The trailer and speculation surrounding Mass Effect: Andromeda has really got me pumped, so I figured I should celebrate with some wild speculation about the reapers!
Every reaper has a living corpse inside of it. The biomechanical construct made from human DNA, which we saw at the end of Mass Effect 2, was not a unique phenomenon. There was nothing special about the harvest cycle seen in the Mass Effect trilogy. Most likely every species exterminated by the reapers has a biomechanical construct made of flesh and steel that looks like a bigger version of the species. More fit or interesting species receive large constructs, the rest receive smaller constructs. The reapers that we commonly see are really exoskeletal “armor” worn by the undying, immortal creature that rides inside, most likely lying down like a corpse in a coffin. Only the first reapers made by the leviathans lack the meaty center of the later models.
The reapers don’t live in “dark space”. This is a nonsensical concept that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The reapers live on a planet just like everyone else. Between harvests, most of the reapers return, land, and then the giant biomechanical androids (the true “reapers”) step out of their armor and return to their territories. The planet is most likely small, with a light gravity to help reduce stress on the giant beings (of course they probably have mass effect generators on their bodies to ease stress as well).
What do the reapers do on their “homeworld”? They don’t go to malls and watch TV like we do. They spend most of their time meditating – sort of. Each reaper is a “sovereign nation”. They interact minimally. Mostly they sit quietly within their territories and lose themselves in simulations of their own creation. Each reaper has an incredibly complex series of AIs running in their massive brains. Humans can already make some pretty cool video games with a handful of crappy computers and decent programmers. Reapers would of course make simulations of incredible complexity. They put themselves in their own simulations and get a kick out of experiencing what each simulation has to offer. Sometimes they make themselves forget who they truly are, then put themselves into a character and see how long it takes for them to remember that they are a god and wake up from their simulation. Sometimes they experience the joy of combat and endless battle sims, much like our own video games. Sometimes they go on endless sex marathons based on the framework of whatever species they were made from.
I imagine the reaper world to have a red sky and hard-baked white land. The planet has been dead for millions of years. The reapers sit crouched and motionless for hundreds of years on end and could be mistaken for statues from a distance. Most movement would come from farms run by collector-like enslaved species who gather food, repair equipment, and crawl on the reapers and see to the needs of their bodies. I assume their planet would not be dark all the time because the slaves and farms would require at least some amount of light, but the reapers would probably prefer a dark planet simply to avoid detection.
Some reapers may occasionally “die” by losing themselves in their simulations. I don’t know whether they would be tended by their slaves for eternity or simply abandoned. They would be a constant source of mystery to the other reapers; it would be impossible to connect with the mind of such a dead reaper because of the fear that the simulation that fatally drew them in would spread. The contents of such a simulation would never be known.
I’ve always been interested in the claim that the mass relays controlled the development of civilizations. I always wondered, how much control would it really have? Now I think that the mechanism for this is brutally simple. When any species reaches the point where it can interact with a relay, it sends a signal. This is like an alarm system, or even just an alarm clock that says “time to wake up”. Not all reapers will wake up at the same time, so a collective snooze button is hit many times. Hundreds of years may pass as the giant reapers end their current simulations, stand, cry out upon waking due to the pain of existence, gather intel from whoever was left behind (Sovereign in the case of the Mass Effect trilogy), and plan the next harvest. So a harvest doesn’t necessarily happen every fifty thousand years. Harvests happen when they need to.
In my post where I outlined an idea for Mass Effect 4, I theorized that the reapers would record cultural data as well as genetic data. Now I think this is wrong. When the reapers exterminate technologically advanced species, they are merely wiping out competition as it crops up.
Actually they’re doing more than wiping out competition and protecting themselves. They’re also taking successful species, survivor species, and using them to create new reapers. This isn’t theory, we already knew this. But it’s interesting to think that their ritual of child sacrifice, a genocide of what might be trillions of individuals, results in the creation of perhaps a dozen new reapers. Who knows what strange rituals they conduct to bring these new godlings to maturity?
More speculation: When the new reapers are born, they are brought into a demented heaven. The planet of the reapers, and the cycle that populates it, is like something from the prophetic books of the Bible. It is a heaven for dead species, a paradise for those considered worthy of losing their old bodies and gaining new “heavenly” bodies in the world beyond. This also perfectly encapsulates the Gnostic concept that God is evil, that the God of the Old Testament is an insane, demonic monster. Would you really worship a reaper?
Imagine if Shepard had gone to the planet of the reapers and seen giant, slow-moving beings trudging across the wasteland, silently marking the boundaries of their territory or sitting and staring into nothingness. They would seem like jotun from Norse mythology, terrible giants ancient beyond belief who gather during the end of the world.
Hey readers! I’ve got some other Mass Effect stuff available for your perusal. For instance: An outline for a game called Mass Effect 4: Indoctrination Theory. There’s also a piece about Rio de Janeiro Theory. I’ve also got some random Mass Effect speculation and bitching available HERE. If fanfiction is more your thing (and why shouldn’t it be?), then you can check out some stories based on the Destroy, Control, and Synthesis endings.
If you liked this post, you should check out some of my books. I’ve got an epic series called Demonworld, which is equal parts Mad Max and Lord of the Rings (think “science fantasy”), and a much-loved gamebook series called Heavy Metal Thunder which can also be found on iTunes and Google Play as incredibly fancy apps.