Mass Effect 3: The Final Word


Wow, what an intense couple of weeks this has been. Having a blog go from a few dozen readers composed of only friends and relatives to suddenly logging 18,000 views in a single day and averaging 4,000 views since then has been a lot to absorb. I’m really glad all of the people that have viewed my blog and written in have enjoyed it so much. That said, I am getting a bit burned out on Mass Effect so this will be my last post on the subject for a while. I may come back to it when they release the Extended Cut and analyze whether it works or not, but until then you will all have to join me as I review other stories from TV, Games and Movies. But moving right along, the final piece of my Mass Effect 3 coverage:

BioWare: “No New Ending”

The Reapers have won people...

So here you have it folks. Bioware says the completely insane ending is completely acceptable, and instead of changing it, will only be “clarifying” it.

“BioWare will expanding on the ending to Mass Effect 3 by creating additional cinematics and epilogue scenes to the existing ending sequences. The goal of these new scenes is to provide additional clarity and closure to Mass Effect 3.”

Basically they are going to make sure the ending is clearly labelled as crap, rather than leaving us to come that conclusion ourselves. As hopeful as it is to see Bioware taking our complaints into consideration it’s just…not enough.

They could add an hour long ending cinematic to the end, and it still wouldn’t redeem the ending. Unless that cinematic wakes up Shepard from his indoctrination coma or something. In the end we’re still stuck with the God AI Starchild and his very questionable logic, the destruction of all Mass Relays, and the ridiculous pick one of the colored buttons “choice” at the end.

The point is that, unless this Extended Cut from Bioware incorporates the Indoctrination Theory into the game, or even better, completely rewrites the last ten minutes of the game, nothing the Extended Cut can do will make the ending acceptable. It would be like adding a new coat of paint to a car that crashed into a brick wall at 120mph. No matter how much you dress it up, at the end of the day it’s still just a pile of smoking wreckage.

Are there going to be more/different endings or ending DLCs in the future?

No. BioWare strongly believes in the team’s artistic vision for the end of this arc of the Mass Effect franchise. The extended cut DLC will expand on the existing endings, but no further ending DLC is planned.

I’d really love for someone from the actual writing staff at Bioware to come forward and tell us what their artistic vision was. Bioware’s PR Department keeps harping on about how proud they are of their writers and insisting the ending we got was totally planned, and not at all the rush job that it totally looks like. So if that’s true, how about Bioware let their writers off the leash and tell us about the ending. As a writer myself, I’ve written some really trashy endings too. Sometimes as a writer I get too close to the story, and while the ending works in my own mind, when someone else reads it they’re dumbfounded by the stupidity. I then try and walk them through that horrific ending, showing them how it makes sense to me, but in doing so realize how convoluted it is to someone who hasn’t lived and worked with the story for a year. And that’s what has really stuck out in this whole thing, none of the writers have tried to take us step by step through their ending to show us how it made sense to them. If this was truly their artistic vision, they would be able to do that, it probably still wouldn’t make sense but we could see how it could make sense from their perspective as the creators.

Instead we’ve had BioWare PR Reps spewing forth endless drivel of “look at all the great reviews we got!” “We sold X amount of Copies” as if these things excused the ending. Oh, and of course everyone’s personal favorite: “Artistic Integrity”, but of course if artistic integrity were a thing that still existed at BioWare:

1) This never would have been released

2) They wouldn’t be hiding behind the shield of “artistic integrity” to avoid taking responsibility for the fact that the ending is broken on several fundamental levels, as in a creative writing 101 level.

Time to Move On

So with this latest announcement from Bioware, I no longer have the desire to highlight the issues with Mass Effect 3’s ending. Instead, since what we’ve been presented in Mass Effect 3 is the ending we are all now stuck with, I feel we should all start moving on to better games and, more importantly, better companies. There was a time BioWare was on my “buy no matter what the hell the game was about” list because they just made incredible story driven games. Now, whatever Bioware comes up with next, I might pick it up when it hits the 10$ bargain bin…but only if its getting rave reviews from people I know, and not just game review sites.

