(Surprisingly Not Crazy) Thoughts On Mass Effect 3′s Ending, Old & New (Mostly New)

Unlike Adam (aka CheeseBadger), I’m not a fan of the Extended Cut.

Sugarcoating a piece of crap doesn’t make it food. It might look more like food, but it’s still not edible. This is the case of the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut.

When you talk about Mass Effect as a franchise, one word comes to mind: choices. The choices we make throughout the series shape events within the game. Every dialogue you pick results in consequences. This is the reason why the first two games had so much replayability. While the story follows a single plot line, the variations are enough for us to play through the games over and over again.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for a majority of Mass Effect 3. The dialogues are the same lines read in a different tone. Most decisions are exposed to be frauds. One prominent example would be your choice of human councilor being invalidated. Regardless of your choice in Mass Effect 1, you end up with Udina in ME3. Another one will be the Rachni Queen. Had you released her in ME1, she would fall under the Reapers’ control; had you killed her, she’ll return in husk form, or something like that.

However, I would also like to point out there are also many parts of ME3 which were done right. The missions in Tuchanka, for one, have shown us glimpses of the game’s massive, unreached potential. Another great example will be the missions in Rannoch.

When it came down to the ending, BioWare choked, big time. Maybe more so than the New York Knicks against the Indiana Pacers in 1995.

My Character

The in-game default doesn’t look as good as the concept art. Just go with this one.

Before we get any further, I think it’s only right for you to learn a little bit about my character. I’m a guy, but I love me some FemShep. Hell, my “canon” Shepard is a FemShep, simply because I grew up watching cartoons and playing video games featuring Jennifer Hale’s voice. Call it nostalgia. Plus I like watching women kick ass.

You know, her voice is featured in 100+ video games, more than anyone else.

Anyways, Alexis Shepard is a paragade spacer, war hero. In ME1, she romances no one, saves the Rachni queen, picks Ashley over Kaidan, keeps Wrex alive, and saves the council. In ME2, she’s reborn. She gives the Illusive Man a finger by blowing up the Collector’s base. Throughout the journey in ME2, she falls for Garrus, because of his scars. They test his reach and her flexibility right before the suicide mission. Everyone gets out alive. Alexis 2 : 0 Reaper

In ME3, Alexis Shepard decides to help the krogans cure the genophage. She manages to repair the soured relationship between geths and quarians. As for Garrus, they talked about making that vid money and adopting Krogan babies.

TURIAN BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t even care if it’s krogan anymore. (Credit goes to Rossilyn on DeviantArt)

Why, BioWare? WHY?

*sniffs*
It’s an allergy, and something got into my eyes, OK?

The Endings Pre-Extend Cut

After the Alliance finally completes the Crucible aka Reapa Killa, Shepard returns to Earth for a final showdown against the Reapers. She gets there, kicks asses, being a badass. Then she is told she needs to get all the way to the Citadel to activate the Crucible. To accomplish that, she along with a bunch of human shields have to rush to a beam which will take her directly to the Citadel. Once she reaches the Citadel, she sees the Illusive Man, indoctrinated and all. Admiral Anderson was there as well. Depending on your dialogue with TIM, Anderson may or may not die. Either case, TIM is gone for good after this one.

Come to think about it, it kind of looks like a penis with a huge dick head.

Then, you’ll reach the Catalyst, the kid who’s controlling the Reapers. Basically, he tells you that the Reapers exist to destroy everyone before the synthetics destroy organics and vice versa. Well, technically, Reapers don’t destroy. They just suck your essence or something to become even more powerful, or something like that. It doesn’t really matter. Bottom line, they’re here killing everyone before the civilization destroys itself.

Yup.

The Catalyst then presents you with a few options:

  1. Control – You get to become part of the Reaper consciousness, and withdraw the Reaper forces immediately.
  2. Synthesis – Since Shepard is part synthetic, all thanks to Cerberus, she can jump down some light beams and convert everyone into part organic, part synthetic. Reapers will not reap anymore, simply because there are no classifications between organic or synthetic.
  3. Destroy – You blow up the Catalyst. Reapers die. All synthetics will die as a result. The geths you worked so hard to save, along with EDI, are no exceptions. If you were bothered enough to do side fetch quests or multiplayer, Shepard will survive. There will be no epilogue whatsoever.
  4. Shoot the Catalyst, and nothing happens.
  5. Throw your controller at your TV screen.

