A Comprehensive Look at the Mass Effect 3 Ending


My Thoughts (Spoiler Free):

Five years invested in one of the most brilliant games to ever grace my eyes. Five year’s culminating into the end of Mass Effect 3 and I was left saying, “What?” If you’ve read the interwebs in the last week, you’ll know I wasn’t the only one.

Let me start off by saying I have never, ever joined an internet flame campaign; it’s simply not my style. That being said you can sign me up for this one. I also use the term “flame campaign” lightly as I think Mass Effect fans have a truly honest beef this time. I will say it simply; Mass Effect 3’s ending is bad. So bad that there is a charity movement that has raised around $40,000 to have the ending changed; no joke.

If you were to ask to me to explain my biggest problem with the ending, I would reply with a rapacious wit, that it offers about as much closure as a pair of butt-less chaps.  Want to know what happens to those characters’s you love so much? I couldn’t tell you if I wanted to. Bioware won’t even tell you. “Oh,” you say, “I’ve spent five years and three games making critical decisions that effect all these great character’s and in the end I don’t even know what the heck happens to them?- they just fade into an ambiguous artsy ending? Awesome!” Clearly.

Those characters have meant something to me. I truly found them some of the most endearing characters of any entertainment medium to date. Why? Because I built a Commander Shepard who solved problems and saved the galaxy like he thought he should do it; he had a code of conduct, he had friends, and he really became my Commander Shepard. When the galaxy came to the brink of destruction, I should know he saved it- I should know he saved them or died with them. I should know something!

Why it’s bad (Spoilers!):

I won’t go in pain-staking detail on why it’s bad; you can read that almost anywhere. A quick summation of the failing narrative includes primarily three different endings that are barely different at all. Every Decision you’ve ever made really has no impact on anything, because you get the same options at the end no matter what. You basically find out Synthetics were created to kill organic life, so that synthetics wouldn’t kill organic life. Yeah, it makes loads of sense.

You get three options: Destroy all synthetic life and see every mass relay in the galaxy get destroyed and a few of your crew crash land on a mysterious planet (we’ll get into the last part in a second). If you choose this ending you get a Red Explosion! You can choose to meld all synthetic life with organic life and see every mass relay in the galaxy get destroyed and a few of your crew crash land on a mysterious planet. If you choose this option you get a Green Explosion! Or lastly, you can choose to control the synthetics and see every mass relay in the galaxy get destroyed and a few of your crew crash land on a mysterious planet. If you choose this option you get a Blue Explosion!

See a pattern? No matter what you do the entire galaxy gets put on the brink of extinction and cut off from their home worlds with the destruction of the mass relays.

My biggest gripe, however, is the huge plot hole that involves your crew crash landing on that planet. You see not just 5 minutes before Shepard is forced to bring the entire galaxy to the brink of total annihilation so it isn’t annihilated, he and his crew are knee deep in battle within the streets of London. Somehow, in what can only be described as “space magic” your crew is on a ship escaping a mass relay before it explodes when they crash land on that planet in the end. This means that somehow they all left Shepard and the fight, figured out the mass relay’s were going to be destroyed, and ran with their tales between their legs with no information that would tell them to do that. It makes no sense. Congrats Bioware, I’ll let Hitler have a word with you.

But wait!  That’s not the real ending:

A pretty well thought out theory called the ‘Indoctrination Theory’ points to a lot of tidbits they think show that the last 10 minutes of the game (that make little to no sense) is actually Shephard battling indoctrination in his/her subconscious-not in reality. Their argument (see: hope or pleading) is that Bioware is coming out with DLC that has Shephard wake up and actually end the game. Well that would be good right? I’ll say this if it saved the ending of the series it would certainly help things. Except then you have this elephant in the room with a sign on his back that says, “Pay us $10 for the actual end of your game in this great new DLC!” Except the elephant is not an elephant at all, it’s a troll eating women and children and playing the drums and using the femurs of the elderly as his drumsticks; beating out a rhythm along to the tears, cry’s, and wails of the fans.

Learn more on the indoctrination theory here.

DLC that sells the end of the game is crossing a line. Bioware needs to do it for free or this flame war against them will only magnify by about a hundred fold; which leads me to my last point:

Is Bioware losing their magic?

Up to this point Bioware’s PR response has been awful. Casey Hudson (Head of the Mass Effect division of Bioware) came out and did a single interview where he was asked about the uproar and he responded with (insert vanilla non-speak comment here). Oh sure he said he cares about the fans, I’m sure that was on his bullet list of things marketing wanted him to say. Thanks for no information buddy. Heck, I would’ve been happier if he had come out to bat for his writer’s and said, “Look, I like the ending and this is why!” I wouldn’t care if he disagreed with me but I want some real passion. The problem is he can’t, he can’t even support his own writer’s because he knows their ending is drabble. Have some courage.

Bioware’s damage control has consisted of trying to simplify the outrage as a mere philosophical debate. “You guys hate the ending? Just think about it deeply and sip some Starbucks! It will enlighten you!” This has mostly taken place throughout the twitter-verse, lead by their community PR girl Jessica Merizan. It’s not her fault, she is getting paid to try and deal with an awful situation. However, I found her comment about critical thinking pretty passive-aggressive.

