I will be discussing my thoughts on the ending of Mass Effect 3.
I chose the “green” ending and felt very satisfied with the conclusion. After wrapping it up I decided to go online and figure out what everyone seemed to be so upset about. This article on Gamefront seems to do the best job of summing up all the complaints. I’ll just go down the line and try and cover each of the five points listed there:
The claim here is that five years worth of gaming is wrapped up in a ten minute cut scene. I guess this comes down to when you think the ending starts. Like Tycho, I consider Mass Effect 3 to be “the ending”. The game starts with Earth under attack and from that point on it’s a mad dash to try and stop the Reapers. I’d argue that if you like ME3 then you liked the ending.
“I made some synthetics to kill you every 50k years so you would not be killed by synthetics”
That’s a funny line but it’s not actually what’s happening in Mass Effect. The AI who created the Reapers is not killing all organic life. He is actually “pruning” it so as to avoid the destruction of all organic life. By removing the most evolved species and preserving them inside the Reapers he is saving all the still developing organic life. From his point of view it is either go in every 50k years and absorb the most advanced civilizations so that organic life will still exist or do nothing and watch Synthetics stamp out all organic life forever.
Now he knows that even if he explains this to people they will not just line up to march into his giant alien chipper shredders. So his solution is a messy one but from his point of view, a few years of struggling is much more humane than losing all organic life forever. What he’s doing makes perfect sense if you’re an incalculably old artificial intelligence.
Lore Errors and Plot Holes
I don’t know much about this one. I’m just not a big enough ME fan to know what’s supposed to happen when a Mass Relay explodes.
What I do know is that you can let yourself get bogged down by details like how long a Star Destroyer is or how many innocent people Luke murdered when he destroyed the Death Star, or you can try and enjoy it knowing that it all doesn’t match up perfectly.
Key Philosophical Themes Are Discarded
I have to be honest, I don’t really understand this one. It sounds like the inevitable destruction of organic life by Synthetics somehow negates all the “key themes” of the series. I’m not sure why that is.
It’s true that this cycle is fucked. The entire alliance fleet is stranded around Earth now with no way to get back to their home planets. At least in my game the Krogans want to kill everyone and Shepard is dead. So our fearless commander did not save this cycle but he did save all future cycles (at least in my “green” ending) and that should count for something.
The fact is this story takes place at a statistically fucked point in time. Every 50k years these monsters come and wipe out a bunch of civilizations. This generation got dealt a shit hand, no doubt about it. But I consider the breaking of the cycle to be a happy ending still.
For me the final scene of Joker and EDI stepping out of the ship into that jungle planet was very powerful. A new Adam and Eve in their Garden of Eden.
Player Choice Is Completely Discarded
Again if ME3 is the “ending” then I was making choices the entire time right up until the last second. I chose the “green” ending and I picked that out of three options. Were the other options similar to mine? I don’t know, I didn’t pick them. I made my final choice and put the cap on MY Mass Effect story. Obviously I can go online and look at all the other options but now we’re talking about sausage making. I imagine that once you look behind that curtain a lot of “choices” in Mass Effect will break down. I think what Bioware does is make incredible games that give the illusion of real choice. I mean let’s be honest. Mass Effect is a very cool choose your own adventure book. “Do you kill the Geth? If so turn to page 22.”
The book has been written and you can change the way you read it but don’t pretend you’re the author.