Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Mass Effect 3 Ending Controversy

IF you're a Mass Effect fan, you've probably heard of the backlash by some gamers of Mass Effect 3's ending. The protests range from the rather dour end to the lack of differences in the ending to the story finish being unfulfilling. I'm going to tell you the real problems with the ending and why the protesters are ultimately wrong.

SPOILER ALERT. If you don't want to know the anything about the end to Mass Effect 3, stop reading. Additionally, I'm going to assume that if you want to know about what's wrong with the end and why the protesters are wrong that you have finished the game. That way I won't waste too much time explaining how your Shepard gets to the finish.


The Catalyst gives you three choices on how to stop the Reapers. To get all three choices, you must have a high enough Effective Military Strength. (EMS) This score must be higher than 2800 according to Mass Effect Wikipedia's article on the Priority: Earth mission. Catalyst opens three paths for you. By the way, there is a point of no return. If you go too far up one path you cannot change your mind. Here are the choices.

1. Destroy All Synthetic Life. This requires you to go up the right ramp. Shot the power conduit. That destroys it and cause an explosion. Red energy bolts from the Crucible. The Reapers are killed but so are the Geth. i'm also guessing that EDI won't make it since she does not come out of the wrecked Normandy. According to Mass Effect Wikipedia, if you have at least 4000 EMS score, Shepard survives or at least looks like it. Since you see his chest take a breath. Some label this the Renegade path and I can see that but the other two must vie for Paragon since one is more diplomatic than the other. Video below.

2. Control the Reapers. Ah, this is the Illusive Man's idea, only this time the Catalyst won't control you but allow you to control the Reapers. Go up the left path and access the control panel. You control the Reapers and order them to retreat. Blue energy bolts from the Crucible. You also end up dying in the process. Some consider this the Paragon ending. Video below.

3. Syntheis. Go down the middle and jump into the beam, combining your DNA with the... oh, I'm guessing with synthetic life. A green bolt of energy erupts from the Crucible. Reapers retreat. You have combined organic and synthetic life. Unfortunately, you die in the process. Now here's the best part. When Joker emerges from the crashed Normandy, he's with EDI. They look at the new planet and hug. I consider this the true Paragon ending since you create harmony among organic and synthetic life. Video below.


The first problem that I have with the ending is more with the writing than the actual ending. I don't have a problem with the somewhat sad endings. After all, didn't Halo: Reach end on a sad note? The exposition is lacking. First, Catalyst should tell the player how to execute the ending. For example, he could have said "Access the control panel on your left. You will control the Reapers." Yeah, they showed you what looked like Anderson shooting at the power conduit and the Illusive Man accessing the control panel. Still, it was confusing. I went to explore and was locked into an unwanted decision.

Second, the lack of exposition with the Normandy is a problem. I thought the bolt of energy from the Crucible only effected Reaper forces. Still, there's a scene where Joker is piloting the ship and trying to get her out of the way of the energy bolt. Okay. But why not have some dialogue to tell us what's happening. Then there should be a scene and dialogue where he makes jump to light speed and crashes the ship on a planet not earth.

Third, the game penalizes the single player. Look, if you want the ending where Shepard might live, you have to get a high EMS number. EMS is calculated by multiplying War Assets times the Readiness rating. Multiplayer gamers can get the Readiness rating up. For single player, your Readiness rating will be at 50 per cent. Obviously, the higher the Readiness rating the higher the EMS number. A single player must depend on collecting as many War Assets as possible.

If BioWare were thinking about changing anything, it's in this area. More exposition would be nice. And find a way for single players to get higher EMS scores.


I believe video games are art. The Mass Effect series is an epic game series. But more importantly, it's a platform to tell a story. It's no different than a science fiction novel. This is writer Mac Walters game or if you will, novel. While he must respect his audience, he must be allowed to tell his story free from pressure of the masses. That way, his ideas have integrity.

There is nothing wrong with the way Mass Effect 3 ended. The whole game had a feel of desperation. Why? The Reapers were romping all over the galaxy and it seems nothing could stop them. The protesters can't honestly think that a sad ending may not happen. Think about how diminished Casablanca would be if the audience demanded Ilsa go with Rick. I commend Walters and BioWare for not pandering for the need for a Hollywood happy ending.

As for the lack of choices in the ending, I urge those protesters to try all three endings. The Renegade ending may kill all the Reapers but it eliminates the Geth. Controlling the Reapers may not stop the problem in the future. And if you combine synthetic life with organic, you get a new galaxy of new life forms. Those are three endings with different consequences.

I liked the ending. The world was in real trouble. It looks like civilized life was over. And over for many planets. You or Shepard did something heroic. He sacrificed himself for the greater good. Check out the hopeful epilogue with the Stargazer and the little boy. (End of the first video above.) I love the use of the original, meditative music from the first Mass Effect. It has a lovely warmth. Perhaps that is the happy end that some of you want.

No comments: