The Reapers, known by the geth as the Old Machines, are a highly advanced machine race of synthetic-organic starships. The Reapers reside in dark space, the vast, mostly starless space between galaxies. They hibernate there, dormant for fifty thousand years at a time, before they are given the signal to return. The first Reaper known to have communicated with organic life, referred to by Saren Arterius as Sovereign, claimed that the Reapers have neither beginning nor end. Even their true name is a mystery; "Reapers" was a name bestowed by the Protheans, and Sovereign stated that whatever the Protheans chose to call them was of little concern to its kind.
Sovereign also reveals that the Reapers were the original creators of the Citadel and the mass relay network. These massive constructs exist so that any intelligent life in the galaxy would eventually discover them and base their technology upon them – all part of a scheme to harvest the galaxy’s sentient life in a repeating cycle of purges that has continued relentlessly over countless millennia.
- See also: Codex/The Reapers
Sovereign, the first Reaper encountered, bore a superficial resemblance to a cuttlefish or squid, with a bulky semi-cylindrical body, a tapering plate over the rear and five tentacle-like "legs" or arms extending from its front end, in addition to six jointed legs extending from its body. The rear-most of the larger legs have crescent-shaped extensions. Reapers also have numerous small tubes that can extend from their underside; Sovereign is seen attaching these tubes to the Citadel Tower during its attack. When the Reaper fleet is revealed in dark space, they are shown to all share this basic design, but with great diversity in limb number, shape and orientation, some with extended heads and others (particularly Harbinger) having multiple glowing lights; this may illustrate the variety of Reaper subtypes, as it is revealed during the Reaper invasion of the galaxy that several different varieties of Reaper exist. The core of any Reaper is constructed in the image of the species that was harvested to create it, while the exterior follows a standardized design that is most efficient for their purpose. While the outward appearance varies between subtypes, all of them resemble the physical appearance of the Leviathans, the race that dominated the galaxy in the time before the Reapers. According to Legion, a Reaper is essentially "billions of organic minds, uploaded and conjoined within immortal machine bodies."
Sovereign's design appears to have influenced the "heretic" geth. This is not surprising, as these geth worship the Reapers as "gods", considering them to be the epitome of independent AI. Wherever the heretic geth become entrenched they build monuments to the Reapers resembling Sovereign's "tentacles" around a glowing orb, and genuflect. Sovereign was apparently insulted by the adoration of such simple, base synthetics, but it did see their value as pawns and possible replacements for the flawed and organic keepers.
There are several varieties of Reaper, which vary significantly in size, purpose and firepower.
- Harbinger: The first Reaper ever created, Harbinger appears to be of a unique subtype; Alliance intelligence identifies it as being the largest Reaper in the armada, and its design differs notably from the Capital Ship subtype, having only four main legs and multiple glowing "eyes". Exactly how much more powerful it is than a normal, Reaper Capital Ship is unknown.
- Capital Ship: Also known as Sovereign-class, Capital Ships are the most well-known Reaper subtype. Their main weapon is a spinal mounted "magnetohydrodynamic" cannon with a yield of 132 to 450 kilotons of TNT, which dwarfs the main gun of an Everest-class Alliance dreadnought. No known ship, not even a dreadnought, has been known to survive a hit from this weapon. Capital Ships are also armed with multiple cannons in their "tendrils" capable of shearing through most opposing vessels in a single hit, a point defense system (similar to the GARDIAN systems favored by organics) for anti-fighter and anti-projectile purposes, and are capable of unleashing swarms of Oculi drones to engage fighter-sized craft. They are extremely durable, capable of taking the continuous and simultaneous fire of four dreadnoughts before they start to lose their kinetic barriers.
- Troop Transport: Troop Transports vary in length between 200 meters and one kilometer and are used to transport husks to unconquered worlds and bring victims to Reaper processing centers. They lack sentience and are remotely controlled by the Reapers.
- Processor: Mobile centers for mass DNA harvesting. Like the Troop Transports, Processors lack sentience and are controlled remotely by the actual Reapers.
