SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t experienced the ending of Mass Effect 3 and wish to forestall the inevitable shock, you may want to leave.
If you have seen the finale and somehow managed to walk out satisfied, I would ask you for a hug. It’s what I need after seeing all my hopes and expectations, countless hours of gameplay, and thoughtful decision-making get shredded by the most disappointing ending in recent gaming history.
Still, Mass Effect 3 is overall a fantastic game. I won’t deny it’s a worthwhile gaming experience. All the great elements are there: top-notch visuals, great combat, an engaging story and stellar voice-acting, as well as an outstanding soundtrack.
Nevertheless, instead of delivering the expected grand payoff, the last 10 minutes of the game baffle players with the most bizarre and confusing sequence in the whole Mass Effect saga. Most players, especially those who’d stuck along the series since the very beginning, were left in utter disbelief and frustration.
After five long years: "closure."
Casey Hudson, the game’s project director, recently stated that a “bittersweet” conclusion had always been the intended goal. I’m perfectly fine with that! A melancholy outcome is still a fitting end to any story so long as it is well-executed and brings true resolution to the plot. That was certainly not the case in Mass Effect 3.
Any semblance of denouement is instead replaced with a mess of a dialogue that adds a new “twist” to the story arc of Commander Shepard while unraveling the entire mythology in the process. And finally, as a send-off, players are asked to make one last choice; one of three possible “solutions” to the series’ conflict. The catch is that all three create more problems than they solve.
To top it all off, we never really see the aftermath of Shepard’s galaxy-shattering decision nor do we learn the fate of the other characters we’ve come to know and love. All we get in the end is a few minutes stretch of sloppy exposition littered with more plot holes than the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
The players’ reaction to the so called ending was virtually unanimous. The vast majority felt aggravated by the lack of any real closure. Some even speculated Bioware might be keeping the actual ending to the game under wraps till the apt moment, in what would indeed be a hairy marketing strategy.
"Heavy risk, Bioware... but the prize."
Another group of players came up with the “Indoctrination” theory asserting that all events following a specific moment in the epilogue were merely a representation of Shepard’s struggle inside her mind to counter the Reapers’ attempts at subverting her free will. As improbable as the theory sounds, it is still much more satisfying and makes a hell of a lot more sense than the “ending” we were presented with, which felt so out of place, almost as if players had crossed over to a different universe. Deus Ex? The Matrix? Okay, I won’t go there.
Still, I can’t shake off this eerie feeling that at some point during production of Mass Effect 3 Bioware decided to “rewrite” the original ending, concocting this silly new spin. I would be so grateful if Mac Walters, who’s done an admirable job as lead writer for the series since Mass Effect 2, could allay my doubts. It just seems implausible that a company known for coupling great video games and solid storytelling together would be so remiss in one of the most epic and awe-inspiring Sci-Fi franchises to date.
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