For anyone who’s been living under a rock these last few months you should have heard about a little to do that erupted over the ending of Mass Effect 3. Fans felt that they had been cheated on a variety of levels – most significantly that all their choices leading to that point didn’t make the blindest bit of difference and that the ending rather limited any future titles. Now, if I’m honest, I didn’t mind the ending all that much. Yes I felt a little cheated because I did want a ‘happily ever after’ ending after all I, through my character, had been through. I wasn’t too bothered about choices not mattering because the story is still linear and your freedom of choice was actually a lot less than people realised and the story needed to end. And because I’d found out some months before that there would be at least one more Mass Effect game – if not 3 – it had to end in a very specific way, just as the first game did. Ultimately, I wasn’t too worried because I knew it’d all be explained in the next game.
However the gaming community were not a happy bunch. Vociferously so. And Bioware, being the community focussed bunch they are had very little choice but to create the Extended Ending DLC. I downloaded it like a good little fan boy but was happy to wait to play it until I’d played my way through Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Modern Warfare 3. Plus I needed to get galactic readiness up which was able to do via the Mass Effect 3 app. Last night, it seemed was the night to fire up the game and play out the last part of the game to see what Bioware had done to save themselves from mob justice.
The DLC is essentially new and/or extended cut scenes. Some of them are things of beauty some of them are little more than stills which indicates the tiny window Bioware had to turn it around in. I feel sorry for them as they were never going to please everyone as the original ending sets things up for Mass Effect 4. The new ending – depending on your choice makes it all feel very very final. This could mean that the decision to make more Mass Effect games has been reversed which would be a crying shame. However, the fact that key plot twists were tweaked or changed altogether means there is still a possible future, albeit a much bleaker than we’re use to in the Mass Effect universe. However, it’s important to move on the time line and it’s certainly a brave direction that Bioware are going in. The cut scenes make for a much more complete ending and seeing the future that your sacrifice has given boon too is gratifying if bitter-sweet.
Which I think is part of the problem. I think it’s fair to say that nobody who loves the Mass Effect games wanted Shepard dead. Everyone wanted him to survive against the odds. He’d literally cheated death once before, and it didn’t seem unreasonable for him to do it again. Indications are that we won’t be playing as Shepard in Mass Effect 4 regardless of whether or not your ending had him taking that sudden gasp of air. It doesn’t, however, rule out him being in the game. But it begs the question – will we want to play it? It was the same problem people had with Halo 3: ODST. As much as we love the universe, taking the hero out of the tale takes our engagement out with it. That said I quite enjoyed ODST, but only as a one-off.
No matter how cool the story will inevitably be, Mass Effect without Shepard will be a very different experience, but perhaps not out-of-place in a galaxy that is all but shattered and civilisations attempt to rebuild their societies whilst trying to try one another. I think the right ending for Mass Effect 3 was somewhere in the middle of the original and extended cut but it’s easy for me to say because I’m a fan.