Extended Cut: Extended Review


So I’ve spent the last few days thoroughly chewing on Bioware’s Extended Cut, and now it’s time to spit out the masticated remains and pick through them. We’re going to see where the Extended Cut went right, where it went wrong, and where it somehow managed to make things even worse.

While overall I was very impressed with the new endings, I was impressed in the same way that morticians impress me by making corpses look like healthy sleeping people. The Extended Cut doesn’t bring Mass Effect 3’s ending back from the dead, but makes it presentable enough that we can mourn over the coffin and remember better days.

Let’s look at what the Extended Cut tried to fix and see where it worked and where it didn’t.

Character Resolution

It’s Good Because…

We actually get some character resolution this time around. The cardinal sin of the original endings was leaving the players with absolutely no resolution for the characters we had grown to love, and in the face of that horrific fact, any resolution at all seems like a godsend.

The Memorial Wall scene was very well done; it was somber without being depressing, and emotional without being overly sentimental. It was the simple act of hanging Shepard’s name under Anderson’s that really let me decompress, and say goodbye to a character I’ve helped shape over three games. In addition, the inclusion of a slideshow showing us our companions returning to their homes and loved ones was a nice touch.

And Yet…

They could have, and should have, done so much more. For instance we never get to see any of the characters from Mass Effect 1 or 2, and it wouldn’t have been all that difficult to integrate that into the new endings. I mean for some strange reason Bioware decided to give us a new scene of two nameless dudes struggling against a horde of husks, would it really have been so difficult for it to be Miranda and Jack fighting here? Or Wrex and Grunt fighting back to back, how epic would that be? All of these characters are already on the planet, you get to talk to them before the final fight, and would have added a lot of emotional impact to the scene. It really baffles me that Bioware instead opted to stick two generic NPCs into that scene because it doesn’t seem like it would have been that hard to simply replace those models with those of known characters.

I like to imagine the Husk is screaming “WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE!?”

I also find it interesting that Bioware even kept the whole Normandy Crashing scene in the extended cuts, it was only a ten second clip, hardly a huge loss to simply write that off as the stupid and unnecessary scene that it was. There is no real reason to show Normandy crashing on some alien planet somewhere, and in fact it detracts from the overall goal of the game, which was to save Earth. In my opinion it would have been a much better ending had Normandy simply crash landed on Earth following the firing of the Crucible. The crew would step out to see the devastated remains of their home, and for a brief moment it would feel like it was all for nothing, but then you’d see someone emerge from the rubble. And then another. Until the Normandy is being swarmed by the celebrating survivors of Hammer group and even refugees who have been hiding since the invasion began.

This would also allow the characters from Mass Effect 1 and 2 to be present at the Memorial Wall Scene, since they’re still on Earth. We get to see the characters of all three games come together to mourn their common loss. None of this was beyond doing, and wouldn’t have changed the endings thematically, but instead simply made them deeper and more satisfying. The whole plot of the game revolved around getting help for Earth, the tagline for Mass Effect 3 was “Take Earth Back”. Yet as it stands now, neither the Extended Cut nor Original endings, ever really show us Earth being saved. The last time we see Earth is in the charred remains of London. Had they gone with the Normandy crashing on Earth, instead of Normandy taking off from some unknown planet for a final scene, we’d have the Normandy taking off from Earth while below them huge cranes and other heavy machinery begin the slow process of rebuilding their home. And they could have even taken it a step further and actually showed the Normandy returning our alien companions to their various homeworlds. Rather than a slide show we’d see the Normandy flying through the atmosphere of the many planets we’d visited over the years: Tuchanka, Paloven, Thessia…

Or some unknown planet we don’t give a damn about…

Yes, this would have required a lot more effort and time, but frankly I think they should have made the effort. A truly cathartic ending would have done a lot to diffuse the horrific conclusion to the plot of Mass Effect…

Plot Resolution

As I said in my  original review, the plot of Mass Effect was always a secondary attraction for me, it was the characters that truly sparked my imagination and captured my heart. That said, however, that doesn’t mean I’m willing to accept a horrific plot resolution like the one presented in the Extended Cut. At least, not without complaint:

It’s Good Because…

The expanded endings do help resolve the plot by simple virtue of actually explaining what’s going on. As I said last week, Control was always the ending that evaded my understanding because the game never bothered to give us an explanation as to the specifics of what was happening. It was also the Illusive Man’s plan and I’ll be damned if I’m going to do anything he suggests…

Even if he does have Martin Sheen’s voice…

And Yet…

I’ve seen a lot of reviews of the Extended Cut stating that the new endings do a good job of tying up loose ends and plugging holes. I’m forced to disagree. Part of the reason I liked the Extended Cut endings so much is that they all focused on the characters, Joker’s reluctance to leave, the crew’s memorial for Shepard, and the narrations by various characters. These were all top priority for me, and the fact that they’re now fixed is what made the Extended Cut such a success for me. However, what the Extended Cut didn’t address were the various inconsistencies in the plot and loose ends left waving in the wind.

