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.