Note: Due to the nature of this blog, there will be spoilers.

Perhaps one of the greatest criticisms about Mass Effect 3 was its apparent contradiction of the previous themes the lore had established by relying on one of the most overused science fiction conventions: the Crucible, an uberpowerful weapon capable of destroying the Reapers. While others chalked the use of this trope up to poor writing, others criticized it for another reason: the belief that a victory without the Crucible was possible. There are those among us, of course, who believe this is naturally impossible, such as Chris Shepard: "Conventional victory against the reapers? Lol, dude, you're going up against hand cannons with a peashooter, the reapers were designed to be unstoppable, and that's just what they were. I was fully expecting a 'loophole' ending, and ME delivered a great one."

The Reject ending, what I consider to be a true "science fiction" ending, didn't support this either, yet countless Mass Effect fans continue to debate the merits of either side of this position. After a lot of deliberation, I've come up with a conclusion myself: in spite of the near invincibility the Reapers were bestowed plot-wise, a conventional victory is possible, and here's why.

This blog is nothing more than a hypothetical thought experiment that looks at the strengths and weaknesses of a possible victory against the Reapers. I'd welcome anyone to critique it and argue against it; that's what good debates are made of. Note also that a "conventional" victory simply refers to one in which the Crucible is not used. It doesn't imply that a battle against the Reapers would be easy or simplistic; it simply takes into account the myriad resources the galaxy had available.

First, let's examine the key advantages the Reapers have: there are several types that have been recognized, such as Processors, Transports, Destroyers, and finally Capital Ships, the last of which are the gigantic and powerful Reapers on the scale of Sovereign and Harbinger. According to the codex, Processors are in essence the ships that harvest various races for their genetic material - nearly two million humans are harvested daily during the Reaper invasion of Earth by merely about 200 of these ships - while Transports are used to carry husks and similar indoctrinated during invasions; both of these forms of Reapers are unique in that they are not sapient, instead controlled by other Reapers.

Destroyers, the most common form of Reaper that is encountered during the events of Mass Effect 3, comprise the majority of the Reaper fleet and respectively are created from the genetic material of the majority of the species harvested during their invasions. Then, there are Capital Ships, lumbering titans that are unique in that each is created entirely from a chosen civilization during each cycle of destruction; these are effectively the chief executors of the Reaper population, and for sake of argument, let's assume one is created each time. Judging by the oldest known Reaper, dating back about one billion years, this would mean that no less than 20,000 Capital Ships exist, and when factored in with remaining Reaper forces, I'd estimate that no less than half a million Reapers exist in total, and it could be innumerably more; this is entirely speculation after all. 

In addition to their intimidating numbers and immense scale, Reapers have the key advantage of being extremely advanced in contrast to the civilizations they're invading; their ability to reach Council space so quickly after the events of Mass Effect 2 - several months - suggests that their FTL drives are incredibly superior to any ship known to the races in the current galaxy, and their strongest ships have superior kinetic barriers, powerful guns, and precise targeting abilities that allow them to make work of entire fleets without much trouble. Judging by the number of destroyed fuel stations that players encounter while exploring Reaper-infested territory, Reapers also seem to operate with an energy system far beyond organic comprehension as well. Their strongest forces can shield themselves up to three simultaneous attacks from dreadnought-class ships before being taken down.


The indoctrinating powers of Reapers allow them to easily create sleeper units that can infiltrate and sabotage the plans of any resistance - this was the primary reason that the Protheans failed to finish the Crucible; legions of husks and other grotesque Reaper creations supply the bulk of the ground forces used to overwhelm the areas they invade. In addition to this comes the durability of their strongest ships, which take on average four dreadnoughts to be destroyed. These advantages, however, do not compare to their greatest advantage.

Reapers have hundreds of millions of years experience exterminating galactic civilization, with a methodology that is crude, efficient, and has nonetheless become an art in itself. As the creators of the Citadel, they have effectively designed a central location that has been chosen as the nexus of galactic order by advanced organics since its inception. This has allotted them a key strategic advantage in that they are often able to topple the galaxy's primary leaders within one fell swoop and set the rest of the adjoining civilizations into confusion and disarray. As creators of the Mass Effect Relays, controlled via the Citadel, the machine race has unquestionable control over the maneuvering capabilities of the resistance and can deactivate the Relays to isolate the resistance and systematically annihilate them. Thus, when one considers all these advantages - and many others, I'm sure - defeating the Reapers without Space Magic or some plot device seems highly improbable.

Notice I said "improbable," but not impossible.

There are several notable weaknesses the Reapers have when one takes the events depicted throughout the series into consideration, which I will delve into before offering my own strategy to defeat the Reapers conventionally. Firstly, it's evident based upon their approach that the Reapers' primary means of action has always focused on the same objectives, instead of having any innovation: surprise, infiltration and sabotage (usually through indoctrination), and destruction of resources, followed by a sweep of powerful units in overwhelming numbers. With technology as advanced as theirs as their primary advantage, in addition to indoctrination, one could say it's pretty obvious why the Reapers have never changed their methodology; countless cycles have shown that the battle against the Reapers naturally isn't going to be one dictated purely by numbers, but by the subtle value those numbers have. However, the statement is two-folded if we consider the lesson the Reapers learned through the loss of Saren.

We've only seen the Reapers change their strategy because of the setbacks put into motion to the strategy they'd honed so immaculately, suggesting that they probably don't have much experience conducting war without this measure. In contrast, the galaxy currently has a wealth of different resources and military strategies to draw from. Space-age technology also ensures we have the production power necessary to successfully compensate for any units lost, provided the resources are available, and even the ability to manufacture stronger ones; the much-needed dreadnoughts, for instance. Imagine what we're able to accomplish in the future, especially with the technological expertise we've developed through our contact with the other Council races! Quite a few treaties would probably need to be signed or amended, but for the sake of the Galaxy it's safe to say - as Shepard has proven - that some grudges and disagreements can be set aside temporarily. 

On the other hand, the Reapers have little need of our natural resources, and instead are quick to demolish them to impede any resistance. Nonetheless, the Reapers rely on sentient organisms to reproduce and create new forces, as well as conduct the majority of their warfare, a limited but essentially infinitely reusable resource given the ability to indoctrinate their enemies, if not the primary need: they most likely wouldn't be capable of matching our production rate otherwise, let alone surviving without organics and synthetics as a proxy. Yet, all this reveals is that the Reapers, while still daunting, aren't as invincible as they initially seem.