Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut: The Good, Bad, And Ugly

by Joe Juba on Jun 26, 2012 at 01:43 PM

As you probably remember, some people weren’t satisfied with the ending of Mass Effect 3, and BioWare promised to respond. With the release of the Extended Cut DLC today, we finally see the results of the developer’s effort to address the controversy. I played all four (yes, four) endings today and compiled this list of high points, low points, and other weird things that fans should expect from the new content.

Good: Filling Plotholes

Did the Mass Relays nuke the galaxy? What was the Normandy doing flying around in the middle of nowhere during the final moments of the war? What happened to your squad after Harbinger showed up? Is everyone just stranded forever? These previously unanswered logistical questions distracted some gamers from the climactic events at the end of Mass Effect 3, and each one is (adequately, in my opinion) clarified in the new scenes and dialogue. There’s still some ambiguity in certain areas, but the most glaring problems have been addressed.

Bad: Back-Heavy

BioWare recommends that you load a game just before the assault on the Cerberus base (Cronos Station). However, don’t expect to see any of the new scenes until much closer to the end. Almost all of the new stuff happens after your final real battle near the missile launchers. After that point, assorted scenes and dialogue are spliced in occasionally until the actual endings, which have been considerably revamped.

Ugly: So Long, Indoctrination Theory

The new endings essentially torpedo the plausibility of the Indoctrination Theory. Of course, I’m sure some diehards are finding ways to keep the theory in play, but its core assumption – specifically, that everything happening after the advance on the teleporter is a fabrication of Shepard’s indoctrinated mind – is disproven.

Good: Effective Military Strength Change

Mass Effect 3 may have added a multiplayer component, but many fans were interested in keeping their experience restricted to the single-player. That’s why some were upset to learn that certain scenes (like Shepard apparently surviving in the “destroy” ending) can only be seen by raising Galactic Readiness – something that can’t be done through single-player missions. That’s been changed with the Extended Cut. According to BioWare, your Effective Military Strength only needs to be about 3,100 to see all of the scenes. As long as you’re thorough in your solo efforts, you won’t miss anything important at the end anymore.

Bad: Color Swaps

One of the major complaints about the original endings is how all three of them were basically the same, with just different colors for the beam shooting out of the Citadel. There’s still some of that going on here, even with the new endings. Many scenes are reused or only altered slightly from one ending to the next.

Ugly: Dumb Slideshow

The worst looking part of the new content is the series of 2D art that appears in the red, green, and blue endings. They are supposed to depict friends and allies living their lives in the post-war world, but the static images feel odd and out-of-place considering the cinematic flair of every other major moment in the series. They aren’t even in-game stills; they’re more like concept art. I’m sure BioWare has a reason for making the choice, but that doesn’t change the fact that a slideshow feels cheap and cheesy.

Good: Closure

While I didn’t care for the slideshow, the other elements of the expanded endings do a lot to differentiate the options and clear up confusion about what happened to the characters. In each of the four endings, you get a narration from a different major character that elaborates on the state of the world after Shepard’s decision. Even though some of the scenes are the same, the tone for each ending is distinct, and gives players a satisfying sense of what the future may hold for the galaxy.

Bad: Nothing Drastic

For everything that has changed, the ending is still about the Catalyst, the Crucible, and choosing from a handful of predefined options.  I personally don’t see this as a drawback, but people expecting the whole framework to change are still going to be disappointed.

Ugly: The Grim Choice

Some fans wanted a happier ending to Mass Effect 3, but few were clamoring for an even more catastrophic one. The newly added fourth ending allows Shepard to reject what the Catalyst is saying and refuse to select any of the three available solutions. In this ending, pretty much everyone dies and all advanced civilizations are eradicated. However, you’ll want to stay tuned through the credits for an interesting twist on a familiar scene that adds a little optimism to the ugly situation.

Good: It’s Better

I enjoyed the original ending of Mass Effect 3, but for many fans, the damage was done when they played through the game months ago. These are people who, not unjustifiably, will never be happy with any attempts to tweak or tune the closing events. If you aren’t in that category, playing through at least one of the new endings is worth your time. If the extended cut had been the original content at the end of Mass Effect 3, the whole ending controversy would never have happened. Sure, some complaints would have been inevitable, but I believe the new additions are a substantial improvement.