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Up front this is NOT my work, I found this while perusing the internet in a fit of confused and misdirected anger after beating mass effect three. PLEASE read ALL of this.I know It's long but it's totally worth it.
Is it just me, or does the entire ending sequence not feel like it fits in with the overall theme of the ME universe? It just feels.... off. I cant really describe it.
It seems otherworldly and kind of unfocused.
And when you talk to TIM, you get those weird black things at the edges of the screen.
I am of the opinion that once reaching the Citadel, severely wounded, and losing blood, Shepard hallucinated most of the ending sequence.
It would explain why the kid was there.
The weird blackness when TIM tried to control you and you tried to fight it could be Shepard fighting against blood loss and trying not to pass out (hence the darkening around the edges of the screen)
It explains how even the crew who were wounded with you near the portal in London ended up on the Normandy, and even why the Normandy was leaving Earth in the first place, its because Shepard isnt thinking clearly, and these are just the images dreamed up by a deteriorating brain.
Also, there is a likelyhood that having spent so much time around Reapers, Shepard is slightly indoctrinated. The Synthesis ending really doesnt make much sense, other than the fact that the little kid seems to think it is the best option. We never get an explanation on how jumping into a beam of energy that kills us will do anything like what it is said it will do.
The Reapers used Shepard's slight indoctrination and confused state as part of a last ditch effort to get Shepard to take himself out of the picture, since they knew that if they didnt do so, Shepard was about to win.
tl;dr blood loss leads to reaper victory
Hallucination makes the most sense, in my humble opinion.
Maybe Bioware will release a DLC where it turns out the horrible endings were all just a hallucination that you experienced after you got knocked unconscious by Harbinger while heading towards the portal thingy, and then you can go on to have endings that actually make sense.
Edit: fixed my weird formatting Edit 2: Adding a list summarizing the theories that people have come up with in the thread, compiled by Turtlicious:
Thought on the ending:
Parts 1-12 by kyleh619
1. The endgame scenario is Indoctrination/Manipulation from the Reapers (Harbinger) trying to force you into choosing to let the Reapers live. Shepard is not awake during the final sceens!
2. Choosing to control the Reapers allows them to live. Reapers win. They will still exist.
3. Choosing to combine organic and synthetic life: Reapers win. They will still exist.
4. Choosing to destroy all synthetic life: Reapers loose. Shepard lives. Reapers die.
5. Choosing to destroy all synthetic life option is more Renegade in appearence. Controlling the Reapers is more Paragon in appearence. The Illusive Man's choice should not be Paragon colors, just as Anderson's choice should not be Renegade.
6. Shepard awakes at the end of destroying Reapers. But Shepard is not awaking from the aftermath. He is awaking from either after he is hit by Harbingers lazer attack on Earth or after the scene with Anderson and the Illusive Man.
7. Stating that all sythetic life will be destroyed will give you pause; destroying the Geth can force you to a different conclusion. This choice exists for the illusion of choice; the other choices are ment to sound better.
8. Shepard does not awake in the other 2 "endings" because you are fully indoctrinated by the choices you made to allow the Reapers to win. "Assuming Control!"
9. Never trust any child construct, be it a ghost or artificial intelligence, or heck even human. They are just creepy.
10. Shepard awakes at the end because he has broken hold of the Reaper's control.
11. Shepard has spent alot of time around Reapers. Soveriegn, various Reaper artifacts, the Human Reaper, 2 Reaper destroyers, the Artifact from "The Arrival." Its foolish to assume there is not some level of indoctrination.
12. Bioware not only get more $$$ for DLC for the final battle, but big props for INDOCTRINATING A LOT OF ITS OWN PLAYERS! I do not know of another gaming company that has tried to fool all of its consumers, but they look to be the first and reap all of the attention.
13. Look at these screenshots. I believe the 1m1 is a clue, because of how often it shows up, and how human it is, when the ship is supposedly older then the ancients.
