Monday, March 12, 2012

Mass Effect 3: Endings (Spoilers!)

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the ending of Mass Effect 3.

99% of Mass Effect 3 is amazing, beautiful, outstanding, and superbly-written. 1% is a horrific travesty. Unfortunately, that 1% is the ending.

(The rest is below the break to avoid spoilers.)




Warning: This post contains spoilers for the ending of Mass Effect 3.


The ending of Mass Effect 3 makes no intellectual sense. Even worse, it makes no emotional sense.

It is odd that you can predict the exact single point where a game goes off the rails. It's during the Battle for Earth. Your fleets have jumped in, you're making a ground assault on the transport to the Citadel. You've just killed the Reaper guarding it and and running for the transport. Then a Reaper lands and starts blasting away at the troops rushing the transport, killing them as you run. This sequence is superb. Then, as you near the transport, the Reaper beam hits you.

ME3 is amazing up to that specific point, building to a crescendo. Everything after that point is terrible.

You regain consciousness, limp to the transport with a single pistol and transport up to the Citadel (which is now a charnel house).

Speaking of the Citadel, this is another bad decision. You spent a great deal of time on the Citadel, with lots of quests and NPCs and stories. Then the Citadel gets captured and all those people get killed, off-screen. A complete waste of all that time building bonds.

Anyways, you limp to a confrontation with the Illusive Man, who is indoctrinated, and who forces you to shoot Anderson. You have to have pretty much a perfect Paragon rating to get the Paragon dialogue option. I only made two Renegade decisions the entire game (and quite frankly, I think one was a bug), and I could not unlock it.  That means you have to take a Renegade action to shoot the Illusive Man before he kills Anderson, or before he kills you.

Then you get ported up to the top of the Citadel where you meet an energy being posing as a small child (always a sign of bad writing).  The energy being tells you that he controls the Reapers, which are a synthetic life form.

Apparently, it is necessary for these synthetic life forms to kill all advanced organic life forms, because otherwise, the organic life forms will create new synthetic life forms which will kill all organic life forms.

What the F**k?

Clearly, this is why children should not be given god-like power before mastering basic logic.

Of course, this might have worked if it had been set up in the game previously. But no. You encounter three species of synthetic life forms in the game: EDI, the Reapers, and the Geth. EDI is a loyal and valued crew member who has even fallen in love with Joker. You've just finished brokering a major peace treaty between the Geth and Quarians, and the Geth are your allies, with Legion sacrificing himself to aid you.

In fact, pretty much the only instance of synthetics not working with organics is the Reapers, which are under this god-brat's control. Everywhere else in the galaxy, synthetics and organics get along reasonably.

So god-brat offers you three choices. First, you can destroy the Reapers, but you'll also destroy EDI and the Geth. Apparently tech good enough to build the Reapers and Mass Relays can't differentiate between types of synthetic life forms.

Second, you can control the Reapers, but you die in the process. I.e. The Illusive Man ending. But the problem with the Illusive Man controlling the Reapers is that you couldn't trust him with that much power after the end of the immediate threat. What does control mean when the controller is dead and gone? Maybe you can order the Reapers to fly into the sun. How this differentiates from the destroy ending is anybody's guess. I think this also does bad things to EDI and the Geth, because EDI doesn't show up in the final cutscene.

Finally, you can do some sort of wacky synthesis, where you re-write the DNA of every organic and synthetic life-form in the galaxy to combine them into hybrids. Then they all live in peace and harmony. EDI survives in this ending.

Oh, and no matter what you do, this destroys the mass relays, ending galactic civilization as we know it. At worst, billions of lives are snuffed out because blowing up relays took out star systems in the previous game. At best, there's just plague and famine as colonies, refugees, and ships are cut off from their homeworlds.

I really do not understand how the same people who wrote the rest of the game wrote this ending. The rest of the game is pitch-perfect. I loved the first 99%. Even the ending sequence is magnificent, right up until that Reaper beam hits you.

It's like the writers felt that writing the ending the game deserved, that it was leading up to, was too "juvenile". That they need to make a twist, to introduce extra moral ambiguity.  That giving a rousing, triumphant ending wasn't "adult" enough. Basically, the writers tried to be too clever, and they failed, and so damaged the game as a whole.

If so, that was a travesty of a decision.

Honestly, I would love to see Bioware re-write and re-release an ending. Release it as an expansion pack or DLC. They can say that the current ending is a dream sequence or attempt at Reaper indoctrination. There's enough ambiguity (no UI, odd effects) that this could be reasonable.

Give the Mass Effect series the ending it deserves.

28 comments:

Clockwork said...

