Massively Ineffectual

Shepard in N7 armor

Mass Effect 3 is finally here. The effects are pretty much as predicted; an attendant shower of hype and commensurate drops in productivity. The juggernaut is thundering through, and there's little or nothing to be done but let it roll by.

What has been effective (possibly even SUPEREFFECTIVE) was the user rating system on Metacritic. New users have created accounts just to post extremely negative scores and vote others who did same up, until anyone who reads the user reviews is greeted with a wall of red zeroes. The avalanche of down-checks dropped the user rating to 3.6 as of this writing, while the professional rating is over a nine.

This isn't the first time this has happened. Portal 2 received a similar treatment, mostly from PC users complaining that the game was a console port and others complaining about the day-one DLC. Bastion and Toy Soldiers: Cold War both had similar problems last fall, but Metacritic found the culprits and removed the reviews that were skewing things. Metacritic is investigating the Mass Effect 3 situation, and we'll see what they do.

Any big aggregator with user input systems like this is vulnerable to this sort of abuse, and it's not even limited to games. Amazon's ratings system has been used as a club to beat people in many media, many times. And who cares? It's just anonymous user input, right? Not necessarily. In the case of Metacritic, there is another layer of complexity and some bigger issues outside this box that make the comparison a little more invidious.

Amazon isn't purporting to be an authority on the official critical reception of the item. Metacritic does. But they don't just pull in all the scores and take an average. Metacritic grades on a curve, and grades the cheerleaders higher than the geeks (I thought I got past that nonsense in high school). They're not shy about it, either.

Then the can of worms gets the whole top half torn off when you realize how many business decisions game publishing companies make based on those numbers. Everything from funding choices, royalty payments, PR decisions — you name it — is bound up in in chasing that little green box. It's so crucial that last fall Telltale was caught trying to up their own scores on the site.

Good news: As a player you aren't trapped in that quagmire. Since you're not a game dev trying to get a word in edgewise with one of the great green-belching publishing gods, you can decide how big of a bucket of salt you want to take with all of Metacritic's numbers.

And you control how the game plays at your house. When you're facing the dilemma of how to handle the additional romantic possibilities in your own playthroughs, I have a secret trick to help you. If you don't want any homosexual sex, then don't flirt with anyone in the same gender. Really. It totally works. Not only that, but if you buy into the notion that any commander who starts playing with his "privates" that way is just looking for trouble regardless, you can simply not flirt with anyone at all.

Don't worry. You will not accidentally make one wrong choice and wake up somewhere awkward. None of your potential partners in this endeavor are slinking around on the Normandy's bridge so they can try and trip you and beat you to the floor. It takes some serious attention to the steps of the mating dance to get that short, lame-o cutscene, and there's no guarantee of success with any of them.

There are similar tactics you can use for the other issues I've seen raised. If you don't want to participate in what you see as a cash grab with that DLC, then don't buy it. The game plays just fine without it. If you're feeling particularly pithy, instead of an ephemeral entry in a dubious anonymous forum that will be washed away by their rose-colored scoring system, you could try a sternly worded note to EA as to why you voted with your feet and didn't buy it. If you don't like the fact that your actions in multiplayer affect your single-player game, don't play multiplayer until you've finished it. Some people might even consider that a sort of ExtraHard mode and give you a little e-cred. Or heck, just play the game in Story mode and avoid the whole issue if you want.

==== Warning: the next few paragraphs make a lot of vague assertions about the ending that may or may not count as spoilers. ====

The various endings of the game have the opposite effect. I've earned two of them, and now that I know the score, I'm not sure I'm going to go after the third. I spoke to a friend of my son's on St. Patty's Day, and we discussed his feelings. He's frustrated and angry. Not to the point of reporting it to the FCC or joining a class action lawsuit, but genuinely upset. I see it as two separate problems.

First off, it makes all three games seem pointless. You've made thousands of choices to shape your character and their story through all three games, but you end up at the same spot whether you're a jackbooted thug or a knight-in-shining-armor. Then you make what they try to build up to be a great final choice, and all roads lead to the same place. They even use a lot of the same footage, which doesn't help this impression.

Second, none of the choices feel like you actually won. This, I think, is the real key. The game was about saving the universe, but no matter what you choose in the end you're left staring at a shattered galaxy. Whether your Shepard lived or died didn't matter in the face of the rest of it.

The genre set certain expectations. People were expecting to bulls-eye a few womprats and drop a torpedo down the exhaust shaft. At worst, they would have faced their own Kobayashi Maru and tricked or fought their way through it. They were not expecting Seven Samurai, and they feel betrayed.

I understand where people are coming from, but I don't feel it. I thought it was kind of ballsy, myself. I see a lot of value in the fight to get there, and I'm not under any illusions that all battles can be cleanly won. I'm old; these days I'm not sure any battle can be considered "won" at all.

==== End Warning ====

The whole thing confuses me. With one hand they gave us more choices, and everyone complained. For people who seem so attached to the notion of having the freedom to choose and taking control of our own actions, we sure seem scared of having to make those choices. Then they take it all away and make things simple, and we complain some more. And in both cases, the means of complaint don't send a clear message to the powers that be.

I've read rumors that they're thinking about going back and changing things somehow, but I don't know how that would make any difference at this point. They made their choices, and they're going to have to figure out where to go from here.

Comments

SpacePPoliceman wrote:

Either way, the growing and honestly chilling narrative mounting is that creators are not just responsible for their narrative, but accountable to us in concrete ways. It's troubling.

Seriously. I can't believe people getting so riled up over the way they decided to end it, pretty much making it clear that the only acceptable ending is the same hokum of the universe being saved and there being a huge party in Shepard's honour just like at the end of every other BioWare game, not to mention every pulpy sci-fi and fantasy series ever made.

Stele wrote:
brokenclavicle wrote:

While I haven't actually played the game yet, much less beat it, I'm surely tired of all the vitriol regarding the ending(s). Seriously, what a bunch of spoiled little brats we gamers are.

Personally, I like bittersweet endings as they reflect reality a little more. If you want a sweet fantasy ending, you may be playing the wrong sort of game all together.

My two cents, is all.

Did you watch LOST or Battlestar Galactica? Are TV fans and critics spoiled brats for saying the ending of those shows sucked and could have been better written?

Did you see the 2nd and third Matrix films? Or Terminator 3? Are movie fans and critics spoiled brats for feeling the sequels didn't live up to the first and criticizing the story and the way they ended?

Maybe you should play it before you judge a whole group of people. And while a few people are wanting a "happy ever after" ending... most people just want an ending that makes sense. And more than 3 different endings, like they were told they would get less than 2 months ago (so after the game was mostly done) by the people in charge of the game. ;)

Easy, now :D. I not only admitted to my uneducated opinion there, but, I did include myself in the gamers as brats judgment.

