How many damn times do I have to save everything? Das Hat here with my take on the Mass Effect 3 Extended cut. So what’s new? Is it awesome? Does it put gamer complaints to rest? Read on to find out!
Let’s start this off with two points. Those of you who watched the Indoctrination Theory video Sam and I did on BuzBanter and figured that it was a cool idea? Turns out we were wrong. Each of the extended cut endings gives us narrative into the workings of the galaxy shortly after the final battle in ME 3 and not one of them falls in line with what the Indoctrination Theory states. That only the Destroy ending results in a loss for the Reapers since Shepherd overcomes the effects of Indoctrination.
Secondly, I didn’t really have a big issue with the original ending. The game was fantastic and while the ending felt rather shallow you were left wondering what comes next. We talked about it with our friends, speculated on what would happen to the galaxy and how the choices we had made would affect those left behind. While I concede that we were speculating because we weren’t given any information in any of the (then) three endings there was a sense of the sky being the limit to what happens next and how we get to the boy and the older man at some distant time in the future. I’m not saying that the original ending was good, just that it wasn’t the all consuming game breaker people made it out to be.
The issue that needed to be addressed was one of information. With the endings of the previous games we had to narrow the scope to allow for sequels and so your decisions didn’t have a monumental impact on the ending. Yes even Mass Effect 2. Unless you somehow hated the game and just wanted to get to the finale as quickly as possible Shepherd should have lived and so should have most of your crew (I’m touting the perfect play-through). As a result we got enough of an ending to get an idea of where everyone was after these events as well as a bit of a tease of what was to come next. We knew the Reapers were still out there and it was getting high time to take on the lot of them. At the end of Mass Effect 2 (before the Arrival DLC) I was content to assume that my crew was still running with me on my ship, prepping for the next adventure, writing wrongs and generally being space Robin Hood.
That wasn’t what we got with the original endings. There was a severe lack of information since this was one of the few cases where a robust epilogue is required but we didn’t get one. Well no more, lets dive into what the new and improved endings to Mass Effect 3 have to offer.
New Ending- This one we didn’t see coming but essentially there is now an accessible dialogue tree that allows Shepherd to reject any of the three options that are offered. Essentially, you refuse to be forced down a laid out path and to do things according to the wishes of Sir Glows-A-Lot. Basically you take the stand for freedom and self determination. Shepherd makes a stirring speech about the right of all peoples to determine their own fate since by selecting one of the other three options you are following a path set out by another being like the Reapers; a sentience that sees itself as caretaker to the ignorant younger races who can’t make the big decisions on their own.
So what happens? You lose. The game cuts to a chamber deep underground a forested, and notably uninhabited, landscape with a VI program of Liara telling anyone who will listen about how the Crucible failed and their losing war against the Reapers before they were all wiped out. Let that be a lesson to you all. When the architect of massive genocidal libraries offers you a choice, take one of them.
Destroy Ending- easily the least satisfying ending (in my humble opinion) you have all the Reapers and their Husk troops wiped out along with the Citadel and the Mass Effect relays. Narration tells us of a stable time where, thanks to the massive threat the Reapers presented and the willingness of the races to let bygones be bygones there is galactic stability. Looking over the inert remains of the Reapers and now being able to access the full technology of the Citadel (since the Keepers are all gone now) the various races begin to gradually rebuild. While there is faster than light travel between stars, such a means is incredibly slow when compared to the offerings of the Mass Effect Relays and so as technological advancements are made the system is gradually rebuilt. We of course maintain the little hint that Shepherd somehow survived.
Control Ending- This was the one I had taken on my first run through and I actually really liked it. While it starts out as the other endings do it’s the only ending that is narrated by Shepherd. Basically you’ve become a material god, capable of knowing all the knowledge possessed by the Reapers as well as the contents of the Citadel and are now truly infinite and undying. With such a broad scope and the single greatest power in the known galaxy Shepherd takes it upon himself to police the races. The Reapers rebuild the Mass Effect Relays and then retreat into the void with Shepherd’s somewhat ominous narrations about taking on the responsibility of enforcing the peace across all peoples now that he has the ability to do so. It’s an interesting ethical issue; having the ability to keep everyone safe, even from their own decisions, would you?
