Many of us at Senpai are absolutely speechless. Judging from the title alone, many of you can probably guess why, but for those that somehow don’t know then I will do my best to explain while avoiding spoilers (as much as possible).
Before I get into it, let me introduce my Commander Shepard:
This man has saved the galaxy so many times that the few times he put it in danger hardly matter. He’s a renegade and a terror to all reporters, but has a heart of gold that only comes out when he’s around his own crew. He runs a tight-ship like Picard, fancies himself a modern-day “Captain Power,” but to most Alliance officials he’s about as trustworthy as a common space pirate. He can beat the man they call Jayne in any arm wrestling contest, and has romanced at least one of every alien species (yes, even Elcor… he was really really really drunk.) He has traveled all over the galaxy but has never been to Cloud City, rumors of him ever being there are completely unfounded. He enjoys drinking, long walks on the beach, drinking, dancing with barmaids at club Purgatory, and more drinking. And he is currently either dead, an omnipotent being, alive on Earth, or a mindless husk… I’m not sure which since things got a little crazy the last time I saw him, more on that later.
And now back to the point at hand …
The Mass Effect Trilogy is, by far, one of the most immersive RPGs to grace consoles to date. Unlike other RPGs, Mass Effect allows the player the freedom to make virtually all of the major choices for themselves. Many of these choices matter and will determine what happens next in the story. The player’s decisions (done through the main character Shepard) carry over into Mass Effect’s sequels, as they are allowed to build upon (or ruin) their relationships with other characters, while shaping the universe (metaphorically and, at times, literally speaking) around them.
After players concluded Mass Effect 1 and 2, many of us arriving at wildly different outcomes, we were all abuzz with anticipation as to how the final 3rd chapter would conclude. Bioware developers assured us that our decisions in the 3rd installment, along with all of the choices we’ve been making over the past five years, would greatly influence Shepard’s ending. We vividly remember being promised by Bioware exec producer Casey Hudson “It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings,where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C..”
So one could imagine my confusion when I reached this part:
Here Shepard is given a choice of three ways to end the Reaper invasion in the form of one of three paths. Hm… path A, B and C?
In my first playthrough, I chose the right path. Without giving anything away, I was disappointed that it appeared that nothing I did (in this game or the prequels) seemed to matter. The ending cinematic was much too brief and only showed three characters out of the hundreds that my Shepard had fought alongside, befriended, and offended.
So I thought “Okay, I just got the ‘artsy’ ending alla End of Evangelion, blah! I’ll just reload my last save and pick the LEFT path this time. Surely if I pick another path, it would trigger another outcome, right?”
Well… sorta… it was the same ending again with the only difference being that the explosions changed from red to blue. Frustrated, I reloaded and picked the middle path, only to see the same exact ending again only with green explosions. To add insult to injury, the very last thing the player sees after any one of these endings is a prompt urging them to get DLC when available.
To help illustrate my point, if you’ve already beaten the game or are not afraid of spoilers, here are all the possible endings synced together
Fans largely were outraged that not only did Bioware fail to live up to its promise of multiple endings that would be changed according to the player’s decisions, but that the ending that we were given was riddled with major plot holes. On the other side of the fan reaction are Mass Effect loyalists who justify the ending as Shepard battling Reaper indoctrination. They have expanded upon the small details and inconsistencies in the ending sequence to put together a narrative that does make some sense… the only problem being that it presupposes that this was a “false ending.”
Part of the ending I had in mind started with this...
Bioware appeared to take this reaction to heart, at first voicing confusion at the fans’ response. Founder Ray Muzyka stated:
”It’s incredibly painful to receive feedback from our core fans that the game’s endings were not up to their expectations. Our first instinct is to defend our work and point to the high ratings offered by critics – but out of respect to our fans, we need to accept the criticism and feedback with humility… the passionate reaction of some of our most loyal players to the current endings in Mass Effect 3 is something that has genuinely surprised us.”
What Bioware seems to have trouble understanding is that, while it is true that fans are largely upset with the ending, hardly anyone has said the game was anything but excellent.
Granted, there were were a few flaws (most notably with regards to questing) but, up until the last stretch of the game, the writing and direction was so phenomenal that most didn’t notice the minor flaws. Most players aren’t angry as much as they are confused and disappointed. For 98% of the Mass Effect trilogy, Bioware’s care and love for their product is more than evident, so having three different types of endings, which all end exactly the same way, was a shock to say the least.
So we wonder, were they rushed? Were they pressured by EA? Speaking for myself, if Bioware admitted that they were indeed rushed, I’d definitely continue to support them, and I bet most others would too given Bioware’s outstanding track record.
I also applaud Bioware for at least listening to the fans’ concerns and are now “hard at work on a number of game content initiatives that will help answer the questions, providing more clarity for those seeking further closure to their journey.” However, I sorely hope it isn’t part of a 9.99 DLC package.
On the other side of the fence are those that are citing this ruckuses as an example of fans’ sense of “over-entitlement.” According to a recent article on Kotaku.com, indie developer Mode 7
changed the ending of their game Frozen Synapse to include a pony and a dinosaur, and the message “This is the ending to the game… we don’t care if you like it.” Ouch…
Look, I can continue presenting both sides of this, but it is really very simple. Here is the television commercial for Mass Effect 3
And well, minor spoiler alert, after playing through all three major outcomes do you ever really “Take Earth Back” as the advertisement suggests? …uhm…I’m actually not entirely sure… None of the “three outcomes” clearly show that… What the player is shown is much too brief and vague to conclusively say what happened. As I suggested before, the fandom is split with some saying that the ending was the product of bad writing, and others saying it was all an illusion or dream (Reaper indoctrination).
So did Bioware forget the point of the game, “Take Earth back?” It would seem so. They got so wrapped up in making a deep and creative ending that they tripped over their own ideas and ended up alienating most of their fans. What a shame… here’s hoping that in their “new ending” they remember to keep it simple.
My Shepard. Choosing Renegade since 2007
Now that my rant is out of the way, time for some MAJOR Senpai announcements…
First of all, we are strongly considering a podcast. It would cover the latest in anime and gaming, from the point of view of fellow fans. We are still working out scheduling and tech, but we are excited to get it started soon.
And secondly, while I will still contribute to the magazine when able, I have stepped down as a head writer. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere, I will still edit for the magazine, and will write the occasional opinion column. It also is very likely you’ll be hearing me on the upcoming podcast.
Stay tuned, Senpai’s only just begun,
- Furry Senpai