Mass Effect 3 Ending: A Love/Hate Relationship
Written by Team Brannen
I will preface this article by mentioning that I am a huge fan of the Mass Effect series and as such my opinion on it’s controversial ending is stained with emotion. My personal Commander Shepard came from a rough Earthbound beginning and rose to fame as a ruthless soldier with the military. Through the countless playthroughs his canon was fleshed out and given meaning by the trials and tribulations that were present throughout the galaxy. Eventually this lead to the culmination of his journey in Mass Effect 3 and his choices throughout the games calculated into a series of points that determined which options would be available.
My initial exposure to the ending came as I had enough war assets to achieve all endings and for the most part had saved all the characters possible. The events leading up to the final run to the elevator were supremely satisfying as I had solved species relations between most of the prominent players in the galaxy and they had my back. I took my time and chatted with all the characters at the communication station and received words of encouragement from all my squad mates past and present, but I knew I had to make the run so I chose Garrus and Ashley to accompany me. Moving forward to the final run, I was kind of incredulous as my allies fell to the ground and eventually Harbinger cut down the entire squad, Shepard included. As Shepard rose from the ground and vanquished the remaining forces, I noted that my squad mates bodies were nowhere to be found. Getting into the Citadel revealed that Anderson had also made it and and both he and Shepard were closing in on the control panel for the Citadel. It was there that the Illusive man made his appearance and cut down Anderson before succumbing to Shepard’s pistol. After an amazing chat with Anderson, Shepard is ferried up to an even higher level of the Citadel. It is here that my amazement turned to confusion, as I am presented with three choices that have obvious consequences and no way to make my own choice. Cut to Shepard shooting the container and the destroy option is engaged revealing that the Reapers are all dead and the Mass Effect jump-gates are all destroyed in a chain reaction. For reasons unknown the Normandy was in the middle of a jump and is thrust onto an unknown world where Joker and the two squad mates I chose to make the run with appear. This is then followed by another scene where an old man weakly attempts to explain the events that shaped the galaxy.
My gut reaction was one of outrage. I was so confused and betrayed by this ham-fisted ending that it made me question why I game. I had allowed myself to become passionately immersed in the fantasy universe and felt as though I was hurt by an unsatisfactory ending. To start off, I was disappointed by the arbitrary choices presented at the ending, they were a product of number crunching of the war assets and they all provided a similar ending scene. I took to the internet and read of BioWare’s promises that player choices mattered in the end and I couldn’t help but feel a bit taken in, like the wool had been pulled over my eyes. I questioned why the Normandy would have departed from the biggest battle in recorded history with no explanation, and why the two squad mates I had witnessed being obliterated by Harbinger were on board. I questioned why the developers felt the need to strand the Normandy on some planet with no apparent method of escape. My head filled with these questions and there were no apparent answers to be found. Needless to say, I was extremely unhappy with the ending of what I consider to be the benchmark Sci-Fi series in gaming history. Everything about the series was so polished, from the dialogue sequences which blended excellent voice acting with believable face movement to the evolution of the control scheme from clumsy and plodding to tight cover-based mechanics lead me to believe that the ending would follow suit and be better than the conclusions of the previous games. In some ways BioWare was a victim of their own high-standards here, to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect at the end but by failing to blow me away with the ending, they earned my ire for what I considered sub-standard for BioWare but might be considered a better ending than most games can manage.
Eventually BioWare announced and released a free downloadable pack of endings that further detailed the endings that were provided. After witnessing them, I can safely say that I am now satisfied with the endings. My main complaint was not that I didn’t like the choices but that they all resulted in similar endings scenes and they all had no further explanation of what happened afterward. This was rectified by the ending DLC by providing an epilogue that went into detail on how the species of the galaxy fared depending on the choice Shepard makes. There was even an option to refuse the three choices and make their own way, something that had always been present in Shepard’s dialogue choices throughout the series, and I was gladdened to see that unique attitude present at the final scene. In a rare showing of faith in fans, BioWare managed to recapture the spirit that made their games great, at least in my eyes. I started off absolutely hating the endings, but instead of clinging to old hatred I gave the new endings a try and came away impressed and satisfied by what the ending had to offer.