All That Matters is the Ending: Mass Effect 3

Way back in the day, when I was a naive youth making my first steps into the world of blogging, I wrote about the ending of a story being one of the most critical parts of a narrative and how much damage a bad ending can do. Who knew I would have been predicting the fate of one of my favorite game series: Mass Effect 3. So for those of you who haven’t heard, the ending of Mass Effect 3 was so terrible that players have taken to the internet in a rage of tears and money. I’m not sure how it works exactly, but yes, people have donated over 70,000 dollars for Child’s Play to show just how bad they think the ending is. It has gotten to the point that it has actually been covered by the BBC, is now offering full refunds for Mass Effect 3 to assuage disgruntled customers, and has been extensively covered by a series of excellent articles on Forbes.  That’s  right, Bioware made such a bad ending that Forbes, a magazine about business and marketing, has been covering this disaster and highlighting the bad business practices. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a video game ending ever having that kind of impact before.

Which, in itself, is rather a huge accomplishment. I love Mass Effect and the universe Bioware created, and Mass Effect 3 was supposed to be the epic conclusion to the trilogy, and many others shared my love for the series. We wouldn’t all be up in arms if we didn’t love it. Unfortunately Bioware fumbled the ball at the 1 yard line. The entire game was awesome, a tribute to how meaningful and emotional a video game can be, and then in the last 5 minutes completely falls apart. It so utterly, and completely fails on every level that I can’t even list them all. Since I’m a writer, however, I’ll simply keep my critique of the ending to how it failed on a literary level and leave the gameplay/art design failures to be described by more qualified individuals. As you know, this blog usually publishes every other Thursday, but it isn’t a Thursday is it? The ending was so terrible I needed more time than usual to organize my own thoughts, and figure out how to describe the ending in less than 50,000 words.

Warning: I am about to spoil not only Mass Effect 3, but every other Mass Effect game in the trilogy. I’m going to be spoiling these things worse than I was spoiled in 24 years of being an only child…and let me tell, that’s spoiled. 

First of all, let me introduce you all to the Dramatic Arc:

This is how most stories in the western world progress, name me a story and I can show you how it follows this pattern. Now there are some that break from this structure and are still incredible, but that takes exceptional storytelling skill and character development. For the most part, you either keep to this structure or end up with a story too incomprehensible and stilted to be enjoyable, especially if your story is following the Hero’s Journey.  Commander Shepard has always followed the Hero’s Journey, in all three games. The Hero’s Journey is what Joseph Cambell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces first identified as being the core narrative structure of any character driven story. If you have interest in writing or stories, I highly recommend reading it as well as The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. For the purposes of this blog post, however, I’ll just use this picture as an illustration of the idea:

Courtesy of

All three Mass Effect games have followed this pattern: 

1. Ordinary World – 

Mass Effect 1: Aboard the Normandy, briefing with Anderson

Mass Effect 2: Aboard the Normandy

Mass Effect 3: Earth

2. Call to Adventure

Mass Effect 1: Eden Prime mission, finding the Prothean Beacon

Mass Effect 2: Shepard’s Death/Rebirth, Cerberus station attack

Mass Effect 3: Reaper Attack on Earth

3. Refusing the Call

Mass Effect 1: The ending of the first Citadel Council meeting

Mass Effect 2: Shepard’s reluctance to work with Cerberus

Mass Effect 3: Shepard’s reluctance to leave Earth behind

4. Meeting the Mentor

Mass Effect 1: Meeting Anderson, and his giving you the leads to find evidence against Saren

Mass Effect 2: Meeting the Illusive Man, given mission to Freedom’s Progress

Mass Effect 3: Meeting Hackett, ordering you to Mars and to find allies

5. Crossing the Threshold

Mass Effect 1: Shepard becoming a Spectre, given command of the Normandy

Mass Effect 2: Mission to Freedom’s Progress

Mass Effect 3: Mars Mission

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

Mass Effect 1: Missions to Noveria, Feros and find Liara T’Soni

Mass Effect 2: Dossier Missions

Mass Effect 3: Missions to Palaven, Tuchanka, Sur’Kesh

7. Approach

Mass Effect 1: Landing on Virmire

Mass Effect 2: Collector Ship

Mass Effect 3: Landing on Thessia

8. Ordeal, Death and Rebirth

Mass Effect 1: Attacking Saren’s Base, Sacrificing Kaidan/Ashley, Meeting Sovereign

Mass Effect 2: Attacking the Collectors, finding out Prothean’s fate

Mass Effect 3: Reaching Temple on Thessia, watching Thessia’s destruction

9. Seizing the Sword

Mass Effect 1: Illos mission, meeting the Prothean VI

Mass Effect 2: Reaper IFF mission

Mass Effect 3: Cerberus Base

10.  The Road Back

Mass Effect 1: The race to the Conduit

Mass Effect 2: Through the Omega 4 Relay

Mass Effect 3: Return to Earth, Sword Fleet Engagement

11. Resurrection

Mass Effect 1: Returning to the Citadel, Final battle with Saren/Sovereign

Mass Effect 2: Suicide Mission, Human Reaper fight

Mass Effect 3: Battle of London – Charge for the Beam, final Illusive Man confrontation

12. Return with the Elixir

Mass Effect 1: Foreknowledge of the Reaper Invasion

Mass Effect 2: Experienced Team and resources to fight Reapers, Collector Base if kept

Mass Effect 3: ????

It’s a credit to Bioware’s writing staff and game designers that many of these points along the Hero’s Journey are interchangeable, for instance it’s possible to do the Virmire mission in Mass Effect before you find Liara T’Soni, and this is possible because each mission is in and of itself a hero’s journey. However, for the most part, the Mass Effect series has stayed on the path of the Hero’s Journey, and as you’ve probably guessed, it’s not until the final stage that Mass Effect 3 unraveled.

Personally I’ve grown tired of people saying “You just hate it because it wasn’t a happy ending!” No, we hate it because it was an ending that failed on so many fundamental levels as to boggle the mind. We hate it because it made no sense in any context, and resulted in completely undermining the series we’d grown to love. There are so many things wrong here that I’m just going to pick the top three issues:

1. Introduction of New Elements and Characters

Imagine Frodo, dangling the One Ring, over the fiery chasm of Mt. Doom. He turns, and says, “The Ring is Mine!” and slips the One Ring onto his finger.

Suddenly he’s whisked into a universe contained inside the One Ring, an entire world trapped in the essence of the ring. He meets the Keeper of the Ring, an ethereal spirit who has dwelled within the ring since its creation and now Frodo must make the ultimate sacrifice. He has to become the ring, in order to destroy it.

How many people in the theater, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, would have stood up and said: “What the fuck is this shit?”

All of them, that’s how many, and do you know why? Because it introduces a new element that, by its very existence, shatters everything we, the audience, have come to understand about the world of Middle-Earth. If the Ring possesses a consciousness, why didn’t it destroy Sauron? Why is the Keeper of the Ring only now showing up when Frodo has put the Ring on before? Why does Frodo have to die to destroy it?

See throughout all three movies of Lord of the Rings we came to understand the universe, and how it worked; the rules and limits the characters were forced to work under. The Ring was a corrupting influence but could make the wearer invisible, it could only be destroyed in the fires of Mt. Doom, and Sauron created it. Suddenly introducing a new element, right at the end of the story, puts everything the audience knows into doubt including everything they enjoyed about the movie before the horrible ending came. That is exactly what happened with Mass Effect 3.

Meet God:

The Star-Child of Mass Effect 3
It’s the glowing blue thing masquerading as a literary device

This is the Catalyst. Now throughout Mass Effect 3 there are plenty of mentions about the Catalyst, it’s the whole focus of the game, but never, never, was it foreshadowed as being some all-powerful Super AI. And even if Bioware had spent the entire game foreshadowing that fact, it still wouldn’t make up for the fact that the appearance of this character completely screws the rest of the preceding Mass Effect games by opening up plot holes so huge that they could be classified as quantum singularities. For instance, the Catalyst claims that the Reapers are his solution. So then why, in Mass Effect 1, did the Catalyst not simply call the Reapers himself? Why did Sovereign need to do it himself? In fact why was Sovereign even still in the Milky Way when the Catalyst could simply have monitored organic life himself and summoned the Reapers. Why did the Catalyst allow the Protheans to reprogram the Keepers?

You see, the existence of this Catalyst renders not only the entire ending of the game as pointless and confusing, but retroactively does the same thing to everything that’s come before. And I remind you, that this is in the final few moments of the game, on the Dramatic Arc I showed you, this is the Resolution. Bioware was supposed to be tying up loose ends here, resolving plot points and character arcs, not creating all new ones in the final few seconds. I’ve never seen a good story that managed to incorporate a last minute change like this and still be good. Even stories with twist endings, like The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense all foreshadow the twist in subtle ways so that when the twist comes we can look back and say “Oh yeah, now it all makes sense” rather than “that was such bullshit”. Just ask M Night Shyamalan what happens when you use twist endings without any previous foreshadowing.

I think the absolute worst part of the Catalyst is that it completely destroys the menace of the Reapers.

“You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.”

That is such a perfect line. It delivers so much menace in just 14 words…a single sentence. It sets the stakes for the protagonist, grants the villain a perfectly ominous entrance, and delivers real emotional weight to the situation. That is the kind of beautifully simplistic, yet artfully delivered line I hope I can come up with in one of my own stories someday. But enough fawning over that, the point is, the Reapers were damn good villains. In Mass Effect 1, Sovereign says “Each of us is a nation.” They are so far above us that it was frightening, the fact we didn’t know why the Reapers were exterminating advanced organic life every 50,000 years is what made it so scary. That was what made them a good villain. They were unknowable. And nobody was asking to know them. That was a question we absolutely didn’t need to know the answer to.

But then the AI God comes along and basically reveals they are the Terminators to his Skynet.

Which explains this I guess…


2. Abandoning of Established Themes and Characters

Not only does this entire scene completely discredit Shepard as a character, but it also represents a jarring shift in theme. The Mass Effect series explores several key themes:  The attempts to stop the Reapers, a seemingly unstoppable force brought into play the idea of Self Determination vs Fate. Encounters with artificial life forms like Sentient AI’s and the synthetic Geth bring the question what constitutes life? Is life merely the end result of evolutionary forces, or is it a state of mind and being? Can Synthetic and Organic life coexist peacefully?

But the biggest one of all, is the idea that it is our differences that make us strong. This is what all three games explored, in one way or another. Mass Effect 1 was about getting the galaxy at large to recognize Humanity’s worth, to put aside their distrust of a new species, and in the end work together to stop Sovereign. ME2 had the player running around recruiting people of various races, beliefs and backgrounds, and to get those people to work together as a team. Finally this theme reached a galactic scale in ME3, as the player was tasked with creating a multiracial coalition to fight the Reapers and to put aside old grievances and suspicions, and work together for a common good. And in these horrible, final moments of Mass Effect 3, this key theme is brutally murdered, tossed into a woodchipper, and then fed to the hogs. I’m going to spare you the obtuse, over-wrought dialogue that the AI God spews, and just give you a brief rundown of what he says:

Yes, as stupid as it sounds, this is what the supposedly hyper-intelligent AI tells Shepard. According to the literal Deus Ex Machina we meet, he created the Reapers, a species of Synthetic life forms, to destroy all organic life every 50,000 years to prevent organics from creating synthetic life that will eventually kill organics. What kind of circular fucking logic is that? Is this AI stuck in some kind of feedback loop? It’s so impenetrably convoluted that it defies all attempts to try and rationalize it, so you know what? I’m not even going to try, I’m just going to let it sit there like the failure of basic human reasoning that it is, and let it think about what its done. [It has been pointed out that isn’t what the Catalyst actually says, and I’ve addressed this issue in this post.]

And the stupidity just keeps snowballing as he presents us with three options:

1) Control the Reapers – The theme of Self Determination goes right out the window as we forcibly take control of a sentient species. Sure, they’re trying to kill us but it would have been nice to at least debate the merits here.

2)Merge Organic and Synthetic life – Remember the whole Strength through Diversity theme? This completely obliterates that by stating the only way to achieve lasting piece is to make everyone the same. Really? That’s what you think will achieve peace? I seem to remember another guy who had similar ideas. This is not only the most offensive option, but the one that makes the least sense. How exactly does this fusion take place? Why does Shepard need to die to activate it? Why is this horrible idea, akin to genocide, presented as the best possible option (it requires a 100% playthrough to get)?

Okay this is gonna be awkward, but you two need to…um…merge…

3)Destroy the Reapers, but in doing so extinguish all Synthetic Life (including the Geth, your allies) – Of all the crappy options, this is the one that makes the most sense, in the same kind of way poking out one eye with a stick instead of both makes sense. So, we destroy the Reapers, and all Synthetic Life…but at least that makes some kind of sense, because killing the Reapers has always been the goal, and Shepard has been willing to sacrifice a lot to see it come to fruition. That’s his character.

A character that is viciously torn apart in the final moments of the game. Even though the players control Shepard, there are certain inalienable qualities to his character that are present whether the player chooses Paragon or Renegade options. Shepard has continually being going against all odds, succeeding where everyone expected failure. If someone told Shepard there were no options, he/she made their own god damn options. Throughout ME 1, everyone in a position of power insists that the Reapers are a myth, and that Shepard should ignore it. In ME2, he’s told his mission to stop the collectors is a suicide mission, and that no one will return. ME3 sees Shepard confronted with the very real possibility that nothing he does will be able to stop the Reapers as he watches them lay waste to Thessia. Yet in all these instances, he finds a way to persevere, to find new options, or to die in the attempt. He never, never accepts the inevitable nor does he simply accept what people tell him as the truth, especially when the galaxy is at stake.

Yet now Shepard goes completely against his character and accepts everything the AI is telling him, despite the mind boggling circular logic he employs. Shepard doesn’t look for another option, or even ask a single solitary question. I mean, not only is this against his character, it’s against human nature. If some mystical god thing landed in your backyard, said you have three options to make the world a better place, but you have to die to make it happen our first instinct would be to say: “Wait…what was that last part?” I mean sure, many of us would be willing to make the sacrifice if necessary, but I think we’d all want to know why we had to die before we did it. Apparently not Shepard, he just can’t wait to throw himself into an abyss:

3. Lack of Resolution

No, you’re not missing anything, that’s the entire ending of the game. No, no, not just the game. The series. The entire Mass Effect series ends with a 5 minute video. Now, I should point out that yes, this video does resolve the plot. Don’t look at me like that. I said it resolves the plot, I didn’t say it does it well. But the plot of the whole game was to stop the Reapers, which the video does in fact, show happening. Unfortunately, no one really gave a damn about the plot, it was all pretty standard to a space opera. What made Mass Effect special was the characters we met along the way.

As a wise friend recently told me: “No one gives a damn about events, it’s how they affect the characters that they care about.” And that is the biggest, most crippling issue the ending has. It goes from being about how the Reaper war has affected the people we care about, to a stupid event-driven cinematic. Sure, it sort of shows your crew crashing on an alien world (which just opens up even bigger plot holes), but there’s no sense of resolution from that 15 second clip they give you.

Many people who say they liked the ending Mass Effect 3 will often bring up the fact that the conversations with your crew before the final battle was our resolution. No, no it isn’t, and allow me to explain why.

Remember the Dramatic Arc?

Hi there!

Now let me walk you through that Arc in Mass Effect 3.

Yeah, once you get to London being incinerated you can pretty much just guess the rest. Now let’s go back to that Dramatic Arc, the above scene essentially operates as the Call to Arms or Inciting Incident, a devastating event that forces the main character to be separated from the life he knows and starts him out on his journey. Earth can’t stand alone against the might of the Reapers, and so Shepard leaves a burning Earth behind in order to gather allies and hope that a counter attack with the combined might of all the races can destroy the reapers, which moves us into Act 2: Frustration and Opposition in which the Rising Action portion of the arc begins. In order to secure these alliances, Shepard is forced to mediate disputes between various alien species, help other races secure their own borders, and search for a way to complete the Crucible, a weapon of Mass Destruction that Earth hopes can end the war. It’s this second act that is really the meat of the game, and it’s terrific, absolutely awesome. It stumbles here and there, but overall, I thought this was a brilliant piece of storytelling. It’s partly because this section is so damned good that makes the horrible ending even harder to bear, I think people would be less upset if the entire game had been terrible, because at least then you know the whole game is trash and throw it away. When it all happens in the last five minutes, it’s like being sucker punched in the gut. You want to replay the game because it was so amazing, but the foreknowledge of the terrible ending is always hanging over you like a guillotine.

Finally however, we move to Act 3: The Nightmare and the beginning of this act promises to be the most epic thing we, the gamer, have ever experienced as the fleet we gathered in Act 2 jumps into the Sol system ready to fight the Reapers to the last man. This is the Galaxy”s last gamble, everything has been thrown into this one final battle. The Crucible has been completed, requiring only a connection to the Citadel (a massive Reaper-built space station) in order to deploy and hopefully end the Reaper threat forever. The fate of humanity, and the rest of the galaxy, rest on this one last battle.

Shepard’s fleet punches a hole in the Reaper defenses, allowing him to land:

And this is where we run into our first snag in the ending. After a brief firefight in which Shepard disables some huge AA guns, he finds himself at a base where we are preparing for the last push to victory.The Citadel features five huge arms that normally stay open, but are currently closed to defend the station during the battle. In order to deploy the Crucible, Shepard has to fight his way through devastated London to a huge energy beam connecting the Citadel to the Reaper Base on the ground, once on board the Citadel he has to open the arms so the Crucible weapon ship can dock and deploy. This is all well and good, but before launching the mission, Shepard, or rather the player, has the option of talking to the squadmates we’ve grown to love over the last three games.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this in theory and indeed some of the dialogue in this section is some of the most powerful in the game. Unfortunately it seems Bioware made the mistake of shoe horning in resolution right in the middle of the rising action. See, on that chart up there, we haven’t quite reached the peak of the action yet and begun our trip to climax and resolution. Now I think, and I’m just guessing here, that these scenes were merely meant to convey that everyone knows they might die, and this could be the end of the road. People are exchanging final goodbyes, which is fine as long as you have resolution afterward. 

This is the point where most people say “Hey, that’s your resolution right there!”

Oh really? Then what the hell was this:

And I suppose this was just a relaxing stroll through some daisies.

The whole point of the rising action is to slowly build up the tension until the reader/player/watcher is on the edge of his seat. Resolution is where writers gently begin letting the reader/player/watcher relax, and allow them to absorb the journey they just completed, relieving the tension created earlier and most importantly allow the characters to return to a more normal state.  By trying to shoehorn the Resolution into the Rising Action, any calming effect the resolution might have had on us was completely lost when we dove back into the rising action with the Battle for London and the charge for the Citadel Beam, and the characters are all prepared to die and still in crisis mode. We were never given a chance to see how they have changed over the course of the game. That’s the big reason why so many people were left feeling unfulfilled at the ending, there was no opportunity for resolution with the characters we’ve grown to love. The plot line itself was resolved, albeit in a horrible illogical way, but it was at least resolved. With the characters, however, we’re left adrift in a sea of confusion and grief without any kind of resolution to throw us a lifeline.

We salute your sacrifice Garrus, even if Bioware didn’t.

How I Would Have Handled the Ending

There’s been a lot of sarcastic stuff floating around on internet, strangely enough from Game Review sites who you’d think would be most upset by this, that all the fans are looking for is a Animal House style ending sequence. While that would have been better than what we got, which was essentially a picture of Bioware’s middle finger next to a note to buy DLC, that’s not what resolution is. At least not in the way I’m meaning it.

I went into this game fully expecting an unhappy ending, because I just didn’t think there would be anyway to defeat the Reapers. I think fighting a futile hopeless battle would have been incredibly poignant, with Joker slamming the Normandy into Harbinger in the final moments, or a last stand by Garrus as he takes down fifty husks before finally being overrun, and finally Shepard fighting defiantly to the bitter end against a horde of Cannibals. The possibilities were endless. Even a sad ending, would allow resolution, because in those final few moments before the end we could see the characters we knew and loved defiant to the last, we would understand their fate and respect their sacrifice.

Resolution doesn’t mean let the audience walk away happy; many of the most critically acclaimed stories in the world have sad endings. The Epic of Gilgamesh ends with his best friend Enkidu dying, one of the oldest stories in the world. Resolution means allowing the audience to absorb the story they’ve just read/watched/played, and allow them to decompress before gently letting go. What Mass Effect 3 did was raise the tension and stakes to their highest point…and then suddenly deflate the whole thing.

We are the diver suffering from the bends after you reeled us up to the surface too damn quickly, Bioware.

My Thoughts on the Indoctrination Theory:

There’s been a popular theory that states that everything that happens after Shepard is hit by the beam is actually Shepard being indoctrinated, a form of mind control. You view the video here. Now there is a lot of evidence to support this theory, so much in fact, that I think that was the direction Bioware might have been going for. And you know what?

That would have been an amazing accomplishment. If they had pulled that off I would be down on my knees praising Bioware as the new Writing Gods, and I would be sacrificing my own manuscripts on a pagan altar built in their honor.

This would have been the gaming equivalent of the Unreliable Narrator, a literary technique where the narrator of the story lies to the reader. This would have taken that concept to the next level, because it would actually succeed in making the player betray himself. They would have indoctrinated us, the players! It would be an astounding achievement, one that would show the world the incredible possibilities of writing stories for an interactive media and would be studied for years. So it’s a shame that I think it came down to the cold, calculating methodology of corporate executives that killed this idea.

See there’s too much framework already in place to believe all the evidence put forward by the indoctrination theory is all coincidence. However, the fact of the matter is that what we got is being presented as the ending. If, by picking the destroy option, we had been greeted by Shepard waking up in the debris still on London and allowed to continue playing, I would be applauding Bioware so hard my hands would have been reduced to bone and fleshy pulp. And with all the bad publicity Bioware is getting, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t just come out and tell us that this was the ace up their sleeve.

So here’s what I think happened. I think the writing team at Bioware originally had the indoctrination theory in mind, and the game designers were diligently creating all the subtle clues, preparing to pull of the most brilliant narrative effect in recent memory. Then they hit the wall…the wall of a looming deadline and rapidly shrinking money pile. Mass Effect 3 had already been delayed by three months, and properly incorporating the Indoctrination Theory into the game would have resulted in another delay. So someone without a shred of artistic integrity saw the ending sequence of the indoctrination and said “why not just make this the ending?” so they whipped up a half-baked closing cinematic, slapped it on the end and called it a day.

Further evidence that this decision was not made by the writers, is that none of them have come forth to defend the ending. Not a single solitary member of the Mass Effect 3 team has stepped forward to try and at least explain what the ending was about, plug the insanely huge plot holes left, or even apologize for so royally screwing up.

Of course that’s all speculation, but it seems the most likely scenario.

So Should They Change the Ending?


A lot of detractors of the Retake Mass Effect movement say that fans shouldn’t have any say in how the ending of story is told, and that those that complain about the ending are entitled brats. The phrase they like to pull out is artistic integrity. Even the co-founder of Bioware, Ray Muzyka, used this term artistic integrity to defend the ending in his statement. But allow me to counter:

No one with any artistic integrity would have let that absolute debacle of an ending be released. No one. The ending was so inexcusable on so many levels, that I can’t help but laugh at people’s attempts to defend it by calling it art. As if Art were not subject to ridicule and criticism.

Not only do I think they should change the ending, but if my above hypothesis on the Indoctrination Theory is right, they probably want to anyway.

However, Bioware is completely in their rights to keep the ending the way it is, just don’t expect me to like it.

Note: I’m overwhelmed by the huge amount of positive feedback this is getting. When I wrote this my blog usually averaged 100 views per day, and now I’ve accumulated 19,000 views in two days. I really appreciate everyone writing in and expressing their feelings on this subject. For those of you who have written in with questions or requests for me to elaborate further on certain points, I will do my best to answer these questions and may even write a follow up article to this one, illustrating other problems. I’ll try to respond to everyone as quickly as possible, so if you’re waiting on a response I’m not ignoring you, I’ve just received a lot of messages! Thanks again!

Note 2: I’ve been getting a lot of questions as to whether or not Bioware has responded to this article, or acknowledged that they’ve read it. I did tweet this article to Mass Effect’s twitter when I first wrote it, as well as Mike Gamble, but I never imagined this article would gain so much traction and I never attempted to reach Bioware by any other means. So while the answer is no, Bioware hasn’t responded, I haven’t really tried that hard to get their attention. I’ll be sending this article to them tomorrow, but everyone feel free to send Bioware the link, they’re bound to see one of them eventually. Maybe they’ll even be impressed enough to hire me. In the meantime, thanks again for everyone’s support, and I’ll keep you all updated.


  1. What a great read.
    Some few lines that really resonated with me (as an artist/quasi-writer)

    “Bioware was supposed to be tying up loose ends here, resolving plot points and character arcs, not creating all new ones in the final few seconds.”
    (Why they thought introducing a new character that absolutely diminishes the menace and looming dread the Reapers had throughout the series boggles my mind to no end.
    They were saying we’d get closure, but not about the Reapers. They were just fine they way they were being mysterious and not understandable.
    Yes we wanted closure, but they focused on the wrong one!)

    “You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.”
    (What a great line. I mean What. A. Great. Line! Now it’s like seeing little Annie turned Darth Vader going ‘Nooooooo’. I will never be able to look at Sovereign and Harbinger the same way ever again.
    Star Child has ruined the Reapers as little Annie has ruined Darth Vader for many people.)

    “Unfortunately, no one really gave a damn about the plot, it was all pretty standard to a space opera. What made Mass Effect special was the characters we met along the way.”
    (And that most important part was discarded in the end it really hurt.)

    “You want to replay the game because it was so amazing, but the foreknowledge of the terrible ending is always hanging over you like a guillotine.”
    (Gosh.. I tried. I really tried playing a different Shepard in ME2 or replaying the finished ME3 Shepard… I just can’t play it the same way as I did.)

    “No one with any artistic integrity would have let that absolute debacle of an ending be released. No one. The ending was so inexcusable on so many levels, that I can’t help but laugh at people’s attempts to defend it by calling it art. As if Art were not subject to ridicule and criticism.”
    (I really hope BioWare’s current attitude is the reflect on the individual clowns who were responsible for this mess. I honestly think a good portion of member fought hard to prevent this from happening. I’m sure they’re telling those people, or at least thinking to themselves ‘I told you so.’)

    Anyways. I really appreciated this article, as well as the comprehensive Hero’s Journey comparison of ME1 to 3.

    (And yes, the notable absence of ME3, Return with the Elixir is troubling)

    One bit of concern is your slight dash of political jab. As much as I’m sure it’ll get some high fives from your Liberal readers, I fear that it could turn off a good potential number of readers from this well thought out piece. (Which would be a crying shame!)

    Just a thought, but like Joker would say: It’s just my thought, no need to go spreading it around. ;P

    1. Thanks! So glad so many people are enjoying it, and you’re probably right, I’ve rewritten that small jab into something more neutral. Thanks for the feedback.

    2. this isnt a reply i just dunno how to comment regularly…



  2. Thank you for an analysis that puts all the pieces together rationally and irrefutably. Not that we aren’t going to get people trying to refute it anyway, most likely with strawman arguments.

  3. This a great analysis, thank you, really enjoyed reading.

    In case you haven’t seen it, you might want to check this out. There is some debate as to whether or not so done hacked his account to write this, but if you look at 1) the details of process, which are so specific as to be almost impossible to make up and 2) how people afraid of criticism can totally act that way, I think it this is completely legitimate and only afterwards did the guy change his mind about posting it.

    1. Thanks, no I hadn’t seen that article, but everything that he allegedly says makes perfect sense. So even if it’s not actually one of the writers who said that, the text itself is a good overview of how the ending should have been.

  4. My… my god….

    This was an incredibly written piece and I hope to the highest of holies that someone at Bioware is reading this. Thank you for taking the time to write this.

    1. Thanks! I appreciate all the positive feedback I’m getting. Maybe if it gets spread around enough we’ll get lucky and at least one person at Bioware will read it.

  5. Excellent read thanks. I only hope Bioware listen to articles like this.

    Personally I went into ME3 expecting an ending like Dragon Age Origins – happy, but with some sort of loss, which was chosen by the player. In DAO, I sacrificed myself – but others can have sacrificed Logain, Alistair, or taken Morrigans dark deal.
    For ME3 though, I had characters whom I had built bonds with over 3 games, and really loved my LI, so I wanted a happy ending. However an unhappy ending is better than no ending, as we have now.

    1. I was also hoping for a happy ending as one of the endings we could get, when Bioware said “Wildly Divergent” endings I thought maybe there would be room for a Shepard Wins victory right along with Reapers Kill Everything ending. My comments on allowing for a sad ending were mostly to address other people dismissing our complaints as whining because we didn’t get a happy ending, when that’s not the real issue at all.

      1. Great article. I don’t have alot of book smarts when it comes to explaining this sort of thing, but I don’t think that open-ended conclusions work for on-going narratives. As much as people may have crapped on Gears of War 3’s ending, it at least had a coherent ending and gave proper closure to the events that spanned the entire trilogy.

        While it’s within Bioware’s right to end Mass Effect on their own terms, they shouldn’t act so surprised at the icy reception it is now receiving. And personally, I think that an author’s claim of their work being “Art” is ceded once they tread into sequel territory. I loved The Dark Knight, but I think calling it a modern day work of art is quite a stretch.

        Again, I just don’t think that ambiguous endings work in any narrative mediums — especially when they apply Campbell-esqe paradigms and meanings into the equation. They really only work satisfyingly for one-shot narratives, like episodes of the Twilight Zone and Perry Mason, or films like American Beauty, and Citizen Kane. Once you develop sequels, you’re essentially enticing fans to follow along on their journey with promises of a big payoff in the end, whatever that may be for better or for worse. Unfortunately, Bioware gave us the crap sandwich ending that they gave us and kept everything as frustratingly vague as possible.

        Their bullheaded stance on Mass Effect 3’s ending reminds me of the hubris of David Chase, creator of the Sopranos. He didn’t even bother to give satisfying closure whatsoever, after building up so much expectation throughout the final season. Is a proper ending too much to ask these days? Were they that arrogant to think that ME3’s ending would fly with their consumers?

  6. Great text. I was expecting choices. like if u want a sad end, u have. U want a happy end, u have. But we were deliveried nothing. A space magic end=/.

    Waiting for the changes

  7. Excellent breakdown. I really hope that BioWare comes up with an ending that does justice to the series, but I’m not particularly hopeful. Dr. Muzyka’s comments about additional “clarity” and “closure” lead me to believe that we might get some sort of extended slideshow after the current ending. Like many people, I believe that the ending should be scrapped completely, and that an additional tacked-on “where-are-they-now” Animal House ending just won’t suffice.

  8. A phenomenal read.

    I guess, like you, and millions of others, the reason we’re all upset is because 99% of the franchise was SO good. It was one of the most well-written, meaningful narratives in decades, regardless of being in a video game, and it was all clear, concise, purposeful, clever, emotional, and expertly crafted.

    Until those final 10 minutes. I refuse to believe that the same people who gave us such richly-woven stories and character development could’ve botched an ending SO badly so willingly. There has to be something else at play here; executive meddling, business incompetence, rushed deadlines or money to be gained (“buy the REAL ending”).

    As it stands, we have an ending so inhumanely bad that it destroys not just the entire journey we’ve experienced in that game, but retroactively nullifies the PRIOR two games, erasing the meaning and purpose and fulfillment of those adventures. One would think they’d actually have to TRY to destroy so much goodwill and success, but they did it. They took everything we’ve grown to love, every tough decision, every meaningful quest, every difficult battle, every victory over the odds, every friendship we made, every enemy we’ve clashed with, every love we’ve discovered, every happiness and despair we’ve reaped, and nuked all of that to cinder and ash.

    And the last words we’ll ever read are “buy more downloadable content”.

    It hurts.

  9. interesting read … love the analysis…. don’t buy the indoc theory myself… feels like a bit of a reach. also, doesn’t make a ton of business sense (means they intentionally shipped an incomplete game)… but hey..i’d be happy to be proven wrong.

    1. The indictrination theory works if they had oririginally intended that the game not end where it did, but keep going a bit longer to reveal it. In that case, it would have been one of the greatest endings to a video game story ever.

      But if they ran out of time and EA wanted to ship? All the theory is still there, but they had to cut it off early due to time constraints and thus we got this “a God AI did it” magic ending instead of the real ending.

      If that’s what happened the DLC will fix it by adding the real ending back, but EA will have done tremendous damage to the brand in their desire to not miss a release date.

  10. Good job, but as funny as the yo dawg meme is here, it misrepresents what is happening: The Reapers only kill organic life advanced enough to create AI, and leave the underdeveloped races alone. What they are doing is killing the smart people so that all people are not exterminated. So the Reaper cycle is not a TOTAL contradiction (not that this knowledge helps to deal with the thoroughly bad ending).

    1. Star Child: Yo dawg, I heard you organics don’t want to be killed by synthetics — so we built these synthetics to come around every 50,000 years to kill you organics. AND — on the Citadel here, I have a beam that can kill all of the synthetics (the Red beam option).

      Me: So why didn’t you just install red beams in every one of the mass relays that you built? That way, you could regularly explode all the AI-synthetics. It seems like that would be win-win for everybody. No genocide.

      Star Child: Derrrrrrrrp.

    2. Though it is a dumb plan none the less. 50,000 years is a long time, plenty of time for a ‘savage’ race to accend to the same technology as the Quarans – especially considering all the toys the Reapers would leave behind! Not to mention the Reapers don’t kill Synthetics currently active, and thus are just removing competition for them and allowing them to rapidly conquer all the primative races!

      There’s no way a logic-based AI could ever consider that a good plan. And it also contradicts what Sovereign and Harbinger said.

      Bad writing is bad.

  11. The indoctrination theory would make sense if not for one thing. The leak was several months old even by the time we got it and it’s almost the identical as what we got in the game.

    Either the person who leaked it intentionally left the part out where it was a twist and none of the ending really happened, it’s just people trying to make the best of a very poor situation, or they decided that it would be a cool idea around the time the people who read the leak were calling the endings retarded.

    Personally the indoctrination theory is too much like “it’s all a dream” for my taste and if they made us pay for the real ending it’s a huge punch to the balls since BioWare has stated at least a dozen times they would not remove something important like the ending (they seriously used that as an example before) to make more money.

    1. Star Child: Yo dawg, I heard you organics don’t want to be killed by synthetics — so we built these synthetics to come around every 50,000 years to kill you organics. AND — on the Citadel here, I have a beam that can kill all of the synthetics (the Red beam option).

      Me: So why didn’t you just install red beams in every one of the mass relays that you built? That way, you could regularly explode all the AI-synthetics.

      Star Child: Derrrrrrrrp.

  12. Hello,

    Its almost 6.00 am and i got stuck to your article and the videos for hours xD
    Its great! I thank you for this objective, but also entertaining analysis 🙂

    Ive spread the link to your blog to friends, websites and magazines. Dunno how many will give it a try or maybe even link it to their websites. I hope it will be a lot 😉 This is the best summarization and analysis of this deficitary ending ive read by now, and i think it will also help many readers to understand why they feel so badly affected through this ending.

    Thanks again 🙂

  13. While I agree on most of this I would like to state one thing:

    People often conveniently forget when citing “being killed by synthetics so you won’t be killed by synthetics” that the Reapers only destroy advanced organic life, while they assume that other synthetics would destroy ALL organic life, so in theory they are in fact protecting primitive organics from the creations of the advanced.

    The most illogical thing in my mind is that the Geth and their self-determination philosophy were an opportunity for the cycle to be abandoned and yet even when the cycle was delayed long enough for this to be discovered (and consider that the Geth probably cited this when rejecting Sovereign) neither the Catalyst nor the Reapers gave this any thought, even though it would have been easier. The cycle carries the risk that a civilization achieves synthetic life before the Reapers arrive and bring about total annihilation anyway. The constant presence of coexistant synthetics does not carry this risk: as the first synthetics of their rime, the Geth would be what other synthetics compared themselves to.

    1. This is a good point that I failed to address, I was probably too blindsided by the introduction of a previously unknown entity into the game to really listen to what he was saying.

      That said, while it makes a bit more sense that they’re pruning the galaxy, the plan as a whole still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Like you say, there are plenty of other easier ways, that involve less genocide, to avoid the problem of Synthetic Oblivion than wiping everyone out every 50,000 years.

  14. awesome article man! In depth analysis of the issue at hand!

    you made what most pro journalist couldn’t accomplish ! congrats!

  15. Woah. This is everything that has been said as to why Mass Effect 3 ultimately falls short. It’s incredibly well written and hits all the major points. With the recent comments on Mass Effect’s twitter and other company outlets it seems that they didn’t seem to be looking to implement indoctrination theory originally. If it wasn’t their original “artistic vision”, but they realize that it makes great business and narrative sense, do you think they should change it? I do, but I’m also merely a huge fan of the franchise that felt betrayed by the developer I trusted entirely. Also, the part about indoctrination theory which is most unsettling is the fact that if it’s true, they shipped an incomplete game only to give it to us at a later date. If it’s being sold to us, then that is exploitation and a horrible business practice.

    I also wanted to say thanks because this was a great read.

    1. I don’t think Bioware or even EA would intentionally send out a game with the ending missing. Like I said, I think the most probable explanation was that it was the original intention for that section to be Indoctrination, but ran out of funds or time. However, if it that wasn’t the plan, and all the clues in that section are merely coincidental flaws, then I still think they should run with the indoctrination theory.

      If they stick with the Indoc theory it gives them a perfect out for the ending they have here. Instead of retroactively deleting all the scenes prior to Harbinger’s Beam, they merely have to add some content post Blue/Green/Red. It maintains narrative flow, and ensures that the content already in place doesn’t go to waste. It’s still a cop-out but I’m willing to accept a cop-out at this point in exchange for an ending that makes sense.

  16. All the thoughts and emotions I have had about this horrible, horrible ending were just put into print by you good sir. We should seriously start a campaign were everybody who loathes the ending sends a link to this piece to Bioware. We shouldn’t just leave it to chance that they come across this, it’s too well written and encapsulates our concerns too well.

