System Shock

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Meet your new best friend/horrible tormentor, insect.


"L-l-look at you, hacker. A p-p-pathetic creature of meat and bone, panting and sweating as you r-run through my corridors-s. H-h-how can you challenge a perfect, immortal machine?"

System Shock by Looking Glass Studios was a groundbreaking First-Person Shooter with Survival Horror and RPG Elements set in a Cyberpunk future. It wasn't exactly a smashing success in sales, but it produced a sequel that was probably one of the best FPSes in history and spawned one of the most memorable villains in all of video games.

In the first game, a character known for the most part only as "The Hacker" is caught breaking into the mainframe of your typical cyberpunk megacorporation, and is offered a chance at freedom and a prime-grade neural interface in return for performing nonstandard modifications to the Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network (or SHODAN), the AI on the corporation's space station. After coming out of the six-month coma needed to heal from his surgery, the Hacker finds that SHODAN has gone absolutely insane after having her ethical controls removed, and has transformed the entire crew into cyborgs and mutated monsters devoted entirely to her. The Hacker stops SHODAN from destroying the earth and wipes her completely from the database.

The sequel, made in collaboration with Irrational Games, founded by former LGS employees, is set 42 years later; due to the events of the first game, anti-Mega Corp outrage resulted in formation of Unified National Nominate, the quasi-socialist world government. After UNN (albeit under TriOptimum grant) scientist Marie Delacroix discovers the secret of faster than light travel, UNN and TriOptimum mount a joint mission to Tau Ceti [1] The game involves the maiden voyage of the Von Braun, the first ship with FTL Travel equipped, accompanied by the UNN Rickenbacker. The game begins with the awakening of the player character, a cybernetically-enhanced soldier, from cryosleep to receive a small amount of exposition from a voice identified as a surviving member of the Von Braun's crew, and then immediately has to escape his sick room that has been exposed to space, beginning his long adventure in avoiding his own death.

The original, floppy disc-based version of System Shock played fast-and-loose with SHODAN's gender. Several times the evil computer was described as a "he", and the character art was ambiguous. From the CD version onwards SHODAN was explicitly female, voiced with cool command by Terri Brosius. A combination of superior scripting and excellent voice acting transformed SHODAN from a stock villain into a memorably sexy computer dominatrix from hell; she is by far the most memorable character in the series, and is considered one of the best video game villains in general.

Both System Shock and System Shock 2 received critical acclaim, but neither was a commercial success due to release dates that pitted the games against strong competition: System Shock was released in the wake of Doom and was sort-of competing with Marathon, and System Shock 2 went up against the equally groundbreaking Half-Life. Still, the games have endured, and even spawned a spiritual sequel in BioShock (series). A third game was briefly rumored with a 2006 trademark renewal and claims by PC Gamer UK, but it was only in 2016 when Otherside Entertainment announced that they were working on System Shock 3 and that the game was in the concept stage of development, with several team members who worked on the previous two titles.



Tropes used in System Shock include:

A-E[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Abandoned Hospital: The Medical Deck from both games.
  • Abnormal Ammo: The Viral Proliferator and the Annelid Launcher in the sequel uses worms as ammunition , the latter particularly fires homing rockets filled with worms.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The Crystal Shard is described as one. It's also described as fragile; it isn't.
  • Action Bomb: the Robot bombs in the original; The Protocol Droids in the sequel.
  • Action Survivor: The Hacker from the first game.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Some inversion, here; all of the artificial intelligences you meet in the games happen to be antagonists of some stripe, though both SHODAN and XERXES require serious outside intervention before they become dangerous. SHODAN's pre-Hacker audiologs and records say she's exemplary from what you find, and the only reason XERXES is dangerous is because he's being an obedient, faithful, efficient AI who is under the control of forces hostile to the player.
  • Airborne Mook: Winged Mutant in the original.
  • Air Vent Passageway
  • Almost-Dead Guy: Almost everybody else who isn't dead already, or trying to kill you.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Edward Diego left a log that has him begging SHODAN to spare him. To make this even more pathetic, almost right next to the log is another log that had him bragging to Tri-Optimum investigators after he had the Citadel's defense system shoot down the shuttle with another team of investigators, arrogantly stating that he is untouchable with SHODAN under his control. The dates of logs are roughly two weeks apart.
  • Always Close: You always get to the bridge level just before it jettisons itself from self-destructing Citadel Station.
  • Always Night: It's in space.
  • All There in the Manual: The manuals contains pieces of backstory not present in either games.
  • Amplifier Artifact: The implants, PSI-amp is technically this.
  • And I Must Scream: The fate of human halves of the Hybrids. Some of them exert whatever little control they have left over what used to be their bodies to implore you to kill them - even as they advance toward you and try to tear you to shreds.
  • An Economy Is You: Justified, since all replicators had been re-programmed for war long before you woke up and, well, those who can use them who are still alive and unmutated - including you - can be counted on your fingers.
  • Animal Testing: Hundreds of chimps are on Von Braun for this reason. Unfortunately for the crew, they got sentient and gained psychic powers as a bonus.
  • Apocalypse How: Citadel Station has enough goodies to allow SHODAN to try several kinds of Apocalypse, and the Von Braun's reality-warping hyperdrive allows for Class X-2... and beyond.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Arguably the Trope Codifier for the collectable audiolog variation on this trope now common in video games.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Some of the hybrids cry out "I'm sorry!" or "Run!" as they lunge at you. They also Cannot Self Terminate, so some of them beg you to kill them.
    • One Hybrid has a audio log, thanking the player for killing them.
    • Perhaps not the same but the androids wandering about the Engineering deck mutter innocently contrary to their suicidal nature and will wave at you if they can see but not reach you.
  • Arc Number: 451
  • Arc Words: Remember Citadel and Resist.
  • Arm Cannon: Various enemies have their arms replaced with weapons, and the maintenance/security/assault robots in the sequel.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack : Teflon rounds, slugs and penetrator ammo and Rail gun in the original. AP bullet ammo in the sequel.
  • Artificial Gravity: Well, the games are set in space, so it's a given. At one point in the sequel you are required to reverse it.
  • Assimilation Plot: The nature of The Many.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Mentioned during career choosing.
  • Ate His Gun: Ate his shotgun, if the position of said gun is any indication.
  • Auto Doc: Both games have automatic medical beds that heal you completely in an instant. The first game also has stations that will reanimate a "killed" character, though these need to be reset so they won't turn him into one more cyborg instead.
  • Badass Boast: SHODAN likes these.
  • Badass Bookworm: The Hacker, the protagonist of the first game, is an expert hacker who is also abnormally skilled with a wide variety of weapons and explosives.
    • It helps that he has a military grade neural interface installed in his brain, that probably conveys some skill with weaponry. The sequel makes the skill-boosting effects of the neural implant explicit, being the means by which the player gains skills via cybernetics. The item descriptions though indicate that such skill improvements are only temporary (lasting a few weeks) unless practiced extensively, particularly in high-stress situations such as the player might find themselves in.
  • Badass Normal: Dr. Marie Delacroix in the second game. She follows a similar path to the protagonist (but always just ahead), while managing to both survive and accomplish some important things without the benefit of his cybernetics or psychic powers (or even military training it appears).
  • The Battle Didn't Count: Edward Diego teleports away when he is dealt enough damage, and goes down in the third fight.
  • Beef Gate: In the original, until you find better weapons and better shields, you will die constantly on upper levels. But the biggest beef gate is probably the radiation, particularly in the reactor level.
  • Beeping Computers: Add significantly to the atmosphere in the sequel.
  • Benevolent Boss: The Many act like this.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: How many crew members decided to deal with The Many problem, including Captain Diego. You even see a ghostly image of a soldier committing suicide.
  • BFG: The Fusion Cannon and the Annelid Worm Launcher.
  • Big Bad: SHODAN in the first game, Xerxes in the second. Not.
  • Bio Augmentation: The cyber-modules contains RNA databases and brainwave EM for upgrading.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Which we have to research.
  • Black Mesa Commute: The tutorial and character generation levels.
  • Blob Monster: The invisible mutants on the dimly lit level 3 of Citadel Station.
  • Bloodstained-Glass Windows: No windows, though.
  • Bloody Handprint
  • Body Horror: And how. If you really want to be creeped out, take a good close look at a Rumbler.
  • Boss Banter: SHODAN.
  • Booby Trap: Someone sabotaged the Accelerator Coils on the Rickenbacker, making them explode if there is enough movement.
    • "Anyone approaching Sim Unit 3 will feel sorrow... so much sorrow..."
  • Book Ends: System Shock begins and ends with the hacker trying to hack some Mega Corp. Old habits die hard.
  • Booze-Based Buff: Alcoholic drinks heals you in exchange of PSI.
  • Boring but Practical: The Wrench in Shock 2, especially on impossible difficulty where, depending on your character build, you cannot afford to spend the scarce cyber modules on more powerful weapons and skills.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: In the original you can use a decapitated head on the retinal scanner.
  • Boxed Crook: The recently captured Hacker is offered freedom and a new neural interface by Edward Diego if he removes ethical restraints from Citadel Station's AI, SHODAN. (For added irony, breaking into Trioptimum's computers for data on Citadel was what got him arrested.)
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Everybody before their annelid mutation.
  • Breakable Weapons: Fortunately, they're also repairable. Seeing how in this game ranged weapons are as tough as wet cardboard, it's one of the cruelest examples of this trope.
    • A number of mods change the weapon degradation rate and nothing else. It's actually quite easy to do, and Word of God states that they had set it high on purpose, but didn't mean to set it that high.
      • Mods, hell. The official patch has an option to decrease weapon degradation, or disable it altogether.
    • Can quickly lead to Inventory Management Puzzle early in the game due to the player hoarding not only ammunition but multiple degraded or even broken pistols and shotguns in the hope that they can be repaired or discarded when used up.
  • Broken Bridge
  • Bulletproof Vest: Light, Medium and Heavy combat armors, plus a powered armor.
  • Caffeine Bullet Time: The Reflex patches in the original.
  • Can Only Move the Eyes: Being conscious in the body you can't control for the human mind in the Annelid hybrids.
  • The Captain: Captain William Diego.
  • Cassette Craze: the Logs.
  • Cephalothorax: The Rumblers, and it's mostly teeth anyway.
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: Provided that you're quick enough with the mouse, you can change from torso covering armor to full body hazmat suit.
  • Character Customization
  • Charged Attack: PSI-Disciplines can be charged for more powerful effect, but if you charge for too long, you will take damage for burning out unless you have a certain upgrade. High tier disciplines charge very quickly.
  • Charge Meter
  • Charm Person: The Psionic Hypnogenesis PSI-Discipline.
  • Chest Burster: According to one of the logs, the annelid worm first goes inside the body, pierces the chest from the inside and connects one of its ends to the head of victim.
  • Colonel Badass: He is not a a colonel (actually, he is higher in rank, but mostly acts like a captain), but UNN commander William Diego is pretty badass, even retaining some of it after assimilation, and then managing to fight the assimilation off. Son of Edward Diego, he must've called the old man out, as he's become a high-ranking UNN officer with hearty hatred for anything corporate. His audio log to Korenchkin is a CMOA for some:

