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I have been a silent voice for a good long time...

Avoiding long unnecessary explanations, Life just took a turn that required a redistribution of priorities, and sadly my gaming life has taken a hit; however, being the Bioware junkie that I am... Sarai made certain plans to make certain she had plenty of time to play Mass Effect 3 (As if anyone is surprised by that). I kept a media black out, I stayed away from reviews and anything that wasn't published media (such as comics and novels)... all so I could enjoy the climax for my most anticipated game... probably ever.

Still it was impossible not to hear about the controversies that flew around Mass Effect 3. There was the Day-1 DLC controversy that hit several days before launch... I didn't care to butt in on that because I had reserved a collector's edition the day that reserves were allowed at my local GameStappo. So I waved that controversy off as simple rage from the internet machine. Then I heard about the gameplay rage... how things were changed yet again, and I just let that one fly by as well because I wanted to see if for myself. Then I hear that people were protesting the story itself... the STORY of Mass Effect. Now it wasn't about the entire story, or a few character mistakes... no, the rage and uproar that I hear about was over the ending... which, if it is to be argued, is possibly the most important part of Mass Effect 3. It is the final line, that last... resounding note that you will ever have for Commander Shepard's story (as Bioware has said repeatedly that this is the end to that storyline).... and if that note is being contested so loudly, I must admit that I was a little bit worried.

This controversy started when I was only half-way through the game; therefore, I refused to look, read, or try to comprehend why people were so angry... angry enough to try and raise money in an effort to evoke a change in the ending. I wanted to know, without someone else putting an opinion in my mind, precisely what I would feel from the ending of Mass Effect 3, an ending that would summarize, conclude, and put that final pin in the story of Commander Virtra Shepard... a woman whom I have invested over 130 hours of my life into seeing her struggle against impossible odds... and this is what I have come away with:


-TIM is disappointed as well...

For 42 hours and 53 minutes... I did not have a single complaint about Mass Effect 3. I loved every conversation, every character, every movement, every nuance of the story. Every death was poignant and filled with proper consequence, sorrow... and unfortunately truth... the awful, gut-wrenching truth that "in war... people die." The experience I had going through Mass Effect 3 was so undeniably visceral (and I do not use that word lightly at all), that I could not contemplate how the Bioware gamer community could be at odds with this game... Then came the last mission, that final entity that I had been dreading for over eight years... the moment when I knew that it was all coming to a close....

The moment I realized that nothing I did in the game... ever really mattered.

I spent 42 hours trying to get every war asset, every single race, fleet, and soldier I could find in order to fight the reapers... and it served as what? It was this ambiguous number that factored into the background. Yes, it  changed the beginning cut scene for that final battle... either you get slaughtered, or you hold your own... but after a short cinematic... Shepard really does nothing to fight in the large fight, you never see your armies, your fleets, your hard work do anything... there is no major conflict against the reapers. You play one final ground mission, launch a few missiles... and then you are slammed into an inevitable downward spiral of misery and unfortunate chaos.

Every commander Shepard will be wounded, near death. Every commander Shepard will stumble into the Citadel, every Commander Shepard will face a final room with a final choice... the only thing changing that final choice being a calculated number of War Assets... in which you make said final choice... and you get a final cinematic of which are all the same... except for a color change in the explosions and the small cast of three characters that appears in the end sequence. The end.... credits roll... 

Oh. but wait, what is that? A scene at the end of the credits where an old man has been telling this story to a little kid the entire time!?! What a wonderful, generic, impersonal insult to the hundreds of thousands of hours spent by gamers across the globe.Their reward? A scrapped together, disjointed mess of confusion that lacked an semblance of soul, life, or character that existed in the previous hours of the game

I sat there on my couch in stunned, total, unrelenting disappointment.

I have waited several days since finishing Mass Effect three before I thought about expressing my emotions on the game. I wanted to collect my thoughts, see what other people had to say... to see if they were upset just because they didn't get to have little blue Liara babies, or if anyone else saw the unmitigated flaws in the story's conclusion. Flaws that apparently Mass Effect 3's director is unable to recognize, that a team of writers apparently couldn't pull together anything better.

The director has defended his actions. Casey Hudson says, "[they] designed Mass Effect 3 to be a series of endings to key plots and storylines, each culminating in scenes that show you the consequences of your actions. You then carry the knowledge of these consequences with you as you complete the final moments of your journey."

