******** Spoiler Alert *********
It appears that there's still some misinformation about what exactly caused over 63,000 fans to join the gaming community movements requesting fixes to the ending of Mass Effect 3. Some people seem to think that the reasons are simple and insignificant. In this four part series, I will explain why I personally believe BioWare needs to make meaningful changes and not just simple clarifications to the ending. I will also discuss some of my concerns with EA's business practices.
I've read many articles and posts that follow this basic logic structure: "I loved the current ending, so it shouldn't be changed". That, to me, is not a compelling argument. For one, it implies that since they liked the ending, anyone disliking the ending is wrong and should be ignored. This type of statement shows a level of immaturity, and a lack of understanding of the greatest strength of the Mass Effect 3 series: choice.
The main reason Mass Effect is so popular is the groundbreaking level of customization of character and story elements based on the player's dialog choices and actions in a fully voiced RPG. Mass Effect also has fun combat, interesting conversation, and a cool futuristic science fiction setting with a good combination of multiple alien species of either friendly or enigmatic natures. Add to that convincing technology, based on reviews by some of today's real scientist, and you have a splendid formula for success.
For anyone concerned about possible changes to Mass Effect 3, which they don't want, remember that the entire Mass Effect series is memorable because of the amount of significant choices that empower the player to craft personalized stories for each playthrough. This adds a massive amount of replay value to Mass Effect 1 and 2. Limited choice in Mass Effect 3's ending is a disservice to the greatest strength of the series.
One thing that I find unfortunate is that since Mass Effect 3 is famous for providing extensive customization and choices, there shouldn't be an adversarial relationship between fans that like the ending and fans that don't. If both sides keep an open mind, and if BioWare is truly committed to their fans, there is a great opportunity to use consensus to make the game excellent for almost everyone. I say "almost everyone", because I know it is impossible to please everyone with current game technology. BioWare should continue to use the polling system on their forums to get customer feedback that can be applied as game updates and improvements.
The funny thing is two major story arcs that are resolved near the middle of the game already accomplished the level of epic gameplay and brilliant story telling most fans also crave for the ending. We know BioWare can pull it off. Regardless of what supporters of the current ending say, if they are presented with a brilliant piece of gameplay and writing most will surely fold and admit that the new ending is better. If not, BioWare can just provide a check box to disable the new DLC; it's very simple to implement.
I don't expect to have an infinite number of ending choices, as a software developer, I know that is impossible with current game technology. But three or four completely distinct endings are not just possible; they are practically required to maintain the level of quality in Mass Effect as a series. Currently, Mass Effect 3 has only three almost identical ending choices with numerous flaws that can't just be fixed through clarification.
I know BioWare is working on the Extended Cut DLC. Unfortunately, they precisely indicated that they will not change the ending of the game. They are only adding additional cinematic scenes to provide clarity. In this post, I will share the reasons why I believe that would be a regrettable mistake. This post focuses mostly on my thoughts about the final moments of my initial complete heroic 100% paragon playthrough from Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effect 3, including all DLC. Since then, I have also completed a completed 100% renegade playthrough of the entire trilogy and DLC, because I wanted to make sure that I didn't miss any major aspects of the series. During those playthroughs I completed all main and side quests to accumulate over 7,000 in effective military strength; this also required a significant amount of time in multiplayer to achieve 100% military readiness. I ask that you please bear with me and let me explain my reasoning, if you care about this topic. Even if choose not to read this or still disagree after doing so, I respect your opinion.
My disappointment with the Mass Effect 3 ending started as soon as you begin the race to the beam that teleports you to the Citadel; my adrenaline was at its peak. I was ready to destroy the reapers once and for all. I was tired of their condescending attitude towards organic life, and of the atrocities that they had committed in countless galactic cycles. After the awe inspiring missions in Tuchanka and Rannoch, I expected an epic final battle. I trusted BioWare to deliver an unforgettable experience, because up to that point the final mission was an exciting but generic experience. The final mission before the conduit (teleport beam) mostly consists of fighting wave after wave of the same reaper troops that I fought countless times during the course of the game. In my mind, the race to the conduit was the start of the true challenge in the final mission that would help it become a shining example of BioWare's accomplishments.
Unfortunately, there is no epic battle and instead of reaching a climatic ending, the story begins crumble at an accelerating speed.