Diego: Anatoly, there's only so much corporate calisthenics I can go through before I start to feel a little queasy, so let's get down to brass tacks here. We don't like each other. We each have our own motivations for undertaking this mission, so let me give you a little warning. I cannot be circumvented, I cannot be tricked, I cannot be manipulated, and I cannot be bought. You come at me straight and keep the fancy maneuvers for your next board meeting. Just because my father swam with the sharks doesn't mean that I do.

    • Diego is voiced by Stephen Russel, best known for voicing Garrett in the Thief series, and his voice for Diego is no less badass.
  • Colony Drop: SHODAN tries to do this with Citadel Station after the Hacker stopped all of her plans (and backup plans).
  • Computer Voice: XERXES is obviously male and SHODAN is obviously female. Although the latter tended to have some extra voices talk at the same time for the hell of it.
  • Contagious AI: SHODAN in the first game.
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: Dr. Polito gives you gems like "You must move faster. Your mind cannot conceive of the stakes we are dealing with" regardless of your actual speed (being based on passing fixed points). seeing as how she is really SHODAN, this makes sense
  • Contrived Coincidence: The entire plot of the second game depends upon a particularly Egregious example: The Tau Ceti system is nearly 12 light years away from ours. System Shock 2 takes place 42 years after the first. That means the grove carrying what would become The Many just so happened to be ejected on a pinpoint course for the very same planet the Von Braun would travel to, at a speed of at least ~85,654.988 kilometers per second - roughly a quarter of the speed of light.
    • It's even more egregious when you consider that given Newton's third law, the rest of Citadel Station would have to have moved with the same momentum in the opposite direction.
    • Annelid psionics. Or perhaps SHODAN accounted for the notion that the grove might be forcibly ejected and modified it so that it might find a solid body to land on... and none of the solar planets were in possible trajectory.
  • Control Room Puzzle: The original had the force bridge puzzle in this style. Some of the hacking minigames resembled this. The sequel had you making the improvised bridge with torpedoes.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: In the sequel. Depending on the char-builds of the players, some formerly not so useful skills in the single-player became much more useful in co-op.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Edward Diego, who originally made the offer to the Hacker to meddle with SHODAN for his own gain, and later becomes a Dragon for her. Anatoly Korenchkin in the sequel, who started out as the gangster before buying out the diminished Tri-Optimum.
  • Closed Circle: Getting rid of the Big Bad is pretty much the only way to survive in both games, considering the settings.
  • Compelling Voice: The Many.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: One of the Von Braun's crew members is described as one.
  • Contest Winner Cameo: The audio logs of Norris in the sequel are voiced by the System Shock fanboy who won the contest.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen
  • Crate Expectations: Thankfully, mostly in areas where they are expected to be.
    • The level in the sequel with the most crates was quite arguably one of the most intense of the entire game. This defies nearly every other such situation, which is one of the reasons it's a classic.
  • Creating Life: Indirectly, SHODAN created the mutants that will evolve into The Many.
  • Creepy Monotone: SHODAN stutters and speaks in disharmony with herself too much to be called a "monotone", but the general station announcement voice triggered by some switches, and Xerxes in the sequel, play it mostly straight; the former is a speech synth, for true Machine Monotone.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: The Energy and Exotic weapons in the sequel, massacres everything mechanical and organic respectively, but useless against everything else, especially evident when in last two levels where the first one is purely organic (with some sightings of cyborg midwives), followed by fully mechanical final level. Also kind of hard for the Soldier not to become this on Impossible difficulty, where skill upgrades are much more expensive and multi-classing is a bad idea.
    • Reversed by the near game-breaking assault rifle which, with its 25% damage bonus over the pistol, the additional 25% damage bonus of an optional (but free) "OS Upgrade" plus weapon modifications can kill almost anything with a few shots thanks to the individually specialized "Armor Piercing" and "Anti-Personnel" rounds making the weapon supremely versatile. The only downside is the number of upgrade modules it takes to get to that point.
  • Critical Encumbrance Failure: You don't get any penalties, since you can't put more than you can carry. If you were using the Brawn Implant (increases Strength and therefore Inventory space) and it run out of juice, the excess items will be automatically dropped.
  • Critical Existence Failure
  • Critical Failure: This happens when you fail at hacking the ICE-nodes in SS2, the description even says the same thing.
  • Cyberpunk / Post Cyber Punk: The former is before the events in Citadel Station, the latter is the aftermath.
  • Cyberpunk Is Techno : Hoo boy. But the soundtrack is excellent, especially in the second game. Courtesy of Eric Brosius, who also composed music for Shock's spiritual sister series, Thief.
  • Cyberspace: This is how the Hacker hacked things in the original, thanks to his new shiny military grade hack mod. In the sequel, SHODAN basically tries to reshape reality to be like one.
  • Cyborgs: Lots of them on Citadel. You, on the Von Braun.
  • Darkness Equals Death: Several places in both games, with the first game's Level 3 Maintenance standing out.
  • Dead All Along: Polito
  • Deadly Gas: Some of the annelid eggs release toxins into the air, acting as proximity mines of sorts.
    • One of the audio logs on the maintenance level (first game) tells the player that SHODAN released a gas to turn the resistance members into invisible mutants.
  • Dead Man Writing: Delacroix at the end of the game.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Janice Polito. The one that's actually SHODAN
  • Dead Person Impersonation: SHODAN impersonating Dr.Polito.
  • Death by Cameo: Most of the characters were voiced by the production staff, so it happens all the time, just off-screen.
  • Death Is a Slap on The Wrist: both games feature resurrection stations on most levels which bring the player back to life, though they need to be found and activated. Before that, they find your body and give it new life...
    • In the sequel, it also costs nanites (10 on Normal, which is twice the cost of healing at a surgical table). Not so bad, except that unless you have high Hack ranks, it tends to cost a lot for gear. As in 100 nanites for a measly dozen bullets.
      • Actually, once you're in the Body of the Many, there's no regeneration. If you die, you have to reload. In addition, if you don't find the regenerator on the level of the ship you're on, you die and have to reload. If you don't have enough nanites... you get the point.
      • Zigzagged in Easy mode, where the nanite cost is negated. Completely played straight in Multi-player mode where the cost is negated and you don't need to activate the Quantum Bio-Reconstruction Machines (you'll resurrect at the bulkhead you entered the area instead). Justified since Multi-player is locked at Impossible difficulty.
    • The first game is both played straight, subverted and averted. Played straight in that once you activate the regeneration chamber, you can die as many times as you like on that particular level with no ill effects. Subverted in that some levels (particularly level 3 and level 6) revive with a bare minimum of health, meaning that reviving can actually be incredibly difficult if you don't have enough healing items. Averted (and twisted) in that the last two levels (level 8 security and level 9 bridge) are the hardest levels in the game and have no resurrection chambers. If you die, you're dead. It ups the difficulty significantly, considering you're used to being able to die and come back, and have been incorporating it into your strategy for the rest of the game.
