I think anybody reading this will know what’s up by now. Mass Effect 3’s ending angered many a fan to the point where they were demanding changes. Conspiracy theories abound! The REAL ending was going to be DLC in a move to make money by EA. It’s actually something really wacky called Indocrination Theory that makes Bioware about 10x smarter than most of us. Bioware hates children and supports disease….ok that’s not true, but judging by the level of freak out by some, it seems that way. As hard as it was to not weigh in my review, I wanted to keep that spoiler free. THIS ARTICLE IS GOING TO BE FULL OF SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. I’m glad I waited because today Bioware announced that the “Mass Effect Extended Cut DLC” will be coming this summer and will be free. Is this a good idea? Did fans get what they want or destroy the creative process for all game developers in the future? What of the children?! Let’s discuss.
For the record, I thought the ending of ME3 was pretty crappy. My issues with it are the issues most have, but I’ll run them down here quickly.
- The ghost kid/reaper was seemingly conjured from nowhere by Bioware and felt totally out of place. For a game to captivate me through three titles of story only to have the ending be what basically amounts to a deus ex machina sucked.
- As the ME2 DLC Arrival taught us, when Mass Relays are destroyed the energy released is so powerful that whatever system they inhabit is basically turned to dust. Hence, the Batarians hating Shepard for wiping out their home world and most of their race. No matter the choice you make, the Mass Relays are destroyed. Which means that all of the fleets around the Sol system would be wiped out, as well as any home world of a race that has a mass relay in their system. Which is most of them.
- The Normandy apparently somehow sees this coming (despite the fact that nobody has any idea what the crucible will do once activated) and hits a Mass Relay right before it explodes. But first it stops off on Earth and picks up the companions I had with me on the final mission, then bolts. The Joker I know would have flown into the god damn Citadel to help Shepard or die trying.
On a more macro level, my biggest problem was this. The scene at the end with the child talking to the old man (TERRIBLE voice acting by Buzz Aldrin, btw. I get it Bioware, it’s cool to have a famous astronaut in your game, but he was awful) implies that after the events of that battle, space travel outside of the local system ceased to be due to there being no mass relays. That means that all of the huge decisions I made basically amounted to nothing. Curing the genophage because I trusted Wrex to NOT start a galactic war? Doesn’t matter, he can’t leave his system anyway. Helping the Quarians and Geth reach a peace so they can both rebuild their home world of Rannoch? Doesn’t matter, the entire Quarian Fleet is stuck in the Sol system. Now, technically, they should be dead. Along with every single war asset I had present with me at the battle AND EARTH ITSELF since the mass relay blew. I believe that this will be the first thing addressed with Bioware’s new DLC, as there is no way they wanted the ending of their game to be “Earth is destroyed no matter what you do.” I think they came up with the whole mass relay blowing up equals destruction thing because they needed something to explain Sheperd being grounded on Earth at the start of ME3 and then never thought about it again. Ooops? It will be explained away. I felt like the ending took away any of the meaning my choices had. In three games ABOUT choices and their consequences, that’s a failure.
So, what of the now famous Indoctinration Theory? Google it if you’re not sure what I’m talking about as it is well worth delving into, but the very short version is this. The sequence after Sheperd gets hit with the reaper’s laser at the end of ME3 is not real. It is all in Sheperd’s head and it’s him either overcoming or succumbing to being indoctrinated by Reapers, exactly how Saren and the Illusive Man were. Overcoming it means choosing the destruction path (the “red” choice) in which case the theory states Sheperd should wake up, as the scene of him taking a breath would indicate, and be ready to resume his run towards the light to make it to the Citadel, since he never actually made it there in the real (game) world.
I love this theory. IF true, I think it’s a brilliant move by Bioware and kudos to them for tricking most of its audience. From a creative standpoint, it’s a fantastic idea. However, from a real world Bioware is a business standpoint, it’s an utter disaster no matter what. Consumers, myself included, are not going to be pleased that the game they purchased has a fake out ending when no access is given to the “real” ending. Consider the options that Bioware has for this whole ending fiasco.
- Say that the ending is how they wrote it and wanted it to be and that’s final. I actually think this makes the most sense, which makes me sad they’ve confirmed this extended cut dlc. Yes, I didn’t like the ending, but Bioware are the ones that made the game, they can end it however they please. They have the freedom to write it as they want, I have the freedom to call it stupid. We’re left with a bad ending to a great series, which isn’t ideal, but sadly isn’t that uncommon.
- Listen to the feedback of the “fans” and make something for them. This is what the planned DLC that was just announced sounds like. This is an absurdly difficult task in that there is no way Bioware pleases everybody, it would be almost impossible to wrap up EVERY loose end. Something just seems wrong about it too. Oh hey you didn’t like our ending? Umm…well here’s a little more, are we cool now? In a way I feel this was caving in to the demands of fans if it wasn’t planned from the start. If it was, it should have already been there. It being free (which is unheard of on Xbox live) is a very good thing as Bioware would have been eviscerated if they had charged for it. Sadly, the free DLC thing isn’t the solution either. According to grabstats.com: “80% of an expected 190 million households, 148 million households, with next generation video game consoles will have this console connected to the Internet.” This is actually way higher than I thought it would be as far as consoles being online goes. But that still leaves 42 million consoles not online. I have no idea how many of those played Mass Effect 3, but I’m sure they’re out there. 1 million? 5 million? Bioware is screwing some of their customers here no matter what. What if somebody has since sold their Xbox? Lost their save file? Any number of things could happen that result in somebody who played ME3 never getting a chance to see this Extended cut.
- Indocrination Theory has the same issues as any other dlc as in there will be some who can’t play it. However, in this case it’s even worse, since instead of missing out on some extra scenes and a bit more story conclusion, anybody who doesn’t play it misses out on THE REAL ENDING OF THE GAME. As much as I love the creative work behind it, I can’t see from a business perspective Bioware taking this risk.
For me, I wish Bioware had just not done anything. It sucks that ME3 ended with a whimper instead of a bang but opening this whole can of worms about changing things and when is a game considered “finished” and all that stuff just isn’t worth it. I can accept the bad ending because at times Mass Effect as a series truly captured me in a way that video games usually don’t. In my review I made reference to what I thought was a perfect sequence, and I was talking about the end of the first act on Tchunka. Mordin’s death, and the lead up to it with the Reaper and the Thresher Maw, Wrex’s quest to cure the genophage, my decision to support him and tell the Salarian councillor to go to hell, it was PERFECT. Those are the kinds of moments I will remember from this series. A bad last hour in no way negates the previous one hundred something I spent before it. I’ll play the upcoming DLC because it’s free Bioware, but I fear that this “solution” will end up being just as unsatisfying as the original problem.