Mass Effect without the Reapers?

#1 Posted by Encephalon (1314 posts) -

I know this is a fairly spineless claim to make in retrospect, especially considering how Mass Effect 3 ended, but I've thought for a while that the Reapers were the weakest part of the ME fiction, while the intergalactic politics and race relations were actually pretty airtight. That said, does anyone think a really interesting story could've been squeezed out of the ME universe without the presence of the Reapers?

I was discussing this yesterday with my brother, after we finished commiserating about the ending, and we couldn't come to an agreement. I thought it could be potentially really interesting if Mass Effect was just about, like, all these aliens with centuries-long grudges getting into a galactic war with each other. He claimed that such a story would be:

(1) impossible to resolve without an ultimate cosmic enemy to pull everyone together,

(2) impossible to convey with Mass Effect's gameplay loop and

(3) not that the market really wants anyway.

I thought all these reasons were narrow-minded and silly, citing actual real fucking wars that happened in the real world, and how those happened without the intervention of robot space gods, or even something slightly less hokey like a cabal of war profiteers manipulating galactic events for their own benefit.

I also brought up Matsuno games like Tactics Ogre, FF Tactics or FFXII, which take their narrative and thematic cues more from historical fiction than anime or comic books or genre fiction, though those games have their share of gods or sealed demon lords or whatever.

Anyway, it's been on my mind since I finished ME3. I've been beating the "games would be better if they told smaller stories" drum for awhile, and it occurred to me that the ME universe is rich enough to support a story sans Reapers.

#2 Posted by ImmortalSaiyan (4700 posts) -

I think the game could of been fine without the reapers or some major evil. Two never included them and it's the best because it focuses on a great group of characters.

#3 Edited by LordXavierBritish (6320 posts) -

The Reapers were an incredible concept with parallels that have been proven to be extraordinary antagonists in fiction, I was already sold on it after Sovereign's first interaction with Shepard.
 
The fact of the matter is without the Reapers there is no central conflict. There is no driving force to carry the narrative forward. Mass Effect cannot exist as the universe, or the game, it is without them. What you are asking for is a Mass Effect MMO, because that is the only conceivable framework that could support what you are looking for.
 
Maybe Mass Effect was flawed from conception by relying on the Reapers so heavily to carry the story, but that is an entirely different arguement. Mass Effect as it is cannot exist without the Reapers.

#4 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8699 posts) -

I think the threat itself is better than them actually appearing.
 
In ME1 I got this great sense of dread, you knew the Reapers were bad news and the universe would be fucked if they ever made the jump.
But after ME1 the dread got less and you were all like "Meh, guess they're fightable for some dozen years and not as bad as I thought.".
 
Kinda feels like the Jedi to me, at first everyone's in awe of them but the more we see and learn about them it just shoots down the mystical aura it has.
Besides, crushing armies is fine as a Jedi but then suddenly they spend an entire episode of the clone wars chasing a street thief?
Fuck that.

#5 Posted by Animasta (14718 posts) -

yeah fuck the reapers. It might be hard to resolve, but don't they mention shit about dark energy (or was it eezo?) and how it's invading the galaxy or something in two? I distinctly remember them saying that. Maybe make that the primary conflict or somethin.

#6 Posted by seannao (231 posts) -

Getting more toward the end of ME 3, I couldn't help but, on some minor levels start comparing the Reapers to Allastair Reynolds' "Inhibitor" machines, which more or less served the same function, but in different ways. The Inhibitors also not self-aware individuals, otherwise there would be a certainty that they'd end up undermining their function of destroying space-faring empires before going back into hiding/hibernation to wait for the next emergence. Instead of activating on a timer, however, they left behind strange artifacts around exotic galactic anomalies like pulsars that young space-travelling races could not help but examine, and thus trigger the exterminating network to begin to awaken.

Anyway yeah, they could've gotten along without the unifying galactic threat. They could've explored the Cerberus/Council/Neutral stories with greater depth, and allowed you to see if you did things like.. well.. excise Cerberus, destroy it, support it, all with alignment/decision choices that would end up determining which missions you'd be locked completely out of until a subsequent playthrough where you make the other make-or-break branching choices, and then end up truly confronting former-Alliance friends or simply approaching a major mission under the other banner, getting to hear their narrative going into that critical point in the story and actually change the path in a tangible way that I felt that ME rarely did outside of a few major characters themselves, which is still admirable of them to do.

