Saturday, March 24, 2012

Random Shots: The Infamous Ending


  • Even though I said in my last post that I was going to talk about the ending today, I was strongly reconcidering whether I want to keep beating this drum. But after talking to my brother about the game for an hour and a half (he is compelled by the Indoctrination Theory, I am unconvinced) and then falling down an internet hole of people trying to describe why they did not like the ending (with a myriad of differences, good luck parsing that, Bioware), I knew that I could not let this go yet. I have to get my thoughts out before I could put the game (and the series) behind me.

  • To explain what I feel is wrong with the ending, you have to understand how I experienced it. It was about 3:30 in the morning when I began the final mission. When you land on Earth and start fighting your way through the streets of London. There are some incredible battles. Even in casual difficulty, I felt hard pressed to succeed. And when I reached the final hold out battle, it felt like we really might be overrun. So when we killed the Destroyer guarding the conduit, I was so relieved. I had been so excited by this entire sequence that I had stood up somewhere along the line and was standing four feet away from my television. It was from that position that I experienced the rest of the game.

  • I honestly thought that I might be the only one to survive the final rush to the conduit. So when the reaper's beam shoots across the screen, I thought that I was done for. But then there is the incredibly effective final stagger to the conduit, fighting off the husks and marauder, then walk through the corridors and bridge to the circular chamber where you find Anderson and the Illusive Man. It was at this point that the game started to fall apart for me. The conversation goes on for far too long for a talk with someone who is only a proxy for the enemy. I ended up shooting my way out of the situation, though Anderson ended up dead. Maybe I could have forgiven the clunky writing of the conversation if it were not what happened next.

  • When you meet the Catalyst atop the Citadel and are presented your three choices, I'm sure the designers intended this to be a challenge for you. They want you to weigh the options and decide which is the lesser evil. When I made my decision, it came down to the fact that the center option looked closer. That is it. I looked at the destruction and control options off to the sides (and in my mind, I had confused which option was which), they seemed harder to navigate to reach them. So I just pushed forward. I cared so little for what was presented to me that literally decided the fate of the galaxy based on the fact that it was easier just to hold the stick up the whole time. When the Catalyst finished listing the options, I deflated like a balloon. There was nothing left in me to care about how the game ended.

  • I know that the Retake petition is asking for a more heroic ending to the end. That was not what I was looking for from ME3. What I want is an ending that is consistent with the themes of the game to that point. The Catalyst's explanation that organic life has to be saved by being destroyed is idiotic. My Shepard had just spent the entire game disproving the point that organic and synthetic life had to be at odds. She was nurturing EDI's growth as a lifeform and encouraging her and Joker to act on their feelings. And she had successfully brought the Geth and the Quarians together, saving both species in the end. That I did not have the chance to prove that the Reapers were in the wrong flew in the face of everything that Shepard had worked for over the course of the three games.

  • At some point as I was playing, I started to imagine what a fourth Mass Effect game might look like. I must admit that I drew heavily from Firefly. I could see a ragtag crew of traders and smugglers traveling the Traverse in a post-war galaxy. Of course, you would stumble across some nefarious plot that you must end. The world Bioware built seemed so full of possibility that I could see room for a number of sci-fi plots to flourish here. Then they decided to blow up the relays.

  • It seems clear to me that the developers thought they were building a work of art with the ending. And credit must be given to how skillful and beautiful the final movie is. But they thought that this ending was so good that they could burn down the house after they left. I'm not even going to get into the fact that Bioware established that a destroyed reply explodes like supernova, effectively wiping out the star system. In The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3, Casey Hudson says that he's not interested in making a post-ME3 game, instead preferring a prequel or side story. And he was adamant about it that he turned the ending into a choice of three ways to nuke the galaxy. So in a way, the game is a failure because it is destructive to its own themes, as well as destructive to the possibility space of their universe. And people wonder why some of us might have difficulty accepting the current ending.

  • If you are really interested, here are a few links to better writers than I who are also picking the ending apart:


  1. I'm not emotionally invested in the game, as I've not played and never will. Still, I've kept up on the whole kerfluffle, and man... I *detest* "burned bridges" storyending and inconsistent storytelling. Since you invoke Firefly, I hated that about Serenity. It was a javelin in the eye to the fans in a few ways, and flatly, that's just jerky authorship.

    I expect better from any entertainer that wants my money.

    1. @ Tesh - It's fun you mention that. When I had my long conversation about the ending with my brother (I really need to start recording those as podcasts), we talked about how Wash's death ruined the end of the movie for me because he was killed by a plot device, not because it fit the story. Bah.

  2. I've watched/read up on the Indoctrination Theory stuff as well, and I'm not buying into it at all. It's interesting but I think it's way too much of a stretch.

    I didn't think the ending strayed too far from the themes of the game. I think the synthesis choice especially made sense given what's possible with the Geth/Quarians. I've not thought about a fourth game at, to me this is the end of Shepard's story. BioWare can go back and add more stuff to before, but there is no after as far as I'm concerned.

    And yeah.. Serenity never happened, Wash will live forever!

  3. How about "Mass Effect 4: The Time Travel Mission to fix what Shep screwed up"? According to Star Trek, time travel is one potential "mass effect", anyway. :P