It’s really a matter of picking your poison, since the only difference lies in the hues of cinematics. They are completely identical. Whatever you did earlier in the game don’t matter; whomever you romanced doesn’t matter. The ending boils down to a number (the EMS) and three options.

In a nutshell, the relay network is destroyed, and your crew escapes from Earth for no good reason. They land on a planet where Garrus and Tali will starve to death. Somehow, the destruction of mass relays did not lead to a complete annihilation of the galactic system (as indicated in Mass Effect 2).

The Ending in Extended Cut

I’ll be honest. I just watched the gameplay footage on Youtube. I didn’t even bother to play through the game again.

First of all, there is an extended scene during the beam dash, in which Shepard calls for a pickup from Normandy. One of the two squad-mates you brought along will say goodbye. You’ll get a different version if he/she happens to be your love interest.

VIDEO REMOVED BY YOUTUBE

Second, there are a few more investigative dialogue options for the Starchild aka Catalyst.

Third, there is a new ending which allows you to refuse the Catalyst’s options. The entire civilization is wiped out and the cycle continues. EMS doesn’t change anything.

Fourth, the endings now include epilogues of sorts, narrated by different people depending on your choice.

VIDEO REMOVED BY YOUTUBE

VIDEO REMOVED BY YOUTUBE

Fifth, depending on your EMS, your crew is either stranded in the jungle-like planet after their escape or they fly off elsewhere.

Sixth, should you opt for the destroy ending and has a high enough EMS, your love interest will refuse to put your name on the memorial in the Normandy.

However, the Shepard breathing scene is not elaborated upon.

Do I like it?

Watching the extended cut for the first time definitely left a taste of bitterness. However, after watching it for multiple times, it’s not as bad as I first thought. It went from an F- to a C-.

Why don’t I like it?

There are quite a few reasons as to why I still find the ending not likable.

1. The beam dash scene makes no sense

Do you seriously expect a Reaper to allow its arch nemesis to say her goodbyes to her boyfriend? Come on. If I’m a Reaper, their asses will be grass. OK, even assuming that the Normandy has some sort of technology that keeps itself invisible from the Reapers, the logic behind this scene still doesn’t add up. Why bother wasting all that personnel on being human shields when the Normandy can drop Shepard off at the beam with no casualties? The melodramatic goodbyes are there solely for the fluffs.

2. The refusal ending

The Extended Cut was created in response to the outcry over the original endings. BioWare maintained that there would be no new endings. Yet, we see a new ending. That wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t feel completely unnecessary. Yes, we wanted an ending in which we get to refuse the Catalyst, but not at the expense of the entire civilization. This option feels like a middle finger from BioWare to some of us. Somehow, I find it comical.

3. The “Shepard is still alive” tease

This is actually one of my biggest complaints of the original ending. Given that Mass Effect 3 is supposedly the final entry of a franchise, fans would like closures on their characters. Shepard’s breath leaves fans in confusion. Is she alive? Is she on the Citadel? How does she manage to cheat death once again? Are Shepard and Garrus going to adopt Krogan babies? Plus, the scene has essentially betrayed the game’s very own theme – sacrifice.

I understand certain stories have ended on a cliffhanger, allowing audiences to interpret the protagonist’s fate. However, Mass Effect is not one of them. We know our protagonists way too well, and we dove into Mass Effect 3 fully expecting closure. Throughout the game, Shepard is tying up loose ends stemmed from ME1 and ME2. Showing Shepard taking a breath at the end only brings in more questions. You want to leave your viewers wanting more, not asking questions out of bewilderment.

4. Starchild aka the Catalyst

The Catalyst is just mind-blowingly lazy writing. Mac Walters and Casey Hudson essentially pulled a Deux Ex Machina with the Starchild. The last thing you want to do in the final stages of a story is to introduce a key character. The character will almost be impossible for audiences to relate to. As a result, it is extremely hard to empathize with Starchild.

