Click here to read part 2 of this series
******** Spoiler Alert *********
It's hard for me to express my level of disappointment during the final moments of my initial playthrough. I was initially shocked, thinking I must have done something wrong. How could my heroic Shepard be forced to pick from three nonsensical evil choices?
All three choices would destroy the mass relays, likely causing countless deaths and the destruction of any solar systems in their proximity. In the best case scenario, it would cripple the galactic economy, causing the slow painful death of colonies that aren't self-sufficient. Based on what happens to the Normandy, the mass relay explosions must have destroyed thousands of spaceships across entire solar systems. Just look at the blast radius displayed for each mass relay explosion in the galaxy wide view during the ending scenes. How many of those spaceships will be lucky enough to safely crash land on a garden planet like the Normandy? How many families are separated after the relays are gone? Will those families ever reunite with just standard FTL travel? Will Rex and Bakara (Eve) ever see each other again? Will their baby Krogan grow up without a father? What happens to Tuchanka without Rex to guide the Krogan? What happens to all the other wondrous places I visited as Commander Shepard during the Mass Effect series? How will the galaxy recover from the reaper invasion without the mass relays?
Yet my heroic Shepard couldn't argue with the Catalyst; he couldn't even ask meaningful questions. BioWare turned, my Shepard, a true warrior with a golden heart and a diplomatic genius with the ability to end centuries old wars and solve divisive conflicts spanning thousands years into a weak, simpleminded, and submissive fool. The only way to proceed to the conclusion of the game is to accept one of the irrational choices that this evil being of light provides. There is no chance to use your paragon or renegade prowess to achieve other results.
Considering the fact that the Catalyst was a brand new character with only 14 lines of dialog and no prior exposition or background, just believing anything it said would be completely out of character for my intelligent and heroic Shepard. Taking drastic actions with galactic implications based on anything the Catalyst said would be completely irresponsible and senseless, since the Catalyst is the cause of all the atrocities committed by the reapers. This being of light has no moral compass; it lacks compassion and self-awareness. It can't see the damage and suffering it has caused.
Shepard should be able to challenge this creature and show it the error of its ways, since this being of light was basing his actions on invalid premises.
Another credible option would be to oppose it and still be able to use the crucible with accurate targeting data to destroy the reapers alone. Or if using the crucible was not possible without the Catalyst's cooperation, Shepard should be able to refuse all the choices and let the military force he painstakingly gathered fight the reapers with honor until the end.
What a glorious battle it could have been. I imagine Joker flying the Normandy with grace and precision, evading reaper attacks and blasting holes in one reaper dreadnaught after another with the powerful Thanix cannons that Garrus fine-tuned to perfection since Mass Effect 2. The alliance, turian, asari, volus, rachni, salarian, krogan, quarian and mercenary fleets could have engaged the reapers in a combined space and ground battle rivaling the best futuristic combat scenes in the Star Wars film series. Regardless of which side was victorious, it would have made the ending in Mass Effect 3 undisputedly superb.
It could have been a magnificent battle of wills or a battle of military might. Instead, we got 3 colorful explosions and space magic. It's hard for me to imagine how BioWare could waste such an opportunity, just senseless.
It is obvious from the first game to the third that reapers severely underestimated the capabilities and the unity between the races in the current galactic cycle. Shepard and his allies destroyed Sovereign with focused fire of conventional spaceship weapons in Mass Effect 1, so reapers are proven to be vulnerable to well-coordinated attacks. This was before turians introduced the Thanix cannon, a scaled down version of Sovereign's powerful main gun that was salved from the wreckage at the Citadel. This proves the skills of reverse engineering and subverting reaper technology in the current galactic cycle, while Shepard was still being rehabilitated by Cerberus prior to the events in Mass Effect 2. Reapers are proven to be powerful, but not as superior to the technology used by the races in the current galactic cycle as some people seem to think. As stated on the Mass Effect wiki and codex: "By the time of the Reaper invasion of the galaxy in 2186, the Thanix and its variations have seen widespread use among Alliance fleets and beyond." For all these reasons, I believe the crucible should have been an optional war asset, not the only hope, especially since nobody knew exactly how it worked.