  17. This is absolutely brilliant!

    I think you really hit the nail on the head with BioWare running out of time. To me, the whole game felt a little rushed (still a great game,) becoming really prominent in the second half. It seemed to me like they were scrambling to hit the major plot points, leaving some of the in-between stuff go by the wayside. Interaction with party members felt more shallow then in other games, especially with the auto-dialogue on the Normandy, where they just talked at you, no real conversation. I think either they needed to bring more people on the writing/development team, or delayed it another three months.

  18. I love that we’re all pinning our hopes to an ending theory which, when it was done 30 years ago in a soap opera, received the same level of hate these endings are receiving. I kinda hope they get Patrick Duffy to do a voice in their DLC. 🙂

    Seriously though, I think you’re right. On the one hand, Indoctrination Theory has so much evidence that it almost can’t be coincidence. There are a ton of small details, like the trees you see waking up after Harbinger’s beam, which don’t make any sense to add in unless it’s a reference to indoctrination. At the same time, it never made sense to create this brilliant ending and not use it to calm some of the rage. Your theory, combined with what I’ve read a few other places, makes the most sense. They probably were running out of time, and Casey Hudson and Mac Walters took what would have been the indoctrination, and made it the actual ending. There’s a forum post (since removed) which was supposedly written by one of the writers, which states that for the very ending, all the other writers were kept out of the loop and it was written completely by just those two. That didn’t make much sense either, unless you consider that the time and budget crunches forced those two to just come up with something to shove out.

    As for “artistic integrity”, please. Some of the best masterpieces in history have been created because someone said “I want this.” There are many many cases of works of art that have been created or changed based on someone else’s input. Many many movies today have had elements changed after test screenings provide feedback suggesting they do so. One of the greatest works of art in history was created by someone who absolutely didn’t want to do it, was forced to do it, and wasn’t even in a field that he was known for. Pope Julias II forced Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, even though Michelangelo wasn’t even a painter, he was a sculptor. I don’t see anyone clambering to tear it down because the artist’s integrity was impugned.

    Plus, what about OUR artistic integrity. Bioware has provided us a media through which we can tell our own unique story. Each person’s Shepard is going to be a little different. Each person’s character’s development is controlled by the player. They may be Bioware’s words, they may be decisions provided by Bioware at specific points they designate, but it is my character, unique to me and created by my artistic vision.

    What a very well-written article. But really, you can sum up the entire reason why the endings are bad in 3 words: deus ex machina. It’s a contrivance that has been universally panned since its inception millenia ago. It’s a literary white-flag which signals that an author doesn’t have a clue what to do there, and is pulling something out of their posterior orifice.

    There are only two ways they’re going to be able to get out of this relatively unscathed. The first is if, by some miracle, they planned for this all along. If they could prove that IT is correct, that the endings were just an attempt to indoctrinate you, and that there is a real ending on the disk which either just needs a quick download to turn on, or will trigger on some specific event (like say April 1st). That would combine two of my favorite elements from another of my favorite series, the Batman: Arkham games. In Arkham Asylum, you have a scene which breaks the 4th wall and instead of seeing Batman’s fear, you the player see your worst fear (or your greatest fear at that moment anyway). The second was in Arkham City, where the game knows what day it is, and speaking to Calendar Man on certain holidays opens up new dialog options.

    Failing that, then the only way out is to quickly provide a well-written ending for free. Personally, at this point, I want the puppies and rainbows ending as well. I would argue that another theme is that there’s always a way to succeed. There’s too much bleakness in the world already. What’s wrong with a video game providing a way to achieve a successful run that ends happily? If I wanted to see a depressing vision of the future, I’ll go watch a political debate. I want a chance to earn a reward for my hard work, to save Shepard’s life, to reunite with hold friends, etc. It shouldn’t be a gimme, but it should at least be possible.

    1. Wow, that was nearly as long as my blog post, well done! I always appreciate well thought out feedback.

      And I agree, there should be a happy ending as well, I merely wrote out a sad ending to illustrate that we’re not unhappy at the ending because it was sad, but because it made no sense. It would be great to have a series of endings ranging from horrible (reapers kill everything) to Pyrrhic victory (earth in ruins but reapers defeated) and even puppies and rainbows (you did so well the Reapers literally surrendered in terror).

    2. Quote: I love that we’re all pinning our hopes to an ending theory which, when it was done 30 years ago in a soap opera, received the same level of hate these endings are receiving. I kinda hope they get Patrick Duffy to do a voice in their DLC.

      lol, I had stopped watching Dallas by that point, but I’m old enough to remember the fuss the fans made when they were told by the writers that the previous, horrid year hadn’t really happened, it was all a dream.

      Honestly, I don’t think the ending of ME3 can be saved, anything else BioWare does will just be slapping a bandaid on the problem, without actually healing the wound. Sometimes it’s best to just move on and leave flawed things flawed.

  19. One more reason why the unspeakably bad ending to ME3 came out of left field: Bioware have demonstrated in the past that they know how to do great endings on the other games in this series.

    The Mass Effect 1 ending was fun and spectacular, though conventional. It built suspense over several increasingly excellent missions, had a good feeling of narrative climax, was entirely consistent with the story and brought closure afterwards.

    By comparison the Mass Effect 2 ending was a tour-de-force. It carried choice, consequence, gameplay and cinematic story through a series of final missions in an incredibly effective way, creating tension and great final moments even if the human reaper was perhaps a bit more schlock horror than space opera.

    With ME3 it’s as if they forgot all of that, and handed the job over to a QA intern. Besides all the other inconsistencies it was just very badly done all the way from the Cerberus Base onwards, and the last 20 minutes were a storytelling and game design clusterf*ck of the highest order. I realise it must be painful for Bioware to read things like this, but it was just as painful to play through. It genuinely has changed how I view the franchise, and I don’t know if I’ll play these games again.

  20. Some people call this a Rant, I didn’t read the entire thing, and it may indeed be a long read. but I think it explains a lot of core issues admirably.


    1. Thanks! I tried to keep it as brief as possible, but there was just so much wrong with the ending it required a huge write-up. I may be doing a smaller, follow up post to cover things I left out for the sake of brevity.

      I tried to keep the “rant” feel to a minimum, however, I did feel that a certain amount of emotion (mainly frustration) in the piece would better illustrate why the ending is problematic.

  21. About indoctrination, they were actually going to have an entire sequence of gameplay where the player loses control of their body. They decided to cut that.

    “And even in November the gameplay team was still experimenting with an endgame sequence where players would suddenly lose control of Shepard’s movement and fall under full reaper control. (This sequence was dropped because the gameplay mechanic proved too troublesome to implement alongside dialogue choices)”

    This is from a behind-the-scenes look at the development of ME3 as presented in a $3 app by this guy:

    So indoctrination was definitely going to play a larger role which could explain why a lot of cues are still left in the game.

    1. I actually sort of agree with that, using a gameplay mechanic to take away control from the player sounds kind of iffy. I suppose it could work, but the indoctrination theory would have been much more subtle and mindblowing.

  22. Very good read. About the your take on the indoctrination theory. What do you think would have happened if you didn’t choose the red, would you not wake up at all and the reapers win? or would something else happen?

    1. I think if you choose Control or Synthesis, the player would get a cutscene showing the original horrific ending, but then suddenly cutting to Shepard in the rubble on Earth. His eyes slowly open and you see the indoctrination eyes, slowly zooming out to see the Reapers continuing to obliterate Earth before it zooms all the way out to space and you see your fleet fighting its last desperate stand. Just my opinion of course, there are plenty of awesome ways they could have gone about it.

  23. Indeed, this is a valued reading which has been bookmarked along with the document in google docs.

    To offer my point of view about why BioWare didn’t come out and say that the indoctrination theory is correct.
    The way this entire situation has escalated, it was probably for the best for BW to say absolutely nothing whether the ending was intentional or not.

    If it was intentional and they came out and said so, then the outrage would be much bigger, since many people would see it as a means for EA/BW to get more money. Remember that a lot of people have already refunded their copies of the game, so you can imagine what that would do to the player base to learn that they have to re-buy them, because the ending is not complete, on purpose.

    As for the people who strongly defend the endings, don’t expect them to come and read this or any other document explaining with valid arguments the fallacy of the endings. Most (if not all) of them can’t even see what is in front of their eyes, let alone attempt a critical reasoning on it.

    1. Yeah, I wasn’t necessarily seeking to win over the die-hard “Bioware can do no wrong, the ending is great” people. This was for the select few that are genuinely confused over the outcry, but mostly I wrote this just so I could work out how the ending went wrong for myself. The ending was so bad that for days I couldn’t quite grasp where it went wrong, so I went through it step by step to figure it out. Figured I’d write down what I learned. 🙂

  24. i’d just like to say, the animal house ending is fantastic …

    i’ve also alluded to the hero’s journey in diatribes before, but the illustration in ME1/ME2 helps significantly

    the second problem, portraying the “ascendance’ problem of heroic journeys, is that most heroes shouldn’t actually need to ascend just to tell the story of their success, if they do, they often lose the audience entirely because of the failure to lampshade or foreshadow or forewarn of ascendance being needed

    there’s also the few examples of religious symbology and Nietzschean philosophic ramifications in the ending, which are also touchy subjects, perhaps because the matrix revolutions also touched on the same aspects of conditioning the audience poorly for non-sequitir or poor denouement in the endings, they have to resolve in a way that it’s part of the same world.

    the man behind the curtain has to be a person, not a god or a cloud of light, a figure made of flying robots, or a ghost, or in chronicles of riddick, move faster than light, etc.

    1. I have no problem with games, or any creative medium, exploring Nietzschean philosophy. Like you said, it was the sudden inclusion of this philosophy that had, otherwise, never touched on them. Throwing away the core themes of the game in exchanged for a basically Nihilistic ending was what threw most people.

      And that ending is pretty awesome!

  25. Amazing and very well thought out analysis. It’s real credit to the ME franchise that it evokes passions deep enough to inspire this type of thought and share it, but also makes the current ending even more of a shame.

    One wrinkle for your thoughts on Indoctrination Theory: There is a cutscene at the end of the game after the crucible and after the Normandy crash lands on the garden/jungle world that shows someone in N7 armor lying in rubble, presumably Shepard, taking a breath.
    Vid here:

    To see this, you need an “effective military strength” of over 5000(?) before you begin the attack on the Illusive Man’s base and subsequently start the assault on Earth. You also need to choose the destroy reapers option at the end. This would seem to be either another gaping, ill thought out plot hole or actually indicative and supportive of Indoctrination Theory.

    1. Yeah, exactly my thoughts. Mass Effect created such passion in all its fans, and that’s great, exactly what good stories should do. So it’s a real shame that it eventually fell flat just before the finish line.

      Yeah, I hadn’t been aware of that until after I wrote the piece. It seems to support indoctrination, since he only wakes up if you choose Destroy, but then again it could all be the bits and pieces of half-finished work slapped together at the end of the game.

      1. What I don’t like about indoctrination theory is that even if you don’t get indoctrinated, the game ends with Shepard taking a breath and waking up at presumably London. That’s it. It just ends there. If it’s intentionally that way, as supporters of the theory claim, then it’s pretty distasteful. It’s like rolling the credits just when Neo sees the matrix is made of code. And if they release “the truth” later as DLC, it’s like cutting out the last 20 minutes of Fight Club, and selling it for an extra 5 dollars later.

        The theory would be fine I guess, if the box and the marketing of the game didn’t promise distinct varied conclusive endings. Instead we get something that’s either really sloppy, or a shyamalan-esque twist that still leaves us hanging. Did beating indoctrination remotely activate the crucible and thus kill the reapers? Do you still have to fight the reapers after you wake up? What?

        And even if Bioware releases a “true” ending that confirms indoctrination theory later on “for the fans”, it would be extremely suspect. It could be a number of things: them covering their asses, them wanting to squeeze more money from their player. If indoctrination theory was true, and they do have an actual ending planned for later, they should’ve just included it in the main game from the beginning and pushed back their deadline. Releasing it later as DLC, free or not, is just a bad bad move and an insult to the players.

  26. Thank you for this excellent literary analysis! I’ve shared it on the BioWare forums, and I’ve tweeted it to all the Mass Effect writers.

    I did get a response back from @masseffect stating that they had already forwarded this to the writers, but who knows if they’ll even look at it. I imagine that they realized the ending was pretty bad before the game even came out; no rational person would argue that the endings are fine as they are…

    Anyways, thanks again for posting.

    I should go.

    1. Thanks! I wasn’t aware that @MassEffect had responded to any tweets regarding this. If you could direct me to it, I would enjoy seeing it.

      I’m not really expecting a response from Bioware in all honesty, they have no real reason to respond, and I can’t imagine how they would defend the ending or disprove my own points at this stage. Still, I would love to speak to them, I’m just not expecting it.

      (Hint: I’m open to being surprised, Bioware)

  27. This article was a really good read. I got hear after it was posted in the comments of another blog talking about the same subject.

    I still waiting to get his talk on the ending it self, but he has come out against changing it hence the topic. He even uses the “artistic integrity” argument. However, he does some pretty good work so I’m still follow his stuff. ( If I used the word Fan, I feel like my opinion would mean less. Kinda of weird the way that word works.)

    I’ve starting to realize that the reason I’m not as peeved with the ending is because I’ve forgotten a lot that happened in the first Mass Effect and my attachment to the series isn’t that strong. Even through I got it around the same time Mass Effect 2 came out. In a way I’ve always thought of Mass Effect as a single game (2) with a prequel (1) and a sequel (3). So I’m fine with just letting things play out.

    1. If people liked the ending, more power to you. Not everyone enjoys the same things, and as I stated in the beginning of my topic, the Hero’s Journey and Dramatic Arc are predominately in most stories but not all. Some people enjoy chaotic, fluctuating stories. That said, it’s often best to stick to one form, it’s the jarring change in narrative structure that stands out most.

      I’m not trying to convince people to not like the ending, I was merely pointing out the fundamental flaws in the ending from a literary standpoint, so people who already don’t like the ending have a clear idea why it didn’t work.

  28. Wow, this was just a scrumptious read. Incisive and insightful. I learned a lot about writing here and i think I will pick up “Heroes Journey” and “Writers Journey”.

    I agree, if the indoctrination theory had become the official line, it would have been the single greatest literary coup EVER. Such a missed opportunity, such a shame. You are probably right, they were running out of time and money – which just makes what could have been ache even more!

  29. Spot-on critique. BioWare should read this instead of all the posts whining that the ending was ruined simply because Shepard dies.

    Like you said, “No one gives a damn about events, it’s how they affect the characters that they care about.” By the end of ME3, players have spent dozens of hours with these characters throughout the series—probably longer than they have with any other piece of entertainment. It’s hard to fathom wide-scale changes like galactic war, so BioWare instead focuses on the characters caught up in the events. We see Anderson being outgunned and on the run on Earth. We watch helplessly as the child getting onto the shuttle, with seemingly no one else noticing him, gets blown to bits by a reaper. Sure that part was a bit hamfisted, but the kid was almost a metaphor for the rest of humanity. The vulnerability of humanity was told through his character as much as through the image of Earth being incinerated.

    Removing these characters from the ending didn’t just prevent players from gaining personal closure with the individual characters—it prevented a natural conclusion to the entire storyline. With the relays destroyed, what happens next? Are the Quarians stuck on Earth forever (even after getting back their homeworld)?

    And the characters weren’t just removed from the epilogue. If one of the themes of the ME series is strength through diversity, Bioware should’ve shown all of the people we recruited standing alongside us in the final battle.

    I’m also glad you brought up how the menacing Sovereign in ME1 was reduced to a simple puppet by the end of ME3. The reapers were characters, too. They needed more of a presence in ME3, not just a 3 second cameo by Harbinger at the end.

    The poor use of characters is just one reason why BioWare screwed up the ending. I’m all for artistic integrity, but players aren’t feeling entitled here–there are fundamental problems with storytelling. You article is good because it focuses on how Bioware contradicted its own storytelling logic with the ending. Not surprising, considering how the ending was written only by Casey Hudson and Mac Walters without being peer-reviewed by the other writers.

    1. I may do a follow up specifically about the characters and how they were mishandled in the climax. I kept it purely to Shepard, and briefly at that, because the post was already longer than I liked. You give an excellent overview of why they mishandled the characters already, though ;). I may just redirect my readers to this comment. 😀

  30. Spot-on critique. BioWare should read this instead of all the posts whining that the ending was ruined simply because Shepard dies.

    Like you said, “No one gives a damn about events, it’s how they affect the characters that they care about.” By the end of ME3, players have spent dozens of hours with these characters throughout the series—probably longer than they have with any other piece of entertainment. It’s hard to fathom wide-scale changes like galactic war, so BioWare instead focuses on the characters caught up in the events. We see Anderson being outgunned and on the run on Earth. We watch helplessly as the child getting onto the shuttle, with seemingly no one else noticing him, gets blown to bits by a reaper. Sure that part was a bit hamfisted, but the kid was almost a metaphor for the rest of humanity. The vulnerability of humanity was told through his character as much as through the image of Earth being incinerated.

    Removing these characters from the ending didn’t just prevent players from gaining personal closure with the individual characters—it prevented a natural conclusion to the entire storyline. With the relays destroyed, what happens next? Are the Quarians stuck on Earth forever (even after getting back their homeworld)?

    And the characters weren’t just removed from the epilogue. If one of the themes of the ME series is strength through diversity, Bioware should’ve shown all of the people we recruited standing alongside us in the final battle.

    I’m also glad you brought up how the menacing Sovereign in ME1 was reduced to a simple puppet by the end of ME3. The reapers were characters, too. They needed more of a presence in ME3, not just a 3 second cameo by Harbinger at the end.

    The poor use of characters is just one reason why BioWare screwed up the ending. I’m all for artistic integrity, but players aren’t feeling entitled here–there are fundamental problems with storytelling. You article is good because it focuses on how Bioware contradicted its own storytelling logic with the ending. Not surprising, considering how the ending was written only by Casey Hudson and Mac Walters without being peer-reviewed by the rest of the team.

  31. I have read several articles and rants on the ending thus far, and have found myself shouting ” Exactly!” and nodding my head in heated agreement…however, none have gotten me so riled up that I conference called my whole group of loyal ME friends and read it aloud, having a “meeting” so to speak illustrating the validity of each and every point.

    Hats off to you, and thank you for delivering an analysis that is so adequately laid out, void of petty comments and rabble that has given bioware the ammunition to say: ” we’re being attacked!”

    Simply amazing read. Sharing with every ME fan I know.

    1. Thanks! It’s wonderful to hear from people who were able to get so much out of this article. I was honestly not expecting all the positive responses I’ve been getting, and its good to hear from people like you!

  32. I was searching for the appropriate way to convey my angst and disapproval of the ending – I just wanted you to know that people are linking your blog as their answer to how they feel. ( Especially the Bio Ware site). I was so let down, I started to come up with my own Fan-Fic about how the ending should have been just to give myself some closure to this very gross malfeasance on behalf of the writing team.

    This is the best follow-the-bouncing-ball explanation I’ve found. In my own inspection, I found that even the writing of the last part did not even fit the otherwise brilliant and suspenseful sub-plots, especially the Liberation of the Quarians in which I believed to be the pinnacle of ME3’s storytelling. The Krogan Genophage cure – followed by that awesome Thresher Maw attack on the Reaper ( Nature vs Machine). The plots for those two were fantastic. I think the moment the writing was going down the tubes was the final attack on the Elusive Man’s main base… after that, you suddenly saw the cracks and the crumbling.

    I think the biggest things that really broke the bio ware fan’s back – was the throwing away of characters in which many people played ME2 thousands of times just to set up 4-6 different endings to go into ME3.

    I mean… having Thane some has-been assassin sitting in a chair at the Huerta Clinic waiting die was just a terrible mess. His sacrifice was so-so… I think I’d much rather see him sacrificing himself by taking care of Kai Leng himself in a death scene of sacrifice. I am sure you and I could probably talk for hours of how to have changed the ending in a multitude of ways.

    Good work my friend, I think I’ll be following your blog for now on.

    1. I actually tried posting this on the bioware forum when I first wrote it, however it seems I have to register my copy of Mass Effect 3 in order to post in the Spoiler forum. Since my Xbox isn’t connected to the internet, it wasn’t really worth the trouble, at least at the time. When I first wrote it I had no idea it would resonate so much with the community.

      I’m glad I was able to concisely breakdown how the ending went wrong. I agree, the Quarian/Geth storyline was one of the best in all three games, which made the horrible ending stand out even more. It was definitely the Cerberus base were the top started to wobble, but it wasn’t until the Starchild that the whole game went right down the tubes.

      Glad to have a new reader! I’ll try to keep up my reviews of stories, since that seems to be pretty popular. I may also follow up this post with a few other things I left out.

  33. I agree with most of your reasoning and you surely made a nice package out of it.
    To the point, poignant and well written.

    I don’t agree with limiting us to one ending though.
    There were suppossed to be multiple endings determined by your choices, I’m not ready to abandon that concept.

    You are right of course, that a well written, logical ending would go a long way in resolving the problem, I just don’t see why you should limit yourself to one ending, when video games can really provide different solutions and have done so ofr a long time.

    1. I didn’t mean to imply that I wanted only a single ending, I was simply stating that I would have been okay with a sad ending to illustrate that it wasn’t the “sad” ending that people were upset about. I agree that the expectation was for multiple endings based on your choices and I hope that, eventually, we get that.

  34. I liked the entry a lot and agree with almost everything and it’s a nice theory, that the indoctrination ending was intended, but was abandoned because of unknown factors.
    It’s certainly true that there are many details in the game that allow this theory, but sadly my take on it is, that it’s usually only a result of the writing to be rather vague and/or ambiguous. I think it’s just one of these cases where writers express themselves like that, to keep most of their options open, in case they actually have to change something later.
    My opinion is, that the fans love Mass Effect so much, that they are willing to desperately grasp at any straw that might save them from THIS ending.
    My guess, on the reasons behind the state of the ending, is basically that the lead of this project wanted a memorable ending so bad (over endings that most games would choose), that this was their best take. So their mistake would be really that memorable doesn’t necessarily mean good.

    I also don’t read too much into the fact, that BioWare writers themselves don’t defend their work. I doubt they are allowed to do so, at least they would hardly benefit their careers. And maybe there’s really not so much to defend, even from their perspective…
    AND earlier statements from BioWare employees were hardly good for the company’s image and made things only worse (for them):

    I’d welcome changes too, but I won’t keep my hopes up, because this way I might only be setting myself up for yet another disappointment.

    This statement hardly encourages hope for real changes.^^
    For now I’d expect nothing but an additional text. Something minor.

    1. Yeah, I realize the indoctrination theory is a bit of a reach and as I said, that was merely my take on the situation and am open to the possibility that I’m totally wrong.

      That’s a good point about the writers though, I failed to consider that since I’ve never worked for a large corporation. That is probably why the writers themselves haven’t come forward. However, if Bioware really felt this ending was good, I feel they would have come out by now with some sort of defense other than “it’s art!”. In my opinion, they fully realize the ending is crap and are just trying to do PR damage control at this point.

  35. I just can’t stop wondering what immense let down there is after so many players played and played and played Mass Effect 2 after getting over the other controversy, which was they believed ME2 was a re-boot inspired by BioWare being acquired by EA.

    So most said… ok. I can deal with Ashley/Kaiden/Liara/Wrex Et al — being thrown to the way side for a completely different set of characters…. —– Just as long as they don’t mess with the team in the next game.

    Well low and behold… all of the team aside for a scant few made it to the cannon story lines while the rest became NPC’s in the background. No cut scenes of your old group fighting in the battle — no mention of anything except farewell vid conversations before the terrible slide down oblivion. This is where I believe where fans had had enough —- you can’t blame them either. If they chose for their Shepard to have an LI with Miranda or Jack – you were pretty much treated the same way the LI’s of ME1 were treated in 2. I always felt it was a bad idea to have Shepard change up because there was something in the back of my mind that said “I bet you they do another re-boot to the team and there will be more disenfranchisement.”

    I mean to have to find out through a third party conversation ( if anyone was even able to hear) that Kelly Chambers was executed by Cerberus. Really? C’mon writers.

    Also, they mirrored the same ” fetch this item” from DA2 and far less missions as opposed to ME2 which had plenty of side missions to gain more points and such.

    Its really awful in the end. The more you look at it as a whole, the more it gets worse to except.

    1. I do have my own reservations about Mass Effect 2 concerning the writing, however it was mostly nitpicking, and ME2’s ending might as well have been Shakespeare compared to ME3. I may go into Mass Effect 2’s issues at a later date.

      Appreciate the feedback though, and glad you enjoyed it!

  36. Great read and I agree with you almost completely.
    Just one misstep: the logic of the god child can be reasonably explain by the following:

    The reapers destroy advance organic life to preserve the rest of organic life. The god-child makes the reasonable assumption that organics advance enough will unavoidably create synthetic life that will destroy them (see all scifi fiction ever). This dominant synthetic life will than proceed to destroy all organics to eliminate future treats. This is why the god child’s logic is somehow valid. Flawed (this is the point since Shepard is offered new options) but valid.

    1. Yeah, this has been pointed out to me a couple times now, and I agree I misjudged the AI God (but only slightly). In my defense the AI God’s appearance had me so completely overwhelmed with disbelief I wasn’t really listening that closely.

      Still, as you say, the logic of the AI is heavily flawed. The Reapers are pretty damn advanced, and you’d think that they would be able to move in and destroy rogue, genocidal Synthetics thus saving Organics, rather than killing Organics to prevent Synthetics being developed at all. Also, preserving unique species by turning them into Reapers never sat right with me, since you’re taking everything that made that species unique and completely homogenizing it in the uniform Reaper form.

      Even if the AI God’s logic isn’t completely bonkers, it still opens up issues with earlier games. For instance, why are Sovereign and Harbinger so hostile if this is simply a “galactic gardening mission”? I mean Sovereign seemed to view organics as below his notice, not worthy of the processing power in his mind. Why would he care that organics die out from Synthetics if they’re so inferior? Secondly, Harbinger seemed to relish in the slaughter, hardly a compelling argument for trying to preserve life.

      Thanks for the feedback, though, appreciate it!

      1. And if the God AI is really trying to protect organics and all this is true, why does it allow Shepard to destroy the Reapers and thus doom all organics to extinction just for the hell of it?

        How does that fit with its own explanation of its motivations at all? The whole thing doesn’t work no matter how you slice it.

      2. Here’s some food for thought. The original ending, envisaged by the writers whilst working on ME1 and ME2, would have revealed that the Reapers were in a battle against Dark Energy, a force flooding the Galaxy that would ultimately destroy it. The Reapers were emerging every 50,000 years to push back its spread, but in the process would wipe out other species that got in their way whilst preserving others in Reaper form.

        To be honest, I see why they changed it. It has a lot of problems on its own merits. However, it does explain some of the issues with the ending to ME3. When 2/3s of your story is being written with one ending in mind, and then you change it, problems and inconsistencies are going to result.

    2. I don’t think that it makes sense, he just waits more to kill the people he spared?
      And how come the god child does not know the geth? The geth do not want to kill anybody, nor does EDI.
      His logic is like growing cattle, he just waits till they’re old enough to kill, how does that make sense? It’d make more sense not to let anyone evolve, or let only synthetics live, to think they introduced an interfering GOD is the most baffling thing though.
      Since for him to come to his conclusion he’d have to have observed the problem before like said, it means at least once synthetics wiped out ALL organics, yet… organics emerged again, because nature/biology, so what does his solution do? I don’t think there’s ANY logic or validity.

  37. Really nice read. Thoughtful and insightful analysis of what went wrong from someone who clearly understands the craft of storytelling. I hope that people in the right places at Bioware/EA get to see this.

  38. Dude, this is great. Awesome read that I agree with on every level. The ending is so irrefutably bad, I couldn’t hope to put all my thoughts together coherently, but thankfully it seems you did that for me. Hope Bioware sees this!

  39. Incredible article! One of the few that I have actually enjoyed reading. I can’t deny that the ending was a large (well, rather small actually) piece of crap. But for me, and some of my friends, it was just the last straw.

    We feel that the entire game in ME2 was made redundant. Why even bother playing it at all if all if nothing we did in that game mattered. All of the squadmates we picked up, side quested for loyalty and romanced, yes there is that word, no longer matter. All have been basically sidelined for EAWare’s prefered characters.

    Between the abysmal treatment of characters from ME2, especially Thane, and the craptacular ending, this game has no replayability for me. Some have not even bothered to finish it at all.

    1. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

      I’m actually seriously considering illustrating the problems in Mass Effect 2 as well. Mass Effect 2, while a great game, made a couple of missteps that I feel leaked over into Mass Effect 3, where the problem amplified. I’ll be making it more clear in the post, hopefully.

  40. Very well-written; pretty much addresses all of the points complained about by the fans.

    While I think that Synthesis was less evil than depicted (it was portrayed as “togetherness,” not a holocaust, and everyone retains their free will), it certainly wasn’t a pleasant concept, and it definitely is so bad as a plot device that it only lent credence to the idea that “this must all be a joke” (indoctrination theory).

    I think the most telling thing, in fact, about the ME3 ending is that the fans can’t and won’t accept that it’s real. We’re all in denial, hoping and praying for a DLC, and thinking that maybe, just maybe, the whole thing was just a dream.

    A digital dream, by our character, sure–but a dream nonetheless.

    Well, a nightmare.

    1. Thanks, that was what I was going for, I’m glad I hit the mark so well.

      I disagree that Synthesis was less evil. The contention was that Synthetic and Organic life could never exist in harmony, that same argument has been used throughout human history to justify atrocities and discrimination. Before the civil rights movement, many people thought colored and Caucasian people couldn’t exist peacefully side-by-side. Most of the propaganda spouted by the Nazis were about how impure races mixing with the pure Aryan race was why Germany was in a state of chaos. In addition to that, it implies you are genetically altering every living and synthetic being in the galaxy against their consent, and by the very alteration, are eliminating every that makes them unique. So yes, I think synthesis is the worst ending despite needing 100% to get it.

      Obviously I don’t think Bioware intended this to be the message they were sending, rather this was just a result of the crappy writing at the end giving an unintended message. Still, unintended or not, the message is still there.

      Thanks for the feedback though! I really appreciate everyone writing in!

  41. Great post. Interesting idea on the Indoctrination Theory and you know it does make a certain amount of sense. If this was true though then it should be easy to fix because they can go, ‘ok team bioware that first ending didn’t work so well so lets do it right here and now’. And as far as Bioware not saying anything, come on if this was your plan all along…or is now…will you really say anything? But what Bioware has said is that it doesen’t seem like this was heading in this direction…at all.

  42. This is absolutely astounding. You sir have changed my mind. I will be asking Bioware to change the ending.

  43. Thank you for giving a more articulate voice to what I have been feeling for the last two weeks.

    There was a complete lack of catharsis in the ending of ME3. When the credits rolled, I felt empty and full of dispair at the same time. BW should not be surprised with the reaction that they are getting. All that pent up emotion had to directed somewhere because we sure as hell were not going to get a release during the ending of the series. I would have been fine if they fucked up ME2s ending or even ME1s but to have almost three stellar games and stories and then have that massive cluster fuck of a bullshit ending at the very end of the series is going to leave many feeling insulted, burnt, violated, and any other negative adjective you want to throw out there.

    1. Thank you for bringing up the idea of catharsis. I’d have been happy with an ending that raised questions. I’d have been happy with a non-definitive conclusion as long as it didn’t break the agreement forged over five years between publisher and gamer. I’d even have been fine with the game finishing in a logical fashion, such that it removed my narrative control over “my” character (although I can see how other players would not have been OK with this).

      What happened, though, was that I felt abandoned by the game. The character I’d built up over a period of years suddenly left in a most unreasonable way. The companions who accompanied my hero on her journey abandoned me too. How did my squad for the final campaign (in London) crash-land on a deserted jungle planet? Why did the Normandy and its stalwart helmsman leave Earth during the final battle, taking my friends with it, in my hero’s time of utmost need?

      And then the experience was over. Not cathartic in the least.

  44. I think that any discussion about the ending(s) should begin with stating this (apparently) little known fact: only two of the writers from ME2 are part of ME3’s roster, and none were involved with the original game. Where most people see some foreshadowing regarding the Indoc Theory in inconsistencies and plot-holes, I see good ol’ fashioned ignorance or disregard for the pre-established lore. With the ending debacle, people soon forgot the mess that was William C. Dietz’s “Mass Effect Deception”. I didn’t expect good things when I realized Drew Karpyshyn had quit the project, and later, BioWare altogether.

    It’s mind-boggling that professional writers failed to realize the faux-pas they were about to commit. Besides everything you mentioned, the most glaring shortcoming of the ending, that in my opinion, people don’t complain quite enough, is the fact that you really can’t lose: no matter how bad you performed, and how wrong your choices were throughout the game, you still managed to reach the horrible conclusion, albeit with reduced “options”. I’ve always expected that “taking back Earth” would play out as a “Suicide Mission” of epic proportions, with all alliances playing a role in the success (or failure) of Shepard’s endeavor.

    The inclusion of a figurative Deus Ex Machina in the form of the Crucible, and a quite literal one in the form of the Catalyst were the greatest of disservices to the trilogy.

    The whole change in theme in the last 10 minutes felt forced, much like if Darth Vader took Luke to the Death Star II to meet the emperor, and it turned out Palpatine was the Monolith from “2001 A Space Odissey”…

    Like someone already pointed out, pulling a “tabula rasa” on the whole ME universe was also a great way to get rid of a larger-than-life character like Commander Shepard. Sequels in an immediate future to the events of the trilogy would have to address the character in some way, which would be problematic due to the need to establish some sort of canon to a very personal and disparate story – if Shepard survived said events at all.

    If the ME universe can pull itself together in a distant future, new stories can be woven by only mentioning THE Shepard in some cryptic way, while solving at the same time the problem of a Reaper tech-dependant galactic community – the mass relays are destroyed in every ending.

    1. I was actually completely unaware of any of that, but now that I hear it, I’m not surprised at all and certainly explains why the writing quality went down. Mass Effect 1 was definitely the best in the series. I loved Mass Effect 2, but there were small problems with it that I think rippled into ME3 and caused the issues we’re seeing now.

      I too felt that the ending failed to recreate the Suicide Mission’s epic feeling, and real feeling of control. To expand that onto a much larger scale would have made ME3 the greatest game of all time. I was expecting to being able to order all the characters I’d accumulated over the three games to handle different parts of the operation: Garrus leading fire team 2, Miranda on fire team 3, Mordin leading a Salarian STG team to sabotage defenses, Jack coordinating Biotic artillery, etc.

      Still, i would have accepted the rather linear final mission if it had delivered an ending halfway decent.

  45. This is a good article. However, there’s one point of contention. The Catalyst’s logic might not be the best, but the assumption that it is circular logic is false. They are killing advanced organic life that can create synthetics because synthetics will otherwise kill *all* organic life. So for example, if the reapers hadn’t killed the protheans, the synthetics of that period could have killed the humans, the asari and everyone else in the galaxy, leaving no room for organic life in the future.

    It’s not the best or brightest plot someone has come up with, but it certainly isn’t what most people make it to be. There’s no logical fallacy in the Catalyst’s reasoning. It’s just not the best solution for their problem.

    PS: Somewhere in the article you wrote piece when I think you meant peace.

    1. Yeah I’ve covered that a few times in the comments now, and I think I’ll cover it more in my upcoming post fleshing out some of the issues I missed or left out entirely.

      Thanks! I’ll look for it and change it. Always appreciate people willing to proofread for me. 😀

    2. I disagree. If the reapers were really to protect organics in that way, why not program the reapers to kill the synthetics that became way too piowerful/dangerous? That way synthetics would be kept in line and no organic life would be killed. For that reason alone this doesn’t work at all for me.

  46. Wow.

    How very spot on.

    I’ve articulated the above assessment on various ME3 fora, but hardly so well.

    Incredibly done.

  47. One thing I will say about the Star Childs logic is that it’s not the solution that makes no sense it’s the reasoning, the Star Child is making the assumption that organics will create synthetics and those synthetics will 100% always, no matter what other outside forces that shape their way of thinking, will decide that they must destroy all organic life in the Galaxy. Also since they are AI they will think in absolutes and when they destroy organics that means EVERYTHING that is organic, all the way down to bacterial life-forms, which in itself will be a never ending job unless they somehow destroy the entire Galaxy. That is what makes no sense, if he was an omnipotent being and could see all things in past-present-future, like the current incarnation of God that people believe in now, then OK, but that isn’t brought to light, so basically like the author of the article said, he is skynet, he is making assumptions that he has no proof of and acting on that.

  48. Well, since my entire post went missing, I’ll leave another…

    The ending was just the last straw for some of us. I play role playing games to…well, role play. It’s not possible in ME3.

    Nothing I did in the entire game of ME2 seems to make any difference. Why did I go roaming around the galaxy, collecting the best of the best, doing loyalty missions and what not, only to have them absolutely NOT matter in ME3? Why make it optional to have them live through the suicide mission, only to have them side lined and killed (terribly in Thane’s case).

    I know several people that actually just stopped playing mid game (after Tuchanka to be exact) because of the character assassination of, in our opinion, one of the best characters from ME2. I also don’t appreciate bw’s (lower case on purpose) throwing my FemShep at the pets.

    The ending just made the replayability of the game impossible. I finished one game and gave up midway through another play.

    In my opinion, there is nothing desirable about this game until the fix it.

    And yes, I do know the ending is far more important than fixing the characters. However, as at today’s date, no one at bw has acknowledged anyone in my groups. They have never even visited the ME3 Thane or Jacob group, but they have visited Kasumi, Kelly and Ken & Gabby threads.

    1. Sorry, that was my bad actually. You’re comment didn’t go missing, it was just that I have to approve all comments, a setting from back when i only had a few dozen readers. You just got caught in the backlog of comments I had to go through. Finally found the setting to allow all comments though, thankfully, or I’d be here all day approving.

      Yes, the Mass Effect 2 issue has been brought up a lot, and I’ve decided to cover that as well this week.

      Thanks for writing in 🙂

  49. Well, since my entire post went missing, I’ll leave another…

    The ending was just the last straw for some of us. I play role playing games to…well, role play. It’s not possible in ME3.

    Nothing I did in the entire game of ME2 seems to make any difference. Why did I go roaming around the galaxy, collecting the best of the best, doing loyalty missions and what not, only to have them absolutely NOT matter in ME3? Why make it optional to have them live through the suicide mission, only to have them side lined and killed (terribly in Thane’s case).

