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Why I hate Mass Effect 3's Ending
There be major SPOILERS ahead. This is going to be a long article folks, so I separated it into two parts. TL;DR version is in the next part.
Mass Effect has been the cornerstone gaming franchise of my decreasing virtual library since the release of one of my favorite games of all time, the original. This game marked the beginning of something personally special that would be definitive for not only RPG fans, but third person shooter fans, creating a hybrid that brought in people with uniquely distinct tastes in interactive entertainment. It was to be one of the first series, for many, that incorporated the idea of pure consequence, a story whose canon was dependent on how you chose to play, what allegiances you chose to squander, species you decided to end on a whim with the press of a button, among other variables. These choices would be reflected in further playthroughs with the individual character, minor details popping up in latter titles that ranged from nothing more than vague references to complete strands of dialogue lambasting or praising you for whatever route you took in a certain story arc, and even character's deaths. It was/is dynamic, to say the least, and the promise of all of this culminating to one final package was indeed a rich idea that begged to have a satisfyingly epic conclusion, one that was cohesive and tied in all or most of the loose ends created by your endless choices, regardless of your main character's fate.
This did not happen. At all. In the least bit. And as a hard core fan of the series, I'm here to tell you that the backlash the game's ending has been receiving is completely justified in every sense of the word.
But before I divulge the information, let me dispel any negative assumptions/doubts about my persona, reasonings, etc. I am a fan of the series, but I have always been critical about it. I've never outright praised any of the individual games even though all three (yes, I like the third game) have many a strong suit (the first is the best, if you were curious). Therefore, I am not blinded by my love for the inexistent compilation of complex processes. Everything I say is based purely off of facts, or at least they are to the best of my abilities (though I'll get emotional, but I'm not a journalist, and this isn't a news piece. This is an internet rant). To that end, I also do not view myself as entitled. When someone creates something as a luxury to my spare time, I technically have no say in how they should proceed with starting/finishing it if it does not impact my life in the least. Creative license is one of the most beautiful things about freedom, and Mass Effect is no different; what they do with their series is what they do with their series. I have no say in it, and I'm fine with that. I do not mind being along for the ride, just absorbing the minutia of their universe to waste time normally wasted on the computer is an acceptable prospect for me. However, this doesn't mean I can't have an opinion about certain facets, especially how it concluded. Finally, if you'd like to refer to me as whiny, bitchy, or arrogant, then so be it. I guess black people were being arrogant and bitchy back before 1964 when they wanted access to cleaner bathrooms, since, you know, clean bathrooms are only a luxury. I guess when I spend 60 hard earned dollars on something, I should automatically like it and not have any of those expectation things, and never be disappointed or have an individual stance. Fact of the matter is, this is an essay that contains harsh criticisms about one of the most important aspects of Mass Effect 3. I have every right as a human to express my opinions freely, and will do so uncensored. Oh, and am I too attached to my character? Um, ya. Mass Effect kind of encouraged you to be close to her/him. I wasn't playing with Marcus Fenix, I was playing with my own created Commander Shepard, so d'uh, I'd get attached. If there's a problem with any of these, the back button is one click away.
Now let's begin. First off, Deus Ex Machina in any creative media, if done correctly, can actually enhance the story to limitless boundaries and expand it in the blink of an eye, or at least save the story/writer's ass without making her/him seem like an amateur. Such is the case with movies like Star Wars, when Han Solo and Chewbacca save the day at the Death Star by sweeping in (credit to Colin Dodson for the reference). I unfortunately don't have a game whose use of Deus Ex Machina was good, because I honestly haven't ever seen it (I don't think). Anyway, back to the point. The Catalyst in Mass Effect 3 was the beginning of the major problem (not general problems, those came ten minutes earlier). It takes the form of a boy who died in the beginning and subsequently haunted your dreams. No indication for him appearing the way he is for Shepard (I can smell “Wake Up Shepard” DLC already on the horizon...) is given, despite the fact he is billions of years old; no explanation, no nothing, he's just there. Great. They could have at least thrown in the line “You see me as you would see God; that is, who you want it to be.” There, I just solved one of the games problems. Could they not see this issue storyboarding?
