Since I did the Mass Effect 3 review for the site, Geist01 asked me a couple weeks ago if I would review the Extended Cut DLC as a follow-up piece to the original article.
I will be honest, when I found out that the Extended Cut DLC was coming out, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to download it. My anger and disgust at the original ending had diminished, but was not completely gone. I feared that the DLC would be a failure and that it would permanently destroy the series for me, but this was Bioware’s last chance, and I was going to give them all the opportunity I could.
In the time between my first ending and the release of the Extended Cut, I decided to start the whole series over again. I had a whole new Shepard and I was kicking ass and enjoying it. I was reminded why I loved these games, so I decided to give the Extended Cut a try. I even did something I have never done in my entire gaming career, I re-played the ending multiple times just to see how each one was with my Shepard and you know what? I’m glad I did.
Warning, MAJOR SPOILERS ahead!
Is the Extended Cut better? Yes, yes, YES! Oh Bioware, if you had ended the game like this originally, you could have forgone the whole shit-storm your first ending caused. But how can that be you ask? When Bioware first announced the Extended Cut, they were clear to state that it would not be a whole new ending. That it would be the original ending, but it would be retooled to give players additional clarification and context. Bioware was true to their word, the endings are still largely the same. With something like an additional 5 minutes of game time, they where able to take something that was shit and make it into something pretty damn decent. THAT FACT ALONE SHOULD TELL YOU HOW AWFUL THE ORIGINAL ENDING WAS!!! It may not be greatest ending ever, but it’s definitely as good as (if not better than) dancing Ewoks. What is even more surprising (or sad, depending how you look at it) is that the Extended Cut makes you re-evaulate how you want to leave the galaxy. I’m serious, I literally changed my mind on which ending I thought was the “best”.
So what is different? What makes it more than crap? First off, the positive aspects. Most important for me, some of the most glaring plot-holes were fixed. The questions that fried my brain originally are explained, and that makes me happy. The mass relays don’t completely explode and destroy the systems they are within. Because the relays aren’t completely demolished, you don’t doom the fleet to be stranded on a war-ravaged Earth. Intergalactic travel will be restored, and the aliens of the fleet will eventually get home. Even better, my squad doesn’t ditch my ass on Earth and make a run for it with Joker like a bunch of pussies. There are legitimate reasons to why they are running. Awesome. And that crash landing on the garden planet at the end, which was so ridiculous to me I could not understand why it was even included? Well that actually makes some sense now. Another positive improvement is an epilogue. It’s a slideshow, which I have always thought is kind of lazy, but in this case, I don’t mind at all. Seeing the impact of your choice on the galaxy you fought so hard for and brought together make a HUGE difference. It gives such a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. The final improvement is a memorial scene, you aren’t left asking “What happened to Shepard”? This is closure at its basic level, and it is important component to an ending. As a bonus, there is a whole new ending included that you couldn’t get before. Details later, but for now, I will appreciate its existence. It’s one more than I had last time, and I like that.
Another addition is that you get more explanation on what causes the ending. The Catalyst still shows up as that little glowy bastard, but at least he is more chatty this go round. Shepard is able to question him and gain better understanding as to what he is and why he is there. He will also give you more insight on the choices you face. That is all good in my book. Now as I said before, your still have your 3 basic endings, with a bonus fourth ending. So what made me decide which ones were my favorites? Well read on and I will explain. I will go from worst to best in my opinion, how it differs from the original, and why it earned its place.
This is the bonus ending, and it sucks all around. This is the choice of not choosing. You reject the Catalyst and therefore the Crucible. Since the Crucible was literally the only plan you had for victory, your rejection ensures the galaxy’s destruction. The Reapers prevail; Shepard, humanity, and all advance civilization is destroyed and the cycle continues. You are left with Liara’s time capsule and her warning. For all its suckiness, I still think its an important choice and I am glad it is included. Is it a jab at us “entitled gamers”? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter to me. I think it is a viable option and an important lesson, especially in today’s world. Life is bitch, and sometimes you must choose between bad and worse. Refusal to accept that fact usually makes things worse.
