Mass Effect 3, take 2

So, finally got a chance to finish the extended release DLC last night. The tl;dr version for me is that, while bittersweet, it works much better within the game world. I'm honestly not sure how much if it is relief based on how badly I was disappointed with the shipped ending, though. I think, even with that, it works overall, but that's just me.

Again, a cut for OMGSPOILERS!!, just in case you want to play it yourself and see the differences. ^_^

Edit: After writing this, I went around and started looking at various other articles and discussions about the DLC ending, and a few more things occurred to me. I’ve gone through and added a bit more discussion on the endings based on what I’ve watched online, and I probably will go through and play them for completion’s sake. This is a much larger post that it was, and if something else occurs to me later, I may add to it.

Also, to clarify, this is based on my original Shepard and only on choosing one ending. When I play a game that allows you to create multiple characters with different choices, I never change how my original one turns out. I may end up cheating on others to skip boring scenes or to get different endings to see how it goes, but my original character is done straight and I don't change the choices I make for her. So that's what this is based on, and why when I refer to Shepard, I say ‘her’.

So, did the DLC change the ending? Not really. The Starchild was still there, which I still think was a rather retarded idea. But the dialogue was expanded and you’re given much more insight into why the choices are what they are. Do I like the Starchild idea? No, I thought it was silly and broke my immersion the first time I played it. Even with the dialogue changes and the plot holes cleared, I still think it’s a deus ex machina and I’m still disappointed with it. But with this DLC, I will say it does fit better story-wise, and doesn't break the game for me anymore. Not that I agree with the its logic, but at least they made it work, even if it doesn’t work well.

In that case, how does the DLC make the ending better? A couple ways, actually. One, it fills in plot holes. There were some plot holes big enough to drive a Reaper through, such as how the hell did Kaiden get on the Normandy when he probably died on the push to the beam?? There were a few more that filled in some holes and smoothed out some mechanics of the story. Did it clear all the plot holes? Of course not, and they introduced a few smaller ones. Still, it was effort, and some of the smaller plot holes I didn’t see as such because I could come up with an explanation for them that worked within the story. (i.e., Harbinger didn't’ fire on the Normandy because the Normandy has a stealth drive that hides it from synthetics, including Reapers. As long as they didn’t fire, I didn’t have a problem with the Normandy swinging in and picking up your squad members to fill in that plot hole). The other thing the DLC did was provide a bit of a epilogue to make you feel like all the work you did prepping the galaxy for the Reaper threat was worthwhile. I went back through and made sure my readiness was enough for me to get the 'real' ending, so I'm sure that makes a huge difference to what cut shots you see. Still, the voice-over helped fill in some gaps in knowledge to give a sense of completeness to the game. You may still not get an ending that you want, but it feels much more like a proper ending.

Do you get a happy ending? Not really, no. Well, let me clarify that. If you get the full readiness and preparation, the galaxy survives. The Mass Effect relays are damaged, and maybe inoperable, but it's fairly clear the Mass Effect drives are still functional, and since the relays aren't destroyed, they don't destroy the associated star systems they're in. So anyone that wasn't killed in the war has a good chance of surviving, and all the societies go on to rebuild. Now, Shepard doesn't really get a happy ending. Nor does the crew, for the most part. If you take the ending that leads to Shepard possibly surviving, you end up committing genocide. The other options still lead to the galaxy on the whole surviving, but you still don't get a happy ending for Shepard and her crew. So yeah, very bittersweet for me. The characters you spent so much time on and did so much with mostly don't get a good ending. But I can accept that as the sacrifice you need to make to ensure the galaxy and society itself will survive. It kinda calls back to the Star Trek idea of "The needs of the many". While it's not exactly a philosophy I agree with in all instances, it's one I understand and can accept as an ending, no matter how sad it is.

Do you think the Synthetics vs. Organics works better now? Kinda. The Starchild conversation now lets you get details of each choice, and gives a much better understanding behind its logic. The Starchild believes that synthetics and organics can never get along, so by coming in and harvesting the best of organics and adding it to the Reapers, those thoughts, ideals and memories will be saved from certain destruction. After giving my brain time to process it, I can see its point of view. Going back and playing it again, I can see more of the synthetics vs. organics as a theme, but considering that it’s possible to solve those issues within the story, I also see the Starchild’s conclusions as faulty, and I really wish that could’ve been used to shape the ending. I did really want a conclusion (or at least conversation) where Shepard pointed out that the Geth are now working with organics, so that cooperation is totally possible and we really should be left alone to come up with our own solutions, but yeah, I'm not surprised that wasn't included. Still, that would've been a nice touch and one that I can see happening within the story.

