepard: "You wouldn't believe how often I hear 'Why is the ship turning around? We're only halfway there!'"
    • Jack's dossier in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC includes a poem she penned under the pseudonym Jacqueline Nought. One of the lines goes, "This is not a place of honor/No esteemed dead are buried here". This is a reference to a warning to be posted on top of a nuclear waste disposal facility to dissuade future societies from breaking the seal and exposing themselves to radiation.
    • The weapons you find on the Collector ship are a Krogan shotgun, a Geth sniper rifle and the Revenant machine gun. How did the Collectors get those items? Recall that Krogan and Geth formed the bulk of Sovereign's minions in the first game, so most likely they were the source of these weapons' blueprints. The Revenant's presence however acts as both a Continuity Nod and as a Foreshadowing. Who do you see using this weapon? Blue Suns and the Shadow Broker himself. The blue Suns were who Liara had to initially fight while getting Shepard's body in Redemption and Lair of the Shadow Broker ultimately reveals that the broker was also doing the bidding of the Collectors. So it is perfectly plausible that these guys passed on the Revenant's blueprint to the Collectors.
  • Genius Programming: Mass Effect 2 runs much more smoothly on the same PC configuration compared to the previous game, despite having better graphics.
  • Goddamn Bats: Husks, on any difficulty. They don't use guns, they just run up to you and start whacking you. Mowing them down before they can get to you can be hard because they move ridiculously fast. They also tend to swarm you while you're focused on trying to shoot down something else. They have a few Weaksauce Weaknesses (biotics, being set on fire, being frozennote , being shot in the legs), but these tend to not be particularly useful if you're facing ten at once. Excepting Soldiers with a Revenant machinegun and Adrenaline Rush.
    • Or a single Adept or Vanguard (or Jack, which is really the same thing) with a well-leveled Shockwave. At that point, the difficulty shifts from "shoot them before they rip you to shreds" to "get them to line up for maximum awesome points."
    • On Insanity, Harbinger is this. When you die incredibly quickly to generic mooks, Harbinger's pitiful damage, slow rate of fire, and knockback of his attacks are not remotely threatening in comparison to everything around him. The knockback leaving Shepard exposed to enemy fire is generally the worst he can do, meaning he's more a nuisance not worth chipping at until he's the only one left than a target to fight.
  • Good Bad Bug:
    • Hitting melee halfway between the Claymore's reload animation causes it to auto-complete, and you can fire instantly with it. The Claymore is the single-shot uber-tier shotgun, and turns into a semi-automatic.
      • This trick actually works on any non-heavy weapon in the game... even the Widow. The key is hitting the melee button once the ejected thermal clip is visible.
    • There was also a button trick that allowed a character as early as level 6 to max out every ability. This was removed by a patch on May 17, 2010.
    • The save file transfer doesn't properly import your handling of Conrad Verner. It defaults to the Renegade response, which has you "shoving a gun" in his face and inadvertently making him go "hardcore". There are hex fixes that allow one to see the ''ME1'' Paragon Flagged start.
    • If certain conditions are met while Charging as a Vanguard, Shepard's shield will shoot through the roof, going from between 150-325 to somewhere close to 4000. It only lasts for a single mission but you could essentially go through the rest of it meleeing things to death; and yes, charging would indeed refill it to max.
    • There's a sound glitch (triggered by certain biotic powers, like Pull) that can result in dead/incapacitated enemies screaming nonstop due to a looping voice file. This is particularly amusing/appropriate (and, apparently, easier to trigger) in Arrival, because of the indoctrinated troops you fight on the asteroid (quite fitting despite being unintentional).
    • Every weapon's firing rate slows down tremendously during Adrenaline Rush... except the DLC Mattock.
    • Could also be a little of Guide Dang It!. On Aria's side quest with the Eclipse cache, standing in just the right place and firing the ML-77 missile launcher allows you to complete the quest with no crates destroyed. The bug - the missile homes in on anything classified as hostile and when one of them hits the mech while fired just outside of the area that triggers the crate destruction, that mech will walk towards you without activating the other mechs. This allows you to essentially bait all the mechs into attacking you one by one, allowing you to ambush them. You can do this to only one mech at a time and must ensure that your squadmates don't blunder into the area that triggers crate destruction.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Shepard initially baulks at Tali wanting to suppress evidence of her father's experiments on live geth. Tali says that revealing it would mean that her father would be held up as an example of a monster as a cautionary tale. You find Tali's dad dead and may even comfort her over it. Then you get to Project Overlord and see an even worse experiment performed on live geth. Feel like suppressing that evidence now?
    • So you convinced that asari on Illium to get back together with her krogan boyfriend, hopefully to get married and have kids and live happily ever after, right? Well, at least until Mass Effect 3, where you find out Charr died on a mission and Ereba will now be left to raise their daughter alone. So much for Good Feels Good...
    • Shepard talking to Jacob may mention that he could always use "spare parts". In the Citadel DLC for 3, the clone who was made to supply "spare parts" for Shepard comes back to bite him in the ass.
    • At the end of Overlord, Gavin Archer tries to justify what he's done on the grounds it could "spare a million mothers mourning a million sons." Mass Effect: Andromeda has a character in a sidequest who was part of Overlord before she wisely managed to GTFO... because they tried to plug her son into the geth before David, and it's left her with a deep fear of AI of all kinds. Care to repeat that line, Dr. Archer?
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Jack comes across like a sociopathic loner who can't connect with people and she can't fathom why Shepard (particularly the Paragon version) is the way he/she is. Courtenay Taylor would later voice the female vault dweller in Fallout 4, who is basically an everyman version of Shepard.
