Now hopefully you’ve already read my actual review of Mass Effect 3 (if not click here) and understand that I loved the game. Seriously, if that game were a girl I would have proposed the moment it turned up on my doorstep. Hell, despite it being a game I did almost take all my clothes off… (I managed to regain control after I got my jeans off).
That said, I, unfortunately, fall into the group of people who believe that the ending of ME3 was, without a doubt, awful. Had it not been different the game would have been, pretty much, perfection. On their own though, the ending/s were quite simply horrible. No matter how cliché it is to say so, it’s true.
This article will endeavour to explain just why the endings are so bad. Pretty much everything I say here has been said all around the internet, but I have to say, I came up with several of the arguments on my own before I even started to look around for other people’s opinions. Plus I want to make it clear now this article contains MANY SPOILERS! I have to talk about the ending in order to explain why it sucked…
Initially my plan was to make jokes! Stuff along the lines of “Yeah the ending wasn’t great, but then with such a massive build up, nothing they could do would satisfy us” so I want to make it perfectly clear that it IS actually as bad as people say and it’s not to do with an unrealistic ideal in gamer’s heads.
I will break the article up into sections, each with their own bit explaining why it wasn’t good. The sections I will be discussing are:
-The last battle
-The destruction of the Mass Relays
-The crash landing of the Normandy
-The options given and the results
-The end itself
The Last Battle
In honesty, the worst part about the end was actually the last 5 minutes of it. The fight and build-up to it were actually fucking awesome and I was literally bouncing up and down when the final fight started with Sword fleet leaping out of the Mass Relay and hammering the Reapers with all they had.
It was bloody cool, the mission was as good as the rest of the game and I actually did approve of the final confrontation with the Illusive Man. Everything up until you meet the Catalyst pretty much fit into the same standard of epic that the rest of Mass Effect pulled off.
The only issue I had was that, we were promised by Bioware endings that reflected the choices we made throughout all the different games. As such I was hoping that the many hours I spent working on the Galaxy at War and building up forces for the EMS (effective military strength) level would be reflected in some cut-scenes. I would have loved to see Aria’s mercenaries hurling themselves through the sky in battered cruisers, doing whatever it took to win the fight. I wanted to see Geth ships saving Quarian ships and watch the Quarians stare at their saviours in shock. I wanted to see Rachni ships suddenly appearing from nowhere to join the fight. I wanted to see Krogan and Turian and Salarian and Asari all working together. There was a small level of this, but nothing that really reflected the true extent of the work I put in to the three games, and that was a major disappointment. Nothing I couldn’t deal with, but it was a shame certainly.
The Destruction of the Mass Relays
So you’ve made your choice (see later) and one of the three colours of beams is shooting across the Galaxy. The issue here is that each time one of the beams connects with a Mass Relay it causes the Relay to explode, sending out a wave of colour and more beams. There are several problems with this…
First, it is well known in the lore, hopefully even to those who don’t really care much about the lore of the game, that destroying a Mass Relay causes an explosion with the force of a supernova. That means that every system with a Mass Relay, our system, the Turian system, the Quarian/Geth system, the Salarian system, the Asari system, and many more besides would be utterly obliterated by a gigantic explosion of untold force, doing more damage than the Reapers themselves were doing. And I ask you now, is THAT a result?
Second, if you assume that these explosions are different to normal Mass Relay explosions (which is the assumption most people have to go along with) then what you are now left with is something worse. You now have every single planet and race stranded in isolation in the Galaxy. Sure ships can travel at FTL speeds, but with the closest star to our star being 10 light-years away and the fastest FTL speeds in Mass Effect being around 30 times the speed of light, that means there is insurmountable distances between each and every single race in the galaxy.
EVEN worse, there is now a fleet of soldiers of every race in the galaxy floating above a ruined Earth. With no way to get home (at least, no way that wouldn’t take hundreds if not thousands of years) it’s likely that the limited resources of the ruined planet would be fought over resulting in the death of just about everyone who were, for such a short time, at peace and working together. It’s a truly horrible situation to imagine.