#7 Posted by Kevin_Cogneto (1164 posts) -

@LordXavierBritish said:

The Reapers were an incredible concept with parallels that have been proven to be extraordinary antagonists in fiction, I was already sold on it after Sovereign's first interaction with Shepard. The fact of the matter is without the Reapers there is no central conflict. There is no driving force to carry the narrative forward. Mass Effect cannot exist as the universe, or the game, it is without them. What you are asking for is a Mass Effect MMO, because that is the only conceivable framework that could support what you are looking for. Maybe Mass Effect was flawed from conception by relying on the Reapers so heavily to carry the story, but that is an entirely different arguement. Mass Effect as it is cannot exist without the Reapers.

I couldn't disagree more, I think the Mass Effect universe is saturated with conflict, with or without the Reapers. The most interesting part of the first game to me was the tension between doing what's best for the human race and "looking after your own" vs. doing what's best for the galaxy as a whole. I mean the only reason Shepard was being pushed as the first human Spectre was because it was seen as the first step towards getting a human representative on the Citadel Council, and yet the paradox is that by becoming a Spectre, Shepard has to now answer to this council that does not usually have human interests in mind. It's why the decision of whether or not to save the Council is so interesting, and that decision really has nothing to do with the Reapers at all. ME1 could've been about any generic threat: It could've just been the Geth, or it could've been space terrorists, to me it didn't really matter. I think the underlying political power struggles between the various races would've been more than enough, those are pretty high stakes in and of themselves. There's no need for this threat of galactic extinction to keep things interesting.

#8 Posted by Encephalon (1314 posts) -

@LordXavierBritish: I agree that ME as it exists now cannot exist without the Reapers, but that's like saying a car won't run without this essential component that plugs into the engine. Of course it can't. What I'm thinking is what would result if you took the most basic framework of ME's galactic politics - humans, Salarians, Turians, Asari, etc. - and built something completely different with them.

Maybe the Mass Relays are Prothean in origin and the Protheans died out due to, I don't know, some dark energy related cataclysm. Maybe the First Contact war flares up again. Maybe humans and Turians go at it again, and the rest of the galaxy gets dragged in via treaties and alliances. Maybe ME1 is about hunting down an Alliance defector, or a Turian war criminal. It's not an absurd or patently unworkable idea.

#9 Posted by BoG (5192 posts) -

@LordXavierBritish: I think what he's getting at is that the story could have been written in a different way. In fact, I agree. You could have written a story without the Reapers. The writers had already put so much into the lore that a wealth of potential conflicts exist with no need for Reapers. This is another reason I'm so sad to see it end the way it did, because we won't see full development of these things. A simpler ending would have left the galaxy in an awkward state with everyone in a loose alliance, ripe for politically fueled storytelling.

While we're at it, can we remove Protheans and precursor stuff? That's not necessary if there is no cycle. I do like what became of the Protheans with Javik, but it would be best to rid of them.

#10 Edited by LordXavierBritish (6320 posts) -
@Kevin_Cogneto said:

@LordXavierBritish said:

The Reapers were an incredible concept with parallels that have been proven to be extraordinary antagonists in fiction, I was already sold on it after Sovereign's first interaction with Shepard. The fact of the matter is without the Reapers there is no central conflict. There is no driving force to carry the narrative forward. Mass Effect cannot exist as the universe, or the game, it is without them. What you are asking for is a Mass Effect MMO, because that is the only conceivable framework that could support what you are looking for. Maybe Mass Effect was flawed from conception by relying on the Reapers so heavily to carry the story, but that is an entirely different arguement. Mass Effect as it is cannot exist without the Reapers.

I couldn't disagree more, I think the Mass Effect universe is saturated with conflict, with or without the Reapers. The most interesting part of the first game to me was the tension between doing what's best for the human race and "looking after your own" vs. doing what's best for the galaxy as a whole. I mean the only reason Shepard was being pushed as the first human Spectre was because it was seen as the first step towards getting a human representative on the Citadel Council, and yet the paradox is that by becoming a Spectre, Shepard has to now answer to this council that does not usually have human interests in mind. It's why the decision of whether or not to save the Council is so interesting, and that decision really has nothing to do with the Reapers at all. ME1 could've been about any generic threat: It could've just been the Geth, or it could've been space terrorists, to me it didn't really matter. I think the underlying political power struggles between the various races would've been more than enough, those are pretty high stakes in and of themselves. There's no need for this threat of galactic extinction to keep things interesting.

The problem is that everything is so under control in the Mass Effect universe, the Geth aren't actually a threat on their own. Neither is Cerberus.
 
No one was ever going to take down the Citadel, and the Council had enough military power behind them to destroy any opposition. There is no conflict, at all. It would just be a series of minor missions with no thread tying them together.
 
Why would Shepard be traveling from planet to planet gathering a crew if not for the Reapers? He wouldn't. The Reapers allowed for a framework in which those smaller, more personal stories could be told while there is still a grand expose going on in the background to drive the plot forward and provide motivation for the characters.
 
