"You go up to a man, and you say, "How are things going, Joe?" and he says, "Oh fine, fine — couldn't be better." And you look into his eyes, and you see things really couldn't be much worse. When you get right down to it, everybody's having a perfectly lousy time of it, and I mean everybody. And the hell of it is, nothing seems to help much." - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Okay, after three pages of not discussing the topic, here are some thoughts:
1. The reapers were created because a super ancient race believed that every race ever will eventually create a race of sentient machines of their own that would eventually turn against their creators and in the end wipe out all organic life. Basically, they prefer perpetual genocide over a complete loss of all life. This seems like an absurdly extreme solution to a problem that seemingly could be solved with mere words. Why didn't they just wipe out the inorganic beings instead or just tell every civilization after them that sentient machines are a really bad idea with a powerpoint presentation?
2. The whole reveal or rather non-reveal of the reaper origin seemed really odd, mainly because it doesn't explain anything as we never see an example of what they see as problematic. Sure, there are the geth but one of the main story arcs of the Mass Effect series is the geth/quarian reconciliation that Shepard can shape over the course of the trilogy. In fact, the geth are probably the nicest guys in the entire galaxy who mean no harm to anyone and quite explicitly state that they simply want to be left alone in order to learn from organics. The only reason the geth ever attacked other races (besides the initial Morning War) was the involvement of... the reapers. You can never bring this up against the Catalyst or the irony of the reapers being pretty much what they wish to prevent. The fact that the geth played an important role in taking down the reapers is just the icing on the cake.
3. Javik casually mentions on the side that the Protheans themselves once fought a race not unlike the geth and they apparently won. This seems like some flavor dialogue at first, showing once again that the protheans were pretty much a race of renegade Sheps who had a thing for extreme solutions but it's also evidence that the reapers (or rather their creators) were not entirely right, which leads me to my next point-
4. It's implied that the whole cycle thing was slowly but steadily failing, every passing civilization would delay it and contributing to the crucible that would eventually end the reapers. Even if Shepard had failed, the next civilization would be another step towards the annihilation of the reapers.
5. If you talk to the rachni representative on Illium in ME2, it's implied that the whole rachni war was only started because the rachni have been indoctrinated and used like the geth but it seems somewhat mysterious as to how they lost back then with reaper tech. This also shows that the reapers planned to do their cycle much earlier. Ironically, if they had done so earlier, humanity would have been spared - for at least fifty millennia, anyways.
There's some other thoughts but it already borders on tl;dr. Overall, I am very disappointed. I thought ME3 was brilliant - until the last ten minutes. What I thought would bring closure and end in a Throne of Baal-esque epilogue only gave us three possibilities that almost all have the same, poorly explained consequences and which all lead to the same bizarre gainax ending. I am tempted to say that it felt like the most insulting ending since Neverwinter Nights 2.
"I was one of those. I meddled with dark powers. I summoned demons. I ate the entire little cheese, including the rind."
~Kvothe, The Wise Man's Fear
One of the worst parts for me was the fact you spent a fifth of the game brokering peace between the quarians and geth; only to nod when the catalyst tells you that there can be no peace between synthetics and organics. Where was the option to say 'You're wrong, look at the quarians and geth fighting alongside each other and rebuilding their planet together'?
Also if the catalyst controls the citadel, how does ME1 make any sense? Surely the catalyst could have opened the citadel's relay when it wanted to; at the very least it could have told the reapers that the protheans had screwed with the signal.
So yeah, it's a bit of a shame really, because I was really loving the game up to the last 20 mins. I think I'll just pretend it didn't happen.
I was mostly annoyed by how the Reapers would keep on saying that us organics couldn't understand their motivations... Only for the Catalyst to explain them to Shepard in a whole 10 seconds, 20 seconds if you're generous? It really feels like the ending was slapped on at the last minute by someone who only read the back of the boxes of the last two games.
