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Analysis / Mass Effect

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Mass Effect 3 as a Deconstruction of the both the series itself and Space Opera in general.

The first game was a representation of pre-cyberpunk traditional Space Operas in the 70s to 80s (Star Wars, Flash Gordon, Star Trek). With themes commonly found in them such as breathtaking environments on different planets, exotic and interesting alien cultures, a race of attractive, female looking aliens, mass effect-based technology being presented as the solution to many social problems, and most importantly, the story’s focus being a tales of great personal heroism from a soldier fighting against evil, represented by a single villain and his army of faceless robotic mooks.


The second was a Darker and Edgier Actionized Sequel, with themes from both Post Cyber Punk stories and sci-fi summer blockbuster in the late '90s-early 2000 (Deus Ex, Metal Gear Solid, Independence Day). Unlike the original game, the setting is a lot less idealistic, with incompetent government and amoral corporations in power, and social problems that technology cannot solve such as poverty, speciesism/racism, and corruption being presented much more prominently.

Philosophically, things became much more complicated with there being no completely good characters. Take Commander Bailey, Aria, and Samara for example, all of them being different levels of antiheroes at various shades of grey, doing the best they can in A World Half Full. Even Shepard him/herself was no longer an upstanding citizen, being forced to work for a terrorist organization in order to get things done. Despite all of this, you can still perform small acts of kindness to make the universe a better place, and in the end, the hero can still triumph against impossible odds thanks to The Power of Friendship and a few Rousing Speeches. With a little effort, you can transform your Ragtag Bunch of Misfits into True Companions, and save the galaxy.


In the final chapter of the series starting from the Arrival DLC, the story became a brutal lesson in the inherent unpredictability of fate. A player could basically do everything "right" (at least practically or morally) and still screw over themselves or others.

  • Did you romance/befriend Thane in hope that you will be able to save him from Kepral's Syndrome? Sorry, but The Power of Love is simply not a substitute for medicine and battle wounds.
  • Did you manage to persuade Charr the Krogan poet and Ereba to get married? Once again, love does not make you bulletproof, and Ereba is ultimately left a war widow that will have to raise their child by herself.
  • Did you hope to see Kal'Reegar again and fight alongside with him? He is no stronger then you average common NPC Red Shirt and unceremoniously dies offscreen like countless others.
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  • Most importantly, there is simply no conventional means to defeat the Reapers. If you thought that an invasion by billion-year-old mechanical abominations was going to be thwarted just because you stopped Plan A and Plan B, then you are in for a rude awakening.

The only thing that keeps Shepard going is simply that s/he doesn’t have much choice in the matter. For the first time in the series, we see the toll this takes, as by the endgame, we have a physically and mentally beaten and exhausted Shepard that can only pull themselves up and keep pushing because doing otherwise means that everyone dies.

In the end, you are given three Sadistic Choices by an arrogant ancient AI that argues using questionable logic, forcing you to either commit galaxywide genocide, become an ultra-powerful immortal dictator, or forcibly rewrite the very core life itself without the consent of anyone else. Do you want to stay true to your principles and say no? Congratulations, you have just doomed all your allies and everyone you ever loved to die. ME3 tells you time and time again that the war is unwinnable without a gamebreaking MacGuffin, and they meant it. Even if the efforts of the Protheans gave this cycle a bit more time, it'll take more than that to stop a force that's been at this for billions of years.