For instance, remember on Horizon where we find out that Cerberus has managed to disrupt Reaper signals on the ground? The new endings don’t do anything to address this critical plot point, it’s simply dropped and never referred to again. Which is a shame because it wouldn’t have been that hard to integrate it into the ending, and given us a believable reason for why your crew manages to get away.

Instead of having a stupid impromptu pause right in the middle of a desperate charge for the citadel beam, we could have  a brief bit of dialogue stating that more Reaper infantry are closing in on the flanks of Hammer group and if someone doesn’t stop them, Hammer won’t be able to charge for the beam. Then we get one of our teammates spouting some technobabble about using the interference signal to hold off the Reapers. We make the charge alone, and our teammates extract via the Normandy afterward.

And speaking of that suicidal charge to the Citadel Beam, the new evacuation scene just adds more plotholes into an ending that already resembles a chain-link fence. For those who haven’t seen it:

I originally praised this scene because it felt visceral, desperate and real. That suicidal charge to the beam was one of the most intense moments that I can remember in a video game and was a brilliant final flourish before the ending unraveled before my eyes. Unfortunately the new Extended Cut ruins this scene completely and in the process opens up a huge new plothole:

Why the fuck are we charging across open ground to the citadel beam when the Normandy can apparently just swoop right in?

The whole reason that we fought this costly urban battle, which probably claimed thousands of lives in mere hours, was because getting to the citadel beam via the air was supposed to be impossible. The suicidal charge further illustrated that point as Harbinger’s beams knocked gunships out of the air during our final dash. Now we’re treated to a scene of our team desperately charging across the field, Harbinger laying waste to everything in his line of sight and incinerating soldiers by the dozens and then…time out! 

Hold up a sec, big guy, we gotta evac these characters and allow for a cheesy final romance scene! Just…just hold up on the slaughter for one sec.

“Awww, that’s so sweet!”

And then…RESUME!

Harbinger gracefully allows the Normandy to depart before restarting his unstoppable rampage of destruction. Man, is Harbinger a good sport or what?

This whole scene completely undermines the desperation and despair that the original scene imparted so perfectly. That alone makes this addition terrible, but the gigantic plot hole left over is even worse. You think the Normandy could have at least dropped Shepard off at the citadel beam, they practically fly right past it!

Thanks for nothing assholes!

I Still Like the Extended Cut

But it’s okay if you don’t…

So a lot of you wrote in and said you still weren’t happy with the endings, and you know what? That’s okay. No really, it is.  After five years and 180 dollars invested in this series, not being satisfied with this patched up ending is perfectly understandable. As I said last wednesday, I’m allowing myself to be fooled by the endings. I want to like the endings, so I just choose to bury all the flaws in the back of my mind. I’m making a concious choice to ignore all the errors because at least now I have that choice, since Bioware has done a good enough job patching the ending into something where I can find something good to hang onto. However I don’t think anyone out there should feel obligated to like these endings, nor do I think you’re “entitled” for not liking them.

We all deserved something better. This series deserved something better. The characters deserved something better.

But the fact is that this is all we’re going to get, so I choose to make the best of it, but that doesn’t mean you have to. In fact I think we should all keep bitching about Mass Effect 3’s ending until EA inevitably kills Bioware, like it does with all of its properties. I think Bioware should keep this disaster at the front of their mind so that they don’t repeat this mistake with any other franchise…

Because if they screw up Dragon Age, so help me I’m going to go Shale on their asses and start squishing EA executives.
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21 thoughts on “Extended Cut: Extended Review”

  1. How dare you try and defend the EC! RAAAAGGGEEE… just kidding 😛

    Actually, I really have nothing to add to what you said, as I happen to agree, and feel the same way regarding the EC. On the whole, I think that even with the EC, the ending is still pretty weak for such a good trilogy.

