****Fair warning, the following post is both very long, and contains massive spoilers for every game in the Mass Effect trilogy. You have been warned.****
After a 42 hour journey, I finished Mass Effect 3 this weekend and finally got to see the much-lauded ending. I have been playing the series since the first game, and my character has always been a Paragon FemShep. (Named Eve, oddly enough) As the series progressed, I would import my character from the last game and continue on, unwavering from my Paragon alignment. As such, the choices one would expect a paragon to make were made. Here is a rundown of every major decision I made leading up to the ending in ME3.
In Mass Effect 1 the following choices were made:
- Saved the Rachni Queen, allowed her to live
- Saved the colony on Feros, along with Shiala the asari taken by the Thorian
- Did NOT kill Wrex on Virmire
- Kaiden dies on Virmire, Ashley lives
- Sacrificed the Council, Destiny Ascension destroyed
- Anderson made new Councilor
- Liara romanced
- Didn't complete any dlc (Bringing Down the Sky) ((This doesn't really matter, but it always made me mad that I never got to play this))
In Mass Effect 2 the following choices were made:
- Completed all loyalty missions, As a result:
- Destroyed the Genophage research lab in Mordin's mission, but saved a backup of the cure data
- Tali was accepted back into the fleet
- Zaeed & Kasumi recruited and their loyalty missions completed
- Everyone from ME2 survived the suicide mission
- Samara is alive, Morinth is dead
- Legion was activated and is alive
- Grunt was woken up and is alive
- All Normandy crew members saved from the Collector base
- All N7 and other special mission completed
- Thane Romanced (sorry Liara....)
- Collector Base destroyed
- All DLC completed, as a result:
- Liara is the new Shadow Broker (This takes place anyways)
- The Batarian system was destroyed
- David Archer saved and sent to Grissom Academy in Overlord
As for ME3, there are far too many choices to list here, but suffice to say that:
- All N7 & side missions completed
- Every war asset that can be acquired through planetary scanning and side missions gotten
- Mordin dies curing the Genophage (Thereby removing any Salarian war Asset except Major Kirahee's STG Unit)
- Wrex is alive, Eve survives (Krogan support ensured)
- Legion dies rewriting the Geth (I also managed to meet the conditions that netted me both Quarian & Geth support)
- Thane dies
- Ashley saved and recruited back onto the Normandy
- Liara romanced
- Pretty much any choice that is either Paragon or Renegade, Paragon was chosen regardless of it's impact on War Assets.
- When the final strike was commenced, I had about 5k EMS.
Now, going into the final few minutes on the Citadel I pretty much knew what was coming: I was going to have to open up the Citadel arms then fire the Catalyst, killing Shepard in the process but wiping out the Reapers and saving Earth. BUT Bioware decided to throw a monkey wrench into the whole operation.
Now, let me preface what I'm about to say with the following: I don't hate the ending for ME3. I think it wraps the series up in an acceptable fashion. I don't, however, care for the way we are presented with our options at the end. I also don't care how nothing but the War Assets and EMS make any impact on these endings.
So, after the scene with Anderson at the console, and at the point when the Illusive Man shows up is when things start to get a little strange in terms of Paragon/Renegade choices. When The Illusive Man takes Anderson hostage, you are given a prompt to kill the IM taking a Renegade hit in the process. I find this a bit strange. Shouldn't this be a Paragon option? I'm saving Anderson here and killing an evil, indoctrinated man. Why is this considered a Renegade action? Are Paragons not allowed to kill people? Either way, I take the hit to my Paragon score and go ahead and kill the IM, thereby saving Anderson; I figure a little Renegade points at won't really matter anymore. I am correct.
Next, after the weird, and in my opinion, pretty stupid and corny scene with the kid revealing that he IS the Citadel and he created and controls the Reapers, I am faced with my last choices. (I'm not even going to get into how much is wrong lore-wise with this HUMAN kid being the Citadel and creating the Reapers) I can either do the following:
- Destroy the power core, thereby destroying all synthetic life. (including the Reapers, Geth, EDI, etc. AND the Mass Relays.) If your War Assets are over 2k, Earth will also be saved but Shepard dies. If your War Assets are over 4k, Shepard lives. if they are under 2k, Earth is destroyed. If they are in the 3k range, Earth is heavily damaged, but still stands. (This is made out to be the Paragon option.)
- Take control of the Reapers. Everything else is pretty much the same as above. (This is the Renegade option)
- If you have over 2,800 War Assets, there is a third option: Synthesis. This will rewrite all organic DNA with synthetics, and is "the last step in evolution." The Reapers will never come back, but the Mass Relays are still destroyed and Shepard dies no matter what. (I guess this is supposed to be the "grey" option)
Now, naturally I was inclined to chose the first option of Destroying the Reapers. But this didn't seem like a very Paragon-like choice to me. I mean, the kid tells you that The Reapers will just be created again and this is pretty much a temporary fix. Also, I think it is weakening the Galaxy by cutting everyone off from each other when it destroys the Mass Relays. Sure, they will probably be rebuilt, but The Reapers constructed them in the first place, and no-one, save the Geth (who were destroyed with this option) have the understanding of technology required in order to build them. So the organics are pretty much screwed with this option. Also, Joker will be a sad panda since EDI is now dead. :( I was not in favor of this choice after thinking about it.
The second choice is pretty much the same as the first, so take your pick.
The last choice seemed like the best choice. The Reapers would never come back, and all organics will achieve their ultimate destiny by being rewritten with synthetic DNA. This option also seems to have the highest number of lives saved, both organic and synthetic. BUT the destroying of the Mass Relays once again screws everything up. However, the Galaxy will be in a better position to reconstruct them since all the synthetics survive, and they are also much smarter now they they have synthetic DNA in them, presumably. This seemed like a better option for a Paragon then the first one for sure. But the fact that Shepard dies, no matter what kind of sucks. But I was expecting Shepard to die in all of the options honestly.
I wasn't really sure what to pick. So here is what I did: I picked all of them, and made a final save for all three options. Let me elaborate: Right before you make your last choice, the game auto-saves. So I went into the game's save directory (I'm playing on PC BTW) and made a copy of the auto-save, so I wouldn't have to replay the last 30 or so minutes when I went back to make a new choice. (because the game auto-saves right after the credits, thereby rewriting the previous save before the last choice) Then after I made one choice and went through the credits, I'd be back on the Normandy, so I'd save there, reload my auto-save backup, then make a different choice. It's not perfect, but it covers all the angles.
In the end, I'm left not knowing how to remember the game ending. I have three endings, and each one is just a slightly different outcome. Sure, I'd prefer some more closure and also some more clarification on the impact of the choices I made in this game. Like:
- What is going to happen with the Krogan? Will their numbers get out of hand again? Will they rebel again? What happens if Wrex of Eve dies and they are left with no-one to keep them in check?
- What will happen with the Geth? They have Reaper code in them, will they eventually try to harvest organics?
- What about the Quarians? Will they succeed in repopulating Rannoch? (It sounds like they will, especially if the Geth are helping)
- The Rachni? Will they start another war?
- What will become of Earth? What about the rest of the Galaxy if I picked an option that destroyed all the Mass Relays? Will they resort to a primitive society? Or, if I made choice one, will they eventually create synthetic life again, thereby warranting the creation of the Reapers once more?
There are too many loose ends left untied for my taste; too many unknowns, too many variables. It also seems like all the choices we made in ME3 don't matter, or at least we don't get to see what sort of impact they will have. I'm sure this isn't the main issue people are having with the ending, but this is my main issue.
I don't like how I don't know how to remember the game for ending; I don't like how my Paragon/Renegade options were flipped on their head at the very end; I don't like how nothing but War Assets matter in ME3; I don't like that the only way to raise your Readiness rating is by playing Multiplayer; I don't like all the loose ends; I don't like the corny citadel/kid hook; But I did enjoy the journey. Very much so. Though probably not as much as Mass Effect 2, it was still a great ride and I still think Mass Effect 3 is a great game, and an even greater franchise with a staggering amount of potential.