Mass Effect 3 ending suggestions, for posterity

Three months ago, BioWare solicited suggestions for how to change the ending for the better. I gave suggestions, about forty minutes after they had already made their decisions for how to change it.

Here are my suggestions from page 242 of the suggested changes thread http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/10098213/242 for posterity:

I was working on a suggested change feedback post for a while, mostly because my preorder was screwed up (four times!) and I didn't get to play it until last week. With the announcement minutes ago of the "Extended Cut", I may be late to the party, but if BioWare has asked me for their feedback, I *will* give it to them. I'll also try to make it an entertaining read, but make no mistake: I do mean this seriously.

Here is a list of changes I think you could make, ordered from MOST DISAPPOINTING to LEAST DISAPPOINTING. Time will tell (this summer!) if it will end up being NOT disappointing, but at least there's hope!

#1: Make no changes to the ending, and/or charge money for it.

You beat me to the punch on this one before I could finish my list, and I am NOT DISAPPOINTED at that. Thank you.

#2: Unvoiced slide show listing all of the characters and factions, and what happened to them. Like in Dragon Age: Origins. Or Animal House.

This is disappointingly weak. You can do better.

#3: Extension of ending after the choice.

Provided you pave over the plot holes leading up to and permeating the Star Child, showing in brief, cheap, obviously in-engine pre-rendered and poorly compressed cutscenes, what happens to characters, factions, and locations. Such as showing the turian fleet arriving at Palaven just before the mass relay blows up (but not enough to blow up Palaven). And then Garrus steps out of a turian ship, and looks sad that all the Palaven stuff is blown up, but hopeful for the future. Maybe some turians and krogans are cheering at a dead reaper in the background, like in Independence Day. And then a bunch of these for Tali and/or the geth on Rannoch, and Liara on Thessia, and Wrex and/or Eve on Tuchanka, and so on. Having Joker and EDI stranded on a brave new world in the synthesis ending makes sense.

Also, make absolutely sure to satisfyingly conclude the love story with Shepard's love interest. It doesn't have to be super happy, especially if Shepard didn't survive, but it should be emotional.

#4: Minor reinstatement of previously deleted scenes.

In the Collector's Edition Art Book, and in The Final Hours, there's a small bunch of stuff mentioned as cut from the ending. This includes a longer death scene for Anderson, and a longer explanation of just what the heck the Catalyst is talking about. The problem of the existing ending being wholly inadequate is not fixed by having it be wholly inadequate, but *longer*. A longer goodbye to Anderson is warranted, though.

#5: Major reinstatement of deleted scenes.

The removed "indoctrination" scene while talking down the Illusive Man, and the boss fight with The Illusive Man Brute Thing From The Art Book. Having the foreshadowing towards indoctrinating Shepard, which still exists in the game, point to something that's actually still there, would help. A bit.

Having a confrontation with the antagonist at the end is an improvement to the narrative, even though *arguably* The Illusive Man is not the "real" antagonist. It would be a bit "video gamey", to quote the book, but video games do this for a reason. It could also be dependent on prior choices, like if you didn't blow up the collector base, or if you're too much of a renegade, or something.

#6: Explanation of plot holes during and after the final choice. I am going to write this scene for you, to save you time.

EXT. BLOWED-UP LONDON

NORMANDY lands. JOKER steps out.

JOKER: Guys, I saw you get hit by that beam from Harbinger, I am so pleased you're not dead! Also, the fleet is retreating back to their homeworlds and stuff! Also, it looks like the mass relays are about to be blown up, so I'd better hurry and drive you guys back before my parents come home! I mean the relays stop working!

LIARA: Well, even though I've been the love interest of Shepard through three games, it's plainly obvious that Shepard is dead, so I'd better go back home to and grieve. Woe is me.

NORMANDY takes off, and heads to the mass relay, which EXPLODES in an impressive light show. And then it implodes pathetically, like crushing a beer can, clearly showing that although blowing up a mass relay does under normal circumstances blow up a solar system, when you blow it up like *this* it does not.

#7: A proper Lair of the Shadow Broker-grade DLC pack; new content, new missions, more gameplay, resolving the plot acceptably.

Either in place of or after the current ending, or scattered throught the game, quality content, gameplay and dialogue worthy of BioWare. It could be a return of the Dark Energy plotline abandoned during development. It could be a confrontation and bossfight against Harbinger. It could be something akin to the Suicide Mission.

You have designed some of the most fantastic post-release DLC ever made. You can do it again.

...

...Boy, I really *did* show up late for the party.

Since I started writing this, EA let loose that Mass Effect 3 would have an "improved" ending. Before I had a chance to finish, BioWare answered a FAQ that they would not change the ending.

As disappointed as I may personally be, I can respect that on some level. To have the fate of intelligent life in the galaxy, and the resolution to an aeons-lasting conflict between "us" and the Reapers, to have the conclusion to the career of the humanity's and the galaxy's greatest hero, to have all that depend on a singular choice made by Shepard and by the extension, the player, can be a powerful and fitting end to this fantastic trilogy of games. But the key word was *can*. This is how you ended the game before, and it *wasn't*.

It was poorly and hastily produced, without the attention to craft that BioWare was so highly regarded for.

It was without the artistry, the understanding of how player choice can create genuine emotion in players, that allowed Mass Effect, to be publicly defensible as a serious literary work.

It broke the tradition of the series, of having the choices made by the player decide the outcomes, and of showing the outcomes of those choices.

It was riddled with omissions, mistakes, contradictions, and plot holes.

It was unacceptable from a game that so emotionally had resolved the plot thread of quarians versus geth on Rannoch, of the old galactic society and the genophage versus the krogan on Tuchanka, among others.

It was a two-minute pre-rendered cutscene where previous *choices* made no appreciable difference.

On Rannoch, my friend saved the quarians. My other friend saved the geth. I saved *both*.

We got the exact same two-minute cutscene.

Just making it a ten-minute cutscene is not good enough.

Without changing the basics of the ending; (God Child gives you choice, you make choice) here are the things you must do to give me "further clarity" through "additional cinematic sequences" and "epilogue scenes".

You must clear up the plot holes and inconsistencies. The God Child has to explain *why* synthetics and organics cannot co-exist, against my counterexample of creating peace between the quarians and the geth. There has to be some explanation why destroying the reapers will destroy the geth, or EDI, and *how*. You have to show how, and why, my crew is on the Normandy before it crashes, when they were on Earth fighting, and Normandy was battling in the skies above.

You should be able to argue with the God Child based on the choices I have made throughout the series. I *did* make peace with the quarians and geth, I *did* inspire EDI to decide to sacrifice herself over the survival of organics.

You should make the options available be dependant on player choices, and not 50% player choices and 50% how-much-multiplayer-did-you-play. For someone removing a boss fight from the ending because it was too "video-gamey", *that's* pretty disgusting.

You should show what happened to the raging battle and to the factions fighting. Is the Migrant Fleet being decimated? Are the fleets being evacuated because the Crucible didn't work? Did the salarians retreat early because I helped the krogan?

You should show the immediate fates of my crew members, of the main characters. It doesn't have to be "happily ever after", but did they survive? Did they get back home? Is Tali back on Rannoch? Showing her building a house with Garrus and the geth are helping, might be a bit dumb, but if you're going to rule out the possibility, *show it*. Mordin, Thane and Legion sacrificed themselves

You should provide a satisfying conclusion to the love story. You don't have to show old Liara, centuries later, dressed in black and still sobbing hysterically that Shepard died. Nor do you have to show Liara and old Shepard in a beach house with lots of little blue feet running around just because Shepard survived. But you have to show something. One of the most effective emotional moments for me was in Mass Effect 2, when Shepard looked at Liara's photo just before the Suicide Mission. Do that moment justice.

You must have dozens, if not hundreds, of meaningfully different ending variations, on the basis of player choices made throughout the games. Three endings with a total of six variations is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Heavy Rain had seven, and they were *wildly* different. Chrono Trigger has fourteen. Dragon Age: Origins had even more than that.

