Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut – Some thoughts
It’s weird to have a moment where you’ve got cases and cases of glass bottles stuffed with gasoline soaked rags and no real desire to burn anything anymore. It really throws me off my groove and puts me in an interesting pickle given all the froth churning I’ve done since Bioware plopped out the original ME3 ending.
On the 26th of June, Bioware made good on their promise to release a modified ending for Mass Effect 3 and it’s about time considering the half-assed attempt at closure for this epic series that resulted in copy/pasted endings distinguished by color and resulting in nothing but horror and misery as the toxic gift for wasting roughly one hundred hours of your time and draining $180 from your wallet or more into the franchise.
Fans who paid any small measure of attention in the ending noticed very distressing details carved out in their final moments; we watched as plotholes, nonsense and tomfoolery filled our screens and broke our hearts by sentencing characters we had genuinely grown to love to a vague and horrific doom. This awful series of actions tore through the galaxy and the ranks of our squad no matter our allegiance, actions or choices. Subscribe to Nihilist Monthly because nothing you’ve done matters, especially as afar as Mass Effect 3 is concerned.
You’re probably familiar with the rest as fan movements were put in motion that eventually broke Bioware’s silence. They refused to create “new” endings, but they agreed to at least “extend” them for the sake of their fanbase, as well as add something to address all your hard work to date in saving the damn Galaxy over the course of three games. We remained justifiably skeptical since they had spun a few interesting tales with remarkable similarity about the final product. And look where THAT got us.
With the series already ruined by its last ten minutes, we had little choice, but to put our trust in the same butchers who destroyed the series in the first place. We held our breath and waited for the last straw to drop and drive us out of Bioware’s embrace forever. Many didn’t even stay to give this Extended Cut the benefit of the doubt and it’s hard to blame them. I at least wanted closure enough to walk away from the damn series and get on with my life and today, a sad and worried Tekyu took to his console and fired up Mass Effect 3 to save the Galaxy… for what might be the last time.
After the cut, I’m gonna cut loose on how that turned out. Warning, there’s some spoilers ahead.
After my first run through using the extended endings, my first thought was:
“Now was that so goddamn hard, Bioware?!”
For those reading (may God have mercy on your souls!), please keep in mind that I am writing from the perspective of someone who has observed all variants of the ME3 ending in its original form and… suffice to say, I did not care for it. I’m going to try and write from that perspective, but for those of you who missed out please observe the following:
(All three of ME3′s original endings with their respective variants played next to eachother.)
The original ending was always awful because it basically meant doom. Shepard dies, the Normandy crashes on an unknown planet and the Mass Relays begin a chain of explosions across the galaxy. Each explosion having the power to to wipe out a solar system. And that’s it. A massive “FUCK YOU” to everyone who stuck with the series and an idiotic move to screw with those who just decided to pick up a copy because of the gimmicky bullshit EA made Bioware tack on at the last minute.
The “extended cut” endings are stretched out to accommodate the various decisions made in the construction the game’s original conclusion, but they do much more than that. Each previously stupid decision in each of the endings that was ravaged by blitheringly idiotic plotholes is now presented with dialogue supporting each action and event leading up to your unique conclusion. In many ways, it feels like the ending they meant to provide in the first place and while there’s still a fuddly mess of issues with the new extensions being based off of shitty endings, at least they’re palatable now and your choices make a difference that you are allowed to see.
Also, in addition to the extensions there’s a brand new ending. Though it’s not what you might have hoped for… In no small amount of dickery, Bioware decided to give us one element to the ending that was asked for: Telling the God-child/Star Child/Catalyst thing to go fuck himself and his bullshit choices so we can finally see if all the war assets we gathered we worth a damn.
NOTE: The War assets are NOT worth a damn. Aside from Achievement/Trophy purposes.
This EC download has made for a brave new and fully fleshed out world. The Catalyst isn’t same annoyingly mysterious glowing brat that trolled us before, he explains EVERYTHING from who and what he is down to the aesthetic appearance of the Reapers themselves having an actual reason.
In fact, everything is explained. Well, except the “Gozer the Gozerian” choose the form of your destructor bullshit of the Catalyst appearing as the same child literally haunting Shepard’s every waking moment and dream. I haven’t gotten a reason for that yet. Would have made more sense if he were some horrifying space squid floating around, but whatever. At least you’re no longer hurried into stupid weird shit for no reason and you now don’t blow up the entire Galaxy dooming everyone as you did before for pretty much every ending. Relays aren’t exploding, the damage isn’t beyond repair stranding the galactic fleet on Earth, Shepard’s situation at the end (depending on the ending) is relayed rather clearly and you see what and whom you’ve affect based on your actions.
It’s not a perfect result and at best it’s a band-aid over a deep stab wound, but the important thing to register is layered changes appear sooner than you might expect following the download. Load up a file from the tail end of the Cerberus Station (around the fight with Kai Leng) to get the full effect and you’ll see bits and pieces of a much more satisfying conclusion unfold before you. Each ending is now its own result giving similar, but different very different conclusions along with a small list of accomplishments that you’ve strung together throughout the games. Not ENOUGH of those accomplishments are addressed, leaving people who supported the fucking game from the start out in the cold making your carried saves more or less meaningless in the end, but it’s better than a big pile of nothing like we had before. It just affects who is and is not dead by the end of the trilogy.
When the Catalyst took the time to explain what it was, I felt the pit in my stomach that I’d held onto for months suddenly disappear. I was okay with this. Really! Well, more okay than I was before, and remember before I was stuffing bottles with gas soaked rags… As the Catalyst explained the detailed consequences of each choice and gave a arguably acceptable reason why the master of the Reapers would point you toward one of three “off” buttons, it all comes into focus and it begins to feel like Mass Effect again.
