Alrighty, I am going to Tarantino this and just start my ranting and raving with the end of Mass Effect 3, then work my way back from there.
Having played the game from its amazing beginning in the space opera that was the original Mass Effect, I could not be more disappointed with what the ending of this amazing series was. BioWare is renowned for their amazing dialogue and their amazing plots. I have played a tremendous amount of their previous work, not just in the Mass Effect world but also in the Star Wars universe, and the ending options are so inconsistent with their previous levels of quality it boggles the mind.
Your three options at the conclusion of Mass Effect 3 are to take control of the Reapers; destroy all synthetic life, including EDI and the Geth; or my personal favorite and what I feel to be the right answer, the technological singularity. Now, funny story, the videos at the end of these three scenarios are all almost exactly the same. Having played through it twice, I can say that there are definitely some subtle differences, but basically, the three endings all amount to the same damned thing, and it’s like a drycleaner with a broken industrial iron: un-impressing.
Now the first time I played through it, I was initially very satisfied with the technological singularity ending because of the information given by the crucible-modified-citadel-boy who represented the entity controlling the Reapers. According to the young chap, the Reaper cycle was due to the inevitability of the revolt of synthetics against organic life, which is something that has occupied a lot of the imaginations of science fiction authors for a long time. The natural conclusion to me, though, feels like it should be the singularity. It’s what science is trending toward, isn’t it? It’s the natural evolution of organic life; to seek self-improvement through science that will naturally lead to the replacement of the fragile organic with the sturdier and more durable synthetic. From all of that, I thought it was the natural path to take.
Of course then, after beating the game, I went online to see what others thought and was exposed to a little thing called indoctrination theory, which has since ruined what I thought of the ending. If you aren’t already aware, indoctrination theory is something that has been cooking in some forum threads on BioWare’s site. It holds that the entire ending sequence, following getting cooked by Harbinger during the rush for the citadel at the end, is a hallucination cooked up by latent Reaper indoctrination slowly acquired by Shepard throughout her entire exposure to the Reapers.
Now the theory lies on shaky ground, because all of the evidence for it can be interpreted in quite a few directions, or can be explained off as something else. But in my opinion, the greatest evidence for it lies in the ending videos and the differences between how they all end. Looking at all of the endings, and given that you are fully prepared for the end game with more than 5000 usable military resources, only the destroy the Reapers ending shows Shepard inhaling once at the very end after the signal has been sent to all of the relays. Now the boy that is the citadel expressly says that destroying the Reapers and all synthetics will result in your death, but if that is true, then why is that the only ending Shepard survives?
It’s complicated, and there is a lot of funkiness surrounding the ending. The only thing I’m sure of, and really the only thing the community seems to be sure of, is that we are not pleased by what BioWare did there.
Now having said all of that, I’m gonna move to gushing about the rest of the game. Up until that last minute of gameplay, Mass Effect 3 was absolutely amazing, like an air-drop consisting of a fully armed Krogan riding a T. rex; the only way it could have been better would be if it was real and I was there.
The raw attention to detail and all of the small things was off-the-wall cool. The stories went from breaking my heart in the case of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Asari huntress in Huerta to making me feel good and laugh in the case of the Asari selling her car to buy her soldier friend the best armor she could get her hands on outside Purgatory. There were so many tiny stories that you could find walking around and listening to people talk, and they were all so well done. I especially loved how, using the spectre authorization console, you could do things to help so many people from behind the lines, so to speak. Approving people to be able to see loved ones, or getting people more medical supplies; I’m a bit of a softie in that sense, but it felt good to be able to go into these places and help everyone you could as you made your way toward the final conflict. Here is a place where BioWare’s writers truly shone, as well as all of their voice actors for these tiny parts.
Then going from this amazing detail, the main story was so amazing it’s hard to describe. Dodging fire from the main battle cannon of a Reaper destroyer as you laser it to target it for the entire Quarian fleet, and goading the mother of all thresher maws into doing battle with a Reaper, it was just awesome. One of the most standout moments in the game to me was the raw indignation in Shepard’s voice (female Shepard is the only real Shepard, by the way; the male voice actor should be punished) when she is dodging the Reaper to get to the maw hammers. The emotion in the phrase, “There’s a Reaper in my way!” made me laugh so hard I got stepped on.
The dialogue between the henchmen-types during missions was also just fantastic. Hearing EDI call me crazy for running on foot toward a Reaper was another moment of absolute hilarity. I just loved it. Also, the flirting that you could get between Shepard and companions, or the super awkward moments if you brought multiple old flames with you were delicious.
Another thing that got me was the way that BioWare managed to incorporate all of your old decisions from the past two games into the third. I mean, tracking and giving attention and detail to tie-ins for two whole games’ worth of previous decisions is no mean feat, and they pulled it off so beautifully it’s hard to describe.
I know my fellow reviewers may not agree, but I also found the gameplay to be a treat. Hard enough to keep you from breezing through, but easy enough to keep you coming back for more, I enjoyed the absolute pants off every minute of it.
Get this series and play it through from the beginning of Mass Effect to the terrible ending of 3. It’s a hell of a ride, and it’s an absolute treat. I’ve beaten the game twice, and I know for a fact that I have still missed probably 20 percent of the content. There is so much in the galaxy to see and do, and there are so many little and big missions that you could play for days and days and still not see the end of it. I’ve tried, trust me.