No spoilers (yet).
I’ve just completed Mass Effect 3, an epic Sci-Fi RPG (role-playing game) that in many ways has raised the bar for all RPGs that follow it. There has been a lot of controversy about the “ending” of the game and many loyal fans are screaming blue murder.
If you haven’t play Mass Effect before, the game is a combination of story-based RPG and “3rd person shooter” set in a futuristic space setting. Now there are plenty of sci-fi games and shooters and RPGs out there, but what makes this series unique is that the writers have crafted it so decisions you make at certain points in the game have lasting and sometimes brutal consequences. The developers Bioware have done this before in games like SW:KOTOR but never to this magnitude, because your decisions span the entire trilogy and not just the one game.
For example: if you made a choice in ME1 that resulted in the death of a major character, that character remains dead in ME2 and ME3 (because the sequels looks at your save game from the previous game). This combined with the vast and over-arching story line makes the game extremely compelling. You want to know what happens next because many of the decisions you make as Commander Shepard directly affect the outcome of the game.
WARNING: BELOW I’M GOING TO SPOIL THE ENTIRE TRILOGY. IF YOU HAVE NEVER PLAYED MASS EFFECT BEFORE AND YOU ARE A GAMER, STOP READING NOW. PLEASE.
So my view on the ending(s) is this: The writers at Bioware should be commended for their work.
They’ve created a story that gets the player so emotionally invested, fans that didn’t get the outcome they wanted are actually threatening them with physical violence.
So the writers did their job and did it well!
You basically have to make all the right decisions throughout the trilogy and play most of the side missions and multiplayer, and have everything right for Shepard to survive the series. This is very very hard to do. I didn’t do it, in my ending Shepard died, but the Reapers left and the Earth was saved. I believe this is called the “Control” ending.
Now was I upset that I died? Sure! After 90 hours of playing as Shepard only to die at the end it made me sad. Not only that, all the Mass Effect relays were destroyed, effectively kneecapping any future sequels that involve space-travel.
But does this mean the ending sucks? NO!
It just means the writers had me so pulled in to this story I didn’t want my character to die, I wanted him to live! I wanted the story to go on. But the ending was brutal, and real, it tugged at the heart strings. And that’s why the writers got it right.
Could they have gone the “happily every after” scenario where the Reapers are defeated, Shepard and Liara get married on Thessia, EDI catches the bouquet and gives Joker a sly wink, then the credits roll? Sure.
But thank god they didn’t. All the people crying because the ending was too gritty and real need to harden up a little and face the fact that in a giant space war there are going to be casualties. People will die. Heros will die. The galaxy may never be the same.
Remember: Mass Effect 3 was ALWAYS a trilogy. Bioware has always been up front about this, so they have the right to destroy the entire universe if they want to.
At the end of the day, the real reason the fans are pissed off is this: They didn’t want the game to end. They didn’t want the trilogy to end. And that means the writers did their job well. Bioware should be congratulated for that.
Now, I have one other thing to say about the Mass Effect story. Read on in Part 2.