I played a female spacer Shepard who was a sole survivor of Akuze. I saved the rachni queen, I convinced Wrex to stand down, I sacrificed Kaidan over Ashley and Kirrahe, I didn't save the council (by accident, honest) and defeated Saren. I fell in love with Liara.

I recruited Miranda, Jacob, Tali, Garrus, Jack, Zaeed, Thane, Grunt, Mordin, Samara, Legion and Kasumi for a suicide mission. I gained all of their loyalties, and they all survived to the end. I helped Liara defeat the Shadow Broker, and our love was rekindled.

I sacrificed Mordin and cured the genophage, I saved Jack from Cerberus, I sacrificed Legion and brought peace between the quarians and the geth, I sacrificed Thane and saved the salarian ambassador and Ashley, I saved Samara and her remaining daughter, and I saved Miranda and her sister. I brought Liara and Tali on the final push for the Conduit, I saved Anderson and talked The Illusive Man into killing himself, and at the very end, I chose to destroy the Reapers, rather than control them like The Illusive Man or rewrite nature like Saren.

I feel I am entitled to a more unique denouement than Ending #3/6.

In conclusion, a personal story:

Last year, I bought my sister Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 for Christmas. She loves the fiction, she bought the books, she enjoys the well-crafted worlds and the deep, engaging characters. In its current state, I honestly think that she could not enjoy Mass Effect 3, and the only reason is its ending.

If you actually do make the ending worthy of the hundred hours that preceded it, I'll know what I can get my sister for Christmas.

And I'll buy the retaking Omega DLC, if that's next.

If it's good.

Thank you for Mass Effect

Thank you for Mass Effect 2.

Thank you for 99% of Mass Effect 3.

Please make it 110%.

1 Comments

Extended Cut impressions

This is the part where I do that thing where you type something out as it's happening! And this time, it's the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut!

Right, I've finally finished the Extended Cut, and all three endings. I haven't had enough time to get some perspective on them, but here's the notes I made as I played through all the endings.

Obviously: MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE EXTENDED CUT. ALSO MASS EFFECT 3.

Okay, time for the Extended Cut!

I'm starting from the run to the beam; I expect nothing new until I'm past the Illusive Man, but I wanted to make it through the entire endgame just to see when the game falls apart. So far, it's been pretty bad all throughout.

Okay, running to the beam just like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault's Omaha Beach level. Any moment now, Tali and Liara are going to take the beam and... Huh. That Mako didn't blow up the last time, did it? Wait, that second Mako definitely didn't blow up almost on top of Tali and Liara! Wait, they're taking cover!? WAIT, SHE'S CALLING FOR EVAC!? HOLY SHIT, THE NORMANDY!

I SUGGESTED THAT! I SUGGESTED THAT TO THE BIOWARE ENDING FIX SUGGESTIONS THREAD! I SUGGESTED THAT THEY SHOULD EXPLAIN THAT JOKER EVACUATED THE CREW MATES AND THAT'S HOW THEY WERE MAGICALLY ON THE NORMANDY! ...HUH!

Well!

That's...

That's kinda weird, actually.

...My suggestion was to do it after Shepard went through the beam, which would've been less awkward. Just sayin'...

But hey; they explained that the team mates didn't die, and then I got to say farewell to Liara, and then they flew off. It was *real* awkwardly sandwiched in the middle there, but yeah.

Okay, BioWare.

You've made your first move.

I'm intrigued, now.

...Dang, I was *not* expecting that.

Let's see what Marauder Shields has to say about this...

He still tries to stop you from reaching the ending.

Oh wait, more new stuff. Admiral Hackett sending the ships to protect the Crucible. Or wait, that might've been original. Hm. Probably false alarm.

Okay, nothing new in the chat with The Illusive Man. And end credits at the point where Anderson and Shepard re-enact John Carpenter's The Thing would have been an improvement over the non-EC ending, just saying.

Nothing new with the Catalyst until he finishes his opening speech, as far as I noticed. Let's see if he has anything more in-depth to say about his justifications for galaxy-wide genocide...

It seems like the Catalyst has new justification for his actions, compared to previously. Before it all sounded kinda random, now the he just sounds like a crazy AI. Which is better for sci-fi. Although, it may just be that it's so long ago that I played through this bit, and I remember the interpretations of the Catalyst more than the actual Catalyst, and only now does his ramblings make sense.

Come to think of it, I *don't* think they changed any of the lines, since it's still just "yo dawg, I herd you liked not being killed by synthetics". But I recognise something new, now! "Details." is the most passive-aggressive dialogue option I've ever seen in a game! I just find it hilarious. "Look. Guy. Details. Give them here. Come on." Catalyst; I *do* want details.

Okay, those details were a bit passive-aggressive. "Look here kid, this fries electronics. Are you electronic? Then it fries you. Do you have a soldering iron? Then you can fix you." Neat to have a quick cutscene of the effect in action.

Okay, onto Control! Once again, amusing dialogue options: "I think I understand..." compared to "I don't understand." It almost *feels* like this has been written with seething contempt for the players they have to dumb this game down for. I find that funny. "Catalyst; I don't understand. I guess you'll have to dumb it down for me."

Okay, that's explained. Now for hilarity; Synthesis. "How?" indeed.

And the answer was... Wow. That was some amazing technobabble. Broadcasting my organic energies? Changing organic matrix to incorporate synthetic? Those words don't work like that!

Well, now I have The Choice. And first off: One of the choices is Synthesis, which previously would have required multiplayer. And I'm at 50% galaxy control, so they've changed that.

Now, from worst to best, let's try the options. And since I've heard they put this in... Kid; Meet pistol to the face.

Hehe, now that's basically a joke ending. "MWAHAHA, I WAS A DEMON ALL ALONG!" But okay, it was a proper joke ending. And Liara's message was nice.

Now to sit through the end credits...

Okay, the new Stargazer for this ending was a better actor than Buzz Aldrin. And the rewrite of the DLC ad was pretty satisfying to notice, heh.

Now for Control, the worst option. I don't think The Illusive Man had a good idea going...

Interestingly, if you load that autosave, the Catalyst isn't there. So to shoot him again, I'd have to replay that dialogue again.

Okay, so... Hm... First proper ending... Hm...

I did not like it very much.

Deconstruction time:

It opens with the same self-sacrifice as before, with shots of Anderson, Thane and Liara. Now, I don't give a damn about Thane, but the game doesn't know that. But then it goes on to show the Normandy evacuating the system; I actually suggested that, too. I also noticed that they changed the relays from exploding to disassembling. They also re-animated the Normandy crash to seem far less destructive. One thing I genuinely liked an awful lot, was the extension of the Independence Day shot. Yeah, you'd better cheer, asari!

After the crash, Evil-Reaper-God-Shepard steps out and starts talking. I found it amusing that she was wearing N7 Armor; apparently, kevlar is divine. At this point, my distaste is personal; I just don't like the Control ending, philosophically. So I don't need to get into that.

Then it goes on to a Fallout 3-style "ending slides with narration", although with somewhat more production value. Still; far less production value than any other point in the Mass Effect series. The ending slides shown also reflect actual choices made throughout the games, and their consequences, so *that's* covered. Which is a bare necessity, but just like you complain when you don't get enough air, you also *should*. Now there's enough air to survive, but not enough to actually be comfortable, if that makes sense. One thing I'll bring back up; they show Evil-ReapShep's Reapers rebuilding the Mass Relays.

It then goes on show the Normandy crew holding a ceremony where Liara affixes a Commander Shepard nameplate to The Wall of Fallen, and then the Normandy takes off. And then end credits, with the *old* Stargazer scene with Buzz Aldrin.

Now, this is the point where I'm going to criticise it for being poorly written: The Catalyst blows up the Mass Relays, and the Normandy crashes on an alien planet. In the old version, this was meant to inspire a sense of mystery and hopefulness for the future. But then, the new ending goes on to show the Reapers fixing the Mass Relays, and the Normandy taking off again. That immediately makes *both* sets of scenes pointless; there's still Mass Relays, and the Normandy is not crashed on the planet.