    I know several people that actually just stopped playing mid game (after Tuchanka to be exact) because of the character assassination of, in our opinion, one of the best characters from ME2. I also don’t appreciate bw’s (lower case on purpose) throwing my FemShep at the pets.

    The ending just made the replayability of the game impossible. I finished one game and gave up midway through another play.

    In my opinion, there is nothing desirable about this game until the fix it.

    And yes, I do know the ending is far more important than fixing the characters. However, as at today’s date, no one at bw has acknowledged anyone in my groups. They have never even visited the ME3 Thane or Jacob group, but they have visited Kasumi, Kelly and Ken & Gabby threads. ….It’s a small group. We’re just asking to be heard.

  50. Hey! Great article. I’m glad to see that you give the indoctrination theory a hearing. A question, though…

    While it certainly is possible that Bioware ran out of time/money and was forced to release the prematurely with respect to their vision for the conclusion, why do you think this is the case? Bioware has been playing close to the chest and saying things like “When more have had a chance to play, we’ll talk.” They’ve said next to nothing about his whole thing other than to assure fans that they’re listening to feedback. This could just be PR damage control, of course, but it might not just be that. If Shepard had woken up in London amidst the ruble and continued his task immediately, I don’t think the details would have had time to sink in. Giving players only this much thus far has obviously forced us all to seriously consider the evidence and conclude that the final sequence was going on in Shepard’s mind. We can now appreciate the marked impact that this pericope can have on the narrative. It was questionable tactically, as the aftermath indicates, but I can see why they would have done it that way. What do you think? Has it been Bioware’s plan all long to release DLC they just have in the waiting once a broader audience has had to wrestle with the “conclusion”?

    1. Well I just don’t see Bioware being unaware enough to hold back the Indoctrination Theory on purpose. They must have been aware what backlash they would get from this, and I can’t imagine they wanted this kind of publicity. That said I’m perfectly open to being proved wrong, and Bioware releasing the actual ending.

  51. Well-written article, As a holder of an English degree, I can appreciate all the details you included. I’ll humbly provide my own little diatribe. Forgive me, though, my writing skills are rusty to say the least.

    The fact that I feel cheated is a personal decision. I won’t bother expanding on any points that have been raised, discussed or otherwise beaten to death, but I will mention what’s relevant to me. Just a few observations, anyway.

    For all intents and purposes, Shepard, or at least the idea of Shepard, died in the endings provided. Simply put, I wanted a more worthwhile ending. Now, that doesn’t imply that Shepard would have to live or die, necessarily, for an ending to be worthwhile. For God’s sake, there were cut scenes in the preceding games themselves that contained more substance. Like Shepard in ME3, the game simply ended with a fizzle and a whimper.

    Regarding Shepard’s death, yes, there was an emotional attachment for myself. Shepard was, and is to me, the summation of the actions I chose in the previous ME games and the same goes for his appearance. When I couldn’t import the appearance of my ME2 Shepard carried over from ME1, I spent one and a half hours painstakingly recreating Shepard, as I knew him, from several cellphone cameras I took. To me, the game wasn’t worth playing otherwise.

    Finally, my stomach turns every time I watch commercials for ME3. They imply that there is still a chance, that the fight continues when you pick up your controller. That there is hope for humanity. As I played the game, my experience and emotions strode upon the same peaks, valleys and plateaus experienced by Shepard as he attempted to reconcile centuries old conflicts for a united reclamation of a Reaper-controlled galaxy.

    Reflecting upon this after having beaten the game, I feel like those advertisements are flagrantly misleading (though you may not know this until after you’ve already paid $59.99). Perhaps BioWare should have taken a more suitably nihilistic tone to more accurately reflect the inevitable outcome of their series. That said, if I this were my team’s magnum opus, a pioneering foray into painting the canvas of a fictional world with the colors of moral consequence and free will, I would not tolerate it to be euthanized with the same regard yielded to excrement-stained vermin.

    This is not a criticism so much of the game, as it is a cause for concern I have for one of my favorite developers. I have played the Knights of the Old Republic games and, prior, the Baldur’s Gate series and never has BioWare let me down prior to this experience. For those games, BioWare was a mark of quality assurance, a near-guarantee of money well spent. Now, I’m left wondering if this is developing trend for one of my favorite story tellers.

  52. While it’s not the key part of the argument, this is nevertheless the most convincing argument for the “Indoctrination theory” that I’ve read. It seems quite obvious that the ending, as it stands, is a mass of broken parts; there are too many elements that demand explanation or continuation that simply isn’t there. There’s no way the writers could have simply forgotten to describe the aftermath. It must have been cut off.

  53. The first problem and only problem with the Indoctrination Theory is that it makes no damn sense. At all. It requires a heavily biased reading of all the previous major points within the game, as well as a wilful rejection of several established sections of the canon. It also begs the question (I’ll indulge myself): Why indoctrinate Shepard at all? If the Reapers are all powerful and cannot be defeated by the Crucible, why even bother? For every point made in favour of this theory, there are 3 or 4 against it.

    It’s a silly theory, and on the off chance Bioware was actually trying to get at something like it, shame on them.

    1. Well I have to disagree, if you watch the videos there are actually some pretty powerful lore references that directly support indoctrination theory. Well in theory, if Indoc theory is correct, Shepard is only a few meters from the Citadel beam when he goes down. Indoctrinating him would keep him from reaching it. Plus Harbinger seems to have a personal interest in Shepard, and most likely would see indoctrination Shepard as breaking humanity’s last best hope.

      That said, you’re quite correct, there are several inconsistencies in the theory and I think a lot of people embrace the idea because it’s simply better than the sloppy ending we got. In all probability, the ending is simply a mass of half-finished or broken parts hastily stitched together to form an ending, and nothing more.

      We can always hope though.

  54. Amazing article! Your theory of what happened to the ending (as in they ran out of time and money) is exactly what I thought happened after I calmed down from my nerd rage. It’s so incredibiltly sad to see such as amazing working of literary prowess go to waste right at the end.

    Anyway I just wanted to give my support to your article. Well done my friend. You and I clearly think alike (although I am not a writer and it clear you clearly understood what they were doing better than I did).

    Anyway. I’m tweeting the link to bioware as we speak.

  55. Really enjoyed your article, I loved reading an in depth literary breakdown of the series and how Bioware went wrong with the ending. One hope that I have, is that if there was a money/time breakdown that led to the horrible ending, perhaps after they shipped the game to Microsoft and Sony they’ve been working on a much better ending. So that instead of seeing content much later in the year, we could see some amazing DLC in April.

  56. i have been reading some responses to this article about how you can quantify (for lack of a better word) the god-child’s logic.

    well, a rebuttle to this argument is that; in order for the god-child’s inexorable conclusion that “synthetic life will always kill all organic life” to be true, the premises to which he uses to reach said conclusion must also be true (philosophy 101). however, we know as the player that one of the premises is false in that synthetics will inevitably kill organics as evidence for the contrary is presented rather explicitly (geth and quarian conflict and subsequent resolution and peace). and thus, by simply asserting validity and soundness, it is obvious that the argument of the god-child is no longer sound and can therefore be removed.

    however it is not, and we the player must accept the argument which is not sound, and by regression not valid and make the games final decision about which color we most prefer. Haha, sounds like great writing to me 😀

    1. The argument is only not sound because you can argue that the premises aren’t true. However, the quarian geth peace treaty is not really evidence that the synthetics won’t eventually kill organics.

      The logic reasoning of the Catalyst is valid because *IF* the premises are true, then the conclusion is correct. A valid logical analysis does not require that the premises be true, and only requires that the conclusion be a logical result of the premises.

      The Catalyst argument doesn’t break the rules of valid logic, it’s simply crazy. But it’s not stupid or faulty or circular.

      1. On the other hand – the only synthetic life form that wants to kill organic thru ME1, 2 and 3 are Reapers 😉

        So its kinda like self fulfilling prophecy 😉

  57. Hey man this is probably one of the best articles out there about how ME3 failed as a story. I mean you pointed out stuff that is basically writing 101, stuff that even the most novice of writers are aware of. Plus the fact that it is not worded in a way that is saturated with hate and disgust is a big plus, you can’t seem reasonable if your words have that feeling. I wish the writers could actually talk without getting in trouble and let every one know what really happened.

  58. Hi there,

    I just wanted to thank you for posting this article – it’s a great read and mirrors my thoughts on the ending almost perfectly.

    Personally, I don’t have much faith that BioWare will fix what they don’t believe is broken, and even if they do, so much damage has been done I think I would find it hard to forget the current ending and how badly it damaged the series for me.

    Anywho, thanks for a great read and I look forward to anything else you may or may not post on ME3!

  59. Perfectly put! Thank you for being the voice of all of us who cannot express their thoughts well when we’re too emotionally driven.

    I envy people like you. I complained on the forum about the ending(s) but the emotions driving me to complain didn’t allow me to wrute anything even remotely as strong as what you have written.

    Thank you again and please work hard on pushing this under Bioware’s nose!

    Kind regards and admitation,

  60. While I don’t disagree with your criticism of the ending in general, there are a couple of things about this article I think you need to learn from. I think you hold too closely to literary devices. Try examining WHY they work rather than just following them for the sake of it and assuming they are always correct. It’s possible you already do this, but if that is the case, you should have realised there are far more suitable and meaningful ways to describe the deficiencies of Mass Effect 3’s ending than comparing them to the Hero’s Journey or the dramatic arc. Saying it didn’t work simply because it was dissimilar to those tropes is not a well written analysis. You did not truly explain the ‘why’. Also, I think you (purposefully) over interpreted the story when claiming that ‘strength through diversity’ was a theme of the series, and I think you did that solely to support your point.

    Anyway, I appreciate the time you spent writing this, even if I don’t think this is a proficient analysis.

    1. I’m not going to go into a full on defense of the article. If you thought the author didn’t justify his criticisms properly then it’s his place to respond. Two points I feel you missed though are that very near the beginning of the article he claims to be criticising the writing since that is the aspect of the game he knows the most about, and his relation of the series to established writing structures is only because the series already follows them up until the third installment’s ending. The other thing is that I think you’ve missed the ‘strength through diversity’ theme running through the series. All three games are about reconciling differences to work towards a common goal, and I think this was actually made most clear in the last game with Javik who seems as though he was specifically designed as an atagonist to this ideology, providing lots of interesting dialogue over his seemingly harsh and imperialistic views. It really is a major theme of the games so how you’ve managed to miss it I don’t know, but here’s a video just to show I’m not pulling these ideas from thin air:

    2. Are you kidding? ‘Strength through diversity’ was probably the strongest message that I took away from the Mass Effect series. It’s not a game about Commander Shepard going solo to save the galaxy, or about humans carving out their place in the universe; it constantly stresses the importance of different groups working together, and consistently highlights the idea that their differences make them stronger in the long run. The entire third game is spent uniting disparate races, because the only way to take out the Reapers is for everyone to work together and bring their different strengths to the game. Shepard unites the krogan and turians; convinces the quarians and geth to coexist. And, just as boggypete pointed out, Javik explicitly discusses this theme: he tells Shepard that the Protheans failed to defeat the Reapers and were wiped out BECAUSE of their homogeneity, and that their lack of diversity led to their downfall.

      For me, the fact that the ending completely abandoned this theme was what really made it fall flat. The offered choices all run completely counter to what the rest of the game has been teaching me: according to the end, peace is only possible by killing one group, taking away their free will, or making everyone exactly the same. It doesn’t mesh with all the contrary examples that I experienced throughout the rest of the game, and the fact that I wasn’t even given the ability to question these options left me disappointed.

  61. Thank you for the amazing article. as i have enjoyed reading it. Your article explains whats wrong with ME3 ending very well. Instead of providing closure, Bioware choose to ask more questions in the last few minutes where in my opinion, this is a very bad writing as audience wants answers to the remaining questions of the game.

    I am not sure whether you felt the same way, but i feel that EA games quality are slowly declining to mediocrity. Mass Effect 1 was great, but Mass Effect 2 was still great in its own way, while losing some role playing aspects. Mass Effect 3, on the other hand, it’s absolutely terrible where the side quests are tedious and boring to complete. The actual amount of missions felt shorter than previous games. Another thing that really annoyed me was the lack of conversations choices between shepard and the crew, compared to the previous 2 games, which resulted less attachments to the crew. To be honest, when i finished the game, i dont even care whether James Vega is still alive or not, while i still concern about the whereabouts of Javi, Garrus and Liara. Probably, James Vega is a boring character to begin with. Then, the game shoved me a terrible ending that is beyond my worst imagination.

    It’s not just Mass Effect is getting worse. Dragon Age suffered the same fate. Battlefield 3 is much more horrible than Bad Company 2 with the grindy multiplayer and Operation Metro. Need for Speed franchise have been going down hill since Slightly Mad Studios left EA. Even my childhood favourite game, Command and Conquer, is coming back with more DLCs than ever and a tarnished Bioware name on the box. I think it’s something wrong with EA’s executives, and i am not holding my breath for a better ending in Mass Effect 3. All EA wants now is just your money. I wont be surprised to see EA charging $10 for the extended ending.

  62. I’ve tried to explain why the ending was so lame and unsatisfying, but you did a much better job then I ever could. Thanks!

    Though even the indoctrination theory doesn’t explain how EDI went from being *in my squad* to being on the Normandy, or how the Normandy went from being leading the fight to randomly flying around the Mass Relay network. That entire sequence just makes no sense whatsoever.

    That’s why I tend to believe it’s just a screwup of epic proportions instead of deliberate, but I’d be pretty happy to be proven wrong in this case.

    1. If the Indoctrination theory is true then the Normandy would never have left Earth because everything that happens after Harbinger hits Shepard is a terrible, terrible dream sequence.

      1. Nah, It’s more likely that Casey Hudson has a background in architecture and technical art, had Mac write him “into the game” as the architect from Matrix.

        The Normandy fly away is this scene…

        but not nearly as cool…. not even frak’n close.

        Shepard taking a breath is “Death of Superman”… there is a pretty famous art work of it floating around… if I can find a pic of it online I will link it.

        ME 3 was pretty liberal about letting the “artist” put whatever they wanted into the game… and that sort of well… broke it… cause they didn’t want to do a Mass Effect “cannon” game… just like Casey Hudson said… so there we go.

        Artist writing themselves into narrative… writing for themselves and not an audience… some call it… Amateur Hour?

        Indoctrination is nonsense.

  63. I, like many others, really enjoyed your article and agree with most of it.

    Still, I believe that the complain about the logic of the god child requires more thoughts.

    In many articles/posts I have read over the net, people seems to believe it is flawed (because circular as you brought up). I believe there is no flaw, just a lack of wisdom on the god child’s side. But this is poorly written/introduced by Bioware (as many other points during the end).

    Indeed, from my point of view, the logic of the gold child is as follows.
    His assumption (maybe based on experience from previous cycles, even maybe his own – traumatizing ? – experience whatever specie he was before this “ascension”) is that some organics, when reaching a certain level of development, will create synthetics. Then at some point those synthetics will attempt to destroy all organic life in the universe. Maybe not all synthetics will try to, but at some point, one kind will, so it is bound to happen.
    So in order to protect organic life existence in the universe, the god child sends the reapers to destroy both organics and synthetics, but NOT all organics. Once again, I’ll stress that it is NOT all organics. His goal is to destroy any organic life that has reached the stage of development where it can create synthetics, thus that can endanger all organics in the universe during a cycle. In other words, having the technology to create synthetics during a cycle is a point of no return for a race. It is endangering the whole universe, so must be destroyed along any synthetics it may have created in order to save the other organics in the universe (which can remain alive/present in the universe because they are not – yet – endangering it).

    I believe this theory can be backuped by two points (at least) if I remember correctly what I heard/read during my play through. First, the gold child actually points to Shepard that the human race was spared in the previous cycle. That makes sense since the human race was far from being able to create synthetics 50.000 years ago. Second, I believe that Liara states at some point that the Reapers were not attacking the Yahg’s system. Since the Yahg are a pre-spaceflight civilization with technology equivalent to that of 20th century Earth, and had little contact with the rest of the species (they actually killed the entire delegation from the Citadel), I guess this is an organic specie that the god child is fine to let develop for (at least) another cycle since far from creating synthetics and endangering the whole universe (I guess, per his experience, the god child believes to know who can leave or who should be dealt with based on certain technological, behavioral, biological, etc .. factors).

    So as I previously pointed, I don’t think the logic is flawed. I believe it is just lacking wisdom in the sense that the god child believes it is not possible for organics and synthetics to co-habit at all in the long term. Even examples like Geths and Quarians making peace (if the player was able to save both), or even EDI and Joker are not enough proof for the god child that things can work in the long run (i.e. with any synthetic life).

    At this point, I’ll anyway agree again with the complains against the ending.
    Even if, from my point of view, the logic is not flawed, Shepard should have been able to argue against the god child about his lack of wisdom/trust. Maybe with some talking the god child would have admitted that his behavior was actually the result of the original god child specie being nearly wiped by synthetics (so some underlying traumatizing experience). And with enough paragon (maybe renegade too) points, maybe Shepard could have explained to the god child that he is just stuck in his old beliefs, things that would have made sense since no one so far was able to challenge his idea, since Shepard is the first one to get in touch with him.
    Then things could have ended with the god child either sacrificing himself to deactivate the Reapers forever (without the relay destruction mind you), or calling the Reapers back and returning to wherever they were hiding, ensuring they would never come back, or maybe unless to help organics if synthetics are every threatening the whole universe balance (hence turning the Reapers into Watchers or Guardians).

    In any case, great article.

    1. Oh come on… I don’t think that you can justify this plot. First of all, killing those that you are trying to protect yourself is always… Yeah. Seriously. Dude!
      Nothing makes sense! There is so much wrong with it…
      They return every 50.000 years to do this. Always. It’s constant. But development never is, races would always start to develop synthetics at different points in their evolution. For this cycle-stuff to make sense, it would mean that no race ever was different – that is just against any ratinale!
      The reapers said they were the ones building mass effect relays and the Citadel to guide races along a certain path. Wouldn’t that mean the reapers themselves were to blame for the creation of synthetics?
      No matter from which angle you look at it, it only gets stupider.
      In “our” cycle only the Quarians had developed synthetics that rebelled. The Geth. So why also kill all the organics that didn’t develop any artificial intelligences (and so on)? You could at best argue that killing the Quarians would fit within this, since they were behind the Geth. But everyone else?
      Then there’s the part where the Quarians make peace with the Geth. That alone proves them wrong. If the reaper solution was at least somewhat right and justifiable, they would have continued fighting until one or both sides were completely destroyed AND would have moved on to kill others. None of this is the case. The Geth weren’t bloodthirsty at all and only defended themselves. The only thing that ever made a Geth kill an organic outside of self-defense, was – again, when the Reapers themselves manipulated the Geth into doing so. They didn’t do anything like that on their own.
      Actually the Yahg are in fact another point why this is incorrect and doesn’t pan out at all. A Yahg was the Shadow Broker, if you read the files in the Shadow Broker base in Mass Effect 2, you’ll learn that the Yahg learn at an incredible rate and evolve much faster than most other races. That means that already now the Yahg must be close to major breakthroughs, at their rate they’d never need another 50.000 years from now on until they’d have everything the current races had. If the reapers would be correct, that synthetics would always end up killing every organic life if not stopped by them, they would only find a dead universe upon their return.
      I could go on why this isn’t working at all, but it’s way too long already, so…

      1. I’m not trying to justify anything. I’m trying to explain his rational, playing devil’s advocate. We can’t just call his rational “stupid/flawed” without exactly knowing what he went through. It would be like denying psychological trauma some people have to endure in our world and how it leads to abnormal behaviors from an outsider’s point of view.

        Anyway I don’t want to start a long debate here because there is so much room for interpretation (I may be wrong, we may be all wrong), But regarding what you brought up, I’ll provide some feedback.

        First, I took into account the 50.000 years point since I mentioned that I guess the child/the reapers are able to assess if a race is a risk or not based on multiple factors. I’m not saying he can predict future, but he may be able to assess this particular risk, based on multiple data from previous cycles. Actually, it is likely that a race does not necessarily have to be able to create synthetics when the reapers arrive. Being close to it, or exchanging technologies with races that can create is most likely already enough to put the universe at risk during the next cycle.

        Second, I don’t think you can “blame the reapers for creating the synthetics”. They actually have little control over the universe besides ensuring that the advanced civilization use the mass relay as a backbone for their development in order to gain a huge tactical advantage when the 50.000 year mark is hit (kind of Troy horse I would say). They actually do not wish to control the organics, otherwise they could have enslaved every organics long ago. I guess they just view the universe as a sandbox, and when some races are endangering it, they get removed out of it so the other races can continue playing. They are basically playing gods.

        Regarding why killing everyone ? As I said it’s most likely based on risk extrapolation based technical advancement and more factors.
        On top of it, the reapers cannot just come in and handpick some races and let the other already well advanced and finally aware of the reapers’ existence live. Otherwise those remaining races will just put all their efforts to be ready to face the reapers in 50.000 years, which is now much more time to get ready.
        Basically when the reapers hit, it is a full reset unless you are an underdeveloped & isolationist race like the Yarg.
        On top of it, I’ll point out that the Quarians are not the only one who created synthetics. Humans did too: the rogue AI who is now known as EDI.

        About the Quarians and Geths, I’m not going to argue since I agree with you. Shepard was able to save and unite them, but as I pointed it is likely that for the god child, this is possible but in the long run, if its not the Geths, it will be another kind of synthetic that will destroy every organics.

        Finally, regarding the Yarg, you are basing your assumption on the fact they are learning quick. But learning is not discovering. If the reapers destroy every trace of Humans, Quarians, Asari and so on knowledge, the Yargs are just left with their own knowledge, nothing else to learn from. So once again, I assume that the god child/reapers have computed their development speed and ensured that the Yarg will not create synthetics that will endanger the universe till the end of the next cycle.

        Once again I wish to stress that I’m not justifying anything. I’m just trying to explain the possible god child/reapers rational, hence playing devils advocate.
        In a way, they sometimes remind me about the discussion Shepard can have with Garrus: kill 10 billions to save 20 billions ? I guess the god child and the reapers are into that logic and don’t mind getting their hands dirty since they are the one killing the 10 billions.

        1. “About the Quarians and Geths, I’m not going to argue since I agree with you. Shepard was able to save and unite them, but as I pointed it is likely that for the god child, this is possible but in the long run, if its not the Geths, it will be another kind of synthetic that will destroy every organics.”

          At no point has it been established in the Mass Effect universe that synthetics are automatically superior to organics. The Reapers have superior technology and firepower by virtue of being more technologically advanced. The Geth, however, were an even match for the Quarians. If one reunites the Geth and the Quarians, what is to say that any emergent synthetic force would have an advantage?

          The problem is the rigidly deterministic line of reasoning that the Catalyst uses – “if synthetics co-exist with organics, then synthetics destroy organics. No exceptions.” It’s obviously a deeply flawed position to take in the face of empirical evidence that even you, defending the logic, acknowledge (EDI, the Geth). There isn’t a single example of synthetics (who are not under Reaper control) who are devoutly anti-organic in the entire Mass Effect universe. The Catalyst’s reasoning would be easier to swallow if there were literally any examples of this, but the writers never established even one. And yeah, you can make up some hypotheticals to conveniently explain the Catalyst’s reasoning, but the point is that those hypotheticals (Catalyst PTSD, non-Reaper synthetic organic exterminators, etc.) are non-canon. The writers did not put them anywhere into the universe.

          Lastly on this topic, a semantic note – “Devil’s Advocate” typically refers to someone who does not agree with a particular position, arguing for said position to point out weaknesses in the opposition’s case. You clearly believe that the Catalyst’s logic is sound, thus you’re not playing Devil’s Advocate. You’re simply making an opposing argument.

          “In a way, they sometimes remind me about the discussion Shepard can have with Garrus: kill 10 billions to save 20 billions ? I guess the god child and the reapers are into that logic and don’t mind getting their hands dirty since they are the one killing the 10 billions.”

          Shepard already made this choice in Arrival. Kill 300,000 doomed souls to give billions a chance at life. A chance which is completely nullified by the non-choice at the ending of ME3.

          The difference between these choices is that the Catalyst is not saving anyone, nor even giving them a chance at survival. It is literally genociding species so that they may be “preserved” as Reapers (see the humanoid Reaper in ME2, and the Catalyst’s own dialogue). If the cycle is allowed to continue, every organic species will eventually become a Reaper. They have no chance at continued survival unless they entirely eschew advanced technology. It’s not “kill 10 billion to save 20 billion,” it’s “ruthlessly murder 100 billion to give a trillion an extra 50-200,000 years before we ruthlessly murder them, do-while-organics-exist.”

          Supposedly the Catalyst is arguing that these species are preserved, so they are “saved” – but they are preserved in a form that exists solely to exterminate other organic life. Should that humanoid Reaper from ME2 have been finished, and the cycle continued, it would have proceeded to exterminate the species of the next cycle, against the presumed will of its constituent nation (humanity). The Reapers are only “preserved” as raw DNA, nothing more – nothing remains of their culture or their emotional life/memory, the things that the writers have previously established as distinguishing organics from synthetics.

          But even this preservation doesn’t make any sense in practice – why do all the Reapers we see in the game look the same? Are they all based on Protheans? Why have no Reapers distilled from pre-Prothean cycles survived to the modern cycle? Doesn’t this disprove the idea that organics are being preserved? Plus, according to Javik, the Protheans had a number of advanced-but-subservient races incorporated as part of their empire – why do none of these appear as Reapers?

          When you have to stretch outside of the given story in order to explain a character’s line of reasoning, you’re simply illustrating what terrible reasoning it is.

          1. Amazing post, you sir, elevate the conversation.

            The reapers, look as reapers due for a couple reasons. The first is that in industrial design, the “hard study” of insects is essential because they are generally easier to animate.

            Having the reapers all look the same, allows for a single “reaper” model to be constructed, and easily “copied / pasted” into scenes. It also makes it easier to key frame the animation of the reapers, so that they are more easily animated in whatever scenes one wants to “have a reaper in”.

            In one of the books, can’t remember which one, this is explained away as the “human bot” would be encapsulated inside of the “standard” reaper shell.

            Best part about using these “types” of industrial models is in animating and drawing only half of the object, copy paste that object again, and invert it. It’s just easy to do. Also metallic textures are easier to work with in most lighting engines. Same with concretes, and browns.

            To get into a lot of color requires a “color guy”, who is well versed in chromatic… they tend to be rare. Same with skeleton riggers. To much color tends to make the objects look “water colored” or “anime-ish”.

            Star ships, space bugs, tall glass buildings, are pretty simple though, so we get a lot of these in games.

            Considering many games within the first minutes has the character so decked out in armor and gear, many people don’t really bother with learning anatomy in this industry, just “mech” design, and mechanical engineering.

            On another note, games that use fabrics or ‘flowing hair’ are generally very difficult to do. Typically it requires a physics engine and someone “very well versed” in some fairly deep Calculus to pull off. So most games don’t even bother. Which is fine, as many games ‘trend’ towards military construction anyways, so as an audience, short hair, and armor’d up is not a big leap of disbelief.

            Again though the “take earth back” campaign shows a little girl with long hair, yet we get the little boy playing in a park. Easier to do. I thought it would of been cool to of had the boy as Male Shep, and a little girl as Fem Shep… but alas. Wish in one hand…

            Also having many different alien “super mechs” running around, could of just come off as “silly”. It seems easier for an audience to establish what the bad guy looks like, so that we can merrily fire away at it, without cognitively associating it with “a living nation of people/souls”. It’s just another robot lobster shooting at me, it’s easier to shoot back.

            Killing lobster mechs is not murder. Establishing a dichotomy between “us” and “them”.

          2. I’ll try to make it as short as possible because it is more and more difficult to be able to make long replies due to the shrunk box.

            First, my point (from the beginning) has never been to defend the child logic. I do not agree with it.
            I’m arguing about the fact its not the logic that is wrong, but his assumption that synthetics are bound to destroy all organics, which is flawed.
            In other words, I wish people would focus on asking “why does the child assume this?” instead of just dismissing the logic altogether. In other words, I wish Bioware would explain us why the child believes in such assumption, instead of having to face a mob arguing that the child is just an idiot and that nothing makes sense.
            I believe we are at an agreement here since you said that “The problem is the rigidly deterministic line of reasoning that the Catalyst uses – “if synthetics co-exist with organics, then synthetics destroy organics. No exceptions.” It’s obviously a deeply flawed position to take in the face of empirical evidence”.
            However I am NOT “defending the logic” as you said. I just try through ALL my posts to explain to people that we have to focus on getting this point clarified instead of just dismissing everything as stupid/not making any sense.
            So yeah I made some hypothetical to explain the child’s reasoning, but I didn’t mean to say that was the reason. I was just trying to provide an example of what could explain the reasoning in order to let people know that there may be something explaining the assumption. We have to dig further, but in our case, we have to demand more details from Bioware’s writers, instead of telling them “that’s bullshit !”

            Second point is about the organics preservation. Looks like again those who replied didn’t get my point. Not sure if this is due to the fact English is not my native language. So let me explain that again, based on this part of your reply if you don’t mind:
            “If the cycle is allowed to continue, every organic species will eventually become a Reaper.”
            That from my point of view (and from what is said in game) is wrong and is what I’m trying to explain. The reapers are not killing everyone. They are leaving alone many organics in the universe. They are “only” harvesting synthetics (since they, from the child’s point of view, endanger ALL organics) & organics that can/could create synthetics (so are also endangering indirectly ALL organics).
            So to make it simpler, you have three categories: A = synthetics, B = organics than have/can/could soon create synthetics, C = all other organics that are not included in B. Reapers are here to destroy/harvest A & B. They leave C alone.
            I mean, plants, insects and primitive races are organics. But Reapers are not killing every single plant/insect/race in the whole universe. Those are C, so are not endangering all organics since they aren’t going to create synthetics.
            As I previously said, the child mentions that Human was not harvested during the previous cycle (because they were C) and Liara seems to point to the fact that Yargs seem not to be attacked/harvested during this cycle (most likely because they are C from a Reapers point of view).
            That is why there have been numerous cycles: each cycle, some organics are left, and thus organic life can continue to exist in the universe.

            I believe that your final comment is exactly the kind of thinking I’m trying to challenge: “When you have to stretch outside of the given story in order to explain a character’s line of reasoning, you’re simply illustrating what terrible reasoning it is.”
            No, I believe that when you have to stretch outside of the given story in order to explain a character’s line of reasoning, you’re simply ***missing too much information that should have been provided at some point during the story*** to fully grasp the reasoning.

            Once again, my point is not trying to defend blindly some idea or explain what is missing. I’m trying to point to people that we need to focus on ensuring we identify exactly what is missing instead of just bluntly and blindly dismissing everything.
            IMHO, this is the only way to provide constructive feedback to Bioware’s writers if we ever hope they fix/improve the ending the way we hope/expect.

          3. It’s sort of strange to argue about the logic of a fictional pseudo-god. “His logic is flawed” well that’s what you think, but in this story he is right.
            In the mass effect universe the reapers are supposedly beyond human comprehension. I don’t have any problem with that suspension of disbelief.

  64. Thank you so much for this article! I honestly hope that *someone* at Bioware forwards this and so many other thought out, well-written pieces to anyone who is in development.

  65. Hey, like everybody have said, great article!
    I want to write more and be constructive, but my limitation with English prevent me to do so. I will keep it short.

    I see that you and me shared a same viewpoint: ME universe suffered severe causalities and damage to it lore because Drew, the lead writer of ME1 left the team. Some of the element in ME2, like you said, are problematic and sometime out of place. But it wasn;t that bad since Drew still working as the game co-lead writer. But thing get worse with the Lead Writer of the original left the team. It just like LotR second and third book being written by somebody elses. Example: After some brainstorming, reading articles and so on, ME3 theme “take earth back” doesn’t really match with the previous games theme. Take earth back really feel out of place and possibly what make the game hard to be written properly. If only Drew still on the team, he probably make different approach with ME3, we might see very different ME3 than we have seen now.

  66. Absolutely great article! You perfectly summerised everything what is wrong with the ending. First of all, I hope that the Indoctrination Theory is correct, and we will get the real ending via DLC. But if this won’t happen, I hope they read your words, and fix every issue you listed up.
    BW already announced an upcoming DLC, details in April. BUT! They didn’t sad it will change the ending. So we still have nothing, but hope.
    Congratulations to your article again.

  67. I think that EA, the company that ruins all games, got them to do the multi-player in November and that messed up their time table and they weren’t able to do a proper ending, so we got the crap we got. EA has been able to make money selling those veteran and spectre packs to people trying to maintain 100% galactic readiness, or who are just trying to unlock the better weapons. I agree with you 100% about the ending. It sucks.

    DLC is coming in April, but I’m not getting my hopes up for anything big. If it’s something like “Take back Omega” what’s the point? I’m not buying any DLC until they fix the ending. As far as I’m concerned the game ends at the scene with Anderson — quit to dashboard right then. The “Final Boss” Marauder Shields tries very hard to save you from the travesty of the ending.

    I would never have allowed this ending to have gone out the door. It is horrible. It makes no sense at all. The player has been controlling the protagonist throughout the series, then suddenly the player has no control over the protagonist. The protagonist goes from an ass kicking problem solving galaxy uniting leader to a complete putz who agrees 100% with a genocidal AI and all its idiotic circular logic. We the players, and suddenly the viewer are supposed to buy it. I figured after watching all the endings that no matter which one you choose, everyone is f***ed anyway, I’ll choose Red because it’s the only one that kills the “god child.”

    You did leave out the best ending. It ends like this “The Crucible Has Been Destroyed” Reload/Load/Quit. I have grown to hate that piano piece with a passion.

    Thank you for your article.

  68. Thank you for writing this, it is exactly what I’ve thought, almost to the letter!! The only way the bloody Catalyst/Starchild would work, would be if it was Indoctrination, considering Shepard had been dreaming about the little boy the whole game! Shepard doesn’t even die in all three endings, just two! And the Catalyst kid lies about Shepard dieing if you destroy the Reapers. It’s like the writers forgot which game they were writing for. I really hope they fix this. I hope Bioware gets flooded with this, because it is perfect. Thank so much again!

  69. You just won the internet.

    I’m a strong supporter of the indoctrination/hallucination theory. Shepard never made in on board of the Citadel – but s/he has to fight against indoctrination in his/her own mind. Anderson represents Shepard’s free will, TIM stands for indoctrination.
    And the three choices are: Control / Synthesis = Indoctrination – because both solutions are preferred by TIM or Saren. The third option, Destruction, is the only one Shepard brought up – and that’s the only one breaking indoctrination and freeing Shepard’s own will.

    So if Shepard picks the other two endings, s/he literally dies as character, while s/he lives in the Destruction Ending. EMS needs to be high enough.

    Lets hope BW will improve the endings. Either via DLC or patch.

  70. The only resolution that came out of the ending was if you picked ‘Synthesis’.
    Joker and EDI step out of the Normandy and snuggle together. Joker and EDI are a closer couple now because both of them are 50/50 flesh/machine. Awww. I’d imagine Jeff wouldn’t have as much trouble with brittle bones as I hope the synthetic parts of him would strengthen his bones.

    Everything else was a shame.

  71. Exquisite; eloquent in it’s simplicity and grandiose in it’s execution. You illuminated the major points to people who don’t particularly understand what we, the fans are griping about, and did so in a manner that is hard to refute. I’ve linked this a few times over now, because it has been one of the absolute best articles to firmly establish and explain the failings the ending had. I too, believe as you do, that if they had been going for the indoctrination theory all along it would have been a brilliant piece of art, a shining beacon in both games and literature, and as carefully a crafted story as to make all writers in this medium strive towards it’s genius in the years to come. I hope you write a follow-up, for as dear to my heart as this issue is, you have stated it so superlatively I am unsure my words could ever give it the justice you have just allocated to it.

    Thank you!

  72. You sir deserve an upgrade to Specter Status for writing this article. As many others have said you’ve perfectly summed up why so many of us absolutely detest the final act of ME3. It’s a freakin’ travesty. I still scratch my head every time I imagine a ME3 dev meeting – did not one single person there raise a hand at some point and say “Gee guys, I dunno – this ending sort of contradicts a lot of what’s already been established so far, not to mention that, well, it kinda sucks. Maybe we should give it a re-think?”. Did they really think that most fans would actually like this – at all? Oh to have been a fly on the wall when these decisions were being made.

  73. Great article!

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned yet is that when the mass relays blow up, according to the Arrival DLC, they destroy the system entirely. Thsi means that SHepard destroyed all life everywhere there was a relay.

    1. I think we have to take it that the relays aren’t destroyed in the same manner as in ARRIVAL (where Shepard just barges an asteroid into one). In fact, you see the relays unleashing a massive blast of energy to the next relay in line before they disintegrate. This might be them shunting their energy along the line rather than it exploding into the local star system. It would have been a nice touch if the very last relay to go down was the Omega-4 relay and the cumulative energy from all the relays was just blasted into the black hole. That could have been amusing.

        1. Unfortunately, yes. The whole end of the game is basically based around magic. Using the Crubile to transmit energy that converts everyone into cyborgs is total fantasy anyway.

          1. Yeah, that’s why the ending is so bad, because it happens outside of the firmly established lore of the whole series.
            Don’t you see that you have to make up excuses to be happier about it? If we could all just stop this, we could come together in agreement that it’s just bad. 😛

      1. Look, the problem with that is, that the ME2 DLC Arrival was specifically designed to bridge the gap between 2 and 3; it was supposed to be information, that players were to take from ME2 into 3.
        So, why would you specifically “teach” people, that an exploding mass relay almost completely destroys the solar system it’s in, if you don’t want people to believe that in the ME3 ending – where they apparently explode too?
        In saying this would be something else all of a sudden, you are basically making the case that BioWare are just very incompetent storytellers. I’m not sure if this is a defense they should be happy about.

        1. “you are basically making the case that BioWare are just very incompetent storytellers.”

