My only friend, The End

Posted by Draugen (640 posts) -

(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.)

#1 Posted by Draugen (640 posts) -

(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.)

#2 Posted by Mike76x (558 posts) -

The original ending wasn't their "vision".

The original visionary left, and the ending didn't work as they planned.

They ended the game in the middle of the unfinished indoctrination "reveal" and destroyed the universe they claimed to care about.

#3 Posted by NTM (7344 posts) -

@Draugen said:

If you've who have

#4 Posted by Draugen (640 posts) -

@NTM: Gracias. Fixed.

#5 Posted by Jimbo (9804 posts) -

@Mike76x said:

The original ending wasn't their "vision".

The original visionary left, and the ending didn't work as they planned.

They ended the game in the middle of the unfinished indoctrination "reveal" and destroyed the universe they claimed to care about.

Definitely agree that the indoctrination thing wasn't just dreamed up by players. Bioware love throwing a twist in towards the end of their games, and it would have fit their MO exactly (and would have been awesome if they'd pulled it off, then followed it up with a real ending). The idea just got Obsidianed into a bodged up ending somewhere along the line.

#6 Edited by mellotronrules (1192 posts) -

really nice piece, guy. i enjoyed reading that.

for me, the most compelling aspect of the series has been the characters. in that respect, i was never too terribly disappointed with the ending- i half expected them to have a clumsy ending. but i do feel they did right by the characters- that scene at the citadel with garrus was worth the price of admission for me. as well as the sitdown chat with anderson towards the very end. and the EC has some nice touches in that regard as well, with the lovers goodbye, closing monologues, etc.

i share your takeaway- i originally left me3 feeling i can skip out on their next offerings...but lets be real- they've constructed a fantastic universe, and i'm curious to see where they go with it next.

#7 Posted by Galiant (2193 posts) -
@Draugen You need to see the "Control" ending. It's my new fave.
#8 Posted by jillsandwich (762 posts) -

@Galiant said:

@Draugen You need to see the "Control" ending. It's my new fave.

Control is totally the best.

It only makes sense for that ending, but hearing Shepard talk about stuff just makes it more personal.

#9 Edited by gregjay24 (31 posts) -

The original endings were a product having to change their "vision" mid-series, only having one person write the entire ending, and probably a ridiculous deadline from EA. Not to say Bioware i free of blame because ultimately it is their product, but they fixed it and honestly if the EC was the original ending i would of loved it. To me Mass Effect is the greatest/deepest/most compelling sci-fi universe to date. Thats saying alot considering how much i like star trek and star wars. The way they get you emotionally attached to their characters is like nothing I've ever seen in any form of media. Only rivalled by the Harry Potter series. If you've invested any amount of time into this series even the original endings shouldnt stop you from loving this series. Playing other video games honestly isn't the same anymore because none of them even come close to mass effect in my mind. Its like a story you never want to end. I can't wait for whatever they have next for the series.

In regards to the refuse ending... Part of me really likes it because I honestly believe the AI "star-child" is flawed. He's a product of the mistakes of i guess you could refer to them as the original cycle. All of his options are flawed (genocide, too much power for one person, and i can't even describe how wrong synthesis is). So part of me wants to give enough knowledge to the next cycle for their people to just beat the reapers outright. But its just not a suiting ending for Shepard. Ultimately i chose destroy because it best defends the needs of the many while not putting the galaxy at excessive risk (trusting one man with the power to control reapers).

#10 Posted by TheDudeOfGaming (6078 posts) -

Just came in here to leave this.

#11 Posted by Draugen (640 posts) -

@Galiant: @jillsandwich: I don't know. I have seen the Control ending now, and though it paints a decent enough image of what a world in which Shepard is the new super-AI in control of the Reapers would be like, and that it's good to hear him talk about his vision of the future, I have misgivings. This mostly comes from reading issue 269 of X-Men Legacy the day before seeing it, which brought up, and this might be a spoiler if you haven't read the comic, an interesting, and surprisingly relevant point.

