__Okay, so I just finished playing Mass Effect 3 last night, and I just had to get this out there because I am super pissed about the ending! And I know I’m not alone on this; just about all the fans reacted the same way when they first played it five years ago. Yes, it’s taken me until now to get round to playing the Mass Effect trilogy, so I’m sure I’m just preaching to the choir by this point, but I don’t care; I now feel the fans’ fury one hundred percent, and I just had to get all my thoughts down and set the record straight on why I, along with everyone else, hate this ending.
__And this probably goes without saying, given the nature of this post, but… spoiler alert! I’ll have to go into details to explain this properly, so if you haven’t played Mass Effect 3, you might want to hold off on reading this until after you’ve done so. You have been warned.
__Before we start, let me just briefly go over my thoughts on the trilogy as a whole so you can understand where I’m coming from. I didn’t love the first game, but it still consistently held my interest, and the climax was just incredible. Mass Effect 2, on the other hand, was great; I loved how its entire setup was focused on building your team, so you were guaranteed to grow attached to these characters and fear for their lives in the climax. Now, don’t get me wrong: Mass Effect 3, despite the epic rant that I’m about to launch into, is still an amazing game for the most part; it’s basically a war simulator with a focus on managing your assets and making alliances to unite the galaxy against a common enemy. It’s a fantastic setup and extremely well executed… up until that major blunder at the end!
__Now, the setup for the ending is a three-way choice for how you end the galactic war with the Reapers that’s been built up since the first game and finally come to a head in this one. You can either take control of the Reapers, destroy them (and all other synthetic life along with them), or make a fresh start by merging organic life with synthetic life.
__So what’s wrong with the ending? …Where the hell do I begin?!
__First of all, this isn’t just a bad ending to a single game; it’s responsible for concluding an entire trilogy, one that many players probably poured many, many hours into. I can vouch for myself! 🙂 I spent the best part of a month’s worth of free time playing these games nonstop, pouring a total of seventy-four hours of play time into this trilogy. I grew to love this series, because I got so invested in the characters and their trials and relationships, especially the romance I had going with the ever-adorable Tali… only to be betrayed and get stuck with an ending that basically rendered all that investment, all that dedication, pointless!
__Please allow me to explain. This ending does not feel like a proper conclusion. For a game that’s shaped mainly by your own choices, the final moment is not at all influenced by your actions up to this point (aside from some very minor details), preferring instead to force you into making a choice that’s entirely in its own little bubble. And that, like I said, feels like a betrayal of the player and the entire concept of the game: you’ve spent all this time shaping the adventure through your own actions and decisions, only to ultimately be compelled to the same “choose A, B or C” scenario.
__Besides, despite having three options, there really isn’t a lot of difference between the three endings. Either way, Shepard dies, the Mass Relays are destroyed and the Normandy crash-lands on an unknown planet. And that is one of the main reasons why I hate this ending so much: because my entire adventure was building to nothing. Everything I accomplished, all the relationships I formed… it was all for nothing!
__It’s a bummer ending, too. Like I said, your character is doomed, no matter what you do. Now, in theory, I would have been okay with that; the hero sacrificing himself in order to save the world (or, in this case, the galaxy) is far from a fresh concept, and sometimes it can work. But again, I hate it in this case because it wasn’t by my own choice; that fate was forced upon me.
__And it’s for the stupidest reason, too. I’ll admit, something was rubbing me the wrong way about the logic of that childlike AI that explains the situation, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I saw AngryJoe’s 10 Reasons We Hate Mass Effect 3’s Ending video (which I’m trying my best not to reiterate, by the way). Joe’s absolutely right: the problem is that there’s no option to disagree with the AI and try to explain to it why its method and reasoning are wrong. Again, it’s denying you the opportunity to shape the ending according to your character; the game forces you to go along with this bullshit logic! My Shepard would never have just resigned to it like that! I built him up as a great peacemaker; why couldn’t he have explained to the AI that he already broke the Reapers’ control over the geth and successfully negotiated peace between them and the quarians? That should have convinced it more than anything that conflict between synthetics and organics is not inevitable! For a game that’s profoundly about choice, what justification is there for being denied options like that? Whatever happened to finding another way out?