The reason Mass Effect was so great is because it did explore topics like the politics of the Citadel races and racism and genocide, but without the Reapers all you have is a bunch of small subplots that don't form a cohesive whole. You have a game that fleshes out its universe but does nothing with it.
 
Mass Effect 1 didn't even bother with the Reapers until the last part of the game, Mass Effect 2 didn't bother with the Reapers almost at all but still used them as a driving force to keep Shepard active and keep the story moving. But Mass Effect 3 is a terrible game with terrible writing that uses the Reapers as a crutch rather than a tool and the entire game suffers for it.
 
So at the end of the day what it comes down to is the Reapers were a great concept but Bioware didn't do anything with it. Did Mass Effect 3 have to open with the Reapers attacking Earth and make them the sole focus of the entire plot? No, but they chose to do it and the game suffers because of it.
 
It's interesting that people only bring this up now, after the trilogy is over. Mass Effect 3 handled the Reapers poorly, the previous two games did a great job with them.
#11 Posted by CptBedlam (4455 posts) -

When the Reapers were introduced in the first game, it was a really fascinating concept. There was this overwhelming sense of threat I felt when thinking about them. Unfortunately, Bioware couldn't manage to uphold this menace in the second and third game. Their depiction of the Reapers was just too conventional.

#12 Posted by Greatgrey (55 posts) -

The reapers stopped being characters in 3, they just became monsters. I agree with this original poster whole heartedly.

#13 Posted by BawlZINmotion (714 posts) -

@CptBedlam said:

When the Reapers were introduced in the first game, it was a really fascinating concept. There was this overwhelming sense of threat I felt when thinking about them. Unfortunately, Bioware couldn't manage to uphold this menace in the second and third game. Their depiction of the Reapers was just too conventional.

Duder... Nail and head. Although I did like their presence in ME2. I also looked at the Reapers like Bioware's spin on Cylons, Terminators, etc etc. Even through 99% of ME3 I was still happy with their portrayal, even if it wasn't as good as in previous games. However the last 15 or so minutes of ME3 ruined it for me, among other things. Despite all that I don't think they were essential to the first two games. Maybe even the third. Saren could have been doing what he was doing for whatever reason they chose to write about in ME1. So to could have the Collectors in ME2. Even in ME3 the Reapers aren't the "main" element trying to slow you down. Like in ME2, in ME3 the majority of the time is spent doing things unrelated to the Reapers. If ME3 had you travelling around the galaxy trying to stop the spread of reapers to various systems, sure, but they just show up at the beginning of the game uninvited. The Reapers could be swapped out for any number of ideas and it wouldn't really matter.

#14 Posted by MarkWahlberg (4606 posts) -

Haven't played ME3, but...

Are you asking if a game would be better if it didn't have 'giant evil aliens are coming to eat everyone and YOU have to save the galaxy!' as it's main story? Is that a serious question?

#15 Edited by Lotus (214 posts) -

@LordXavierBritish said:

The Reapers were an incredible concept with parallels that have been proven to be extraordinary antagonists in fiction, I was already sold on it after Sovereign's first interaction with Shepard. The fact of the matter is without the Reapers there is no central conflict. There is no driving force to carry the narrative forward. Mass Effect cannot exist as the universe, or the game, it is without them. What you are asking for is a Mass Effect MMO, because that is the only conceivable framework that could support what you are looking for. Maybe Mass Effect was flawed from conception by relying on the Reapers so heavily to carry the story, but that is an entirely different arguement. Mass Effect as it is cannot exist without the Reapers.

In my "semi-old pc rpg buying madness" that i get myself into like twice a year, i bought ME1, 7h in and knowing the end of ME3, i´m digging the racial tensions and the struggle of humanity trying to get a place in the citadel Council, also that spector thing is kinda badass, hunting down the rogue dude, discovering Prothean artifacts. So i guess i can see future games work without the Reapers.

Saying that, i have no interest in ME2 or ME3, or any other game in the series dumb down like that, not custom made for the pc. Anyways, opinions.

#16 Posted by NinjaHunter (973 posts) -

@LordXavierBritish said:

So at the end of the day what it comes down to is the Reapers were a great concept but Bioware didn't do anything with it.

Although I liked ME3 I have to agree with this. It felt like the Illusive Man was the main villain in ME3 and the Reapers were just there to push the story along. I wished that Bioware would of had Harbinger or some other Reaper step up to interact with Shepard personally like the Illusive Man does.

#17 Posted by Psych0Penguin (412 posts) -

I always thought a C-SEC game would be interesting. Rather than be "the chosen one" like you are in most games who is the galaxy's/world's only hope, have a more centred or personalised (cop?) story but still keep the intrigue of space gangsterism and inter-species politics that the ME universe has created.