    • During Kasumi's loyalty mission, she mentions that part of the cover story she put together for Shepard was an article on them in Badass Weekly. This reference was part of the reason the author of Badass of the Week wrote an article for Shepard after completing the trilogy. In a way, Kasumi did get that article on Shepard written.
    Badass of the Week Writer: [about the video clip where Kasumi mentions the article] Scroll ahead to 0:20 to witness what is either a cruel coincidence or the single greatest moment of my writing career.
    • After his loyalty mission is done, Grunt expresses his desire to rip out Uvenk's spine as a trophy. Five years later, his voice actor would go on to play Sub-Zero, who is infamous for doing that very thing.
    • Jacob Taylor with his shirt off
  • Like You Would Really Do It: Subverted. Shepard dies ten minutes into the game, and is brought back… but can potentially die for real at the end of the game, so, yes, they would really do it. Then Double Subverted in that save games where the entire team dies won't carry over to Mass Effect 3, and it is the only story-possibility that the Expanded Universe directly contradicts and ignores.
  • Memetic Badass:
  • Memetic Bystander: The turian groundskeeper, the Alliance drill instructor who gives the Sir Isaac Newton speech, and the "techno turian" who is seen dancing in Thane's loyalty mission.
  • Memetic Mutation: See here.
  • Misaimed Fandom: This is the game that created a legion of Cerberus sympathizers (especially PS3 owners who couldn't see any of Cerberus' crimes and horrible experiments in the first Mass Effect), with defenders taking everything the Illusive Man says at face value. To say the least, there were people who wanted to protest the third game when it was revealed that Cerberus were antagonists once more.
  • Narm: The increasingly obvious pronoun dodging regarding Jack, which just makes it even more obvious that she's going to be a woman.
    • Everything about the original Normandy's destruction is pretty traumatic and desperate. Well, all except for Joker's downright bizarre tone of voice when announcing that "I CAN STILL SAVE HER!"
  • Narm Charm: All of the Harbinger's combat lines. They are all extremely over-the-top, cliché Evil Overlord gloating done in an Evil Sounds Deep Large Ham voice, but they do serve to keep the fights with Collectors entertaining.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Several of the celebrity-voiced and/or returning characters.
    • Kal'Reegar, the RPG-wielding quarian near the end of Tali's recruitment mission, is voiced by Adam Baldwin. Unless you take the Paragon interrupt and keep him away from the succeeding fight, or kill the Geth Colossus fast enough with his assistance, he definitely fits this trope.
    • "The Council thought that Blasto, the first hanar Spectre, would play by the rules..." Luckily, you can hear this more than once if you wander around on Illium long enough.
    • Niftu Cal. "But then, I began to smell my greatness!"
    • The hapless merc standing near a window during Thane's recruitment mission. "I've got nothing more to say to you—"
    • An unnamed Krogan who you talk to Illium has been dubbed "the most polite Krogan in the universe", for how unfailingly, well, polite he is. Which, if you know anything about how Krogan society operates, speaks volumes about how frighteningly badass this dude must be to be so calm.
  • Paranoia Fuel:
    • See those cameras in Overlord? They track you. Everywhere. (At least you can shoot them.)
    • The ads on the Citadel, which seem to know EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU, right down to who your Love Interest is.
    • "Nine out of ten Tupari drinkers recommend Tupari to their friends! The last one is on my list."
      • "I know you're weakening. Tupari is on your mind! Give in."
  • Player Punch:
    • The destruction of the Normandy. Being reunited with Ashley/Kaidan. Seeing your crew get kidnapped when the Collectors attack the second Normandy. Seeing what happens to the people abducted by the Collectors, especially if it happens to your crew because you didn't get to them in time. Plenty more. Mass Effect 2 likes this trope.
    • A good chunk of the loyalty missions are also this. You have a really messed up squad.
    • Project Overlord may as well be entitled "Player No-Holds-Barred Beatdown" after you reach the end and find out the real reason why David went Ax Crazy. Pistol-Whipping the person responsible is the Paragon response.
    • If anyone was actually thinking or hoping they would find all of the abducted colonists from Horizon alive at the end and be able to save them, they were tragically mistaken. The sight of what happens to one trapped in a Collector pod is not an image you'd easily forget.
    • The ending of "Arrival" DLC is an enormous punch in the gut for both player and Shepard. Shepard is forced to destroy a solar system and its 305,000 batarian inhabitants in order to prevent an imminent Reaper invasion. Hackett notes that even though he knows Shepard did the right thing, the Alliance will force them to pay for this and that the batarians will attempt to do the same thing.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Keep an eye out for someone who has assumed direct control when watching the surveillance footage on Freedom's Progress.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • The Mako planet-roving gets replaced with two: The Hammerhead (in DLC only), and planet scanning. Even BioWare admits that, in retrospect, planet scanning was handled poorly in Mass Effect 2. On the official forums at least one BioWare employee has said that "nobody liked" it, and as a result the planet scanning system has been completely overhauled for Mass Effect 3 so that it's less tedious and time-consuming.
    • The Hammerhead replaces the Mako, and to its credit, it's faster, handles better, and doesn't have problems going up gentle hills... it also has the durability of wet toilet paper. You will learn to hate and fear the alarm noise it makes when it takes too much damage, because it'll only take a few hits before that happens. Add to that its weapon has a shoddy aiming system, unlike the Mako's guns. Missiles might actually hit what you aimed at. Or they might not.