__Now, again, if they wanted to make it a bittersweet ending, I have no problem with that. This is war, after all; not every story is going to have a happy ending. But why couldn’t they have made it clear that that’s what they were going for? The idea of everything you’ve lost but gained at the same time is implied at best and just glanced over. (Though, as I’ll explain later, far more has been lost than gained anyway.)
__Still, I’d be lying if I said the fact that I didn’t get the ending I wanted wasn’t a big part of the problem. Like I said, I grew attached to all the characters that accompanied me on my journey because they felt real to me. They weren’t just my companions: they were my friends. Hell, I had Shepard fall in love, for God’s sake! And yes, for the record, male Shepard and Tali will always be my OTP; the scenes they share together will never stop being adorable. In fact, that was the part of the game in which I got most invested: the romance with Tali. I wanted more than anything to see them end up together and be happy. I wanted to see Shepard retire after saving the galaxy, like he told Garrus he would, and live with Tali in the house she was planning on her homeworld. (And while we’re on the subject, I also wanted to see Shepard tell Tali he loved her, just once.) I desperately wanted to see their relationship work out. And I firmly believe that my Shepard would have fought to see that happen, too. Why couldn’t he have found a way to shut the Reapers down and leave the Mass Relays alone? Like I said, he could have just explained to the AI what he’d accomplished. True, the Illusive Man didn’t listen to reason, but he was indoctrinated, so I don’t think he was prepared to.
__Look, I’m not upset just because I didn’t get the happy ending I so desperately wanted. I’m upset because I wasn’t even given the option!
__Man, I never thought I’d use this as an example, because I’m not the biggest fan of this game, but… look to Heavy Rain! That is more what Mass Effect 3‘s ending should have been like. That game put way more effort into its multiple endings, and each one was a fully rendered graphical cutscene. And guess what. The endings were a result of your actions throughout the game! Depending on how you handled the characters’ fates, you could either have happy endings all around or a more bittersweet conclusion where some characters end up okay but others are not so lucky. Hell, you could even have everyone die and see the Origami Killer get away scot-free! But you see what I mean? Options that felt earned! Options that didn’t rely on just telling the player to choose ending A, B or C or whatever. (Quantic Dream saved that for their follow-up game, Beyond: Two Souls.)
__But even taking the absence of my perfect happy ending out of the equation, this ending still sucks because the whole galactic fleet is screwed. The Mass Relays are destroyed, so no one can get home again; thousands of ships, with probably hundreds of millions of inhabitants, are stranded in Earth space! And Earth is decimated after the Reaper invasion; it can probably barely feed its own population, let alone all these others! Are you telling me we spent all this effort bringing the whole galaxy together, only to doom all these races to extinction by overpopulation?! Fuck you, BioWare! I don’t think I can even find the words for what a dick move that is!
__I’ve heard that they released an updated version of the ending that expands on some things and addresses a few of the complaints brought up in the initial fan backlash. I’m guessing I got the full version, because it shows the crew of the Normandy mourning Shepard. But that still doesn’t change the fact that everyone has no way to get home! So either way, this ending is still a miserable situation for everyone!
__And yes, I know it is possible to get a final scene where it’s implied that Shepard survived. That still doesn’t fix the Mass Relay situation, so as far as I’m concerned, that scene is just one final slap in the face.
__Well, I think that about covers it. I hate this ending! I hate everything about this ending! Not only did it forcefully deny me the conclusion I wanted (hell, if that were the only reason, that’d make me sound like a petulant child), but it goes against everything the game stands for, its reasoning makes no sense, it barely explains itself, it renders three games’ worth of accomplishments completely pointless, and it leaves the player with a distinctly hollow feeling because of the situation in which it leaves all its characters. So no, whichever way I look at it, I just cannot justify this ending, and if anyone can, I fail to see where they’re coming from.
__And at the end of the day, like I said before, it’s a betrayal. As I mentioned, the rest of Mass Effect 3 is really, really good, which makes that utter faux pas of an ending all the more heartbreaking. I think I speak for all the fans here: we wouldn’t have got so upset if we didn’t like the games in the first place. After really enjoying all three games, with my eagerness to see the series’ conclusion ever mounting, I’m left with an ending that just makes me feel like I’ve been strung along all this time. I feel like my affection, dedication and emotional involvement in this series has been exploited. I don’t know if BioWare or EA or someone else was responsible for this, but they should be ashamed of themselves.
__All I can say in terms of final words is fuck this ending and fuck whoever decided it should be that way!