One of the classic archetypes in the realm of science-fiction is that of the warmongering race. Star Wars had the Mandalorians, a collective of people from various species and homeworlds who were bound by a common culture of proving their worth through combat. Star Trek had the Klingon, a race based on Feudal Japan, aspiring to honor and righteous warfare. The newer members to this classic trope are the Krogan of Bioware’s massive trilogy of Sci-Fi RPGs, Mass Effect.
Who Are the Krogan?
The Krogan were originally a clan-based, warmongering race on the planet Tuchanka. The Krogan managed to thrive there, gaining extensive technological advancements, especially in the fields of warfare and weaponry. An already inhospitable environment, the Krogan all but destroyed the world after gaining access to nuclear weapons, reducing themselves to warring tribes of a more primitive level.
At this time in the galaxy, the races that had come together to form galactic relations, notably the council races of the Asari, Salarians, and Turians, had unwittingly discovered the Rachni, a race of space-faring, intelligent insects that bore deep into planets to create giant underground nests. The council races could not successfully defend themselves from the Rachni, and attempts at negotiation were met with silence.
The Salarians, a race noted for their extreme scientific intellect (And often lack of ethical judgment) decided to “culturally uplift” the Krogan, giving them advanced technologies and relocating them to a world without high levels of radiation. The Salarians quickly redeemed this goodwill by asking the Krogan to fight the Rachni. Unlike most other species with slow breeding cycles, each Krogan female was able to conceive massive egg clutches of up to one thousand offspring a year. This, coupled with their warlike nature, helped the Krogan to decimate the Rachni, forcing them back to their homeworld, which the Krogan bombarded from space, before detonating powerful explosives within the Rachni nests, collapsing large sections of their planet.
The Krogan Rebellions
After the Rachni were eradicated, the Krogan were award several of their planets, as well as other planets that were unclaimed and habitable. Without a sufficient source of predators or harsh conditions, the Krogan population boomed, and they began to quickly spread throughout the galaxy. The council races became concerned as the Krogan began annexing claimed planets as their own, and negotiations with the Krogan quickly failed. They claimed the Asari colony of Lusia, and when told to leave their representative, Overlord Kredak, left the council chambers, daring them to take the world back. This quickly spiraled into all-out war with the Krogan.
The Turians were selected to lead the assaults against the Krogan, and many operations were successful. Turian ideals demand that enemies should not only be beaten, but stopped from ever again becoming a threat. This mindset rallied the Turian race to the cause of defeating the Krogan.
Unfortunately for the council races, the Krogan reproduced at an astounding rate that none of them could match, meaning Krogan warriors were never in short supply. None of the other races could stand against the Krogan, who had begun wiping out Turian worlds, rendering three completely inhospitable. And with that in mind, the Turians turned to the Salarians for the answer.
The Salarians had developed a biological weapon known as the Genophage. When deployed, it would effectively reduce the viable birth rate of the Krogan down to nearly zero, with only one in every two thousand births surviving. The Salarians had created it with the intention of using it as a deterrent, but the Turians actively deployed it against the Krogan in a two pronged attack, decimating their numbers in battle and cutting off additional troops.
Soon the Krogan had been pushed back to Tuchanka, and faced the same total eradication the Rachni had. Fearing for the survival of their species, the Krogan finally surrendered. This ended the Krogan Rebellions, but the races are still uneasy with each other. The Turians lament the loss of several planets, and the Krogan find inconsolable rage concerning the Salarians. The Krogan numbers are still dramatically low, and many find difficulties in continuing their clan structure.
For many years after, some Krogan became rogue warlords and insurgents, continuing the fight against the Turians. Many became fearsome mercenaries for hire, and any group would welcome a decked-out Krogan to their team. Some even ventured into frontier space, becoming pirates that raided anyone they would come across.
Krogan During Mass Effect
For those not wanting spoilers for the Mass Effect series, please skip the following section.
During the Mass Effect trilogy, the player interacts with several notable Krogan, and can impact their race heavily. In Mass Effect 1, players are introduced to Urdnot Wrex, a headstrong mercenary looking to bring down a bounty. On a mission to Virmire, the player discovers the Turian Saren may have found a cure for the genophage, and is using it to produce a Krogan army. The STG, a Salarian espionage organization, plans to bomb the plant, and Wrex stands in the way. Depending on how close the player has gotten with Wrex, he will either be shot and killed, or persuaded to see that Saren would only use the cure to enslave the Krogan, and grudgingly allows the plant to be bombed.
In Mass Effect 2, players are introduced to Grunt, a bio-engineered Krogan bred to be the perfect specimen. He struggles with his own existence, feeling as though he hasn’t earned the strength given to him. Other Krogan are disgusted by him, feeling him to be unnatural. If the player left Wrex alive in the first game, he will be head of the Urdnot clan, and will accept Grunt into the clan after performing a rite of passage. He becomes Urdnot Grunt, and feels himself to be a worthy Krogan.
Mass Effect 3 provides the biggest change to the Krogan story. In the final chapter of this saga, players are able to cure the genophage once and for all. The Krogan birthrate increases, and the extended ending shows Krogan children for the first time. This represents one of the biggest shifts in Mass Effect lore, impacting the entire Krogan species.
The Krogan, like most science fiction races, have a relative approximation to real-world societies. They are very reminiscent of Mongols, forming large clan-based societies that are partially nomadic, spreading out in the name of conquering and personal accomplishment. They are also somewhat druidic in nature, similar to some of the ideals that the Chinese Daoism transfused into Mongol culture.
Initially seeming very reptilian, especially next to the amphibious Salarians, the Krogan are also heavily based on mammals. Their faces are inspired by bats, while their thick, tough skin and large bodies are inspired by Indian rhinoceroses. In the final draft of Urdnot Wrex, seen above, his face is also very similar to those of modern day tortoises.
The architecture of the Krogan is similar to a staple of Fantasy, the Dwarf. Their buildings are often towering, geometric, and built to last the ages. Even after the nuclear war that broke out on Tuchanka, many buildings still stand tall, and are habitable. They are inspired by the real-life architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, who coined the term “organic architecture”, where buildings were in harmony with the natural world. This ties back into Krogan culture of existing within their world, one that is harsh and unforgiving. Their buildings are built to fight back against their hostile environment.
The Krogan is an interesting species, and their development as shown through individuals in the Mass Effect games is some of the best in recent science fiction. Their strength of will is endearing, their strength in general terrifying, and they are notable catalysts to much of what happens in the Mass Effect universe. They fill the role of warrior race, but also manage to break out from this mold to become something else, something memorable, something all their own.
“When the Rachni laid waste to the galaxy two-thousand years ago, when all seemed lost and the end was near, one word delivered the killer blow. One word drove the monsters back into the abyss, and one word delivered death to an enemy none dared fight. And that word was, ‘KROGAN’! And today, the Krogan rise again. Today, we forge a new path and join the galaxy as allies in victory. Today, we win our future!” – Urdnot Wrex
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