The Crash of the Normandy
During the final moments of the game, you watch Joker pilot the Normandy through a Mass Relay with the explosion chasing him down and causing the Normandy massive damage. The ship crash lands on a conveniently Earth like, but unknown, planet. In each situation you then watch Joker climb out of the wreckage, followed by either your two favourite squad mates or EDI and one of the favourite squad mates. In my case, EDI follows Joker and hugs him followed by my love interest, Liara. It’s quite an epic scene and quite moving, but it’s absolutely and utterly WRONG!
Let’s analyse this.
First, to even be in this situation Joker would have had to make a Mass Effect jump DURING the battle above the Citadel, while thousands of ships and billions of individuals fight for their lives against the Reapers. Essentially it would require Joker to abandon everything during the crucial moments of the war. This, quite simply, WOULD NOT HAPPEN! Joker is, arguably, Shepard’s most loyal crew-member, he’s been there since the start. He would never, not once in a million years abandon Shepard to die. Even if he knew Shepard was alive (which he didn’t), he had no reason to leave the system, meaning that he would have had to have chickened out, which is also impossible! He was brave and stalwart and wouldn’t have abandoned the millions of others fighting for their lives in the space battle against the Reapers, let alone Shepard. Both he and Shepard said many times, from the start of the game, that this was it, their only chance at beating the Reapers and that they would see it through to the end. It makes simply no sense that he would leave.
Next, Liara follows Joker out of the Normandy. This is even MORE ridiculous. First off, because Liara was actually in my team on the assault of the transport beam. That would mean that just before chickening out, Joker would have had to fly down to Earth, save Liara (forgetting about you of course) and THEN bugger off. Ignoring how retarded that is, we then get to the stage where Joker loses his nerve. He’s somehow become so scared he’s leaving the fight. Everyone on board the Normandy would never allow Joker to leave the fight, and nobody would even consider letting him leave Shepard. And this goes DOUBLY for Liara. Liara and Shepard are properly in love. And I don’t mean “teenage-one-week-long-relationship-love”. This is the sort of love that poems get written about. It was done beautifully and conveyed the massive depth of these characters feelings for each other. Liara would sooner die than leave Shepard, more than that, if she knew he was dead then she would most certainly die trying to avenge him. The idea of her leaving him is one of the least believable parts of the end (and that is saying a LOT).
The Options and Results – What happens?
If we assume that you have a Galactic Readiness/Effective Military Strength (GR/EMS) level of over 5000 which unlocks the best of every single ending (the “good” one of each) you will be presented with 3 choices. These same choices do get presented to you with lower than 5000 readiness but only two of them will be available with lower than 2800 and these will result in significantly “worse” endings (more damage is done to the galaxy).
You can take control of the Reapers. Shepard’s body is destroyed but he becomes one with, and now controls every Reaper in existence. Despite having a blue (Paragon coloured) explosion, this is, almost certainly, the Renegade option as it not means that the Reapers are still a force in existence, but it was repeated again and again to the Illusive Man by Shepard himself (and Anderson) that this is too much power for one person and is essentially playing with fire.
You can destroy the Reapers. Again despite a Renegade (red) coloured explosion this is most likely the Paragon option as it is the culmination of everything you have been working towards. It is also the only ending where, if you have a GR level of over 5000, Shepard actually survives. HOWEVER! Not only does it destroy the Reapers, it also destroys all synthetic life in the Galaxy including EDI and the Geth. One of the major plot points of the whole game was EDI becoming more and more self aware and human and, with Shepard’s encouragement, she eventually makes the step from machine to person. Also, a fully Paragon Shepard will actually have created peace between the Geth and the Quarians. So, destroying the Reapers also has evil consequences because it results in the death of countless of individuals who are innocent and good (the Geth and EDI both being fully self aware and on your side).
Finally, with more than 2800 GR you can re-write creation essentially in the “Synthesis” ending. By sacrificing himself, Shepard merges his consciousness with the Reapers. This rewrites all DNA in the Galaxy making everything partially synthetic and partially organic. The Reapers then leave everyone else alone as well. This is, by Bioware at least, considered to be “the best” option and results in a green explosion from the Citadel/Crucible.
