Very Long Analysis of ME3 Ending, aka why the ending is great (spoilers)

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*Note: I responded to the majority of complaints in post 134.

Mass Effect 3: Great Ending or Greatest Ending

Disclaimer: I have a degree in literature and I minored in film studies. My following analysis could of course be wrong, as works of art are always open to interpretation. I also mainly wrote this analysis for my friends and I in an attempt to explain how we could all think the ending was great when according to the internet we were wrong. I should also point out that I have read the indoctrination theory, but I don't believe enough evidence exists for this theory (but it's fun, just like the Squall is dead theory for VIII is fun). This analysis will be very long, but that's the point it's an in-depth analysis. Please don't bother commenting on the fact you find it too long.

I agree with Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw's "Mass Effect 3 Get's an Ending" article in the sense that he is correct that in order to understand the ending of Mass Effect 3 you need to understand the narrative themes of the game. I believe this is also a reasonable avenue of analyzing the ending considering that a lot of people on forums and articles seem to hate the ending because they don't understand what the theme of the game is. Many arguments on why people hate the ending mention they don't think it "fits" with the story, or the ending feels like a tonal shift, or the ending jumps the shark. I find all these arguments to be ludicrous. No tonal shift exists here; the ending clearly follows the themes of the narrative.

To be clear, if your problem is with the final cutscene then I agree with you in the fact that this cutscene is poorly done. However, I do not look at this cutscene to be the ending of the game. It shows you nothing of what occurred due to your decision, nor what happened to anyone, it is just a generic piece of eye candy. I believe the final decision you make is the real ending and once the CGI starts that really doesn't matter. I think it is a bit foolish to ignore everything that happened before and say the game is awful because of a 30 second cutscene and to disregard what actually happens in the end.

If you think the ending is bad because you don't think enough of your decisions matter then I can kind of see where you are coming from, but I feel your decisions do matter. Yes your final decision to pick 3 choices is not based on anything, but your choices until that point certainly do matter. I agree though it would have been better if those 3 decisions were tied to decisions you have made. Perhaps in order to get Synthesis ending you must have allied with the Geth or reunited the Geth and the Quarians. Maybe, for control ending you have to save Miranda's evil father so he gives you the intelligence on how to control the reapers. Then destroy ending is simply based on war assets. I think that would be good, but that's not what Bioware picked and it doesn't bother me to the extent it bothers other people. I do see it as a valid point though.

However, if you think the ending is bad because by uniting the galaxy you think you should be able to beat the reapers and have this super happy ending you have ignored the entire narrative of the series. From reading forums and articles it seems like the majority of people hated the ending due to this reason (I've noticed a bunch of people say this isn't the majority of people, but I read far more blogs and posts saying they hated the ending because Shepard dies and they felt they should have been able to beat the reapers with just the fleets). I believe such an ending would be nonsensical and would have been a complete tonal shift in the series changing what I consider one of the best videogame narratives of all time into this lame B movie ending where everyone lives.

In order to show this I'm going to explain what the main themes of this series were, as very few people seem to understand what the themes are. If you end up agreeing with me that these are the main themes of the series I feel you have to then agree the ending is actually very appropriate and hence great. Now, this series has a variety of themes but the main overarching themes as I see it are: (1) Sacrifice for the greater good (2) Entropy, as Yahtzee puts it (3) forgiveness.

Sacrifice for the Greater Good:

This is probably the biggest one that ties into requiring Shepard to die and one that most people completely missed or just ignored. I find this theme is pretty obvious, so I don't know why people were so furious that Shepard died, I assume it was despair at having a character they cared about so much die.

First of all, from the very first game this theme is clearly laid out. Shepard is a commander in the Alliance Navy, not only that but they are N7, and about to become a Specter. The entire purpose of a military career is to sacrifice yourself for the great good, and the entire code of the Specter's is to sacrifice yourself for the entire galaxy. Obviously, simply because you are in the military doesn't mean you will have to sacrifice yourself, but if you are called upon to do it you are supposed to do it willingly. To refuse to sacrifice yourself would quite frankly be a disgrace to everything you are supposed to stand for. No matter if you are going full on renegade, you cannot get away from this duty.

Second, one of the biggest moments in Mass Effect 1 is you are forced to sacrifice either Ashley or Kaiden. While the game certainly does let you make many different decisions, you are not allowed to skip this sacrifice. The writers make it very clear that you know one of these people has to die, because if they don't die the entire galaxy may be destroyed.

Third, even in the conclusion to Mass Effect 1 you either sacrifice the counsel or the alliance fleet for the greater good to take down Sovereign. All these examples are just in Mass Effect 1, I feel it pretty clearly sets the tone that Shepard is going to have to sacrifice a lot for the greater good and clearly foreshadows that Shepard is probably going to have to one day sacrifice him/herself.

In Mass Effect 2 literally the entire theme of the game is sacrifice for the greater good. In order to stop the Collectors you are going on a suicide mission that you are all supposed to die on. At no point is it really assumed everyone will survive. In fact I highly doubt that without looking online to see how to make sure everyone survived you pulled off this suicide mission with everyone surviving.

However, let's assume that everyone does survive the suicide mission this clearly shows that sometimes sacrifice isn't necessary and the greater good can be accomplished without it. While, this may be true if you got everyone to survive, this doesn't change the theme of the overall game. Mass Effect 2 starts with you sacrificing your life to save Joker. This concept of sacrifice literally starts the game; the fact that you may end it in a pretty good place doesn't wash out this fact.

On top of this are all the stories the game tells and most of these stories deal with this central theme. The entire theme of Tali's story is that she wishes to sacrifice her place in the fleet to preserve the memory of her father. Samara wishes to sacrifice her own daughter, who according to Samara she does care about, in order to save the thousands of possible victims she will go after. Thane's entire story seems to revolve around him trying to sacrifice whatever years remain in his life to do some good, as does Garrus's story.

Finally in Mass Effect 3 you are just hit again and again over the head with this concept with the need to sacrifice for the greater good. I find it impossible for anyone to play even half of Mass Effect 3 and not understand that Shepard has to die at the end of the game. Mordin/Padok are going to die saving the Krogan, I realize that it is possible to save Mordin if you betray the Krogan. However, even if you do that you are still then sacrificing the Krogan for the greater good.

Quite frankly it seems almost ridiculous to even go through all the examples because they are so numerous, so I'm going to just list them: (1) Sacrificing people on Earth while you escape, (2) Tali (if you side with the Geth and can't unite the races), (3) Kaiden/Ashley (if you can't get them to back down), (4) Thane (saving the council), (5) Anderson (staying on Earth to lead the resistance), (6) Primarch's son (stopping the bomb), (7) the entire quarian race (if you side with geth), (8) entire geth race (if you side with the quarians), (9) Thessia. These are just the main ones, there are times of smaller tales of sacrifice for the greater good such as the Krogan dying on the Rachni planet, or the Rachni queen dying if the Krogan team is saved.

In case you didn't get the point that you're going to have to sacrifice yourself, you have that entire scene on Earth where pretty much everyone says, "you're going to die." Garrus literally says, I hope we meet again in heaven and if you beat me there I'll see you at the bar. Tali even says she wishes you had more time together if you romanced her. Liara makes it pretty clear that she feels this is it and wants to share memories with you because she knows this is the end.

The fact that people think a tonal shift occurs in the ending because Shepard dies and in all their previous missions they survived is ludicrous. The entire series has been pointing to Shepard having to die in the end. I've noticed some people say the theme is "A Hero's Journey" and therefore Shepard doesn't need to die, because it's about them always triumphing.

This shows a complete lack of understanding of what the narrative theme of "A Hero's Journey" is. If you want the long answer you need to read Joseph Campbell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces." The short of it is simply look at Frodo in LOTR or Luke in Star Wars. Those are examples of narratives with the theme of "A hero's journey." Basically, the theme deals with a non-hero being confronted with adversity and rising above it to become a hero. It does not mean a hero goes on a journey. Shepard starts Mass Effect 1 as one of the greatest warriors in the galaxy. They are a Commander in the Alliance Navy, N7, and a Specter. You can't be more of a hero then that, the theme of the game cannot therefore be Shepard rising to be an even greater hero, that would be the dumbest story ever told.

I noticed someone also said the theme was Personal choice and living with your decisions. First of all, this is not a narrative theme. This is simply a quality of the gameplay. Bioware lets you pick your choices to an extent as part of the game, it isn't built into the game as a narrative theme. It would be like saying the theme of the game is a tactical squad based shooter. That's not to say this can't be a narrative theme. If the story was about free will and whether it exists in the galaxy you can kind of say a dumbed down version of that is Personal choice, but I think it's pretty clear the concept of free will is not one of the themes of the core story. Although, it is certainly a theme in regards to the Geth storyline.

In the end this series was constantly about asking others to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. It makes perfect narrative sense that in the very end it was you who had to make the final sacrifice to save the galaxy. In fact if Shepard doesn't sacrifice themselves in the end it basically ruins the entire narrative and changes the whole tone. This would make Commander Shepard into a monster, who is perfectly willing to sacrifice others for the greater good, but not themselves. By complaining that Shepard is simply better than everyone else and deserves to survive, you are making your commander Shepard into the worst person alive.