Make no mistake, these ARE the same endings we had as a result of the same choices previously, but thanks to extended scenes with new scripts for the dialogue the whole process doesn’t feel like a slap in the face. This is damage control in Bioware’s learned hands making the same illogical choices into logical steps when before it made as much sense as leaping into a pool filled to the brim with razor blades and lemon juice. That’s progress folks! Weird, perverse kinds of progress, but forward motion all the same.
New scenes are present and range from in-game to fully rendered cinemas, dialogue is stretched out a bit and weird plot holes are now filled with copious amounts of reason leading to VERY different scenes that play out before the end. The reason your crew isn’t by your side at the beam? Explained. The reason Joker pilots the Normandy away from Earth? Explained. The Normandy landing on a lush jungle planet? Er, not really explained. The whole purpose of being forced into choosing your ending rather than fighting for it? Meh, weakly explained… in order to rip off Deus Ex and keep millions of bucks in production costs in play, but it IS explained and that’s important. Had to work in what they paid for already, I’m not entirely averse to that.
When I loaded my beloved Tali onto the Normandy before making my solo run towards the Citadel Beam, I was awestruck. Pieces fit and the story remains preserved with actual details holding it together making it look more and more like a certain publisher (AKA The Most Evil Company in America) pressured the Canadian Developer beyond reason to the point that they actually made them rush this product out the door like a gaggle of idiots.
Now it’s not perfect, but that’s why it’s a compromise. As cons go, you’re treated to a fucking slideshow that explains how your choices affect the conclusion and how the ending you chose moves forward. Not my first choice and fairly disappointing for a crew like Bioware to resort to, but everything else is sown up so much better now that Slideshow closure is still closure and when you’re dropping the curtain on something this big that’s more important than you think. Certainly more important than these jokers thought when they put this on the shelf initially.
The only other big gripe (well, aside from a list we’ll attend to at another time) that sticks with me, aside from the outright murder of the totally badass Indoctrination Theory, is the new 4th ending where you can choose “no choice” by telling off the Catalyst or by firing shots at him with your pistol. By doing so, you cement your doom, as Shepard watches an amazing space battle (that we don’t get to watch) to its conclusion, that conclusion being Liara leaving a message for the next cycle about how they screwed things up.
It’s not perfect, but I’ve gone in and hit up two of the three choices as well as the new (BAD) ending at this point and I can officially look at my Mass Effect stuff without shame or sadness now. The endings hold meaning beyond arbitrary color choices and while they didn’t have time/money to construct a new visually shocking conclusion unique to each ending entirely, there is quite a bit of new CG video attached to that nearly 2 gig download making each choice stand out more and more. Well, more than a copy pasted ending sold as three separate endings anyway.
The point is that it feels like this is what they meant to have on the game in the first place, but it took a back seat to adding Kinect, making a difficulty that’s laughably easy for ME newbs and making a mode of play that defeats the purpose of playing Mass Effect entirely by going in Auto Pilot for shooter ‘tards. I won’t forget the anguish these bastards had us put through by half-assing this entire portion of the game, but I can look past it now because there’s a reason NOT to burn my games.
My emotional investment was not entirely tossed aside and I have to admit that I don’t think any other company would have listened the way Bioware did. They didn’t have to do this. They did it anyway and while did they didn’t give us what we outright ASKED for since Happy Endings are apparently impossible in this economy, they pulled on their big boy pants and fixed the ending that had broken and gave players the closure they needed in having seen this through.
So what now? Well, I’m going to sit on the fence about breaking up with Bioware. I’m not the doting worshiper that I used to be, but I’m not going to picket in front of their building anymore either. I’m going to sit back and play it safe as I wait to see what DLC treasures they manage to spurt out over the course of this and likely next year. I’m okay with all this. I’m not pleased that it happened and I would have greatly appreciated that they gotten out in front of all this shit a lot sooner and leveled with us.
Now I’m curious as to what they’re going to do with the last book in the Kahlee Sanders saga of Mass Effect or what they plan to do to exploit the series now that the primary trilogy is more or less resolved. I’m certainly still hungry for more Space Shooter RPGs, but after they release it for the Wii-U, I suspect we’ll be encouraged to look forward to Dragon Age 3 or something. Either way, now that this is out of the way I can look forward to what’s next and get back on speaking terms with the crew of the Normandy and that means a lot me.
In most ways, Bioware deserves our praise for altering the endings extensively to respect their own canon, their characters and the player’s emotional attachments to both. On that same note, they deserve a room full of people hissing and booing for the bullshit “bad” ending when they claimed not to add anything new in the first place. Especially since making a “happy” ending is so ludicrous in their eyes. But it saved me from torching my games and that helps a lot and it feels less perverse to like Mass Effect again. Not getting that Cerberus tattoo now, but I’ll keep the Belt Buckle.
I’m hearing that some people are outright impossible to please, which is unfortunate because I don’t see them rallying the same kind of angry fan force that protested the living shit out of Bioware before. I don’t like that I didn’t get what I asked for (let me move in with Tali and make freaky alien hybrid babies!!!), but I’m getting something. And while I understand their immense, heartache infused frustration in the stupidly narrow choices for endings given the width and breadth of crap across the franchise at least they admitted their failure to make a decent ending and addressed it. That’s amazing.
My heart swells for those people. They’re about to be pretty miserable and it’s not going to get better anytime soon. I don’t think they’re asking too much because I think the damn game should have at least fifty endings, but hey… at least it has Kinect support and Multiplayer, right? Oh… riiight.