If you haven’t already read my review of Mass Effect 3, I mentioned at the end that I had intended to write an article regarding certain spoiler-centric issues regarding the game. And so this is it, spoilers be ahead, so if you haven’t played the game want to remain spoiler free, avert now or join me after the image.
If you’ve checked out Metacritic in the last few weeks, you’ll notice that there is a rather significant discrepancy between critic and user scores with regards to Mass Effect 3. So much so in fact, that the game currently only has an average rating of 4.8 (at time of writing) from users. So why the low scores? The primary reasons seem be the way the game ended, day one DLC or a combination of both.
So I’ll start by saying I too, like many others, were disappointed (to put it kindly), with the way Mass Effect 3 ended. It left with me an interesting dilemma. How much do I let what amounted to 10 minutes, affect the rest of the experience that I had enjoyed up until then (20+ hours worth, not counting multi-player)? It was a surprisingly difficult question to answer – one that I wrestled with for several days before even attempting to write the review.
You can see the result of the answer which I settled on in reading the review and ultimately I think I made the right choice (feel free to disagree with me!). It didn’t seem right to rip into a game that was otherwise brilliant but for the ending and we try to make our reviews as spoiler free as humanly possible. So I compromised and promised this article instead. It is some what late in the works and the ending controversy seems to have died down a little (which is probably for the best).
Since the release of Mass Effect 3, one thing I’ve noticed in games media, is that there seems to be a general lack of understanding at why people are angry over the endings. Not every single site mind you, but it did seem like a majority to me as I read along with the plethora of articles that popped up. So, first and foremost, people are not angry/disappointed over the endings because there was no “Shepard rides off into the sunset, having saved everyone and everything while simultaneously causing rainbows to appear everywhere to convey how awesome a victory it was now that peace shall rest upon the galaxy”.
I know I personally went into Mass Effect 3, not only expecting my Shepard not to survive, but for everything to come crumbling down and the Reaper’s cycle to continue as a possible ending. And I honestly believe that most people expected a bitter-sweet ending of some variety. Especially given the gravity of the situation descended upon the Milky Way in the Mass Effect-verse. Thats not to say that people haven’t been calling for an ending where their Shepard does indeed ride off into the sunset with their love interest, because there has been that also.
So why then the anger? When you get to that final 10 minutes of Mass Effect 3 you are presented with what is known as a deus ex machina. A deus ex machina “god out of the machine”; is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object. The appearance of the “God Child” or “Star Child” as he has been called (the catalyst for the crucible), took away all player control and presented a pick your own ending scenario.
Now, the above is not necessarily enough to raise up in arms about, even in a series like Mass Effect but it isn’t the only gripe about the endings. That the whole war effort was riding on the crucible could have been perceived as a forewarning to this style of ending, is a fair point. Another issue is that there appears to be a number of plot holes present in that last ten minutes in particular, as fans have been pointing out in their efforts to make sense of the ending and explain things. The most popular (and best in my opinion) theory is the indoctrination theory. You can read about the theory here, as well as checking out the video below.
The lack of variance between endings is another gripe. Each of the 3 options presents a similar ending, which a few minor changes, such as the colour of the energy emitted from the crucible. In each of the endings, Joker flying the Normandy is seen crash landing on some random planet, somehow surviving and emerging from the Normandy with several other crew members (some of which were on the ground fighting with you in the final mission). And no matter which ending you choose, the combined fleet of all those races you united are stranded on Earth. The Mass Effect relays are destroyed – can the Earth really sustain a combination of Quarians, Humans, Krogan, Turians, Asari and more? I suspect that no is the answer.
The lack of closure presented by the ending is another point of concern. Upon finishing Mass Effect 3, we’re left pondering what happened to our squad mates, other individuals we met and the races in the galaxy as a whole. There just isn’t any. And for a video game series that people have become emotionally invested in over the years, (especially those playing since the beginning, racking up many, many hours of gameplay) it seems somewhat of a misstep to not provide the closure the core Mass Effect fan base likely wanted.
Some have said that it would be a bad thing for BioWare to go back and change the ending of Mass Effect 3. It wouldn’t be the first game to do so, or at least expand upon the ending, the best example I can think of being Fallout 3 (I actually traded the game in because of the ending – no joke!) and the release of Broken Steel. My preference though personally is for the ending to be expanded upon, perhaps using the Indoctrination theory above as a starting point, as opposed to stripping the existing ending out and replacing it with something else entirely.
There is hope for Mass Effect 3 fans who were not happy with the ending though, (like the #RetakeME3 movement) as BioWare have stated that they are addressing the issues surrounding the ending. What they have in store to fix it though, is anyone’s guess. Be sure to leave a comment below and let us know what you thought about the endings!