Mass Effect Ever After

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.

Mass Effect 3 Alternate Ending

It’s been officially announced by Bioware that there will be an alternate ending to Mass Effect 3. I completed the game a couple of days ago and I have to say I’m not sure how I feel about a DLC changing the story. I admit that I was left feeling a little hollow by it – I’m desperately trying to avoid spoilers here so forgive me if I let anything slip – and kinda sad, but that’s only because it didn’t end how I wanted it to, especially as I’d slogged my way through the first two games, and, strictly speaking, the third.

But is that Bioware’s fault? Do I get an alternate ending because I didn’t like the end to Gladiator? Or a re-release of Episodes I & II because they’re shit? No. And I’m not sure it should be so for video games, especially one as narrative driven as Mass Effect. I was gutted that the Chief didn’t make it home in Halo 3 but Halo 4 justifies that decision by Bungie & 343 Industries.

I admit that Mass Effect 3 has its problems and the ending is confusing but that’s as much my fault as it is Bioware’s as I didn’t pay attention to every conversation and cut scene across the three games which all point to what really happens, and sets things up for a future game. If I’m honest, the cut scenes were usually an opportunity to catch my breath and take a whizz because I’d been holding it in for hours of intense game play. There’s more than a few gamers who did pay attention to every word uttered and every nuance of the cut scenes and still didn’t get it, but maybe that’s Bioware overestimating what translates in a video game, rather than it being a bad game or a bad ending. Video games aren’t yet interactive movies. They’re not far off though.

But more than anything it sets a dangerous precedent for video game developers. ‘Don’t like the ending of this game? Well for just £8.99 on top of the £39.99 you’ve already paid you can change it to something a bit more palatable.’ On the other hand it demonstrates Bioware’s commitment to their fan base and the Mass Effect 3 franchise that they’re willing to go back and flesh things out a bit. I just hope they don’t charge [too much] for it.

Depending on who you talk to it’s either a ‘alternate ending’ which I think is a mistake, or a clarification. Adam (@ATT64) from War More Radio shared the video below with me which explains everything to the point that I don’t know if I need the DLC. But of course I’m going to get it anyway… To be clear, I’m not defending Bioware as I shouldn’t need a video or, in fact, a DLC to understand their game. It should have been thoroughly tested by people who were Mass Effect virgins. I think it’s a classic example of being too close to it to see the problems. But this video does make things make sense. It doesn’t remedy my sense of loss but it gives me hope for either future DLCs or Mass Effect 4 which is, inevitably, in development. Especially in light of the ending I chose… Nuff said.

And remember, if you haven’t finished Mass Effect 3 and you intend to, please don’t watch this video, it’ll ruin it.