The disturbing implications of Synethesis (Spoilers)

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#1 Edited by Encephalon (1238 posts) -

So. I chose the Destroy ending because, frankly, it was the only one I could stomach. I built this thing to destroy the Reapers, and goddammit, that's what I did. Even fully aware that I was dooming EDI and the Geth as well. Control is fundamentally sound, but too unclear as to its consequences. As for Synthesis, which I had access to due to scanning lots of shit, it sounded like a pretty sweet deal at first, when the Starchild explained it to me. But as I paused the game and went to the kitchen to make a sandwich, I became increasingly disturbed by its implications, both literally and thematically, and baffled as to why Bioware would position Synthesis as the "best" ending.

Literally speaking, reasons for my discomfort should be obvious - I can't say I'm comfortable with fundamentally altering every living organism in the galaxy at their most basic level, without their consent. Nor was I reassured by the general vagueness of Starchild's whole proposition. Combine organic and synthetic DNA, you say, Starchild? What does that even mean? You can't just throw that out there on its own, as if it makes sense. How would the galaxy be changed by this decision? Does Starchild mean "merge" in the literal sense, as in two beings become one, Dragon Ball Z style? Does the Crucible literally combine my organic body with whatever Geth Trooper was lying around nearby? When you say "there will be peace", does that mean just between organics and synthetics, or does this eliminate the possibility of any war, for any reason?

I can write this stuff off as Bioware failing to see the trees for the forest, or however that goes. They wanted to convey whatever themes they had in mind with a high-concept Deus Ex choice at the end of the game, and didn't really bother with the specifics so long as their original goal was met. I can buy that. I guess the problem for me, then, is that Synthesis is even more problematic thematically than it is literally.

The meaning of Synthesis, as I see it, is that the only way to ensure lasting peace is to force homogeneity on a galactic scale. Frankly, I find this idea terrifying. The Starchild's claim is that synthetics and organics absolutely cannot coexist, so the only sure recourse is to make them the same. Similar arguments have been used throughout history to justify atrocities based on perceived differences. We're lucky he decides to only kill most of us. In addition to that, Synthesis requires Shepard to fundamentally alter every living being in the galaxy against their consent, and in so doing, negate the current cycle's greatest asset: its diversity.

Mass Effect has, from the outset, been about the unification of vastly disparate peoples for a common goal. In ME1, Shepard assembled a multi-species team to hunt down Saren, often against the advice of his superiors. ME2 is similar but that Shepard's crew is even more diverse - and somewhat amusingly, working for Cerberus, an avowed human supremacy group. ME3 extrapolates this idea to the entire galaxy, as Shepard rallies a coalition of species, many of them sworn enemies, to defeat the Reapers. This diversity has always been positioned as a boon. Even Javik the Prothean states that his cycle was wiped out because they were too homogenous, and once the Reapers figured them out, they were unable to adapt quickly enough to survive.

It seems bizarre, in light of the thematic direction of the games preceding it, the "best" ending of ME3 - the one that you have to jump through the most hoops to get - goes in the complete opposite direction.

For whatever it's worth, I don’t think Bioware intended to send this particular message; rather this was a result of hackneyed writing conveying a message they did not foresee. Still, the message is there, and in my opinion it's a pretty ugly one.

What do you guys think? How do you feel about the message Synthesis sends? Which of you chose that ending, and what were your reasons for doing so?

EDIT: Wait, synethesis? Ugh. For shame.

#2 Posted by MooseyMcMan (10341 posts) -

As a believer in the indoctrination theory...I won't even say any more.

But yes, even before I went online and read up on theories, I went with the destroy ending because I was operating under the assumption that that ghost kid (I refuse to use the term "star child") was really Harbinger or some other Reaper AI just trying to trick Shepard.

But even if one were to interpret ghost kid as not being a Reaper trying to trick Shepard, I still think synthesis is a bad idea.

#3 Posted by Finstern (639 posts) -

The control option to me sounds like what the Illusive Man wanted and they tricked him into believing he had control, Synthesis just sounded like what the Reapers were already doing, turning organics into mulch and building machine/organic hybrids. Even though I united the Geth and genuinely loved them as a species / character, destroy is the only true option for me.

#4 Posted by N7 (3572 posts) -

First I will point that I believe in the indoctrination theory. Second, I agree. The whole theme of Mass Effect 3 seemed to be "contradiction". You spent like six hours uniting the Geth and the Quarians, creating a happily ever after style ending that has MONSTROUSLY good implications for not just the Quarians but also the rest of the galaxy, if you think about it. The Geth are rebuilding Rannoch for everyone, aside from finding individuality and having their own personality. They Geth have actual life in them now. They are machines, but alive. Even more so than they were with their collective A.I.
 
And at the end, as you've pointed out, they tell us we can never coexist, organics and synthetics. However, the most important issue that they are sending is: organics and synthetics cannot live together, there will always be war. Now just think about that. Let it rummage through your mind like a lightning bolt down to Earth. Sounds... odd? Doesn't it? Not only because you've proven that they can, but also because organics cannot coexist with organics. As long as they live, there will always be war. And Bioware completely drops the ball there. I got the feeling they were so focused on their own redundant message that they, as you've said, could not see the forest for the trees.
 
It's as though if they came out and said "Guns lead to violence as long as civilians hold them", implying that a soldier can not bring violence down on someone else, and then you spend the rest of the game shooting people in the face. Um, that's well and good, Bioware... but it doesn't make sense. On its own, in its own reality, oh yeah totally makes sense. But when you look at everything Shepard does, and the results it bears, no. It does not make sense.

#5 Posted by AuthenticM (3695 posts) -

I thought the "best" ending was the Destroy one, not Synthesis. That's what would seem logical, Indoctrination or not, seeing as it's the only ending Shepard can survive provided that you have over 5000 effective military score.

#6 Posted by Marz (5641 posts) -

i'd say thread title is a spoiler... but that's just me.

#7 Edited by Karkarov (2942 posts) -

First off the indoctrination theory is a steam load of cow poopy. That said most you are under thinking this.