Furthermore, I actually dug most of the tv show endings you cite. And yes, I still think most gamers (having now read the ending spoilers for ME3) are spoiled. I will concede that the endings undermine the importance of the players' decisions, because it is evident that THAT is what takes place, but that in no way makes the endings bad in and of themselves.

It'll be interesting to see what happens with the suit, though. I'll get some popcorn and watch in hopes that the case is not simply dismissed by the court. This mostly fueled by my dislike for EA and the way they do business.

EDIT: Now that I think about it, I second the opinion of the post above me. The very reason why I like the endings in ME3 (again, having read them) is because they don't cater to the typical 'everybody happy" expectations. The ending is far more in keeping with most adult sci-fi literature where a story ends but that does not mean everything is rosy and good. Think Alistair Reynolds (clearly an inspiration for the ME series, if you've read his books) et al.

As for what fans may have expected, well, nowhere in the previous two games is there any indication that things are absolute and that "happy all is well" endings are possible. In fact, the endings to both ME and ME2 should shape players to expect a rather mixed end to things; every victory brings with it a series of accompanying defeats and compromises.

kuddles wrote:
SpacePPoliceman wrote:

Either way, the growing and honestly chilling narrative mounting is that creators are not just responsible for their narrative, but accountable to us in concrete ways. It's troubling.

Seriously. I can't believe people getting so riled up over the way they decided to end it, pretty much making it clear that the only acceptable ending is the same hokum of the universe being saved and there being a huge party in Shepard's honour just like at the end of every other BioWare game, not to mention every pulpy sci-fi and fantasy series ever made.

The more I read about complaints and gamer input in general, the more I get the impression that gamers really do want Rainbows and Unicorns, despite all protestations to the contrary. There's just not a whole lot of fan fic that's anywhere near the level of pathos as the canon ending, and most protestations over at the Bioware forums want some "closure" as a code name for "happy endings for everyone, if not Shepard and his LI."

I'm old, and what's more, I'm really really jaded. I've seen a lot of stories of epic heroism in the face of despair and, more often than not, harsh probability rules the day. For many of those people, their heroism really will amount to nothing in a conventional sense. True heroes know that and accept that and soldier on.

I don't like how the ending was constructed, but I distrust protest and critique of it because much of it is in the name of getting yet another boring save-the-galaxy-without-cost ending. I would have liked that even less. ME is too epic of a saga to end with Little House on the Prairie.

LarryC wrote:
kuddles wrote:
SpacePPoliceman wrote:

Either way, the growing and honestly chilling narrative mounting is that creators are not just responsible for their narrative, but accountable to us in concrete ways. It's troubling.

Seriously. I can't believe people getting so riled up over the way they decided to end it, pretty much making it clear that the only acceptable ending is the same hokum of the universe being saved and there being a huge party in Shepard's honour just like at the end of every other BioWare game, not to mention every pulpy sci-fi and fantasy series ever made.

The more I read about complaints and gamer input in general, the more I get the impression that gamers really do want Rainbows and Unicorns, despite all protestations to the contrary. There's just not a whole lot of fan fic that's anywhere near the level of pathos as the canon ending, and most protestations over at the Bioware forums want some "closure" as a code name for "happy endings for everyone, if not Shepard and his LI."

I'm old, and what's more, I'm really really jaded. I've seen a lot of stories of epic heroism in the face of despair and, more often than not, harsh probability rules the day. For many of those people, their heroism really will amount to nothing in a conventional sense. True heroes know that and accept that and soldier on.

I don't like how the ending was constructed, but I distrust protest and critique of it because much of it is in the name of getting yet another boring save-the-galaxy-without-cost ending. I would have liked that even less. ME is too epic of a saga to end with Little House on the Prairie.

Completely agree.

Whilst the Normandy thing is kinda odd, I tend to overlook it as it takes up 10-15sec of a game that took me 100+ hours to finish.

It seems to me that the nay-sayers who wanted "closure" seem to have conveniently missed that the vast majority of ME3 is an ending. All of the companion / NPC story arcs are wrapped up, some happily, some not happily, some

Spoiler:

f*ckING TRAGICALLY

and many of what I felt were the main themes from ME1 returned after a hiatus or glossing over in ME2.

Additionally, people who hated that

Spoiler:

the Mass Relays get destroyed

seem to have missed a comment during the final dialogue that flat out tells you that is going to happen.

In the end, ME3 seemed (to me) to have 3 very fitting endings, a Paragon (Blue), a Renegade (Red) and a neutral or "left of field" one (Green)...

What I would truly hate is to see BioWare change the ending substantially. Maybe add some extra dialogue during the ending sequences near "the choice" and clear it tad.

10 days on since I finished it I still do not understand this attitude that can only be described (by me) as "Nerd-entitlement"... And I fully identify myself as a nerd, so take that last comment as self-hate if you like!

kuddles wrote:
SpacePPoliceman wrote:

Either way, the growing and honestly chilling narrative mounting is that creators are not just responsible for their narrative, but accountable to us in concrete ways. It's troubling.

Seriously. I can't believe people getting so riled up over the way they decided to end it, pretty much making it clear that the only acceptable ending is the same hokum of the universe being saved and there being a huge party in Shepard's honour just like at the end of every other BioWare game, not to mention every pulpy sci-fi and fantasy series ever made.

Indeed. The same sort of thing happened to DA2, where "solutions" to "problems" just made the story more typical, like insisting the game would have been improved if it had started in the bucolic, idyllic small farming town, unaware of the darkness about to descend upon it. I've bristled in the past at the "entitled" characterization, but in this case, it seems utterly fair.

What? DA2 was perfect... as long as you chalk up all the ridiculous parts to the "unreliable narrator" of Varric. Guys teleporting in every fight? He was just making things sound more exciting. Mage going all blood mage? Just makes things sound cool.

Maybe that's the ME3 excuse too. Maybe the old guy just got the story of the final bit wrong.

Wuppie wrote:

In the end, ME3 seemed (to me) to have 3 very fitting endings, a Paragon (Blue), a Renegade (Red) and a neutral or "left of field" one (Green)...

It's interesting that you'd view the ending choices that way when you consider that

Spoiler:

the blue or 'paragon' choice is that argued by the Illusive Man (who happened to be indoctrinated) and that the green/neutral choice is that put forward by Saren, the antagonist of the first game (and who was also indoctrinated). On the other hand, the red/'renegade' option was the choice pushed by the one character who has been in your corner since the beginning of the series and has supported you and your choices through thick and thin.

I guess my Shep has some apologizing to do. :p

Haven't got long but just wanted to post: I think you guys are wrong in tying the actions of a small minority of a small minority of gamers (i.e. FTC filings etc.) to the whole entirety of people complaining. Secondly you're also conflating what your perception of "the whiners" are saying with everything that anyone who was disappointed with the ending is saying. There are many viewpoints and most of them do not align completely.

