This entry contains spoilers for the entire Mass Effect series, Fallout 3, and, oddly, spoilers for the movie “In Bruges” and the musical “Miss Saigon.” I go on weird tangents.
Before I jump into things (Whee! A digression one sentence in!), I’d like to point out that Bioware has stated emphatically that they are NOT changing the ending; rather they’re bringing more to light.
In slightly different but not really news, I can’t find a screenshot since it’s been deleted, but Bioware’s Senior Community Coordinator tweeted the following on Easter:
What do you mean “at the end he died on a cross”? That makes no sense! And what of his companions? *newtestamentrage* #retakeeaster
Now, I love a good joke, and opinions can be of individuals and not the entire company, but, well, it is the opinion of the company since they’ve stated the ending is their story and they’re sticking to it.
I just wanted to say all that to outline the fact that everything I complain about here will (very likely) not be changed, unless they retcon something and invent a way to erase memories.
I’d like to throw this next bit of Required Watching out there, because it’s very likely going to be the elongated explanation that makes the ending make sense. They wouldn’t comment on it, but come on. I hope you’re comfy.
The Required Watching is the best example of the Indoctrination Theory I have found on the Internet. Again, if you don’t have 21 minutes, I will summarize that the theory is you’re Indoctrinated — brainwashed by Reapers — for the whole of Mass Effect 3. The child you see in the beginning is not really there, and you’re endangering all your friends and the entire galaxy because you’re under the control of The Big Bad.
I absolutely didn’t buy this theory until I watched that video. I now totally do, but I still don’t understand WHY the writers chose it. Like I said in Part 2, they weren’t painted into a corner (like some people say they were). It’s easy to have the ending EVERYONE saw be the BAD ending and have a totally different ending where GOOD, Paragon players prevail!
Actually, that’s complaint number one.
- Are Reapers just that badass?
Mass Effect created a world where relative peace exists until it’s threatened by a Reaper, the strongest force in the entire universe. The whole first game centers around defeating one single Reaper named Sovereign. In 3, ALL of its Reaper buddies are now attacking us. THE STAKES HAVE NEVER BEEN HIGHER. So guess what? You lose! Sorry, we told you the Reapers were super strong, so, nope, just can’t beat them.
No! Mario is a frigging PLUMBER. All the odds of a plumber defeating a humongous crazed princess rapist named Bowser are stacked against him, but he still prevails game and game again because he’s MARIO.
Harry Potter is a nerdy kid who’s beaten by fat people and doesn’t pay attention in class and prevails against the most powerful dark lord in history!
THIS IS WHY WE EXPERIENCE FICTION. If I want to read a depressing story about someone who gave it their all and it just wasn’t good enough, I’ll turn on the news. I just watched the movie “In Bruges” with Tyler, and I was quite enjoying it, thinking to myself “If anyone ever asks me for an unsung movie recommendation, I’m going to tell them ‘In Bruges’!” AND THEN EVERYONE DIED IN THE END. I threw every couch pillow I had at him because WHY DO I WANT TO SEE THAT? Why don’t you just tell me an orphan and his kitten were very sick and it looked like they were getting better, but then they died? I WAS HAVING A NICE NIGHT.
- You Final Boss guys look familiar.
In Mario, you fight through Bowser’s oddly named children. Sometimes you fight a bomb-throwing mouse and a three-headed snake, but at the end of the game, you face off with the head honcho himself. In Sonic, sure, you’re always fighting Dr. Robotnik, but his inventions start off pretty weak and rise with exponential difficulty, usually culminating with three crazy boss fights in a row, each stronger than the last!
In every mission of Mass Effect 3, you fight husks (zombies) and geth (robots) and Cerberus goons (overzealous humans) primarily, but at the end of every mission, you fight one of three crazy powerful bosses — a Banshee (a husk + an asari), a Brute (husk + krogan + turian), or an Atlas (human inside a robot). They’re formidable foes, especially the Banshee whose screech still sends chills down my spine.
But the LAST BATTLE of the entire series is…5 or so Banshees and 5 Brutes. It was hard, sure, but so would be telling me I couldn’t use any weapons and needed to punch them with my nose. So would throwing me in with 1 million Banshees and Brutes.
