Also Known As The "Complete Game" Cut
June 26, 2012. A day that will be forever etched into the memories of the many fans that have, for almost three months, held the line and attempted during that time to reclaim a brand name from people who dangled it in front of our faces with promises that our actions would define, on so many levels, how it all ends. With promises, and actual statements, that we were "crafting your Mass Effect story as much as we (BioWare) are anyway.”
That we would not get a simple A, B or C ending.
When the game originally released on March 6, 2012, to high levels of hype and consumer expectation, it seemed as if the recent string of failure on BioWare's part had all but been swept away. Professional critical response was overwhelmingly positive, something that EA and BioWare were quick to tout to the viewing public.
But as players began to wrap up their various stories and experience the ending sequence, a funny thing seemed to happen.
The fan base, it seemed, began to stand in stark contrast to the professional reviews. Various forums began to light up with criticism over the last ten minutes of what had been, to that point, a stellar entry into the Mass Effect franchise. Some of the more common cords of discontent stemmed from the rather convoluted introduction of a plot device that had absolutely no foreshadowing and seemed to just, well, happen. Of course, I'm speaking of what the fan base has dubbed as "The StarChild." A (quite literally) Deus Ex Machina moment in the story. An entity that we could not, at the time, argue with or question. We simply accepted its logic, and had to accept the three color coded choices (The infamous A, B and C choices we were told we would not be getting) that flew in the face of the promises we were told.
This little plot device, this.....Star-Jar Binks as it's been nicknamed, suddenly shoehorned players in what had been, up until that point, the inverted pyramid of choices we were presented with throughout 99% of the game. And even then, one would think that each choice would be at least a unique experience. That they would be fundamentally different from the other, that they would not be "a bespoke ending that everyone gets," in other words.
But they were. The only real difference in their presentations was A) what the level of EMS points you had that altered small and insignificant and cosmetic differences, and B ) What color the "death star beam" would be. That was it. Those two things were the only things that differentiated one ending from the other. Except for destroy where, if your EMS was high enough, left you with a five second "Shepard breathing in rubble" scene that, even with the Extended Cut elements, is still out of place in the story.
Fan backlash was, to say the least, overwhelmingly negative.
There were too many plotholes, too many inconsistencies as it was, to be considered a "satisfying conclusion to the Mass Effect trilogy." Speculation began to overrun various forums. Was the last ten minutes of the game simply a dream? Was this ending simply the Reaper's last ditch attempt to subvert and overpower an otherwise strong-willed Commander Shepard into the folds of what the game's canon calls Reaper Indoctrination? Players seemingly flocked to the idea, despite no confirmation or denial on BioWare / EA's part that this was/wasn't the case.
Basically, for the most part, THIS was the original ending to the story.
And it would have stayed that way, one is assuming, if a strange thing hadn't happened.
Various social networks began to rally disenfranchised players to various causes, among them two which, to this day, still stand head and shoulders above them all. Of course I'm speaking of the Retake Mass Effect 3 and the Hold The Line movements. Movements that, I might add, helped raise over 80,000 dollars towards the Child's Play charity in less than two damn weeks, before the charity shut down due to the controversy that, according to them, was misleading some fans into believing that they were contributing to an effort to force BioWare into changing the ending. This event, even by spokespersons for Child's Play, was "blown out of proportion" by the media who attempted, at the time, to paint the "retakers" as they were being called, in a negative light.
I'll try not to bore everyone with too much history. Let's just say that recent news led BioWare to put previous DLC on hold for what they were now calling the "Extended Cut" DLC that would offer more "clarity and closure" to the current Mass Effect storyline. And on June 26th, they delivered on the content they promised us was coming.
I'll admit, I haven't downloaded (nor do I have any intention to) the content personally. I have been, or rather was, simply content to watch the various content on youtube. And honestly, that would have been enough for me to form an opinion on it all, comment on it, and move on.
But a funny thing happened last night.
A friend of mine had downloaded it. And called me up asking if I wanted to see it play out. And so, having nothing else to do on a Friday night, I went to his home and sat down with him, his wife and his fourteen year old son as it played out on their TV. And the one common thread that each one of us felt was universal; why the hell wasn't all of this in the game in the first place?