That and how you can destroy the Reapers, but only at the cost of A) them all crash landing on Earth, causing untold devastation B) killing the Geth C) killing EDI D) destroying the mass relays. Or you can control them, but then you just told TIM five minutes ago that you shouldn't do that. Or you can do synthesis, with is just magic that doesn't seem to solve anything. In any case, the relays are destroyed and the entire fleet is stranded in orbit of a destroyed Earth which can't sustain the millions of people stuck there. No fuel to leave, not enough food for everyone, not enough medical supplies or support personnel.
It just felt like whichever way you chose wasn't really that much worse than letting the Reapers do their thing.
In an effort to fix the pile of crap that was dumped on us as an ending, someone posted an interesting short little fan-fiction that manages to swoop in and salvage the whole situation, starting right when the Catalyst asks Shepard to make his/her choice.
It's written as a Paragon-style ending from the perspective of a ManShep romancing Miranda, but Shepard's love interest only play a minor role in Shepard's thoughts thus-far, so it's very easy to read from your own Shepard's perspective substituting appropriate thoughts of his/her romantic partner.
Not as good as being in the game, but it at least makes *me* feel better about the ME3 ending.
As a side-note, I've rewritten chapter one for my own enjoyment to address a Tali romance if anyone would rather read that and doesn't mind me stealing most of the text wholesale.
Last edited by delcake; 11-03-2012 at 02:11 AM.
Some really good plot holes raised here. Geth / Quarian relations disproving the cycle, inability for reapers to explain their purpose when the Catalyst whips it out in 20 seconds, inability of the catalyst to help the reapers gain control of Citadel in ME1.
I'll add - inability of countless races over eons inhabiting the citadel and never diving into its innards to see, oh, by the way, it's really the barrel of a gigantic galactic changing energy weapon.
So yeah. Nothing you do in any of the games, or this game, really matters except whether you get the synthesis ending or the Shep lives scene which doesn't really matter anyway. Big let down.
Hitler said it best:
All times I have enjoyed greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those that loved me, and alone.
Worse, I don't exactly understand how the "synthesis" (still not sure what they mean, wouldn't symbiosis be more appropriate?) helps at all. It magically changes all people from purely organic to fused organic-synthetic beings. What is stopping those new people from making purely synthetic beings which would then evolve to the point of singularity and destroy their creators anyway? It's not because they're half-synthetic that the AI will have remorse destroying its own kin, just look at us organics or at the Geth fighting the Reapers.
The only explanation I could see would be that by doing the synthesis those new beings stop wanting to create synthetics to help them... Which means everybody you loved and cared about died, only to be replaced by something which looks similar to what they were, yet isn't what they were.
I still view it as the viewpoint of a flawed being. It, being the product of a less-than-omniscient being, is incapable of predicting situations for which it was not designed. The Citadel/Catalyst was wrong, and recognizing that fact need not be the end of all advanced civilization. That you did not have the choice of talking down the Citadel/Catalyst may be seen as a fault, but, really, it's been destroying races since time immemorial. What could you possibly say?
Hence, I destroyed it, and any drawback to galactic society must be viewed in comparison to living under the yoke of such a tragically flawed philosophy espoused by this cybernetic caretaker.
I think that's what upsets people about the ending: everyone was expecting Shepard would start up the Crucible, and the Reapers would explode, and Shepard would fly off into the sunset to do something else. I was pretty much certain Shepard was going to die or otherwise be incapacitated at the end, so that there could be no Shepard sequels (ME3 was the finale, it seemed a fitting end, though if I had my way Shepard would have just died at the point of activating the Crucible). The Catalyst showing up and basically saying "What you want doesn't matter, I'm running the show, here are your choices" may seem like a big kick in the guts from a gameplay perspective but it does actually sort of make sense from a story perspective. The Catalyst answers to no-one. Its logic is deeply flawed but it can't see that and apparently can't consider another possibility. Shepard is remarkable, but not on the same level. I think it serves as a reminder that Shepard isn't the god of the universe.
