(The following text contains spoilers for the Extended Cut Mass Effect 3 ending.)
I am a passionate man.
Let all doubts about that be cast aside right now. When I feel something, I feel it down to my bones, and when something has caught hold of my attention, I tend to make it a large part of my life. Take Mass Effect, for instance. If you have followed my blog, and seen and maybe smiled sanctimoniously at my little comic strips will know that I really like the Mass Effect universe. Six out of the nine (or seven out of ten, if you count #5, which was never released) of the comic strips I've done have been about Mass Effect.
And those of you who somewhere out there on the interautobahn stumbled across a post on a desolate gaming forum filled with shameless self-promotion, and was curious enough to click the link provided, will also know that the ending to Mass Effect 3 was a huge disappointment to me. Rumour is, I wasn't alone. And though I did make a snarky comic about the original ending, distilling years of the game's creators' hard work down to three panels of venom, I well and truly loved the rest of it. And as time went by and lent me distance and perspective, I came to calm down on the subject. I still feel to this day that the original ending was a massive failure of storytelling, but it did ask some interesting questions. Questions that I will not try to answer here, because yesterday, most of them were answered for me, with the arrival of the Extended Cut of the Mass Effect 3 ending.
There is something I need to get off my chest, though it is not my intention to make it the focus of this post. BioWare, the game developer stated with the announcement of the EC that the original endings would not be altered, merely elaborated upon. This is simply not the case. A lot of key dialogue was changed, some phrases that left you with dire connotations for the future of the galaxy where snipped out, or blatantly contradicted. This is stuff that only nerds like me who had become intimately familiar with every word of the original endings in order to make some sort of sense out of the jumbled mess they used to be will notice, but to me it seems clear. BioWare did not simply elaborate, the changed the implications of the endings, to make the prospect of what awaits the Mass Effect universe after the Reaper war a brighter one. And that it sort of disappointing to me, because as I've said elsewhere, I never wanted them to change the endings, no matter how much I hated them. I've said it before on this blog and elsewhere; I don't believe that you should backtrack on a published work. Let the original speak for itself, because that was your vision, and I feel you should stand by it.
That's not to say that this new ending (please note that I've only seen the "Destroy" and the "Reject" endings) wasn't very well done, and that I didn't enjoy it, because I did. I'm just a little disappointed that they felt the need to actually change what was already done. But let me at last arrive at what I wanted to talk about in this post; the Reject ending, which seems to be the one that catches the most ire on the BioWare forums. (Seriously guys, enough with all the hate. What's done is done, and right now, the world needs more love.) In short, the reject ending gives Shepard, the protagonist, the option of rejecting the three options he is given for solving the Reaper conflict, and basically give a big, fat middle finger to the annoying AI that wants to force these choices on him. Of course, without making any of these choices, the armada of warships you've gathered throughout the game, formidable as it may be, cannot stand against the incredible might of the Reapers. You can reject the choices, but there is no Deus Ex Machina waiting for you just out of frame. Your resolve to stand up to him, and spit his choices back in his face does not impress the evil AI. As a result, the Reapers win, wiping out all of the advanced civilizations in the galaxy. Including humanity. This has caused some fans to get angry, as they believe this is a massive "fuck you" from BioWare, given that the reject option was one of the most requested additions to the EC.
After the battle, you are treated to another scene, in which it is strongly indicated that your efforts against the Reapers did actually yield some beneficial results, and that is was enough to prepare the civilizations that rise in the millennia after the humans and the turians and the asari and the krogan and the quarians are long since forgotten for the next Reaper cycle. Your actions gifted them with the strength and knowledge to fight and destroy the threat once and for all. I love this notion. For it is the only option before you that does not involve a massive ethical sacrifice to be successful. (Maybe apart from the new Destroy ending.) Your entire race may be wiped out, but it did not have to become something else, something vile in the process. You stood your ground, you went out swinging, and you ensured that the ones that come after you were ready to defeat this great threat. You sacrifice yourself, but you choose not to sell your soul. And in my naive, idealistic ways, I believe that is what it is to be human.
At the very least, it is an ideal it is worth trying to live up to. Thank you BioWare, for an extraordinary game series, and a vessel for emotional investment that few works of fiction have ever given me. Though I still believe that you stumbled a bit with the original ending, which may have made me spout some angry, empty threats about not buying anything Mass Effect-related ever again, rest assured that I am and will remain a fan, and that I will be looking forward to whatever project you release next.
Just maybe try to have someone honest look at its ending first, and trust them to tell you if it’s shit.
(This has been previously released on my stupid web-comic blog, but let's face it, no-one reads that.)