Mass Effect 3: The End Of An Epic

I'm Commander Shepard and this is my least favourite ending on the Citadel
Mass Effect 3 closes off Bioware’s epic sci-fi series with a bang, and one of the most controversial endings of the last few years. Many fans have been clamouring for an update that outright changes it, and not simply because the war with the Reapers didn’t end quite as they wanted. Bioware maintains that it just wanted to get people talking.

So let’s talk a little about That Ending, shall we?


Buy the new Optimism DLC! In which we simply assume that a magic ghost will show up and solve all our problems, rendering the galaxy's combined fleets utterly irrelevant!

The problem with Mass Effect 3’s ending isn’t that it’s bleak. Far from it. Elements like Shepard’s self-sacrifice, the (very predictable) destruction of the Mass Relay network, and the cost of retaking Earth are all very in keeping with both the story Bioware’s been telling all along and the final part of this kind of arc. If not for literally the last five minutes, I suspect it would have gone down as a simply great ending to an absolutely wonderful, multi-year adventure.

Instead, as the credits rolled, all I could think of was Lincoln’s nose.

This is a very likely apocryphal story, but a good one, so never mind. It goes that Abraham “Yes, That One” Lincoln, during his lawyer days, was defending a man accused of biting off another man’s nose. Through careful interrogation, it becomes clear that the main witness never actually saw this happen, leading to Lincoln triumphantly demanding of the discredited, humiliated fool “So how do you know my client bit this man’s nose off?”

“Because I saw him spit it out afterwards,” replied the witness.

The moral of the story? Quit while you’re ahead.

In Bioware’s case, things are admittedly slightly different – it’s not really an extra question that screws things up, but an unnecessary answer. Everything that happens between dealing with the Illusive Man and the Mass Effect relays going boom should have been cut. The series was absolutely fine when it was the Lovecraftian menace of the Reapers, and lord only knows why Bioware suddenly decided that a big picture of multiple cycles of civilisation combining their resources to take out a threat to all life suddenly wasn’t big enough to roll credits on. No matter how good the new idea, or how well written, there was simply no need to add a new layer, with Casper the Genocidal Ghost showing up to take credit for the series in the last few seconds.

I wish I'd asked how much this is going to hurt. But that wouldn't have been very heroic, I guess...

There’s some writing of debatable quality in those closing moments, but that’s usually forgiveable. What has incited revolt is how much Bioware forces it into the story and happily breaks things that were going just fine. To namecheck the biggies…

War Readiness – This makes absolutely no sense in the context of the final battle. It should relate to getting the Crucible to the Citadel, defending it from the Reapers, and giving Shepard time to deal with the threat. Instead, its effect on the endings is completely arbitrary, with no causal link between Shepard’s war performance and the final results. It’s especially strange considering how well the Suicide Mission handled the effects of decisions, from how good each of your crew really was in their jobs to how much you’d upgraded the Normandy. Shouldn’t we have seen things like the ultimate bad ending being the Crucible being unceremoniously blown up on the way to Earth and taking half the solar system with it? It’d be more fitting.

Organics vs. Synthetics – Suddenly promoted from a running theme to the focus of the story, despite both the Geth and EDI (our primary AI contacts during the series) fighting for the squishy side, and it being clear that this isn’t a particular problem when compared to the likes of the very, very organic Krogan and Rachni running amok through the galaxy. If this is what Bioware wanted the whole series to hinge on, they left it at least a game and a half too late to establish.

Shepard’s Choice – Thematically, the Destroy/Control choices are absolutely fine – though Merge is damn stupid, transhumanist nonsense that doesn’t sit well with the series’ technology or your own experiences with the galaxy’s synthetic lifeforms, relies on taking the word of a genocidal echo that the universe is doomed, and makes you inflict by fiat what the villains have been doing by force. The fact that this is treated as a ‘good’ option absolutely baffles me.

Of the others, Destroy works more or less as is. The Crucible is a weapon, so fine. This Control option on the other hand is ridiculous when the Illusive Man has not only spent the whole game being shouted at for even considering the idea, but was available in the very last room to open that pathway. Simply agreeing with him and taking his power by force would have worked thematically and dramatically, and without falling prey to ME3’s biggest problem…

Magic Ghost Children Are Silly – Yes. Yes they are.

There are other issues too, like just where the hell the Normandy was flying off to in the ending, the idiocy of the choice being down to three buttons that shouldn’t even exist on the Crucible, and how resigned Shepard comes across to it all, but they’re minor. Mass Effect 3’s crimes are betraying its own themes for the sake of one more surprise; one more plot point.

And its punishment? To have that one plot point from the last five minutes of the game overshadow the twenty-plus hours that came before, not to mention leave the series’ most polarising question one of whether the Catalyst bit is merely stupid, or the dumbest thing to happen in science-fiction since Obi-Wan said “younglings”. Your mileage may vary.

Oh, goddamnit. Now I have to replay this whole mission again...

