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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 the ME2 DLC Arrival.
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?
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!
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?