With the advent of the Extended Cut, many of us have found reason to play though the Mass Effect trilogy once again. Whilst I won't say it's perfect per se, it may make the endings bearable enough to play and put the series to rest properly. I'd say that now instead of tossing the Mass Effect's corpse into a ditch, BioWare has given it a proper funeral, albieit in a cheap and somewhat tacky casket. Also, almost no one showed for the wake, and the ones who did just came for the booze.
But that's beside the point. With some additional clarity, maybe now we can decide the fate of the entire galaxy more easily.
As much as I wish they would just retcon that smug dues ex machina and give us some less nonsensical options, I suppose the Milky Way will just have to accept whatever fate I decide is best for them...and like it.
So I thought I'd put my thoughts in blog form by breaking down our options, including the newest ending, colloquially referred to as "Ending D".
This is the option I chose both times, and the ending I prefer for the Mass Effect universe. This is because it's what we've been trying to for about five years now. From the very first Mass Effect game, our goal was always the same: blow the Reapers to hell. It's what I set out to do from day one, so why stop now? Personally, I prefer this ending because it's simpler, less confusing, and I get the satisfaction of truly blowing up the Reapers. Back in Mass Effect 2, I made a promise after hearing "ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL" 7,495 times: that I would murder that smug robot Harbinger. Sorry Synthetics, I don't break promises.
There are some things I don't like about Destroy, however. For one, all the geth end up dead. For me, this wasn't a problem, because I already committed that genocide. For other more squeamish players though, I can understand how murdering an entire race of sapient life forms can be hard. The loss of EDI can also be rough for players like me, who worked towards seeing her and Joker's romance blossom.
Controlling the Reapers never seemed like a viable option to me, mostly because some idiot was trying to do it the entire third game, and he's screwed me over at least a dozen times. Unlike in Mass Effect 2, where the player can align themselves with the Illusive Man and his ideals, in Mass Effect 3 Shepard and co. will always be opposed to the idea of controlling the Reapers, paragon or renegade. So naturally, when I find out controlling the Reapers is an option, I was taken a little aback. Why would I suddenly want to do a 180 on my beliefs? There's never any grey area for the Illusive Man this time around.
In Mass Effect 2, you could be much more sympathetic to Cerberus, or you could go rouge. Either way, when it came time to make that final climactic decision, you had some sense of consistency. I think, for me at least, Control would have been a vastly better option if there was at least some dialogue for Shepard saying something along the lines of "Hey guys, I know this guy is crazy, and has been trying to kill us, but maybe controlling the Reapers isn't such a bad idea!" It just feels weird. 2 minutes ago I made this guy shoot himself because he thought control was a good idea, to only to end up agreeing with him?
With the Extended Cut however, I can see myself picking this option for future characters, now that the Catalyst was kind enough to elaborate upon what "lose everything I have" means. Becoming a god-like entity that looks over the galaxy seems a fitting end for a renegade who stops at nothing to get more power. On the other hand, this also means Jack won't be getting laid. Also, I love the irony in becoming Shepbringer. If only Shepard could say the line....
I'm a little conflicted about Synthesis. I'm aware that many people consider this to be the best moral choice, and for good reason. With this ending, you can probably rest assured that your cycle will not screw everything up by getting themselves killed by different synthetics. Or whatever. It also seems like the "perfect" solution, with the least amount of sacrifice; everyone gets along, civilisation reaches its apex. Of course, picking this also means Shepard gets obliterated. This creates a conundrum: if you don't pick Synthesis, is it only because you want to live on and have little blue babies?
Not necessarily. I do take issue with Synthesis, for a number of reasons. For one, Synthesis isn't unity, but rather, homogenisation. I've brought this up before of course, and it remains true. Mass Effect as a series has been about setting aside differences for a common goal, whilst still maintaining diversity. The fact that this ending forces such a major and contrived change on the entire galaxy makes it too questionable and surreal for it to be an optimal choice. Everything about Synthesis feels too good to be true, like a utopia. And we know how those always turn out. Additionally, the same problem I had with Control applies here as well. Shepard and co. could never really get behind this idea in Mass Effect, so suddenly deciding to go with the indoctrinated idiot's plan is still a bad idea. I mean, 2 games ago I made this guy shoot himself because he thought synthesis was a good idea, only to end up agreeing with him?
In the Extended Cut, additional dialogue and narration sheds some light as to how Synthesis is supposed to work, but it just isn't believable. I'm not nearly so nitpicky, but for a science-fiction series in which the technology has been thoroughly explained and believable, more fastidious or analytical players might not like this third option.
I've voiced my thoughts on this before. Many fans perceive this as just a slap to the face, and for good reason. This ending is so underdone, I can't accept this as anything more than a glorified game-over screen. No matter what you've done throughout all five games, you get the same exact cutscene, and it isn't even a very good one. The rejection ending is anticlimactic and awkward; I think most of us expected to at least see Shepard die. They could have done this right, but in typical BioWarEA fashion, it was half-done. What we should have seen was our war assets being thrown at the Reapers, along with our friends and loved ones fighting to the last breath. Why couldn't we go out in a blaze of glory? Where was our climactic last stand? Instead, all we got is Shepard standing there, the Reapers basically telling us everything we ever did was for naught, and then the dreaded Stargazer scene, now without the only thing that made it cool: Buzz Aldrin.
There isn't much good I can say about "Ending D". It isn't really fair that we get no kind of ending slideshow or any sense of closure. Instead, we just assume everyone dies in the end. Wait, wasn't that the problem with the original ending?
Truth be told, I was hoping, even expecting, and ending in which the Reapers won (more so since BioWare did kinda promise it), because that would make victory all the more satisfying. I think I speak for everyone when I say we all wanted to shoot the God Child. Only when we do, we end up screwing over the entire galaxy and losing the Reaper War no matter what. The fact that they put this in, only to botch it, makes the ending to Mass Effect 3 even more of a disappointment.
So would we be better off without this option even available? Well, I'd say it at least serves the purpose of laying to rest what should have never risen: The Indoctrination Theory.
So those are our options. At its core, Mass Effect 3 still has a bad ending, even with our extended options. At the very least, I think I'll be able to pick up Mass Effect 2 and finish my character's story. The endings all have their flaws, but maybe now we can make a real choice, not just an arbitrary colour coded guessing game.
So which ending is best? Personally, I prefer Destroy, since it's the only ending not endorsed by indoctrinated crazies. What about you fine folks? How did you decide the fate of the galaxy?