Mass Effect 3: An Epilogue

So after the rage-fest that was the ending of Mass Effect 3 and the subsequent death threats and cupcakes BioWare received they announced the Extended Cut DLC – a series of scenes meant to reaffirm the ending and give greater closure to all us Mass Effect fanboys left in the dark by an ending that took many pointers from Neon Genesis Evangelion in terms of explaining bugger all and leaving many significant plot holes in its wake. BioWare claimed the DLC would not rewrite the endings, but would instead just elaborate on them.

As well as this, they believed that the revised ending – as with so much subjective artiness – would not satisfy every caliber of fan (which is fair enough, but I was still hoping I’d be in the “pleased fans” bracket regardless).

So it’s finally out, I’ve re-done the final mission once again, and had a chance to see what we’ve now been left with.

And I only have one thing to say.

Nicely done, BioWare. Nicely done indeed.

[For the purposes of this epilogue, I chose the “Destroy” ending as it seemed the only one with even a stone’s throw chance of Shepard surviving.]

The first thing the DLC does to gain points is fill in the plot hole where, just before entering the beam at the end of the London section, your squadmates disappear/die horribly when Harbinger attacks. Having the Normandy swoop in to rescue them whilst Harbinger twiddles his thumbs did seem like a little bit of an inconsistency, but that didn’t stop me from tearing up during Liara’s final anguished declaration of love to Shepard. *sniff* I’m way too soft sometimes.

In the end, it turns out the mass relays weren’t entirely destroyed, just a little bit. Beforehand the Catalyst AI explains in great detail what each different ending does, and what effect it will have on the galaxy and on Shepard (and on that subject, the Control ending seems way more nightmarish with its new explanation). In my version Shepard blasted the crap out of the conduit and killed all the Reapers.

We’re then treated to scenes on several allied worlds (most notably Thessia and Tuchanka) where we see the Reapers finally fall to them. Following that is a monologue by Admiral Hackett outlining that despite all the damage every civilisation can rebuild, with a background of a bunch of still images showing all the alien races and allies you helped along the way getting back on their feet (including a shot of some Krogan babies – so cute). The final new scene is of the surviving Normandy crew adding Shepard and Anderson’s names to the deceased board, with Liara smiling a little as the ship leaves whatever that random jungle planet was and goes on its way. Then, as one last redux, there’s the bit from the Destroy ending of Shepard’s body, steeped in ruins, moving slightly.

So I was right – that really is the only ending in which he can live. Kinda.

To be honest, I really had my doubts. A lot. The original ending did leave quite a bad taste in my mouth when I got over the initial shock, and I was extremely apprehensive that there would be a lack of appropriate closure once we finally got through all the hoopla that was the DLC’s announcement and subsequent release. But honestly, I’m impressed.

I already know a lot of people aren’t going to be happy in the slightest, and as BioWare said a few days ago they knew going into this they weren’t going to please everybody. I can already hear the forthcoming complaints (“They just ended with a bunch of still images!” “There weren’t that many additional scenes!” “There was too much exposition on the Citadel at the end!” “WAAAAAA EMS HURTZ LOL”) but really, I don’t think they did a bad job at all.

I’m still baffled as to why they couldn’t have this in the original release. Sure, it added a bit more data to the game’s 2-disc set, but honestly if they’d gone to 3 discs and I’d had to shell out an extra twenty bucks instead, I’d’ve done it. The truth is the revised ending is a hell of a lot more satisfying than what BioWare served up originally, and it’s restored my faith that they are indeed capable of ending things on a conclusive note that does not take inspiration from anything made by Gainax studios.

Is it the greatest ending to a video game story I’ve ever experienced? No. Final Fantasy VIII still takes that award. But it’s a step in the right direction for BioWare, even if it’s a little late, and should hopefully quell some of the initial complaints that arose from the game’s original ending.

And it also gives me hope that somewhere, out there in the Mass Effect galaxy, there’s a beautiful blue asari bursting into tears as a tall, handsome brunette with goatee and green eyes steps out of a Citadel hospital and into her waiting arms.

Thanks to the Extended Cut, that ending now seems a little bit more possible. Well done, BioWare.

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