- Destroyer: Destroyers are only 160 meters in height, considerably smaller than the two kilometers that Sovereign boasted, but possess a formidable capacity for destruction despite their reduced stature, with their main gun easily capable of destroying cruisers in seconds. Unlike Capital Ships, they have four main legs, along with five jointed appendages encircling their "head". The frontal plates of a Destroyer can fold to the sides, exposing a powerful beam weapon. They are used to escort the capital ships, destroying smaller targets such as frigates. On the ground, they are capable of unfolding their legs and walking to support the husks, becoming extremely powerful heavy walkers. They are nigh-immune to ground vehicle fire and not at all fragile in space, but a cruiser is noted to be able to take out a Destroyer fairly quickly.
- See also: Indoctrination
Reapers and their technology have been observed to exert a disturbing influence on organic beings. Both Dr. Shu Qian and Edan Had'dah began acting oddly after coming into contact with the "artifacts" they found. This mental manipulation is known as indoctrination. Put simply, any organic being who is in close proximity to a Reaper or certain Reaper artifacts for too long comes to believe the Reapers are correct in their goals, and will do anything to serve them. Gradually, the mind is eroded until the individual becomes a mindless slave no longer capable of independent thought. This indoctrination is permanent (with the single possible exception of Shiala) and is one of the most insidious weapons of the Reapers. Entire civilizations can be delivered into the Reapers' hands by the indoctrination of a few influential individuals; during the invasion of Earth, the Reapers broadcast messages inviting diplomats into their holds to negotiate, where they would then presumably be indoctrinated.
Even more horrifying is that the indoctrination field remains active even if the Reaper is largely disabled and incapable of action. A Cerberus science team was indoctrinated by being inside a Reaper that had otherwise been floating derelict for 37 million years, its only obvious activity being mass effect field generation.
A Reaper can control the rate of this process, as seen with Sovereign's indoctrination of Saren; in order for him to serve the Reaper efficiently, Saren needed a measure of free will. This eventually convinced him that the only way to preserve organic life was to submit to the Reapers, provided they could prove themselves useful. By allowing Saren to cling to this delusion, Sovereign was able to maintain its control over Saren while allowing him to remain motivated by what he felt was a noble cause. The Illusive Man's indoctrination was a similar case; although he allied Cerberus with the Reapers and exposed himself to their technology, he remained convinced throughout his indoctrination that he was serving humanity's best interests, hoping to find a way to control the Reapers and share their technological secrets with humanity.
Only beings of immense mental strength, such as asari matriarchs, can resist indoctrination, and even then, their resistance only lasts a short time and only forestalls the inevitable. Matriarch Benezia chose to die rather than risk falling under indoctrination again. A similar path becomes open for Saren or (much later) the Illusive Man, if Shepard is persuasive enough.
Technology Editshields. Sovereign's defences included powerful shields that could block the projectiles of an entire fleet, along with an incredibly strong hull.
Though they are sentient machines, the Reapers have habitable interiors that can transport a crew, either to help spread their indoctrinated slaves or to allow these slaves to tend to them, probably both. Speculation in the Codex suggests that each individual Reaper has a massive element zero core which, coupled with the likely enormous quantities of energies at its disposal, allows it to generate the staggering mass effect field needed to land on a planet.
However, the Reapers are not invincible. When the Reapers go into states of hibernation between cycles, they are vulnerable. By taking refuge in dark space, the Reapers ensure they will not be discovered by accident and destroyed while they wait for their vanguard to open the Citadel mass relay. A concentrated effort by the fleets of organic races could also destroy a Reaper even if it is at full power: a single fleet managed to quickly destroy Sovereign when its shields and weapons were disabled.
Reapers recognize each other through a complex Identify Friend/Foe system. Reaper interrogation signals do not simply look for a friendly transponder code, they look for a friendly intelligence. If other races attempted to steal the IFF for themselves, the IFF comes with a virus that can potentially disable any system it's hooked up on. The virus can be countered; one of the known ways is to set an unshackled artificial intelligence upon it.
Aside from their formidable firepower and indoctrination, Reapers are also capable of mustering up their own ground forces to attack their enemies: husks. Husks are aggressive, mindless drones, created from organic beings who are exposed to Reaper technology, such as dragon's teeth, resulting in their organic bodies being consumed by cybernetics. Husks are used as shock troops and swarm enemies in waves. Occasionally, to bolster husk defenses the Reapers will employ devices known as Barrier Engines that cocoon individual husks in a durable biotic barrier.
