Judging from the fact that this is my second Mass Effect related post, you may have guessed that I am quite a fan of this series. So I decided, hey why not discuss my final feelings of the game, its ending, and review the DLC? Well I did, and since it seems like I spent over 30+ hours just trying to write the damn script, yeah, I’m not going to do something like this ever again (sorry folks, but that ‘Uno Final Look’ audio discussion may never happen). Still it was worth it to get this out of my system since I’m a huge fan of the Mass Effect series.
So take a listen, as for the first time I realize how useful a script is. Ain’t that something? Also I manged to recover notes I used for a blog I planned on creating a long time ago that related to the Mass Effect 3 ending, and yep it’s not too positive! So if you want to compare my current feelings now, to the way I felt back then when I finished the game for the first time, there you go. Enjoy reading my psychological breakdown/meltdown.
“Top – first part (characters, gameplay), Bottom – second part (ending, DLC review).”
First are the choices –
If there’s any gaming company that I would consider “top –notch” when it comes to storytelling and choice, it’s Bioware. Which is why it pains me to see an ending, in which, the choices I made from the entire game barely mattered (with the exception of the collector base). Keep in mind, I didn’t bring up the choices in Mass Effect 1 or 2, because I felt you guy’s nailed it on that part (seeing the Rachni Queen, ME2 squad members, and how Overlord played into the story was awesome!)
I’m talking about the fleets you pick up, you know? The leftover Batarian ships, the Volus engineers, Aria’s army of mercs, and even the Elcor squads (which granted would’ve been hilarious to see, but still…..). I mean besides the main council races, the Krogan, the Quarians, and the Geth you don’t see a lot of support from the other races in the final battle. This may not be considered a big deal, but for me what that final fight came down to was, “How many numbers do I have? And how many more do I need?”
The the only thing the assets mattered in was numbers, there was no emotional involvement or physical figures involved – it was just numbers. Which from a strategy game is fine, but for an RPG like this that’s all about presenting the choices you’ve made in its fullest detail? I think that’s personally disappointing.
Although, let’s look at the real choices you had to make at the end. Destroying all synthetic life: why was this presented as the paragon option? I know, “Mass Effect is not just about making black and white distinctions”. Nevertheless despite the fact that you eliminated all synthetic life, the Catalyst says that the synthetics “might rebel against their creators”. Why is this presented as the paragon choice if we know that humanity is just going to screw over synthetic life again?
Controlling the Reapers: this one I didn’t have much of a problem with, except for the execution (which I’ll get to shortly).
Synthesis: the option to make all organic races synthetic. Okay, I’m on board with that.
So far I don’t have any problems with the concepts, except their execution. Which are all essentially the same endings except with aesthetic differences (green, blue, red, pink, fuchsia, etc….). This bugged me excessively, mostly because not only were they the same, but also because the choices had very minimal outcomes (Joker’s with Edi, Joker’s with Garrus, and now in this playthrough they’re all apparently dead – sad face). That is what bothered me the most, no personal consequences and no payoff. Even when attaining a perfect ending, there’s still no absolute conclusion or satisfaction (having Shepard move for half a second doesn’t tell me anything).
Of course I know this is all to set-up the universe to tell more stories. This is great, you want to continue the Mass Effect universe while ending Shepard’s story? I like that! Problem though is that you sacrificed Shepard’s arc in vain of starting a new one that probably won’t be as epic or engaging as his/hers! Mass Effect 1 was an introduction to the universe and the reveal of the Reapers, Mass Effect 2 was an exploration of this universe while fighting a new foe with a new squad, what does Mass Effect 3 bring?
Supposedly I thought it was to bring a resolution (a nicely tied resolution with a neat red bow on top) to Shepard’s story while bringing a new “era” to this universe.
One part of that remains true, while the other is kicked to the side like an empty cardboard box just sitting in the corner decaying and waiting to be tossed out like the trash it is (maybe that was a little harsh).
And what kills me is that it was so close! The choices you had to make in terms of curing the genophage/siding with the Salarians, destroying the Geth/allying with the Geth, rescuing the Rachni Queen/gaining the trust of an elite Krogan squad were set in stone! I was ready to witness the aftermath of the choices I made and how big the consequences of those actions were, but instead they got forcefully replaced by the very end!
What was the point of making these decisions if we never get a chance to see them play out? You guys have done this before. Like with KOTOR where you had two endings, but each one specifically showed you something very different in terms of tone and character development. Dragon Age (which I know, different team), by the end you get to meet all your allies and friends before you take off on another adventure. There was even text telling you what happened afterwards.
Mass Effect 3…….uh, the Normandy crashes on a strange tropical-like planet and Shepard is sort-of alive? You see what the problem is here? There’s no definitive resolution(s), it’s just a bunch of hanging threads begging to be connected!
The second part is how it ended –
To me, Mass Effect was always seen as this generation’s Star Wars or Star Trek. Epic storylines, very memorable characters, and a protagonist that people can get behind (even some quotable lines). It was a massive (no pun intended) overhaul in the grand sci-fi blockbuster genre.
This is why I bring up the ending, and why it defeats the reason that makes this series so great.
The ending would have been fine if this were the first entry in a series. In fact, I think that it would’ve been seen as “daring” or seen as the “first videogame to be on par with classic novels such as Blade Runner or iRobot”. But not for a trilogy of games that were clearly established in a different genre of sci-fi (if that makes any sense). I understand, you wanted to make it “memorable” and “different”. Good, then stick with what you guys did with the previous entries and give us choices, different outcomes, consequences, and an epic conclusion. Or don’t do it if you couldn’t have found any other way.
In fact, you guy’s could have taken the ending from the first game (considering that the final confrontation with the illusive Man and Saren are almost similar), make some tweaks, and bam – awesomeness in a, uh, disc thing-ie? Anyway, you get the point.
Or better yet, have the epilogue take place on the characters back-story location (spacer, colonist, Earth-born). Not only will it have fit in with that Mass Effect 1 tone you were going for, but it would also tie everything back together. From end to very beginning (Mass Effect 3 to Mass Effect 1).
You even still could have had the Mass Relay’s go out. Nothing wrong with having a little bit of sorrow and depression, but not when it overbears something as fantastical and glorious as this trilogy.
Having a “Hollywood Blockbuster Ending” does not have to be a bad thing. I know, “it wouldn’t have been memorable unless we went a completely different route”, however that is not true. I honestly believe that this whole entire trilogy would have been fondly remembered if it had that type of ending. Look at Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and even something as brutal and dark as District 9. They still had hopeful endings and nice conclusions.
Sure, you don’t have to copy-cat their endings (not that you guys would have done that anyway). Instead, learn from them! Don’t forget about the fans either, they were reason why they (including myself) stuck all the way with this trilogy.