#18 Posted by ZombiePie (5731 posts) -

I have an idea so tell me what you think. The next Mass Effect game involves the first contact with an alien life-form not from the Milky Way Galaxy.

What do you think of them apples?

Moderator
#19 Edited by Kevin_Cogneto (1164 posts) -

@Psych0Penguin said:

I always thought a C-SEC game would be interesting. Rather than be "the chosen one" like you are in most games who is the galaxy's/world's only hope, have a more centred or personalised (cop?) story but still keep the intrigue of space gangsterism and inter-species politics that the ME universe has created.

See, that's what I thought the original Mass Effect was going to be when I first started played it. Once you get to the Citadel for the first time, it seemed like there was a big chunk of the game where you and Garrus are going around the Citadel digging up dirt on people. It's easy to forget that Shepard wasn't yet the Space Jesus he eventually became back then -- the Spectres seemed more like the Space CIA to me. I kind of wish the game had stayed that way, but no, once again I'm being asked as a video game player to save the universe. Ho hum.

#20 Posted by Hailinel (25203 posts) -

@rebgav said:

@ZombiePie said:

I have an idea so tell me what you think. The next Mass Effect game involves the first contact with an alien life-form not from the Milky Way Galaxy.

What do you think of them apples?

Do they end up being a threat to all organic life in the galaxy? Or is this Mass Effect: Polite Afternoon Tea?

This just makes me think of Mass Effect as a Victorian romance novel.

#21 Edited by Floppypants (798 posts) -

Saren, the Collectors, and The Illusive Man are the central antagonists that carry their respective games. The Reapers are just a McGuffin.

They could easily make more Mass Effect games using another McGuffin. Maybe Shepard's uncle needs a heart transplant, but the operation costs $10,000, and the only way to earn that kind of money is to win a ballroom dancing competition. Before he can win the competition he needs lessons, but the Citadel's best ballroom dancing instructor gets kidnapped by the Vorcha. The Vorcha are angry that they never win the competition, so they're going around the galaxy eliminating their rivals. Shepard has to stop the Vorcha, learn to dance, win the competition, and save his uncle's life. Mass Effect 4: Dancing in the Stars.

#22 Posted by StrainedEyes (1328 posts) -

The Reapers and especially the whole Cleanse The Galaxy Every So Often thing are definitely my least favorite parts of the series. I know that idea has been done elsewhere, but I always think of The Matrix and The Architect when it gets brought up.

#23 Posted by thomasnash (586 posts) -

@Psych0Penguin said:

I always thought a C-SEC game would be interesting. Rather than be "the chosen one" like you are in most games who is the galaxy's/world's only hope, have a more centred or personalised (cop?) story but still keep the intrigue of space gangsterism and inter-species politics that the ME universe has created.

Citadel Noir?

#24 Edited by believer258 (12102 posts) -

@Kevin_Cogneto said:

@LordXavierBritish said:

The Reapers were an incredible concept with parallels that have been proven to be extraordinary antagonists in fiction, I was already sold on it after Sovereign's first interaction with Shepard. The fact of the matter is without the Reapers there is no central conflict. There is no driving force to carry the narrative forward. Mass Effect cannot exist as the universe, or the game, it is without them. What you are asking for is a Mass Effect MMO, because that is the only conceivable framework that could support what you are looking for. Maybe Mass Effect was flawed from conception by relying on the Reapers so heavily to carry the story, but that is an entirely different arguement. Mass Effect as it is cannot exist without the Reapers.

I couldn't disagree more, I think the Mass Effect universe is saturated with conflict, with or without the Reapers. The most interesting part of the first game to me was the tension between doing what's best for the human race and "looking after your own" vs. doing what's best for the galaxy as a whole. I mean the only reason Shepard was being pushed as the first human Spectre was because it was seen as the first step towards getting a human representative on the Citadel Council, and yet the paradox is that by becoming a Spectre, Shepard has to now answer to this council that does not usually have human interests in mind. It's why the decision of whether or not to save the Council is so interesting, and that decision really has nothing to do with the Reapers at all. ME1 could've been about any generic threat: It could've just been the Geth, or it could've been space terrorists, to me it didn't really matter. I think the underlying political power struggles between the various races would've been more than enough, those are pretty high stakes in and of themselves. There's no need for this threat of galactic extinction to keep things interesting.

THIS

Mass Effect minus the Reapers would still have a far deeper, far richer fiction than almost every other game out there. The only things that could really beat it out are older Bioware games and The Elder Scrolls series. Throw in its conversations system and the many political tensions already teetering on warfare and you have a game that could have been something far more special than another "save the ___ from the big bad ___" plot. Something more complex than that would have been far more interesting and could have fueled much more in-depth discussion. And we're talking about something that already did those two things pretty well!

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