Right there with you, was writing a post on it myself about all the ways it falls flat on its face...really disappointing, they didn't really need to revolutionize the world, even the predictable ending (Shepard stops reapers, everyone is happy) and an epilogue that made it feel like what you did in the game meant something would have worked perfectly.

Azuriel said...

I just finished it about two hours ago, and am similarly appalled.

I was even fine with events after the beam. The first thing I thought was "Well, I should probably reload so I didn't take my two favorite characters (Liara + EDI) with me," but their dead bodies were nowhere to be seen ("No one made it.") nor were they referenced. Oh, but they appeared in the ending cinematic...?

Where was Joker and the Normandy trying to go? What will all those Quarians and Turian and Krogan people eat, trapped in the Sol system? What happens to the remaining Earth forces when the Citadel comes crashing down? Is space travel even possible without VI? If synthesis was the "solution," why wasn't it selected eons ago? What was the point of having Harbinger be a "character" that simply doesn't exist in ME3? If the Reapers could control the Citadel all along (enough to move it without difficulty), why didn't they do that to begin with? Wasn't the point of warping to the Citadel to wipe out civilizations' hierarchies?

I'm fine with hard endings, provided they fit the narrative. My first ending of Silent Hill 2 consisted of me driving into a lake and drowning myself. That more or less fit. Mass Effect's ending did not.

All that being said... Christ, no, don't suggest "real ending" DLC. Can you imagine the precedent that would make?

Anonymous said...

just ignore it and write/think of a fanfic ending that you like.

Anonymous said...

"Honestly, I would love to see Bioware re-write and re-release an ending. Release it as an expansion pack or DLC."

Yeah? And pay for that expansion or DLC so they can earn money for something they should do for free? Because of opinions/thinking this way they can proceed to cut parts of the game ( like with Protean DLC ) and sell them to earn even more money. Tbh after that thing with cutting out protean from the game and giving him in DLC I will never buy bioware game again.

Dinte said...

On top of the endings making no sense, I felt that the whole sequence was a 180 from the emotional goals of the rest of the game. You meet all your old friends, get some closure on their story lines, and make some hard decisions. It was incredibly satisfying to see Jack grow up a little, to see Grunt find a place in Krogan society, to to see a lot of the minor character like Kirahe respond to your actions. And don't get me started on Mordin's fate. Tears were shed.

And then the end. It doesn't acknowledge anything you've done. It doesn't show Shepard's personality or conviction. Most unforgivably, it doesn't show any of the consequences of your actions. How hard would it be to show Joker, Hackett, and the rest of the fleet realizing that they've won but are now stuck? Give us a hint as to what the Reapers do after synthesis/control? Or at least confirm whether or not everyone in orbit dies from the destruction of technology? Not very.

I get that Bioware probably wants to move on to other IP. Killing Shepard was pretty inevitable from my point of view, and destroying the relays is a really good way to close the book for good. But at least show me that those characters that I've become attached to and survive realize what's going on and plan to continue. And no, having the characters I got vaporized with me in London step out of the crashed Normandy doesn't count.

But I still can't get over how good the game was, minus the last 15 minutes. So good.

Dinte said...

In short, what I'm trying to say is that the rest of the game is so full of wonderful reunions and closure that you're led to expect it from the ending, and it isn't there.

Skyve said...

I honestly and wholeheartedly agree with almost everyhing in this post except the urge to buy a DLC or expansion.

Would you really want the companies such as Bioware, Blizzard and Valve follow that example of writing a horrible conclusion to a story and then selling you a slightly more fulfilling one?

Dylan said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I'd like to add that it's an additional slap in the face that ALL 3 ENDINGS are almost identical, except for a color swap. Green, blue, or orange: In a series based around choices mattering, that's the only choice we get at the end.

Craig said...

I looked up all of the different endings. There are basically three variables, and they're based on your galactic readiness score and the choice you make at the end.

1) Whether or not Earth is saved
2) Which choice you make (ie, color of explosion/beam)
3) Whether or not Shepard lives

The ending does not match any of the themes or narrative. Shepard is not allowed to talk his or her way out of it (this is what paragon Shepard DOES for pity's sake). Your squad mates are not there with you (all of that character building and they're just snuffed out like nothing). Etc, etc.

I don't think the catalyst is actually a child, it just took that appearance. The developers were trying to make it relatable or something, because those slow-motion dream sequences were awesome and compelling, amirite?

Rohan said...

@Dinte, exactly! Some of the work with the ME2 companions was really good. Thane, Samara, Legion, Urdnot Wrex, Grunt. Everything before the ending had excellent emotional connections.

As for expansion/DLC, here's the way I look at it:

The current ME3 ending is a mistake. The mistake should be fixed. Ideally, the fix would be free.

