By Undeadpool 39 Comments
I am not going to spoiler block ANYthing in this blog, because the entire thing would read like one of Richard Nixon's memos. So if you haven't beaten ME3 yet and decided to ignore my giant, obvious warning, I will say again: Turn back. Turn back. Turn back.
Upfront: the fact that they have very similar cinematics sucks and I really didn't care for the starchild (I thought the projection could take the form of your love interest or at least a Prothean), but neither of these things even came close to ruining the experience for me. And frankly if the former ruined it, that's incredibly shallow. It basically says to me that, rather than really consider what the ending actually MEANS, one would rather be wowed by production values, which is ironically anathema to what MOST people were complaining about before the game even came out! But more on that later. Alright, it's been talked to death but this is my blog and I'll talk if I want to (I feel like we've been here before, have we been here before?), but this ending has GOT to be one of the most polarizing things to ever happen in the history of videogames. I'm not even being hyperbolic when I say this. Name me one other single in-game event from any other videogame that has divided the entirety of such a huge chunk of the community like this has. And I can even see why: having seen my ending and then discussed the other two (and I'm talking top-tier Galactic Readiness endings), it's definitely not the direction I'd have thought Bioware would go in. And I think that's PARTIALLY what some of this backlash comes from: a certain subset of people really, really don't like being surprised. They like to brag about how they "totally saw it coming," usually with a single pinky outstretched and nose turned to the ceiling, so that they can feel superior to their peers. But this? Nobody could have seen this coming. Shepard sacrificing him/herself (only time I'm going to do that) so that the war could end, even at the cost of the Relays, was heart-wrenching. This article postulates that it's one of the only videogames to ever actually earn the "visceral" descriptor and I agree: I had an actual, gut reaction both to the revelation that the game was coming to a close and to how it ended, and I'll admit: I felt initially betrayed.
A large part of me wanted to see Shepard make it, to sweep Jack off her feet in the proud VJ-Day photo tradition, get shitfaced with Garrus, arm-wrestle Wrex, see Tali lead her people and on and on. But then I really sat down and thought about what this ending meant in the greater galactic context. Mass Effect has always been a series about contextualizing greater conflicts into personal stakes, but this ending is almost an exact mirror-image reverse of that concept. It's an incredibly personal moment of sacrifice to give the entire galaxy lasting peace. I couldn't bring myself to destroy the geth or go down the same path as the Illusive Man and try to control the reapers just to selfishly give myself a chance to live because that's not who my Shepard is. Over the course of three games and over five years, these characters have grown to mean something and to betray that just to give myself a shot at a happy (or at least happier) ending actually seemed completely antithetical. Of course the game ends with Shepard dead. How could it end any other way after all the previous sacrifices to make the galaxy safe? Ironically Brad's joke during the ME3 Quick Look of "So this is an even suicidier mission?" turned out to actually have a huge chunk of truth to it: Yes. This WAS an even suicidier mission, because for me the only way it could end was with Shepard's death. It also precludes them looking at all the zeroes they'll see with sales figures and having EA go "Make another one, we don't care that you said you wouldn't." Or if not precludes, then it at least makes it a LOT less likely.
So I guess at the end of the day, I really, REALLY don't understand the vitriol that's being hurled at this game. So much vitriol, in fact, that there's apparently a petition started for a NEW ENDING?? Setting aside the incredible stupidity of that notion, how would that even WORK? Furthermore I remember before the game came out, people were screaming, or really screeching, that the game had gone in a "generic, DUDEBROHUAH!!!!" direction. Now whether or not you think that's true: you must admit that the ending they wind up giving you is the absolute antithesis of that mentality. It's almost as if people are just looking for a reason to justify the hate they preemptively threw at this game rather than admit that, perhaps, they were wrong about what they wanted in the first place. I'm not saying you're wrong to be upset with the ending if it's not what you wanted, I'm saying you can't accuse the game of going in too generic of a direction then complain that the ending wasn't straightforward enough. It's not a picture-perfect Hollywood happy ending, it's not even a particularly happy one. But to say it's depressing is doing it a MASSIVE disservice because depression implies an absence of hope and this ending is anything but hopeless. In fact, in retrospect I actually find it incredibly uplifting. Anyway, thanks for reading (if you did, and if you didn't I'll probably be able to tell by your comment). I feel like I'm still processing it and the more I do, the more I find myself liking it. Not being happy about it, but being satisfied with it.