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We don't know, and will probably never know considering the mass killings, those converted into husks, those completely vaporized by reaper fire, those that were never recovered in space, and those that died indirectly as a result of infection and malnutrition.Forever224 (talk)

What he said. This has been asked in many places on this wiki, chaos resulting.  Insufficient actual numbers are provided, although the oft-criticized figures in the "Heart of Courage trailer" can be read in conjunction with in-game dialogue to suggest that world-wide, two million died in the first day and another seven million in the first week (the figures for Palaven are similar, as quoted by Garrus).

Best guess: start with game duration - some time between the start of October 2186 and the end of that year, so about three months, say a hundred days. 

Where the Reapers don't stop to indoctrinate, they obliterate big targets - low-hanging fruit, cities like Adelaide being destroyed outright. By 2186 it has four million inhabitants. If one such city is obliterated per day, that's 400 million dead. That's a later development, though. At first the Reapers are processing humans - presumably to make more Reapers. The codex entry for Reaper variants indicates "there are more than 400 processor ships on Earth, killing approximately 1.86 million humans per day," so allow another 200 million deaths by slaughter ship. Unknown numbers are lost to indoctrination, starvation, etc. but half a billion deaths seems like a reasonable lower bound. 

  • As I think we've discussed before, it depends heavily on how long the war went on.  The numbers are much higher if you think the war lasted more like a year to eighteen months, since more people will die from the Reaper processing and societal collapse factors. Luper567 (talk)
  • The game proper is said by the codex to take place in 2186 which would limit it to three months. The known dates don't quite rule out the late stage of the war being at the start of 2187; the Citadel DLC for example takes place near end 2186/start 2187; we know EDI at one point looks into a buying a 2187-model car for Joker. (This could be a case of pre-order for later delivery - not uncommon with video games <grin>). However, longer term hostilities are ruled out - specifically, 'a year to eighteen months' is out of the question. For example, First Irune Investment Trusts issues a report saying the economy will collapse in a year at the outside - "Citadel races cannot sustain the cost of the war effort for more than one year... if the war does not end within the next year, galactic financial collapse is inevitable."  SDoradus (talk)
  • Resonable people can disagree, but I hardly think that longer timeframes can be dismissed out of hand.  The warnings you talk about are just that: predictions about things that haven't happened yet.  As I recall, those warnings are issued very early in the game, at the height of the panic, by the absolute least martial race in the galaxy.  Of course they're going to say the sky is falling, and rightly so.   Even if they're completely right, it's entirely possible that the galactic financial collapse was happening around everyone's ears, only we don't see it because of the game's laser focus on Shepard and her exploits in combat. Everything about Team Milky Way's final assault on Earth reeks of desparation, so why not add this on to fire too? Luper567 (talk)
  • If financial collapse had happened, the game would be over. Clues like the above are the only indicator the developers could give.
  • Kannik made a prediction of collapse too - that credits would be worthless and trade would revert to a barter system. But that's never close to happening; credits backed by eezo work to buy guns, regardless ("Where there's eezo, there's an economy.") And despite Udina's observation that Earth's economy is 'reduced to an IOU', he can still 'broker enough trade' to keep Hackett's fleet (including the Normandy) supplied - even after the Citadel is hijacked. To me, all that speaks to a short war. The First Irune report appears rather late in the game, not early (in the Spectre terminal messages, well after the Cerberus coup). Historically, I'm reminded of the controversies around the BIS. SDoradus (talk)
  • PS the Volus are hardly the least warlike race. They can be quite militant, when motivated (cf. the Kwunu).  But like the Anglo-Saxons, they tend not to get involved in fighting till the prospect of making a profit has gone. Remember Rupe Elkoss saying he'd send the Alliance a card? Why die for one's country when you can make some other poor bugger do it for you? Besides, we see them out of their element - remember Thane's comment about the Hanar? It's easy to laugh at a fat little envirosuit, but fighting in an ammonia atmosphere would see their enemies laughing out the other side of their mouths.  SDoradus (talk)
  • Still, that's a year-ish from when the message was issued, which was, as you said, about halfway through the game.  For some reason, I thought it came in the first batch after you gain access to the Spectre Terminals.  Still, an unknown amount of time has passed between the fall of Earth and the Cerberus coup.  Probably two-three months; travel takes time, sidequests need time to happen, reports need to be filed, drunk and disorderly charges from shore leave need to be dealt with, negotiations to get people to the table for negotiations need to happen.  Lots of important but boring shit happened, which all adds up. Conservation of detail, my friend.  Even an eighteen month war is pretty short, all things considered.  Luper567 (talk)
