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Old 03-15-2012, 01:00 AM   #1
rwaddy2
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Why I hate Mass Effect 3's Ending

There be major SPOILERS ahead. This is going to be a long article folks, so I separated it into two parts. TL;DR version is in the next part.

Mass Effect has been the cornerstone gaming franchise of my decreasing virtual library since the release of one of my favorite games of all time, the original. This game marked the beginning of something personally special that would be definitive for not only RPG fans, but third person shooter fans, creating a hybrid that brought in people with uniquely distinct tastes in interactive entertainment. It was to be one of the first series, for many, that incorporated the idea of pure consequence, a story whose canon was dependent on how you chose to play, what allegiances you chose to squander, species you decided to end on a whim with the press of a button, among other variables. These choices would be reflected in further playthroughs with the individual character, minor details popping up in latter titles that ranged from nothing more than vague references to complete strands of dialogue lambasting or praising you for whatever route you took in a certain story arc, and even character's deaths. It was/is dynamic, to say the least, and the promise of all of this culminating to one final package was indeed a rich idea that begged to have a satisfyingly epic conclusion, one that was cohesive and tied in all or most of the loose ends created by your endless choices, regardless of your main character's fate.

This did not happen. At all. In the least bit. And as a hard core fan of the series, I'm here to tell you that the backlash the game's ending has been receiving is completely justified in every sense of the word.

But before I divulge the information, let me dispel any negative assumptions/doubts about my persona, reasonings, etc. I am a fan of the series, but I have always been critical about it. I've never outright praised any of the individual games even though all three (yes, I like the third game) have many a strong suit (the first is the best, if you were curious). Therefore, I am not blinded by my love for the inexistent compilation of complex processes. Everything I say is based purely off of facts, or at least they are to the best of my abilities (though I'll get emotional, but I'm not a journalist, and this isn't a news piece. This is an internet rant). To that end, I also do not view myself as entitled. When someone creates something as a luxury to my spare time, I technically have no say in how they should proceed with starting/finishing it if it does not impact my life in the least. Creative license is one of the most beautiful things about freedom, and Mass Effect is no different; what they do with their series is what they do with their series. I have no say in it, and I'm fine with that. I do not mind being along for the ride, just absorbing the minutia of their universe to waste time normally wasted on the computer is an acceptable prospect for me. However, this doesn't mean I can't have an opinion about certain facets, especially how it concluded. Finally, if you'd like to refer to me as whiny, bitchy, or arrogant, then so be it. I guess black people were being arrogant and bitchy back before 1964 when they wanted access to cleaner bathrooms, since, you know, clean bathrooms are only a luxury. I guess when I spend 60 hard earned dollars on something, I should automatically like it and not have any of those expectation things, and never be disappointed or have an individual stance. Fact of the matter is, this is an essay that contains harsh criticisms about one of the most important aspects of Mass Effect 3. I have every right as a human to express my opinions freely, and will do so uncensored. Oh, and am I too attached to my character? Um, ya. Mass Effect kind of encouraged you to be close to her/him. I wasn't playing with Marcus Fenix, I was playing with my own created Commander Shepard, so d'uh, I'd get attached. If there's a problem with any of these, the back button is one click away.

Now let's begin. First off, Deus Ex Machina in any creative media, if done correctly, can actually enhance the story to limitless boundaries and expand it in the blink of an eye, or at least save the story/writer's ass without making her/him seem like an amateur. Such is the case with movies like Star Wars, when Han Solo and Chewbacca save the day at the Death Star by sweeping in (credit to Colin Dodson for the reference). I unfortunately don't have a game whose use of Deus Ex Machina was good, because I honestly haven't ever seen it (I don't think). Anyway, back to the point. The Catalyst in Mass Effect 3 was the beginning of the major problem (not general problems, those came ten minutes earlier). It takes the form of a boy who died in the beginning and subsequently haunted your dreams. No indication for him appearing the way he is for Shepard (I can smell “Wake Up Shepard” DLC already on the horizon...) is given, despite the fact he is billions of years old; no explanation, no nothing, he's just there. Great. They could have at least thrown in the line “You see me as you would see God; that is, who you want it to be.” There, I just solved one of the games problems. Could they not see this issue storyboarding?