Finally, I've not seen ANYONE wanting a rainbows and unicorns ending. To state as such as fact from your own biased interpretations (because it's cool to hate the whiners?) is just ridiculous and as childish as the person calling the FTC because he disagrees with the artist.

Duoae:

I can repost content from posters over at the official forums if you like. I seem to recall fan fic with Shepard and Tali enjoying a sunset in their new home in Rannoch. This is purely in the interest of substantiating that characterization.

My main concern is not flooding this thread or forum site with the content. Would ten examples be sufficient?

spankyboy wrote:
Wuppie wrote:

In the end, ME3 seemed (to me) to have 3 very fitting endings, a Paragon (Blue), a Renegade (Red) and a neutral or "left of field" one (Green)...

It's interesting that you'd view the ending choices that way when you consider that

Spoiler:

the blue or 'paragon' choice is that argued by the Illusive Man (who happened to be indoctrinated) and that the green/neutral choice is that put forward by Saren, the antagonist of the first game (and who was also indoctrinated). On the other hand, the red/'renegade' option was the choice pushed by the one character who has been in your corner since the beginning of the series and has supported you and your choices through thick and thin.

I guess my Shep has some apologizing to do. :p

Interesting is the perfect word for it.

Spoiler:

Because, whilst I see the blue ending as the fitting end to my (mostly) paragon Shep, it is by no means the 'good' ending.

Paragon (to me) is about motives not outcomes.

Given the info available at the time, the neutral ending results in a fundamental change in the nature of the galaxy without the consent of the billions it would effect. The renegade option dooms an entires race as well as EDI. Whilst the blue ending keeps the most people I am trying to save (in theorey) alive whilst offering redemption / salvation to the reapers.

Throughout my 'canon' Shep playthru I have tried to offer all races / species this option; the Rachni, the Geth, the Krogans and knowing this it felt consistent (right is not the correct word) to lead the Reapers along that same path.

I do believe the completely subjective way the game ends is great. There is not, and cannot be an objectively 'proper / best' way to finish this game, and props to BioWare for that.

SpacePPoliceman wrote:
Hast wrote:

Things In Response

Skipping around spoilers, Hast, because I haven't played DE, but want to, I have 2 reactions.

RE: "Being Lied To". I'm very skeptical of this. Game society is remarkably savvy and jaded, but suddenly in the wake of this, we're suddenly dewy-eyed maidens who've had our virtue and trust violently savaged.

That's a strawman argument. No-one wants a unicorn and rainbows ending. Well perhaps some do but no-one rational.

SpacePPoliceman wrote:

RE: Accountability. Those are perfectly fine bits of, I'd say, "soft" accountability. But, again, FTC (Ha!) filings? User Review Bombs? There's a sense that, on top of not executing the ending to satisfaction, people are Owed an ending to their satisfaction. And that, I can't get behind.

FTC filings is stupid. But again, you're making a strawman argument.

The review bombings I can acutally accept because that's one of few ways for consumers to get back at big companies these days.

But really, just read the "Musings of a screen writer" post to see why the ending is pretty dismal even from an objective point of view.

LarryC wrote:

Duoae:

I can repost content from posters over at the official forums if you like. I seem to recall fan fic with Shepard and Tali enjoying a sunset in their new home in Rannoch. This is purely in the interest of substantiating that characterization.

My main concern is not flooding this thread or forum site with the content. Would ten examples be sufficient?

I don't think that's Duoae's point. It certainly isn't my point.

You are dismissing the argument that the ending was bad from a story writing perspective (again, read the "Musings of a screen writer" link posted previously) by saying that some of the people who want a new ending write fan fiction. Do you see how that doesn't make any sense?

You are also making arguments that since some of the fans who dislike the ending are perhaps a bit immature (as in, young and not experienced) that makes ALL people who dislike the ending spoiled brats. Do you see how this is not a rational argument?

I find it interesting that games have now come to a point where general storytelling techniques are not only needed but necessary. Dismissing all that knowledge which story writers have accumulated over the centuries is a dangerous road to take. Particularly if you are not very certain of what you are doing.

If nothing else I think it's a good lessen for other makers of AAA games that it's time to understand core story concepts. The stories in games have long been on about the order of pulp literature (Mass Effect included, although I liked it a lot), and if we want to go further it's time to start using studying and using techniques from the masters of their fields. Not people who write glorified fan fic.

Hast:

Would it make more sense if I told you that I consider the ending bad? I can repost one of my earlier posts in the Spoiler thread as reference.

LarryC wrote:

Hast:

Would it make more sense if I told you that I consider the ending bad? I can repost one of my earlier posts in the Spoiler thread as reference.

I went back and re-read your comments. It seems like the discussion has gotten a bit argumentative (on the Internet? shock! ) and I guess I can see part of your point. Bascially that the current ending is better than a happy happy joy joy ending.

However, I still find the posts by the screenwriter very illuminating and it explains what is wrong with the ending and why many are reacting so strongly. It is not simply that it is a sad ending but that they are breaking many fundamental rules of storytelling. Even if people don't know why the dislike this that is the root of the problem here. (That's probably why you get many different suggestions to "how to fix it", people who don't really understand why it is wrong will have a hard to suggesting solutions.)

I also think it's worth noting that the style of the Mass Effect story is of a epic hero who overcomes all odds. The general story is also pretty cliche (as far as SciFi goes) and it's full of pretty bad genre tropes like exposition dumps from villains (Sovereign, Harbinger and The Illusive Man all do this) as well as childish "rule of cool" chracters like the idiotic Kei Lang. All of this together paints a story that has a dramatic structure more like Michael Bay than Shakespeare. And the problem comes when you decide to twist from one story structure to another without all that much warning. There are fundamental reasons why you shouldn't do that in a story, and it's obvious that either the people behind Mass Effect either did not understand this or they didn't care. And now they see why they should.

Personally I agree that a bitter sweet ending is good. I don't mind that. But if Bioware were smart they would have realized that a more "happy happy" ending would be a good idea as an option. Because options have been a central theme of these games, and in the end of the story we don't really have any.

Thinking about it more they probably did think somewhat about this. But they executed on it extremely poorly:

Spoiler:

So we all know that the control and synthesis endings kill Shepard. We see this is the ending scenes. From what I've understood the synthesis ending is also intended to be the "most noble" ending. However if you have high enough war effort rating and you go with destruction you can see how Shepard perhaps survives (which makes no sense).

So perhaps this was their way of trying to give both options to the players. And I respect that. The problem is that the ending is so extremely poorly executed that it doesn't make sense. They are trying to have their cake and eat it too and they do deserve a lot of flack for that.