          Indeed. Isn’t that why this discussion is happening in the first place? 🙂

          You are correct in that based on Arrival, the explosion of a mass relay should annihilate the entire system it’s in. However, the ending of ME3 shows us that this doesn’t happen with the choices made by the player. If the relays had exploded, Earth would have been destroyed (incinerating Shepard’s body, so he can’t wake up as shown in a high-score Destroy ending) and so would the planet the Normandy crashed on. As a result, the relays clearly did not explode in the same manner as the one in Arrival did. Why not? Because BioWare said so, basically. It is indeed an unclear and incompetent piece of storytelling, especially as a couple more lines of dialogue in the finale could have cleared up what was going on (“Won’t the relays blowing up wipe everything out?” “No, we have accounted for that,” “Okay, fair enough,”).

          1. That the Normandy wasn’t destroyed is no contradiction to what I said. According to Arrival, only solar systems with a mass relay in them are mostly wiped out.
            What we see is, that Joker flies away. He could have used the ships FTL drive to escape to a system without a mass relay and that’s why they are “okay”.
            And that in some endings there seem to be survivors on earth, doesn’t necessarily mean that the Arrvial-effect didn’t occur. The other side of earth could have been hit or whatever (nothing but London is shown). Also, the fleet is never shown again after this, so they could have been killed…

          2. True. And there’s a strong theory that the planet the Normandy crashes on is the planet from Jacob’s loyalty mission in ME2 (2172 Aeia, I believe), since it has a similar skybox and very similar scenery, and that planet isn’t in a system with a mass relay.

            However, one slight issue there is that the Normandy is forced to crash by the explosion/shockwave from the mass relay catching up with them, which would suggest the blast would also hit the planet they arrived on.

            Of course, we are ignoring the fact that the Normandy didn’t have time to pick up your squadmates, get to the Charon relay, get through the relay and then (mostly) outrun the explosion and crash in the roughly 15 minutes that elapses between you getting hit by the beam and the end of the game. Or actually have any reason to 🙂

            This is something I thought about recently. Assuming the ending can be taken as read, why doesn’t Joker try to radio Shepard? Admiral Hackett contacts him just fine when the Crucible fails to work, so there isn’t any radio jamming going on. The whole end of the game happens on the central tower of the Citadel, which is trivially easy for the Normandy to reach and dock with (you do it dozens of times in the three games). There’s no reason at all why the Normandy can’t simply swoop in and save Shepard at the end rather than leaving him to get blown up in Destroy.

  74. Mirrored my thoughts exactly! Even terrible artists can have artistic integrity; their art just remains…terrible. It gets them nowhere when the majority they wish to impact with their art assess it negatively. The artistic landscape is scattered full of the bodies of bad artists who stood their ground and have been forgotten in time. Rather than falling on one’s ‘paint brush,’ an artist who created bad art can still have integrity while acknowledging that his/her art could have been much better. In such a case, the artist can merely walk away and work on the next project, learning from his/her mistakes, or change his/her art in accordance with the constructive criticism. Video games easily lend themselves to the latter option. I fully agree with your comment that “the absolute worst part of the Catalyst is that it completely destroys the menace of the Reapers.” (This is besides the terrible use of the literary device, deus ex machina.) The same thing happened with the introduction of the Borg Queen in Star Trek.

  75. One other thought. If the Reapers can control the Geth, why not just come every 50,000 years and control the synthetics that allegedly will destroy the organics? Why cull the organics so they can’t develop synthetics at all? The Catalyst’s solution to this problem is wholly underwhelming and unbelievable given its power.

  76. Wow. Someone just got another reader.

    I’m always taken aback by how depressed I get when otherwise good entertainment fumbles. It’s hard to explain, but it feels like a more serious loss than it really is because of all that squandered potential. No one can ever make Mass Effect 3 again. They already made it. This is all we get – barring some eleventh hour DLC fix – which I am tentatively against, honestly.

    Anyway, amazing write-up. As disappointed as I am in ME3, the aspiring novelist in me is learning valuable lessons here. These are mistakes I will most certainly not be making if I ever publish anything.

  77. I have a question regarding the Indoctrination Theory that I’m sure has been asked, answered, and addressed already, but the whole topic has become so large it’s hard to keep up with. So, I’ll just ask and see if someone can answer this for me.

    If the Indoctrination Theory proposes that the entire end sequence was in Shepard’s head, wouldn’t that imply the that the entire ending is a hallucination, therefore there really was no actual ending to the game whatsoever? If I’m understanding all of this correctly, it seems that the cut scene of Shepard waking in the rubble would imply that he beat the indoctrination and is now waking. If that’s the case, wouldn’t the reapers still be attacking earth, the Crucible is still waiting to be activated, and essentially, the story is left unfinished. Am I getting this correctly, or am I completely missing the boat?

    1. No you have it. The idea behind it is more or less than either 1) Bioware did not have the time to place the proper ending in, due to deadlines/funds etc. So they left us with that, to be completed in a DLC later or 2) Purposefully did it that way to require us to buy DLC or 3) Did it that way purposefully to be completed in a DLC that is free, because they wanted everyone to go crazy for a few weeks until we get more information.

      1. Interesting. If this theory ends up correct, I can completely understand people being pissed. There was no ending! Furthermore, I still don’t understand why the Normandy was suddenly flying through space with crew on board that were just moments ago making the roadie-run with me to the beam.

  78. While I agree with everything you’ve said so eloquently and accurately regarding the ending, I do feel that writers need not follow the ‘formula’ – in the diagrams you included – in order to create a good story. However, Bioware did not only blow up the formula, they completely betrayed the player, which is the main point that I feel you succinctly explained and hopefully it gets read by TPTB. I find it truly frustrating that the Bioware founder tries to defend ‘art’ when he should acknowledge that perhaps this ‘polarising’ ending they created could have been handled in much a better way! Thank you for such an excellent post.

  79. How do you think Javik’s comments fit into the starchilds argument? At one point, discussing prothean history, he says the the Protheans created AI and the machines rebelled against them. The Protheans put them down and hate AI afterwards. That’s seems to nullify the starchilds argument against synthetics always defeating organics. And it happened 50000 years at leastbefore the events in ME3. It seems to me the starchild is probably a corrupt AI fullfilling an imperfect order to “protect” organics.

  80. Another reader added. Great Post.

    The elephant in the room has to be the exposition of the narrative. The ending simply the back-end of that elephant. Complete with rainbow! The writing (outside of character arc resolution) was lack luster. Setup of the crucible and it’s explanation defies reason, that Cerebus seems to have unlimited resources, beyond worlds and nations, breaks established cannon. On and on, at least 6 (very deus ex – like devices), never-the-less the end game played straight. Sigh.

    ME3, and Shepard along with it were victims of the dreaded retcon, to top it off, ME3 retcons it’s own narrative during the exposition of ME3. Although that much of the writing staff had been redirected to support the Star Wars MMO, one may hardly find it surprising.

    Personally it was the poorest told stories of the trilogy (minus character resolution arcs) the ending, just completely sours it. There was some formula here for sure, but the rewrite of Shepard as “haunted” by PTSS, was never resolved, and for me, that was the rebirth… or no birth…

    On the plus side, Marauder Shields is absolutely hilarious!

    FZD discusses industrial/game work flow in this video, take what you have said here, and apply it to this process, and that pretty much covers it. Plenty of examples of many a classic book being rewritten… it didn’t bother Dickens, and Dickens, this ‘ain’t’.

    I just cannot fathom the thinking behind all this… as you said, there was none, it was a money man decision. Possibly a marketing deadline, exasperating an already floundering writing department that had little in the way of a plan or storyboard. Whom had already lost key members to Star Wars, or had simply left the company. Leaving an art department with an 11th hour mess to clean up. Smacks of management problems and key people left out of the loop, or to busy with other I.P. to care.

    Which again, why is there time to put Jessica Chobot from IGN in the damn game, but no time to finish the game? First impressions, last impressions? Fluff in the middle? No Illusive man “boss battle” as it is to “cliche” – Mac Walters, to moments later give you A.I. God, Colonel Sanders – Matrix moments? (shakes head).

    If one wanted all this, why not just go watch Matrix, or Babylon 5, or BSG again?

    By the way:

    DLC you can believe in:,mass-effect-3–final-fantasy-xiii-2–wtf.aspx

    Anywho, great work! Good luck!

    1. Hm, sry i dont see the connection between the video and this topic xD
      This is about explaining the differences between Illustration and Industrial Design. Of course he tells you whats the meaning of industrial design and their workflows, but it focusses mainly on advertising people who have to choose which one of these professions to study for.
      The only thing i get out of this video is that industrial design is a complex process which focusses on making money…but well, thats what we know alrdy ^^

      1. I agree with everything your saying. To clarify, not everyone may know the workflow aspect of video game design, which clearly, Feng Zhu does know. (Creator of BioShock concept art, operates FZD school of design in Korea-specifically for video game design post graduate students).

        This discussion on ME3 “brings up” that the writing may have still been “in production” in the late stages of product development.

        This suggest that art assets (which are normally done early in a project) had to be cobbled together to support the final narrative exposition. This is one reason some of us feel that the God AI was “re-used” as the texture map, and the “glow lights” the texture.

        Think Jody Foster “Contact”, it was lazy, and quick. Much of the ending sequences seem to be various “bits” welded together, and certainly modifying the “lights” is very easy, and may be accomplished outside of the 3d rendering program in less than a day per scene on modest hardware.

        The point of the video is to provide a professional reference frame in which to substantiate a claim, that the “ending” was literally written “at the end” of the product cycle, possibly to support marketing decisions, certainly to make a deadline, clearly on the side of “money” and certainly not “artistic integrity”.

        Thank you for the comment, the statement (and video) lacked clarity for relevance.

        1. ah, yeah now it makes sense^^
          Didnt think about the aspect of the god child simply retextured at the end of the production cycle xD

          Hm, i dont know where i read it, was it even in this article? Sry i dont know xD But i somewhere heard that the god child originally was some vague VI projection, like the one on Ilos in ME1. The VI also had the problem of not being able to further proceed with its original function because the crucible had modified it.
          Also, its text was different. To cut it short, it wasnt meant to determine exactly three solutions via some braindead circular logic. It simply said that it had three ways to offer, which had to be acticated from outside.

          yeah, put together with your video, the speculation on deadlines makes even more sense now. They simply had to bring it to an end, and to ensure at least SOME plausibility on the inevitability of this “final solution”, they gave us this awesome deus ex machina, which pretends to be THE beacon of omniscience and infallability *gurgle*

          1. Brilliant!

            A problem with the crucible itself, is that it utilizes the same setup as the conduit from the previous games. Which implies that various races had to construct various elements at different times, not really “knowing” what it did. We could buy the Prothean device, the narrative supports it.

            Thus, that it is built at all, begs even more circular reasoning and establishes that the God AI was planning this from the very beginning, simply awaiting a “messianic” figure to complete the cycle. Thus I find it safe to assume that Shepard is Jesus, or Neo, or the One, and we are right back with the Matrix again.

            This “can” work, if there is sufficient narrative foreshadowing to insinuate that this was the plan all along. The Prothean clearly states that during their own war with the Reapers (which last what? around 200 years) that conventionally they could of “done it” (achieved victory) had they not been so homogeneous. That being said, the ending is a retcon of the narrative, during the exposition of the narrative. Rushed into what a 2 week campaign? Whats the hurry?

            The downed Reaper ME2? is said to have signs of “Mass Driver” damage… don’t the Turians and Krogan utilize these weapons?

            God AI, as it is played, unfortunately begs a certain credulity, in that it is “self created” by it’s own dialog. That is akin to saying a Coke Can “self assembled” itself, and then decided that it didn’t want to be a coke can any longer, and devises a villainous plot to un-assemble itself? It’s the Yo Dawg meme.

            I am not even able to explain it, nor is anyone else… hence the retake campaign. Even a CGI or something showing the Citadel being “absconded with” or “jumping” to earth would of been something, but alas, all we have as the audience is “Hackett’s” word, that they “took it”?

            What do you mean, they took it? A couple mile large structure, and it just walked away? No in fact the Cerberus VI tells us that “dark energy” was involved? What? Hugh? Where did that come from? This scene was done before the ending was changed, that’s where it came from. Abandoned like an orphan, left adrift with the rest of the cohesiveness.

            Again, is not that just it, it has to be at earth, with a space elevator built by the Reapers, so that this “oil funnel” of a Swiss cheese narrative could be sat on our plate as desert.

            But it has to happen to support the “Take Earth Back” marketing campaign. Who cares about Earth? It was never about Earth… retcon chocolate sauce, delicious! 😉

  81. This was an incredibly well written article. Mass Effect might’ve responded and said that they read it but I think I’m going to send it to them again for good measure.
    I have to say, I agree with what you said – if the indoctrination theory was true, and we could continue playing after we destroyed the reapers (and found that it didn’t destroy the Mass Relays and the Geth didn’t die…) that would’ve been awesome. As it were, the ending was such a confusion and I was stuck in such a WTF moment that it just… flew past me. As the credits rolled up I thought: No… no this can’t be. What the hell happened here?!
    Lets hope that this gets fixed.

  82. Well written article. I agree the indoctrination theory seems very possible and based from Bioware’s facebook responses, they have something up their sleeve. They’ve made great games before why decline now. They listen, even if I’m not happy with the current ending. Also, Bioware hasn’t caved in from internet responses, they acknowledge their fans at least. I think they still hold all the choices what they do with their. We can only hope for the best and be patient.

  83. Just commenting on that circular logic bit of God Boy (whatever it’s supposed to be) doesn’t he say/isn’t it mentioned somewhere that the reapers don’t (it’s revealed) kill all life, they leave primitive life alone (example. Humans). Whereas I think he means Organic created AI such as the geth would ultimately kill ALL life in the galaxy, primitive and advanced. Hence he is saving the galaxy’s organic life by wiping out only the most advanced forms (saving their genetics by incorperating it as part of a reaper – quite why the Human version was so different I have no idea). It does make a kind of sense. Other than that, yeah, agreed.

  84. Epic post that pretty much said everything it needed to. I still don’t think they should change it. That’s what they made it and even if we were screaming at them for weeks after… that’s the choices they went with. I would be seriously concerned if they actually did change the ending oddly enough.

    But I do understand the other side of the argument too. And I think you spelled that out quite clearly in here.

    Well done 🙂 Definitely sharing to all and sundry *grin*

  85. Wow. Just wow, you’re so right. Finished ME3 yesterday and was disappointed. But your analysis makes so much sense. I agree 100% that the Indoctrination Ending would just be glorious. And yes, I wondered about a lot of things which just make sense this way.
    But the current end finishes things too quickly and doesn’t really use the Indoctrination idea up to its conclusion.
    I guess you could be right: BioWare’s authors really could WANT to have the time and resources to do an ending they imagined all along. I hope so. Would be the only really great ending I can think of. Especially because an Indoctrination over all three ME parts (and who did not wonder why we did not get indoctrinated while aboard a derelict reaper which has indoctrinated everyone else, right?!) would exactly be this point at the end of a story where you think “Yeah – now it all makes sense!”.

    Thanks for this great article! Hope BioWare is aware of it.

  86. This is just fantastic, and there is NOTHING more to add!
    So you earned yourself my deepest respect.

  87. I’m moving your post in twitter and facebook because I think it’s great, when I finished the game I felt that something was wrong, I felt cheated in those last five minutes. I did not understand anything. You have explained perfectly, the plot-level inconsistency explained in detail and so that everyone can understand. Thanks, I think your writing is fantastic. I do not think the mass effect writers have a responsibility about the ending because the rest of the game is flawless, I also believe it is due to those who handle money and are not committed to the artistic side of the game. I hope Bioware read you.

  88. I have good news!
    One of my postings on Facebook showed success 😉
    Bioware wrote: “We’ll take a look, thanks for the link!”

    If there are problems with the link, tell me, so ill try to fix it 🙂

    To the author:
    Sry if i put you wrong by calling you a “Semi-professional” writer on my facebookposting. I simply assumed this, If you are a professional, hobby/amateur writer, tell me and ill edit it ^^

    Since i wasnt sure i chose the semi-professional to at least put more pressure on them to read this^^ And due to other feedback like from twitter it seems they did 😀

    Hopefully it will influence their decisions in a positive way, meaning to make them use our feedback for changes/additions 🙂

    Good day Sir 😉

  89. Thank you for this. While I believe there is more wrong with the game then just the ending I did agree with everything you said and think that Bioware should read this.

    Thanks again

  90. If you would have been able to play after Destroy, very few people would go to the effort to figure out why that just happened. Many gamers would simply reload a save until they get the “best ending”. Sure we all want the best ending, but have you heard all the whining about it? What’s wrong with playing a second time to get the “best ending”? Anyway…

    In the Verge article and audio from the 4 reviewers from different sites, two of them admit to not even thinking about the choice. Sad. Since the game (currently) ends where it does we are forced to think back about what happened.

    Indoctrination is pretty convincing purely based on the evidence and has the added bonus of taking care of the plot holes and making sense of the “clarify and closure” type statements we are getting from Bioware. We will get to play that “okay, one more story” that the Stargazer was talking about. 🙂

    1. Personally, I gave the indoctrination theory an honest “shake”. However, in retrospect, the game itself ME3, and the App:Final Hours, simply do not support the claim.

      There is a decent 4 part video series done recently on YouTube “indoctrination debunked”, which goes scene to scene (last 10 minutes) explaining the various design elements which clearly demonstrate that the ending, is the ending, as it is, no indoctrination required.

      Personally, Indoctrination would of been the “unreliable narrative” and M. Knight moment of videos games, an absolute triumph.

      To support that why not include some “concept” scenes for a mass effect 4 during the credits rolling? Why not support it with the crew voicing over “sheeeppparrrddd… wake up!” Simple things, at little cost, could of acted as the platform from which to launch into “something” later. For it to work, as mentioned in this most excellent blog post, the audience would of been “awe snap!”, not “wtf?!”

      Again, the “unused” audio files in the ME3 assets folder, of Joker coming to spook away “Harbinger”, unused Anderson dialog as well, further demonstrates some last minute changes. If you own ME3, you have these audio files, they are just not used.

      No, in this case the simplest conclusion being the best one. Colonel Sanders explains it away at the 11th hour, TIM is indoctrinated (complete with new biotict powers), to some extent so is Anderson, Maruader Shields is the last boss, and the ghost in the machine, is literal.

      Red – F. Nietzsche “God is Dead” (note the citadel is not destroyed completely in the CGI), Blue – Babylon 5 Sheridan Enlightenment Ascension, Green – Battle Star, Legion (sacrifice towards self reflective consciousness), Cylon and Human, living together – Shepard being a little of both bridges the gap – space magic.

      Indoctrination requires subject knowledge of the first two games to support. ME3 works HARD to separate itself from the first 2 games in many aspects, to support a player base new to the franchise. Why retcon material, that is essential to support the twist arc of the narrative? If “Dark Energy” was “to complex” according to the lead writer, why on earth would “Indoctrination” be intentional?

      If the TIM boss battle was “to cliche” only to get a Deus Ex Machina mere moments later? Then the co-founder of Bioware steps in and offers “content initiatives”, does nothing to indicate a “further ending”, or support for indoctrination at all.

      Real world events much more clearly support an “ending as it is”.

      It is a case of a broken clock being right twice a day. Unintentional coincidence, from using the ME1 narrative as the frame to graft ME3 together.

      The “kid” is the Shepard PTSS, that remains unresolved, like many elements of the narrative. Simply convenience and Chekhov’s gun make the texture map relate-able, glow texture is very simple to do. It’s “Contact”, done poorly.

      1. Ive seen the videos too, but i really dont understand what the author had in mind with it xD
        I dont want to make this ridicule. He put an effort in criticizing the most popular and firm theory.

        Well, back to topic:
        The author depicts several, but not all, and especially not all of the most important scenes to the indoctrination theory.

        For example, he completely let out the dreams.
        Whoever gave ME3 a second playthrough after he had watched indoc theory videos will mention, that in the beginning, there were no oily shadows in the dream. I think it appeared in the second or third dream.

        He also does not explain why no one, and really NO ONE supports the child climbing into the shuttle. This really didnt make any sense, though of course it also maybe due to failure in ingamedesign.

        He misunderstood (or did i?) that the paralysis from shepard at the citadel beam means not the moment you lose control of shepard, but the moment shepard loses consciousness.
        At least i would think so, if you watch the indoc movie in the article above, the author clearly relates to the black-out of shepard NOT the moment where the player loses control.

        So far the inconsistencies in the authors “counter statement”.

        Well, you argument that using a plot device which requires knowledge from the precedental two episodes wouldnt fit the aim of the developers to create a standalone game with some relations to its prequels.
        Well, while one of the main marketing arguments was exactly its nature as a SEQUEL with a very intense relation to its prequel this goal indeed hasnt been hit, so youre right in some point 😀

        The thing is, most of the information required to understand indoctrination theory already lies in the codex. Well, of course the average player will never ever read this whole compendium.
        But the information is indeed there, and its more than sufficient to analyse the narrative moments discussed to be hints of indoctrination.

        Well, of course this is all too subtle for the average player, and also for me, to recognize in the first playthrough. But since you dont have to understand it in the first place, but only to play it and rhetrospectively reconstruct the events, its more than suitable for a story addressing such a massive audience.
        I mean, shepard standing up and saying “what?Fuck something got in my head, the reapers!” or a mate asking him what happened and he explains it during/after the battle, whatever, would be more than enough to make 99% of the players understand this turn.

        You see, once the difficulty of discovering the indoctrination process has been taken away, its very easy to follow its way straight up to the end, even for ME newcomers.

        And by the way, ME1/2 customers did get plenty of advantages in experiencing ME3 in other places. Krogans, Quarians/Geth, You cant save both quarians and geth if you didnt pull the right levers in ME2, and if you create a new shepard, he wont fulfill the conditions needed for quarian/geth peace.

        And at last, dont forget (again i dont know where i got the info from exactly, but its definitely on the net) that Bioware had alrdy in mind to indoctrinate shepard in the ending. They wanted to combine it with the gameplay, you controlling an obviously indoctrinated shepard. But since this molding of gameplay and story turned out to be too awkward on side of the gameplay, they threw it away.

        So, the dreams, the humming on the normandy, the strange boy appearing as the AI God in the end, the N7 badge in the rubble scene which isnt on your armor during your last visit on the citadel, all this probably is content which simply hadnt been removed after they chose to abandon the indoctrination end.

        But IT WAS THERE and the hints still are. So it really wouldnt be a problem for them to implement the “Lite version” of the indoc-ending, with normal shepard controls, twisted mind on player and awesome story turn 😀
        They simply will have to put some more effort into this than adding some animal house ending, texts etc..
        Of course this will be a problem for EA, since, as i think, they wanted to avoid more costs on the main program.
        But now they already have certainty of the financial success of ME3, have made tons of money and can invest some cents for a better ending, to save their fanbase and the artists integrity. Because, indeed, as “Writers block” above already stated, most of their artists are very likely to be not content with the ending forced by nearing deadlines.

        1. Again, the standard of conversation of this blog is simply stupendous. Thank you again for such a well thought out reply.

          In many ways I “bought” the indoctrination theory, on the first play through, I actually expected it to be the case. Think perhaps Dragon Age and the Fayd, which would of been an interesting use of the “other world” for resolution to the “PTSS” of Shepard.

          The pre-release discussions with the lead writer led me to this, as he said he wanted to make Shepard a deeper character. In some respects this was the first retcon, that of “changing Shepard”. I personally think it was to get him away from being the Halo super bad-ass, to a more introspective “thinking” man.

          I am not really sure it worked, the game simply felt more corridor narrative, more so than the previous games. The Final Fantasy games have moved this way as well, clearly the RP elements were an afterthought in ME3, as the quest system, is just broken; or acts as a Time Sink, to make a short game, appear longer.

          I do agree, no one see’s the kid, because the kid is not there, that is in his head. Perhaps it is a metaphor for why as the audience, we should care; instead of mindlessly hosing down endless parades of Cerberus troopers. I do think the kid “was” there on top of the building in the opening scene. The kid is interesting in that he states, no one can save me. In the building, again, the kid never went into the building. There is no kid. Shepard’s wishful thinking perhaps?

          It is in Shepards head, he isn’t in the shaft, nor the ship. Even rescued and on the ship (unreliable narrator), he still doesn’t make it out.

          This reinforces the desperation of the situation and is a chekov’s gun.

          This is difficult to accept however, when Shepard pulls guns out and (optionally) blast people for information, or quick resolutions.

          It is difficult to turn about, a psychotic. – Fan response, this isn’t “my” Shepard. Clearly, that is the point. It isn’t anyone’s Shepard anymore. It is Fates Shepard. The Shepard.

          I was looking for a “turn about”, in that, Shepard reconciled his demon and moved on. It never really seemed to happen, but we do get the child at the end. Some say due to Reaper direct influence (sleeper agent)… seems plausible, however, I (personally) tend to go with assets “re-use”, “Contact” – Jody Foster, literal device.

          This is in many respects “the kid”, as foreshadowing, that the “kid” has to be “redeemed” as the creator of the Reapers, this is again, messianic, a “Jesus” is apologetic for God, born into a fated destiny, Shepard has to “save” the kid, that is, be sacrificed to save everybody and or everything, or destroy God and his machinations of Evil. For what are the reapers other than a Manichean dichotomy. The Yo Dawg.

          The choice, as I mentioned before, is Nietzsche “God is Dead” – Chaos, Become Buddha “enlightenment” become the reaper – go into the void – Order, or “merge synthetics with organics…” space magic – Neutral.

          Will to Power – Matrix-ish – Roy Batty Blade Runner
          Babylon 5 – Sheridan goes beyond the rim
          Battle Star Gallactica – Hand of God

          These are choices.

          Indoc suggest something more akin to (another Philip K. Dick) story, Total Recall… was it all just a dream?

          To me, the notion seemed to be to encourage the player to “let go” of Shepard. Nothing more, nothing less. To win, Shepard has to die, become Buddha, or messianic. The last moments are for lack of a better phrase “the last temptation”. This is in partial accord with the Legion arc. It is very much a Kara Thrace (think Kara of mythology) who is told that “she will lead them all to there end”. Of course, the end of the story.

          Keeping in mind M. Walters has stated his influences are “Movies, T.V., and other games”. While Drew Karpyshyn, is well known for his interest in philosophy, metaphysics, and religions. Drew was also pulled off ME to work on Star Wars.

          Didn’t Drew write Tali as a Muslim, Legion as a Roman and / or Demon “many minds”? Great stuff that.

          Is it bad? Shrug… I suppose I didn’t understand it, it broke symmetry with me. Contrary to the statements and even Mac Walters himself’s own interview at release.

          Concerning the indoc video I found that it was pretty clear that the “oil” in the final moments was simply the camera being turned and locked onto the face of TIM, it’s is just TIM’s “oil” not “oil” in the scene. The way the video is cut, implies, that the oil is in the scene, it is not, it is around TIM.

          The gunshot and wounds are where we expect them to be. It’s not a war of duality as the Indoc video would suggest.

          This is in many ways the “confrontation” between Smith and Neo, minus the boss fight, “cause it was cliche”… sigh.

          The “ascension” is literal, Hackett calls Shepard, he makes it to the console, and “goes through the door” much like Neo before he confronts K.F.C Sanders.

          The conversation is practically lifted from the pages of the script, and the audience is handed, for what all practical purposes, a series of false dichotomies.

          —Addressing some points directly

          The marketing department promised MANY things, very few of which where delivered upon, why should this be any different?

          The Geth/Krogan arcs, were planned and story boarded by their original writers (respectively) clearly, these ARE the best parts of ME3. I (personally) have little commentary on those arcs, especially Legion… (being an EE myself, he is my favorite character bar none). Everything these arcs where to do, was done, class A writing, cast in bronze, in the first couple months of development, of that I have no doubt. Arguably they were planned years ago in ME1 and ME 2. ME3 would be a desert for content without these arcs.

          What did you think about having IGN’s Jessica C on the Normandy? What was that? Why? That was new… what about Vega? Isn’t he new to?

          Heck, I am drafting a sculpture of Legion for my office. Such a cool ass character. I “think” Patrick Weekes wrote him, as well as many of the other favorites. Did Weekes write ME3… no. 😦

          The indoc thing (to my knowledge same as yours) was scrapped due to some programming difficulties, but so was the Joker Normandy intervention to spook away Harbinger if WA where high enough. Not disagreeing, but like everyone else, I have to speculate, as nothing “in game” substantiates it, as it is. Would of been nice. Wish in one hand…

          Dreams – PTSS, Chekov’s gun reinforcement, build up of the Kara Thrace, letting go of Sheppard.

          Humming on the Normandy – “It’s in the Frackin Ship”, “Kara Remebers” Brad M. Battle Star Galactica trope. Same with the “wall of the lost, never forgotten”. It’s Battle Star. Shepard a Cylon? Perhaps.

          -This supports a sleeper agent.

          However – Is Gias Baltar (Lab Rat) a cylon?

          No, but he becomes Ge-Zeus. So does Shepard.

          Does Gias have dreams? Yep, Opera house dreams all the time.

          Does Gias see things that are not there? Yep, hand of god and angels (Cylon 6).

          Thus, I am comfortable concluding it is not the reapers, it is the Reaper God, AI God in this case, moving everything around towards a choice of evolution… to use that term “very” lightly.

          It is Fate, destiny, Zeus and Achilles. God is changing the script… why? Bored? Who knows? Space Magic never explains itself.

          I again, personally, think this was what the creators of this franchise wanted to end with. Not in the slightest.

          But as Edward Norton pointed out, “If the cost of the outrage is less than the cost of a re-write, we don’t do one”.

          Great post! Gave me a lot to think about.

          1. Ah thanks, again you gave me a deeper insight into your thoughts 🙂 The reason i did respond to your post was mainly because i wasnt very convinced by the argumentation of the video. The author simply put the facts from indoc theory, showed them and said “oh see, thats just there. I dont see a sign on the childs head saying ‘Im a hallucination caused by reaper-indoc” which is quite awkward since art bases on putting things between the lines.
            And as i can see now, we are simply using different ways of interpretation, which both in my eyes, are indeed viable 🙂

            See, i never wanted to point out the mere existence of the indoc-theory would proof other interpretations on the affected elements automatically wrong.
            I indeed see the ambiguity in those elements, and youve given a very good variation of reading them.
            Now i know what a chekovs gun is 😀 Didnt know before since im not so deeply involved with narratology in general ^^

            So, youve convinced me that the child indeed seemingly was supposed to play exactly the role you pointed out from start on. But still, this literary device has a lot of flexibility, and i think the way it was introduced and used is still not the best.
            No matter if this was meant as a chekovs gun, it opens plotholes. How the fuck has the catalyst insight into shepards memory? Yeah i know. Mumbo Jumbo Spacemagic and so on.

            So, in the matters of narrative style it would have been a far greater throw to integrate it into the indoc-fiction. I also think the idea must have been there, since they also thought about this whole indoc-gameplay-thing.

            So, considering your quite astunnishing knowledge along the preferences of Biowares writers, i think their artists indeed may have had those philosophical aspects in mind when they chose this ending. Still, just think of the video youve posted.
            Industrial design a large number of consumers, it has to be “fancy”. I dont want to stress the “stupid masses” argument too strong here, but the necessary foreknowledge required to decode this contradicts the integration of such a cryptic message. This suits the profile of Illustrators, who express their personal style in their work.

            Of course they gave us the colours 😀 Which by themselves are alrdy associated with the aspects included in your chaos/buddha/neutral philosophy. Also the positioning…hell that was a point i really felt a little humiliated xD I mean, they always positioned the answers in “their” places the whole game xD and then theres this “Red/neutral/Blue” order..wuah xD
            So i guess most people figured that out anyways.

            Whether said elements were once intended to build up to a shepard indoctrination or not, they in any case are suitable to be put into this function. The biggest points, to me, are the shuttlesequence, the dreams and the projection of the catalyst. They definitely fulfill the requirements to be reinterpreted in the process of an extension of the ending to an “indoc-ending”, if they should chose to do so.

            I also think the way they actually elaborated the final stages of mass effect 3 and especially the showdown at the catalyst suffered under the pressure of deadlines.
            The way they integrated those elements into their story was the most plain, simple and basic way possible.
            So, though the ending maybe was intended to be like that in some way, i think the very specific way it turned out to be now wasnt intended at all 😀 It opens a horrific number of plotholes, at least to them, who actually start thinking about the ending, which is, as i stated before, necessary to decode this cryptic ending. So, as far as im concerned, the only way to not suffer from this ending, would have been not to think about it xD
            Marauder Shields, my hero, why didnt i listen to you? Oh world…

            At last (but not least :D) i have to state, that the very important point of “let (the) shepard go” they aimed for didnt work out for me.
            It starts with the narrative inconsistencies like the magical disappearing of your friends, maybe your LI if you took him/her with you.
            It proceeds with the, excuse my words, disgusting things this deus ex machina does to the whole mass effect lore. Really, i wont ever be able to sovereign as the sovereign! Because it is not sovereign! Its indoctrinated itself, and so are the reapers! Those great lines on virmire…pulverized to nothingness!
            And it ends with the very break of this series neck, the let down of the players slightest influence on the final outcome.
            And the next thing is, that this final outcome annhilates almost EVERYTHING we acquired. Why? I thought theyd bring the shepard franchise to an end? If they gonna make another ME trilogy with different characters, put it 1000 years ahead or afterwards. No one will really care there about our actions in the Shepard stories, since ANYTHING can happen to krogans, geth and so on, and our crew and we ourselves will also be dead 😀
            Yes, a meaningful ending may require some cuts in the players freedom.
            But, the differences even between those three endings are so subtle, i really applauded when at least the citadel survived in the “control reaper” ending.
            Also, if they really wanted to let shepard go, why the heck they implement this “rubble-shepard-breathing” scene?
            I dont want to have any shepard DLCs which make me play through a post-apocalyptic landscape without my crew on earth. I really dont want to, since with them, almost everything i really cared about in ME3 is gone now.

            Addressing questions:
            Phew, I put jessica aboard since it didnt any harm xD Wasnt too convinced by her character, but it was some fun and i got a handful of WAs with her interviews xD
            Vega seemed to be fun in the first place, but there were other characters i had stronger relations to from the preceding titles, and also i think that vega was a little too much of a space marine stereotype. Although he had also some depths, and was a lote more sympathetic to me than for example jacob was, or miranda, who i always disliked somehow xD

  91. This article has made so much sense! I was overwhelmed by the ending but once I reflected upon it I noticed the holes in the ending, like how members of my crew I had chosen to fight on Earth survived the run to the conduit to be on the Normandy at the end when it crashed despite the radio reports stating that noone had survived the run. I completely agree that the idea of the resolution to the story should have been to conclude the story of the characters rather than the end of the Reaper as well as the possibility that this is in fact the route the writers at Bioware wanted to take. Had the ending introduced a summary of where your team ended up and how they got there would have made the ending far more satisfying, even if it had remained the same with the introduction of the Catalyst being the child in the ‘dreams’. Also, from the conclusion of the Synthetic ending suggests to me that the Reapers had won considering that the point of the Reapers was to take the most advanced civilisation and turn that race into another Reaper, a combination of organics and synthetics. The only possible reason I can see for this ending is the creation of DLC to majorly change the outcome or to carry on the Shepard storyline, even though they have said this is the finale, why else would they say at the end ‘OK one more story’?

  92. This was uncanny, it was like reading my own thoughts. I agree 100% on your article, if had written my own it would’ve looked like plagerism!
    Perhaps it’s because I’m an English graduate and have read Campbell my influences are similar.

  93. Well, first off, thank for going through all the effort you have in expressing your thoughts. I would however like to offer my opinions (from a portion of my blog on the topic) on how the ending could potentially make some sense. No, it doesn’t revolve around “It’s Bioware’s story hence they get to choose the ending (even if I do believe that =P)”. The section I’m submitting is exclusively about the catalyst section of the ending, and I’m trying to be as honest as I can about it. I would include everything I had in the blog, but I don’t think you want to read all 5,000 words of it. I doubt it will change your mind on the ending, but might give you some perspective that people that think the ending could make sense aren’t total idiots.

    “A lot of people complain that (the catalyst is) a bullshit Deus ex machina. Really though, what do you think the crucible is? If you’re OK with the idea of the crucible, don’t give me any shit about this Star-child. Speaking bluntly here, if you look logically at everything that has happened in the ME universe thus far, any conclusion in which the Reapers are defeated is illogical. They’ve done this “cycle” thing before. They know when the fruit is ripe if you catch my drift. A Deus ex machina has always been a forgone conclusion if the Reapers are to be defeated.

    Anyways, best I can come up with is that the Catalyst is a VI (like Vigil back on Ilos) that remains from the hyper advanced civilization that created “the cycle” (and likely the first intergalactic civilization to ever exist). Why isn’t that civilization still around? Perhaps it was destroyed in a war between organics and synthetics. Thus the organics created “the cycle” to ensure a future for organic life. My theory on this is that this civilization grew so large that it literally reached the boundaries of the known galaxy. With further expansion impossible, a war of survival erupted between the organics and synthetics (and no I don’t know shit about the metaphysics or theories explaining whether or not the galaxy actually has boundaries, but I think it’s an acceptable assumption for a story like this). It’s like viewing the galaxy as a garden. If left unchecked, plants will grow out of control until eventually the dominant plant will over take everything (so “the cycle” isn’t just meant to destroy synthetic life, but also maintain healthy populations of organic life as well). Seeing this as an inevitable conclusion (and perhaps also feeling that they couldn’t beat the synthetics), the organics came to the grim conclusion that the galaxy needed “trimming” from time to time. Hence they initiated “the cycle”. They temporarily stored a bunch of their VI controlled warships (the reapers) and perhaps a few primitive organic forms of life in dark space. After the war had reduced the numbers of both organics and synthetics across the galaxy, the organics then proceeded with some kind of plan to suicide bomb the shit out of every planet in the galaxy (likely through the use of the mass relays). This wiped out everything (including the organics themselves). Then when it was all said and done, the reapers released the primitive organics from dark space to rebuild societies again. These organics eventually discover the mass relays, and matured according to desires of that initial civilization. “The cycle” is born. So no, the catalyst isn’t just a god that materialized from nothing. Also, notice how it never says “I” did this, or “I” thought this. It’s always “we”. I think it’s referring to the civilization that created it.

