There is nothing wrong with a vocal fan-base. In fact, I encourage fans to be vocal about what they are passionate about. In the wake of Operation Rainfall’s success, I thought it would be appropriate to finally write, in detail, about my thoughts on the Mass Effect fan-base. While I may have ranted about this before, I feel like enough time has passed. We can now sit down and have a civil discussion about the Mass Effect 3 ending. Beware, this post is spoiler-heavy.
Alright, before we begin, I want to point out a few things. The first is that I am encouraging discussion. Many people will disagree with me. As long as you remain civil, I would love to hear your thoughts. Secondly, in order to begin this discussion, I will be referring to this video. The linked video is a very popular rant breaking down why the Mass Effect 3 ending is hated. I understand that this man does not speak for the entire fan-base, which is why I am encouraging discussion in the comments below.
So, let’s begin.
On March 6th, 2012, Bioware released the massively-anticipated Mass Effect 3. The game launched to critical praise. In fact, on the game’s official site, Bioware flaunts 75 perfect scores. It was not too much later that fans got their hands on the title, and evidendly, tore it to pieces. You don’t have to be a fan to know that the ending, apparently, sucks. Let’s take another look at why.
According to Jeremy Jahns, these points all contribute to the lackluster ending;
-The similarities between the 16+ endings
-The lack of choice
-The “perfect” ending’s extra clip
-The Allied forces being stranded
-The crew is stranded on an unknown planet
-The Normandy’s escape
Let’s dissect each of these arguments.
The similarities between the 16+ endings
This is the biggest issue that Jeremy has with Mass Effect 3. He spends the majority of the video complaining about the endings being too similar. Before I explain why there are not too similar, I will explain why this main argument is only said by a flock of sheep, following whatever is the cool thing to complain about.
Mass Effect 3 is a 25-30 hour game. Skipping most of the side quests will only narrow down the game by a couple of hours. When Mr. Jeremy Jahns completed the game for the first time, did he have any issues with it? There is no way he could have known that the endings were “too similar”, right? Unless, of course, he formed an opinion by watching videos online before beating the game himself. So when he first played the game, what was his issue? He couldn’t have known anything about the other endings. Most of his critiques have little to do with enjoying the content given. So he would have had to beat the game, or (since he referenced that he wants ME2 to affects ME3’s ending) the entire trilogy, multiple times before “hating” the game. Now, before hating on Mass Effect 3, ask yourself if you have played the game multiple times, or if you only complain because you saw something online? Because you didn’t take too much issue with the content in your Shepard’s story. I find that many complaining fans are only complaining because of what they read online. So, already, I am establishing that the game’s story is not the issue. The issue is that fans, many who would not even play the game a second time, expect more replay value. Complaining about the replay value of a 25 hour game with dozens and dozens of side quests, character fates, choices, and dlc is laughable, when you put it that way.
But let’s take a look at these similar endings, shall we? People complain that there are only three real endings, but these people are obviously wrong. IGN posted a chart that explains the differences depending on how you have played Mass Effect 3. Oh look, your choices did matter after all. Now, the cutscenes are somewhat similar, this is true. But that only matters to someone who doesn’t care about the story of Mass Effect. In one ending, Earth may be destroyed by The Reapers, the Normandy may not survive, but the Reapers are destroyed. In another ending, Shepard might live, destroy the Reapers, and your entire crew is safe. The actual story of the game is in the balance, whereas the fans complaining haven’t even acknowledged this. I am seriously getting the sense that those complaining don’t actually care for the series, considering that Mass Effect has always been about storytelling.
What about other great games of 2012 that boasted “choice”? Dishonored grew a fan base solely on its “freedom” in gameplay. It also boasted a two-tiered morality system like Mass Effect. Dishonored only has three endings, all of which are almost exactly the same on-screen. Yet no one took issue with this. What about the Walking Dead? The game explicitly says that it “tailors” itself to your choices. Everyone’s ending, however, was almost the exact same. The same outcome occurred in any play through. Double standards like these are why I can’t take Mass Effect 3 criticism seriously.