Hast:

I also read that input. While it was informative, I also thought that it was generally bad, and somewhat rote. The key difference here is that Shepard is NOT a epic hero who overcomes all odds. She's only like that if you've only played through each of the ME's once, and never take any of the alternate stories as valid. Played another way, the entire Virmire incident could have been bad for Wrex, and the entire suicide mission could indeed be suicidal, even ending with Shepard dying.

This person is a screenwriter, not a videogame player, and whoever he or she is, he or she doesn't get the difference. Shepard CAN fail, and in some experiences, she does and quite expectedly. This is one of those key differences between games and other media - multiplicity of narrative, with each possibility informing the others. This manner of narrative is explored in DA2, a prior Bioware work. There are parts of DA2 that won't make much sense until you've replayed the game and made alternative choices - choices which will allow you to explore other factions and possibilities.

Spoiler:

In fact, in ME3, Shepard can and does fail repeatedly. Unlike in previous ME games, there's pretty much nothing you can do about it this time around. The effects are locked in from the results of previous playthroughs. You can't save Mordin if Wrex is alive. He is going to die and there's nothing you can do about it. Thane, too. Legion, too. All your friends are dying and you're powerless to stop it. Doesn't sound much like an epic hero, right?

There's even a scripted fail in Thessia. The entire universe is riding on the success of retrieving the truth behind the Catalyst. The fate of the universe - the fate of your LI's home planet is in Shepard's very hands. And she fails spectacularly. She can't even face the Asari Councillor afterwards - the failure is so catastrophic, especially for Thessia. No way you can save Thessia now. After you promised all those soldiers that you'd pick up the Catalyst and save their asses, you're forced to hear their distress calls go dark one by one. You hope they're dead.

Heck, I half expected Shepard to die in Harbinger's blast, with an end sequence detailing that the cycle goes on.

The failure in the last scene is very basic for an interactive medium. The contract between player and developer here is this:

You present a real choice.
I choose one of the choices.
You SHOW me what happens.

The end sequences fail in the crucial third step of this fundamental interaction between player and game. They may have failed in the first step as well, but that's more debatable.

LarryC wrote:

Duoae:

I can repost content from posters over at the official forums if you like. I seem to recall fan fic with Shepard and Tali enjoying a sunset in their new home in Rannoch. This is purely in the interest of substantiating that characterization.

My main concern is not flooding this thread or forum site with the content. Would ten examples be sufficient?

Tali/Shep "shippers" are disturbing cradle-robbers to start with. Don't use them as the benchmark for fans.

Aw, shoot. There goes all ten examples.

But seriously, there's some ridiculous stuff out there, even art that revives dead characters for a final karaoke ending. Don't know how serious that is, but it's certainly a barometer.

I agree with your last spoilered part Larry. There were some bleak things in ME3, some times where you couldn't "save the day" or had to sacrifice a friend to do it. Of course there was one of those moments in ME1, but you still came out on top.

Spoiler:

Still, I totally expected Shep to die at the end of ME3, especially after most of the main game. But what I didn't expect was the jarring change in story from this weird ghost-child thing, with no exposition, no chance for clarification... and 1 particular option (synthesis) that makes no sense whatsoever. And then to top it off the Normandy/crew cutscene was about the worst way they could show us what happened to our friends, which is something most people probably wanted to know.

Hast wrote:

That's a strawman argument. No-one wants a unicorn and rainbows ending. Well perhaps some do but no-one rational.

Uh, I never mentioned Unicorn and Rainbows endings, and I don't see how saying I'm skeptical of the outrage over Lies is a strawman.

Hast wrote:

FTC filings is stupid. But again, you're making a strawman argument.

...Now I'm not sure you know what a strawman is. If you're going to respond to me, I'd appreciate it if you addressed my concerns--in this case, the idea that people are Owed an ending that meets their satisfaction--instead of throwing buzzwords at me.

SpacePPoliceman:

Er, the Unicorns thing was probably me. Sorry about that. My fault, not Hast's. Well, maybe we both contributed. Sorry.

BioWare's Ray Muzyka responds. I think the core of it is this:

Mass Effect 3 concludes a trilogy with so much player control and ownership of the story that it was hard for us to predict the range of emotions players would feel when they finished playing through it. The journey you undertake in Mass Effect provokes an intense range of highly personal emotions in the player; even so, the passionate reaction of some of our most loyal players to the current endings in Mass Effect 3 is something that has genuinely surprised us. This is an issue we care about deeply, and we will respond to it in a fair and timely way. We’re already working hard to do that.

To that end, since the game launched, the team has been poring over everything they can find about reactions to the game – industry press, forums, Facebook, and Twitter, just to name a few. The Mass Effect team, like other teams across the BioWare Label within EA, consists of passionate people who work hard for the love of creating experiences that excite and delight our fans. I’m honored to work with them because they have the courage and strength to respond to constructive feedback.

Building on their research, Exec Producer Casey Hudson and the team are hard at work on a number of game content initiatives that will help answer the questions, providing more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey. You’ll hear more on this in April. We’re working hard to maintain the right balance between the artistic integrity of the original story while addressing the fan feedback we’ve received. This is in addition to our existing plan to continue providing new Mass Effect content and new full games, so rest assured that your journey in the Mass Effect universe can, and will, continue.

I've been waiting for a specific "B*tch about ME3's ending" thread.

I could just throw "ditto" on to it all; it felt like three games' worth of extremely hard choices (particularly in the third game) were thrown out, and I was being shoehorned into one result, regardless of what I'd done. The game also suddenly stopped feeling realistic within its own boundaries; clearly sci-fi, but one of the strengths of the ME series has always been how good of a universe it is and how much backstory is provided, and then magic end guy comes and . . . it just didn't fit.

Finally, yes, I admit it. I wanted puppies and rainbows. It makes me think of the coda at the end of the final Harry Potter book (I'm not spoilering this, for God's sake, people, if you're here you're probably a geek on some level and you should have read the @#$!! Harry Potter books by now). You've just come through book seven, effectively watching the main characters survive a war. It was dark and ugly and, while it ends with victory, it's an utterly exhausting victory. Then the coda. I loved the little coda. I felt like I had enough invested in those books that I wanted to see the happy ending 17 years later, just a few pages of how it all worked out and Harry had the life he always wanted. Some people felt it was sappy; I thought it was perfect.

That's what I wanted in ME3. I wanted my FemShep (there is NO OTHER THAN THE MOST SACRED FEMSHEP I WILL BURN YOU) and Liari to have their little blue babies. Sappy, sure. Don't care. I'd spent three games playing Paragon and staying true to my freaky blue-skinned alien space-babe love, and I damn well wanted my galactic hero to have her own 17 years later.