I ask him, "Really?"

He says, “We've had some incredibly positive reactions to Mass Effect 3, from the New York Times declaring it “a gripping, coherent triumph”, to Penny Arcade calling it “an amazing accomplishment”, to emails and tweets from players who have given us the most profound words of appreciation we've ever received.”

I ask him, “Coherent? Gripping? Appreciation?”

He says, “I am extremely proud of what this team has accomplished, from the first art concepts for the Mass Effect universe to the final moments of Mass Effect 3.”

I ask him, “Why the need to single out the ending? It is perhaps because that is the one thing that you can’t honestly defend?”

Does he really believe this? Because I have carefully looked at all these endings, achieved them personally using the $40 hard back guide for the game that I bought at the midnight release, and I notice very little deviation in the endings, much less anything resembling the varied choices that I had made up to that point. (get ready for spoilers)

Take a look with me at your options: Destroy the reapers (net-yield a generic cut-scene where all organics die... very small chance that Shepard lives, but it is assumed Shepard dies, confused people stand beside a crashed normandy... oh! and red explosions); Control the repears (net-yield- Reapers leave, Shepard dies and becomes a reaper basically... same generic cut-scene and confused people oh! blue explosions); or the final options Synergy (because corporate idiocracy belongs everywhere ... Shepard dies, everythings now has synthetic/organic DNA and that fixes everything... oh! and green explosions. Same generic cut-scene just different people looking confused at the end.) Also… earth can be destroyed. Yay!

Now, I want him to show me how my choices throughout these three games are executed because my Shepard would have something to say about it. I want him to show me exactly how my gameplay throughout Mass Effect 3 mattered. Where are the impacts of those decisions? Krogans, Geth, Asari, Turians, Salarians, Volus… I made choices that could have doomed them or saved them all… and where are those choices represented? I scoured the known galaxy, scanned every zone for 100% to get a war asset number over 7000. I played multiplayer with annoying, shouting tweens in order to get a 100% readiness rating… all for what? For it to be this ambiguous number that unlocks a form of this generic ending?

No thank you, sir.

My first major point of contention (and this is where the argument gets spoiler laden) comes from the identity of the “catalyst”. You have this smokey entity that takes on the appearance of a child from Shepard’s nightmares, who claims to not only have created the reapers but also controls them, then this entity says that the reapers are a solution to a problem where organics are inevitably going to create synthetics that wipe organic life from existence…

Completely ignoring just how convoluted that 15 seconds of gameplay comes across… let us just analyze this for a second. Upon the appearance of the catalyst we are supposed to assume that these thing can reach into Shepard’s mind and pull this child out as a form to use for communication. A stretch, but I can buy that… for now. Next, we are forced to swallow the fact that the Catalyst has lived on the Citadel all these many long years and no one has discovered his “galaxy consuming” amount of power… not a single species in all of the cycles has detected this power. Ok… a hard pill to swallow, but going to do so nonetheless. Next we have to take an even bigger pill, this may as well be a suppository because it is so inconceivable… but these “catalyst” tells Shepard that the solution to the organics-being-destroyed-by-synthetics problem is for a synthetic entity to create an army of synthetic “reapers” to completely abolish intelligent organic life in the galaxy…

Yeah… not buying that for a second. My Shepard would have heard “I created the Reapers. They are my solution” and she would have put the kibosh on “mr. catalyst”. Destroy the thing controlling the reapers, and then mount a war… which is what it should have been. You amass a huge amount of war assets, you take it to the reapers, fight a bloody battle and destroy harbinger and all the reapers around earth and then you spend the next dozen years wiping them from the galaxy. It would be a long brutal campaign, Anderson wouldn’t have been the only casualty… some of the civilizations wouldn’t have made it (for my file, the Salarians would have probably bitten the dust)… but when the smoke cleared and my FemShep was left standing on a charred battle field with Garrus by her side… and a whole bunch of friends dead in the wake of this war… the camera could have panned out to seeing a debris field of reaper shells and a few destroyed Allied ships around the planet, a somber cord playing as they thank whatever gods might exist that they are alive… and the few that are left could rebuild and start again… knowing that the reapers are gone at the cost of however many had to die….

That silent scene right there? That would have sold the game for me… it would have been the dirty, harsh, reality of war… and it would have made me feel exhausted, emotionally defeated… but rewarded and victorious nevertheless. It would have felt right.

