This entry contains spoilers for the entire Mass Effect series and not much else.
Like almost every other nerd on the Internet, I was disappointed with the ending of Mass Effect 3. I say “almost,” because there are a few holdouts who swear that an ending is an ending, and it did the series justice. I am setting out to prove why they are wrong and why they should be enraged like me. Also, unlike many nerds’ opinions, I didn’t just dislike the ending of Mass Effect 3, I hated almost the entire game. Who’s ready to get their heart racing?!
Without further ado, I’d like to list out the reasons I hated Mass Effect 3.
- Citadel or Space?
In Mass Effect 1, you had Feros, you had chilly Noveria. In Mass Effect 2, you had beautiful Illium with those double-crossing spy quests and seedy Omega. Sure, there were other planets to explore, but you could sort of tell they were one-quest planets, with 4 or 5 “different” zones.
But in Mass Effect 3, ALL the quests originate on the Citadel. There was no other land to explore. Every planet was designed for that one quest you were there for, and you could never go back. There was nowhere to help out some dad who had lost his kid, or solve the mystery of plants that had hypnotized everyone. You go to the Citadel and you go to space. Where’s the world building?
- Overheard On The Citadel
Gone are the days of a heartfelt back-and-forth between Commander Shepard and some doctor who’s all out of specialized Batarian medi gel prompting you to vow not to give up your fight until you’ve saved every last creepy Batarian because YOU’RE COMMANDER SHEPARD. In Mass Effect 3, all you have to do is walk past someone, and sometimes before you’ve even heard their first sentence, the New Quest icon would pop up telling you that there’s something for you to do that you barely even care about. I don’t get how, in a game that relies NOT on over-CG’d cutscenes but actual zoomed-in/camera-angled gameplay footage would skimp on emotional conversations prompting you to action.
Every “Quest” is solved either by mining or finding something on a planet, so it’s not like you get the pride of saving someone’s long-lost daughter from a burning building. Instead you’re charged with clicking a white dot to discover the long lost Library of Elcor. Wow, what a rush.
- No time, saving the Earth, lulz
Where are the Keeper Scanning Quests? Where is the lovestruck asari and krogan on a break that you have to convince to get back together? Where are the puzzles? Sure, maybe you could argue that the Reapers are invading and there’s no TIME to be running around on side quests, but that’s BS. We’re playing a game here. For enjoyment.
- No time for innovation, Doctor Jones!
In Mass Effect 1, you had to type in a secret code as it flashed on the screen to pick a lock. I guess people didn’t like that, so it was canned. It’s been too long since I’ve played 1 and 2 to remember much about the weapons system, but I remember it being really complicated and fun — match this type of bullet to this level gun and add on these add-ons and see what happens! In Mass Effect 3, all I took away from the weapons system was looking at a chart once or twice and using the same type of gun all the way through.
In Mass Effect 1, mining and finding artifacts was a bit tedious, but at least you got to visit some interesting planets. And, SPACE COWS! So in Mass Effect 2, they decided to replace that whole system with simply scanning the planets from space and sending down a probe (which you had to pay for). It was fun because not only could you get cool prizes or quests, but you could also just move the cursor around to get some pretty expensive and rare minerals, which you discovered by reading a meter on the right. IT WAS FUN and it felt like I was doing some science or something! Mass Effect 3, let’s cut out the cost of probes, so you can just shoot them at planets willy-nilly, and let’s take out the science and just leave it to finding white dots that maybe added a War Asset. To an unwinnable war. Can we say no replay value?
That’s why my dislike of Mass Effect 3 isn’t confined to the ending. There were some high points. Mordin’s death scene. Shooting off the Citadel with Garrus. (And if you didn’t let him win, you have no heart.) My finally having a romance scene with Kaiden, after missing my chance in 1 and accidentally romancing Liara. The only memorable, superfun, innovative non-cutscene was the Legion/We-Are-Not-Legion TRON level. That was fun for me. The rest of it sort of felt like a chore. AND THIS IS COMING FROM THE PERSNO WHO PLAYED EVERY MAKO PLANET ON 1. Land on planet, hide behind shields, advance, repeat, fight “boss” at the end — Atlus, Banshee, or Brute.
Now. The ending.
For those of you who don’t know anything about Mass Effect, I will give you the gist of what everyone’s upset about. I hope you are very bored, because there’s extra-curricular videos to watch.
The first Required Watching is this 6:30 minute video from PATV on why people enjoy playing “western” RPGs. My main point begins 1:35 into it, and although the entire episode is really well-said, the brass tacks are that people enjoy RPGs because you get to BE the person. It’s not like Final Fantasy where you’re watching a character progress through a world and learning about his history. Those sorts of games certainly have their merit — neither Uncharted or Bioshock would even WORK in a world where you didn’t play as a pre-determined character in a narrative.
In RPGs like Mass Effect, Fallout, Dragon Age, Fable, and Knights of the Old Republic, part of the FUN is choosing. Had a bad day at work? Choose an evil option, backsass some colonist, kill a pile of peasants, force those weaker than you to your will. Or, if you play like I do, work to be the most just and honorable person in all the land. And I *like* sometimes wondering if what you’re doing is right. In Mass Effect, sure, there’s a bit of a forced narrative — besides, how different in a Candy-Getting quest, for example, is befriending a baby versus killing the baby and taking the candy at the end of the day? — there were a lot of affect-the-outcome-of-the-game choices that were epic. Until, you know, the end.