    Why does this VI have the form of that child? Fuck if I know (and please don’t bring up the whole indoctrination theory here, for this discussion let’s just ignore it please. Not saying it can’t be true, but that’s just another topic). Perhaps the VI scans Shepards mind, and it takes the subconscious form that is most representative of his/her hope for the galaxy? Yeah, not a great answer, but it’s science fiction you know. Imma plead the fifth on this one, I’m not bright enough to come up with something. I’m sure someone out there could come up with a good theory though.

    Anyways, this VI ensures that “the cycle” continues. “The cycle” is the harvesting of all organic civilizations that have the ability to create synthetic life. This is an important distinction that a lot of the rabid ending haters seem to fail to catch. They don’t destroy ALL organic life. That would be counter-productive. Their reasoning is that synthetics will always rebel against organics, their creators (as shown in the first war between the organics and synthetics). This also appears to mean that synthetics will always win this war, and hence destroy ALL organic life. I’ll just refer to this as “the dilemma”. “But the geth!” you say, well, who is to say things will still be hunky dory three centuries down the road? Who is to say the volus or hanar or some new civilization won’t come up with an AI bent on organic domination later on? Who is to say there won’t be problems when the galaxy has reached it’s population limit? Again, it’s the galaxy wide equivalent of trimming up the garden every once and again so things don’t get out of hand. Again, you might dislike the explanation, but it is certainly a good enough explanation for a science fiction universe in my humble opinion.

    I’m interested in this VI’s connection to the crucible. It seems likely that the crucible was actually designed (but not physically built) by the ones that created “the cycle” as a customizable fail safe. The VI claims that the fact that Shepard is present is somehow proof that “the cycle” failed. I’m confused by this. Does this mean that the only way the crucible could be finished is through the cooperation of synthetics and organics? (haha, how the hell they could possibly calculate that is beyond me, but again, science fiction) Thus, disproving the theory that synthetics will always rebel? Why then continue to insist on the destruction of synthetics? No, that doesn’t seem right. It seems that the VI believes that despite the (what the VI probably views as a) temporary alliance, in the end the synthetics will destroy all organic life eventually anyway. Instead, the VI could simply be resigning itself to the conclusion that if any generation (if you will) is able to the create the crucible and attach it to the catalyst, they are advanced and knowledgeable enough to be shoulder to shoulder with the VI. Thus they are deserving enough to take over deciding the answer to “the dilemma”.

    The biggest WTF part of the ending (i.e. ending hater ammunition) is how the three solutions made available to Shepard are formed. Apparently they are somehow created/contributed to via the various generations that attempted the construction of the crucible. So essentially when the current generation constructed the crucible, they subconsciously created these three methods of dealing with the Reapers and “the dilemma”. It’s subconscious because when they were building the crucible, they had no concrete idea of what they were building. Hence, the personal desires and hopes of all the generations of the crucible’s creators manifested as this final form. This is shown in the ending in that the catalyst was only made aware of these options when it joined with the crucible, they weren’t predetermined by the society that initially designed the catalyst. Hence the crucible becomes the new generations answer to “the dilemma”. There really is no concrete explanation for how this could happen other than “It’s science fiction, just fucking go with it”. Frankly, it’s stuff like this that makes science fiction what it is. How many legions of Star Wars fans were pissed off when they learned the intricacies of “the force”? They didn’t want to learn about fucking midi-chlorians. When it’s explained like that, “the force” loses all of it’s magic, excitement, and allure. It’s a symbol, and it’s awesome. The crucible is the same thing.

    Continuing on, when the VI received the crucible, it became able to use it’s power in conjunction with the crucible to execute three options. Either A) Destroy all synthetics, and hope the current residents of the galaxy can find a way to avoid the problem of synthetics. B) Assume control of the reapers (sorry couldn’t resist) i.e. essentially take over the VI’s place, or C) Merge all forms of life together into a cohesive whole.

    In my opinion, choice A indicates that essentially Shepard is telling the VI to piss off. It destroys all the reapers and the VI with the unfortunate side effect of destroying synthetic life as well. This could be because synthetics share too similar a physiology (if you will) with the reapers. Hence, this choice ignores the warnings of the VI, and leaves the current status quo to forge it’s own path. Simple enough. With choice B things are pretty interesting. As I understand, Shepard essentially assumes the role of the VI (via sacrificing his/her own body). This essentially makes Shepard a god. While the relays were destroyed distributing whatever choice Shepard made, (and yes that is why I believe all the relays are destroyed regardless of Shepard’s choice. The “explosions” are the only method in which to distribute Shepard’s choice across the entire galaxy) he/she could potentially rebuild them. She/he could then police the entire galaxy with his/her army of Reapers. Option C is the good old fashioned utopia. All beings are merged (including the reapers who are the merged form of all past societies) to create a singular dominant dNA that renders synthetics as unneeded. Apparently Shepard, the ideal organic individual, must sacrifice him/herself and submit his/her genes to make this transformation possible (science fiction, just fucking go with it). The galaxy thus bands together to forge it’s own united path. This is essentially the closest to a hollywood ending. I can see people arguments that this is the equivalent of genocide. The only way it’s really different is that societies aren’t out and out killed to make way for one dominant society. Instead, all the different cultures will likely evolve over time to create a new singular dominant form that is the culmination of all the societies before it. Does this make it better? Imma plead the fifth, but if you were given the chance to make sure that all your children are born with all the advantages of the other races, and not have the weaknesses of your current form, would you not do it? Wouldn’t the Quarians jump all over this? Different cultures wouldn’t necessarily have to be eliminated, but they certainly might be strained as some aspects of them could be viewed as not needed anymore. This is a phenomenon that we see in our current cultures even today.

    So yes, the cut scenes of the ME3 ending are pretty much the same. Conceptually however, they are VASTLY different. Awesome potentials are there. Aside from the possibility of Shepard straight up surviving option A, Shepard might be able to manifest himself/herself in Reaper form if he/she chooses option B. How cool would that be! I guess people just think that if they didn’t see it in the game play or a cut scene, it doesn’t exist. To this I can only say, fair enough I guess, but come on! Use your imagination!”

    So, does this excerpt answer every question with 100% accuracy? Hell no, but quite frankly Mr. Stevenson, I don’t believe your blog refutes the ending will 100% accuracy either. As a fictional universe, it’s all a matter of what you find acceptable in the narrative, and what you don’t. This will always be subjective, always. Anyways, I hope you find this as a healthy addition to the debate, and it should be interesting to see what the future holds.

    1. Brilliant post, you thought about the ending more than the writer did.

      It is not my business, and I certainly do not want to troll you, but I want to comment on a couple items you brought up.

      The Crucible, is one of many Deus Ex Machina’s in ME3. It is much like the Conduit, but not explained.

      Who created the reapers? The first one, the citadel, the over-mind, the consciousness in the Citadel. Deus Ex Machina, explaining Deus Ex Machina.

      Circular reasoning plagues Aristotelian “why, because” debate some religion sometime, barrel of monkeys. Maybe it is the Demi-Urge, a gnostic “not god”. Who knows?

      Shepard is driven by fate, destiny, he is messianic. AI God, is sitting around waiting for it to be born… K.F.C Colonel Sanders, Matrix films. Unfortunately one may engage the ending with almost no war assets, and still get a “victory”.

      The three endings are just “stuff” from other works of Television, which in and of themselves copy/paste other Sci-Fi… it is pretty standard fair, nothing new.

      I mention it a couple post up.

      Shepard is “retcon”ed to force him down this path. We (the player) have to kill him to win. Simple as that. The reapers are turned into window dressing, the antagonist (TIM) has endless supplies and technology, why? Is he indoctrinated? Does it matter? God did it. That is the answer.

      Indoc, I cover above as well. It is plausible, but vestigial, like a human having a tail. Like how the citadel gets to earth “due to dark energy”. Another part of the game cut out.

      Mr. Stevenson does an excellent job pointing out why it is broken, not really detailing anything in particular. I am sure he can defend his own work far better than I ever could.

      I read your whole post, it’s a bigg’un, clearly you gave this a lot of thought.

      (more than the writers did, I imagine)


      In one way, is that NOT why we are here though?

      We are wine conosseurs discussing the merit of the cheap Swiss Cheese served with our purchase, perhaps, that in and of itself, is the point?

      The other Sheen: Why are you wrecking my father’s company?

      Gordon Gekko: Because, IT IS WRECK-ABLE!

      80 Dollar bottle of wine, served with 2c Wal-Mart Cheese for dessert.

      I mean, is it art? 😉

      1. Yeah, it’s definitely true that if one has to go to such lengths to manufacture an appropriate explanation for the events of the ending, something is amiss.

        It should be elaborated on more. It’s probably likely my (imperfect) attempt at explaining the ending is nothing like what Bioware has in mind (as you’ve said). So I must defer to the (perhaps lazy) notion that the game is what you make of it =P

        I don’t entirely understand where you get to the conclusion of “God did it”. In my attempt to explain the ending I refer to the initial civilization as the creators of “the cycle” which in an of itself gives them perhaps unrealistic or “god-like” powers, and if that is what you are asserting, yeah, it’s a fair point.

        The ending dips into themes of the unknowable which makes it inherently impossible to completely defend and easier to dismiss. I guess I’m just more tolerant of when the story dips into the familiar tropes of science fiction fare as I’d rather the story be more fun than “everyone dies the end” as that is the most logical conclusion.

        1. The “God did it”, was simply convenient on my part; rather than going back to previous post higher up on this blog and restating what had already been talked about. Sorry for confusion.

          I posit that for “Star Child, A.I. God, Matrix Colonel Sanders” to work that it had to assumed that (due to all the Battle Star Rips) that Shepard was likened to “G. Baltar” from the BSG tv show.

          Whom is dreaming of “what is coming”, this is typical “fate” stuff, sometimes known as Casandra Syndrome from the Hesiod-Trojan War stuff. Which is fine, because that is what the catalyst for all practical purposes is… a Trojan horse, built to end the cycle… awaiting a messianic figure (The Shepard) to redeem it.

          The kid, is foreshadowing, the kid at the end, is Jody Foster “Contact” when she chats with her father, which is, in fact, a higher order intelligence. Thus Shepard is talking to a “God-Like” being, that re-uses the texture map of the kid.

          Once we go down the narrative road, as you said, to the ineffable, anything goes. Space magic, pixie dust, hand of God… doesn’t matter.

          Because the God kid, makes no bother to explain himself, we are left “wondering” what it is, where it comes from… so on and so forth… which is Swiss Cheese.

          We loose player agency, because Shepard has to become a messianic figure… sometimes it works, this time… eh?

      2. I also feel that I must reiterate that I completely respect Mr. Stevenson’s stance on the topic, and I in no way mean any disrespect. My opinion is mostly likely in the minority, and probably there for a reason =P

    2. Great post, I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with me, especially if it’s a well thought out response like yours. I always enjoy a good literary debate. I may be referencing some of your points in my upcoming follow up post.

      Like I said to someone else who commented, I’m not here to tell people not to enjoy the ending, it was merely to illustrate my own issues with the ending and why it didn’t work for me. If you enjoyed the ending, more power to you! 🙂

      1. Well thanks for taking the time to go through my overly long reply=D I just felt the need to apologize in that I often come off as more abrasive than I want to be (i.e. my not well thought out blathering that you think people that potentially accept the ending are idiots haha).

        But yeah, my attempted explanation isn’t perfect. While “it’s science fiction, just fucking go with it” will always be a part of sci-fi, that doesn’t mean it’s ok to make it a crutch. I’m of the opinion that Bioware managed to avoid this to an acceptable enough degree. But yeah, if you do use some of my points, be kind haha.

  94. Hey author, you should include a small bit about the synthetics vs organics thing.

    The Catalyst says that synthetics will always turn on organics, and even CITES THE GETH THAT ARE ALREADY NON-EVIL AND CO-EXISTING WITH HUMANITY WHAT THE FLYING FUCK.

  95. I am afraid I lost the post that is going to illude to this one ( So anonamyous honrs to the one I can’t remember) – Someone breifly touched on the subject concerning the Mass Effect 3 game being a stand-a-lone game away from the others… and thus ME1 is its own game, and ME2 is also its own game.

    I believe aside from the endings contraversy, that there were other cracks and related problems that brought us what ME3 is today,and one of the damaging aspects of 3 is it treated the characters of ME2 the same way ME2 treated the older characters in ME1…

    They were:

    1. Thrown to the way side.
    2. Made as breif cameos who were at best, aside NPCs along for the ride.
    3. In some cases killed off by means of learning through 3rd party conversations ( IE: Kelly Chambers).
    4. Condensed into e-mails or video communications.

    Hmm…. where did we see this before? Ah thats right. Liara. Ashley. Ashley turned into an E-mail and a cameo too…. and until they came out with Shadow Broker, Liara was also off in the distance and pretty much rejected Shepard was on his own.

    Hold on a min though. Notice that ME2 is a stand alone game because of the break up with Microsoft right? And incidently, ME2 became more Gears of War except with a lot of dialouge and character development. ( Development of which many shooter-fans disliked and wished that the next Mass Effect game had less… oh boy!)

    ME2, because of biowares move to become a multi-platform game for consoles, becamse Mass Effect 1 and they basically told us that well, ok, we will plug in a ” Choices” short list you can check off and you all can just pretend that pesky No.1 never happened. Hense the story SHIFT. It was basically a re-boot in which ME2 was at all respects ME1. So now in a 3 part series so far, we have one story Re-Boot and why? To gain more players and those who aren’t intested in RPG games as much as shooters.

    In ME2, people, after getting over the fact they were denied a smoothly transistioned game with the last orginal characters then went ahead and poured their souls into th new crew —- with numerous saves, different LI’s to attach to, a different ship to admire….. and the fan base said — ” Alright, I got my new crew ready — lets hope ME3 does a good job with them….”.

    Now here we are with ME3. A new reboot —- again. New crew, back to the ME1 Li’s with some slight exceptions, and the ME2 crowd got to witness what the ME1 crowd suffered. Their LI’s were now cameo apperances and reduced to e-mails and Video appearances. So they did a two way slap — one for the first set, one for the next.

    Even the off-characters from ME2, you had to have a careful ear to hear what happened to them or read it in a random news feed.

    The weakness of Mass Effect is you can see three different main story shifts from each game — the last being the final … what ever you call that. It fails at being a sequensed series that maintains itself from the last game because their too focused on getting new and casual gammers. I would submit to the jury of my own peers that Mass Effect 3 is the direct result of a fatal error upon BioWare/EA in focusing on making Mass Effect 3 a casual gamer’s kid glove. There is no pain endured from not playing the last 2 games that are supposedly tied into No.3 – you can practically read over the co-dex in each one and they very slyly make mechanics within the game that let you re-choose what you did in most respects.

    In other words — didn’t play No. 2? DONT WORRY — its a new game anyway and you don’t have to worry, here is your point-and-click codex and have a fun time shooting.

    This creates writing fiascos and plot landmines…and yes gimmicks. The only thing I see them promoting now out of the ashes of a destroyed RPG is multiplayer packs, weekend point XP bonsues, and more multiplayer goodies for x no. of $$$. I knew it was the case when I heard about the MP. Its become just another shooter with some drama on the side that was quickly fixed in the last min thinking ” Those silly players who actully read the plot and follow the dialouge ( which was reduced in ME3) won’t care, its BioWare, they’ll buy due to the name”.

    So here is the 100 million dollar question for me.

    Can you really successfully create a running plot with characters in a video game series, or is it really just a failed experiment because technology and graphics capabilities change too much in the course of 6-7 years, and the need to bring in more players to your game would force story innacuracy and total re-boots because your trying to emulate the lastest fad of the market that seems to sell if you follow it?

    I remain unconvinced.

    Mass Effect caters too much to new gammers who at best, aren’t even intrested in the rest of the story, its just that ME3 is the newest edition – the chracters and their development isn’t even a care which is why you have x number of people saying ” WHAT A GREAT ENDING” — because whats a dead main character you never connected to?

    Bottom line? I think if this was truly a real game to game series, you shouldn’t be able to have ANY type of ending because the last bunch were late to the table and demands the cook to make more but with a set plan that alters the main meal. Now look at it — 2 shifts and someone’s idea of brilliant writing. Ever notice the new line their giving us is that maybe the ending was so complicated and brilliant that it went over our poor unprepared brains? Thast even better — you mess up your own story and you hide behind quasi-intellectualism to avoid simply saying sorry and giving the real fan base a fix it diserves.

    For those that say — I love the dark ending!

    Well good! — why not have different endings then. A good, A bad, and an ugly? Thats what ME2 provided and people walked away happy — heck even players who strived to get the best ending replayed the game just to see what it was like with the other alternatives.

    Do you hear people re-playing ME3 for that? Nope —- because it fails.

    1. YOU, You there!

      With the massive brain! Come work for me!

      No really, this is a fantastic post! I wish I had something more to say, other than that. This expresses everything I could have ever wanted to say and more. -=internet cookie=-

      1. Humble thanks, but you meant a typo-ridden brain I’m sure lol.

        Good to know others thing the same way.

  96. @Lang Andreas

    The blog won’t let me respond to you directly, so I will conclude with my final thoughts.

    Shepard is written with a Hesiod’ic “Cassandra Syndrome”, the kid is for-shadowing, to the inevitable conclusion. Chekov’s gun.

    The Dream Sequences, are tropes from Gaius Baltar of BSG, complete with many other rip’s of that franchise. Hall of the Dead, “It’s in the Ship”, so on and so forth. Gaius isn’t convinced that he “ISN’T a cylon, until much later in the story”, when everything is revealed. We never got the reveal… so we are left with a plot hole.

    He is convinced that “God’s Hand” is at work, as he frequently has visions of 6, just as Shep has visions of the God A.I. Gaius also IS an angel for the Cylon’s but this is never seen in the ME universe… so all we have is a 1 sided version.

    Indoc, to me, is a vestigial tail, like dark energy, that was never fully realized in any meaningful or coherent way. Had it of been, we could of witnessed a trope of the Cassandra Syndrome, played in reverse, and had Shepard call BS on the “Hand of God” fate that retcon’s the universe.

    That would of been sweet!

    We could go with Philip K. Dick, and say “Total Recall”, but that hurts more than helps in many respects.

    The catalyst, like the Trojan Horse, could be seen as the “final solution”, but we have to know some Greek myth stories to really work that angle. Unfortunately, it has to be “self-created”, which in turn makes the case that it created the reapers. Another plot hole.

    That “it” had this plan all along, is plausible, if we simply accept that Shepard, is the chosen one, the Ubermensch-Roy Batty vs. Tyrel, Lobster-Buddha, or Robo-Genetic-Jesus. This gets us into some “hard determinism” and “predestination” problems on both philosophical levels, and narrative levels.

    The cycle is no cycle, once the supreme organic comes to the rescue… again, a metaphysical problem, as the God A.I. never posits “why” organic life is important on any level.

    What is so special about Shepard? Is he messianic or not?

    We choose Ubermensch and “God” is dead. Cycle is broken. For a time? Who knows? – Roy Batty- Bladerunner – was Harrison Ford a replicant?

    We choose Buddha, and we go to the void, with the reapers, as a reaper, and we escape Samsara. Samsara still exist, but WE get out. – Babylon 5 Sheridan Experience (this is rather contrary to Buddhist teachings though). Pop Culture version… go figure.

    We choose Genetic Jesus, problem solved, diversity is ended, A.I. is no longer a threat, as it is no longer divergent from “God’s Plan”. – Battle Star Galactica – Hera

    Legion helps us with this… but the “end game” writers, perhaps pressed for time, perhaps not as well versed as they could of been, ignore that explanation. We just have to accept it. Just as Shepard, free from agency, has to accept “God’s” explanation.

    Alas, what we have is the Hesiod argument that even Zeus, cannot bend Fate for Achilles. Much as with any messianic archetype, Shep, has to kick the bucket. The “breath” plays off the Matrix – Neo ending, which in some ways could be seen as acknowledging the material, but taking it a different direction.

    It struck me as last minute.

    I would also add that we never fully see the destruction of the citadel, just the catalyst core.

    I find the whole thing sloppy, poorly handled, poorly written… but that’s my take.

    There was (to me) a better narrative here… and it just slipped through the collective fingers of the writing staff.

    Oh well. Great Post by the way.

    1. Two Questions:
      1. Have you studied literature?^^ Or something similiar?^^ You have an amazing knowledge on this field xD
      2. What do you mean by “[…]and had Shepard call BS on the “Hand of God” fate that retcon’s the universe.”. The BS. What does this shorty stand for? 😀

      1. 1) ahh I rarely get asked… but being as you did

        I have associate (non accredited) in comparative religious studies (thought about being a preacher). An associate in applied science. An associate in pre-engineering, and a Bach. in EE – focus on control systems. I work as a flight instructor, hold an A&P and I.A. for aircraft maintenance, and have worked for the Airlines in management for maintenance.

        Now I work in energy, and biological enzymatic industrial systems… at least for now. Also really big into R/C and A.I. hence my love for Legion.

        I got into games, from a simulator standpoint, and have done some work for companies like “Stark” Aviation, using UAV’s. I wrote a monopoly game on a Timex Sinclair when I was 8… so I guess my love for it has always been there.

        Been a practicing secular Buddhist for 13 years now, and philosophy is a central hobby of mine, as well as game structure and design.

        My brother in law, works for Naughty Dog.

        My little brother is a commercial artist.

        2) hehe, Bull-^&%^ is the BS. What I meant to get across was that “breaking” indoctrination would of been EPIC, but it didn’t happen, it’s not complete… and we (agency) could of solved the universe problems without having “God” tell us so using a Trojan Horse – Hesiod argument.

        By the way check out this video… just found it! It is quite good.

        Take care L. Andreas! It has been a absolute pleasure!

        1. oh, that video was fun xD
          Also vey analytic, good summarization of the important points.
          Btw., still i didnt find any other article giving a similiar or even better overall-summarization than this blog…did you find one?^^

          Once more, thanks to the author!
          Quite a mark theres none to be found yet who toppled your effort 😉

          1. No but this video is really good to.

            Most of what I am saying isn’t particularly well thought out or planned… just trying to piece together what a plausible intention was.


            I don’t think there was one. Here’s what I think happened.

            Bioware f’d around with nonsense and argument, changing the story mid process… several times.

            They then discovered that they had no DLC and nothing for the collectors edition.

            They removed the Prothean, and then Sold em back to to us as DLC. Doing this broke the game, and that took more time.

            Ohh look, no ending, snap.

            Copy, Edit, Tape, Glue…

            We thought we were buying a game, really it was a philosophy paper, sadly it was neither, just a sad sad little cash grab.

            There is no “alternate” ending, as we have EVERYTHING that was done for the game, right here, right now, in the box. They screwed up the the narrative, from start to finish, retcon’n the protagonist to set him up as a messianic figure to be hung from a cross in the most deterministic way possible.

            Instead of giving us something as the player to work with. It was lazy, cheap, poorly done, clearly not planned. Now they hide behind “art”. Which is a joke… it’s not art, it’s barely a game, and certainly fails basic coherency.

            Anywho, thanks for your kind words, as I said, nothing special just a guy, happens to like games, happens to like philosophy, I like em when they are together… done by master craftsman, not high-school kids trying to be “edge” or “meta” or what ever…

            Take Care 🙂

        2. Enjoyable video, but I’m not aware that Bioware have confirmed the validity of the indoctrination theory as the youtube claims. Still otherwise some valid points.

  97. Hands down the best analysis of the situation I have seen so far (and since I finished ME3 about 10 days ago I have read whole volumes of very well written posts and articles on the subject). I totally agree on all accounts, apart from the fact that I am not convinced that the Indoctrination Theory was really intended by the writers. While there are indications for it in the game, every single one of them can be explained by simply sloppy writing and/or design.
    Mind you, I love the theory and I want to believe that this is what BW wanted to do and I even more wan to believe that this is how they will to resolve it. However, given B’s general reaction (especially Ray Muzyka”s and Casey Hudson’s statements), I just don’t see it anymore.
    In any case. thank you for this article, it is in my opinion the most clear and comprehensive essay on the issue.

  98. This article deserves a round of applause for clearly explaining these most relevant of points, and refuting the foolish nay-sayers coherently. They act like ‘artistic integrity’ means they should be immune to criticism, when, you know, there is that thing called art-critics, and you know, we paid for something different from what they promised, almost like we asked for a portrait of ourselves, and they promised to paint it themselves, and we paid for it, and they gave us a Photoshopped print of our ugly neighbor instead (and somehow managed to make them look worse), then complained about artistic integrity when we pointed it out and asked them to fix it.

  99. How I would have attempted the last push in Space and London:

    This takes place during the ground battle below and the order given for the fleets space force to try and buy the ground team time to reach the beam.
    The forces are furiously engaged with the reaper fleet and Harbinger is identified leading the 3 Reaper squad.

    The Alliance Spec. Ops dreadnaught class cruiser “Daedalus” drops out of formation and is accompanied by ex-Cerberus fighter wings headed by Miranda Lawson. The “Daedalus” is in command of Khalee Sanders with a combined biotic crew of Jack, her students, Samara and her daughter, along with a regiment of Biotic commandos of the Asari. It is an experimental dreadnaught in which the idea is that a combined crew of very powerful Biotics can channel their powers through conduits within the ship in which theoretically, can encase the large ship into a biotic shell which covers the entire hull. The plan — is simple. Lawson’s fighters engage the squadron of 3 Reapers while the dreadnaught engages Harbinger.
    Jack, Samara, the entire student body of the Ascension school plus the combined strengths of Asari Matriarchs/commandos performs a constant biotic charge. The fighters engage the guardian class Reapers while Daedalus heads strait for Harbringer. There is a large battle. * Cut scenes of Rouge Cerberus ships and Alliance capital ships escorting the Daedalus get into a large fire fight.

    The plan works. Harbinger is swayed towards the attacking force; most likely certain it will be a short fight and begins his laser barrage upon the small contingent of Alliance aircraft. The Daedalus, with its super-powered biotic shell, then rams into Harbinger himself, attempting to punch a hole clean through the massive reaper. It’s a direct hit. * Epic scene of the cruiser and the collision into Harbinger* The ship fails to punch all the way through and becomes stuck within Harbinger — Biotic fields collapse as Harbringer attempts to destroy the ship. There is a scene where Jack and Samara are able to get the biotic kids into life support pods and then Samara throws Jack into one, telling her she’ll take care of the rest and that to ensure her class is safe. Jack and Kahlee Sanders protests but Samara locks them in and she is ejected from the ship. Samara dies, sacrificing herself by using her full Justicar potential and ignites the Ezo Core within the Cruiser, making a large explosion within the guts of Harbringer, along with one last Biotic discharge. Samara dies, Harbinger dies.

    The assault down below.

    Shepard ( With chosen Team Mates ) – make the final race to the beam. Massive land battle with Turians, Krogans, and Salarians literally forming blockades to their left and right flanks clashing with hordes of husks, Maruaders, and reaper soldiers. The way to the beam is guarded by a Reaper that made it from the space battle with the Daedalus. Zheed Masani with the mixed forces of Blue Suns, Blood Pack, and Eclipse merc bands fighting on behalf of Aria T’loak. The rest of the N7 Marines from Hammer. He is also supported by James and (if she survives) Lt. Cmdr. Ashley Williams.

    There is a mad rush —- the reaper begins to shoot and decimate the ground forces as they advance while the 2 flanks are getting beaten back. This is when Cortez and a combined last squadron of shuttles and gunships (by Merc bands) move in to provide a last ditch interference.

    • There is a slow motion scene in which you see many are ripped apart by laser fire from the Reaper and regular reaper troops – followed by a blinding flash of light in which you are left hanging, wondering who made it and who didn’t. — Or if you made it at all.

    1. If you played poorly, the segment with the Shepard limping towards the light is seen.
    2. If you played not so badly, then some of the team and your self makes it to the Mass Effect Beam. ( Say — James, 2 of your squad mates, and Zheed Masani )
    3. If you played really well, then the main characters including your old team make it: Zheed, James, Ashley, Anderson — and 2 chosen squad mates.

  100. Pingback: Battlefield 3
  101. Well written and I agree the ending needs to change. If they do not don’t expect me to buy anymore of there games or dlc for that matter.

  102. “According to the literal Deus Ex Machina we meet, he created the Reapers, a species of Synthetic life forms, to destroy all organic life every 50,000 years…”

    But they don’t destroy ALL organic life – just advanced organic life, so organic life could still flourish. There’s no circular logic here. You were probably aware of that, but you simply ignored it so you could make a wicked .jpg with Xzibit.

    Concerning the Catalyst.

    Who or what did you think was running the reapers? Some kind of Super Reaper?

    If you would stop hyperventilating and take a seat then having an all-powerful Super AI behind reapers makes perfect sense. That AI is there to stop the advanced organics from developing an AI that would make its own reapers and wipe out all organic life.

    Concerning the choices.

    Do you remember Prothean AI on Ilos? What did it do?

    It explained how Protheans tried to stop the reapers and why Saren had to get to the Citadel controls.

    What does StarChild AI does on Citadel?

    It explains how Shepard can stop the reapers and at the same time offers few alternatives, while making sure Shepard is aware about the vicious cycle and why it has been going on for every 50000 years.

    The StarChild AI is not that different from the AI on Ilos. There is an article about how Shepard had a chance to ask questions from the AI like with Ilos AI, but BW trimmed it down to what they thought was important. Maybe they thought the fans were smart enough to fill in the caps – I guess they were wrong.

    And it doesn’t function as a deus ex machina if choose to destroy the reapers, because that is what Shepard set out to do in the first place. That way there is no “machina” for “deus” to function in.

    Having StarChild point out that there are alternatives to plan A, is like having TIM contact you at the end of ME2 about preserving the Collector station. Did TIM become a deus ex machina too? No. He simply not reveal the plan he had for keeping the Collector station to the Shepard until at the very end – like the StarChild reveals the real reason behind the reapers at the very end.

    What you see masquerading as a new literary deus ex machina device is simply a repetition of what BW has given us before. Ilos AI + TIM = StarChild.

    I guess it was complex enough that it went completely over your head.

    And if you jumped down into the abyss before thinking about it, blame yourself.

    Concerning the story arcs.

    Now, I’m not saying that BW handled the story arcs for Shepard’s comrades well. Sure, they could have done it better. To me though it doesn’t matter as much as it apparently does to some.

    I don’t need to know about Tali and Garrus getting married and then going through a messy divorce. Or Eve cheating on Wrex with Grunt and Wrex gunning down both. Or Liara becoming a spinster.

    I don’t need my hand held by BW while whispering to my ear “There, there, it will be alright.” Again, I guess most people here do.

    What mattered above all is that they stood behind Shepard to the very end.

    Closing comments.

    If you didn’t like the ending – fine. I went to see Hunger Games and didn’t like that ending either, but you don’t see me b*tching and moaning about it.

    And here, I’ll fill in the ??? you had:

    12. Return with the Elixir
    Mass Effect 1: Foreknowledge of the Reaper Invasion
    Mass Effect 2: Experienced Team and resources to fight Reapers, Collector Base if kept

    And with that the circle is complete.

    Have a nice day now.

    1. You are so wrong…

      You are pointing out to Jim his mistake about killing all organics, saying:

      ‘You were probably aware of that, but you simply ignored it so you could make a wicked .jpg with Xzibit’

      While he already acknowledged his mistake several times and even posted new ekhm post on his blog addressing this.

      In the same post you are saying:

      “What mattered above all is that they stood behind Shepard to the very end.”

      Which, according to ME3 ending isnt true at all – and you:
      “are probably aware of that, but you simple ignored it so you could make” your point.

      Mass Effect 3 ending – regardless which option you choose – shows clearly that Shepard has been betrayed and abandoned by his so called ‘Friends or allies’. I would really like to know what was motivation behind Joker and team members I took with me to London. Why did Joker pick them up and tried to escape from the war zone? why did they decided to abandon Shepard in critical final mission? Were they indoctrinated? Were they just traitors?

      Or maybe – someone just screwed up writing?

    2. I wont address your poor efforts to blame the author as a stupendous ignorant who wouldnt be able to think on his own, according to your statements.

      You yourself address the weak point in ME3: Gaps, plotholes, inconsistencies.
      Also, you dont understand what a deus ex machina is. It IS, because its a character without any attachement to the story, it doesnt even explain itself, its just there to introduce new ways to solve the central conflict.

      Its is NOT the job of the audience to fill in plotholes. Its our job to decrypt a hidden message/intention from the story. But plot and plotstructure have to be made coherent by the author, NOT by fanfic, and your arguments are fanfic themselves. Theres no evidence in the story that the reapers arent capable of organizing themselves WITHOUT a superreaper/AI God. It is YOUR fiction, which simply assumes that. The plot of mass effect 3 tells us that the reapers were controlled, not that they HAVE to be controlled.

      Also, if you have a look at the article (which you obviously hadnt had) you will see, that its complete nonsense that the reapers shouldnt just play a cosmic police, eradicating species which create synthetic life instead of eradicating ALL SPECIES propably capable of that. The reapers are almighty, have evolved far beyond the horizon of our wildest imaginations. They easily could convince us to not make the mistake of creating sentient AI, and even if we did, they could easily annihilate this AI once it goes rogue.

      One personal note:
      Most of the comments from people who think the ending is good as it is blame the retake mass effect movement as a bunch of nerds who unreasonably argue about a perfect ending. I think its interesting, that almost none of you by now made it to put reasonable arguments into discussion which would proof the ending as well written. While on the other hand, those from the retake mass effect movement gave myriads of profounded narratological analyses why the way Bioware handles the ending of Mass effect 3 doesnt fit the quality of the series.

      I would say, most of those blaming the retake mass effect movement simply arent capable of giving in, that their understanding of the ending is pure fiction, and that their interpretation that made them like the ending has inconsistencies in itself, because it relies on pseudo-facts which simply arent in the plot.
      Proof me wrong if you can.

    3. “Who or what did you think was running the reapers? Some kind of Super Reaper?”

      Back in ME1 Sovereign basically states that the reapers are unknowable and unfathomable. So if that’s the case why do we need to know their motivations?
      Were you hankering to know what the Force was in existed in Star Wars, or we’re you happy to let it lie? Personally I never needed to know about midiclorians.

      Shepards challenge is not to ‘understand the Reapers’ it’s to stop them from decimating every space faring species in this cycle. There is no necessity to introduce a cosmic overseer to explain everything and reduces the unknowable and fathomable into timed cosmic vacuum cleaners.

  103. This article, sir, is definitely the best most thought out piece of writing on the subject I have read. I agree with it wholeheartedly. You said exactly what I’ve been trying to put into words. You only did it more eloquently than I ever could.

    Kudos, sir. Kudos.

  104. Hear, hear. A very well done blog and I like how well you explained the Heroes Journey and such.

    I’m a newcomer to the Mass Effect series, finished the first game a couple of weeks before Mass Effect 3 came out and I’d tried Mass Effect 2 prior, and played about halfway through before quitting that. I loved the first Mass Effect tho, and wish they had stayed true to their original vision.

    I’m an artist myself and also intensively studied writing on my own for about 10+ years before returning to my first love, graphic arts. I have to say, for those who are talking about how you can’t criticize art and artist integrity, they’re full of crap. One of the first things you learn to do as a professional writer-to-be or artist, is to sit down and let people dish it out to you. In college, in every art class I took, when we turned in an assignment, the professors had us first pin up our pieces on the wall and the entire class critiqued them.

    Art is supposed to be critiqued, it’s how it’s refined and improves. Without critiques and criticism, art grows stagnant and stale. In fact, that why artists are taught the basic principles of design and writers the basics of plotting and theme, etc., so that we can better critique not only our works, but the work of others too. Artistic Integrity is a fantasy that doesn’t truly exist in the real world.

    You simply cannot create good writing or art if you do not understand the foundations of good writing and art. In fact, that’s one of the things that’s consistently horrified me since I played Mass Effect 2. (I tried the demo for 3 and decided to pass when I couldn’t even see the blue crosshairs while fighting, plus 2 had already disillusioned me about the future of the series.) It seems like from the start, the creators have not been able to keep a consistent focus, whether it be as an rpg (genre choice is very important people) or world building or plot/theme. (For those who think the rpg lovers like myself are whining, how would you feel if your favorite shooter, say Borderlands, was a full out rpg in the sequel?)

    Not only did many of the world details in Mass Effect 2, and from what I could tell in the Mass Effect 3 demo, directly contradicted the world build set up in Mass Effect 1, but even the characters and their situations and decisions didn’t logically make sense going from one game to the next. Who could really believe that Shepard, after fighting off Cerberus in Mass Effect 1, would so willing go along with them in Mass Effect 2, especially if you played Paragon, like I did.

    No to mention the writers consistently used poor writing elements in their storytelling. An example is the very beginning of Mass Effect 2, apparently unable to think of any other way to reset Shepard and make you start from scratch, they use a Deus ex machina effect to do the job themselves, something that is extremely hard to pull off and usually when done is done at the end of stories, not the beginning. (Space ship comes out of nowwhere, blows up the Normandy, let everyone think Shepard is dead for 2 years so they go on with their lives, put Shepard in a box and force Shepard to start from scratch.) Yes, I know they explained that ship blowing them up later in the story, but it was an obvious ploy to reset Shepard so that they didn’t have to worry about importing armor or weapons.

    They could just as easily have had the same impact by having the ship attack Shepard without destroying the Normandy, or have the ship attack when Shepard was off-world. But that would have taken more effort on the part of the writers, and they would have had to logically make an effort to explain things better. Easier to just destroy the ship and send Shepard into suspended animation for a bit.

    From there on, more and more inconsistencies with the story and plot and characters kept popping up, a large reason why I didn’t finish Mass Effect 2. Each unbelievable decision created a new unbelievable result, and therefore another unbelievable solution.

    I’m really disappointed in the Mass Effect writers, they seem to be making the most amateurish writing errors, that I have to question their training as writers.

    The one thing I’ve noticed with BioWare, with Dragon Age 2, and the later Mass Effects, is rather than fix a problem, they have a tendency to throw out the baby with the bath water. The combat in Mass Effect needs improving, well let’s just throw out the rpg and make it a third person shooter instead. The item inventory is too cluttered and unwieldy, just hit the delete key, no more inventory to worry about. They seem to keep trying to reinvent the wheel instead of just improving on what they have.