I'm not religious, but I strive to be a good person. That's why I loved the experience of choosing a heroic path for my Shepard, for me playing as a renegade was interesting but extremely difficult (especially betraying Mordin). From the beginning of Mass Effect 1 up to the events preceding the introduction of the Catalyst near the end of Mass Effect 3, I was proud of all the choices and actions my heroic Shepard made in the series. BioWare appears to have forgotten that some of us love to play the role of a heroic Commander Shepard in Mass Effect, even though they gave us that option in the first place. For anyone who thinks "it's just a game" of course I agree. But it was a game that I loved and enjoyed in my spare time, because I could play it how I wanted right up to the events preceding the ending.
I'll explain all my problems with the ending choices in detail now.
The first choice I tried was the destruction choice; it would destroy the mass murdering reapers which was my main goal since the beginning of the Mass Effect trilogy. Unfortunately, it also would kill Shepard, his allies (the geth), and possibly his friend EDI. Like the other two choices, possibly all life in every solar system near the mass relays would either be destroyed or severely affected, effectively decimating the galaxy. You approach a tube that you are supposed to shoot to activate the process of extermination. Shepard is then forced to continuously shoot the tube to activate the crucible, a massive weapon of mass destruction that was carefully designed by countless cycles of civilization amounting to thousands if not millions of years of R&D.
Typically, when you shoot a machine bad things happen to it. I find it ludicrous that after so much R&D, the designers couldn't even install a control panel to activate the crucible and destroy those pesky reapers. Then another unavoidable non-interactive scene triggers and Shepard is forced to keep shooting while walking toward that same tube when it is obvious that it is about to explode. You can't shot the dangerous looking tube, filled with some red plasma like substance, from a safe distance. Why was BioWare so intent trying kill to my Shepard in the most idiotic way in over 150 games that I've played in the past 15 years? Is killing or torturing the main character in the most brainless way possible, their definition of art? Can Shepard at least get the choice to do things in the ending in a way that shows he isn't an idiot? I think Shepard deserved better.
The second ending option I tried was also out of character for my heroic Shepard. Somehow, by electrocuting himself on two handles, my Shepard disintegrates and becomes what appears to be a form of energy (now suspected to be a being of light) which controls the reapers. The mass relays still blew up and I was forced to sacrifice Shepard to magically merge with the evil reapers. This option, assuming that the mass relays didn't decimate the galaxy, appears to be the most noble (at least you aren't forced to kill your friends and allies), but it still forces Shepard to merge with the evil force that he was fighting for the entire trilogy.
This is another disappointing choice for me, since the reapers and the Catalyst are evil and remorseless; yet Shepard is forced to become like them. If the reapers are so advanced, how could Shepard have controlled them by simply electrocuting himself on two handles? Does BioWare really expect me to believe that Shepard can become a being of light (or whatever he becomes) in such a simplistic way? My suspension of disbelief was shattered again.
Finally, I tried the option which lets Shepard merge all synthetic and organic life in the galaxy. All Shepard can do is take a leap of faith into a beam of energy, disintegrating himself and magically transforming every sentient being in the entire galaxy (including the wicked reapers) into a new form organic synthetic hybrids. This magically happens to the entire galaxy without consent, so it's as morally reprehensible as the other two choices. It also moves the plot of Mass Effect 3 deeper in to the realm of fantasy, away from its significantly solid science fiction roots.
One of the most beautiful things about the Mass Effect trilogy was the way Shepard united nearly all advanced sentient organic and synthetic life in the galaxy to fight against the reapers. My Shepard ended the 300 year war between the geth and the quarians, helping the geth become fully sentient and enabling the quarians to share their home world with their synthetic creations. He cured the genophage bringing together the turians and krogan to fight side by side after thousands of years of conflict and distrust. This and many other examples throughout the Mass Effect series showed diversity, galactic unity and Shepard's diplomatic skills at their finest. Unfortunately, the synthesis choice destroys that diversity in seconds with a colorful explosion of space magic.
All three endings feature almost identical final cinematic scenes, showing the mass relays exploding, and the Normandy crash landing on an unknown planet. The color of the explosions is the main difference along with a handful of variables.
The squad members that had vanished from your side earlier, while running to the conduit, walk out of the ship unharmed. Your loyal crew somehow abandoned you, one or two of them magically teleporting from your side to the Normandy, including your love interest. Considering that there aren't any Star Trek like teleporters on the Normandy, how was this possible? None of the crew members seem to care about what happened to their commander and friend. My Shepard had taken the time to develop friendships with each squad and crew member possible across all three games; so this was another disappointment. It's hard to believe that this was intentional on BioWare's part.
Mass Effect 3's Ending, EA, BioWare and Consumer Rights (3 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.