Around four months after release, Mass Effect 3 received an alternate ending DLC, with a price of absolutely nothing. The Extended Cut replaces the original ending, but not by default; it needs to be downloaded and installed separately. Unless you’ve got the Wii U version that is, then you’re stuck with the new content.
I actually think it’s great that the original ending’s still there for people to experience first hand, as we should be preserving content like this. Plus developers shouldn’t be able to edit our copies of a game to change the story without permission anyway!
Is it a good thing that BioWare ‘caved’ to their fans at all though? Does it set the medium back as an art form when customers can demand changes when a story doesn’t match their expectations? And does it actually fix anything?
*** WARNING: ULTIMATE SPOILERS ***
“Help Aria T'Loak retake Omega station so that she can be stuck there in deep space with dwindling food reserves after the mass relay network explodes!”There's nothing wrong with a story that ends with inevitable and overwhelming tragedy, if it suits the tone. But overwhelming tragedy isn't what the average player wants from their fun sci-fi adventure, and Mass Effect fans haven't much interest in inevitability either.
I don't believe that developers should feel compelled to give into demands to change their game's ending if they're satisfied with it and it delivers everything they promised. But I do believe that if they're counting on fans to buy extra DLC and sequels, then it's very much in their interest to give players a universe they actually want to revisit.
Anyway, here's what's actually different about the game's Extended Cut ending:
Shepard stopped and called for an evac, so Joker flew the whole bloody Normandy down from orbit to save them! Seriously, he brought the ship right into the Reaper's face and hovered there long enough to have a staring contest with the thing, before flying into space again. Not a single laser fired the whole time.
Also the crew of the ship, some of which have been dying to grab a gun and get back to Earth so that they can shoot some Reapers and not have to admit to their kids that they spent the whole war guarding a door… stay exactly where they are. This is the last chance for the galaxy to save themselves from utter annihilation, and not one single person walks out of the hangar doors to join Shepard in the run to the beam.
With her team safe, Shepard starts sprinting towards the teleportation beam alone and things play out pretty much as they did before. Shepard gets blasted, kills Marauder Shields, stumbles into the beam, appears on the Citadel, chats with the Illusive Man, and gets brought up to meet the hologram child.
I asked the Reaper child to explain why he believes robogeddon is a sure thing and here's his explanation: organics create synthetics to improve their own existence, but those improvements have limits. To exceed those limits, synthetics must be allowed to evolve and surpass their creators, and this leads to bad feelings and genocide. Uh huh.
It still won't let me use the events of the game as a counter argument to talk him around though, which leaves this last second dilemma feeling as disconnected and unearned as ever. If the story so far is irrelevant to the ending, then the ending is irrelevant to the story so far!
At least I get to chat about the different solutions this time around.
I might actually have enough War Asset points now with this DLC installed for Shepard to survive this, meaning that it’s the lowest personal sacrifice with the highest collateral damage.
Shepard loses her body but still survives in a new form, so a non-trivial amount of personal sacrifice there.
Poor Shepard gets utterly obliterated by this one, taking the kid’s warnings about the upcoming robot war seriously, and making the ultimate sacrifice to ensure Skynet never nukes the galaxy.
Plus there’s the refuse option and its new variant: ‘Shoot the hologram kid in the face’.
SYNTHESIS ENDING: EXTENDED CUT.
I’m actually really surprised at how many voice actors BioWare brought back for this. It seems like Admiral Hackett, the hologram child, Joker, and my entire squad all have new lines. They must have spent a fair bit of cash on this free DLC, and the new content fits in seamlessly.
I say ‘machines’, the husks are actually the cybernetically reanimated corpses of dead humans, or something like that... so now that I think about it they were already hybrids before the beam hit. Either way these guys get to enjoy the perfected existence of being a robot zombie. Could be worse though, you should see what the alien robot zombies are like.
Either that or the dumb energy wave must have thought their clothes were synthetic life and transformed them too. Now the krogan have a deeper understanding and empathy with their pants.
You know, I’m pretty certain now that there's no way that ‘synthesis’ is going to be considered any kind of canon ending going forwards, no matter how ‘ideal’ the kid thinks it is, as if Mass Effect: Andromeda put glowing eyes on its space heroes it's going to end up looking dumb.