    • For some, the Charm and Intimidate skills being replaced with speech checks tied directly to your Paragon or Renegade score, making it a bit harder to play a character with mixed morality. The next game tied speech checks to your combined Paragon and Renegade scores, alleviating this problem.
    • The auto aim, providing you're using a sniper rifle, due to the fact that you're unable to turn it off. It can and will make getting a proper shot off much more difficult than it needs to be if multiple enemies are nearby. Doubly so if you're aiming for one when another enemy is closer to you, but more to the left or the right of your target, since it forces you to move the scope off of who you're not aiming at. You also have to actively fight the system when it does this as well, since it slows down look scope movement speed to prevent you from looking at anything but what it thinks you want to fire at.
    • Legion was a very popular character with pretty much everyone. So it's a pretty big shame that after recruiting them, you are placed into the endgame, and you are given only 2 more outings after recruiting Legion before you need to use the Omega Relay (at least if you want to save your entire crew). This means that you really only have time for Legion's loyalty mission and either one other mission or a final shopping trip before going to stop the Collectors. This means you have very little time to enjoy Legion in your party. At least if you don't want to watch your crew get dissolved painfully into goo before your eyes. It's less than ideal to say the least, especially because it means you'll likely miss out on Legion's potential interactions with Quarians in all of Tali's missions.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Tali’s recruitment mission on Haestrom gives you an opportunity to impose one during the Colossus battle. The injured Kal’Reegar offers to provide you heavy weapons support with a missile launcher, while you move in close to destroy the Colossus. However, not taking the Paragon interrupt to convince him to just stay down, means there is a hidden timer before the Colossus fires at Kal’Reegar and kills him. Your challenge is now, to fight through all the Geth mooks, get to the Colossus and destroy it fast, before it notices Kal’Reegar.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: Sort of. The game isn't really any harder than the first, for the most part. However, the redesigned combat mechanics mean that fighting like you did in the first game is a good way of getting yourself totally slaughtered, even on the easiest difficulty setting. Once you get used to the new mechanics (or if you're coming in fresh without having played the first game), the difficulty rapidly evens out. However, the change in mechanics and the streamlining of the character building process means that you'll never be able to throw yourself into combat without worrying about tactics like you could eventually do in the first game. So it's less about the game getting harder, and more that it doesn't get easier as much.
  • Ships That Pass in the Night: Kolyat (Thane's son) and Oriana (Miranda's younger sister) are fairly popular for a couple who've never even been on the same planet at the same time.
  • Special Effects Failure: Despite being a visually sound game, it does fall into this on a few occasions. Most common are issues with clipping, which, if you tried to list them all, could probably get a whole page all to themselves.
    • Miranda's physical features sometimes verge on this trope. See Uncanny Valley below.
    • During the first conversation with Garrus on the Normandy, Shepard is meant to be leaning on a railing, but ends up leaning on thin air.
    • During the meeting with the Council, Udina's eyes notably clip through his character model when he walks in.
    • When you wake Grunt up and he pins Shepard against the wall, his shoulder armor visibly clips through his upper body, and Grunt's upper arms always clip through his armor.
    • Mordin's eyes often clip through his eyelids, and Miranda's neck tends to clip through her collar.
    • Literally every time you go speak to Joker, his chair swivels around to face you...and clips through its own mounting.
    • Because there's twelve party members, and they're largely interchangeable during missions, cutscenes often use the same animations for each character. This works fine for the most part, but can get strange if you have Garrus and/or Grunt in your party—their models are noticeably larger than the rest of the characters', meaning that an animation or pose which works for the other ten characters ends up...not working for Garrus or Grunt. For example, bring Garrus on Tali's loyalty mission—during Tali's trial, check the background. Garrus is sitting in the stands...with his arms clipping through his legs.
    • Bringing Zaeed to Garrus' recruitment mission triggers an extra conversation between him and Tarak. At the end, there's a closeup of Tarak's face—with his head clipping through the camera.
    • During character customization the player can select a variety of eye shapes for either Shepard. It's possible to pick eyes for fem Shep which are incapable of fully closing because her eyelids have a fixed size.
    • The Illusive Man's cigarette has been known to move independently of his hand. Presumably he cuts his tobacco with eezo.
    • A long-standing glitch during Garrus' loyalty mission causes the entire back wall of the area it takes place in to not be textured properly. On one hand the trippy effect created by it helps with the overall uneasy atmosphere of the encounter. On the other hand, there's zero doubt that this isn't intentional and it's straight up broken.
  • Tainted by the Preview: The first teaser for the game was met by quite the reaction, as was Jack's reveal.
  • That One Boss:
    • Tela Vasir. If having her use the same Charge power as Vanguards wasn't enough, she can also knock you out of cover with a Shockwave power, and can use a Barrier power to make her even more of a Damage Sponge than she already is. Plus, she can summon Rocket Drones and Shadow Broker Engineers, making her a Flunky Boss.
    • In Arrival, the Object Rho battle if you are going for the Last Stand achievement. Luckily, this one's optional; the game will continue even if you fail.
    • The Praetorian. The potential of being hit by its Death Choir drop attack has every player, regardless of class, desperately scuttling away whenever it drifts too close for comfort. Which is to say, constantly.
    • The geth battleship cannon in Overlord. It fires automatic One Hit Kills. And it has a very wide area of effect.