But what of those other twenty-plus hours… not to mention everything else that happens on Earth and the Citadel before Casper shows up? There, I think Bioware is getting oddly short shrift. Let’s take the arguments from the fan campaign and see how they hold up.

In turn, those claims are that Mass Effect 3 (to be more exact, its endings)…

Does not provide the wide range of possible outcomes that we have come to expect from a Mass Effect game

For the actual endings, this is largely true. The endings consist of three different coloured explosions, with the main variance being a couple of seconds of extra animation.

However, it’s important to remember that while the Reapers are the focus of Mass Effect 3, and what drives the story, their main purpose in the narrative is to shake things up and enable smaller scale stories to be told. Each of Mass Effect 3’s Priority missions focuses intensely on a core part of the story, with at least two – the war between the Geth and the Quarians and dealing with the Genophage – being of critical importance to the galaxy going forwards.

It’s true that Mass Effect 3 makes a rod for its back by turning the results of these into mere numbers on the War Assets list, and ultimately, they don’t make much difference to how the game plays out. That’s unfortunate, and something that Bioware could have done a better job on. However, the decisions still carry weight, especially when they bring in characters we’re familiar with and want to do right by. Each individual section also offers a wide range of results, both from your direct choices, and how you approached the game up to that point. Miranda for instance doesn’t have to be shot by her father. Wrex and Wreav respond differently if you only pretend to cure the Genophage. The Rachni Queen is trustworthy, while her replacement if you killed her in the first game ultimately stabs you in the back. There are lots and lots of minor breakpoints to make it feel like the universe is reacting and moulding itself around you.

During the final push, it’s surprising that Bioware didn’t model things a little more closely on Mass Effect 2’s Suicide Mission to make it feel like you were using your War Assets instead of simply hitting the enemy with a number – calling in Krogan ground troops for instance. A few shots of fleets preparing to go into action wasn’t good enough. Ignoring that lapse though, Mass Effect 3 offers more than enough variation for any story-driven RPG to be proud of, and nothing has come close to making years old decisions still feel relevant in the finale.

Does not provide a sense of closure with regard to the universe and characters we have become attached to.

Again, I disagree. Almost all the characters we’ve become attached to reach the end of their stories by the finale of Mass Effect 3, from Tali finally bringing the Quarians home to Miranda settling things with her father. Even the characters from the novels show up.

There’s no epilogue that says exactly what happens to everyone after Shepard leaves them to their own devices, but nor are stories simply dropped. From the e-mails you receive to small details like Wreav’s speech to his men on Earth, you can get a good feel for what’s likely to happen once the Reaper threat is taken care of. The genophage. Any Geth/Quarian alliance. Whether anyone will ever give a shit about James Vega (his desolate Wikia page suggests no). These are all far more fun to ponder and discuss than simply be told outright.

As for all this being ruined by the destruction of the Mass Relay network… well, it’s science fiction. There’s always a new way to fly, up to and doing it the old fashioned way and simply having it take much, much longer. The universe is still out there, just less convenient.

You reap what you sow. You sowed... death!

Does not provide a sense of succeeding against impossible odds

Were we fighting the same Reapers? Building the same weapon designed over generation after generation of extinctions? The Crucible was always a bit of a get-out-of-jail-free card, but the descent from shiny, shiny Vancouver to the ruins of London, the collapse of entire empires and the fact that Shepard struggled to kill two Reapers made them a serious threat. They are admittedly dialled down from Sovereign in the first game, and lose a lot of their mad Lovecraft powers in favour of just shooting things with lasers, but the game does a splendid job of making it clear that the galaxy is not beating them without a Crucible shaped miracle.

Had Shepard pulled a trigger after the encounter with the Illusive Man, sacrificing the galaxy’s travel network and potentially Earth, I don’t think there’d have been much argument that the Reapers were a phenomenally awesome threat, on the level of Freespace 2’s Shivans (even if they did end up largely being Darkspawn of the Future). Having them humiliatingly demoted to some ghost kid’s lackeys though, and then destroyed or leashed via a magic glowing button… well, after that, it’s hard to think back to a time when they felt threatening.

(See also the Borg, post Star Trek: Voyager. No villain deserves that.)

Up to that point, the only reason to think of the Reapers as anything other than an unstoppable threat is that this is a game, and you’re Commander Shepard. And even Shepard spends much of the game on the point of cracking under the pressure. Their power is not a problem.

Does not provide an explanation of events up to the ending which maintains consistency with the overall story.

Yet again, this only really affects the Catalyst nonsense – which, yes, is foreshadowed earlier in the game, but not to the point that it matters – and to some extent why the Reapers are focusing on London. Remove that stupid plot point and everything else becomes much stronger.

The kind of end Bioware seems more comfortable with

Should the problems be fixed though? Honestly… no. Even if doing so would improve the game, this is the ending that Bioware chose, and storytellers should always have the right to choose how their stories end. Sometimes, bad things need to happen. Sometimes, the price for saving the world should be a hard one to swallow. No story is going to please everyone, and trying to do so is to create a world where surprises can’t happen and all drama is doomed.