Goddamnit, Soldant. In three threads you're being the voice of reason and it's getting very hard for me to resent you.
That said, it would appear that the citadel/reapers yet remain unknowable, or at least inscrutable, because we're obviously not understanding some core principle of their order v chaos argument: Shut down organic life before they can make synthetic life capable of overcoming them, except, y'know, you're synthetics, and you're overcoming them. What's the point of pruning a galactic garden if you keep cutting off the stems before they flower?
Whatever race made this system clearly was its first victim. (This isn't unprecedented. It's part of the backstory to Alien.)
The main problem for me is Shepard rather than the Catalyst though. It feels totally out of character for the paragon Shepard to meekly accept the Catalyst flawed argument and choose from his options with no problems. It's feels as wrong as it would be if in The Matrix Reloaded, Neo just accepts the Architect's solution and goes to found a new Zion with no argument. Personally I would find the preferable option would be to do nothing, let Liara distribute her memory boxes and hope the next cycle could do better. That would be a big Screw You to the idea that the Catalyst knows best and must be obeyed, the kind of thing that would be right up Shepard's street. That option may even induce the Catalyst to negotiate with you (if he initially rejects your solution) as he might be more inclined to make a deal with you rather than deal with more powerful organics next cycle.
These endings aren't necessarily bad (except for the Normandy, which is just plot hole-tastic), it's just that they're the only endings available, and they're all rather similar. I know it's easy to sneer at people who want a 'Disney' ending, but after 3 games of choices and being told that this is 'your' Shepard, is it so wrong that that's at least an option, considering it's no less plausible than the negative endings? To be honest if there was an ending with the Reapers winning, but you see a tribe of primitives discovering Liara's box, I would find that ending much more hopeful than the ones available. Nor is there any reason Shepard's story has to end with his death rather than a peaceful retirement.
Last edited by Kandon Arc; 11-03-2012 at 09:51 AM.
Actually that's a fair point, it's easy to simply claim the Catalyst's thinking is flawed but I guess in saying that we're assuming the Quarians and the Geth never entertain the idea of going back to war. The series ends before any such conclusion is reached and nothing really points to long-standing peace, so the Catalyst could be entirely correct. It has been up to this point at least after the Prothean reveals info about the Metacon War.That said, it would appear that the citadel/reapers yet remain unknowable, or at least inscrutable, because we're obviously not understanding some core principle of their order v chaos argument
In that way although the Reapers themselves aren't the enigma they once were, the Catalyst is still effectively a mystery. All anybody really knows is that it instituted the cycle. Perhaps they are like the original Geth from the first cycle.
The reapers make no sense though.
There are only two semi-logical conclusions to explain their existence (unless you want to delve into the metaphysical, which I don't)
A) They were created by organics who saw synthetics as being a galactic problem for some reason (which really makes no sense, if they were capable of creating the reapers why didn't they just use them to wipe out synthetics and carry on as an organic civilization).
B) The reapers WERE the synthetics created by an ancient race who, at some point, had a change of heart and decided to protect organic life by destroying advanced civilizations.
Neither one of those really makes much sense.
Any explanation that involves justifications such as "the reapers have been around too long for us to understand their purpose" or "they are too intelligent for us to understand their purpose" are wrong. If either of those were true we certainly would not have been able to beat them.
The crucible kind of disproves either of those theories as well. This omniscient race of super intelligent, mind controlling machines who serve an even greater master never discovered the existence of the crucible through countless galactic cycles of it being constructed? The Illusive Man was indoctrinated and knew about the crucible, why did the reapers not destroy it? Why would an ageless war waging civilization of super intelligent sentient machines fall for such a simple decoy tactic and divert forces to Earth while the fleet docked the crucible with the citadel? Why wouldn't they just turn off their magic transporter beam on Earth that we were trying to access to gain entry into the citadel? Apparently they knew that us accessing the Citadel was bad for them... why would they let any of these things happen? The reapers beat more advanced civilizations in the past, how could they possible lose to ours? We beat them with simple trickery? come on.......................
