Blog 504: Re-Ending

Yes, sweet readers, Mass Effect 3‘s “Final Cut” DLC is finally here.

I thought the original ending was a bit floppy and unsatisfying, but that’s life. I wasn’t going to go marching to BioWare to demand blood, I just moved on. Narratives are allowed to shoot themselves in all of their feet if that’s what they want (hell, I’m sure I’ve conked out at many a finale in my own projects). But everyone else bayed for blood, and now that baying has been answered by free — free — DLC.

This post is spoiler central, and won’t make any sense unless you’ve already completed the game.

Grimace, Shepard, GRIMACE. Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

End Sequence

As a man who thoroughly enjoyed and was swept along by the ending of the first Mass Effect, by the end of Mass Effect 3 I was pretty much playing on auto-pilot. Sure, ME2‘s foray into having a proper end boss was more than a little embarrassing, but not actually having an end boss beyond another defend-against-waves objective seems a bit remiss. Why couldn’t I go toe-to-toe with Harbinger or something? Fine, it made story sense, it made mechanical sense. But couldn’t they just have disabled the guidance on the missiles and shot them forwards at its face?

Then you got into the enforced slow-mo parts. Suicidal dash into the beam? Very dramatic, heroic last stand. Marauder with no shields who dies in two hits from a cheap pistol? A cheap pistol I wasn’t even carrying? Those armour shards don’t look much like what I was wearing either, and why hasn’t that Scouter melted into my face? Ludonarrative dissonance, I have you now!

Oh fine, it’s his under-armour and he picked the pistol off the ground. Harrumph.

Run, Shepard, run!

It’s the End of the Game As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Now, I have no complaints about the fact that Shepard dies.

I understand that he has to die to bring closure (though since he died at the beginning of ME2, a move I feel was pretty unnecessary, this could still not be the end — and then there’s that damn post-ending ending in the rubble) to the series, to give you the emotional beat-down of losing the character you’ve invested so much time and effort into. I didn’t even mind that the “endings” are so simple — you have just spent the game concluding all the serious stuff; curing the genophage, reuiniting the Quarians and Geth (or not). That’s pretty much all the closure you need, beyond actually killing off the Reapers.

But I do take issue with just how hand-wavy all the endings are. The original Mass Effect is fairly hard sci-fi — once you accept Element Zero and its properties, everything flows out from there. They went to great lengths to describe things like ship-to-ship combat in the codex, really giving the game a grounding in some kind of reality.

Then suddenly… A magic wave changes the universe. “Reprograms” all the galaxy’s DNA, switches off the Reapers (actually, this one just about works) or destroys all technology (except it doesn’t — ships don’t fall out of the sky, armour suits don’t explode, we just see Reapers dying). Seems like a big fall, especially all that guff about your “organic essence”. There is nothing wrong with space magic if that’s your established lore, but once your cards are on the table sweeping them off is a bad idea.

So, the DLC introduces a mix of additions and outright retcons.

Oh, it’s YOU.

Enter the Normandy

Perhaps the most brutal introduction solves the issue of how your companions are always on the Normandy in that final jungle crash scene — the Normandy flies in to pick them up halfway through the dash to the beam.

Yeah, sure, that solves that issue. But then if the Normandy could get in and out like that — right under Harbinger’s damn laser-spouting nostrils — why the hell didn’t we fly instead of crashing our trucks into ditches and then running (yes, that’s a big solid 4×4 ATV, and the driver powers right into the first obstacle)? There’s even enough time to give your love interest a tearful farewell while you load them up, before you go back to getting lasered in the face. Harbinger just sits there looking a bit sheepish and refusing to melt you and that pesky Normandy back to the Ming Dynasty.

All right, the ghost child later explains that the Reapers were never interested in war. Funny way of showing it, if you ask me.

Somebody call for a taxi?

Give Me Details

Talking to the ghost child for longer reveals more details. It’s still schmaltzy space-magic, but a few more tit-bits do round out the plot-holes and help Shepard’s decision seem a little more informed rather than the result of him stumbling to the prettiest lights in his half-dead state.