Forcing Bioware into it would be a mistake. Given the choice, I’d love to go back and remove the whole Catalyst scene from Mass Effect 3 with an arc welder. That said, many people think that Romeo and Juliet should have had a happy ending, and I’m willing to sacrifice my creative veto over other peoples’ projects to keep sillyheads like that from having theirs.

Even if Bioware decided it wanted to change it though, I’d be reluctant to see it happen. That’s a tougher argument to justify, even to myself. Games are constantly rebalanced post-release. There’s nothing controversial about a new quest or area or feature being added to something like The Witcher 2 – it’s a good thing. Indeed, I felt that game needed an extra chapter to finish the story, and would happily see one patched in to cover a little bit more ground.

Rewriting a story is trickier though, not least because while Bioware can easily patch its ending, it can’t patch my memory. No matter how good it might be, the time to atone for a bad ending is when writing the next game, be it the next Mass Effect, Dragon Age 3, or something new.

Going to need a few million more of these, I think...

The only time I can see a real exception to this rule is when an ending is fundamentally broken – Fallout 3 being the obvious example. In case you don’t know, this tried to end on a tragic note by having you sacrifice yourself in a radiation tank, despite a) you almost certainly having enough radiation meds by this point to take holidays in the damn thing, and b) potentially having a companions who actively thrives on lethal radiation suddenly refuse to press a button on your behalf. The subsequent Broken Steel DLC didn’t exactly flash up a “We’re Sorry, We’re Morons” letter from the designers, but it did quietly retcon that into something more sane.

Unfortunately… it did so at a price, and while the industry has been uncharacteristically restrained when it comes to paying to unlock games’ true endings, it’s not the only such example. The most recent reboot of Prince of Persia for instance ended with the Prince actively undoing all of the player’s hard work, and it was only if you shelled out for the Epilogue DLC that you got to find out what the hell he was thinking when doing so. It wasn’t particularly controversial, but only because nobody was that excited by the game in the first place.

Something as big as Mass Effect 3 doing it… that’d be a bad precedent. Day One DLC and potentially forced multiplayer be damned if big publishers realise they can charge us an extra £5 to not have our hard-fought victories magically turn to shit before our tired eyes.

Mass Effect 3's most unbelievable moment - a working London phone box!

For now, Bioware has no choice but to fly the flag for the ending. The game’s only just out, and they’re not about to admit that they screwed up in the first couple of weeks on sale. After a while though, I suspect we’ll see the kind of acknowledgement of problems that we eventually got after Dragon Age 2 fell flat and Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s bosses proved less than an acquired taste. Expect the words “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” And I’m sure it did.

As flawed as it is though, we shouldn’t let the ending… a tiny slice of the ending at that… become something more than it was. I clocked up well over 20 hours with Mass Effect 3, skipping meals and staying up late, and even replaying one whole mission because I was damned if I was going to let Tali down after all this time. It’s one of my favourite games for a very long time, and while I have complaints and I have quibbles, I have exactly no regrets about playing it.

And I absolutely can’t wait to see what Bioware does next.

[RPS note: this is specifically Richard’s take on the ending, the rest of the team have some different ideas which we’ll discuss later in the week.]

PLEASE *SPOILER WARNING* your comments due to them appearing in the sidebar.


  1. DK says:

    “And I absolutely can’t wait to see what Bioware does next.”
    They’ll keep fucking up and dumbing down, as they have since Jade Empire and games media will keep blowing them while it happens.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      And people will keep buying them. Crazy. It’s as if they’re fun or something.

      • Kaira- says:

        Don’t you understand, it’s not the right kind of fun! The enlightened kind of fun only the best and smartest of people can understand.

        • TheSaddestSort says:

          But the end of the game was like a culmination of all your choices! You got to choose from three different flavors: lime, blueberry, and strawberry.

          Oh who am I kidding, that’s fewer than the choices you get at an ice cream parlour.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            Strawberry, chocolate AND vanilla? Wow.


          • TheSaddestSort says:

            No strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla ice cream triumvirate across the pond? That’s … just so bleak *sniff*. I demand game altering DLC to fix this glaring oversight!

          • Metonymy says:

            The next great epic is going to have 3 totally new choices: bananapple, strawfruit, and pinego. Now that is ‘epic.’ It’s just so epic. Why can’t everything be so epic.

          • margareet says:

            I think she is more beautiful.
            link to

        • dariusblack says:

          Yeah, let’s undermine everything that Bioware used to be known for by accusing unhappy players of elitism. Jackass. Maybe you can be happy with the bare minimum of effort and thought in their games, but most of us know they can do better. Dragon Age 2 was phoned in, and every new game of theirs shows signs of cutting corners. Call me a snob, whatever, but I’m not letting Bioware get away with dumbing down their games, no matter how much money EA throws at them. They’re better than this and they know it.

