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Why I Hate Mass Effect 3's Ending (Part 2)
SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT.
There is no difference essentially between the endings, since the same main cut-scene events happen in all of them. By the way, before I forget, the endings can be affected by performance in multiplayer, even though it was stated in a number of reviews (and I believe that the developers might have said it at one point, but don't take my word for it) that playing multiplayer isn't an essential. Well, apparently, if you play it enough, on your first playthrough, you'll be able to save Shepard if you do the “destroy” option. This is quite obviously important, right? Saving the character you created? Instead of killing them? This is an obvious attempt to sell more online passes, a deplorable business practice that senselessly attacks used gamers, and before you scroll down to the comments to berate me by defending “Project Ten Dollar,” all I have to say is that buying a used car from a reputable dealership (not a chop shop) should not have to include the price of the engine separately if the car is at standard fair market value, a number which includes all of it's essential parts. I'll let you ponder that. I digress again. The endings feature the Reapers, in the same location, either ascending, collapsing, or standing completely still, all on Earth, with the same two soldiers raising their arms in glee for two endings but remaining still for another. They also feature Joker running away from the battle like a coward in a Mass Relay. How he got there with the crew is beyond me; why would he run away from the battle in the first place, exactly? I don't remember Joker being a coward, or ever leaving his Commander behind. It is evident from Mass Effect 2 that he isn't afraid of death, so why take chase then? Was he saving the crew? Well, that wouldn't make sense, because the crew was on Earth when Shepard left, two of them joining you in running for the Conduit (or at least they were in the shuttle with you when you approached the Conduit. So what did they do, just sat there as you ran and waited for Joker to come scoop them up?). It must have taken him a while to reach the Charon Relay, too, so he left quite some time before Shepard even did one of her/his required endings. Oh, let me guess, DLC'll explain all of this. Pfft. They also feature the conveniently downed ship that clearly should have been destroyed by the force of the blast, in a convenient jungle that conveniently has air for them to breath and was not in any way affected by the surging explosion. And conveniently the ship wasn't torn to pieces like SR1 when it entered an atmosphere in terrible condition, making it the unlikely survivor of both a faster-than-fasther-than-light explosion and a desperate crash landing into an unknown atmosphere. You can make the argument that it survived the crash relatively intact because it's a better ship than it's predecessor, but I won't.
So what's the difference between the endings? The color of the explosion, the method behind Shepard's death as well as the aforementioned Reaper and human soldier animations. That's it. It's the same thing across the board. Worst part about it? It doesn't conclude a single plot strand from any of the games besides the Reaper invasion, and this is the most damning criticism of all. By the way, fusing organic/synthetic life makes the least amount of sense, but I guess that's filed under the “it's science fiction” defense.
For five years, I've (or we've) been crafting our Shepard(s) to perfection, having them make tough decisions not only to progress the story, but also to see how things would play out. For the most part, our questions were answered in the bevvy of subplots that reached conclusions through the course of Mass Effect 3 and even Mass Effect 2/1. So what am I arguing about, then? The fact that none of those plots will come to fruition/develop, and because of the nature of the ending, every action I took is seemingly for naught. I could have played an entirely different Shepard, and came to the same ending, which I will if I ever beat the game again. Preposterous for an RPG like this. What I did should be reflected well after the ending, not while the game is in progress. Makes this game more about the current than the past if they completely destroy means of travel. They had so much opportunity here to craft a large number of different endings whose images were reflective of your actions over the course of three damn games. No, I guess that was too hard for eight, nine, ten writers.
Since the Mass Relays are destroyed there is no longer the impending doom of an onslaught of Krogan taking over the galaxy, or Rachni for that matter. They'll starve right where they are because, bloop, they can't leave Earth. And they won't be able to get home for a while because the Relays are completely destroyed. You'll never see the fruits of your hard work come to in terms of aligning the Krogan and the Turians. As a matter of fact, there's little story to be had anymore. Why? Because while not every member of every species left their home planet (meaning they can populate their ranks again if they choose, since some stayed behind naturally), mass multi-species interaction will be no more unless someone wants to travel for decades to the Asari homeworld and die along the way (unless they're Asari, but isn't there fuel to consider?). And at the end of the day, isn't Mass Effect about multiple species interacting with one another, trying to make peace in a galaxy full of prejudice and hate? Hell, this was one of the main themes: acceptance, tolerance, perseverance really, and it's gone, wiped out in a non-sensical ending by God as a Machine. I guess we'll have multiple species on Earth, but Turians and Quarians can't eat the same things as humans, so they're clucked.
