The lights are on
Response to the end of Mass Effect 3 has been volatile to
say the least. As with all games, players are free to love or hate the ending
for whatever reasons they see fit – but the demand from angry fans for a new
ending is unprecedented. BioWare complying with these demands, in some
form or another, is also unprecedented, and is a goodwill tactic I believe
will likely backfire. Not just in the sense that BioWare may compromise its
artistic integrity to appease a disgruntled section of its fan base. I think it
will blow up in the face of gamers.
Warning: There are
major Mass Effect 3 spoilers ahead.
The initial shock and anger that erupted on the Internet in
the days following the release of Mass Effect 3 has given way to more
thoughtful discussions of the trilogy's finale. In addition to innumerous
critical dissections from fans and detractors alike, we've also seen gamers
interpret the endings in many different ways. These different interpretations
are possible because the endings are fundamentally ambiguous. The final minutes
task you with making a choice that will potentially affect the Mass Effect
universe for thousands of years to come. Rather than trying to summarize the
ramifications of your choice like the ending of a Choose Your Own Adventure
novel ("You destroyed all sentient life in the galaxy, but your offspring will
continue the cycle. Better luck next time."), BioWare left each of the three final
sequences open-ended, while still conveying the basics: The Reapers leave,
transform, or explode, your beloved crew survives, and Shepard goes down in a
blaze of glory (or doesn't?). The rest remains unwritten, and is left for you
to ponder, dissect, and discuss.
As we have already seen, this ambiguity has given birth to
some radically different interpretations. The most popular alternate take on Mass
Effect 3's ending is the indoctrination
theory, which suggests that the entire final sequence takes place in
Shepard's mind as he or she fights against the influence of the Reapers. While
I don't believe this is the "true" ending, I do believe those final moments are
open-ended enough to make it a possibility, and that the details BioWare
included intentionally or otherwise make it a theory worth considering. In that
sense, it's not a matter of whether it's the "true" ending – it's simply not my
ending. The people who believe the indoctrination theory are 100-percent
convinced of their beliefs and are just as satisfied with their choice as I am
Now, thanks to the backlash of fans, that could change. If
BioWare manipulates or further adds to the endings, the company runs the risk
of negating the analyses and conclusions that gamers have already come to. What
if the new downloadable content disproves the indoctrination theory? Those who
see a deeper meaning in the minutiae of Shepard's final stand will be let down.
What if the new content supports the theory even further? Fans who believed
they already understood the ending and had accepted it will feel cheated.
Whether or not the final sequence takes place in Shepard's
mind isn't the only issue that's at stake. Players made their fateful final
decision based on the evidence they had at the time, and the conclusions – no
matter how sparse or recycled their variations may be – also carefully support
a variety of interpretations.
At the end of the game I chose the "green" option, synthesizing
all organic and synthetic life based on the rationale that it was the one true
way to end the cycle of violence. My fellow editor Jeff Cork opposed the green
ending on the grounds that merging organics and synthetics is essentially the
process that created the husks. Instead, he chose the red option: To wipe out
all synthetic life from the galaxy. Who was right?
According to the endings as they are now, both of us. You
can call that a copout on the part of BioWare, but based on what I saw, my
ending is a happy one. For Cork, the red ending is still the right choice.
But what if BioWare adds something to the green ending to bolster
Cork's view, and it turns out I really did subject all life in the Universe to
some sort of synthetic enslavement? Conversely, what if the extra content reinforces
my decision, and Cork wiped out the entire geth species for nothing? Either
way, BioWare would be alienating players who thought they were making the right
decisions – as well as avoiding the wrong decisions – only to be told otherwise
by new content that wasn't originally meant to be canon. If, on the other hand,
the new scenes don't alter the final decision in any significant way, it will
only further enrage the players who were demanding a new ending. Even something
seemingly innocuous like explaining how your crew ended up back on the Normandy could disillusion some players,
as proponents of the indoctrination theory point to it as evidence of the finale's
To reiterate: I don't blame anyone who didn't like the
ending of Mass Effect 3. People can no more control their emotional response to
something than they can control someone else's reaction to the same event. Players
who hated the ending have a right to be upset. They don't, however, have the
right to demand a new ending. By potentially changing the ending – even if that
just means answering questions BioWare originally intended to leave unanswered
– the developer stands to upset the gamers who are already happy with how their
multi-year adventure played out.