          • Grygus says:

            Mass Effect 2 is flawed but great. Mass Effect 3 is 30 hours of awesome capped with five minutes of what the hell; in fact, I’d say that despite the final area, it’s the best game in the series. Declaring broad conclusions about the dropping quality of BioWare based on that is disingenuous at best. I wonder whether you have played these games yourself.

          • DoctorBrain says:

            *Minor ME3 Spoilers, I guess*
            Yeah, I have to agree with you. ME3 was a lot of cut corners and dumbed-down content: reduced dialogue options in almost every conversation; diminished interaction with NPCs (conversations were removed in favor of “stand next to this person and press Use once or twice”); fetch quest filler; all the endings being the same; Tali’s face.

            The last five minutes of the game were indeed terrible, but they were just an awful end to a game which, for the most part, failed to live up to its potential.

      • Nevard says:

        I don’t really give a damn about the ending, when I spent the rest of the game as a Vanguard with a 2 second recharge on my charge button that instantly restored my shields to full and allowed me to unleash my entire shield as damage to anyone next to the poor sap I’d just teleported next to (by which time I could instantly charge at someone else to fully restore them) it’s hard to be upset.

        • Bhazor says:

          Broken combat as a plus point? Makes sense.

          • Nevard says:

            Broken? Maybe
            Fun? Definitely

            Anyway I’m exagerrating slightly, I still died a fair few times on the last couple of missions although a lot of that was due to those damned banshees

        • Aemony says:

          Correct combo: Biotic Charge -> Nova -> Nova -> Biotic Charge -> rinse repeat.

          Never being stopped by a CD (BC refreshes when you’ve unleashed the both Novas), you’re practically always immortal and you can kill multiple enemies with each combo. Even Insanity difficulty is a walk in the park with this baby, which somewhat makes it all rather boring.

          Practically the only things able to kill you is the Banshees, or similar mini-bosses. This is due to them having an unavoidable instant death ability if they caught you without shields too close to them. To counter this: Biotic Charge -> Nova -> Dodge backwards -> Nova forward -> Dodge backwards (not really needed but used to ensure safety) -> Biotic Charge -> rinse repeat.

          Bah, this game is easy >_<

          • Schelome says:

            I consciously avoided doing that for most of the game, but even if you do I find you still die more than otherwise. You still complete the game faster, and can skip some pretty hard points, but you die more.

      • lijenstina says:

        @Richard Cobbett That’s true. Stil, Argumentum ad populum will outsell it 1000 000 to 1.

      • MichaelPalin says:

        Oh!, for Christ shake don’t give us that. So, if Bioware changes all their franchises to Angry Bird clones you’ll be super happy, because they would be very fun! Something being fun and plenty of people buying it doesn’t shield it from criticism.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          (scrolls up past roughly 2,700 words of criticism, shrugs)

        • Nevard says:

          If they were all clones of the same game they wouldn’t be fun at all, that’s a pretty flawed argument there

          • MichaelPalin says:

            You are answering to an irrelevant and obviously exaggerated part of the argument.

            Something being fun and plenty of people buying it doesn’t shield it from criticism.

            That’s the actual core of the argument, not the Angry Bird comparison.

          • Nevard says:

            If you don’t want someone to comment on something and freely admit that it adds nothing to your point, maybe you just shouldn’t say it at all

            Without the angry birds comparison your point quickly falls down, if Bioware focused on making all of their games as fun to play as I found Mass Effect 3 then I would have few complaints

          • Matt says:

            “Without the angry birds comparison your point quickly falls down”
            Not really. The hypothetical example is pretty unimportant. You can come up with something else and it’s only illustration of an argument that stands by itself to be addressed.
            You can also see that many games with the same complexity are quite successful in their own right. It doesn’t change that they have not much speaking for them beyond their mindless fun.

            If you have a story, and it doesn’t not just bother to make sense, but practically assaults any chance of making sense, what you have is basically an unplayable story and a company that ruins your possibility to enjoy their game fully. “Fun” of limited areas as long as you don’t think doesn’t become very important then. It’s also not a very strong argument in favour of something that it remains fun while being stupid. It’s really the lowest common denominator, and probably not so common at that.

      • Grover says:

        I just don’t think Mr. Cobbett invested himself in this game the way the “hard core” fans do. Using a default starting point? Claiming he saw enough of the characters and species to gain closure? Accepting this abortion of an ending (with some caveats, but still, accepting)? Someone who goes through so many titles in a blur as Mr. Cobbett (and other writers) must, is forever divorced from the “fandom” – and many of those writers actively oppose and belittle it.

        There’s a reason almost 90% of respondents to one Bioware forums poll (a forum notorious for quelling any dissent, I might add, and spawning the term “Biodrone” for the mindless boot licking forum goers that dwell therein) want a totally re-done ending.

        I think Mr. Cobbett has spent more time being a gaming journalist/developer friend than being a gaming fan/developer cynic over these past few years, and that “indoctrination” has colored his views to more often than not err on the side of the developers, even to the absurd lengths of dismissing the outcry over ME3’s ending in favor of Bioware’s supposed creative license to royally screw the pooch.