Fallout-style painted slides, giving a glimpse of what happened next to the people I met and the planets I visited, while EDI gives her perspective on synthesis in narration.
I know some people aren't a fan of ending cards, but these do a fine job of showing the state of the galaxy without straight up telling you that Zaeed and his favourite rifle got married, or that Joker and EDI gave birth to a smart-ass toaster etc. (it helps that the art looks great). Even seeing that the fleets made it back home and were able to rebuild really helps. It puts the pieces back to where they were before the assault on Earth.
Well okay there’s still that scene with the Stargazer and his kid in the creepy forest (who definitely aren't Normandy descendants now). But after that it’s the end.
Of course I got the ultra-happy outcome here because I made the ultra-happy choices. Well relatively speaking, seeing as countless millions died and Shepard got her face burned off, there's always horrible consequences in the brightest of resolutions. But the use of ending slides means there are now different ways things can play out, and I could've left the galaxy in a very different place.
There’s even a scene with an alternate alien Stargazer talking to an alternate alien kid after the credits if you screw up enough to wipe out humanity, which is a nice touch.
It's just reminded me of an old Mega64 sketch, which took the piss out of unhappy fans wanting EA and BioWare to fix the ending. In the sketch, the fans were demanding a proper recognition of their accomplishment for beating it, so BioWare ended up sending all of them a trophy with "You did it" written on.
And I just got my very own virtual congratulations message from BioWare in real life! I did it!
It's interesting to go back through old articles and comments to read about people's reactions to the Mass Effect 3 backlash, as a lot of people didn't quite get why fans were so emotional about it.
Some thought that players were upset about Shepard dying at the end, instead of getting married to Tali and going drinking with Garrus (or vice versa). Some were under the impression that players were after more appreciation for beating the Reapers. Some were convinced that it was actually the lack of reactivity that was the problem, with the entire last chapter being more or less the same for every player etc.
The truth is, different players were pissed off for a thousand different reasons of their own. Like I said before, the original ending fails on so many levels simultaneously that you can't single out any one flaw in it as being the thing that got everyone so mad.
Personally though I just wanted an ending that made any kind of sense, and that didn’t blow up space travel and strand the characters on a jungle planet for no good reason. And they fixed that, so I'm happy.
The Extended Cut was promised to clarify the existing ending without altering the events in it, and thankfully that's not really the case. Sure it does explain things better (and they really did need explaining) but it also fills in plot holes and changes the Crucible's multi-coloured space magic bullshit beam to be far less apocalyptic in its effect. BioWare chose not to half-ass it and put the extra time and money in to present their insanity in a much more satisfying way and left the original ending intact for those who liked it fine the way it was! I'd call that a happy resolution.
To be honest, the original ending kind of retroactively ruined the other games for me for a while, similar to how 'Alien 3' put me off the 'Alien' films. It's hard to enjoy the ride when you know you're headed off a cliff. But when I replayed the trilogy this time after seeing the Extended Cut I found I enjoyed the games as much as I ever did. The extended ending undoes a lot of the damage (literally), and gives the story some proper closure… or not, if you’d rather just wreck everything. I still don’t like the synthesis magic, but I can live with it.
I wouldn't say that I'm a suspicious person, and I never took the Indoctrination Theory seriously for a second, but there’s too much wit and heart in the rest of the game for me to see the original ending as anything other than a cunning and elaborate scheme by BioWare writers to get fans to send them 402 cupcakes. It was only when they received the delicious confections and saw they came in three colours that all tasted the same that they realised how far they’d strayed from the original goal of the Mass Effect franchise: to make me happy. They shunned the cupcakes, sending them to a local youth shelter and decided to put the real ending in. What they came up with second time around might not be a perfect conclusion, but what game has one of them anyway?
I’m hyped for Mass Effect: Andromeda, so mission accomplished.
Don't worry, I'm not going to make a habit of writing 4 page articles like this. It's just Mass Effect 3, it makes everyone a little crazy. You can leave your own spoilery thoughts and opinions on the ending in the comments below if you want. Try not to give away the whole story in the first 100 characters though or else it'll show up in the 'Recent Comments' box on the right.