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Mass Effect Post-Mortem

Obviously, this article will contain many spoilers regarding Mass Effect 3 including details regarding its fantastic, divisive ending. So if you do not want to know that the Illusive Man is Shepard’s father, that Shepard was dead and a ghost the whole time, or that FemShep was actually a fully-featured man then I suggest you turn back now. If you’re not sick of hearing about Mass Effect 3 and the ending, which includes the shocking revelation that it’s only a video game, proceed.

I actually wasn’t a big Mass Effect fan until the second game. I played through the first one late in 2009, and I thought it was OK, suffering from some terribly clumsy design elements and of course those god awful Mako sequences. I rushed through to the end and that final, idiotic battle with Saren. I don’t regret avoiding most of the sidequests. I thought the game was OK, but the entire time I felt like I ought to be playing Knights of the Old Republic again.

But Mass Effect 2 hooked me. I loved the story, effectively a “let’s get the band together” yarn filled with specialist characters each with their own unique stories to tell. I loved that the game was episodic, with each mission wrapping up with a debriefing from the Illusive Man. This structure enabled the game to encompass many genres within a science fiction context. There were hard SF, courtroom drama, horror, detective, and political thriller stories. And the sense of fatalistic doom hanging over the inevitable suicide mission at the Omega Relay was delicious. Planet scanning, not so much.

So Mass Effect 3 has come and gone, and sure enough it’s another BioWare game and all that entails. For better or worse. It was a good game. In parts, like the sequence on Rannoch and the events in London, it was great. The scope was huge, and I liked that it was very much a game full of endings. You meet old friends, catch up, and either they die or they go on to better lives depending on the choices you make. There’s tragedy, pathos, hope, and ambiguity abound.

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I thought the ending- at least as far as the story material goes- was great. No apology. I’m happy that BioWare went with a more thoughtful honest ending to Shepard’s story rather than the fireworks and medal ceremony. I wiped out the synthetics, which was a tough choice given that I had championed the Geth and spent the entirety of the third game teaching EDI how to be more human. But in the end, I felt responsible for the annihilation of the Quarians and Tali’s death so it seemed to be on balance. I rejected the idea of controlling the Reapers because I viewed Shepard as almost Captain Ahab-like obsessive, constantly pursuing the white whale Reapers.

But still, the entire time I took that long, slow walk to make the ultimate decision of the Mass Effect games, I reflected on everything that had happened up to that point. I thought about Liara, Garrus, the Rachni Queen, and the themes of the game. I thought about how cycles are a very big part of the story- cycles of racism, political discord, evolution, order (paragon) and chaos (renegade). I loved that the writers gave me the time to think before wiping out the Reapers- and presumably killing Shepard in the process.

In retrospect, I liked that the Reapers were a very Lovecraftian antagonist. They were the Great Old Ones, and the Illusive Man was very much like one of the misguided cultists in the Mythos that believes he can control or somehow contain cosmic forces beyond human comprehension. I liked that much of what they did or do is off stage, and there’s a mystery about them. I liked that the only way to beat them was to make an impossibly grim, no-win decision in the face of absolutely catastrophic devastation.

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I don’t think the ending was sloppy at all, at least in terms of writing. I didn’t need the Return of the King epilogue, and I didn’t need an extra 20 minutes detailing what everybody did afterwards. Do you really need to be told? The story that matters- Shepard’s- ends with the decision you make. Nothing else matters from a storytelling perspective. What’s up with the jungle planet at the end? Who knows. It’s up for debate. I do have to say that I assumed my squadmates, who were almost always Liara and Garrus through the entire game, died in the run-up to the Citadel. But there they were with Joker at the end. The ending reminded me, rather strangely, of a post-apocalyptic picture called The Quiet Earth, and I think the ending as a whole was very reminiscent of some of the more challenging, thoughtful endings in the science fiction literature and in science fiction films.

What I did think was sloppy was how the concept of marshalling the galaxy’s races, technology, and materiel was largely irrelevant at the end, other than unlocking some other potential options leading up to the proscripted end. I don’t think BioWare really had a handle on how to incorporate that into the endgame at a mechanical level. Which is a shame, because I can imagine a component where you’re assigning resources and moving units around throughout the game to fight the Reapers. Almost a strategy game-within-a-game. But I’m sure budget and time prohibited anything so extensive.

Instead, we got BioWare’s trademark “kill a million bad guys” ending. This has been in the last several titles they’ve released. You and your party have to slog through wave after wave of enemies in a run-up to a final confrontation. It’s tedious. Please don’t do this anymore.

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In reflection, I think the series as a whole represents some very good world-building and some frequently great video games writing. I love the look of the game, its hard-edged futurism. I love the music. And there is sometimes some good gameplay, but I can’t say that I’ve ever been completely enthralled by the action, regardless of all the cool guns and Biotic powers. It also seems like every single one of the games has some critical misstep or component that either doesn’t work or I just don’t like. Sidequests and filler content abound, and the insistence on silly romantic subplots and bizarro sex scenes come very close to making the series a joke.

I’ve heard Mass Effect called “this generation’s Star Wars” and I think that’s a little hyperbolic- at least until I recall this generation’s actual Star Wars films, which are bottom-of-the-barrel, cynical trash made by a creator that completely lost touch with his muse. Maybe they are after all. It’s good pop sci-fi no doubt. Definitely not something to get worked up in a tizzy over if you don’t like the way it turned out.