    • The Shadow Broker, to Adepts. With only Liara to help you, biotic powers are all you have to throw at him, which are all negated by his shields and armor.
  • That One Level:
    • The disabled Collector ship can be this, especially the first room. The problem is, you hardly ever get anything other than low cover, which Harbinger excels at knocking you out of, which results in you getting cut apart by Collectors and Scions unless you get back in immediately. It doesn't help that the Illusive Man forces you onto it, and that he's leading you into a trap because you're taking too long.
    • Horizon. Horizon. Horizon. Horizon. If you pick the wrong team or class it may be easier to just begin the game from scratch.
    • Corang in the Firewalker DLC. The only place in the game where you will encounter multiple Geth Colossi, Primes and Destroyers, but you have the Hammerhead to take them on with. Should be fun right? The Hammerhead can't tank like the Mako as it's made of very flimsy armor, and it's true advantages in speed and ability to leap is countered by the fact that the map is set up like a platform game where if you don't time and judge your jumps exactly right, you will end up in an acid bath. And in one section you must get by three rocket turrets who have a nice straight line of sight at you with almost no room to maneuver. And you can't save your progress. Enjoy!
    • Thane's loyalty mission initially doesn't appear to be that hard, then you have to track the target. If you aren't looking directly at the target, you don't update Thane, and you only get one chance. Oh, and if you try to skip through the stockboy scene, you can glitch out and lose the mission that way. You will be restarting endlessly in order to finish the mission correctly.
  • That One Sidequest: Aria's side mission to retrieve the crates. It's an incredible amount of effort to go through (three freaking YMIR Mechs!) for the three or four surviving crates. Given how early this mission is given, it's one of the hardest fights in the game.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: In the first game, it was revealed that Cerberus was behind the Thresher Maws that killed a Sole Survivor Shepard's squad. Shepard works with Cerberus in this game, but is never given a chance to call anyone in Cerberus out for the events on Akuze or the background-specific sidequest from the first game (in which it's revealed that there was another survivor, Corporal Toombs, who was captured and used as a test subject by Cerberus scientists). All you get is a very angry email from Toombs calling Shepard out for working with Cerberus, much like everyone else in the game.
  • Tier-Induced Scrappy:
    • The companions with the shotgun/pistol combination as a part of their loadout aren't as popular combat wise because, without the Geth Plasma Shotgun in the Firepower Pack, their damage output is simply pathetic compared to squadmates with assault rifles and sniper rifles (as part of all non-GPS shotguns in general being Scrappy Weapons). The GPS somewhat fixes this and makes them actually capable of doing more than picking off the occasional mook with their pistols, but even with this upgrade they still lag behind the AR users.
    • Jacob and Jack take this even further in Insanity mode because they have no means of stripping away defenses. Their powers only work on enemies without shields or heavy armor, which every enemy has on Insanity, so you're better off leaving them in the Normandy for most part.
    • Tali is recruited about halfway through the game, has the dreaded shotgun/pistol combo, and one of her powers is useless on levels without geth or mechs, which comprises around 80% of the game. Her Combat Drone is useful as a distraction, especially on Insanity where enemy DPS is insane, but deals next to no damage on its own and takes 30 seconds to recharge. Compared to Jacob and Jack, she at least has the redeeming factor of Shield Drain, which increases her survivability while acting as a slightly weaker Overload. Legion has nigh-identical powers yet can use assault rifles and sniper rifles, which functionally makes him a straight upgrade over her. There's a reason that the third game boosted all her powers and weapon selection and decreased the charge time for her drone by 80%.
  • Uncanny Valley:
    • The Unreal Engine 3's age is starting to show with its inability to handle flowing water without significant modification; PC Gamer's review wondered why the characters cried "oil slicks".
    • A lot of the faces just don't look quite right. Much of it has to do with the lighting.
      • Miranda's face sometimes leans more towards a lumpy potato than her voice actor's face (Yvonne Strahovski). She also looks the worst in bad lighting, but on the other hand looks better in softer and warmer lighting.
      • Dr. Chakwas's face is particularly frightening in the brief moment when she swivels in her chair to face you before a conversation.
      • Shepard himself. It's not much better if Shepard is female.
      • The Illusive Man may be this deliberately. According to one dev diary, they deliberately made him perfectly symmetrical. Combine that with the normal mapping on his skin, and he's deep in the valley.
      • Jacob's face model looks fine when his mouth is closed, but the width of his lips makes too many of his teeth show up when he's talking.
      • Morinth and Samara, despite being modeled on the same woman, have different animations. Samara looks a lot more normal than Morinth and her creepy square teeth and her creepy smile. Considering who Morinth is, this may very well be intentional.
    • Many of the female character's proportions just look wrong, particularly Miranda's (a realistic head on a spindly, very thin body but with big breasts and buttocks). In fairness to this one though, this is par for the course for many female video game characters.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Eyes are very hard to animate well. Samara's eyes look stunning.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?:
    • C-Sec has instituted new security and travel rules, including seemingly random no-fly lists and item confiscations, as a knee-jerk reaction to a massive attack. They're so ineffective they label a pair of asari as geth infiltrators and fail to notice the geth in your party. Anyone familiar with post-9/11 airport security in the US will recognize the system and the common criticisms of it.
    • Also, a great deal of the background dialogue in the planet of Illium appears to be an elaborate satire of extreme anarcho-capitalist political beliefs.