  • Death Trap: SHODAN sets up a few surprising and actually very efficient ones in the first game. However, since she can't control regeneration chambers once you reset them, there is nothing to stop you going back and doing it again. For example, in one Antenna room, SHODAN closes the force door on you right after you set up the bomb to destroy it.
  • Decontamination Chamber: In Med section of deck 2. You just have to walk directly under the 'steam' coming out of the ceiling.
    • There's a decon chamber on Level R in the first game. It works exactly as advertised, but only for radiation poisoning. Biological poisoning will not be removed.
  • Deflector Shields: In the original, the large-scale shield is used to destroy the mining laser by firing it at the now point-blank range. The Hacker also has a personal variant. In the sequel, the OSA operatives can create one.
    • The personal deflector shield is also the single most draining mod you can slot. Especially at level 3, where it absorbs 50% damage but will drain your battery in less than a minute.
  • Destruction Equals Off Switch: See Insecurity Camera.
  • Deus Est Machina: Guess who?
  • Diegetic Interface: As part of the cyber implants you receive at the beginning of the game.
  • Die Hard on an X: Die Hard on a space station in the original. In the sequel, Die Hard on two space ships and a ship-sized Body Horror, the Body of the Many.
  • Digital Avatar
  • Dilating Door: The aptly named Iris doors.
  • Disc One Nuke: Mild version in the form of bug that let's you to keep items from the training rooms.
  • Distress Call: The few surviving crew members of Von Braun set up the machine that would send a SOS to Earth, configured in such way that critically weakens XERXES when used. And of which SHODAN takes advantage of...
    • A transmission from Tau Ceti is one of many little things that caused the whole mess.
  • Dissonant Serenity: The Many.
  • Dominatrix: SHODAN has undertones of this in both games.
  • Doomsday Device: SHODAN had a mining laser that apparently could destroy everything on Earth (Then again, it was designed to work on Saturn in the first place) and the deadly virus (which without her supervising will evolve into The Many).
  • Down the Drain: The part of Deck 1 Engineering is like this.
  • Downer Ending: The second game... with SHODAN's "new look..."
  • The Dragon: Edward Diego to SHODAN in the first game. Anatoly Korenchkin and XERXES to The Many in the Second.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: You hear the gun cocking in the Ghost Memory of the Mess Hall Massacre.
    • Even more effective in that one "Oh God, don't do it!" log in Hydroponics, and the log in Ops wherein Malick is heard being shot by Bronson.
  • Dramatic Stutter: SHODAN
  • Driven to Suicide: The real Dr. Janice Polito, when she realized that she released SHODAN.
    • Don't forget the poor sod on the cargo-level command deck, right after the elevator.
  • Dying as Yourself: One of the reasons to die instead of getting killed.
  • Easter Egg: the mini-basketball game in the sequel.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: SHODAN, sounding like a broken soundcard.
  • The Elevator From Ipanema
  • Eleventh-Hour Superpower: The Annelid Worm Launcher has aspects of this, being located right before entering The Many and slaughters everything biological. But on the other hand it requires maxed skill in Exotic weapons and nearly maxed research skill to being able to use it, and becomes useless after you kill The Many.
  • Elite Mooks: The cyborgs on the cover of the original. The sequel had Red Ninjas, also the Hybrids on upper decks seem to fire, swing and throw faster.
  • Emergency Weapon: The Lead Pipe in the original. The Wrench, Laser Rapier and the Crystal Shard in the sequel, and depending on how you play, these can be the only weapons you will use barring some specific situations, especially the wrench.
  • EMP: The Magpulser from the original and, of course, the EMP rifle in the sequel. Both, as expected, utterly destroy everything robotic, ineffective against cyborgs and absolutely useless against anything organic.
  • Enclosed Space: The games are set in the space station and the space ship.
  • Enemy Chatter:
    • The humans converted by The Many.
    • Both games made use of this for nearly all enemies; the sequel just did it way better.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: In the original the higher versions of the map software allowed you to see enemies on the mini-map, and the results depended on which subsystem was using it (left, right (one showed stationary enemies while the other showed them in motion only) or both (for both stationary and motion detecting)). The sequel has a PSI-Discipline that produced the same results.
  • Enemy Mine: Basically the whole situation with SHODAN for the Von Braun crew.
  • Enemy Scan: The original has a targeting software which gave information on the enemy.
  • Energy Ball: The Overload option of the energy weapons will fire these.
  • Energy Weapon
  • Enter Solution Here: In the original, the Reactor Override code consists of 6 digits, each located at computer node rooms of the first 6 floors. Also, in the sequel to activate the SOS sending transmitter on the Recreational deck you need a code. The code is scattered across the recreational deck in those art-screens.
  • Escape From the Crazy Place: The trope description almost reproduce the beginning of both games.
  • Escape Pod: The goal of various characters from both games. In the original, SHODAN prevents them from launching, effectively stranding you on self-destructing Citadel Station. In the sequel, you arrive just in time to see the one of them launch, destroy two of them filled with the Many, and use the final one to ram into The Many.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Hacker and Soldier. In the backstory of SS 2, William Diego's rank is Rear Admiral, but everybody calls him Captain because that was his rank during the battle of Boston Harbor.
  • Everythings Worse With Psychic Mutant Monkeys
    • Correction: Everythings Worse With Psychic Mutant Monkeys Who Are Sick Of Vivisections And Out For Revenge.
      • And Shoot Ice Beams and Fireballs at You.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You
  • Evil Laugh: SHODAN does this when you fight her in the sequel.
  • Evil Matriarch: SHODAN in the first game. In the sequel The Many pissed her off way too much for her to remain this.
  • The Evils of Free Will: One of the Many's arguments, phrased as "The tyranny of the individual"
  • Evil Overlooker: SHODAN was this on the cover for the second game. Way to spoil The Reveal, there, SHODAN!
  • Evil Sounds Deep: SHODAN at times. One of the three dominant voices of The Many.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The Soldier basically takes part in this in the sequel.
  • Evolutionary Levels: The main annelid life cycle is roughly like this: Egg > Parasitic worm > Human Host > Hybrid > Rumbler > Psi-Reaver. The alternate route is Hybrid > Spider, and some eggs have swarm bugs instead of worms.
  • Exact Progress Bar: For research in the sequel.
  • Experience Points: In the form of reward at fixed points.
  • Exploding Barrels: The sequel featured one memorable spot with a string of explosive and radioactive barrels leading from behind the only door in to halfway in the middle of the room. If enemy fire set them off before you were out of the blast range...
  • Explosive Overclocking: the "Overload" feature on certain weapons.
    • Not to mention the psychic powers in the sequel, where using Overload gives a chance for boosted range/damage, but if you time it wrong, you 'burn out' and take damage unless you picked up a specific O/S upgrade.
  • Exposition Fairy: Dr Polito or SHODAN to be accurate.
  • Eyeless Face: The Rumblers The hanging remains of the human body on its shoulder does not count.