        The story of Mass Effect was always one of choices, and seeing those choices come to fruition. It was never supposed to end this way, in the whimper of a canned, color-coded cinematic full of logical inconsistencies. If Bioware released early and plans to make this right with a free DLC (probably going off of the fan theory that the Spacebrat stuff was all an indoctrination attempt by Harbinger – who was never killed on screen) then the fans can be very forgiving.

        Here’s to hoping you won’t be using a soapbox afforded to you by the fans to talk down to a large portion of them in the future.

        (Que die-hard RPS readers white knighting Richard in this reply – I’ve read this publication for years just like you and so what if I want to make a contrary reply once in a blue moon? Leave me to it, the staff can handle themselves.)

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          “Here’s to hoping you won’t be using a soapbox afforded to you by the fans to talk down to a large portion of them in the future.”

          If you consider ‘disagreeing’ to be ‘talking down’, it’s pointless to talk to you at all.

          • Grover says:

            You’re dismissive, and don’t take these ending concerns seriously. That’s why I consider you to be “talking down” to the players who disliked this ending, not because you disagree.

            EDIT: Not to mention we have had charity drives to bring attention to the need for a new ending (raised 24,000 USD) AND Bioware employees are hinting that it’s not over yet and that the Indoctrination Theory is “interesting and awesome” WINK. link to

            I think this side of “ME3 Ending sucks” is doing very well getting the point across politely.

        • mr.lutze says:

          You’re right and I think the part of the problem is the fact that that games are threated like movies and books despite being completely different. I could (partially) agree with Mr. Cobbett if Mass Effect was a book and I was just passive participate, observer. But it’s not. It’s interactive medium where I’m the one in charge, I’m the one making decisions. And vague ending and lack of closure are simply unacceptable in this situation.

    • MarcusCardiff says:

      While telling us we have no right to an opinion.

    • Bhazor says:

      Bioware games are the perfect EA game. Everything about them is completely OK.
      OK writing, OK gameplay, OK art design.

      If they had decent mainstream competition it would be easier to show the difference betweem OK and great. They’re absolutely, fine. But they could be much much much better.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      I couldn’t care less if there were more AAA developers stepping in to fill the gap left by Bioware’s abandonment of party-based Western hardcore RPGs. Who’ve we got left, Obsidian?

      I really thought DA:Origins made a shitload of money. You’d think it would have convinced someone (if not Bioware themselves) that “hey, there’s still money in this!”

    • Pribnik says:


      I for one love the ending.

      Trust me, worth reading :)

      Guys. You do realize this is not the actual ending right? The game doesn’t end there. I mean, what happens after Shepard gets struck down by the Harbinger is not real. All you can see is an attempt by the reapers (Harbinger) to indoctrinate Shepard. I know, I found it far fetched too, but it’s true. Let me present to you a few proofs of this point. There’s far more out there but I’ll limit myself to the most important ones… First off after Shepard gets up you hear people saying “no one made it”, “There’s no one at the beam” etc even though Shepard is still there. If you look closely you can see some trees in otherwise destroyed landscape (same trees that appear in your dreams). Even though Anderson says he followed you into the Citadel he’s ahead of you. He then says that the walls are moving, rearranging (you might recall some of the indoctrinated people see exactly the same things in the recordings on a derelict reaper in ME 2). There are some parts of the Shadow Broker ship by the stairs with writings “1M1” on one and a mirrored image “1M1” on the other. What would they do in an unexplored section of the Citadel. More to the point what would “human” letters do on a station built by the Reapers? When you go up, outside on the “magical” elevator, notice that you are in outer space, with no breathing apparatus of any sort. Think about it. If you take for example Garrus and Tali with you on the last mission, they are there, magically, on Normandy. All of that happens in Shepard’s mind. It’s what he would want for his crew.

      As for the three choices? Two of them mean you are giving up to the indoctrination and the other one is setting yourself free. The control and merge choices are the former. It’s what the Reapers want you to choose. It’s even more accentuated by the way they are colour coded. Green and Blue colours suggest to the player that these are the paragon choices whereas the last one is red (renegade).
      If you choose to destroy the reapers (red choice) and have more than 5k army readiness you get to see a short cinematic of Shepard beneath some rubble in what looks like London. Hence he never left Earth.

      I admit, It’s not right for BioWare to just leave it like that. Apparently they did this because the script has leaked some time before release and they had to quickly come up with a solution. I hear rumors all over the internet that there will be a DLC released which will finish the story and it is meant to be free (let’s hope it is, otherwise it would be extremely wrong of them to try and sell the ending).

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        Siri, define “fanwank” :-)

        • Pribnik says:

          I’m sorry. Did I say something that is not legit? Can you in any way shape or form discredit what I just wrote? If you can I’d be happy to hear it. Trust me, I’d love to be proved wrong, but this IS the only explanation I can come up with.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            The simpler answer is “Bioware wrote a silly ending with some plotholes in it.” ME3 isn’t the kind of series that’s set up to end on a mindscrew like that, and if it did, it’d be far more open about it. I’ll happily apologise if the DLC reveals it all part of some amazing masterplan, but right now the whole indoctrination theory is reaching so far, it could pluck the moon out of the sky.

