The Mass Effect Trilogy recently came to an end with, you guessed it, Mass Effect 3. It should be pointed out that it is one of my favourite game series of all time and that the final game was suitably epic and brilliant… but then there was the ending. Now, I’m going to try and avoid the same raging that most of the fans have been doing and offer a more constructive opinion. The free ‘Extended Cut’ DLC is now out and has improved the ending, but I would like to look at what exactly it was that was wrong with it in the first place.
SPOILER ALERT – I will try and minimise the spoilers, but I’m discussing the outcomes of various decisions made throughout the trilogy as well as the ending itself, so there will be some…
The Final Fight
Without giving too much away, the final battle takes place on Earth. It is a large and challenging fight, but as I was playing it, it somehow didn’t feel like the final fight. It was long, challenging and split into many stages, but I had no idea it was the last time I would be with my squad mates and fully armed. I assumed there would be a showdown with the Reaper Harbinger (one of the main villains from the second game), or that there would be more fighting on board the Citadel, but it was not to be. It also wasn’t as impressive in scale as some of the earlier set-pieces and could have felt a lot more epic. On the bright side, they do line up all of the (surviving) team members at one point so they can say their final goodbyes., which was a nice touch from a sentimental angle (and should probably have been a clue that the final showdown was approaching).
The Penultimate Showdown
After the goodbyes, the final push begins and then, Shepard is critically wounded and must go on clutching his/her side and armed only with a pistol. There then follows what is probably best described as an ‘intellectual showdown’ with one of the series’ villains. I liked this sequence, fighting off attackers while wounded felt tense and the showdown was well done and interesting. I have no particular problems with this sequence, other than the fact that it is a lengthy one, taking about half-an-hour, and there is no way to skip any of it, which is highly frustrating on subsequent playthroughs (this is equally frustrating in the opening sequence – you can, after all, skip most of the content in the rest of the game!).
The Pick your ending machine
Then we get to the bit I really don’t like (and which wasn’t fixed in any way by the DLC). Now, I can’t really argue with how they chose to end the story and deal with the Reapers, it is, after all, their creative vision. The whole God child thing was a little disappointing, but that isn’t what bothered me. What I despise is being presented with a big machine with three buttons on it, each of which represents a different ending. This completely sucks, particularly in a game where your actions were supposed to have major consequences. It does mean that you can play through the final sequences again to get to the other endings, but it is impossible to save after a certain point and (as I’ve already mentioned) these final sequences are long and unskippable, making it a frustrating and time consuming process to do so.
On that note, the lack of consequences to your actions is also disappointing. I’ve played the game multiple times now, making difference choices, and while the game reflects these choices to a certain extent, some of the decisions just don’t have the right amount of impact.
For a good example, lets look at the Rachni: In game 1, you get the option to kill or release a Rachni queen, the last of her kind. Commit genocide or show mercy and risk another Rachni War? This is one of the best examples of the sort of decisions you make throughout the course of the game, arguably not ‘good’ or ‘evil’ decisions, but decisions based on their potential ramifications on the war effort. However, if you let her go, she is later captured by the Reapers and used to breed an army. So, you’d think that killing her would stop this, but instead the reapers artificially create their own queen and use her instead. Yes, the dialogue options play out slightly different, but ultimately you are playing through the same scenario, which cheapens the initial decision. This completely sucked for me as I expected many such decisions to have more weight later in the game. It would also add to the game’s replay value if certain scenarios played out completely different based on your choice, so its hard to tell why they did this. I understand that they didn’t want to make the game to challenging for people who made the ‘wrong’ decisions, and not to lock players out of any of the content, but I think they did this at the expense of the overall experience.
The Final Cutscene
One of things that bothered me most about it the original ending is the final cutscenes. In the original ending, in all three ending variants, the Normandy is speeding away from the battle, gets caught in an energy discharge and crash lands on an alien world. Then, the surviving party members climb out of the wreckage and stare off into the beautiful sunset. Then it fades to black and that’s pretty much it. This was a very abrupt and incredibly disappointing ending that didn’t give any real closure or properly reflect all the choices that Shepard made throughout the trilogy.
My other problem with this ending is that bits of it didn’t make sense. 1. Why is the Normandy speeding away from the battle? They should not be at risk from the energy blast and should be at the head of the allied fleet, unwilling to leave Shepard behind and 2. Why are the specialists on board? All of them had previously been on Earth’s surface during the battle and at least two of them were with Shepard when he/she was injured and were missing, possibly dead or injured…
This was later corrected in the Extended Cut when they added a short sequence in which Admiral Hackett ordered everyone to retreat as the weapon powered up. Joker initially refuses, but one of the squad tells him that they had no choice. There is also a new sequence down on the planet’s surface where Shepard orders a shuttle to evacuate his injured squad mates (if they survive). These short pieces of action were all that was required for the ending to make sense, so I am glad they added it, but its baffling why it wasn’t there in the first place.
Thankfully, they also added a short sequence at the very end showing the crew of the Normandy having a memorial service for Shepard and all the others who have died in the war. It then goes on to show the survivors going on to begin repairing the Normandy and get on with their lives. This successfully increased the sentimental value of the ending and gave a much greater sense of closure on the whole thing.
While I am still not entirely satisfied with the ending to the trilogy, the developers did a good job, in my opinion of tweaking the so that it at least made sense and gave some decent closure. If you haven’t played the ending since the patch was release, I strongly recommend you do so. It won’t fix everything that you hated, but it might at least ease your frustrations somewhat.