So. Let’s talk about Mass Effect 3, shall we? I know I’m a week or two late, but like I’ve had work to do and then that thing happened last week and I’ve only just gotten around to completing it Monday night. In a word: unsatisfying. Which is weird because I enjoyed every single second of that game, right up until you go into the Citadel for the finale – which according to my save data happened at 45 Hours and 51 minutes. That’s nearly 46 hours of awesome followed by ten minutes of “oh”. Considering how much effort you put into that game it could almost be a slap in face.
Now, I’m no stranger to ‘er, what?’ endings – Battlestar Galactica I thought handled it as well as it could, and I liked that ending. The ending to Joe Haldeman’s Forever Peace is similar to what Mass Effect 3 has seemingly tried to do – I won’t go into details, but in many ways it does way more, and yet far less than Mass Effect 3‘s ‘ending’, and I was still satisfied. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that I only had to read one book to get there, as opposed to playing through three games, but my point is it’s not the fact that they introduced a seemingly all powerful being right at the very end that’s responsible for everything which is why it was unsatisfying – it’s the way it was handled.
Assuming this is the ‘real’ ending, the framework there could still be interesting, it just needed more exposition: some cataclysmic event persuaded say the ‘first’ races that something like this should never happen again, so they create an army of all powerful machines to ‘cull’ the galaxy every 50,000 years to make way for the newer, younger races, and so the cycle goes. “All this has happened before, and all this shall happen again”, as Battlestar Galactica puts it – the ChildIllusion at the end, an avatar of this ideal and probably the remnant of whoever’s idea it was in the first place, again, that’s fine. The Illusion Baltar/Number Six in BSG, the Enigmatic Voice of God from Forever Peace… that all works fine for me. IF that’s what it is. However…
Now, interestingly there’s a popular theory circulating around about the ending not being the ‘real’ ending. What this video, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, and give this article a read to, as it analyses that theory as well as the current ending in general. If the indoctrination theory (or a similar result – the supporting evidence could point to a number of things) turns out to be true, then I take all of this back – bravo Bioware. However, there’s still the fact that, as of yet, we are left with the ending as it is, so regardless of what happens next, Bioware still presented us wither something that is either quite possible the most unsatisfying ending ever, or a poor the worst delivery of an ending ever (even if the ‘real’ ending is far better).
It still doesn’t account for things like the Normandy crash landing on that planet, because if there is something going on here, I don’t really see the point including those scenes, unless it’s to feed the illusion that this is the real ending. But then it’s so poor I don’t see why you would do that either. The thing that upset me the most though is that, regardless of what’s real, or what’s not, I didn’t get what I was promised. Not sure how familiar you guys are with the choices, but I chose the Synthesis ending as I wanted to see what that would look like. They didn’t show me what that would look like, so that was kind of annoying.
Interestingly though, I have a save file for the start of that ending sequence, so I can go back and change which ending I choose if I want. I probably will, because if rumours are true then the ‘Destroy’ option is the one you want to be choosing anyway. So we’ll see.
Whilst I’m here, a couple of other general points that struck me:
* Kai Leng – this character should have been Ashley or Kaiden, whichever one died in Mass Effect 1. Not only would it be a perfect addition to the whole stand-off they developed between Shepard and the alive one (which was over a bit too quickly for my liking, but at least you could see it brewing), it would have really played on the fact that Shepard was straining under the weight of all those who had died. You hear Kaiden’s (and Ashley’s, I assume) voice during the nightmare sequences, so it would have been a nice transition for Shepard’s regrets to be literally thrown in his face like that.
Plus, I don’t really like the whole idea of adding in someone that brand-new at this stage anyway – Kai Leng seems to have an unjustifiable amount of hatred for you considering you’ve never met him, and the only method the game has to try and balance it out is via Anderson, as in the book Ascension (which is where Kai Leng comes from), it’s pretty much Anderson vs. Kai Leng.
* The Citadel – is no one going to ask how the Citadel was attacked, taken over, and then physically moved across the galaxy to earth in the space of what could only be a few hours?
* Limitations of the Formula – It’s sad, but in some cases the formula for the franchise – i.e. the decisions that have far reaching consequences – seems to have limited them slightly when it comes to the first game. A lot of time is given to Liara, and Kaiden/Ashley, as they were always going to be in the third game. However other characters get proportionately less time, with the odd exception of Garrus who gets a truck load of time – but then I think its set up so that it’s highly unlikely that he dies. Even Kaiden/Ashley’s screen time gets dramatically reduced after the Cerberus Coup (assuming you’re not romancing them), as it’s possible for them to die during the coup. With all these different combinations, Bioware obviously had to choose carefully where to devote resources, but in some pits it’s disappointing how little there is. (Wrex for example, despite being there from the beginning, doesn’t get much time. Tali, who was my romance option, didn’t get as much time as I thought she would) Speaking of screen time…
* Legion – He remains one of the best and most interesting characters in the series, and it’s a shame he couldn’t have done more. Like ME2, Legion appears late in ME3, and whilst to be fair he’s there right up until you finish the Quarian segment, I still wished we’d had more time with him. His mission where you infiltrate a Geth server (i.e. go into cyberspace) is, like Operation: Overlord, one of my favourite missions. It’s different and interesting, much like Legion himself (itself, whatever).
* The Crucible – smelled of Deus Ex Machina from the moment I heard of it and given the context of the ending (what it is now, what it could be etc…) its very existence doesn’t even make sense.
I’ll think I’ll stop there for now – I’m rambling and in danger of not making much sense myself. You get the idea I hope, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what Bioware’s next move is.
Oh… spoilers, by the way.