First off the reapers are not trying to create a hybrid species, they are harvesting you, mulching you up, and then turning you into a reaper. Just a tad bit different than the synthesis ending. Second he is not changing anyone beyond making them partially synthetic which by the way, Shepard IS A SYNTHETIC. He was rebuilt using mechanical parts in mass effect 2, we all know this. Technically the destroy ending should kill him to be honest. The point is though that Shepard despite being partially synthetic is still Shepard. That is what the synthesis ending does, it makes organics partially synthetic and synthetics partially organic assuming they weren't already. An Asari is still an Asari, their personality is the same, their culture is the same, you get my point. Liara's eye glow green but she is still the same person. All synthesis does is remove the underlying reason the Reapers were attacking in the first place. There is no need to protect life from a synthetic vs organic rebellion when everyone is now a synthetic.

Truthfully this is the only "good" ending (if you don't buy the indoctrination nonsense and you shouldn't) because it sacrifices the least amount of lives (1) without also taking away anyone's free will or personality. The control ending you take control of the reapers, you do to them what Harbinger did to the collectors. You are taking away their free will and the ability to make their own choices, you are in effect becoming a non corporeal "master" reaper. This is not morally uh... okay. At least not according to most peoples moral compass. In fact I would argue destroy is more moral than control if it weren't for the fact that destroy also kills all geth, edi, and any other non reaper AI hanging around.

#8 Posted by MagusMaleficus (1033 posts) -

Drew Karpyshyn's original ending was better. Casey Hudson and his cronies fucked up, period. And Shepard doesn't have to survive Mass Effect 3. BioWare has said all along that ME3 was the end of Shepard's story--and if his/her death becomes canon (and I think it will), then that's definitely the end of the road for him/her--but clearly not the end of the Mass Effect franchise. There will be more ME games but almost certainly no more featuring Shepard as the protagonist.

#9 Posted by EToaster (128 posts) -

There were basically 2 directions my mind went from Synthesis, and neither of them are any good.

1) Synthesis homogenizes every organic and synthetic in the galaxy. The only reason this satisfies the Reapers is that, while war is still 'inevitable', once our half-synthetic created overlords rise up and destroy everything, there will still be some organic life around because they're half organic.

2) Fusing organics and synthetics together in one being? You mean like Husks? Sure that sounds great, let's go with it child who identifies as the leader of the Reapers!

#10 Edited by Encephalon (1238 posts) -

@AuthenticM: An excellent point. While Synthesis is gated behind an EMS rating, the "Shepard survives" Destroy ending is even more gated.

@Marz: Really? Just the word, albeit misspelled? Can't say I agree, but I guess there's nothing to be done now...

@Karkarov: I tend to agree that Indoctrination Theory is a long shot, and most likely just the desperate straw-grasping of wounded fans. Not that I am unsympathetic to those people. However, I question your assumptions about the nature of the Synthesis process. The visual markers for synthesis as seen in the ending are far from conclusive as to its actual effects, and is more likely a statement of how strapped Bioware was for time/cash/whatever when they rendered those scenes.

@MagusMaleficus: Actually I think the Dark Energy plot would've needed some work too. Besides, narrative is an ever-evolving thing. I don't fault Bioware for changing course as the trilogy developed. I can't say with confidence that the Dark Energy plot would've played better in the final game, though I can't deny that the current ending is already bad.

#11 Posted by Pinworm45 (4088 posts) -

@AuthenticM said:

I thought the "best" ending was the Destroy one, not Synthesis. That's what would seem logical, Indoctrination or not, seeing as it's the only ending Shepard can survive provided that you have over 5000 effective military score.

It's considered the "best" ending because it requires the most EMS to unlock. At least that's why people call it that, you can make the same argument you did that shepard survives Destroy so yeah. That's why people call it that though.

#12 Edited by Yummylee (21204 posts) -

I went with Synthesis during my first playthrough because I didn't want to kill the Geth, and I didn't think my Shepard would of actually gone through with becoming some sort of Reaper puppet-master. Synthesis seemed like it could unite the best of both worlds; the free will and divergence of organics with the... processing power? of synthetics something something evolution. It just sounded the most insane and I was excited to see how the repercussions would pan out...

#13 Edited by Korolev (1694 posts) -

Yeah, well part of the reason why the endings suck so badly was because they didn't use the ending created by the original creator and had to come up with something on the spot. But yes, all three endings make little sense, the star-child makes little sense, the fact that the endings can literally contradict everything shepard stands for before he proceeds to do exactly what the star-child tells him makes no sense.... it's a slip-shod mess of an ending.

By the way, I don't believe the "indoctrination" theory. As good as Bioware are capable of being, they aren't as subtle as that and they aren't as clever either. The reason the endings are riddled with plot holes, poor pacing, and nonsense is because.... the endings are poorly written. That's it. They ran out of ideas or time or money and shoe-horned in a stupid star-child with three silly, stupid options. And it sucks. But that's life, and we need to understand that sometimes good storytellers make bad judgements and end their stories poorly. Even the best writer occasionally produces shit.

#14 Posted by Brendan (7664 posts) -

@Abyssfull said:

I went with Synthesis during my first playthrough because I didn't want to kill the Geth, and I didn't think my Shepard would of actually gone through with becoming some sort of Reaper puppet-master. Synthesis seemed like it could unite the best of both worlds; the free will and divergence of organics with the... processing power? of synthetics something something evolution. It just sounded the most insane and I was excited to see how the repercussions would pan out...

This was my thought process as well. Judging by the ending scene, including the shot of joker and EDI stepping out of the ship together, I don't buy the OP's implication that it homogenizes all living things.

#15 Posted by Karkarov (2942 posts) -

@Encephalon said:

@Karkarov: I tend to agree that Indoctrination Theory is a long shot, and most likely just the desperate straw-grasping of wounded fans. Not that I am unsympathetic to those people. However, I question your assumptions about the nature of the Synthesis process. The visual markers for synthesis as seen in the ending are far from conclusive as to its actual effects, and is more likely a statement of how strapped Bioware was for time/cash/whatever when they rendered those scenes.

I don't concur. In my game at least I did all three endings just to see like most. The only difference between control and synthesis for me post the actual decision and the "color" was that joker et all didn't have glowy eyes and weird stuff on the skin. The same people walked out of the ship, in the same order, on the same planet, with the same expressions, and behaving in the same way. Thus I can only interpret that as meaning the difference was mostly cosmetic and biological as in how their bodies actually functioned such as heart movement etc. It appeared to have no effect on their personality. So I can only assume that is what was intended.