The logic of the Catalyst is also very questionable. Destroying us before we destroy ourselves? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Imagine France coming out of nowhere and fire nuclear weapons at the United States and China, in attempt on ending all disputes over human right issues.

Even assuming that the Starchild’s logic is intentionally flawed, it is, as mentioned, hard to relate to the character. The Catalyst’s logic is right because “the writers said so.” However, a character’s authority doesn’t come from the writers, but rather his/her/its development. Walters, Hudson, as well as the guys behind Extended Cut, have failed to realize this point.

5. The Destroy ending invalidates what some of the players worked for

The speculations were indeed right. The Destroy ending will effectively kill off EDI and the geths. Now here’s the problem. A lot of us play as paragon Shepards who worked really hard to make sure that quarians and geths end up in peace. Hell, some of us picked the geths over the quarians because the latter were the ones who started the entire conflict. As much as I know life’s a bitch and then you die, Mass Effect 3 is not real life, and this goes to my next point:

6. Just because it’s sad doesn’t make it realistic

For those who claim “MASS EFFECT 3 ENDING REALISTIC BECAUSE IT SAD”, let’s keep it real for a second. Nothing about Mass Effect is realistic. Sorry for waking you up from your fantasies but I haven’t heard any stories of some big ass AI robots created for the sole purpose of killing invading earth yet. Hell, I haven’t seen a xenosexual couple yet. Oh wait, the last one is actually possible.

In case you haven’t heard, not every soldier who fights in wars died. Not every cop who fights crimes gets killed on the line of duty.

7. If I want a dose of real life, I’ll be listening to Wu Tang Clan

Unlike Mass Effect 3, Wu Tang Clan actually provide sound advices, some damn good ones at that. When I play video games, I’m looking for an escape. I knew I couldn’t kick asses across outer space in real life. That’s why I played Mass Effect. I don’t need video games to remind me life sucks.

What’s done right then?

1. The soundtrack

The final track pre-EC matches the game very well – great in the first 95%, sucked in the last 5%.

The remixed track sounds much better. The drums are pretty good. The tone sounds way more uplifting and much more “definite” towards the end. Sorry, I wish I could elaborate more but I’m no music critic.

2. The beam dash goodbye scene

*sniff*sniff* ONCE AGAIN, I’M NOT CRYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *sniff*sniff*

I know I know. It still doesn’t make sense. But there’s just so much fluff. Shekarian are so adorable. WHY??????

*eats a tub of ice cream*

3. The control ending is so much better

Pre-EC, the control ending is seen as the ultimate no-no choice, as electing for control simply means you’re giving in and the cycle continues. However, it’s explained in this one that by ascending to be the Reapers’ consciousness, Shepard successfully accomplishes what she had set out for – ending the reaping cycle. Furthermore, she has the full Reaper force in her hands. Now she can be the great American (or Canadian, if you play as BroShep) savior of the poor.

This totally happens in my head canon.

Bottom line

Extended Cut managed to present the ending in a way that makes it passable. Some plot holes were filled, I’ll give them that. However, it is still nowhere close to reaching its full potential. The most frustrating part about the original ending is its complete lack of ambition. The EC failed to fix that.

When you’re shooting a basketball, the follow through is as important as the stance and the stroke. ME1 is BioWare setting their feet; ME2 is their stroke; ME3 is their follow through. With a bad follow through, the shot is likely to miss. This is what happened to the franchise as a whole. It missed. When you miss a shot, you can rush into the post and bust your ass for an offensive rebound. However, BioWare didn’t realize that their miss was a game-tying shot, and responded with a half-assed effort a few seconds t00 late. As a result, the game was lost. Their fans were gone.

The EC is just too little, too late.

If BioWare by any chance decides to make a romance DLC, I’m game. Yea, the EC is good enough for me to purchase that DLC. (Credit goes to Siberfeder on DeviantArt)

We shall end this with even more Shekarian. Listen to Jennifer Hale’s heart-break in the second one. *bursts into tears*

5 thoughts on “(Surprisingly Not Crazy) Thoughts On Mass Effect 3′s Ending, Old & New (Mostly New)”

  1. As far as #1 goes, I just presummed Harbinger was busy with some other distraction, for the few seconds the normandy gave evac. Then again, the very reason you stated it made no sense to you, is probably why they cut it, but people complained about teleporting squad members.