Catalyst = 1. Chemistry A substance, usually used in small amounts relative to the reactants, that modifies and increases the rate of a reaction without being consumed in the process. 2. One that precipitates a process or event, especially without being involved in or changed by the consequences
Crucible= 1. A vessel made of a refractory substance such as graphite or porcelain, used for melting and calcining materials at high temperatures. 2. A severe test, as of patience or belief; a trial. See Synonyms at trial. 3. A place, time, or situation characterized by the confluence of powerful intellectual, social, economic, or political forces:
15. Shepard is not wearing his armor when he wakes up in the Citadel, implying that this is a dream.
I have a couple of observations to contribute to the theory that it doesn't seem like others have caught (apologies if someone else caught these already and I missed it...):
16) As soon as Shepherd "wakes up" after being blasted by the Reaper laser, he's limping. If, as you're playing, you try to look/aim down at Shep's feet, you can't. The view angle get's blocked so that you can't see below his/her knees. If you watch the pace of the legs moving, though, it becomes really obvious that Shepherd is moving considerably faster than he is actually walking, almost floating as it were. At first when I noticed this in the my second play-though I just figured it was designed that way because making Shepherds speed the same as his walk would make the last moments in the game take 3 times longer (and it already seemed to take forever). But if we're rolling with the hallucination/indoctrination theory, then the fact that he's practically floating on his feet just adds more fuel to the fire...
17) The line Harbinger repeated over and over in ME2 was that the Reapers would be "your salvation through destruction." Well, the synthesis and control options are literally salvation for the galaxy through Shep's destruction, buying into a compliance mindset. The only option that leaves Shep breathing is to destroy the Reapers, which has been the point since ME1. All the evidence points to the last sequence being a battle for Shepards mind that is only won when Shep chooses the path that the god-kid tries to convince him not to take.
-The endgame scenario is Indoctrination/Manipulation from the Reapers (Harbinger) trying to force you into choosing to let the Reapers live. Shepard is not awake during the final scenes.
-Choosing Control - You can not control them, they control you. Shepard says as much to the Illusive Man moments earlier.
-Choosing Synthesis - Allows everyone in the galaxy to be manipulated by Reaper code, like they have done to the Geth multiple times now.
-Choosing Destroy - Breaks the hold the reapers have on Shepard's mind.
-Choosing to destroy all synthetic life option is more Renegade in appearence. Controlling the Reapers is more Paragon in appearence. The Illusive Man's choice should not be Paragon colors, just as Anderson's choice should not be Renegade. The reapers are saying that Destroy is the worst, Control is worse, and Synthesis is the best. They want you to fail.
-Stating that all sythetic life will be destroyed will give you pause; destroying the Geth can force you to a different conclusion. This choice exists for the illusion of choice; the other choices are ment to sound better.
-Shepard wakes up after Destroy, because the Reaper's hold is diminished. Shepard does not awake in the other 2 "endings" because you are fully indoctrinated by the choices you made to allow the Reapers to win. "Assuming Control!"
-The child does not actually exist. He is an attempt to indoctrinate Shepard. Nobody but Shepard ever sees or interacts with the child.
-When Anderson calls for Shepard at the beginning of the game, when Shepard is talking to the child, Shepard turns back and the child is gone. Shepard has been "snapped out of it".
-When Shepard turns towards Anderson after being "snapped out of it", a growl is heard. In the third novel, when Greyson resisted the reapers they would make a growling noise once they realized they didn't have him under complete control.
-During Shepard's final dream with the child, chatter can be heard over the radio about nobody making it to the beam. Shepard is still in London.
-When Shepard catches the child in the final dream, they are both engulfed in flame. Going with the child (the reapers) means Shepard's destruction.
-Shepard has spent alot of time around Reapers. Soveriegn, various Reaper artifacts, the Human Reaper, 2 Reaper destroyers, the Artifact from "The Arrival." Its foolish to assume there is not some level of indoctrination.
-When Shepard wakes up at the end of Destroy, he/she is waking up in London, after being hit with the laser.
