My thoughts on why the Mass Effect 3 ending was so bad

So this is a rant that I’m sure many of you saw coming.  It took me some time to get to, but I have finally beat Mass Effect 3.  Probably one of the few reasons I ended up beating the game when I did was because I heard so much about the ending and I wanted to see what all the hub-bub was about.  I did originally plan to take much longer and experience more of the side quests, but there was just too much mounting pressure to get in on the discussion.  Somehow I was able to remain isolated from spoilers and I didn’t find out why the ending was bad until I experienced it for myself

First of all, let’s get this out of the way on the abstract page:


This is going to be a spoiler-ific discussion and so if you have not beat the game yet, don’t click into it.  I don’t know a good way to talk about the subject without directly referencing some things, so just stay away if you haven’t had the chance to finish this game yet.  With that out of the way, hit the jump for my breakdown on why I hate the Mass Effect 3 ending and why many others do as well.

So my initial, unscathed thoughts:  Well it was interesting, but the choices were really off.  Where is the option to persuade the Reapers, for instance?  Why are the only choices control and destroy?  Is there even a way to “lose”?  I was not offered the third “synthesis” ending, which after watching some videos looks like a bit of a cop-out.  But really now, compared to the varied endings and options from the previous 2 games, it just feels like the overall paradigm of the Mass Effect universe has been completely tossed out the window.By now, there shouldn’t even be a lot of choices, the weight of choices I’ve made throughout 3 different games should spell out something organically.  Maybe sprinkle in a small choice or two near the end to make it more effective, but ultimately, I’ve made a lot of choices already and to just say that all of them are irrelevant to the end cut-scene is pretty damn insulting.

I guess the real disappointing part is the assumptions that people are already making about this uproar: No, nobody is inherently mad that the game ends on a serious note, or that things aren’t super honky-dorey, or whatever.  I personally think Bioware, in the span of about 10 minutes, put forward some interesting ideas and solutions to the problems and loose ends within the Mass Effect universe, so that really isn’t the problem.  If some people out there still don’t understand what the real commotion is over the ending, this is your quick and dirty list, all of the points that, honestly, really need to addressed by Bioware ASAP, lest this game go down as another Matrix Trilogy:

  • The 2 or 3 choices presented do not fit into the paradigm of the series (none seemed inherently Paragon or Renegade).
  • All of the choices made during previous games basically amount to squat.  Those who scrambled through the games without thinking twice about their decisions get the same ending as those who meticulously weighed every conversation.
  • Bioware, up to this point, had painstakingly told us how previous games and decisions made in them, as well as the third game, would lead to a unique ending, but it did not.  This feels like a huge broken promise.
  • There is a genuine lack of what your final decisions actually amount to.  Does the galaxy move on?  What about all of those conflicts you ended just within this very game (Quarians and Geths, as well as the genophage)?  Basically there is no true epilogue for a game that really needs one.  You can’t just publish some books later on because everyone had a different experience.
  • The ending is Deus Ex Machina to a large extent.  Largely this is thought to be sort of a cop-out in writing, but what is weird is just that the rest of the game never feels this way.  Tough decisions will come and go and rarely if ever does some guy come in to save you from a bad one.  In this case, no matter how you got to the ending, some random diety A.I. thing appears and gives you 2 or 3 choices that all basically resolve everything in a neat little package.
  • This one you will only know from multiple playthroughs or checking out youtube videos, but all of the endings are essentially the same.  The main difference is the color of the explosion, which is just lame if you ask me.

Bioware stands in a unique position, however.  Typically when books or movies are released and the ending sucks, there’s not diddly-squat they can do about it until the “Director’s Cut” or whatever can be released.  But in this case I think Bioware could indeed release some bonus DLC content to enhance or greatly change the end of the game.  There is a lot of speculation of the “Indoctrination Theory“, that things may not be as they seem, but even with that, there will need to be some significant content release to make sure that this thing is better.It may be sort of a dick move again, and the implications of releasing a “special ending” through paid DLC has its own moral qualms, but honestly I’ve made peace with that idea.  Frankly, if it makes the game turn into the best damn piece of video game story-telling history, then they can take from me what essentially adds up to $80 (price of the game plus 2 DLC packs, assuming they’re priced at $10 each).  It really is tough to let go of this one, as Mass Effect struggled to make itself a big name in the RPG world for awhile, but through persistence and an active fan-base, it became a huge hit.  I really do hope they can figure out how to take the feedback and make this better, but I won’t hold my breathe over it either.

After-thought:  The one thing about the very end that does bother me is the extremely bizarre escape that Joker makes with the rest of the crew, crash-landing on some distant, lush planet, without much explaination as to why everyone was on the ship and not on Earth.  I’m willing to let that one slide, but its still really bizarre.


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About Ryan Saul

Hailing from Portland, OR I work by day and blog by night. I like to consider myself a video game connoisseur, playing as many new things as I can get my hands on. Its hard to hold me down to one game for very long before I move on to the next big thing. Luckily, that works pretty well in terms of video game blogging.

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