And I suppose I’m coming to terms with the circular logic a bit now — you know, the whole we-built-the-Reapers-to-kill-everyone-so-they-can’t-build-robots-to-kill-everyone thing. We can dismiss it by stating that the builders of the Citadel and the Reapers were, quite simply, mad and wrong. Which is pretty unsatisfying as a climax (especially when the previous games never ever touch on madness as a theme, except possibly the biotic commune side quest in the first game), but I guess it does the job.

Look at my hands — do you see them waving?

Cinematic Chopping and Changing

This one’s easy. Those colour-coded explosions still happen, but they happen a little bit more. The mass relays, crucially, no longer explode — the energy pulse happens, but then they just short out, rather than obliterating everything.

I think I’d have gone for this in the first pass; though I have no complaints about the relays being rendered inoperable (all those poor stranded fleets will just have to Deal With It — sure it’s a downer, but it’s a logical conclusion, and isn’t this the price of freedom? They can still fly at light-speed to nearby places), the giant explosion did seem a bit too much, especially with the implication that relay-death means solar system-death as established in theΒ ME2 DLC Arrival.

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!

Then we get a few more glimpses of other places when the colour-coded explosion hits. I chose Destroy, because all that Indoctrination Theory talk has coloured my judgement as to what the Correct ending is, so I got some partying Asari. I’m sure there isn’t a Correct ending; Enforced Assimilation seems like the ultimate one, but it’s so hand-wavy and easy and annoying and forcibly augmenting everyone sounds queasily like the homogenise-everyone-and-it’ll-all-be-okay ending of Invisible War . While Control seems like giving in to the bad guys.

Of course, there is apparently a fourth ending — if you just say naw to the Catalyst, everyone dies… But Liara’s insurance policy is eventually dug up.

I wonder if they’ll pull an Invisible War and make a sequel where all the endings took place?

We’re gonna party like we’re on Coruscant and the rebels just blew up the Death Star.

Rousing Finale

Admiral Hackett gives us a rousing victory speech after the Destroy ending. We are treated to poignant stills of a selection of survivors looking happy. The Normandy flies off its jungle rock, presumably to rejoin the rest of the galaxy (rendering the whole crash-landing thing entirely unnecessary?).

And that “please buy DLC” message has been swapped for a “BioWare luffs its fans” message. But we remember what it was the first time, ya bawbags!

“Why can I never defeat you?” “Because we’re Sonic Heroes!” “I… I beg your pardon?”

Conclusion

So nothing has really changed, which is good for artistic integrity, but significant plot-holes have been plugged and the sequence does feel much more well-rounded and complete rather than the spinal-cord-wagging-in-the-breeze-after-his-head’s-been-sniped-off stub the game started with.

If you didn’t like the ending, this won’t solve your problem; there’s just more of it.

More is better, right?

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5 thoughts on “Blog 504: Re-Ending

  1. I agree with everything you said about the story as a whole. Especially the extremely silly Normandy pickup scene (Which were a lot of wasted seconds that could of been used to get to the beam). I don’t see why the pickup scene couldn’t have happened after Shepard got to the beam and after you see Harbringer fly away. Would have made a lot more sense as a whole.

    But the one and only thing about your post which I disagree with, and find a lot of people online seem to have missed this, is your conclusion about the whole circular logic of killing everything to stop everything killing everything.

    That is never actually stated. Now, please forgive me for picking on details, but I expect this is what Sci-Fi fans do best, and therefore, by damn, we shall continue to do so! Star child (Who is actually retconned to being a programmed VI who is so advanced he is nearly as intelligent as a real AI, and therefore I can now accept his presence) states that without the reaper interception, then synthetics would wipe out ALL organic life. Therefore, to keep organic life around, they harvest all advanced races, leaving the lesser races. Therefore, organic life is still around. Too many people seem to miss this clearly stated fact and conclude it is circular logic, when actually, it is the only part of the ending that is actually well thought out and is the only logical answer to the very first question in Mass Effect 1 of why the Reapers come once every 50,000 years or so.

    In summary, the reapers are simply a programmed function designed to keep organic life around, and that all ties in very well to the fact that the Geth (synthetics) are your first and real enemy in the series, showing that yes, synthetics and organics WILL come to blows and due to being essentially robots, don’t have natural deaths and so the population will increase at a much more frequent rate than humans. It would end up in synthetics taking out all organics.

    It can also be easily assumed (though unfortunately, it is an assumption), that the reapers take the advanced organics rather than just synthetics because leaving advanced organics would simply mean they would start creating more synthetics straight away. Leaving only lesser races alive gives a good chunk of time before the reapers are needed again.

    Phew, sorry for the nit-picking! But everything else I agreed with πŸ™‚
    Phew, anyway, sorry for nitpicking! I just really feel that the reason behind the reapers was actually in the original design from the first game (It had to have been really, no writer
    should make such an important threat without a reason behind them

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    • The sad thing is that Mass Effect is ripe, all the way through, for nitpicking. So many little things that don’t quite fit together… So let’s continue!

      I stand by calling the logic circular. In order to stop people from wiping themselves out, they wipe them out. Maybe only the lead species are wiped out, rather than all organic life (the “organic essence” is harvested and stored for later reference) but everyone is still dead.

      Even if the logic isn’t actually circular and I’m mincing words, it still seems to be based on shaky ground. The starchild makes a pretty bold assertion and doesn’t actually back it up: ALL synthetics will ALWAYS fight ALL organics? Just because organics are mushy and the bots need to outgrow them? Seems like an extreme view, especially since I just reconciled the Geth and the Quarians and they were getting along all happy families (maybe this is too chocolate-box a conclusion, but that’s what the game offers).

      At worst, I would expect the synthetics at this outgrowing stage to just wander off and not bother about their creators (if they’re outgrowing organics then they’re wiser and wisdom leads to pacifism, right? Bah, I just made a starchild-level sweeping generalisation). On the organic side, there would be enough dissenters to avoid total conflict (as the Geth memory banks stuff demonstrates). Maybe a few nasty governments would need to be pacified, there might be wars, but the inevitability of a war that will end all organic life, in its entirety, still seems a bit far-fetched to me.

      And linking it back to ME1… Well, Sovereign’s evasive responses on Virmire smacked of “we’re not actually sure where we’re going with this just yet” to me at the time, and though it’s incredibly bad-ass as a reveal I think it’s a narrative weak spot. If they weren’t going to answer the questions, they could just have cut out Shepard’s questioning entirely and had the reaper deliver its ultimatum, rather than spoiling it with some hand-waving. “You cannot understand our motivations”… Well, turns out we could! (Don’t agree with them, think the reasoning is flawed, sure, but can see where they’re coming from.)

      Well, if nothing else, I suppose BioWare at least got their “lots of speculation from everyone“. πŸ˜€

      Like

      • Actually, I agree with your point that it seems unlikely that all organic life could be wiped out by synthetics, and therefore the reaper logic is flawed (Or the writers, if we want to get personal!).

        I still feel this is what the reapers are hoping to achieve, even if as you say, their logic is wrong. The good news, or maybe what I’m saying to myself to help make the series ‘fit’, is that the reapers aren’t perfect in themselves. I doubt the writers thought of this, but I could easily believe myself that the reapers did have a plan, and it is simply wrong. What helps this, is that as Shepard, you can actually end their cycle. The different endings do have a lot of variation in what would happen years down the line. If one disagrees with the reapers, they can choose to simply destroy/control them which both eliminates their function and will allow the races to continue on naturally and let whatever happens happen.

        Perhaps Starchild had a looping error in his code.

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      • Aye, maybe they only needed one or two cycles to stop the bad robots — but then it just kept on going and going and going… πŸ˜€

        Like

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