By Sarumarine 5 Comments
I wanted to talk about the ending to Mass Effect 3, but not whether it's good or bad. There are a ton of topics you can drop into if you really felt strongly about it. No, I just wanted to talk out what I thought about when I was making my last choice. If you've gotten this far without picking up on it, there are spoilers here. Yup. It's the ending spoilers. Consider yourself warned.
As a "Going Overboard" post, this involves thinking too hard and talking way too long about what is essentially a video game story line. Yes, I know. Not exactly serious stuff with unshakable plot. But still, I wanted to put my thoughts out there and get a feel about what other people were thinking when they made their call.
I guess you can go off on whether you loved or hated it too, I can dig it.
Mass Effect 3 Ending: At Least it was Weird
First some background. I played a mostly Paragon Shepard with a few renegade choices when the moment struck me. Like punching that Quarian Admiral in the gut (whose name I can't remember because he sucks) when he opened fire on a ship that I was inside- along with Tali. Fuck that guy. And gunning down Udina for selling out to The Illusive Man. Way too satisfying. Fleet strength was good by the end and everything was green. No casualties on the way to the Citadel beam. Well. Maybe. I'm not sure. It's hard to tell if Garrus or Tali got wiped out by Harbinger when he was tired of taking my shit and came down to Earth to zap everyone. I wasn't able to convince TIM to pull an ME1 Saren suicide and had to put him down myself.
Then came the final choice in the game.
The Citadel manifests a holographic image of the kid from Shepard's nightmares to talk about how its whole plan weeding advanced organic life every 50,000 years didn't pan out. It sets up my three choices to solve this impasse. Take control of the Reapers. Destroy all synthetic life in the galaxy. Or trigger Synthesis that would make organic and synthetic one and the same. I probably spent five minutes soaking it all in and considering the consequences of the next action. Considering all you have is the word of this Citadel AI who is the boss of the Reapers didn't give me a whole lot of confidence any choice was a good one.
Take Control of the Reapers (What? No. Not ever. Not cool dude.)
So the first choice sounds like the worst one of all. Basically Shepard would become the Reapers. Why that was colored in Paragon blue and demonstrated by Illusive "I Hate Aliens Everywhere" Man in the Citadel's explanation, I don't know. But taking control of the Reapers sounds like the worst thing ever. Even if the Citadel is telling the truth, why would you risk it? Could Shepard really keep the Reapers in check for the rest of eternity? How long until he or she goes mad from the isolation and decides to restart the 50,000 year pruning of organic species everywhere in the galaxy? Or gets tired of seeing them treating each other like shit and decides to teach them about galactic peace via Reaper invasion? I know Shepard is built up to be a character with an iron will (Renegade or Paragon) but it's shown time and time again in the game that Reapers ain't nothing to fuck with, dead or alive. Expendable Science Guy No.341 in Mass Effect 2 said it best. Even dead gods dream.
So I passed on that choice. It sounded pretty fucked up with no guarantee of peace. Maybe it would last or an insanely long time. But a breakdown from insanity and the return of the Reapers sounds inevitable. Shepard is pretty capable no matter how you play... but I don't think he or she could stomach this fate as a (highly modified) regular human being for the rest of time and space. Plus you'd be giving TIM the thumbs up. No thanks.
Synthesis (Sounds like a Fate Worse than Death)
The extra weird choice, and by far the most nightmarish to me, was making synthetic and organic species one in the same through some vague fusion. I almost picked this one through morbid curiosity. But based on the information at the time, it sounds like a plot for a Cronenburg film packed with body horror and sheer terror. All I could picture was the ending of The Fly with Jeff Goldblum where Brundlefly accidentally fuses with the telepod machine and comes out the other side as a creature of flesh and machinery silently begging for merciful death. I kept picturing Geth and Quarians blending together in some hodgepodge of circuitry, envirosuits and skin. Krogans and shotguns mashed together like a Silent Hill Roadshow that produced nothing but sexually suggestive nightmares. Fear for the flesh indeed.
I mean, that's what the Reaper enemy type is right? Organic species jammed pack with Reaper tech to become hard charging Brutes and fucking annoying Banshees that can kill you in one hit if they grab you. It's not like you haven't seen this first hand throughout the game. Fuck that, man.
So I didn't pick Synthesis. Even though, looking back it was probably set up as the "best" ending. I don't imagine they would go James Woods in Videodrome they way I fear. And since there would no longer be a divide between synthetic and organic, the Reapers wouldn't have anything left to do. Except maybe make giant T-1000 skeleton frames in their spare time. It still doesn't sound like something ideal. And the logistics and believability of pulling that off would be a hard sell in five minutes when your only guide is an AI who created the Reapers.
Destroy the Reapers (...yes? I guess. Sorry Geth buddies...)
This is the choice I picked even though it was demonstrated in Renegade red by Anderson during the explanation. Wasn't Anderson my mentor the entire series? Plus he's Keith David. How can Keith David be wrong? Anyways, the catch of this one (to avoid making it the easy right answer) is that the Geth also get the purge since they are synthetic. And I wasn't thinking about her at the time, I guess EDI would get whacked too. I suppose this is a lot easier if you went Quarian all the way and wiped out the Geth with the help of Tali. But I had brokered a peace between my Geth and Quarian allies (and felt pretty damn badass too) so I had to consider betraying a pretty awesome part of my galactic alliance. Even after I had helped them achieve sentience too. But I did that awful military thing where I weighed the fate of the many against the fate of the few.
I came to kill Reapers, so I killed Reapers. I blew them up and everything remotely associated with them and beat the game... and then the last cutscene played... All the relays blew up. Joker and the Normandy is somehow caught in the process even though I'm pretty sure he was supposed to be defending the Crucible and killing Reaper drones. Crash land on a fertile planet. Garrus and crew step out. Roll credits.
So About That Ending...
Matt Bodega posted a status update talking about people who hate the ending and people who love the ending and asking where do you stand? And I know it wasn't a challenge but I guess I'm in the middle somewhere. I'm not sure what to make of it. But I am glad they at least made it weird. The ending of something is never easy, especially if it's been mounting up expectations over years and years. I was curious how choice would play into the final act where you wouldn't be able to buy a Mass Effect 4 to find out if your crazy decision had any effect on the way the galaxy unfolds. Of course, now that I've invoked that scenario they will probably find a way to make Mass Effect 4 a reality, as bad as that sounds. Either way, it doesn't really matter.
I'm not one of those people calling for a new ending and I'm not in love with it either. I don't think this will be something I'll talk about for years to come. But I guess I'm glad they tried something other than a conventional "Destroy Reapers, Win Game, Party Montage" scenario. I probably would have been okay with that too. Really, most of the games I've played this year have been mostly about the journey and not about the destination. Syndicate is a good example. I've had way too much fun getting to the end for the finale to ruin the whole experience.
Personally, I would love smaller stories in the Mass Effect universe where it didn't involve Reapers or Shepard. Preferably where you play as a Quarian or something because those suits are pretty cool even if its their only line of defense from disease and infection. But that's just me.