What happens the day Shepard forgets what it was like to be human? When enough time has passed that his memories of his battles and his allies have faded. How patient will he be with the organics he oversees? How much will it take for the synthetic construct that was once Shepard to deduce that the only way to protect organics is to cull them every 50,000 years? This left a sour taste in my mouth, and left me kind of cold to the entire thing.

@gregjay24: I agree with pretty much everything you said. I believe that Destroy is the best course of action for a pragmatist out to save the galaxy from this faulty AI, and I give no stock to the notion the star-child pushes on you that Destroy will lead to the whole thing happening again. The only way it will happen is if we're dumb enough to build another program like him to protect us from this made-up problem.

But from a philosophical point of view, I find refuse fascinating.

#12 Posted by biggiedubs (493 posts) -

Before the game came out, my friend and I were throwing around ideas of how we thought the game should end. He wanted the entire game to have a ticking clock feeling, with every action and choice you make taking up time. Whilst you're faffing around the galaxy, the Reapers would be wrecking shit, and you could take on the Reapers any time you wanted to, and the ending would change dramatically depending on when you did. You could do it as soon as possible, get wiped out and die valiantly; or you could wait until the last possible, kill the reapers at the cost of everyone else.

I wanted an ending, however, that nearly came to pass with the refusal ending. I wanted an ending that would be bleak for all but the people who made the most optimal choices, regardless of whether or not they were paragon or renegade. Unless you saved the Rachni, didn't destroy the geth, sort out the Geth / Quarian difficulities, get the council on your side etc etc, you would die. No matter how well you fought. They got quite close to nearly realising my idea, except for the glorious one-in-a-million shot ending.

I think the new endings are, in theory, fine but in were incredibly lacking in their execution. They give us vague enough / clear enough visions of the future of what are admittely quite interesting science-fiction topics. Whilst I think they were fine, I also think that they go against the 'desperate survival through teamwork' ethic of the entire series.

EA clearly screwed them over though. It's clear to me that Bioware have not 'lost it', neither in terms of their writing or their gameplay', it's just that EA have strangled it for short-term gains.

#13 Edited by L44 (556 posts) -

I liked the Reject ending.

Mind you, the ending I chose by gut originally was Control, and I'm super happy with how that turned out.

#14 Edited by Veektarius (4778 posts) -

@biggiedubs: I don't feel 'desperate survival through teamwork' is necessarily a theme of the series at all, particularly if you played full renegade. The renegade option says "the answer isn't cooperation, it's firm leadership and cold rationality" and just because that does not fit your particular view does not mean those who preferred that route should be penalized in the ending.

Oh, I forgot. IRT anyone who would choose the refuse ending - I hope the fate of the universe is never placed in your hands.

#15 Posted by jillsandwich (762 posts) -

@Draugen said:

@Galiant: @jillsandwich: I don't know. I have seen the Control ending now, and though it paints a decent enough image of what a world in which Shepard is the new super-AI in control of the Reapers would be like, and that it's good to hear him talk about his vision of the future, I have misgivings. This mostly comes from reading issue 269 of X-Men Legacy the day before seeing it, which brought up, and this might be a spoiler if you haven't read the comic, an interesting, and surprisingly relevant point.

What happens the day Shepard forgets what it was like to be human? When enough time has passed that his memories of his battles and his allies have faded. How patient will he be with the organics he oversees? How much will it take for the synthetic construct that was once Shepard to deduce that the only way to protect organics is to cull them every 50,000 years? This left a sour taste in my mouth, and left me kind of cold to the entire thing.

All that stuff you don't like about the control ending is exactly what I love about it. The sinister undertones to everything Shepard was saying was so damn cool in my opinion.

#16 Posted by Ulain (315 posts) -

Isn't there some official thread to voice your opinion on the end of this fucking game?

Not sure why there is a new "my thoughts on ME3 (blog)" every other week, seems like that's the only thing anyone posts.

#17 Posted by Draugen (640 posts) -

@Ulain: I see a hundred posts on this forum every day that I have no interest in. I just tend to ignore them. If you felt a blog called "My only friend, The End" loacted in the Mass Effect 3 forum was too ambiguous about the contents within, I'm sorry.

