Needless to say, this article contains a lot of spoilers for the whole game and it’s about my view and experience upon completion. I hope that my feedback will reach someone in Bioware and that it can help give them insight into one fan’s response, hope and expectations for the rest of the series. I ask that all of you who have completed the game do the same, tell them – constructively and without hate, what you thought. They listen to us. They gave us the FemShep trailer; they gave us an option to romance our favourite characters from ME1 that weren’t available in the beginning. Please, help me and them carve a future for this series beyond the game. Beyond the ending that failed us.
When I finished Mass Effect 2 for the first time, I sat through the credits – having done the DLC’s that I had already, I revelled in the ending of telling the Illusive Man off, I drank a toast to myself because I managed to get every single one of my crew members out alive and then, then I started it again because the game was so epic, so incredible that I wanted to relive every moment again and to date I’ve replayed it about eight times. Over the past eleven months since I’ve discovered the Mass Effect series for my PS3 I have fallen in love with the world and the characters in a way that I can’t rationally explain. I loved the land, travelling through space, being snippy with Aria T’loak. I liked grumbling about needing to always jump through hoops to recruit people for Mordin Solus and I always patiently walked with Jack through her cell as she explained and talked about the horrors inflicted to her on Pragia. And, I always took Liara to my cabin and dreamt about the blue babies that I might just get to experience at the end of Mass Effect 3. Like a lot of fans out there, my expectation for this game was incredibly high and towards the end of last year I realized that I had to start tuning it down, preparing myself for that inevitable moment that things might not work out quite the way I planned…
But when the game came, I went through that agonizing day to get to it, I still found that my expectations and anticipation was sky high. And, in a lot of ways I wasn’t disappointed. It was a ride and a half. I raced through the galaxy, gathering resources and uniting races that had been feuding for centuries. I saw Mordin Solus sacrifice himself for a cause he believed in and I had to sit with Thane as he and his son prayed for me in his final moments. I stayed true to my Shepard’s character, carried her hope right through to the end. I loved it all. I cried, I laughed and turned my head away embarrassed when Specialist Traynor found her way into my shower and invited my Shepard, who was very very loyal to Liara into the shower with her. I punched Vega and had another drink with Dr. Chakwas.
I was in my element, my heart was in my throat all the time and when I took to the streets of LondonI was horrified but thrilled to see the city in ruins. In real life, I had spent some months there and it was wonderful fighting on familiar ground…
But then… Then it all changed and the last hour of the game became worst gaming experience that I had ever had.
From the moment the beam hits Shepard, that beam we all know about, things turned to hell. I thought my whole ground squad had died, Liara and Garrus, my favourite squad members for this game. I sobbed as I watched my Shepard make her agonizing path to that console where Anderson and the lllusive Man were waiting for me…
Up to this point, this game had lived up to my expectations. Yes, I had cringed at every squad member that died and I had felt somewhat cheated because the squad members from Mass Effect 2 had not played a bigger role, but I was satisfied. The graphics, the story, the action all carried the game in a way that I had never experienced in another. My heart swelled with pride as EDI managed to calibrate the missiles to take down the Reaper and I had cried as Jack said that she would not disappoint me, that she would not disappoint Shepard.
I had never thought that she would, because my Shepard had steered her crew in such a way that would lead to ultimate victory.
But, she died. And the Mass Relays were destroyed. And hope, that I had clung to for so long, that I had wished for her, died with her. And, to add salt to wounds, the game just reset itself to a point in the game where the only choice I have is to move forward again… And go through it all, again. Because the promise of the other endings weren’t any better.
The fan outcry has been tremendous. I think that Bioware is in damage control mode, trying to reconcile their furious fans. I think perhaps sometimes they promised too much and gave us too much hope. Casey D Hudson released a statement saying that they were looking into the matter but that the New York Times and the Penny Arcade liked it… They would of course. It’s tragic. But it’s not right. I can’t imagine how it would be.
Where do I think they went wrong?
This might sound inappropriate but I think that the Bioware team went wrong at the same place that the makers of Pirates of the Caribbean fell flat. There’s a reason the third movie was the worst of the lot. They put too much into it, gave too many explanations for matters we would rather just have let go. Sometimes, the simplest endings are the best. They shouldn’t have tried to explain why the Reapers were destroying the galaxy. They shouldn’t have put another force behind it. They should’ve just have made the ending simple. Let the earth team fix the crucible and destroy the Reapers. That’s all we wanted. We wanted hope that humanity and the rest of the galaxy that we had grown to love would make it. Would survive. I had suspected that Shepard might die from the very beginning. It’s all to do with the whole ‘tragic hero’ theme that developers love so much. Bethesda did it in the first ending of Fallout 3. For salvation, there needs to be sacrifice. Of course, I had hoped that it would not be so. I wanted my Shepard to have peace, to have those blue babies she wanted with Liara. I wanted an ending I could live with, that gives me closure. This story didn’t do any of that. There’s no absolution, no resolution. The final moments, of the boy and his father standing below the night sky meant nothing to me. I don’t even know why they bothered to put it in.
How would I suggest they change it? Fix it?
Give us a happy ending Bioware, I beg you. I realize that you are under a lot of pressure at the moment. I realize you are in damage control, I realize that you are pretty fed up with fans right now. If you want to take your time, do – even if you have to work on this for another year or two. Just… fix it. Give out a Mass Effect: Redux. Anything. Just… listen to us this last time. Let our choices be worth something. Please. Our response is so passionate because we love your universe, your characters and your game.
If I could write it?
I wanted several things from this game:
1) That happy ending.
2) To defeat the Reapers and live though it if possible.
3) To have an ending with my love interest, in Liara’s case – Blue children. Lots of blue children.
4) A sense of peace, of accomplishment. I wanted to feel as if I had done something, as if it was all worth it. Even if Shepard died, I wanted to go to bed and not cry my eyes out.
5) Heck. I really really really wanted to throw those turian air quotes back into that councilman’s face…
Some final thoughts…
Unlike with Mass Effect 2, I can’t see myself diving into the game again. Being an owner of the Collector’s Edition, I’m not even really tempted to spend more money on the game to purchase bandwidth so that I can download the DLC. I don’t want to play the game again and know what waits for me at the end. I once read an article where Mac Walters spoke of how difficult their Mass Effect 2 ending was and how they regretted doing it the way that they did, but honestly? I’ll take that every day. The stress of wondering whether or not your crew was going to come out alive, whether you did everything right. The satisfaction of knowing that you did. The promise of another game… I’d take that every day and, if I have to choose between replaying Mass Effect 2 or 3, I’d take 2 in a heartbeat. I’m not done with Bioware, they’ve given me too much for me to be ungrateful. I think that fans are all too quick to say ‘Boycott them! Stop buying their games!’ I like to think that we’re bigger than that. Bigger than them. Ultimately, they gave me an experience. The ride of my life. And, when I have put this ending behind me, when I have mourned the loss of the dream that I had clung to for Shepard, I will admit that it was still one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve had in the gaming world.
That (if I had not been hit by that damned beam and had to struggle through that ending) it would’ve been the ultimate gaming experience.
Alyssa is a freelance writer, girl gamer and all round nerd with too many opinions about how the world should be run. Occasionally declaring herself Supreme Ruler of the Universe you can follow her on Twitter here.