Well. I don't know. It was *not broken*. Poorly written, below the standards of Mass Effect. But... It was not a flaming trainwreck as it originally was. If my sister asks "hey, is Mass Effect 3 any good" I can say "not as good as 1 or 2", rather than "it's so broken at the end, it's unplayable". Also, I'd say "and the ending is not as well-produced as Dragon Age II's, but better-looking than Dragon Age: Origin's, although less well written".

I'm going to be up all night complaining about Control if I don't hold back a bit.

I think I'll move on to Synthesis. Agreeing with Saren *and* the Catalyst seems like the second-worst idea of the bunch.

Okay, Synthesis is actually *pretty good*. It seems that Control really was "the bad choice", at least for me. It was a bit odd that the ending was dedicated to EDI rather than Shepard, but, that aside, it "worked" a lot better than Control did. Also, I remembered to time it; it's about 13 minutes long. As for what happened in it; I thought it was interesting to see the ending slides change; in Control, Kasumi is in a messy apartment, engrossed in the memory shard of her dead boyfriend, which is the "sad" ending for her. In Synthesis, she's standing all happy-like with his hologram on a field somewhere. Production-value-wise, the green wiring was a bit weirdly photoshopped onto a lot of the slides, though. I also liked this version of the Normandy scene a lot better; the Adam and Eve thing between Joker and EDI was re-animated for the landing, being far more huggy and kissy. And a bit more awkward when Liara wlaked in on it. And all the way at the end, it got a bit weird after the nameplate ceremony, when EDI says that she's not alone and Liara somewhat too intimately hugs her. It would have made sense if that was *Joker*, not *shepard's* girlfriend, so yeah. Also, I found it chuckle-worthy when Liara's fingers had motion capture jitter while hanging up the nameplate. I've done motion capture cleanup; it ain't easy.

Overall, Synthesis was actually *good*. This was *not bad*. This "worked" *well*.

Now, onto Destroy. Eat mass effect accelerated lead shavings at super-high velocity, you series of tubes!

Now, this ending was 12 minutes. I'd guess they all are. So mathematically; a great improvement, if nothing else.

First, the Independence Day shot works even better now. Cheer on, asari! For the ending-slides, this time around it's Admiral Hackett narrating. Kasumi is still sad. It basically proceeds as Control does, so I guess that's the "good" ending, while these two are the okay endings. That's in line with the war asset requirements pre-EC, so that makes *sense*, in a video-gamey sort of way. Overall, this was the middle one of the bunch; it spoke more directly about the survivors coming together to rebuild, and to that end, it was maybe a bit pandering in the sci-fi technobabble department; it's not reflecting on the themes and morals learned from the story when you talk about "mass relay networks". In this one, they could have also done more to point out that EDI died; a Return of the Jedi funeral pyre would have been appropriate, or having the EDI nameplate be hung up first, and not just already there, off in the corner. Also, I noticed that Liara did not actually hang up the nameplate, so is Shepard alive or not (!?) I guess.

And now for the huge letdown; they don't change anything about the scene of Shepard (?) waking up in the rubble. Boo. Just boo. Is that taking place after the Citadel was rebuilt? Where is this? Why is this clearly female moan coming out of that male breastplate? Whose breastplate? This was a pretty cheap end-of-credits teaser in the original ending, and they didn't fix it. Boo! They did remove the Effective Military Score requirement, but I don't think this is "best ending" territory.

Overall, this ending seems to be the closest to what I think the original ending was supposed to imply; it's a brave new world for those still alive. I just don't think that it gets across in writing or execution as well as it should.

So yeah. Those were the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut endings. I'll need a little time to digest them, but first impressions are, as I predicted: Too little, too late.

The Mass Effect games has been BioWare's flagship franchise, and the high watermark in interactive storytelling. But Mass Effect 3's ending of these games just isn't up to the level it should be. It should be *great*, like Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, but Mass Effect 3 is just *okay*. And so are the new endings; they're fully voiced like Dragon Age II, but they're ending slides with narration like Dragon Age: Origins, but don't go on to talk about the universe of characters and races in any detail, which is what made *that* ending satisfying. It might just be that I actually completed all of the side missions in such an ideal way that I ended up getting all the "boring" good endings; the two most interesting slides were Jack standing over some graves, I guess her students because of that choice I may have made poorly, and Kasumi being happy/sad with the memories of her dead boyfriend. I guess if I messed up the krogans, or chose the geth over the quarians, I'd get more interesting slides, and maybe the narration would change. But unfortunately, as in all storytelling, the imperative is "show, don't tell", and ending slides with vague narration is telling, not showing. Immediately, had they been in-game cutscenes like the crashed Normandy bits, I would have been way more satisfied.

I guess, that if this ending had been included with the original game, people would have been complaining more about the game itself, rather than just the ending. I think they would still have complained about the ending, but more in the sense that it doesn't have the production values or polish this game should have. Like the rest of the game. And that's a real bummer. Mass Effect 3 should have been great. And so should the ending.

They did fix a lot of things though. You don't have to play multiplayer at all for even the "best" endings. The different ending options are clearly distinct, and not just palette swaps. The changes to the ending slides also reflect your choices through three games. *Although* they still don't mention the Rachni Queen at all in the ending, so Mac Walters is still a liar. So there.

So, my immediate verdict: This is good enough for Mass Effect 3.

But Mass Effect 3 is not good enough for Mass Effect.

1 Comments

Almost at the end

I had figured I'd power through to the end, but then I reconsidered and decided to replay the whole endgame. I actually was planning to get all this done in one day, but that didn't happen.

So, here's the last four hours of the game or so, the endgame as it were, right up until Harbinger arrives.

This probably won't be very interesting, since I was planning to just take notes, but ended up writing a stream-of-consciousness thing, but hey; feel free to skip it if you're only after Extended Cut tidbits. I'll probably repeat myself a bit between the two; a lot things I've been noticing are general problems with the game, and many deserve repeating.

So anyway...

Here's how I'll go about playing the Extended Cut:

I start the game up from the last save before Earth. Although I think the game falls apart as early as Thessia, I'd really have to play through the whole game from scratch, knowing what I know now, to see what parts just don't work. And at that point, I really ought to play through Mass Effects 1 and 2, just to compare. And then Dragon Age: Origins, Awakening, and Dragon Age II, to contrast. Oh, and compare that to the two Witcher games. And Red Dead Redemption, I hear that has a great ending.

Or, simply starting from Earth (or as close to Earth as possible) and watch the fireworks. I know there's an autosave *right* before the end, but the last save I have is right before entering the beam. I'm *pretty sure* the last prior save to that, is just before the assault on Earth. Regardless, the final save the game gives you is just before the Cerberus Base, so I might start from there.

Along the way, I'll make notes and elaborate on what I think of them.

Before even starting, here's what I know about the Extended Cut, and what I plan to do.

The general gist of what I've heard, is that "it's just barely good enough", "it just doesn't fix enough", or that "it's too little, too late". Early predictions are that I'll go with the last category; if that's what had been in the game on release, it would have been "adequate". Not a timeless classic like Mass Effect 2, just not offensively inadequate from BioWare, like the current ending. But probably, the damage has already been done; is this good enough to go back to in years, like Mass Effects 1 and 2 were? Probably not, but I'll have my answers shortly.

Additionally, I've also learned a little bit about the structure of the ending: I don't know if it's just an Animal House ending, like in classic video game endings such as Dragon Age: Origins and Fallouts 1 and 2. Not having seen any thread topics along the lines of it being so, leads me to conclude that it's probably more along the lines of Star Trek II; Shepard's squadmates stand around and talk about how awesome Shepard was. Dragon Age II's ending was somewhat similar; since the game is told in flashback by a side character, the story wraps up rather interestingly with his interviewer understanding that Hawke was actually kinda awesome (or not). So BioWare *can* actually do good endings. Although Dragon Age II was pretty crap, *that* bit was above average for that game.