  • That's not a year since the issue of the report. It's a year of hostilities. The First Irune report stipulates  "the Citadel races cannot sustain the cost of the war effort for more than one year." I see you're not impressed by volus financial forecasts, but I would be.
  • You're perhaps thinking of the last sentence which says "if the war does not end within the next year, galactic financial collapse is inevitable". You could point to some ambiguity there. Year as in 'duration from issue'? Maybe, but it could be from the end of the financial cycle - less than a year, then. End of calendar year (31st December 2186)? The first attacks came very late September, so that's only three months of hostilities, but it's possible. Of all these I prefer the preceding bald statement, that a year's war effort would bankrupt the Citadel races.
  • In-universe, you're right that 'an unknown time' has elapsed, but the absolute nature of a year's war effort makes the report's position in the game irrelevant. For the record, the Financial Report is apparently triggered by the salarian trying to get his money from the volus banker (near Barla Von's "Elkoss Combine" terminal in the presidium commons). That happens well after the coup. In terms of war assets, about halfway through the game; by my count most of the available missions are already complete by then.
  • High-end games such as the Mass Effect series are usually plotted with a bible containing a backstory with dates. Perhaps one day these will be made public. Meanwhile we can see the results in items like the First Irune report, or Shepard's date of birth, or the start of hostilities in ME3 - which allows us also to put a date to the end of ME2's "Arrival" DLC. There are other little touches throughout the game which also militate against a long war.
  • I have a little document with several such hints which provide a rough timeline. One example to give the flavor;  after meeting Tactus at Chakwas' behest, she asks Shepard to drink an anniversary Serrice Ice brandy toast, less than a year after the first (in ME2). Since ME2 ended late March 2186 at the latest (six months before the attack on Earth), the Cerberus coup must have taken place before late March 2187.  SDoradus (talk)
  • And, if I recall correctly, most of the other Bioware games take place over roughly one year.  Except for Dragon Age 2, which takes place over roughly ten years (each act is about six months-a year long, and there are roughyl three year timeskips between acts.)  Also, anon, it's not that I'm not impressed by First Irune's forecast.  But that's just it; it's a forecast.  Forecasts are by nature probabilistic, best guesses about what will probably happen given the available data.  Because they're probabilistic, any one point in the forecast is almost certainly wrong.  This is true in any kind of forecast, whether financial or weather.  (Weather forecasts are professional interest of mine, and central bank pronouncements are a personal/academic interest of mine).  They should be taken with a grain of salt, especially when they're issued during a panic.  As we've established, the pronouncement was made after the Cerberus coup, one of the lowest ebbs of the war in terms of popular morale. That's what that Allers interview after the coup was about; paragon Shep tries to calm a panic, while renegade Shep stokes the panic to spur recruiting. At best, the First Irune report sets a soft upper-bound on the end of the war somewhere around the end of 2187, plus or minus a few months.  Luper567 (talk)
  • Up to a year of hostilities would put the upper bound, however "soft," at the last quarter of 2187, not the end. There's an arguable lower bound represented by the 2187 Blackout. But it's not about precision. It's about evidence of writer's intent. The pitfalls of forecasting are well known, though pessimists are usually right about the economic impact of major wars, including panics. This forecast however is fictional. It has implications less for the in-universe economy (the game is over before collapse) than for the backstory.  It's true that the devs have to keep markers "soft": whatever string of dates the devs' bible might be tracking before release, they have to allow for the vagaries of gameplay. That said, the best evidence of canon we have is markers like the report, and you haven't presented any evidence of a longer war at all.  
  • In sum: there's plenty to suggest the writers confined the game to the year following 26th. September 2186. In fact, and I hesitate to point this out, but surely you recall the comment by Joker? Almost the whole campaign (from Priority: Citadel I to just before almost the last mission in ME3, Priority: Horizon) is over in "about two weeks." No evidence at all of a longer war has been presented so far. SDoradus (talk)
  • That's absurd, and you know it.  The concussion the Virmire Survivor took on Mars knocked them out cold, for what was apparently hours.  No amount of medigel is going to make that any easier to recover from.  Between that and the other injuries they sustained, they were probably off active duty for minimum six weeks.  Average distance between stars in the Milky Way is 5ly; even if relay travel is completely instantaneous, travel to non-relay systems is not.  Even assuming the systems in a cluster are right next to each other (not a safe assumption at all), there's at leas a full day of travel from the relay to the destination and back.  That's just travel, mind, at or near the max FTL speed of 12ly/day.  And it's not safe to assume they'd go that fast either.  Diplomacy takes time.  Planning the joint turian/krogan operation on Tuchanka likely took weeks to plan and move fleets in place for the assault.  There's some dead space in the narative between the Cerberus coup and the Evening War on Rannoch.  Even the Joker conversation timeline is mutable; he's in a chaotic, frontline situation.  News from a backwater colony like Tiptree would take time to get out.  The Citadel DLC retrofit also probably took a couple weeks.  I've presented plenty of evidence for a longer war, and consider any war shorter than six-nine months to be wildly implausible. Luper567 (talk)