I originally found this to be best possible ending, especially when coupled with the “Indoctrination Theory”. In the original, you destroy the Reapers. If you did a little legwork, you spare the Earth. And if you did everything you could, Shepard takes a breath. The Catalyst hints that all synthetic life is at risk, but it is never confirmed. If Shepard is still alive, they could be alive too. Mix-in “indoctrination theory” and there was the possiblity that Shepard not only lives, but has another chapter left to play. As I twisted on the horridness of the original ending, this was the hope that kept me from totally giving up on Mass Effect. Now it is the second worst, because there is more information. Shepard does take a breath, and synthetics do die. As Admiral Hackett narrates the epilogue explaining the destruction of the Reapers and the rebuilding, you see Joker exit the Normandy without EDI. Then you see her name on memorial wall of the Normandy. This is immediately followed by Shepard’s name not going up, but instead a smile from your love interest (If they were with you during the run on the Citadel beam). So to spare Shepard, you have to kill the synthetics. I loved EDI, I loved Legion, and I loved bringing the Quarians and Geth together. They were working together and building a new future through cooperation and respect. While I wanted nothing more than to annilahate the Reapers, destroying all synthetics was too high a cost. Even if it spares Shepard, it minialized some of the proudest moments of my Shepard’s endeavors. That just isn’t worth it to me.
In both the original and the Extended Cut, you get the feeling this is considered the “best” possible ending. While it spells the end of Shepard, the galaxy and all its inhabitants are saved. Not only saved, but changed into something better. Designations of organic and synthetic no longer exist. All beings are Cybernetic now and interconnected. Bioware ups the ante by making it even more appealing. You are told that this is the ultimate “evolution” of life. And you will not only be connected to the species of this cycle, but to all the life of cycles past. That’s right, even the Reapers are rolled into this new existence. As EDI explains through the epilogue, you have not only spared the galaxy, you have forever changed it and all the beings in it. While sacrifices had to be made (namely Shepard), life will go on in ways never imagined. There will be a harmony and peace on a scale that has never been known. It just oozes with hope and happiness. And don’t get me wrong, it is appealing. Peace and harmony are good things. While it is an awesome idea, and a “happy” ending, I just don’t like it. Why? Because to me, it sacrifices some very important things that I don’t want gone. Things I fought the whole series to protect. Things like individuality and free will. The right to choose your future, and deal with consequences of those choices. It is the loss of diversity, and I just think that is tragic. Life is boring when everyone is the same and all play by the rules. When everyone thinks the same, where can ideas that are new and different thrive? Amazing things can happen due to conflict. How can a homogeneous galaxy grow without conflict? How can order exist without chaos? So while it is great theory, it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And yes, I recognize that I may be taking it to the extreme. That individuality and conflict may actually exist in this new cyborgnatic world. It just didn’t feel that way. And that is why it is my second favorite.
It’s funny that I would choose this option as my favorite-I refused to even consider it originally. I hated Cerebrus (still do, I love killing those fuckers). To accept the choice they wanted as my own, it seemed a betrayal of all that I had fought for. To control was to force your will upon other, and that is just wrong. Plus in the original, there was no guarantee that it would work. That helped “indoctrination theory” grow considerably. Nobody had overcome indoctrination, and after your conversation with the Illusive Man, it seemed disasterous to even risk controlling the Reapers. I don’t care what the Catalyst says, I didn’t trust that little asshole. I still thought it was the wrong choice with the Extended Cut, but I tried it anyway (with some urging from hubby). And with that decision, I was given a whole new perspective. One that I found very satisfying. Why? Because you not only save all organic and synthetic life, but Shepard survives as well. As my FemShep narrates this ending, you discover that she has transformed into something more. She is now a guardian of galaxy, and will use the Reapers to protect all the inhabitants within. She remembers what she was, and remembers the importance of what she fought to protect and preserve. She will make sure it survives for as long as she does. And its satisfies my sense of justice, because I spent 3 games hating the Reapers and after questioning the Catalyst, I hated them even more. How dare anything decide what’s best for me without my input. How dare they destroy and enslave because that was “the best solution” they could come up with. Let’s see how you like it when the tables are turned, and now it is you who are subjected to the solution of another. And who better to enforce that solution than the latest “exempler of victory” against the Reapers. I loved it. My Shepard lives on, the galaxy is saved and still unique, and the Reapers pay for what they did. LOVE IT!!! Sure, I worry that new Shepard may fall into the same mindset as the Catalyst. But there is also the hope of peaceful co-existance and growth of both lifeforms, without losing part of themselves. That is what makes it the best for me.
As I said before, this is a decent ending. If it had been the original, it would have left me content. But content is far from satisfied, and I still have some big issues. Foremost is still the lack of choices. Remember way back when the main developers said your choices would matter? That the players’ decisions would have bearing on how it would all ended? Yeah, that still doesn’t happen. Instead of 3 choices, you now get 4. Whoop dee fucking do, it’s still only 4. I get it now, Bioware wants to make its players suffer in some way. It wants to drive home the point that there is rarely a “happy” ending in the game called life. Especially when the stakes are so dire. I totally get it, and I can even respect it. But why limit yourself, Bioware? A huge reason I play video games is so that I can escape real life. Why can’t I have an ending were Shepard lives, both synthetic and organic life is spared and left whole, the Reapers are destroyed, and I retire to spend my days drinking on the beach with Garrus and my love and living off the vids? WHY WHY WHY???? I am even willing to work for it. I will complete every mission, engage in every conversation, scan and find every asset possible, just to have that ending. Conversely, I would love to do the bare minimum, and blow off everyone and everything I can get away with, just so that I can watch the galaxy burn (or harvested if you want to get technical). That’s right all my little anarchists, I want you to have your “happy ending” too. I just don’t get why Bioware would limit itself to 4 outcomes, when it could let players have so much more.