As for your choices- no, they didn’t matter. They never did. It was BioWare’s story all along. You were playing a video game, not writing it. Hats off to BioWare’s writing staff for retaining ownership. I just hope that their employer protects their integrity and artistic judgement by not fouling up the ending to suit the needs of entitled fans.

Now, with that said, I’m putting this series to rest and I never want to hear about it again. Good night, Shep. Garrus, hit the lights on the way out, would you?

Michael Barnes

Games writer Michael Barnes is a co-founder of as well as His trolling has been published on the Web and in print in at least two languages and in three countries. His special ability is to cheese off nerds using the power of the Internet and his deep, dark secret is that he's actually terrible at games. Before you ask, no, the avatar is not him. It's Mark E. Smith of The Fall.

49 thoughts to “Mass Effect Post-Mortem”

  1. I felt that it was a horrible ending for Mass Effect. The ending is great for the original Deus Ex as that game’s story was about how technology transforms people and it’s effect on society. But to me Mass Effect was more of a story of how people interact and how disparate groups share history.

    If the ending had stopped when Shepard went up in the elevator I feel would have been better. Leave the ultimate fate of the galaxy unknown, it’s up to the players to decide for themselves. Personally I’ve always assumed that Shepard’s tale was ending at the end of the game. There’s really no place to go story wise with him after defeating the reapers.

    I think ultimately the ending was a let down because it didn’t mesh with the rest of the story. After finishing the game I found out that Tali could die and I watched it on YouTube. Her death is incredibly touching and well written. And all of the ambient dialog in the citadel that gives background to the entire conflict was well done (the PTSD soldier and the Salarian with new armor being my favorites).

  2. Normally, I dont do this. In fact, normally I would hate this next statement. But your wrong about mass effect 3’s ending, and I know about 1.5 million people that agree with me at this point.

    Point 1: Your choice to destroy the synthetics was completely pointless. You LITERALLY get the exact same ending no matter which choice you make. The only difference in the results are if the reapers fly away (control or synthesis) or blow up (destroy). That’s it, that’s the whole dramatic choice you make. Sorry, I cant help but call that lazy rather than interesting.

    Point 2: Because of point one, all your decisions up to that point are largely trivialized. Saved the geth? Destroyed them? Doesn’t matter, reaper ending. Hey wrex, hows it hanging? What? Trapped on Earth with the best soldiers in the galaxy because every ending blows up all the relays? Well, that sucks, you having to defend your throne against your brother and all. How does that work out for you? Oh wait, SAME ENDING. Its this kind of problem that makes this such a frustrating ending for long time fans. Which brings me to point 3…

    Point 3: NO ONE CARES ABOUT SHEPARD. Ok, I lie a little. Clearly we care about Shepard, but we care about him (or her) because they effectively become us. Shep is our avatar in this world, and we have little attachment to them beyond the direct story arc. Who we REALLY care about is our companions. Did Garrus and Tali make it out ok? Is Liara pregnant? What happened to the galaxy in the wake of our decisions?

    And that is really the crux of the issue. They billed this as the ultimate game where your decisions would matter, and shape the foundation of this galaxy. The majority of the hype for this game was based around statements that got us hyped to play OUR brand of shepard and see what happens. Shall we take a look at some of them?

    “[The presence of the Rachni] has huge consequences in Mass
    Effect 3. Even just in the final battle with the Reapers.”

    Well that didn’t happen. We got one mission featuring grunt, and he didn’t even come back to kick ass in my party again.

    “There are many different endings. 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…”

    There are youtube videos that play all 3 endings simultaneously. The only major difference 90% of the time is the color. So this one is a broken promise in a big way.

    “For people who are invested in these characters and the back-story of the
    universe and everything, all of these things come to a resolution in
    Mass Effect 3. And they are resolved in a way that’s very different
    based on what you would do in those situations.”


    “Mass Effect 3 is all about answering all the biggest questions in the
    lore, learning about the mysteries and the Protheans and the Reapers,
    being able to decide for yourself how all of these things come to an

    This one comes the closest to being realized, but still falls flat on its face. We still don’t get any solid answers on where the reapers came from, or why they were created originally. What we do get is the near-universally loathed little kid from the opening talking about how his solution to all organic life being wiped out by synthetic killing machines is to wipe out all organic life with synthetic killing machines. For a million-year old intelligence, it seems pretty dumb.

    “Yeah, and I’d say much more so, because we have the ability to
    build the endings out in a way that we don’t have to worry about
    eventually tying them back together somewhere. This story arc is
    coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot
    more different.”

    This is the statment that feels the most like a betrayal to me. Its like EA looked out at the world, and saw that the scummiest thing that people were doing to video games was cutting out pieces of the ending and making people pay for them. And then they said, HEY LOOK, MASS EFFECT 3! THIS WONT TOTALLY HURT THE BRAND AT ALL!!

    Because I cant help but look at this situation and say, there has to be a reason bioware broke just about every promise they made about this game. And if I had to guess, the reason is they want to sell DLC for the story, or rather, EA does. Slogging through the clearly incomplete Dragon Age 2 was bad enough, but this really goes beyond the pale. I was a dedicated follower of bioware, but now I cant help but look at any future games of theirs with suspicion.

