A Note From Tami
This is another of those glorious goodies that I conned my friend Aensu into writing. It contains NSFW language AND ME3 game-ender spoilers.
It ALSO contains a better … no the BEST Mass Effect 3 Ending.
Read at your own risk.
How Mass Effect 3 SHOULD Have Ended
(SPECIFIC SPOILERS BELOW)
To me, a good ending would be any ending in which your choices actually effect the outcome beyond the color of the fucking explosion and possibly some dumb looking circuitry overlay on organic material in a recycled cutscene.
Hey, maybe a binary Paragon/Renegade choice to match everything else in the game?
Okay, here’s how I would do it. First, throw away all the garbage about “The Catalyst”. Now, say instead of the confrontation with Kai Leng, Shepard just learns of the whole “Reapers harvest advanced organic life in order to prevent the inevitable development of synthetic life capable of destroying all organic life and wiping it out forever” bit on her way through Cronos Station, so that she knows the stakes ahead of time instead of at the very last minute. Perhaps she is haunted by this knowledge in a few cutscenes between the ridiculous fights on Earth, maybe has to be encouraged by an uplifting speech from the love interest and/or her squadmates to carry on.
After the whole failed charge/limp into the crazy teleporter beam bit, Shepard and Anderson meet up inside the Citadel and have to fight through a few easy Cerberus and Reaper cannon fodder troops at the same time. Uh-oh, why are Cerberus and the Reapers fully working together now? Are the Reapers controlling Cerberus, or did Cerberus actually figure out how to control the Reapers!? It’s not meant to be super challenging, but you have crippled movement and only your crappy pistol to make it interesting and dramatic.
In the final room, as the Crucible is flying toward the Citadel, Kai Leng lurks out of the shadows, aiming for Shepard with his stupid little ninja sword. Anderson notices him at the last second, shouts a warning and intercepts Kai Leng, then is promptly gutted just like Thane. Super pissed, Shepard finds her second wind and regains full movement, then we have the final confrontation with Kai Leng, only he doesn’t summon adds or do that stupid recharging thing, and you have to solo him. It’s just you, your pistol, and your melee key (protip: I found that punching Kai Leng in the face like a boss is the best way to beat him anyway)
Upon defeating Kai Leng, we are treated to a cut scene of Shepard pumping his stupid ass full of space bullets until her pistol overheats.
Shepard limps toward Anderson. Cue the ominous music as The Illusive Man is lit up in the background, all huskified and integrated into some nasty looking piece of Reaper/Cerberus tech; the culmination of his quest to control the Reapers. Here we have a conversation sequence in which we learn that The Illusive Man was one step ahead all along, as he always is, and the tech was installed during the attempted coup of the Citadel. It’s purpose: to turn the Big Weapon into a Reaper Remote Control, with The Illusive Man as the immortal controller, ensuring the dominance of humanity over all others from now until forever. The only piece it was missing was the Crucible, which even Cerberus couldn’t build on its own.
The entire galaxy unknowingly played right into his plan, and here he is at the precipice, but he’s seemingly defenseless and at Shepard’s mercy. Then we find out that, of course, Cerberus really did install a fail safe into Shepard’s implants, making her vulnerable to The Illusive Man’s indoctrination-like control at this crucial moment. (and also making the foreshadowing in Sanctuary base not be completely meaningless to the narrative) As The Illusive Man spews some great rhetoic, Shepard slowly raises the pistol to her temple and closes her eyes, seeing some sepia-toned flashbacks of her friends and accomplishments (if you wanted to get really artsy, maybe they could be sequenced in such a way as to be positive interpretations of The Illusive Man’s words). Fade to black…
Pistol’s still overheated. One last chance.
Shepard’s eyes snap open and through sheer force of will–you know, what Shepard’s been all about throughout the whole fucking game?–she overcomes the control long enough to snatch up Kai Leng’s stupid little ninja sword and insert it directly into The Illusive Man’s big stupid mouth.
Anderson groans, still alive, but just barely. Shepard, once again in control of herself, helps Anderson up and sits down with him for the touching student-mentor/father-child conversation bit, including the great dialogue that was inexplicably cut, watching the Crucible finish hooking up as Anderson bleeds to death.