Another disappointment is that the “Indoctrination Theory” is totally dead. I know, I know, it was player’s desperate attempt to make sense of the original ending. I remember plenty of English professors telling me that “waking up” was the worst way to end a story. But in the case of Mass Effect, it was such a beautiful fit, I really did hope that Bioware ran with it. I won’t say they intended it all along because it would have meant Bioware planned on fucking us over from the beginning and giving us an ending that intentionally sucked just so we could buy a better ending later. Fuck that noise. Yeah, I really was disappointed to see this theory blown out of the water. It made better sense of the damn kid and all the dreams I had of him and why that little brat ended up being the form of the Catalyst. As it stands, I am still unsure why I had to waste my time running through those dreams. What, you think I didn’t know what was at stake? Felt I needed more reminders of the desperate situation Shepard faced? Again, if I wanted nightmares, I would go to sleep. Not stay up way too late playing video games.
So am I happy with my new and improved ending? Definitely, yes. Do I think it will satisfy the majority of players who hated the first ending? Yes. If ME3 comes out with additional dlc, will I get it? Most likely. Will I buy any future Mass Effect games? Probably.
Thank you Bioware for giving it another try. Thank you for admitting that you failed and trying to do right by your fans. While I am not delusional enough to think that this ending will please every disappointed fan, I can say with certainity that you have earned back at least one. Which means that I will certainly be spending my hard earned money on your products in the future. Having said that, there leaves only one other point I want to make. This whole experience has left me resentful and frustrated with the video game industry as a whole. More and more I see the loss of innovation and imagination, sacrificed for the all mighty profit. Think I am wrong? Look at E3. What new games did you see that didn’t have a number at the end of the title? I have nothing to confirm it, but I suspect that EA pushed Bioware to get this game out the door, giving little care to the ending and how horrible it was. At least I hope so, because if it isn’t, Bioware has lost sight of what made it great and that is just tragic. It is still completely ridiculous to me. You do realize that this economy sucks and you sell a purely luxury product right? What is the business sense of dicking over your die-hard fans with a sub-par product, especially when coupled with the bullshit that was the day-one DLC? Do you not like getting my money without question on opening day? You must, cause this whole debacle has ensured that it will never happen again. I will never again buy a game on respect and appreciation alone. I will get some idea of what I am in for, just as I do with movies, tv and literature. Congratulations, you must be so proud. My ire is also directed at the established gaming media. Do you know how many previews and first day reviews I read that made no mention of the ending as being less than par? Do you know how many articles I read from “respected” sources that not only neglected to mention that ending was lacking, but had the balls to later try and say I was stupid for not thinking that shit was gold (I’m looking at you GameInformer, and know that I will not be renewing my subscription)? You have jaded my favorite hobby, and I will now be hesitant to try anything new on faith (or your word) alone. Thanks a lot, I fucking hate you all.
On a sidenote, for all of you who wanted to cry “artistic intergrity” to justify this crap and shame us “entitled whiners,” I just have one thing to say. BULLSHIT!!!! I live with an artist, and have plenty of examples of self-expression art lying around. It is all fine and good for growth, development of technique, and expressing your “vision”. But I also have watched my artist tear his own hair out to complete a piece the WAY HIS CUSTOMER WANTED. If you truly believe that art can be produced and sustain the artist without imput from their client, you are a fucking idiot. I don’t care if you write, draw, sculpt, act, or create games through code. If you don’t make your customer happy, they will not buy your art and you will not make money. If you’re an artist and think you can stay true to your “intergrity” and not bend for your customers wants? Well, don’t quit your day job.
Anyway, to summarize, I am very happy with Extended Cut for Mass Effect 3. So much that I will now give Mass Effect 3 a 9/10 overall. It is an amazing game, and the new endings do make it better. While it may not be the awesome kick-ass ending I was hoping for, it still gives me enough that I am not left twisting in confusion. No longer do I want to throw my controller and scream “What the fuck”. Instead I want to reflect on “my ending” and think of everything that it means. I imagine which ending will be considered canon, and how it may affect the next chapter of Mass Effect that may come. That is how you should end a story-line, at least it is for me.