Finally in regards to this overarching theme, I also feel it's pretty clear they are making Shepard into a Christ like figure. Susan Arendt on the escapist podcast, seems extremely against this idea. She believes that it just doesn't fit her character. Whether it fits your character or not really doesn't matter, I find it very hard to argue that Bioware was not attempting to allude to this. In the very last scene you are being referred to as "The Shepard." It's clear that Shepard has become this Christ like figure who is now worshipped in the far flung future. If Bioware's writers didn't want this connotation they wouldn't have said, "The Shepard." I mean your character's name is even named Shepard, which alone carries with it an allusion to a religious figure.

Like Susan Arendt I also felt very uncomfortable with my squad in the game basically looking at me like I was their savior, but that does not change the fact that this theme clearly existed. It only makes it better that you'd be uncomfortable with it, because in order to be a Christ like figure you can't want people to heap all this praise onto you. In ME2 Shepard literally dies and comes back from the dead. At the end of the game you figuratively die for everyone's sins and then meet "the creator" and basically argue with God that life is precious and should be saved instead of destroyed. I've read a lot of literature, I'm not sure if any other story has created such a clear cut Christ figure before. Hell you might as well call this "The Shepard theme" in videogames from now on as it's the ultimate example of such a theme. This theme also of course requires Shepard to be dead in the end.

Entropy:

At the start of this article I said this would be an in-depth analysis. So far I only covered one theme out of three. So here goes, next on the list is Entropy. If you believe Shepard should die in the end, but still hate the ending because you don't believe it fits, then looking at this theme may help. I don't want to rehash what Yahtzee said in his article, you can read that here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/extra-punctuation/9511-Mass-Effect-3-Gets-An-Ending. The main point of this theme is that events are basically cyclical and everything that happened before will happen again and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.
While not touched too much on in the rest of the series the idea that these events have transpired before are briefly noted. Sovereign basically says you can't understand the Reapers plan because no organic can comprehend its vastness. Which certainly alludes to the idea that the Reapers are basically creating a cyclical plan of evolution. Otherwise the only hint of this theme appearing in the rest of the series is the fact that the Reapers do indeed come back every 50,000 years to kill everyone and that they make it so all races evolve according to their design.

It isn't until Mass Effect 3 that this theme is really put forward. As you learn that not only do the Reapers cause all races to evolve the same, but the entire purpose of their existence is to stop the eventual war between organics and synthetics which they were put in place to stop and have been stopping for millions of years.

The main problem is that most of this narrative theme is only uncovered if you have Javik. Without Javik you just have to take the Reapers word for it that what they are saying is true. However, with Javik you learn that indeed this cycle has repeated itself before. His race was involved in a war with synthetics they created, just as the Quarians are currently at war with the Geth.

I find it extremely important for people to recognize this is a major theme of the Mass Effect series though, because if you deny this is a theme then the endings do actually fall apart. If you don't accept what Javik and the Reapers say to be true, then Synthesis ending is terrifying. The Synthesis ending is on some level a very physical rape of everyone in the galaxy. If you accept the theme of "Entropy" then this ending is acceptable, because without synthesis their will only be death.

If you united the Geth and the Quarians or simply sided with the Geth this might seem crazy to you. However, the whole point of accepting the theme of "entropy" is the idea that no matter what is currently happening; in the future some other race will create a synthetic life form that does kill all organic life. If you believe what the Reapers say then this is true, without synthesis synthetics will one day kill all organics, it just probably won't be the Geth that do it. It also stands to reason that the Reapers have actual proof of this happening.

If you only sided with the Quarians or you picked the destroy ending, then you just proved the Reapers right. Synthetics and Organics can't co-exist, one must always kill the other and therefore the Reapers plan is correct because it will insure the survival of both forms of life...although not in any form either species would wish. This is why the destroy ending is actually the worst ending, because you are dooming the cycle to repeat itself and literally insuring it does by wiping out the Geth, the one synthetic species that could finally co-exist with organics.

Now if you believe in the theme of "Entropy," then the control ending is kind of a neutral choice. You are basically telling the reapers they are wrong, synthetics and organics can co-exist and you have proved it by either siding with the Geth or uniting Quarians and Geth (if you picked the control ending after killing all Geth, then I find that to be a rather confusing and misguided ending to your story. As you are basically saying the Reapers are wrong about the cyclical nature of events...even after you proved them right about not being able to get along with synthetics). This also sounds like the ending a lot of people complained that they didn't get. I have seen forum posts and articles about how they should have been able to tell the Reapers, hey I sided with the Geth and we therefore proved your plan is wrong. If you believed this then you should have controlled the Reapers, because that option is basically saying I am willing to chance that the Reapers have miscalculated and the cycle is not a repeatable cycle, but one that can be broken.

I believe that a better final cutscene that better fleshed out what happened would have been a great benefit for people that either didn't or can't analyze the situation themselves and just wanted to be told by Bioware what the endings meant. If such a cutscene existed I really doubt the majority of people would be upset with the game.

I do want to add one final point to this concept of "Entropy." A lot of people have said that Shepard should have been able to beat back the Reapers by uniting the galaxy against them. First Bioware has made it extremely clear that this is impossible. In every game they have made it clear the Reapers are unbeatable. If every single ship in the galaxy fought the Reapers you would still lose. It goes back to the concept of "Entropy" because we know from history that for millions of years the Reapers have been exterminating galactic civilization. No one has been able to beat them in all this time, I'm sure in the millions of years there have been races that have done exactly what Shepard has done and they all lost. The Protheans weren't able to unite their Galaxy, but that doesn't mean some other species in the thousands that have been exterminated wasn't.

Bioware simply made the Reapers too powerful an enemy for anyone to defeat. It takes the whole Quarian fleet to kill 1 reaper. It takes the whole Citadel fleet to destroy Sovereign. Shepard did everything in his power to get the fleet ready, but it simply does not matter because the Reapers are too numerous and technologically advanced to defeat. A lot of people still complain, but that was literally hard coded into the game from the very start. Reapers are unbeatable, so stop saying Shepard can beat them. It all simply means that nothing you can possibly do matters, because the Reapers will always win. With this concept in mind you should be able to accept picking the 3 options given to you at the end as quite frankly the only realistic options, and options that are clearly within the confines of the narrative being told.

If you feel upset and betrayed because you don't feel your Shepard would ever pick those options then that is a good thing. That is the whole point, these are the options Shepard is given, any other choice means the death of all organics in the entire Galaxy. You should feel constrained by these choices, because I'm sure a real person faced with such a decision would be as well.

Forgiveness:

This is the final major theme which I don't think anyone has mentioned. Bioware basically said the main theme is Sacrifice for the greater good, Yahtzee believes it's "Entropy." Those are both definitely themes of the game. However, I feel that you also need to understand that forgiveness is a major theme in the narrative, as it helps a lot in understanding the ending.

I think it's fairly obvious in Mass Effect 3 that this is a theme. However, just to prove it is an overarching theme throughout the series lets start with ME1. Now due to the fact that paragon and renegade decisions can basically insure that some people you forgive and others you don't, I'm only going to focus on decisions which you can't really affect. I believe the two biggest overarching parts of the narrative that deal with this are the Krogan/Genophage and the Quarian/Geth.

Certainly besides this many other smaller narratives deal with this as well such as: (1) Liara/Mother (2) Garrus/Sidonis (3) Jacob/Father (4) Miranda/Niket (5) Tali/Father (6) Thane/Son (7) Shepard/Kaiden/Ashley (8) Turians/Krogan (9) Shepard/boy (10) Rachni/Shepard. These are just some of the side ones, which I don't really want to focus on, I'm just pointing them out to show that it is a theme Bioware keeps harping on. The only one of these side ones that actually matters is the fact of Shepard and the boy in ME3. Many people complain that it's cheesy or nonsensical for the reaper to take the form of this boy. It might be cheesy, but certainly not nonsensical. Bioware goes to ridiculous lengths in ME3 to make it a fact that Shepard cannot forgive him/herself for letting this boy die. It would of course be near the surface of Shepard's memories when she meets the AI at the end and hence the most likely form for it to take. You might dislike the fact that this boy is in the game, but it's absurd to say it makes no sense why Bioware had the reaper take his form, after they went to such lengths to make it an important part of the narrative.

Anyway, back to the Krogan/Genophage. Even in ME1 this was a big theme, the question of do the Krogan deserve to be able to live without the Genophage. The underlying question is, can we ever forgive the Krogan for the atrocities they committed in the rebellion? In ME1 the narrative forces you to say you either can't forgive them, or if you do forgive them you are sorry but you can't cure them now. In ME2 this same narrative theme continues with Mordin and the fact he actually helped cause the genophage. By the end of ME2 you basically can get Mordin to admit that it was a regrettable decision, but something that had to be done. However, by ME3 Mordin (or Padok) is consumed by guilt over this and most likely always has been. Due to the guilt he feels over this, he believes the only way he can ever obtain forgiveness is by his sacrifice to save the Krogan.

Similarly, the Geth/Quarian narrative goes along similar lines. In ME1 all you basically know is that the Quarians made the Geth and the Geth rebelled. In ME2 it becomes clear that something is not quite right as Legion seems to not be this insane Geth that the Quarians make them out to be. You can even have a conversation basically forcing Tali and the Geth to become friends. By ME3 you realize the Geth were actually the ones mistreated by the Quarians and it was the Geth who were peaceful until the Quarians tried to destroy them and even then the Geth let the Quarians flee instead of killing them.