@biggiedubs: I love the ideas you came up with, and I would have love to see either one of them implemented. I didn't really expect something that bold myself though. Seems a bit ambitious and risky for a game that's meant to have such mass appeal as ME3.

#18 Edited by biggiedubs (493 posts) -

@Draugen said:

@biggiedubs: I love the ideas you came up with, and I would have love to see either one of them implemented. I didn't really expect something that bold myself though. Seems a bit ambitious and risky for a game that's meant to have such mass appeal as ME3.

For me though, I think Mass Effect was exactly the type of game that you do something ambitious and risky. Maybe I'm focusing in on the legacy of the first game, instead of the popularity of the second, but I thought it was a great opportunity to show people (finally) that games weren't just about showing us a film you could interact with at times. Actually tell the plot through the gameplay, for a change. Screw cut-scenes, they're only holding us back from reaching from games should be; stories told by just actions.

You may be right though, purely in terms of money and the sales that they needed to draw to make a profit. Sometimes I want to dream and forget the boring logistical, economic side of games, though. I really, really wanted Mass Effect 3 to be good, both in terms of playing and actually validated games as an art form (I want to be a games writer, at some point, you see). With Mass Effect 3 though, we get this pale, sad microcosm of everything bad about games: lazy writing, rushed production for short-term profits, despicable DLC plans and bold-faced lies.

I was looking around at the game industry before the game came out, and I put my money on Mass Effect purely because it was one of the only games that I felt like could actually do something big to evolve the industry. It was a big, plot-driven game that had a million ways to keep the gamer in check, and alter things to suit them. It was cool, and interesting and people gave a shit about the plot for a change. I really, really wanted Mass Effect to make a bold statement, purely to inspire everyone else to follow suit. I guess that is why I am a writer and a dreamer instead of an accountant, though.

@Veektarius said:

@biggiedubs: I don't feel 'desperate survival through teamwork' is necessarily a theme of the series at all, particularly if you played full renegade. The renegade option says "the answer isn't cooperation, it's firm leadership and cold rationality" and just because that does not fit your particular view does not mean those who preferred that route should be penalized in the ending.

Oh, I forgot. IRT anyone who would choose the refuse ending - I hope the fate of the universe is never placed in your hands.

Hmmm. You know, I've never really thought about the full renegade option, and what it means. You're definitely right in terms of some of the options spelling out the leadership and rationality thing, but would you say that for the end of Mass Effect 2? Maybe it's because I've always been a paragon, I saw that more as a 'team coming together', instead of a 'team under Shepard' event, but I guess that's because I've always been a paragon. Do you think it needs to elaborated in the dialogue, though? I never even considering that way of thinking, so do you think that's my fault or the fact it wasn't built upon enough? I've never really seen enough differences in my Shepard to others, aside from the few dialogue renegade options. Maybe if his whole demeanour changed, or all of his dialogue changed instead of just in those options it would have come across clearer and more dialogue. Show, don't tell, right?

I'll concede to you, Veektarius. You win this time.

#19 Posted by Veektarius (4778 posts) -

@biggiedubs:

@Veektarius said:

@biggiedubs: I don't feel 'desperate survival through teamwork' is necessarily a theme of the series at all, particularly if you played full renegade. The renegade option says "the answer isn't cooperation, it's firm leadership and cold rationality" and just because that does not fit your particular view does not mean those who preferred that route should be penalized in the ending.

Oh, I forgot. IRT anyone who would choose the refuse ending - I hope the fate of the universe is never placed in your hands.

Hmmm. You know, I've never really thought about the full renegade option, and what it means. You're definitely right in terms of some of the options spelling out the leadership and rationality thing, but would you say that for the end of Mass Effect 2? Maybe it's because I've always been a paragon, I saw that more as a 'team coming together', instead of a 'team under Shepard' event, but I guess that's because I've always been a paragon. Do you think it needs to elaborated in the dialogue, though? I never even considering that way of thinking, so do you think that's my fault or the fact it wasn't built upon enough? I've never really seen enough differences in my Shepard to others, aside from the few dialogue renegade options. Maybe if his whole demeanour changed, or all of his dialogue changed instead of just in those options it would have come across clearer and more dialogue. Show, don't tell, right?