  2. I don’t think DA2 was bad; just very, very different compared to DA: Origins (One thing I really gets me is the fact they went with the unoriginal title Dragon Age 2 rather than Dragon Age: Insert Subtitle Here). To be fair, the second part of a trilogy always seems like the awkward child because it’s technically filler between the beginning and the end, but BW could have done a lot better job of relating it back to the first part. Anyways, just like I did with DA2 and what you’re doing, I’m going to over look the flaws in the Extended Cut but I won’t forget. I might just write a letter to them describing what I did and didn’t like about the EC and the guillotine that’s hanging between them and my wallet if they mess up Dragon Age 3. I normally I would feel bad if a company like what BioWare used to be would go out of business but EA took their soul and they’re probably just a husk of their form fan-based game company self. I felt a bit bad for that former major league baseball player who sunk his fortune into his own game company and is now bankrupted. Then again, I played Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, it’s pretty and all but it plays too much like a single player version of World of Warcraft and in my opinion, his studio made the mistake of letting EA publishing their first release. EA just messes up everything it touches…let’s hope they don’t decide to get into some type of health through video game industry.

    1. I enjoyed Dragon Age 2 because it was a different story than Dragon Age. Rather than have sprawling “need to cross the world and back again” epic, it was a more localized story. This city has become your home, and everything you do affects it. You actually get the feeling that you have become someone of influence, and your decisions affect the people living there. There is a feeling of the passage of time as your gain all your levels and power, rather than “in the span of a few weeks, I’ve gone from hanging out at home to be a destroyer of worlds”. (Tangent: The quickest I played through Shadows of Amn was about 67 days game time. With the level cap turned off for that game, went from a 7/8 Fighter-Thief to 21/24 Fighter-Thief. It was epic, sure, but when I thought about it, kind of felt weird. In two months, my character was one of the most powerful people on the planet.) DA2 made me feel like my character was *important* in this city. I enjoyed that. Like a life was being lived, not a plot being finished.

      1. I do understand that DA2 was different than DA:O. I have played both of them. But just because it is different it doesn’t mean it is good. You feel you’re important, but there is seriously no plot at all (actually I think the only well done plot was chapter 2) but rather a series of subplots so hard to believe.

        The idea jumping years between each chapter is good and gave a few interesting sub-quests (in specific: the killer of ladies sub-quest), but they should have spent a bit more time polishing and joining all pieces rather than the disaster of story the game is.

  3. > I like to imagine the Husk is screaming “WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE!?”
    That’s just epic 🙂 Very nice idea about Shepard’s friends fighting with husks in that scene
    instead of two noname, never thought about it.
    As always excelent review, thanks and hello from Russian readers.
    P.S. Sorry for my English.

    1. No worries about your english, it’s quite good. Glad you enjoyed the review! I’m surprised how many readers I have in Russia actually, the stat tracker on WordPress lets me see how many commenters I get from each country. Russia is usually #2 on the list, beating out the UK and just under America. It’s pretty cool to have an international following like that!

  4. Very funny 😀
    especially the thing with “you are free” 😀
    If you are from germany like me, you need to use a proxy because the GEMA has blocked the video due to the use of copyrighted music -.-
    I used this one:
    http://hidemyass.com/youtube-proxy/

    When using the proxyservice, dont try to skip forward or backward, because the video will then just start anew!

    1. Very well done review on his part! I agree with most of his stuff as well, though I wouldn’t have included the
      evacuation scene in the Good Stuff portion :P. Just opens up too many plot holes and seems too forced.Thanks for sending me that video.

  5. I agree with your extended review. The extended ending doesn’t leave me completely dissatisfied and unable to go through a second play through like the original.

    I have four Sheppards, got the game at the midnight release and only played through ONCE. I simply saw no point because I had the distinct feeling that nothing I did made any difference. Everyone was going to die at worst or at best have no resolution.

    The new endings cure that problem for me. I want to conclude other play throughs. In addition, even though I decided in advance to choose control (I was out of town for the EC but watched it on the Internet) I felt different when in that particular Sheppard’s mindset after goin through all the dialogue options and went with Synthesis. I think I will feel different with my next Sheppard.

    The EC still has glaring logic flaws. Casper is an abomination. They did repair some damage. You do not see the wings being blown off Normandy like in the original so a crash landing they fly away from is more plausible. Normandy swooping in next to the beam was stupid, better to have your squad mates pull back by ground vehicle to be evacuated. I still don’t know how Anderson beat me to a room with ONE entrance (look at it when you get there) without seein him.

    All of that though doesn’t destroy the end like the old, unresolved ending. I may not be thrilled with the ending but now it is only a misstep as opposed to the writing equivalent to a murder-suicide.