Also, technically, the final boss is Marauder Shields, whose video never ceases to bring a tear to my eye, even though it’s a parody. I’m such a sucker for sad piano music and melodramatic backstory. Oh, here come the waterworks. LOOK, I WAS CHOPPING ONIONS, OKAY?
- But also, who cares about Banshees and Brutes?
You don’t have a backstory with them. There’s no sense of accomplishment when you defeat them. You don’t even get the honor of killing the Illusive Man yourself in gameplay. There’s no cool, different battle like in at the end of 1, where Saren’s hopping around the room like a jackrabbit. Nothing!
- The end was one big goodbye hug!
I’ve heard some people insist the game is great, saying that the “End” was the whole last few hours, where you’re walking through ruined London, saying goodbye to all your comrades and giving a final speech, but YOU DID THAT IN MASS EFFECT 2. It was called a SUICIDE MISSION. And guess what? In the end, whoever was dead was respectfully mourned, and you walked through to your surviving squadmates with solemn nods like, hey, we lost a few, but we made it. We survived what we and everyone else called A SUICIDE MISSION. Why couldn’t that have happened in this one again? Oh, sorry, the Reapers are just the most powerful force in the made-up universe. Can’t defeat them. Even though the game creators MADE THEM UP.
- Life’s Full of Tough Choices.
Tough decisions about your friends abound in Mass Effect. In 1, as you know, it was either Kaidan or Ashley. In 2, even if you’re BFFs with everyone on your ship, you still have to decide — which biotic do you want staying behind and which holding the shield, which technician do you want jamming the door and which should run back to the ship? 3 had that in a few measly missions, which just served to take you down a character and make the battles that much harder.
But in the end of 3? Just choose your squadmates. Got ’em? Cool. They die.
- Cold-Hearted Snake.
When Mordin and Tali die, everyone on your ship is depressed. You hang your head and say a few heartfelt words in front of their memorial. As Thane is slowly dying, his son asks you to read a poem ending with “Guide this one, Kalahira, and she will be a companion to you as she was to me.” The son explains it’s not a death prayer for his dad, THE MOST RELIGIOUS GUY IN THE SERIES, it’s a prayer for you and your upcoming battle, as Thane slowly lets go of his life. That was so touching.
I went into my final battle with Liara and Kaidan, two of my three love interests, and because I buffed them up to be great biotic fighters. They both died. As soon as Shepard hears word over her headset that they’ve died, she limps to the beam, crazy stuff goes down, she shoots a dude, and sits (painfully) laughing about life with Anderson.
I understand bucking up and doing what’s best for the universe instead of crying over spilled milk, but not even a solemn head shake? Not even a “damn, that sucks, all my lovers dying in that laser-beam explosion.”
Who knows? Bioware may say that since you didn’t SEE them die necessarily they magically come back in the DLC, but — and I can’t stress this enough — THEY DID NOT EXIST IN THE ENDING OF THE GAME I PAID FOR. I bought the Collector’s Edition. I paid the company MORE before even playing it on the good faith that THEY WOULDN’T KILL ALL MY BEST FRIENDS and maybe ransom their Schrödinger’s-Cat-like existence for $20 of DLC. I think I need to sit down. This is why people pirate things, Bioware.
- If not Indoctrination, then what?
On the off chance the Indoctrination Theory isn’t correct, let’s talk about these quick inconsistencies: 1) How did Anderson superjump? There was only one entrance from the beam through the red dead body room, but somehow Anderson ported to a different entrance that ALSO spilled out into the moving wall hall? Nah, dawg. 2) Where are the others on the Citadel? Assuming you are beamed to the clamped-up Citadel, it seeeeeeems a lot smaller when you’re in there… 3) Why do Shepard and Anderson say it looks familiar? Are they insinuating it’s not the Citadel and something else? 4) When you’re dying back before the beam on the ground, Rando British Guy says over your headset that everyone’s died (meaning you and your friends). Then why, when you’re looking at Earth with Anderson, does Admiral Hackett radio YOU and tell you to type in the secret code on the terminal?
- Hope you’re listening!
Maybe it’s undiagnosed ADD. Maybe my brain was too WTF. But…the first time Mystical Hoodie Star Child gave me my three options, I DIDN’T KNOW WHICH DIRECTION TO WALK TO CHOOSE THEM. Okay, I guess he looked at them and the camera angle changed when he announced them the first time, but as soon as he finished the third, I was like “Okay, yeah, I was waiting for one to make sense, but that last one really sounds silly. Now what are the first two again?”