  • Base-Breaking Character: A mild example compared to Jack and Miranda, but some people saw him as the Replacement Scrappy for Wrex, as he is a lot less developed compared to him. Even his Loyalty mission is by far the most shallow one (a simple arena fight). However, he is still very well liked for having a variety of funny lines and being very useful in combat.


  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Is she a Jerkass Woobie or simply a Jerkass? Part of that might depend on whether fans play as female (whom Jack is not as horrid with) or male (to whom she is a Bastard Girlfriend) Shepard, and how a romance is handled.
    • Jack even lets a female Shepard down lightly if the latter tries to keep talking to her.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Whilst possessing her share of fans due to sympathizing with her past and Character Development, many others dislike Jack for her psychopathic and violent tendencies. Often it depends on if one takes her abrasive and sometimes abusive behavior in stride as part of her character and the story being made (and thus find the moments of vulnerability from her all the more rewarding), or if you take it personally (especially as it's not always clear how to get her to warm up to you). The intensity of her emotional turmoil doesn't help.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Take Jack with you on Legion's loyalty mission, and she'll say, "I'd never want to be brainwashed like that. Just kill me instead, please." If you don't go to the Grissom Academy side mission in 3, Shepard will have to kill a Brainwashed and Crazy Jack.
  • Jerkass Woobie: As revealed by her loyalty mission, Jack was constantly tortured by Cerberus in order to turn her into the ultimate weapon. When she was a kid, she would be thrown into an arena to fight to the death against wild animals and other biotic kids, in addition to the brutality she had to endure from the scientists and guards.
  • Les Yay: With Miranda, at least as far as some fans are concerned. Mocked and Lampshaded in the Citadel DLC where Shepard can "helpfully" suggest that the two get laid, even claiming that all of their supposed sniping must surely indicate hidden feelings.