Control, Synthesis, and Destroy
Before I move on to attempt to even try to answer that question, let's look at the "Extended Cut" content and try to digest it for what it's worth. So I should warn every reader attempting to avoid spoilers, there are spoilers here. And not just little spoilers. I'm talking every spoiler I can list in one blog entry. Here a spoiler, there a spoiler, everywhere a spoiler spoiler. So flee. Flee for your lives if you're attempting to remain spoiler free!
Run! Run for the hills, plant fingers in your ears, shut your eyes and shout "lalalalallallalala" for the rest of this entry. Thar be the white backed spoiler of the Great Moby Spoiler HERE! AVAST!!
Right, moving on.
Extended Cut: Control
Or as I like to call it, the "ShReaper Effect." Now we see that Shepard has become one with the reapers. That he now controls them through willpower alone to become this sort of "Galactic Peacekeeping Force" by either enforcing their version of peace or just becoming a guardian force for all galactic-kind.
And it is....absolutely creeping me the F**k out. Why? Because the Reapers are still there. Only now they're being used by what equivocates to a "Space Jesus" to do the right thing. As opposed to simply being giant metal and organic slushies that go around sucking up every last drop of galactic DNA from the current space-faring species before moving on and sleeping for another fifty thousand years only to repeat the process when one of them wakes up from hibernation and needs to wet its whistle on an Asari smoothie again. Now you have a universal "big brother" watching in the shadows, waiting for a species to get out of line before ShReaper and Co. decides to stamp them out and proclaim "peace through the universe" again. Uh, gee, th-....thanks Shepard.
Extended Cut: Synthesis
Or what I like to call "The Galactic Rape" choice. Shepard leaps into the synth beam, spreading his DNA into every last organic and synthetic entity in the galaxy. Regardless of consent or not. "Genetic Diversity? No, 'fraid not. Not gonna happen, Imma put my DNA into you." Now every race glows this weird sickly green color from their eyes, and the reapers, now that they have nothing really to do, decide to add themselves to the galactic collective and share their vast knowledge for the good of the universe.
In other words, Borg for everyone.
This is also, according to BioWare via Star-Jar Binks, the idea that this is the canon. That this is the ending they preferred for players to take (for the record, this is simply my personal opinion on the matter. I could be wrong). This is probably the only way that you'll be getting as close as you can to a "and they ALL lived happily ever after" moment in the game's ending.
Extended Cut: Destroy
The "Organics Only Club" choice. Regardless of EMS level, this decision leads to the end of the Geth and EDI, and all of the reapers in the galaxy. Organic life continues on, but at least the threat of the reapers are, without a doubt, completely and utterly taken out of the equation for organics to forge their own future. And according to many, the choice that many have taken, despite the loss of synthetic life.
And last but not least.......
Extended Cut: Secret Refusal Option
Or as I like to call it, "The Galactic Middle Finger" choice. Now, thanks to some much needed conversation options, you can outright refuse BioWa--I mean Star-Jar's convoluted logic and three candy-coated "artistic" choices it presented you. Despite the fact that it tells you that "the parameters have changed" simply by my Shepard being there. So what happens when you refuse its choices?
It growls at you, throws a galactic temper tantrum, and basically tells you that you are a giant Loser.
We then see Liara's time capsule warn the species that rise up fifty thousand years later about what happened, and how to beat them. Which they do.
BTW, you can get this "refusal" ending simply by shooting the little brat in the head. Apparently someone at BioWare still loves this thing........
So no matter how hard you worked to get that EMS level to near perfection, no matter how many hours you put into getting your GRL to 100%, no matter how much time and energy you put into making your stand against the reapers mean something. And by that I mean you save the Krogan, you unite both the Geth and the Quarians, you save (yet again) the Rachni race, and you scrape and scratch every last planet for every last drop of war assets.
You still lose.
Why? Because you chose not to pick RGB. You refused the "artistic" endings. You chose to be the Shepard YOU fought too hard to create and mold into an extension of, basically, yourself. You chose to think outside the predetermined box.