The Options and Results – Why?
Why does Shepard have to choose one of these options? Essentially, the Catalyst (an AI in the form of a child, who is actually controlling the Reapers) created the Reapers and makes them destroy all organic life every 50,000 years. It did this because it believes that once it becomes advanced enough, life will eventually create synthetics and then go to war with them, resulting in both of their destruction. That’s right… A giant race of machines exterminates every advanced civilisation every 50,000 years so that they don’t get exterminated by a race of machines of their own making.
The Options and Results – THAT’S RETARDED!!
First off, lets look at why you are given one of these three options. The catalyst presents Shepard with the theory that organics will always create synthetics and, as a result will always go to war with them and destroy themselves. So it created the Reapers to beat the organics to the punch. The catalyst then explains that there will never be peace between organics and synthetics and they will always destroy each other. So destroying the Reapers means that every race will eventually destroy itself through the creation of synthetics. Controlling the Reapers is just wrong. And synthesis means that everyone is actually partially synthetic now and so there will be peace throughout the Galaxy.
Wrong… Wrong. WRONG. WRONG! WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!
Not only is the logic employed by the catalyst completely retarded, but Shepard actively disproves it by creating peace between the Geth and Quarians. So, that’s a massive flaw in your logic there little boy!
But worse, Shepard then forgets ALL about this success and his ability to pull peace out of blue space and simply accepts that there can never be peace between organics and machines. Ever. Doesn’t question, doesn’t argue, nothing. He takes it instantly, even if you play fully paragon. And now let’s face it… He WOULD NOT DO THAT! EVER! No, he would question and find another way and prove the little fucker WRONG! Like he already fucking managed to do!
The End Itself
The biggest issue had BY far across the whole world and internet with the ending to Mass Effect 3 is the lack of variety. Even if they were satisfied with the annihilation of all hope and the destruction that would be wrought by the end (I’m looking at you, Renegade players) everyone had to agree that the end was quite simply far to similar to the good ending. Really the only real difference between endings was the colour of the explosions and that’s about it. And understandably, this has pissed off EVERYONE. Honestly, Bioware literally promised that endings would reflect our choices and decisions but honestly, they really don’t. What they reflect is the final choice you make AND NOTHING ELSE. And this is reason why every person is willing to dislike the ending, even the evil and sadistic people.
But do you want to know MY biggest issue with the end? More so than all the other insanity we had to deal with. There is no good ending. None. Sure, the synthesis ending is supposed to be the “good” ending. But it still results in the Reapers being very much alive and all the other above issues such as the, now stranded, Victory Fleet which will likely start tearing each other apart for resources. The message of Mass Effect until now was that if you are good then you will win and everything will go well. And I fucking LIKED that message. I liked the idea of this Universal karma where good decisions made people like you and made things go well. Now, out of fucking nowhere I might add, we are suddenly given the message that Mass Effect has really been about the inevitable struggle of organics against machines. Not only that but we are then, straight away, told that there is no real solution to it. No good one anyway.
And you know what, it just is NOT fair. There should be a happy ending. Perhaps one still involving Shepard’s death, but everything else should go well. He should save the Galaxy and destroy the Reapers and, as a result, everyone else should, for a while at least, be at peace and be happy. I’m not saying this should be easy to achieve, but it SHOULD be there for those of us dedicated enough to have earned most of the war assets.
In my mind the way I would like to have seen this play out would have been that the “catalyst” hologram was actually an instrument of the Reapers themselves and the reason Shepard finds it so easy to believe is that he is still suffering from indoctrination. What I would then like to see if Shepard being given the option to shoot the little fucker and then send out a pulse wave which destroys every Reaper consciousness in existence AND NOTHING ELSE!
So there you have my thoughts, on the matter, as ranting as they may be. Before I played the ending of ME3 Bioware could do no wrong in my eyes but now I am genuinely worried that even the addition of the Extended Edition will no be able to unfuck this massive level of fuckery they’ve handed us.
In short… Fuck you Bioware. In the space of a 5 minute conversation and a 3 minute cinematic you succeeded in ruining a series in which I’d put well over 100 hours of play time.