    Speaking of unresolved endings… Too often writers use them trying to look brilliant and only result in pissing off the fans invested in their story. The best “unresolved” endings aren’t. Pulp Fiction and Resevoir Dogs are excellent examples of this. Both appear unresolved but even without showing us we understand what is to come and draw closure from it. You need to leave a resolution for the audience because the resolution is part of the story. No resolution means the creator did not deliver all they were paid for. The resolution need not be nice or on a silver platter but it needs to be there. You may have to think about it to get the resolution but you shouldn’t have it so complex that people need to invent theories to solve it (Indoctination Theory). Even the Arnold classic Total Recall resolved the story you were invested in while leaving the possibility that this was all in his head open. The characters of Mars that you were exposed to all had their conclusions drawn for good or bad. Perhaps they were real or perhaps fake but our connection to them was real so we cheered when the Ironside’s arms came off and the resistance was victorious.

    Done so-so and you split the audience with the critics supporting you but many of the public scratching their heads. No Country for Old Men and The Sopranos land here. I accepted the endings of both but thought there was room for improvement. There was too much emphasis on there bein a possible hit on Tony when the door opens and fades to black. End it with a pan out on them eating. Life goes on and we all know Tony may get eliminated but let us end the series as it started, with a family living their lives but in a slightly different fashion than most. We do not need to sit on edge wondering if Tony and possibly his whole family are going to get slaughterred over pasta. The ending tried to be too edgy and pissed off most fans. No Coutry For Old Men had no need of a car accident in the end. It openend up questions which had nothing to do with the story then did nothing with them. I would have been fine with Barden driving off out of town and Jones’ dejected retirement. It didn’t have to be a happy ending and evil could continue to exist. Any time you have an unhappy ending people will be split but the accident only mucked it up.

    Done incorrectly and it will outrage people. I watched the movie Limbo on a transatlantic flight. After two hours the ending came and… Fade to grey. You heard almost half the plane curse or groan. You had become tied emotionally to these characters for the whole movie and it ends with no indication whatsoever regarding their fates. The only bright point was hearing the remaining passengers groan and curse after they caught the second play through. That was the original ME3 ending but extended from 2 hours investment to 100+ an as muh as $200. No wonder people were pissed.

    1. Yes, exactly! Well said.

      Glad you brought up No Country for Old Men, because when I originally saw it I didn’t know it was based on a book. The ending completely baffled me, because like you say, the car accident scene seems to imply the story is going somewhere from there but instead it just cuts to the ending. It made the whole thing feel like it came out of left field.

      1. He also wrote The Road and I liked but didn’t enjoy both the book and movie. I say liked but didn’t enjoy because it hit me so deeply. I am a father with a 10 year old daughter and 5 year old son. The visceral feelings I had told me only a parent could write such pain and dedication and I couldn’t help but consider being in such a situation with my child. That was not a good feeling but I have incredible respect for an author who can draw such emotion from a reader.

        That story also ends somewhat unresolved. You do not know if the world will get better, if the character will live long, you only know that their love and pain bought an opportunity to carry on. It is a bleak story, powerful, sad and thoroughly engaging. Both movie and book are highly reccomended but DO NOT use this movie as a relaxing date night with your significant other. It will slaughter any mood.

        Sorry for any funky typing errors; curse of the iPhone.

  6. Since the EC came out, I have been bashed and cursed at for not praising the fact that Bioware game us something free. Once again your response illuminates my biggest frustrations and validates my continued dissatisfaction. Frankly I’m glad that many are satisfied by the DLC, unfortunately I cannot join all of you since I still cannot wrap my head around the gaping plotholes. I will continue in my fantasy that IT is still plausible and continue holding my wallet.

  7. It is strange, when they decided to make a trilogy, I always thought they had the whole story planned, from start to beginning. But apparently they were making it up as they went along.

    That is strange.

    Is it also true that a single person wrote the ending by himself? That is also strange. What if Eisenhower had said: Screw you guys, I am going to plan the invasion of normandy all by myself. None of you can help.

    I dont think we would have gotten a very good invasion then.

    A project as large as Mass effect, should not have been left in the hands of a single person, because a project as large as this requires the mind and work of several persons.

    If it is true, that a single person wrote it. I do not know for certain, but many sources state this as fact.

    Hey, another plothole:
    Harbinger flips a Mako. That is impossible. 😉

    From Sweden, btw.

    1. Indeed, the Mako cannot be on its back. Its physically impossible :P.

      Yeah, the smart thing to do would be to plan out the entire trilogy before you start making it. Maybe that’s even what Bioware did, but got rewritten after being purchased by EA. Who knows.

      Thanks for reading, it’s awesome having such an international following!

