A while ago I wrote a pretty long rant explaining my absolute dislike and hatred of the ending of Mass Effect 3 (confirming the general public opinion of it), before I start writing here I feel obliged to inform you that this article will be very spoiler heavy as I will be walking you through the major changes and if you have yet to play through Mass Effect 3 with or without the Extended Cut ending and don’t wish to have anything ruined for you then you should avoid clicking on the “Continue Reading” button.
It is fairly common knowledge amongst gamers now, even if you’ve never looked sideways at a Mass Effect game, that in the final instalment of their trilogy Bioware messed up on the ending and upset a lot of people, me among them. Bioware, in light of the public opinion quickly announced that they would be releasing a free Extended Cut for the ending which would add new dialogue and cut scenes which would explain the numerous plot holes and hopefully change the ending into something people approved of. Tim continues to believe that this was all planned out in almost a publicity stunt while I continue to hope that Bioware listened to the fans and decided to change their game to better please them… Who knows…
Anyway, the Extended Cut was released at the end of June/beginning of July across all platforms and as soon as I was able to dove right back into my favourite game for my second playthrough. Due to a combination of laziness, playing other games, being ridiculously thorough (as always), and playing on the Insane difficulty I have only recently finished my second playthrough and am ready to give my opinion.
I ought to mention that I WAS completely thorough and except for one mission which bugged and I could not complete I did absolutely everything the game had to offer. I also ought to mention that the game which had several challenging sections on Normal became absolutely insane on… Insane… My final play time stood at about 35 hours but that doesn’t include for all the times I died so understand when I say, I spent a lot of time here. As well as this the game, while really difficult, remained great fun so I believe it to be a worthy challenge for every gamer, Bioware really managed to create a fantastic third person shooter in it’s own right here.
But that’s enough of the history lesson, let’s get down to brass tacks. First of all it might be worth looking back at my previous rant for the explanation of EMS or you should head over here I think I’m going to answer the most important question first:
Did the Extended Cut improve the ending?
Short answer: Yes. Shortish answer: Yes, VASTLY.
As far as I am concerned Bioware managed to pull off something close to a miracle with the Extended Cut for ME3. It wasn’t a case of me not really believing that they could write a good ending but it was more the fact that they insisted they were going to stick with the Ending they had written, they were just going to extend it (funny how that sort of sounds like the name). Bioware were then working with an ending that many, including myself, detested and they somehow managed to add it enough extra little bits and pieces to make it a whole let better, good enough so that I think I would have been almost happy with this ending when it was first released. It’s not perfect, trying to take something fundamentally flawed and make it awesome was never going to work but they have worked wonders in making it at least not let down the rest of the game.
With the original ending there were several things which, as far as I am concerned, really were completely wrong (all of which I go into more detail in my rant I linked at the top there):
- The ridiculous number of plot holes which did not make sense.
- The choices you make at the end and the reasons behind them.
- The lack of difference between the endings.
- The lack of epilogue and closure in seeing what happened after your victory.
There’s something else as well, but I’ll get to that at the end of this… For now though, let’s see how Bioware coped with these:
Did the Extended Cut patch up the plot holes?
Again yes! Hurrah! There were several absolutely massive issues with the ending that were not explained and left every Mass Effect fan from here to the citadel in confusion. The three major ones were: Joker fleeing the fight in the Normandy, flying away from the explosion from the Crucible and also away from the final stand of the Galaxy, chickening out so to speak. Your squadmates who had, moments before been with you on the assault of the Citadel transport beam are also suddenly with Joker on board the Normandy (so they must have chickened out as well somehow). And the complete destruction of the Mass Relays which would have caused every single race in the Galaxy to be stranded, including the Victory Fleet above Earth, with no means of real travel between the stars.
The first major plot hole to be fixed was how on Earth your squad managed to get on board the Normandy from the surface of Earth. During the mad dash to the transport beam there is a brief cut-scene where both of your squad-mates are injured badly, but not critically and so Shepard commands Joker to evacuate them. This actually answered a second concern of mine in the process: in both of my playthroughs I “romanced” Liara AND had her in my squad in the assault on the beam. In the original end I did not see how it would have been possible for her to abandon Shepard, when clearly the two of them were so in love neither could abandon the other. Bioware answered this for me by, when Garrus and Liara are being made to get on board the Normandy there was a tearful and love-filled goodbye between Shepard and Liara. I won’t lie when I say that it was actually really touching… I choked up a little, seriously…
In one pretty awesome sweep Bioware did answer one of the major plot-holes. It did leave way to the question why Harbringer (the Reaper guarding the beam) was able to kill hundreds of individual soldiers and gunships but then proceeded to ignore the Frigate class Warship right in front of it’s face, but we can ignore something as small as that.
This was followed by a minor change in that Admiral Hackett is informed that Shepard (or someone he assumes is Shepard) has made it to the transport beam, which explains why the fleet was not in retreat during the end. Also you actually see Shepard fly into the Citadel, answering how he got into the dark corridor full of bodies.
The next major change came after you make your choice and the Crucible is warming up to fire. Admiral Hackett, having noticed that the Crucible is about to fire, orders the Victory fleet to retreat through the relays to the “Rendezvous Point”. This cuts to Joker continuing to fly the Normandy around the battle until he is finally convinced by one of your crew mates to retreat, thus explaining why he was flying through the relay when the Crucible finally fired. Again this did open up the question to why Hackett felt the need to order a retreat seeing as the Crucible was supposed to only target the Reapers, but again this small thing can be overlooked.
