I finished the game, and I finished crying my eyes out. I’m the kind of person who gets emotionally invested in video games — when the storytelling is of this caliber — and I really didn’t need this devastating blow.
Mass Effect 3 was a roller coaster of emotion that took me through frustration, anger, sadness, elation and hopefulness. As I played it, it was a wonderful uplifting tale of triumph over hardship, bitter enemies becoming allies, the weak being defended by the strong, true friends changing one’s life in immeasurable ways, and that one person in turn changing everyone’s lives for the better. Shepard was a better person because of friends and his/her lover, and the galaxy was a better place because of Shepard.
Mass Effect 3 was almost magnificent. It had left me in awe and reverence of its creators, for having crafted a story in three parts that fit together perfectly, with people and situations that pull on one’s heartstrings. Video games have seldom ventured in the latter domain, which is usually reserved for movies and books. I suffered with Shepard and his/her companions, smiled with them and rooted for every single one to pull through (even “the bad guys” — rest in peace Kai Leng and TIM). As Shepard’s teammates reminisced on the old days, I looked back with them and realized how far they’ve come, and I felt glad that Mass Effect had captured my imagination for all these years. It was a pleasant voyage in a fantasy world where things work out, if you simply try hard enough.
That is, until the end. The end where a douchebag smurf shows up and makes Shepard choose the color of the deathray that will end his/her life. No freedom of decision. All choices since the original Mass Effect rendered irrelevant. No explanation of what happened to all the races and their homeworlds, save for the hint of annihilation, or mutation into some kind of cockamamie cyborgs.
How could Shepard overcome so many obstacles, make so many sacrifices, lose so many dear friends, find love... only for it to come to this? I remember the ending of the original Mass Effect: Shepard rescued by allies. I remember the ending of Mass Effect 2: the entire team including Shepard could die, unless you did everything perfectly, in which case everyone would make it. But in Mass Effect 3, nothing matters. All efforts amount to a number on the screen and nothing more. Let’s all take a moment of silence to remember Commander Shepard, who died so that a disabled man could •••• a sexbot? No. I won’t accept it. Shepard deserves better, and so do the players. This isn’t an ending. This is a hurtful and insulting betrayal.
What was that all about, anyway?
A big part of what makes this so painful is how tacked-on, nonsensical and poorly written it is. Reapers claim to save organic lifeforms from artificial ones by harvesting them, because the two will inevitably fight each other.
- This argument is rendered invalid either by peace between the Geth and the Quarians, or love between EDI and Joker (the latter being a less compelling reason, but still a ray of hope that should give the Reapers pause).
- Even if that weren’t the case, the Quarians by themselves were doing a decent job of wiping out the Geth, so organic lifeforms were nowhere near facing extinction at the hand of artificial ones.
- Even if that weren’t the case, A.I. are a minority, so if the Reapers really did mean to help, they would’ve wiped out the Geth and miscellaneous other A.I. instead.
- And then there’s the big giant fact that the Reapers indoctrinate Geth and send them to fight organic lifeforms, so they are to blame for the initial conflict in the first place.
And I could go on and on. I have a hard time believing that this ending was thought up by anyone who knew anything about Mass Effect, writing, or player hopes and emotions. As it stands, it’s nothing but sadistic and pointless. A sort of, “Hey, we already got their money, now let’s kick these geeks where it hurts.” Why? Just... WHY? Was someone at Bioware bullied by geeks as a child?
I don’t have much hope that TPTB will come to their senses and fix this in a DLC or sequel, but I will definitely not buy another Bioware game if they don’t. This was painful, and left many with the impression of wasted time and money. Anyone who cares in the slightest about fans and loyalty, rather than just profits, would make things right (see Fallout 3 ending with Broken Steel DLC).
Do we deserve proper endings?