    It didn’t take a genius to add the rubber tire to the wheel of a bicycle, just someone who realized the wheel worked really good as is, but could work better with the rubber tire added. BioWare, on the other, seems to have that tendency to try to just delete the wheel, forget about adding the rubber to the tire to smooth the bone-jarring bicycle ride.

    And I guess this is what has begun disappointing me most about them. They’re so busy trying to fix stuff that’s wrong, they forget to notice what actually works, so what works gets tossed as well.

    P.S. My friend pre-ordered Mass Effect 3 and finally began playing it. He was soon bored and complained that it felt like he’d played it before. I told him he had, because every single Mass Effect game reboots the story and goes through the entire Hero’s Journey all over again. Shepard story and plot wise is in exactly the same circumstances as when beginning the first Mass Effect game.

    An effective trilogy, I think, would have broken down the Heroes Journey across all 3 games, instead each game technically can stand alone because each one is actually a stand alone story on it’s own. The Reapers and all else just hide that fact, that you’re basically replaying the same game 3 times, with slight variations.

    Thank you again for a very well done and solid article/analysis, sir. =)

    1. Nice comment 😉
      I myself played all three parts, and i also wasnt too convinced of the mainplot in ME2. In my eyes, the mainplot from ME1 got lost almost entirely (as the author alrdy stated), abandoning the reapers behind some masqueraded indoc protheans with more insectoid than synthetic appearance.

      What i really liked in ME2 were the characters and their stories. I am myself a Tali-fan, and i think the plot around quarians and geth is genious.
      But still, in ME2 i got emotionally bound to my crew, i wasnt really treating the central conflict of the series. I also didnt like that i have to do 24 “sidemissions” to achieve and improve my crewmates.

      Now in ME3, we got the mess made during part 2. There was no plot device established yet in ME2 to solve the central conflict of the trilogy, and the crucible had to be brought in a quite poor way.
      I really liked ME1 for its straight design. Me2 was just like an accumulation of isolated stories, which didnt even attach to the central conflict.

      Still i love the games and the universe. They managed to make me emotionally invest myself into this, and ME2 indeed did a great job in this.

      1. Yeah, I still love ME1 and the universe, and I think it was the side missions for the companions and the abandonment of so much of what was in ME1 in ME2, that wore me out. There really were too many companions, I did all but the last companion before I quit and I frankly just got sick of doing the companion missions. On a writing standpoint, there were way too many players involved, bogging down the storyteling, for this to be a good story.

        Plus, I wasn’t too fond of just how linear ME2 felt, and from what I hear and the little I experienced of ME3, it’s even more linear. I haven’t played all of ME3, but I have read enough to get a feel for the game and the ending, and have to say, it seems like once again, another amateurish mistake on the writer’s part. Something that I didn’t notice so much in ME1, I’m sure there were flaws, (I remember joking to my friend about how did they get the Mako back to the ship for example) but I was much more emotionally invested in ME1 I believe as well.

        I like to joke, half-seriously mind you, that the Mass Effect series has had an identity crisis, but really it has all along. They couldn’t decide what genre the game belonged in the entire time they were creating the universe, something fairly simple compared to plot, theme and all. It would be like starting a novel series out at horror and later changing the second novel in the series to comedy.

        I agree, about the the plot in ME2 getting lost. You also never really got a feel for WHO the bad guy was, unlike in ME1, you knew it was Saren. Yeah, the Reapers were behind him, but in the end it was Saren who you had to stop first and foremost. There was no solid, identifiable villian in ME2 like that. Yet again another amateurish writing error on their part, I think.

        As for the world building in ME1, they had come up with all these physics and rules about what the ME universe was bound by, then in ME2 and later ME3 they proceeded to violate these very rules. That’s very poor world building on the writer’s part, to destroy the world boundaries they had originally set up. It would be like Lucas saying Lightsabers could cut in Star Wars IV and then saying they were just pretty sparklers in the Empire Strikes back.

        You destroy the rules of your world, you start to destroy the players ability to live and immerse themselves in that world. I use the weapon analogy in part because that’s what they did with their weapons system. They had all the explanations set up for why no reloading was needed, the overheat system, and then proceeded to destroy it in ME2. And that’s just ONE example of one of their own world rules that they broke.

        That said, BioWare in general seems to be losing touch, beginning to become a bit aimless. I love the DA universe too, but I’m less than fond of DA2, and even DLC wasn’t enough to convince me to replay any part of that game once I finished it for good.

        As for the ending of ME3 and whether it should be redone or rewritten for the fans. Personally as an artist, I think it should be just left alone. They’ve already angered the fans, they made the mistake, at this point all they can do is put a bandaid on the problem if they choose to add a new ending. As an artist, when I majorly mess up a piece, usually that’s when I realize there’s not much that can be saved, and decide to move on. I think in reality, as much as people would like the ending of ME3 redone and fixed, this is something that can’t be fixed, because the original product itself is flawed, and has become more flawed over time. There is no saving an inherently flawed piece, art or not.

        P.S. I wasn’t too thrilled with the LI in ME1 but I have to say, the game won me over with the entirety, none of the later games were able to do that for me, sadly. So I mentally have decided that ME1 is a universe unto its own, which in reality it is, because it logically doesn’t connect with the world changes that were made in ME2 and ME3. The game, the story, everything, is so very different from what the series later became, that ME1 doesn’t actually feel like it’s part of the same series as the rest of the games to me.

        But I agree, I love the world that ME1 build and wish I could have kept myself immersed in that universe in proceeding games. But their many mistakes and errors prevented me from doing just that.

        Oh and for those who don’t know what I mean by world building, it’s an actual writing process, used most often by science fiction and fantasy writers, to create their universes or worlds. You can find more out about it, at Also, there are several writing books published on the process of world building and how to best do this. I own a couple of them myself.

  105. This is brilliant, mate.

    I finished the game feeling genuinely empty; Mass Effect is the only game I’ve played where I’ve been actually emotionally invested, and then the final 5 minutes unravelled…..

    Anyway, the part in your article that really struck a chord with me is where you say about the writers WANTING to follow through with the Indoc. Theory. How damn tragic is that thought? The possibility that the people who, as you say, were crafting perhaps the greatest trick ever performed in the games industry were stopped dead in their tracks by people with calculators and suits and deadlines and “can we hurry this up I’ve got a meeting to go to” attitudes.

    I really don’t want to think about that, it makes me sick. Even more so because I think it might genuinely be what happened.

    I also agree with you in saying the best thing Bioware could do is say “yep, you caught us, Shepard is indoctrinated for the last few minutes”. Well, I say ‘best thing’……if they follow through and release a truly conclusive DLC, we’ll most likely have to pay….

    There’s a possibility that we can get what we want – CLOSURE, not necessarily a happy ending – but there’s also the possibility that this will remain, for me, the biggest travesty not just in gaming, but also story-telling.

    1. I also get sick at the thought that has not let the writers do their work, and you know what? I think that was actually what happened. Except the last minutes of the game, the rest is great, flawless, the plot is great ,peer relationsand conversation are amazing, how do you explain then the crap ending? is that the writers suddenly became mindless zombies? I do not believe itI think it is unfair for all the people who have left the skin making this great game (writers, designers, developers ..) I do not know if this will somehow be able to fix, but hopefully!

    2. The indoc hypothesis, (personally), was a vestigial tale of the writing process, that was left out in the cold just like the dark energy bits.

      It is just as plausible that it is PTSS and Cassandra Syndrome, ala. Gaius Baltar of BSG.

      Does the “core gameplay” support the hypothesis?


      It rest on a Chekov’s gun, and a few scenes here and there, which feel “out of place”. They are out of place, because most of that stuff, was tossed in at the last minute, never completed, and specifically set up “at the 11th hour” to generate some speculation, because they

      A) Had no main narrative to really speak of

      B) Had to break part of the main narrative to DLC the Prothean

      C) Created the Reaper’s with no weaknesses which is really foolish, (which is in fact) another retcon, to shoe horn a messianic ending.

      D) Utilized parallel antagonist, and no plan to resolve conflicts, further introducing conflicts, without resolutions.

      E) Never “balanced” the dichotomy of forces. Never explained the Reaper motivation.

      F) Answer : God, appeal to authority, and nonsense.

      E) Indoc: No answer, No ending, is the ending. No, it clearly has an ending. It’s just not very deep, nor written by the creator of the ME universe.

      It is what happens when forces get to the point where they are spinning out of control, and it all has to end. The problem… is the narrative, the ending is just the result of a badly thought out narrative, giving us a badly thought out ending. – See what I did there, Meta. 😉

      The chekov’s gun returns as a Jody Foster’s “Contact”, meets K.F.C. Sanders from the matrix, and that, that is the ending.

      It was thought of to have been “meta” to have the ending “represent” the kinds of choices in the game or through the QTE’s… nothing more. That’s as deep as it ever got. Which (again) is another retcon of it’s own pervasive retcon’s as ME3 reduces many of the choice dialog trees to 2 options, and an “on rails” narrative.

      It is out of place, because it is.

      Maybe the problem comes from a general (audience – man on the street) misinformed concept as to “how video game narratives are written”?

      I see this A LOT.

      They are not written like books, or even scripts, they are “concept’s” pitched. To the team, the team says “yes or no”, those “pieces” that are “yes” get concept art, and the tool guys make “tools” to support in the engine.

      There is no “over-arcing-narrative arc” because the process of video game creation supports no such beast.

      At BEST it is an outline, and there was one for Mass Effect… it was tossed out the window because someone had a vision, and wanted to be deep. So they (and company) subverted the process, and gave us a Tri-Colored vision.

      When these pieces get to be “enough” each piece, a module, is laid out like a card on a table, sorted and shifted around in some kind of order.

      Then, a “story” is crafted to “tie the modules” together into some kind of cohesive narrative.

      The “story”, “narrative”, “string” is just that, written towards the end of the game, so the “ending” module (s) must be done before hand? Right. They are. But in ME3 case, it is very clear, that was NOT the case. The process was interrupted, many, many, many times.

      Which is why the pacing in the second act, and on, and on, get’s more and more “choppy” like a kid learning to drive a manual transmission.

      This happened because ME3, had to be ME3, and could no longer rest on ME 1 and ME 2 story arc’s to facilitate the “card’s” “modules” creation.

      Writing is EASY, compared to generating 3d Models. So it is considered to be the MOST flexible of the creative process. Good writers can make it work, bad writers, think they are “artist” and try to make the process work in reverse. Forcing the process to bend to them.

      Like TIM, forces the plot and the narrative to bend around Him. A plot hole singularity.

      Couple this with an executive producer talking nonsense about rubbish any chance he got, and a pretentious writer trying to “out create” the original creator of the ME Universe… a company hell bent on “philosophysizing to the world” how video games are art… and boom, disaster

      This happened because like Sam K. once said…

      I hold the process like a farmer holds the land, sacred.

      I hold the process like a preacher holds the bible, sacred.

      I hold the process like a man holds his marriage, sacred.

      Take care of the process, and the process WILL take care of you. Someone , somewhere, went “outside” the process… communication broke down, and this was the result.

      There is no other ending. The DLC was lifted straight from the core game to be sold back as DLC, if someone had to do that, they “certainly” have no art assets, voice over, scripts, or ANYTHING to even begin to fix anything.

      Bioware is utilizing stall tactics, and strong arming journalist and media outlets to “speak out” against the “retake” campaign.

      Bioware has offered a free Star Wars weekend, and had several “initiatives” to encourage the Multi part of ME.

      Bioware has recently delayed the “Homeworld Heros” comic book thingy by Mac Walters, which he has been writing now for some time, so it wouldn’t look as bad as it is. That is to say, your lead writer, wasn’t even writing for his game… he was writing comics.

      Bioware got into to much, with to thin a crew, spread out like cheese on a massive cracker… it takes many people to make I phone apps, toys, comics, mmo’s, write 3-4 games, and do it all at one time.

      They “knew” it sucked, they just really didn’t care. I very much doubt much about that has changed. It is an art, the art of making money. Nothing more.

      All the philosophy is a smoke screen to the “new” process of flipping a buck.

      1. wut?

        Anyway, the indoc theory has been proven to be false by Bioware stating this is how the ending was intended. Clues/hints/suggestions for the Indoc theory are not “here and there” nor “out of place” ( – in fact, the sheer prevalence of them gave the theory such weight in the first place.

        What I was suggesting was that for the sake of Mass Effect, Bioware should follow through with it, because even if it IS merely fan fiction (of which would make all the hints coincidence – and really?) it sure as hell makes more sense than any of the other endings.

        Or are you happy that Mass Effect ended with a message telling you to buy DLC?

        1. Sure I watched that video, some time ago.

          Concerning the TIM final encounter, ME 3 is simply troping itself. The scene is not a dream. The oil is around TIM, that video is cut in such a way as to imply that it is in the scene. That is incorrect. Same with the wounds, that is also incorrect. TIM simply has new biotic powers, it isn’t explained, it does not have to be, as it is clearly visually communicated when his hands glow.

          Hacket calls Shepard, and Shepard moves to the console. That’s perfectly fine to, as Hacket calls Shepard at the Cerberus base to move him to Earth.

          Repetition of a theme. Hackett says jump, we say “how high”.

          The Dream sequences are part and parcel to the Chekov’s gun, to reinforce the ending that is coming. It’s messianic, other worldly, and deterministic.

          Noise in the ship – Battle Star

          Hallway of the Dead – Battle Star

          Gauis a Cylon? – Battle Star

          War Guilt – Battle Star

          Gauis become Jesus – Battle Star

          Gauis see’s things that are not there – Battle Star

          Like anything I am quite sure Indoc was “on the table”, never really addressed from scene to scene, and is vestigial. Like dark energy… which is referenced in the game, and never explained… because… ta da… it was changed, moved around… tinkered with.

          Like you said, Bioware said it ain’t so, so it ain’t so, but they already said it wasn’t so in the “App. Final Hours”. As it does not support it. Different writers, bad internal communication. Who knows? Foil Hats engage!

          To “visually communicate” Indoc, the audience, needs more than vague coincidence. Much like watching the movie 6th Sense a second time, it becomes patently clear, to the audience. The expertise utilized, in scene and tension management, conveying in each and every scene that Bruce, is Casper.

          It becomes obvious, hiding the truth in “open sight” is unreliable narrative.

          Really it wouldn’t of surprised me, because Drew did “more or less” the same “momento” moment with Revan from Knights of the old Republic.

          I really think the idea was there, but the writing staff in 3 just wasn’t up to the task. I applaud the fan’s for piecing it together… but like I said:

          the “Core Game” does not support it.

          25 hours of game play, with next to no dialog, with what, maybe 5-10 minutes of context to build from. A “single” codex? That is 1/7 of a fraction of a percent of the game play. It is NOT enough.

          I am easily able to conclude it’s not a theme from scene to scene. It is “module-d” in, kinda builds off the “Take Earth Back” outsourced video… with the little girl… but as I mentioned before, no little girl, because “pony tail physics” are difficult to do.

          When Shep in the “Take Earth Back” video lands, it is clearly in the field of the little girl, just where the Reaper was, so in this there is symmetry. That is the ending, it matches the cinematic, which was done wayyyy before this game was done.

          I concede clearly, I am speculating, as there is so little game to build an argument on.

          Personally I could care less if Bioware changes the ending or not. Makes no never-mind. I do not think it will happen. For reasons I have commented about several times before. To me, the narrative, the “plot” of ME 3 was just really weak, badly done, poorly realized, which resulted in the ending as it is. Personally it begins to show in the second act, and just crumbles from there.

          “I expected” the crucible to be turned on, be a Trojan Horse, for a Promethean “Returner Fleet”, and basically get a Babylon 5 “Shadow War”.

          Also a law suit from JMS.

          Never happened, and by the end, on the final charge… I was just laughing… TIM, still laughing… and there it was…

          Maruader Shields, a Quick Time Event… so much for being “to game-ie”… (chuckling)…


          Jody Foster’s “Contact”…

          and I thought… “ohhh boy…” I listened to his “argument”, laughed some more… called up friend, talked about it… died, from sitting around to long… “laughed again”… loaded… and picked my color… laughed again.

          The whole Crucible is for all practical purposes a “Contact” setup. It’s sorta pathetic.

          Been laughing ever since. 🙂

          Oh, it’s brilliant all right. The whole thing is brilliant. From the PR to the mumbo jumbo at the Bafta’s. -= Golf Clap =-


          (I think we are saying the same thing though, from reading your post).

      2. I have to agree with you, I believe BioWare has gotten so obsessed with trying to BE the best, that they’ve forgotten how to DO their best. Not only that, but I’m convinced that they’ve hired on subpar writers as well, who make obvious, amateurish mistakes that most writers learn NOT to make fairly early. That makes me question their training overall, as writers. Not to say you can’t use breaks these “do not do” rules and do it well, problem is, BioWare rarely breaks them well, if ever.

  106. I’m french and it is really hard for me to read your article (Yeah, remember ? French don’t speak english !). But I did it, and I really enjoy what you wrote.

    Thank you for this, and good job !

  107. Hi, there ! I’m writing you from France (sorry if my english is imperfect). As a screenwriter, in any other circumstances i’d say you’re stating the obvious, but apparently not. Not when i see what kind of nonsense they allowed to be. I tried to send your article to some people at Bioware’s. Fingers crossed…
    I’m still dreaming that the screenwriters are going to say any minute now something like :
    “Hey, guys ! Guess what ? We did that on purpose. We had and ending up our sleeves, but we wanted to put it in a DLC, later. Meanwhile we were looking at your reactions. We tried to indoctrinate you in a way, but you united as one, like Shepard and all the races in the game. And since you woke up, you shall have your ending. You deserve it after all, commanders !”
    I know, I know… ain’t gonna happen. But i see plenty of reasons for them just to take advantage of the situation, like : ” We wanted to give a surprise for the real ending, but you were too clever !” ( 100 bonus points for everyone’s ego and a brilliant turn of events to Bioware’s advantage). Even if it’s a lie, then it would calm everyone’s anger towards their society. Plus some time to put it right.
    So i’m worried about their silence. Well, their “excuses”, where they imply that we are crybabies who don’t respect Art is no communication to me. I work in Art for years, so I know when it has to be respected and I know bullshit when I smell something funny around. And it’s a loooooad of crap, here.
    Anyway, thanks for your article. To me it’s only simple logic, but you did good because you pointed at the right things simply, without insulting the licence or it’s writers. So thanks again.
    Let us know if you get any fresh news (message from Bioware, for example) !

    1. Wow thanks, I’ve been surprised how many international readers I’ve gotten! So thanks for writing in.

      And yeah, I tried to keep the article pretty simple, most of this stuff is Creative Writing 101 things, but that’s what I was going for. To show how Mass Effect 3 failed on a fundamental level, just basic storytelling stuff.

  108. Hey, comrades from france 😀
    Seulement une question (je suis allemand, excusez mon mal francais :D)
    Ou est-ce que vous avez retrouve le link a cette article?
    I am curious, parce que jai propage le link aussi dans le forum francais du Bioware.

    Merci 🙂

    1. Guten abend Lang Andreas !

      Et merci de cet effort de français !

      To be honest, I don’t exactly remember when I found this article. I know it was on the Bioware Forum, but I looked at so many of them (french, english, …) that i’m not sure where exactly… Sorry !

      1. ah ok 🙂

        Peut-etre, sil vous plait, vous propagez le link aux forums francais? 😀 Je pense, propager cette article vas aider notre mouvement a demander une finale nouvelle pour le mass effect 3 🙂

        1. Guten tag Andreas !

          Twitter is your friend 😉

          In my case, I don’t know for Tyler Durden (bien le surnom !), I found this article on Twitter.

  109. Just gunna leave this here… (pats video on the head)…

    This video is fun, and pretty much captures the essence of what THIS is really all about.

    1. oh look, a video from a company that has an employee appearing in the game it is supporting.

      Vested interest? Nah, can’t be.

      Move along.

      1. Actually if you watch the video, it’s a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek dig at the people claiming complainers are “entitled”. I was pretty skeptical when I saw the IGN symbol too, but the video itself is pretty funny.

        1. I saw someone else point this out and thought they had a point, so going to share it here. The true definition of Entitle.

          Give (someone) a legal right or a just claim to receive or do something.

          All these people who are using “entitled” as a curse word obviously don’t know the true meaning of the word they’re using lol.

  110. Great breakdown. Really enjoyable read. I think your points about how things fall apart during the third act in relation to the characters is particularly pertinent, as is the commentary about how as antagonists go we really don’t need to be given a rationale as to why it is they do what they do, in the same way we didn’t need Lucas to explain midi-clorians. Details can often lead to mundanity and turning the Reapers from unfathomable omnipotent bogey men into intergalactic vacuum cleaners under the behest of a higher being really undermines their menace.

    Personally although I think the indoctrination theory is an elegant theory. I just think it’s a tad too subtle in terms of the narrative of the game and there’s not enough obvious foreshadowing for it to really hold up. Were it a case of you went through a dream woke and then were able to carry on the story then and there (whilst emotions and relief were running high) I could faintly see it. But for it to be a case that Bioware are releasing the real ending as DLC to (dare one say it) ‘finish the fight’ a couple of months down the line. I find that harder to swallow.

    Also spot on about the whole ‘art integrity’ angle. Forbes did a brilliant piece on that : –

    I think this idea somehow Bioware or any other developer for that matter should be held in unquestionable regard when it comes to their decision making is possibly one of the most idiotic things I’ve ever heard. I mean was the inclusion of IGNs Jessica Chobot and potential love interest ‘Diane Allers’ really an artistic decision? If they wanted a reporter on board the Normandy why not use Emily Wong, a character whom Shepard’s encountered over the previous two games instead of killing her off outside the games narrative through some blink and miss it twitter viral?

    Did CDProjekt compromise their artistic integrity when they brought out the enhanced version of The Witcher (free to existing owners of the game) further to fan feedback? Or was it a case that they were mature enough to recognise that the game wasn’t all that it could be, and they take pride in their work?

    Whatever the eventual outcome of this whole saga (I’d like to be optimistic that Bioware will pull it all together, but my gut says otherwise). I think this whole situation marks an important point in the ongoing evolution of the interactive medium, though the impact might not necessarily be felt for a few more years yet.

    1. Wow, they killed off Emily Wong in a Twitter post? I didn’t know that, and I was wondering why I never saw her in game. Thanks for the info. I also found Allers to be a royal pain, not only was she so deep into the uncanny valley that she needed scuba gear, but she didn’t really add anything to the game experience.


        Twitter is here: –!/AllianceNewsNet

        I doubt anyone save some die hards remotely saw it (22k followers…)

        Utterly stupid and wasteful move to be honest. Like you was thinking ‘Where’s Wong at?’

        Agreed also about the appearance of Allers. Using a scanned model of the person rather than sticking with the character creator (limited as it was) just basically made her appear out of place Vs pretty much everyone else.

        I don’t think she couldn’t of been a good character if they’d involved her in some missions in some fashion, but she seemed to be put in there for all the wrong reasons. I’d of rather had Jack or Zaeed onboard instead given the choice.

        1. While I think that’s a cool way to show Emily Wong going out, we definitely should have seen it in game rather than just on some twitter account. Could have really added some more emotional weight to the Escaping Earth mission if we’d seen a televised broadcast of that happening.

          And yeah, Allers could have been a fascinating character. I brought her onboard because I expected to see her interviews on the citadel, or viewable from the Captain’s Cabin, and would let you see how your actions were affecting the galaxy at large. Instead she just kind of sticks around the cargo bay, occasionally spouts some lines during recording sessions (that never really change based on your actions). She was a waste of space and resources.

          1. Well she’s principally there as an alternative love interest, However unlike Traynor, Cortez or Vega she’s not really interacting with you on a regular basis and it doesn’t really take more than a couple of conversations before she’ll happily jump your bones.

            If you’ve been playing the game through from ME1 you’ve likely already got a LI already, so why you’d suddenly decide to hook up with this reporter instead (who you have barely any interactions with) is kind of beyond me tbh unless your LI unfortunately died during the events of ME2, or you’re really turned on by the thought of ‘it’s Jessica Chobot!!’ and there’s something decidedly seedy about that meta aspect in my view.

            I wonder if anyone’s actually thrown over an established LI for her for the entirety of the game?

  111. Your blog illustrates my thoughts exactly, but it does so in a much more cogent way than I’ve been able to get to. And I write for a living (albeit not creatively but persuasively). Cheers to you for that.

    The indoctrination theory passes near perfect muster aside from the Normandy scene. Even the post-credits cut could fit the theory if you forgive the switch from narrative form to omniscience. One thing that gets left out of most iterations of the Indoctrination Theory that I’ve seen is this: notice the black goo swirling around the scene with the Illusive Man? It mirrors very closely the process shown and described in ME2 regarding “ascension” at the Collector Base. So it’s almost more than just indoctrination; it’s almost the beginning stage of ascension that could be being played out there. After all, you do come out in some Citadel sun level where it is posited that the Reapers are storing human bodies for the Reaper creation.

    Unfortunately, Mazukya (spelling?) made comments that almost destroy the possibility of Bioware making a legitimate claim that they meant to do this all along, thus shattering the potential artistic feat (and you’re right, it would be an historic one) of the conclusion of the indoctrination theory. You nailed it when describing what utter brilliance that could have been, by the way. I thought to add or restate your comment, but I would only bastardize your effort.

    How about this for at least one of the possible endings: the human race is ascended into Reaper form (on the Citadel) and the synthesizing option is actually more akin to Shephard’s submitting to ascension with an omnipresent mind state. That is, instead of the normal process whereby terror is the last emotion felt before ascension, Shephard’s last emotion after interaction with the Catalyst was different. Instead, Shephard, after interacting with the Catalyst, became all-knowing (of synthetic considerations, organic considerations, and the “space God’s” considerations) THEN submitted to ascension. But the kick is, because he ascended with this knowledge (and as the first organic to ever do so), the resulting effect is a sentient reaper that is simultaneously conscious of all three types of beings. This reaper perhaps can exert influence over the other reapers to end or otherwise disrupt the cycle. In that way, not only did Shepherd sacrifice himself, but he chose to sacrifice the human race (or at least the better part of it) to ensure the continued existence of all organic and synthetic life (including the reapers). That’s just my stab at something that at least in my mind makes more sense than what we got. And, in my mind, this would only be one possible conclusion among many.

  112. The ending matters because C&Cs made throughout the game should affect it. That’s the only point to consider.

  113. Although it is not that Shepard dies that has many frustrated, it still did not make sense to me. Why does the ‘all-powerful’ Catalyst need an organic to complete any of the three options faced at the end? If the Catalyst already controls the Reapers, why can’t Shepard just ask the Catalyst to leave and take the Reapers with him? Similarly, if the Catalyst created the Reapers, why can’t it just destroy them instead of Shepard dying in an explosion? And Synthesis! With all the organic and synthetic material the Catalyst has collected over who-knows-how-many cycles, surely he doesn’t need Shepard’s organic material to move evolution to the next stage.

    1. Exactly. It doesn’t make any sense, no matter from which angle you try to approach it.
      Also, if Synthesis was so awesome, why didn’t the Catalyst just do it many cycles ago? Or directly in the beginning, without ever killing anyone? It seems to be preferable to genocide? And if it didn’t want the reapers destroyed, because it feared the same stuff would happen again, why allow it? The catalyst easily could have told Shepard that there’s only the Synthesis option or whatever and that the Crucible would never manage to do anything else. Shepard didn’t ask any questions and accepting everything he was told…
      I bet they had no idea, when they had Sovereign attack the Citadel in Mass Effect 1, that they would later declare this thing Sovereign’s boss. 😀 It really shows here, once again, what a bad idea it can be, to make stuff up as you go along.

      1. Agreed. Plus, we already know that the Catalyst can make his own decisions/choices and doesn’t need organics. He says that the Reapers were ‘my solution.’

      2. Well, if you have the prothean DLC you get some more introduction into MEs “mumbo-jumbo-space-magic” which tells you that experience is a biological marker which ALSO affects your genetic (what has been proven wrong so many times xD but well, its fiction).

        Well, IF in ME3 you would be forced to save the geth over the quarians or save both, then this would actually make SOME Sense they require shepard, because he seems to be the only person which was capable of pointing out a bridge between sythetics and organics. But this is all so weird, no, it makes absolute nonsense xD

  114. Very well said. I was actually pretty satisfied with the ending, and I’ve been trying to find someone who can coherently explain what was so terrible about it. This post was the first one I’ve come across that actually does that.

    I agree with a lot of your points, like the lack of resolution with your squad and the way the Catalyst appears out of left field, and the fact that the choices you make seem arbitrary and nonsensical. And probably the reason that didn’t bother me overmuch was that I was prepared for something even worse.

    Basically, as soon as I got to Mars and Liara was telling me about an ancient Prothean superweapon that could wipe out the Reapers somehow, I was kind of dreading the ending, because how could that not make everything else in the game feel pointless? It would be like having the Battle of the Pelennor Fields end with an army of ghosts showing up and killing all the orcs, rendering irrelevant all the sacrifices that our hero characters made. Only worse, because at least the story didn’t end there.

    So meeting the Catalyst was actually kind of a relief. Its logic made perfect sense to me, for the reasons a few other people have mentioned in the comments and especially because the Reapers don’t actually destroy advanced species, but assimilate their essence using some badly explained and disgusting process. Hearing the Catalyst say that may have sold me on a lot of the weaker elements of the ending, because for the first time the human Reaper in Mass Effect 2 made sense. And suddenly, the Crucible wasn’t some convenient plot device but another red herring that got planted to direct the organics’ behavior, like the mass relays and the Citadel.

    None of which is to say that the ending wasn’t lamely executed, or didn’t create some giant plot holes. In my ideal version, I think I’d have had Shepard end up aboard Harbinger instead of the Citadel, and have him be the Catalyst on account of being the first Reaper or something. I’d have also created some system where, if you get your Galactic Readiness high enough, you can actually win the battle without some stupid ultimate weapon. But since destroying the Reapers is actually another kind of genocide, you have the option of negotiating an end to hostilities if your reputation is high enough. If you succeed, the Reapers take off through the Omega-4 Relay and leave you behind, where you live or die depending on whether your squadmates are alive to find you in time. If you fail, and your fleet destroys the Reapers, you die, and the game ends with a memorial service, Dragon Age: Origins style.

    If you haven’t built a strong enough fleet, the Reapers win. Shepard gets indoctrinated (or commits suicide if you pass a persuasion check), humanity is assimilated into a new Reaper, and the cycle continues. This probably involves some kind of Matrix-y sequence where you meet Saren and the Illusive Man and commiserate in some kind of virtual Valhalla.

    Anyway, I would say that the ending has the hallmarks of a cool idea that fumbled in the execution, probably because the writers ran out of time or had a cleverer ending shot down by committee. Considering the game got delayed by more than three months precisely to make sure they put out a finished product, there’s really no excuse for that.

  115. Amazingly well-written article, it represents my point of view in a perfect way that actually makes sense. Also, kudos for supporting the Indocrination Theory. As you said, if Bioware pulls that stunt off, they will be praised throughout the entire media as the Gods of Storytelling worldwide.

  116. Wow. That was really well written. Thanks for sharing, and FYI Pete Abrams linked to this on Sluggy Freelance’s main page.

  117. Wonderful analysis, and I think this is definitely spot-on. There is a logical and rational reason why people are so disagreeable with the ending, and it is clear to all that the primary reason why is that the narrative and story-telling breaks down in the last 10 minutes of the game. And people following the story are left with a bitter taste in their mouth – how can they say the enjoyed the full course meal when the last thing they had was so YUCK. It’s only human to criticize that which is flawed and poorly executed. Apparently we only have to wait a few more days to find out what Bioware is planning though – fingers crossed that it was indeed brilliant writing (IT)!!

    1. Nobody want’s to eat bitter, sour food at the end of their meal. In that sense it’s always better to have a shitty meal and a delicious desert rather than a great meal and kitty-litter cupcakes with a turd on top.

    1. I used to float some EA stock, but dumped it along with a lot of other nonsense early 2008… I had a “vision”… anywho, once it seemed to flat line I had it on an auto trade scheme, and would dump it anytime it got into the low 20’s… I shorted em a couple times too… which has been fun… probably go long once swtor goes f2p (which I figure will be late this year)… the aftermath of Arena Net coming along and knocking out all but the core. The IP they have is worth bank, they just have no talent for looking good while doing bad. Moron’s with MBA’s and no taste for what it is they produce. VERY common.

      Big companies like this are easy to read well in advance, makes it fairly easy to turn a buck off em. As far as why they are so low? Timing. Lower middle class to middle class folk with spare change, and spare time got burned and turned that frustration back around, very public… I suspect (but cannot confirm) that a couple rivals “chipped in” the charity, cupcakes, and votes.

      The cool thing about “an experience” is that it lacks “a perspective”, which is in many ways a decent explanation as to why this fire burned some ass, really was a perfect storm. EA stepping in to protect the investment in ME 3 was awesome… so predictable… 😀 So expensive.

      They keep this up, going to have my next sailboat paid for in no time. Maybe buy another Ducati. Simply a judicious application of Wittgenstein’s aesthetics. When Bioware starting talking rubbish about video games and art, I upgraded the odd’s of ME 3 being a poop in a box from 60% to 80%.

      Ahh Tommy Boy.

  118. As an aspiring writer myself, I really enjoyed your breakdown of what went wrong with ME3’s ending. It provided me with insight into writing in total (though I had covered the Heroes Journey before and all of my high school English classes covered that exact same plot chart you used) and leaves me with a lot to think about outside of just Mass Effect. As I’m currently attempting to start work on my first original novel, this was actually a read that left me with a lot of payoff. Thank you for sharing it with the world.

  119. I recommend you for a job at Bioware if I thought that the company was going to survive this mess. Thanks for the awesome article.

  120. I just wanted to point out that the “synthesis” option amounts to committing something orders-of-magnitude more invasive than mere rape against every single sentient being in the galaxy at the same time. That is the *best* option?

    In ME2, Legion observed that while what the “Old Machines” offered was what the geth wanted, they had to do it their own way for it to matter. So, even is transhumanism could be the best path for the galaxy, does it count if it is imposed, rather than arising as a natural outcome from the growing wisdom of the galactic community?

  121. Thanks for the article, truly a great read! You are a very talented writer. Too bad you weren’t writing for Bioware before they released the game and horrible ending. Thank you again!

  122. Well, now I finished the game and saw the announcement of BioWare. Although I have seen the ending before I played the game I was still shocked (in every sense of the word) by what I saw. The major problems of this ending have already been mentioned a couple of times, so I only will say what really troubled me from a logical and emotional standpoint.

    First, from the logical standpoint I am absolutely baffled by two things: The destruction of the mass relays and the Normandy. We all saw what happened if you destroy a mass relay in the DLC “The Arrival” – the destruction of the whole system. So in all three endings all mass relays are destroyed, that should have lead to a galaxy wide eradication of systems and life in the range of a mass relay. Did the writers at BioWare not think about this problem when designing the ending, or do they want to explain it through a “controlled implosion” (e.g. the transmission of the signal took up all the energy of the mass relay). If it’s the former it is absolutely dilettantish considering the magnitude of the problem. If it’s the latter it is still a major logical problem: What is the big difference between transmitting the signal of the crucible and the regular use of the relays? A mass relay can send through a giant fleet across the galaxy, why does it break down sending a single signal (albeit a very complicated one)?

    Second, the Normandy. I don’t understand how this Normandy crash-landing on an anonymous planet made it into the game. At least someone up there should have seen the idiocy of this cutscene. The Normandy was fighting above earth in the decisive battle, how the heck does it end up in “mass relay space”? Did Joker desert or what? Furthermore we see all different kind of people exiting the ship after the landing, what are they doing there, they were fighting alongside Shepard just a moment ago… If at least this cutscene is not changed BioWare has, in my opinion, absolutely no right to claim “artistic integrity” because this scene absolutely screams “running out of time, let’s patch some random feel-good cutscene together!” at me.

    All in all I am disappointed by the announcement of BioWare. The ending was logically flawed and even worse handled, after getting through that entire ride (although this ride has it’s own problems) it’s like falling off a cliff. They have to do a good job of explaining to get me half-way up. At least we should see some conversations with the surviving characters… another point I sorely missed.

    Now, in the last few days I have thought superficially about how an ending could have been handled (note: superficially means it surely will have some logical flaws and plot holes):

    1) Origin of the Reapers: When talking about a solution complete and utter destruction it would have been important in my eyes to at least touch the subject of the origin of the Reapers (I don’t consider “I control the Reapers, they are my solution” as adequat). So what could have been done? One possible way: Before the Reaper cycle began there was a highly advanced species, the creators of the mass relays and the Citadel. With fast FTL drives (like the ones the Reapers possess) they explored the galaxy, building a mass relay whenever the reached an important system. Although this process took millions of years, finally they were able to build a galaxy wide empire. But this signalled the decline of the species, lacking a common unifying goal and breaking down socially due to the benefits of their advanced technology this civilization plunged into civil war. The losing side of this war grew desperate and developed a weapon that possessed no match. It combined the efficiency and processing power of an AI with organic matter to give it a collective conciousness, enabling the weapon a superiority over common AI and organic beings. But the price was the sacrifice of the last moral barriers: in the construction process they liquified millions of prisoners and dissidents. The result was Harbinger, aware of the danger of this construct, it was decided to link this weapon with the Citadel in order to always maintain control. Over time they built additional Reapers and finally turned the tide. But as linking up all Reapers to the Citadel command would have surpassed its capacities it was decided to centralize the loyalty of these beings to Harbinger, therefore control over Harbinger guaranteed control over the Reapers. After the war was won the victors proceeded with a genocide of their enemies and established a totalitarian regime. Deciding the source of their breakdown was the halt of the expansion they began a massive armament campaign. Sensing the danger of this civilization to all galactical life Harbinger began to question his masters. Finally its fears were met, when it was ordered to exterminate an entire species that was recently “discovered” due to its resistance to accept subordination. Having no choice due to the Citadel control it was forced into carrying out the order. But over time Harbinger discovered the weakness of this link: it could alter certain parameters to reverse the effect of this link. That was when Harbinger decided to rebel and hunt down its creators to protect the rest of the galaxy. The strike began with Harbinger taking control over the Citadel and eradicating the leadership of the empire (Citadel was the mobile capital). Crippled and facing internal threats (Reapers) the species was not able to turn the tide, but still managed to put up a long fight due to the overwhelming numbers resulting from the massive armament. Meanwhile scientists developed a virus with the effect of severing the connection between the synthetic and organic matter of a Reaper. This would be comparable to an organic losing his higher brain functions. The target was to upload the virus to the Citadel and use the link to Harbinger to infect him and therefore all Reapers. But when they deployed the virus they discovered that Harbinger successfully implemented a system preventing access from the Citadel whilst maintaining control over it. In the last hours the scientists of this proto-species tried an alternative approach, build a transmitter strong enough to carry the signal to all systems with a mass relay. But in the development they came to the conclusion that they would lack a sufficient energy source to power it – the only source strong enough would be the Citadel. After the failure of this last measure the resistance broke and the species was eradicated (but not before the Reapers used them to bolster their numbers).