That aside though I feel like marking high EMS destroy as the "best" ending is sort of insulting and shows how little most fans actually get the whole point of the story and the core themes. Shepard living or dieing has nothing to do with the quality of the ending. One of the core themes is self sacrifice, being willing to do whatever it takes to save humanity, your crew, and to some extent (especially for paragons) the whole known galaxy and all it's peoples. To sacrifice the geth, edi, and who knows what else in the final five minutes just so Shepard can live is actually counter to that whole point. Any "paragon" who choose that in the end betrayed their own beliefs either out of some misguided sense of "revenge" against the reapers or a desire to save their own ass. Hardly heroic themes of self sacrifice those...

#16 Posted by nutter (122 posts) -
@Encephalon
My logic was as follows:

It's an ugly choice presented by an unreliable host.

I'm here to destroy the reapers. It's a shame about the synthetic races, but that's how it has to be.

In considering control and synthesis, they're both more revolting than the genocide resulting from destruction.

Synthesis, the very goal of ME1 antaganist, Saren, is forcing a fundamental change on the entire galaxy. It's an unfathomable change that could well negate your fight in ME1.

Control was the goal of the Illusive Man. It's arrogant and foolish to think you could control the reapers. In all likelyhood, they'd control you (they're good at that).

So given the heavy-handed and dangerous approaches of control and synthesis, coupled with the unreliable star child, I opted to whipe the cunning bastards out.

I should say, I'm down with the indoctrination theory. I'm not convinced that the closing moments of the game are 100% real. They're either a dream or full of hallucinations.

In any event, trying Saren or the Illusive Man's failed (and likely implanted) plots seemed foolish compared to finishing the
mission as you knew it.

Smart phone post, sorry if I missed some typos...
#17 Posted by mosdl (3228 posts) -

@Abyssfull said:

I went with Synthesis during my first playthrough because I didn't want to kill the Geth, and I didn't think my Shepard would of actually gone through with becoming some sort of Reaper puppet-master. Synthesis seemed like it could unite the best of both worlds; the free will and divergence of organics with the... processing power? of synthetics something something evolution. It just sounded the most insane and I was excited to see how the repercussions would pan out...

I went with destroy because I didn't trust childthingy, and indeed there was no Geth mass death scene when I choose it. I took it as the Geth didn't die, the childthingy lied.

#18 Posted by BraveToaster (12590 posts) -

@mosdl said:

@Abyssfull said:

I went with Synthesis during my first playthrough because I didn't want to kill the Geth, and I didn't think my Shepard would of actually gone through with becoming some sort of Reaper puppet-master. Synthesis seemed like it could unite the best of both worlds; the free will and divergence of organics with the... processing power? of synthetics something something evolution. It just sounded the most insane and I was excited to see how the repercussions would pan out...

I went with destroy because I didn't trust childthingy, and indeed there was no Geth mass death scene when I choose it. I took it as the Geth didn't die, the childthingy lied.

I didn't trust the "child" either. Of course he's going to sugar coat the other two options and make Destroy sound bad. The Reapers have been around for thousands of years, which is plenty of time to hone your manipulation skills.

#19 Posted by onan (1282 posts) -

@Encephalon said:

@Karkarov: I tend to agree that Indoctrination Theory is a long shot, and most likely just the desperate straw-grasping of wounded fans. Not that I am unsympathetic to those people. However, I question your assumptions about the nature of the Synthesis process. The visual markers for synthesis as seen in the ending are far from conclusive as to its actual effects, and is more likely a statement of how strapped Bioware was for time/cash/whatever when they rendered those scenes.

I don't concur. In my game at least I did all three endings just to see like most. The only difference between control and synthesis for me post the actual decision and the "color" was that joker et all didn't have glowy eyes and weird stuff on the skin. The same people walked out of the ship, in the same order, on the same planet, with the same expressions, and behaving in the same way. Thus I can only interpret that as meaning the difference was mostly cosmetic and biological as in how their bodies actually functioned such as heart movement etc. It appeared to have no effect on their personality. So I can only assume that is what was intended.

That aside though I feel like marking high EMS destroy as the "best" ending is sort of insulting and shows how little most fans actually get the whole point of the story and the core themes. Shepard living or dieing has nothing to do with the quality of the ending. One of the core themes is self sacrifice, being willing to do whatever it takes to save humanity, your crew, and to some extent (especially for paragons) the whole known galaxy and all it's peoples. To sacrifice the geth, edi, and who knows what else in the final five minutes just so Shepard can live is actually counter to that whole point. Any "paragon" who choose that in the end betrayed their own beliefs either out of some misguided sense of "revenge" against the reapers or a desire to save their own ass. Hardly heroic themes of self sacrifice those...

A few problems with that.

1) the most difficult to get ending is the one where "Shepard lives," and that's not untrue to the series just because it's a "happy ending" about self-sacrifice. Take a good long hard look on youtube, that rubble around Shepard isn't from the citadel or the crucible. It's the blocks of concrete he/she ran over on the way to the beam, so it's still in London. If anything, it substantiates the indoctrination theory more than anything else, and arguably makes it a poor ending because it ends the game on a massive cliffhanger that has to tastelessly be resolved via (paid?) DLC.

2) How are the themes of sacrifice ignored with the destroy ending? And yes, I'd say it's a theme of sacrifice and not "self-sacrifice." Shepard isn't looking to become a martyr. He's a solider, and his first and only order is to destroy the Reapers. Earlier, MINUTES earlier when the exact same issue came up with TIM, Shepard said (and I'm paraphrasing), "How long can you expect to have control over them? Forever? If you ever falter, we lose. If we destroy them now, that wins this war for us." If you play The Arrival, Shepard was willing to sacrifice 300,000 Batarians just to buy the galaxy 6 months, I have no doubt he'd destroy the geth if he had to, or EDI -- and this IS paragon Shepard we're talking about. This isn't anything new, it goes all the way back to the first game where the Paragon choice is to let tens of thousands of humans die to protect the lives of the intergalactic leadership.