And your reward is a giant middle finger for your efforts.
Personally, if you chose this ending as your own, you're a winner in my book. You always will be.
End of the Line
So now we sit down and try to answer the question. Why wasn't any of this in the game to begin with? Why, as my friend, his wife and their child have all echoed, did we have to wait three months for a complete game experience? Why?
Because they ran out of time. It's that simple. They slashed content and cobbled together what they could in the time they had, no matter how much it failed to make sense, and they were content to have it stay that way if it hadn't been for the fans. The fans that stood up from the crowd and said "Um...excuse me..." and gathered together to launch the most successful and the most massive protest in video game history. How successful was this protest? Successful enough for places like IGN, Kotaku, Forbes, and CNN (yes CN frakking N) to take notice. To force a certain Doctor to release a statement that they were reconsidering the endings as they were, to add "clarity and closure" to the preexisting content. Despite previous statements that BioWare was proud of their "Artistic Integrity" by NOT changing it.
It because of them that we got the complete game THEY promised we would get. This wasn't some altruistic olive branch on BioWare's part. This was a "we're forcing your bluff" moment between the unblinking fan base that worked tirelessly to voice their disapproval to a level that had been completely unheard of before and the once mighty and virtually untouchable titan that was/is BioWare.
And three months later, BioWare finally blinked.
So before some of you out there start demanding that the fans, these "super minorities" out there, pat BioWare on the back for a "job well done" and forgive and forget, I say don't until they apologize for the following untrue statements that they made prior to their Extended Cut release.
Experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome.
"[The presence of the Rachni] has huge consequences in Mass Effect 3. Even just in the final battle with the Reapers."
"I’m always leery of saying there are 'optimal' endings, because I think one of the things we do try to do is make different endings that are optimal for different people"
"There are many different endings. We wouldn’t do it any other way. How could you go through all three campaigns playing as your Shepard and then be forced into a bespoke ending that everyone gets?"
“Every decision you've made will impact how things go. The player's also the architect of what happens."
“You'll get answers to everything. That was one of the key things. Regardless of how we did everything, we had to say, yes, we're going to provide some answers to these people.”
“Because a lot of these plot threads are concluding and because it's being brought to a finale, since you were a part of architecting how they got to how they were, you will definitely sense how they close was because of the decisions you made and because of the decisions you didn't make”
“There is a huge set of consequences that start stacking up as you approach the end-game. And even in terms of the ending itself, it continues to break down to some very large decisions. So it's not like a classic game ending where everything is linear and you make a choice between a few things - it really does layer in many, many different choices, up to the final moments, where it's going to be different for everyone who plays it.”
“For people who are invested in these characters and the back-story of the universe and everything, all of these things come to a resolution in Mass Effect 3. And they are resolved in a way that's very different based on what you would do in those situations.”
“Fans want to make sure that they see things resolved, they want to get some closure, a great ending. I think they’re going to get that.”
Interviewer: “So are you guys the creators or the stewards of the franchise?”
Hudson: “Um… You know, at this point, I think we’re co-creators with the fans. We use a lot of feedback.”
And my personal favorite:
Interviewer: [Regarding the numerous possible endings of Mass Effect 2] “Is that same type of complexity built into the ending of Mass Effect 3?”
Hudson: “Yeah, and I’d say much more so, because we have the ability to build the endings out in a way that we don’t have to worry about eventually tying them back together somewhere. This story arc is coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot more different. At this point we’re taking into account so many decisions that you’ve made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.....The endings have a lot more sophistication and variety in them.”
Until they admit these statements were, in fact, false at the time I will not be forgiving, or for that matter forgetting, BioWare for anything.
In other words, thanks for clearing up most of the WTF BioWare, but I still don't trust you.
Current Personal Score for Mass Effect 3: 3.5 out of 5.
After Extended Cut: 3.6 out of 5.
Personal Review: Mass Effect 3 - The Extended Cut DLC
Blog entry posted by wastelander75, Jun 30, 2012.