Thursday, March 22, 2012

Played Lately: Mass Effect 3

  • The announcement that Bioware is reconcidering the ending of Mass Effect 3 comes at an amazing time. Just the prior night I stayed up until four in the morning to finish my game. But even if Bioware is going to address people concerns, I still need to explain my feelings. I will avoid any major spoilers. However, if you want to go into the game completely clean, feel free to bookmark this post and come back when you're done. I've done that with several posts that I'm finally reading today.

  • I spoke with my brother that night. He beat the game a week ago and really wanted to about it. He called it a punch in the gut. Until I finished, I wasn't sure what he could mean by that. Surely Bioware would write the ending in such a way as to fascilitate the upcoming DLC, I told him. No, he told me, the ending is as final as final can be. Huh, I said. I was saved from the rest of the conversation by the baby, but I was left unsettled. It's one thing for the internet at large to tell you a game sucks, but it's a whole other thing when it's your brother.

  • The funny thing is that, by this point, I was really enjoying ME3. I know that I complained about the combat before. But after several nights, I was finally used to the controls and even enjoying the combat again. Sure, I was still playing on Casual, but I was having fun. And I was having fun doing missions and talking to old friends. The game, oh the game was fantastic. It was the story that let me down.

  • Everything about Mass Effect 3 was great, right up until the last fifteen minutes. The ending undoes everything you've just spent the game achieving. After spending the entire game trying to bring the universe together, you are given a final choice that contradicts everything the series has stood for. It even contradicts plot lines that you are following in this very game!

  • I honestly think that video games are a completely valid art form. But they are not passive like every other art. Gaming is a collaborative experience between the designer and the audience. Authorial intent is very murky when you are hang your narrative on the player's actions. That players would rise up so vociferously to a story decision should be no surprise at this point. No matter what Paul Barnett says, games are not one directional media; designers have to honor the interactive nature of games and the stories that play out.

  • Between this and the Dragon Age games, I have lost all confidence in Bioware as a game designer. From here on, I won't be buy their games until I am reasonable assured that they will be worthwhile.

  • Addendum: Before I finished this post, I downloaded and read Geoff Keighley's The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3. Watching the included videos, I started to feel bad about how much I'm seething about this game. Casey Hudson is just a dude, trying to make a game people will like. That he got so close should be commended.

  • I'll have one more super spoiler post to discuss the ending but then I'm going to move on.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. "I honestly think that video games are a completely valid art form. But they are not passive like every other art. Gaming is a collaborative experience between the designer and the audience."

    This is what I so much love about games as a way to experience a narrative. This is also what makes games hurt so much more than a book or a movie when the storyteller screws the pooch. There are so many games I've played that gave me amazing interactive narrative experiences I never could have had from a completely passive medium. There are also a lot of games that made me really regret how invested I became in their narratives when I got to a stupid half baked ending.

    1. @ Yeebo - I completely agree. I know that we make a lot of demands on game developers, but I don't think we should give them a pass on bad storytelling anymore.

  2. Sorry you didn't like the last bit, I hope it didn't ruin the rest of the game for you like it seems to for a lot of other people.

    1. I really loved the rest of the game, but the ending casts a long shadow over how I feel about it.