Jacob Taylor

  • Angst? What Angst?: The strongest complaint fans have is that he is "boring." Even after his loyalty mission where Shepard and company find out that Ronald Taylor has forced his crew to eat toxic food, driven off or murdered the males, and kept the women as sex slaves, he merely shrugs it off (and becomes offended if Shepard insists that he should express anything otherwise). This becomes Fridge Brilliance when Shepard gains access to the Shadow Broker's dossiers and finds Jacob was placed on the team because he's a "stabilising element." He's supposed to be this way, and with good reason, considering how screwed up the rest of Shepard's squaddies are.
  • Fetish Retardant: Not only is his his "But the PRIIIIIIZE" line extremely cheesy, the fact that he says it while looking at Shepard with cold, unfeeling eyes after he's just admitted to sneaking into her cabin adds an unintentionally creep factor to the encounter.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In 3, Jacob voices his skepticism when Shepard mentions that they'd eventually like to settle down. Over the course of the game, there is reoccurring implication that Shepard is Resigned to the Call and is slowly becoming a Death Seeker because of it.
  • Memetic Molester: Regardless of the heavy risk, Jacob only wants his prize.
  • Memetic Mutation: Heavy risk... But the PRIIIIIZE.
  • Narm Charm: His romance path is not known for being especially well-written, though it did provide a nice meme, as shown above.
  • The Scrappy: In the second game Jacob got hit with this for being The Generic Guy in comparison to the more colorful squadmates and for being very opinionated (notably towards Thane). The third game opens an entire different can of worms to players with a Female Shepard who romanced him. He ends up cheating on Shepard and was indifferent about it when confronted.
  • Take That, Scrappy!: Slapping him for cheating on you in the Citadel DLC. Given Jacob's not well liked even outside of his infidelity, someone made a mod where you can slap him during that scene regardless of your relationship.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: The idea of having one stable member of your crew could've been interesting, but this aspect of Jacob's character is barely touched on at all, which just makes him look boring.
  • Tier-Induced Scrappy: Jacob was the unfortunate victim of having mediocre utility as far as abilities go and buggy A.I.. While Incendiary Ammo and Pull can be useful for classes like Adept and Sentinel, there was a bug in the system that caused Jacob to Auto-cast Barrier making him next to useless. Future DLCs helped to repair the damage; giving the player the ability to remove the Barrier ability and gave Jacob access to a long range shotgun.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Clearly meant to be a naive every man soldier. The problem is, he shows vitriol towards some squadmates, admittedly for valid reasons, but not others whom he'd also have plenty of reason to do so with. This, by itself, would be a downplayed version of the trope at worst, since he only does this when they're first recruited, and lets it go after that. But come the third game, he cheats on you, should you have romanced him. The Racial Stereotypes he exudes in that game (and arguably, during his romance), do not help.

Kasumi Goto

Miranda Lawson

  • Base-Breaking Character: Quite possibly one of the biggest examples in the entire trilogy. Most fans either love Miranda or absolutely loathe her. Its hard to find a fan who has a neutral opinion of her.
  • Jerkass Woobie: She's tortured over the manner in which she was "created", had to spend her early childhood having to live up to her father's crazy high expectations, (and its also heavily implied that he murdered Miranda's older "siblings" for not meeting said expectations) and worst of all, is incapable of conceiving a child, something she desperately wants (as the Shadow Broker files on her clearly show). Needless to say, when one takes all that into consideration, its easy to see why she can be so cold and nasty sometimes. It also makes it unsurprising that either Paragon or Renegade dialogue choices acknowledging her flagellation over not having a single good aspect of hers to take credit for can start a romance with her. Paragon Shepard will compliment her service record, and more pointedly, her body; Renegade Shepard will try to push her buttons further until she claims Shepard himself as an example of her "damned good work".
  • Les Yay: With Jack, at least as far as some fans are concerned. Mocked and Lampshaded in the Citadel DLC where Shepard can "helpfully" suggest that the two get laid, even claiming that all of their supposed sniping must surely indicate hidden feelings.
  • Memetic Mutation: DAT ASS (Effect).
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Her actions in the third game did help sway former haters around by indirectly helping out the Alliance and taking many levels in kindness as well as protecting her sister.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Miranda gets this badly from some fans, who are unable to understand that in spite of her being a part of Cerberus she is not in fact a heartless sociopath who would commit genocide if the Illusive Man told her to.
  • Strawman Has a Point: "Typical Alliance attitude. So focused on hating Cerberus you're completely blind to the real threat." She makes other fair arguments to, namely how the Council SHOULD have listened to Shepard a long time ago and also being qualified to lead the fire-team during the Suicide Mission both times despite Jack (or Garrus)'s objections.
  • Uncanny Valley: Her face looks a little... off at times. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when it's meant to be perfect, thus looks a little off. Frequently she comes under criticism for Special Effects Failure (not helped by the fact that her face often doesn't look too good in cold hard lighting) but her face looks a lot prettier in softer and warmer lighting.
  • Wangst: The main reason she's reviled by certain fans is the accusation that she fits this. It's not that she doesn't have a reason to be upset, it's because as far as many are concerned she drones on and on about how much it hurts her to be perfect and how her father was emotionally distant, whereas every other character besides Jack has bigger or equal problems that they don't complain about. The fact that she says that she was always given what she wanted and grew up in wealth has not helped matters, though she also makes a point of mentioning that there was always a catch to getting what she wanted. Still, if you play the "Lair of the Shadow Broker" DLC and read the file on her it turns out that Miranda's pain goes deeper than she lets on. She wants to be a mother but cannot conceive, and even worse, it's implied that this is just one of many ways her father has tried to control her.