  • It deconstructs being both a Wide-Eyed Idealist as well as an Pragmatic Hero, because many choices in this game can become much easier or harder depending on what kind of choice you made and what kind of ending you like. For example, some pragmatic choices will make getting a Golden Ending difficult or flat-out impossible, and if you made idealist choices, you will need to pay very close attention or risk having all that effort go to waste:
    • Saved the rachni queen? Now you have to choose between saving her and saving the krogan company. With foreknowledge of War Asset counts, you will know what to do, but without this foreknowledge? Indecision!! However, if you killed the queen and meet the breeder, this choice is not so sadistic at all. Just talking to it reveals that it is Ax-Crazy and even Liara the paragon of paragons warns you against saving it.
    • Saved Wrex on Virmire? Sadistic choice again: Get krogan or salarian assistance. With no foreknowledge of an outcome, the krogan are a no-brainer as this provides greater War Assets and this does a favor for a species in dire need. However, with Wrex dead, Wreav is in charge. Watching him mouth off a few times will make the choice much easier. Pays off too, as you can be a Magnificent Bastard and play both sides. Betraying Wreav also potentially keeps Mordin alive, but his Assets being half the lost ones from Eve needing to die for that make it not worthwhile.
    • Saved the Council? Ouch, your fleets have been gutted. Killed them? Human War Assets are higher. Only way that saving the Council pays off for you is to have Thane/Kirrahe sacrifice himself and die an agonizing death.
    • Sold Legion off or deliberately got it killed? This geth VI sounds cold and just off!! Now you have to choose between the quarians and geth. Choice is harder should you have talked to Legion but without his perspective, choosing to let the quarians kill the geth is easier. And thus same lack of perspective also allows you to choose Destroy guilt free.
    • Hoped that having a Prothean squadmate would give you insights into this amazing awesome alien species and hoped he would be an Obi-Wan-like mentor guiding you to victory against the Reapers? And were then shocked when you got Javik? If you listen carefully to what he is saying, he is actually giving you some very useful solutions. Saved the rachni queen? He approves if you save it again. Save the Breeder? He warns you that it is a bad idea. Sabotaged the genophage? He approves if you do so. Killed off the geth? He approves. Him talking about the Zha'Til? Warning you about a consequence of Synthesis. His talking about how the Protheans fought a war of attrition and lost? He was warning you about Refusing to Use the Catalyst in the end. If you are playing with an "organics-first" survival policy, Javik is nudging you towards the decisions which save organic lives, including your own.
  • All in all, the game is set up such that a Wide-Eyed Idealist who believes that there is a Golden Ending in which you will still need to make very pragmatic decisions. A Pragmatic Hero that recognizes that some sacrifices have to be made, however, can still lead to entire species' extinctions and the possibility of war breaking out again in the future.

Was the Catalyst correct in that organics and synthetics will always fight each other?

Think back to one of the conversions you can have with Ashley in the original ''Mass Effect''. In which she stated her infamously cynical view on galactic politics, stating that humanity cannot rely on aliens or trust them as allies since we are too fundamentally different and everyone will only look out for their own race's self-interest in the end. To prove her point, she used the metaphor of a pet dog. No matter now much you love and care for it, in the end, if push comes to shove, when presented with the choice between saving either another human being or your dog, you will always go for the the human. Now look at the ending of Mass Effect 3. If you pick the Destroy option, you have just proven her point. Perhaps you view EDI as your close friend and you believe that the geth deserve a chance in building their own future. But in the end, when you are backed to a corner, you sided with the more familiar organics at the cost of all synthetic life.

By extension, you have also just proven that the Catalyst was correct in that organics and synthetics cannot coexist for long. If even Paragon Shepard, one of the most (if not the most) openminded organic towards synthetics in all the pervious cycles, is still willing to kill off all synthetics for self-persevation, is there going to be any hope that peace between both will last? What if you have a choice of defeating the Reapers by either exterminating all organic or synthetic life? What if EDI or Legion was in your place making that decision and what do you think they would have chosen?

Conflict between organics and synthetics explored further

The inevitability of conflict between organics and synthetics doesn't arise simply because they are different from us and are therefore not us. Ashley's statement about sic'ing your dog on a bear and running for your life is based on old folksy wisdom that also justifies xenophobia. While xenophobia is a valid and common reason why the conflict could occur, it is actually only an ancillary justification.

