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13 March 2012 @ 09:55 pm
Noncommittal Kaidan is noncommittal  
So last year I really got into Mass Effect. I finished the first game and made it through a bunch of the second before being distracted by novel brainstorming and my related marathon of The Wire. With the third game impending, I kept meaning to pick it back up. I was psyched to finish the story of Kira Shepard and her red beehive of mostly paragon no-bullshittery, especially due to developer promises of said story diverging with the choices I had made in the early games. The first two endings were limited to set up a trilogy. The third had no such constraints, and Bioware's creativity promised to knock it all out of the park.

I ran the other way from the script leak posted some months back. After certain rumors began to trickle in, and the vague hints only piqued my curiosity, I caved and spoiled myself for the details. Good news doesn't ruin much for me because a summary is nothing like the personal experience of gameplay. And if the news turned out to suck, I wanted to be forewarned.

Reactions incoming, yo.

Mass Effect 3 ending spoilers. You have been warned.

Mass Effect and its sequel are space opera with a few rough and gritty edges. Both allow Shepard to triumph against staggering odds, even to the point of bringing the entire crew back home alive from a suicide mission. Both focus on humanity finding its nascent place in an established intergalactic community, helping to win allies and settle long-running disputes. They also reveal the impending threat of the Reapers - sentient starships who built the interstellar fast travel relays to encourage organic life to advance and flourish, and who return periodically to harvest that life and absorb its DNA as fodder for their evolution.

By all reliable reports, Mass Effect 3 is a finely crafted and absorbing experience. Prior actions are reflected in pivotal events, and the player must make difficult choices between sides when there is no way for both to compromise. You travel the galaxy, earn cooperation, gather resources for impending war. You brace for the final battle, looking forward to a hard-fought victory and news of galactic reconstruction in the aftermath - and perhaps a slice of optimism shared with the characters that you got to know and love, and perhaps even date, throughout the game.

And then the ending railroads you into a deus ex machina button press between three different colors of grimdark turd.

You can blow up all synthetic life, including a sentient race of robots that you may have brokered peace with. You can take control of the Reapers. You can somehow zap every living organism into a synthetic/organic hybrid - don't ask me what ass that was pulled out of in a setting built on handwavable extrapolations of actual science. In all cases, you destroy the relays, reverting travel between star systems to a multi-decade haul - at best - in an era where it took a matter of days. You either die or turn into an Anakin kebab gasping for breath in the rubble. Your crew and love interest are marooned on Gilligan's Jurassic Jungle Planet without enough numbers to start even the most inbred of viable colonies. And did I mention that two are aliens incompatible with the sort of food that grows there?

This all flushes Mass Effect lore down the toilet alone with its focus and tone. The Reapers are explained to be controlled by AI representing someone who designed them to kill off organic races when they advanced too far and had potential to create a tech singularity by developing too-powerful AI. In other words, they are synthetics that kill organics to prevent organics from being killed by synthetics. Yes, you read that right. In addition to being asinine circular logic, this also invalidates the entire plot of Mass Effect, in which a Reaper needed to indoctrinate some help to let him into the core facility where this guiding AI resides. What a lousy Big Bad, unable to figure out how to leave the screen door open for expected guests.

Mass Effect 1 and 2 hooked me on the believable near-future thought of a thriving intergalactic community in which humanity was just beginning to find its place. 3 nukes it into a plothole-ridden mess of cold, bitter futility. Guess who's already writing a retcon?

"This story arc is coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot more different. At this point we’re taking into account so many decisions that you’ve made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C."

Casey Hudson, Executive Director

"We wouldn’t do it any other way. How could you go through all three campaigns playing as your Shepard and then be forced into a bespoke ending that everyone gets? But I can’t say any more than that..."

Mike Gamble, Producer

Current Mood: awakeawake
(Deleted comment)
The Heavy Metal Matador: Vault Boy Crankyfacerydain on March 14th, 2012 01:09 pm (UTC)
It is awful, and even worse in its full context. I watched the end of a playthrough to figure out where to break with canon for the fix-it fic I'm working on. At least the other 99% of ME3 is ace. When I play through it myself, I can pretend that my console magically switched to some other game for the past 20 minutes.

Trust me, Linkin Park is dead on for this. All your effort in crafting the perfect ME1 + ME2 playthrough is wasted on the same three button presses and the galaxy blown back into a proverbial Dark Age with no indication of your choices' effect on the damage or recovery. That said, I do have to agree that we were massively trolled, especially with the immediate post-ending offer to continue Shepard's legend (pre-ending-sequence) with DLC.
Perpetual Endless Noise Machine: Robo - Chrono Triggerpenm_rx3 on March 15th, 2012 09:42 am (UTC)

Bab 5 seemed to handle this type of story pretty damn well. Lots of losses, lots of sacrifices, and in the end the accomplishment was making sure the cycle didn't necessarily end, but was properly set in good favor. The series ended for me once the big bosses left.

I've been more contentious with EA/Bioware's business tactics, but concerning the ending, what gets me is the defense of "renewal" over the sacrifice agenda. We all knew from the beginning Shepard was going to sacrifice themselves in some way-- during ME1's release a shoop of Kamen Rider was posted around showing Shepard doing this with Tali making remarks of "Thats Shepard. Thats the savior of the galaxy".

But the concept of Adam and Eve stepping into Eden with J/EDI? What the hell. Mass Effect isn't grimdark. It isn't desolate, hopeless and in a stage that needs this sort of deus ex reset. ( most certainly you give much more of a damn about your squadmates ultimately over everyone else). You don't want this place to be redone, or set back, or quietly put away. You love the setting and you want to preserve that setting and delve further into it, not ultimately leave it.

I really think that's a miss step on the writer's part. A sad ending can still be satisfying. I would have been fine with Shepard dying if consequently the galaxy could unite over one soldier's sacrifice rather than be separated because MACHINESANDTECHNOLOGY IS BAD.
Perpetual Endless Noise Machine: E.V.E - Wall-Epenm_rx3 on March 15th, 2012 09:45 am (UTC)
Orz. Mass Effect 3 is really the bad ending to Silent Hill 1. I can see it now. "Have you seen my squadmates?".