Mordin Solus

  • Angst? What Angst?: Loyalty mission greatly disturbing. However, salarians deal with emotions at highly accelerated rate. Fine by return to Normandy. Or not.
    • But also too eager to atone if Eve Dead. Implications of Wreav as lone Krogan leader - Problematic!! Would have compounded error.
  • Broken Base: Invoked, Genophage morally ambiguous action. Many opinions on matter. Great debate. Believes justified, but still feels guilt. Some fans disagree, others say Mordin correct.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Sang "Major General's Song". Played for comedy. Then Mass Effect 3 came. Not so funny in replays.
  • Too Cool to Live: Survival during final assault unlikely. Escort assignment recommended.
    • If present in third game, dies curing genophage (or killed trying). Also can be convinced to sabotage it. Latter only available if both Wrex and Eve dead.


  • Angst Aversion: Due to her determination in following her justicar Code to the letter in spite of the price being her obligation to kill her own daughter.
  • Iron Woobie: As expected from a Asari warrior almost a millenium old.
  • Ron the Death Eater: A lot of Morinth sympathizers blame Samara for Morinth's addictions.

Thane Krios

  • Stoic Woobie: For most of the game, he will not angst about his condition. He breaks down during the romance scene however.
  • Too Cool to Live: He is likely to die in the suicide mission and he will die in the third game if he has not already.

Zaeed Massani

  • Cargo Ship: This video ships Zaeed with his rifle, Jessie.
  • Memetic Badass: Zaeed has a lot of badassey facts about him, that he's slowly being considered as the metaverse's equivalent to Chuck Norris.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Letting the refinery and everyone inside burn to make sure he kills Vido. It's a bit more debatable in the Paragon resolution though, since for all his wanting to kill Vido, he does help Shepard save the refinery workers if Shepard decides to save them, and Shepard can still get his loyalty with a high enough Paragon score. And finally, he is shown to be better in 3, restricting his brutality to Cerberus, who definitely deserve it.

    Secret Characters *SPOILERS* 

  • Crack Pairing: It and Admiral Xen get shipped a lot, likely because of her Foe Yay when she calls it a "marvelous machine"
  • Uncanny Valley: Not his face, obviously (it's a just flashlight, after all), but Legion has a habit of awkwardly mimicking the movements and posture of those he speaks to, particularly Shepard. The best example is the handshake Shepard offers — Legion obviously has no clue what to do and just repeats the motions.
  • Values Dissonance: A lot of Legion's dialogue involves it explaining how the geth operate in terms both Shepard and the player can understand. During its loyalty quest, Legion will agree with Renegade Shepard's point that organic and synthetic moral values are fundamentally different when the other teammate questions the moral ramifications of rewriting the programming of the heretics, explaining that organics are individuals and that consensus takes time and effort whereas there are no individuals among synthetics and that communication between them is instantaneous. Legion will even go as far as saying that it would be racist to think otherwise.
    • While there are a lot of differences between the geth and organic life, it is still possible to find common ground. The following quote can be Values Resonance for a lot of people:
      Legion: The geth believe all intelligent life must self-determinate.


  • Draco in Leather Pants: Some of the fanbase consider her actions to be completely the fault of her genetics, which are in turn Samara's fault, and thus Samara's the monster for hunting down a serial murderer. As awful as her early life may have been, she's spent the subsequent four hundred years developing an addiction to burning out the brains of innocent victims, and there's no reason to believe she'll stop, as she get's a thrill out of it.
    • In the third game (provided she survived in 2), she sends a series of emails to her sisters showing that she still cares about them and just wants them to be happy, but the emails were intercepted and her sisters never got to read them. It could also be just another example of her being a Manipulative Bitch.
  • Evil Is Sexy: As per the vampirism parallel. Also, asari. And the skin-tight black outfit, that too.
  • Memetic Molester: Given what she does on-screen, it's quite self-explaining.
  • The Scrappy: She is not well liked at all due to being a sociopath, and having no relevance to the story at all compared to her mother. Having an unsettling Uncanny Valley face even though she almost looks exactly like her mother doesn't help, and there's also the fact that most of her dialogue is identical to her mother's.


Quarian Admirals

  • Crack Pairing: Admiral Xen and Legion get shipped a lot, likely because of Xen's Foe Yay when she calls Legion a "marvelous machine".
  • Fanon: Based on the above Crack Pairing, a popular fan interpretation of Admiral Xen is that she's a Robosexual.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Possibly Rael'Zorah experimenting on hacking geth, an act that Zaal'Koris doesn't see as any different from torturing living beings, with the presumed end goal of hacking all the geth into forced obedience.