In the end you are faced with a choice, the Geth will forgive organics for the way the Quarians treated them, if you can forgive the Geth for what they have done to organics. This forgiveness comes at the cost of the entire Quarian people. However, if you can pass the reputation check you can unite both Quarian and Geth and force them to start on a long path of forgiving one another for their actions.

This theme of forgiveness is very important to the narrative, because the final question in the game gives you the power to atone for Shepards own mistakes, just as Mordin was given the chance to atone for his and how organics are given the ability to atone for the Quarians mistakes. This is important, because lets say you went through the entire narrative of all 3 games with the idea that such actions cannot be forgiven. Then at the end you are giving the option to pick these 3 choices all of which kill you and you are left thinking, this is stupid and makes no sense. The reason it makes no sense is because quite frankly you missed this narrative theme.

I believe Bioware's writers were attempting to say that in the end Shepard's sacrifice isn't just necessary because it's for the greater good, but because it's the only way Shepard themselves can find forgiveness in his/her actions. Shepard is certainly a hero, but no matter how you got to the end you cost a lot of people their lives. Ashley/Kaiden or perhaps even both is dead, perhaps people you cared for died on the suicide mission, either way Mordin or Padok died in order to help you get the Krogan to join the war, you might have killed Tali and the whole Quarian race to get the Geth on your side, or you might have personally killed Legion and the Geth to get the Quarians on your side, in the end Thane died because he believed in you, you might have killed the Rachni queen or let a bunch of Krogan sacrifice their life to save her, it's even possible entire planets and races are being exterminated by the reapers because of choices you make in the game.

In the end I feel it is made very clear that Shepard feels a ton of guilt over what has happened. Especially after Thessia, I am not sure how anyone could come away from that mission and not think that Shepard is being brought down by extreme guilt for failing people. It is constantly shown throughout the game that Shepard can barely even sleep because he/she suffers from so much guilt for failing people, especially a little boy she barely even knew. In the final moments of the game Shepard is told hey all these people died, but if you sacrifice yourself you can save the rest of the Galaxy. Having Shepard sacrifice themselves is a catharsis and one of the only ways Shepard can be forgiven for all the deaths on his/her hands. Without this sacrifice Shepard would forever have to carry around the guilt that they caused friends, loved ones, even strangers do die for the good of the galaxy but when the time came Shepard refused to do the same. It would be an inherently selfish act that would condemn Shepard forever. If on the other hand you selflessly give up your life it makes up for all the deaths you caused and hence you die forgiven and at peace.

I believe if anything the ending of ME3 is one of forgiveness. Where Shepard seeks to atone for his/her failures by selflessly doing the one thing Shepard has ordered others to do in his/her place. I got no feeling that in the end Shepard was brought down by guilt, but instead was finally at peace and could rest.

Conclusion:

So that's pretty much it. I find it impossible to comprehend how anyone can say the ending was in any way a tonal shift or somehow disconnected from the narrative. It fits perfectly in with the themes of (1) sacrifice (2) entropy (3) and forgiveness. If you are so caught up in the fact that the final cutscene randomly shows the Normandy fleeing, or the fact the mass relays are exploding, then you really need to stop it. For one thing it doesn't matter that galactic civilization might be over, you still triumphed over the Reapers.

It certainly doesn't mean none of your decisions in the game mattered. If you cured the genophage then the krogan civilization can still thrive on their planet, if you united the quarians and geth then they are indeed going to be working together to establish their future. The mass relays didn't destroy all life when they exploded as some of you have argued. We already know from the final scene set in the future that it didn't kill everyone. Clearly Bioware is saying there is a way to destroy the relays without them destroying the entire galaxy.

Finally if you are sad Shepard is dead, then you certainly should be. If you think this ruins the game you are have misunderstood the narrative themes of the series. The best stories have realistic endings, Shepard dying in this context when examined against the narrative themes Bioware is portraying is an extremely realistic ending. When Blade Runner was made the studio forced Ridley Scott to put a happy ending on the film. This ending made little narrative sense in connection with the theme and tone of the overall movie and was mostly deemed a failure. Scott's director's cut which omits the happy ending is now considered to be the far superior version of the film. When Great Expectations came out everyone demanded Dickens change the ending because it was too depressing. Dickens relented, he couldn't afford his audience to be upset with him. Today literary scholars consider this the worst decision Dickens ever made and now the majority of students that read Great Expectations read it with the original ending intact. So certainly mourn the fact that Shepard is dead, but don't go around saying that Bioware's writers didn't know what they were doing, they clearly did and they created one of the best videogame narratives because of it.

Welcome to the forum!

So - I can be as academic and appreciative of appreciative of literary analysis as almost anyone else, and I'm not going to say this is too long. (Yes I did read your comment there.) What I will suggest is you provide a summary - an abstract, if you will - to give us a sense of what you're saying so we can decide whether we want to invest the time to read it. (For example, I've read a lot about the ending, and don't want to spend time reading a long segment that covers the same topics.) It looks like your second paragraph is sort of an overview? But it would be helpful for you to make that clear.

I want to reiterate - I won't say this is too long. It could just use a pointer for a summary. There's plenty of heavy reading to be done in real life, it's worth giving people a reason to do some more on their free time. :P

My main complaint about the ending wasn't necessarily a thematic or tonal shift; it was the fact that it seemed like it was trying to do way too much with the time it had left. Five minutes from the end, we're told that the Reapers are actually under the control of a godlike figure that lives in the Citadel's attic. We're told that he doesn't think organics and synthetics can coexist, when 90% of our interactions with the Geth serve to suggest otherwise. We're given his almost comically stupid plan for correcting this issue, namely kill them before they can kill themselves. And we're told that because some people we know managed to build something, we're in charge of deciding what happens to the galaxy next.

All of these elements are introduced way too quickly, at a point in the narrative where people naturally expect answers instead of additional questions. And these new questions are themselves brushed aside as well, leading to the infamous RGB scale of ME3 endings. It could have been done well, if certain aspects of it had been 1. explained more substantially, 2. paced more carefully, and (the others are maybes, but this is most important) 3. introduced earlier in the narrative.

Use 2001: A Space Odyssey as a comparative. In 2001, the very first sequence shows us a monolith interacting with early humans, indirectly showing its responsibility for the evolution of humanity into its present form. The very last sequence shows a monolith interacting with an astronaut and transforming him into a fetal figure. It still leaves the audience with questions, but it gives them a familiar reference point for them in the form of the monoliths. We may not know what exactly the monolith did to the astronaut, or how, or why. But we recognize the monolith, and what it's capable of, and its role in the narrative so far.

Mass Effect 3 is 2001 without the first two sequences. You have a familiar conflict with a recognizable antagonist, then suddenly there's a weird lightshow and you have no idea why or what this has to do with the rest of the story.

I applaud Bioware for their effort to create an ambiguous conclusion to their narrative, but I consider it to be one of the greatest failures in artistic execution in recent memory.

1. I have no problem with themes of sacrifice, nor the concept Pyrrhic victory (which I was anticipating anyway). Yes, I'm aware that sacrifice for the greater good is a consistent theme that is NOT abandoned. One of the few.

2. "Entropy" is NOT a consistent theme and has NOT been present from the beginning of the series, other than in the mission statement of the Reapers (who, as the primary antagonists, have suspect motivations). Javik was DLC, so suggesting he was added in to further illustrate essential themes is a little preposterous. He's also embittered and portrayed as clinging to anachronistic, imperialistic values. Allowing the primary antagonist and a DLC character suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome to be your fonts of exposition to establish a theme at the 11th hour is terrible storytelling.

3. I'm sorry, but I can't get on board with your third point. Yes, forgiveness and the ability to atone for the sins of the past and create a better future was indeed a major theme in the game...a theme that is thrown out the window if we embrace Starchild Exposition and his fatalistic singularity.

And really, there's been more than enough written about all the levels on which this ending fails that seeing it passed off as "NOT HAPPY ENOUGH DURR" one more time is just too exhausting to bother with. If you're really a student of literature and film you should have a little more insight to where it falls down, and hand waving that atrocious cinematic does nothing to convince me of your objectivity.

I think what this ME3 ending has convinced me more than anything is this: If you want the player to make major choices in your game, you can't be too ambitious with the story. The two just don't go together. For years gamers have been applauding increased player choice and story participation as the future of games, but if you're going to include options - REAL options (and many of them) - then the consequences can't be significant ones. It seems obvious that if you are going to choose who will die, then the next part of the plot is going to be diluted because it has to take into account both outcomes. I don't see any way around this. If you try to do both you'll either end up with choices that don't really matter (like ME3) or a really, REALLY crappy story. To be honest, I'm glad ME decided to go more on the side of the choices not mattering.

I have to agree with OP... though to be honest, I think the biggest problem people have with the ending, the REALLY biggest issue is not the lack of themes or any of that stuff. Shepard can bite the dust all he wants in my game. I have no problem with that. From what I hear it's simple. There is no closure. It's boom, relays blow up, you see joker, (for whatever reason), flying away from the blast. They end up on some planet. Then some future earth with a guy and a kid. Boom, end.