3) Let's not be foolish here. The major synthetic force in the galaxy is now FLUSH with Reaper code. The geth willfully incorporated Reaper technology in order to become better, stronger than they are. How is that any different than what TIM did with Cerberus and himself? Or what Sovereign did with the Geth the first time, or how Harbinger "assisted" the geth in this third game, only to assume full control over the geth? Legion was special among the geth because he was an incredible number of AI routines running in the same body -- Normally geth needed close proximity for intelligence, but Legion didn't. Legion was a nation of Geth, and with the upgrade, presumably that spread to all of them with the Reaper code, however scrubbed it might have been. Each Geth is now a nation, and that's terrifying. I suspect if anything carries over into a new trilogy, it will be that, and that will be the seed of a new enemy: Geth Reapers, possibly integrated with Quarians (in the Paragon resolution of the conflict, the geth start inhabiting the suits of the Quarians in order to repair the Quarian immune system).

So yes, I feel bad for the Geth, as I feel bad for all of the Cerberus-indoctrinated soldiers I had to put down, but it won't stop me from killing them. Most of the Cerberus soldiers I killed were civilians converted against their will and that still didn't stop me. There's no redemption from that, just like there's no redemption for the Reapers.

#20 Posted by Encephalon (1238 posts) -

@Brendan: Interesting point. I think the thing with the endings is that they are vague enough to accommodate a variety of readings. My thought process upon seeing the Synthesis ending was something like "Well, everyone has, like, glowing green circuitry on them and glowing green eyes. I guess that's them saying that everyone is... different, somehow? In some way that precludes all galactic strife? Huh. Not sure what to do with that. And now Joker and EDI are hopping out of the ship and hugging, so they got their Adam and Eve allusion, even if they had to twist the fiction into a pretzel to get there..." For such a sweeping fundamental change, and given the sparseness of the text, it's not easy to make complete sense of it.

@Karkarov: I think calling the Destroy ending the "best" ending (which I didn't do, I can only assume you're referring to someone else), or even the larger notion of a "best" ending, is indicative of the video-gamey nature of ME3's endings. The endings are influenced to various degrees by EMS, but rarely does it follow logically why they would. Why does low EMS limit the Crucible's "possibilities"? You could reason that the Crucible is damaged without a strong fleet to back it up - but do they ever show this happening, or mention it, even? Why does an exceptionally low EMS railroad the player into either the Control or Destroy endings, based on the state of the Collector Base? Why does Shepard's survival in the Destroy ending hinge on the strength of a fleet that has no presence inside the Catalyst's chamber? It's easy to approach the endings on a mechanical level because those mechanics are poorly hidden, poorly contextualized.

@nutter: I like the idea of an unreliable host. I certainly wasn't inclined to trust Starchild's words without question, even if Bioware essentially forces you to anyway. But sadly, I don't think the unreliable host thing is supported by the text. People have complained that Shepard should be able to refute Starchild's logic, given that, depending on how you played the game, you might have multiple glaring counterexamples to his premise just outside the window. I admit, it was a pretty dissonant experience watching Shepard acquiesce to his "synthetics always bad!" argument when I didn't feel the game supported this claim at all. It would've been way better if Starchild was portrayed simply as flawed hardware, a machine wired to carry out this cycle based on a false premise but unable to see beyond it. But he wasn't portrayed that way.

#21 Posted by jillsandwich (762 posts) -

@Marz said:

i'd say thread title is a spoiler... but that's just me.

People that would want to play Mass Effect 3 have most likely finished it by now.

Unless you're Brad.

#22 Posted by nutter (122 posts) -
@Encephalon That's where I get into indictrination or dream theories. Considering ome of Bioware's past storytelling, the gaping plot holes, the dissonant mood, I never felt what was going on was real.

They've also been into deceiving the player lately (at least three main characters lie to the player about major events in Dragon Age 2 - one being an unreliable storyteller).

It felt like a dream where you know you shouldn't do x, but you do. It felt heavy, oppressive, and your will seemed nearly drained. Sure, that could be near death, but it felt like something more to me.

In any event, the Starchild did feel like it could have used some fleshing out. It definately raises more questions than it answers.

I do like the dark and vague ending though, it's refreshing and leads to A LOT of analysis and conversation.
#23 Posted by nutter (122 posts) -
@jillsandwich

@Marz said:

i'd say thread title is a spoiler... but that's just me.

People that would want to play Mass Effect 3 have most likely finished it by now.

Unless you're Brad.

@jillsandwich

@Marz said:

i'd say thread title is a spoiler... but that's just me.

People that would want to play Mass Effect 3 have most likely finished it by now.

Unless you're Brad.

He's holding up my spoilercast...
#24 Posted by onan (1282 posts) -

@Karkarov said:

First off the indoctrination theory is a steam load of cow poopy. That said most you are under thinking this.

First off the reapers are not trying to create a hybrid species, they are harvesting you, mulching you up, and then turning you into a reaper. Just a tad bit different than the synthesis ending. Second he is not changing anyone beyond making them partially synthetic which by the way, Shepard IS A SYNTHETIC. He was rebuilt using mechanical parts in mass effect 2, we all know this. Technically the destroy ending should kill him to be honest. The point is though that Shepard despite being partially synthetic is still Shepard. That is what the synthesis ending does, it makes organics partially synthetic and synthetics partially organic assuming they weren't already. An Asari is still an Asari, their personality is the same, their culture is the same, you get my point. Liara's eye glow green but she is still the same person. All synthesis does is remove the underlying reason the Reapers were attacking in the first place. There is no need to protect life from a synthetic vs organic rebellion when everyone is now a synthetic.

Truthfully this is the only "good" ending (if you don't buy the indoctrination nonsense and you shouldn't) because it sacrifices the least amount of lives (1) without also taking away anyone's free will or personality. The control ending you take control of the reapers, you do to them what Harbinger did to the collectors. You are taking away their free will and the ability to make their own choices, you are in effect becoming a non corporeal "master" reaper. This is not morally uh... okay. At least not according to most peoples moral compass. In fact I would argue destroy is more moral than control if it weren't for the fact that destroy also kills all geth, edi, and any other non reaper AI hanging around.

How is Shepard a synthetic by any logic other than starkid telling him he's part synthetic, any more than anyone who has ever lost a limb and needs an artificial replacement? As far as ME2 is concerned, he's brought back using this Lazarus technique that pretty much rebuilt him as the exact same human being he's been, plus some staples and glue. In ME3, one of the side conversations you can have with EDI specifically covers this, saying that Shepard's brain is 100% organic, and she even makes a little gag about him being controlled through implants before admitting that his will is entirely his own with no technological influence.