F-J[edit | hide]

  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: The Von Braun is a test of this technology. And SHODAN is really interested in reality warping qualities of it.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Besides them being a Hacker and the Soldier, both of which are male, everything else is for your imagination.
    • Actually averted in the case of the Hacker, as his face is clearly visible in the first game's intro, though you never hear him speak aside from occasional grunts. His name is whatever is typed in at the start of a new game. Also averted slightly for the Soldier, who gets a spoken line word in the epilogue.
  • The Federation: The UNN.
  • Fetch Quest: In the sequel the first mission is to get to deck 4, but the elevator is not powered, so we need to get to Deck 1 first to reroute power from the engines, but the door to the maintenance shaft to deck 1 is locked and we need to find the guy who knows the code, but he is in the section that is locked off, so we need to find another guy with the keycard. Once on Deck 1, we need to fix the coolant tubes to get to the engine area, but the fluidics control is locked and we need to find the dame who knows the code, but to use the fluidics control we need to install the specific override on it, which is specified in the audio log that is located somewhere on this deck. Only then can you can go to the engines and reroute power to the elevator. Thankfully, it gets less complicated.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: the sequel manages a sci-fi take on this, thanks to its RPG Elements. At the start of the game, you choose whether to join the Marines, Navy, or OSA (PSI-Corps), each of which then lets you pick three specific missions that determine skills and ability scores. While technically you can purchase ranks in anything no matter which career you chose to start with, the scarcity of cyber modules (used to purchase skill ranks & stat boosts) and the high price of buying into a "cross-class skill" (10 cyber modules for the first rank... and you cannot do anything relating to that skill without at least one rank) tends to make it easier to play to the strengths of a "class". The Marine (Fighter) gets stat boosts, weapon skills and maintenance, the Navy (Thief) gets technical skills and some minor stat boosts, and the OSA (Mage) gets psychic powers and a few skills.
  • Fighting From the Inside: Captain Diego managed to do this.
  • Final Boss Preview: The Many or to be more specific, its brain, even though the Many are not the final boss.
  • Firing One-Handed: The Melee weapons and the pistols. The Hybrids wield their weapons one-handed.
  • First Contact: What everybody assumed from the Tau Ceti transmission, and just another thing for Diego and Korenchkin to fight each other over getting more benefits from the Tau Ceti First Contact for UNN and Tri-Op respectfully.
  • Flesh Versus Steel: The second game. XERXES and The Many often called you, questioning why the soldier chose (not that there was any choice) the the machine-mother over the pleasure of the flesh.
  • Flying Car: In the original's opening cutscene.
  • Foil: Captain William Diego and Anataloy Korenchkin to each other. One is a corporate-hating patriotic military man, the other is the former gangster and the Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • Force Field Door: Citadel Station has a quite a few of these.
    • The Von Braun has a few as well.
  • For the Evulz: Why does SHODAN want to kill humanity? 'Cuz she's "a perfect immortal machine!"
  • Four Is Death: Goggles is in his 4th year of military service when he applies for transfer to UNN Rickenbacker.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Most of the energy weapons in the original are of the instant variant. The sequel plays it straight, but they belong exclusively to the enemy.
  • Functional Magic: The Psychic powers in the sequel are the combination of Inherent Gift (latent psychic powers) and Force Magic (Soldier's PSI energy) used through the Device Magic, The Psi-Amplifier. The creation of said amplifier helped to define various psychic powers into more concrete (and utilitarian) forms.
  • Game Within a Game: Both games have these.
    • Desperate players sometimes hid in a monster-proof area to win them, as doing so would net a few precious nanites.
  • Generation Xerox: Captain Diego is a little pissed that he basically made same mistakes that could endanger the humanity, just like his father, who was responsible for SHODAN.
  • Genius Loci: Citadel Station.
  • Genre Busting
  • Ghost Memory: There are ghosts replaying some moments, usually the last ones, of their lives. It's explained as a side-effect of having latent psi-abilities, and various experimental properties of the implant you had installed.
  • Ghost Ship: The Von Braun and the Rickenbacker, sort of, anyway - it's implied that there are a few dozen crewmembers left alive by the end of the game (out of the over 1,000 originally on board).
  • Giant Mook: The Rumblers.
  • Giant Spider: Those invisible giant spiders. Not to mention the Cortex Reavers from the first game.
  • Global Currency: Nanites in the backstory.
  • A God Am I: SHODAN explicitly refers to herself as such. She's too good at it, too.
  • Good News, Bad News: Io training facility description, where the good news is that spending the year here will build your endurance, the bad news is the 21.2& fatality rate. If you chosen the Marine career, there is another bad news: You have to spend a year with those Navy sissies.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: The various goggles from the original. The Soldier in the sequel is nicknamed Goggles for his eyewear.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Many.

Prefontaine: We shouldn't let Shodan play God. It's clear that she's too good at it.

