When Mass Effect Neutered the Reapers, and We Didn’t Care

Why world-building and narrative supersede inconsistency in the message

Adam Meadows
Published in
6 min readJul 21, 2021


In Mass Effect, the Reapers are absolute killing machines. Waaaaaaah, they cry, telling you just how killy they really are — and presumably that they’re going to be killy at you, too. These killy-killy machines are specifically designed, we’re told, to erase all life capable of using Twitter from the galaxy.

But when placed against a lone, bipedal mammal, that Reaper — again, made solely to disintegrate those Tweeting digits of yours — can’t quite manage it in a series that spends a fair amount of its run time imparting the message: big robots, killy-killy bad-bad.

Reapers from Mass Effect. Source: PCGamesN.

In Mass Effect 3, then, this giant insect-fish machine towers before you, going wah absolutely all over the place as it fires the world’s biggest laser pen at your tiny human face. It’s a spectacle designed to make you feel like the legendary legend you really are. You go mano a mano with the most dangerous thing in the universe — and win.

On paper, it sounds wicked — the stuff of three-minute trailers with ominous fades and…