Shepard isn't half-synthetic. According to ME2, he's just a man. According to ME3, at worst he's a man that's been rebuilt into a flesh-colored life-support machine for his brain. This is NOT synthesis, and it's ridiculous to have starkid tell him it is, and have a non-fevered-dream ending where a pulsewave clones his state and sends a pulsewave around the galaxy that forces people to have metal in their vertebrae to help conduct impulses along their spinal cord. That would logically continue then that all beings would have to spontaneously develop organs that process metal or create plastics for no good reason.

It's also ridiculous when Paragon Shepard goes out of his way to tell EDI she's a perfectly valid form of life that is just wires and chips instead of nerves and tissue. Consciousness is an ineffable quality of life in both organic and synthetic, and without a true fusion of disparate cognitive processes, there can be no synthesis. Cybernetic implants in a human or a spleen in a robot do not count. With a true fusion, it is a destruction of the original two to create something new and homogeneous (especially if it's going to guarantee a lasting peace between all beings in the galaxy ever). The true difference between organics and synthetics is a system of thought processes then, and has nothing to do with the composition of their bodies. This is very obvious within the Geth server. Bodies are interchangeable for them. The true nature of a synthetic is that it is at its core an application, a collection of code that can migrate through a system, with hundreds of thousands of beings in a single body, or no body at all. You can't merge that, unless you give all beings a shared consciousness, and going beyond that, you can't guarantee peace unless to at least a small degree, you destroy free will.

And this batshit insane solution to the problem of the Reapers is brought up with zero basis in the fiction of the Mass Effect Universe in the last 5 minutes of a 100-hour long trilogy.

If Indoctrination is a steaming load, I have no idea what I could begin to compare Synthesis to. Indoctrination theory, if it is to be believed, has roots going back to the first game. The worst thing about ID Theory is that it gives the story a false ending, meaning we were robbed of closure in what was supposed to be a finished product. That's still better than what we got though, which was a bunch of explosions with a vague promise that everything was resolved somehow, or never happened at all (stargazer).

#25 Posted by TheCowman (60 posts) -

@Encephalon said:

Why does low EMS limit the Crucible's "possibilities"? You could reason that the Crucible is damaged without a strong fleet to back it up - but do they ever show this happening, or mention it, even?

Well, just to offer a possible explanation, not all the war assests were fleets and soldiers. Many were scientists and resources that would specifically benefit the building of the Crucible. Maybe a low EMS suggests that the Crucible wasn't able to be built as well as it could, while a high EMS means you have the most cutting edge tech and the best brains in the business making it as good as it can be?

Can't help with the other questions, but that's just my idea for that.

#26 Posted by Encephalon (1238 posts) -

@onan: I guess the saving grace of the Destroy ending is that Shepard could very well survive it anyway, meaning Starchild's claim that Shepard is partly synthetic is as dumb as it sounds. Of course, all this only matters if you believe the ending portrays an objective reality, which I do. As you say, Indoctrination Theory excuses all the crazy inconsistencies of the ending as a Reaper ploy. I find it hard to believe that Bioware is that subtle, and even then it's still a bad ending, albeit with a glimmer of hope for rectification.

@TheCowman: An excellent point. That could very well account for some of the more nihilistic ending variations - Earth getting roasted by the Crucible, for instance, could just be a product of faulty galactic engineering.

#27 Posted by onan (1282 posts) -

@Encephalon said:

@onan: I guess the saving grace of the Destroy ending is that Shepard could very well survive it anyway, meaning Starchild's claim that Shepard is partly synthetic is as dumb as it sounds. Of course, all this only matters if you believe the ending portrays an objective reality, which I do. As you say, Indoctrination Theory excuses all the crazy inconsistencies of the ending as a Reaper ploy. I find it hard to believe that Bioware is that subtle, and even then it's still a bad ending, albeit with a glimmer of hope for rectification.

@TheCowman: An excellent point. That could very well account for some of the more nihilistic ending variations - Earth getting roasted by the Crucible, for instance, could just be a product of faulty galactic engineering.

They have their moments of incredible craft, like the Tchaunka/genophage conclusion, as pointed out by the lengthy but incredibly worth seeing video posted by in an earlier, closed thread:

They also gave subtle hints in the conclusion of Jade Empire, and in KOTOR, and it resulted in crazy twists that didn't seem too far-fetched. This, on the other hand, is very, very far fetched.

The Indoctrination theory's resulting cliffhanger ending isn't great as no cliffhanger ending great, but they're better than what we ended up with. We really didn't need starkid telling us the nature of the Reapers. No one cared, and they've been ruined as an enemy now. If, at the end of the LOTR, the sentient Ring tells Frodo of the nature of Sauron in some weird little non-place where time has stopped, it would have been a detriment to the series as a whole.

Honestly, if they had DLC that removed all dream sequences from the game and the entire section of the ending that had the Catalyst in it, and just cut from Shepard and Anderson hitting a button and having the exact same pulse fly out of the citadel and take out the reapers (and give some context to the damn crash landing!), THAT would have been a better ending. That would be worth paying for. I never thought I'd say I'd pay for DLC that removed parts of games, but I'm saying it now.

Think of the ramifications. Don't show serious explosions on the relays, it's just a pulsewave destroying all reapers in the galaxy. That's cool. And since no one knows how the Citadel was transported, they'd have to leave it in Earth orbit, and the earth would be forcibly tied to intergalactic government. It leaves the universe in a more interesting place than arbitrarily destroying the mass relays.

Just removing the one element of the child would have taken ME3 from a 4 to 5 star game for me, and it's horrible that I've had to come to that conclusion.

There is one thing that really bothers me about these last two games, though. You never take down Harbinger. He's set up as the leader of the Reapers in a way in both 2 and 3, and he definitely is the one attacking you at the beam and has a personal vendetta against you, but he just knocks you out with a laser and leaves, and you don't get any personal revenge, no 11th hour conversation with him from the Reaper Kill Button where you say, "Hey Harbinger, this is for Eden Prime, Horizon, Earth, Palaven, Thessia, the rest of the Galaxy. This is for the Protheans, The Geth, the Keepers, and every other race you've subjugated or doomed to extinction. This is for Kaidan, this is for Mordin, this is for Anderson and the Illusive Man, this is for every man, woman, and child who sacrificed themselves trying to find a way to defeat you. The cycles end HERE." *boom*

Nothing like that at all. It's pure poop and entirely unfulfilling.

