Written by Craig Will (puffkix) Thursday, 19 April 2012 09:00
Amid the outcry of furious gamers I’ve found myself as part of the minority. I thought the original ending to Mass Effect 3 was okay. Whoa, whoa, whoa – blow out your torches and put down the pitchforks, there’s no need for a burning at the stake today. I’ll make concessions but I don’t think BioWare has anything to answer for.
The ending wasn’t perfect, heck it wasn’t even really good but it was… okay. When the rage started spreading across the internet about how hated the ending was I did my best to ignore the articles because I hadn’t made it that far yet. After finishing the game I had a hard time seeing what all the hubbub was about so I went back to those articles to find out what the issues were. If you still haven’t beat the game and are trying to avoid spoiling the ending then I don’t know why you clicked on the link to this article but you are officially notified that it may contain SPOILERS.
I easily agree with folks who wanted a longer ending, we as Mass Effect fans have put hundreds of hours into the series and I don’t think any of us would have been annoyed with a 20 to 30 minute cutscene finale. It’s also easy to agree with the claims that BioWare broke or suspended previously established things like Joker piloting the Normady through exploding mass relays whose explosions would decimate life light years away.
I’m sure there are many other issues that people took with the ending but the one that I kept seeing over and over – and the one that I absolutely disagree with – is the lack of real choice at the end. I don’t disagree that there is a lack of real choice, obviously each option ends with Shepard dying, the imminent Reaper invasion halted, and for all intents and purposes they are the same ending.
In a game built around choice, where everything from dialogue to sexual partner is completely up to the player, it may seem odd, even shocking, for that choice to be seemingly taken away at the crux of the game. This is intentional. The moral of the story is that no matter how important somebody is, no matter their prior accomplishments or previous choices, they will die. There is no choice in that matter. They will die and time will move on – crushing all life along the way because everybody dies.
I personally chose to combine synthetic and organic life and the ending scene where Joker and EDI stepped out of the Normady onto a virgin land was symbolic of a biblical genesis – where they were the Adam and Eve.
The scene after the credits with a “grandpa” (or something) and a young boy reinforce the earlier message of insignificance as legendary actions had faded to myth in the far distant future.
To recap: The moral of the story is that no individual is strong enough to change the inevitable future of death and life’s cyclical nature cannot be undermined – but there is hope (as symbolized by the Adam and Eve scene) and while the specifics may not be remembered and the future may not be controlled, at least we have memories and myths to guide us.
Is this the only ending that was possible? No, and this same message could have been voiced with a completely different ending sequence but as storytellers BioWare has the right to pen the story how they best see fit. That said, the artistic integrity argument holds no water in this case because video games are consumer art and are already meticulously focus tested to see what will make the most money and not created solely as an outlet for artistic expression. Through the design process the original artistic piece has already been heavily modified to make it more profitable, which is exemplified by the fact that some mechanics, that worked fine, changed from ME1 to ME2.
This was all a round-a-bout way to say that I think the original ending for Mass Effect 3 wasn’t as great as it could/should have been but it wasn’t the abhorrent ending that the gaming community made it out to be and the fact that so many people played through not only this entry in the series but every entry, indeed are still playing, is a testament to the strength of the game’s mythos.
Originally this was going to be the part where I said that perhaps we’re making a mountain out of a molehill, which I still do think, and that there is a dangerous precedent being set by asking BioWare to revise the ending but I don’t really feel as strongly about that anymore. I’m torn about how I feel as this a wonderful opportunity for BioWare to further cement fan loyalty by giving gamers what they ask for and since large blockbuster games, like summer box office hits, are designed with the bottom line in mind there isn’t really any precedent being set besides giving consumers what they want. On the other hand the cynical side of me sarcastically says, “Yeah do it, maybe then they’ll buy more of your product if they know they can get it changed to what they want later.”
I’ve heard a lot of the internet at large hate on the ending of Mass Effect 3 and call for a change but are there any readers who feel the same way I do? Sound off in the forums.