          • Pribnik says:

            Okay. I still fail to see your logic. I refuse to accept the explanation in which BioWare would simply turn around and blag the ending like this. They have a team of (in my opinion) very good writers. I presented you with, what I believe to be, an actual explanation to what happened not a theory. I’m quite surprised only a few people seem to see it as such. There is an interesting thread on BioWare forums that you might want to consider having a look at. Specifically this post.

            link to

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            I’ve read it. I don’t buy it. Bioware is a good company and I like their work, but I don’t see any compelling evidence of indoctrination at work in the ending so far, and they’re far from infallible – the atrocious endings of Dragon Age 2 where you had to fight the bosses on your own side for instance. More importantly, Shepard sacrificing herself for the sake of the galaxy simply makes more dramatic sense than a last minute mindscrew like that. Obviously, anything’s possible, but it doesn’t seem likely.

            Had this been the end of Mass Effect 2 on the other hand…

          • Pribnik says:

            I tend to agree with you on the point you made concerning Dragon Age 2. However, how else would you explain the fact that Shepard was lying on earth, buried in rubble in his N7 armor.

            The fact of the matter is that we can discuss this endlessly, which will lead us nowhere. The only solution seems to be arming ourselves in patience and seeing what is it that BioWare has in store for us.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            How do you explain the lack of Reapers?

            It’s possible. Anything is. But it doesn’t seem likely with the evidence to hand, and Bioware had better have something really good up their sleeves if they plan to make it fly.

          • Pribnik says:

            Do you mean the lack of reapers in that 10 or so second cinematic at the end? You can’t actually see much from that angle. All you can see is a vague outline of a building and rubble. It’s not enough to say there are no reapers there.

            By the way BioWare themselves are obviously hinting at something on their Twitter account. Have a look

            link to

            You have to admit. They certainly did get people talking about their game. They say all publicity is good publicity right? :D

          • Bhazor says:

            It doesn’t change the fact that its a bad ending.
            The choice becomes
            1) Ass pull
            2) ALL A DREEAAAAMMM!!!

            Oh yes whatever could they be hinting at on twitter.

            link to

          • Christian O. says:


            Half of that “evidence list” consists of weak conjectures, fan-theories and circular logic, not actual proof for an argument. They’re suppose to be premises for the conclusion, but the conclusion is the premise for the premises. /Xzibit

            It’s not indoctrination, because indoctrination takes time; the shock-trooper method the collectors used requires a tank and doesn’t offer anyone a choice – it’s a blunt force approach, whereas “real indoctrination” requires you to be swayed by voices in your head that become more and more domineering. Because you can’t overcome the overt indoctrination, the Destroy ending doesn’t make any sense.

            The catalyst looks like the kid, because like in the Geth Consensus, Shepard’s mind can’t comprehend it, so it’s reformatted into something he/she can make sense of.

            The VI also doesn’t detect you being indoctrinated during any point in the game.

            From purely a business standpoint, it’s stupid to give your players’ three options, if only one of them is “the right one” and the other two are blatant lies.

            Lastly, the fan-theory is super-problematic, because there’s no difference for the player, between the effects of indoctrination on Shepard, and the game end in a thematically appropriate manner.

          • Pribnik says:

            Sorry Christian O. I didn’t see your comment before.

            This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. The argument that the indoctrination in ME3 didn’t take a long time doesn’t necessarily have to be true if we consider the child to be one of the symptoms. However, what you said about the prothean VI is very much true. This changes things. But only in a way that now, I don’t know anything. I knew there was someone who could bring forward a genuine point here : ). I guess all that remains is to wait and see what BioWare has in store for us. If anything.

          • FriendlyFire says:


            Thing is, the indoctrination hypothesis (I’m not willing to call it a theory) is pure conjecture, thus anything can be said. The VI could be flawed and not detect this ZOMGawesome indoctrination method, Harbinger could be so much better than all the other Reapers and have an indoctrination beam that works in five minutes, etc.

            I don’t like it personally, but there does appear to be something hiding beneath all this. I think BioWare fucked up and is looking for a way out, but make of it what you will. Until they do come out and say something, we can hypothesize anything we’d like.

          • Pribnik says:

            Yea Harbinger is a Reaper made of Collector material after all. They may all have different properties. It’s just that final message which says “shepard has defeated the reapers” that bothers me.

          • SilentMan says:

            Maybe they’re just trolling the fans, and may they feel later like a complete morons by being indoctrinated (not only the Shepard is being fooled, but so do player)? Time will show.

          • Oof says:

            I had to post this in response:

            link to

          • cypher says:

            Personally it seemed like a ham-fisted attempt at this link to

      • Crimsoneer says:

        There is a far simpler explanation: the same team that did the DA2 ending did this one, and they still suck.