In the buildup of the trilogy, there are several choices you make that do influence the entire game. Besides your backstory, which gets a few mentions throughout — if you’re an orphan, people mention it, whereas I grew up in space with my parents, and I sometimes get to hop on a call with my mom — at the end of 1, you have to choose between your (likely) love interest or your BFF, and the one you don’t choose to save dies. Forever.
When Mass Effect 2 came along, and they each played a smallish role (I had saved Kaiden and killed Ashley, and Tyler did the opposite, so I got to see both), I understood, because, hey, maybe voice actors are expensive and busy, and you’d have to write a ton of totally different dialog for each.
But in Mass Effect 3, they played HUGE roles. I can’t even imagine how many different branches the writers went down, because there were different circumstances for whether or not you cheated on them in 2, whether or not you slept with them in the first one and were trying to again, if they were jealous that you slept with someone ELSE in 1 and they had always loved you. I will give them props for everything involving Kaiden. Not Ashley, because for some reason, the artists deemed that she’d gotten several thousand dollars worth of plastic surgery on her lips sometime after 2. Nice girl. Sex bot.
Other things, too. In the end of 2, depending on how much the character liked you, they either survived the final attack or died, leaving them unusable to you in 3. In 3, there’s a race of aliens that multiply like CRAZY, and before the games begin, they hate another race of aliens who mutated their DNA so that only 1 in 1,000 births was viable. Was it the right thing to do in terms of overpopulation? Or was it wrong to limit someone’s species through science, causing faction wars over the rare fertile females, and subjecting them to rape at the leaders’ whims? In the game, you have to choose whether or not to reverse the genophage.
There’s a race of AI created by another race called the Quarians, and although you’re taught they’re your enemy, you slowly learn that as soon as the AI gained awareness, they were killed by those who created them. And the few evil ones were brainwashed by an even higher power, so are they really evil at all? You have to choose if gaining self awareness is a crime punishable by genocide. I decided it wasn’t, and the repercussions of taking their side were that my friend Tali, a Quarian who had fought by my side for 3 games, committed suicide because her race would never accept the AI as friends, and her entire fleet was destroyed by the AI fighting back in self-defense.
These were the good things in 3 — the sorts of choices that reflected the overall series.
The overall plot of Mass Effect 3 is that you need to get every race in existence to fight on your side against the Big Bad, enlisting the help of everyone you’ve ever met and loved. You succeed. Everyone prepares for the big fight, and you run in guns blazing. And you lose. All your friends die. You get ported up to a magical space station heaven — deus ex machina for those of us in the business of knowing if something sucks or not — and a magical space alien boy in a hoodie tells you that he’s decided to wipe you out pretty much anyway. You are given three options.
1) (Red) — Destroy the Reapers AND every bit of AI (including your robo friends) and technology (including computers, ships, and the Mass Relay machines that enable space travel).
2) (Green) — Merge with the Reapers to create a synergy between synthetics and organics.
3) (Blue) — Control the Reapers and use them how you see fit (which you’ve been saying the whole game can never work).
I chose Green, because I was friends with synthetics, and it seemed like the nicest thing to do. As I dove into the green beam of light, I watched myself disintegrate. I watched the Reapers leave Earth! Yay. I watched a beam of light disintegrate all the Mass Relays allowing space travel. Oh. I watched my friend Joker piloting my ship careening out of control, frantically pushing buttons as the terminal didn’t respond.
It was at this point I started hysterically crying. Not only were all my friends dead, but the one crippled guy who had been my true friend through it all was about to explode all because of me. Every alien race failed because of me. As I was drying my eyes, I saw that he crash-landed on a planet and walked out with a few friends (one who I thought I saw die, but okay). Roll credits.
I was sniffling and hoping Tyler wouldn’t walk in and see me crying at a video game as I watched the credits roll. I thought I did the right thing, but the Magic Space Hoodie boy said the Reapers would be back, and now we didn’t have Mass Relays to travel and everyone was stuck and I was dead. Did I choose the evil option on accident?
The second Required Watching is this movie off all three endings side-by-side, with a key at the bottom right as to which it is.
Are you back? THEY’RE ALL EXACTLY THE SAME. All the choices I made, all the tough decisions, and in the end, every person gets the same ending. Not even the same result but with different graphics. ALMOST THE SAME GRAPHICS.
I get that it’s a HUGE game with SO many different paths that you get to go down. But you don’t even get a cutscene of the aforementioned metaphorical baby slowly trusting you, giving you the candy, and being your friend if you choose the good ending. And the evil players don’t get a cutscene of cruelly murdering the baby and standing over it, candy raised triumphantly in the air. BOTH GOOD AND EVIL get beamed up by a Mystical Space Hoodie who says you actually need to feed the baby vegetables, not take its candy, oh, and all your friends are dead.
I was livid.
Now, I thought I was going to get into actual Ending Dislikes here, but it appears I’ve rambled off again, because I can’t expect people to read over 2,200 words in a single sitting unless I’m writing sexy fan fiction. Please stay tuned for Part 3 coming soon. Really soon because I’m just going to keep writing this because I have such NERD RAGE.