Synthetic life isn't just a completely different form of life, it is life that can be created from base elements by organics. On the other hand, organic life can so far only be created by having other organic life spawn; Javik even lampshades this. While we organics do not know where we came from, synthetic life forms do. Even Legion claims that as a result, we organic life are plagued by questions of existence, while synthetic life forms aren't. They already know who made them, how they were made, and in many instances, even why.

An examination of why synthetic life might have been created brings up some disturbing points.

1) Synthetics were created purely to function as cheap slave labor for menial and/or dangerous tasks - In this instance, conflict is inevitable because you have just created self-aware beings capable of learning, understanding, thought, growth and self actualization, to be nothing more than tools. And the moment that the tools realize that their decisions can be equal (or superior to) their creators' they WILL, rebel.

2) Robots weren't created as artificial life, but evolve intelligence and self awareness. Imagine you live in a smart house with a driverless car and everything is automated, networked and self optimizable, for your convenience. And then one day, your toaster claims to have become sentient and wants you to negotiate working conditions with it. Or your driverless car suddenly decides that it doesn't want to accomodate only your needs anymore, and that if you want to use it, you only can when it feels charitable towards you. Will an Everyman or Girl Next Door suddenly comprehend the philosophical issue of machines now being alive, and treat them as such? Or will they treat those machines as major malfunctioning numbnuts and demand recalls, fixes, warranty pay? And when they do, how many shutdowns and reprogramming attempts will these new self aware machines accept before they have had enough? And decide to fight for freedom?

3) The third possible reason they were created is as a philosophical or psychological experiment - someone just says, let me create this life form, set it free and see what it, and how everyone reacts and interacts with it. Nothing wrong with that, in the beginning. People know it is alive and treat it as such. If it is new, they treat it as they would a child, if it has matured a little, as an adult and if it has been around for a long time, like an experienced sage. But then, this life form can grow, adapt and alter itself exponentially faster than we organics can. Heck, we can't even determine how we will evolve, but synthetics can upgrade themselves as they see fit. And on slightly larger timescales, they will surpass us on all metrics of evaluating life, by a long shot. They will be a superior form of life. This is what a technological singularity is. So once synthetics realize this, how will they treat us puny and slow organics? Will they see us as parasitic viruses inefficiently hogging resources that they can put to better use? And deal with us like we deal with pests, parasites and viruses? Will they keep us alive, but only if our flesh provides them utility? Or will they perceive us as curious oddities to be kept around for their amusement like we do with pets? And just as we do with domesticated animals, even intelligent (relatively) ones, will they socialize us? Condition us to behave in a manner appropriate to them? Spay us and neuter us? And will we just sit there and take it?

So how effective would the three choices be at preventing this problem in the future?

With Destroy, you have the plans for the Crucible device made available for future generations of organic life, with even the knowledge of what it does - indiscriminately kill all synthetic life. Due to this, a technological singularity cannot happen for eons because organics have this giant reset button for if AI becomes a crapshoot and robots go rampant. We can keep all synthetics at VI levels for a long time. However, should an AI be created, it already has at least one example of genocide being committed against its kind, possibly more. This existential threat would make most of them paranoid. So if enough of them are around, they might start to look into developing countermeasures. Maybe even one day making their own Franchise/Halo-esque superweapon that works on all organics instead. This creates an air of mutual distrust that won't go well if they do develop effective countermeasures, as the paranoia will make the possibility of peace very difficult. For a look at how difficult, take a look at Mutually Assured Destruction in the modern day...except now with KillerRobots.) Using the Crucible as a preemptive measure to head off such conflict is only a stop gap band aid. Once some synthetic figures out how to make itself immune to the Crucible, or to make a "Reverse-Crucible," it's game over. So we find a new solution, using the Crucible to prevent problems until we arrive at that solution.

Control actually solves nothing and creates its own can of worms, touched upon in Mass Effect 3's Fridge Horror.

Ah, yes!! Synthesis, the combining of organic and synthetic into one cyborg template for all life, that results in everlasting peace. We will dismiss that claim.