    1. ““For people who are invested in these characters and the back-story of the
      universe and everything, all of these things come to a resolution in
      Mass Effect 3. And they are resolved in a way that’s very different
      based on what you would do in those situations.”


      Well… yep. Everything that matters did come to a resolution, and it did, for better part, depend on our previous decisions. Krogans and Genophage, Quarians and Geth (I wondered why my friends wasn’t satisfied with her Quarian/Geth resolution and having to chose one over the other, and I on the other hand managed to save both of them, thanks to one good decision in ME2), and all your friends and squadmates from previous games are here, and all story arcs are complete. And you had something to do with it.

      What bothers me the most, especially after reading too much about ending and all the hate surrounding it, are some plot holes at the ending (where was Normandy going) and that “synthetics killing organics so they won’t make synthetics which would kill them” stuff. But, my first reaction to ending was – “What the hell is wrong with all those people?”.

      Oh, and Barnes, nice post mortem. It’s nice to read at least something positive about ME3 ending, after all that hate and, for the better part, nonsense surrounding it.

      1. Well said. All of the hanging plot threads in the game (specifically the Krogan genophage and Quarian/Geth war) were resolved and all of the character’s individual story arcs came to a close. And it all depended on the choices you made throughout the three games. People get so caught up in the last ten minutes of the game that they forget about everything that came before it.

        And yeah the ending’s not that strong it and definitely has some plot holes. But in no way does it justify this level of anger.

      2. Haha “synthetics killing organics so they won’t make synthetics which would kill them”.

        It’s pretty grim, sure. But the reapers were really more like galactic taxidermists. That’s a kind of creepy we can all appreciate, amirite?

    2. Is there a requirement that every statement about Mass Effect’s ending now has to contain an absolutely insane conspiracy theory and melodramatic hyperbole.

      If you can prove 1.5 million people hate Mass Effect’s ending, do so, otherwise give me a bloody break.

      The ending was fine. People screaming about entitlement are ridiculous; you already gave BioWare your money, you do not get the option to return the unused portion for a full refund when you used the entire portion.

      Do you know why having a discussion about this makes people roll their eyes and prove everything everybody hates about the internet in a single go? Because it shows every ugly stereotype about gamers in a microcosm.

      I finished the game, it did not shoot my cat, burn down my house, or transport me to Syria. There are no real world consequences to this except you felt let down. When you can’t buy food or have your human rights trampled because you played Mass Effect 3, then you should give a shit. Otherwise buy a different game and get over it.

  3. Thank you! I could not agree more. I mentioned it last time, but I really respect the desire of the game’s writers to actually end the story. In my opinion, the ending fit perfectly with the story that had been set before us, and I was perfectly satisfied.

    I don’t need to know what happened to all my crew in some cheesy 80s style montage set to Tina Turner’s “You’re Simply the Best.” After all, that’s what the whole game was about. That’s why you get to speak to every important character before you embark on the final mission, one last time.

    The hubbub that has developed over this ending has actually embarrassed me for being a member of the gaming community; especially the crap that went on with Child’s Play. I really hope BioWare sticks to their guns with this ending, but something tells me they won’t, and that’ll be a sad precedent to set for all the other developers out there working for EA or any other big publisher.

  4. I’m with Golem on this. The second game was quite perfect since the endings to everything reflected my choices and decisions in the game. ME3 though at the end took every choice I made and laughed at it. I still can’t believe that the series is ending like that. So much for making the player feel empowered. The game might as well have skipped directly to the ending since nothing I did mattered except that. I was going to finally give SWTOR a try after finishing ME3 but now I am going to skip it. I have had enough Bioware for awhile.

  5. You know what ending I hated? One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. You know what *other* ending I hated? The Sopranoe’s. You know what I did about both of those endings? Nothing. They were not mine to do anything with. While I didn’t like the ending, I didn’t call the director’s and say, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!? I had TIME invested in this movie/series!”.

    I *loved* the Mass Effect ending, in the end, I chose integration, I too couldn’t resolve the fight between the Geth and the Quarian, and felt that they were the reason for the harvesting in the first place. What better way to solve the issue than to integrate together. Heck, we’re already doing it today with our electronic gadgets. “Evolution Morpheus, like the Dinosaurs, you had your time…”

    It is my sincerest hope they do not change the endings. Personally, what I would’ve love to see them do with DLC is you take on the role of one of your crew mates, and help the 40,000 most brilliant minds in the universe (the science team that built the Crucible) gather components to build this generations first Mass Effect gate. I mean, think about it. They have the motivation and the Protheans did it (Game 1, the one you drive your vehicle through). Who knows, maybe they’ll come up with something better than the gates


    1. I did not watch the Sopranos, but i remember how many viewers were so disappointed. It’s curious to see how the advent of DLC has given gamers the notion they can request a Ending Change, how online protests have become almost common place yet seem to accomplish little (aside from SOPA, but that’s not dead yet either). The D3 release date was unexpected, but the game is unfinished; perhaps they feel a little pressure to release?

      ME3 finished with firm finality staying true to it’s sacrificial theme; while the same cinematic scene for each ending is (barring the colored explosion) disappointing, it’s not the “same” ending 3 ways. Trives brings up a good point, your ending will have some far reaching affects should you continue with DLC.

      For me though, i’m a little ME’d out.