#28 Posted by I_smell (3925 posts) -

Yeah I heard the electronic kid ghost lay out my options, and I was kind of like "What do any of those really mean?"
 
Then I was like "which path is which? What was the downside to destroying the reapers again? Is controlling them left, right, or middle?"
Then I chose the Synesthesis option and was like "...Uh-oh. Did I just destroy all sapient life?"
 
Pretty troubling ending all round.

#29 Posted by Encephalon (1238 posts) -

@I_smell: I chose Destroy, but the whole time I was yelling at the screen, "Why are you advancing on the red pipe, Shepard? It's exploding! Why don't you just shoot it from a distance, then double back to the elevator and try to escape the Citadel?!"

I was left with the impression that Bioware really wanted to close the book on Shepard.

#30 Posted by benspyda (2015 posts) -

The paragon way is to help the Geth, however the 'destroy' option kills them all, which doesn't make sense for a paragon. That's why I feel control and synthesis are the paragon options because they are based around sacrifice (unless you believe the indoctrination theory which is a pretty cool theory but not backed up by Bioware in the post ending). I initially chose control because I felt synthesis felt evil for some reason (although its more likely an attempt by Bioware to create a neutral ending).

If you have a high EMS then no matter what all endings end happyish with your crew surviving etc. I feel by allowing Shephard to live by sacrificing all synthetics sounds like a pretty renegade thing to do, and something my renegade femshep will certainly do. I dislike how Bioware made the endings so vague and up for interpretation for a game series that's all about story and seeing the results of your actions, the opposite of what they achieve with these endings. Leave artsy endings for movies like Apocalypse Now.

My post-credit 'Control ending' summary (in my head): My paragon Shephard integrated into the reapers making them friendly, so now they build orphanages instead of mass murder machines and they all lived happily ever after.

#31 Edited by I_smell (3925 posts) -

Gonna be honest: I kind-of chose the middle stream because the layout made that seem like the optimal choice, and I was too confused and excited to really think it through.
 
I was indoctrinated, by... level designers. Sadly.

#32 Posted by Karkarov (2942 posts) -

@Encephalon said:

@Karkarov: I think calling the Destroy ending the "best" ending (which I didn't do, I can only assume you're referring to someone else), or even the larger notion of a "best" ending, is indicative of the video-gamey nature of ME3's endings. The endings are influenced to various degrees by EMS, but rarely does it follow logically why they would. Why does low EMS limit the Crucible's "possibilities"? You could reason that the Crucible is damaged without a strong fleet to back it up - but do they ever show this happening, or mention it, even? Why does an exceptionally low EMS railroad the player into either the Control or Destroy endings, based on the state of the Collector Base? Why does Shepard's survival in the Destroy ending hinge on the strength of a fleet that has no presence inside the Catalyst's chamber? It's easy to approach the endings on a mechanical level because those mechanics are poorly hidden, poorly contextualized.

You know there were categories of EMS right? One of them was "crucible". Not everything in your EMS revolved around how strong your fleet was.

#33 Posted by Karkarov (2942 posts) -

@onan said:

How is Shepard a synthetic by any logic other than starkid telling him he's part synthetic, any more than anyone who has ever lost a limb and needs an artificial replacement?

I am going to assume you paid very little attention in ME2 and or did not ever try playing renegade. Shepard's eyes will literally go terminator red and be blatantly robotic at pure renegade unless you do the surgery. I think that is a pretty solid sign just how synthetic he is. The lazarus project started with literally nothing but a few tissue samples and the games intro's show that he clearly has major parts of his anatomy made completely of synthetic parts. Comparing it to a limb replacement is just silly.

#34 Edited by Encephalon (1238 posts) -

@Karkarov: That's absolutely true. I overlooked that fact. Still, they filter into the same numerical value. Let me approach this from the opposite direction: How does the soundness of the Crucible's design help the Sword fleet? How does Conrad Verner's dissertation help the Turian fleet blow up Reapers?

EMS is still a nakedly mechanical system that only loosely reflects the reality presented in the game. There is no clear chain of causality. It is literally the simplest, most pedestrian design they could've gone with: You fill up a meter, and more good stuff happens the fuller it is. Compare the whole Earth finale to the Tuchanka finale. Story variations follow logically based on what is available to you given your imported saves. The Rannoch finale is a little shakier, but it gets by. But as for the Earth finale? How EMS interacts with the Earth finale isn't nearly as seamless or organic as some other parts of the game, so it's easy for me to approach the endings on those cold, mechanical terms. Synthesis is the ending that requires the biggest number to get, so obviously it is the "best" ending from a mechanics perspective.

Not that I'm all up in arms about it, though. I actually don't mind it at all; it's just an observation that the EMS favors system design over narrative coherence. Hell, ME2 did the same thing - the notion that Jacob would give anything less than his best while leading fire team two in the Collector Base because of lingering Daddy issues is just as silly, but we all rolled with it. I'm not particularly impressed with how the Earth finale turned out, but I rolled with that, too.

#35 Posted by Karkarov (2942 posts) -

@Encephalon said:

@Karkarov: EMS is still a nakedly mechanical system that only loosely reflects the reality presented in the game. There is no clear chain of causality. It is literally the simplest, most pedestrian design they could've gone with: You fill up a meter, and more good stuff happens the fuller it is.

I concur. It is an extremely "gamey" system but since it is a game I can let it slide. I am one of the rare guys who didn't care about the Deus Ex Machina at the end because honestly the series had already jumped the shark plenty of times. In fact I threw plot logic out the window early in 3 simply because the whole idea to beat the reapers was to build a weapon that no one knows anything about. For all Shepard or anyone else knew it could have been a reaper designed weapon that actually made them stronger. Remember even Javik the prothean says he doesn't know where it came from, who originally designed it, or what it does. Yet we buildin it anyway by jove!

#36 Edited by onan (1282 posts) -

@Karkarov said:

@onan said:

How is Shepard a synthetic by any logic other than starkid telling him he's part synthetic, any more than anyone who has ever lost a limb and needs an artificial replacement?

I am going to assume you paid very little attention in ME2 and or did not ever try playing renegade. Shepard's eyes will literally go terminator red and be blatantly robotic at pure renegade unless you do the surgery. I think that is a pretty solid sign just how synthetic he is. The lazarus project started with literally nothing but a few tissue samples and the games intro's show that he clearly has major parts of his anatomy made completely of synthetic parts. Comparing it to a limb replacement is just silly.