But it's really not likely that EA would authorize that, even to preserve Bioware's reputation. Making new content does cost money. So the best compromise is DLC.

AC said...

....I could not believe my ears when I heard the endings explained by this child like god. I thought I was processing incorrectly because no matter what you do you technically have no choice. You do one of the three things it tells you and you die regardless. It makes sense for Shep to die for closure but this ending is just lazy. I would have been more amazed if Samara came from nowhere and basically used her biotics to make the god like thing do as we pleased. But this, just makes you wonder about where games are headed when you get a product that pulls you in and lets you down and for what? WE BASICALLY DID ALL THIS MESS FOR NOTHING IN THE GAME IF THESE CHOICES WERE ALL WE HAD!

Anonymous said...

Who gives two shits if you have to pay for the DLC. Sure it would be morally and ethically correct for it be free but it's not the real ending they made. Don't get me wrong I've finished the game twice to see if it changed it blows so much ass you could put it on redtube. You want them to write another ending I'm happy to fucking pay for it, because I want it.

Anonymous said...

pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeasssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!make another ending i just finished the game and sat there for 10 minuites waiting for the REAL ending i thought it was a joke or a dreaaammm i couldn't believe it!!!i hope they fix this..:(

Unknown said...

100% agreed on your post.

The kid's logic makes no sense whatsoever. And not only the synthetics-killing-organics-to-save-organics-from-being-killed-by-synthetics part. Back in Mass Effect 1 they established that the Reapers cretaed the Mass Relays and ensured that life and technology would always develop through certain pathways in every cycle; it's logic and should be self-evident that similar problems would arise as well, like AIs going rogue.

Why Shepard meekly accepts this braindead logic and complies with whatever options Reaper Prime (cretaor and controller of all Reapers; i.e. the Bad Guy) lays down before him/her is beyond me. Any Shepard, Paragon or Renegade, would tell the kid to cut the BS, stop playing god and leave the galaxy well alone, letting people make their own decisions and own up to their own mistakes. If this leads to war with synthetics, so be it.

I still enjoyed the 3 games inmensely, and I'm on my New Game + right now. But I think maybe this time I will stop playing right before the ending sequence starts.

Anonymous said...

Like everyone here, I am gutted by the end, Bioware has taken us on a ride, we bought into it, for 5 years, playing this angle and that angle to have differing saves to hopefully make the RIGHT choices in the end.

What we got in the end, was a kick in the teeth, Bioware must be lasughing all the way to the bank, whislt we ALL have been fucked over by them.

DLC, new ending, we should throw the gauntlet to them, fix this total FUCK UP, for free, or NEVER buy another BIoware game, PERIOD.

Bioware go fuck yoiurselves.

Leah said...

Rohan. my darling! sorry if I'm being to familiar. but you should join our movement. # retakemasseffect we are on facebook and twitter, we've been posting our opinions and suggestions on Bioware social network. the ending is bad. and it needs to be fixed. and the important thing here is not to give in to PR speak and to quote a certain major "hold the line!" :P

seriously though - join us! http://www.facebook.com/DemandABetterEndingToMassEffect3

P.S. the reason why you didn't have an opportunity to persuade TIM was not becasue of imperfect paragon score. you need maxed out reputation of any sort, but most importantly, you needed to have passed persuasion checks with him in every single conversation, starting with Mars. if you didn't use persuasion option there, and/or during second convo - it doesn't matter how high your score is, you wouldn't be able to save Anderson. one thing they did right was change how paragon/renegade/reputation works, you are no longer locked into specific alignment.

Milady said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Well, perhaps not with the DLC part. Do you really think there could be a solution that doesn't involve retconning? Wouldn't this DLC produce the effect of a disjointed patchwork? I think we should see past the game and accept it for its successes and failures, because nothing good could came of a glued epilogue.

Honestly, I'm convinced that Bioware's writing quality has decreased since they became a big name. What they have retained and even improved is the level of sensationalism and emotional impact (right at the Garrus shooting scene, over-the-top at the child's epiphanies; it requires finesse to draw the line between suggesting and gorging on emotion, and this last game hasn't made it for me).

Anjin said...

I waited until I finished the game before I read your post. I've come back to let you know that I agree with you. The ending is so poor that it taints my feelings about the entire series. It's sad how badly they've dropped this ball.

Hyperian said...

That’s because the ending was an ending. Not necessarily the series finale. Anyone ever heard of "To be continued......." Did people swear off Back to the Future because it didn’t end exactly the way they wanted or that they had to wait two years to find out what happened to Doc? Watch the "Sheppard Indoctrination Theory" It will show that people have been over reacting, and the reason they won’t agree to make new endings is because if they do the magic and mystery will be gone. Just like why a magician doesn’t tell the audience how the tricked worked, cause the secret doesn’t impress anyone, the trick you use it for does (and yes that’s a quote from The Prestige).