Now where people are going "Wait, wtf happened?" is the fact for example - we don't see the rebuilding effort from whatever choice you made, where garrus or tali or whatever end up etc. I think the biggest problem people have with the ending is simple: People want to know what happened to all their companions in the game.

Why did joker flee? Was I being indoctrinated? The biggest problem is the questions. it's that simple. It leaves too many open ended questions, too many loose threads. Heck, a cheesy scene like for example this scene from Italian job... As the pod cast put it, a simple text slide with various images/scenes would have fit with what happened after you dealt with the reapers, depending upon the choices you made.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YctqVZWtWbw

Though to be honest, I think the ending is just the issue overblown because tali fans being mad at bioware for the photo-shop tali. but that's just me. I liked tali just as much as any other companions, ok a Quite a bit more than kaden/Jacob, but even I think the photo-shop image was a cop out. The home-world where she removes her mask would have been the perfect place to do it. But that's just me.

At this point, if I was a bioware I would do the following:

Roll out the original ending that the author intended (with dark energy and stuff) right after you make a choice. If I recall quite a few months ago, the bioware were on fire during what? Sept-November sometime when the ending got leaked and people were made at the "Cheesey ending." Depending upon that choice, is the difference between you breaking indoctrination or not. Then the real choice begins. But that is just me, that's how I would roll with it. TO me - it seems the indoctrination theory is pretty solid and makes plenty of sense. I can also roll with this ending either way. The only thing I agree with all the outrage is this - there is a need for closure on a number of issues.

1) why is joker flying away?
2) What happened to everyone etc?
3) I'm sure people can add more in here.

Good read, and totally agree with all points raised.

Well said.

In particular:

Skyfyre:
Bioware simply made the Reapers too powerful an enemy for anyone to defeat. It takes the whole Quarian fleet to kill 1 reaper. It takes the whole Citadel fleet to destroy Sovereign. Shepard did everything in his power to get the fleet ready, but it simply does not matter because the Reapers are too numerous and technologically advanced to defeat. A lot of people still complain, but that was literally hard coded into the game from the very start. Reapers are unbeatable, so stop saying Shepard can beat them. It all simply means that nothing you can possibly do matters, because the Reapers will always win. With this concept in mind you should be able to accept picking the 3 options given to you at the end as quite frankly the only realistic options, and options that are clearly within the confines of the narrative being told.

If you feel upset and betrayed because you don't feel your Shepard would ever pick those options then that is a good thing. That is the whole point, these are the options Shepard is given, any other choice means the death of all organics in the entire Galaxy. You should feel constrained by these choices, because I'm sure a real person faced with such a decision would be as well.

I wish more people understood this. All the "alternative" endings proposed by the fans have a "win" option (the Indoctrination ending is fine if it's just Shepard last dying hallucination, but the whole "Destroy option works" part of it is silly), which misses the whole point of the game.

Alright, to be honest (and somewhat spiteful) I am going to have to disagree with your points on a couple of grounds. While I can't claim to be entirely story focused like yourself, I would hope that I have a proper understanding of the Hero's Journey, and why exactly people can be so pissed off about it.




To TOP IT ALL OFF.

So, to top off this little thing that has turned into a bit of a tirade on my end, the ending might have a few merits that it can try to stand on, and we can go ahead and talk about it till the end of time. But the problem is that we CAN talk about it till the end of time about ANYTHING in the ending. An ending shouldn't leave so many questions, and so many concerns, because it is an ENDING. FINALE. STOPPING POINT. If an ending doesn't bring a proper sense of Finality, then it is a terrible ending, and it CAN ruin the rest of the story, because there is just a giant hole, and there is no good way to fill it.

but what about all the plot holes? You're kinda missing the point of why people didn't like the ending

I have to go to bed, didn't finish the article. Will do so later.

For now - "choice and consequences" is a narrative theme, and one espoused to be a theme of Mass Effect. This was completely disregarded in the ending, and in fact the entirety of the game after you leave TIM's base.

Also note that after that point the writing shifted from being done by the Bioware writing team like the rest of the game and shifted to Casey Hudson and another guy[1] with zero oversight.

[1] I forget his name

Maybe I've been playing a different series, because the theme was always "hope" there's always hope no matter how grim things look, defiance and victory through co-operation and diversity. I seriously can't comprehend where people are seeing all this hopeless grim fatality in the series, especially after ME2 where you could walk away with no losses. It smacks of grasping at straws to justify the ending to me.

Unusualstranger nailed it basically, and you claim if we ask any sort of questions about the ending we're what? over-thinking it? under-thinking it? just thinking about it wrong? your claims that we might all be put off by sheps death is a big issue I have with all the pro arguments, I assumed shep wouldn't walk away from ME3 simply because it was to easy a way to leave an impact on the player and end sheperd story arc, but I assumed I would have more say in my end and my actions leading up to my end would be meaningfully shown.

It's a big vague plot hole ridden mess made far worse in that it removes the player from the equation almost entirely which is probably there biggest mistake.

It really feels like one or two people sat down after dismissing the rest of the team and came up with a deliberately vague plot hole mess in a vain attempt at a deep ending with last-ability in the interpretations of the fans. But all anyone can see is how ham-fisted the attempt was.

While I agree with most of what you said OP, there are two things I have to say, The main problem I have is all the questions left unanswered. Also with your arguments about forgiveness, that only works if you play paragon, with renegade, Shep just murders, or hates on all of the people being forgiven. Still, very elegant examination of Mass Effect 3

Skyfyre:
Mass Effect 3: Great Ending or Greatest Ending

snip

Ok that was very well put and while I dislike the ending a great deal I do not feel the need to argue with everyone who does like it. That being said I am tired of people saying 'It is the best because' or 'It is the worst because'. What you have put is why YOU think it is good. It does not mean this is why it is good and everyone who hate's it is wrong.

Skyfyre:
-snip-

This was a pretty solid analysis, and you do have some valid points. I have to disagree that the end of ME3 was thematically consistent though.

For one, the series has not been about sacrifice. It's been about defiance of fate and the fight against the inevitable. Sacrifice plays a large role in that, but it's far from the defining characteristic. Every game presented the Reapers as an invincible force, that we would never win against them, that fighting was futile. Shepard did it anyway. This is best expressed in the suicide mission in ME2. They literally spend an entire game banging on about how you're going to die on this mission, but Shepard puts together their crew and survives in spite of that. The themes of defiance of fate and optimism in the face of annihilation are heavily ingrained in the series, most likely due to the source material it draws inspiration from. The end of ME3 directly contradicts this. Shepard just accepts the Deus ex Machina, without even thinking to question it, and blindly accepts the Catalyst's words as gospel. They could have fixed this one fairly well with an expanded dialogue there, where you get to actually question the thing, but it never happened.

Also, another major recurring theme of the series is strength through unity because of diversity. In ME1 and even moreso in 2, you're bringing together a team with wildly divergent backgrounds and forging a sum greater than its parts out of it. In ME3, the same theme is applied on a significantly larger scale. You're bringing together whole species, arbitrating disputes and bringing the entire galaxy together to achieve something never before seen. At least one of the end choices (synthesis) spits in the face of this. It goes from "our strengths used cooperatively make us better", to "conformity and sameness is the best". It's a rather jarring transition.

Finally, I would say the biggest theme of the entire series is the importance of free will, the impact of choice, and what it means to be a person. This is explored countless times throughout the series, most prominently with Legion and EDI. There's several instances where they learn what it means to be an independent, sapient being, and the privileges (and responsibility) that come with having free will. The Catalyst directly states that free will is irrelevant, and choices are meaningless. It's not a matter of choices having an impact on the end cutscene. The problem is that the Catalyst explicitly says that no matter what choices are made or what happens in the future, synthetic life will kill organic life. It's a complete rejection of the base concept the game is centered on. It says that no matter what, things will always play out exactly this way, but the game spent the last 100+ hours telling the player the exact opposite. That is very much a severe thematic shift.

That's just the major thematic problems with the ending, there's also a wide variety of other mechanical problems with the way it was handled, especially the lack of foreshadowing of and blatant (and literal) deus ex machina that is the Catalyst.

Blood Brain Barrier:
I think what this ME3 ending has convinced me more than anything is this: If you want the player to make major choices in your game, you can't be too ambitious with the story. The two just don't go together. For years gamers have been applauding increased player choice and story participation as the future of games, but if you're going to include options - REAL options (and many of them) - then the consequences can't be significant ones. It seems obvious that if you are going to choose who will die, then the next part of the plot is going to be diluted because it has to take into account both outcomes. I don't see any way around this. If you try to do both you'll either end up with choices that don't really matter (like ME3) or a really, REALLY crappy story. To be honest, I'm glad ME decided to go more on the side of the choices not mattering.

Actually, check out the Witcher 2. CDPR managed exactly this extremely well. Most of your choices (restricted to the main storyline, sidequest decisions have less dramatic impacts) have extremely dramatic and meaningful impacts on the story being told, ranging from a prison-break getting a bit easier to serving on opposite sides of a war. It's done exceptionally well and proves that games really can tell deep, impactful, meaningful stories by letting the player dictate the course.

I appreciate what you're trying to do here OP but lets face the facts: nothing you say or do is going to calm the ridiculous fucking buttanguish that is going on about the ending.