One Bioware community member responded, “If college taught me anything, it’s to not turn my work in incomplete.” Touché sir! Someone may want to explain to her that critical thinking is based on questioning assumptions, not plot holes. Lazy narrative justified by ambiguous endings is not a catalyst for critical thought, and never will be. Philosoraptor has thought about it though.

All of this written by the biggest Bioware fan you could have previously ever met. I have played every Bioware game since Baldur’s Gate. Honestly I feel irritated and let down, maybe it’s time I take Bioware down from that pedestal.

By JSixGun

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23 Responses to “A Comprehensive Look at the Mass Effect 3 Ending”

  1. I am yet to get to the ending, but I am disappointed to hear that it’s such a failure. That being said, through the 3 games I have enjoyed the journey itself very much, so there’s that to hang on to, at least.

    • The journey was great. I could even live with a less than stellar ending, but an ending with plot holes galore is disheartening. Don’t take my word for it though! Beat and come back and let me know what you think.

  2. @gchris6784…it def left a bad taste in my mouth. Good analogy.

  3. Spot on Mate, apparently that writer is making comics to show what happens to the crew… Gonna go buy some more torches ;)

    • This has been confirmed?…I have not yet heard this. Not doubting you, but if Bioware really left an open ending so they could sell comic books…. can you loan me a torch as well sir?

      • If this is true, the gaming industry is officially broken. We need another 1983 crash to get back to how things are supposed to be. DLC and…and comic books? Ruining it for all of us, one dollar at a time…

  4. dude…its the most outstanding comment on this bio WAR againts Mass Effect plot –thanks i take the words from my mouth

    • I wish you were not anonymous because I like the play on words and would love to attribute it to you. I will now use this regardless.

  5. Thanks for the article. There’s so much I can call into question about the ending but if I had to summarize it for the most impact it would be this, “The last few minutes of ME3 killed my desire to play not just this game again, but also the two previous games.” That, to me, is saying an awful lot! Thirty minutes prior to the ending I was trying to decide which character I would import from ME2 & play next, after that ending, no thanks, no desire. And it’s been a week since I finished ME3…………

  6. Superbly written article my friend. Succinct, witty, well done.

    A couple of things come to mind here. One, the writer(s) got bored and some project lead was not swift enough to see this. It happens to me when I get towards the ending of any fiction I am writing, you just want to get things over with and move onto something else. I end putting it aside for a few months and say to myself “I’ll get back to it.” Consequently, I don’t have any finished novels!

    Two, this was planned to sell more DLC. Considering that Square Enix released FF (whatever f—ing number they are up to now) sans ending and told everyone you can pay for it in DLC, I can see EA following suit with this business model. Or at least testing the waters.

    In order to accomplish two they are going to have to go with the whole dream sequence thing you suggested. Quite frankly, as an aspiring writer, that’s one huge big gigantic F–K YOU to your audience. I ABHOR, ABHOR, ABHOR dream sequences. It’s cheap, lazy terrible writing. When used to develop a character it may may have it uses but as a plot twist… “Yes, all this happened but then you woke up and it was all a dream…” Yeah, any author that resorts to that can take a nice long lick off my coin purse after I’ve been jogging for an hour.

    Indoctrination theory or not, it’s a story without an ending. The ending I feel ME3 fans are going to have to pay for. And that’s just not right, on any level. A story must have a beginning, a middle and an END.

    Considering the Ayn Rand Objectivist business model all corporations follow today, their loyalty is no longer to the customer but to the stockholder. I’m led to believe this was planned to sell more DLC. The only thing that can stop this lunacy is people not purchasing the DLC and gamers are just not that savvy.

  7. Reblogged this on The Dead Console Society and commented:
    I was going to write a piece about this whole ME3 ending thing going on but my friend, JSixGun, over at Mortar and Pistol wrote up an excellent piece on the subject matter.
    Personally (spoiler alert) I think EA is going to go with Shepard was dreaming and that wasn’t the real ending but you can purchase the ending in DLC, SUCKERS!

    • Hey I appreciate that! Love everything you wrote ^ there too. Dream sequences are about as innovative as “Yo Yo-Yo” commercial if you know what I’m talking about.

  8. Thanks for saying this, it makes me feel less alone in the world.

    Hold the line.

    • Line is held sir. Come back soon because I’m writing a new one on the topic addressing the critics of those who think the ending is lacking. Should be good!

  9. Hitler: “All I really wanted, in the end, was to be with Tali… maybe talk to her with her mask off…. the dream is over.”
    Hitler managed to say in one or compound sentence what I took an entire article to write… I wonder if that means I’m getting gabby.

  10. I didn’t feel that all of my decisions really mattered. My feeling is that your decisions mattered mainly insofar as a character might briefly appear in the game and promise to help you but you may not ever encounter that character again in the game and a positive number would be tallied, in your favor, to your military strength. So, basically, I feel like I made decisions not to see further development of a character who was willing to fight and, possibly die, along side me but rather, to see a sum magically increase by a few hundred points.

  11. Hey there! This post could not be written any better!

    Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate!

    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him.
    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

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