Now, had it been a relatively dark ending that made sense, that would have been disappointing, but I'd have been fine with it. As it is, I felt like all those hours didn't really matter, and I just got this bizarre, tacked-on ending. It was just really disappointing.

Also, I'd just like to point out that I'll be 42 in a few weeks, have a lovely family, an established career, and a full, interesting life, and I do, in fact, realize how utterly silly all of this sounds.

shoptroll wrote:

EDIT: @Milkman: Worth noting that the HP coda you mention was added between the printings of the European and American versions. I think. It's been a while, but I swear I've read the epilogue wasn't part of the original manuscript.

I remember interviews near release where she said she added it in. So yeah, after manuscript turned in and being edited or whatever, but no difference between versions.

Stele wrote:

I remember interviews near release where she said she added it in. So yeah, after manuscript turned in and being edited or whatever, but no difference between versions.

Thanks, I couldn't find a source on when exactly that was added.

SpacePPoliceman wrote:
Hast wrote:

FTC filings is stupid. But again, you're making a strawman argument.

...Now I'm not sure you know what a strawman is. If you're going to respond to me, I'd appreciate it if you addressed my concerns--in this case, the idea that people are Owed an ending that meets their satisfaction--instead of throwing buzzwords at me.

Yeah, regarding the first part I got you mixed up and was reading things into your answer that you didn't write. Sorry about that.

But I'll just reiterate the point I was really trying to make instead of doing more quoting replies because in the end we may agree more than we disagree.

So the main point I was trying to make was that Casey Hudson went out of his way to state that the end of ME3 would not be like the end of Deus Ex in that there are A B C options. And he's kind of right about that because while there were 3 buttons they all did the same thing with different colors. Yes I know that the God Child *said* that they would do different things but this is never shown in the game.

He also said that there would be 16 different endings. And I can get it to 7 if I'm being generous. (I'm not going to count that the 3 extra people that exit the ship can be different, that's the same ending IMO.)

Now of course it might have been naive of people to actually believe anything the producer of the game said. But on the other hand he's not Peter Molynoux and up until this point I think he had earned the respect to be taken seriously.

This in and of itself would probably have been overlooked if the ending was actually well executed though. So it mostly compounded on the problem.

Now your second point is that gamers are not owed an ending that they want. And I agree with that. I'll even say (again) that I thought that a tragic ending could have been good. I was ready to accept that the game would end when...

Spoiler:

Shepard and Andersson sit down and look up through the crucible at the Earth and then bleed out. IMHO it would have been a better ending assuming they stopped the reapers.

But I also think Bioware made a huge mistake in interpreting what their franchise meant to people. In the spoiler thread someone compared it to having Star Wars and then adding a 2001 Space odyssey ending to it. And I also think that to many Shepard is a more extreme version of every space-bro-marine ever. I mean seriously, Shepard is going one-on-one with a Reaper and his mates are like "Do you need help?" and he/she is like "Nawww dude, it's just one. I got this..." That doesn't sound like a tragic hero to me. And while Bioware may not have intended it the freedom they put into their game made it possible for the player to have a vastly different experience of their Shepard than they reflected in the end.

The core problem is that there were many issues with the ending and expectations. Unfortunately the team went with a direction that was completely incongruous with the rest of the game for many people. Combined with just the plain poor execution of the ending (I don't think I've heard anyone so far state that they though it was a well made ending. Only that they weren't too bothered by it.) it became a "perfect storm" with the results we now see.

So while I do fully agree that gamers aren't "owed" the ending they want I can also completely understand the outrage. Filing complaints to the FTC and such is never going to go anywhere, but so far there hasn't been a class action lawsuit so people can't be *that* upset.

I hope that everyone (not only Bioware) takes this to heart and learns from the experience. I many ways I think it's one of the first cases for video games where a major release becomes such a cluster f*ck. I also think it's a sign that gaming is maturing and widening. Games are not like other media, particularly when you put choice in there as well is becomes more complicated and it becomes even more important to tread carefully if you start to break story telling rules.

EDIT: @Milkman: Worth noting that the HP coda you mention was added between the printings of the European and American versions. I think. It's been a while, but I swear I've read the epilogue wasn't part of the original manuscript.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

BioWare's Ray Muzyka responds.

I don't have a horse in this race (aside from echoing the thoughts that the ever increasing amount of entitlement felt by the internet hordes is worrying), but I'm betting someone at EA just realized they can make a quick buck or two selling alternate endings as DLC

Other peanut gallery thoughts:

1) As much as I really dislike how George Lucas has handled Star Wars, massive props for the guy for sticking to his guns despite all the negativity. I'm going to be a little annoyed if BioWare decides to change their ending just to appease a vocal group.

2) For as much as we all dislike executive meddling, is fan meddling nearly as bad? I can think of a couple instances where fan reaction to an ending has caused the writer to take a second look at things and improve the work. But like most sweeping wildfires of internet rage, I wouldn't be surprised if the idea of "constructive criticism" was the first thing to be left behind after the first hour.

2.1) I think there's an appropriate time to complain about an ending, especially if there's a lack of one in something like Borderlands . Kingdom of Loathing had a similar spat of outrage when the Crimbo 2008 holiday event ended with a very anti-climactic ending. After about two days, the ending content was revised allowing players to have an epic final battle to properly closeout the content.

3) I don't know anything about the ending aside from the fact it's a bit of a downer. In a way this reminds me of the bitterness that usually comes up over the handling of Chrono Trigger's characters in Chrono Cross. A lot of people really don't like the fact that Cross is about cleaning up a mess that resulted from Trigger's mucking about with the timeline. This resulted in one character being murdered and two others being executed off-screen (I can't remember the exact reason) which as might be expected... angered a lot of people.

EDIT: Ok, reading through the rest of the comments, this doesn't feel like the CT/CC situation to me based on what people are saying. If this is the case of unrealized expectations akin to the Matrix/Lost/etc, that's entirely different. Ditto with comment about SW.

I'm going to do a bit of usenet old-style rephrasing of your statements to make my answers more concise. Please let me know if I'm misinterpreting or misrepresenting what you mean.

Also let me preface this by saying that I agree that *to me* a tragic ending would be acceptable. My main gripe with the ending is that is fails in pretty much every other aspect as far as core story telling techniques go.

LarryC wrote:

I also read that input. While it was informative, I also thought that it was generally bad, and somewhat rote. The key difference here is that Shepard is NOT a epic hero who overcomes all odds. She's only like that if you've only played through each of the ME's once, and never take any of the alternate stories as valid.

Examples of bad things in ME3:

Spoiler:

In fact, in ME3, Shepard can and does fail repeatedly. Unlike in previous ME games, there's pretty much nothing you can do about it this time around. ... All your friends are dying and you're powerless to stop it.