The Cycle of Extinction Edit
According to the Catalyst, the Reapers harvest all advanced sentient life in order to preserve a fragile balance. The Reapers believe that without the extinction cycles, synthetic intelligence would completely annihilate all organic life. According to them, this is an inevitable consequence of technological advancement; organics will always create synthetics to improve their own state of existence, and synthetics themselves will evolve by means of surpassing their creators. The Reapers also believe that harvesting advanced civilizations is the only way to allow new civilizations to come into existence. The Reapers leave no evidence of their conquest, nor of their existence – only desolate, barren ruins of those who came before.
The trap created by the Reapers was simple. A sentient species would develop an FTL drive, but would still be limited in its speed. By leaving a network of relays capable of instant transport across the galaxy that led to the impressive Citadel, the Reapers ensured that it would become the center of galactic civilization. Further, Sovereign implies that the presence of the mass relays would lead the sentient species down a predetermined route with regards to weapons and armor technology (both of which are based upon element zero technology for the Citadel races). As Sovereign explains, "By using it [mass relay technology] your society develops along the paths we desire." The relays also serve to reduce the amount of time it takes for galactic civilization to advance, thus shortening the time between the Reapers' harvests.
Once the sentient races have established themselves on the Citadel with the aid of the keepers, a lone Reaper vanguard stationed within the galaxy sends a signal to the Citadel, instructing the keepers to activate the station’s hidden mass relay. This opens a path between the Citadel and dark space. The Reapers then flood through, killing the leaders of the assembled species before branching out and harvesting all spacefaring life around them.
Because the Reapers first enter the galaxy at the point that they have ensured will be the center of galactic politics, information and finance, they are able to cripple any resistance almost before the Citadel civilizations have any idea that they are under attack. The Citadel also gives them control of the relay network, cutting off star systems from each other and destroying communications.
The Reapers then use their control of the Citadel and its data to begin the most sinister phase of their attack. Records allow them to track down every settled planet and attack them, harvesting their populations or enslaving them through indoctrination.
Once they have harvested the galaxy, the Reapers wipe every trace of their existence from record and retreat back into dark space. It is unknown exactly how long the galaxy has been subjected to these cycles, but the age of the Leviathan of Dis, an ancient Reaper corpse, indicates that the Reapers have existed for at least a billion years.
The Vanguard Edit
- Main article: Sovereign
Sovereign did act as transport for Saren and his geth minions – however, it was later discovered by Commander Shepard that Sovereign and its brethren were actually the masterminds behind the genocide. Saren began his search for Sovereign at the end of Mass Effect: Revelation using research stolen from Dr. Shu Qian, eventually finding the Reaper near or within the Perseus Veil.
The Prothean Counterattack Edit
After the last cycle, which obliterated the Prothean empire, a cadre of elite Prothean scientists hidden on Ilos survived the genocide. It took them decades to realize the connection between the Reapers, the Citadel, and the keepers, but this discovery gave them the key to breaking the cycle forever and they set about attempting to educate the sentient races they saw evolving on other planets, including the hanar and humans.Conduit—travelled to the Citadel, and altered the Citadel signal. When Sovereign decided it was time to begin the cycle again, the keepers ignored the order.
This greatly complicated matters for Sovereign. In order to unleash its brethren from dark space, it would have to find a way to manually activate the relay from inside the Citadel. While Reapers are undoubtedly beings of terrible power and ferocity, a single Reaper would not be able to survive the combined might of the assembled Citadel races in a direct assault. It needed to find an agent that would lead it to the Conduit. This agent was Saren, who became capable of comprehending the vision from the Prothean Beacon. With a fleet of geth ships, the Reaper launched an all-out assault on the Citadel, nearly devastating the entire fleet.
Fortunately, Saren was stopped by Commander Shepard and company, and Sovereign was destroyed by the Alliance Fleet, though this would only forestall them for a few years. Shepard knew the Reaper fleet, though dormant and hibernating, was still out in dark space and vowed to find some way to stop them.
The Reapers and the Collectors EditCollectors began attacking human colonies and abducting their populations. Cerberus determined that the Reapers were behind this and planned to have Shepard thwart this latest Reaper threat to humanity. Over time, Shepard uncovered disturbing facts regarding the nature of the Reaper connection to the Collectors. Apparently, because humanity is a race of great genetic diversity and was the race who defeated Sovereign, it was enough to gather the Reapers' attention. It is also revealed that the Collectors were originally Protheans who were captured by the Reapers and genetically re-purposed to suit their needs.