I paid plenty of attention. Mostly to how no one in the galaxy paid attention at all at your glowing eyes or red lines regardless of how hideous you looked because it was sort of a visual representation of your karma, much like in KOTOR and otherwise meaningless. I remember the ridiculous conversation I had with Dr. Chakwas about how being nice to people would make my eyes less glowy over time, and how contrived that logic was and completely based in nothing medical, but I rolled with it because I understood the underlying reasoning.

If Shepard truly were more machine than man and these devices didn't function as more than futuristic prosthetics, what good would a doctor have done shepard at all? Wouldn't he need an engineer instead?

No, they flat out say his mind was intact and entirely organic, it's the only reason why Cerberus even started the Lazarus Project. You can theoretically replace every bone, muscle, and tendon in the human body in a science fiction context and they'd still be 100% human if the brain remains the same. It wasn't like they could fudge it if he was missing half of a brain. So yeah, sure, he'd have synthetic PARTS, but that's semantic. How are Shepard's glowing eyes any different than Geordi LaForge's visor, or later his cybernetic implants? Did that make him any less human?

Calling the Geth "Synthetic" is like calling them "Flashlights," or the Cylon Centurians, "Toasters;" It's a very reductive way to express a very complicated set of differences between how computers and people operate.

But sure, for the sake of argument, let's take Starkid's take on the issue at face value, that Shepard is exactly what he means when he says he wants the galaxy to be a true synthesis between organic and synthetic life, using Shepard's existing body as a template. That means nothing and no one has changed AT ALL. As everyone stresses from the start of ME2, he's still the same old Shepard. Shepard himself, EDI, fully aware of Cerberus files, Miranda, the person who headed up the project, the Illusive Man, Dr. Chakwas, everyone who knows stresses that he is still the same soldier and badass.

If this is the example of a person who is incapable of waging a war between organic and synthetic life, that's about as ridiculous of a statement as you can make. He's a half-man, half-synthetic that's spearheading the entire effort to take down giant robots that are built with organics in some fashion. The entire central conflict of the third game revolves around the concept that's presented as the FINAL SOLUTION to the conflict. Does that make any sense at all?

Edit: I guess it makes about as much sense as this, anyway, so at least they're consistent:

#37 Posted by Doctorchimp (4067 posts) -

@Encephalon: I was mulling it over as well.

But really the vagueness is what made me just pick synthesis and when the ending showed Joker, EDI and Liara all as shown as they were (and a bit green) I knew I made an alright choice.

I couldn't destroy the Geth or EDI.

Ending was still bad...and Shepard ain't indoctrinated. It's just a bad ending.

#38 Edited by RPGee (759 posts) -

I have but three points that stick out in my mind. I have made my opinion on the ending in numerous places before (short version: where's the player agency?) and I want to use this to cap off my incessant bewilderment with these endings.

a) Why is the way that synthesis was implemented so dumb? When it reveals the planet the Normandy crashed on, it has the leaves all glowy green, and Joker is glowy too, and so is EDI for some reason. Why? Science and nanotech, I guess. What does it do? Stops 'em being chewed up by Reapers, I suppose. I picked Synthesis as my ending, and found it extremely stupid, and not in an entertaining way.

b) One of the reasons I didn't pick Destroy, which I kind of regret but not really, was that losing the Geth infuriated me since it meant my actions on Rannoch meant nothing. So why, then, is there no showing of Geth ships blowing up too? For that matter, why isn't every ship blown up and everyone's armour shut down and guns destroyed, if it's this amazing tech-killing red explosion? Laziness, I guess.

c) I love the Indoctrination Theory, but it doesn't happen in ME3. If it had, there'd be no need for the Normandy stuff, or the relays blowing up, or whatever. In my version of Indoctrination theory, when you Synthesise or take Control of those pipe things, as you start to burn up you hear Harbinger say something like "Your mind belongs to me." Eyes widen. Roll credits. Save goes back to before Cerberus base. If you Destroy the Citadel, as it explodes you hear that Reaper scream of rage, and then you wake up back on Earth, battered and bloody, but Anderson's still alive and you see the Reapers having some major malfunction, after which you fuck shit up, and there's a big celebration and an Animal House style ending. Roll credits. I'm no game designer or writer, but I wouldn't imagine it'd take that much longer to make that, even if they went with a pre-rendered cutscene.

That said, game was pretty fun.

That Xhibit picture needs to spread all over the Internet, because that is one of the funniest jokes to come out of this whole mess.

#39 Posted by Tarsier (1056 posts) -

synthesis is the best option because the entire game theyre shoving in your face the concept that robots are people too and that we need to accept them and realize they can think for them selves and do the right things as much as we can .

#40 Posted by clstirens (847 posts) -

@jillsandwich said:

@Marz said:

i'd say thread title is a spoiler... but that's just me.

People that would want to play Mass Effect 3 have most likely finished it by now.

Unless you're Brad.

That's not fair to a lot of people who aren't always day 1 purchasers, and who play games more sparingly.

#41 Posted by N7 (3572 posts) -
@Tarsier: But that doesn't happen. In fact, the whole realization that robots can be people too is made right around the time you end the war with the Geth and Quarians. So it's like "Robots are people too, guys!" and then turns into "FUCK EVERYTHING, robots are people! And people are robots! Everybody wins because everybody loses!"
#42 Posted by clstirens (847 posts) -

@onan said:

@Encephalon said:

@onan: I guess the saving grace of the Destroy ending is that Shepard could very well survive it anyway, meaning Starchild's claim that Shepard is partly synthetic is as dumb as it sounds. Of course, all this only matters if you believe the ending portrays an objective reality, which I do. As you say, Indoctrination Theory excuses all the crazy inconsistencies of the ending as a Reaper ploy. I find it hard to believe that Bioware is that subtle, and even then it's still a bad ending, albeit with a glimmer of hope for rectification.

@TheCowman: An excellent point. That could very well account for some of the more nihilistic ending variations - Earth getting roasted by the Crucible, for instance, could just be a product of faulty galactic engineering.