I knew that the ending would have to be grim. Let's be honest here. It was alluded to by the developers and in the games multiple times. There was no way to know what would happen in an all out war with unstoppable machines of massive size. Even the Crucible was an unknown during it's creation; no one was able to explain just exactly what it would do because it required the Catalyst, which was the basis for it's functionality, so it's perfectly fair to say that a grim ending was in store for us, no matter what we did. Also, the game is about sacrifice and the sovereignty of organic life. You can make the argument that the game peaked with the ending, when it proved that life prevails, that it is an unstoppable force in itself, that it takes sacrifice and commitment to see through the dark times. But you know what, that's extremely lame compared to the idea of having an expansive ending, and even to the theme of technological singularity, which is bulk of what Mass Effect was about. Man vs Machine, pure and simple. It wasn't about the human spirit, because if so, then it would be like any other action series centered around some dude with a five o'clock shadow. It was about Man vs Machine, and the prejudice behind it, the gray areas, and other racial discrepancies at that. Mass Effect 2 explored this idea even further with the introduction of Legion and Tali's gradual acceptance of his character (sucks if you gave him to Cerberus in Mass Effect 2). To see this thrown out of the window for a cliched story about sacrifice is just plain wrong for a series that had been so... pragmatic. It doesn't fit. Sure, Shepard is a person who would do much of anything to save the galaxy, but we had the opportunity to mold her/him to our liking. So how about we don't kill ourselves? Oh, too bad, game's about sacrifice, so you have to sacrifice yourself. And you have to kill the Illusive Man even if you're a paragon, otherwise you'll die and have to restart the same bland sequence of events. Brilliant writing is brilliant. So you force us to be someone who we might not want to be, and then have the audacity to make all three endings almost the exact same, minus a color swap akin to the first Mortal Kombat? Wow, what a deal. Oh, and connections with characters? Gone, replaced with an empty holographic video conference that doesn't do a damn thing to summarize my interactions with them.
Oh, and by the way, remember when I told you to remember (?) the rule about the Relays from Arrival DLC? Well, guess what? It doesn't apply here. The systems weren't destroyed at all, even though it was implicitly stated that, when a Relay is destroyed, so is the accompanying system, which means that all organic life should have been dead everywhere (the important ones). Every. Living. Thing. Who wrote this ending? Did they even research their own damn rules beforehand? For f***'s sake, if you played the Arrival DLC, Shepard has been grounded for killing off 300,000 Batarians because she/he blew up the Mass Relay! They forgot the rule mid-development then? Or will they say “the way they were destroyed at the end made it possible for the systems to thrive afterwards.” Bull.
So let's recap: Deus Ex Machina boy tells me to sacrifice myself, even though I might not want to, and when I do, the Relays are destroyed no matter what I choose, yet they don't destroy the systems they're in, leaving millions of combatants stranded in the Sol system with little hope of returning home, all the while any decision that I made does not reach a conclusion post war, my love interest is not properly mentioned (why isn't Liara crying after she knew I just blew myself to hell? DLC), Joker cowardly runs away with the Normandy, which miraculously picks up all crew members (or your love interest as well as one squad mate who came with you), while it survives two cataclysmic events that should have destroyed it outright, and to cap off the mustard sundae, we have a phoned in Buzz Aldrin to speak of “The Shepard” on some random planet? And the only differences between the endings is a few animations and color changes? I missed something, I know I did, but it's time to end this.
This is not a problem of entitlement: BioWare doesn't owe me a damn thing. Yes, I bought their games, but it was because I loved them, and wanted to continue my story. Never did they put a gun to my head and force me to play these games. The problem is it's continuity, it's abandonment of core elements, it's lack of structural cohesiveness. It's... the ending is just all wrong. The writing is wrong, the reasoning is wrong, the revelations are wrong, it's all plain wrong. The story now makes no sense with the conclusion in mind, making replay value plummet drastically after eight profiles in the first game. I'm glad there's backlash, because something happened to BioWare in the last few years, something very EA-like, and I hope they realize they are losing fans and respect simultaneously. They've sold out, and are more interested in the meathead 12 year old Gears fans than they are their RPG fanbase. They slapped together a trite ending, wrapped it in shrinkwrap, and counted their millions. I do not see care, dedication, or a want to conclude this trilogy with a more concerted effort. I see a conclusion tacked onto a good game to try and wrap things up without having to construct a multitude of finishes that address the universe they took so long to create. I do not deserve a better ending, no, and I won't petition for a new one either, because in all honesty, this left a taste in my mouth that'll never wash away. What am I entitled to, though? My opinion, and in my frank opinion, after three days contemplation, this conclusion fails at every level and insults the name “Mass Effect.” This ending achieves nothing, and then states that I need to continue Shepard's legend through DLC. BioWare, go f*** yourself.
TL;DR version, the ending sucks.