However, I still love Mass Effect 3 despite the kick in the balls that is the final ten minutes. There are some great moments in this game, and they deserve to be enjoyed. So instead of dwelling on those last ten minutes, I’m going to highlight my favorite moments from the game.

Rannoch

I have a save game that is a straight run from ME1 to ME3, a Shepard where I played through the game totally blind and not knowing what to expect. So while I do have other saves where I managed to save Wrex on Virmire and left no man behind on the Suicide mission, my first playthrough was always blind. My Shepard Prime as I call him, made mistakes throughout all three games, and I must say Bioware did a great job incorporating these mistakes.

Rannoch is where this really hit home for me. While I had completed Tali’s loyalty mission in ME2, I later lost her loyalty when I sided with Legion in an argument which then negated Tali’s loyalty. Forgetting that point in the Suicide Mission I ordered her to open the doors in the first section of the base, and she succeeded in her mission at the cost of her own life. That was a really poignant death in ME2 for me, because it was fast and brutal. A lot of deaths in movies and games are really drawn out, with the characters sharing tearful goodbyes, which works great in certain situations. But in ME2, Tali takes a bullet to the head and slumps to the ground. No goodbyes, no last soliloquy, just dead. The characters don’t even have a chance to mourn as they are forced to keep fighting. That’s when I realized “holy crap, this IS a suicide mission”.

So now years later, trying to infiltrate the Geth Dreadnought, we catch a brief glimpse of Rannoch in the distance:

“Tali would have loved this.”

That was a powerful line perfectly delivered by both of Shepard’s voice actors. Just a small reminder than the choices you’ve made throughout the game have mattered. Tali isn’t here to see Rannoch because you made a mistake.

This was quickly countered by a happy reunion with my favorite character, Legion, and I was grinning from ear to ear when I heard him say “Shepard Commander!” again. Then, once again, we’re met with an incredibly powerful scene where Legion must sacrifice himself so that his people can become truly unique.

“I must go to them.”

Yes, in the last moments of his life Legion experienced individuality, he was no longer an amalgamation of thousands of different programs working in tandem but a fully realized person. Even if he wasn’t made of flesh and blood, he was every bit as alive as Shepard. And in that moment he makes the ultimate sacrifice thus proving that –

“Synthetics will always seek to wipe out Organics”

SHUT UP! WHO SAID YOU COULD SPEAK!?

No, bad John, we’re focusing on the good. Deep breaths, deep breaths…

Thessia

As one of my readers, Captiosus, recently pointed out, Thessia is where the game begins to unravel. He’s right, that is where the game begins to start steamrolling toward the ending, exchanging the intricate plot threads of other missions like Tuchanka and Rannoch for a straight up shooting section. That said however, Thessia was one of my favorite parts of the game.

Whereas the fifteen minute intro section of Earth being destroyed didn’t really affect me, the fight through the streets of Thessia really moved me on an emotional level. Seeing the desperate, frightened Asari soldiers selling their lives in a hopeless battle, the utter devastation being wrought by the dozens of Reapers scouring the cities, all punctuated by some brilliant dialogue from Liara as she watches her homeworld turned to ashes and powerless to stop it. Then, after Cerberus intercepts you at the Beacon, and you hear the terrified screams of an Asari soldier as a Reaper lands right on top of her position, I felt just as angry as Shepard. I was ready to go ripping up the god damn galaxy for vengeance, and when I snapped at Joker for making a joke about the massacre, it was like Shepard was saying exactly what I was thinking.

That was really one of the highlights of the game for me, even though it does represent the turning point and downward spiral of the end-game, it still has some great writing and memorable moments.

Launching the Missiles

How epic was this sequence? Holding off wave after wave of Cannibals, Banshees and Marauders as EDI makes the necessary calculations to launch the missiles. Finally a Reaper itself starts trying to incinerate you while your still fighting off what seems like the entire Reaper army. I have vivid memories of retreating into a building, desperately shotgunning three cannibals before being forced to take down a forth and fifth with biotics and melee attacks. The rest of my squad was down, I was out of medigel and I had only a handful of ammo left. Then EDI tells me that the last set of missiles are on target and I make a mad dash for the control pad, ducking through waves of Reaper troops and managing to launch the missiles just before my health is gone.

