This article does not contain spoilers about the Mass Effect series.
I got to a point where I was so close to seeing how Mass Effect 3 would end, that I could not stop playing until I saw it. Never mind how much I enjoyed playing through Mass Effect 3 from start to finish, but seeing that ending, seeing exactly what was so earth shatteringly disappointing, was too close to wait any longer. In some ways my impatience, and the controversial reception, sort of ruined my intentions for playing through the story, but I still enjoyed it never the less. And due to my delay to directly discuss my reaction to the ending, you have probably guessed already that I liked the ending to Mass Effect 3, that all of complaints and disappointment coming from the enamoured fans feels misplaced.
During the last half hour of Mass Effect, I was expecting the worse to happen. I could not at all fathom a scenario that would justify a complaint to the FTC or spark demands from fans for a better ending. When I finally saw this frequently discussed ending, I felt two feelings: satisfaction and confusion.
I was – am satisfied to finally see the story come to a close, to see the time I spent with this franchise amount to a conclusion that I felt answered the questions I had. While I do think the ending successfully answered the burning questions, I left with more. But these new questions do not necessarily need to be answered. So to reference one of the complaints being thrown around, I did not need further “closure”. The purpose of Commander Shepard at the end of Mass Effect 2 was straight forward, and once that problem was resolved, I saw no purpose in providing answers to aspects of the story such as, what happened to my crew members. They helped me along the way no doubt, their role was integral to my success, yet when it comes down to answering that sole question that is presented at the end of Mass Effect 2, my crew or friends I have accumulated along the way, do not factor in.
Mass Effect’s end is very much as important as the journey. As cliché as that statement might be, it holds true to the purpose of Mass Effect. While the end might be the last thing I see, it won’t be the only thing I remember. Not to discount the value of the ending, but the only reason I might strongly remember the end to Mass Effect 3, is because it is what people have been talking about for weeks and weeks.
It’s a shame too because there is so much to be amazed by in Mass Effect 3 that saying things like, “I’m not going to play another BioWare game ever!” or “EA just wants my money!”, is rather really reactionary and not at all reflective of what I believe players actually think of the series. I do not at all expect every single person to enjoy the ending, everyone has their own tastes. And if that person does not at all enjoy how their story that has spanned over three games has come to a conclusion, why should they let the last 20 minutes spoil their perception of the series overall?
I am thoroughly confused at the moment. The build up to the end was spectacular; many games will not ever come close to accomplishing what BioWare managed to do with this third instalment. So how come this ending has so much stake in the overall opinion of the franchise? When I think about it, concluding Mass Effect 3 for a lot of fans is cutting out a big part of their lives. So much time and emotion has been invested into the story, Commander Shepard and whatever characters have come along, that I can imagine how hard it is to see that all being taken away from them. Ending a story, may it be for a game, movie or TV series, is not an easy feat. No matter which direction is taken, there will always be fans that are not happy, fans who sincerely believe that if given a chance, they could end the story with a much better idea.
That might be the issue with Mass Effect 3. The whole series has been built upon this notion of controlling the outcome, that the choices are yours to make and no one else’s. So when BioWare comes with this ending that every player will see regardless of their choices made throughout the entirety of the series, I can see why people are upset. There is no way to avoid reaching this point of common ground, everyone gets there. The only things unique to your ending, is which ending you chose to have, given the little nuances that makes yours different. For a lot of people, that’s where their choices feel meaningless, therefore the outcome they have been working up to disappoints them.
When you look at the comments people make on the ending, they are all different. You will see the same comment repeated through different people, but each person’s list always consists of different things. Since there is no one universal criticism of the ending, that will only mean that changing the ending to address the most common complaints, will leave others frustrated because the aspect that was changed, they did not want to see be touched. You cannot please everyone, and as soon as BioWare releases their “fix” or “clarification”, I’m positive they will receive a brand new wave of complaints that criticize the fix, then going onto demand a fix for the fix.
To address the story, it is not as simple as releasing a new cut scene or level to play through. Given the structure of the game and the direction the story has gone after Mass Effect 2, some major rewriting needs to happen in order to make changes possible. I can write all day about the choices you make, the direction of the story or creative integrity, as they are all somewhat linked to the idea of the ending. If you fall into that camp of, “This ending blows”, to put it simply, adding a new one won’t “fix” it. Even if BioWare could fix it, nor should they. The end to Mass Effect was put in place for a reason, whether that reason was good or not should be up to the fans to discover. And even when that reason has conclusive evidence of poor decision making, it does not really matter, there are still three great games you can look back at and confidently say are some of the best games you have played this generation.