Many of you might not want to be bothered with any more of this Mass Effect stuff but I really think there's been too much of a focus on the ending and that looking at those minutes of gamplay preceding it might offer a new perspective. Mass Effect 2ís last mission clearly set my expectations for Mass Effect 3 and when you compare the rush through London with the attack on the collector base several of the formers shortcomings become obvious.
The attack on the collector base in Mass Effect 2 was a proper climax. Before jumping through the Omega 4 relay I had spent hours recruiting for my team, getting to know them, earning their trust and gaining their loyalty. Not to mention the boredom that was farming resources to upgrade the Normandy. When the Normandy left the relay I was glad I had purchased those upgrades and when I saw my team fighting, struggling and holding the line in the collector base I was thankful for having them at my side, as friends and loyal allies. It felt like we made a team effort to stop the collectors. It created a bond between them and me and it made every casualty meaningful. They had joined me in this mission because they trusted me and they gave their life so I could stop the reapers.
London was a rock desert. Chest high grey rubble as far as the eye could see and no one there besides my squad of three and the occasional reaper bestiary. There were some Alliance Troops reporting about their withdrawal and some vehicles they left behind but that was just the setup for my next objective. All of this was in stark contrast to what I had expected after spending the last 20 hours uniting the galaxy, reconciling old enemies and finding new allies to retake earth. I had expected to wade through a battlefield on which humans, turians, krogan, salarians, asari and geht joined forces to give me that one shot we got at defeating the reapers.
But there were no turian snipers in the ruins, providing covering fire to me and the human resistance with Garrus calling the shots, no wall of hulking krogan bodies holding of a flanking reaper force with Wrex telling them to shrug it off and fight, no asari protecting the crucial rockets against reaper artillery with their barriers and no platoon of geth primes screening me when I ran for the beam. I had invested so much time and made so many hard decisions to bring the galaxies most disciplined shots, most hardened fighters, most powerful biotics and a full platoon heavily damage resistant and literally fearless colossi to earth but as soon as I marched out I felt like I was fighting the reapers on my own.
When I started that mission I didnít expect a happy end. I knew there could be no happy end against the reapers, no second ďsuicideĒ mission without any casualties. Before I set out for the beam I bid farewell to everybody as I expected to see most of their faces for the last time or even all of them. And it would have been alright. We would have done whatever it took to stop the reapers even if it meant most of us would not get a chance to enjoy that victory. It would have been alright to see the krogan eventually falter; weakened by the loss of the Aralakh company I had sacrificed to rescue the rachni queen. But all I ever got to see was the death of some Alliance soldiers who somehow teleported in to join me in the run for the beam and the dead bodies of my two squadmates. Thatís it. Those are the only casualties youíll actually see. The only ones youíll feel. And thatís the problem: The mission does not evoke any strong emotions as a climax should.
Bioware could have gotten away with the underwhelming endings if they had given their fans an emotional and suspenseful last mission but for some reason theyíve chosen to invest much less effort into what could have become the series defining moment.