Mass Effect 3 and its "Extended Edition" DLC have been conquered. How does it rank up? Were things fixed? Is it any better? Can it save the series? These questions and more answered within!
Way back in the distant annuls of late April, I wrote a piece on the then controversial ending for Mass Effect 3. In it I explained in detail what the endings to Mass Effect 3 were, why gamers were angry, and the points and counter points to both sides of the debate. I didn’t really take a stance, instead choosing to simply state the different facts and let the readers decide. While I did have enough information to present both sides of the coin, I didn’t feel like I could really formulate an accurate opinion until I had played the entire game. And I was waiting to play the entire game until the endings had been fixed by the “Extended Cut DLC” that was due out in July.
Well now that DLC is out and I have officially completed the game. I have played all four of the endings and have a definite opinion.
1. The DLC Didn’t Change The End
The DLC did add on a few minutes of extra cutscenes and an epilogue that better explained what happened to the galaxy. This was satisfactory and did serve to answer many of the questions that gamers had. But the extra content was simply tacked onto what was already there. For example, the developers had to explain why Joker was running away from the battle, so they made it so that he got an order from Admiral Hackett telling him to run away.
The order still makes no sense. If Hackett was worried that the energy beam would damage or destroy the other ships, why wasn’t he worried about it damaging Earth too? And, upon seeing that it had zero effect on the other ships (and in some cases the Reapers), wouldn’t running seem like a pointless gesture?
The reality is that the ending was already a horrible trainwreck of illogical decisions and bad philosophy (more on that in a moment). The DLC had to try and explain why those decisions were made and did as good of a job as it could, given the circumstances. But it was still a poor job overall.
2. The Ending Was Never the Problem
From the time that Shepard makes his decision until the credits roll is what I consider the “ending”. As I mentioned before, the endings, as they were originally designed, sucked. But that wasn’t the true problem that I had. Yes, they were a letdown and some of them clearly left room for a sequel. Yes, the fact that the Normandy is trapped on a random planet leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Yes, the kid and his grandfather talking about “The Shepard” was absolutely atrocious and made no sense with the rest of the series. But these weren’t the true problem.
The problem was the “catalyst” and his idiotic philosophy. The Extended DLC did attempt to answer some of the lack of logic in the philosophy, but it was nowhere near adequate.
Remember when you first watched The Matrix Reloaded. Remember when Neo walks through the door of light and first meets the Architect. Colonel Sanders in all his glory, sitting on a chair, clearly advertising the potential destructive power of television. And then, right as Keanu Reeves is about to show his first emotion in two whole movies, the Colonel spouts five straight minutes of densely-worded bullshit. 99% of the audience didn’t understand a word, and the 1% who did left the theater wondering what sort of drugs would cause someone to write something so complex and yet still so completely mindless.
This was exactly the same problem that Mass Effect 3 included. The “catalyst” had five minutes to explain why the Reapers were doing their thing, causing mass extinction and making sentient species into slaves. A real explanation would take hundreds of pages of text that would have likely included another hour of conversation at least. What the developers decided to go with was, essentially “The created (synthetics) will always rise up against their creators (organics).”
The catalyst used this logic to explain that the Reapers were in place to prevent this from occurring and to preserve organic life. In order to prevent synthetics from killing their organic masters, the Reapers had to kill the organic masters first. Then the Reapers would take the organics and use them to make more Reapers, preserving the organics for all time.
Hold on while I purge my mind of the screaming wtfs. So the logic is that in order to prevent death, death must be dealt. In order to preserve a civilization, the civilization must be eliminated or changed into something else entirely.
The other problem was the catalyst made it seem like the Reapers were rising up against their creators. That may have been true the first time around, but humanity did not create the Reapers. So the Reapers have no reason to kill us.
I can’t even continue to discuss the philosophy because it makes zero sense. I’m not even sure why the developers bothered to include it. They could’ve just left it a gaping plot hole or gone onto the forums and let the fans throw a few ideas out.
3. This Series is Still Amazing
Even with the trainwreck of an ending, the Mass Effect series goes down in my book as one of the best video game series I have ever played. It will almost certainly remain one of the best game series I will ever play. It was well written and personalized on a level that no other game has come close to mimicking. I wasn’t told a story, I wrote the story. My actions dictated the results. I was Commander Shepard. That’s it.
Ignore the people that say that this game ruined the series, they’re just bitter. In a few years they’ll be complaining about how there aren’t more games like Mass Effect. When Oblivion first came out, it was so riddled with bugs it was nearly unplayable. Now it remains one of the greatest video games of all time. Mass Effect blows 99% of all video games out of the water. It remains the bridge between movies and games. It is one of the most important games that has been released and I hope that more games will end up just like it.