THE FOLLOWING IS AN IN-DEPTH REVIEW OF THE ENDING OF MASS EFFECT 3.
DO NOT READ THIS POST IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SEEING IT YOURSELF.
Opposing Views: Constructive Feedback on the Ending of Mass Effect 3
Let me begin by saying my family and I are a die-hard fans of the Mass Effect series. I’ve purchased all of the collector’s editions. I was there at the West Hollywood Launch of Mass Effect 3, happy to shake hands with the amazing Casey Hudson, Jennifer Hale, Ali Hillis and the rest of the cast and crew. It was a wonderful moment for me.
We all know there’s been a lot of outcry about Mass Effect 3’s ending. I believe something so hyped can never be everything to everyone. There were always going to be those who were disappointed and those who love it.
When people ask me about my thoughts, I make sure to say I adored the game until the very end. The combat was amazing. The music was inspiring. The writing was top notch. The voice acting was simply awesome. I loved it all, from Cortez and James arguing about the Mako and Hammerhead to the epic Godzilla-like battle between the Reaper and Kalros on Tuchanka.
But when they press me for the ending, I’ve managed to boil it down to a very specific statement. (I have only seen the “Synthesis” ending, so I am basing these thoughts off this ending and a full Paragon playthrough. I have intentionally remained ignorant of the other two endings so not to spoil it for myself.)
“As a science fiction and fantasy author, I like it. As someone who has been emotionally invested for five years, I was devastated.”
“Synthesis” gave us a brand new reality and a new future unlike anything we’ve ever seen. It ended the war between synthetic and organic life with a minimum of pain and suffering. It put some of our most beloved characters into a unique situation that has tremendous storytelling potential. “Synthesis” destroyed the mass relay system and (I presume) the Citadel.
Legion and Sovereign’s words are now ironically prophetic. The various galactic races developed because of the technology available to them. Energy follows the path of least resistance, as does technological development. This is the brave new world we have come to expect and cherish out of our science fiction masterpieces.
Part 1: Happily Ever After
I was in shock after watching the ending for two reasons. I want to address the fundamental core emotions first.
I was devastated. What I wanted more than anything in the world was for Shepard to get a happily ever after. I wanted Lisa-Anne Shepard be with Liara T’Soni, “getting married, growing old and having lots of little blue children.” I have comforted myself with the thought that Liara is indeed pregnant with Shepard’s child and that final kiss before the battle was an entire lifetime together (a la ST:TNG’s “The Inner Light”). But this is my interpretation and mine alone.
That being said, I do understand the sacrifice Shepard needed to make. We were prepared for it in Mordin’s sacrifice and Legion’s sacrifice. Casey Hudson even attested to this with his recent post on the forums, saying that sacrifice was a consistent theme within the Mass Effect storyline.
In the end, I knew Lisa-Anne could not warrant the destruction of all synthetic life. She had worked so hard to make the geth and the quarians work together. She couldn’t destroy the geth after all they had become. And she refused to dominate the Reapers, knowing full well what it might cost her. In the end, there was only one decision she could make.
I was devastated, but on an emotional level. This I recognize as something I want, not something I need.
Part 2: Closure
My greatest frustration was the lack of closure for the people I care about. While “Synthesis” gave us the fate of Joker, EDI and Liara (for a brief moment), I know nothing of what happened to the rest of my team. There are simply too many unanswered questions to satisfy me. Did Tali ever make it back to Rannoch? What happened to Palaven? Did James die in the final assault? What of Hackett? Wrex? Ashley/Kaiden? Javik?
I am not expecting full closure on all of these characters. I don’t need to know if Tali and Garrus ever made it work between them. I don’t need to know all the details of if the Krogan were able to join the galactic society as equals. These are loose ends that should be left unanswered or used to create new and interesting stories.
My best analogy to this would be the finale of Harry Potter 7: The Deathly Hallows. If Hallows had ended a few minutes after Harry had defeated Voldemort, it would have made an ending. It may have even been an okay ending. However, it is not nearly as powerful as the “19 Years Later” Epilogue. That was the perfect ending for the series. Mass Effect 3 effectively ended when Harry defeated Voldemort and gave only a brief moment afterwards. There’s not enough time to deal with the fate of those we love. While the Stargazer scene was nice, but it didn’t give us the answers we needed.
BioWare did a masterful job of making us care about these characters. I cried when Mordin sacrificed himself for the Krogan while singing “Scientist Salarian.” His death with the perfect conclusion to his character. Legion’s sacrifice was just as noble. I care for the fate of Liara deeply. It’s a bit sad, but she’s quite real to me emotionally. It’s a testament to Ali Hillis’s voice acting ability and the writers for the Mass Effect series.
I care about these characters. I need to know what happened to them.
What does it all mean?
Allow me to summarize. While I appreciate the value of the ending we received in Mass Effect 3, I believe we need more. We need more closure on the characters we’ve come to know and love. I want to see more of this brave new world that Lisa-Anne Shepard sacrificed herself to achieve.
My true desire is to allow Lisa-Anne to have that happily ever after. I’m devastated she wasn’t able to get that life with Liara. I was in tears. I wanted that more than anything.
But in the end, I believe the best solution is to give more closure than what was given. Not as a paid DLC, but as the true “Epilogue” to the Mass Effect 3 series. Allow us to see the fates of Tali, Garrus, Hackett, Traynor, Adams, Gabby, Ken, Javik, Kaiden/Ashley, Conrad Verner, Wrex, James, Cortez, Space Hamster and all the other characters we love.
Thank you BioWare for Mass Effect. Thank you for crafting a story where I could determine my journey through the galaxy. Where the decisions I made actually mattered. Where I was the true hero of the galaxy.
Finally, thank you to Dr. Ray Muzyka for his kind words. His response to the public outcry (whether it’s deserved or not) showed for everyone that BioWare is one of the true giants of the video game industry. Not only is he receptive, but he also stands behind Casey Hudson and his team. As he should.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. No matter what decision BioWare makes about the ending of Mass Effect 3, I am still a fan of the series. I still wear my N7 Hoodie with pride. After all, it’s still been a great ride.
Thank you, Bioware. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.