Also, I've learned that there's one or two extra options added; shooting the Star Child in the face, and/or generally refusing to cooperate. I'll try both and see what happens. My procedure is going to be that when I make it to just after The Illusive Man and/or after the conversation with the Star Child, I'll make a backup of the autosaves so I can pretty quickly go back and see the other options play out. Also, I'll do them in descending order of how ideal I think they are: Refusing to co-operate (where everybody dies, apparently), then Control (where you have a bunch of Reapers still hanging around), then Synthesis (same, but now I've also re-written the rules of all life in the Galaxy, which seems unfair), and then finally Destroy. Although I would very much like to see the geth survive, I'd rather sacrifice just them, than compromise all life in the galaxy with Synthesis.

Lastly; I saw that apparently, they've changed the War Assets requirements for the "Best Ending" where Shepard survives (Red 3); instead of 5000 EMS, which would require a couple days of non-stop multiplayer to reach, it's now 3100. I have that much. I'll just point out one last time that making multiplayer a requirement for different ending states was a really terrible idea; and with the ludicrous speed the EMS degrades, I've gone from 100% to 50% Galaxy Control in no time at all. If they'd gone with non-degrading galaxy control from the start, it wouldn't have been so bad. But hopefully, that whole thing is functionally gone for ever.

So here I go, into the wild blue, red and green final choice yonder. Let's see if the endgame is how I remember it...

Oh right, this is one of those games with messed up audio levels, so I have to double my system volume. They haven't fixed that yet, time to contact the Better Business Bureau.

Also, this is one of those games that won't let me bind Enter or Delete. Boo! Also, I can't remember any of these controls...

Huh, right. I played Thessia over again for that Turn On Turn Off For BioWare terrible internet petitiony thing. Thessia wasn't really good, even when I *did* bring along Javik. So I *don't* have a nearby autosave ready.

Oh. Balls. This save is right before the Cerberus base. Well, me complaining about the Extended Cut on the internet is going to have to wait a while...

Oh yeah, this is where the love scene is. So far, it's pretty good. It *would* be nice to find some far-off place in peace, Liara. It *would*. ...And there it ends. Oh. Now I remember why I didn't remember that scene; it was hopelessly abrupt and terribly underwhelming. Yeah...

And now for hallucination time. I remember now, this game had those. ...Just like Deadly Premonition, except not as good. (Note to game designers; if one of your thematic elements can be described as "just like Deadly Premonition, except not as good", quit your company immediately and start making indie games.) I also see why this is easily seen as proof of The Indoctrination Theory; but at the same time, I know from memory how none of that meaningfully links up to anything later. Not in any way that makes storytelling sense, anyway.

Okay Liara and EDI, mount up! That goes double for you, Liara. If you know what I mean. And I think you do, since we just did that a couple of minutes ago. Heh, blue alien boobs.

Shepard: 1 point to spend. Liara: 1 point to spend. EDI: 26 points to spend. Right, I *never* brought you along to anything because you suck, I remember now.

...Oh right, this game has combat. And, hm, "Hangar 16" is a reference to something that was *also* referenced in the original Half-Life, some Area 51 stuff or something. And, exactly like last time, I got lost and died seconds after I found and pressed the decompression controls, because the hangar can still decompress during that cutscene.

...Wow, they actually had the log say "Sir, you realise Shepard was a veteran of Akuze? A Cerberus operation wiped out her entire squad." It's cool to see actual player input be recognised this late in this game. A shame the most they ever did with the backstory was that one sidequest in the first game, but at least that backstory selection gave us pretty much all of Dragon Age: Origins, design-philosophy-wise. And then they abandoned that completely for DA2.

And now they pointed out that EDI was the rogue AI from Luna. *How* on earth did they ever think that this game should be designed and marketed as entirely playable for people who didn't play the first two games, I have no idea.

*And* pointed out Akuze again. Okay, maybe Mass Effect 3 isn't all bad...

...Hm, the chat with the Prothean VI smells very badly of "You know that plan we had since the first game? Yeah, we're not doing that." If you don't know: The original plan for Mass Effect 3's story was that the Catalyst was going to be the last surviving Prothean. When that plotline was cut, they repurposed what was left into the hastily-put together From Ashes DLC, and changed the main story to be the clunky combination of Prothean VI telling you the Catalyst is the citadel. Oh, and then they move the Citadel to Earth because they'd already planned *that* part. In the end, it's not quite seamless enough, and when it all falls apart, you're standing in front of the final confrontation of the entire trilogy; something written and executed in the last two months of development.

...Woo, now I get to fight Some Guy From The Books in The Illusive Man's office! That's way better than fighting The Illusive Man as a Reaper-thing! I definitely agree with BioWare on this decision in every way!

Also, Kai Leng's arrival and Shepard saying "You!" is pretty fitting. Only thing missing was "What's-your-face! You killed that guy! Damn you, whoever you are!" And it's a real shame, because a boss fight with the Illusive Man in his office would have been memorable. As it stands, changing that because it was "too video-gamey" was pretty ridiculous, now that I'm fighting some ninja in a boss arena. Urgh. Urgh, I should never have gone back to this bit of the game. This is awful. If fighting the main antagonist for two games in that destructive arena is too video gamey, what the hell is punching a ninja's sword in half in slow motion supposed to be...?

...The cutscenes showing the fleets signing in have *terrible* compression. Urgh.

...And now for the final assault. I'm bringing along Liara and Tali; I'm not going into the final battle without my two favourite comrades by Shepard's side.

Made it through the first encounter. I may have to get back to this, but it brings into focus what I think brought down the series; too much action. This game collapsed under its own weight; they tried too hard to make things grand and epic and filled to the brim with action, but ultimately, whether it was writing ability or design philosophies, it didn't hold up. What BioWare did right with Mass Effect 1 and 2 was to make 20-30 hour long RPGs. This is an action game, and I think one of the biggest problems with the series, even starting with ME2, is that you can't have this much action for this long in this kind of game. It's just fatiguing. In Mass Effect you had those interludes where you landed and drove around in the Mako, and as terrible as it was, in Mass Effect 2 you had mining. But without those quiet stretches, you become exhausted from all the action, and it doesn't seem like it works to balance that out with story, rather than boring driving around and boring mining. This level of action would be obviously too much in a game like Skyrim, but once you have a gun it must've been far too tempting for them to just keep throwing enemies at you, rather than give you some air to breathe. And story-heavy RPGs need that breathing room. So where Mass Effect was repetitive, it was relaxing drives in the country. And Mass Effect 2, was relaxing planet-scanning. And Mass Effect 3, it's shooting an awful lot of Cerberus and Reaper husks in the face. Only enemy that isn't completely overused is geth; and it's a real shame to see a drop in enemy variety. No space pirates, no mechs, no regular mercs, nothing but husks and Cerberus.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, I miss the Mako. Poor thing never got its due.

...Moving on, the current attempt at giving you breathing room amounts to having a chat with all your team mates before the final push. Problem is, it doesn't in any appreciable way take into account what happens prior. So far, it has amounted to everyone channeling Leslie Nielsen and going "I just wanted to say: Good luck. We're all counting on you."

Quick list: Talked to James and Ashley face-to-face. Talked to Jacob, Miranda, Grunt, Zaeed, Jack, Cortez, Samara and Kasumi over the phone. No dialogue wheels, nothing more than pointing out they're still alive and not dead yet. Contrasted to the ends of characters like Mordin, Legion, and Thane, this just isn't enough of a send-off; the ones who are still alive deserved more than a phone call at the end of the series; if not for fan service, then for dramatic imperative. Having *most* characters disappear off-screen like this is the reason why Mass Effect 3's ending was so terrible. Sure, on paper, they wrap everything up, but in presentation it comes at the wrong time and in the wrong way; the way it worked in Dragon Age: Origins was that *after* you finished the final show-down and settled all the large matters, you had a short break to have one last chat with your comrades, *then* walked off into the end credits; the game telling you briefly what became of all of these characters. Sure, it was "the Animal House Ending", but that's not a bad thing. A bad thing is Mass Effect 3; here, they get everyone out of the way for the final show-down, which is missing, but also set them up for the game to tell you how things went for them afterwards, which is also missing. Dragon Age: Origin's ending actually worked, as amazingly cheap it was (unvoiced text over concept art, for much of it). Mass Effect 3's ending did not.

