Why the original Mass Effect 3 endings are rancid

I saw a tweet today where someone couldn’t understand why so many think the end of Mass Effect 3 is bad, and they asked for someone to explain it to them. This is my acceptance of that challenge.

Imagine a world where the only Star Wars movies that ever came out were the original trilogy. In this world, there’s no such thing as the Empire or the Emperor. The primary adversary is Darth Vader, who commands the entire fleet, Death Stars, everything. He’s the driving force behind the enemy (Reapers for instance), and Luke is our hero (Shep for instance). This is the story through 2 and a half movies.

Then, suddenly, about halfway through Return of the Jedi they start dropping hints that Darth Vader isn’t in charge. But these hints are so subtle, and few, that they don’t really drive the narrative. Then, in the last 15 minutes of Return of the Jedi, suddenly we find out that Vader is just a puppet. Here’s the Emperor, and he’s untouchable. Our hero can’t fight him. All Luke can do is either:

1) Become the new Darth Vader, and perhaps attempt to use that power for good? Maybe? If he doesn’t end up being controlled by the Emperor in the end? Who knows? Do you really believe the Emperor (Starchild) is honest and trustworthy?;

2) Force every creature in the galaxy to become half Luke and half Darth Vader, without their consent or knowledge or desire (DNA rape in other words);

or 3) Destroy the Death Star and Imperial Fleet, but it ends up destroying some of the Rebel fleet and all their droids as well.

There’s not much of a sense of triumph at the end. No sense of: YES! Everything we’ve been driving towards for two and half games gets thrown out the window, in favor of a completely different narrative that comes mostly out of left field. And WHY?! WHY was this done?! We had a great driving narrative set up already! We are here to chew bubble gum, and kick Reaper ass, and we’re all out of bubble gum! We didn’t need this Starchild pseudo-intellectual bullshit “ending”!

So, yeah, everything we’ve spent so many hours driving towards ends up with…… this?! So the Illusive Man was right all along, and we should control the Reapers? Or we should rape the entire galaxy’s DNA?! Or we should allow EDI and The Geth to die, even if we’re best friends with them?! And we’re supposed to be okay with the fact that the Normandy crash lands on some unknown planet, with perhaps no way of repairing the ship and escaping – plus we don’t know if everyone survived the crash. Why is this awesome? Why is this heroic?

I have absolutely no idea why anyone considers the end of ME3 to be fun, inspiring, or in any other way satisfying. I’m dumbfounded at people who enjoy it, or in any way defend it. It’s the biggest pile of shit of all time. It completely ruins the entire trilogy for me. It’s clear to me that without Drew Karpyshyn’s influence, Mac Walters and Casey Hudson had very little sense of proper narrative design, and cared more about forcing themselves and their philosophies into the narrative instead of allowing the story to tell itself. Would we still be talking about Star Wars, in any positive light, if this is how the original trilogy came to an end?

Another problem I have with it is that it’s not actually an ending. The story doesn’t end; it just stops. There’s a difference to me. There are too many loose ends that are apparently never going to be cleared up. What is the ultimate fate of the Normandy? What about the crew that we don’t see walk out after the crash? What happens to the galaxy now that the relays are destroyed? WTF is the “one last story” about Shep? What is the point of the one breath we hear at the end of the destruction “ending”? Why does this “ending” SATISFY ANYONE who actually takes more than half a second to THINK ABOUT IT?

I hate it when “writers” stop their stories rather than ending them. A story needs a proper epilogue, and ME3 does not provide it at all. If ME4 was supposed to continue this story, then I could forgive most of my issues with ME3, except the Starchild. However, ME1 and 2 were complete stories in and of themselves while ME3 is NOT a complete story. It just isn’t. There are people out there who like to tie up loose ends in their own minds, and there are writers who like that as well. I get it. But that is not a proper story. It shouldn’t be on the audience’s shoulders to decide how a story ends. The story should be allowed to end itself, and the writer is supposed to be the conduit for that. “Endings” like this violate the point of storytelling in my opinion. What is the point of taking someone on a journey that you know doesn’t actually end? It’s just offensive to me as it feels like a purposeful wasting of my time.

Thankfully modders came to the rescue. Because of the following mods, I can play an ME3 that doesn’t suck complete moosecock, although I don’t think that any mod out there can totally heal the damage to the ME narrative structure that ME3 provided. (Actually the damage began with the “Arrival” DLC for ME2, which was complete garbage narrative wise, many “thanks” to Mac Walters for that, although I admit that I did enjoy playing it.) “Backoff”, “Citadel Epilogue Mod”, “ME3 Recalibrated”, “MEHEM”, “Shorter Dreams”, and “Extended Final Anderson Conversation” are the mods I’m referring to.

I wholeheartedly recommend replaying ME3 with them installed. If, after that, you still think the original ME3 is better, then – well all I can say is to each their own. You can live your life, and I will live mine, and never the twain shall meet….

Deager

Oh, I know. 😉

I’m actually the guy who made Shorter Dreams and the Citadel Epilogue Mod. I’m glad you enjoyed them and thanks for spreading the word that people who want something different have options. And your Star Wars analogy is perfect for us nerds. That pretty much sums it up perfectly.

J Brian Terry

Ah awesome! Well, I really enjoyed your work. Those dreams in the original version of the game……….ugh! So awful. Shep has seen and caused the deaths of thousands, and now s/he is suddenly dreaming about a kid they didn’t even know? Really?! Why isn’t s/he dreaming about the Virmire death? Or even Richard Jenkins? Someone they actually knew and served with and cared about? It was utterly ridiculous in every way possible. Also, the Citadel DLC *should* have been the actual ending of the game. So thank you for your work and making the game better!

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