I’ve heard people argue that players “have no right to demand” an ending that doesn’t leave them feeling like they’ve been stabbed in the heart, just as one cannot demand a new ending for a movie or a book. But this isn’t a movie or a book, it’s an RPG. And save for those godawful final moments, it’s what could have been the best one to date. Choice was an intricate part of this trilogy, with your actions affecting everything from individuals to entire races. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for endings don’t betray fans and stay true to the trilogy by allowing for ample freedom of choice.
The endings I would have preferred
I really don’t think this part of the story needed any sort of twist slapped on it. Certainly not the big pile of nonsense about conflict between synthetics and organics. I’ve heard that the original idea was that the Reapers are harvesting organic lifeforms for the sake of saving the galaxy from the threat of dark energy something-or-other. I find this equally unnecessary.
I find the Reapers the most effective and powerful as pure evil foes. They either brainwash or harvest races — both organic and synthetic. The whole spiel about it being for the greater good could have easily been yet another lie: it would have perfectly fit their modus operandi. The douchebag smurf? A sign of the Reapers attempting to indoctrinate Shepard by playing on his/her emotions. We’ve earlier seen TIM trying to indoctrinate Shepard, and we later find out TIM himself was already indoctrinated by the Reapers. That makes it a logical conclusion.
Just as Legion improved the Geth using Reaper code, the Reapers could have been harvesting advanced organic lifeforms to improve themselves and for no other hidden, morally ambiguous reason. They could have laid down the groundwork of technological advancement with the Mass Relay system and so on, then allowed organic species to use this is a base to progress for 50,000 years in ways that they as machines cannot. Then they could have swooped in and reaped the benefits, to begin anew in the next cycle. This would have ensured eternal Reaper dominance, as they advance in immense ways while everyone else gets knocked back to the stone age repeatedly. That is, until the Protheans managed to pass down information to the other races (and until the Crucible, if it had worked as intended).
The big bad Reapers are blown up. The galactic races grieve, rejoice and rebuild. Old animosities are gradually put aside as everyone realizes what they can accomplish when they work together. We are treated to views of how Shepard’s actions have affected the races and people of the galaxy. At the very end are Shepard and his/her love interest, still together having fought and won against all odds. Shepard uses Javik’s Memory Shard to record the tale of victory against the Reapers for future generations: a tale of loss, sacrifice, love, friendship, and unity.
Following in the Illusive Man’s footsteps, Shepard takes control of the Reapers. As the Reaper Overlord, (s)he uses them to ensure peace by force. As the Protheans before them, the humans rise to power and maintain order by integrating the other races into their galactic empire. We are treated to views of how Shepard’s actions have affected the races and people of the galaxy. At the very end are Shepard and his/her love interest, still together having fought and won against all odds. Shepard uses Javik’s Memory Shard to record the tale of victory against the Reapers for the next Overlord.
Thank you if you’ve taken the time to read the ramblings of this sentimental fool. Hearing others echo my feelings has helped me cope.
I have tried to block the so-called ending from my mind. In the end, I hope that what I will be left with is the heartwarming memories of Shepard’s friends and love interest, the fascinating story, and the great gameplay. But above all, if this injustice isn’t undone, what I will remember is not never give Bioware another cent of my money or another minute of my time.
Others have expressed their views in ways more concise or humorous than mine.
- Endings - Mass Effect 3 Wiki Guide - IGN
- Mass Effect 3 Ending: My Thoughts, What Could Have Been, What Should Have Been - YouTube
- List of issues with endings | BioWare Social Network (scroll down to post by Tartilus)
- How Mass Effect 3 Free Additional DLC Endings Can Redeem The Trilogy - GoldenAdamas: Blog - IGN
- Mass Defect? Mass Effect 3 Reviewed | The Gaming Gang
- MASS DEFFECT ~ 7 ~ Shepard's reaction to the ENDINGS - YouTube
- Hitler Discovers Mass Effect 3 Ending Ruins 1 & 2 and Makes No Sense - !!!SPOILERS!!! - YouTube