Doesn't sound much like an epic hero, right?

Ok, I'm not a script writer nor a lit. major. But as far as I understand the tragic hero archetype it is someone who has a tragedy in their past which in many ways define their character. In Mass Effect Mordin is such a character. He deeply regrets his previous actions and that is pretty much the core of his character.

Shepard on the other hand is the kind of character who *repeatedly* runs into impossible odds and survives. I mean the last scene in Mass Effect 1 pretty much defines the Shepard character. Sure there are setbacks but unless you fail in ME2 it is the character that runs into impossible situations and makes people think twice about standing in their way.

In my play through I had people die on me, but it wasn't tragic:

Spoiler:

Mordin died to complete give his life so the Krogan could live. Thane died, but he was already dying and he managed to get one last heroic stand in the end, as well as reunite with his son. And Legion "died" in order to upload his modifications to his fellow Geth to turn them from dumb machines into sentient being. Hardly a worthless sacrifice.

Now it may be possible to have an asshole version of Shepard where people die like flies around him/her. But even in that case I don't think there is any tragic story to talk about, it's just that he's a douche. You may make up a tragic story on your own, but AFAIK none is given in the story. (Yes I know there is a "backstory" to Shepard, but it comes up like once every game and is hardly a defining characteristic as far as the player knows.)

This leads us to the second part...

LarryC wrote:

This person is a screenwriter, not a videogame player, and whoever he or she is, he or she doesn't get the difference. Shepard CAN fail, and in some experiences, she does and quite expectedly. This is one of those key differences between games and other media - multiplicity of narrative, with each possibility informing the others.

I disagree about the first part. If he has played through the Mass Effect games then that by definition makes him a video game player. It also seems like they have been spending quite some time thinking about this which I believe is something that is strongly needed in this medium. Particularly by those that critique games if they truly want to help raise the quality of games. (In much the same way movie critics would comment on a movie.)

It's also important to note that AFAIK being able to fail is not the same as being a tragic hero. Furthermore I think it's important to note that the archetypes for roles in a story is not something Hollywood invented to make a few blockbusters. They have been developed over hundreds (thousands) of years of storytelling across different media.

For game developers to look at this rule-book and say "Meh! We are unique! No-one else understands what *we* are doing." is short-sighted and foolish. There are cases where you can successfully break against these rules but to be brutally honest I don't think the people at Bioware are anywhere near being good enough story tellers to do that. (I really really like the Mass Effect story, but as a fairly enthusiastic reader of SciFi and Fantasy I would put their works in the pulp category. Things like the Kei Lang character is just plain stupid IMNSHO. But I can overlook that because while the story isn't the best ever I enjoy it and the experience is good.)

Now as you said games are more complex than other media. But that doesn't mean you can simply throw out the rule-book. I think it makes it much more important to know what you are doing so you can keep track and tell a good story in spite of giving control over to the player. That means you need to understand how the player will experience the choices they make so you can compensate in your story.

In the Mass Effect games this is already happening in many cases. But while the player can make a lot of choices and see them alter the world there are no significant alterations to the story of the game. (And that's fine. It would be impossible to handle otherwise.) There are always "backup characters" available to take the place of any missing guys, and while the change the flavour of the plot doesn't change significantly (you still have to go to the same places and do the same missions, but perhaps with different people involved and a different number on your end score card. (And again, this is one of the things I think is done well in the game.)

Besides pure story-telling rules, games also have game-play rules. And these should work together with the story to effectively give feedback to the player. This mostly works in ME (or as well as can be expected) but it kind of feeds into the "epic hero" idea that Shepard wades through enemies on the way to the goal.

Now regarding the ending instead of going over what you said (which I largely agree with, although I think they failed with even more things than you suggest. Here are some of my biggest problems with the ending:

Spoiler:

1) If you introduce a new character in the last 5 minutes of the story who's purpose is to act as an exposition fountain you have failed as a story teller. But sure, the rest of the story is pretty pulpy so I can kind of accept this. Unfortunately:
2) Your end exposition doesn't make sense. You had a problem that organics made synthetics which then killed organics? So your solution was to make synthetics which kill all advanced organics every 50kyears and turn them into more organic-killing-syntetics? Are you high? If the problem was that you value organic life more than synthetic (and why should you really?) then why not just kill all the new dangerous synthetic life instead?
3) From the game we have no reason to believe that organics and synthetics cannot co-exist. We have already brokered a peace between the Geth and the Quarians. And my pilot is hooking up with the ship AI. If anything the story (as well as the Prothean back story) tells us that organics are a threat to synthetics. Also it seems like the Reapers haven't revolted against their maker, which kind of disproves the entire thing.
4) The three "choices" are introduced at the last second and don't really fit the theme of the game. Destroy I can buy, because that's the goal all along. Control, perhaps, but everyone has been yelling at The Illusive Man for trying this all game through. Silly of him to waste all that effort and get indoctrinated, he should just have looked for the blue button. And then synthesis, which seems to be kind of what the Reapers wanted all along. (Although in a less gooey way.)
5) The ending cinematic is beyond disappointing. Different color filters on the same movie. There are minor differences but blink and you'll miss them. (I replayed the end 3 times.)
6) Lots of inconsistencies which seem to have been added more "to be cool" than to make any real sense. I mean where did TIM come from? Did he just magic his way to the citadel before it was taken by the Reapers (and he wouldn't be very popular there either)? How lucky that he managed to find the hidden door to the magic room just in time for the final showdown. A door which has eluded everyone for over a thousand years.
7) More stupidity: The ending scene where the Normandy is all of a sudden flying away from the final battle. Piloted by "We will follow you to the end" Joker and "Weren't we just down on Earth being shot at by Harbinger?" squad-mates. When I saw that part I was very much: WTF? Is this supposed to be a dream sequence or how did they suddenly magic their way across the solar system to the mass relay?
8) No resolution. I have spent 120+ hours running around the galaxy saving kittens from trees and solving multiple conflicts which have existed for centuries and I get nothing? Well, I do get a poorly voice acted "Tell me more about The Shepard grandpa...", "Do you have $10?".
9) And besides no resolution to the things you've done and accomplished you get no resolution to the new can of worms you've just open. The galaxy is decimated. Without mass relays billions will starve and colonies with food will not have any resources to do anything else. All those people who you got to fight with you for Earth are now stranded without large reserves of Eezo (required for FTL travel) and even with it it would take them tens of years to back home. I hope they packed a lot of food! The alternative is that a new war breaks out on Earth as surviving armadas fight for the few remaining resources. (Except the Turian and Quarians, because they can't eat Earth food.)
10) This is probably the biggest of them all: After I saw that ending the first time I was a bit confused. So I replayed the ending and went with a different choice (Destroy instead of Synthesis). After I saw virtually the exact same sequence again I had gone from immediately wanting to replay the game after I finished it (and probably ME2 as well since I just finished a new play through of ME1) to not wanting to play ANY of the Mass Effect games again.... EVER! If that is not one of the most colossal failures in game making history I don't know what is. Something like Daikatana may suck, but nobody expected anything else. The last 5 minutes of ME3 turned me from a die-hard fan who has replayed the first game 4 times into someone who doesn't want to boot the disc again. And that takes a real effort.

