I'm aware there's a massive thread on Mass Effect 3's ending but I'm hoping to ask a different question that what was good/terrible about it. I apologise if this sort of ground has already been covered but aforementioned massive thread is indeed massive and I fear reading it all may have a horrible effect on me!
So rather than bash/defend the ending I'd like to ask the question; what would you, dear RPS reader, have done differently?
Having already said that I didn't want to go into what worked and what didn't I'm going to do so myself, if only to frame how I'd do it differently. I shall try to be brief!
Bleakness - I thought ME2 suffered from a lack of it and was glad Bioware had the balls to be bleak this time. It's fighting against insurmountable odds, if destroying the Mass Relays causes a massive loss of life but leads to survival then, well, that's the way it would have to be.
Self sacrifice - It could be seen a mile off but it's fitting.
Desperate last throw of the dice feel - nailed it I reckon.
War Assets - Tied to an aribtrary number rather than having some sort of effect related to what assets you had/didn't seemed to render the whole thing a bit moot in my book. A shame after how well ME2 handled that sort of thing, I wasn't expecting control of troop placements or anything (that's a job for the Admirals) but I wanted to see something tangible.
Ancient race zooms in at the last 5 minutes to offer choice - just no. Always such a disappointing way to end a sci-fi saga. The reapers were fine as a mysterious threat without having to find out what their purpose was.
Ending that makes no sense considering character's actions in game - The control ending ranks up their with Deus Ex: Invisible War's templar endings. It just makes no sense joining what you have unequivocally shown no sympathy for throughout the entire game.
How I Would Have Done It
So on to the meat of it. What would I have done? Well, the problem of war assets is an easy one to solve. Just needs some more cutscenes showing parts of the battle going well/badly depending on your assets. If you go into the final battle with very little fleet support there could be a super bleak ending of the crucible getting destroyed en route. Not enough assets working on the cruible could result in it not working effectively come the final decision. Plus I'd have liked to have seen/read reports of the battle for the Citadel. Have evacuation from the citadel be effective/disastorous depending on the strength of the Citadel defense force (it seemed like a completely wasted effort doing all the side missions related to that!).
So that just leaves tidying up the narrative. Obviously you need someone to explain the choices at the end instead of "the catalyst" and who better than arch-nemisis The Illusive Man. It's implied throughout the game he knows something more about the reapers than he lets on to you so he seems the perfect foil (especially given his indoctrinated state) to serve up a destroy/control choice. This obviously ditches the synthesis ending, no great loss in my mind as the theme of synthetic vs organic was explored well enough in the Quarian/Geth part of the game. Obviously to make this an actual choice you'd have to give Shepard the potential to be more sympathetic towards it througout the game (suggest that controlling the reapers may not be such a bad idea but the Illusive Man isn't the one to do it/has the wrong methods) so that it actually makes sense as a choice (to me it was the ending I wanted to choose but couldn't as it just didn't make sense as I'd been shoehorned into arguing against it throughout the entire game). Then just alter the Illusive man showdown to have him explain that the Crucible can either be used to control/destroy the Reapers and that he was the one to control them, you talking him down/killing him (whatever suits your Shep) due to his indoctrination and then making the choice yourself.
From then on I'd have the endings follow very similar paths, with the destroy ending resulting in Shepard's self sacrifice (the Crucible would fall apart after firing) and the control ending resulting on Shepard having to remain locked into the Crucible, lest the reapers start doing their own thing. To make it a tough choice I'd have the illusive man try and sell the control ending by suggesting how Shepard could use the reapers to prevent the races from getting out of line and keep the peace etc. So it would essentially become a choice between heroic self sacrifice, leaving the galaxy to it's fate and own free will or staying alive and having the chance to influence things for the better; which I think is perhaps a more interesting thing to consider than what was offered up by the actual endings plus perhaps helps to offset the bleakness of the destruction of the mass relays a bit more (much as I liked the bleakness I thought the unsatisfactory consequences of a lot of the endings just compounded it a bit too much).
Then I'd cut to scenes of whichever friends survived (which would be closely tied to success with war assets) contemplating victory.
It's not perfect and wouldn't please everyone, such is the way of endings, but for me it would deal with a lot of the problems with the endings, while making only minimal changes to the rest of the game, which was pretty damn excellent (my favourite bit being walking in on Garrus and Tali engaged in some romantic action before the final mission!).
So if you could make your own ending to Mass Effect 3 what would it be? Would you only make minor changes, or would you ditch the whole thing in favour of singalong number with dancing leprechauns? Let your thoughts be known.