The Run for the Citadel Beam

Now, there are plenty of continuity issues with this run to the beam, such as what the hell happens with your squadmates, why aren’t the tanks able to help us out here, and why does Harbinger have a rapid fire beam clearly superior to his other Reaper brethren?

All that aside, however, I loved that charge for the beam. It was a desperate move by desperate men, and they just nailed  that whole sequence. That final suicidal charge across the field, watching as the entire task force gets incinerated around you and the Citadel beam gets ever closer… and then BAM, you’re incinerated by Harbinger’s beam. Game over, the credits roll.

Thanks, Harbinger, you did good son.

Shut up! That’s where the game ended and no one is going to tell me otherwise!

Anyway, everyone join me this Thursday for my next blog post…about something that isn’t ME3 this time.

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24 thoughts on “Mass Effect 3: The Final Word”

  1. Actually I really loved the scene with Anderson and Shepard bleeding out on the Citadel. That’s where the game ends for me.

  2. I know you have said everything you want to about ME3’s ending, but I think the following would be a good topic for you to cover one day. First, have you read this:

    http://social.bioware.com/forum/Mass-Effect-3/Mass-Effect-3-Story-and-Campaign-Discussion-Spoilers-Allowed/Unofficial-Interview-with-Patrick-Weekes-conducted-by-a-fan-at-Pax-11154234-1.html

    My question to you, as a writer, given what Pat Weekes said in that interview, how and when is it too late to introduce a potentially paradigm changing development into a story?

  3. Spouting the: “Oh, and of course everyone’s personal favorite: “Artistic Integrity”” line makes me more than a little angry.

    Since the ending actually has NO artistic integrity at all, well, it DID have it, when it was first released 12 years ago in Deus Ex.

    My guess is that some suit (I can say suit because I am one 😉 ) saw this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh7PmunYnok

    and thought, hey, why spend 2-3 more months making the game ending fantastic when we can just rip this off.

    ^^

  4. So, to comment on some of the “unofficial interview” with Patrick Weekes:

    “-Will long-distance superluminal travel still be possible post-Ending? (will Tali or Wrex or Garrus see their homeworlds again? Will everyone starve?)

    Galactic civilization will rebuild. The mass relays were not necessary for interstellar flight. Remember, what does it say in the Codex about the speed of ships? That’s right, 12 lightyears per (day? hour? minute?). And that’s only the cruising speed, not the maximum speed.

    People have never needed to research basic FTL improvements before because they have mass relays. With the relays gone, new technology will increase that speed. Additionally, the element zero cores of the dead/controlled Reapers can be used to improve FTL drives. Starflight will continue using conventional FTL.”

    Guess that one is not as far fetched as initially assumed. According to Codex the Reapers travel at 30 light years a day, the diameter of the Milky Way is about 100,000 light years. That means with Reaper tech it would take about 9 years, still very long, but not impossible.

    http://social.bioware.com/forums/forum/1/topic/355/index/10943661/1
    http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/11158454

    These two threads describe the situation quite well, so the loss of the Mass Relay’s are indeed not the total end of galactic civilization, although the situation would be a complete mess.

    “-Did the mass relays pull an Arrival and go supernova?

    No, they didn’t. (i’m paraphrasing here, please don’t interpret this too hard) They overloaded, they didn’t rupture. We really didn’t mean to imply that the whole galaxy had been destroyed. People interpreted the ending in ways we really didn’t expect.”

    Well, this explanation is still nonsense, although we shouldn’t put too much into it since it was on the spot and probably not much thought out. That said, the cinematic with the relays exploding has to be changed. And overload still causes an explosion with waves of energy unleashed. That would not be different from the destruction of the Alpha Relay. It would be probably better to say that due to some reasons (Reaper / Citadel destroyed, or the signal of the Crucible triggering a failsafe) the relays are unoperationable for a certain period, or in case of synthesis or control completely ignore this.