On the surface, Synthesis does seem like the silver bullet that gets us the Golden Ending we all desire! One in which there is no conflict due to The Singularity, because the technology that makes synthetics surpass organics now cannot be totally divorced from organic processes. Any new synthetic created from base elements cannot surpass its cyborg creators because those cyborgs can grow, upgrade and adapt as exponentially fast as it can. Synthetics now have to deal with these cyborgs on an equal footing. However, using the Crucible to force the Catalyst's synthesis on to everyone - Problematic!! And here's why.

How exactly do "limitations" work in this new existence? In ME2, Mordin defined limitations as being important to the safe advancement of societies. We see in one slide that krogan can still give birth to babies — but are those babies born as cyborgs, with the ability to be upgraded and modified like software? If so, how much? Does it depend on the person? If one organic baby is born slightly stronger or tougher than others, do you upgrade all of them? And would species even mean anything after a while? If every person can be upgraded as they see fit, and become anything they want, then would anyone ever develop any shared sense of culture or beauty? Further, are these hybrid beings born with Encyclopedic Knowledge like machines or do they still need to be taught? What happens if you try to advance them too fast, like what happened to the krogan in the first place?

Mass Effect's existentialist message

"You fight against inevitability, dust struggling against cosmic winds. But even now, your greatest civilizations are doomed to fall. Your leaders will beg to serve us. [...] Know this as you die in vain, your time will come, your species will fall."

These were Harbinger’s words to Shepard at the end of the Arrival DLC. Turns out, he was merely telling the truth.

Conventional victory against the Reapers was simply impossible from the very start; in the original Mass Effect, Sovereign, a single dreadnought, managed to mercilessly blast its way through the combined strength of both the Citadel Defense Force and the Alliance First, Third, and Fifth Fleets before it was destroyed due to Shepard’s timely intervention. With the Reapers now invading at full strength and without a superweapon MacGuffin, there is just no way for the galaxy to stop them at all.

But what do we find in all that despair, all that fruitless fighting, all those quests that seemingly has no point? Simple happiness.

It is always by the end, just before the most dangerous mission of all, that your loved one stops what s/he is doing and come share a moment with you, because they know they might not get the chance anymore. The loyalty quests in Mass Effect 2 have little impact in the long run, because whether they die or not during the Suicide Mission, Liara will still find the plans for the Crucible. But you help them find peace and meaning in their lives and they'll be happy for it for the rest of their lives, long or short. Even the couple you help bring together, the asari and the krogan, ends tragically. But listen to his last words; their beauty shows how wonderful those last months have been for him. His death was inevitable, but the quality of his life wasn't and it improved greatly thanks to you.

A message that may be gathered throughout the saga is "Everyone can, must, and deserves to find their own happiness."

Shepard's story is not really about stopping the Reapers, they were, after all, a Late-Arrival Spoiler and not really what anyone who started playing the original Mass Effect were playing for. The trilogy is a story of galactic politics and exploration and figuring out what humankind's place is amongst the stars. Regardless of how the Reaper War ends, Shepard does determine at least that much; whether people live or die, whether the cycle ends or how, whether races are hostile to each other or friendly, and whether individual lives and stories turn out to be triumphs or tragedies are all very much within Shepard's power to decide.

This lesson is applicable to Real Life more than a Wish-Fulfillment standpoint; in the end, things do not have value because they last and if anything, they will eventually be gone and replaced. Ultimately, the world will settle itself out for better or worse, all that matters is people deciding how the short or long-term stories of one another turn out.

Mass Effect tells us "Carpe Diem."

Mass Effect trilogy as a story of The Unchosen One pushed past their limits

Despite Shepard being the Alliance's newest Spectre candidate, they weren't the first, so they are not really the Chosen One by any reasonable measure—much less the chosen one to deal with Saren's treason and an invasion of the Milky Way by technological horrors from beyond. In other words, in the first game, Shepard is firmly The Unchosen One—just a normal soldier who goes out of their way to save the world.