As soon the ground transport gets stuck before reaching the conduit, Shepard and Anderson's intelligence, leadership skills, logic, and military strategy suddenly vanish. Why did they rush Harbinger on foot? Why waste so many soldiers with a foolish linear charge with no cover or diversions? Where was the Normandy with its advanced Thanix canons and stealth technology? Joker should have been attacking Harbinger from the opposite direction to let Shepard reach the beam safely. Weren't there any other aerial military resources available to briefly distract Harbinger with a flanking maneuver and prevent a senseless massacre? If getting to the beam was so important, why not use a more tactically sound approach? How did the Alliance immediately know that it was Harbinger in the first place?
After all the carefully constructed missions in Mass Effect 3, it looks like a different team created almost everything that happens starting from the race to the conduit. Military resources used as sacrificial lambs became target practice for Harbinger, like ducks in a shooting gallery. Shepard is nearly cremated; his squad members that were running with right next to him toward the conduit vanished. This was unavoidable; it was the only choice. To hold on to my suspension of disbelief, I assumed that Harbinger was visually identified by something unique its design.
As established in Mass Effect 3, a human regardless of the amount of armor and shields can't survive a hit from a Reaper destroyer's weapon; this is confirmed in Shepard's battle with the reaper destroyer on Rannoch. One hit, and Shepard is history. Harbinger is arguably the most powerful reaper, based on the fact that he could control the Collectors across the entire galaxy while still being physically in dark space outside of the Milky Way; Harbinger is also seen leading the reaper armada at the conclusion of Mass Effect 2. As a reaper dreadnought Harbinger is estimated to be over 2 kilometers in length, while a reaper destroyer is approximately only 160 meters; this makes Harbinger approximately 12 times bigger than a reaper destroyer. As seen in several battles in the Mass Effect series, a single hit from a reaper dreadnought is powerful enough to tear through the armor and shields of a capital ship like a hot knife through butter.
How could Shepard survive a blast from Harbinger? Let's assume that Harbinger is using a different less powerful weapon system. Even in that same unavoidable scene of foolish sacrifice, one hit from Harbinger is enough to take out ground transports and aircrafts. Why are the aircraft not trying a flanking maneuver? Where did Shepard's helmet go, was it melted off or vaporized? How did Harbinger tear up and melt Shepard's armor without killing him?
Throughout the game series, even a lowly enemy ground trooper can kill Shepard with a hand held weapon; this can happen without any visibly significant damage to Shepard's armor. Near the ending pre-established limitations of technology like this drastically change. This not only breaks existing game lore; it suddenly begins a shift in the genre of the Mass Effect series, from science fiction to fantasy, in the most crucial moments of the game for the sake of achieving a melancholic effect. As if this wasn't enough, the downward spiral continues.
The Indoctrination Theory in Mass Effect 3 was previously used to explain some of these problems; but now there is mounting evidence that the Catalyst is a being of light, based on the Mass Effect 3 codex. This would confirm that Catalyst is not an imaginary character; what happens in the ending actually occurred and wasn't just an elaborate hallucination caused by indoctrination. I'll go into this topic in more detail shortly.
After the longest, slowest, and most boring limping walk in my 15 years of gaming, my fried to a crisp Shepard finally gets to the Citadel and curiously finds it is unguarded. I believe this walk should go in the Guinness World Book of Records as the longest and slowest in video game history (sarcasm). The fun part is that if you want to experience all three current ending options, you have to relive this nightmarishly dull and torturous walk each time. It would be nice to have a check point closer to the final areas of the game.
A disappointing encounter with The Illusive Man (TIM) and Admiral Anderson ensues; TIM has become a contradictory pathetic yet powerful indoctrinated shell of a man that controlled Shepard like a puppet, making him shoot Anderson (his good friend and superior officer). Then a few lines of dialog later, TIM committed suicide by shooting himself in the head, another wasted opportunity.
BioWare's choice to have both Saren and TIM shoot themselves in the head is comical to me now, not so much during my initial playthrough. As BioWare indicated, TIM's greatest weapon was his intellect, so they chose not to morph him into a reaper creature like Saren to engage Shepard in another boss battle. This is after creating a fearsome prototype of TIM, in reaper monster form, that looked amazing. Intellect or not, if the indoctrinated husk of any civilian can put up a fight, why can't TIM? TIM's scene just seems rushed to me; he was too strong of a character to be so easily discarded.
Mass Effect 3's Ending, EA, BioWare and Consumer Rights (1 of 4)
Blog entry posted by K. R. Hamilton, Apr 20, 2012.
About the Author
As a gamer for the past 15 years, I've seen a lot of changes in the industry; many of them are detrimental to our rights as consumers. There's a great opportunity for unity among gamers of all types to achieve lasting changes that will protect our rights. Hold the Line is a beacon of light that will help make future games better, by uniting gamers and demanding honesty and respect from the gaming industry.