Interestingly, the only one of the phone calls that actually alludes to Shepard's actions, is Cortez's. You know, the guy in engineering who pilots the drop ship and that's all he does? And only showed up in this last game? He had more of an emotional resolution than people who had fought alongside Shepard for three games.

Garrus's send-off was fairly well-earned, though. And the right way to celebrate a story-telling success? TURRET SECTION, MOTHERFUCKERS!

The scene of Liara bonding with Shepard: The game earned that; and then wastes it. It simply doesn't belong an hour or so before the end. There's an *awful* lot of combat to go, and once you're done, the emotional impact is pretty much gone. And in practice, this, along with all the other send-offs, are presented "correctly"; they feel more like set-ups, the kind where a few minutes from now, once the final boss is done with, you'd see them all ride off into the sunset. Or die horribly. Not showing any more of them from now on, that doesn't work, dramatically. The whole notion of little blue children never happening; a two-second shot of old Liara with blue children would have sold this set-up. *Or* showing Liara dead in a way where that loss is heartfelt. Stepping out of the Normandy *after* apparently dying... No. Not so much. The way I'd have done it, would have been to put this farewell scene after you blow up the Destroyer, but before you charge at Harbinger. You'd have to come up with something more to fill in the gaps better, but that's the kind of thing you could have easily done with a couple months more development time. And that's what this game needed; six months of polish. Also, Mako.

Anyway.

Wrex's speech to his troops is basically the only scene that works in this area. And his brief chat works better than most, since it acknowledges your actions and choices (across three games, even). I'd guess that short scene would be the most interesting thing to look at in subsequent play-throughs; seeing it change, whether Eve lives or dies, whether Wrex is till alive, whether the genophage still exists, etc. As for Javik; his speech is actually the best proper goodbye of the bunch. That's *probably* because they had two months extra just for him, basically. What a couple more months would have done for the whole game, it's a shame we'll probably never know.

EDI's and Tali's farewells were okay. But, yeah, for the end of the series, "okay" is inadequate. I don't think Tali has another line of dialogue for the rest of the game, even if you bring her with you.

Then, Shepard's speech wasn't all that fantastic. Maybe sounds bad if you're Paragon. And for some reason, a bunch of sound effects were missing from the next cutscene (guns firing and the likes), which is weird. I guess it was mixed for 5.1 and playing with stereo headphones, they just forgot those channels? Sloppy.

The big gauntlet before launching the missiles is a pretty harrowing experience. And that's pretty much the final boss, too. You fight a big bunch of enemies you've been fighting the whole game, to shoot down a Reaper Destroyer that you've *also* shot down a couple of throughout the game. And fighting five Brutes at once is not a worthy substitute for a confrontation with a proper antagonist.

And I think this is the point where I pause. This is pretty much the last coherent point in the game; it's derailment from here on out. Hi run to the beam! Hi Harbinger! That's your cue!

Alright, I'll leave this for today. I'll take a break before the push to the beam. I spent a lot longer getting this far than I anticipated, but it brought back a lot of memories. Not many uplifting ones, sadly.

Stay tuned for my impressions on the new and improved ending...

Soon.

1 Comments

Mass Effect 3 EC long wall of text about Alex's news story

[EDIT]

I didn't intend to post this on the forums, that was accidental. It was supposed to be just a blog post for my five followers. They seemed to like it.

But now it's here, so please be gentle. Like I said; this was a reply to the news story by Alex about the Extended Cut release, and a dozen pages of comments complaining about how no-one ever said anything about *why* Mass Effect 3's ending was bad, just that it was.

Quick recap, because basically no-one actually reads this before accusing me of starting a flamewar:

The ending of Mass Effect 3 was inadequate compared to the endings of Mass Effects 1 and 2 and Dragon Ages 1 and 2, generally because it was not player-choice-driven like the rest of the game(s). And here's a full-length novel worth of ranting explaining why I think that.

The press coverage of the Mass Effect 3 Ending controversy was dominated by fans being generalized as whiny and entitled, *not* that the game actually had a bad ending and fans wanted it fixed. As much as I dislike being a part of that angry rabble, I think they are correct, and here's an awful lot of rambling text explaining why I think that.

[/EDIT]

In preparation for the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut which I'll hopefully get around to playing today, here's the comment I made to Alex's news story about its release. If you read it, and especially to the four of you who started following me because of that comment (thanks!); I didn't add to it.

To the ones of you that didn't read it; I talk about the Mass Effect 3 ending, why it was so terrible, and why it was so disappointing that Giant Bomb (and the games press in general) hardly put any effort into understanding one of the biggest developments in game design in years.

Obviously, there are spoilers for Mass Effect 3, a little bit of Dragon Age II, and incidentally, the '60s TV show The Prisoner. That one's less obvious. But hey; now you know.

Also, I haven't played through the Extended Cut. That will happen over the next couple of days. And after that, it may take a while for me to digest what's wrong about that, or hopefully, what isn't. And then I'll let you know what I thought.

Until then, for posterity (and also quest points for first ever blog post):

Why Mass Effect 3's ending was so bad, why Giant Bomb and everybody else did such a poor job of covering it, and what I thought of the whole thing.

Warning: Wall of text follows.

While the ending of Mass Effect 3 was hugely disappointing to me, both as a fan of Mass Effect and of good storytelling in games, what I found even *more* disappointing was the horrible gaming press coverage of the entire thing.

BioWare makes a game. People complain about the quality of the story, and want it fixed. Specifically, to not be the worst piece of storytelling done by a company that does the *best* storytelling in games.

And not only that, the ending is the single most important story beat in the entire game, and arguably of the entire series. And as rushed and lackluster the game as a whole was, even according to BioWare the ending was improvised in the last month of development. And it shows. Terribly.

And then, anyone complaining is "entitled and whiny".

This is especially disappointing from Giant Bomb. Just a few months earlier, you gave BioWare two awards...

The first award: "Most Disappointing Game of 2011" for Dragon Age II. I was going to write something about how this applies to Mass Effect 3, but I don't need to; if you do a find-and-replace of DA2 for ME3 on the actual award text, you should get it.

"Disappointment can blossom from a number of different sources--your own personal expectations based on the previous entry in a series, or the developer's previous output, promises made during the game's pre-release PR cycle--and no game disappointed quite as thoroughly on all fronts in 2011 as Dragon Age II.

[...]

Even without the BioWare name, or even the relatively freshly minted Dragon Age name to live up to, Dragon Age II is an RPG that feels half-finished, its attempts at scope undermined by pervasive sense of a crushing development deadline. Where they could cut corners, they did. It's hard not to be disappointed when a series goes from so high to so low in just one iteration."

Mass Effect was a real classic, it had its flaws but they were worth overlooking. Mass Effect 2 fixed all those flaws, and expanded on the original in all the right ways, and it stands as one of the top games of this console generation, if not of all time.

People can't even be bothered to talk about Mass Effect 3 a couple of months after release.

And the second award: The “Check Yourself Before You Wriggety-Wreck Yourself” Award for Things That Need to "Take a Break" Before They Become the “Worst Trend” runner-up, for EA's renaming of EA Los Angeles as "BioWare Victory". And this was for watering down BioWare's well-earned name as top storyteller in gaming.

The fact that EA released a lackluster space RPG is a bad enough reason for people to be disappointed.

For it to be BioWare that made it, that makes it *personal*.

Giant Bomb should really be agreeing with the "entitled and whiny fans" for BioWare no longer making great games.

It *should* be unacceptable for BioWare to have screwed up like this!

Now, as for all the fans being this angry rabble that does nothing but cry like babies with impotent rage... Did they really do that?

Here's the list of things I've heard them do:

Complain on the BioWare forums.

Complain about the ending in other places.

Threaten to report EA to the Better Business Bureau for false advertising.

Send multi-coloured cupcakes to BioWare.

Collect $80,000 for charity.

Make long-winded videos of YouTube deconstructing the ending.

Send death threats to Casey Hudson on Twitter.

I'll get to the last point, but as for the others: Are those *bad*?