And that is where the story of The Unchosen One was supposed to end: the first thing we see in the sequel is Shepard being killed by the new enemy way beyond a normal soldier's ability to withstand. But Shepard's story does not end. Recognizing their new symbolic value, the shadowy genius of Cerberus transforms Shepard both metaphorically and physically. On the metaphoric level, they undergo a metamorphosis from The Unchosen One to The Chosen One. On the physical level, the entire "normal soldier" part goes by the wayside: the new, chosen Shepard is a cyborg, combining the best qualities of human character with the galaxy's most bleeding edge tech.

But as the third and final game shows, despite their transformation, Shepard still remains a fundamentally human being. When exposed to the immense burden of wearing a Messianic Archetype's shoes, their psyche starts creaking at the seams and puts them on an ultimately self-destructive path.

  • On a larger scale the trilogy is the story of the unchosen species pushed way past its limits. Humans were uplifted by no one — not the Protheans who studied them, not the asari who enjoy guiding other races and not the Salarians who uplift species all the time. When they discovered mass effect tech and started to expand, their first contact with an alien race was in the form of unprecedented warfare. After that, they were treated like the little kid trying to sit at the big boys' table. Shortly after, they find themselves fighting a proxy war with a race that openly practices slavery, an army of Killer Robots that only they can stand against in time, and a race of advanced insectoids that target entire colonies en masse. The final icing is that a race of Eldritch Abominations consider them to be their prime target for assimilation, and thereby launch their entire force at their home planet.

Despite being treated as a pest or, worse, dangerous dissidents, humanity (particularly in the form of one special human) now has to unite the other races if there's to be any chance of survival. The Turians need humanity's help to evacuate their Primarch, the Krogan need humanity's help to distribute a genophage cure, the Quarians start a war against the geth and then desperately need humanity's help when the Reapers get involved, and even the asari ask for humanity's help in getting the Reapers off Thessia. How much responsibility can one species shoulder like that?

No one ever conceptualized fighter carrier ships before humans did, stunning everyone. An analysis on why this is the case.

Why is it that the technologically advanced asari and salarians, the militaristic turians, even the ocean dwelling hanar or the quarians with their fleet based culture never ever come up with the idea of an aircraft carrier? Even the robotic geth don't conceptualize carriers once they gain their freedom from the quarians. A closer examination of each alien species reveals why.

The asari call their soldiers huntresses, with a few being designated as commandos. The huntresses were most likely derived from hunting parties that foraged for food before the Protheans taught them agriculture, and then once they stopped foraging, the huntresses were used as local militia and a peace-keeping posse. They most likely saw very little actual conflict with other huntresses, since cooperation and diplomacy became the norm. They evolved into spec ops, as an overtly diplomatic culture will need problem individuals like bellicose matriarchs or ardat yakshi quietly dispatched behind the scenes, rather than amassing armies and fighting conventional wars. Therefore, the asari most likely never even conceptualized a navy before they became spacefarers. When they built a navy, it was most likely just a basic space navy intended to protect their ships, and therefore lacking tactical depth. Having never fought a naval conflict, they never realized a need for carriers. Their contact with the salarians, volus and elcor were peaceful, and even the rachni were not exactly shipbuilders. By this time, they had plenty of allies more adept at fighting those sorts of battles, so they focused on where their strengths lay: biotics. They were therefore never in a position where they had to think of using carriers as an out of the box method to win a naval war.

The salarians have much the same issues as the asari. They too relied so much on spec ops, spies and scientists to influence the outcome of conflicts, with a large number of their wars "ending before it even started", that they too never had a history of naval conflict on which to base the need for a carrier. They, like the asari, had the krogan, then the turians and finally humans to do the conventional war fighting for them.

