Mass Effect 3 and the Triple-Headed Decisiontron

BE WARNED: There are MAJOR spoilers for Mass Effect 3 and its ending in this post. Anyone still playing and not wishing to be spoiled should LEAVE THIS PAGE NOW.

Right, now that that’s over with.

I’ve just finished Mass Effect 3. And I’m ambivalent.

I knew going into the game that a lot of fans had voice…erm…discontent with the game’s ending, but in one of my rare moments of self-control I opted not to go hunting for spoilers. I was a little hesitant when playing through the final mission this afternoon, especially since the negative opinions I’d heard had mostly come from people whose opinions are usually on the money in this kind of thing.

Getting to the actual endpoint, however, I think I was equal parts contented and disappointed.

I’ll try to look at this plainly, rather than resort to copious swearing and demands that BioWare change the ending (apparently there’s a Facebook petition for it with over 13000 likes). Before I do, though, I want to congratulate BioWare for their exceptional writing talents, because if I hadn’t been as attached to these characters as I am then I’m certain I wouldn’t have cared as much as I do.

I landed on Earth, after a solid day of kicking Cerberus ass. The Reapers have torn the fuck out of London. I’ve gone through some war-torn buildings and said my “This isn’t goodbye”s to my fellow squadmates. I even had a really nice mind-linking moment with Liara, my blue babe love interest right before we headed into the absolute shitstorm that was the final battle.

After what felt like an insane number of stop-go shooting galleries taking on Reaper abominations we finally reached the teleport beam to send us into the orbiting Citadel, where we could press the button on our Deus Ex Machina above and save the galaxy.

Sounded simple enough.

The first hurdle came when Shepard and co. were hit by a Reaper’s laser beam, resulting in the entire team – sans Shepard – dying. WHAT. My precious Liara and best bud Garrus fucking died? Well, that sucks the big wang. I loved those guys.

So Shepard gets up, looking like he’s just had a few rounds with the Terminator, and gets shot into the Citadel with Admiral Anderson, fresh from his time at Master Chief’s funeral and reunifying the Elites. We both met up in some weird room and got cornered by the Illusive oh-god-I-want-to-shoot-off-your-smug-prick-face Man. He controls Anderson. He partially controls Shepard. Shepard shoots Anderson. Shepard angry, as am I. Shepard convinces IM to kill himself.

Huh. Seems he and Saren have a lot in common.

It was at more or less this point that I was positive I’d failed the mission, because my Gargoyle Admiral died and Bishop from Aliens is on the commline telling me our Deus Ex Machina ain’t firing. Well, shit. So much for that. Maybe I’ll get it on the next playthrough.

Just before red-laser-filled-death, however, I was brought before an AI representation of the child haunting my dreams all game who tells me that I have three options to save the galaxy – destroy the Reapers, control the Reapers, or make everyone into Cylon-human hybrids.

I shit you not on that last one.

The general idea behind all three led me to believe that no matter what, Shepard was fucked. I’d done all I could, saved the galaxy as much as possible, and the only way to complete my story was a triumphant, heroic sacrifice to bring order to what remained of civilised life in the galaxy. To be honest I’d kinda been expecting it to be an option, so I wasn’t humungously surprised when it came up.

I opted to merge synthetics and bios together, and watched with sadness as Shepard – my Shepard, the man I’d stuck with through three games of ass-kicking Xbox fun – disintegrated in a big beam of light and brought what would be an everlasting peace to the galaxy, secure in the knowledge that I’d be joining my blue girlfriend at the great bar in the sky.

Then the Normandy gets caught in an exploding mass relay’s shockwave and crash-lands on some random jungle planet, where everyone can start a new life. On top of that, Liara is somehow still alive and on the planet with them.


This is why I’m ambivalent rather than contented. If Shepard – read: Me – had known Liara was still kicking, then fuck the galaxy I would’ve basejumped off the Citadel and fucking gunned it with the nearest ship to wherever she was. And why was the Normandy suddenly running from a massive space battle for no reason? And where is the planet they landed on? And what are the consequences of everyone being part-synthetic now?


I’m not about to say it was a bad ending, because as I said I anticipated some kind of sacrifice would be necessary. But I’m not going to say it was a good ending either. It was just that – an ending. It concluded the story, and as much as they left several threads open at the end I’m really, really hoping there isn’t a Mass Effect 4. That would most certainly make it a bad ending, since everyone’s been hyping it as the end of the story.

I’m also not about to go petitioning BioWare to re-do the ending. If people don’t like it, that’s fine. Express your opinion. But don’t go bitching to the designers because you didn’t get your 100% happy ending. It’s the ending they gave the game, and who the fuck are you to complain? It’s BioWare. I’d sell my left nut to those guys.

That said, if they end up changing it or issuing a DLC or something then I will most definitely play it. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of a resolution for the NPCs as well as myself in a subsequent playthrough, and I’m already planning another three-game playthrough shortly, if only to get all the achievements I missed. I can definitely understand why people are upset, and I know I’m certainly not entirely satisfied either, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not that huge a deal. I bought a damn good game from a damn good game company, and I had a lot of fun with it. Given Mass Effect’s immense level of replay value, I’m sure I’ll have more fun with it when I play it again (and no matter what people might say after this ending, I think it does have replay value).

So yeah. It’s an ending, and I think if it’s the last we see of Mass Effect then I can die somewhat contented. But if it’s not, then I will definitely resort to copious swearing and demand that BioWare changed the ending.


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