If you haven't finished the game, don't read this. There are serious spoilers to be discussed and there's no way to talk about the controversial ending without ruining just about every other part of the game. Spoiler. Spoiler. Spoiler. Spoiler.
I had sex with the blue woman!
I didn't want to. I was trying to have sex with the sassy news reporter, but that option never revealed itself, and so I was left with the blue woman. (Yes, I know her name is Liara, but that's too easy to misspell.)
Liara's cool, don't get me wrong, but I fell into that relationship by accident. I was just trying to be a nice guy, and clicking on the nice things to say, and then she kissed me. And that's it. Now we're in forever-love and there is no chance that I'll get to have sex with the news reporter.
After this happened, I looked online to see what I should have done to have wooed the news reporter. Turns out, I needed to broker a deal between two warring alien races. That's some mighty difficult wooing. Can I just get her a Starbucks gift card?
And herein lies one of the few problems with Mass Effect. Everyone talks about the choices you can make, and how it changes the game. Choices are a big part of the game, but you're never given complete control. There's never an option, for instance, to tell the news reporter upon first meeting her, "I like your sassy attitude and want to kiss your mouth."
Instead, to kiss the news reporter, you have to become a diplomat and save a planet and deal with aliens in just the right way…aliens that are not at all connected to the news reporter. If Mass Effect were real life, you'd have to eat an entire tree and then tickle a polar bear if you wanted to ask out someone.
But my bedroom is not why you're here.
Let's get to it:
The ending of Mass Effect 3 is bad.
This has been a huge issue for many fans of the series. This past week, the entire internet nearly blew up with fans screaming for a new ending, and the game company BioWare responding with, "We'll see what we can do. " (paraphrased.)
Search "Mass Effect 3 Ending" and you'll get a blizzard of websites and comments all picking apart the last scene in the last chapter of one of the most popular games of this generation.
No ending has stirred up so much anger since…ever. This is ten times worse than the ending to The Sopranos or LOST (two endings that I actually enjoy).
Why is the ending bad?
But first, let's clear up what happens for those who are reading this without having played the game. (Cheaters!)
Throughout the game, your character is battling the Reapers, an ancient race of machines that wipe out organic life every 50,000 years. The Reapers have the power to "Indoctrinate" organic life. This means they posses people and make them do their bidding. (It's more complicated than that, but for the sake of brevity, just bare with me.)
In the final moments of the game, your character must use the ultimate weapon to kill all the Reapers. He (or she) is sent up to the Citadel and told to launch the weapon. There, he (or she) meets an Artificially Intelligent ghost child thing that tells Shepard he (or she) can either:
1. Combine machines with organic life.
2. Destroy all machines.
3. Control all machines, and make them your slaves.
I must have played the game poorly, because I wasn't even given an option. I had to destroy the machines. (Which, it turns out, is the right thing to do.) But when I destroyed the machines, most of Earth went up in flames from the explosion. Sucks, right? Sorry Florida…and every other state, country, river, or fish.
If you're better at the game, and win more war assets and raise your character level to optimum height, then when you destroy the machines, Earth remains intact. I understand that I should be punished for not completing every mission in the game. That's OK.
What's not OK is that the ending is silly from an objective point of view.
In a game about choice, the final act doesn't offer many choices. Instead it forces your down the hall. Play the game perfectly? Play the game foolishly? Play the game like a maniac? In the end, it doesn't matter. The same ending happens with only a few minor changes.
Fans were outraged. And with good reason.
And then a few ardent players realized the ending may be much deeper. Perhaps there is something bigger going on during those final ten minutes. Perhaps…this is the best ending of all time!
The Indoctrination Theory was born.
What if…Commander Shepard is being indoctrinated during those final moments. What if…it's all in his head?! What if…he never went to the Citadel?!?!
Watch this video. It'll do a better job of explaining (and proving) the theory than I can.
I like the Indoctrination Theory. Really, I do. It sure as hell beats the "Everyone Dies…Mostly. Thanks for Playing!" ending.
But I'm still not satisfied.
If the Indoctrination Theory is true, and Shepard is merely dealing with inner-demons during the last ten minutes of the game, then it opens up a host of other plot holes and problems. Such as…
1. The Reapers are still attacking Earth. If the last act is all a dream, it doesn't solve a thing. Shepard chooses free will, breaks away from the Reapers, and all is happy. In the best ending, he wakes up back on Earth. Nice…except the Reapers are real. They are really attacking all organic life. The only way to stop them is the weapon…that Shepard can't reach because all the Citadel stuff was just a daydream. And so the Reapers will win and kill us all.
Please, please, please, explain to me what I'm not understanding. Every post about the Indoctrination Theory seems to gloss over this plot hole. What will become of the Reapers? And if the answer is: "Shepard will fight them," then screw you and your hokey story. I spent $180 on three games, spent 900 hours playing them, and the series ends with: He keeps fighting the enemy? BULL CRAP! There are Geico commercials with better endings.
2. What's the point of being cunning and secretive? If the Indoctrination Theory is true, why would BioWare keep it so well hidden in the subtext of the game? Sure, it's fun to dig around and find out the real meaning of things, but in a game about shooting aliens and making sex with blue women, there's little expectation for literary subtext and subtly. This leads me to believe that BioWare wanted the Indoctrination ending, but didn't have enough confidence that fans would "get it" and so instead they made everything painfully vague. Take that crap back to art camp, BioWare! Tell us what the hell happened!
3. What happened to the Reapers? SERIOUSLY! If Shepard didn't really kill them, and all that was just daydreams, WHAT. HAPPENED. TO. THE. FREAKING. REAPERS!?
4. Why can't I have sex with the sassy news reporter? She's so sassy!
5. Don't you dare make me pay another $20 for downloadable content to find the real ending. I will kill a frog if you do that. A nice, friendly frog. Don't make me do that.
That leads to another issue:
I don't want BioWare to change the ending.
"But Dan, you just spent a few angry sentences explaining why the ending is dumb?"
True, but if this is the ending the game makers wanted—the ending that the artists and writers chose—then so be it.
I hate the idea of anyone changing a story because the internet got cranky.
What would happen if everyone objected to Casablanca's sad ending? Or Citizen Kane? Had the internet been around back then, perhaps those movies would end with beach volleyball parties and Dane Cook.
As much as I dislike (or am just flat-out confused by) the ending of Mass Effect 3, it shouldn't be changed.
However, it seems BioWare will try to please the Masses (Ha! Pun!) and release a different or more thorough ending in the weeks to come. And to that, I say: Why can't I have sex with that sassy reporter!?
Mass Effect 3 is still a great game. Everything up until the last moment is amazing. But when the rest of the game is so good, I want the ending to be good too.
Here's another angry video that sums up some of my feelings. This guy, as do all the other nitpickers, have a point!
Oh well. The rest of the internet can go off and fight this war against Mass Effect. I've spent too much time trying to make sense of it. My head hurts.
With summer approaching, and with it the dry season of video games, what would you recommend I play? What are you playing? (Still haven't played Batman: Arkham City. And now might be the chance. At least I bet that ending will be badass and won't involve ghost children. Maybe.)