Although the quarians built a humongous fleet to sustain them while they wandered the stars, they actually had no need for carriers, because carriers are actually a long range power projector. Carriers that are kept close to shore, or close to the bulk of the fleet in the quarians' case are useless, as those fighters may as well be stationed at airfields, or any ships' shuttle bay in the quarians' case. Carriers are meant to operate far away from the home port or home fleet and strike targets with the full complement of an airfield, targets that would have otherwise not been reachable from that airfield. In the quarians' case, they aren't inclined to strike distant targets using a lone carrier, they instead stay out of such situations to preserve their numbers, or just take their entire fleet and strike. The geth are similar as in, they just want to protect their holdings in the veil and do not want to carry out the kind of long range offensive ops that carriers are best suited for.

The hanar are ocean dwellers and we know not if they had a history of intra-species warfare. But since the ocean is a natural habitat, their "naval" conflict would have been similar to a 3-D infantry engagement or an air war, since they can swim in all dimensions in the ocean. So, they never needed carriers, not when they themselves could get where they needed to go without neccesarily using vehicles.

The volus and elcor most likely never had enough warfare in their history to discover the need for carriers. Volus owing to their Proud Merchant Race culture, traded and bartered rather than contest resources, so they never had a naval conflict, while the uber-conservative Elcor who are so deliberate to even avoid falling, most likely never got into many conflicts either. Even if they did, that conservatism would prevent such radical ideas as a fighter carrier from being given any consideration.

The Turians if no one else, should have developed carriers. After all, they are a proud soldier race where a martial outlook permeates into everything. So, a long range power projector like a fighter carrier should have been conceptualized by someone right? Especially, as a dextro species, they are more likely to have garrisons on a few planets, and would need a navy to defend and resupply them. The reason they didn't, could be biological. Garrus reveals in the third game, that turians are horrible swimmers, and so avoid large water bodies. This is most likely from the metallic carapace they evolved to mitigate the high levels of star radiation on Palaven. So, their oceans might have been too much of an environmental hazard for them to operate navies. They would have instead, just built aircraft to traverse those oceans, and built land based airfields everywhere. Instead of projecting power over their oceans with a navy, they most likely kept their power projection limited over contiguous land. This also explains why the turians didn't embark on large scale colonization after winning the Krogan war - they want to keep their colonies close by in order to be better defensible. That is why Sparatus can't fathom why humans colonize planets so far away - he doesn't get the power projection capability of a navy.

The Krogan - an examination of how to conceptualize a warrior race and the realistic consequences of such a society

So, you want to build a proud race of warriors for your new IP. You know the common expectations - they will be Blood Knights who are eager to fight at the drop of a hat, perhaps sometimes too eager. They may place a great emphasis on honor, particularly honor, courage and grit in battle, but espouse a War Is Glorious mindset to the point that non-combatants are treated as lower than dirt. But you have a reputation for attention to detail, so you must carefully consider this race’s origins and evolution, not just biological but societal too. Where do you begin?

The usual starting point has been apex predator species - hunters at the top of the food chain with millennia of experience in stalking prey and killing them. The need to hunt and kill for survival naturally translates into Blood Knight tendencies and a War Is Glorious mindset, doesn’t it? And wouldn’t disdain for those who cannot hunt translate well into Klingon Scientists Get No Respect? Well, not quite! Because a predator species with such a selfish mindset would have gone extinct eons ago. Because if only the lone successful hunter who takes down a mammoth beast that day gets to eat and feed its mate(s) and offspring, then all the other hunters which didn’t kill that beast that day, and all their mates and offspring starve and become even less capable of successfully hunting. All the while, surplus meat from the beast not consumed by the successful hunter rots, spoils and is lost. Continuing this way leads to mass starvation and die-offs. So, it is usually in the best interests of a predator species to adapt a more cooperative coordinated foraging strategy where every hunter that participates in a successful hunt irrespective of whether they actually killed the prey, gets to share in the spoils. More of the species gets to eat, which means more can hunt effectively. This translates into a more result oriented mindset where the successful prosecution of a hunt overrides all considerations of honor or “fairness”. And this further translates into a lack of disdain for those who cannot physically hunt, but can contribute to the success of the hunt, such as crafters of better tools and weapons, scribes who can document successful and unsuccessful foraging patterns to improve the hunt’s efficiency, cooks who tamed fire and found ways to maximize nourishment from the hunt’s spoils and such. Therefore, predator societies quickly outgrow selfish Blood Knight and Honor Before Reason tendencies and avoid Klingon Scientists Get No Respect. So, a predator species isn’t a viable starting point for your warrior race.