The lack of choice
Choice plays a big role in the Mass Effect trilogy. One aspect that makes Mass Effect so notable is the ability to transfer your save files. Jeremy claims that the game’s outcome rests on three choices, but sadly, he is just another misinformed fan. Having no knowledge on how the game’s ending mechanics work, one would definitely think that there are only 3 choices. However, Jeremy is wrong. First of all, you have made many choices playing the game, and those choices affect your Shepard’s universe. In my initial playthrough, the Genephage is cured. Rannoch is inhabited by Quarians. These are all choices I have made. It is sad that Bioware had to physically show these choices in the Extended Cut in order for you to understand the impact that you have had. Furthermore, how you have played the game changes the outcome. If you have an low Effective Military Strength, your ending will be different than someone who picks the same “blue, red or green” option but has a higher EMS. This is where the mechanics get interesting. Mass Effect 3 calculates your influence, as a Shepard, on the res of the universe. The greater your influence, the more positive your ending. While you chose between three choices, you made a choice on how you would play the game. Lastly, your paragon-rengade statue affects which choices you are even allowed to make at the end of the game. Its a very complicated system that many fans clearly don’t understand.
The perfect ending
This is simply a case of someone wanting to complain. The ambiguity of Shepard’s fate, assuming you have a high EMS and chose to destroy the Reapers, is nothing to complain about. There are literally thousands of films, games, and books that end ambiguously. Take a look at Inception. Inception is the most notable film with an ambiguous ending as of recently, and is widely considered an extraordinary film. Once again, this is simply the case of someone wanting to complain.
The Allied forces being stranding
Alas, we have the first complaint about the actual content of the story. This is almost a legitimate complaint, too. So bravo, you found something worthwhile to complain about. While I understand that the notion of the Allies stranded on Earth sounds ridiculous, it is not explicitly shown. Therefore, why take it as canon? The Stargazer implying otherwise is far more reliable of a source. If you are worried about the canon of Mass Effect, it is wise to take the Stargazer clip over what you assume happened to the Allies.
This is another example of complaining for the sake of complaining. Shepard dying doesn’t affect the position of the universe at the end of the game. Him living or dying does not make the game bad. His story and his character arc are complete. Therefore, his fate is up to Bioware. Stop complaining for the sake of complaining.
The crew is stranded on an unknown planet
It is truly a shame that people complained about this. This could have made for an interesting story for the next Mass Effect game. The fact that they are lost in the universe doesn’t affect the position of the universe, again, so fans should have given Bioware some wiggle-room. The next Mass Effect could have had a Requiem scenario, with the crew possibly finding some ancient artifact of relevance (or something along those lines). But no, fans had Bioware patch this up in the EC. What a shame.
The Normandy’s escape
Why, and how, did The Normandy escape Earth? I don’t know. Perhaps once Shepard made it to the portal, there was no reason to stand by its entrance. Perhaps something happened off-screen. This is not a plot hole. A plot hole is a contradiction between two events on screen. This is simply unexplained. Regardless, it has been patched up with the EC, so no more reasons to complain about this.
I have heard other complaints regarding the ending, such as the Star-Child and the ending’s pacing. So, now looking beyond the rant video, let’s look at these two “issues”.
Aliens taking the form of a familiar entity is nothing new to science fiction. I don’t really understand the complaints with the Star-Child. The child who was killed in the games introduction haunted Shepard throughout the game. Perhaps he projects his fears onto the Reapers. Perhaps the Reapers do it for him. This is intriguing, if anything. Why are fans taking issue with the Star-Child? Why do they want to shoot him? This makes no sense.
A friend of mine once told me that the ending sucked, not for its content, but for its pacing. At least this is an issue one could experience while playing the game, instead of looking up on the internet. I take no issue with the pacing, and this is why;
The notion of a boss-battle is incredibly dated, in my opinion. As gaming moves more towards a narrative-driven medium, I am happy to see that Bioware focused on story over gunplay for the last ten minutes of the game. This isn’t to say that there is no gameplay for the last few minutes. Mass Effect’s iconic dialogue system was still in affect. Furthermore, any fast-paced gunplay would not have hit the heights of the game’s ending, which was accompanied by one of the most powerful and emotional songs in the entire industry. I guess I just have had enough gameplay throughout the 30 hours that the ending was welcomed, not discouraged.
And there you have it. That’s my take on the ending to a brilliant game. Don’t like it? Tell my why in the comments below.