As with Rax’s fantastic article on why he loves the ending of Mass Effect 3, this piece contains spoilers for not only the end of Mass Effect 3, but also, particularly, for the end of Mass Effect 2. Please don’t continue reading if you are looking forward to discovering either for the first time in the future!
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Rax fantastically and astutely outlined why he is a big fan of arguably the most controversial ending to a game ever. But, there’s two sides to every coin; a Ying to every Yang; two edges to every sword; there cannot be Sith without the Jedi… ok I’ll stop now and get on with my point.
This article should be something more like “Why you have every right to hate…” however we have naming conventions here at newbreview.com, so the current title will suffice. The ending of Mass Effect 3 was a travesty, not because it didn’t end “correctly” or because the player’s choices throughout the game had no real impact, or even because there weren’t enough story strings tied up to satiate the masses, but because of inaccuracies within the Mass Effect universe itself, giant plot holes (notably different to queries left unanswered) and, fundamentally, an ending that was underwritten to such an extent that it has satisfied so few, and angered so many.
Firstly to the critics who have argued that Bioware proffered 16 endings for the game and we’ve only been given three. To these people I say calm down, pick your toys back up, place them neatly back in the pram, and put the dummy back in your mouth. There are many more variations to the endings of Mass Effect 3, taking it way beyond 16. For example, the different combinations of crew members that can emerge from the Normandy after it crashes take it way past 16. I’ve put a handy chart for you below so you can count them (I’ve stopped at 16, but you get the point).
Whether you see this as a different ending or not is a question of semantics. In empirical terms, there are differences between each of these outcomes and thus it counts as a different ending. Fact. Also, this is just one small part of the ending to the game, when you take into account the final choice, the number of endings increases by a factor of three.
One of the final scenes shows the Normandy racing away from an explosion, presumably that of the Mass Effect relay on the edge of the Sol solar system. The ship escapes in a beautifully tense set piece that sees the ship crash landing on a jungle-like planet and Joker, along with a random member of the crew (depending on your choices earlier in the game – see above) emerge unscathed. Truly this is a gripping cinematic and excellently executed. However it doesn’t make any sense.
As Shepard is making the final decision (all three of which result in the Mass Effect relays exploding) the fighting is in full flow, and presumably the Normandy is there battling away with the rest of the fleet. There’s some anecdotal evidence to suggest Joker swooped down to grab some of your crew members from Earth, but the fact remains that the Normandy would have been in or around Earth and the Citadel as you decide whether to merge with, destroy or synthesise the reapers.
So there are two primary issues here: firstly, in order for the Normandy to escape the explosion coming from the edge of Sol, they would have had to desert the fighting. The Normandy is a great ship and reasonably fast, however it is not the fastest ship in the galaxy, so the fact that it is the only ship in this cut scene is further evidence for Joker’s desertion from battle. Presuming any remnants of the fleet remains, Joker and the crew should expect a full court martial.
There are other examples of this kind of misstep in the narrative, however painfully trawling through possible plot holes and inaccuracies will ultimately be fruitless. You’ll get no nearer to satisfaction and at some point, with any work of fiction (and some factual pieces) you have to allow the writers some scope to get on with their writing, after all it’s their work of fiction, not ours, and they can change it as they see fit. Who’s to say that the questions we have can’t be explained with extra content or a few lines of dialogue in forthcoming DLC? The fact that there are these holes does point to flaws in the narrative, however this isn’t the main reason to get upset…
In my eyes it’s clear that Bioware were going for a kind of “Lost” effect. The popular HBO series left so many questions at the end of each episode, let alone the mysteries at the end of each series, that fans in their droves went online to discuss and debate possible endings and philosophical leanings within the writing. Whilst Lost certainly did have naysayers, the almost ubiquitous outrage for Mass Effect 3 has shown that this strategy has backfired spectacularly, with only a few people noting the subtle hints to the effects of indoctrination.
And so to indoctrination… Personally I really like the ambiguity this throws up but I cannot discuss first without explaining. Throughout the game Shepard could have been indoctrinated to ultimately agree with The Illusive Man and control / merge with the reapers. There are subtle hints (that presumably many have missed in their hast to grab their pitch forks and light their torches) in various key points that suggest this. Most notably the Prothean AI you encounter on Thessia out-rightly states “security protocol: indoctrination detected”, which you assume is because the Cerberus assassin, Kai Leng, is closeby. When you later activate the AI, after killing Leng, the AI repeats the same message. Could he really have been speaking about Shepard instead? Hmmmm…
So what is this article all about? “Tom’s quite positive about the whole ending debacle and seems to be going against the raison d’ètre of this article from the get go” I hear not many of you saying. Well no, not really. The very fact that there is such an outrage, and indeed the current mumblings of possible court action against Bioware shows that the ending of the game has been underwritten. The thin line of ambiguity that rests between “message shoved down throat” and “no questions answered at all” has clearly been missed by a country mile. Fair enough if they’re playing their cards close to their chest, aiming to ultimately resolve the story threads they’ve left dangling with upcoming DLC. However you cannot deny that there’s been a serious miscalculation in camp Bioware when it comes to considering how the game will be received. That is why I’d say you have every right to hate the ending of Mass Effect 3.
- Tom “ClacTom” Wallis