And those players do exist. The comments section in our Spoiled!
episode for Mass Effect 3 contains a significant amount of players who
support and are pleased with the game's ending (even if they are in the
minority). Whether they see hints of a larger conspiracy, are content with the
sacrifices they made, or have their own ideas of what their actions mean for
the Mass Effect universe, BioWare's pledge to "answer the questions" and
provide more clarity for the final sequence may contain answers those players don't
want to hear. Moviegoers crucified George Lucas for changing elements of the
Star Wars trilogy that clashed with the established story fans already knew.
Will BioWare make the same mistake? We'll find out when the developer provides
further information on its "content initiatives" this April.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.
If you want to suggest that Bioware may have already been developing DLC that would take place past the ending, then that's fine. If you want to accuse Bioware of intentionally sabotaging fan reaction to the ending just so they could justify making you spend 180 Bioware points on some additional cutscenes, then you really need to rethink whether you have a mental frame of mind that matches how the real world works. SMH.
the thing is if they plan on making game that take place after this in the same universe they will have to support one of the ways it ends and will be forced to make a "true" ending
The only reason why people hate the ending is because you're being given an A, B and C choice of an ending when Casey Hudson specifically stated that there won't be an ending like that. Other reasons are why Shepard's armor is off after being blasted by the Reaper when running to the Conduit, why Joker was flying away, the mass relays being destroyed and how Shepard's crew got on the ship when they were with you in the battle.
Imagine if Bioware decides to add a fourth option and releases it as part of a DLC. And when you chose the fourth option, you get RickRoll'd....think about it.
they don't have to exactly change the ending, but maybe give us more options or results in the end. leave a,b,c there still, but maybe give us a d,e,f as well and then clarify all the endings a lot more.
I love the indoctrination theory. I thought it was absolutely brilliant. And I will be upset if it doesn't play out that way. As you said in your article.
Your arguments assume the Bioware will build on the pre-established ending which in "A Logical Breakdown of Why the Mass Effect 3 Ending Makes No Sense" establishes how flawed and out of character the ending is in terms of lore and logic even without the indoctrination theory. I agree that if Bioware chose to build on this trash than they will be shooting them selves in foot but the vast majority of fans aren't asking for that, there asking for a total rewrite of those last 20 minutes of the game.
OK.. first i just want to say he does have a point, but i see it differently. By them changing the ending, going this way or that way. Yes its going to undoubtedly anger or further upset certain groups leaning on one theory, outlook or, simply happy with the ending. There's no right or wrong way to go, just like you stated, but here's what you fail to mention. When bioware made the ending that exists now, it obviously went the same way. You cant please everybody. Now all those that cried "Its Biowares story, how they end it is their choice" Yeah your absolutely right, will you say the same if they change the ending? Its still they're choice. Most of all though, for them to create dlc that changes it or makes it better for this group, or that group, again their choice, and you have the right to play it or decide not to, and stick with your ending. At the end of the day, as long as Bioware does what Bioware wants for their story, that's all that matters. I didn't care for the ending, but i accepted it, because it was how they chose to end it, and ill be happy with wherever, or whatever direction they chose.
Wrong again Game Informer. The argument in this article depends on the fact that the endings are open ended, which is true. However, the rage that I myself feel and many others based on what I've seen is not the lack of conclusion at the end, but rather a seeming lack of good writing and thought put into the end to make it fully make sense. The ending doesn't need to add closure, it needs to be done with more care so that our actions from earlier in the game now have meaning and the open-ended ideas actually make sense, rather than being mostly implied.