    “-Why did Joker leave Shep behind?

    Joker would never abandon Shep without a good reason. Hopefully this will be clear in the Expanded Cut.”

    For this they would have to do quite a stretch of explanation. There is no way Joker would leave the battle, even if Shepard himself ordered him to do so. Furthermore it is absolutely senseless for crew members who were on Earth just a minute prior to appear on the Normandy. This entire scene should be cut…

    Apparently there was no comment on the Catalyst, and if this being is left in, no matter how much explaining they do, it will ruin a big part of the universe. My main concern with it is first, the problem of a very weak Deus ex Machina. The Crucible is still understandable, because there is no way to win conventionally, although it was introduced to late and in a very dubious fashion (on Mars, really? How the heck did these plans get there, I thought the Protheans ceased all observation on lesser species after the Reapers attacked?). Second, the logic it presents is, as already presented, absolutely crazy. Third, and my main concern, it crushes the idea of the Reapers. ME1 established the Reapers very well, as ruthless beings who manipulate species to develop according to their wishes, and once they hit a stage of development, harvest them for their own purposes. Now they are stupid machines controlled by an AI with a flawed logic…

    Well, it will be interesting to see what they will do, but I fear it will be disappoiting. At least I hope to get good scenes with my crew…

    1. Problem with Mass Relays is that in a story they were the means to avoid any problems with science. Wyrm Holes are great tool to dodge Einstein’s laws, here we had Mass Relays which in a way touched some of his works and were preatty neat idea.
      Their destruction brings the topic to the table. Even if we are able to travel with FTL, what about time dilatation? I’m not astrophisicist, but the greater the velocity, the greater time dilatation. “Ender’s Game” did well with this problem, but what will happen in ME? Another “artistic integrity” I presume.

    2. The things described in the interview would fit within established mass effect lore…though in answering some of the questions, more questions have been raised, such as:

      1: If they have a new fast form of FTL that would supersede the relays, how will they develop and implement this technology, given the destruction of infrastructure prevalent after the invasion?

      2: How will they mitigate issues like static buildup?

      3: Can this technology be developed and implemented in time to stop everyone from starving, incl. The victory fleet, colonies dependant on outside food and industry, stranded ships, and the normandy crew?

      4: What will be the political implications of the technology (as in: who get’s the first batch of FTL drives to get their people home)?

      As you can see, this one answer regarding new FTL drives asks four new questions that also need to be answered. This is why I think the things brought up in the interview reek of “contrivance”

    3. Also, for those new FTLs to be in anyway practical, you will have to add at least two zeros to that reaper cruising speed.

      1. I personally would prefer the relays simply being unfunctional for a certain period instead of destruction, at least if you choose to control the Reapers.

        But to be practical Reaper speed is still sufficient. With 30 light years a day you need 9 years to cross the entire galaxy, still pretty long, but not impossible. The problem is more with the discharge problem…

  5. While you may not want to think about ME3 again for a while to try and remove that horrible feeling from the pit of your stomach, I am seriously looking forward to seeing your opinion on their “extended ending” when that eventually comes out.

    Your analysis of the ending was spot on in my opinion and covered a major point that I was only just coming to realise, much to my dismay. This was that maybe a great ending, a revolutionary ending, existed in the mind of one of the writers at some point, but was never fully realised due to “limited resources”… damn publishers. If this is the case (I really hope so), maybe there are some bits of this true ending still floating around, and if the whole indoctrination theory is true then it would be the quickest way for them to pull together a full “explanation”. This is of course assuming they are now just picking up where they left off…

    If they don’t do that then they’re going to need a damn miracle.

    All I can do is speculate as it seems that none of the core development team is addressing the masses concerns directly. It would be nice to hear the straight truth of the matter, as unlikely as that is.

    No matter, I will not touch the DLC until I have read your initial reflection on it. I look forward to that and your other reviews!

    1. Oh I’ll definitely be making a blog post reviewing the Extended cut this summer, and I really hope I’m proven wrong and it turns out to be great, but I’m really doubting it.