For those complaining that "oh no, here's another place for people to complain about Mass Effect 3's ending"; what the hell are you doing on those threads?

I'd say at least half of the comments on this post, about how people are going to complain about Mass Effect 3's ending, are PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT PEOPLE COMPLAINING about Mass Effect 3's ending.

The people who don't want to talk about Mass Effect 3's ending, are *far* more obnoxious about it than the ones who actually *do*. I haven't seen a single, thought-out, logical, well-reasoned post or comment about why we should stop talking about Mass Effect 3's ending. I've seen a few of those that defend the ending. I've seen a *lot* that critique the ending. But most of what I see is people yelling for everyone to shut the fuck up already.

Can't you just, you know... Not engage in the discussion? Why are most of the comments "I don't even care"...?

It's not that hard to stay away from Mass Effect 3 ending discussions, you know.

And is it bad to complain about false advertising to the appropriate authorities? ...Especially when you actually have a point? Mac Walters *did* say you wouldn't just get a choice between A, B and C (you do). Casey Hudson *did* say the Rachni queen would show up in the ending (she didn't). Casey Hudson, on the Bombcast, said quite clearly that you don't need to play multiplayer to get the "good ending" (you do). Poignantly, once the story blew up, Vinny said words to the effect that "didn't he say to our faces that wasn't so", but the Bomb Crew decided that clearly the fans were wrong.

Now, sending multi-coloured cupcakes to BioWare was probably more annoying than clever. (Haha, they have different colours, but taste the same, just like Mass Effect 3's ending!) But it's not like it was letter bombs.

And then, somehow, collecting money for charity turned into a bad thing. Somehow, the fans who did that were even worse than the ones that sent death threats to the writers.

And *those* people; they're disgusting. And I don't associate with them. But as disgusting as it is, they were actually less disgusting about it this time around; remember when one of the BioWare writers mentioned that she was more into writing than gaming? In a casual interview, years earlier? And how she was harassed off the internet for it?

And it's not much of an argument, but they probably expected it. People have mentioned Arthur Conan Doyle here and there, and how he was pressured by fans into writing more Sherlock Holmes after he killed the character off. And that was 1903. I would like to add an even better example; Patrick McGoohan ended his TV show The Prisoner with the main character unmasking the villain, who was wearing a gorilla mask, and it turned out the villain was the main character, and then the main character and a lesser villain drove off in a house while singing Dem Bones. And McGoohan received death threats over *that*, in 1968.

(And I've seen that show, and that was a terrible ending, just for the record. But not as bad as Mass Effect 3! At least the end of The Prisoner *fit*. It was a weird show...)

In the grand scheme of things, I think that "complaining about Mass Effect 3's ending" is a dark chapter in internet history.

Not because of all the complaining, except for the disgusting bits.

No, I think it's dark because, for once, people actually sat down and reasoned out why "the final plot point of a story had narrative incoherence", which is a god-damn mature thing for the internet to be upset over, IN A GAME. And then nobody wanted to listen.

Games have really bad endings, I don't know if you've noticed. And finally one came along that was so bad that gamers just wouldn't allow it to happen ever again, and for all the talk about having game "critiques" instead of "reviews", it was such a missed opportunity to have this perfect case study come along of how not to do it, and it's been mostly ignored.

Now, if you've made it this far, and you're curious, here's *my* critique.

The ending was a rushed, hurried mess, and it shows. The game as a whole was unforgivably rushed overall; there was no valid reason they couldn't have delayed it six months more for polish. But the ending is the one point that they *couldn't* get away with screwing up, but they did.

The ending was... Inadequate.

Although I think the game starts falling apart at Thessia, I'll start where the narrative *completely* crumbles.

After the run to the beam, whatever drive and coherence the game had, goes away. (Yes yes, Indoctrination Theory, I'll get to that.)

The walk through the spooky citadel was real... Bad. Purely from a level design perspective, the weirdly textured piles of "stuff" along the sides had no business being in a 2012 game, let alone Mass Effect. I *guess* it was supposed to be decomposing bodies? Or a 64x64 JPEG of that, stretched over a blob of polygons?

If the intent was to have Shepard walk through the horror of what the Reapers were doing, it didn't work. And doing it in an abstract environment you've never been in before certainly didn't help; let's say you'd had piles of decomposing bodies on the Presidium, that would be a bleak and terrible version of something you *know*. And then it morphs into something you don't know. As it is, where on the Citadel *is* this? What's going on? Why are the textures so bad? Why haven't you mentioned the Keepers since the first game, are they important *now* suddenly?

Then you make it to Anderson and the Illusive Man. This chat was also bad. Now, it was supposed to be a reference to how you could talk down Saren in the first game; but the Illusive Man has so much less of a presence in the story that it just feels cheap. You spent all of Mass Effect chasing after Saren, and then you fight Saren, or you can talk him down. With the Illusive Man, you spend the whole game chasing after the Crucible so you can defeat the Reapers and the Illusive Man gets in the way, and then you walk into him and talk him into killing himself. The Illusive Man is *basically* not part of the story, and Cerberus has far to large a part in this game. You fight them as much as the Reapers! A boss fight would actually have helped here; that's how you confront antagonists in video games as a medium, and "dialogue wheel" is not really satisfying *gameplay* for dealing with the assigned antagonist of the series. And it's not even a particularly good dialogue wheel. You either talk him down, or don't, game over. Apparently, the plan was to have a big ol' boss fight with TIM in his lair, but they cut that. Which was bad, because they replaced him with a ninja guy from the books who has absolutely no characterization (and I even *read* the books) and when you *do* confront the "proper" bad guy, it feels terribly out of place, both in narrative, as well as *physically* in the game world.

As for Anderson, he felt oddly out of place. He never struck me as a character that was an integral part of the series; he's the guy who gives you your first job. He's not part of your crew, you don't spend any real time with him, and as awesome as Keith David is, he's just there so that the Illusive Man has someone to shoot that you are *supposed* to care about, but the game gives you no reason to. If that had been a crew member or Joker or someone, that would have been something. If the Illusive Man shot Liara, I'd have cared! Furthermore, the scene is kinda absurd; you can't stop The Illusive Man from shooting Anderson anyway, only influence "how badly" he gets shot. Now, for me, he did not get badly shot, and I liked the scene where he tells Shepard she did good, kid. It was poignant. (Although, having an extended nod towards John Carpenter's The Thing taint the emotional high point of the series is *probably* not appropriate.) But then he just sort of... Stops? Did he die? Fall asleep? What? Once again, the art just didn't hold up well enough. You'd need far better texture work and animation to convey his final death. Or a death rattle sound or *something*. So that was confusing.

Then, Hackett telling Shepard it didn't work. I don't think *this* "worked". Without any sense of a raging battle going on, and then the battle *continuing* to go on, it just sounds like Hackett sent Shepard a voice mail. Other than Shepard sounding completely worn out, which *did* work, I thought that plot turn was kinda comical. "Shepard, uh, did you forget to turn it on or something?" [THE PRICE IS RIGHT LOSING HORN] But, like I said, Shepard being completely at the end of her rope was well done, and well acted even. I liked the "What do you need me to do?". Poor Shepard.

And now for the fun part; the God Child.

I probably didn't mind this as much as most, certainly not at first. The conversation itself went alright for me, but I do remember I stumbled a bit on the part where the kid mentioned that the Geth and EDI would die if you destroyed the Reapers. Now, you could fill in the blanks yourself that this is because both EDI and the Geth use Reaper tech, which would have contrasted nicely with the earlier choice of saving the Geth by allowing Legion to upload Reaper code to them; this is what finally dooms them.

But... The game actually doesn't say this, and I should not have to rely on fan fiction to tell the story, when it would have taken them half a sentence to actually say that. And they did spend half a sentence on something that contradicts itself, the God Child hinting that Shepard would die because she is half synthetic. Uh... How? Are those Reaper implants? Is there Reaper code in Shepard? Those *were* Cerberus implants, and Cerberus did use Reaper tech elsewhere (EDI), but... Shouldn't the game have mentioned at some point that there's a little Reaper in Shepard? The game never says that! And worse, if the implication is that "technology" dies alongside the reapers, that's pretty bleak for pretty much the entire galaxy. Then again, unless this was *meant* to imply that joining synthetic and organic ain't bad, 'cause look at Shepard and Shepard is kinda awesome, so that's an option you could consider! ...But then again, the game never actually says that.