I think the ending experience for me can best be summarised with that I can't understand how the same people who made these games could make such a crappy ending. Considering that the ending is about 5 minutes this is an impressive number of things to get wrong in such a short time.

For me the end was really just a train wreck and made me sour on the entire franchise. Yes all those really good bit up until the last 5 minutes. And no, I don't want a happy ending or an end boss.

Although I do think we are in agreement that the ending is not good. We're only arguing about how bad it is and why. Which is also kind of sad and probably not the "Lots of speculation from everyone" they were going for.

A spoilerific response!

Hast wrote:

Now regarding the ending instead of going over what you said (which I largely agree with, although I think they failed with even more things than you suggest. Here are some of my biggest problems with the ending:

Spoiler:

1) If you introduce a new character in the last 5 minutes of the story who's purpose is to act as an exposition fountain you have failed as a story teller. But sure, the rest of the story is pretty pulpy so I can kind of accept this. Unfortunately:.
--> Starchild (as he seems to be referred to by the internet) to me was a manifestation of Shepards fears/regrets (refer: dream sequences). It is wholy consistent that the Reapers could read some of Shepards thoughts – indoctrination is basically mind control – and picking a form that Shepard in theory would be sympathetic to makes sense. Honestly, I think instead of talking to the ‘Catalyst’ it would have felt more consistent talking to Harbinger as it was set up as the de facto leader of the Reapers in ME2.

2) Your end exposition doesn't make sense. You had a problem that organics made synthetics which then killed organics? So your solution was to make synthetics which kill all advanced organics every 50kyears and turn them into more organic-killing-syntetics? Are you high? If the problem was that you value organic life more than synthetic (and why should you really?) then why not just kill all the new dangerous synthetic life instead?
-->From what I have gleaned over the internet, the Reapers were themselves organics at some point that created their synthetic forms to combat other AI-synthetics (fight fire with fire?). By destroying organics at this stage they ensure that they cannot create galaxy destroying AI-synthetics like they did. This in turn ensures that other organic life will continue to exist. The Reapers are farmers essentially.

3) From the game we have no reason to believe that organics and synthetics cannot co-exist. We have already brokered a peace between the Geth and the Quarians. And my pilot is hooking up with the ship AI. If anything the story (as well as the Prothean back story) tells us that organics are a threat to synthetics. Also it seems like the Reapers haven't revolted against their maker, which kind of disproves the entire thing.
-->From the game you have a sample size of 2 to base your conlusion that Organics and Synthetic can coexist peacefully. The Reapers in theory have millions of years to base their assumption from. Not saying they are correct, just have a better understanding than Shepard does.

4) The three "choices" are introduced at the last second and don't really fit the theme of the game. Destroy I can buy, because that's the goal all along. Control, perhaps, but everyone has been yelling at The Illusive Man for trying this all game through. Silly of him to waste all that effort and get indoctrinated, he should just have looked for the blue button. And then synthesis, which seems to be kind of what the Reapers wanted all along. (Although in a less gooey way.)
-->All 3 of those choices very much represent the themes of Mass Effect and you even spelt out how.
Paragon (control) – Everyone lives, including the reapers.
Renegade (destroy) – All synthetics destroyed.
Neutral (synthesis) – Everyone lives but the fundamentally, the nature of the Galaxy is forever altered.
Now none of these choices offer any guarantee of permanent success – here is why:
Paragon (control) – The Reapers may convince Shepard they were right and will return at some point, at which stage the galaxy may / may not have rebuilt the mass relays (the protheans built one so its possible) and restart the cycle.
Renegade (destroy) – If the Reapers were correct, then Organics will eventually rebuild synthetics and the inevitable conflict will happen.
Neutral (synthesis) – There is no guarantee that this will even work really…

5) The ending cinematic is beyond disappointing. Different color filters on the same movie. There are minor differences but blink and you'll miss them. (I replayed the end 3 times.)
--> Agreed.

6) Lots of inconsistencies which seem to have been added more "to be cool" than to make any real sense. I mean where did TIM come from? Did he just magic his way to the citadel before it was taken by the Reapers (and he wouldn't be very popular there either)? How lucky that he managed to find the hidden door to the magic room just in time for the final showdown. A door which has eluded everyone for over a thousand years.
--> The Illusive Man knew where the Catalyst was, he was already indoctrinated so why wouldn’t the Citadel let him in and why would they fight him?

7) More stupidity: The ending scene where the Normandy is all of a sudden flying away from the final battle. Piloted by "We will follow you to the end" Joker and "Weren't we just down on Earth being shot at by Harbinger?" squad-mates. When I saw that part I was very much: WTF? Is this supposed to be a dream sequence or how did they suddenly magic their way across the solar system to the mass relay?
--> The Normandy issue is the biggest (and IMO only) horrible mistake with the ending. I personally, choose to ignore it.

8) No resolution. I have spent 120+ hours running around the galaxy saving kittens from trees and solving multiple conflicts which have existed for centuries and I get nothing? Well, I do get a poorly voice acted "Tell me more about The Shepard grandpa...", "Do you have $10?".
--> Why does this need resolution? The conflict that was intended to get resolved was the Reapers and it did, with resounding finality. Considering Shepards (your) death why does it matter? The story ends at the Citadel with Shepard (eg; the subject of this fiction) ending the Cycle once and for all (in theory). Any more is fan service and personally, I hate that sh*t (see end of Harry Potter epilogue).
Additionally, any info they provide during this section will invariable get seen as canon and IF they decide to make a sequel / spin off will need to be included. Given the unknown state of the galaxy, BioWare are currently free to ‘fill in the blanks’ as they see fit (if they so choose) rather than be locked into whatever fluff they concoct now.

