MASS EFFECT THEORY TIMEZ
You know, one thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is how, in-game, the fact that the current cycle finally bested the reapers is more or less explained with ‘Shepard and her crew are just that awesome’. Which, fair, Shepard is perhaps the most badass person in recent history - but this reasoning has never seemed satisfying to me, because Shepard is still just one person out of idk trillions. She did a lot, but it seems implausible that she was the deciding factor. Exceptional people must have existed in every cycle, but that did not ultimately save them. It probably helped that they reaped (heh) the benefits of thousands of cycles’ work on the Crucible as well, but I’m still not quite convinced.
So! I have been working on a different, systemic theory: the influence of the asari and the volus on galactic life. Hear me out here: both of these cultures primarily choose diplomacy and compromise over violent confrontation if they can. Hell, the volus have pretty much done away with warfare altogether and solve their conflicts with trade. Asari are notorious for their striving for political consensus and focus on communal matters before they make a decision (something that likely drives the shorter-lived species to distraction, but hey, if you’ve got two thousand years to work things out you probably don’t feel the need to stumble headlong into anything). They are also considered the ‘heart’ of galactic politics; their practices and world view have a central role.
What I’m saying is that these two races have facilitated a galaxy that could stand united against an outer threat. The volus keep the galactic economy relatively stable, the asari uphold (or sometimes enforce) a balanced and cooperative political scene. It’s not a perfect system, of course, but it might have afforded this cycle benefits that previous ones didn’t.
What made the protheans fail? Javik hints that it might be their relentless imperialism and the uniformity of their culture; they conquered other races and then forced them to either give up their own ways or be crushed underfoot.The asari culturally prefer co-operation without assimilation, which brings the unity of the protheans without their crippling lack of diversity. (You could of course argue that the asari just take a more insidious, less confrontational route to galactic domination - after all their form of reproduction is semi-parasitic and they do overrule other races when pressed. I still think they’re overall much more benevolent than the protheans, though.)
I just… it’s constantly underestimated how much the asari run things, I think? They don’t get enough credit for how much of a political powerhouse they are and how interesting they are as a culture if you start to really look into it beyond ‘they’re obviously only designed as hot blue space babes’. (Also I always feel bad for the volus being elbowed out of the way by the entitled fuckboy of the galaxy that is humanity. These guys keep your fucking economy afloat, okay, let them have a say in how things are run)