In the world of Mass Effect, the Milky Way can seem downright crowded. The game's galaxy is filled with creatures of all sizes and demeanors, from the hotheaded Krogans and humble Keepers to the rare Collectors and reclusive Yahg. It can be hard to keep track of the series' myriad and varied races, whether your Commander Shepard is a seasoned soldier or a relatively fresh recruit who's yet to even don a pair of official Spectre Shades.
At the start of the trilogy, humankind plays a small role in Galactic politics; they're a little late to the party, after all. Shepard changes all that, of course, by becoming the first human Spectre (the galactic Citadel Council's elite special agents), destroying a Reaper (a race of ancient and deadly robotic squids), and generally being a capable badass. But without the cooperation of the galaxy's other peoples, Shepard would likely have never made it past his first mission.
The Asari are the sexy ones, and in some ways, the most compelling. They were the first race (besides the ancient Protheans—more on that later) to discover interstellar travel, they live incredibly long lives, and—this is the best part—they can quite adeptly reproduce with members of any other species and sex. The Asari are a "mono-gender" race, according to Shepard's squadmate Liara T'Soni, but it doesn't hurt that they apparently all look like the Diva from The Fifth Element (minus the opera-singing, so even better).
The Asari are fantastic diplomats, but it's the Krogan who excel in combat. Their brawny, powerful frames are the result of thousands of years of natural selection, as the Krogan spent millennia trapped in a self-created and self-perpetuated nuclear winter on their home planet. As a result, they're tough as nails, incredibly thick-skinned, and resistant to pretty much everything that's toxic or harmful to most other races.
Left to their own devices, the Krogan may well have wiped themselves out with nuclear warfare. But the Salarians, an amphibian race of hyperactive, hyper-smart scientists and spies, discovered their plight and helped them ascend to the galactic community—by using them to wipe out a common enemy. Unfortunately for the Krogan, whose reproductive rates skyrocketed once they made it off their desolate home world, the Salarians were then forced to create a biological weapon that would practically sterilize the Krogan forever: the genophage.
But the Salarians weren't about to do their own dirty work. Instead, they employed the Turians, whose fierce discipline and militaristic culture made them the perfect force to counter the Krogans' comparatively unstable barbarity. It didn't hurt that Turians are generally well over six feet tall, with vicious, avian features and the biological makeup of hardcore predators. They activated the genophage, quelling the Krogan Rebellion and earning themselves a seat next to the Asari and Salarians on the Citadel Council.
Everything was peachy (relatively speaking) until the Geth were unleashed upon the galaxy around a thousand years later. The Quarians—tech-savvy but ultimately vulnerable due to acute immunodeficiency, necessitating constant use of sophisticated enviro-suits—created the artificial beings to help out with chores and whatnot, but as robots are wont to do, they became sentient and kicked their masters off their own homeworld. The Quarians were relegated to the giant, nomadic Migrant Fleet, and Shepard was given yet another galactic-scale mess to wipe up centuries later.
That brings us to the Drell, the final and most enigmatic of the races to join Shepard's jolly band of galaxy-saving misfits and merry men. Reptilian in appearance, the Drell developed perfect photographic memories due to the severe conditions of their home planet. It makes for some interesting conversations between Shepard and the Drell assassin teammate Thane Krios. His people were rescued from their dying homeworld by the Hanar, a mysterious sentient race that resembles shiny, pink, telepathic jellyfish. Unfortunately, Shepard's yet to have a Hanar on the team (we're guessing they're not great in a fight).
There are plenty of other races that have yet to make it onto Shepard's squad. The Citadel is also home to the secretive and devoted Keepers, the deliberate and plodding Elcor, and the diminutive but industrious Volus, not to mention more hostile non-Citadel races like the four-eyed pirate renegade Batarians, the hulking, violent, intelligent Yahg, and the aggressive and frankly gross-looking Vorcha. So far they've all been relegated to incidental roles, but you never know who could join Shepard next. Even the rebellious Geth have contributed to Shepard's efforts, with Legion—a vaguely humanoid "mobile platform" comprised of 1,183 separate Geth constructs—joining the good guys in ME 2.
And then, of course, there are the Reapers themselves, the ultimate threat to all galactic life, returned from their millennia-long hibernation between galaxies to do what they do best: destroy everyone. Their insectoid Collector drones proved capable opposition in ME 2, and it took most of the first ME for Shepard and Co. to just take out one Reaper. Now they've arrived in full force, and everyone seems to be basically screwed.
But the Milky Way is massive, and we've still got all of Mass Effect 3 to explore. The final game in the trilogy adds at least one new race to Shepard's squadron of familiar races: the Protheans, a people previously thought to have been extinct for at least 50,000 years, but whose leftover technology has formed the basis for modern galactic civilization. Whether or not we should have to pay $10 for the privilege of interacting with that seemingly important new character is a different discussion altogether.
Date: March 9, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*