SORRY. Can’t go back and ask him. Unlike other RPGs, where they say “Oh, I guess you weren’t listening or taking notes with a controller in your hand. Here they are again.” Even a bit earlier in the game, when someone was like “Are you ready to do this huge battle, hint, hint, you can’t come back?” You could say “Not now,” and when you WERE ready, the character would be like “Okay, now TO REVIEW: we’re trying to save the universe.”
Nope. Not important for the last choice of the whole series. I hope no players’ cats knocked over a glass while Star Hoodie was talking in this un-pause-able scene because he’s only saying this once!
- So, you want to kill part of yourself?
I’m told by a few sources, and the Internet, who would never lie to me, that the Good, Paragon choice is the Red ending — Destroying all Reapers and technology, including your robo friends, computers, ships, and the Relays that allow you to fly to different solar systems in an instant. It’s also good because you see Anderson choosing it in your haze, and although it’s red (the Renegade color) and the blue (Paragon) is chosen by the Illusive Man. It’s also the only ending where Shepard takes a breath at the very end.
Oh, but, as the Hoodie God Child reminded you, YOU’RE part technology. Didn’t you just destroy that part? Why isn’t your, like, heart exploded? Also, you appear to be lying in rubble — of London? Did you fall from the space computer? WOULDN’T THAT EXPLODE YOUR HEART, TOO?
I don’t even.
- These Jokers Don’t Run.
As I mentioned in Part 2, one of the last things you see in the end cutscene, after the Reapers fly away and most of Earth blows up, is Joker, your tried-and-true pilot friend, frantically speeding off in the middle of a Mass Effect Relay jump and palming his keyboard because, well, you’ve just obliterated all technology (apparently?), and that doesn’t really work for piloting a ship.
But why was he running? He dropped you off at the edge of the Reaper attack, watched his pilot friend die (MAYBE), and then PROBABLY just watched you get sucked into a beam? Or assumedly heard them talking over the radio asking for you to hit the button in the space terminal. WHY IS HE FLYING AWAY? Joker would never leave your side! Even if it meant he would likely die, I don’t buy it. No man behind.
- Let’s Get Two Hells Out of Here.
Not only would he not fly away, he wouldn’t HOP INTO A MASS EFFECT RELAY and travel to an entirely different solar system, with NO chance of circling back to save a comrade radioing for help. No way, no how.
- Instants Keep Getting Longer and Longer.
The video clearly shows the Light Beam chasing after Joker, since it’s exploding all the Mass Effect Relays. So, he’s mid jump as the Beam closes in on his ship.
Oh, except that jumps are instantaneous.
Did the people who wrote the third game even play the first game?
I have two more examples that back up my theory that they neither reread the script for 3 after writing it NOR played the previous games.
- At some point, when you’re on your ship talking to Anderson, he tells you he was born in London. Then, at the very end, when they meet together, he tells you he was born in London. And you respond, “Oh, REALLY?”
- I unfortunately can’t find the video for it, since it’s just a passing dialogue and not a cutscene, but if you talk to Garrus right after Tali dies, he says something to the effect of “I don’t know what was under that mask, but I like to think of her as…What do you humans call it? An angel.” Really? Really. HIS NAME IS ARCHANGEL. AND HE DOESN’T KNOW THE WORD ANGEL?
Yeah, I’m often like, “What’s the first name of that famous actress? …Something Bacall. Same as the last name of that clothing guy Ralph something… Oh, yeah! ‘Lauren’!”
I… I just… No words.
- You want to save technology? Gotcha. We’re destroying technology anyway.
Why did the Mass Relays even blow up in endings other than Destroy? What does Synthesis and Controlling the Reapers have to do with space travel technology? Part of the reason I chose Synthesis was to SAVE synthetics and computers and space travel!
- Donner, Party of Several Billion.
Oh, yeaaaaah. Remember how you got the entire galaxy to fly to your solar system to help you defeat the Reapers? Oh, then the Mass Effect Relays that enabled space travel blew up no matter what you chose? Yeah, the ENTIRE GALAXY is now stuck in Earth’s Solar System with maybe 8 potential planets to live on, depending on your living/air/gaseous needs.
Yeah, every race in the galaxy is going to starve to death after they finish eating each other. And that’s in every ending, including the BEST POSSIBLE ENDING YOU CAN GET.
