Endings are a curious thing. Nobody wants a good thing to end, but everything does eventually have to, and you need to know when to do it, or else risk ruining what had gone before. And, of course, you need to end it RIGHT. The makers of Mass Effect 3 have learned the hard way recently what happens if you don’t do it the way a vocal part of your fanbase wanted you to do it.
I’ve written on here about my love for Mass Effect 2, so I was very excited about starting the third and final game in Shepard’s saga. But obviously it was going to be tricky for Bioware to come up with a conclusive ending to a storyline that had to allow itself to be changed by the decisions made by the player across three different games.
They also had to create an ending that would allow there to be further expansion in the Mass Effect universe (with or without Shepard) and, of course, Downloadable Content for the game itself. Having wildly different endings would make this increasingly different for themselves, and at the end of the day, they are a business who can’t let artistic decisions cost them opportunities in the future.
So, they chose the ending AND HERE IS WHERE SPOILERS START. In my game, Shepard arrives at the key decision after shooting The Illusive Man dead and hearing from the strange child-ghost-thing. I could either wipe out all artificial intelligence in the universe (myself, the Reapers, EDI, the Geth, etc) or sacrifice myself to take control of the Reapers. I had invested time in helping EDI grow as a ‘person’ and bringing peace to the Geth and the Quarians, so I chose to sacrifice myself.
From that point on, I saw myself disintegrate, the Reapers leave, the Mass Effect Relays being destroyed and the Normandy crash-land on a planet, with Joker, Samantha (my love interest) and Garrus walking off and staring at the brave new dawn. If I’d chosen the other option, not a lot would have changed (and the same with a third option that I hadn’t qualified for), and that is part of the reason why the fanboys were so enraged.
In this sense, Bioware are victims of their own success. By creating a series that gives you so much of a feel of control over what happens and then ending it with such similar endings no matter what choices you made, you’re going to risk making a lot of people (particularly those lacking in a sense of perspective) very angry. The real problem though was the number of other things they found to complain about.
The first is plotholes, namely the destruction of the Relays. In the Arrival DLC for ME2, destroying just one of them leads to an entire solar system of Batarians being wiped out, so surely most of the universe was killed by Shepard’s attempt to prevent the Reapers ever returning? At the very least, didn’t it make it rather difficult for the fleets of aliens protecting Earth from returning to their own homeworlds? You can bet the fanboys have thought of all kinds of consequences.
And then there’s the lack of final resolution granted by all the endings. You got to see a few survivors get off the Normandy, but what about the rest? I saved Kelly Chambers a few times across ME2 and ME3, but did she get off the Citadel before it was taken over, or did she get killed? I’d assumed Garrus had been killed in the final run to get onto the Citadel (he was on my team with Liara and the implication was that only Shepard and Anderson survived), until he showed up at the end. Was that a glitch?
That’s the problem with having so many characters that make you care about them, and having an ending that leaves so many of them unaccounted for. But, despite all of that, I was happy with the ending of Mass Effect 3. I really enjoyed the game as a whole and was pleased that Shepard’s last act was to save the universe. Did it all make total sense? No. Do I know conclusively what happened to all my favourite characters? No. In the grand scheme of things, does that all really matter? No.
Unfortunately, not everyone agreed with me and an angry campaign was started to make Bioware change the ending, and they capitulated by announcing that a new DLC would be released (for free) that will add to the ending, presumably somehow offering explanations and closure for those who need it. I don’t need it, I’ve traded in my game because I’d finished it. I loved my time in the Mass Effect universe and I might go back one day if there’s a new game that looks good. But otherwise, it’s over. And it was only a video game…
One of the first games I bought when I got a PS3 was Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, a critically-acclaimed role-playing game that looked like it would finally fulfil the potential of such games of taking you into a believable 'other world' and letting you explore it at your own pace rather than pushing you along from one set-piece to another. And it did just that, which made the anticipation even bigger for its sequel Skyrim