    • So I had forgotten about the Joker conversation and the PTSD asari.  Still, everything outside of that argues for a longer war than three months, much less two weeks.  I'm head-canoning it to after Rannoch, rather than the at the beginning of the game. I sorta get why it's early in the game from a narrative standpoint, but it makes a hash of any sort of realistic timeline. Luper567 (talk)
    • Aeian T'Goni's voice was almost the first thing my Shepard hears on entering Huerta hospital to visit Ash. It's the same day as the invasion, after Priority:Mars Archives, in what the main wiki calls the "Prologue" and before "Act I". I have my own reasons for wishing it were later, but the beginning of the game is where it is. 
  • The evidence for a shorter war is what it is. I make no hypotheses. There's a lot of "likely," "implausible," "probably," and "apparently" in the above. I see no actual evidence. In more detail:
  1. To say "apparently hours" is not evidence. We do not know what the state of medical art is in 2186, still less what Huerta accorded the Virmire Survivor, so that is not evidence either. Not that a few hours matters, though my wife says the ongoing treatment might have involved an induced coma.  Nor is "Diplomacy takes time" evidence. Some diplomacy took minutes, historically. I'm not too concerned with the Citadel DLC because it seems to take place as late as possible in gameplay, but we don't have any evidence of "a couple weeks" for the refit. (I'm reminded of the estimated time in drydock for the Yorktown after the Battle of the Coral Sea and before Midway: marine engineers initially estimated two weeks but Nimitz said "make it two days" and they did.) As to Joker's conversation, where he said "The Reapers rolled in [to Tiptree] about two weeks ago," the "PTSD asari" anchors that. Evidently you recalled that later, good. Can't help the head canon conflict, sorry, but if it helps my own head canon is about three months.
  2. Travel times are unknown, and the galaxy map only shows a fraction of the known relays. As to actual evidence, we do know the Charon and Arcturus systems are 36 ly apart, two days travel; if that's typical, there are many thousands of relays.  Going from a relay to in-system destination doesn't take a "full day", that is, 24 hours - it's less than an hour even for large systems. (A suitable backstory template for crossing a system to a relay uses the given distance from Earth to the Charon Relay, 5.75 light hours or six billion km. FTL from Earth to the Charon Relay then takes a little less than half an hour even using your figure of 12 ly/d for the Normandy, and only twenty minutes using my figure of 14ly/d.)
  3. You credit me with many assumptions. I prefer to calculate, but did find it necessary to adopt a figure of 14 light years per day for the SR-2, rather than the 12 you assumed. "The SR-2 Normandy is the highest-performing frigate in the entire Alliance navy, and possibly the fastest ship in its class."
  4. When researching this a year ago, calculation of travel times for a minimal game (no side visits) ran to less than a day's actual travel time.  There is no information given on wormhole (relay) transit times. Theoretically that's instantaneous, and from cutscenes less than a minute, but I allowed twenty minutes set-up and post-transit localization time.  Travel from a relay to a neighbouring star system would take longer but we have no actual evidence of how much - and that hardly happens in a minimal game anyway. My own preference based on accumulated evidence, including travel time for side missions, is that the game ends on the cusp of the new year. (One more nugget: Liara's notes to herself, including the fourth which appears just after Thessia, are dated 2186. ) That three-month timeline was the basis of the fanfic which was the point of the exercise.  I have to recognize that the devs seem to have confined at least events before the Citadel DLC to be in 2186, and the bare minimum is two weeks up to just after Thessia. (Even Garrus then casually mentions that he's seen "wear and tear" on Shepard in the last "two weeks".)
  • Summary: two weeks from Citadel I to just after Thessia is certainly possible. A year and a half is still unsupported by evidence and specific items in the game rule it out. SDoradus (talk)
  • Again, I feel like a two-week timeline from Citadel 1 to Thessia to be extremely implausible.  Too much happens in the game for it to make sense, and I kinda refuse to believe that the entirety of the game took place in less time than it took me to play it.  The narrative seems to mostly support a six-nine month timeframe end to end for a completionist playthrough, with longer timeframes possible though less likely if you think there was some actual dead-time between some fo the missions (principally between Citadel 2->Geth Dreadnought, and Rannoch->Thessia).  Since you haven't convinced me, nor I you, I say we drop further discussion on it. Luper567 (talk)
  • I hear you. We're not that far apart since I'd prefer three months. But it's a matter of evidence. I only have one piece of evidence for the game extending into the new year, and others which rule out hostilities of more than a year. If people can find anything more pleeeeeze let us know.

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