  6. So, great thoughts on the whole thing. Your earlier analysis was particularly good. I just have one gripe. You’re pretty consistently using “its” where “it’s” is appropriate. For instance, in the line “its getting rave reviews” which should be “it’s getting rave reviews” because of “it is”. There’s also some there/their/they’re confusion. I’m not trying to be a jerk, I just thought you seemed the type who would want to know about that kind of thing.

    1. lol yeah, I’m terrible about interchanging its and it’s. I know the difference and where to use them but sometimes when I’m writing I think I’ve put the apostrophe in but really I haven’t. I’m also terrible at editing my own stuff because I already know what I meant to say, and my mind kind of autocorrects automatically when I read back through it. Thanks for pointing it out, I’ll fix it.

  7. Has anyone here read Revelation Space by Alistair Reynolds? Sure, generic human killing robotic space operas aren’t new, but i read these books before i placed Mass Effect and it added a whole new unintentional dimension. Infact when i first learned about the reapers I immediately drew comparisons to Revelation Space and got quite excited, even though the universe is quite different, the ‘reasons’ behind the Reapers were almost exactly the same as the Inhibitors. But Bioware didn’t bother giving a how or why to the Reapers.

    Thankfully, since i read this series (first published 7 years before Mass Effect 1 was released, no danger there) I can happily fill in the gaps with my own imagination, but that’s really a poor compromise.

  8. **Spoilers to mass effect here***

    My Shepherd prime… well, I played ME2 before ME1 so she had some really bad choices from ME1 to deal with. Beyond that though…

    The only one who died during his suicide mission was Thane Krios(Got his loyality but put him in charge of a fireteam. Figured they could use his steal and experience. Later realised he’s to used to working alone). It made me horrible sad, but when it happened I realised I couldn’t just reload. It wouldn’t be right. In ME3 one of the first thing I did when I got aboard the Normandy was go down to his old place in life support, remembering the “good times” so to speak.

    The Quarian/Geth thing was another part of ME3 I liked. It was especially nice because I felt like I had done so many stupid choices in the game, nearly all the ME1 automatic ones, and then during ME2 getting Thane killed, killing off the geth heretics, killing off the reaper larvae, etc. It felt like I had removed any ally or resource I could have against the reapers.

    Then in ME3 when I play it trough, I save both the geth and the quarians and broker peace between them. And yeah it’s some real hard work, but compared to the rest off the game it felt like childs play.

    My other favorite moment? Tuchanka. That whole sequence is just… flawless. Mordin Solus death was… so sad. I wanted him to live but… if he had to go in a heroic sacrifice, this was the only way to do it. “I am… the very.. model… of a…” *sniffle*

    (Eve lived. I had saved the necessary data. At least that puts half a check on the Krogans. Not a perfect ending… but it wasn’t a perfect world.)

    Goodbye you magnificent sean connery james bond reptilian doctor in space you. It was damned good to know you.

    My fav characters where Garrus and Mordin really, though I liked the lot of them, save for Kaiden.

    In the end I picked green cuz it sounded like the best shot for me to survive, and if we had the reapers nice and sweet the mass effect blowing up didn’t matter. But it was… green space magic. I can’t even go for the indoctrination theory, because we see the galaxy blowing up, the reapers getting controlled/leaving, Joker running away.

    Sigh. The blue I suppose can work. I’ll assume Shepard got uploaded into every reaper in the galaxy, and was upgraded to “The Shephard” much the same way we have “The Harbringer” or “The Sovereign”. A reincarnation more than a ressurection(like in ME2.)

    Hmm. Then either every reaper took “Their Shepherd” used her as the component which they reap, and makes a new reaper from her. Then this new reaper redefines their purpose and, after assisting with the rebuilding of galactic civilisation, leads her flock out into the darkness. (Majority of her friends being dead of old age, “reaped” into the new form, or busy with their own lives at this point)

    Alternatively she lives on in each of their nations, a lone process, twisting the entire conglomerate in a limited, but definite, fashion. Each Shepherd distinct, but also the same. Forging a… if not peace, if not understanding, at least some form of… truce between the galaxy and the reapers.

