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Mass Effect 3 Ending

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(I'll go ahead and warn of vague spoilers and possible deterrents in this post...)

Well, I haven't played through all of the campaigns to have as much of an established opinion as I should and I especially haven't played through ME3, so I don't really have a solid established opinion on the matter.

From the research I've done though, it seems like the ending was extremely lack luster and disappointing, especially given the game-play and story that made up the rest of the franchise. I've seen the alternate endings and they are all the same and don't seem to make sense when put into context.Their logic and approach to the end of it just seemed extremely abrupt and not well thought out at all. There seem to be lots of contradictions in the thought process of the new character that is introduced at the end that negates whatever you have done throughout the rest of the game (or series). I've also seen a lot of people complaining about not getting any closure at all in the ending, which is something I don't mind a lot in stories or games, but I think they took it way too far here.

Granted all of this may have come from a disagreement in the company that ruined the story or they ran out of time or something drastic like that, but it is disappointing to see a series that has done so well and promised so much in the way of a cohesive ending, just give in and make up some BS ending that allows for DLC that you have to buy and play through.

It's like the death of a comic book hero. That should be it and they should just stay dead, because that's what death is, but it never turns out that way.

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Too many questions unanswered. The list would exceed the post size limit, even without whitespace. But there is more than that. What bugs me the most is this :

*SPOILERS AHEAD

if you haven't played at least ME2*
The Reapers have periodically eradicated all advanced civilizations from the galaxy, some of which amounted to trillions of individuals according to Javik the Prothean. Every 50,000 years. For millions of years. Let's suppose it has lasted for 5 million years, and the average death toll at the end of each cycle is one trillion people. That's 500 trillion people dead. So Bioware has created a universe where 500 trillion people died at the hands of relentless, immortal machines who, according to the ones Shepard talks to, have a good reason for doing what they do. This poses a MASSIVE philosophical problem, questioning the very value of life and suggesting the possibility of a superior mode of existence, the reapers', that would justify mass murder of such a scale ! Yet Bioware didn't judge it necessary to provide an explanation.

Which leads me to think that they simply do not have an explanation. They had no reason to write this story in the first place, other than becuz it wuz kewl to hav biggazz macheenz destroy everything and make the player fight them. No reason.

The truth is, I could come up with several endings each a million times better than Bioware's, and I'm not the only one. They started writing the plot without knowing where it would go. At least they could have winged it somehow and come up with a story at the time they wrote Mass Effect 2 or 3, but no... All they could give their fan base is a deus ex machina telling the player, in essence, "we kill you so you won't be killed".

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I did not find the ending disappointing. I did find it awkward and half baked, like a first draft that was never revisited. I see what they were trying to do and I think the idea was good, but the execution was botched.

First: Of the three endings, only synthesis makes any sense. The other two are token choices that aren't actually worth existing. The destroy option is struggling to be interesting, and the control option is just plain idiotic. That doesn't even begin to touch on the insulting point that you couldn't tell the endings from each other anyway. So I'm only going to talk about the synthesis ending.

Across the three games, a couple themes are set up: control vs destruction, organics vs synthetics. To end the game by exposing these choices as false is an interesting, somewhat subversive, very Deus Ex approach to ending the game. I like this basic concept, and the fact that it was considered is what makes the other two choices token. The Quarian-Geth conflict does the most to set up the idea of unavoidable stand-offs between organics and synthetics, although the way it's written makes the Quarians seem like insane irrational douchebags.

For Shepard to close the story by transcending the conflict entirely lends a sense of meaning that is intended, I think, to make both the Illusive Man and Anderson seem petty and short sighted. They do a reasonable (but not subtle) job on the Illusive man, but not so much with Anderson. At the time the ending hits, you are very much sympathetic to Anderson, for good reason, and to place "his" choice on equal footing with the Illusive Man doesn't quite work. He's too eminently reasonable and good natured throughout the whole thing. For this to work, Anderson needed to be set up as a much more ruthless, battle hardened Renegade style leader -- but that was never his character. BW tries to haphazardly and quickly give you that impression in the final conversation with the Illusive Man and it simply doesn't work.