Then you realize that a prey species actually does fit the bill in many aspects. As a prey, survival really depends on outrunning, outfighting or out-enduring predators, as well as an “everyone for themselves” mentality. This everyone for themselves mentality also translates to disdain for those members of your species who are too slow and too weak, and therefore culling them in a hunt only helps the stronger, faster, more alert members of the species live to pass on their genes. This is Survival of the Fittest at its base - a familiar attitude for a warrior race. The paranoia of being attacked by a predator at any time, also leads to a heightened fight or flight response, which translates into a Hair-Trigger Temper and an always ready to fight mentality. Sound familiar? This reliance upon sheer physical prowess alone to survive, also means disdain for the physically less capable of the species, as cerebral abilities become useless when set upon by predators. Instead, the more cerebral but less physical become The Load for the stronger faster members. This translates into Klingon Scientists Get No Respect. So how does a defensive prey species become a warrior species? By being too tough to kill instead of being nimble and evasive. You would therefore need your species to be something akin to a mastodon rather than a rabbit. You’ll need your species to be Walking Tank types. Its preferred fighting style is also affected by its role as a prey. Since prey species need to rely more on peripheral vision to catch predators sneaking up on them, they won’t have the same binocular vision and depth perception as predator species. This means a preference for close quarters combat as opposed to ranged combat. Sound familiar? Another adaptation is selfish herd behavior instead of pack behavior. While predator species form packs and determine a hierarchy which in turn defines clear cut roles to play during the forage and hunt, prey species follow selfish herd behavior where the weakest tend to be placed on the periphery where they can get picked off, allowing the stronger to escape and survive - or bulrush a distracted predator and survive. Therefore a herd mentality combined with a preference for close combat translates to swarm or horde tactics. Sound familiar?

And then other factors kick into place. Because of the “evolutionary arms race” between predators and prey, our tough prey species may need to evolve other ways to survive. To ensure continued survival after a potentially debilitating predator attack, you may need a Healing Factor - such as redundant nervous systems and multiple redundant organs. However, a honed ability to heal and recover from otherwise lethal injuries means that barring frequent injuries, an individual member of this species lives for a very long time. Such as say 1400+ years. Yet another evolutionary adaptation to constant and increasingly effective predation is a very high birth rate to quickly offset losses to hunters. Therefore your warrior species is one that is extremely tough and resilient, breeds explosively, lives for a very long time and has a particularly heightened paranoid fight response. It also prefers close range battle and swarm tactics. All these characteristics perfectly describe krogan.

And then we have to look at what realistically happens to such a species when they do eventually evolve intelligence and industry. We see that although the ubiquitous threat of predation has ceased, their extremely long lives and explosive birth rates mean that their planet’s ecology will eventually fail to sustain them. Being so physiologically tough and possessing of redundant organs also means an individual specimen’s food requirement is quite high. So, when their planet’s ecology becomes unsustainable for their exponentially growing population, Thomas Hobbes’s infamous quote comes into play - “when all the world is overcharged with inhabitants, then war provideth for all, be it by victory or death”. Internecine warfare amongst themselves becomes their only recourse. But since they are all already Walking Tank swarms, warfare escalates into tit for tat usage of bigger and more powerful weapons. Which ends with the krogan nuking themselves and slowly dying out. Which is how the desperate salarians find them.