Millions of years ago, the Reapers built the Mass Effect Relays and left them behind for future civilizations to use and study. The hope was to force those civilizations down a technological path which, while far more advanced than what came before, was ultimately inferior to the tech used by the reapers themselves.

Thousands of years ago a species called the Asari rose to sentience. Due to the high concentration of Element Zero on their home planet, every Asari is born with the natural ability to create and manipulate Mass Effect fields -- they had this ability before discovering their Mass Effect Relays.

Why did the same technology develop separately in these two places?

Is there an in-universe explanation beyond "It was a big ol' coincidence"?

Is there an out-of-universe explanation? I can't think of a story reason for the Asari's to have a natural ability that depends on the same phenomenon as Reaper tech. Did there used to be a reason that was later overwritten as parts of the lore were changed between games?

  • 2
    Weren't the Asari experimented on/altered by the Protheans to be more Biotic? I can't look it up, but I thought that is why Liara is so interested in them, because they altered her species
    – JoeryJV
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 15:50
  • The Asari wikia corroborates, but doesn't provide citation. If I had to guess it is probably mentioned in Mass Effect 3 during the Thessia mission.
    – Xantec
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 16:09
  • @Xantec: Indeed. But From Ashes provides some additional commentary if Javik is in the party during that mission.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 2:11

4 Answers 4


The Asari were experimented on by the Protheans which guided and accelerated their advances and gave them their Biotic abilities, though this is a tightly kept secret.

From the Mass Effect Wiki:

The Asari arose on Thessia, a rich world with abundant quantities of element zero that caused much of life on Thessia to exhibit biotic tendencies. Instrumental to the rise of asari civilization was the intervention of the Protheans. Upon discovering the asari, the Protheans crafted the guise of Athame, a benevolent goddess who imparted gifts of wisdom to the asari through her guides Janiri and Lucen, a deception that allowed the Protheans to rapidly accelerate asari development. The Protheans also genetically altered the asari to grant them biotic capabilities, and defended Thessia from an asteroid strike and the resource-hungry oravores.

When the Protheans departed, they left a single beacon on Thessia, around which the asari later built a lavish temple devoted to Athame. This beacon contained Vendetta, a Prothean VI, and over the following centuries was the source of countless technological advances that allowed the asari to eventually become the most powerful race in the galaxy. The beacon's existence became a closely-held state secret, as its revelation would have discredited the virtually universal belief that the asari attained such heights on their own merit. By 2183 CE, few outside the highest echelons of the asari government were aware of the part the Protheans played in asari history.

Since the Protheans were already using Mass Effect technology it is natural that they would introduce this technology to them.


The in-universe reason is well covered by another answer.

Is there an out-of-universe explanation? I can't think of a story reason the Asari's natural abilities need to use the same phenomenon as Reaper tech.

Because Mass Effect is harder sci-fi than you might be otherwise accustomed to.

In Star Trek, the various bits and pieces of technology are only loosely connected to one another. There is a vague sense in which (for example) the warp engines are "related to" the subspace radio. But this is never really elaborated on, and doesn't apply to every pair of technologies (e.g. the warp drive has nothing to do with the universal translator, as far as I can tell). The simultaneous imagining of so many different categories of technological and scientific advancement is what places Star Trek on the softer side of the sci-fi hardness scale.

Mass Effect is different. It quite intentionally limits its speculative fiction to a single change in the laws of physics (the titular mass effect). As a result, there is a far more robust relationship between all of the different pieces of technology. Biotics and ("conventional") FTL, for example, both "run on" the mass effect, as do kinetic barriers, mass relays, and so on. This allows the writers to spend more time developing the fictional physics of the Mass Effect universe, while also making it feel more real by being closer to real-world physics.

Admittedly, Mass Effect 3 somewhat compromises this purity, by postulating that the Reapers have a far more advanced understanding of AI than is typical among the other races. This is not entirely unreasonable, given that the other races systematically avoided developing AI technology, but still problematic, as the geth ought to have made some progress in their 300 years of exile. The use of quantum entanglement communication is also somewhat at odds with reality, but this is quite isolated from the rest of the fiction; we never see quantum entanglement used in other "clever" or unorthodox ways.

Despite this "rulebreaking," Mass Effect is still broadly a work of hard sci-fi by modern standards (although it is quite soft by classic sci-fi standards). As such, it would violate genre norms to introduce additional scientific explanations for the mass relays or for the asari's biotic abilities.

  • 1
    +1 for pointing out that that a lot of different sci-fi gizmos are explained by Mass Effect.
    – Daron
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 9:34
  • I can't think of a story reason for the Asari's to have a natural ability that depends on the same phenomenon as Reaper tech: What I mean is there would be no plotholes created by the Asari ability being, instead of biotics, something like super strength and resilience, like the krogan; or the Angara's electrical defenses; or the Vorcha's healing factor; or the Salarians' hyper-metabolism.
    – Daron
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 9:38
  • That's certainly a fair question, but now we have to take a step back and look at the big picture. If biotics are allowed to exist, we should naturally expect some races to be better at it than others, and perhaps for one race to possess it natively. That race is called "the asari." If, on the other hand, we choose not to have biotics in our universe, then we're unwinding quite a lot of important storytelling, including Kaidan's backstory, and we also need to redesign half the gameplay classes to remove Shepard's biotics. The resulting story looks very different from Mass Effect.
    – Kevin
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 3:06

Protheans. Thessia naturally possessed a large amount of Eezo, which is a powerful mutagen. Thus life on Thessia would have had to evolve a method of dealing with it safely which the protheans would merely needed to subtly alter to allow for the use of biotics. The reasoning? Nobody really knows, since if the Reapers found the protheans doing something as obvious as a genetic uplift on a strategically important world (Large amounts of Eezo) they probably would have killed them all and reverse or alter the changes to their uses (or just kill them too).

  • 1
    I've edited your post to remove the profanity, as this is a 13+ target audience. Also, do you have any corroboration for these claims? I would encourage you to read the help sections and the tour to get an idea of how the site works. Welcome!
    – JohnP
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 20:12

The Asari are so advanced due to a Protheans beacon on Thessia. The same kind found in the beginning of ME1. They built a temple around it and it shot their biotic evolution far ahead of other races in shorter time. If humans had found 1 on earth then we would've evolved much faster and differently than we did.

  • 1
    This doesn't seem to add anything that isn't already in the accepted answer from last year.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 18:34
  • Also, it is not the presence of the beacon that produces the biotic enhancement. The Protheans had already done their tinkering before they put the beacon there. The beacon provided technological advantages, not biotic.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 18:38
  • Everyone seems to think that the Protheans experimented on them. Which isn't true. I merely expressed my opinion. Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 18:40
  • 1
    @JeffLMaxwell - I would encourage you to read a little more about how the site works. We aren't a discussion forum, we expect answers to be backed up. Your assertion that the Protheans experimented on them not being true is interesting, but runs counter to the current sourced answers. If you could provide evidence for this other than your opinion, it would help greatly.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 18:51
  • Play ME3. They explain much of it in there. Not to mention all the comics and short stories from the creators. I'm obsessed with the Mass Effect universe. I have everything there is to read about it. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 11:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.