The Collectors were working under the direct supervision of the Reaper Harbinger, who ordered the Collectors to abduct humans in the Terminus Systems. The captured humans were taken to the Collector Base and processed into organic matter to construct a new Reaper modeled on the human form. EDI speculated that this was the Reaper equivalent of reproduction.
With the Human-Reaper destroyed and the Collectors defeated, the Reapers lost any chance of using the Citadel mass relay to quickly return to the Milky Way Galaxy. Harbinger and the rest of the Reapers, who have already been on the move since the destruction of Sovereign, are shown approaching the Milky Way, setting the stage for Mass Effect 3.
As the Reaper fleet draws closer towards the galaxy, Dr. Amanda Kenson was exposed to a Reaper artifact showing her visions of the Reapers' plan: to enter the galaxy using the mass relay in the Bahak System, which sits at the edge of the galaxy. In order to delay their arrival, Kenson decides to destroy the relay by ramming an asteroid into it. However, before the plan could go to effect, Kenson and her team became indoctrinated by the artifact and she and a small team were then later captured by batarians.
This course of events would prompt Admiral Hackett to send Commander Shepard out on a solo mission to rescue Dr. Kenson and see what she was up to. Despite resistance from the indoctrinated Kenson and team, Shepard was able to complete the mission and destroy the Alpha Relay at the cost of three hundred thousand batarians living on Aratoht.
Return to the Galaxy Edit
- See also: Codex/The Reaper War
Commander Shepard, who had escaped Earth in the Normandy SR-2, began to actively work to unify the galaxy against the Reapers. The first step was attempting to secure a krogan-turian alliance by curing the genophage. Shepard managed to destroy a Reaper Destroyer attempting to use the Shroud tower on Tuchanka to poison its atmosphere, by luring Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws to it.
The Reapers also became involved in the geth-quarian conflict. After the quarians began assaulting the geth in a bid to reclaim the homeworld, the geth sought the aid of the Reapers, receiving upgrades and greater fighting ability at the cost of their free will. Shepard managed to defeat the Destroyer broadcasting the control signal via heavy bombardment from the Migrant Fleet, freeing the geth from Reaper control. As it lay dying, the Reaper addressed Shepard and stated that the cycle of extinction must continue, although it did not clarify further before deactivating. Isolated pockets of geth mobile platforms still continue to serve the Reapers however, their programs having been replaced entirely with Reaper codes instead, though only making up a small fragment of the overall geth forces no longer under their command.
Despite the victory on Rannoch, the Reapers invaded the asari homeworld, Thessia. The asari, who had been performing hit-and-run attacks against the Reapers, were forced on the defensive as the machines gradually overwhelmed them.
The Reapers also became aware of Cerberus' attempts to find a way to control them. Henry Lawson ran a refugee camp called Sanctuary on Horizon to study indoctrination. Eventually, he learned that the Reapers use a signal to control their husks and found a way to co-opt it. However, while trying to find a way to apply this technique to the Reapers themselves, he underestimated the signal's strength, alerting the Reapers to his activities. In response, the Reapers assaulted Sanctuary.
While the Reapers carried out their latest harvest, they also hunted an old foe: the Leviathans, an ancient and powerful race whose actions led to the Reapers' creation. Although most Leviathans had been harvested to create Harbinger, the first Reaper, some had survived and gone into hiding. The Reapers followed Dr. Garret Bryson's search for the entity that killed the Leviathan of Dis and sent forces after Bryson's researchers. When Commander Shepard tracks the Leviathans to 2181 Despoina, a Reaper Capital Ship arrives and begins attacking. Unfortunately for the Reapers, Shepard convinces the Leviathans to aid in the galaxy's fight. The Leviathans disable the Capital Ship above their planet and permit the galaxy's militaries to deploy their "artifacts" among Reaper troops, allowing the Leviathans to turn some Reapers against each other.