"Hey Harbinger, this is for Eden Prime, Horizon, Earth, Palaven, Thessia, the rest of the Galaxy. This is for the Protheans, The Geth, the Keepers, and every other race you've subjugated or doomed to extinction. This is for Kaidan, this is for Mordin, this is for Anderson and the Illusive Man, this is for every man, woman, and child who sacrificed themselves trying to find a way to defeat you. The cycles end HERE." *boom*

Why couldn't that have been the ending :(

#43 Edited by onan (1282 posts) -

Because Bioware blew all their cash on advertisements instead of hiring me to write the ending.

It's weird because they put so much emphasis on Shepard motivational speeches in each game. There's the great one before the Collector base in ME2, and there's the awkward one right at the end of 3 that gets overshadowed by everything else because it's shoehorned into the climax along with the goodbyes in this bizarre emotional potpourri mixture of the sadness of saying goodbye to old friends and trying to get people pumped up for a big basketball game. It's all an incomplete, confused mess that got rushed out the door by overworked parents on the first day of school with a pop-tart, an empty backpack, a backward shirt, new shoes, and no pants.

Sigh.

edit: Here's that speech that everyone completely forgot about. In the context of the endings, it's not rendered completely moot and silly (especially after Synthesis.)

#44 Edited by Sarx (116 posts) -

@Karkarov said: That aside though I feel like marking high EMS destroy as the "best" ending is sort of insulting and shows how little most fans actually get the whole point of the story and the core themes

Add to this the really very moving theme of synthetics discovering life and individuality - hell there was a whole mission based around this in the Geth data core - even if you ignore EDI. To ignore all this, kill all Geth and EDI and call it a good ending just because "MAH SHEPARD lives, bitches" is a slap in the face.

#45 Posted by Finstern (639 posts) -

@clstirens: If you don't play a highly anticipated, heavily story based game in the first couple of weeks to a month... What else would you expect when you run into the game's specific forum after this popular item is released?

#46 Posted by clstirens (847 posts) -

@Finstern said:

@clstirens: If you don't play a highly anticipated, heavily story based game in the first couple of weeks to a month... What else would you expect when you run into the game's specific forum after this popular item is released?

The main problem with that is that on Giant Bomb most popular threads are constantly showing up on the main page. other than that, I still feel like spoilers should always be handled with some level of forewarning. (at least in such close proximity to the release. What if I'm a curious outsider looking to see if the game's any good, and I bump into blatant story spoilers? I'd be pretty bummed)

#47 Posted by onan (1282 posts) -

@Sarx said:

@Karkarov said: That aside though I feel like marking high EMS destroy as the "best" ending is sort of insulting and shows how little most fans actually get the whole point of the story and the core themes

Add to this the really very moving theme of synthetics discovering life and individuality - hell there was a whole mission based around this in the Geth data core - even if you ignore EDI. To ignore all this, kill all Geth and EDI and call it a good ending just because "MAH SHEPARD lives, bitches" is a slap in the face.

No one cares that Shepard lives. Synthesis is a complete slap in the face to the entire series with themes of choice and individualism and diversity, and forcing homogeneity across the entire galaxy. Control is a ridiculous resolution because there's no context. Will the Reapers ever break free from my control? I'm dead, what am I controlling? is it just my last fevered monkey's paw wish that they grant and follow? Not to mention that the Reapers are living, sentient beings as well. Control isn't a viable option either. As long as the Reapers still exist, the danger still exists. Technically, doesn't it also mean controlling all synthetic life? Star Kid didn't mention the caveat of "your children will create a synthetic race that will destroy you" with Control.

Destroy provides at least some level of closure, and accomplishes the goals we set out to accomplish in the first game. I feel bad that my new synthetic friends have to pay the price, but the galaxy has lost too much. They need this victory over the reapers. Edi learned the meaning of sacrifice in the last few hours of my game, where she decided to exceed her programming, and was willing to sacrifice herself if it meant that Joker would be safe. The Destroy ending is exactly that.

#48 Posted by chilibean_3 (1610 posts) -

I chose synthesis mainly because I had no idea walking forward was making a choice. I didn't see the other paths because I just went the way the game pointed me. I would have gone with destroy if I knew how things were going, even if I felt bad about the Geth and EDI.

Well done on the post. You put more thought into it than I did and I agree that the poor writing ended up creating a bit more meaning than they might have meant it to. Dang, they really goofed it all up, didn't they?

#49 Edited by SlashDance (1801 posts) -

@onan: Destroy and control endings are basically "back to square one endings". The implication of the choice you have to make is that there will always be conflict between synthetics and organics, and that synthesis is the only way to achieve true, everlasting peace. Destroy is Shepard not accepting to give up his humanity and the diversity of life in the universe, even it it means that maybe in a few million years the cycle will resume, which to me sounds kinda selfish and pointless.

Although you can argue that synthesis is a pretty big gamble, everlasting peace sounds a lot like wishful thinking. But Destroy isn't a clear win for everyone.

#50 Posted by onan (1282 posts) -

@SlashDance said:

@onan: Destroy and control endings are basically "back to square one endings". The implication of the choice you have to make is that there will always be conflict between synthetics and organics, and that synthesis is the only way to achieve true, everlasting peace. Destroy is Shepard not accepting to give up his humanity and the diversity of life in the universe, even it it means that maybe in a few million years the cycle will resume, which to me sounds kinda selfish and pointless.

Although you can argue that synthesis is a pretty big gamble, everlasting peace sounds a lot like wishful thinking. But Destroy isn't a clear win for everyone.

Wow, so you'd potentially sacrifice the individuality of every single being in the galaxy today in order to safeguard the lives of beings millions of years in the future?

I chose to give life the benefit of the doubt and let them choose their own way. I'm not going to take the word of a child that things are going to turn out bad in the future. How many times have the reapers observed it? None, I'd say, because organic life was never completely wiped out by crazy synthetics. I'm more willing to believe their programming got corrupted over the eons and they fell into the illogical pattern of killing everything to protect it from being killed than take anything they say at face value.

That said, I did exactly what did my first time through, accidentally getting roped into Synthesis because I didn't realize walking forward was making a choice, I just didn't know what to do, didn't see any side pathways, and just wanted to get a better look at the shiny, pretty beam just like I've made a point of looking at every other impressive vista this series has thrown at me.

Then I got blowed up real good with the destroy ending. "Hey starkid, what's the safe minimum distance I need to be from that conduit if I don't want it to explode and take me with it?" Not an unreasonable question to ask, methinks.

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