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Commander Shepard returns this week to finally thwart The Reapers and their attempt to destroy civilization. While Shepard is both a Paragon of humanity’s virtues, and a Renegade who gets the job done no matter what it takes, sometimes I wonder if maybe – just maybe – those villainous Reapers might actually be right. Perhaps the galaxy would be better off if the heroes of Mass Effect just stayed home and left the Reapers alone.
The Reapers were the secret behind-the-scenes bad guys in the first game, and Shepard spends much of the game unraveling their complex plot to annihilate every civilized species in the universe. By the end of the first game, their wildly circumlocuitous scheme is thwarted. Yet, as unstoppable beings of immense evil, the Reapers didn’t stay thwarted for long. They return in Mass Effect 2 and this time it’s personal! Now because Commander Shepard made them angry, the Reapers have decided to start their galactic genocide with Earth.
You have to sympathize with the Reapers on that point; in Mass Effect 2 Shepard spends the whole game harrowing them across the Galaxy until he finds a Reaper larva. Then instead of marveling at the miracle of birth, he shoots the giant baby in the eye with a rocket launcher.
Maybe you think the Reapers have it coming, because they want to destroy the galaxy? Well they aren’t destroying it permanently. The Reapers have a 50,000 cycle in which they sleep for a few dozen millennia, then return to have a look around to see how organic life has progressed. Any species with interstellar travel gets killed off, but noteworthy species are harvested and their genetic material is used to build new Reapers. This frees up the galaxy for new life forms to evolve, and some lucky civilizations get to live forever as the raw material inside Reaper larvae. This cycle is how the Reapers feed and reproduce; is it immoral of them to want to continue their own lives by reaping lesser species?
Besides, it’s not like the Galaxy is such a great place anyway. Bioware has done a great job in creating a setting that is full of conflict. There are a bunch of alien races who don’t like each other and constantly have excuses to wage war on one another. The Mass Relays scattered throughout the galaxy give cultures rapid technological progress that their cultures can’t handle, and it’s a recipe for disaster. In the past couple thousand years, the Council has nearly been annihilated by a race of space bugs, a fast-breeding race of lizard men, and a race of self-aware robots who inevitably turned on their creators. Even without the Reapers showing up, it seems like these people are already well on their way to mutual genocide. All of this makes for an exciting place to set a video game, but it’s a pretty crappy place to live! Who can blame the Reapers for wanting to put the Galaxy out of its misery?
And humanity ain’t exactly the crown jewel of all the Citadel races. Humans have waged war against the Turians and the Batarians, plus the Cerberus organization has engaged in countless acts of terrorism and inhumane experimentation on their fellow Man. So I say, "Let the Reapers harvest the lot of ‘em!" Instead of taking Earth back this week, just park Commander Shepard in a chair at a Space Bar and let the Reapers do what they do best. Reap!