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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Thoughts on the Mass Effect 3 Ending

            Obligatory Spoiler Warning!!!! You Have Been Warned!!!!

I think by now it’s safe to assume that saying the ending to Mass Effect 3 has upset a few people would be a drastic understatement. Many fans didn’t seem to be too happy with the third game’s ambiguous end that forces the player to make some of the toughest decisions in the entire series and then shocks them with several brief and unexplained events before cutting away to the credits.
I’ll admit that even I was hoping for a more “happily ever after” ending than the one the game presented me with but after reading some of the responses from other fans, some rational, some irate, and some just downright hateful, and thinking a bit more on what exactly the end of the series entailed, I decided to throw my own opinion into the fray. And before I go any further I just want to make it clear this is solely my opinion and should be taken as such.

It’s about the journey, not the destination.

As confused as I was about the destruction of the Mass Relays and the Normandy’s crash landing on a strange new planet, as upset as I was that my Paragon Shepard didn’t get to spend the rest of his days in retirement settled down with Jack (he likes the crazy chicks) and sipping drinks at a bar with Garrus, as much as I couldn’t bear the thought of having to choose between Shepard’s life and the lives of the entire Geth race, I still found some comfort in the game’s conclusion.

Once that wave of emotion had finished washing over me I realized that the mere fact I was having such a strong reaction to these realizations was in itself proof that Bioware had created a masterfully told story and that I shouldn’t be stressing so much over its end. Over the course of these three games I had bonded with these characters, had helped shape their opinions, quell their fears, had given them friendship, camaraderie, love, and had received it in kind.
I know it may sound strange to be speaking thus about digital characters but the hundreds of strongly worded responses I have read from fellow fans prove that I’m not alone when I say I made a real and lasting connection with them. And it wasn’t just the characters I grew attached to either. From freeing the Rachni queen in Mass Effect 1 to dancing in a seedy nightclub while tracking a rogue Asari in Mass Effect 2, and ending the century-long blight of the Genophage in Mass Effect 3, I came to accept that the conclusion really isn’t what’s important; it’s the experiences leading up to it.

These and other events shaped who my Shepard was as both a person and as something much larger: a heroic example of the good in all of us. Seeing how his mere name could inspire confidence, valor, and hope even in people who he had never even met was a victory that mattered just as much to me as defeating the Reapers did. Fans who complain that all the hours they invested into the trilogy were “wasted” on a lackluster ending should stop and consider all that they accomplished during those hours and hopefully they’ll realize that it is in those experiences that the good ending truly lies.

Recently Bioware announced that over the summer they will be releasing a free “Extended Cut” DLC that will help clarify the game’s ending events through added and extended cutscenes. This announcement has brought with it its own share of debate and controversy as some believe that Bioware has “caved” to the ravening masses while others are genuinely excited to be getting the resolution they felt they were denied. Am I excited for these added scenes? Most definitely. But are a few extra minutes of footage at the end really what we need in order to feel satisfied with the series as a whole?

I say be happy with the time you spent with the game and take comfort in the knowledge that even though Shepard’s tale is (possibly) over, there’s still a limitless expanse of opportunity for Bioware and the world of Mass Effect. In the meantime I’ll be enjoying the fact that I can now devote myself entirely to my multiplayer Drell Adept because Drell are f*%@ing awesome.

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