As the player regains control of Shepard, Admiral Hackett’s voice crackles over the coms, informing us that something’s wrong, the Crucible isn’t firing, it must be something on our end. Then the player gets to choose:
1) Crawl over to the red-lit console and activate the Crucible for the ultimately selfish but hopeful Renegade choice, destroying the Reapers and ending the cycle once and for all, at the risk of dooming all organic life to true obliteration in the future. Shepard may or may not live, depending on how well you played, or maybe she’s just consumed as the Crucible powers up.
2) Crawl over to the blue-lit control device for the Paragon choice, replacing The Illusive Man and becoming the immortal controller of the Reapers, ostensibly to save everyone and still protect the galaxy from the dominance of destructive synthetic life, but at the cost of your humanity and everything you loved, and the risk of losing yourself to the Reapers in time and the cycle starting all over again.
Then, and most importantly, the player is treated to little scenes of how things play out during and after the credit roll. Give us some closure, damnit. Maybe if Shepard stuck with one love interest throughout the whole series, they both end up in the citadel to fight Kai Leng and get to die/control the reapers together. Give Shepard and Anderson a funeral and a monument. Show those who lived mourning and then going on with their lives. Show us the results of our choices!
If Shepard cured the genophage, becoming the heroic legend and savior for the entire species, do the Krogan mature into a society of noble warriors who follow The Shepard’s example and strive to protect the galaxy, or do they degenerate into brutal warlords and try to dominate everything?
If Shepard saved the Geth, do they prove whoever created the Reapers wrong and live in harmony with the Quarians? Or has it opened the door for another schism among the Geth in which one side vies for the destruction of all organics, and the other side becomes the new Reapers, starting the cycle anew?
What if Shepard didn’t do those things? What if Shepard did some different things?
Apparently, none of that matters at all! Hey, maybe BioWare was going for some artsy nihilistic crap, or it was all an “indoctrination hallucination” and we’ll be able to buy the “real” ending for $9.99 in six months. But to me it just comes off as bad writing at best, and bean counting at worst. Writing team couldn’t agree on a good way to finish the story or create an array of decent endings within the deadline? Couldn’t be arsed to produce a few unique cutscenes for different flavors of playthrough? So just slap on some one-size-fits-all garbage and call it good so EA can collect their motherfuckin’ movie check?
It’s the END OF SHEPARD’S SAGA and there’s no real closure, no resolution other than some generic, vague bullshit to fit all playthroughs. And it’s not even good bullshit!
I would at least like to know A) why the fuck the Normandy was suddenly in hyperspace instead of fighting in Earth orbit with everyone else and B) how the fuck members of my ground team got on board in order to be stepping off the crashed ship onto some random world, completely uninjured by the Reaper-beam-to-the-face they received on Earth. How about some implication of what happens to various races and cultures with all the Mass Relays destroyed? How about some implication of what happens to Earth now that members of every major galactic race are stranded there together? (MMOFPS alert)
How about ANYTHING other than that horribly voice acted piece of generic crap at the end of the credits and a goddamn pop up window telling me to buy DLC?
Now, that was all off the cuff and I have the memory of a hamster, so I’m sure there’s clashes between my invented ending and established canon lore, but goddamn. As it stands, even this joke ending is better, more fitting, and moreheartfelt than what BioWare gave us.
And, all that being said, don’t let the arguably poorly done ending discourage you from playing the game anyway.
Everything up to that last few minutes was fan-fuckin’-tastic, which may have just made the ending seem that much worse in comparison.
Well, no I take that back, not everything was great.
Side quests were mostly just as lame and generic as the ending, quest tracking was stupid garbage, the Citadel map sucked, animation glitches were everywhere, and Joker had black teeth for the entire game, reinforcing my perception that the game was super rushed in every area but the shooting bits and dialogue/voice acting.
But those bits were so good that the rest was like the buzzing of flies to Vigo.
Good to know I’m by no means alone in my assertions, either!
Here’s some supplemental reading that very astutely lays out why the ending rings so hollow for, apparently, a very large number of fans.
It’s all reminding me of some of those essays on writing I’ve read that talk about making sure to follow through on your narrative promises and sticking to your established themes, else the reader will end up hating you as an author.