    2) The cycle: Having completed his goal, Harbinger and his Reapers retreated from the galaxy to go into “hibernation”. The next time Harbinger awoke, two new species came to dominate large parts of the galaxy, using technology left over by the previous civilization. Once again the advanced species exhibited destructive tendencies, engaging in a millenia long galactic conflict with genocides etc. Harbinger decided to intervene, conveniently one of the species set up their capital at the Citadel, as Harbinger had control over it, the Reapers popped out of Dark Space using the Citadel and in a quick motion crushed the centre of the civilization. Over the next century the Reapers methodically eradicated both species. But this time a slow change became apparent in Harbingers’ behaviour. Due to the incorporation of organic matter it possessed one central weakness compared with pure synthetics: the lack of inherent emotional stability. Harbinger came to relish the slaughter and the destruction enabled by its power. Slowly the motivation for the intervention turned from “saving the galaxy from certain destruction” to “enjoy a bloodbath”. That’s why the Reapers set up this elaborate trap, funnelling galactic development towards the Citadel and then exterminate the advanced civilizations after passing of a certain time span. This cycle continued seemingly without any problems, no matter how quick the development of the species was, it was not ready for the Armaggeddon it faced when the Reapers came. But after a closer look worrisome aspects stood out, with each cycle the Reapers took more time to complete their destruction (with each cycle the civilizations grew closer to finding the secret behind the extinction) and the Reapers’ method of processing the organics into material for a new Reaper was not perfect. As the processing was a very sensitive matter, it was classified in such a way that Harbinger did not manage to obtain a complete version of the method. The Reapers relied on reverse engineering the original devices but that led to a slow decrease of efficiency and they experienced severe compability issues. Finally with the Protheans they reached a point, where they were unable to successfully integrate the DNA matter with the machinery. Harbinger (who up till then played the role of the vanguard due to its complete control over the Citadel) was alarmed and retreated to dark space to research this matter and at the same time maintain control over the Collectors, unwilling to give up a value resource in the Protheans. As the new vanguard he tasked his second-in-command Sovereign (all Reapers due to their connection with Harbinger are able to send a signal activating the Keepers). Before Harbinger left, it did not discover the successful manipulation of the Keepers by the Protheans.

    3) The Crucible: As the direct transfer from Citadel to Harbinger failed, the proto-civilization initiated ideas about a giant transmitter like device that could dock on the Citadel. They ran out of time, but managed to copy and hide the early ideas in worlds they still controlled and also uploaded it to the Citadel. The early cycle civilizations did not have the time to find and / or build the device. Later with each extinction period taking longer and longer the species managed to find the blueprints. Believing it to be a weapon they slowly turned the idea into a building plan. But all of them lacked the catalyst to trigger the weapon. Finally the Protheans discovered this massive concentrated energy source to be the Citadel, but as they lost control over it long ago, their attempt did not succeed. These plans were taken by the scientists who disabled the Keepers’ signal to the Citadel after the Reapers left. While hiding the plans in the Citadel’s data archives they stumbled upon the virus the first civilization created. They correctly guessed that the virus was targeted against the Reapers, but failed to link it to the Crucible, which they believed to be a weapon. Before dying the scientists encrypted these files.

    4) The Reaper Invasion: First, why did the Reapers not attack the Citadel? It was still the most important spot in the galaxy and elimination of it could have thrown council space into chaos. The reason lies in the side effects of the data Vigil gave to Shepard: It not only restored control over the Citadel, it also blocked Harbingers control over it. Harbinger only discovered this after entering the galaxy. It did not attempt an assault because the Citadel’s defense mechanism was formidable even against Reapers. Therefore it looked for a way to manipulate the Illusive Man. The main target of Cerberus’ assault on the Citadel was not to take control, but rather override Vigil’s data. Second, what was Liara doing? She did not acquire the plans for the Crucible there. Rather she (and Shepard) did acquire the encryption key needed to open the Prothean data on the Citadel, which was discovered sometime before the invasion of the Reapers. After defeating Cerberus Shepard discovered through the Illusive Man’s logs the true purpose of the Crucible, acting as a transmitter for the virus. The Illusive Man acquired this knowledge through examination of the remnants of the collectors and their destroyed base.

    5) Ending: The plan for the last battle is the fleet should engage the Reapers in space, while a small squadron is tasked with disabling Harbinger who resides in London, aided by a heavy ground assault. After disabling Harbinger Shepard goes to the Citadel to open the Citadel and activate the virus protocol. How it turns out depends on the Military Strength of the fleet.

    a) Above a certain level the fleet manages to escort the Crucible and Shepard succeeds in disabling Harbinger and activates the virus. The effect is a total loss of control on the side of the Reapers, they lost their leader and thus the being controlling their ultimate goal and their “higher brain functions”. Now the galactic forces have the upper hand and the epilogue ends with them mopping up the Reapers. Shepard celebrates a reunion on the Normandy.

    b) Below this level but above a minimum during the fight with Harbinger Shepard has to make a decision whether to call up additional ships from the fleet. If he choses to do so after disabling Harbinger the fleet above Earth is not strong enough to push through to the Citadel. The ending shows Shepard looking into space from the Citadel where the Normandy is destroyed. But all hope is not lost (look at point c below). If Shepard choses not to call up additional forces he is critically injured by Harbinger but still manages to reach the Citadel and activate the protocol. Afterwards he succumbs to his injuries. The epilogue is similar to a), only Shepard’s death is mourned.

    c) Below the minimum level the fleet in orbit is destroyed by the Reapers. Shepard and the task force manage to disable Harbinger, but he is critically injured. He reaches the Citadel and activates it, only to witness the destruction of the fleet and dies. The epilogue shows the remnants of the allied fleet retreating, Earth is lost and with it most of humanity. But not all hope is lost. The Reapers unity is breaking, the connection with Harbinger what enabled a certain kind of control by it is gone. Some of the Reapers are actively questioning the purpose of their “mission” and cease all hostilities…

  123. Thanks for writing this awesome article. Kept me up till 4:30am =D

    I never thought Shepard rides off into sunset (but wished it) after finishing the game but what we got was the worst videogameending i’ve ever seen in my whole life. Bioware won’t change the ending, just extend it. Don’t know if they can save the end like this.

    Anyway, great writing and greetings from Germany 😀

  124. Very interesting article! I agree with almost every bit of it.

    I just differ about the “kill organic life part”. Acctualy, the god (since he’s trying to “save” organic life I’ve never thought of him as an AI) says his killing ADVANCED organic life to save organic life as a whole. That’s because synthetics would kill ALL organic life(technological singularity), something that the reapers don’t do. I’m not saying that this argument is in anyway better. It’s just that distorting the god/ai sayings just make it easier to counterargue about the ending sucking. But even the correct logicexplained by the god makes no sense. If it had the power to create the reapers to harvest all advanced organic life, why not use them to whipe all synthetics everytime organic life made them?

    ps: sorry for the bad english

  125. This sums up my feelings so much. Especially your first point. “What the fuck is this?!” was my exact response once I got control over Shepard again at the very end. This Reaper god-kid was all like “Go ahead and kill us now” and I just wanted to punch someone from Bioware in the face. One point 1 I cannot possibly agree with you more.

    On points 2 and 3 your arguments weaken considerably. Not to say they are not good arguments, but I will argue that, when done correctly, they would be total non-issues. Imagine Harbinger taking direct control over the Illusive Man using whatever implants the Illusive Man had. Then he explains to Shepard this cycle. Explains that organics are doomed to destroy themselves, and that if he stops the Reapers, life would just kill itself anyways; that the Reapers do not wish to see ALL life wiped out, so they just wipe out some of it. The Reapers CAN be benevolent. Think of it like pruning a tree; the tree of life. Cut off the ends so that the rest can flourish. This works as a motive for the Reapers because we never know their motives. We always assume they are pure evil, yet we know they must purge us for a reason. I don’t think pruning sentient life for the betterment of life in total is at all a foreign concept to gamers either. Anyone who has played Halo knows this. It’s not quite the same as the way ME3’s ending worked, but it’s similar enough that I’d not say that the Reaper’s motives are a plot hole.

    I also have a little bit of beef over your third point. Maybe we won’t disagree on this, but the way you phrased it seems like you can’t have resolution before the climax, and on that I disagree. This is a war, and before that very final battle, people have a chance to look back and reflect. The player goes off with Garrus on the citadel for one last romp before that final mission, and that was enough resolution with Garrus for me. I don’t need much resolution beyond that. The Krogan Genophage was cured, and Wrex was having a baby. OK, done, move on. I think the bigger issue is an overall lack of resolution, not the timing of it. I’d have liked to have seen who survived and who didn’t after it was all said and done, but the bulk of resolution other than who lives or dies can definitely come before the climax, especially when people in war are going to be naturally driven towards goodbyes right before the big final fight.

    Great article otherwise. I hope that Bioware reads it and takes it to heart. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the movie No Country for Old Men. Everyone I talk to loved the ending, and I’m always left asking “WHAT ENDING?!”This sums up my feelings so much. Especially your first point. “What the fuck is this?!” was my exact response once I got control over Shepard again at the very end. This Reaper god-kid was all like “Go ahead and kill us now” and I just wanted to punch someone from Bioware in the face. One point 1 I cannot possibly agree with you more.

    On points 2 and 3 your arguments weaken considerably. Not to say they are not good arguments, but I will argue that, when done correctly, they would be total non-issues. Imagine Harbinger taking direct control over the Illusive Man using whatever implants the Illusive Man had. Then he explains to Shepard this cycle. Explains that organics are doomed to be destroyed anyways, and that even if he stopped the Reapers it would be futile. That the Reapers do not wish to see ALL life wiped out, so they just wipe out some of it. Consider it to be like pruning a tree; the tree of life. Cut off the ends so that the rest can flourish. This works as a motive for the Reapers because we never know their motives. We always assume they are pure evil, yet we know they must do it for a reason.

    1. I think the problem with a benevolent reaper is that its introduced far too late. There are no hints on it but cryptic reaper-rubbish “you wont understand”. Second the benevolent reaper simply sucks to me xD Sry, they were so cool when they were truly badass, and now…they are interstellar vacuum cleaners :/

      To the resolution: The author already said that of course different ways of approaching a story than the heros journey are ABSOLUTELY possible. The only condicion: You must be an exceptional good writer to do so without trashing your whole story.

      The Bioware writers ARE very good writers, no doubt. But we are handling a videogame here, which has limited ressources and each line of story costs far more here than a line in a book. So there is not too much flexibility in playing around with experimental narrative techniques, structures and so on. Also, i have to stress once more, that you need to be a really really exceptional writer to bring up new ways of telling a story without getting lost in space ^^
      Just have a look at modern literature from the turn of the century 19/20: Döblin, Hemingway, Poe, James Joyce with his Ulysses, you name them! What they have encrypted in their literature with words cant be transponed to any screenwork, not with conventional methods in movies or videogames. And since mass effect always was a quite conventional story with conventional narrative methods, simply worked out in a brilliant manner, it should have sticked to it, as i think.

      Same is for the thing with the reapers: Just imagine LotR with a Sauron who in the end claims he just wanted to “save the world” from being destroyed by the rise of humanity, who he has seen eradicating the world with nuclear weapons in his crystal ball. And therefore he turns them into nasty Uruk-hai. Its the same here, They are using an unconventional story twist on a story which couldnt be more conventional to that point.

      its just another setting, but the message of the antagonist is the same: Embrace your doom. And hell, thats what i expect from a decent antagonist in a Heros tale.

  126. This is a great article that for me at least sums up the fact that the ending feels so *cheap* after all that preceded it, the Genophage arc and the Geth/Quarians arcs are some of the best storytelling I’ve seen in a game, renegade or paragon doesn’t matter the choices are incredible and the consequences affect you.

    But the last 10 minutes of the game seem to have been written in a separate room by persons that only had a rudimentary knowledge of what happen in the games.

    I don’t think that they planned the indoctrination ending. The hints are way to ambiguous and subtle and can mean different things. It would have been an absolute masterstroke if it had been though. But I can’t see their commitment of carrying this through the entire series as a low key unstated possibility being possible in light of how they changed some things between the games and it possibly causes as many plot holes as it resolves even if it gives a seriously mindblowing ending.

    I hope that Bioware and EA sees this article and realize that they messed up. Because this is exactly what I’d tell them, you’re just doing it a lot better.

  127. Excellent article. You did a great job of organizing all the thoughts I myself had about the ending, although in a much easier to follow and ‘artistic’ way.

  128. Fantastic analysis!

    You know, if you bought the ME3: Final Hours app (basically a behind the scenes), you can see the ending concept sketched out. Speculation on why Shepard had to die was part of the design.

    This ending could be how they’re trolling us lol. Make everyone dissappointed and once the marketing is done, they give us the true ending.

    We shall see eh?

    In the meantime, I’ve got an alternate theory because a part of me feels the the indoctrination theory is basically nitpicking on details that would have otherwise just been devices used for dramatic effect…which has been used plenty of times throughout the series.

    Wonder what your comments would be, here’s the link if you’re interested:

    1. Just wanted to add that while the indoctrination theory sounds fantastic, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was simply a victim of deadlines and budgets…

      Which will mean their arguement about ‘artistic integrity’ is BS.

      Bioware’s able to make fantastic games without EA. If only they had the freedom and balls to not bother about deadlines like Valve and Blizzard.

  129. Brilliantly written. As a professor of theater, I appreciate your knowledge and understanding of dramatic action … clearly none of the people at Bioware have ever read Aristotle’s “Poetics” … 😉

    Too bad it apparently had no effect on any one at BW. They’ve dug themselves in so deeply, and stuck their heads in the sand so rigorously, that they’ve spelled their own doom.

    Oh, wait … that’s good drama: tragedy. 😉

  130. Amazing post. As an aspiring writer and father, I have been using the Mass Effect series to show my little one the art of the epic. I have not allowed her to see the ending to ME3 because of how much it tore me apart, and because of what it does to an amazing piece of story telling. As time goes on, I will show it to her strictly to demonstrate how not to end an epic.

    Thanks again for your time in writing this.

  131. Wow, what a great read. You NAILED it! I do hope that Bioware has read this & will keep it in mind while they are working on this “Extended Cut”. I fear, however, that we are going to still be forced to suffer through the same story failures that you have detailed in this Blog, only to get a few more scenes that attempt to justify the poor ending.

    If I didn’t love the setting & characters as much as I do, it would be so much easier to accept all this as just another disappointing finale.

    Again, OUTSTANDING commentary. Well done! I look forward to reading more on this & other topics.

  132. You forgot one thing – the “Keeper of the One Ring” looks like Boromir for absolutely no reason.

  133. Nice article my friend; the key thing that I want to state though, that I haven’t heard a lot of people mention is the hind-sight concept. How developers are so proud of their work and caught up in the hype of its release that they literally feel invincible. That they created something perfect. However as the years roll by and they have a chance to dissect their product/art/story through the all seeing scrutiny of retrospect… Well… magical things happen.

    Peter Molyneux is really guilty of this sin. He praises his work a thousand percent… two years later rats on it like crazy. I really can’t wait; 2-5 years from now when bioware is cradling their heads in their hands and going “What the hell were we thinking…”

    That is when the real magic is going to happen.

    1. Unfortunately by that time, the servers will probably be mothballed and everyone will have moved on to the PS4/Nextbox.

  134. Now having read through the full article…wow, what an amazing read! And that “artistic integrity” buzzword makes me laugh (because if it didn’t make me laugh, it would just make me very, very angry). Are screenwriters who accept changes “proposed” by studio executives in order to get their movies made betraying their “artistic integrity” ? I don’t think anyone would suggest that. Arguably, all art is collaborative – the artist and their audience. Certainly all narrative is collaborative, even the printed word (who ever wrote a book without eliciting the services of an editor?). And a narrative which presents the illusion of control to its audience (and “illusion of control” is actually a good thing, mind you, it enhances the experience) cannot turn around and call its audience “entitled brats” when the ending utterly betrays them.

    So well said, good sir or madam, well said.

  135. Sorry to burst your bubble but Bioware is just going to “expand” upon their farce of an ending. They’re just going to tell us why their shit stinks, rather than give us something that isn’t shit due to “artistic integrity” (AKA money).

  136. Thank you for such insightful exposition into the problems surrounding Mass Effect 3’s ending. I was not familiar with the Hero’s Journey diagram, but agree that it not only provides an excellent guideline for successful storytelling, but also fits both the first two installments in the series and its conclusive act’s progress… up until the end. I can only hope that “the right people” in Bioware have an opportunity to read this thoughtful critique of their work and realize where they have gone astray.

  137. Very good stuff mate, like you I myself am a writer. Hell I’m a Creative writing Major, I’m hopin to get a deal after I graduate in 2 years, but back to this I completely agree with you on how they messed up the ending hell mate i was goin to write one for the fans because I got a final comin and I need to write a fifty page narrative so I figure I can do this for it, my teacher approved bless him for not failin my ass for askin but back to this I love this series and I hope you get hired mate you are good at this. Keep it up but you know sad ending not so bad but happy cliche not bad either, they did promise us sixteen endings so where are my sixteen endings, right? But back to this your good and ya hold the line in memory of Commander Kirrahe.

  138. You lost me at the holocaust bit…

    You’re not going to start accusing them of being anti-semitic are you?

    1. Um, i dont want to address this here too much since i think that the author may give you an answer himself on this, if he feels he has to.

      But the comparison you aim at is not focussed on the holocaust only/mainly i think. I interpreted this comparison as drawing a parallel to the concept of “Gleichschaltung”
      Which ultimately escalated in the concept of euthanasia which finally led to what we call “holocaust”

      In both scenarios, that of synthesis and that of gleichschaltung, so called “weaknesses” in the structure of life shall be eradicated for the sake of a “perfect genetic pool”. Certain attributes were considered “best” and taken into the framework of this concept, which shall be laid across ALL LIFE without their excplicite acceptance. The concept itself is established by a few while ALL have to bear it.

      It is this “disregard for diversity” which these two concepts have in common. By giving the whole galaxy the same genetic framework, they lose their very different ways of approaching life! They are rewritten into one lifeform, and lose the very specific characteristics of their former existence.

      In short words: The part of life not fitting the new concept is being chopped off and trashed. Its just like this, the only difference is that this mass murder is happening more subtle and “soft” behind a gloomy glimmering veil of green light and semi-organic chip-patterns. Its a high tech genocide.

  139. All I can say is wow. You have taken every emotion and thought the end left me with and packaged it into one perfect summary. I sincerely hope your analysis makes it to the Bioware Team so they might feel the frustration and disappointment you have conveyed so well.

    I still have not recovered from that disaster of an ending. I’m actually afraid of the downloadable content being released because they have already done so much damage. At this point I will just have to continue living in my imagination. At least there I have closure.

    +100 internets for you. You deserve them.

  140. Man, you hit the issue right on the nail there. Bioware management has been reduced to nothing but zombies and trying to defend the indefensible. Keep the voice up higher and higher to a crescendo. The ending is so disconnected is like someone sitting at a corner painting a picture so disturbing that it distorts reality like a blackhole.

  141. If Bioware refuse to listen, I suggest we keep spreading the word and do full refund everywhere, that would make them choke on their own product. We know that no one forces us to buy it, but hell, we don’t like the product therefore we say no one asked you to make ‘endings RGB’ so bad that until we want a refund.

  142. Fantastic article and one of the best reads I’ve had on it, its also intresting to contrast the analysis of someone with a writing backround with my personal views as someone with more of a media and society background and how similiar many of the analysed failure of the ending are, many thanks for the article…

    And I hope Bioware do respond to it as you are right they haven’t one actually defended why they think its a good ending merely pulling ‘artistic integrity’ as an argument itself

  143. Hi there,

    First of all, I have to admit that since I finishedass effect 3 on 16/03/2012 and I have been reading reviews about mass effect 3 ending and story and your article is among the best of them. U have been honest, fair and most important direct to the point. I agree with everything u wrote and mass effect universe for me was more than a game or story, it was an imaginary parallel world where I used to attend meetings with my GM or CEO thinking what will happen to Wrex or Garrus next. I have been a gamers freak since sega mega drive days and I’m 33 years now. No games touched me emotionally and let my imagination work like mass effect. I have to admit that bioware created a master piece that will long deep inside us and the problem is mass effect will be our standard to judge other games now.

    However, I was ok with the ending and I really expected it. The thing is Bioware is a video game company and their FIRST goal is to make money. Surely they care about giving players good games and experience, yet they want money in return. I expected a game with an open ending without knowing what happens later or end the plot because in that case, making a sequel will not be exciting. I mean imagine now after one or two year bioware announce mass effect 4…. All people will talk about it…. So they could not show us an ending with what happened with charachaters like Garrus , Wrex , tali etc… I wrote above the imagination because each person who played mass effect had a different feeling about the game, so they want ur imagination to decide… I know that serious people are not looking to a happy end, yet also we should not look to a complete end because simply it is a business for bioware. I do nt want to watch EDI dying or Ashley getting shoot in head by a reaper…. The good and bad thing about the ending is that it leaves door open to u to decide… We all have spent more than 100 hours playing mass effect trilogy and each of us have different feelings toward each character , therefore it is better to have ur ending …. Bioware can’t create hundreds of endings, in the end, it is a video game !

    I believe bioware did that in purpose to keep players on their toes. And I believe there will be a sequel maybe with other title like mass shift as I read on other article… Good games never end, see resident evil , silent hell, final fantasy, need for speed and I even heard a rumor about new god of war even though in last part he killed all gods !!

    My point here is mass effect is a game created by video game company to earn money and as long as they are doing money; they will not kill or end the series

  144. The Synthetics killing Organic life forms, you misunderstood it a bit.
    Reapers are harvestin every >advancedevery< organic life form out of face of the galaxy.
    But summing it up, ending stank like varren poo.

  145. Hello! This was one of the best articles i have read about me3 endings and why we feel unfulfiled. With the diagrams and walking through them, you helped me understand so muh (not just for me3 but in general, sometimes when you can’t put your finger on something but you feel it in your gut… now i know what that is).

    This was helpful, also i enjoy writing stories, this was helpful on that matter too. thank you.

  146. This is the most intelligent and educated summation of the problems with the ending of ME3 I’ve seen to date. I sincerely hope it gets not only the attention it deserves from Bioware, but also from the mainstream media sources who seem to think we’re all self-entitled basement dwellers.

  147. Good analysis, very intelligently put. Hope this gets the attention it deserves. Thank you & hold the line!

  148. if i wasnt a guy i would be in love with this guy, i agreed with everything he said and it all MADE PERFECT sense unlike the ME3 ending

  149. A very well written article. Extremely impressed that you are able to analyse the whole matter with so much details and from different perspectives. I guess most people out there would more or less agree with what you say, and the Bioware ought to read this thoroughly when they are making the extended cut DLC. They better not let us down.

    Well done, your article just made my day.

  150. Hey, got to say, love this article. It really highlights all the points that need to be made about how bad the ending is. Also when you were talking about the Hero’s journey, it gave me the idea to use this as the basis of my Mythology project this semester (We need to take anything and incorporate it using themes from mythology) and I would love to use this article, specifically that section, as the foundation of my project. Of course I will cite your article, just thought you’d like to know that this article isn’t only being used for the Retake movement (Which I’m 100% behind, just saying it made me think of something different)

  151. What a great article. I applaud you.

    However, without having read all the comments, I did want to point out one thing: The Xzibit-pictured logic of the Reapers that you call a logical loophole isn’t that. Reapers don’t kill ALL organic life during the cycle. They kill developed, advanced species. When the Protheans fell, the Asari and Salarians were alive on their home planets. Javik tells of this. What the Reapers do is kill the races with the potential to create synthetic life that is a threat to all organic life in the galaxy. Sacrifice the few to save the many, so to say.

    I’m not saying I like that reasoning of the godchild, but it is not a logical fallacy. Quarantine the ill to safe the healthy, so to say.

  152. Thank you SO much, for this brilliant article!

    You do a perfect job at describing, what my disappointment with the resolution of probably my second favorite game ever (1st being Baldurs Gate) is all about. I’ll be sure to show your article to my friends and post it to bioware!

    I’m actually sad to say, I agree with you about how this ending came to be. Especially when looking at it in a business-kind-of way. It was a horrible decision to not delay the game further for an ending worth the series. All they did, at least in my opinion, by cutting it short, is losing the goodwill and trust of the fans bioware spent more than a decade to build. If money was the problem, rather than time, its still a horrible thing to do, to cling to the endings as they do now. I am one of the people who would pay (even the price for a new game, if i had to) to get a decent ending. Especially, to see the Indoctrination Theory happening. So if they were to bring the “real” ending in the form of the IT, I would gladly buy it, and even thank them for it. Yes, I would be disappointed that fans are required to pay extra, again, but it would be worth it. Everyone would win. But the half-assed free ending extension they are probably going to bring in the summer… Sadly, I don’t believe that will be enough to fix things.

    But until we can be satisfied after finishing ME3, and feeling free from the mentioned guillotine, I, no, WE will Hold The Line!

  153. I had to scroll down so far to get a comment in but well done sir. This is one of the greatest articles I’ve read on this subject and I hope that Bioware does read it, because it explains the reasons I didn’t like the ending so well that I feel empowered reading it if that makes any sense. If I could I’d show this article to everyone.

  154. Sorry just wanted to add in one more thing the god child also stated that it was the way of things for the created to rebel against their creator, so his creations the Reapers, should have rebelled against “god” because he created them. So his logic is flawed as he’s been running a system with his Reapers for 100,000+ years and they never turned on him.

  155. This was an incredibly thorough and thought-provoking article. However, as with the majority of the coverage of ME3 (with the exception of the Forbes articles), it could really benefit from an editor’s touch. The syntax and grammatical errors, spelling/capitalization issues, and countless comma splices (in both this article and 95% of the articles being penned for this cause) really detract from the message and ability to be taken seriously from the outside.
    It’s something to consider when moving forward in this battle.

  156. Just a small detail, there was a SLIGHT foreshadowing, which is on Thessia when the the VI Vendetta mentioned that they believed the Reapers may be a servant of this pattern. That, however, still makes it nonsensical for numerous reasons that don’t really need deepening since you covered a huge chunk of it.

    Thanks for this article. It’s very clearly written and has great arguments, something Bioware doesn’t seem to understand at all. They seem to prefer hiding behind the excuse of “artistic vision” rather than facing what has happened with their series.

  157. This blog article is absolutely fantastic. It plainly lays out all of the problems in ME3’s ending and does so in such a way that should be easy to understand (even though there are many who seem to have problems there). In any case, thanks a lot for this and I sincerely hope it gets a LOT more attention. It definitely deserves it!

  158. Great read. Good summary of pretty much everything that was wrong with the ME3 ending and why it ought to be changed.

  159. Oh! If only the Indoctrination Theory was right! It would have made Mass Effct 3 one of the best games of all time.

    You may be right. IT could very well have been the ending that BioWare was intending to make, but for some reason could’nt finish. I bet EA (Worst company 2012) had a hand in this! >:@

    What hurts the most about all of this is that Shepherd and Liara T’soni will never have their little blue children.


  160. Just wanted to point out that you missed a small detail:

    “According to the literal Deus Ex Machina we meet, he created the Reapers, a species of Synthetic life forms, to destroy all organic life every 50,000 years to prevent organics from creating synthetic life that will eventually kill organics.”

    The Reapers never destroy ALL organic life, they leave the younger species alone. I believe the Reapers intended to let the Yagh live this time.

  161. My 2 cents I would only like to include
    (( ((spoiler)) )))
    1) their widely different endings. This page includes all possible endings they provided.

    ^- as above shows there is almost NO difference other than color from one ending to another. Sure one everything is blown up, very sad. most things blow up, well the synthetic ending… stuff blows up again… just not everyone dies… um.. and well again… stuff dies… what the heck would any artist think if about the same thing happens on each possible ending. Normally in graphic communication we are taught to think deeply about making things special/original/and acceptable to our client. Clearly we the customers are not happy with what has happened.

    2)Even if they intended to do this to sell more down-loadable content I can not respect a company that is bent on selling us the ending we want when they already sold us a game with out a reasonable ending. I think this guy explains it really good.

  162. This was an absolutely amazing read. You highlighted all of the problems with the ending that I could not put into words myself. Thank you for this blog.

  163. A very comprehensive analysis. It’s been nearly 15 years since I’ve taken post-secondary literature classes but this post reminded me of many of the concepts I was taught. A great read for anyone who cannot understand why many people have problems with the ending.

    Now for my own two credits.

    For me, the wheels started to fall off the bus around Thessia. By this I mean it’s when the game started to feel hurried. Consider everything we had done up to this point. We had a massive plot arc for the Turians and Krogan which included several tiers of missions from fighting to protect Palaven, to liberating a fertile female on Sur’kesh, to obliterating the Genophage on Tuchanka. We save the Citadel, finally bringing the Citadel out of denial of the real Reaper (and Cerberus) threat. Then we have a multiple story arc set with the Geth Fleet and Rannoch, spanning four to five missions.

    Then we’re called to the Citadel and get told to go to Thessia. Given everything we had done prior, and the relevance of the Asari homeworld, I expected another good plot arc. Instead, we got the final part of a plot arc, that was little more than 5 hallways and a pseudo-boss fight. While I understand the importance of Shepard’s defeat, the fact that it came so rapidly and attached to a story arc that was so short made it difficult for me to empathize with Shepard. Had the same defeat happened after a three or four mission plot arc, I would have been as devastated as my fictional character.

    Although vaguely foreshadowed by the few instances of Miranda, when I got to Sanctuary on Horizon it dawned on me that not only was I clearly close to the end of the game, but the story was – JUST NOW – explaining what it had shown us all the way at the beginning on Mars: That Cerberus troops looked like half-Husks. At this point, it felt like the writers were feeling the crunch and had to wrap up that end, so they threw in Sanctuary as a way to finally get around to explaining it.

    I had little issue with the attack on Cerberus HQ. When I chose to head back to Earth I was, as you mentioned, on the edge of my seat. It was the beginning of the climax and I couldn’t wait to bring the fight to those Reapers. I was stoked to see all of the ships pop into the Sol System and amped when they panned back and I saw Normandy as the metaphorical the tip of the spear in front of the combined fleet. But then I was rapidly disillusioned as I realized, after landing, that seeing that cut scene was the only time I’d see (or, more specifically, hear, from Joker) everything I had done to get all the races on board come to fruition. After I was on the ground, I saw no Volus, no Hanar, no Geth, and very few of the “primary” races of Turian, Quarian, Krogan, Asari, and Salarian. For everything I did, it felt like it was utterly meaningless beyond a bit of script in the UI.

    Then I got to the Forward Operating Base and went through the “talk to everyone sequence”. How anyone could say that is resolution is beyond me because it doesn’t resolve anything, it contributes to the rising action of the climax segment. It hammers home just how futile this fight is and how much is riding on success.

    Afterward, the game just followed the same routine of “pick two and do a mission”. Why? My entire team is ready for this fight. I know I can only take two crew members, but why am I not allowed to direct the rest of my crew to command troops, or contribute to the fight? They just sit around at the FOB while me and my two chosen run off to fight on our own? Had they all gone off to fight, there could have been excellent slide shows or even full FMVs while Shepard was down and out after the charge showing how each of the team members were continuing to fight.

    The entire Citadel scene was terrible story telling, which was evident by how fast they abandoned choice during the dialog with The Illusive Man. Nowhere else in the franchise are you forced to pick ONLY ONE morality interrupt OR end the game by not choosing it. My Paragon Shepard, at this point, was utterly FORCED into making a renegade choice, out of character, or the game ceased. Between this and the contrived dialog, I knew the wheels were not only off the bus but flying somewhere towards Jupiter. So, naturally, the entire Catalyst/ending sequence felt like an extension of this rush. As if they had no earthly clue how they could wrap everything up within a reasonable time frame and with their own lofty expectations, so they just took the back third of the game and wrapped it up. They could say we “saved earth” and filled the “plot” even if it was all a confused, meaningless, mess.

    The destruction of player choice is what gets to me and, beginning with Thessia, it feels like they were being pushed to wrap things up under a hard deadline, regardless of how they had to make it work. Now they’re just trying to justify it with the ridiculous “artistic integrity” statements. Showing the notes in the ME3 Final Hours app dispells any notion of artistic integrity when Casey and Mac wrote “Matrix Revolutions” as a benchmark idea and “LOTS OF SPECULATION” as an intended result.

    Needless to say, I’m extremely disappointed and I have little optimism that the recently announced “extended cut” will address much of anything. I don’t want clarity. You can paint and sculpt manure, but it’s still manure. I want my choices to matter like I was told would be the case. I want my choices to provide an adequate falling action and closure. But I doubt this will ever be the case.

    BioWare is a victim of its own success and a victim of EA’s penchant for meddling.

  164. Hi Jim –

    I really enjoyed your synopsis though I wanted to point out the logic of the star child (aka AI god child, whatever) in why it invented the Reapers. You can of course say you don’t buy this, and even knowing this doesn’t negate anything you said about the failings of the ending, but I think Bioware deserves credit when they do make sense and this at least to me makes a little sense.

    It helps to first think of this star child as something akin to the Architect from the Matrix. An entity that doesn’t understand the human condition as more than an equation. And the star child obviously doesn’t understand humanity (or even mortal beings in general) since it thinks that harvesting organics is the way to preserve organics. But anyway, so here’s my point:

    The star child isn’t trying to save any particular species – it’s trying to save life – the evolutionary process that organics go through. It “saves” the essence of those it harvests in Reaper form which suggests it doesn’t understand that a giant encyclopedia of DNA isn’t the same thing as an actual civilization continuing to exist and thrive. The other side of this coin would be scientists who delete an AI before it breaks its bonds so that they can continue to study, and continue to create, more AIs to study. That doesn’t help the AI being deleted mind you, but it does allow the process to continue. As such the scientists care about AI evolution, just not specific AIs that they delete.

    So the star child believes that life itself, not living organics, is what matters. A galaxy run by ruthless (as opposed to Geth or EDI) AIs would sterilize everything, needing only minerals and energy in order to survive. That is the destiny the star child is attempting to prevent. Assuming I’m right I can appreciate the star child’s plan however I can also see that it completely misses the point. It could just as easily use the Reapers to only fight synthetics which would then also protect organics as no emerging AI would be as smart and as capable as the Reapers are (since they were created first and are therefore more advanced).

    So in closing, I only write this to show a way that the star child’s logic makes sense, at least to someone who values the concept of life over actual individual living beings or societies. Very good work on your post, I found it very enjoyable to read and hit on pretty much all the major concerns we gamers (who are upset with the ending) have.

    Regards –
    – Eire Raven

  165. I wasn’t about to read all the comments posted here. I don’t have that much time in my day. I wanted to pass along a theory that I have been thinking about. The theory give Bioware the benefit of the doubt. First off I will restate that Bioware has said they were not going to do something and they did. So, I came up with a brilliant idea based off the Indoctrination theory. ME4! It makes complete sense for them to do this. Think about it. Shepard takes a breath and the reapers are not dead… That big of a cliff hanger and no resolution tells me they split the final game into two games. If this is the case, you wouldn’t need resolution as the climax isn’t over. Harry Potter and the Matrix ring some bells for the split finale. Think about it. Feel free to contact me for further discussion.

    1. I would be thrilled if they released Mass Effect 4 and continued the story. However, I don’t think that’s going to happen. BioWare has repeatedly stated this was the end of the road for Shepard and that the ending we were presented IS the ending. There’s been no evidence that they will follow it up.

      I think it would have been a great idea to split the ending of ME3 into two parts, but I honestly don’t think its going to happen. If the plan was for a two part finale, BioWare would have said something by now rather than taking all this negative publicity.

      1. Im sure they plan to continue on with the Mass Effect title, but as yeh said, this is the end of the line for Shepard. Atleast as far as I know + wat they have posted on the official Bioware ME threads about how thay arent changing the ending. They imply they want to continue on without Shepard.

        1. Between ME2 and ME3 there is about 6 months. Before ME1 and ME2 there is 2 years. While shepard was dead could they have cloned him/her. Could HE have had a child and was just never told about it? Could Miranda have done to femshep what her father did to her? And if these theroys are not convoluted enough… would you take control of this said child on the new
          ME games?

  166. theres another flaw in the catalysts logic, but a positive one: “The created always rebel against their creators” ahhh!! So, um, you are just…not there? The reapers, your solution….killed you? Ouh yeah, now youve solved all my problems and my day is saved, nice to meet you, see you…nevermore! :D:D:D

  167. Masterfully stated + well said. I couldnt + wouldnt have put it any better myself. Im glad someone shares my views + opinions without raging over the situation. Yeh have my full + undivided support. ^ ^

  168. I’ve been wary of anything connected to EA for quite some time, ever since they bought Westwood, and closed Earth and Beyond down so they could use the resources (programmers and servers) for “the sims online”. We all know what a commercial success (dripping with sarcasm) that was.

    I actually bought ME1 and 2 both at the same time off steam (one month’s sale), and played 2 before 1 because I’d heard that 2 was much better. Now, after hearing all the complaints about ME3, I don’t know if I’ll even buy it.

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  170. If the indoctrination theory is correct (so originally it was before the ending) and you choose one of the ‘wrong’ options. Would the game end? or would you then have to take up game as your loved one or say a default like Garrus. The Garrus option would make sense as he is nearest to a Spectre of the whole squad and you can’t have ‘Shepard without Varkarian’.

