The Mass Effect 3 ending controversy has really consumed the ME3 fanbase. Even people who don’t see the point to the rage behind the ending tend to get drawn into the discussion. I was hoping to not discuss the ending explicitly, especially since I really admire the work of both the fanbase and the enthralled writers in coming up with something that explains the disjointed ending called the Indoctrination Theory.
While I do have some things to say about the ending, I think it’ll be more interesting to talk about my first reaction to the ending as I finished the trilogy, and how I felt after taking the time to really think about it.
Tai Shepard, a paragon of humanity who wasn’t afraid of taking the hard stance, had entered the final stages of his war against the Reapers. To fight them, he used every resource and connection he had built up since his beginning as an Alliance soldier who served under Admiral Anderson before hunting the rogue Spectre Saren.
After sparing the Rachni Queen, keeping Wrex alive through Virmire, saving Alliance forces from the brunt of Sovereign’s attack on the Citadel, meeting the Geth platform Legion, and destroying the Collector base, Shepard was ready to gather all the powers of the galaxy to under his banner. He cured the genophage with Wrex together with one of the last female Krogan shaman, ensuring a peaceful and prosperous future for the Krogan. He brokered peace between mortal foes, the Quarian and the Geth. He reconnected with former allies like Cerberus operative Miranda Lawson and a persistent Earth reporter. And he rallied the Turians, Asari, Salarians, and even Rachni to unite against the threat of the Reaper.
Landing back on Earth with an entire galaxy’s worth of soldiers, I had one last chat with members of my squad both past and present. It was extremely gratifying speaking to past members like Grunt and or Tali one last time before one last ditch attempt on the Reapers’ defensive perimeter.
I have my own criticisms of the ending. About how certain elements seem disjointed or just outright nonsensical. Never mind explaining away certain parts as simply game logic, created in order to propel the game forward conveniently. There are some details that undoubtedly make no sense.
The most obvious one being the only scene you get if you choose to destroy the Reapers. We’re treated to a scene of a solider with an N7 dog tag suddenly breathing, as if waking up among rubble. There is little doubt that this is Shepard, as he is the only prominent member of the N7 we know. But the wreckage he wakes up in doesn’t resemble pieces of the Citadel in the slightest. We all know the Citadel has sleek, bright, metallic designs. The rubble Shepard wakes up in is more like black asphalt and building rebar- just like what little of London you had just passed through.
But I simply acknowledge the extreme likelihood that certain parts of the ending leave room for DLC to expand or otherwise end the game. The scene of Shepard committing to your final choice to me, was an almost breathtaking scene of an almost deity-like figure who was about to save the galaxy. Indeed, when Shepard lands on Earth, he’s told that his very presence is sure to boost morale as ordinary soldiers revere him as something more than just some simple foot soldier. Shepard, more importantly my Shepard, had saved the Citadel from destruction, destroyed the ravenous Collectors, stalled the unimaginable might of the Reapers, brought together a group of diverse followers, traveled to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, and was finally about to end a massive conflict that had swallowed up all known life in the galaxy.
But of course, after finishing the game and talking to my peers about the ending, questions do arise out of certain lines of thought. I’m actually fine with the bigger picture of the ending, but when taken by itself, it is sure to nag away at people like like an evil monkey in the closet. What bugged me most was one particularly cut in viewpoint.
Many people complain about the lack of closure on other issues such as the other races, but as I said before, I’m fine with how the ending portrayed Shepard’s final sacrifice. But we then see Joker manically piloting the Normandy ahead of a the explosion Shepard triggered in his final choice. There are several leaps such as what Joker is even doing piloting ahead of the explosion when he was supposed to be with the fleet, what are some of the team mates who accompanied me to Earth doing on the Normandy, and why the explosion is even implied to be dangerous at all, as it forces the Normandy to crash land on a mysterious planet.
Why is it that the soldiers on Earth are obviously fine when the explosion envelopes them, doing whatever it is you chose the explosion to do to answer the Reaper threat, and yet the Normandy is shown to be visibly be torn apart by its force? I’d dare to venture that I wouldn’t question the ending nearly as much if the scene involving Joker and the Normandy wasn’t even in there in the first place.
Regardless of how you view the ending or what direction Bioware takes their upcoming DLC of ME3, this mission, this moment, forever left Shepard’s mark for both the game’s canon and for all gamers who took part in this trilogy.
I’ve been led to believe that the most hardcore fans of Mass Effect are the ones who are especially disappointed by the ending of ME3. Some decided to spite Bioware’s approach by donating to charity while others have even filed lawsuits. I’ve always considered myself a fan of Mass Effect and this ending hasn’t soured my appreciation of the game one bit. I’m the kind of fan who obsessively reads not just the Codecs but also the wiki for all the background information, context, and history behind every single bit of lore. I have an opinion on every single character in the game, have formed loyalties to classic favorites (Tali, Legion, Grunt), and urge any friends of mine who ask questions about the series to just try it, if possible from the first Mass Effect, which is an absolutely ludicrous suggestion by today’s standards in design.
Mass Effect 2 is a fine starting point and ME1‘s combat seems antiquated at this point. But still, the lore starts there and you won’t understand the love of certain characters such as the vaguely Eastern-European sounding Tali with his mysterious bio-suit, the disillusioned police officer Garrus, or the straight shooting but honorable Wrex who has an earnest dream to save his stray people.
In the bigger picture, Mass Effect 3 was an incredible end to the trilogy. At first, I typed out, “couldn’t have been a better end to the trilogy.” There is definitely room for improvement. But taking the entire trilogy, I can’t help but think this must be how people before me felt when they witnessed the end of the Star Wars trilogy. Regardless of how you feel about the ending, it is still the end of a truly incredible and ambitious story.