    … maybe stupid, but not as stupid as the green ending.

    1. In ME2 i suspected the reapers to “harvest” organics cause thats just the way they are reproducing themselves. They want their species to grow, to get more CPU power and so on. And of course power, keeping out concurrence. Fuck, that would have been ok. Really, ok, and if presented well, its great. But no, instead of giving us a good presentation and standard, but well thought out ending for this heroic epos, they gave us this underwhelming “sophisticated” ending, whcih pretends to be “intellectual”, just because it causes headaches…

  9. I loved the Rannoch story too, but i had Tali! and i see her cry over her planet, and take over the mask.
    And i also cry for the death of Legion, and all others character that i lost during the game.
    And for the sacrifice of Legion i made the decision to control the Reaper, only to preserve the Geth.

    I hate the part of Thessia because Bioware has accustomed me to: “We save all.”
    And there, the lost of a whole planet…
    But on the rest i agree with you 🙂

  10. So, let me get this straight. You’re going to refuse to buy Bioware’s future games until maybe they reach the $10 bargain bin just because you were dissatisfied with the ending of ONE of their games. That’s a little unfair, don’t you think? I liked your previous articles on Mass Effect 3 (even though I didn’t completely agree with them) but you were overreacting a little too much in this article. I’m glad that they’re sticking with their original vision and not selling out to the crowd. Anyways, in the end, these are all opinions.

    1. Well for me the ending of Mass Effect 3 speaks to a massive shift in focus on BioWare’s part from storytelling to more conventional gaming concerns, like including the apparently now required-in-all-games multiplayer component and abusive DLC policies (yay for on the disc DLC!). Plus, Dragon Age 2 I heard was a similar fiasco, though I never played it personally. It’s mostly because I know what to expect from EA Games, and I really don’t feel like putting up with it. I was willing to give Mass Effect 3 a spin because I was willing to give Bioware the benefit of the doubt, and they dropped the ball.

      Glad you enjoyed Mass Effect 3’s ending, though, and thanks for writing in! I don’t mind getting dissenting opinions!

  11. One other thing that annoys me. The mass effect 3 setting had a huge amount of fans. Much of the motivation is to save the galaxy and implicitly the setting which people have grown to know and love. The endings as presented all destroy this. Can we roleplay in it. Can we write extensive fanfics about what happens after the battle of earth. Can we make music or pictures, or have extensive discussions on how the world will progress. Can we even look forward to extra material after the invasion. Nope. The setting is gone and have been drastically altered. Much of the things that made the setting fun, species interacting with eachother, the military fanwank, the characters… there’s now to much distance between species for them to do anything else than talking to eachother, to much distance to conduct operations towards eachother, we have no idea what happens to any character who didn’t die no structure no nothing. Any future stories would also have this huge gulf between everyone to deal with. It’d be difficult to write any story that isn’t about how to deal with the explosion of the mass effect relays. The reapers killing everyone would have been a better ending, because while coming down to much the same thing, at least that would have made sense and been an actual ending. Not this halfassed amauterish stab att trying to be artsy.

  12. Thanks for all of these articles, they’ve been excellent and I hope we eventually find out what was going on behind the scenes at Bioware.

    My favourite moment was one that I haven’t read anyone else mention. The last thing I did before returning to Earth was to walk around the Normandy, talking to each character. Last of all, I spoke to Joker. In his conversation, he asked me if I remembered the first flight I’d been on with him, going to Eden Prime with Nihlus. He pointed out that he had said back then that he reckoned it would be bigger mission than it seemed.

    Just hearing Nihlus’ name again helped to remind me what a very, very long time it had taken me to get that far, and how it had all been building up to the final mission that I was about to start. When Joker stood up to salute and say what an honour it had been, he was one of the characters that it meant the most to hear that from.

    Good thing they didn’t squander all that buildup, eh?

    1. I totally agree with this. That has got to be one of my fondest memories from the very end. I was also really glad that they included that conversation with Joker because it put it all in perspective and reminded you of where you had come from and what you had become. In a way it is a testament to the greatness that Bioware was able to achieve over the trilogy.

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