They do; they're the tool of the Catalyst. The Catalyst's origins are unknown and thus the enigma of the Reapers is really the enigma of the Catalyst. We don't know anything about it. The Catalyst appears to be synthetic thus it might be the original synthetic race created by the first galactic civilisation. It might be something else entirely. Both of your conclusions are flawed, namely because reapers are synthetics created by the Catalyst by harvesting advanced civilisations, effectively preserving them.
1) The Reapers are the answer to the problem of organic life creating synthetics and the inevitable conflict between them. The point of the Reapers is to harvest organic advanced civilisations before synthetic dominance, thus preventing synthetic dominance and allowing new species to flourish in their wake. The Reapers are effectively constructed from organic civilisations. They're created by each other (or directed by the Catalyst). The real question is: who created the Catalyst?
2) The first Reaper probably contains the genetic material of the first race. The Catalyst could be their creation. But because the lore doesn't go anywhere near that, we don't know for certain, thus the origins of the Reapers and the Catalyst is unknown, as intended.
The Illusive Man is a more interesting plot point... I don't know if he actually knows where the Crucible is or not. He definitely is aware of what it is and what it does, and thus the Reapers know that too.
The Reapers are not infallible, but they have us beat in coordination, technology, numbers, resources, and most of all EXPERIENCE. They have waged wars against much larger and more advanced civilizations countless times. Why do we beat them? We shouldn't. The whole crucible thing is a joke. They would never allow such a thing to happen, it's not realistic.
The only explanation is that they wanted it to happen, which hints at a greater story than we are being told. Perhaps the true goal of the reapers is to be defeated? A true exercise in survival of the fittest? I suppose that is possible, but it still doesn't explain how this whole cycle came to be.
One reaper could have destroyed it before it docked with the citadel. Yeah, the game gives you a message that it was destroyed if you take to long, but I wouldn't read too much into that. Why would they wait until after it docked to attack it?The Illusive Man is a more interesting plot point... I don't know if he actually knows where the Crucible is or not. He definitely is aware of what it is and what it does, and thus the Reapers know that too.
Last edited by Hypernetic; 11-03-2012 at 11:16 AM.
Eh. We don't know the answer to most of those mysteries because anyone who could explain them is long since dead and they didn't keep historical records in those times (or the records were lost).
In ME3 we literally meet the one being capable of explaining everything to us (or at least explaining quite a bit more than we know) and all he gives us is the same answer every other reaper we spoke to did.
It's just lame.
My criticism isn't with what they don't tell us, it's with what they do.
I agree with a lot of what's been said here, that there are some gaping holes in the Catalyst's logic. The game goes out of its way to present EDI as benevolent representative of AI. It's like the game is arguing against itself with the ending.
My bigger problem with the ending (they're all the same really) is that nothing you've done matters. Whether or not your fleet is big enough doesn't matter because you get onto the Citadel anyway, it's only made to matter in some completely arbitrary way that makes the Crucible kill Earth if your fleet isn't big enough. What you've done also doesn't matter in the sense that everything is fucked anyway. There's peace between the Geth and Quarians? Who cares, the entire world is fucked.
They pulled the plug on their entire fiction.
One of the best moments in the game for me was when I had to kill Mordin to get the Salarian support (which it turns out I didn't need, and could've gotten in a different way), but the ending makes that pointless as well. Kill your favourite character to save the galaxy, that's a cool moment. Kill your favourite character to get an ending that just wastes everything anyway, that makes it seem pointless. I have no desire to play any of the ME games again, because everything you do is all for nothing.
Why build this cool universe, populate it with likeable characters and then just push the reset button?