After a rather non-sensical discussion about the Catalyst's reasoning for the Reaper's... Ok, let me not skip this. The explanation for what's going on with the Reapers is abominable, to be nice. Here's the long and the short: Reapers were made in response to a pattern exhibited by organic life, in that organics would create intelligence machines, so cutting edge that they would develop their own mindsets and ambitions, and turn on their creators. The Reapers kill organics every 50,000 years to save organics from falling to their own synthetics. This is so fatuous that it warrants it's own AmazingAtheist segment. So, in Xzibit's terms, “Yo Dawg, I hear synthetics keep killing organics. So I made synthetics to kill organics so synthetics wouldn't kill organics.” Got that? Well, neither did I, because it makes absolutely no sense. I've heard the phrase “beating someone at their own game,” but this take it to another level entirely. So you're going to help organic life by destroying it constantly once they reach a certain height, instead of outright killing off the supposed nuisance in the first place? To stop a devious pattern, you turn a pattern into a pattern? This has been happening for a billion years too, according to the Catalyst. When were they going to realize that they were simply wasting their time?

Adding to this lack of logic, the Mass Relays are gateways to technological advances, and are solid reasons for why so many organics eventually find complex methods of creating artificial intelligence units. If the Reapers are out to destroy organics because their technology keeps destroying them, why do they keep the Relays around? Why wouldn't they just destroy them? And the Citadel? The Citadel isn't needed to sustain life, so why not just get rid of it? A good portion of technology wouldn't be possible without the help of the Citadel surely, since it's just a galactic hub. Exiting it from the face of the galaxy would cut off ties with other races, eliminating the idea of bringing every species together. Eliminating the idea of species interaction would be a big first step into eliminating sentient machines. Don't think this is true? Ok, which species developed the Normandy? Exactly. Granted, individual societies create their own machines, as the Quarians have and some race from the Prothean's time. Still, though, technology is helped by the Mass Relays. Why are they there? Yes, the Reapers need them to wipe out planets quickly, but if they would just kill the organics in the first place, they wouldn't need the damn Relays, which advance species to new levels of supremacy. Hell, humans have benefitted greatly from the Relays just because they ran into the Turians. So they need to die because the Reapers are simply too incompetent to see that the Relays themselves are the reason a good portion of technology even exists, or a solid reason that organics even come to rely on technology? It would have made more sense to write that the Reapers are just all powerful God-like machines, if this is the best they're going to do with an explanation. Plus, the idea behind destroying the Mass Relays makes sense, since destroying one would cause the system it's located in to be eradicated, obliterating all life forms in the regions and therefore decreasing the risk of organics even coming into prominence to destroy themselves in the first place with their own technologies. Stay with me now. This is all according to Arrival, DLC from Mass Effect 2, which is canon. Oh, wait... just wait. Hold on to that thought.

Alright, we get the explanation from the almost literal Deus Ex Machina, and then he presents us with three choices that border on insanity in their devising. It goes something like this: you are given three choices. The first it to control the Reapers and send them away from organic life (how this happens is not explained by the boy or when Shepard dies trying to do it), destroying the Mass Relays in the process. Ok. Second choice, you can destroy the Reapers and all other synthetic life, including yourself, which also destroys the Mass Relays. Great. Third choice, you can fuse together synthetic and organic life, destroying the Mass Relays in the process still. Um... alright. Wonderful. To be honest, I have to say I was expecting this sort of set-up, so it wasn't very disappointing (the set-up, not the ending itself). Mass Effect has always been about “choose this thing, choose that thing,” so this was simply an extension of a functionality. Nothing wrong with staying true to a game's inner-workings. What's the problem here is the game's complete abandonment of it's main motifs as well as a complete display of incompetency on the part of the writers. (Continued in Part 2)