So, what about the endings? Well, let’s take a look at the original three choices, based on what I learned from the DLC:
-Choice 1: Control - You plug yourself into the system to control the Reapers, and by extension, all synthetic life if needed. Doing so ends the cycle, but in my opinion, in a rather disturbing way. Shepard becomes some guardian/God figure who controls the destiny of everyone by controlling synthetic life. To me, that’s actually kinda creepy. It gives the entire series a somewhat Messianic vibe that undercuts a lot of the themes that are presented. Throughout the series, Shepard is fighting to stop the Reapers from taking our choices and our freedom from us by assimilating/destroying us. Yet with this option, Shepard is taking control from the Reapers, and thus, controlling the cycle. And by that, I mean that she’s now an AI herself. A sentient one, true, but still. How long will it take before she starts trying to impose her will on society based on her opinions? How long will it be before she uses the Reapers to ‘steer’ society towards what she considers best? How long before she becomes the Starchild herself? Maybe I read too much into this based on other sci-fi books/movies/games I’ve seen, but that seems to be a logical chain of events. Hell, even I, Robot had a similar philosophy behind VIKI’s logic to protecting humanity, and that was very poorly done.
- Choice 2: Destroy - You decide to go ahead and destroy the Reapers. In doing so, you will be destroying all synthetic life at that point, including the Geth and EDI. But civilizations will survive and rebuild, and life will be able to go on and choose their own paths. I personally favor this ending simply because it fits better with what my Shepherd would do. She’s there to destroy the Reapers and break the cycle, and that is what she does. She knows that peace between synthetics and organics is possible (after all, she helped make peace between the Geth and Quarians, so there’s definitely hope!) and by breaking the cycle, people can choose their own paths now. That it means sacrificing the Geth to do so is a problem, but one that she knows must happen. This, to me, is a large part of what Shepard was fighting for, and choosing this path makes the most sense in the context of the story and her character. This is also the option that gives hope that Shepard lives, which I appreciate. Not only for the possibility of little human-turian babies, but I tend to get attached to well-done game characters, and having Shepard die was kinda like losing a friend. While I don’t think that everything will turn out alright for her and it’ll be sunshine and puppies from now on, I do like the idea of her story being able to continue.
- Choice 3: Synthesis - I didn’t get this option originally since I didn’t have a high enough EMS score. But I did look it up and watch the video for it, and while I understand Bioware saying this is the real ending you should choose, it’s not what I would have chosen originally. I don’t have a fundamental objection to it; indeed, it does seem to give the best option for peace in the short term. But that’s only peace between organics and synthetics, not peace everywhere. And I understand why Shepard might choose it. She’s sacrificing herself for the greater good; and in doing so, saves more lives. I would have seriously considered it if I had been giving this option for my original Shepard. But I still think it’s a darker ending. You’re not really ‘saving’ people so much as you are changing them into something else that will end this particular cycle of destruction. Again, you’re removing an element of freedom of choice from society, and while I don’t find it creepy like the Control ending, it’s not what I would have ultimatly chosen before the DLC. After getting this choice after downloading the DLC, the extended dialogue gives you more background into the Starchild’s logic, and I can see why Bioware insists this the true happy ending. And really, with the DLC it makes more sense to choose this ending than it did before. According to the Starchild, this was always an option, it’s just that organics weren’t ready to take this step yet. Now, by following Shepard and working together as they did (remember, you have to get a higher EMS to get this option), you’ve shown that organics are ready for synthesis. So that one makes more sense now, but the option for Shepard surviving is what makes me favor the Destroy option more.

OK, so what about the Refusal ending? First I heard about this was someone commenting on how now you can shoot the Starchild and get a different ending, and I honestly thought it was a joke. Then I looked around and no, it’s not. There are some that like what Bioware did, but many more that consider it anything from a slap in the face to a giant Fuck You from Bioware. So I went and found the video for that, and apparently, refusing any of the choices (either verbally or by shooting the Starchild) means the cycle continues. The Reapers destroy everything and the galaxy resets. This is supposed to be the way to lose the game, but I don’t see it that way. Honestly, Shepard refusing to make the choices the Starchild wants her to make does fit with her character. After all, refusal to make a choice is a choice in itself, and honestly, I don’t have an issue with the destruction of everything when that happens. Even if you bring the might of the galaxy to bear against the Reapers, it’s been stated over and over that it will not be enough. That’s what the Catalyst was for. Everyone knew that just fighting the Reapers head-on would not work and would just be a diversion for the Catalyst to fire and finish the job. Without it, it really is not surprising that the Reapers win. You do get a short scene with Liara’s time capsule, and the Stargazer scene after the credits talks about how that information allowed them to break the cycle, indicating that the Reapers are eventually beaten. Given the effort Liara put into her time capsule, that actually makes sense to me, so I don’t have an issue with this ending. It was a nice nod from Bioware towards the fans saying basically that yes, this is an option, but no, it wouldn’t work the way you want it to. It makes perfect sense within the context of the story, and does work with Shepard’s character. It’s not how I want her story to end, but I do consider it a viable option and not a throw-away from Bioware.

Human-turian babies?? Yes, I am a FemShepxGarrius supporter. Garrius is awesome and their romance is so sweet. Even the bromance between MaleShep and Garrius was fun, so yes, after my first Shepard, I really wanted the two of them to settle down afterwards. Now, I have a tiny glimmer of hope that they do. ^_^;

Anyhoo, that's my thoughts on it. I will still go through and do a full Renegade Shepard to see how everything changes within the game, and I’ll probably have several playthroughs just because there is a lot that I love about the series. Overall, I do feel better about the ending, and while I still don't care for the endings they chose to go with, the DLC does a better job of presenting it and gives you a sense of completion. I also got the closure I was looking for in the story and and the end scenes, and I think Bioware did a good job making you feel that all the work you did through all three games was worth it and did actually have an impact on things. So, thank you Bioware. While I don’t agree with your ‘artistic’ statement in the ending choices, I do appreciate that you actually are listening to your fans, and giving us this DLC for closure was very helpful.
07/02/12 11:58, by , Categories: dubird.net, Gaming , Tags: ,