It's funny really. The gaming community wants to be taken seriously as a medium and we talk about how mature we are but then you guys do this. You do realize you've kept up this temper tantrum for a MONTH now, right? You know what you're making the gaming community look like? CHILDREN. Sure, sure, you talk about how gaming can be and is a medium for adults, and should be respected as any other medium, but you never see this shit anywhere else. You know what else sucked? Matrix: Revolutions. But you didn't see fans whining to the producers to give them something else. You didn't see people claiming they "deserved" better. You know, the only movies I can think of that has had such a ridiculously enraged response is the Star Wars prequels, and I can bet that a lot of you who are angry now are the same people who want to burn George Lucas at the fucking stake. And now Bioware is playing the role of a mother buying her whiny kid a candy in the checkout line so that they'll just stop screaming. Come on, just move on, please, this is just getting hard to watch.

/rant

Badassassin:
I appreciate what you're trying to do here OP but lets face the facts: nothing you say or do is going to calm the ridiculous fucking buttanguish that is going on about the ending.

It's funny really. The gaming community wants to be taken seriously as a medium and we talk about how mature we are but then you guys do this. You do realize you've kept up this temper tantrum for a MONTH now, right? You know what you're making the gaming community look like? CHILDREN. Sure, sure, you talk about how gaming can be and is a medium for adults, and should be respected as any other medium, but you never see this shit anywhere else. You know what else sucked? Matrix: Revolutions. But you didn't see fans whining to the producers to give them something else. You didn't see people claiming they "deserved" better. You know, the only movies I can think of that has had such a ridiculously enraged response is the Star Wars prequels, and I can bet that a lot of you who are angry now are the same people who want to burn George Lucas at the fucking stake. And now Bioware is playing the role of a mother buying her whiny kid a candy in the checkout line so that they'll just stop screaming. Come on, just move on, please, this is just getting hard to watch.

/rant

I'd love to know why complaining about the ending and not giving up on it after a month = all the vitriol you apply to them.

Frankly my worst experiences from all this is from people like you who are getting far more worked up then anyone has over the ending.

Welcome to the forum.

Sorry, you thought probably a lot about this and it's probably well written.

But at this point:

Skyfyre:

This is probably the biggest one that ties into requiring Shepard to die and one that most people completely missed or just ignored. I find this theme is pretty obvious, so I don't know why people were so furious that Shepard died, I assume it was despair at having a character they cared about so much die.

I couldn't read further, because most of the people who dislike the ending didn't really care about Sheppard dying.

BloatedGuppy:
*snip*

With this, I wholeheartedly agree.

To the original poster, I have to respectfully disagree on several points. As the quoted post stated, yes, sacrifice was definitely a major theme. And self-sacrifice, whether or not it actually ended with Shepard's death was more than likely inevitable. The idea of him or her sacrificing themselves for the survival of the galaxy is bittersweet, yes, but executed properly has unmatched satisfaction for a protagonist. The ending executed this extremely poorly, so that no satisfaction was had.

I would also have to say that Entropy isn't necessarily a main theme of the series, especially since the various patterns that are apparently repeated throughout the galaxy's history is only really pointed out in the third game, making it feel rather shoehorned-in. But, you're also forgetting another major theme of the series: Defying the odds, and accomplishing the impossible.

In Mass Effect, there was the mission to Ilos, which was deemed someplace that was impossible to get to.

In Mass Effect 2, there was the mission through the Omega 4 Relay, and the assault on the Collector Base. In this case, nearly everyone was expected to die in the process.

In both cases, Shepard succeeds, and in the case of the Collector Base, you can even pull through without a single death in your squad. Yes, in this case, the odds are certainly more heavily stacked against you, however you have the opportunity of uniting every race in the galaxy to help you in your fight, from the Turians and Krogan, to the Elcor and Volus. You even have the chance of settling centuries-old disputes between races, such as the Quarians and Geth. I believe that this theme is much more powerful than that of Entropy.

I could go on, but I think the most important part is the plot holes. Such as the destruction of the Mass Relays, Joker deserting, and the fate of the Galaxy itself. Personally, I think that the rules of a story, especially in Science-Fiction where the universe and lore has set rules and precedents, have a limit to being bent before they are broken, and breaking those rules without any explanation or cause is simply sloppy.

Overall, I'd say that the main problem isn't the Phyrric Victory, nor thematic shift, though I would say that there is definitely that. There's lack of closure, lack of narrative consistency, and the fact that it simply feels like it was written by someone else. I won't outright say that you are wrong, but I do disagree heavily.

[EDIT]: Something I feel that I neglected to mention that I feel is also very important is a writers intent for their story. In this case, the quote that Casey Hudson "Wanted the endings to be divisive", is in and of itself a bad sign. If you are writing a story and are thinking more about your readers, or in this case, players, to be talking about your ending or worrying about making it memorable, as opposed to simply making an ending that fits the story, then you're quite frankly, doing it wrong. Unless having an ending with no closure and immense speculation was an end goal from the beginning and feels right to the story as a whole, it is much better to stick to formula and simply craft an ending that fits the story, the characters, and the setting.

Darkcerb:

Badassassin:
I appreciate what you're trying to do here OP but lets face the facts: nothing you say or do is going to calm the ridiculous fucking buttanguish that is going on about the ending.

It's funny really. The gaming community wants to be taken seriously as a medium and we talk about how mature we are but then you guys do this. You do realize you've kept up this temper tantrum for a MONTH now, right? You know what you're making the gaming community look like? CHILDREN. Sure, sure, you talk about how gaming can be and is a medium for adults, and should be respected as any other medium, but you never see this shit anywhere else. You know what else sucked? Matrix: Revolutions. But you didn't see fans whining to the producers to give them something else. You didn't see people claiming they "deserved" better. You know, the only movies I can think of that has had such a ridiculously enraged response is the Star Wars prequels, and I can bet that a lot of you who are angry now are the same people who want to burn George Lucas at the fucking stake. And now Bioware is playing the role of a mother buying her whiny kid a candy in the checkout line so that they'll just stop screaming. Come on, just move on, please, this is just getting hard to watch.

/rant

I'd love to know why complaining about the ending and not giving up on it after a month = all the vitriol you apply to them.

Frankly my worst experiences from all this is from people like you who are getting far more worked up then anyone has over the ending.

Because I DO want games to be taken seriously as an art form. I DO want people to know that gamers can be mature adults. But its just... When something like this happens it does no good. You're mad, I'm mad, and everyone else standing on the outside watching is just thinking "what a bunch of kids."

This needs to stop.

Badassassin:

Darkcerb:

Badassassin:
I appreciate what you're trying to do here OP but lets face the facts: nothing you say or do is going to calm the ridiculous fucking buttanguish that is going on about the ending.

It's funny really. The gaming community wants to be taken seriously as a medium and we talk about how mature we are but then you guys do this. You do realize you've kept up this temper tantrum for a MONTH now, right? You know what you're making the gaming community look like? CHILDREN. Sure, sure, you talk about how gaming can be and is a medium for adults, and should be respected as any other medium, but you never see this shit anywhere else. You know what else sucked? Matrix: Revolutions. But you didn't see fans whining to the producers to give them something else. You didn't see people claiming they "deserved" better. You know, the only movies I can think of that has had such a ridiculously enraged response is the Star Wars prequels, and I can bet that a lot of you who are angry now are the same people who want to burn George Lucas at the fucking stake. And now Bioware is playing the role of a mother buying her whiny kid a candy in the checkout line so that they'll just stop screaming. Come on, just move on, please, this is just getting hard to watch.

/rant

I'd love to know why complaining about the ending and not giving up on it after a month = all the vitriol you apply to them.

Frankly my worst experiences from all this is from people like you who are getting far more worked up then anyone has over the ending.

Because I DO want games to be taken seriously as an art form. I DO want people to know that gamers can be mature adults. But its just... When something like this happens it does no good. You're mad, I'm mad, and everyone else standing on the outside watching is just thinking "what a bunch of kids."

This needs to stop.

This thread is a perfect representation of the situation I feel, people discussing why they like or hate the ending in detail and people on the outside walking in and shouting "ENTITLED BRATS WHINING" and walking back out with a vaguely superior feeling that they're the adults in all this.

You're right, that does need to stop.

edit: And why care what non-gamers think of gaming? I don't need validation from the likes of the news network (any the world over really, they're views have been made plain) which will never change it's stance on gaming, not until the next big thing...virtual reality maybe.

More to the point why care what the average person cares about your/our hobby?

And lastly the most hilarious part of all this is how the argument over whether games are art or not was apparently decided somewhere between a day before ME3's release and a day or two after when the complaints started.

Hal10k:
My main complaint about the ending wasn't necessarily a thematic or tonal shift; it was the fact that it seemed like it was trying to do way too much with the time it had left. Five minutes from the end, we're told that the Reapers are actually under the control of a godlike figure that lives in the Citadel's attic. We're told that he doesn't think organics and synthetics can coexist, when 90% of our interactions with the Geth serve to suggest otherwise. We're given his almost comically stupid plan for correcting this issue, namely kill them before they can kill themselves. And we're told that because some people we know managed to build something, we're in charge of deciding what happens to the galaxy next.