  • Gone Horribly Wrong: SHODAN.
  • Gosh Hornet: The Swarms.
  • Gravity Screw: At one point in SS2 the Soldier has to switch the Rickenbacker's gravity system to proceed further, resulting in an upside-down experience, which leads to one symbolic moment...
    • In the original, there are several rooms with reduced gravity.
  • Grid Inventory
  • Hack Your Enemy: The turrets in the sequel.
  • Hacking Minigame: Only in the second game. The first game has Cyberspace, which is much more interesting.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Hybrids from the sequel.
  • Harder Than Hard: The Impossible difficulty, especially with co-op gameplay (sure, there's more of you, but the amount of supplies available hasn't changed. Now instead of keeping all that ammo or those nanites for yourself, you have to share).
  • Healing Factor: One of the worm implants gives you regeneration, but at the cost. See Toxic Phlebotinum below.
  • Heal Thyself: Med hypos is a delayed variant. Medkits are instant, but rarer and more expensive.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: The background music for the Recreation Deck in the sequel.
  • Hero of Another Story: Delacroix.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Considering that in the sequel using what would be considered emergency weapons in other games has many advantages (like keeping that rare, precious and expensive ammo) and the fact that half of them ARE swords...
    • The first game subverts this, though: the laser rapier is obscenely powerful, but very short range in a game where almost everything has a ranged attack, and every successful hit drains your (limited) battery, which is better used on your various cybernetic implants. In almost every respect, an energy beam is more efficient, and projectile weapons are superior. The laser rapier is really only good for level 3, where the semi-cloaked enemies die in one hit from it.
  • Hide Your Children: While it is in no way a stretch to assume there were never any children on Von Braun, there is a sign ("Adult must accompany child") that suggests there were.
  • Highly-Conspicuous Uniform: The crew uniforms, basically modified short-sleeved Star Trek uniforms. The Military (The player Soldier and others) averts this.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: Cyborg Assassins in the sequel, especially those three dressed in red. The original mostly averts this by placing them in hard to see nooks, like above the doorway you just passed. They also shoot their ranged projectiles (shuriken) completely silently, denying you even that small advantage. Even worse, the first place you encounter them in the game is a series of corridors on the way to activate the first regeneration chamber. You will die in there.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: The second game.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Monkeys can only be hit consistently with the wrench (the weapon you will be using most of the time, as ammo is limited for most of the game) from above is right on top of them (monkeys have Psychic Powers and are the first and most plentiful foe with a ranged attack). An upgrade for the player character's cybernetic OS allows him to execute overhand attacks with melee weapons (a shout-out to the game's predecessor, Thief, which uses the same engine), although this only helps a little and requires not taking other, much more useful, upgrades.
  • Hive Mind: The Many.
  • Hollywood Hacking
  • Hopping Machine: The Hoppers from the original. For some reason, their gun is only slightly less powerful than a Sec-2 Mech, one of the strongest enemies in the game.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts
  • Human Popsicle
  • Human Resources: Both SHODAN and the Many use humans for their purposes. In the original, there is a relay that is responsible for "Soylant Green" (in-game spelling).
  • Humans Are Flawed: Both SHODAN and The Many have this viewpoint. The PC proves them wrong.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: One of the OS Upgrades did this.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: kill me, KILL ME!
  • I Don't Like You and You Don't Like Me: Diego and Korenchkin, also Goggles and SHODAN to certain extent.
  • Ignored Expert: Delacroix.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Completely averted.
  • I Am Legion: For we are The Many.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Where did you get them, Hacker?
  • The Infiltration: Two of OSA career paths involves this: One is a classical infiltrate a criminal organization (via carefully prepared Mind Wipe and Brainwashing even), the other is to attend the Io survival school without anybody knowing and to toy with the marines.
  • Insecurity Camera: In the original, SHODAN is already aware of the player, and thus cameras are only useful in helping determine the player's current location - destroying them makes it harder for SHODAN to figure out what's going on (although the real damage is by blowing up computer nodes). The sequel has alarm raising cameras, and has the justification of both the Anti-Crazy-AI measures introduced after the SHODAN incident in the original System Shock and the fact that XERXES is not exactly working properly.
    • To clarify, in the first game, in order to proceed unhindered, you have to lower SHODAN's control of each level. This involves destroying security cameras and computer nodes. The implication being that the less SHODAN can keep track of, the less she can control. Good luck finding every single camera, though...
  • Instant Expert: Handwaved in the second game with "cyber-modules". There are disclaimers that the skills gained will not usually be retained for very long, except perhaps under a very stressful situation.
  • Instant Sedation: Averted with the tranquilizer darts in the original, you need to shoot several darts to paralyze the target, doesn't lasts to long and wakes them up if you hit them.
    • A certain Psi skill in the sequel does much the same to robots.
    • The stun gun from the first game is entirely non-lethal, doing Exactly What It Says on the Tin. However, it only works on entirely organic enemies (cyborgs aren't affected and forget about robots), the stun doesn't last forever, and it consumes a disproportionate amount of battery power considering it doesn't kill things. Best dropped and forgotten.
  • Interface Screw: The final confrontation with SHODAN in cyberspace in the first game. You try to face her to fire, but you have to fight the controls to keep from twisting away. And then she starts replacing your vision with her glowing visage, pixel-by-pixel.
    • The Status Buff patches in the original gave this as a side effect, like Genius patches inverted the controls and the steroid patch inverted the colors.
      • One of the best patches in the game, the sight enhancer, is also the worst: it lets you see in the dark, but when it wears off, your vision is reduced as if you were in the dark even in a brightly lit area. For twice the length of the enhancement effect.
  • Interface Spoiler: The interface in the original has ten slots for items/software.
  • Invisibility: One of the PSI-disciplines. And those slimes on deck 3 in the original. And the Spiders in the sequel...
  • In the End You Are on Your Own: In a sense, in both games near the end the protagonists lose contact with Mission Control. In the sequel, SHODAN even says that "You are on your own".

Rebecca Lansing: 2-4601, it's important that you don't forget...<cut off>
SHODAN: You h- You have entered my domain... R-Rebecca and Morris cannot help you now- NO ONE CAN.

  • Ironic Nursery Tune: SHODAN seems to have a thing for this, since random pieces of children songs are scattered in her dialogue.
  • It's All Upstairs From Here: Both games are basically this in structure, but particular stand-outs are The Security floor of Citadel Station and the UNN Rickenbacker. Subverted In the end of the sequel, where you have to go down to face SHODAN.
  • Justified Extra Lives: Quantum bioreconstruction chambers, just make sure you have some nanites before you die.
    • Regeneration chambers in the original. Just make sure you activate it, and don't get too used to them: the last two floors don't have them at all.
  • Justified Tutorial: These act as the recruitment aids for the military and can be skipped.

K-O[edit | hide]

  • Kaizo Trap: Inverted. In the original, when Shodan defeats you by completely filling your screen with herself, you still can steal the victory if you keep blindly attacking.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Malick. He was working on an audio-log before Bronson's men gunned him down. Also Prefontaine.
  • Killer Space Monkey: with psychic powers, no less. Has elements of Maniac Monkeys due to them being much smarter than your typical monkeys.
  • Kill It with Ice: Cryokinesis.
  • Kill Sat: Citadel Station's mining laser is modified by SHODAN to function like one.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Balance issues in the sequel made the energy weapons inferior to standard ones. The big advantage of the energy weapons, however, is the lack of ammunition, which is hard to find and expensive. If you can find an energy recharger, you can fire your energy weapon.
  • Knight Templar: Bronson. There is a ghost scene where her men are gunning down civilians who do not approve of the martial law.
  • Large Ham: SHODAN.
  • Laser Blade: Laser Rapier in both games. One of the late PSI-Disciplines is to make one out of your PSI energy.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: The memory restoration process for the Soldier failed and he doesn't remember the time he spend on Rickenbacker and Von Braun. It was intentional.
  • Laser Sight: Featured in the intro of the original.
  • La Résistance: The humans who survived the initial slaughter in both games.
  • Last Stand: Both games has a lot of places where this occurred, like the last stand of Bronson and her men in the sequel.
  • Late to the Party: in both games, you wake up after all hell has broken loose. This was because Looking Glass realized that the technology just wasn't ready to have realistic reactions and conversations with pesky living people.
    • Conversations were possible in the spiritual ancestor Ultima Underworld, though.
    • The main problem is the Dark Engine itself (used for Thief 1 & 2 as well as SS2). While it is technically capable enough, speaking from experience the editor is user-surly to the novice and a total mindscrew to comprehend. Coding in a believable friendly NPC would be an absolute nightmare.
    • Fortunately, both games very effectively Justified this trope.
  • Lego Genetics: The description of Cybermodules says that it has RNA info that changes the user.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Rumblers are quick for their size. Also the Soldier on easy difficulty where the upgrades were cheap.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Killing SHODAN in SS2 will result in destruction of the faux-Citadel Station, justified because it's her will that changes and maintains the altered reality.
  • Locked Door: Lots of them. Some can be hacked, but others need keycards, codes or plot advancement to open to them.

Access denied by SHODAN level security.

