Why I'm Hilariously Angry About the Mass Effect 3 Extended Edition

So after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, fans finally convinced Bioware to fix their awful, over-simplified, rushed and illogical trio of almost identical endings, each equally tragic, vague and unsatisfying. The whole Mass Effect 3 ending saga has been covered ad nauseum by yours truly, so when Bioware announced they'd be releasing an 'Extended Cut' DLC for free, I was shocked. Hopeful, even. Perhaps now the final part in what was my favourite gaming saga would end with a bang, as opposed to a dull, upsetting pop. The kind of muffled, wet pop you might hear after refusing to pee for a full week.

And I've just finished all four endings. Oh, yeah. There are now four endings. The new ending is - and we're going to be dealing in some severe spoilers from here on out, so be very, very careful - odd. Odd in that it's effectively Bioware, or, as I suspect, Casey Hudson who purportedly wrested control away from the writers to give the series the ending he always wanted, thereby metamorphosing into a kind of fatuous Veruca Salt figure. Casey, stop dancing around and singing. The eggdicator can and will shunt you down the bottomless pipe of societal discord.

…Ergh. Convoluted metaphor. Anyway, the new ending, whilst initially very promising, involves you refusing to partake in any of the Star Child's nonsensery. And what do you get for refusing to make one of three big, dumb, mean decisions? You get a brief clip of a beacon underground thousands of years later, on which a hologram of Liara explains how you screwed up. Effectively, Bioware are saying that if you don't buy into their endings, not only will you get a shorter and meaner conclusion than before, but everyone in the universe will die because you took a principled stand. You know, like fans took a principled stand. It's the kind of cruel, childish turn on a seemingly brilliantly defiant choice that makes me bristle. But wait! I'm about to get EVEN BRISTLIER.

You're told to install the DLC and play from the Cerberus Base mission, which is about three hours of gameplay until you reach the credits. As you and your team rush the portal to the citadel, a sequence which previously lent credence to the wonderful and cruelly neglected Indoctrination Theory, the new content really kicks in. You'll see why your teammates end up not with you but on board the Normandy. This rescue sequence is fantastic, but seems to be screaming at you the entire time "WHY WAS THIS NOT THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE?", to which the obvious answer is, shut up, we're Bioware, and you're being ungrateful crybabies. Then, freed up and going solo, the game sends you hurtling towards the Star Child, although first, we get the scene with The Illusive Man, now padded out with a handful of much-needed explanatory sentences.

The Star Child, one of the stupidest, laziest and crudest excuses for regurgitated first-year philosophy lecture notes into a crudely dug ditch, then rears his translucent head. Bioware have made the buzzing hunk of nonsense he originally spouted at Shepard an actual conversation, which was what got my hopes up so much. You actually get to grill the kid about his motivations, origins, and about the implications of each choice you're forced to make. This is where the Extended Cut really does it's job; it provides clarity, exposition and it does so with what feels like genuine effort and conviction. And then?

Then the cosmic tricolour gumboil machine of doom spools up, and you're once again forced to choose one of three equally dispiriting endings. And that's what's so tragic about this DLC; up until now, the vague, nebulous nature of the slapdash conclusions let you hold out hope. Hope that, in the destroy ending, your crew might have all survived and that they might be able to get back to your ruined but living body, even though you just saw the mass relays explode. Here, however, you're hugged by hope and then slapped with defeat; your crew survive and the relays are broken but not destroyed, and you do survive. But the possibility of EDI and the Geth surviving? Wiped out entirely. And in the other two options, you either die (synthesis) and get to see everyone you loved happy and working with the reapers in a kind of forced evolutionary state with you rotting in the wind, or in control, you become a reaper. That's right, a reaper, who isn't Shepard but uses his knowledge to rule with an iron fist. Sorry, pincer. Whatever. I'm so angry right now.

So we've gone from three potentially positive, badly written and vague endings to four very clear, substantially longer and unwaveringly no-win ending scenarios. In each ending, you're screwed. At this point in the game, you've already lost companions and, indeed, entire planets filled with people. Tragedy doesn't need to be wielded like a baton, we already GET the gravity of this reaper conflict. By not giving any ending an actual absolute out, Bioware have robbed us of the will to replay the trilogy and attempt to earn the 'perfect' ending. What made Mass Effect 2 so incredibly, scintillatingly perfect was that you could strive for perfection. You could plough back through the game and ensure all your friends survived, which meant the game because something you could work at. It became a kind of desperate, glorious time travel adventure in which Shepard could, if so inclined, refuse to accept defeat and make sure everybody lived. In Mass Effect 3, however, we're now totally devoid of options. However we choose to remake our choices on another playthrough, we'll always end up having to pick one of four distasteful options.

Casey Hudson?

You blew it.

You did some of it right, but you had a wonderful opportunity and you blew it. You said, and I quote:

‘This story arc is coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot more different. At this point we're taking into account so many decisions that you've made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It's not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.’

So… thanks for adding a D to our veritable orgiastic multiverse of options. I guess.


Note: If there is actually a way to finagle an ending that doesn't result in having to either kill your friends or yourself, please, let me know.
profile of Paul Verhoeven

1 comments so far..

  • lukeryan's avatar
    Date and time
    Friday 29 Jun 2012 - 12:58 PM
    I played through the new material and after accidentally getting the fourth ending (Yeah, don't shoot the kid), managed to get myself into the theoretically optimal ending. And to be honest, it was largely what I wanted. My objections didn't lie with the philosophy of the endings so much as it did their design laziness and wilful ambiguity. I actually quite appreciate the boldness and novelty of the ideas they ran with. Although this might just be my casual gamer status speaking - in the end I was willing to submit to the authorial voice of the game designer.
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