- Oh, and half your squadmade survivors die, too.
In every ending (whether you’re good or evil) your surviving friends crash land on a planet. As an aside, part of the reason that nerds love Mass Effect so much is its rich and thorough world building. Including the fact that Quarians and Turians have “dextro-protein” diets, while humans and asari have “levo-protein” diets, and apparently every world can only sustain one type of protein sustenance.
THIS MEANS, that even though a few of your friends are shown to survive, depending on whether the planet is dextro or levo, half of them will starve to death, too! Hooray!
- Bug? Or I have amnesia?
To give you some small morsel of hope, you’re given a brief glimpse of who, from your team, survives the crash landing on the mysterious planet. The game automatically throws in your most-used party member and your love interest. Only…for me, my most-used was Liara and love interest was Kaidan…who I had brought with me to London and had died before I was beamed up.
Even if they somehow will live on in the DLC, HOW DID THEY GET ON A SHIP FLYING OUT OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM?!
- Be Sure To Drink Your Ovaltine!
You’ve beaten the game. If you’re me, you’re drying your tears. The credits have rolled. You get an extra cutscene with Buzz Aldrin talking to some kid about the amazing Shepard on a planet that is very much not Earth.
A quick aside — throughout the game, you’re given messages on a cool see-through iPad sort of deal. They’re called Datapads, because who needs notebooks in the future?
…A commercial? In MY VIDEO GAME?
I don’t think I need to mention how offensive this crushed Fourth Wall is after playing the game I paid for and didn’t even get an ending to.
- Thanks, Ghost of Christmas Future!
After the datapad debacle, do you end up on the title screen? No! You end up back on your ship! It’s okay! Nothing happened! Oh. They just want you to…play the end again? Maybe they agree that all the endings were so horrible, you needed more war assets than exist in the world to get the unreachable Good Ending that doesn’t actually exist.
When I did the play “Miss Saigon” in high school, I asked my dad how he liked it afterwards. He said he loved it, but that he felt a little strange in the very last scene, watching the main character kill herself so the American GI will raise her son…the curtain falling, and then the main character walking out to take her bow. He got it, storywise, and he got that actors need their recognition, but emotionally, he was confused, because he’d just watched her die.
- If DEAD, How DLC?
I can’t imagine Bioware would pull a Fallout 3 and say “NOPE, you’re not dead! Remember that horrible death you saw? We healed you right up!” However, you can ONLY get the mysterious breath at the end if you’re a) super high effective military strength, b) maxed out Paragon (maybe also Renegade, but must be maxed out), and c) chosing Destroy. So, who wants to bet it’s some BS pre-ending DLC?
I’m not even talking about the promised DLC to fix the fubar’d ending itself, I’m talking the DLC promised in the Ovaltine Datapad. They want me to pay to spend 10-20 MORE hours fighting a war that I know I’m going to lose and watch all my friends die again? Yes, please, take my money.
- Who Remembers Sovereign?
So, remember in Mass Effect 1 how the whole point of the entire game was to stop the Reaper named Sovereign from using the Citadel (which is actually a Mass Effect Relay) to port in all the other Reapers from Deep Space? If there was a Mystical Hoodie Child who wants to kill everyone anyway, why didn’t he just step in and press the big, red button? Why send a humongous space krakken to do your APPARENTLY INEVITABLE dirty work?
- Shh, shh, it’s all a publicity stunt. They purposely made the ending vague so they could sell DLC.
Maybe I’m jaded, but the case for this is pretty much made when you have Day-One DLC. If they always planned on releasing a new ending, I’m just done. I’m done paying for video games pre-release. I did the right thing. I paid for a game. I supported the industry. I paid extra for the Collector’s Edition because I like Mass Effect just that much. I hate evil empires like GameStop and hate taking money out of the developers’ and testers’ pockets who MAKE the games that I usually do love so much, but there’s only so much I can give before I feel like a chump. And that’s how the end of Mass Effect 3 made me feel.
3,400 words later, I feel like I’ve finally made my point. Until tomorrow when I remember 3 bullet points I should have also included. I get passionate about stuff. Mass Effect gave me a lot of feels. I thought the ending was going to be epic. It can be done. Just look at any movie or book that really satisfied you. It just takes a skilled writing staff, and I honestly don’t know what happened here.