All of these elements are introduced way too quickly, at a point in the narrative where people naturally expect answers instead of additional questions. And these new questions are themselves brushed aside as well, leading to the infamous RGB scale of ME3 endings. It could have been done well, if certain aspects of it had been 1. explained more substantially, 2. paced more carefully, and (the others are maybes, but this is most important) 3. introduced earlier in the narrative.

Use 2001: A Space Odyssey as a comparative. In 2001, the very first sequence shows us a monolith interacting with early humans, indirectly showing its responsibility for the evolution of humanity into its present form. The very last sequence shows a monolith interacting with an astronaut and transforming him into a fetal figure. It still leaves the audience with questions, but it gives them a familiar reference point for them in the form of the monoliths. We may not know what exactly the monolith did to the astronaut, or how, or why. But we recognize the monolith, and what it's capable of, and its role in the narrative so far.

Mass Effect 3 is 2001 without the first two sequences. You have a familiar conflict with a recognizable antagonist, then suddenly there's a weird lightshow and you have no idea why or what this has to do with the rest of the story.

I applaud Bioware for their effort to create an ambiguous conclusion to their narrative, but I consider it to be one of the greatest failures in artistic execution in recent memory.

That is the calmest and most rational explanation of the ME3 ending problem I've seen so far. Good job. I applaud you for not giving into G.I.F.T. instincts.

Darkcerb:

Badassassin:

Darkcerb:

I'd love to know why complaining about the ending and not giving up on it after a month = all the vitriol you apply to them.

Frankly my worst experiences from all this is from people like you who are getting far more worked up then anyone has over the ending.

Because I DO want games to be taken seriously as an art form. I DO want people to know that gamers can be mature adults. But its just... When something like this happens it does no good. You're mad, I'm mad, and everyone else standing on the outside watching is just thinking "what a bunch of kids."

This needs to stop.

This thread is a perfect representation of the situation I feel, people discussing why they like or hate the ending in detail and people on the outside walking in and shouting "ENTITLED BRATS WHINING" and walking back out with a vaguely superior feeling that they're the adults in all this.

You're right, that does need to stop.

Alright, that's fair. To be honest, I dont really care if people take gaming seriously either. Really. I just think its hard to watch people who do care about those things sabotage themselves. You're probably are getting a lot of this, I know it doesnt make me special for saying that this is getting old. But you dont think there's ANY validity in that? Cant we agree that this is getting a little out of hand? I mean, every other thread is the same people saying the same things about how they disliked the ending. Its fine, you cab dislike the ending. Your reasoning is completely valid. EVERYONE on this site agrees with you. So can we be done now? Can we all agree the endings bad and move on? I dont who you guys are arguing against, other than the OP I dont think anyones denying that its a bad ending. I just dont see the point of flooding the forums with this.

skywolfblue:
Well said.

In particular:

Skyfyre:
Bioware simply made the Reapers too powerful an enemy for anyone to defeat. It takes the whole Quarian fleet to kill 1 reaper. It takes the whole Citadel fleet to destroy Sovereign. Shepard did everything in his power to get the fleet ready, but it simply does not matter because the Reapers are too numerous and technologically advanced to defeat. A lot of people still complain, but that was literally hard coded into the game from the very start. Reapers are unbeatable, so stop saying Shepard can beat them. It all simply means that nothing you can possibly do matters, because the Reapers will always win. With this concept in mind you should be able to accept picking the 3 options given to you at the end as quite frankly the only realistic options, and options that are clearly within the confines of the narrative being told.

If you feel upset and betrayed because you don't feel your Shepard would ever pick those options then that is a good thing. That is the whole point, these are the options Shepard is given, any other choice means the death of all organics in the entire Galaxy. You should feel constrained by these choices, because I'm sure a real person faced with such a decision would be as well.

I wish more people understood this. All the "alternative" endings proposed by the fans have a "win" option (the Indoctrination ending is fine if it's just Shepard last dying hallucination, but the whole "Destroy option works" part of it is silly), which misses the whole point of the game.

I must have missed the part where the WHOLE quarion fleet attacked a reaper. I saw a few ships and fighters and the Normandy but the WHOLE fleet must have been of camera. Not to mention: the Codex entries and the dialogue that talks about a bunch of Dreadnoughts relaying into the middle of the reapers and managing to blow up several and then bug out before the reapers even LINE UP A SHOT. Don't give me that 'we can't defeat them conventially' stuff we've taken down a few on foot. We've sicced a giant freaking worm on these guys. We've over come the odds before. Why not now? Why not spit in the face of a phyrric victory? Why not tell the catalyst to piss off and put it all on the line like we've done every time before hand. Mass Effect is not about entropy, or inevitability. It's about Unity, Strength threw diversity, and overcoming the odds. While I don't think everyone had a problem with no happy ending. And hey my problem goes waaay beyond that. This is in the end a game and if the player works his butt off, gets every asset, then he should be rewarded for his efforts.

Also the Reapers have never faced a threat like this, they've taken the Galaxy before by blindsiding the races, destroying communications and then wiping them out one by one. But we stopped them taking the Citadel. (also Big plot hole, if the Catalyst lives in the Citadel...why didn't he just open the Mass Relay in ME1. That right there is a Black hole sized plot hole.) This time Shepard rallied the entire Galaxy and every fleet he could. Thousands of ships, probably millions of fighters. Of all different races, worlds, technologies. Plus we've reversed engineered their tech. (Thanix weaponry) They didn't see that coming.

Their is a long 39. Minute video that explains in very great detail why the Narrative Cohesion falls apart at the end. It's not about an emotional reaction but still shows rather well I might add why the ending makes no sense in a Narrative viewpoint. I will try to find it and post it at the end of this post so I don't look like I'm making it up.

Also do you love how the OP starts with 'I have a degree in literature and I minored in film studies.' Okay this is a GAME. A Video game. Yes you can take certain things from both of those and apply it to another. But this is a RPG as well, a Book you read and I've read some good ones, in a book your ultimately reading a series of events you have no control over. Which makes horror and mystery writing so good cause you feel powerless. IE: the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and it's two sequels. (Shame Larsson died, I think he had more planned but we'll never know.) And movies are about the same. But Games and RPG's are interactive. It's a lot different BEING the guy under fire then just watching or reading about it. It gives the player an amount of investment in the character. Especially over three games and a ton of DLC split between ME1 and ME2. The OP's post was well thought out, well put. But that doesn't, and probably won't ever, make the players (like me) the customers of this franchise feel any less: Lied too, betrayed, and upset.

It's not that I don't get the ending. I do. I've looked at them all and I see what they were going for. And I don't care, they endings are unsatisfying, come out of nowhere and make no sense in the context of the rest of the game.

Edit: fuck I forgot the link for the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MlatxLP-xs

Skyfyre:
Snip

This was probably one of the most insightful and well thought out posts about the ME3 ending that I have read. Good Job!

Badassassin:

Darkcerb:

Badassassin:

Because I DO want games to be taken seriously as an art form. I DO want people to know that gamers can be mature adults. But its just... When something like this happens it does no good. You're mad, I'm mad, and everyone else standing on the outside watching is just thinking "what a bunch of kids."

This needs to stop.

This thread is a perfect representation of the situation I feel, people discussing why they like or hate the ending in detail and people on the outside walking in and shouting "ENTITLED BRATS WHINING" and walking back out with a vaguely superior feeling that they're the adults in all this.

You're right, that does need to stop.

Alright, that's fair. To be honest, I dont really care if people take gaming seriously either. Really. I just think its hard to watch people who do care about those things sabotage themselves. You're probably are getting a lot of this, I know it doesnt make me special for saying that this is getting old. But you dont think there's ANY validity in that? Cant we agree that this is getting a little out of hand? I mean, every other thread is the same people saying the same things about how they disliked the ending. Its fine, you cab dislike the ending. Your reasoning is completely valid. EVERYONE on this site agrees with you. So can we be done now? Can we all agree the endings bad and move on? I dont who you guys are arguing against, other than the OP I dont think anyones denying that its a bad ending. I just dont see the point of flooding the forums with this.

I've rarely seen the same people arguing but the same themes are always touched on, the reason I feel is that all that's implied by it. And of course new people finishing the game or finalizing there thoughts on it and coming to post about it.

Fan/consumer ownership (not saying they own in strictly speaking, but how much say do we have and how much should game writers consider us when writing) of the story for example is a big topic with a lot to talk about.

Should the ending be changed?

Interpretation of the ending's (indoc theory mainly)

Is game art? if so is the ending artistic? and if so can art miss it's medium and audience?

There's alot to talk about and it all stems from the ending, I personally see it as a good thing and step forward, I haven't seen all the "childish" complaints every games journalist harps on about but even if it is occurring can you really judge one side of an argument based on a few chimps on there side flinging poo? whenever two groups disagree there will always be chimps.

What's better silence acceptance of something you feel could be dramtically better when changed (or kept the same) or active criticism?

Darkcerb:
Maybe I've been playing a different series, because the theme was always "hope" there's always hope no matter how grim things look, defiance and victory through co-operation and diversity. I seriously can't comprehend where people are seeing all this hopeless grim fatality in the series, especially after ME2 where you could walk away with no losses. It smacks of grasping at straws to justify the ending to me.