The final plot hole which bothered so many people, the destruction of the Mass Relays and thus the stranding of every race in the Galaxy, changes slightly. Now if your EMS is too low then the Mass Relays still get destroyed but it’s easy enough to prevent this and in most endings only the core of the Mass Relays breaks apart AND during the Epilogue (see a bit further down in this post) it is implied that the Mass Relays are repaired, along with the Citadel, to their original functionality.
Unfortunately, the Extended Cut did not change the end of the game to the extent that the choices offered to you are any different and the reasons behind them are still the same. So unfortunately the whole “Yo dawg, we created an army of synthetics to kill you to stop you from getting killed by an army of synthetics” thing is still there. However, during the scene with the interaction with the catalyst you can now use the “investigate” option to find a little bit more out about the Destroy, Control and Synthesis endings. Now I remain of the opinion that the choices were poor and that the reason behind them is worse, however the new dialogue did SOMEHOW actually clear up some of my misgivings. It’s nothing I can really put a finger on, but the dialogue definitely made the whole reason for the Reapers actually seem a little more logical and make the conundrum seem a little more difficult than “destroy the Reapers and everyone will live happily ever after” thing. In truth there was ONE fairly major change to the end in that you can now refuse to fire the Crucible at all which will lead to the Reapers winning the current war BUT the next cycle then achieves victory and peace… So while it COULD be seen as a good ending, quite frankly everyone dies so not really… Anyway, once again, the Extended Cut did manage to improve this particular issue with the ending.
The Lack of Difference Between Endings
There is now actually a fair bit more difference in the endings you see. Depending on your EMS you either see the Victory Fleet and the ground forces holding their own against the Reapers or you see them quickly start taking heavy losses. There’s only a few extra added cut-scenes but if you haven’t worked hard enough on your military before attacking the Reapers then you will see your not-so-carefully put-together military getting blasted to pieces. It’s not much, but it is enough to make the endings seem a little more succinct and individual. More than that, the epilogue (see the next section) changes depending on your EMS and your choices during the games and once again the amount of damage done during the firing of the Crucible changes depending on your EMS. Another improvement here!
The Lack of Epilogue and Closure
This is one of the big things that the Extended Cut fixes. After the Crucible fires and Shepard is disintegrated/blown-up/whatever there will be a cut-scene showing scenes of victory across the Galaxy: Tuchanka, Palaven, Thessia, the major home-worlds essentially. You will see those squad-mates and friends of yours which died over the course of the games in flash-back style images. Then you get a cut-scene showing still images of what happened after the end of the war, narrated by Admiral Hackett (Destroy ending), Commander Shepard (Control ending) or EDI (Synthesis ending). The still images show the various races across the Galaxy in various states depending on your choices (for example I saw an image with the Quarians and Geth working together in harmony and a glorious new dawn of Tuchanka for the Krogan). The voice over also talks about how the Galaxy changes due to your choices and the end choice, so the Galaxy is now working together in harmony to get to new heights never achieved before (my end) or how there was a lot of damage but they will eventually repair it. You then see your squad-mates (those which survived) mourning Commander Shepard by placing his/her name plaque on the wall of the dead on the Normandy and then you see the Normandy either being repaired or flying off into the sunset. So it does clear up a lot of the issues raised by the original ending. You see your crew upset but still alive and returning to the Galaxy, you see the Galaxy working together for a new future and you understand that the damage caused is repaired. For example in my particular end (Synthesis again with over 5000 EMS) the Reapers actually help repair the Galaxy and help raise the organics to a new level they would never previously have dreamed of achieving maybe even “transcending mortality”.
What does this all mean?
Well essentially… Like I said at the top the Extended Cut improves the ending massively. It turns what was previously a shambles into a fitting end of one of the greatest games of our lives. It fixes the plot holes (introducing only a few smaller ones in their place), it gives you much needed closure about what happens after the end of the game, it tries it’s best to explain why you have to make your choices at the end and it tries to introduce a greater degree of difference between the endings. Overall, Bioware performed miracles here and I felt that my faith in them was rewarded by this.
Of course… It’s not really as simple as that… Bioware had crippled themselves out of the gate by insisting that they stick with a fundamentally flawed ending rather than change it completely. This means that end will never be the perfect end that many of us wanted but instead it’s something we will have to settle for.
Let me explain this using an analogy I actually thought rather apt. Do you remember the end of the Harry Potter books? Sure people died and it’s upsetting that they did, it is quite a grown up finish, but everyone else lives and get’s married and has children. It is essentially almost a fairy tale ending: the bad guys are defeated forever and the good guys live happily ever after. When I first read the epilogue, I did not like it. I thought it was a bit of a cop out to have such a cheesy and overly NICE ending. Over time though I have been thinking about it and I honestly cannot see a way in which I would change the ending. Should Ron and Hermione NOT get married? Should Harry have actually died? No, the more I thought about it the more I realised that this amazingly GOOD ending was actually the best way to finish the series in which so many people were so emotionally invested.
Now I’m not comparing Mass Effect to Harry Potter, but run with it for now, but I think that is the approach Bioware should have gone for. They tried to make a “twist” and “grown up” ending for a grown up game. In the process though they upset thousands, if not millions of fans who were emotionally invested in the characters of a game they had spent years playing. I think that Bioware not only crippled their game with it’s ridiculous choices and explanations, but ultimately they ruined it by not providing a possible Happy Ending for Shepard and not just the Galaxy.
It’s because of this that while I feel the game overall deserves it’s “almost perfect” A+ the Extended Ending itself only ever will deserve: