So I just finished playing the single-player. I got a decent war readiness (around 6,500), I had the multiplayer modifier up to 98% (because I think the multiplayer is good and enjoyed playing it), and now I’m struck with a terrible sense of ennui and disappointment.
Online opinion is in relative agreement about Mass Effect 3’s ending; people don’t like it. There are several reasons, some of which are silly, some of which don’t convince me, and some of which I couldn’t agree more with; but there’s really just one that I want to focus on.
Closure. Resolution. Over on RPS, Richard Cobbett says he thinks that you get closure from ME3 because of the results of choices from the previous games playing out. He’s right; if you’re talking about closure from the previous games. My problem with this is that Shepherd does some really insanely important things which will have repercussions after the threat of the Reapers is destroyed; curing the Genophage, fostering peace between Geth and Quarian, destroying Cerberus as a viable organisation, and fostering more cooperation between almost all of the first-rate and second-rate powers in the galaxy than has ever occurred. All the possible endings never even touch on these decisions and their wider implications; to say nothing of the characters we’ve grown to love and are invested in the fates of. Mass Effect 3 is supposed to be the last game in a trilogy; even if you’re going to make a spin-off starring Garrus or Tali or whoever else, you can still tell us the broad generalities of what happened to them.
I want a cliche. I want a tired and tested and unoriginal concept; I want the epilogue text. That’s the bare minimum, and it would have made everything better. For all of the silliness of the endings, if they’d have just thrown a bone of “This is what happened to the major surviving characters, this is what happened to the major galactic civilisations” that would have been enough for me to not feel like the whole darned 100+ hours I’ve played these three games for was all leading up to a non-conclusion. Some would argue that the exposition-heavy “this is what happened next” ending is boring, and I say that perhaps that’s correct – it doesn’t matter. If you’ve followed the trilogy (infact, even if you haven’t you’ve still invested ~30 hours into a relatively complex narrative with some extremely important decisions) then you are playing at least in part because you want to know what’s happened. An ending so abrupt and light on exposition is fundamentally unsatisfying.
Now, I did say I was only going to focus on the resolution, but I’m tired, teary, and emotional, so sod it. There’s another big problem; the work you put in doesn’t make enough difference. If I’ve spent 5 hours hunting sensor hot-spots on the galactic map to find every war asset I can find, if I’ve taken every lost artefact to it’s forlorn owner on the Citadel, if I’ve nipped every Cerberus advance in the bud, if I’ve done every bit of side-content, then I want to be rewarded. I want Shepherd to say to the Catalyst “Screw you and your offer; we’ve got the biggest fleet ever assembled, and we can beat you”. I want Shepherd to survive, and I want her to get that house with the white-picket fence, and the two kids, and the retriever, and for her to grow old with Samantha. Call me unsophisticated; I want a happy ending. Sure, have the ultra-bleak endings available to those who breezed through the game making terrible decisions, but for the love of the almighty let us have a substantially different ending. Now of course, one of the endings available is conceptually going to make for a very different ending (the organic-synthetic synthesis option), but that’s really devalued by having no exposition afterwards – you just choose it, and that’s essentially it. If we’re able to change the fate of all life in the galaxy, for god’s sake let us at least hear about some kind of repercussion from making this decision.
Another flaw is the reasoning thrown out by the Catalyst for it’s decision to maintain the cycle of “kill all advanced species every 50,000 years”. The idea that synthetic life inherently rebels against it’s creators and will thusly go on to destroy all organic life can be easily disproved; Shepherd need only have said “I’ve fostered peace between the Quarians and the Geth; and the Geth only fought out of self-defence for the most part” or, even if you didn’t bother with that; “EDI is synthetic life, and she is an integral part of our crew who cares about us and is interested in helping us”. Let us confront the Catalyst with refutations of it’s own argument.
I also really don’t understand the whole “Joker fleeing in the Normandy” bit. Seriously, what? Is that supposed to be the setup for some kind of Mass Effect “Survivor” spin-off? Weird, man.
Against my better judgement, I am hoping against hope that Bioware put out some kind of alternate ending/extension as DLC; preferably free since it’s extremely important to the storyline and not something I’d regard as optional, but since I’m so desperate I’m not even going to pretend that I wouldn’t buy a decently-made and satisfying conclusion even if they charged £20 for it, despite it being utterly outrageous for them to charge for it at all. I’ve seen some of the theories about indoctrination and alternative explanations for the endings, but as far as I can tell they really smack of people being shell-shocked into non-acceptance by the endings, and it’ll take more than some enigmatic tweets from writers to convince me otherwise. I hope they do something, I honestly do – but I’m not holding out much hope.
Thoughts on the actual game to come.