In defense of the Hallucination/Indoctrination theory: the BioWare/Player Indoctrination Theory
With the assistance of my peers throughout the rest of this thread, I have collated a series of facts that I would like to present to the community as being evidence for a a priori intention for the endings of ME3. Some of this information will not be new to a lot of you, and it may seem downright strange to a lot of you. It does require a strong and disorienting amount of suspension of disbelief, so if you cannot engage in this type of thought process, I encourage you to skip over this post. :) It will hurt your brain. Or make you think that I'm crazy. Likely both. (I'm okay with either.)
With the assistance of countless others' highly important observations in this thread, I sumbit to you that possibility the endings of ME3 represent the highest form of the metagaming experience. The highest form of BioWare's "giving the player choice that matters, from ME1 to ME3". The highest form of player interaction that we have yet seen from a video game. This has never before been attempted by a company, and it represents the ballsiest dedication to story and lore that may exist.
I believe that the endings may be indicative of BioWare attempting to allow the player the real-time experience of what indoctrination would be like. This theory explains (in a highly weird, impossible, and completely insane way) all of the missing pieces in the hallucination sequence, and also explains BioWare's real-world actions (such as complete silence since the fan sh*tstorm broke in response to the endings).
If you have not been keeping up with the thread, or if you have not read Byne's/Kitten Tactics/Turtlicious' amalgamation of all of the evidence we have accumulated for the originial hallucination theory on page 1, then I would urge you to do so before you read any more of this post. Due to time constraints, I won't be posting all of the evidences that we have located in this post to confirm or contradict this theory: I leave it in your capable and self-aware hands to attain this information yourself. I am posting this as an add-on to page 1, as I don't think it was properly represented there in its entire grand scope.
So, to the meat of the issue:
We have already established as much evidence as we can that 'proves' that Shepard is either hallucinating/dreaming just prior to/immediately after he runs into Harbinger's beam/Conduit. The hallucination/dream sequence has been quite well fleshed out, with a lot of compelling environmental evidence to support it (again, please see page 1 for further analysis). I am going to use this particular vehicle of suspension of disbelief to propose that BioWare's intention during this sequence is to flag the player with as many markers as they can: This current reality playing before your eyes (the Citadel, the Catalyst, TIM, Anderson) is a reflection of Shepard. It is the product of his/her mind. The meeting with the Catalyst may or may not be rooted in reality; they may meet in some metalphysical dimension, or Shepard may just hallucinate the entire thing. Either way, this theory would argue that it essentially doesn't matter, because what truly matters is the role of the player in this sequence. Your role. The scene is set in a way that urges the player to become aware of things just not being right, of being a place that mirrors (literally) Shepard's experiences throughout the game. The reality presented on the Citadel is an amalgamation of archetypes of every thing Shepard has seen in the series, which this theory challenges the player to understand as being a direct prompt from BioWare to understand that what is truly happening during this scene is all within Shepard's mind. His/her reality. Under her/his control.
Understanding that the reality on the Citadel as being a cerebral concoction that is entirely of Shepard's creation is important when we arrive upon the Crucible. It becomes a vital understanding when we are faced with these three, seemingly bizarre and unexpected choices that the Catalyst gives us. This theory submits that BioWare is asking the player to actively question EVERYTHING that happens once Shepard runs into Harbinger's beam. The cost of not questioning, or making the right choice even if you do?
Real-time player indoctrination. Shepard's literal death.
Think about it carefully. We arrive on the Crucible, and are faced with an archetype of manipulation, the Catalyst. Taking the form of a child that has come to represent everything that is horrendous about the Reapers to Shepard, the Catalyst/Harbinger provides Shepard with three strange and disorienting choices. He first presents Shepard with the option of Destroy, making swift and empty assertations about how it is the wrong choice because it would kill all synthetic life and Shepard herself/himself. At its surface, this seems like the renegade/chaos option, and is even insidiously portrayed in Renegade Red, a direct nod to the Player himself/herself. Directly appealing to your experiences with how the game works. He then goes on at great length about the Control and Synthesis options, portraying Control as the blue paragon/order option. Again, directly appealing to the Player. He argues that Control is the best option, implies that Shepard is the new Catalyst, and leaves us to contemplate the possibility that we could use it to try and save the people we love; after all, we are Shepard, and we would never become like TIM.