After a rather non-sensical discussion about the Catalyst's reasoning for the Reaper's... Ok, let me not skip this. The explanation for what's going on with the Reapers is abominable, to be nice. Here's the long and the short: Reapers were made in response to a pattern exhibited by organic life, in that organics would create intelligence machines, so cutting edge that they would develop their own mindsets and ambitions, and turn on their creators. The Reapers kill organics every 50,000 years to save organics from falling to their own synthetics. This is so fatuous that it warrants it's own AmazingAtheist segment. So, in Xzibit's terms, “Yo Dawg, I hear synthetics keep killing organics. So I made synthetics to kill organics so synthetics wouldn't kill organics.” Got that? Well, neither did I, because it makes absolutely no sense. I've heard the phrase “beating someone at their own game,” but this take it to another level entirely. So you're going to help organic life by destroying it constantly once they reach a certain height, instead of outright killing off the supposed nuisance in the first place? To stop a devious pattern, you turn a pattern into a pattern? This has been happening for a billion years too, according to the Catalyst. When were they going to realize that they were simply wasting their time?
Adding to this lack of logic, the Mass Relays are gateways to technological advances, and are solid reasons for why so many organics eventually find complex methods of creating artificial intelligence units. If the Reapers are out to destroy organics because their technology keeps destroying them, why do they keep the Relays around? Why wouldn't they just destroy them? And the Citadel? The Citadel isn't needed to sustain life, so why not just get rid of it? A good portion of technology wouldn't be possible without the help of the Citadel surely, since it's just a galactic hub. Exiting it from the face of the galaxy would cut off ties with other races, eliminating the idea of bringing every species together. Eliminating the idea of species interaction would be a big first step into eliminating sentient machines. Don't think this is true? Ok, which species developed the Normandy? Exactly. Granted, individual societies create their own machines, as the Quarians have and some race from the Prothean's time. Still, though, technology is helped by the Mass Relays. Why are they there? Yes, the Reapers need them to wipe out planets quickly, but if they would just kill the organics in the first place, they wouldn't need the damn Relays, which advance species to new levels of supremacy. Hell, humans have benefitted greatly from the Relays just because they ran into the Turians. So they need to die because the Reapers are simply too incompetent to see that the Relays themselves are the reason a good portion of technology even exists, or a solid reason that organics even come to rely on technology? It would have made more sense to write that the Reapers are just all powerful God-like machines, if this is the best they're going to do with an explanation. Plus, the idea behind destroying the Mass Relays makes sense, since destroying one would cause the system it's located in to be eradicated, obliterating all life forms in the regions and therefore decreasing the risk of organics even coming into prominence to destroy themselves in the first place with their own technologies. Stay with me now. This is all according to Arrival, DLC from Mass Effect 2, which is canon. Oh, wait... just wait. Hold on to that thought.
Alright, we get the explanation from the almost literal Deus Ex Machina, and then he presents us with three choices that border on insanity in their devising. It goes something like this: you are given three choices. The first it to control the Reapers and send them away from organic life (how this happens is not explained by the boy or when Shepard dies trying to do it), destroying the Mass Relays in the process. Ok. Second choice, you can destroy the Reapers and all other synthetic life, including yourself, which also destroys the Mass Relays. Great. Third choice, you can fuse together synthetic and organic life, destroying the Mass Relays in the process still. Um... alright. Wonderful. To be honest, I have to say I was expecting this sort of set-up, so it wasn't very disappointing (the set-up, not the ending itself). Mass Effect has always been about “choose this thing, choose that thing,” so this was simply an extension of a functionality. Nothing wrong with staying true to a game's inner-workings. What's the problem here is the game's complete abandonment of it's main motifs as well as a complete display of incompetency on the part of the writers. (Continued in Part 2)
Last edited by rwaddy2; 03-15-2012 at 10:30 AM.
Reason: It was too long. I'm separating it into two parts. Also had to fix some minor issues. I'm not the best editor, so apologies.