The Illusive Man


  • The Woobie: Poor, poor, poor Veetor. Much like Tali, he is a young and naive Quarian who is still developing as an individual. Already he has a history of panicking when in large crowds, prompting him to spend his pilgrimage on a small human colony. He has to witness said-colony come under attack by "monsters" and "swarms", abducting the many humans Veetor likely made friends with. By the time you find him, he's a broken shell of his former self, paranoid beyond rational capacity. And it gets much, much worse if you turn him over to Cerberus.


  • Ensemble Dark Horse: To the degree that some fans wanted him back in ME3 as a squadmate. Most people wanted him as a squadmate as early as in ME2 after seeing him for the first time in one of the pre-release trailers. Of course, being voiced by Adam Baldwin doesn't hurt.

Kelly Chambers

Aria T'Loak

Warlord Okeer

  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: A krogan scientist would have been an interesting addition to the team. Sadly, he dies shortly after being introduced and Shepard settles for Grunt instead.


Matriarch Aethyta

  • Ensemble Dark Horse: She's at least as popular as some of Shepard's squad thanks to her combination of being a Cool Old Lady and Deadpan Snarker.
  • Epileptic Trees: Some believe she's Liara's father. Yep, father, with asari being one sex and all. The game itself seems to heavily imply this, as one of the videos Shepard can watch in the Shadow Broker's archives is footage of Aethyta sitting at home alone, drinking, and staring at a holograph of (what is almost undeniably) Liara. Confirmed in Mass Effect 3.


  • Awesome Ego: Just like Sovereign in the first game, he's a monumentally arrogant being who hands out Badass Boasts like candy and the fans love him for it.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Some fans see him as a Replacement Scrappy to Sovereignnote  while other see him as a superior villain.note 
  • Crack Ship: It's mostly a joke, but Harbinger/Shepard, drawing upon such lines as "I KNOW YOU FEEL THIS," is oddly popular.
  • Fountain of Memes: Nearly every one of his lines have been subject to Memetic Mutation.
  • Love to Hate: Full of Badass Boasts, while proclaiming to be humanity's salvation through destruction. Plenty to love, plenty to hate.
  • Memetic Molester: His memetic taunts towards Shepard make him this. See his line on Crack Ship entry.
  • Memetic Mutation: Again, almost all of his lines.

The Collector General

Gavin Archer

  • Moral Event Horizon: Forcing his brother to take part in Project Overlord. That said he is shown to have defected from Cerberus in 3 and has also come to seriously regret what he did. Unfortunately for him, he's a case of Reformed, but Rejected in 3.
  • What an Idiot!: Yeah, go ahead and shoot your gun at a supremely pissed off PARAGON COMMANDER SHEPARD. That will end well. In the end, probably the only thing that saved his life was that Paragon Shepard was more worried about helping his brother than killing Archer.

Tela Vasir


  • The Woobie: Born with autism, exploited by his own brother, turned into a machine against his will, and insane from the strain of being in charge of a computer network. This guy's life is just one heartbreak after another. Unfortunately, he's incredibly unstable and dangerous, and become so withdrawn and broken he doesn't realize the harm of his actions. Thankfully, if you save him, he is shown to be doing a lot better during the Grissom Station mission in the third game. He even apologises to Shepard and his squad for his actions.


  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Were they ungrateful and overly paranoid about Shepard, or was their reaction a natural one to their former commander (and possible lover) coming back into their life after two years of being dead as part of a terrorist organization? The former cause some who didn't have a problem with them in the first game to hate them with a passion while those who thought of the latter, even to those that hate them in the first game, felt that they were unfairly spat on in favor of the love interests in this game and Liara.
  • Fourth Wall Myopia: Many players don't seem to notice that nearly all of the information that may have convinced them that Shepard is still trustworthy was actively withheld from them, something the Illusive Man encouraged with strategic information leaks.
  • Strawman Has a Point: If you're playing a Renegade Shepard (especially one who shows contempt for the Alliance and the Council and prefers Cerberus) then they are kind of right to say that you've betrayed the Alliance and thrown your lot in with a terrorist organization versus a Paragon or Neutral Shepard's doing it only because it's necessary. Whether or not they fit these tropes in general is very, very hotly debated. So let's not debate it.

Ronald Taylor

  • Moral Event Horizon: After being stranded on Aeia, he killed most of his male crew, exiled the rest and used the fruit of the planet and it's mental degradation properties to keep the females as slaves, with Jacob even referring to them as his Harem. That's bad enough, but then there's him knowing about the distress signal the entire time, but never telling anyone or activating it until he finally wanted to leave.


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