SPOILERS! Sorry, but you never can be too careful when dealing with geeks and their spoilers. If you haven’t finished Mass Effect 3, and don’t want any details of the now infamous ending, go finish the game and come back. But don’t take too long, this post might not be relevant, come April. Now, onto the spoilers.
Unless you’ve been living under a thermal clip crate for the last two weeks, you’ll have heard the furor over the ending of Mass Effect 3. Perhaps you’re part of it. For those that aren’t familiar with it, here are the clip notes;
Mass Effect, a series that sells itself on the fact that you make choices and those choices affect, not only the end of your game, but the subsequent games the series, effectively threw all of your choices out of the window at the end. I feel it is important to make this part clear, as a lot of media outlets seem to be under the impression that the problem is with the story. It’s not. The problem is that, no matter what choices you make, you will get the same two or three options at the very end as everybody else, and those three options lead to endings that are very similar. It’s not so much that it is a bad ending, but rather that it is the only ending.
This has spawned a number of Facebook groups and petitions trying to get Bioware to change the game, so much so that the company seem to be considering it. Personally, I think if Bioware take any action, it will be to put out DLC that continues on after the current ending. If you’re not sure how they could do that, get on your Googles and look up the “indoctrination theory” about the current ending. However, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about how I would have done things differently.
Because I’m sure you all want to know that!
Firstly, I didn’t think the ending was that bad (let’s face it, all three endings are pretty much the same). The problem it has is that it is the only option. If it had been one potential ending, it would have been great. That’s where we’re going; multiple endings. But what endings?
It seems a given that the strength of your military should have an impact on the final battle. Perhaps you haven’t secured enough tech, or you haven’t sweet talked enough generals to strengthen your fleet. Whatever the reason, if your military size or readiness is insufficient, you’re done. You head to Earth with your meagre forces, shoot your way through London to get to the beam, but, alas, the battle above is lost, and the Reapers destroy the Crucible. Cue scenes of mass destruction and genocide. The Reapers win.
This presents an opportunity for a type of ending that is rarely seen (due to its depressing nature) wherein Shepard and his team realise that defeat is inevitable, and their last mission then becomes leaving some kind of message for the next cycle, as the Protheans did, in the hope that the organics to follow will be able to do better.
Still, you didn’t skimp on the military, did you? So what about your ending?
Assuming the military strength is enough to fend off the Reapers, let’s look at the other asset that is supposedly being developed throughout the game; The Crucible. There are many opportunities to get scientists and resources for the weapon that is supposed to end the Reaper threat. They should matter. Not enough scientists working on the big ray gun? Maybe the big ray gun won’t fire, then. The state of the Crucible by the end of the game should provide the means for at least two endings, and one of them should be the “mega happy ending”. This is also where the existing ending would fit in. Your military may have ensured you get the Crucible to the Citadel, but if your scientists haven’t done the business, you’re going to blow up half of the galaxy when you activate it, destroying the mass relays in the process. True, you’ll have ended the Reaper threat, but was it worth it? However, if you threw every scientist you could find at the damn thing, the Crucible does its job without stranding half of the galaxy’s races in Sol. Perhaps the requirement to get this ending would be high, but I felt there should have been a chance to get ride off into the sunset with your lover of choice.
There would be small variations, also. Perhaps if you brought a bunch of Geth to the party, instead of Quarians, you get some emotional scene centred around the fact that you’re about to kill a big chunk of your allies. And if you have the From Ashes DLC, there may be an opportunity for a touching conversation with Javik, wiping a tear from his left eyes as he watches the light fade from his enemy’s big red eye… thing.
Ah, the possibilities.
I think it would be too much of an ask (technically speaking) to implement these kinds of changes to the game after the fact, but I can imagine. As for the current ending, I have a strong feeling Bioware are going to do something with it. How you feel about them bowing to gamer pressure is a different issue, but, I’ll be honest, I’d probably have bought any DLC regardless.