Unusualstranger nailed it basically, and you claim if we ask any sort of questions about the ending we're what? over-thinking it? under-thinking it? just thinking about it wrong? your claims that we might all be put off by sheps death is a big issue I have with all the pro arguments, I assumed shep wouldn't walk away from ME3 simply because it was to easy a way to leave an impact on the player and end sheperd story arc, but I assumed I would have more say in my end and my actions leading up to my end would be meaningfully shown.

It's a big vague plot hole ridden mess made far worse in that it removes the player from the equation almost entirely which is probably there biggest mistake.

It really feels like one or two people sat down after dismissing the rest of the team and came up with a deliberately vague plot hole mess in a vain attempt at a deep ending with last-ability in the interpretations of the fans. But all anyone can see is how ham-fisted the attempt was.

According to a post that was taken down on the Penny Arcade forums that's exactly what did happen. The poster was supposedly a Writer for ME3.

Also yeah I don't know why people are suddenly are 'it was hopeless from the start'...I mean did they just think this was Gears of War3 with a different skin? This isn't Warhammer 40K (I'm a fan of warhammer but apples and oranges here) I'm seriously thinking that a lot of the pro people are people who picked up the series at ME3.

Neonsilver:

Skyfyre:

This is probably the biggest one that ties into requiring Shepard to die and one that most people completely missed or just ignored. I find this theme is pretty obvious, so I don't know why people were so furious that Shepard died, I assume it was despair at having a character they cared about so much die.

I couldn't read further, because most of the people who dislike the ending didn't really care about Sheppard dying.

I was actually a little pissed that my Shepard apparently survived... after the whole citadel blew up in his face... in space!... and if the godchild didn't lie his life-saving implants should have failed, not that it should matter by that point.

Darkcerb:

Badassassin:

Darkcerb:

This thread is a perfect representation of the situation I feel, people discussing why they like or hate the ending in detail and people on the outside walking in and shouting "ENTITLED BRATS WHINING" and walking back out with a vaguely superior feeling that they're the adults in all this.

You're right, that does need to stop.

Alright, that's fair. To be honest, I dont really care if people take gaming seriously either. Really. I just think its hard to watch people who do care about those things sabotage themselves. You're probably are getting a lot of this, I know it doesnt make me special for saying that this is getting old. But you dont think there's ANY validity in that? Cant we agree that this is getting a little out of hand? I mean, every other thread is the same people saying the same things about how they disliked the ending. Its fine, you cab dislike the ending. Your reasoning is completely valid. EVERYONE on this site agrees with you. So can we be done now? Can we all agree the endings bad and move on? I dont who you guys are arguing against, other than the OP I dont think anyones denying that its a bad ending. I just dont see the point of flooding the forums with this.

I've rarely seen the same people arguing but the same themes are always touched on, the reason I feel is that all that's implied by it. And of course new people finishing the game or finalizing there thoughts on it and coming to post about it.

Fan/consumer ownership (not saying they own in strictly speaking, but how much say do we have and how much should game writers consider us when writing) of the story for example is a big topic with a lot to talk about.

Should the ending be changed?

Interpretation of the ending's (indoc theory mainly)

Is game art? if so is the ending artistic? and if so can art miss it's medium and audience?

There's alot to talk about and it all stems from the ending, I personally see it as a good thing and step forward, I haven't seen all the "childish" complaints every games journalist harps on about but even if it is occurring can you really judge one side of an argument based on a few chimps on there side flinging poo? whenever two groups disagree there will always be chimps.

What's better silence acceptance of something you feel could be dramtically better when changed (or kept the same) or active criticism?

But, you must know, Bioware isn't changing the ending because people didnt like it, strictly speaking. They're changing the ending because of all the pressure they're getting. The only example I can think of that relates to this is, although its very exaggerated, i know, is of a torture victim. That's a better example than a placating mother. All the hate their getting, if fans wanted Shepard to ride off on a flying turtle made of friendship, they'd probably do it at this point.

I hate it when people use this word of 'sacrifice' for the ending of mass effect 3. Because it's NOT sacrifice. like. at all.

A sacrifice is a choice. You see two options and you choose to give your own life up for a certainty (you believe) of some kind of victory.

A perfect example of this is Dragon Age: Origins. The Warden has to make a tough call. Sacrifice them self to kill the arch-demon for good, or put their trust in a shifty, morally-questionable sorceress.

THAT is a perfect example of sacrifice.

Mass Effect 3 however is just shock tactics, or a weak attempt at it. When I was buying the game I KNEW they were going to kill Shepard and I KNEW it was going to be simply because 'this is how you make a memorable ending'. This. IS. Bullshit. It is also very lazy writing.

Endings are NOT memorable because the hero dies at the end. Endings are memorable because the hero overcame great odds. This is not what happens in Mass Effect 3, and writers kind of need to realize that.

Look at Bioshock the good ending shows the main hero living, and with all his daughters, and dying of old age. This is a good ending, and it's memorable. He overcame great odds and was rewarded for doing so.

In Mass Effect 3, Shepard dies (no matter what) and...what? Nobody wins. Earth is destroyed, the races are scattered and this has solved nothing, in fact analysis reveals it has made many many many more problems for the Mass Effect Universe.

"Dur Hurr the main character dying is controversial and dramatic" no it's not. The death of your main character MUST feel organic. It must feel that this is what the game was building to, that there was no way this could be accomplished without this momentous sacrifice, and it MUST be a sacrifice! A CHOICE! NOT me being railroaded into choosing my preferred death.

Lastly, there is respecting the main character. Look how much Shepard has already sacrificed. Friends, Family (in some cases), loved ones, humans, turians, spectres, a chance at a normal life. LIFE ITSELF in one case! Shepard has ALREADY given up so much, and then you're just going to take the rest in the end? (For gender pronoun purposes i'm going to use my shepard for refference, a girl.)

My shep WANTS to stop fighting, but on her own terms. She'd probably find a comm system and tell everyone to glass the Reapers, and then...I don't know..use the Citedal as a battering ram, escaping just in time in a shuttle as it plowed through several dozen reapers, and cause chaining explosions that take out more and fight to some bare victory, but a victory none-the-less and go on to have little blue babies.

This is the thing, Shepard deserves a happy ending above all else. shepard has ALREADY given up so much that killing her at the end feels like a slap in the face to the player who watched Shepard struggle up to now, and to the character who isn't given a fighting chance.

TL;DR.

1) Sacrifice must be a choice, a real choice. Not a railroad (See also: Mordin Solus' death)

2) Endings Must feel organic, and the ending must make sense. Not thrown in because you want to be 'shocking'.

3) Respect the sacrifices of your main character, who has already given up so much to this cause, don't demand their lives as well unless the ending would truly feel empty without it.

Badassassin:

Darkcerb:

Badassassin:

Alright, that's fair. To be honest, I dont really care if people take gaming seriously either. Really. I just think its hard to watch people who do care about those things sabotage themselves. You're probably are getting a lot of this, I know it doesnt make me special for saying that this is getting old. But you dont think there's ANY validity in that? Cant we agree that this is getting a little out of hand? I mean, every other thread is the same people saying the same things about how they disliked the ending. Its fine, you cab dislike the ending. Your reasoning is completely valid. EVERYONE on this site agrees with you. So can we be done now? Can we all agree the endings bad and move on? I dont who you guys are arguing against, other than the OP I dont think anyones denying that its a bad ending. I just dont see the point of flooding the forums with this.

I've rarely seen the same people arguing but the same themes are always touched on, the reason I feel is that all that's implied by it. And of course new people finishing the game or finalizing there thoughts on it and coming to post about it.

Fan/consumer ownership (not saying they own in strictly speaking, but how much say do we have and how much should game writers consider us when writing) of the story for example is a big topic with a lot to talk about.

Should the ending be changed?

Interpretation of the ending's (indoc theory mainly)

Is game art? if so is the ending artistic? and if so can art miss it's medium and audience?

There's alot to talk about and it all stems from the ending, I personally see it as a good thing and step forward, I haven't seen all the "childish" complaints every games journalist harps on about but even if it is occurring can you really judge one side of an argument based on a few chimps on there side flinging poo? whenever two groups disagree there will always be chimps.

What's better silence acceptance of something you feel could be dramtically better when changed (or kept the same) or active criticism?

But, you must know, Bioware isn't changing the ending because people didnt like it, strictly speaking. They're changing the ending because of all the pressure they're getting. The only example I can think of that relates to this is, although its very exaggerated, i know, is of a torture victim. That's a better example than a placating mother. All the hate their getting, if fans wanted Shepard to ride off on a flying turtle made of friendship, they'd probably do it at this point.

Strictly speaking that pressure is the sheer volume of people who didn't like it, the same thing.

And if they did they'd be missing the point of what most of the complaints I've read are.

Although that argument rings hollow to me when in ME1 and two you could walk away from a fight with a reaper and a suicide mission intact if the player put in the effort.

I don't know why the current trend for story telling is bleak, bleak death and ruin. Not that I advocate a happy star wars meddle ceremony because we're well past that possibility 10 mins in when earth gets mass invaded by reapers. I didn't feel much when my shep died because this was the final story for him/her I knew that going in and shep was a pretty well written blank slate (Our avatar if you will) for us to view the world, It's the rest of the ending that's so disappointing.