9) And besides no resolution to the things you've done and accomplished you get no resolution to the new can of worms you've just open. The galaxy is decimated. Without mass relays billions will starve and colonies with food will not have any resources to do anything else. All those people who you got to fight with you for Earth are now stranded without large reserves of Eezo (required for FTL travel) and even with it it would take them tens of years to back home. I hope they packed a lot of food! The alternative is that a new war breaks out on Earth as surviving armadas fight for the few remaining resources. (Except the Turian and Quarians, because they can't eat Earth food.)
--> See above. These issues are not issues with the story, you wish to know about them. It is these sorts of complaints that have the LEAST value. No matter how much epilogue they include they will inevitably leave something out or create new questions in doing so that some people will want ‘resolution’ on. A line is needed somewhere, Shepards death (which I personally feel should be unavoidable for thematic and technical reasons) is the perfect place. All your companions story arcs are resolved by the time you reach Earth.
Garrus: At peace with his role in the conflict and in a happy mental place (citadel sniper sequence)
Tali: Either dead or being instrumental to reclaim Rannoch for her people.
Legion: Either dead or ascended to form the basis for the newly individual(ised?) Geth.
Samara: Either dead, or at peace with her daughter having fulfilled her duties as a Justicar and committed to help Shepard save the galaxy.
Wrex: Either dead or father a sh*t load of baby Krogans.
Liara: The Shadow Broker and she was really sorted out story wise from then on.
Ashley / Kaidan: Either dead, in love with Shepard or at least made peace with them after the events of ME2 and now a Spectre in their own right.
Kasumi: Either dead or now assumed to be by the ‘fuzz’
Jacob: Either dead or married with a baby on the way
Miranda: Dealt with her ‘daddy issues’ which was far more of a galactic issue than it seemed.
Mordin: Probably dead. May or may not have found redemption by curing the Genophage.
Thane: Dead… Drell cancer and a katana wound will do that to you.
Jack: Either dead or leading / teaching biotics how to ‘Kick some fu…fricken butt!’
James: He never existed in my mind.
Javik: Alive after oversleeping 50,000 years and being treated like a king by the Hanar (if he can get the hell off this rock).
EDI / Joker: Alive on the Lost planet.
Anderson: Most likely dead on the Citadel.

10) This is probably the biggest of them all: After I saw that ending the first time I was a bit confused. So I replayed the ending and went with a different choice (Destroy instead of Synthesis). After I saw virtually the exact same sequence again I had gone from immediately wanting to replay the game after I finished it (and probably ME2 as well since I just finished a new play through of ME1) to not wanting to play ANY of the Mass Effect games again.... EVER! If that is not one of the most colossal failures in game making history I don't know what is. Something like Daikatana may suck, but nobody expected anything else. The last 5 minutes of ME3 turned me from a die-hard fan who has replayed the first game 4 times into someone who doesn't want to boot the disc again. And that takes a real effort.
--> Whilst I could brush that off with a response that could translate to as ‘MEH’ I wont.
I personally feel that BioWare missed an opportunity towards the end.
How would you feel about:
Keep the 3 endings, but include more info as to what starchild is/represented, flesh out the Reapers goals clearly during the final dialogue.
Cut the Normandy bullsh*t.
During the cinematic, instead of using generic human soldiers to characterise the fall / departure of the Reapers use companions that are still alive. Have short snippets of your companions during the last moments of the conflict that represent how you resolved their character arcs. For example:
* Wrex / Grunt side by side destroying some Brutes.
* Tali and a Geth Prime working together to takedown a reaper bunker.
* Jack and her students putting up shields around Ashley / Kaidan / James (eg; the human companions)
* EDI and Joker in the Normandy leading a strike against a reaper landing on Earth.
* Javik and Liara unleashing a biotic assault on some Banshees.
* Then cut away to the Relays being destroyed?
* Each “scene” needs to take only 1-2 mins?

Before we agree to disagree, Hast, I do want to address one thing in particular: the notion of a 2001 ending on a Star Wars game. This cuts right to the heart of my chief concern--much of the criticism of the ending is predicated on a very superficial, rote reading of the game.

At first glance, ME certainly looks more like Star Wars--it has aliens and blasters and noise. But thematically, from the very beginning, it's felt much closer akin to 2001. Star Wars is the battle of good and evil, and ultimately, the tensions between people expressing their poles. ME and 2001 are much less about that, and much more about man's place in the universe.

Saving the Council, sparing the Rachni queen, blowing up the Collector base, these aren't precisely good or evil conflicts, they're much more about what sort of place Shepard, our human representative, wants the galaxy to be. And confronting the Reapers isn't confronting evil--they're something beyond notions of good and evil, they're an expression of the vast incomprehensible infinitude of the universe, in the tradition of Lovecraft. They aren't the Emperor, who can be understood, they're the Monolith, which is well beyond our understanding. Again, ME looks a lot like Star Wars, but its heart isn't. An ending in the manner of 2001 feels much more appropriate to that narrative--the magnitude of the universe and our insignificance within it isn't something that can be shot in the face.

I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it until its true: if we want better stories, we need to be nuanced and savvy enough to appreciate them.

Hast's enormous list up a couple posts has it for me, exactly.

I admit, I wanted to see My Shepard destroy the reapers, and retire to Rannock with Tali (Yeah, yeah) and live happily ever after. But, I didn't expect that to happen. I was certain Shepard was going to die. Hell, he pretty much had to. Bittersweet? Sure. What we got wasn't bittersweet, though. It was... well, it was what Hast said.

Mass Effect 1's ending was fist-pumpingly awesome, the battle with Saren while the battle with Sovereign mirrored it outside. Mass Effect 2's was - for me, anyways - tragic but uplifting. We triumphed in the end, destroyed the collector base but at great personal cost, with Mordin dying in my game. This left me shocked and enthralled: midway through the series, and one of my squadmates has died, as a result of my choices and actions, who didn't have to die. It was sad, sure, but it really ramped up the impact of the game.

So, yeah, I had big expectations for the end, not just of the third game but of the series. As I said, I expected Shepard to die in the end, to sacrifice himself, to keep fighting long enough to finish things. But instead... he basically gave up, and accepted the choices offered. When presented with that choice, all I wanted to do was tell the sparklygodchild to go f*ck himself, that we'd destroy his toys or die trying. Instead of picking one of his options, destroy the citadel itself (and, thus, break the cycle at least for the future).

After all, what had we achieved? We'd brought the entire galaxy together as one. We'd not just brokered peace between Organics and Synthetics, we'd started the Synthesis already - naturally - with the Geth uploading themselves into the Quarian's suits and helping them adapt their bodies. Edi and Joker? Throughout the game, we brought them together, showed that it was indeed possible. There was so much *future* possible as a result of the events of the game that were all rendered irrelevant by that one ridiculous choice.

Gah. I loved the first two games, and the third up to the last 5 minutes. I didn't love them due to the gameplay (though it's fun, it's not spectacular), I loved them because of the story. Sure, it was pulp Sci-Fi, but it was FUN, engaging pulp Sci-Fi. Inarguably, up to that point, the best gaming experience I've ever had. And that last 5 minutes totally destroyed the replayability of the series for me. There's no sense in playing again, doing different things to find out how else the game could have turned out, because no matter what I do, or how, it'll end exactly the same, with exactly the same problems.