  8. The nameless soldiers scene is pre-rendered, as most of the EC is, so having it be any combination of your past squadmates would have meant making a lot of different scenes for different combinations of who was still alive at this point. As it is, the EC barely makes it under the space restrictions for the consoles, so this couldn’t happen and it would indeed be a lot of work to do it that way.

    Now, why did they do the scene at all and isn’t it redundant to the scene that was already there that plays immediately before it? That, I don’t know.

  9. Yeah, there is a plot-hole, but not one that can’t be explained away anyhow.

    For instance, when the Normandy zooms in, Harbinger get’s a message from the Catalyst guy- “leave them be. I need Shepard alive.” ‘Cause since they’re already charging towards the Citadel, the Catalyst can smell the eventual end of his Reaper plan from a mile off, and would much rather Shepard and he worked on a better resolution. Harbinger pauses, and thinks…hmm…interesting words from God. He’s God, I cannot defy His will. Then the Normandy, which obviously doesn’t know about any of this shit and is already zooming out, with Joker wondering “Did I actually just do that? I should be dead!”

    Then Harbinger decides to blast a couple more troops outta the water “just to make it look more convincing. I’m pretty sure these guys might get suspicious or something…” and unintentionally wounds Shepard, though his beams are deliberately weak, that’s why nobody really dies.

    You see, the Catalyst made up its mind to end the cycle right then, when Shepard was saying goodbye to her loved one. THAT was the turning point.

    1. Every TV show or movie has plot holes. A plot hole free script doesn’t exist. Don’t expect everything to be perfect. The people who made this game are human just like you. They aren’t perfect and neither is the stuff they make. You need to spare your sixth grade Michael Moore utopian logic and start living in the real world.

      I spent 202 episodes watching X-Files over 9 seasons and all they showed was what happened to Mulder and Scully. They didn’t show me what happened to Doggett or Reyes or every single character who were still alive at the end of the series (eg. Skinner, Marita, Gibson, plus countless others).

      You know what, I didn’t complain about it either. I guess I just don’t have these insane expectations of games or TV shows like some people do. Not every movie, TV show or game has to end like Lord of the Rings which spells out everything, and ties up every single loose end and leaves no stone left unturned. You got answers to pretty much every single thing that has taken place during the course of three games.

      Just because you weren’t spoon fed all the answers doesn’t make it a bad ending. They wanted an ending that people could talk about. So if people wanted all the loose ends tied up, this game is not for you. You are not the target audience, no matter how much in love you are with the game.

      In Mass Effect’s case, the main character is Shepard, and you did get closure for Shepard. Maybe not the kind you wanted. Wrex is not a main character, because, say if he dies in Mass Effect 1 he won’t show up in the second or third game.

      All those characters were just along for the ride, and there is a potential for 11-12 of them not showing up if they all died on the suicide mission in Mass Effect 2.

      http://en.twitch.tv/spoonyone/b/312765460?t=5m43s

      http://en.twitch.tv/spoonyone/b/312765460?t=17m15s

      1. Hi, thanks for writing in. Like I said in the review I thought the extended cut was a big improvement over the original, simply because it provided closure. I also understand that plot holes happen, I just felt the Normandy extraction of your team was a very obvious one since its flying in front of Harbinger and his rapid fire beam. It would have been easier for them to agree to return to the base in the tank before the beam rush and have the extraction off screen.

        I’ve also stated that if you enjoy the ending then good for you, I have nothing against people who enjoyed the ending and I’m not telling them they’re wrong for enjoying it. We all bring our own perspectives to the stories we experience. That said I wrote this for the people like me who didn’t enjoy the ending, and I’d ask you keep an open mind about why we don’t like it.

        I wasn’t asking for the answers to be spoonfed me, as I said in my original review I didn’t want to know why the Reapers were wiping sentients out every 50000 year. Their near omnipotent intelligence and unknowable motives are part of what made them such a great villain. Instead Bioware gave us the God AI that is basically Skynet and some horrible “logic” to back it up. If anyone was throwing sixth grade logic in there, it was bioware not me.

        I’m not blaming Biowares writers, Mass Effect 3 had some of the best writing in the series aside from the ending. The blame lies with EAs 1-year release schedule and must-have multiplayer crap. And you’re right everyone makes mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you don’t call them out on their mistakes, otherwise nothing improves.

        The great thing about Mass Effect and games like it is that you get as much out of it as you want to. For you the other characters were just along for the ride; for me Garrus had been a character I’d gotten to know through three games, he was the Scully to my Mulder to use your metaphor. Shepard was the protagonist yes but he wasn’t the only main character, at least not to me.

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