Last edited by rwaddy2; 03-15-2012 at 10:30 AM. Reason: It was too long. I'm separating it into two parts. Also had to fix some minor issues. I'm not the best editor, so apologies.
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Old 03-15-2012, 09:47 AM   #2
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Re: Why I hate Mass Effect 3's Ending

without going too deep, problems here would be length- you're at almost 4,000 words. I think most articles on the site come down about 1,500 to 2,000 and then are broken up into parts if they're approved. So either re-edit for length and tighten up your points or submit it as a multi-part where you address different topics in each piece.

But, the larger, more obvious issue is that alot of people are still playing or haven't started or finished the title yet. I haven't played it yet, so I don't want to read your article, yet.

That's a problem, too. Makes editing and critiquing difficult.

It does, however bring to light a question that's been bugging me about this game and this series.. why is everyone scoring the ending so hard, rather than the gameplay- the journey?

That is to say, Mass Effect has, to me, always had this sortof episodic, whimsical and THROWN TOGETHER feel to it. I never had the feeling at any point, that there was a master storyteller with some surprises for me, some DEEPER plotting going on beyond the surface of things.

Am I alone in that?

Playing it with that in mind, I found ME2 to be a competent adventure title. At no point have I expected the game designers to suddenly become great writers and produce some complex literary experience that changes my impression of the gameplay. That is, a story to prop up duck and cover gunplay and a pretty generic levelling system.

So, is it a well-written enough ending for the game that it IS? Or is the usual problem of triple A presentation throwing our expectations off?
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Old 03-15-2012, 10:17 AM   #3
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Re: Why I hate Mass Effect 3's Ending

Thanks for commenting!

But to address the issues you brought up, one thing I won't do is tighten up my points. I stated that this would be a long article, and I meant it. It's not like other quick pieces; this is more personal, without being fanboy-biased. I'll tell you one thing, if the ending wasn't so bad the article wouldn't be so long. And I still missed a few points. I can, however, make it a two-parter while also editing my formet, so thanks for bringing that to my attention.

As for the second... well, I give a spolier alert, so that takes care of that. Is there an editor here who has played it?

Why are people giving the ending a hard time? Well, why do people give bad movies like "The Room" a hard time? Because those movies suck, and this ending sucks. It's not like I want to nit-pick, the endings are incompetent and lazy, and not a measure of what BioWare is capable of. And I do not agree with you on how it was written. Sure, at times, it felt hodge podge and cliched, but the fact of the matter is, your character had a lot of say in how things played out. That created a unique connection between Shepard and player, giving weight to decisions not felt in games like Halo. So during a bad stretch of writing, the connection to the character uplifted the negative, but never made me blind to the faults. Yes, it could be hit and miss, but I was thoroughly impressed with how they weaved so many points together.

For the last point, no. Even if the game were bad, this would still be a terrible ending. Even if the writing was always trite, this is a lazy hash-up. Triple-A has nothing to do with it. If ME wasn't triple A, I'd still expect a more cohesive ending.

Last edited by rwaddy2; 03-16-2012 at 01:21 PM.
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Old 03-15-2012, 10:29 AM   #4
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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.
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Old 03-15-2012, 07:01 PM   #5
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Re: Why I hate Mass Effect 3's Ending

You know there is more than one ending yes?

Including a perfect ending if you get 4,000 people in your army and your galatic readiness up to 100%
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Old 03-15-2012, 09:42 PM   #6
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Re: Why I hate Mass Effect 3's Ending

SPOILERS AHOI!

I just played through ME3 and I don't find the ending an abomination. What I do find annoying is that it doesn't really seem to matter all that much that I had galactic readiness of 96% and the entire fleet of the galaxy. I don't know what happens if the green bar is not full, but my guess is it always boils down to those 3 endings.

