It should go without saying that this is going to be full of spoilers for Mass Effect 3’s ending but, in case it doesn’t,
WARNING!!! This post contains spoilers for Mass Effect 3!
There we go.
The Mass Effect 3 ending fiasco was probably the biggest display of consumer backlash against a game’s developer in years. You couldn’t look anywhere in the gaming press or on gaming forums without tripping over discussions of the “terrible” endings in which one of the only differences between them happened to be which color the resulting explosion was.
I remember quite well how I felt right after I saw it. Confusion. Then anger. Then…strangely, acceptance. The endings were still irredeemably terrible in my eyes, but I accepted them because I didn’t think I’d be seeing anything else. Then the backlash hit. Bioware’s forums were flooded with people protesting the endings and demanding a proper ending. I wasn’t one of them. I hated the endings but I also respected their artistic vision, as full of holes as it may have been. I was even disappointed when Dr. Ray Muzyka, co founder of Bioware, announced that an “Extended Cut” DLC pack would be released which would clarify the endings (but wouldn’t change them) and hopefully give Mass Effect fans some closure.
Well, I was disappointed until I saw the new endings. In their wake, I can put this unpleasantness with Mass Effect 3’s ending behind me. I finally have the closure I wanted from the start.
The biggest issue I had with the endings is that they didn’t offer me any sort of closure on the series I’d invested so much time into. I didn’t know what happened to my galaxy. The Crucible went off and destroyed the Mass Relays and the Normandy, which was assisting in the battle for Earth before was suddenly jetting off to parts unknown and ended up crash landing on an unknown planet somewhere.
And in the blink of an eye, the game is over. Roll credits and wait for an ending sequence comprised of an old man ending his tale of “The Shepard”, to what is quite possibly his grandchild. Yay. The Citadel, once the most thriving and technologically advanced hub of the galaxy is gone, the Mass Relays are possibly irreparably destroyed and the massive fleet that arrived to take back Earth is presumably stranded there, doomed to die of starvation due to the lack of resources on the scorched Earth and within the Sol system. I’m sure some are already about to complain that all I really wanted was a happy ending. No, that’s not what I wanted. I wanted an ending that isn’t filled with plot holes that people had to fill with their own projections of what they thought the ending meant.
Remember the “Indoctrination Theory“? Now we can put that to bed too. Thank goodness. That would’ve been a massive cop-out on Bioware’s part.
I can already hear people complaining about this line of thinking, that the ending was intentionally ambiguous and I’m just too dense to use my imagination to come up with my own version of what happened after my final “choice”. And that’s the problem in and of itself. I shouldn’t have to conjure up my own version of the ending to fill in what should have been explained in the first place. There’s a significant difference between intentional ambiguity and bad writing and the previous endings were clearly a case of the latter. There’s no closure to be found in the original ending. There’s just…nothing, a nihilistic farewell to the trilogy that leaves gamers with far more questions than answers. That is not the ending this series deserves.
However, if you’re a fan of nihilism, Bioware has added a special treat for you in the new “refusal” ending. Personally, this is not the ending I would’ve chosen if it was in there in the first place but it makes total sense in the context of a series that has put you up against nearly insurmountable odds in the form of the Reaper fleet and has constantly instilled within you that failure is a distinct possibility. There’s nothing wrong with a nihilistic ending as long as it’s executed properly.
Now, I can finally put this issue behind me and think back on all of the good times I had with the game because, at least until the last ten minutes, it was everything I could’ve hoped for in the final act of the Mass Effect trilogy, the culmination of everything I’d done so far. Seeing my trusted companions back together again, some bittersweet and all heartfelt was exactly what I wanted and now I can cement this as my favorite trilogy in all of gaming. Even with the extended cut endings, there are some questions I’d like answered but these are the good kinds of questions, the kind I’m supposed to use my imagination for, not questions that arise from gaping holes in the plot. And that’s all I wanted. Closure, both through the filling of the plot holes and giving me some insight into what happened to the galaxy after the Crucible went off.
Or didn’t. You know, if you didn’t want to use The Crucible.
Yes, there are still some gripes to be had about the endings. The three original endings are still somewhat similar in this rendition, the galactic deus ex machina that is the Reaper StarChild or whatever it’s named in the lore is still there, some of his logic is still bullshit and you’re still presented with what is, in essence, a plot-o-matic 9,000 that doesn’t really take into account the whole of the choices you’ve made thus far. But Bioware said from the get go that they weren’t going to change the endings, just add to them so I’m not surprised, nor am I disappointed, really.
An argument can be made for the lingering issue of Bioware’s inability to wash away the bad taste they left in gamers’ mouths the first time around even after delivering something that almost makes me forget about how terrible the original endings were. But at least they tried. Another argument can be made that Bioware shouldn’t have bent over to appease the already entitled gaming community (which is a story for another day) and should’ve exercised their artistic prerogative to say “this is the ending, deal with it” and been done with it. As a writer, I can certainly agree with this notion, after all, if I end one of my stories and I’m thoroughly satisfied with the ending, no amount of backlash is going to get me to change it. But then again, I don’t think I’d craft an ending to something I’d put my heart and soul into filled with so many obvious plot holes and unintentional ambiguities so maybe this doesn’t apply to me.
Regardless of whatever merit these arguments may have, I can’t say I’m not pleased with what has come out of this whole mess. I’m almost certain that if these were the endings we’d gotten the first time around, the amount of hate and derision directed at Bioware would’ve been on a much, much smaller scale. Some people are bound to be disappointed regardless of what concessions you make but at least the majority would have been happy. Probably. One thing’s for sure though. I’m happy.
Bioware, thanks. Just, next time, try not to rush the ending so much.