Crucible and Catalyst Edit
During the war, the united forces were focused on constructing a massive superweapon, dubbed the Crucible, that could theoretically destroy the Reapers. The Protheans had attempted to build the weapon 50,000 years prior, but had failed. It was discovered by the scientists building the Crucible that, like the Protheans before them, they were missing a critical component called the Catalyst.Vendetta revealed that the Catalyst is in fact the Citadel; The Illusive Man, having captured the VI, in turn revealed this to the Reapers. They responded accordingly by seizing the station and placing it in orbit of Earth. With little choice, the allied fleet engaged the Reapers while ground teams attempted to reach a conduit beam the Reapers used to transport living and dead humans to the Citadel in London. Unfortunately, the Reapers realized their intentions, and Harbinger personally descended to Earth and sent the resistance forces into retreat. Only Shepard and David Anderson made it through to the beam.
The Reapers had anticipated this eventuality. The Illusive Man, who had injected himself with Reaper-derived nanites, had traveled to the Citadel before Shepard and Anderson. He immobilized them using his newfound abilities of indoctrination, failing to realize that he himself was indoctrinated. After Shepard killed the Illusive Man or convinced him to commit suicide, the Crucible was allowed to dock with the Citadel, where it would then determine the fate of galactic civilization and the Reapers themselves.
A Prothean VI named Vendetta on Thessia explains that the patterns concerning the development of galactic civilization and the cycles of extinction are too regular and repetitive to be coincidence. According to Vendetta, the galaxy experiences the same paths and conflicts during each cycle - "the same peaks of evolution, the same valleys of dissolution" - expressed in different forms. It infers that the Reapers are servants of this pattern, not the creators of it; however, it can't identify their true master or motive.
According to the Catalyst, an artificial intelligence which embodies the Reapers' collective consciousnesses and memories, the Reapers came into being long ago when the Leviathans, an ancient race that once dominated the galaxy, conceived the Catalyst to seek a solution to the inevitable struggle between organics and synthetics. The Catalyst, however, decided that the Leviathans too risked conflict with synthetics and, using an army of Collector-like pawns, forcibly processed them into the first Reaper, Harbinger, which was molded in the shape of the Leviathans themselves. Despite this betrayal, the surviving Leviathans do not believe the Catalyst was a "mistake" and believe the Catalyst's use of the Reapers is part of an experiment on a galactic scale to seek a truly permanent method of preserving life.
For millions of years, the Reapers existed for the sole purpose of ensuring the ongoing existence of organic life in the galaxy, based on the assumption that all synthetic intelligences will eventually destroy their organic creators. This end result is believed by the Catalyst and the Reapers to be inevitable, and indeed available evidence seems to point to the validity of their assertions: the Protheans' civilization was threatened by synthetic uprisings before the Reapers wiped them out, and the geth of modern times are viewed as a substantial threat to peace in the galaxy.
By harvesting technologically advanced species (both organic and synthetic) and storing these old species within immortal Reaper bodies, room is made for new life to flourish and grow, as was the case for primitive man. The continuity of life in the galaxy is assured through this cycle of extinction, as it ensures that organic life will never be fully exterminated before its time by synthetic life, as was demonstrated by the quarians and the geth.
During the Battle for Earth, depending on Shepard's decisions and the level of galactic readiness achieved, the Catalyst gives Shepard three options:
- Destroy the Reapers (Red) - Shepard will shoot and destroy a power conduit, causing the Crucible to unleash an energy pulse which will destroy the Reapers, the geth, and all other forms of synthetic intelligence in the galaxy;
- Control the Reapers (Blue) - Shepard's consciousness will be transferred into the Crucible, destroying Shepard's physical body but gaining control over the Reapers;
- Synthesis (Green) - Shepard will leap into the Crucible's energy beam, and the Crucible will emit an energy pulse that converts all life in the galaxy on the molecular level, causing all organic life to have partially synthetic traits and vice versa.
If Shepard chooses to destroy the Reapers, the Reapers will shut down and collapse and Husks will be obliterated. If the level of galactic readiness is below a certain level, the Crucible will be damaged on approach and misfire, causing the energy wave to kill indiscriminately. If the level of galactic readiness is high enough, however, the Crucible fires properly and Shepard manages to possibly survive the event. With the Reapers destroyed, the galaxy begins the long process of rebuilding and restoring the mass relays and Citadel.