        There is only ONE actual point of evidence that makes me support this in any way: a Crucible is a harsh trial or training ground. Why would they name it that?

        • Pribnik says:

          Yes. I considered this as well. There might be some kind of word play. Crucible and Catalyst. This, however, even to me seems a little far fetched. I’m not saying it’s of no significance though. We will see soon enough…. or so i would hope

        • qrter says:


          A crucible is also part of a forge, the bit where molten metal collects – it could be a reference to the synthesis ending (new DNA is forged, etc.).

      • Nevard says:

        I think you are conflating “perhaps possible” with “indisputable fact and the only possible real outcome”

        • Pribnik says:

          It’s just the way I see it. There seems to be too many things confirming what I think is true. I’m still waiting for someone to bring forward a proof that would contradict my theory. Believe me when I say I want to get to the bottom of this as much as anyone else.

          For anyone interested. Would saying that they had an idea of what they were doing back in ME 1 be too much ?? :)

          link to

          link to

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            I still think the biggest problem with the theory is that if true, Shepard doesn’t actually *do* anything in the ‘good’ ending – never getting to the Crucible, never being put into a position to make the big decision. Given that, there’s no reason to cut to the next scene with the Normandy, no reason for the galactic altering consequence we see happen (that would make no sense to show in a dream state) or the epilogue, and the game would promptly end with Shepard waking up in front of a Harbinger who could just go “Well, shit, that could have gone better…” and blast her with a giant laser beam.

            It’s a fun theory with some cool evidence, but I need to see some DLC that not only follows it up, but does a damn good job of explaining why Bioware ended the series on a cliffhanger rather than a conclusion – not to mention elements like how the Illusive Man can shoot Shepard and kill her. Far too much of the ending simply feels like regular, old-fashioned shitty writing for me to give them the benefit of the doubt with the current evidence.

          • Pribnik says:

            yea, I’m pretty sure it’s the other way around. It’s the dream state cinematic after which we see Shepard lying in the rubble.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            Which makes little sense. If the jig is up, it’s up, and regardless of what happens, it’s hard to see “just shoot her” not being a hell of a lot easier all round.

          • Biometal says:

            Uh, cause that’s what Reapers do? In all cycles they harvest the most advanced civilizations to upgrade themselves. They don’t simply go in and eliminate everyone, even though they could. Shepard represents the biggest threat to the Reapers, someone with the know-how and will to defy them. It’s only logical to assume they want him indoctrinated or harvested, not simply dead. Especially Harbinger, who followed him closely in ME2 at least.

          • qrter says:

            I’m with Richard on this one – BioWare doesn’t do subtle endings, they’re always full of pomp and very obvious.

            A twisty ending would only make sense if they clearly showed us that the twist exists – now they supposedly put in a twist that is almost invisible to detection. In fact, the twist is so well hidden, this ending works perfectly as a normal ending (whatever you might think of it).

            (It would be a bit like the end of The Usual Suspects, but with all the scenes cut off with the detective realising, etc.).

      • Pribnik says:

        Spoiling Spoiler is Spoiling

        Okay. Here is what I managed to gather against the Indoctrination Theory.

        1. The Prothean VI doesn’t detect indoctrination in Commander Shepard even though indoctrination is meant to be a long process. Unless of course it needs to develop past some point in order for it to become detectable.

        2. The very last scene after the credits may be a proof that the Normandy did crash land on an unknown planet. Note the two distinct moons in both vids indicate they are in fact the same planet.

        3. The popup message at the end of the game says “Commander Shepard has become a legend by ending the Reaper thread”.

        Interpret as you will.

        • Crimsoneer says:

          I’ve just been considering this, and you’re right, but the one thing that totally mystifies me about the current ending is the Normandy crash scene.
          Of the people who come out, at least one is always somebody who was with you on the final mission. That’s not just bad writing, that’s a very well thought out logical fallacy…why the hell put that in there?

          • Pribnik says:

            Wish I knew the answer to that one. Lets say the first point can be overthrown by the argument I presented. The second point can be overthrown by what you said, because there is no way they would have missed that. Now the only thing that remains is that damned message at the end.

          • viverravid says:

            The ending doesn’t ALWAYS include someone from your end team. It always includes your love interest, and people often take that character in their ending squad as well.

            I’ve tried the ending multiple times and never had anyone from my end squad show up in the Gilligans planet cinematic

          • Biometal says:

            The crash scene is still part of his dream. It’s Shepards vision of making his sacrifice worthwhile, saving his LI and friends.

          • sinbad says:

            Unfortunately it can be explained how they end up on the Normandy. Just as you are about to enter the beam to the Citadel you hear a retreat/reorganise type order. From that moment until you blow the Mass Relays is a good 20 minutes. Presuming it has all failed and you have died, Joker could have quickly come down from the Earth’s atmosphere, picked up your old squad mates and be attempting to flee when it crashes. It’s terrible writing, goes completely against what my team would have done, but there is the time for it to happen i’m afraid to say. I truly believe the ending was supposed to be real and any change that may come in the future will only be because of the fan backlash.