This is very interesting since this is considered to be the pure paragon ending and it stands in defiance of other paragon choices throughout the game. If you’ll recall almost all of Shepherd’s paragon conversation options emphasize two things: saving as many people as he can, and everyone having the freedom to determine their own fates. This however changes once Shepherd has the ability to save everyone. Similar to other points in the game, when Shepherd has the option to save people he will take it even if it’s against the general will. This ending emphasizes that issue, that to protect everyone, you must infringe upon their self determination to some degree. While like with the Destroy ending there is little chance of war breaking out again (Unless you killed Wrex and Eve died) and the various races could potentially remain at peace the fact of the matter remains that if the Batarians or the Vorcha began causing trouble, the all powerful Shepherd would be there to put them down. The races now have to get along, else Shepherd will come a knocking.
Synthesis Ending- Easily the happiest of your choices Shepherd sacrifices himself and somehow not only merges organics with the synthetic implants almost all of them have, but also frees almost every artificial intelligence from any programming restrictions. Basic AI programs become fully realized individuals and the Reapers along with all of their Husk troops gain free will and independent thought (remember that the Reapers, while amazingly intelligent, are still bound by the programming of the Crucible) and since the line between synthetic and organic is blurred, everyone finds reason to work together. With everyone sharing a level of synthetic make up every race now has some bridging likeness and become, in a sense, one people. Or at least totality that has one thing in common.
Basically since the Sovereign Class Reapers are repositories for all of the knowledge and advancement of whole species and they are now friendly, a grand utopia is created. All organic matter is changed to have synthetic portions and so even the lines of mortality and the slow entropy brought on by the passage of time is something left up in the air.
While nice in theory this seems to be an almost too happy an ending to be real. First of all you have the issue of trying to make peace with the fact that your brother, once a Marauder killing other members of your squad, is now talking to you again but still looks like a mindless killing machine that is the exemplification of the most horrible fate imaginable. Or how about the little issue of having the walking genetic slurry of genocides coaching everyone on how best to divide by zero. Both the real world, and the world of the Mass Effect universe has shown that people don’t put aside their differences with any level of ease.
Even playing through with the best possible parameters, by the end fight the Salarians had refused to help because I had cured the Genophage. Most of the Krogan clans were getting amped to take the fight to the Turians and Salarians as soon as the Reapers were dealt with and were only barely being held back by Wrex and Eve. There were still Admirals wanting to eliminate the now fully sentient Geth. The remaining Batarians were only siding with me because there was nowhere else for them to go, and to top it all off the three biggest gangs in the galaxy now had easy access to massive weapons caches and officials overlooking their “business practices” thanks to me bringing them into the fold. The term “powder keg” doesn’t even come close to describing these tensions.
Now add the galactic levels of genocide the Reapers have been going on as well as their countless foot troops suddenly becoming wholly sentient and ceasing overt military actions and you are left with the only race that was hated enough that everything outlined above was put on hold to deal with them, suddenly wants to give out hugs and say they are sorry? Nope, sorry, I’m not buying a galactic utopia being born out of that, it seems far too divorced from everything we’ve seen prior to this. The Genophage happened centuries ago and all three sides were still unwilling to work together in the face of extinction as a result of its legacy. No way in hell is peace made with the Reapers after they were destroying home planets just a week ago.
Overall these endings provide the epilogue we needed. We see that the survivors mourn and the path the galaxy takes going forward. While you have a lot of re-used footage between the videos you have enough differences in narration and added cut scenes of future events that all three endings don’t feel the same as they did in the original cut.
My only concern is this: in giving us the charted out future, Bioware has now seriously limited what they can do next in the Mass Effect universe. You would have to take the Destroy ending as being cannon as only it allows for a volatile enough climate that you could make a fourth game out of. Bioware did state several times that ME3 would be the end of Shepherd’s tale but they may indeed have to continue it in some form since every other ending’s future is too narrowly charted out.
When it’s all said and done, I really enjoyed the new endings and I think/hope most people will as well.