Hey person reading this. If you haven’t played the game and fully intend to, don’t read this. I have a medical problem that makes it impossible for me to avoid spoilers. It’s ok if you read it mom. Most of this won’t make sense to you anyway.
So. Mass Effect 3 came out. It came out on March 6th. I started playing it on the 7th, and I beat it on the 11th. So, let me not mince words: Mass Effect 3 is good. Fuck that, Mass Effect 3 is fantastic. It was an emotional roller coaster and I enjoyed pretty much every minute of it. I shouted at plot developments (Kaidan getting seriously injured on Mars), laughed at the self-referential umor (Jack mentioning how Shep can’t dance, Victus saying how Garrus needed to do some “calibrations”), I cheered (finally, after everything that happened between ME1 and ME3, Kaidan and my Shep were able to get together and admit their love for each other) and damn did I cry (Mordin’s sacrifice was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve seen in a video game… I’d even say it was one of the most beautifully sad moments I ever saw in any form of narration), and I was left dumbfounded (the ending).
This is such a masterful game, with so much attention to detail that I am playing through it a second time, and likely a third or fourth, etc… like with my other ME games. And it’s not only because I’m crazy and have the game on the XBox and PC, but it’s because I really care about this narrative. I re-read books all the time, watch the same movie s over and over. So it’s the same for a handful of video games, and three of them are in the same series, and 6 of these games are made by BioWare: KotOR, DA, DA2, and the ME Series.
There are some graphical glitches which I’m sure BW is aware of already, the funniest for me is when I was in Liara’s room, talking, when Glyph interrupts and they both just continue their conversation staring at Glyph, and a few times when I was talking to an empty space where a character should be. But I don’t consider that too problematic. What I DID consider problematic, and it’s a problem I had with the last ME game, and the DA game: combat is a big ol’ clusterfuck.
I was promised enemy AI that would be shifting tactics (early days I know) and battles that require more tactics. Well… BioWare… please. Please listen to this carefully. Sending out a millin enemies from all directions is not tactical. It is a clusterfuck that my brain just, honestly, can’t handle. I’m not much of an FPS player, so I played on normal (I tried casual but casual seemed too easy, making the battles have no tension), and I still couldn’t always manage to react to what was going on. Not to mention it took me to end game to figure out how to see that little map with the enemy. And yes, it is there from the beginning of the game, and no I didn’t notice it. Shut up.
But what I mean is, while I appreciate the…”realism” about it (ue: you’re in a warzone, enemies don’t play nice)…I was constantly flustered and would annoyed because sometimes my deaths felt cheap.
My other problem with ME3 is how, very slightly railroaded I feel. There isn’t enough, for my taste, of the dialogue wheel. Ii loved the dialogue wheel, and it’s that Role Playing experience that drew me to Mass Effect in the first place (not the “customization” or whatever other people were complaining about because those things were never part of a Role Playing experience for me – building the character by the thing s/he says and does is what I like). Sometimes it seems like Shep just keeps talking when in other games it was paced so that I should have been able to reply.
But by the end of Act 1, that dialogue wheel problem goes away really, I got used to ME3’s dialogue options, and there are plenty of them, and I reveled in it. The writing in this is no less than excellent, making me tear up when Thane died, and when it looked like Grunt was going to die fighting the hordes of rachni-husk-things (I chose to save the Rachni Queen because I did it in the first game). Those are two characters in ME2 that I thought: Yeah, you’re ok I guess. Buuuut I’m going to ignore you.
The Geth-Quarian revelation was amazing.
And let me tell you, the one thing the BW has done, repeatedly, extremely well, is the “Goodbye Scene”. You know, when either you go up to your team mates, or they come up to you, and you all know you’re going into a battle that it seems like you can’t win, and you say goodbye. DA sticks out in my mind as being super emotional. This is no different. When Kaidan was saying goodbye, the small talk between him and my shep broke my heart. When my shep tells Garrus “If I’m at the bar before you, I’ll be looking down, watching your back”, I choked up. When Liara joins minds and shares memories one last time, and leans her head on my shep’s shoulder, I was in tears by then. Everything was compounded and compounded, so that every single emotion was running through my body:
Fear, that Shep would die, Anger at those goddamn reapers, hope that we could win, and shep could walk away from this, sadness that shep may never see these people again, and she knows it, and downright heartbroken that she and Kaidan may never actually get to live out their days together.
At that moment, when running to the conduit, everything mattered.
