Mass Effect 3: The Ending and Damage Control

Posted by on Apr 6, 2012 in Commentary |

This is another “late to the party” post because I didn’t really have anything to say about Mass Effect 3’s ending that hasn’t been said already. But with the news of Bioware releasing a DLC pack to address exactly that, I don’t think there’s any point in withholding my reaction.

I like to think of my reaction to the ending as relatively mild compared to what I’ve seen online. I made a backup copy of the auto-save as soon as I got to the Crucible, then chose the Synthesis ending. After viewing that I loaded the backup and viewed the other two outcomes (the fact that I could choose an ending is disturbing enough). I was disappointed with all three, thinking “that’s it?!?!” and found myself in disbelief over what I just saw. I didn’t touch Mass Effect 3 for a week after that, opting for Dungeon Defenders and SFxT instead. It actually felt good to see that the reactions I read online expressed the same disappointment, with varying degrees of added fury.

If you want to know where the disappointment comes from, you can check a previous post about the subject. To elaborate further, let me tell you my story about Commander Shepard.

I started playing Mass Effect 1 near the end of 2009. Back then I didn’t know much about the game other than it existed. Imagine my surprise when I found out that I can slap sense into people and kill NPCs I didn’t like—eventually learning that I was playing as a renegade, the in-universe term for taking the “shoot first, ask questions later” approach. I was still saving the galaxy, I just didn’t mind the high body count. That playthrough ended with Wrex dead, Kaidan dead, Fist dead, Conrad Verner dead, the Council dead and Anderson becoming councilor. For what it’s worth, I decided to save the Rachni queen.

A week before the release of Mass Effect 2 I decided that I wasn’t happy with being a renegade. Information about the game said that it was possible to import a save from ME1. Doing so will allow the continuation of Shepard’s story, including all decisions that were made. I thought that it would be more interesting to play ME2 with more characters left alive from ME1. They can only tell their story if they’re not dead, right? So I rushed through all of ME1 in one weekend. That playthrough ended with Wrex alive, Kaidan dead, Fist alive, Conrad Verner alive, the Council dead and the Rachni queen still alive. This was the save that I imported to ME2.

While some of the decisions had insignificant results, a few mattered. For example, Wrex became a clan leader who was trying to unite his people. The sequel was marketed as a suicide mission for Shepard and his/her crew. By the time all the content was released there was a total of 12 squadmates, each of which could die if you didn’t do their respective loyalty missions right. In other words, you had to work to get your happy ending. Among other things, the number of squadmates that survived is one of the significant items enumerated in your save file when you import it to Mass Effect 3.

The point of all that is this: each Mass Effect player has a Commander Shepard that he calls his own (or she calls her own). Given the time and effort to import the saved files, to make sure that you craft a story according to your preferences—it’s impossible not to get attached to the game and its protagonist. To see it end so carelessly is like getting sucker punched. You don’t see it coming and it hurts way after the blow was made. I don’t want to discuss the specifics of the ending. You can find out here if you want to read up on it. What I can tell you is what you get. No, not closure. There’s no epilogue either. You get plot holes. And different-colored versions of the same sequence.

ME1 takes about 6-8 hours to finish provided you know what you’re doing; ME2 probably around 10. Add that to the time you’ll spend playing ME3 and you might get an understanding of why we’re reacting so negatively. Put yourselves in our shoes. Think about the last time you were disappointed. Now think about the effort, time and money you invested in whatever that is. You might get a picture of how the ending feels like.