  6. It may just be me, but I feel like Bioware has (whether intentionally or unintentionally) played a cosmic scale joke on us. In a totally good way. I’m firmly planted in the “ending didn’t bother me, what’s all the fuss about” camp. I don’t know if it was originally intended to do this, but the game has done something utterly fantastic on a meta-thematic level and all those slack jawed mouth breathers who are creating a foofaraw over the thematically incongruous ending should take a step back and breathe. Through their noses.
    In sovereigns monologue in the first one it tells Shepherd that the mass relays and the citadel were reaper creations designed to guide evolution and progress on their terms so that the organic races could be more easily wiped out in the end… This is ostensibly what they did to us. They presented us with choice, free will… sort of. More like the illusion of choice and free will, because those of us obsessive gamers who have played both paragon and renegade have surely found that the results don’t differ a whole lot when it comes down to it. Anyway… We are presented with choice, all the while Bioware claiming that there is no cannon and that the story is in our hands (and anyone who really believed that is a rube), but in the end all those choices, all that free will amounts to nothing when all of your descisions and actions have been melted away like so much of Shepherds armor and you are forced to make a choice. One final choice. A choice that has outcomes so similar that it is barely a choice at all.

    Is it possible that Bioware “reapered” us? All of us?

  7. I’m overall ok with the ending. There were two things I wish I knew: (1) What happened to the party members you had with you at the time? Did the reaper kill them? (2) Why was the Normandy in mid-flight?

    If the party members were in fact killed, I wish they would’ve shown their bodies on the ground instead of the miscellaneous marines. That’s all I needed. And the Normandy in mid-flight just seemed odd. I was fine with the rest of it. I thought the three choices were choosing between three shit sandwiches, and that made sense to me.

  8. I’m glad to see the discussion here is rather calm and reasonable (Golem’s comment above aside). It seems like anytime a journalist puts up something defending the ending or Bioware’s right to make it, the community just piles on more bitterness and hate. Even the Escapist, whose community I thought was one of the few bastions of sanity in gaming sites, gets up in arms over even the littlest comment of “Hey, this ain’t so bad.” I think I like it here.

    But really, you know what the real tragedy of this whole ridiculousness is? That its making everyone ignore the after credits epilogue to the game. For god’s sake, you have Buzz freaking Aldrin waxing poetic about the stars and nobody seems to care. Well I care, Bioware. I care.

  9. I hated the ending at first; it was weird and didn’t fit with anything. Characters were appearing in places that they shouldn’t be, and nothing made any sense (How did Anderson get to the console before you, why was my team on the normandy, ect…)

    Then I heard about the Indoctrination Theory and my mind was blown. I know believe that Bioware created one of the most interesting endings to a video game I’ve ever seen. Kudos to them.

  10. I think Tom Chick said it best over at Qt3:

    “That Bethesda/Bioware stuff is all good and well until it’s not. At which point you get people Tweeting about the end of Mass Effect 3 as if Bioware was supposed to suddenly do good storytelling before wrapping everything up. Choice is a great way to fool people into thinking they’re getting a good story. Of course I’d pick the salarians over the krogan in the genophage debate! Of course I’d destory the Collective base! Of course I’d bang Liara! Ergo, it’s good writing when those things happen. To many gamers, “good writing” is a synonym for “writing that affirms what I already think”. Bioware has played its fans like a finely tuned hanar fiddle.”

  11. Do you really believe that the Indoctrination Theory is what Bioware intended? Not being critical I just can’t help feel that there are far two many plot holes to suggest this was ever the long term plan (or even the last minute plan).

  12. And this is why I don’t usually do this. People get so entrenched in their positions that they ignore the logic presented and try to warp other peoples perspectives.

    In what way was anything resolved? You cured the genophage (at least I did), but there is already a faction that is heavily opposed to that decision and krogan who want to go back to war with the rest of the galaxy at the first possible opportunity. Oh, and you trapped half of the leadership that doesn’t want to go to war on a distant world. Not exactly resolved. Which is to say nothing of the fact that there are now thousands of turians and quarians trapped around earth. Who cant eat food from earth. Implying that they all starve to death before they have any chance of returning home.

    Then we have the geth. Either you destroyed them, you made peace, or I understand that you can turn on the quarians and cause tali to commit suicide. Ok then. Except that everyone seems certain that the geth will turn on organics again, and regardless of the choice you made, the ending simply invalidates it by either wiping the geth out or mind controlling them.

    And this is all before the fact that shepard actually seems to survive the ending, and it might all just be a dream. I am not even going to touch that, because the implications give me a headache and I am actually hoping I am wrong about most of them.

    None of this should be taken to say I dislike the GAME, however. The game itself is just fine. It has the best combat of the entire series, and the scale of the conflict is hammered home repeatedly. It could have used more mechanics (why not replace these bloody fetch quests with a few ground missions in a hammerhead followed by a commando raid? Why not make some of your decisions regarding war materials matter in the last few missions?) and I feel it sacrifices all its real RPG elements to get there, but the result is one of the most enjoyable TPS I have played in a long time. In truth, I expected lots of things about the game to be terrible that turned out to be fine. The multiplayer is loads of fun (unexpected but very pleasing), and even Beef McMantities was actually a fairly interesting character to have around.

    The ending alone is just awful, and may actually look worse in comparison to the rest of the game. Its brief, cliched, doesn’t make sense, and doesn’t give you any kind of closure. Looked at in the wrong light it appears entirely too close to money making schemes that we have seen from other games recently, and honestly the idea of indoctrination just make that concept worse. Hells, even Dragon Age gave you a small text blurb about what happened to the various factions.