If Shepard chooses to merge organic and synthetic life, the process obliterates the Commander but transforms all organics and synthetics across the galaxy into hybrid beings. With the fundamental differences between organic and synthetic effectively erased, the Reapers cease attacking. They help rebuild the galaxy of their own accord, and share the collective knowledge of countless alien cultures that had come before.
Alternatively, Shepard can refuse to decide on one of the Catalyst's options, claiming that such a decision is unacceptable. The Crucible deactivates, and the Reapers go on to complete their purge of the galaxy, continuing the cycle for at least one more iteration. A scene is shown at a future time where an unknown adult female and child are speaking of the archives that were stored in one of Liara's time capsules. It is implied that through the use of this information, a future generation was able to halt the cycle and finally achieve peace.
During their invasion at the end of each cycle, the Reapers gather and "process" vast numbers of individuals from each of the galaxy's sentient space-faring races. Victims who cooperate with or are captured by Reaper husks are rounded up into "camps," where the husks select individuals deemed fit for processing; it is believed that the husks use scent or chemical receptors to analyze the genetic composition of victims. Those who are deemed unsuitable are turned into more husks.
Individuals who are determined to be suitable for processing are loaded onto Reaper Processors, where they are ushered into single-person pods. Like a slaughterhouse, the interior of the Processor is designed to prevent any visual or auditory contact between individuals being processed. Once in the pods, the victims are dissolved into a raw genetic "paste" for ease of transport. This paste will then be used in the construction of a newborn Reaper, with the victims' minds being preserved to form the Reaper's gestalt consciousness. The only known facilities used for Reaper construction are located on the Citadel and within the Collector Base in the galactic core.
Available information suggests that a single race is harvested during each cycle to produce Reaper Capital Ships; it appears that other space-faring races harvested during the cycle are used to produce Destroyer-class Reapers. Exactly how or why this distinction is made is unknown.
The rate of killing during a harvest is staggering - during the invasion of Earth, at least 400 Processors were present, and the number of humans processed each day was estimated at 1.86 million. At such a rate, the entire planet would be depopulated in a decade.
As a "back up" option, the Reapers were capable of using the Collectors - a slave race genetically engineered from the Protheans - to gather genetic material in their stead. The Reapers are only known to have used this option once, when they used the Collectors to conduct mass raids on human colonies as part of a plan to create a human-based Reaper.
Notable Reapers Edit
- The idea of a terrifying and incomprehensible alien intelligence waiting in the depths of space is a feature of Lovecraftian horror. This similarity is emphasized by one of the recordings by the survey team aboard the derelict Reaper which spoke of how "even dead gods can dream." This is a clear homage to Cthulhu, as "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."
- The codex entry for Earth mentions that "Reaper gunships" are capable of "megaton-level firepower". This would give these gunships much more firepower than even Reaper capital ships. It is not known what these craft are, if the entry referred to a known Reaper subtype like a Destroyer, or if it was simply an error.
- Another link between the Reapers and Lovecraft's work is his philosophy on Cosmicism. The Reapers are portrayed as incomprehensible with reasoning and long-term goals that are made out to be impossible for organics to ever understand. They also claim to be the pinnacle of existence and that organic beings could never obtain this level of meaning on their own.
- Dialogue was removed from Mass Effect 2 that details the Reaper harvesting process. EDI states that the captive humans were being reduced to their basic components by being dissected down to the atomic level. The data from the process could then be uploaded into a Reaper's neural network, thus storing the knowledge and essence of the individual that was liquefied in the process. Harbinger indicates that being turned into a Reaper is a form of rebirth. In reference to the fight with the Human-Reaper, Harbinger also states that Shepard is the one "wasting lives."
- ↑ http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2011/04/21/mass-effect-a-q-amp-a-for-hardcore-fans.aspx?PostPageIndex=1
- ↑ Legion conversation in Mass Effect 2
- ↑ http://twitter.com/#!/macwalterslives/status/106469649889247232
- ↑ Dialog removed from the human reaper reveal
|Citadel||Asari • Drell • Elcor • Hanar • Human • Keeper • Salarian • Turian • Volus|
|Non-Citadel|| Batarian • Collector • Geth • Krogan • Leviathan • Quarian • Raloi • Reaper |
Virtual Alien • Vorcha • Yahg
|Historical||Prothean • Rachni • Other Historical Races|