I'll concede to you, Veektarius. You win this time.

You're right that ME3 in particular has a lot of scripted dialogue that is not dynamic. DA2 attempted to do that. But throughout the series, even in minor conversations, there's usually a renegade option of dialogue that significantly alters Shepard's tone. I'm not talking about "red" choices, I'm just talking about the bottom choices.

That said, I do think that the game was designed with paragon in mind. If you think about it, when you save people/help them through paragon choices, they come back in later installments. For example, Wrex, the Rachni queen, Mordin's assistant Maelon, Samara over Morinth. There are others. If you choose renegade, what do you get? No Wrex, no rachni queen, no Maelon, and not even no Samara but no Morinth in ME3. You get a measurably less cohesive experience as a renegade than a paragon. Still, the renegade choices are definitely a lot different than the paragon's and they do their best to make them seem justified in context.

#20 Posted by biggiedubs (493 posts) -

@Veektarius: Yeah, you're right in terms of the change of dialogue, thinking back on it. Did you play through the whole game choosing a majority of renegade choices? And if so, if you ever chose a Paragon option, did it seem like a big disconnect to you? That's kind of how it felt to me whenever I chose the occasional renegade option, and I can't tell if I felt that way because of the good characterisation of Shepard throughout the games, or because those dialogue options are so far apart in tone. It always felt too mechanical to me, but the fact that you're literally choosing from a set of options which one you want to say, It can't be helped. Techincal limitations, I guess, but the sheer fact that I'm weirded out even thinking about my Shepard saying the renegade options proved they've characterised him well.

And yeah, it does kind of feel like the games were made with paragon in mind, but I thought it was just because I played as one. I think the question in terms of the conclusion to those choices is, 'is there a piece of paper somewhere in Bioware with a list of things they were going to give to those who chose the renegade options, but didn't have enough time to implement'? If so, then I can somewhat accept it (all the while cursing EA) but if not then it's just lazy writing. Both sides need both pros and cons. This is something I feel a lot of games get wrong, the punishment and rewards for either side. I think we're too quick to reward those who choose the good options, and too quick to punish the bad. Surely, it should be the other way round? Really question the morals of the player, instead of just re-enforcing them.

Considering Mass Effect 3, considering how crappy the stand-in characters are if you lost some people in Mass Effect 2, it must have been another time restraint thing. You can build up your game as a 'suicide mission', and then punish your players in the next game by giving them terrible character's that can't live up to the original characters. It's either lazy writing or a time restraint, and there's no way you can play Mass Effect 3 and still not see the good writing shining through. That they've 'still got it'.

#21 Posted by Veektarius (4778 posts) -

@biggiedubs: Yeah, top-option Shepard and bottom-option Shepard are very different people, all the way down to the tone of their remarks, not just their content. RPing a character, you're best off taking the same option every time, maybe with the occasional, middle option, which is, "I'm a soldier completing my mission." You get no alignment points for that, though, so you're kind of penalized.

I don't agree that it was bad writing or time constraints that are responsible for the 'stand-in' inferiority, necessarily. It's a question of them biting off more than they, or anyone, can chew. If you spend an entire game developing a character (like Wrex or any of your ME2 characters) and that character dies, you simply can't replace them with someone as good, because you can't take the extra time to flesh them out as well. And even if you did, it would never feel as organic as having them as a crew member for 20+ hours). The proper way to accommodate the death of a character is to have that death alter events. For example, if, upon Wrex's death, you didn't simply have to grit your teeth and bear the Urdnot clan leader's rudeness, but rather had to invade Tuchanka as a hostile force and bring a disorganized and hostile Urdnot to heel - that would be a proper renegade path through the game. But even reading it, you can see how that option is overambitious, if for no other reason than probably <10% of players carried through a save without Wrex.

#22 Edited by TerraMantis (283 posts) -

I entered because of the Doors reference... decent read.

I agree with the second guy in this articleabout the ME3 EC, because, well... it's me.

I just figure that if they keep trying they'll make everyone happy, right? Five or Six ending retries from now and that could be the attempt that I really respect 'em. You never know.

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