I’ve done it. After roughly 25 hours, in addition to the 50-60 hours or so, spent on the first two games in the series, I’ve finally beaten Mass Effect 3. After writing about my first impressions of the game just under 2 weeks ago, my intention was to write a full review when I had completed the game. But in the two weeks between beginning the game and completing it, there has been a HUGE amount of criticism of the ending to Mass Effect 3, so I’ve decided to talk about that instead. And I must say, I was personally pleased with the ending, so what you’re about to read will be quite different to what you’ve most likely predominantly been reading about the ending, which is leaning far more towards the side of outrage and disappointment.
Also, although I’ve clearly stated that the ending to Mass Effect 3 will be discussed, I suppose I should say SPOILERS AHEAD for the slower readers out there.
So here’s how the story went down, with Shepard under my control. My male Commander Shepard has been with me since the original Mass Effect, and from the beginning he has been a symbol of honour and virtue, almost always making the good moral choices. He saw his fair share of tough decisions, to be sure, some major, some minor. Deciding whether or not a hanar could be allowed to preach on the Presidium proved difficult, but my Shepard always did try to do what he felt was best. Urdnot Wrex had to be killed on Virmire, but not by Shepard’s hand. My beloved Ashley who Shepard had a blossoming relationship with, took Wrex’s life when he couldn’t be reasoned with. And having to send Kaidan Alenko to his certain death was… heart-breaking. But in the end, Saren and Sovereign were defeated, the Citadel was saved instead of destroyed, Udina was promoted to councillor, and things were going well for humanity, at least for now.
Along comes Mass Effect 2, and Shepard continues on his path of Paragonism, quickly losing the scars on his face at the beginning of the game. A couple of stumbling blocks laid ahead. After a cold reunion with Ashley on Horizon, with her being confused and angry about my Shepard working with Cerberus, my Shepard sought comfort in the arms (and kick-arse body) of Miranda Lawson. Not because he was an arsehole, he just needed the warmth and compassion that Ashley wasn’t willing to provide at the time. He went through every single loyalty mission there was, wanting to know more about his crew and wanting to help them, because that’s how he rolled. Unfortunately, on the final assault on the Collector base, a couple of these good people were lost. In the end, despite the Illusive Man trying to convince Shepard that he could wipe out the Collectors and leave the base intact, he destroyed it, knowing that leaving technology like this in the hands of Cerberus was a dangerous move.
Then we get to Mass Effect 3. Commander Shepard rejoined the fight against the Reapers, recruiting alien races to fight alongside him, and enjoying a little romantic down-time where he could. He rekindled his relationship with Ashley, one he never should have turned his back on in the first place, and had to have the hard talk with Miranda to say that he didn’t have the same feeling for her that she did for him. That was tough. Shepard being the good an honourable man that he is, cured the genophage, ended the war between the geth and the quarians, and overall, united a whole galaxy in their fight against the Reapers. He could have made some big, evil decisions along the way, ending races and taking lives that didn’t deserve to be taken, but he chose the good path every single time. Sadly, he lost some good friends along the way, like Miranda Lawson, Mordin Solus, and Legion, all of which took a tremendous toll on his heart. But he battled on, like a good leader does. He finally returned to Earth to finish the fight. He made his way to the Citadel, took down the Illusive Man who was trying to stop him, and finally, the last choice was upon him. He was faced with the options of destroying the Reapers, controlling them, or synthesis, which he was told would be the final evolution of humanity, merging organics with synthetics. Seeing that he was able to unite the geth and the quarians, he chose to take the middle path, sacrificing himself in order to synthesise all the races, destroying the Mass Relays, and in the process, creating unity and peace.
This is basically a long-winded way of trying to provide some context. Shepard, under my control, was a good man. He was able to make tough decisions, all in the name of trying to bring about peace. And he did that in the end, and had to make the ultimate sacrifice to do it. He died for his cause, a truly noble and heroic end. In other words, the ending to Mass Effect 3 felt organic, and more importantly, it felt RIGHT.
I understand why the ending has its detractors, and there sure are a lot of them. And I understand one of the large issues is more technical than story-based, as it is primarily about a lack of choice, choice which we were promised from project director on the game, Casey Hudson, in this quote:
This story arc is coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot more different. At this point we’re taking into account so many decisions that you’ve made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.
This proves to be false, as the endings basically do boil down to A, B, or C, with a few minor changes here and there. Believe me, I understand. And I can make one criticism of my own, the fact that the fate of all the characters you’ve spent so much time with isn’t even addressed. I did get to see Joker and EDI step off the Normandy together after it crash-landed, and seeing my beloved Ashley step off was also a great relief, but what of Garrus, Tali, Jack, and others?
But this is only a small criticism. Seeing Joker and EDI exit the Normandy, Joker already showing signs of the synthesis that Shepard had begun, and seeing them hold each other, filled my heart with joy, because the implication is that this is they will get to have their lives together, and this is the beginning of future generations a new, better, stronger version of humanity.
The illusion of choice was always fragile at best throughout the series, so the lack of major differences between endings doesn’t feel like too big of an issue for me personally. If we’re being honest, no matter who we allowed to live or die along the way, whether we played as a Paragon or Renegade, what dialogue choices were made, etc., each of the three games had a concise beginning and end, just as the overall story arc did. The story had to follow a certain path no matter what, despite what choices were made, so the ending to Mass Effect 3 doesn’t stray too far from that idea. I’m not trying to say that the journey is more important than the destination exactly, more that the journey serves the destination.
The ending that I recieved suited me exactly. If I made a different choice in regards to the Reapers, perhaps I wouldn’t be as satisfied, but if I had made a different choice, it would have been a choice that went against the way that I’d played Shepard for so many hours, so I’d be digging my own grave. If you weren’t happy with the ending, Dear Reader, I completely understand, but I for one was happy. It sucked to watch Shepard die after investing so much in him, but hey, that’s an inevitability for us all, after all.
Funnily enough, this argument may fall on deaf ears after all this time writing. In between me starting this last night and finishing it this morning, BioWare have announced that it will be changing the ending to Mass Effect 3. So just like those of you who took the long journey towards the end of the series to feel like your time was wasted, I have taken the time to write all this, only to feel that my time may have been wasted as well, as things are going to change, anyway. For now, Dear Reader, I’ll just go on with my regular life, keep posting, and remember how much I enjoyed my time with the Mass Effect series, and I hope that you all now can do the same.
Like the ending? Hate the ending? Don’t care for the series at all? Whatever your opinions, I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment, and let the discussion begin.