The End: My Thoughts on Mass Effect 3’s Ending

I know, I’m a little late to the party with this.  With everyone else throwing their two cents in and even battering the game’s ending with things like facebook petitions, I figured it was time to weigh in with my take on the ending to Mass Effect 3.  Having just recently beaten it, I do have some fresh thoughts.  I get pretty long winded so buckle up.

Obviously, based on the article title alone, this post will be filled with spoilers to Mass Effect 3 so if you’re still playing or have yet to, I’d recommend checking this out at a later date after you’re done with it.  Tread carefully below the break.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

The ending to Mass Effect is extremely complicated and at the same time, very simple.  I think personally for me, I feel conflicted.  I’m not filled with rage nor do I feel satisfied with how everything went down.  While most people seem to have conflict with the story aspect of the ending, mine lays more with how it was presented to us.  But let me backtrack first and give you some insight.

I loved Mass Effect 3.  Sure, it had its share of glitches, off behavior, and poor explanations, but ultimately, it was a fantastic experience.  BioWare did a wonderful job trying to tie in all loose ends and balancing the large amount of player choice from the first two games.  The tension the rises in the last mission when you’re fighting in London to take back Earth and bring down a Reaper Destroyer guarding the Citadel entrance point is virtually unmatched.  Being swarmed by Reaper forces as you race to fire off the final two Thanix rockets at the Reaper knowing that life as you know it depends on this moment is very powerful. 

Then, seeing the final push to enter the Citadel just as Harbinger and a fleet of Reapers touch down and start decimating the field is pulse pounding.  You generally feel in danger during these moments, and seeing Shepard get hit just before he reaches the gate is literally unreal.  One after another, BioWare is hitting you with everything they have and are unrelenting in the highs.  The next moments that transpire are some of the most interesting that the game can throw at you. 

Shepard somehow survives the blast and as he stumbles up, you get a good look at how wrecked he is.  Covered in gashes, limping, and all around in bad shape, you see that the Reapers take back to the skies.  Slowly moving towards the gate, you’re attacked by Husks and a lone shielded Marauder.  Time slows down, giving you enough time to take them out with just your pistol.  As you enter the Citadel, Anderson contacts you saying he made it in as well.  Though he’s ahead of you, you never see him until the final room.  The Citadel looks like a Collector base with bodies piled high eventually giving way to a high-tech section leading into the final terminal room.  It’s a section of the Citadel we’ve never seen.

The Illusive Man catches up with Anderson and Shepard, only this time, he’s looking a lot like Saren did as he’s now decked out in Reaper tech.  Anderson tries to appeal to you to resist, while the Illusive Man demonstrates his power by convincing you to join them.  It’s up to you what happens next.  For me?  I killed the Illusive Man before he could finish off Anderson.  We sat there, looking out at the Earth.  Finally a repreave from the intensity of the last 10 minutes.  Things feel peaceful once again and you’re allowed to relax.

Only thing was, The Crucible never fired.  With one last push, Shepard crawls towards the computer terminal only to fall before getting there.  At this point, your heart sinks and you feel like hope is lost.  Ah, but not yet!  Your body is lifted by a platform to a higher section where you are greeted by The Catalyst, who controls the Reapers.  He takes the form of the little boy who you witness die at the start of the game.  He gives you three options, Destroy the Reapers, which will kill all synthetic life including the Geth, Control the Reapers, which is what the Illusive Man wanted, and the third option would be to merge Organics and Synthetics into one life form.  All three would kill the Commander.  I chose to Destroy the Reapers in this case. 

Here in lies the issue I have.  The very end wasn’t organic to your play style.  No matter how you played the three games (or any of them), you’re always given the main three options at the end.  It was set up very close to how Deus Ex: Human Revolution ended.  It’s up to you.  Maybe some of you liked that option, but I felt like the choices that I made didn’t matter at this end segment.  I would have liked to see a more organic and dynamic ending based on what you’ve done/have not done at this point rather than letting the game let me pick how I wanted to end things. 