It's really bad that the final dialogue of the game is full of holes. I didn't notice most of those holes at first, but unless you went through that and never noticed *anything* amiss, I don't think it works. From what I guess (and read in The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3), the point was for the dialogue to leave out enough of the boring details that you would fill in the blanks yourself; unfortunately, the game doesn't give you the tools to do that. The Codex does *not* explain if Shepard has Reaper tech or not, the Codex does *not* explain how disabling reapers would disable the Geth or EDI, and there's a big parade of other plot holes left by that dialogue that the Internet will happily give you lists of. If you bother to actually read it.

And then the actual choice itself. I chose green, to combine Reaper and synthetic DNA somehow, not because I believed that the Reapers have any reason to continue existing, but that I thought that the geth did, even though I thought it made no sense as part of the choice.

And then the ending was a two-minute cutscene of the reapers landing peacefully, and people cheering like in Independence Day, and then the Normandy crashes on some planet for some reason, and then Joker and EDI step out as if they were Adam and Eve, which is appropriate for the Synthesis ending. And then I settled in for that Animal House ending that these games have, like Dragon Age: Origins or Fallout or what have you, showing what happened to the different characters after the story concluded, showing off the effects that Shepard had on the game world, and the consequences of the choices you made.

...Aaaand then Liara and Tali stepped out, and I'm pretty sure they *died* earlier.

And then the end credits rolled, and then there's a bit with Buzz Aldrin talking about Shepard's legend, which is basically an ad for DLC. And I assumed the internet uproar was because this was the terribly sloppily made ending that was supposed to be a joke ending, and they didn't get it, like accidentally stumbling across the Reptite ending in Chrono Trigger. (If you defeat Lavos at a very specific time, everyone ends up as a dinosaur. Kinda like making everyone a cyborg, and having a clumsy Adam-and-Eve reference. Except it was *supposed* to be a joke.)

And then, after mulling it over for a day, I went back to the autosave and re-did the choice to get the other two endings, the "wrong" one first (controlling the Reapers) and then the "right" one (killing the hell out of the Reapers).

And they were all that same terrible joke ending.

And it's the worst drop in storytelling quality, in games, that I have ever come across. Possibly across any medium.

Now, I didn't expect Deus Ex: Invisible War to have a great ending, 'cause it's kinda a crappy game, and it had a kinda crappy ending. Same with Deus Ex: Human Revolution; neat game, not a terrific storytelling showpiece, ended the way it had been told up until then; clumsily.

But then it's the same exact ending that Mass Effect 3 has, structurally.

And you can just *feel* that they were setting up short cutscene after cutscene of different characters and what they did after the war (yes, like Animal House); Tali returning to Rannoch, Wrex returning to Eve on Tuchanka, Liara pining for the totally dead Shepard, and then towards the end you put the little joke of Joker and EDI as Adam and Eve, appropriate for the Synthesis ending. But then they only had that last one, and put all the other characters in it too because they were probably *supposed* to have one for each character, but didn't, and improvised. Poorly.

Mass Effect 3 was a great story; it was rushed in spots, but it kept up right to the end. Missions like Tuchanka and Rannoch are fantastic examples of interactive storytelling at their best; choices made through three games all came together and led to a variety of outcomes.

And then they completely forget how to write an interactive story at all, in the end.

And then it gets worse; even after they threw together a rushed game and an even more rushed ending, they went on to say how it took all your choices into account, how it wouldn't be a choice between A, B, and C and then credits, and even down to specifics about how you did not need to play multiplayer at all to get the "best" ending. Not to mention how, even before they released Mass Effect *1*, they said that your saves would carry over and it would all build to an epic conclusion that wouldn't need to be compromised in its storytelling, because they were making a trilogy and then nothing more.

And the sum total of impact you can have on the ending to the series, is to choose between "Reapers die", "Reapers leave", "organic life becomes cyborgs", and then a two-minute cutscene and end credits. And another cutscene, pointing out how you should buy the DLC.

There is a grand total of six end states for the entire series. Red 1 (everyone dies), Red 2 (Reapers die), Red 3 (Reapers die, Shepard doesn't), Blue 1 (everyone dies), Blue 2 (Reapers leave) and Green 1 (Everyone becomes a cyborg). That's it. And content-wise, the cutscene only changes in colour, and whether the Reapers fly away or crash.

And then you can only get Red 3 or Green 1 if you play enough multiplayer.

So, here's my take on how Mass Effect 3 ends:

You talk The Illusive Man to death like the end of Mass Effect.

You have a chat with Keith David as he's dying, like the end of The Thing.

You chat to the builder of the machines, like the end of The Matrix Reloaded.

You jump in the beam like in Alien³ leading to the technological singularity ending from Deus Ex: Invisible War, or take control of the Reapers like taking over the big computer at the end of Deus Ex, or you destroy all technology like the end of Deus Ex: Invisible War (again).

And then you have the ending of Independence Day.

And then your crew crashes on an alien planet, like Gilligan's Island.

AND THAT'S IT.

Mass Effect 3 had nothing interesting to say about the end of Mass Effect.

And from a studio that actually understands how to write good stories, the *best* stories in gaming, that's pretty unforgivable. And for them to have not screwed this up before, and suddenly doing it now, is simply shocking.

Mass Effect ended on a cliffhanger for the next game.

Mass Effect 2 ended on a really neat puzzle of figuring out which of your crew members to assign to what so everyone makes it out, followed by a somewhat silly bossfight, followed by a pretty cool cliffhanger for the next game.

Dragon Age: Origins ends on a slightly cheap-looking Animal House ending telling what people did after the war. (My Warden went away with Leliana.)

Dragon Age II, otherwise a trainwreck, ended with Varric finishing off his retelling of what the Champion did and how it affected the world.

Mass Effect 3 just kinda ran out. You talk to the Kid, and then the game tells you nothing meaningful about what happens to any of the characters or factions that you have been deciding the fates of for three games. The most you ever get to hear about any of them, *vefore* the ending, is the War Assets book. Which was interesting, but way too cheap. And when none of that comes up in the ending, that's real bad.

From the time you assault the Cerberus Base, no meaningful changes to the plot happens as a result of any choice you've ever made, with the only exception being the crew members you can say goodbye to before the final push. The Rachni Queen, or the geth and quarians, the asari, the turians, none of that shows up again after you've done with those missions.

All these interestings things are set up, through three games, and none of them paid off.

The last time that any choice you've made, influences the story in any way, is when Miranda does or doesn't survive the encounter with her father. After that; nothin'. And *certainly* not a fulfillment of the promise that every choice you've made affects the ending.

Unless you count the War Assets. And you shouldn't.

Patrick made a blog post about how he wanted to see *his* Mass Effect trilogy story through to the end, even with the mistakes he made in getting Miranda killed. If she did survive Mass Effect 2, and you actually did everything "right" in keeping her alive in Mass Effect 3, her only impact on the ending to the series, after being a main character for the last two games? "25 points". And a phone call. And only 12.5 points if you didn't play multiplayer.

That's not a worthy send-off for any character, and that's all you get for any of them, unless they happen to step off the crashed Normandy in your randomly chosen line-up.

Here's a better example:

My friend, who finished before me, didn't import his previous savegames, and ended up sacrificing the geth to save the quarians. Then he played multiplayer to geth the Effective Military Score up. He got the green ending.

My other friend, who is kind of a jerk, sacrificed Tali to save the geth, and he played some multiplayer to get the EMS up a bit. He got the green ending.

Me, I transferred my saves across four computers in as many years, and because I'm awesome, I saved *both* the geth and the quarians. And then I got the EMS up to 100% just in case.

And then I got the green ending.

For a series where you have been able to make choices that greatly impact the story being told, and a series which had been the prime example of the kind of great storytelling you only *can* do in games, that's just terrible.