However: the Deus Ex Machina - it's not really a Deus Ex Machina, to be truthful. The Citadel has been around for a while after all. It's not that some god came from the skies and suddenly set things right. I was honestly not surprised by the fact that the citadel was part of the weapon design.

The ghost boy is weird and what he babbles as well. However, judging in what condition Shepard was when he/she beamed up I would actually say he/she was just hallucinating. Same as in his/her nightmares about the boy and in the end himself/herself burning.

p.s. I moved your second thread also in here, no reason to have 2 different threads for the same topic
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Old 03-16-2012, 05:49 AM   #7
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Re: Why I hate Mass Effect 3's Ending

The linked video has again massive spoilers for Mass Effect 3 and is pretty much what I thought as well after seeing the end:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tbghjn7_Byc
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Old 03-16-2012, 10:19 AM   #8
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Re: Why I hate Mass Effect 3's Ending

Hey Li-Ion, thanks for commenting!

While I do see how that he could be seen as a non Deus Ex Machina because of how long the Citadel has been present in the galaxy, I still believe that the ghostly figure just felt like a rushed denouement that didn't serve much of a purpose, other than to drive home the legitimately good argument that Shepard is indoctrinated/hallucinating.

Let's hope that you hit the nail on the head with your theory. I'd rather be boned by DLC entitled "The Truth" than stick with this asinine conclusion. Thanks for bringing the video to my attention!
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Old 03-16-2012, 10:21 AM   #9
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Re: Why I hate Mass Effect 3's Ending

@Mayhem thanks for commenting!

Yes, I am aware there are multiple endings. I think I mentioned the nature of the Galactic Readiness Level, but maybe I wasn't clear enough. I state somewhere that you can "save" Shepard. Thanks for letting me know!
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Old 03-16-2012, 12:24 PM   #10
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Re: Why I hate Mass Effect 3's Ending

SPOILERS
Quote:
Originally Posted by rwaddy2 View Post
While I do see how that he could be seen as a non Deus Ex Machina because of how long the Citadel has been present in the galaxy, I still believe that the ghostly figure just felt like a rushed denouement that didn't serve much of a purpose, other than to drive home the legitimately good argument that Shepard is indoctrinated/hallucinating.
One more point is that Bioware had a couple of games where they made a bold plot-twist and let players in the dark. Knights of the old Republic is famous for it's Revan-reveal. Even the blight in Dragon Age was not what it seemed at first. Games from Bioware also experimented a lot with dream sequences, so it's not that they'd never done something like this.

Think again about the whole last 10 minutes on the citadel: why can't you use any powers? How come Anderson is so far ahead, when he claims he came on the citadel after Shepard? Why do you hear only one shot when killing TIM but also Anderson falls over? Why does the ghost kid look and sound so similar to the boy in the dreams, a boy no one else has actually seen or noticed? How can Shepard actually breath there, since it suggests he stands where the crucible connected to the citadel, which happens to be in space?

It's just too many details as if it could be a simple oversight. Or they started putting LSD in the tap water at Bioware. I don't know what ending you choose and what your galaxy readiness was. I took the "Renegade" ending, killing the reapers and had readiness rating of 94% with over 5000 points. I got a scene which apparently not everyone got, where you see Shepard lying in rubble, breathing in to suggest he/she is still alive. But the rubble doesn't look like the structure of the citadel, it looks like London, where he was hit by Harbinger himself.

I put some of my thoughts in the other Mass Effect 3 thread on these boards:
http://www.gamecritics.com/forums/sh...606#post200606

It's only a interpretation, of course, but it fits with a lot of things I encountered while playing through all the 3 games. Especially considering reaper indoctrination and that Shepard was actually dead (don't know if you saw all the vidlogs on Sanctuary) and it's hinted that reaper technology was at least used in the same research lab.
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