Mass Effect: Quarians Are the Toughest Species in the Galaxy

Quarians kick ass. Here's a whole article about them.

Of the many, varied species in the Mass Effect universe, quarians might not look like the most likely to win a war.

Most of their toughness comes from necessity. They aren’t huge like krogans or quick like salarians, although super-krogan Grunt does say that quarians are hard to kill. Many of the things they’ve accomplished in the timeframe in which the Mass Effect games are set have either lead to or been necessitated by the loss of, Rannoch, their homeworld. Quarians easily become sick and were shunned from many places in the galaxy as vagabonds, but because of this, they’ve had to adapt to survive. There are a lot of reasons why these fragile-looking aliens are a contender for the toughest species in the galaxy.

Throughout much of their history, quarians were no more or less warlike than humans.

The Mass Effect series shows many ways in which one species creating another can go well or badly. Humans created intelligent AI, such as EDI, who helped Shepard. The quarians created the geth, who turned against them. Even Shepard in Mass Effect 2 is a construct of a sort. In this way, quarians contribute strongly to the narrative, not only to the fictional war.

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They had a standing army and average weapons technology, and liaised with the Citadel Council. Then they got greedy and created AI slaves known as “geth.” The geth, becoming a powerful hive mind beyond their masters’ control, turned on the quarians and took Rannoch for themselves. The quarians were forced to flee the planet under threat of extinction. They were forced to become exiles. Sound familiar, sci-fi fans? 

The quarians made some active attempts to find a new world on which to live. They ran into trouble with the Citadel Council when they attempted to colonize a planet called Ekuna, but sent several thousand of their members to the planet’s surface before the council agreed. The council demanded that they leave the planet, and the quarians moved on again.

The distrust expressed by other species in the galaxy towards the quarians sometimes mirrors the real world treatment of Romani (more often known by the derogatory name Gypsies)

The diaspora continued, and shaped the quarian race which Shepard would come to know.

For example, their technical ability increased out of necessity. Quarians lived for hundreds of years on spaceships, becoming used to self-sustaining synthetic ecosystems. Tali, the series’ most famous quarian, even remarks that she has trouble sleeping if she can’t hear the sound of an engine. Tali and her father are inventors and researchers, because of both individual smarts and a species-wide close experience with machines.

Another thing that sets quarians apart are their sealed suits. Sure, quarians’ suits were created out of a need to defend against disease, not for war like Shepard’s armor. They’re not a point of pride, but rather something that quarians long to escape. But the suits show quarian scientists’ determination and resourcefulness. Some germs can kill a quarian, but they’d have to go through a shield of technology first.

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These aren’t natural defenses like the krogans’ thick skins, but their suits give the quarians another level of both mystery and defense. Quarians’ suits are placed in parallel to many other armored characters, such as protagonist Shepard, whose armor is first a choice and a sign of a military career, and second a coffin and an imposition (after Shepard is rebuilt by Cerberus.)

Another proof of their not so hidden badassery? The quarians created the geth. This hive mind of artificial intelligence were never supposed to be more than servants to the quarians, but as they began to think deeper, the two species couldn’t share a homeworld. In Mass Effect 3, it’s possible to broker a deal between the geth and the quarians where they rebuild their shared homeworld together. It took a long time, but quarians did what Reapers couldn’t do: co-exist with the creatures they stewarded. The quarians created the geth for military work. Just imagine what they could have done if they’d used that army to conquer the galaxy.

Admiral Daro’Xen even writes a letter to Shepard in Mass Effect 2 in which she suggests that, if the quarians researched the geth enough and returned them to their original role, they could “reclaim not just their homeworld, but the largest synthetic army in the galaxy.” In a way, quarians and geth are two sides of the same coin – one race which seeks to colonize and destroy, and another which creates its own society far away from other races.

The book The Art of the Mass Effect Universe reveals that quarians were influenced by geth design and vice versa. This is especially visible in their hands, which share a spindly, insect-like quality with that of the geth crawlers. The quarians’ masks replicate the curving shape of the geth heads and necks. If an enemy soldier found themselves on the wrong end of a quarian’s gun they might notice the similar quick, jerky movements. Before Tali’s face was revealed, some fans speculated that the shape of a quarian’s face might look like the flaps around geth heads. The look of both shares some visual language with the entire Mass Effect universe, including stark vertical lines, blue and silver tones, and a mix of metallic and cloth surfaces.

Not all quarians have to fight indirectly through technology. Veteran soldier Kal’Reegar from Mass Effect 2 brings a whole new level of intensity to the species by himself, and he’s far from the only militant quarian. Introduced as the last survivor of a group tasked with protecting Tali, Kal’Reegar is a classic soldier who just happens to be wearing a suit to protect him from germs. He’s also Adam Baldwin, and the voice actor brings both authority and warmth to the character.

Then there are the admirals – often bickering, but also potential allies to Shepard. The Migrant Fleet has a vast number of ships, a Special Projects division, and operates under a Conclave of admirals.

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Due to their military strength and technological savvy, the quarians are a vital ally in the war against the Reapers, the series god-like antagonists. If the galaxy hopes to survive, it’ll need the technical ingenuity of the quarians and their battleships on the frontline.

Like every species, quarians serve in a variety of roles, but they’ve had to do it all while being marooned in space by their own creation. If what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, quarians may be the strongest species in the Mass Effect galaxy.

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