And that's why the ending of Mass Effect 3 sucks.

As for any loose ends to tie up:

"It's not about the destination, it's the journey!"

You're wrong. The Mass Effect series has, at its core, been about influencing the story through your choices. It's a role playing game. And a pretty good one.

And even if you argue that the geth/quarian conflict, and the krogan genophage, and the fate of the Rachni queen, and so on, are all wrapped up *during* the game, and those count as endings? You're still wrong. The end of the geth/quarian conflict was fantastically told, it depended on your choices through three games, and it had massive implications for the state of the galaxy. But after that story wraps up, the only change to Mass Effect 3 from then on is whether or not Tali is a crew member. You never see the geth, or the quarians again, even though the game says that it's going to. I'm pretty sure that if you save just the quarians, instead of both the quarians and the geth, that only *one* line of dialogue changes. It's a build up to resolving the *real* conflict of the game, and it's a build up-that never pays off. Not a single one of your choices influence anything that happens in the ending, other than if you have enough EMS. And multiplayer influences that just as much as single player, which is disgusting.

"So what if this game sucked, it doesn't make the other games suck less!"

Yes it does.

Playing through Mass Effects 1 and 2, you're constantly reminded of how your choices have consequences. Even for the first half of Mass Effect 3, you still get those consequences presented to you; it sure isn't nice to see Legion die to save the geth and make peace with the quarians, but that's what Mass Effect 2 built towards. Same thing with Mordin; he got a fantastic send-off. I made a choice in Mass Effect 2 to save the genophage cure data, because I believed that would give the best payoff in 3, and it did. Blowing up the Council (accidentally) in 1 was a mistake, and I paid for it in 2. And having it carry over into 3 as well, improved that choice in 1; I actually ended up with an extra ally 'cause I messed up in the first game. And that's a wonderful way my playthrough of the Mass Effect games became so rewarding.

But when so many of the choices made throughout the previous games *don't* have a payoff at the end, that makes those setups worth less. Saving the rachni queen in 1 was a big choice, then, and it had very little payoff in 2. That was a disappointment. And now that the final state of the galaxy doesn't care in any meaningful way if she lives or dies in 3, that makes that original choice in Mass Effect 1 also meaningless. That game is worse now that 3 has proven that that choice is *actually* meaningless, and not like it was in Mass Effect 2 where her brief cameo hinted that it was meaningless now, but was *going* to be important. And then it wasn't. Getting a bonus 100 War Asset points for keeping her alive is not meaningful. I can get that by playing Multiplayer.

And there are a *lot* of characters and factions and solar systems and such that end up not having any meaningful consequences.

Any future playthroughs of Mass Effect 1 and 2 *is* going to be influenced by Mass Effect 3. For some, like choices related to Mordin, Mass Effect 3 made Mass Effect 2 better. For most, however, failing to even attempt to tie up the loose ends makes the first two games worse.

I kept Liara alive through three games, I made her the Shadow Broker, I romanced her in all three games (I did cheat on her with Kelly Chambers, but then again, who didn't), and what happened to the Shepard's One True Love?

Meh, says Mass Effect 3.

"The Indoctrination Theory is actually really clever! It's totally a fantastic ending"

It doesn't tie up any plotlines in any meaningful way. So no.

Also, if BioWare intended this to be what actually happened to Shepard, they did a pretty poor job of getting that across. And if that's a kind of puzzle for the player to figure out, it's a pretty terrible puzzle. I should know, I've designed puzzles that were really bad.

But worst of all: If the true ending to Mass Effect 3 can be summed up as "it's all a dream", then the first step is to add "The Wizard of Oz" to the list of terrible places they stole the ending from.

And then the final step is to realise that apparently, BioWare ARE THE WORST WRITERS OF ANYTHING IN HISTORY.

You don't end stories with "and then it was all just a dream".

I'll end this Great Wall of Text with how I experienced the ending of Mass Effect 3.

Here's a pretty good facsimile of my thoughts as it happened:

"Huh. Uhm. Okay, the beam was to cyborg everyone... And then the one where Anderson was blown up was the one that killed the reapers and also the geth. And then the one that zapped The Illusive Man was the control one. And I don't want to do that, 'cause fuck those Reapers. Having them around can't be good. And that's what The Illusive Man wants to do, and that didn't work out for him that great.

Now, which side was the Anderson one... Left...? Right...? Uhm... Can I ask the kid for the options again... No. Okay... Well... I don't want to kill the geth, I don't mind fucking over EDI, she's even willing to sacrifice herself, but the geth are an awful lot of units with souls, *and* they're helping the quarians so I don't want to bone them up either... Although, *how* does this kill the geth...?

Uhm. I guess I'll go with the Deus Ex option. Or was that Deus Ex: Invisible War? Man, that game was kinda bad. Right, into the beam, Shepard! It's a shame you can't take the Reapers with you!

...Huh. That looks like Christ imagery, but also, uhm... Alien³. Uhm. That's a pretty shitty movie. Oh, I hope this isn't the bad ending that guy on the Amazon User Review mentioned, which is the only thing I've heard about this game because I've been avoiding spoilers.

Okay, green wave spreading across, soldiers cheer at the victory over alien invaders like in Independence Day... Normandy is travelling through a Mass Relay, probably hauling someone away for some reason... Hm, and there it crashed, and Joker and EDI steps out. Well, this isn't anything like Adam and Eve at all. And, wait, Liara? And Javik and... Uh... Didn't Liara *die* earlier? I guess they'll explain more when they show the next cutscene like in Fallout... WHAT!? END CREDITS!? ...Uh. Huh. Huh! Huh... Maybe there's something after the end credits.

Hey, I know that voice, that's Buzz Aldrin. And he's still not learned to be a voice actor since he was on The Simpsons.

Hm, they solved how you get into future DLC a bit more elegantly than Mass Effect 2 just kicking you back to the Normandy...

Wait..

Hang on...

That's *IT*!?

*That's* how they ended Mass Effect 3? Those two cutscenes?

Man, no wonder they're complaining about this ending, if this is the "good" ending and the most difficult one to get. Man, I have to go through the end again to get to the non-joke endings tomorrow."

And then, after playing through to the ending choice the day after...

"Okay, now to get the non-joke ending. Man, that ending yesterday was terrible. Let's see, now that I've evidently taken the wrong choice, let's take the second-wrongest choice so I can save the best choice for last. Controlling the Reapers, that seems like a great idea! I have no compulsions against doing what The Illusive Man wants to do! Zapping Shepard with electricity, that seems awesome! The Reapers are *never* gonna rise up again ever!

...Wait. That's the shot from yesterday, the Independence Day one. Uhm. And that's the wave from yesterday, except blue... Oh. Uh oh. And that's the Normandy traveling through space... Uh... And there the Normandy crashed... And that's EDI and Liara and Tali... And end credits.

Oh. Oh. I... Oh. If... Oh. Oh man.

Destroying the reapers, that can't possibly be *this*, can it? Right, I heard someone mentioning that Shepard survives if you have enough EMS, and I have all of the EMS. Okay, autosave, take me away.

Right. Shoot the fusebox like in Commander Keen V. Don't know why Shepard is walking towards the explosion, seems counterproductive. And... Oh no. That's the Independence Day shot. Except the Reapers are crashing, so it's even more Independent. And then a red wave. And then the Normandy. And then this time, no EDI, that makes sense. Wait. No it doesn't. And then...

Uh, is that guy in N7 armour Shepard? 'Cause that's clearly guy armour. Is it Anderson? That moan *could* be Jennifer Hale, I've heard her moan in games before. Keith David could probably not moan at that pitch. So I guess that's Shepard. And they didn't re-render the video for FemShep, huh.

And that's the end of Mass Effect.

Huh.

Well.

I *see* why the internet is upset about this, yes.

Yes indeed.

Hm...

Hm.

BALLS.

...I hope they fix this with DLC."

P.S. Really sorry about the wall of text, it looked way smaller as I was typing it.

For four hours.

So don't nobody say that fans of Mass Effect never articulated what complaints they had about the ending.

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