    Ultimately, I think I simply hold bioware to a higher standard now that they have proven they can do games properly (Dragon Age: O, Mass Effect 2). So when we see a choice that violates everything Shepard stood for and discards not only your choices through the games but its own themes and logic, and then blatantly copy-pastes the ending with different color swaps, I cant help but get angry, the same way I get angry when anyone breaks a promise to me. It doesn’t matter if it is a company or a person, people need to be held accountable for their statements of intent. I get enough bull from the media, the internet, and my politicians on a daily basis. I don’t need it from my video games.

    Now maybe time will heal this, and maybe EA will release its first truly free DLC in history and bioware will turn out to be on a higher level of storytelling or trolling, and this will all make sense. But I kind of doubt it.

    1. Keep in mind that almost every person in the Mass Effect galaxy is wrong about something. If you decide nothing is resolved because there is still “some faction out there that isn’t happy” then you’re asking for them to write a very cheap universe for you.

  13. “Ultimately, I think I simply hold bioware to a higher standard now that they have proven they can do games properly (Dragon Age: O, Mass Effect 2). So when we see a choice that violates everything Shepard stood for and discards not only your choices through the games but its own themes and logic, and then blatantly copy-pastes the ending with different color swaps, I cant help but get angry, the same way I get angry when anyone breaks a promise to me. It doesn’t matter if it is a company or a person, people need to be held accountable for their statements of intent.”

    DAO is ‘done properly’? Interesting. Different folks I guess.

    Ultimately, you’re upset because you have an opinion (or a preconceived notion) on how things should have played out, and Bioware didn’t deliver on your expectations. Did they promise a totally mind-blowing experience for ME3, complete with Liara emerging from the television to provide blowjobs to all gamers who complete the ‘good ending’? Yeah, probably, but that’s called marketing. You can be disappointed, sure. We’ve all been there. But the vitriol from the gaming community towards this is just silly.

    “Resolved” doesn’t mean everything has to be double rainbows from that point forward. The genophage was cured, and some of the Krogan want to continue war and some don’t. In my game Wrex was alive and he and Eve had no intention of going to war. The Geth, for me, were given consciousness and started to work with the Quarians — I had zero indication that the Geth were planning to try to take over again. My experience with the storyline is that those things wrap up rather nicely. And I’m glad Tali didn’t kill herself, because walking in on her and Garrus being intimate at the end was a pleasant and amusing surprise.

    My other thing about the starvation argument is that I don’t totally buy it. The mass effect relays exploding didn’t return everyone to the middle ages — they still have ships and I assume can still travel around local clusters. Maybe they could even to make it back to their sectors of space, just like we could still go from Ohio to California even if there was no longer an interstate highway system. Just take a lot longer and would be way harder. Who knows though.

    1. I cant say I disagree, like I said, the rest of the game ranged from good to amazing. Its just that last 10% that rustles my jimmies. You could literally cut out that entire star child scene, cut the fake choice, and just go streight from anderson and shepard bleeding out on the citadel to the reapers blowing up and get a better ending than what you had. At the very least, it would not distort the lore into something unrecognizable, cause all kinds of problems, and at least not make the company look rushed or lazy. When taking OUT stuff makes an ending better and still fails to be a truly good ending, its not a good ending. Perhaps you should tell me why the ending was good for you? (And no, “its an ending” arguments don&#8217#8217;t count. If the ending is worthy of the series, it needs to have something good about it.)

      But really, I don’t want to keep repeating this, so I will just link this. This guy takes about 40 minutes and lays out more or less my feelings on the ending.

      1. I think Barnes and I are pretty close on my feelings of the ending, except I wanted to know what happened to my party on Earth and why was the Normandy mid-relay jump. But, to expand, my experience is like this:

        I liked the fact that there were, basically, three shitty choices. I sat there for more than a couple minutes debating them with my wife, who happened to be watching from the final push on Earth through to the end. My initial reaction was to say ‘fuck the synthetics’, but I couldn’t see my version of Shepard doing that. My Shepard united the quarians and geth, befriended Legion, gave the geth ‘life’, helped shape EDI’s personality, and eventually her relationship with Joker. For me that option would’ve been grossly hypocritical, and more than a little cowardly. My Shep didn’t sacrifice friends just to save his own skin.

        At the same time, the mind control option seemed like I would be perpetuating the cycle, only with Shep Reapers instead of Star Child Reapers. I like to think that My Shep wouldn’t want that kind of role, because his goal was to end the cycle, not just replace who was at the top.

        Which left synthesis; Shepard unilaterally deciding to fundamentally change every living and synthetic thing in the galaxy. Who was he to make that kind of choice? But, while he could make this single decision for all living beings, what he provided in the end was for every being from that point forward to be in charge of their own destinies. Unlike mind control or destruction for synthetics that I worked up to this point to ‘bring to the light side’. So that’s what I choose.

        It was satisfying for me because I felt like I was making the ‘right choice’ in the face of three somewhat ambiguous choices. They weren’t just binary ‘be good/bad’ choices. Moreover, it doesn’t matter to me that the three ending sequences are all similar, because *My Shep* had one ending. Even if the endings are similar, My Shep choose to give everyone — human, krogan, geth, etc — the chance to make their own futures. Which is what the point of stopping reaper annihilation was all about. I haven’t even bothered to watch the others yet, largely because I don’t see the point.

        So, there’s my story. That’s why I found it satisfying. Are there holes? Yep. It’s not perfect. But I enjoyed the experience that it gave, and feel that it provided me a chance to give My Shep a fitting way to end things. It felt like one of the more ‘grown up’ choices I got to make in this series — on par with the geth and genophage, and certainly better than trying to decide whom Shep should bone. Which, for the record, My Shep avoided doing all three games; I like to think he was married to the Normandy and to the mission.

          1. No, really?

            That last sentence was sarcastic. 😀

            Well at least you have reasons. Most of the people who came down on that side of things so far haven’t even had logic behind their decisions beyond “I like Mass Effect.” I guess we can agree to disagree on this one.

          2. Heh, well I didn’t want to come across too ridiculous. 😛

            I’m cool with agreeing to disagree. That’s more than a lot of others taking sides in the argument are willing to do.

      2. That video pretty much embodies what Michael Barnes addressed above. Also, it’s not a good tribute to Mr. Plinkett. Mike Stoklasa knows what he’s talking about. That guy thinks Star Trek is the embodiment of soft scify.

        For me, the ending was good because it dripped with the ambiguity that lurked in each major dialogue of the series. Mass Effect is never about learning the truth. It’s about trying to figure out all possibilities before making a choice; if you walk away from any major mission in the games feeling completely informed about your decisions, you missed something.

        The awesome part of the ending is that now you aren’t second-guessing opponent or friendly NPCs. Now you have to second-guess Shepard.

  14. I finished the game this weekend, amidst the firestorm that this ending has brought about… I sat down for a good long while and thought about what I had just seen.
    !!!Heavy Spoilers!!!
    I had spent 30 hours running around the galaxy. I fetched items for people I eavesdropped on and then eavesdropped on and then eavesdropped some more to see if I had helped. I met old friends with open arms. I fought like hell to protect Eve from Cerberus, only to betray an old friend to gather more resources for a war (when I pulled that trigger if felt like I shot myself in the gut). I guiltily talked to my crew who all offered me their sympathy on what seemed like a hard loss I couldn’t control. I made the choice to sacrifice a squad of Krogan to save the Rachni, and watched in sadness as Grunt made his final stand, only to leap up in joy when he staggered to the shuttle. I brokered a hard won peace between the Geth and the Quarians. I killed Reapers.
    I broke Ashley and Miranda’s hearts, and found my true love with Liara. I helped Ashley comfort her sister. I helped a man move past the loss of his husband. I helped EDI and Joker with their relationship. I gave Garrus a new favorite place on the citadel. I watched Jack find her place in this world and become a happier person. I stayed away from James and his sometimes xenophobic nicknames. I watched the Illusive Man kill himself. I said a quite goodbye to Anderson.
    In short by the time I got to the “End” I had already made so many choices and experienced so many emotional highs and lows I didn’t even know how to process the Catalyst. Probably like the actual Commander would feel. I slowly stumbled to the conduit and pulled the trigger. I was so set on the end that I didn’t think of the Geth I worked so hard to save that I was eradicating. I didn’t think of the races that had sent their fleets only to be stranded over earth when the Relays blew up. I didn’t need the flashbacks to the faces that were important to me as I pulled the trigger. I was already in my mind’s eye saying goodbye to the friends and enemies that I had grown to know and love.
    !!!End of Spoilers!!!
    This was the end of an epic saga. The end of one of the most player involving games I’ve ever played. We all have put at least a hundred hours into this saga if not hundreds. This game was going to hurt no matter what the ending was. Characters who have evolved, be it your own Shepard, or the crew around you were going to leave. I imagined that for this saga to be complete Shepard would have to die. A part of me wished that the saga would be incomplete, the Reapers triumphing, but the efforts of Shepard preparing the next cycle to succeed, much as the Protheans helped our cycle get as far as we did.
    All in all, I was glad for the ending. I can put down the mantle of “The Shepard” at last. It was a weight on my shoulders, one I gladly bore. Perhaps the weight of the journey would have been too much for one experiencing it just as bearing the ring was too much for Frodo. We can rest now, Shepard and I, our journeys together are at an end.

    I for one am thankful for that journey.

    1. Wait – whom did you kill (that part where you said: “only to betray an old friend to gather more resources for a war (when I pulled that trigger if felt like I shot myself in the gut”)?

      Other than that, my experience is almost the same – just that I chose Liara again, after being with her in ME1, and with Tali in ME2… and I was sad when I found out I can’t break up with Liara and go back to Tali. And when I saw Tali and Garrus just before the end, I was so… dunno, happy and shocked and… it was just great 😀 Oh, and Vega was cool, too (and I don’t remember any of his racist nicknames to be honest).

      1. Yeah, I considered it. But in the end I told him what his people were doing, and he sacrificed himself. Mordin dying really sucked. 😛

      2. I did it because as much as I liked Wrex, Grunt, and Mordin I don’t trust the Krogan to keep themselves in check… If I do another run through I’ll go the other way… Especially since you have to eliminate another friend later to cover up the first…

        The emotion of watching Mordin crawl towards the console begging for just a few more seconds to let him fix the cure was gut wrenching… As beautiful as the moment was if you let him go up and fix it when he sings his last tune, I felt like the choice to betray him and the subsequent scenes spoke volumes about the kind of decisions you have to make in war to win or lose… Needs of the many, etc… But at the same time the writers did a good job of showing you the consequences of your actions…

  15. “I don’t think the ending was sloppy at all, at least in terms of writing.

    What’s up with the jungle planet at the end? Who knows. It’s up for debate. I do have to say that I assumed my squadmates, who were almost always Liara and Garrus through the entire game, died in the run-up to the Citadel. But there they were with Joker at the end.”

    You don’t see any contradiction between these two things? The storytelling surrounding the Normandy and your inexplicably resurrected squadmates is so incomprehensible it’s nearly non-existant.

    It’s awesome that the end worked for you, and that what came to you when making the slow trudge towards the final choice was all the cool stuff that had happened before. Unfortunately, all I could think was how fucking nonsensical Genocidal Casper’s reasoning was, how his explanation completely diminshed the Cthulhoid horror of the Reapers, and how none of this made any goddamn sense.

    1. I’m not saying that the end was “Good”. I’m saying that I think I get the idea behind what they were trying to do. It had a lot of logic holes, and yes the kid/VI/AI BS was pretty annoying, but had they pulled it off it would have been impressive. I tend to be in the “They swung for the fences and they whiffed” camp. Boy did they whiff… give it some time… the end will fade, and all the other powerful and rewarding moments will start to seep back up…

      1. I don’t mean to say that the end erases all the moments that came before — and there were some extremely cool moments, Tuchanka was basically made of awesome — just that instead of the end bringing back all the cool stuff that came before, like it did for Barnes and a bunch of other lucky people, just rhat in those moment, all I could think about was what it did to the overarching plot and themes and found it it extremely wanting.

        (Disregarding the end, there were also some pretty lame bits. Say hi Kai Leng, but not nearly enough to outweigh the stuff that really worked.)

        I guess the key way I differ from Barnes is here:

        “The story that matters- Shepard’s- ends with the decision you make. Nothing else matters from a storytelling perspective.”

        I can buy that argument when were talking about for instance The Grey, which is a movie all about Liam Neeson’s character, and him coming to a certain decision in the end.

        Crucially however, Shepard doesn’t work for me as a character apart from me. Not the way, say Geralt does. Geralt is a distinct character with a distinct voice. Shepard for me falls in a kind of awkward space in between Geralt and a more pure player avatar like the Grey Warden, for instance, and leaning closer to the player avatar side of things. Consequently, my attachment isn’t as much to Shepard and her/his journey, but to the surrounding characters and world. And so the decision doesn’t really matter to me outside its impact on the world and characters.

        The end pretty much breaks the world in the ridiculous synthesis ending, and the characters are given no closure at all. No, the final conversations do not work in that regard, because it’s pre-climax. You have no idea if anyone outside the two people who alongside Joker proved themsleves cowards who would desert a a dying (wo)man in the Normandy made it through the end alive or not.

        The other thing that prevents the final decision from working is that for me it feels thematically unconnected to the rest of the game. This is not Deus Ex: Human Revolution, where the entire game discusses the implications of augmenting cognitive and physical abilities, and then asks you to take a stand. Clumsy as the implementation was, that game earned its final question. Mass effect 3 doesn’t.

  16. My arguement against the ending is two fold. You guys cite Bioware as the decision maker on the ending. However, the decision making was not done by all the Bioware writers, but one writer. Every plot and detail other than the ending had to be vetted by all the writers, which is why it was all so tight. However, the ending was decided on by lead writer Casey Hudson, against the wishes of all the other writers. So to defend Bioware’s ending is wrong. Your just defending Casey Hudson’s ending.

    My second arguement is that nothing is tied up, since you basically killed the ME universe. The destruction of the Relays strands all the alien species fleet on Earth. Even with FTL travel it will take decades to centuries for everyone to get home (and that isn’t counting on fuel and food). FTL communications require Mass Relays, and you have to build two relays (catcher and receiver). As for the conduit the Protheans built, it used the Citadel as a receiver (some people point to this as an excuse for everyone else building mass relays).

    In the end though, history will point to Mass Effect 3 in terms of writing lessons to be learned. In games, everything is a team process, and that includes writing. As soon as you pass off judge and jury duties to one individual, you drastically increase your chances for screw ups like this. The only good thing will be that writers will have to step up their game and not mess up like this.

  17. In the Venn Diagram of the sets “people whose face did not import” and “people who would refuse to play if their face would not import”, I’m in the intersection of the two sets. As such, I have not yet experienced the ending for myself (but have managed to spoil the heck out of the game for myself in the meantime while searching for updates about the face importation patch status).

    But hey, not playing a game to the end has never stopped anybody from giving an opinion about it, right? (Certainly not the dozens and dozens of reviewers who gave it a perfect score without mentioning, for example, the face import bug.)

    It seems to me that the ending of the game would be an awesome ending for people who got somewhere between 50% and 75% of the necessary “war assets” or whatever the term is. It’s not a bad ending… it’s not a good ending. It’s an ending for folks who get to the ending without doing absofreakin’ everything.

    I wouldn’t mind a different downer ending for people who get between 25%-50%, a “reapers win!” ending for those who do a speed run and do the bare minimum required to get to the ending, and a “4th Option” Paragon/Renegade interrupt ending for the folks who got more than 75%. (Perhaps it could even involve a cake.)

    Heck, maybe they could even do this thing where there are 16 different endings!

    From where I sit, however, discussions of “integrity” need to start with stuff like “how did you not notice that face importation didn’t work?”… and *THEN* we can discuss how much care EA/Bioware puts into its games and how we need to respect their artistic vision.

  18. I made a comment on RPS, it was colourful. I’ll be more diplomatic for now, since my metaphor was fruity.

    My problem is that the ending invalidated everything up to that point. In effect every choice I had made prior to the last 5 minutes suddenly became entirely meaningless. This means when viewed from the end backwards, the trilogy is essentially ninety hours plus of wasted enterprise, all designed to culminate in an ending where contrary to a quote from Casey saying “You won’t have a choice of endings A, B or C”, you get – a choice of endings A, B, or C.

    Does this cause me to go on a rampage or turn INTERNET ANGRY, nah. Will it mean I will pirate rather than buy Bioware titles in future? Yep. I’ll only hand them money when I feel that they have earned it, not paying up front on the expectation they deliver a quality product from start to finish. This, is where the damage will get done, it’s not about the furore or the PR fallout, but simply put more people will not pay ahead of time because they -will not trust- Bioware to deliver the goods. Cue damage to bottom line.

  19. “Will it mean I will pirate rather than buy Bioware titles in future? Yep. I’ll only hand them money when I feel that they have earned it, not paying up front on the expectation they deliver a quality product from start to finish.”

    Or you could, you know, not play it at all rather than steal it.

  20. Ugh. How many times am I going to have -this- particular argument with someone. Piracy is Copyright Infringment, NOT THEFT. I swear to whatever dieties exist the people like the MPAA and RIAA who did such a fantastic job of confusing the two that I spend enough time having to explain that it’s not the same thing.

    No, Piracy is not theft, I am not depriving a shop of a physical good nor am I “taking away” a unique copy of bits that cannot be replicated anywhere else at any other time. I am simply refusing to pay up front for a block of code which I wish to test before I am willing to commit to a purchase. Demo’s are nowadays spun by marketing and as Dragon Age 2 conclusively proved, commercial review bodies not only are capable of getting it wrong, but are also in several cases susceptible to being leaned on by the people who supply them the review copies.

    If I am satisfied that the product I recieve with the online bells and whistles (which generally are pretty hard if not impossible to reliably replicate in a pirated copy) is going to be worth the investment, then there shall be a payment forthcoming over whatever distribution platform I feel is most suited. Otherwise, I shall hit the shiny delete button, content in the knowledge that I have not wasted my money on corporate crapware. They would not have gained my sale in the first place, and I have not deprived them of anything as an individual, they are not deprived in resources because I elected to check out the goods properly beforehand.

    On reflection – I would have pirated ME3, at least then I would not feel like EA / Bioware defrauded me out of my gaming dollar

  21. “If I am satisfied that the product I recieve with the online bells and whistles (which generally are pretty hard if not impossible to reliably replicate in a pirated copy) is going to be worth the investment, then there shall be a payment forthcoming over whatever distribution platform I feel is most suited.”

    And that’s a perfectly fine and sound strategy. It’s just that 99% of people who pirate games never reach this final stage, and therefore prove the stupid MPAA/RIAA/ESA at least partially right. Looking back now, I missed the part about paying for it in your original post. Sorry chief.

  22. The big problem as you can imagine is that the official Demo that gets released is specifically spun to ensure that you only see the “best sides” of a game, a Demo really should give you a taste of the whole product, warts and all. Bioware hid the warts away from the demo, however as I dug into the full product I ended up feeling like I’d been taken for a bit of a ride.

    With the exception of Priority : Tuchanka and Priority : Rannoch, most of the missions weren’t -that- stellar, and worse Bioware decided to resurrect those fetch quests they used in DA2 for ME3, in this case SPECIFICALLY to pad the game out.

    Everyone has got so blinded by the fact it’s Mass Effect that when you take a step back from the game, and actually analyse each mission and the supposed variables that add up to that point, there’s a few places where “big decisions” got tossed by the wayside (such as ditching your specter status in ME2, in 3 you simply get reinstated with one line of speech, seriously – WAT), and non core story decisions back in ME1 suddenly end up contributing disproportionately heavy sums to the War Effort (Bring Down the Sky being case in point).

    ME3 had so much potential, and in places it’s been wasted, in the most commercially cynical manner I could imagine. To use my old refrain, it’s EA. Bioware were not this kind of company prior, but with DA2, ME3 and TOR, they’ve become another factory sludge plant that produces tasteless commercial junkfood gaming. Gone are the glory days of BG2, and of the toolset that allowed people to turn Neverwinter Nights into whatever their imaginations could come up with.

    Now we get nickel and dimed for our gaming content with insulting day 1 dlc like “from ashes” which should have been integral to the core game, I wouldn’t mind if they used it as the means of preserving new game sales, but they should not have forced non CE people to stump for it.

    So yes. My stance concerning Bioware has shifted from me paying for games up front on the basis that I reliably expect the product to meet my expectations to me going off to TPB or whatever tracker site is viable, picking up a copy from there, and giving it a solid playtest BEFORE I decide if I wish to pay them or not.

    That said, this is fast becoming my approach to any EA title I have a remote interest in. Sad.

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