Then there is the idea of synthetics versus organics, and the final conversation with the Citadel/Catalyst itself. This could have been extremely interesting, if the approach wasn't completely botched. The idea that the Reapers themselves are subservient to a greater conflict, one that cannot be avoided by simply destroying them because it is inherent in the system of life itself? That is awesome. But the game doesn't bother to set it up. There is, by my count, ONE line in the entire game (delivered by the Prothean VI) that hints at what is going to happen. The one Reaper you kill personally also sorta hints at it. Yeah it's an RPG and every prophecy comes true, but this was sloppy. Again, the Quarian-Geth conflict could have gone a long way to setting this up, as could have the conversation with the Reaper, conversations with the Illusive man, conversations with the Prothan VI, etc. The game and story needed to be suggesting from the beginning that something else was leading the whole conflict, and that didn't happen. Instead it simply crashes on you at the end of the game like a cartoon piano. Something needed to happen, so here it is. And it happens too fast to provide any actual context or closure.

Which actually brings me to the real problem with Mass Effect 3's writing: a lot of things happen because Bioware says so, without the proper setup. Why are organics and synthetics doomed to fight? Because the dude said so. Why are you sad and emotional about that kid at the beginning? Because the game says so. Why is James a good marine? Because Shepard says so. Show, don't Tell is just forgotten entirely.

ME3 works best when it's bringing closure to things that you are already emotionally invested in from the previous games (which suggests that if you didn't play them, this is a shitty experience). You are emotionally invested in what happens to Wrex, to Mordin, to Tali, to Legion, etc. The second game in particular spent a lot of time getting you invested. But the characters in this game? They show up out of the blue and the game tells you to care -- but you don't. James is supposed to be a complex character with an interesting back story, in some sense a reflection of Shepard before the events of Mass Effect. But he's not. He's just a generic space marine shoved into the game who has a minimal number of not very interesting lines. Ditto Cortez, though maybe that's better if you follow the romance plot. The game never bothered to invest you, they just tell you to be invested because arrr Reapers.

The most blunt version is probably in the meeting with the Lawson family at Sanctuary, because it places a character you care about smack in the middle of a conflict that you don't give a shit about, involving people you've never met. Why is Henry Lawson evil? Because he just is! Why does Oriana Lawson need saving? She just does! What kind of danger was she in? The game doesn't even bother to explain. You're running around doing stuff because that's what you're supposed to do.

So when you get to the final conversation and decision point, it's a tough decision. Because the game said so with a mangled hologram that is apparently some AI? And the Crucible modified it somehow because shut up and don't ask questions. They've just dropped a crucial new character on you, out of nowhere, and they give you absolutely nowhere to take that. The context of your ultimate choice? Some kid told me to do it. They don't even give you the option I wanted -- walk away from the choice entirely. Tell the AI to solve its own problems and let the battle go on its own. DXHR does give you this exact fourth option. But the epic final decision is only interesting if the game has been properly written to set it up, to foreshadow and hint and tease, and finally give you what you've been expecting. ME3 just pops up with it out of nowhere.


Incidentally, I found this article to be quite interesting.

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Why are organics and synthetics doomed to fight? Because the dude said so.

You said it all, and contradicted yourself in doing so, didn't you ? You said that only the synthesis option makes sense, but it has no reason to be in the first place ! So why is this ending any better ? Emotionally speaking, I find it's the most bland of all three... In addition to that, the "we are synthetics and we kill all organics so they won't be killed by their synthetic creations" rationale is not exactly what I'd call sensible...http://i1001.photobucket.com/albums/af134/gnosblax/yodawgme.jpg