    #2 The refusal ending isn’t an insult to fans, since it is the ending that is the most logical for humanity to choose, and even goes on to prove The AI wrong as the coda at the end proves. I think people really just wanted to turn the Reapers into ice cream and have the Krogan bake them cakes at the end.

    #3 The Shepard half breath is a classic example of an ambiguous ending that is supposed to make you ask questions and wonder WTF. See all Metal Gear Solid games. It’s there to also put some credence towards the IT. Think about all the scenes that were carefully removed that are now in the EC. Everything that makes the scene literal, or points to things being “true” and not dreamlike, were removed for the original ending.

    #4 I don’t get this at all. The Catalyst is an impossibly old AI. The whole point of him was to NOT empathize with him, and to recognize the moral and ontological purposes of the choice he had given you. If the crucibles means of changing people are considered “space magic”, i’d cite Clarke’s Third Law, and remind you that the game is Hard SF lite, because interbreeding species, FTL travel and biotic mind powers really push the limits of what is considered applicable to hard sciences. Furthermore, The Catalysts’ actions totally make sense. It’s an impossibly old computer, using living species and synthetic species as zeroes and ones in it’s programming functions. It’ll pick the most logical function to “preserve” life, even if it seems unfitting and unreasonable to those living, since it’s own functions are entirely from the viewpoint of a computer. It doesn’t go beyond the initial choice of “preserving life” because it’s satisfied it’s logistical makeup. Life preserved, regardless of form, intent. potential or purpose. It doesn’t see the error in its choice, because it is very computerized thinking, with no regard for the actual life itself.

    #5 The Destroy ending is renegade. If you’re paragon, don’t pick it. Seems simple to me.

    #6 I think you just justified the final “half-breath” Shepard scene.

    #7 Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with. Mass Effect is about working together to better the universe and overcome adversity. I’ll give you Wu Tang on this one.

    #8 Ultimately, I think this is a case of you just not liking the ending you were given. It was an emotional ending, not a logical one. People complained for logical answers, and they provided them. They did it in 4 months, which in my opinion, is damn quick for game development. I don’t see it as too little too late, because all of the scenes they added could be inferred. Furthermore, the original ending was supposed to make you think heavily about the actual choice you made at the end, rather than the fact that you didn’t like the choices. I’d go as far as to say that even not liking the choices was intentional, since it’s meant to express how much power the Reapers have over you. In that respect, they did a good thing by adding the rejection ending, which I think of the new EC endings is the best. The new control ending to me is creepy and off putting, but I get that other people dig it.

    I think some people just really really really hate ambiguity and purposely unanswerable questions or speculation, and had their mind locked into an anti-bioware opinion the second they got to The Catalyst.

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  2. Everything as follows is nothing more than opinions.

    #1 It is so insanely stupid I don’t even know where to begin. Even assuming Harby is busy with something else, the scene still makes zero sense. You know what could have happened? Using the strategy in Tuchanka where turian pilots distract the Reapers while the ground force advance. However, even assuming that’s the case, the Normandy showing up still doesn’t make sense. Why doesn’t Shepard just wait in the Normandy till the right moment and order Joker to drop him/her off? It is utterly impossible to justify that scene.

    #2 Let’s just agree to disagree. You believe BioWare placed the ending in all good intentions. I believe BioWare was sprinkling salt on our wounds. You can bullshit your reasons behind your support. I can bullshit about mine. No consensus will be reached. We start out way too far apart.

    #3 As I pointed out in the analysis (sort of), after knowing the character for a long time and seeking closure throughout the entire game, a closure should be in place. Wanting more and being confused are two different things.

    #4 The AI is no different from any character. A character, regardless of how good or evil, should be relatable. If a writer is good, no matter how bullshit the ideals a villain holds, the writer should be able to guide the readers to see how that villain come to hold such ideals. This is done through extensive character development, not through “because I, the writer, the god of this fictional universe, said so.” Again, the authority of a character comes through his/her/its development, not because the writer said so.

    By introducing the Catalyst so late in game, players are unable to see in detail how the AI comes to such a “logical when it comes to numbers” conclusion.

