Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Mass Effect 3 Ending [SPOILERS]

Alrighty. I finished up Mass Effect 3 yesterday. I am honestly still not entirely sure how I feel about the "super controversial" ending. I mean, from one standpoint, I understand why a lot of people are so dang pissed about it to the point where they are claiming to feel betrayed based on what the previous games (and the third until the ending) gave them. From another, I see what the good folks over at Bioware were trying to do, story-wise, and I think it was a really cool concept. I am not sure if it played out exactly right, but I do kind of get it. From a third perspective, there was plenty about the ending that annoyed the crap out of me that had more to do with the gameplay itself than with the story. So, yeah.

Super duper ginormous spoilers after the picture. Seriously, do NOT keep reading if you haven't finished the game yet and do not wish to be spoiled. Okay? Okay.

Let's just look at Shepard's pretty spaceship collection for a moment, shall we?


To put things in perspective, here are a few of my game choices leading up to the ending that I feel are relevant:

  • I played all three games through as a straight up Paragon (nice guy). I avoided any and all Renegade choices/actions like the plague. My Shepard was an ethical and empathetic leader.
  • I did indeed cure the genophage and did not submit to the Salarian Dalatress' suggestion of sabotage.
  • I resolved the conflict between the Quarians and Geth and brought them both onto my side. 
  • I allowed Legion to transmit the Reaper upgrades to the other Geth (bro hymn for Legion, yo).
  • I fully supported EDI getting a body and running around with me. She was one of my favorite companions in this game.
  • I fully supported EDI's relationship with Joker (though I did take the conversation options to point out that Shepard wouldn't have been opposed to being with him, alas, his heart belonged to another).
  • At the end of the second game, I did not let the damn Illusive Man have the proto-reaper we found at the Collector base--I bombed that thing to hell. (I was, in fact, pissed when I found out in this game that he managed to recover some of the bits.)

So. I think those are the highlights of how I played the games leading up to the trilogy's conclusion. In my opinion, the actual "ending" began when Shepard and crew made their final mad dash for the beam to get up to the Citadel. I ran like hell for that beam and did my best to dodge the Reaper ray of death, though eventually I got hit. I suspect that this was inevitable, one of those "you can't win" scenarios games try to write in, where they put you in a situation and no matter how well you do, just as you are about to beat it, the story takes over and your character falters. Anyway, got hit by a beam, somehow survived, though my armor was just about burnt to a crisp, much of it missing. But I got up, I found a gun, and I limped my ass to that beam regardless.

And it is right there that, for me, the game went off the rails a little bit. Because when I say I limped, I am not joking. The "run" option was no longer available, and Shepard moved at a dragging pace that was absolutely painful for me the player to experience. Look, I get it. She took a massive hit. She is, by all evidence, running on her very last fumes--suffering from a fatal wound and only moving forward through sheer tenacity and determination to see this thing through. But give me a break, okay. It's a video game, it comes with a little bit of suspension of disbelief. I don't need my Shepard to move as if the air has turned to molasses for the rest of the damn game, especially since all she seems to be doing at this point is walking. Either cut scene her crawling where she needs to get, or slow her down a much smaller fraction of her normal movement than you did. It just...gah. I don't like sitting there staring at the screen feeling like I am not getting anywhere, especially when I know I am so damn close to the end. Come on.

So, yeah. I go through the beam and I make it to the Citadel. The only other person to make it from our task force is Anderson. We get to the controls to open up the arms, but before we can do anything, the Illusive Man is there, and he is clearly indoctrinated, and he tries to put the mojo on us too. We banter back and forth about the ethics of the situation--he doesn't want to destroy the Reapers, he wants to control them. But he can't because they are already controlling him (even though he refuses to admit it). Whee. 

Here's the next thing that really annoys me. To proceed further in the game, you must kill the Illusive Man. For the record, I have no problem with this. I don't understand why Shepard didn't just put a bullet in him the second he appeared behind her. Okay, I mean, I do, he had put the Reaper whammy on her. But still. Killing him is not a problem. You have two opportunities to do this. You can do it when he's about to shoot Anderson, or if you don't stop that, when he's about to shoot you. It's not a fight or anything. It is, in both instances, a Renegade action click. Um, if you've played the game, you'll know what I mean by that. If you haven't, why are you reading this? Back to my point. I actually had to play that whole damn molasses slow dialogue heavy scene through twice because I didn't take either of the options to kill him the first time around. Not because I didn't want to, but because the game was calling it a Renegade option, and my Shepard was a Paragon.

Killing the damn Illusive Man should not have been Renegade points. 

I realize to the vast majority of the players, that bit doesn't really matter at all. But it matters to me. To me the most annoying part of the ending of that game was that in order to actually finish her quest, Shepard had to earn Renegade points to kill the Illusive Man--the known bad guy and all around general scum (and a huge war criminal). At the very least, there should have been a Paragon option to incapacitate rather than kill him, damn it. There have been plenty of Paragon choices that I would think morally questionable without extenuating circumstances, and this would certainly fit that category. Because the message that they are sending by doing it the way they did? Nice guys don't even get to finish the fight. What. The. Fuck. Not cool at all. Not when you've given us three games of letting us choose to be the nice guy.

So after that, things start to wrap up. Shepard gets the Citadel to open up for the Crucible and she gets to meet the Catalyst, who as it turns out is the actual creator of the Reapers. A lot of people were mad or let down by the reveal of the why behind the Reapers but I don't know why. It's basically what Soverign told us back in game one, this time we're just finally meeting the brains behind it all. The Catalyst gives Shepard three choices:

  • Wipe out all synthetic life in the galaxy, destroying the Reapers for good, but also destroying the Geth and (presumably) EDI.
  • Take control of the Reapers and call off their attack, sacrificing Shepard to do so.
  • Join Shepard's essence to the Catalyst's to merge all synthetic and organic life, creating a new era and ensuring peace.

I believe (but am not one hundred percent sure) that in each of these choices all of the mass relays in the galaxy are destroyed, and that Shepard dies no matter which choice you make (as I said, fatally wounded). The Catalyst gives you your choice and then three paths open up in front of Shepard and you get to molasses-walk to your choice. I will point out another fault in the gameplay here because there is no map or indicator as to which path is which choice. When the Catalyst is giving you the options, you get a brief visual, and the location for each choice is shown, but I didn't realize that when he was explaining it. If, say, you've got an impatient two-year old trying to get your attention when all of this is going on (not that I am speaking from personal experience or anything *cough*), that is a real "blink and you'll miss it" moment. I mean, you could molasses-walk to each station and probably figure it out from the label once you get close enough, but, dude, molasses-walk. Just, no. I was kind of just crossing my fingers that the one I got to was the one I wanted to choose. Thankfully it was.

Also annoying to me: I chose to take control of the Reapers, which is what the damned Illusive Man wanted to do all along. I am not saying he was right, because his motives were sure as hell not mine. But to me it seemed like the only option. After everything I did to get the Geth and Quarians working together again (not to mention how much the Quarians were relying on the Geth to help them rebuild on their homeworld), not to mention how much I love EDI, I could not bring myself to destroy all synthetic life just because some ancient life form believes that synthetic life will destroy organic if given the chance.

Nor could I bring myself to merge the two types of beings. If I was understanding that correctly, and it's entirely possible I might not have been, then that would wipe out the existing identity of everyone in the freaking galaxy which is what I just spent the last three games trying to prevent from happening. Sure, new life, new stage, new evolution, fine, whatever. But not without consent, not after everything everyone had sacrificed, not when what we were fighting for was to save the races in existence in the (game's) here and now. No. Just. No.

So, yeah, I see why people are pissed off about those three choices. Because either way you go, you have to compromise at least part of what your Shepard has been standing for during the course of the entire story. But a choice must be made, and make one I did. Shepard steps up to the machine, takes the controls, and burns to a crisp as her essence or whatever goes into the Reapers. They leave Earth and the ground troops begin to celebrate. A burst of energy flows through the galaxy from relay to relay as they (presumably) all blow up. Joker flies the crap out of the Normandy trying to avoid the energy blast. He manages to crash land and then he, Kaidan, and Garrus step out  to look at their surroundings: a lush planet full of life, and I suppose, hope. Credits roll and at the end is an old man telling a child the story of the legend of "the Shepard" several generations later.

That's it. No epilogue to tell us what happened to everyone else after the Reapers pulled back and all of the mass relays were destroyed. I mean, did anyone else on the Normandy even survive the crash? I have no idea, and that bugs me. How did civilization proceed with everyone pretty much stranded wherever they were in the galaxy when the relays were destroyed? Did they get to work on upgrading their ships to fly faster so they could get home to their loved ones? Did they all start new multi-species societies? There's not a lot of closure here, and that's the other thing that has really pissed people off, and it's something I agree with. 

I never expected Shepard to live through the last game, even before I started catching wind of the griping about the ending. I mean, there is a lot at stake here, an entire galactic civilization, an entire cycle of evolution. There were always going to be casualties along the way, and even more at the end. Hell, if Shepard is the only member of my crew who did die, I would be ecstatic to know that, though I wouldn't have been unhappy had she managed to live, mind you. But she and her crew and everyone else sacrificed so much and I as a player put so much work into seeing this thing through. It would be nice to see what came of it other than "the main character made a hard choice and died and a few of these people at least lived through that, but we're not telling you what happened the next day or anything." 

Overall, story-wise, I am not outraged by how this ended. I do wish there had been a fourth choice for Shepard--the chance to talk the Catalyst into stopping the "cycle" and calling off the Reapers and just letting the galaxy play out as it will. I would have liked that option, yes. But I do get what the writers were trying to do, I think. It would have been a great twist for a book or a movie, certainly. I'm not so sure it fits for the final game in a video game trilogy, though. I could accept the given endings with more of an epilogue, I think. That would go a long way towards making me feel better about it. I'm not chomping at the bit feeling betrayed. Overall, it's just a general sense of annoyance because I feel like they aimed at a few things and just kind of missed.The gameplay mechanic at the end just totally took me out of the whole thing, so the cinematic feel of the experience was lost on me and it just felt a bit unfinished. 

I will wait a while, to be sure, but I will probably play the game again. I do have a different Shepard to put through the gauntlet, after all. And I really want to see how the Garrus romance plays out in game three. I suspect that it is spectacular. The game itself, overall, was pretty spectacular. It's just that last bit...

I suspect that is the part that is annoying people the most.

I have to say, I will be very curious to see what kind of DLC we get for this. Very curious indeed.

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