But that's not what I mean to say here. The only occurrence of synthetics VS organics fight is in Geth vs. the Quarians and reapers vs the galaxy. Turians, Salarians, Asari, humans and Krogans (and Protheans !!) do not hold a grudge towards synthetics in particular just because they are synthetics. They do fear AIs somehow, as shown in several side quests and sometimes in dialogue, but the fight against synthetics is in no way an essential arc of the story, until the ending. It's simply the Quarians' fight. In much the same way as the Krogans' fight is against genophage and against their own desire to crush Turians and Salarians, because what they need is to reconquer their pride as a species, not through war but through reconciliation with the other species, and this is what Wrex has understood and strives for.
Same for the Salarians, whose fight is against their intrinsic weaknesses, which they have a history of compensating through the immoral use of technology as a weapon (STG, Mordin's regrets, Maleon's guilt, the Deletress).
The Turians' fight is against their contempt towards lesser races like Krogans (seen as brutes) and Quarians (seen as nomads, bohemians) and newcomers like humans, and towards acceptance, because they have to accept cooperation (the Turian councilor in ME1, executor Pallin in ME1, the Primarch, sorry for spelling mistakes i didn't have subtitles turned on).
As far as the Asari are concerned, I can't think of any specific ordeal they face, but they tend to alternate between bursts of racial pride and belittling themselves for being superficial, foul beings (the Ardat Yakshi are both powerful and criminal in a dirty way... they epitomize this paradox). The Asari in general are the "promiscuous biotics" of the galaxy...

So all in all, I believe this "synth vs organics" pretext at the end of the game was BS. The part of the game that revolves around it is way too small for it to justify the atrocities committed by the reapers. And it's not even the least bit explained. I really think the ending was rushed, maybe because of EA, and that Bioware came up with the "Reapers annihilating everything" story (some time between the middle of the development of ME1 and the start of the development of ME2 surely) without any other reason than just because it made for cool antagonists.

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So all in all, I believe this "synth vs organics" pretext at the end of the game was BS. The part of the game that revolves around it is way too small for it to justify the atrocities committed by the reapers. And it's not even the least bit explained.
This is really what I was getting at regarding the ending. The ending suggests that it should have been a central theme throughout, but it wasn't. The places where it would've been possible to make it a central theme, it wasn't really even present. It simply shows up at the end and is supposed to be a big deal because projected hologram kid said so. "Synthetics will destroy all organics." Why? There is no reason. But they said it so it must be true. I am projecting my own desires for how I wanted the game to go onto that ending, I will admit. I love what that ending could have been.

The most emotional part of the synthesis ending is actually Joker and EDI, and has nothing to do with the Reapers or Earth or Shepard.

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Ok sorry for the misunderstanding. I can see soooo many alternate endings for this epic saga ! I'm full of ideas. I'm definitely gonna write one and post it in another topic. Ultra-long and complete. Taht would be weird though, because gamedev.net is about developing new games, not about "re-developing" already existing ones.

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Basically, Promit is lamenting the -fact- that the ME3 writers pulled the biggest taboo of writerdom: the Deus Ex Machina (God out of the Machine). Its a literary term for what Bioware did: pulled a game-changer/ender out of their ass at the last minute that was non-alluded/non-expected/non-probable that completely changes the way the story is handled. This is often seen as extremely poor writing.

So you can imagine the general let-down from a fanbase when a company known for its stories, pulls one of the largest story taboos.

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I'm not really a Mass Effect guy, but it's interesting from a writing perspective.

I feel that it has been done better in sci-fi before, for example:

**** VARIOUS SPOILERS ****

Alastair Reynolds in his Revelation Space books has a machine intelligence which killed technologically advanced races only (not primitive ones) because it had a massive engineering task to perform (stopping the collision of the Milky Way Galaxy with another galaxy in a hundred thousand years from wiping out all life) and it viewed space-faring civilisations as too short-sighted and an unpredictable risk to it's project.

Babylon 5 had the Shadows, whose goal is not to kill all life but to strengthen it by weeding out the weak.

Ender's Game had aliens with a hive mind, who considered killing a few humans as no more terrible than killing a few skin cells during a handshake.

Various books have had AIs created for a war which continue long after their creators have gone extinct. All aliens are considered enemies.

Various books have had aliens or AIs that considered our civilisations as low-intelligence pests, or were too vast to comprehend that we were intelligent.

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