    Basically, poor character development.

    #5 There is no renegade or paragon option. As a matter of fact, one of the ideas behind Indoctrination theory is that the Catalyst wants you to see the destroy option in red, so you won’t go for it since it’s “renegade”.

    Throughout the game, your goal is to destroy the Reapers. When Starchild shows up, it’s a fair assumption that an option for proving that lil punk wrong would be present. That never happened. It went against the series’ theme of “defying all odds”. Hell, you get to destroy them because Starchild allowed you to do so.

    #6 I see why you reached that conclusion. My main argument is towards the tone of the conclusion. The tone, undoubtedly, is sad and unsatisfying. This is very much due to, again, poor writing. You are presented three choices, because the writers said so. Most players expected the game to end with the entirety of galactic civilization unite against the Reapers, achieving success during the process. That was the entire point of ME3 – unite everyone so we can collectively kick Reaper asses. By boiling down the ending to three choices which really isn’t related to unification (thematically speaking), the game invalidates what the players were told to expect, again.

    As for the whole dying or not dying thing, it goes out to the people who think only by sacrificing do you get a truly deep ending. You can go all Disney-like in your ending and still be deep. I’m not necessarily saying that Shepard should live for sure, but an option of Shepard being actually alive and well (not the half-assed breath scene) is not necessarily bad.

    An ideal ending would involve Shepard saying, “I am Shepard, and this is my favorite place in the entire galaxy after the Reapers are dead.” She has to be holding up her ID as proof. Her mother / close friends need(s) to be there to verify her identity. We also need Harbinger admitting defeat by saying, “Shepard, this hurts me. You win. You’re alive and I’m dying. AHHHH!!! I’ll be dead once I finish this sentence.” There should be some giant ass caption right in the middle of the screen that says “SHEPARD LIVES!!!!!” and flashes for a few seconds. Then Shepard will have to dance (which she’s horrible at) to further prove she is indeed Shepard. If possible, watching her get old and die alongside Garrus would be much appreciated. :D

    However, I will still say that it’s better off for Shepard dying.

    #7 WOW THAT WAS SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO SARCASTIC. Learning how to survive on $5 is much more important than learning how to unite. Where does unity bring you? Nowhere (maybe except for victories in major wars such as WWII, the Civil Rights Movement, the feminist movement, a few successful revolutions including the one in Cuba).

    On the real, I will contend that (due to the ending), ME3 is trying to tell us that life sucks and we should accept them as is. Wu-Tang Clan’s philosophy would be more applicable to real world. Per Wu-Tang Clan, acknowledging the problems (such as “cash rules everything around me”), and coming up with solutions, (such as “get the money, dollar dollar bill ya’ll”) will be more helpful. Learning how to bag crack is certainly more helpful than learning how to blow up a Reaper.

    “This ain’t no movie dawg. This is real f***ing life. Protect your goddamn neck, aight?” – GZA

    #8 Sorry bro. I don’t even find the ending emotional. Well, maybe except for anger. I believe when audiences start channeling their anger towards writers rather than the characters, the writers have failed. This is the case for ME3 (and also the reason why I stopped watching Castle for a year).

    I don’t mind ambiguity in fiction. How I see it, is that ambiguity doesn’t apply to Mass Effect 3 given (one of) its (supposed) theme of closure, and how much the audiences know the universe. We are seeking answers when we play as Shepard. It’s much more than BioWare re-telling a story.

    Just because it worked with Inception doesn’t mean it works with everything else.

    Either case, I’m done with BioWare. It’s one thing if the ending happens to be bad; it’s another thing when you lie to us before release and then blaming us for taking it wrongly. Should have seen this coming when I bought Dragon Age 2 on blind faith. I guess it could be my fault for not taking some of the things they said literal enough. I know sometimes words are exaggerated, but I didn’t anticipate the exaggeration itself to be in such a large scale.

    http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/10056886/

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  3. To clarify, I hate the breath scene because it’s sooooooooo half-assed. If you’re gonna do it, do it big. Now because BioWare didn’t “do it big”, it just ends up confusing the hell out of everyone. If she dies, she dies; if she lives, have her yell out, “HELP!!!!!! ANYONE HERE???”

    Like

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