Killer Kittens from Mars

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Why the ending of Mass Effect 3 just doesn’t work

Note: Donate to Child’s Play in the Name of new endings here .

There has been a great deal of articles about this topic, some for the original endings, some against and some neutral. I just want to add my voice to the fray.

Over the course of the three games there has been an aura of hope. Shepard has always found a candle of hope in the darkness of the reaper invasion. This is shown best in the endings of the games. They show this in a simple structure.

The first phase is up to and when the fight begins. You go into the phase feeling badass and ready. This is the initial fight on the citadel in Mass Effect 1. You give the crew an epic speech then go off to kick some geth butt.  Mass Effect 2 had the beginning of the suicide mission, Shepard gives a rousing speech and they go off to kick some Collector butt.  Mass Effect 3 has the beginning of the Earth 1 fight. Hackett gives an impassioned speech, you go off to kick Reaper butt.

The second phase is the darkest moment of the game. This is where all hope seems lost. Mass Effect 1 had this with Shepard’s apparent death. Mass Effect 2 had it with the overhanging thought of losing a team member, and the occasional crew member death. Mass Effect 3 had it with Harbinger’s strike on the ground team.

The final stage is the eventual moment of triumph. This is where against all odds Shepard manages to pull a victory. Mass Effect 1 had this with Shepard coming out of the rubble and the ensuing congratulation and discussion. Mass Effect 2 had this when you tell off the Illusive Man and see your surviving team mates look at you with respect. Mass Effect 3 does not have his moment.

The tone of the game and the series goes hard to port at the last half-hour. The series has always been about overcoming adversity and kicking ass no-matter what got in the way. The idea that if you work your ass off then you can make everything come out okay was even in the developer’s remarks about Mass Effect 3. However, the tone of the game’s endings is hopeless and fatalistic. No matter what your crew is stranded and beloved members are going to die of starvation. No matter what you do the mass relays are destroyed, stranding the combined force of the entire galaxy in the sol system. No matter what choices you made over the course of the three games, none of the choices affect the ending.

The game changes entirely in those last moments and not for the better. The opportunity for an amazing franchise to become legendary was destroyed in that last half-hour. I for one was extremely disappointed in the series and hope that the company will fix this in future DLC.