Despite a small amount of graphical hiccups and some reductions in the dialogue system, “Mass Effect 3” is a masterpiece of storytelling and gameplay, until the last 5-10 minutes of the game. At that point, the game clumsily introduces several new plot points and forces you to make a choice on how the galaxy is saved. Fans everywhere were confused, upset, and enraged over the lack of closure and how new questions were presented that would never be answered. I know this information is weeks old, but I owe it to myself and the readers of “The Oredigger” to explain where “Mass Effect 3” went wrong.
“Mass Effect 3” enters its climax when the player travels to Earth, with the combined forces of nearly every species in the galaxy (depending on the player’s actions), to battle the apocalyptic Reapers in one final confrontation. Commander Shepard, the player character, carves through Reaper forces in order to access a device that will destroy the Reapers once and for all. Once Shepard makes his or her final push, Shepard faces an old friend and an old enemy before he or she can activate the device. In a verbal confrontation that requires tact and guile from the player, Shepard conquers this final obstacle, but Shepard’s injuries prevent him or her from activating the device. Shepard is then transported to an expansive area and forced to make a choice that decides the fate of the galaxy. After Shepard’s choice, an explosion originating from the device envelops the Reapers all over the galaxy. How the Reapers are affected is shown through nearly identical scenes whose only major difference is what color is the explosion. Yes, really. These explosions destroy a major piece of technology in the galaxy and leaves the fates of Shepard, his or her allies, his or her squadmates, and the various races and nations of the galaxy uncertain. Given the destruction of a major component of Mass Effect and how Shepard’s team seemingly end up, the fates of Shepard’s team and the galaxy itself seem bleak.
Although some parts of this ending are alluded to earlier in the game, the mechanism for how Shepard makes his or her final choice is not foreshadowed in any way. The only relation is a small plot point that appears sporadically throughout the game. The ending introduces too many new concepts that appear to have come from nowhere. With the ending trying to justify itself, it creates plot holes that needlessly confuse the player. The ending choice, although promised otherwise by the creators of the game, does not directly draw from the thousands of choices Shepard made in Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3 and gives the impression that none of it mattered. The choices made affect what war assets Shepard acquires which affect which ending Shepard can get. Through playing multiplayer, the player can get an Effective Military Strength of 5000 which will allow the player to acquire the most hopeful ending. Have less than 5000 and the ending is more bleak than it already seems. So, if Shepard was paragon, renegade, or anything in-between, it ultimately does not matter.
Bioware, the makers of “Mass Effect 3,” ran short on time. Their script was leaked online so they had to rush to make a new one. With Electronic Arts, their publisher, holding fast to the release date, Bioware ran out of time and created their controversial ending. This explains how the ending has an unpolished feel and has so many plot holes.
Bioware also wanted to invite speculation with the ending, and they certainly did that. Numerous explanations have appeared trying to justify the ending with varying success. The most popular theory is the “Indoctrination Theory.” It postulates that Shepard was slowly being brainwashed by the Reapers and the ending represents his or her final battle with resisting the indoctrination’s effects. While these theories help explain why the ending is the way it is, they fail to provide the closure the fans want.
Fortunately, Bioware listened to the complaints and is releasing downloadable content (DLC) to expand on the ending. A major fear about the ending is that Bioware or EA separated the ending from the main story so they could make more money. In order to quell those fears, the DLC will be free. “Mass Effect 3, Extended Cut” will be released the summer of 2012. Hopefully, this will clear up some confusion and provide some measure of closure.
“Mass Effect 3’s” ending upsets the narrative of the story. Fans everywhere were disappointed, at a minimum, by an ending that gives almost no closure, makes little sense, and makes the game stumble to the ground after such a strong showing. Everything else the game did easily makes it a masterpiece of storytelling and gameplay that leaves the player emotionally invested in the story and characters. Sadly, the ending leaves the player confused and dismayed. The upcoming DLC may explain enough of the ending that it returns “Mass Effect 3” to the masterpiece it was destined to be. However, purchasing “Mass Effect 3” before the DLC’s summer release may not be worth the disappointment of the current ending.