Where to start...
Well, let me begin by saying I didn't initially hate the ending. My suspension of disbelief sometimes extends a little bit too far (though I'm not convinced this is a bad thing; I enjoy plenty of things that others find utterly ridiculous and unbelievable). In that regard, I'm very generous with what I will accept in a work of fiction. Even so, the fridge logic at the end of Mass Effect 3 was so powerful that it snapped my ability to believe in the story, even if it took a few days and the promptings of a lot of people who realized the horror right away.
At the end of the Catalyst's rant, my only reaction was something along the lines of "...What? O-okay..." before attempting to make what felt like a ridiculously difficult choice. The first thing I did was to shoot the Catalyst repeatedly, because I didn't really trust its sketchy explanations. I weighed Synthesis and Destroy (I wasn't about to touch Control with a ten foot pole) before finally deciding that Synthesis was the better choice for my Paragon Shepard. I watched the ending sequence, the credits, and the Stargazer scene, all the while slightly confused by the strange images but appreciative of the symbolism: a new beginning for the galaxy, a heroic sacrifice by Shepard (the only person in the entire galaxy capable of bringing about this incredible change), the lasting memory of a legendary figure.
My brother, sitting nearby, said, "That sucked. I don't even know anything about Mass Effect, but that was terrible. If I had waited years for that, I would be pissed."
My response was something along the lines of, "It was pretty good. I kind of like what they did with that."
That's right, for several minutes I was a pro-ender. *Shudder*
My brother and girlfriend went into another room to watch the Control and Destroy endings on YouTube, because I wanted to try them out for myself rather than just watch them online. I sat there for a few minutes thinking about it while they watched the videos, and they eventually reported back that Destroy was the coolest because it was slightly different. They were specifically referring to the Reapers actually falling over dead rather than just flying away. My brother said, "I don't know why you didn't pick Destroy in the first place. That's what I would have picked. You're supposed to destroy the Reapers, that was the whole point."
I decided to try that ending out for myself to see what it looked like, and I got a big shock: it was almost exactly the same, except for the cool bit with the Reapers actually dying. It struck me as incredibly cheap that they would copy and paste the ending cutscene, and I began to realize that the "symbolism" I saw in the Synthesis ending was hollow. If there was to be no difference in the end sequence, I reasoned, I might as well achieve my goal in a superficial sense and destroy the Reapers. Besides, I saw no evidence that EDI or the geth were actually destroyed. As Shepard apparently lived, there was no reason whatsoever for me to believe anything the Catalyst said. With that, feeling disappointed at the apparent lack of effort put into the final cutscene of the Mass Effect series, I decided that Destroy would be the canonical ending for my Shepard.
As days passed, I read countless articles and forum threads and realized just what a sham this entire thing was. I first encountered the Indoctrination Theory, thinking I had found the true meaning to the ending and that BioWare would release some DLC proving they had pulled one of the greatest stunts in video game (and story telling) history. This DLC never came, nor any official word at all, and it became clear to me that the ending was just straight-up bad.
I was unfulfilled, and that's the best way I can think of to describe the aftermath of Mass Effect 3. I've seen fans refer to the five stages of grief, and I think they're right on the mark. It was a combination of abruptness, lack of closure, and shattered expectations, and it left me with a void I didn't know how to fill. What blows my mind is that the previous sentence could equally be used to describe my breakup with my first long-term girlfriend. The fact that Mass Effect 3 ends the same way as a breakup does speaks volumes more clearly than any written word ever could. But to drive the analogy between the two situations straight home, I still had hope for the future. BioWare could fix it and make everything right again.
But they won't. Every press release since March 6th has been full of implicit condescension. Words like "artistic integrity" are thrown around in regards to something that lacks integrity to a shocking degree. Claims of openness to constructive feedback sound hollow when considering that Casey Hudson hasn't made a public statement in over a month. Rumors float around that the writing team was not involved in creating the ending. BioWare engages its Defense Curl maneuver instead of trying to communicate honestly with tens of thousands of loyal fans. The analogy to my ex-girlfriend remains horrifyingly strong.
And what led me here, finally? The Extended Cut announcement. I'd seen the Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags, and BNS signatures of the Retake movement. I kept up with the news about charity donations and cupcakes, and I thought "Hold the Line" was a cute statement of purpose. I don't really do "movements" because even with the best of intentions they always seem to be pointless and ineffective. But that announcement pushed me over the edge.
I committed fully to Retake and Hold the Line, because I would rather be a part of a movement of dedicated, passionate fans with common feelings than float in a veritable sea of betrayal by BioWare. This is a group of people that has achieved a great deal, not some crowd of whiners just making noise. These are people who have driven EA stock down, lowered retail prices for Mass Effect 3, and created an unprecedented media stir. These are intelligent, creative, loyal people, and I proudly stand beside them.
I may be bitter and have a cynical outlook on this situation, but I retain a shred of hope for the Extended Cut and the future of Mass Effect. Just a shred. Until it comes out, I will be here, holding the line.
Navigating the Emotionally-Charged End of Mass Effect
Blog entry posted by calvinocious, Apr 18, 2012.