Note: This is a blog post I did on another site before I found my blogging home here. It was originally written on April 12, 2012 directly after I had finished Mass Effect 3 for the first time. What follows is my knee jerk response to the game and the franchise in general BEFORE I had gone online to devour other people's opinions and explore the whole ending controversy that I had heard of.

Obviously massive spoilers for Mass Effect 3 follow.

Four weeks and about forty hours later, I've finally finished Mass Effect 3. The reapers are defeated, the galaxy is safe, and I'm left with a familiar feeling of loss when a near and dear story comes to a close. Never before has such an ambitious, story driven game kept our attention for years, and it saddened me that the game hadn't been out a week yet and I was already being flooded by news posts of people complaining about the end.

I get it, I think. None of us really wanted it to end. Commander Shepard's journey was epic Space Opera that I will remember as fondly as Star Wars. The original Mass Effect was the first RPG I ever played through an entire second time right after completing it. I've sunk over 150 hours into the three games combined with three different Shepards.

With the third and final entry, however, I will need to take a break before tackling it again. I say this as a testament to the emotional impact Bioware put into every fight, and the not so flawless but still enjoyable way of meeting up with old acquaintances and friends. Tali's romance alone would make ME3 a memorable experience, as it was the single best romantic relationship I've ever experienced in a game; the fact that she's a major character and party member in all three games is a huge factor.

As a mini-review, I though Mass Effect 3 was head and shoulders above 2, and about on par with the original. It did a good job of taking the improved combat of 2 while adding back in some basic inventory management. I enjoyed the weight system as a tool to balance weaponry and powers instead of having skill prereqs (ME1) or just be locked out of certain weapons (ME2). The set pieces were varied and exciting, always creating fun and unique battle situations rather than just hallways with obviously placed cover. It was awesome seeing that all your skill choices in 2 carried over, and by the final fights you definitely feel powerful.

The story moments were good, though there was some disappointment. Any big fans of ME2 are bound to be disappointed at the way the game treats all the party members acquired from that game. The entire story was basically about gathering that group of people to defeat the collectors, then afterwards they all just sort of go their own way. Most of them get a side quest but only the special few that were with you from the beginning can be in your party in ME3, and I will admit I was disappointed. Plus I didn't give a crap about Vega who takes up one of your precious slots, not sure why Bioware is so insistent on thinking there needs to be that "new guy" in every game for people to be able to jump in with. "If you haven't played a Mass Effect game before, now's the time to start!" No, it's not. Some ME2ers get some cool story hooks, like Thane, Mordin, and Legion, while others serve only as minor side quests like Jacob and Samara.

I could pretty much guess the meat of the story during the weeks leading up to the game's release. Although the promos featured almost exclusively the battle on Earth, I had a feeling Earth would only be involved in the very beginning and very end, and that the majority of the game would be spent gathering the galaxy's forces and uniting the races, very similar to the Grey Warden's journey in Dragon Age: Origins. Of course, in DAO, the warden's death was only one such possible ending, whereas it looks like Shepard's literal A, B, and C choices don't leave him any happy endings.

Ah, the ending. I haven't read anyone's opinions or posts about it, yet. The entire point of this blog post is so I can express my honest, knee jerk reactions before diving headfirst into all the discussions. Of course, just knowing that the ending sparked a huge amount of controversy was always on my mind. First, a little background: I played through ME3 with my second Shepard, mainly because I had just finished ME2 with him, so his face and actions were very fresh in my mind. He was a pure paragon Adept who flung double pulls and double throws faster than he could fire his weapon. During the final scene with the Illusive Man, I chose the blue options two or three times until he drew the gun on Anderson, then suddenly both options on the left were grayed out. As someone who had never before, in all three games, been blocked out of a blue option, I was stunned. I'd done everything right. It was disheartening and the first time through, Illusive Man shot Anderson, then Shepard, and Game Over! I had skipped two Renegade options because my Shep had never performed one before. Reload, watch the lengthy scene again, and this time simply shoot IM soon as I get the chance. I mention that because it really bugged me having to do that.

Fast forward to The Choice. Wow. Here I was hoping for an epic, sci-fi action sequence like its predecessors. Instead I get a very straight science ficition philosophy scene, which, while kind of interesting, felt a little hamfisted. Then I'm literally presented with three choices. A - kill the reapers and all synthetics. Aw man but I made the Geth independent, they seemed good. And EDI was a great character! B - control the reapers, seemed like a kind of evil move, after all the Illusive Man wanted to do it and they pretty much set him up as the primary villan (more on this later). and C - create a new lifeform thats both organic and synthetic as the ultimate evolution. Hmm thats certainly the scariest, does it kill everything else and just start over? I'd be interested in looking this one up. As you can tell I didn't pick that one. My Shep went with what I belived was the heroic choice and what he was sent there to do, take out the reapers, option A.

Dragon Age Origins also had multiple options to defeat the Big Bad, but they were done much more organically and as part of the story, rather than just pausing everything and pointing out doors 1, 2, and 3. In a series all about choices, it wasn't that out of place, but having Shepard have to die in each situation was really depressing, even though I half expected it. It was a big decision to make, but unfortunately the game goes very bare bones in its falling action. We get brief shots of Reapers shutting down, then an exciting sequence of the Normandy crashing while the Mass Effect Relays are destroyed. This is a huge consequence, essentially separating all the star systems from each other. A big question I had: since the entire galaxy's fleet was fighting in Sol, does that mean all those species are stranded too? Or did they make it back to their own worlds? The Normandy is apparently stranded on a random planet, too. And Shepard might still be alive! And roll credits!

Wait what? That's it? This was the ending of a trilogy of games that took most people 100 or so hours to complete, I think they could've shown a bit more epilogue. Nothing extravagant, but reward me for the all the good things I did - a shot of the Quarians rebuilding on Rannoch, the Krogan helping the Turians, show the remains of the citadel raining down on Earth. I felt like there should have been so much more. I did at least enjoy the post credit sequence, however, the whole shot and dialogue were excellent, and damn right The Shepard would be a legendary hero. Of course I did not need the little message that popped up afterward that was basically saying "please buy our future DLC!" And even more jarring, instead of dumping you in the main menu, the game rewinds you back to the Normandy before you begin the assault.

My other big gripe with the end is the fact that the whole time you are really fighting two separate factions, the Reapers which are almost a faceless organization except for that one reaper that gives you a few pithy dying taunts on Rannoch, and Cerberus which has the mysterious Illusive Man as a great villain. Oh and Kei Lang was a great little miniboss. ME1 had Saren and Sovereign, both awesome villains, while 2 suffered from only having Harbinger, and even then you mostly just get his random taunts and nothing else. Unfortunately, Harbinger, the assumed leader of the Reapers, doesn't really make a good enough impression in 3. When racing for the beam of light to the citadel, I assume its Harbinger that lands and starts killing dudes left and right, but it would have been so much better to have some kind of dialogue, even if its just him with more taunts, so you had that personal connection. Instead, all the big bad villain dialogue is given to the IM, who goes out with a whimper. He was an interesting character, but I feel that that whole subplot of trying to take over the Reapers took away from the actual Reaper battle.

The Mass Effect trilogy will remain as one my greatest video game experiences, no matter how minimal the ending was. Bioware crafted a fantastic universe that I hope will continue to be explored in future games. But having said that, I believe Shepard's journey is finished (future DLC notwithstanding), and what a fantastic ride it was.