On the Mass Effect Ending

tumblr_m1joeh3nud1qhh6rao1_500A week after Mass Effect 3 was released, players throughout the Internet began ranting about how horrible the ending played out. Players said that the ending was too short, that they didn’t like Shepard’s death, that they didn’t like the Mass Relays being destroyed, or just a more general “it’s poorly written”. I honestly don’t think that any of these are problems. Those were creative choices made by Bioware. I wrote in my previous post about how the player has the choice of destroying, controlling, or synthesizing with the Reapers. Depending on their last choice, the Reapers die and the races reconstruct the galaxy slowly, the Reapers retreat and later return and help to rebuild, or everyone becomes a bio-synthetic and the Reapers give them the knowledge of all the previous races back to the beginning of time. As the Normandy escapes, it ends up stranded in some random planet. The crew step out of the Normandy and look out on a lush natural paradise (which, after gallivanting throughout the galaxy, looks rather unimpressive). The end.

NOTE: I’m pretending that the “it is all a story” thing doesn’t exist. I hated that.

I honestly had no problem with the length of the endings, or with the whole rebuilding and starting anew “Adam and Eve”-like implication, or with most of the things that people disliked. What I disliked was the lack of repercussions of the choices I made throughout all three games. Where is the game showing what the Raccni did during the fight against the Reapers? Where is the game acknowledging that the upgraded Geth were in the battle? Where is the game showing the Genophage-cured Krogan? Players do have a choice of not curing them, in which case where is the game showing what the Salarians did? In the Mass Effect 3 ending, the choices made throughout Mass Effect 1 and 2 are irrelevant at the last moment. Regardless of what each player chose to do, everyone who chooses to destroy the Reapers will get the same ending, everyone who chooses to control the Reapers will get the same ending, and everyone who chooses to synthesize with the Reapers will get the same ending. The ending doesn’t play out as the culmination of a 100 + hour saga filled with player choices. Instead, it plays out as “choose a generic ending”. This is what I disliked about the ending.

With such a lack of closure for the player choices (the story itself closes just fine), it’s no surprise that some are arguing that the “right” choice is to use the DLC option of refusing to do anything, or that everything that happens after the Reaper shoots Shepard is a hallucination.

At any rate, was the Mass Effect 3 ending as bad as some make it out to be? Depends. From a narrative standpoint, no. It was, in fact, a fairly good ending that provided closure to the overall conflict. From a player-centric perspective, it was possibly one of the worst endings of this console generation.


About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on August 11, 2013, in Video Game Commentary and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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