Synthesis is the last option explored, and it is portrayed as a compromise or as being the Brave New Hope for the galaxy. I have a suspicion that Synthesis may actually be the 'perfect' choice, but thatis for another theory. :) (If you're curious, read about the tech-singularity lore within the game, and research humes spork's posts about the singularity within this thread.) Either way, Synthesis smacks of strangeness because it seems so inherently Reaper-oriented. As though it were servicing the Reapers' philosophy more strongly than the other two options.
This moment, when you are standing there, agonizing over your choice? This is your indoctrination moment. This is where, it could be (fantastically and insanely) argued that this is the moment when indoctrination and all of its insidious power becomes as real as it possibly CAN be to the Player. Think about it! We stand there. We agonize. We freak out about the ridiculous choices, and we wonder (like Shepard would) why we just can't ARUGE with the Catalyst (like Shepard would). And then, as this reality seems to be the only way forward (much like how indoctrination presents a version of reality to the indoctrinated that he/she sees as being the ONLY REAL OPTION -- echoes of TIM, Kai Leng, Saren here), we begin to accept it. Tremulously, we start to make our choice.
If you choose Control, then you, the player -- the one who moves through the game though Shepard's eyes; every choice s/he has ever made in the game has been directly because of you -- have been indoctrinated. It may have been because you thought you could save your crew, your LI, or that you really could gain perfect Control over the Reapers because you are Shepard. Regardless, you have been duped. Indoctrinated by the game. Your slow exposure to the Reapers in 2007 culminates to this final choice -- complete and free player agency and determination.
If you choose Synthesis, you face a fate similar to that of Control. It's debatable to me at this point as to whether or not you have chosen to fulfill the Reapers' purpose, but indoctrination is still a heavy possibility with this one. The only reason that I state this with any certainty is because, like the ending we see with Control, Shepard is dead at the final credits.
If you choose Destroy, then the Player Indoctrination Theory submits that this is you, the player, deciding whether or not Shepard overcomes the indoctrination attempt being rained upon him/her by Harbinger/the Catalyst. If you decide this option, and if you have enough EMS to ensure that Shepard has enough real-world time to get through the indoctrination attempt/hallucination -- Shepard lives. We see him/her breathing in the rubble of London streets at the end of the game. Shepard has defied indoctrination. You, yourself, have defied indoctrination.
Does this theory make sense? Maybe not. When we consider BioWare's real-world motivations and risks (profit, losing a large fanbase over the disgusting wretchedness of the endings as they currently exist), then the theory is hard to support. But if, for just one moment, we can let ourselves believe that BioWare may just have lived up to their celebrated philiosophy of Player Choice and Player Acutalization, then this theory becomes awe-inspiring. Is it possible? Could BioWare have sacrificed the potential for safe profits in order to bring the most insane and beautiful gaming experience of all time to its fans? The most unprecedented example of player immersion of our times? Would BioWare have truly allowed the risk for profit and angering a serious amount of their fan population in pure deference to the story, and its lore?
It may explain BioWare's silence on the matter, until "more people have played the game", or until all regions have the game. It may explain Jess M.'s twitter about fans "reacting before having all of the facts". It may.... just may explain these super sh*tty endings in a way that would make BioWare the God of RPGs.
Is it likely? No. Am I reaching, insanely? Yes.
But is it possible?
over all, YOU WERE INDOCTRINATED THE WHOLE TIME AND MUST FIGHT FOR YOUR SANITY link to post: http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/9727423/1
Also, watch this. This is the destruction ending with the wake up scene at the end.
EDIT: Re-Read this link. there is now visual evidence to support pure theory http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/9727423/1