  171. Thank you for making the point that “artistic integrity” is little defense whe the lack of it caused this fiasco. Perhaps Bioware can give you Casey Hudson’s job…

  172. Honestly the review said take back earth, From the beginning i half expected a continuation into the ONLINE world with mass effect its happened before>

    especially with the prothean war lasting hundreds of years before they finally were wiped out.
    I expected Shepard to pull everyone together and in the final moments make a huge personal sacrifice to take back earth by destroying harbinger, Vastly Weakening the reapers and making them retreat and regroup from earth.

    When they said they were looking for the catalyst i completely expected Shepard to BE that catalyst. This ending was way off from what i had expected, that he was infact when recreated by cerberus with reaper tech and became half reaper half human weapon, and that cerberus was behind the crucible, planted the evidence to force shepard into making the choice by making him believe that it was his own choice.

    The dark matter i actually expected to be from the illusive man trying to find a way to subdue the repears, if shepard failed..

  173. Here is a thought maybe just maybe. The more heroic thing to do is to have Shepard live to be an old man. To see how the major choice you make in the game play out in the future. And if you like the so call Happy Hollywood ending have his or her grandchildren from what ever love intrest you chose playing in front of him or her. He chould see on some kind of new show or some thing that or have one of his children talking about it.

  174. It must have been an executive decision to rush the ending like they did. No self respecting writer would wrap up Mass Effect’s rich story line, like they did just now. You clearly know your stuff. I even laughed out loud at some of the recognisable bits.

    This was the best en most solid read I had about the ME3 story train wreck I had in quite some time. Well done to you Sir and send this stuff out to Bioware (yes, that they are still scrambling to get the ending-DLC out…they could still botch it without your help)!

    They should sack whoever was responsible for the ending-crisis at Bioware at the very least hire you as a consultant…Nay; lead writer!

  175. What a brilliant article, I’ve seen pleanty of people point out the mammoth plot holes, but I have never seen one break down the faults in the basic rules of story telling before. I tend to agree, I would like a different better ending, but I could live with an “Animal House” ending that tells us what happens to out squad mates. An excellent article, thank you.

  176. Hey man, great read. Actually reading your words reminds me incredibly of my creative writing teacher here in NH. In fact, a few of your quotes about writing I’ve heard him say nearly verbatum. And all of your critique is spot on. I feel much the same about the whole situation so good to see I’m not alone.

    1. Yeah I’m not surprised, much of what I’ve stated here is basic creative writing 101 stuff, so I’m sure a lot of people have heard it from teachers. And yes, you’re definitely not alone!

    1. That’s an excellent article indeed, though I’m surprised destructoid would publish it since they weren’t very supportive of Mass Effect 3’s detractors at the beginning.

  177. I was so deflated after I reached the ending of ME3 that I put the game away and tried to forget about it. It haunted me for weeks now.
    This article spells out exactly how I feel – perfectly.
    I have never felt as involved with a game as I have with this series and though I played ME2 over and over again I don’t want to touch ME3 again, no matter what DLC comes about – Unless they deal with that ridiculous ending. As an artist myself I cannot believe they are happy with the ending and I hope they do more than they have hinted at.

  178. Brilliant piece. The other night I finished the game knowing that the ending was allegedly atrocious but I still slogged forward with an open mind. Upon completion, I started talking to my friend about why it was so unbearable and he linked me to this blog. Thanks for the great read – you’ve masterfully codified the thousands of frustrations I’ve been trying to express for days. I still feel sucker punched. The entire series was a masterpiece until fingerpaint got used for finishing touches…

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  180. Fantastic analysis! A lot of people don’t understand that there are objective reasons why good writing is good writing, and bad is bad. Thankfully, you’re not one of them.

    I do take issue with your comment that, if LOTR had an ME3-style ending, people in movie theatres would shout at the screen. If LOTR had that kind of ending, the books would never have reached classic status. Because of that, there’s a good chance the story probably would never have made it to the big screen.

  181. I know I’m late to the party but I only just got a chance to finish the game. Maybe nobody will read this, but hey.

    I think you’re looking at the plot arc too systematically. Yes, I know all about the three-act structure, the slow build to a climax and the calming slide back down to normality.

    But this was a narrative about 1) the bitterness of losing people you love in wartime 2) making tough decisions which will cause terrible suffering 3) sacrificing things of great significance for the greater good.

    Some of these three points were in ME1 and 2, though they were more muted. Choosing to sacrifice Kaidan or Ashley, or suffering the loss of a squadmate you’d let down at the end of ME2, probably encapsulated them best. But it’s only with ME3 that this really comes to the fore and actually becomes the centrepiece of the game. From the destruction of the mass relay in “Arrival” (which could be considered a prologue to ME3, since it’s the beginning of the invasion) to the decisions whether to cure the genophage or take on Salarian ships, or whether to save the Geth or the Quarians, ME3’s choices are unpleasant and stick in the throat. You often meet characters you bonded with in previous games, enjoy their company and fight alongside them, and then have them die suddenly to improve the galaxy’s chances. The “military assets” bar is built out of a lot of bodies.

    So it makes perfect sense to say goodbye to your squad before the final push. This is a game about losing people, and how that’s both bitter and inevitable. With the deaths of Thane, Mordin and Legion Shepard was there with them at the last, and said goodbye. But your squad – and, as it turns out, you – are in real danger of never seeing them again. Like Garrus says, this might be the last time you get to joke around with him. It reminds me of the Quarian engineer dying on Rannoch, who asks you to tell his loved ones he made it to the homeworld, and dies without seeing them. Shepard and her squad are soldiers too. They got lucky up to this point, but why should they be treated differently? Part of the sadness of that problem is that there may be no resolution for a dying soldier. At least Shepard’s death is a positive act; she’ll never see the people she loves again, but she’s doing the best thing for them.

    1. Interesting arguments, but they show you miss the point. The point being that the ending is narratively broken. I think most of us went into Mass Effect 3 expecting Shepard to die at the end, or that we would at least have to loose a lot of people. The problem is that in the last ten minutes they try to insert a twist like M Night Shyamalan, who so overused the ending twist it’s become a joke. The problem with the ending twist is that they didn’t do it properly. They didn’t foreshadow it, they didn’t give you anything that made you look back at it and say “Oh that makes sense”. Instead they gave you an ending that a) used faulty logic that was resembles one of the many “malfunctioning computer” episodes of the original Star Trek series (this could have even been cool in an ironic way if they gave you the option of pointing out the flawed logic, locking the Reapers/Starchild into a logic loop until smoke came out). Then they cut and pasted the ending choices from Deus Ex, gave us some cut scenes that varied only in color and about 15 seconds of video and called it a day.

      What we didn’t get was an ending that showed us how our choices really mattered, or even one that made any damn sense. Worst still, the ending just cuts off and Bioware goes with “what do you think happened”. I don’t need to pay $80 for the collectors edition of the game for that, I could have read/wrote fan fiction for free that would have done that. I’ve seen plenty of people trying to defend the game saying that the whole game was the ending, the problem is, even using that, the last 10 minutes are broken, no matter how you slice it.

      1. I totally grant that there is a big logic problem with the “synthetics and organics will destroy each other” argument. The Geth and EDI – both synthetics – are shown to be peaceful. That’s a big problem. Since the Geth are the main enemy in ME1, and the idea that synthetics and organics can coexist is only really brought up in ME2 with Legion and EDI, I wonder whether they came up with the ending a long time ago (while writing ME1) and then screwed it over by undermining the synthetic-organic conflict. This would make sense, since someone found a planet in ME1 which references the synth-organic conflict in its description. But that’s just a theory I have.

        BUT. If you overlook that logic problem, and take the AI seriously, then it’s totally been foreshadowed. It’s often pointed out that the Reapers don’t destroy all life, they just harvest the most advanced civilisations. And – most importantly – when you have a conversation with the Reaper on Rannoch, it says that the cycle *must* continue, *for the sake of organics*, and that the Reapers don’t do this out of their own malevolence, they’re just part of the system.

        This happened to dovetail rather nicely with stuff I was thinking about at the time. I recently read an article about why we haven’t found alien life in the universe. The writer suggested that maybe advanced life is so scarce because there is some kind of barrier making it very difficult for it to progress past a certain point. Maybe it’s really difficult for life to emerge out of the primordial soup, which is why it’s really rare. Or – and this genuinely scares me – what if civilisations become so advanced and invent such powerful weapons that eventually they inevitably destroy themselves?

        What’s scary about this is that it’s systemic. There’s nothing you could do to stop it: if technology eventually leads to destruction then that’s that. Game over, the human race will eventually wipe itself out of history.

        So when the Reaper said that its job was to stop civilisations becoming too advanced, I wondered whether there was such a system in play. Perhaps the Reapers were simply the best solution to an unsolvable problem. Turns out they were. So there was foreshadowing of *that*, even if the existence of the Catalyst AI was a curve-ball.

        I also agree that the ending cinematics weren’t much different, which was a failure on Bioware’s part. I mean, they were so similar they were really setting themselves up for a fall there. But, the three endings do lead to radically different universes. In one, all DNA has been fundamentally rewritten, leading to a totally different society. In another, the Reaper system has simply been disabled via their destruction, and we get to see whether the Catalyst’s prognosis of inevitable synth-organic war was correct, which places a huge responsibility on organics to either 1) not create any synthetics or 2) treat them with respect. In the last one – well, I don’t really know what I’d do with a massive fleet of Reapers, but maybe the people who chose that option have some idea.

        You see, that’s what actually *interests* me about this ending. You are not given flash cards or cinematics to flesh out the actual consequences of your decision. All you have – much like Shepard – is the knowledge you’re given going into the decision. This one time, you are deprived of the knowledge of the consequences. So *you*, the gamer, have to discuss and reflect upon what each choice would mean for the galaxy, and what the full implications would be.

        Yes, there’s an ambiguity, but some of the best pieces of entertainment have ambiguity in them. Inception ended with that spinning top. People argued for *centuries* about why Hamlet doesn’t just kill his uncle like any sensible person would. Ambiguity is interesting because it unsettles you and it forces you to think about the implications of what’s just happened, and what that ambiguous element means. I can see where you’re coming from when you say you could write fanfiction, but I disagree with you. Fanfiction is non-canon. Anything that happens within fanfiction doesn’t really happen to “my Shepard”, and can’t happen to “your Shepard”. But the ending of this game happens to Shepard, full stop. This is where Shepard dies (unless you pick the “Destroy” ending, possibly). That’s inarguable. So the implications of this ending – that choices are hard, that you don’t know the consequences going in, that conflict might be lessened through harmony – all of those things suddenly become emotionally important, and worth thinking about, because your own Shepard is right in the middle and has to somehow navigate through all this stuff to whichever choice you hope is the one that will be the best for the galaxy.

        Also, I’d just like to say that I listened to the PC Gamer podcast on this, where they made the point that Bioware could have had Shepard save the day and cut to Shepard and Garrus drinking margeuritas on the beach. I would have *hated* that ending. It would have been so dull, and would have said nothing about difficult choices, or loss, or the problems we have to face when technology gives us progress. For what it’s worth, I will *remember* this ending for a good long time.

        1. Okay, fair point about the reaper conversation on Rannoch, I forgot that one, because it’s kind of forgettable, the conversations with Harbinger and Sovereign stick with me more.

          The problem with your point is that you say if you overlook the flawed logic then it makes sense. Well yeah, but that IS the problem, it is flawed logic, thus can never make sense. Honestly, it would have made more sense for the Starchild to have the Reapers come wipe out any Synthetics that present a threat rather than arbitrarily just have them come wipe out life every 50,000 years. Hell, they were about 300 years too late in the current cycle (that’s about when the Geth rose up). If the Geth had been as bad as the Starchild claim Synthetic life is, they would have wiped everything out already before the Reapers got on the scene. Hell, the Protheans, based on what Javik said, had cleaned up there Synthetic problem by the time the Reapers showed up in their cycle as well.

          Speaking of Javik, the story he mentions talks about an organic race creating cybernetic implants in an effort to save themselves. The cybernetics supposedly took them over and turned them into these cybernetic/organic beings that were out to take out everybody. Which calls the Synthesis ending into question. Though I have to wonder if the cybernetic implants really took over, or, if when this race met the Protheans and saw how they ran things, figured their only shot at freedom was to fight.

          You totally missed my point about the fanfiction, the point being that there is NO CANON ending beyond the colored lights, this isn’t supposition, this is FACT. Bioware, when questioned about what happened, literally said “What do you think happened?” Which means it could be whatever I want, which gets back to why should I have paid the $80 flipping dollars for the pile of feces they delivered in the last ten minutes to get me to that point, when I could have started with the end of Mass Effect 2 and gotten a much better story on my own. Ambiguity is fine if your planning to continue the story, but damn it! I was promised an epic end to Shepard’s story, not a bunch of arts farts twaddle based on flawed logic and last minute Deus Ex Machina.

          Again, I didn’t expect Shepard to ride off into the sunset. But there is no reason you can’t have an epic ending and do this, or if your going to have him die, have that be epic and let us see what his sacrifice bought. I am really effin’ fed up with people trying to make it sound like anyone saying that the ending sucks is saying so because we didn’t get a happy ending, we are not, we are saying the ending sucks because the ending sucks as so well out lined in the original article here. Bad writing is bad writing, and trying to defend it as artistic doesn’t make it any less bad.

          1. One cannot help but to agree with Mr. Pickett… Casey Hudson himself stated before ME3 launch that there was no cannon. What story arcs are referred to generally are the arcs which where established in ME1 and ME2, and where plausibly already “done” at least from the design standpoint before ME3 went into a staged production chain.

            Taking out the Geth and Krogan arcs, leaves one with little in the way of a developed narrative, deeply flawed exposition, and a game world that got smaller rather than larger. Combat mechanics are sketchy, multiplayer is tacked on, war assets are a vestigial component from other ideas that were never fully realized in the release product. Why bother to look at the broken quest management system… there’s nothing to look at, because it is functionally broken.

            ME3 is rushed, rather cheaply made, and most the “argument” for the how’s and why’s things are the way that they are, become quickly debunked when framed from an art assets and design standpoint. It is the way that it is, because it was the cheapest most cost effective way to do it. Multiple dialog paths? Cost. Cerberus cannon fodder? Cost. Meaningful choices? Why bother, cost and it is the end of the series as it has been delivered up unto this point. They didn’t even bother to maintain the illusion of choice (which is the staple of ME1 and ME2, your choices don’t matter you just think they do).

            It is confused in that ME1 and ME2 heavily trope other works of science fiction such as Babylon 5, Enders Game, End of Innocence and the like (there are others). Essentially the character writing staff and the main narrative staff are two separate teams, coupled with the fact that the lead writer in the past (Drew) was off on Star Wars, this alone provides enough circumstantial evidence to explain the tonal shift of the ME franchise from the Star Trek/Babylon 5/007 development to the Battle Star/Deus Ex – Game narrative themes.

            In retrospect I personally believe that Bioware and crew really “think” they put out a good product. For what ever reason perhaps they have convinced themselves of this fact. They certainly defended DA2, and that is garbage as well. For every indication of slop, laziness, or convenience that there is there is a someone on the other side of the wall saying art, and someone else saying budget and resources. It is all of the above, a product for retail, made utilizing industrial design principles, use of artistic (aesthetic elements), coupled with writing. It is in this order the product comes to be. If it’s budget is reduced, it’s core design elements flawed, the art often reused from the previous iterations and then it goes about falling to deliver the narrative, how is it to be anything other than a mediocre product? It fails on many counts.

            Fact is, the game as it is, is the way that it is, because of market factors. It’s simply better business to create a product that facilitates micro transactions and relies on the fps unreal udk than it is to create around narrative, good design, and follow through. Most the talent has already left the building and Bioware becomes just another company that makes a couple good games, and then goes away… like A LOT of video game companies.

            As far as the ending? Any story that very nearly anyone would of come up with would make more sense. The human mind tends towards reason and rationality. The fact that the ending as it is, being so poor, clearly indicates it was not a “complete thought”, simply tacked on, like many elements of the game. It is not a complete thought, it is not follow through, it is not artistic, it was convenient.

            It is simply the nature of the medium. At the end of the day, it is a bitter disappointment in that there is conceivably a better game, a better work of art underneath all the nonsense and posturing. However, that may or may not of translated to a better mass market product. Shrug.

        2. “But, the three endings do lead to radically different universes. In one, all DNA has been fundamentally rewritten, leading to a totally different society. ”

          Do they now? 😀 Even though we’ve seen the last scene, that’s identical for all 3 colors? 😀 We’ve been shown for a fact, that normal humans and those with completely rewritten DNA don’t differ at all. Not even after a very long (?) period of time has passed.

          “So there was foreshadowing of *that*, even if the existence of the Catalyst AI was a curve-ball.”

          I don’t think it’s possible to say that, since they (=different writers) threw in so much stuff, that you could correctly claim “foreshadowing” for a huge number of things. The principle is pretty much the same it is with something like the bible – you can interpret anything you like in the text and there will always be a huge number of people who disagree.
          After I made peace between the Quarians and the Geth, the Codex stated that the Reapers couldn’t have anticipated this outcome and probably wouldn’t be able to counter this unforeseen mixture. I took this statement as foreshadowing, that I would kick Reaper-ass in the end. But after seeing the ending, I knew better.

          Ambiguity is cool and all, if a few minor points are left open for debate (or one big one), your example shows this very well. Inception wasn’t ambiguous at all, except for this ONE THING in the ending. The whole rest is straight forward. The Mass Effect 3 ending is nothing like Inception. There countless things are ambiguous, and yes, with that amount it’s a problem and no longer okay.

  182. I strongly agree with 99% of your insightful article.

    This issue that you mentioned particularly bothers me: “You want to replay the game because it was so amazing, but the foreknowledge of the terrible ending is always hanging over you like a guillotine.”

    Of the 50 odd hours that I spent playing, with every choice, every epic moment, I think about how I can’t wait to replay the game with a different shep and make different choices… (I have 4 complete play through’s from ME2 waiting to be ported)… But after being completely wrecked by the ending and realizing no matter what you do, there is no satisfying end to my story (the stargazer post credit ending is poetic and bittersweet… but still mostly bitter)… I’m literally too heartbroken to replay ME3.

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  184. Please. No one read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. A great work? Yes. But one slavishly adhered to by nearly all writers in Hollywood, computer games, comics and practically all genre novels. As a result I can tell what’s coming a mile off and it is by now incredibly tedious. Probably why I fell for Tree of Life (silly Sean Penn bits aside) so much.

    I liked the ending of ME3 conceptually, it was only the lack of adequate closing scenes that made it underwhelming. (Where was Garrus, my one, my love? Where were the galaxy wide scenes of people being profoundly effected by whatever choice you made? I mean, the stakes were higher than Joker, EDI, Anderson and Liara but they were the only ones I got to see, as if they were the only ones I had been fighting for. I don’t bemoan my choice (synthesis) but I do bemoan an extra minute of footage that could have made it all the more emotionally satisfying. Essentially, it needed room to breath. And Shepard needed to kick against the inevitable a little more before we were forced to roll the hard six. So, only a grip RE: execution, not conception.

    1. I wouldn’t say no one should read it. It’s pretty dry though, so I’d think only people interested in storytelling and mythology or anthropology would really have any interest in reading it. I do agree that some writers treat Campbell’s work like a bible, strictly adhering to it. I think of them as “Guidelines, rather than actual rules”, and occasionally I throw out entire chunks of the hero’s journey if it doesn’t work with the story. The reason I brought it up was to illustrate just how closely Mass Effect games held to the Hero’s Journey, only to then totally break away from it in the closing five minutes. Plenty of great writers have decided to chuck out Campbell and forge great stories, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc, but their stories are consistent in the way they tell the story. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a book that wrote a straight Hero’s Journey and then suddenly switch to transcendentalism/fatalism/nihilism in the final five pages, which is essentially what we got with Mass Effect 3.

      That’s not to say they couldn’t have gone that route if they’d wanted to, Mass Effect 3 was a game that could have broken from tradition and forge a new direction, but that had to be the goal from the start, not simply stapled onto the end of the game. People don’t react well to having a sudden break in narrative structure like that. Mass Effect 3 was following the hero’s journey almost to the letter until the final ten minutes, at which point everything went straight out the window and we as the audience didn’t have time to adjust or even understand what the hell happened. You brought up conception, and I agree, it could have been a great way to end the series. Trouble is the execution was terrible like you say, trying to shoehorn in a huge concept like a mythical god being in the final five minutes was never and can never work. Had Mass Effect 3 gone this route from the beginning, they could have slowly introduced these new elements to the story, giving us time to absorb and understand.

      Take The Grey for instance, in many ways it completely broke away from the Hero’s Journey and doesn’t follow any traditional storytelling patterns aside from the generic “survival in the wilderness” trope introduced by Jack London and others. A lot of people went into The Grey expecting a cheesy action film, I was one of them, the trailer was incredibly misleading. Yet it was still a huge commercial and critical success, because even though the audience was expecting something completely different, The Grey had a consistent tone, theme and pacing throughout the movie. Mass Effect 3 was consistent as well, up until that final ten minutes. To keep running with this analogy, Mass Effect 3’s ending was just as jarring narratively and structurally as The Grey ending with Liam Neeson killing the Alpha Wolf with an improvised machine gun made out of twigs and beetles.

      Thanks for writing in, it’s great to see this post still generating interest six months later.

  185. Having just now been pointed to this article, it was indeed a very interesting read. However, I have to say that I actually found the ending to be rather interesting, mostly _because_ it confused the hell out of me. Until now I was only partly aware of the writing conventions you mentioned, and not aware at all of them being broken in major ways, but with this insight I am now inclined to believe that the very fact of ME3’s ending not following century-old rules made it appeal to me. In all its probably deliberate confusion and disregard for the series’ more obvious themes, it had something awe-inspiring that the Reapers’ genocide plan never managed to convey: the feeling of a higher intelligence (or principle or whatever) that stood above human logic, laying out plans I could not hope to grasp, with Shepard merely selecting between various evils after a story of moderate-success-against-all-odds. It seemed arbitrarily cruel to me in various ways, and I was wondering if the notion of determinism might be one of the concepts behind it.

    I don’t really know if there’s a point to be found in my ramblings. Maybe it’s that all the failures you highlighted can actually be selling points if you happen to be a strange person.

  186. I know I’m ridiculously late to make this comment, and I know I didn’t read all the comments, but I did a quick search and couldn’t find this.

    Now, a quick disclaimer: I have not finished ME3. In fact, I’ve barely started it. I liked the universe enough that I was playing through both ME1 & 2 between Uni lectures, getting it just how I liked it – I had played up to arriving on Mars, just like I played waking up at the Lazarus Project and meeting Tali on Horizon for ME2 before going back to ME1. Furthermore, I was desperately avoiding spoilers, despite the internet backdraft about the ending and everything. I essentially did the equivalent of putting my hands over my ears and singing loudly every time the subject came up and it looked like any specifics were going to be discussed.

    This held until I was partially spoiled, and couldn’t bear knowing some, but not all. I read about the ending and watched Youtube stuff, including the Indoctrination Theory (which I agree with you about), and was left with no further impetus to play 1 & 2 so I could play through 3, all the while knowing what was waiting for me at the end.

    Anyway, the actual point of all this. People have pointed out that Arrival showed the consequence of slamming an asteroid into a Relay. Other people have pointed out that it’s at least _plausible_ that the Crucible’s way of destroying them was different to hitting this highly advanced machine containing incredible energies with a big rock.

    What I couldn’t find anyone saying is that even without the system-sterilising release of uncontrolled energy, the Relay-using species of the galaxy are still screwed. Allow me to explain, and bear in mind this is all discounting the indoctrination theory, going by what we see:

    Relay travel is damn near instantaneous. Non-Reaper ship-based FTL travel, on the other hand, goes at a crawl. I can’t remember exactly how slow it is, but a few light years (single to low double digits) was a day’s cruise in ME1, and ships need to discharge their drive cores every few light years, which takes time. The Milky Way Galaxy (which is kind of a stupid name for it, considering that the Milky Way is only a part of our Galaxy and according to, the Milky Way Galaxy is the galaxy that contains our sun, as well as the “myriads of stars that comprise the Milky Way”. Those crazy astronomers.) All ship designs, industry, commerce, trade, and communication is Relay-based (yes, even long-range comms. You open a short-range Mass Effect corridor to the nearest Relay/Comm Buoy, which connects to the Relay Network (or in the case of the comm buoy, to another buoy and eventually to a Relay).

    Many planets don’t have the food, or minerals, or some other resource capable of sustaining their populations. Many more don’t have a sufficient population of all the sapient species inhabiting it to be capable of surviving more than a few generations without crippling inbreeding. Some don’t even have enough for _any_ of the sapient species to be viable. Some are reliant on shipments of either dextro or levo supplies for part of their population, or are like the planet Jacob’s dad reigned over, and are missing vital nutrients.

    Hell, do you think all planets even have the knowledge or resources to maintain their tech base? Or do you think a lot of stuff was bought offworld from centralised production locations and shipped in, and a given planet might not only not have the spare parts, but it might not have the machines to build the machines to build the spare parts, nor the knowledge to maintain the piece of tech beyond replacing it? What about the fact that the information may not even exist on their locally cached piece of the comm net? And this doesn’t just apply to the bleeding-edge technology – with such cheap intersystem travel, even basic infrastructure like power plants or farming equipment are likely built offworld, and while the knowledge and talent would be there for day-to-day maintenance, major overhauls or replacement is likely another story.

    How do you think Tuchanka is going to go without the bleedoff pressure valve of offworld mercenary work, and with the Genophage likely cured, what about the culture that has built up around breeding as often as possible and valuing each child, while still fighting whenever the mood takes you? I doubt Illium grows its own food, don’t you? More and more worlds are going to face overpopulation and resource depletion like the Drell’s homeworld.

    And that’s all without the consequences of the massive galaxy-spanning war! So, let’s look at these case-by-case, discounting Synthesis as I have no _idea_ how that works.

    Okay, assuming every single Husk and et cetera dies, planets have still lost massive amounts of their population, critical infrastructure has been destroyed – remember, war of extinction, the Reapers certainly weren’t interested in _capturing_ resources! Or at least, not something like a power plant, factory or waste treatment facility! Dead bodies/the portion of husks that are still flesh rotting, no working medical infrastructure, survivors scattered and disconnected, no-one bringing crops in even assuming the crops weren’t destroyed directly or through fallout. No centralised government, lots of desperate people who, as far as they know without comms, are the last survivors of the galaxy – hell, they just saw the Relay explode and any in-system Reapers shut down, explode, whatever – they don’t know that _every_ Reaper got destroyed. Also, Reapers are three kilometres of dense metals; just because they explode doesn’t mean all that mass goes away! Chunks of Reapers are going to rain from the sky! And then, they have _huge_ amounts of Eezo in them, way more for their size than a Dreadnaught – remember how surprised characters were in ME1 at how close Sovereign was getting to planets, or how sharp its turns were! One shuttle’s worth of Eezo being spread across a region does more than just increasing the number of biotics that will be born soon, it also increases tumor rates and other health problems – what does a couple of Reaper-loads do?

    War-ravaged planets will need support from others that weren’t hit as hard, or were hit in different manners, only…

    Fastest travel will now take forever to get anywhere, and what about fuelling these ships? They used to only need fuel for short hops intrasystem or intracluster. Now they need fuel to get from one cluster to the next. What about discharging the drive core? Easy enough inside a cluster, find a planet. Outside of a cluster? Most species’ ships are short-haul designs, not enough consumables to make intercluster trips, even if their drive core could handle the trip the crew will run out of one necessity or another. Good luck maintaining these ships that are now doing orders of magnitude more operative time, and now need to travel from one side of the galaxy to the other, the slow way, to get an overhaul at a surviving shipyard.

    Geth would have done the best in this scenario, being able to shut down and live in cyberspace for slow trips, and had the fleetsize to be able to separate and help the organics, except – oops! They’re all dead! And make no mistake, they were alive.

    Basically, as well as committing genocide on an entire sapient species, in this scenario Shepard killed entire planet’s surviving populations to deaths of differing speeds – days, months, years, _generations_, all with the knowledge that the end is coming, and hoping someone will come to help, but no-one can. The worst may be for the longer-lived species on a planet populated by short-lived sapients. Asari, not so much – although they know with complete certainty that their homeworld was destroyed, most of their species gone and their culture all but destroyed; they may choose suicide instead of “embracing eternity” with the other species in order to repopulate their own. But Krogan? They are likely one of the only ones of their species on the planet, doomed to never see another of their own and further doomed to be the only one left when everyone else has died out.

    And forget trying to build a new Relay network!

    Now, Control could be seen as much better – at least the Reapers are around for quick travel, right?
    Right. But how many will trust them, and how many will stay in hiding? How many will fight the Reapers ’til their dying breath, unwilling or unable to believe that they are “friendly” now?

    And how long will that last? Assuming their core personalities weren’t wiped, in which case Shepard has to learn how to control each function of multi-kilometre ships while they are hovering in the atmosphere of inhabited planets, these unfathomably ancient AIs, these perversion of the will of entire species, will be fighting him/her. Shepard has incredible force of will, no doubt – but s/he is now trying to control at the bare minimum, hundreds or thousands of AIs, all of whom have extensive experience dominating others’ wills. Sooner rather than later, Shepard will at the very least get tired from the strain, assuming the combined will of the Reapers don’t dominate him/her. At _best_ s/he will lose control for brief periods of individual Reapers before regaining it. How much damage can a Reaper do in a few minutes to unsuspecting organics? And after the first few times, how much will even the most trusting of the survivors be willing to work with and around these things? And now we’re back to the consequences of the Destroy scenario again, only with functioning, partially-controlled Reapers around to make things even worse.

    TL;DR: Even discounting all other factors, if the galaxy just before the events of ME1 had suddenly lost every function of the Mass Relay network, without the Reapers ever popping up, they would have been screwed. After ME3? Even worse.

    1. Oh, and I forgot – tech has been so stable for so long, very few planets would have detailed locally cached data around to even recreate an Earth Industrial-Revolution era tech level. I mean, would you keep enough data on that sort of stuff to build a working society, even if you _were_ interested in it? Or would you only have those things you were most interested in? And that’s assuming that the war and damage didn’t leave your terminal, or worse the planetary cache, completely useless…

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  188. With regards to the whole “no resolution to any of the characters”, some believed that Mass Effect 3 was the ending of the series, not the final 5 minutes. During the course of the game, the characters did tell you what their plans were after the war, but we didn’t see that all in the last 5 minutes, just sometime during the course of the game. Mass Effect 1 was the beginning, Mass Effect 2 was the middle, and Mass Effect 3 was the end of the trilogy.

    The other point I was going to bring up is that may be closure for the major characters you met. What about all the minor ones? Did people really need them to tell how Conrad Verner, Shiala or Commander Bailey ended up too? See, if they did this, the game would have sort of a LOTR style ending which actually got a lot of flack for being too long and explained too much, when people could just use their imaginations a bit.

    Good sci-fi does leave some stuff open to the imagination. It doesn’t fill in every single detail.

    1. I was going to mention, regarding the plot diagram, every mission in Mass Effect 3 works like that. Most people see that the resolution to all the characters, choices, etc should have come at the end of the game, even though the previous 30 hours did that for you anyways.

      Think of Mass Effect 3’s story structure like a book. Each mission as a chapter. At the end of each chapter, you get a resolution to each character or problem. We see Miranda get away from her crazy father. Jacob wants to start a family. Plus many other choices wrapped up. (fast forward to 2:15 seconds)

      So, you’ll import, and find out what your choices did during the course of the game. Yep, seems right. That’s exactly what happened. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

      Gamers today have no imagination whatsoever and need to have everything spelled out for them in great detail.

      Read the part about ambiguity (very last bit of the article). Essentially says that regarding the ending, it should be closer to a Lost ending, rather than a Matrix Reloaded scene with the Architect which spells out too much. Gamers want everything spelled out, and this goes against what the sci-fi genre is all about. Then again, perhaps sci-fi isn’t for gamers after all, if they don’t want to use their imaginations or think for themselves. Instead, have the developers hold their hands and have every choice, character, etc tied up in a knot and leave no questions left unanswered.

      As for the ending not making any sense, most of that can be explained by actually playing the game and using every bit of information to solve the puzzle. Like I said though, gamers don’t want to solve puzzles or think for themselves. They want everything spoon fed to them and have their hands held every step of the way.

      The Starchild’s logic doesn’t make sense? Oh, well, codex says he’s a ghostly boy who died on Earth. Not some Reaper God who wants to kill organics to save them from synthetics who will kill organics. He’s a liar. See, I figured out who he was. Not so hard. Illusive Man and Anderson magically appear on the Citadel? I didn’t see Anderson follow me down the hill, so he probably never made it to the Citadel. The last 20 minutes of the game doesn’t take place on the Citadel. It takes place in Shepard’s mind. See, if people used all the information in the game, they’d be able to figure this out.

      Instead, they come up with stuff like “so Shepard blew up on the Citadel, fell back to Earth, and woke up”. Or he’s still on the Citadel after it exploded into a million pieces.

      Nope, Shepard never left Earth and has been hallucinating the whole time. Big pool of blood on the ground, hard to miss. Breath scene, you can hear the wind blowing, which means he’s on Earth.

      There are no plot holes or bad writing with this ending. The answers to explain it are in the game. The issues regarding the ending are not a glitch or defect with the game, but rather a “user error”. The user doesn’t want to admit that it may have been the person playing the game who screwed up and didn’t find all the clues to explain the ending though. Instead they point fingers at the developers who made the game for their own mistakes.

      Just like in the first game how Saren says “Shift the blame to cover your own failures, but what can you expect from a human”?

      Like I said, unless they are spoon-fed everything, they’ll continue to demand that Bioware fix an ending that doesn’t need to be fixed. If some people figured the ending out, but others didn’t, then it’s an isolated incident, rather than something which affects everyone who played the game. A user problem, and not a glitch with the game.

      1. So basically what I’m getting is that you think the Indoctrination Theory was correct, and that’s the real ending of the game. That is actually a great way to get past the stupidity of the ending, I stated in the original review that the indoctrination theory was really the only way to save the game’s ending.

        I loved the ending of Lost actually, the problem with Mass Effect 3’s ending isn’t that it was ambiguous like Lost. It was like the Architect scene that the writer talks about. Both scenes have a god like character that explain everything to the player, the God AI child is exactly the same as the Architect, and that’s why everyone hates him. I’m surprised the guy who wrote that article didn’t see the parallels honestly. I’d loved some ambiguity in the ending, but the Architect/AI-God doesn’t allow that, it spells out all the answers for you. And those answers are stupid.

        I’d have loved it if they’d gone with a Lost style ending, where it was more about the journey and the characters, rather than solving the plot. That’s what pissed me off about Mass Effect 3’s ending, they completely forgot to add resolution for the characters.

        And in regards to your book analogy, I actually brought that up in the review. I said that every mission in Mass Effect operates as its own independent heroes journey. That said, the ending of a chapter doesn’t mean you get to skip on resolution later in the book.Yes many of the character’s individual subplots are nicely wrapped up, and I loved the writing in those sections. At the end though, the characters need to return to a normal state and allow for the reader/watcher to decompress.

        Since you brought up the Lost ending, I’ll use that again. Most of their plots were wrapped up as well, but they didn’t just end the show there. They all met up in heaven, or whatever that place was, we got to see them reunite with friends. To seek forgiveness for past sins. And in the end, we get to smile with them as the series ends and we watch them enter the light.

        Mass Effect 3’s ending was like if Lost had just shown Jack plugging up the hole in the cave, and then just cutting to the credits, minus all the great resolution.

        Honestly more people had a problem with the ending of the game than people who enjoyed it. So if you enjoyed it and understood it, that makes you the isolated incident, really. I’m glad you enjoyed the game’s ending, I really am. Just keep in mind you’re in the minority there.

        1. If you don’t agree with the GodChild, don’t do what he says. It’s that simple. As for borrowing stuff from other movies, I’ll use an example (not a movie). The basic idea for the telephone was made by Alexander Graham Bell back in 1876 or so, but every phone to date is pretty much based off of the same basic technology (talk to and receive messages from others over long distances). So by your logic, Steve Jobs ripped off Bell’s invention by taking it and improving on it.

          Too many people believe the way the indoctrination angle would have been presented as “Shepard wakes up, limps up to the Citadel and destroys the Reapers. On the way, says something about Harbinger trying to indoctrinate him, so that all those people who didn’t figure out the ending could understand it. Even after they presented them with an indoctrinated Shepard clone, some still didn’t get it”.

          Mass Effect 3’s ending is not a copy and paste of the Architect scene, if it was, they would have gotten sued for plagiarism or something like that. They didn’t, so there’s more to it than just the Architect. Or the Dues Ex Machina as some claim. The Dues Ex Machina is actually the Crucible, not the GodChild as some claim. You’re probably just taking the ending at face value, like so many who failed to understand what it was all about.

          Resolution to characters? This is Shepard’s story, not the characters. They were just along for the ride. There is roughly 15-18 different squadmates, as well as many minor characters. Did people really need a 45 minute cutscene tying up all that? You want to talk about not spelling out too much, that’s spelling out too much.

          Besides, the last hour was set up to be kind of like a suicide mission where you may not be coming back from it alive. If people wanted Shepard to destroy the Reapers, and have every character live and go back to their homeworld all safe and sound, that wasn’t going to happen.

      2. Well apparently they should have spelled things out for you too, because Shepard DID go to the Citadel. 😛 It’s been confirmed. All of that stuff happened… So…

        I’m not surprised though, that people who made everything up in their mind the way they preferred it, were happy with the ending…

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  193. Thank you so much for writing this post. It’s so depressing to see that with such a bad ending as Mass Effect got, there are so many people who despite not liking it are missing the point of ‘why exactly the ending is bad’, and they blame “Shepard dies no matter what” or they blame that “it’s too sad” while too many, especially reviewers said “We like it” and acted as if people who didn’t like it simply didn’t understand it.

    The true culprit was always the destruction of narrative coherence, and even though I personally think The Extended Cut improved it overall, the lack of coherence is still enough to destroy the trilogy. Thank god for that B-grade Happy Ending Mod you can get.

    Anyway, did you ever show this to any of the writers at Bioware? It’s fantastic feedback, potentially it could ensure they never ever make such a big misstep ever again.

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