And now for the not so good part. The ending sequence. After beating it, and choosing the Destroy ending (what can I say, my Shep was a Sole Survivor, and that was the one option where it seemed like there was at least some chance of survivng, and some chance is better than no chance), I had to just honestly think about it. It felt…jarring. As many fans have been ranting about, the ending comes in three flavors with small variations on it, and whether you choose to destroy the reapers, control the reapers, or synthesize synthetics and organics into a new stage of evolution, the mass relays are destroyed, everyone is stranded, if not on the planets they were in, then at least the systems (like Sol, for instance), and I have no idea what the heck is going on with the planet that the Normandy crash lands on, or why it’s trying to escape in the first place, or how all my crew, including the people I took with me on the final run, got on there.
Now, to be clear: I have no problem with the noble sacrifice. A hero’s arch can often lead to the noble sacrifice, and it feels bittersweet but well earned.
My problem is my Shep, as great as she is, is not the type to lay down her life to save the galaxy. I, admittedly, decided she was more selfish than selfless, with a narrow field of vision. Yes, she can see the big picture – save the galaxy, save earth – but she’s the type that focuses on her core objective – save the earth, save the galaxy. And, sadly, she’s just not into the noble sacrifice. If she can’t die of old age, she wants to die fighting. Now, maybe if you have enough EMS, She DOES live, as shown by that 20 second clip of someone (a male version and a female version) wearing N7 armor among the rubble of somewhere, takes a breath in. I’m ok with that. But that leads to questions, and that leads to questions and that leads to even more questions!
And even if she is dead. Well, that sucks, but I can get over that, there’s a war on, and your life has always been on the line. But what I can’t get over is the complete lack of closure. What happens to all the people I saved? What happens on Tuchanka? Are there baby Krogans? How about the Geth and the Quarians? Do they stay besties? What happens to Kaidan?! The man my Shep loved and stayed loyal to even AFTER Horizon went down that way it did. What does he do after he knows I’ve died for a second time? How does he move on? What about Liara’s memory capsule thing? Does it spread out everywhere? I just don’t know how any of my actions panned out, and because I don’t know how my actions effected anything, making the potential death of my Shep just seem worthless. Sure, the reapers are gone, yay… but what about the people I actually care about? Because as wide a scope as the ME Series has, as much as the characters fight for the futures of billions of organics across the galaxy, the story is very personal. I’ve just told you things I ascribe to MY Shepard. And these are NOT the same things you will ascribe to yours. You may think Kaidan is a big weenie, and let him die on Virmire, while romancing Liara, and cheating on her with Garrus, who is a paragon and believes in the noble sacrifice and is fighting for the galaxy and not just earth, and that is just as legitimate as my version, and the version who killed Maelon, or didn’t punch that reporter in the face. And all of those revolve around personal choices. Some hard choices at that. There are farther reaching consequences than you realize when you’re just trying to get your teammates to get along. Your crew, the people on the Normandy, they’re your family, they are the people that feel the consequences first, and for some people (my shep) this is what matters most. I spent so much time with these people that what happens to them MATTERS.
So, no I am not in love with the ending. I didn’t know what was going on, or why I could tell that Kidalyst that they were wrong. Synthetics and organics CAN coexist peacefully, The geth and quarians (having solved their problem) for example. And EDI. EDI did not kill the inferior organics, she came to care for them. The Geth were not responsible for warring against the quarians, it was the quarians who started the war! Why, then, am I forced to give into the Kidalysts analysis of the situation: Kidalyst controls the reapers, Kidalyst should see that there can be peace between organics and synthetics, Shepard makes it see that, and Kidalyst goes: Oh, ok… I’ll send them away forever. Instead Kidalyst gives you the synthesis option as a reqard for doing all those good things.
There are some other problems, but trust me, I don’t need to tell you about them. Just google “Mass Effect 3 ending bad” and you’ll find stuff.
But is it bad? I mean… yes. It is. If we take everything we’ve just seen at face value, it is bad, I’m sorry everyone who says it’s good, it’s just bad writing with no payoff. It’s Deus Ex Machina, with the illusion of choice where things are only somewhat better in the Synthesis ending (assuming Joker and EDI getting to be together is what you really wanted out of the game). There are plot holes, and a complete turn around of what the entire series has been up to this point: personal choice.
But I don’t think we are meant to take the ending sequence literally. Yes I do completely buy into the hallucination/indoctrination theory, and I don’t think it’s wrong to as some detractors from this particular reading of the ending seems to say. For one, the ending is vague at best, which means people can see what they choose to see in it. I have no problems with ambiguous endings personally (*ahem* well written ones) – when things are as they seem and are left off with closure but no answers, that’s fine.