Smilingwolf said...

I felt the end sequence to be satisfying up until the three choices as well....

I feel the reason Shepard didn't argue with *GOD kid* is because he was just, done. He's fought for so long. Anyways I also wanted to point out, if your assets are high enough you get a special clip (or at least I did) on the *Destroy Synthetics* ending where you see the body of a soldier but the face is hidden behind rubble and N7 tags are hanging from his neck. All of a sudden he takes a breath and then it rolled credits.

So from that scene I guess Shepard somehow miraculously survives the citadel explosion and a fall through Earths atmosphere...unless they were implying that *random soldier 3* was alive hahaha

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%

I had never played any mass effect games before this one, and was absolutly amazed at how the story was executed. Sure the game had its share of glitches, but what game doesn't.

The very first time I played through it, I got the ending where everyone dies. I really felt it was a deppressing ending, so I'm on my second try right now, not even half way through the game, but takeing my time.

When I get the the god kid, which I COMPLETLY disagree with. I'm going to really pick my options carefully.

From the reviews I read the writers were amazing at writing the other games. In this case, I think they were "Running out of time" and needed a quick, sad, and understandable to their terms ending.

Don't even get me started on the end cutsenes, how forming all of those troops doesn't even effect the battle, or building a "relationship" with another character really doesn't affect dialog.

My long rant made short

--Ask me questions using Ripple

B.C. Tietjens said...

I find it noteworthy that no one has mentioned the very end after the credits where the old man is talking to the kid?? The kid asks for another story about the Shepard, and gramps says "OK ONE more story..." which would indicate to me that they are going to make one final Mass Effect game. Who knows what the hell it's going to be like. Hopefully Bioware will take their heads out of their rear ends and get their stuff together for the final chapter. I have been a loyal and devoted fan of this game series since before the first one was released. I am so disappointed and sick over the ending that I feel betrayed and hurt by Bioware's choice to make everything that happened in the three games mean nothing at all. WTF man? WTF?

~BC

Master Smurf said...

I am not sure if much of the problem people have with the ending is that there is a God-like figure, their Mass Effect universe as they know it doesnt exist anymore or that they didnt get a nice little win the war and strut around the universe victory tour.

While everyone is killing BW for this I say the issue of a fitting end for series like this are akin to the reapers coming every 10,000 years. We as a society dont know how to truly finish it because we only know part of our existence. Leaving the end open with life carrying on just as before seems hollow because we just expect something more, something different and thus the writers go out of their way to try this but it usually does the exact opposite.

Star Trek made the mistake by killing Spock, bringing him back and going to seek out God. Babylon 5 also did it with Vorlons vs Shadows and then ascension to end the war. Stargate same thing with Jackson ascending and the O'ri in the end. Then their is Matrix whose story is very similar to ME with the whole killing machines and reset solution which really isnt a solution but a different person pushing the button.

That's life, enjoy the journey because nobody knows for a fact whats on the other side or whats truly out there. - just my ramblings

Anonymous said...

Garrus was my best team member and got slaughterd, descretely! Wtf is up with that? Their is a huge amound of emotion lacking in the last 15 mins or so, the whole game was based around relationships and paragon blady bla but that was all virtualy non existant in the end. Very disapointed! Oh and plus saving the rachni queen is pointless as you sont see her again yes or no?

Anonymous said...

If you know EA at all then you know they forced this crappy ending on Bioware so that pissed off fans would be forced to by the DLC later for another ending.

go read the Forbes article where EA just got voted the worse corporation in America....it beat Wal-Mart FFS.

Anonymous said...

The ending as it is now would be awesome, if it was the "bad" ending... i can imagine me replaying it, only because of the drama and sadness of the whole thing... whatever you do... destruction... no escape... clearly a "bad" ending, there need to be at least two more, neutral and "Kitsch-heroic", then it would make a lot more sense

Kerstin said...

I agree with your post completely.

I want an ending that
1) is Triumphant
2) makes Sense.

Is that so much to ask for? Honestly, I believe that to be the bare minimum of any ending to a game. They can add all their other nonsense endings if they want but if the game just has endings where more or less everyone dies and galactic civilization is destroyed then you're just pissing people off.

Mel Brennan said...

BioWare has The right to finish their game however they want; I have the right to say the ending was total and complete shit. There, we've all retreated into the fullest exercise of our rights. I'll also exercise my right to spend my money elsewhere, permanently; my decisions with regard to BioWare will be purely rational; they've played with my emotions long enough...