I’ve recently watched a video made by someone detailing how Shepard was fighting Reaper Indoctrination within Mass Effect 3 and the entire ending sequence of him getting up and going to the Citadel is him battling for control.  The Illusive Man represents his indoctrinated side, while Anderson is his willpower and mental toughness.  The person makes some really detailed and interesting points.  I highly recommend watching this as the more I think about it, the more I can see how it fits.  The aspect where the Paragon/Renegade colors are switched in the final decision chamber to try to confuse Shepard is ingenious and something I wouldn’t have thought of.  There are some really well made points and it really makes you think.  Here’s the video in case you’re curious:

I know they won’t, but I feel like BioWare needs to shed some light on the ending.  I get the feeling that it isn’t as cut and dry as it looked.  I’m sure they don’t want to come out and explain everything for fear of pissing another group of people off who interpreted it a different way.  I still have so many questions due to the fact that I feel they rushed things a bit.  Does your squad survive Harbinger’s attack as you sprint towards the Citadel beam?  I’ve heard a ton of different stories including that they don’t actually run with you and you can see them if you look back to that it depends on what happened during the final mission in Mass Effect 2.  Being the final game (probably not, Shepard’s body takes a breath in the best ending) I would have liked to see more detail covered to provide some closure.  With the Mass Relays destroyed, most of the species are now stuck on Earth.  Joker and the Normandy crew are also stranded on a planet after trying to outrun the Citadel blast.  Do they know that I even died?  I didn’t see anyone shed any tears for me.  There’s a ton still at play here.  Who knows, maybe that was the point.

They also didn’t do a great job explaining how War Assets and the Galaxy at War played into the ending sequence.  I had to do some research after the fact to figure out how it came into play.  While you have the 3 main endings, depending on the readiness rating and the number of forces you have in play still, there are slight variations to the endings, bringing the complete number to 7 in total.  These things also impact how many of your crew members survive, what happens to the Earth, and in a very small %, if Shepard lives or dies.  So for those of you who want the best ending, grab as many war assets as you can.  The Reapers shred the Sword, Shield, and Hammer forces so the more you have, the better the ending you’ll get.

Another thing I thought was really cheesy?  The whole grandfather/Young Child dialogue after the credits rolled.  Essentially, you see the outlines of an older man and a young boy looking up at the night sky.  The young boy wants the old man to tell him another story about “The Shepard”.  Apparently, we’ve either been playing a story being told by that old man (similar to what they did with Dragon Age 2 to a degree) or Shepard is so legendary that in the far distant future, races are still talking about him.  Who knows, maybe a mix of both.  Still though, was this needed?  We know Shepard is badass and using an old man telling a story to reinforce that just feels out-of-place. 

I am curious to see where things go from here.  Like I mentioned above, there’s a ton of variables still in play.  Obviously, being a huge franchise for both BioWare and EA, we have not seen the last of this universe and probably the good Commander.  All in all, I’m hoping BioWare doesn’t water down the DLC ending they’re planning to appease fans.  It would totally rip out the emotional tone of the game if everyone survived, the Reapers leave, and the sun comes out on Earth as everyone cheers and high fives.  It just doesn’t fit.  Through all of my complaints, I have to admit that it was interesting experiencing an ending that wasn’t all happy and joyous.  The three options you’re given all have major drawbacks and have major impacts on the galaxy.  Things have changed significantly permanently, and that’s somewhat depressing.  Still, kudos to BioWare and the work they put in on this franchise.  It was a huge task and they knocked it out of the park.  It’s certainly safe to say, that the game itself will stay with me for a long time and that’s the mark of a quality title.

So these are my thoughts and opinions on the matter, but I’m really curious to hear yours.  What do yuo think, did the ending make you smoulder with rage, shed a tear of joy, or leave you underwhelmed?  Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

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