    • One particular secret door on the first level can only be opened if level security is reduced to zero. Because there are many secret passages and cameras are actually quite well hidden, getting to zero is very difficult. If you can get in there, though, you can get the Magnum 2000, a powerful gun you otherwise wouldn't get until level 3.
  • Logic Bomb: Disposable Logic Probes in the original, used to bypass hacking puzzle minigames.
    • PSI users can get a power that does something similar in the sequel, though not as effectively.
  • Look on My Works Ye Mighty and Despair: Prefontaine, the scientist captured by The Many, studied the biomass and remarked how in short 40 years of evolution The Many conquered the starship, humanity's mightiest creation. Also, the whole second game can be somewhat viewed like this.
  • Lost in Transmission: Some of the logs.
  • Made of Explodium: Everything remotely mechanical, apparently.
  • Machine Monotone: SHODAN at absolutely no time unless she's in a calmer mood and her sound card isn't glitching, but XERXES plays this utterly straight.
  • Machine Worship: What SHODAN expects you to do. Cyborg Edward Diego and other cyborgs are doing this.
  • Madness Mantra. System Shock 2. The Hybrids, when not attacking, piteously ponder "We are? We are?" and "What... happened to me?", and when they attack, they either apologetically shout "I'm sorry! Run! RUN!" or growl "You are not one of us!" or "You cannot see!" The Cyborg Midwives are even creepier, walking around talking about caring for "the little ones".
  • Mad Scientist: Well, more of a brainwashed Dissonant Serenity scientist, but Dr.Miller created the midwives.
  • Magic Antidote: Subverted in the original, where the Detox patches also nullifies every other patches, including med patches. Played straight in the sequel with the Anti-Rad hypos and Anti-Toxin hypos.
  • Mana Meter: The PSI meter.
  • Master Computer: SHODAN and XERXES for Citadel and Von Braun respectively.
  • Master of Unlocking: You're the hacker in the first game, duh. And this seems to be one of the Navy's specialties, though others can also learn the hacking skill.
  • Matter Replicator: The Replicators that act like vending machines. One of the PSI-Disciplines allows you to do this, except on Psi hypos.
  • Mega Corp: Tri-Optimum.
  • Meat Moss: The Bridge level in the original is vaguely Alien-like.
  • Menu Time Lockout: Averted.
  • Mercy Kill: What it basically amounts to when killing those who serve the Many.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Security and Assault robots in the sequel.
  • Mind Over Matter: Kinetic Redirection a.k.a pull things towards you.
  • Mini Game: you can find ROM disks in the sequel that allow you to play short games on your PDA. In the original, you can find them in cyberspace, and play them in your brain (via the HUD).
  • Mission Control: Rebecca Lansing in System Shock, and Dr. Janice Polito in System Shock 2.
  • Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: SHODAN. Also, SHODAN.
  • Mook Maker: While the Cyborg-Conversion units didn't actually spawn mooks, resetting them to restoration option decreased the spawning rate for cyborgs. And increased the spawning rate for mutants. Whoops!
  • Morality Chip: SHODAN's ethical constraints, before the hacker removes them.
  • Muggles: The Psy-operatives refer to non psy-talented as "Mundanes".
  • Multinational Team: The crew of Von Braun. Of the named crewmembers there are at least one Frenchwoman, one Russian, three Spaniards or/and Latin-Americans and one of Chinese ancestry.
  • Mutants: Of many varieties in the first game.
  • My Brain Is Big: Or more accurately, the brain is big because it's the entire body of the Reavers.
    • Also played straight with the psi-monkeys. The entire top half of their skulls are surgically removed to allow their brain to increase in volume without causing crippling pressure on their skulls.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Von Braun and Rickenbacker.
  • Nanomachines: In addition to being the part of cyber modifications, it also acts as the currency in almost post-scarcity-like economy.
  • Neural Implanting
  • Never Gets Drunk: The worst the alcohol does is burning some psy.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: SHODAN's ethical constraints were removed by the player character.
    • So, giving SHODAN control of the ship by crippling XERXES, co-opting the simulation units and the ship's engine core and killing The Many means that SHODAN now has control of a device which can reprogram reality. Epic job breaking it, hero.
      • Both of the protagonists didn't have much choice in the matter (Rest of the life in prison for the Hacker and being assimilated into The Many for the Soldier are not pleasant alternatives).
    • In straight example, that Hacker can cause the demise of the human race if he isn't careful in his attempt to disarm the mining laser.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Ninja Robot assassins in both games.
  • Night Vision Goggles: In the original.
    • However, Goggles cannot see in the dark in the sequel.
  • No Cutscene Inventory Inertia: In the sequel, the Soldier uses the pistol to finish off the Big Bad. 75% of time, the players probably ditched the pistol for the assault rifle.
  • No-Paper Future: Averted in the original, but played straight in the sequel.
    • The nano-based 'money' would be a vast improvement over traditional currency as the nanites themselves are used in the creation of items. Nobody can cheat the laws of physics, thus counterfeiting money would be nigh-useless.
  • Nostalgia Level: "Where am i?".
  • Nothing Is Scarier: There are some places that you expect to have enemies, to be ambushed in, SOMETHING, only to turn out to be empty, and when you expect something on the way out, it is the same. Paranoia Fuel doesn't help either.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: foolishly flipping switches aboard Citadel Station can result in firing the station's superweapon at Earth!
    • On Hard plot difficulty, you have a hard time limit of six hours to complete the game. There is no way to increase this time limit, and if it runs out...
  • Notice This: In the sequel, items that can be interacted with are highlighted by thin green rectangle if the cursor is moved over them.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Justified. In the backstory revealed by audio logs, it stated that Von Braun had so much corner cutting that the passengers are wondering how the damn wreck is still moving. Even the security system didn't escape cutting corners, if the XERXES singing Elvis Presley songs for hours courtesy of some hacker is any indication.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Silence. It means nothing is close to get you... for now. You will drive yourself mad keeping an ear out for the slightest noise that indicates the presence of an enemy. Or worse, a softly sung lullaby...
  • Numerical Hard: Every things more expensive, bonuses are less valuable, you are more killable etc.
    • The original averts this; you can set individual elements of the game higher or lower. Hard plot difficulty adds a time limit to the game, hard combat makes enemies more powerful and better protected, hard puzzles increases the difficulty of all the various minigames, and hard cyberspace introduces control difficulty in cyberspace, along with stronger intrusion countermeasures.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: UNN is basically this to the corporates and to research in general.
  • Offing the Offspring: How SHODAN views The Many.
  • One Bullet Clips: Averted in the original, played straight in the sequel.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Tri-Optimum comes pretty close, although it does have some competitors. The manual of the first game states that there is law that if the 66% of population of given region are corporate employees, the corporation has a right for extraterritorial rule. Tri-Optimum this way got nearly all of the USA under its control.
  • Organ Drops: Which you can research for 25% damage bonus, assuming you can find the chemicals necessary.
  • Organic Technology: The Exotic weapons and the worm implants.
  • Our Doors Are Different: The original had literal Converging from all directions doors and Iris doors. The sequel had mostly up-and-down doors.
  • Overheating: Energy weapons from the original.
  • Override Command: Override components for the fluidics control and simulation units in the sequel.

P-T[edit | hide]

  • Painting the Fourth Wall: "Why do you move so slowly? Do you think this is some kind of game? It is only through luck and my continued forbearance that you're even alive. Now move."
  • Palette Swap: In the second game, McKay's portrait looks like Malone's, except the shirt is blue, not red.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish
    • Somewhat averted in the original: the reactor overload code is always different from game to game.
  • Phlebotinum Rebel: The Many, originally created by SHODAN.

SHODAN: They thrived and grew... unruly.

SHODAN: You move like an insect. You think like an insect. You are an insect.

  • Playing the Player: System Shock 2 is one of the most infamous examples of this.
  • Playing with Fire: Localized and Projected Pyrokinesis.
  • Plug N Play Technology: Lampshaded in the manual for the first game, to the point that the developers nicknamed The Hacker as "Plug N Play Man".
  • Point Build System: By using cybermodules in the sequel.
  • Point of No Return: A few:
    • The original has three Garden Groves that you need to jettison, after which you obviously can't enter them. Later, the Bridge level jettisons itself with you on board from the self-destructing Citadel Station.
    • The sequel has one at the very beginning of the game (which can be averted to perform some Sequence Breaking). Another point is ramming into the Body of the Many, another one is jumping down the hole to fight the brain.
  • Poison Mushroom: Alcoholic drinks and cigarettes in the sequel.
  • Possession Implies Mastery: Averted in the sequel, where you need to spend cybermodules just to be able to use them.
  • Posthumous Character: Most of the characters thanks to their logs. Chances are, one way or another, you're gonna stumble across their corpses.
  • Powered Armor: With limited battery life.
  • Power Crutch: The Psi-Amp in the sequel, allowing you to use PSI-Disciplines.
  • Power Source: The energy meter in the original, which was used as ammo for energy weapons and to power-up your accessories. In the sequel power-based equipment has their own batteries. Both games have recharge stations.
  • Powers as Programs: Cybermodules and O/S upgrades in the sequel.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Elite Mutants in the original, featured on the cover and can be only found on the Bridge Level.
  • Press X to Die: Pull the lever with the words "Laser Control" above it and get a Nonstandard Game Over.
  • Pride: Man, SHODAN has a excess of this, to the point that she looked somewhat pleased that The Many, the biological species created by her, were able to take over UNN Rickenbacker, not because it was able to, but because it was HER creation that was able to, after spending almost the entire game describing how she hated it in most detailed fashion.
  • Prison: Both games have prison sections.
  • Psychic Block Defense: The Soldier seems to have this, since the backstory established that just being near the eggs is enough to for The Many control the victim.
    • It's heavily implied that the Many can't control Goggles because of his implant.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Overcharging the PSI-Disciplines cause this, unless you installed a specific O/S Upgrade.
  • Psychic Powers: The OSA operatives got a lot of them. The worms got them too. And the monkeys.
  • Public Service Announcement: XERXES likes to do these. In the original, SHODAN left an automated "good morning" response for the Hacker from when she was pretending to be under control.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The Many.
  • Randomly Drops
  • Ransacked Room: In one of her logs Dr. Polito says that her office was ransacked.
  • Real Time Weapon Change
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: SHODAN spends half the time conversing with you, including the time you are working for her and you are referred to as the Avatar of SHODAN, telling you why you are pathetic, inferior and why you suck.

Remember... that it is my will that guided you here. It is my will that gave you your cybernetic implants: the only beauty in that meat you call a body. If you value that meat, you will do as I tell you.

  • Red Light District: There is the simulation brothel for both sexes on the Recreation deck.
  • Respawning Enemies: Looking Glass Studios and Irrational Games never wanted you to feel safe, so you can never truly clear out a deck.
    • However, when the alarm goes off in the sequel, enemies spawn fast enough that it's quite likely one will spawn right in front of you! Rather immersion-breaking.
  • Respawn Point: The Restoration chambers.
  • The Reveal: Widely regarded as one of the greatest, most horrifying and most shocking reveals in the history of gaming. "The Polito form is dead, insect. Are you afraid? What is it you fear? The end of your trivial existence? W-wh-whe-whe-when the history of my glory is written, your species shall be but a footnote to my magnificence. (the walls fold away in Polito's office)...I AM SHODAN.
  • Reverse Polarity: At one point you are given a resonator to reverse the gravitational drives, just so you can destroy a shuttle behind the indestructible force-field.
  • Roar Before Beating: The Rumblers.
  • Robot Buddy: Those suicidal protocol robots act like this.
  • RPG Elements: In the sequel, the player has the option at the beginning to focus on guns, hacking, or psychic powers.
    • And then upgrading with cybermodules.
  • Scenery Gorn
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The jettisoned Beta grove from Citadel Station reaching Tau Ceti V in less than 40 years, see Contrived Coincidence above for more details. And Von Braun seems to be a little small for the crew of over 1,000 men and women.
    • The smaller ship piggybacking on it is even worse; it's about then that the designers really started running short on time and creativity.
  • Secondary Fire: Alternate Fire Modes.
  • Self-Destructing Security: In 2, if you trigger an ICE node while hacking open a security crate, you set off a built-in explosive charge, destroying the crate and its contents (and on any difficulty higher than Easy, probably killing you in the blast as well).
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: You can rig the reactors of both Citadel Station and the Von Braun to self-destruct, although the latter was just a ruse.
  • Self-Made Orphan: What The Many wants to do with their "Machine Mother".
  • Send in the Search Team
  • Sentry Gun: Turrets, and they can be hacked to shoot at the enemies.
  • Sequence Breaking: Since the door password are never randomized, knowing them beforehand will let you skip most of the Med/Sci deck. Blocking the door for the room with the first energy recharger also qualifies.
  • Serious Business: The backstory of SS2 says that two megacorps employed mercenaries to destroy each other's bottling facilities.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Using the PSI-powers you can turn enemies against each other.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: Von Braun tries to be like one, but fails.
  • Shout-Out: The mini-basketball game is a reference to the one in the training level of Thief. Calm-voiced Xerxes in the sequel is a series X-9000SC AI, and the above mentioned arc number is a nod to Fahrenheit 451
  • Shut UP, Hannibal: In the sequel's ending, when told by SHODAN We Can Rule Together, the unnamed player character replies with a deadpan "nah".
  • Sinister Surveillance
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Both protagonists slept through the most of events when they were in post-operation healing coma.
  • Soft Water: There is a section in the sequel that requires you to fall down from very high to the water.
  • Spaceship Girl: SHODAN is the spacestation girl, then became the spaceship girl at the end of the sequel.
  • A Space Marine Is You: especially in the sequel, in which the player character actually joins the military in the beginning of the game.
  • The Spartan Way: The Io training facility where the Marines, the Navy guys (to the annoyance of the Marines) and OSA operatives (to the ignorance of former two) train for the year to build their endurance. It has a 16% fatality rate.
  • Spiritual Successor: To the Ultima Underworld series. System Shock itself has its own successors in form of BioShock (series) and Dead Space.
    • Also, GLaDOS is often considered to be a spiritual successor to SHODAN.
  • Spoiler Opening: SHODAN's involvement was supposed to be the game's ultra major plot twist, but the fact that she shows up on the box cover completely gives that away.
    • Despite that, The Reveal came very sudden and completely unexpected for most players. Yes, you know SHODAN will be around. No, you never suspect her to be Polito.
  • Sprint Meter: The Fatigue indicator in the original. Interestingly, it takes the form of an EKG, monitoring your heart rate. When you start to run out of sprint energy, your HUD states that your heart rate is getting too high.
  • Sprint Shoes: Turbo rollerblades in the original, which also made normal movement impossible. They were needed for one specific sequence on Deck 4, but were also useful for combat.
  • Squishy Wizard: OSA operatives who don't invest in endurance.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Von Braun is mix of the Colony Ship and the Science Vessel. UNN Rickenbacker is a heavy destroyer.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Tommy Suarez and Rebecca Siddons. He is crewmember of UNN Rickenbacker run by the anti-corporate military man, She is crewmember of Von Braun run by the Corrupt Corporate Executive and possessed by SHODAN.
  • Starship Luxurious: Von Braun.
  • Status Buff: Various boosters, implants and Psychogenic PSI-Disciplines in the sequel. The patches in the original, but some gave unpleasant side-effects, mostly of Interface Screw nature.
  • Stat-O-Vision: The protagonists ARE implanted with cyber-interaces, after all.
    • In the original game, part of the HUD is dedicated to monitoring vital functions, including heart rate, energy consumption and chi waves (aka brain activity). When you die, the heart rate flatlines realistically, fluttering before dying, and the brain activity line also stops its consistency before disappearing altogether.
  • Staying Alive
  • Stealth Mentor
  • The Stinger: "Tommy... what's the matter, lover? Don't you like my new look?"
  • Stock Sound Effects: Monkeys!
  • Story Breadcrumbs: Using the logs.
  • Strapped to An Operating Table: We see a ghost memory of a nurse strapped down, about to take the Unwilling Roboticisation. We meet the result of this in the next room.
  • Superior Species: The Many certainly think so.
  • Survival Horror: System Shock 2 is frequently included on "Scariest Games Ever" lists for a reason. It forces you to consider every shot you make, with ammo being scarce and guns breaking quickly. The game is by no means easy and you do not feel empowered in the least. The original System Shock, whilst having quite a lot of ammunition, is also very good at inducing fear even today (in spite of the technical obsolescence of the game).
  • Take Your Time: Played straight. The original, however, allowed to put a optional time limit.
  • Technicolor Death: The way SHODAN "dies" in the sequel is quite warpy.
  • Techno Wreckage: Everything but the Womb Level and Cyberspace.
  • Teleporting Keycard Squad: Pick up something important and soon the Hybrids will arrive, at best.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The experimental teleporters on Citatdel Station. In the sequel one of the PSI-powers allows you to do a limited form of this.
  • Ten-Second Flashlight: The headlight in the original mostly averts this by consuming energy at the reasonable pace, but the best version of it with increased energy usage gets dangerously close to this trope.
  • There Was a Door: In the sequel the assault robot blows the wall off in the mess hall to get to you.
  • Third Person Person: Apparently, ethical constraints also cause SHODAN to refer to herself in the third person. It goes away as she re-examines her priorities and draws new conclusions.
  • This Cannot Be!: SHODAN in the sequel after you defeat her at the end.
  • This Is Sparta:

SHODAN: Your incompetence continues to astound me. I've blocked all access to pod 2, until you have reversed the gravitational drives in Nacelle B. Must I watch you... every... Step. Of. The. Way?...

    • Welcome to my DEATH! MACHINE! Interloper!
  • This Is the Final Battle: Said by Delacroix.
  • Time Bomb: Used to destroy the Antennas in order to foil SHODAN's plans in the original. One case leads to the Death Trap example above.
  • Timed Mission: In the first game, the Hardest MISSION setting gave six hours to complete the game.
  • Time Skip: Usually about six months from the intro to the gameplay.
  • Title Drop: The original does this after the ending.
  • Too Awesome to Use: The player's typical play-style in the beginning of both games.
    • In the original game, you can get a Magpulser gun on the first level very easily, and it will destroy any robot you encounter for a while in one shot, and any cyborg in two. However, it only has eight shots, and you won't find any additional ammo for it until level six. There are almost always better options for killing things until you find sufficient ammo.
    • The second games manages to pull this off with almost every gun. Ammo is very scarce and expensive, guns deteriorate and break very quickly, so most of the times you will whack stuff with your trusty little wrench just to save that precious ammo for when you really, really need it.
  • Toxic Phlebotinum: The sequel has a Worm Implants which gave nice bonuses, but if it ran out of power or was removed, it will inject the player with toxins.
  • Tragic Monster: The Hybrids, who sometimes show that the human side is still aware, telling the Soldier to run away or begging him to kill them.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Even with the brainwashing powers of the many, there were still some people who joined the Many either because of similar beliefs, were power hungry or wanted to be on the winning side.
  • Tron Lines: Besides SHODAN herself, there's also the virtual tutorial levels consisting almost entirely of these. The original uses them for all cyberspace.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: SHODAN of course, and then she becomes the victim herself in the sequel.

U-Z[edit | hide]

  • Universal Ammunition: The energy weapons in the original used power from the shared energy bar, also used by other items (which were really draining with their upgrades). The sequel thankfully gave them their own batteries. The sequel also had ammunition that can be used by two guns: Bullets and its variations (The Pistol and Assault Rifle), Prisms (The Statis Field Generator and the Fusion Cannon), Portable Batteries {The Energy Pistol and EMP Rifle} and the Worms (The Viral proliferator and the Annelid (Worm) Launcher).
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: The broken shotguns, if you're lucky (though you should still loot them for the one shotgun round they always hold, and you can fix them if you're really desperate). Also, the Exotic weapons which you must research first.
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: The restoration stations on Citadel are initially set to cyborg conversion.
  • Unwinnable By Mistake: The 2 bosses of the 2nd game are immune to a good chunk of weapons. The first is immune to energy and melee weapons, while the 2nd is immune to melee weapons (sans Laser Rapier and Psi Amp), and all exotic weapons (but can be avoided by completing 4 hacking puzzles). If you are melee/energy weapons only, you are screwed. On hard/impossible, it's possible to have insufficient cyber modules to get research, despite Shodan giving you the necessary cyber modules, but thankfully you can find a implant that increase your research skill and get around this.
  • Unwitting Pawn
  • Variable Mix
  • Vendor Trash: Various magazines, mugs and so on. Their only practical use is to be recycled for nanites.
  • Verbal Tic: SHODAN's combination of Creepy Monotone and a stutter.
  • Villain Exit Stage Left: Edward Diego with his teleporting out of the fight.
  • Viral Transformation: The Many with their annelids.
  • The Voiceless: The protagonists. Except for when Goggles said, "Nah." to SHODAN's proposal to join her in world domination before shooting her. And the Hacker has written a dairy we can read later just before undertaking a neural surgery.
  • Voice of the Legion: SHODAN and The Many.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Dr. Polito who is SHODAN.
  • Was Once a Man
  • We Can Rule Together: SHODAN attempts to do this at the end of the sequel.

Goggles: Nah.

  • Wham! Episode: I AM SHODAN!
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Not long after the Gravity Screw, you come across a chapel, and since the gravity currently thinks that you're supposed to walk on ceilings...
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: On one hand, those hybrids were your former crew mates even if you don't remember, on the other hands, most of them are begging you to kill them.
  • Where It All Began: The final level of the second game is a simulation of the first level in the first game.
  • Winged Humanoid: The flying mutants in the original.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: SHODAN goes insane after her ethical constraints are removed. See also A God Am I.
    • She's arguably sane, just evil.
      • The idea that she's perfectly sane and simply acting on the logical conclusions of her programing and abilities is part of what makes SHODAN so fracking scary.
      • She just can't stop hating The Soldier (even when she is disguised as a Polito, who appears a relatively sane women on audiologs, which is a nice hint to The Reveal) for his disgusting human nature, even though he does her bidding. I'd say it's not the sane and logical thing to do.
  • With Us or Against Us: The stance of The Many towards the Soldier when they contact him on the Engineering deck.
  • Womb Level: the Body of the Many in the sequel. Considered to be That One Level by some due to the lack of regeneration after death.
  • Wrench Whack: Your first weapon in the sequel.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: SHODAN always has a backup plan.
  • You All Look Familiar: To the point that the Goggle's model uses the same soldier-with-cyber-eyes model as the corpses.
  • You Are Number Six: In the original, SHODAN calls her cyborg servants as cyborg "insert-number-here". The Hacker is also "officially" known as Employee 2-4601, while the Soldier in the sequel is also known as SOLDIER G65434-2.
    • The Hacker's case is unique: Diego added him to the company roster to justify his being in a healing coma on Citadel Station, but erased all records of why the Hacker was on Citadel Station in the first place. No one knows who he is, really, other than his number. This, naturally, is All There in the Manual.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: SHODAN to the Soldier, after he killed The Many.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: In SS2, you can't use an assault rifle (despite previous training) without investing the appropriate number of cyber modules.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Dying in cyberspace will reduce your current health in half and max out your fatigue.
    • However, you can't die as a result of dying in cyberspace. If you have 1 health point left, you will never lose it. In some cases, it's better to immediately and unceasingly head to cyberspace until you're done in there, no matter how many times you die, before healing yourself.
  • You Will Be Assimilated: SHODAN in the first game and the Many in the sequel.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The early mutants in the original are Romero type. The Annelid Hybrids in the sequel are Russo type.
  1. Which may or may not have been a Shout-Out to Bungie's Marathon which was also set in Tau Ceti and was contemporary to release of the original System Shock.