So if someone is allowed to love the ending then I am allowed to read into an unsatisfying ending so that it satisfies me.
My own reading into the ending involves the “evidence” pulled from the thread on the BSM forum “Was the ending a hallucination”, and I love that thread. it is ridiculously long and full of the same information repeated over and over again, and enthusiastic fans who got together to make banners and signatures, and a centralized “movement” to change the ending. On internet, you amuse me so. I don’t mean to sound patronizing about it – these are people, just like myself, who are discontent with the ending, and the passion they have is just really entertaining. It makes me feel old that I’m not willing to put my name on the petition or join the FB page but rather register my discontent on this blog and with a nicely drafted email to BW that I will send as soon as I figure out where to send it.
I will continue on this in a second, but let me just state: read the first post in that thread, and my own addition is that: In dreams words tend to appear jumbled and backwards, such as the 1M1 images seen on the Citadel that are mirrored on the opposite side. Colors also don’t always represent what they do in real life, so the renegade/paragon options could seem reversed in color coding.
Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams says that dreams are wish fulfillment (a simplistic reading of it, yes BUT… I took psych classes 7 years ago when I thought I would be a psych major so I don’t remember much about that time and I’m going by memory here), and not only does Shep get to a version of that child that gets to live indefinitely, s’he is also given a third choice in how to resolve everything: an option that doesn’t fuck someone over. How many times has s/he been given that? 0-ish. Save the council but decimate the fleet. Save Kaidan, lose Ashley. Gain Salarian support, fuck over the Krogans. This is the one instance where Shep is finally given a choice where everyone can live together in some sort of utopia. What else would Shepard want?
I use Freud there because, simply, SHep has repeated dreams of a burning child, and in Interpretation of Dreams, Freud goes back to a dream of a burning child – and while Freud’s case, and Shep’s dream are two very different episodes, the imagery struck me and made me go back to that, which made me go into the whole dream theory thing.
Some people see this as Harbinger trying to Indoctrinate Shepard. And sure. I completely buy that that’s possible. If it is Shep that wakes up in the rubble at the end of the Destroy Ending (as long as your EMS is >4000), then it could very well be a trippy dream going on in someone who was just knocked out, under a lot of stress, and is constantly having their mind fucked with.
But should BioWare “fix” the ending. I don’t think so… or at least, I feel like that wording is wrong. BioWare shouldn’t have to do anything. I would like them to be less cryptic about the ending, and let us know if everything from the conduit onward is literal or symbolic. If they’re planning more DLC involving the ending. Etc… but “fix” it? No. I’m not convinced it’s broken. I’m not convinced it was rushed. There is a lot of attention to detail throughout the whole game, and the idea that they would rush what would be the most important part of this series seems… like someone’s pissed off and isn’t thinking that argument through. Clarification, yes. Many of us would like that. And it can be clarified while still being left ambiguous as to the fate of Shep, but just some clarification and, more importantly, closure with our team.
One of the more entertianing things I’ve seen is that the last, say 15 minutes of ME3 ruined the entire series for them. I think that’s ridiculous guys. Sure, I don’t like the ending. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the rest of it. It’s like in Serenity. I don’t like the ending either (namely, Wash dies, and I refuse to accept that canon), so I stop watching it after they escape from Miranda.
Is it the same with Mass Effect? Will I stop playing once I reach the decision point? I don’t know. But that one moment doesn’t spoil the series for me, and you people need to stop over-reacting.
Also, to the people who think the ones calling for a fi are being entitled… Welll… yes and no. Yes, we are acting entitled that we deserve a better ending. But we were promised something different than what we got. I do think some people are over-reacting, but I don’t think shouting over us about how we’re being irrational and entitled makes it any better.
Also, the redditt post about the ending? While I don’t particularly like that reading of it (because it’s too high concept for my tastes), I don’t think it’s any more or less right that the dream/hallucination/indoctrination theory going around, or reading it literally.
A final point. I do think that, if ME3 is the first game in the series you play, that the ending is fine because there’s a lack of emotional investment that the people who have been playing since ME1 have. Not having played through the series, and learn about the universe in the same way we did, they don’t have the same expectations for the ending we do, and I can completely understand how someone can be satisfied with that.
I can also say that I am very used to the end of a game or series not being everything I had hoped. Endings to video games, especially, usually seem a little weak. And I’m not sure that the ending to ME3 could ever be as good as all the hope I piled on top of it. So, it’s ok. I still love the game and the series. And when they release DLC I will snatch it up and play it and probably love it.