Having shep live certainly doesn't make this story suddenly rainbow colored, if they had him/her live and expanded on what they have they could certainly placate alot of people, remove joker fleeing like a coward (and if it wouldn't kill you to remove the relay splosions all the better, though I feel that was a giant full stop on the series...something I don't understand with such a popular franchise but there you go) and you've got a pretty good continuing on point as either shep or a squad mate in the vein of the dragon age dlc as oriana I think her name was. Even if the continuing on was just a series of text screens again in the vein of dragon age it'd probably placate a lot of the ire felt atm.

Hal10k:
*snip*

BloatedGuppy:
*snip*

Couldn't agree more guys.

Again, it isn't just that the game lacks a happy ending. That is a problem in my opinion, and in case anyone tells me I can't handle a bleak ending I'll point out that I'm a huge Song of Ice and Fire fan. Bleak is fine when it fits. But the overly bleak ending is only a minor problem in comparison to what's really pissing everyone off. From the moment you hear that the Citadel has been taken and moved to Earth, the plot holes and unanswered questions start piling up exponentially.

What happened to the millions of people on the Citadel?

If the Reapers control the Citadel now why aren't they shutting down the Mass Relays?

If they could take the Citadel so quickly and easily, why didn't they do so earlier?

If the Reapers moved the Citadel because they found out about the Crucible, why is it suggested earlier that they'd already begun constructing the beam/conduit/thing-that-I can't-remember-the-name-of?

How did Shepard manage to survive Harbinger's beam?

What happened to the squad members who joined you in the assault?

How is Shepard managing to breath in an area that appears exposed to open space?

If the Catalyst controls the Reapers as is implied, what was the purpose of Sovereign?

Why couldn't the Catalyst simply activate the Citadel's Mass Relay? Why tie that function to the Keepers?

Why does the Catalyst look and sound like the little boy? Is it reading Shepard's mind, or was the kid a hallucination from the beginning?

Why are the writer's re-introducing the synthetics are dangerous angle from ME1 when all of our interations with synthetics besides the Reapers since then has indicated that they're simply misunderstood? The OP mentions that the Reapers probably have proof of their assertion. Okay, but that's pretty meaningless unless we can see the proof as well. For all we know the Catalyst is lying, or just straight up wrong.

For that matter are we now meant to believe that the Reapers aren't synthetics? Is the Catalyst not an AI? If they are, how come they haven't destroyed all organic life?

Why don't we get any chance to argue with the Catalyst? Yeah I get that Shepard is probably on Death's door at that point, but it's still really out of character.

How is the Crucible doing all the things it does? This applies mostly to the Synthesis/Green ending. Mass Effect has always provided some sort of explanation for the more unusual technologies, but making an entirely new replacement for DNA and retrofitting every single synthetic and organic in the entire galaxy with it is way beyond anything we've seen before. For that matter how does that effect AIs that don't have physical forms? For example, EDI wasn't just inhabiting Eva Core's body, so is the Normandy part organic now? Just the AI core behind the med-bay? And what's to stop these new synth-organics from creating an all-synthetic lifeform later? Man, the Synthesis ending just keeps throwing up new questions the more I think about it, so I'll just stop there.

Why is Joker running away, and how did your squad members get from London to the Normandy?

What happened to Mass Relays exploding with the force of a supernova when destroyed? The blast wave pretty clearly damages the Normandy, so did Shepard just kill pretty much everyone? I mean, those blast waves are visible from above the freaking galactic plane.

In two of three endings the Reapers aren't destroyed. Where do they go? Back to dark space to hibernate for eternity?

If Shepard survives the destroy ending, he doesn't seem to be on the Citadel anymore. Are we meant to believe that someone who was already just about dead managed to survive entry into Earth's atmosphere with ruined armour and no oxygen supply? The last time something like this happened to Shepard it took the Lazarus Project to bring him back to life, and this goes beyond even that.

You see Joker and two squad members get off the Normandy. What happens to the rest of the crew? Assuming they all survived, the Normandy has a crew of maybe forty people. Is that even enough genetic diversity to start a viable colony? Even if it is, pretty much everyone is going to have to get breeding, even the gay crew members. Do the dextro characters just straight up starve to death? If they don't, then do the levo characters starve? Does the result of the synthesis ending make these problems a non-issue? To make something clear, it's this plus the exploding relay stuff that makes me, and presumably a lot of other "haters", think that the ending is too bleak. If there weren't so many horrifying implications surrounding the ending I'd probably be satisfied with the ending's tone. Well probably not satisfied exactly, but certainly a hell of a lot less frustrated.

Assuming the relays didn't kill nearly everyone, how does galactic civilisation recover without the relays? FTL travel is dependant upon fuel supplies and locations suitable for discharging drive cores, and even without those concerns, doesn't it still take about three decades to go from one side of the galaxy to the other? At the very least anyone living in isolated locations dependant upon imported food stuffs are probably screwed.

How does the genophage cure play out? Does Krogan culture mellow out, or is there a repeat of the Krogan rebellions?

Yeah I can still think of more stuff so I'm just going to stop now. Like that Plinkett style review that's floating around points out, by the time the game is over narrative cohesion has gone on permanent vacation. While it is possible to guess at answers for these questions, for most, if not all of them, we really shouldn't have to. There's leaving some questions unanswered to create a sense of mystery, and then theres just not making any sense. There are just so many loose ends, so little closure, and so little consistency.

chinangel:
I hate it when people use this word of 'sacrifice' for the ending of mass effect 3. Because it's NOT sacrifice. like. at all.

A sacrifice is a choice. You see two options and you choose to give your own life up for a certainty (you believe) of some kind of victory.

A perfect example of this is Dragon Age: Origins. The Warden has to make a tough call. Sacrifice them self to kill the arch-demon for good, or put their trust in a shifty, morally-questionable sorceress.

THAT is a perfect example of sacrifice.

Mass Effect 3 however is just shock tactics, or a weak attempt at it. When I was buying the game I KNEW they were going to kill Shepard and I KNEW it was going to be simply because 'this is how you make a memorable ending'. This. IS. Bullshit. It is also very lazy writing.

Endings are NOT memorable because the hero dies at the end. Endings are memorable because the hero overcame great odds. This is not what happens in Mass Effect 3, and writers kind of need to realize that.

Look at Bioshock the good ending shows the main hero living, and with all his daughters, and dying of old age. This is a good ending, and it's memorable. He overcame great odds and was rewarded for doing so.

In Mass Effect 3, Shepard dies (no matter what) and...what? Nobody wins. Earth is destroyed, the races are scattered and this has solved nothing, in fact analysis reveals it has made many many many more problems for the Mass Effect Universe.

"Dur Hurr the main character dying is controversial and dramatic" no it's not. The death of your main character MUST feel organic. It must feel that this is what the game was building to, that there was no way this could be accomplished without this momentous sacrifice, and it MUST be a sacrifice! A CHOICE! NOT me being railroaded into choosing my preferred death.

Lastly, there is respecting the main character. Look how much Shepard has already sacrificed. Friends, Family (in some cases), loved ones, humans, turians, spectres, a chance at a normal life. LIFE ITSELF in one case! Shepard has ALREADY given up so much, and then you're just going to take the rest in the end? (For gender pronoun purposes i'm going to use my shepard for refference, a girl.)

My shep WANTS to stop fighting, but on her own terms. She'd probably find a comm system and tell everyone to glass the Reapers, and then...I don't know..use the Citedal as a battering ram, escaping just in time in a shuttle as it plowed through several dozen reapers, and cause chaining explosions that take out more and fight to some bare victory, but a victory none-the-less and go on to have little blue babies.

This is the thing, Shepard deserves a happy ending above all else. shepard has ALREADY given up so much that killing her at the end feels like a slap in the face to the player who watched Shepard struggle up to now, and to the character who isn't given a fighting chance.

TL;DR.

1) Sacrifice must be a choice, a real choice. Not a railroad (See also: Mordin Solus' death)

2) Endings Must feel organic, and the ending must make sense. Not thrown in because you want to be 'shocking'.

3) Respect the sacrifices of your main character, who has already given up so much to this cause, don't demand their lives as well unless the ending would truly feel empty without it.

*applause* Well said. Shepard's already given up so much, seen friends and allies died. Must he really die too? Hell some of the people who died, did so you could live. That not only disrespects Shepard's personal sacrifices but the ones of the those who died too.

Transhumanism is not a narrative theme of the series. It is touched on only very briefly in the third game. Therefore the Synthesis ending does not make sense from a thematic standpoint (in addition to obviously not making sense from a logical one).

The Control ending makes sense, but only as a bad ending. One major narrative theme of the series is that any attempt to control the Reapers--and indeed most attempts to study them--is doomed to end in indoctrination.

Synthetic/organic cooperation and coexistence is a narrative theme of the series. The Destroy ending ignores this by requiring the destruction of all synthetic life.

Not to mention the myriad continuity errors, including your squadmates teleporting from earth to the Normandy (which is for some reason fleeing the battle), and the Mass Relays exploding, yet apparently not destroying their solar systems in spite of what we have seen in the past.

I dislike the ending because it is stupid, not because it is sad. I firmly believe that the majority of the hate towards the ending is also for this reason. If you think differently, if you believe that most of the critics wanted a sunshine and rainbows ending, then good for you--but it makes no fucking difference at all to the argument if you can't refute my points (or the ones in this article). http://www.gamefront.com/mass-effect-3-ending-hatred-5-reasons-the-fans-are-right/

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