-Instead my FemShep is left to wonder if her Turian crackshot is ever going to come dig her out of a pile of rubble. Yay Bioware!!

Instead, Bioware gave us this bizarre “deus ex machina” ending where everything can be hunky dory with the Reapers… because one person sacrifices themselves to magically do something… then all the mass relays are destroyed… and then nothing. No consequences, no closure… just a doddering old fool telling his granddaughter that everything you did… well, it’s a legend! Congratulations! Your hard work is now an impersonal oral history.

What? You wanted to know what happened with the quarians and the geth? Sorry… no dice! What’s that? You wanted to know if Wrex ever found out that you destroyed the genophage cure in order to win Salarian support (unlike myself)… sorry, no dice! Oh? You wanted Shepard to survive and have a chance to maybe get psychiatric help for PTSD and maybe have little blue Liara babies? NO F’ing DICE!

There is no closure. There are no summations of your choices. There are no consequences to your actions. All the dirty deeds you did. All the lives you saved, or destroyed… they were for nothing but a number that determines if you get all three of those generic choices offered to you… or if you just get a big “middle finger” to your hard work and earth is destroyed (which by the way is the best off all the endings possible… go figure that!? at least it's different!)

So, in an effort to bring this argument back around, there have been many accusations thrown around in this dispute. Words like “entitlement”, “nerd rage”, “greed”, “lack of respect for the fan base”…. It’s creating bad blood in the Bioware community, and it’s a community that I love dearly. Remember, please, that I am a Bioware junkie above all other games. So when I say that this is a piece in “defense of Mass Effect”, it means that my goal is to bring a defense to the story… not the creators, not the fans… the story, because it is the story that has undeniably suffered from this lack of vision.

Even now as people read this they will have formed their opinions, be forming their opinions, or they had their opinions made before clicking the link and they wanted to see if I agreed with them… people are going to have opinions about everything. This is my opinion… I hope it gives clarity more than controversy… but I doubt it. If anything, perhaps it will give a more eloquent voice to an argument that is mired with metacritic trolling and demands for alterations.

Do I believe the ending needs to be changed? Yes. I truly do. Not because I want it to be a happily ever after, or because I want it the way I want it… No. I believe the ending needs to be changed because if it remains the way it is… then the story, a great epic, will be irreparably marred by this generic garbage of literary cliché’s that Mass Effect 3’s writing department called an “ending”.

Perhaps they were daunted by the task of bringing it all together? Perhaps the departure of Drew Karpyshyn proved that he was the creative genius behind their narratives. (You only need to look at the Mass Effect Deception novel controversy to see where that started.) Maybe they couldn’t afford to make all the ends meet up, or animate something different… the budget was all spent on the first 90% of the game… (they could have probably spent the multiplayer development money on better writing talent… now there is a thought for another blog). Perhaps With all the factors combined, Casey Hudson decided to fall back upon the 100 monkeys in a room with typewriters, and this is what they were able to legibly create? We will never know.

What I do know is that Mass Effect 3, a game that should have ruled 2012 with an iron fist, is now horribly injured because of this controversy. The only way to fix it is to do so. Sometimes it is just something as simple as making a creative mistake. Perhaps if ego were to be shoved aside, then this can all be easily remedies… but the gamers have been burned by Bioware quite a few times in the past two years (just google the controversies over Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 2 streamlining and SWtoR endgame), and Bioware is getting tired of feeling like it can’t please its fans. So perhaps the controversy is too far gone for egos to be placed on the sidelines, I don’t think that is the case… but we never know.

As of today there is hope. Bioware has released statements acknowledging that the ending may need to be addressed. That is the first step in getting this debacle on track to a solution, but Bioware should be warned that many people are watching this… and a simple “it was all a bad dream” sequence isn’t going to be acceptable as a fix either. Personally I would accept a montage like the one featured at the end of Dragon Age: Origins. It was simple, told the gamer everything that happened because of their choices, and it left you ready for the next game. Now is that the solution that I want? Not at all, but I would be happy with it. My idea solution will never happen because I don’t see Bioware pouring the necessary resources into a solution to fix this mess, but I can see that as a logical solution. Who knows, they may even surprise me and record some dialogue, give us a few cut-scenes, and flesh the ending out with proper closure… at this point I’ve taken my stand on the issue and I wait patiently to see how the solution unfolds.

What will you do?