      • Snschl says:


        Sorry but none of that is really evidence.
        “No one made it through the beam” may simply mean that the assault failed, no one seems to be moving, no one is responding to Hackett, saying that they’ve made it to the Citadel, and Harbinger is merrily lifting off with a “job well done”-expression on his face.

        The trees are just trees. Trees exist outside of Shepard’s dream, y’know? Bioware likely recycled the dream tree models and textures.

        Anderson may have ended up elsewhere or nearer to the bridge. Or it’s a continuity error. It’s also pretty dark, they could have easily missed each other.

        The Shadow Broker’s ship textures on the walls are just another sign of BioWare recycling diligently. Notice how the entire Priority: Eden Prime mission consists of environments from Freedom’s Progress in ME2. It’s not beneath them.

        If you don’t need a breathing apparatus, isn’t it more likely that the room has computer screens for walls, or transparent walls, or mass effect fields holding in the air? Just like the Illusive Man’s office doesn’t have to open into the vacuum of space to see the star in the background.

        Crewmembers being on the Normandy is most likely a continuity error rather than foreshadowing. I don’t remember seeing them beside Shepard during the final push when Harbinger blasts you, nor seeing them blown up. They may have stayed behind or retreated when Harbinger showed up.

        The reapers never give anyone a “choice” whether to be indoctrinated or not, so that interpretation of the ending makes no sense. Green wouldn’t suggest paragon (which is purely blue) any more than it would suggest renegade.

        If you could identify the the rubble covering Shepard is from London, than I congratulate you for being a savant, because all I see is rubble. In a close-up shot. With darkness in the background.

        • Pribnik says:

          Right. So the trees are not just reused material. They seem almost ethereal. I cant find a screenshot of it atm you’ll have to trust me on that one.

          As for the crew members. If you get the right combination of EMS you can actually see your squad members dead on the ground.

          The reapers didn’t give Shepard choice per se. During the conversation with the kid (reaper) it strongly discourages Shepard from choosing the “Red” path. This means it was trying to persuade Shepard for some reason.

          The rest is as much speculation on your part as it is on mine.

          oh and of course it would be London. Where else? It certainly isn’t anywhere on the citadel, you can just tell by looking at the architecture, lighting and sounds you hear. There is no way he could have somehow fallen from the citadel and landed on Earth, that would just be silly :P

        • Oof says:

          The trees are not just trees. They are EPILEPTIC TREES. link to

        • Pribnik says:

          oh by the way I’ve found the screenshot of the trees in the final sequence

          link to

      • dariusblack says:

        That is the most thought out and brilliant piece of denial I have ever read. Sorry, not to offend. Very insightful, but the simpler explanation is that they didn’t really put much effort into the ending.

      • DarthBenedict says:

        There’s a whole lot of sequences in the game which also get stuck on the fine tooth comb you’re running through the ending. First that comes to mind is the bit where you go to a Geth dreadnought and press a bunch of buttons on control panels – why do Geth have control panels? In ME2 the Geth are revealed to be software and the things that walk around are just bits of equipment, so there is no reason to have any human usable interface on their ships (or, for that matter, any corridors big enough for people to walk through) unless they want enemy commando teams to sneak around and blow up their stuff. I guess the whole Quarians vs Geth part of the game must have been a dream too.

        • SilentMan says:

          Maybe that is just because IT IS ONLY A GAME. And like in the movies. Why to not destroy the big volcano where some hobbits can destroy the ring that makes you alive? Why to have ANY weak spots in the GIGANTIC space station oh so wisely called “The Death Star”?
          The games and movies aren’t all about realism. If they do, it would be oh so boring and extremely hard (c’mon Shepard is just one man, and he survives absolutely EVERYTHING, but not few hits from a glowing zombie!).

          • DarthBenedict says:

            That was pretty much what I was saying. The fact that the ending had inconsistencies proves that Mass Effect 3 is a videogame, not that it is a dream sequence.

          • SilentMan says:

            But in fact, they might just have did what Pribnik said, although it would be very much against Hollywood style.
            On the other hand, this kind of ending is pretty much surprising for the whole Mass Effect series. It’s just lack of bioware-ish epicness.
            I really don’t know. The best thing to do is wait, but maybe It’s just my hopes and denial of fact, that they ballz it up.

      • hbarsquared says:

        Wow, that actually makes perfect sense. I had the feeling the whole time he was in the catalyst that he was dead, or dreaming. The slow running, just like in his dreams, the same strangeness about Anderson and the Illusive Man, the Magical Conscience Buttons and Star Child.

        Really, I’ve been telling myself that the whole scene after taking out TIM happens in Shep’s head as he dies on the floor, moments before the crucible fires. It makes so much more sense then VengefullyBenevolentSpaceBabyGod.

  2. jon_hill987 says:

    So, they kind of went wrong in the same way The Matrix went wrong after the first film.

    • Richard Cobbett says:


      There are definite similarities, yes. Especially to the end of the second film.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I think I said it somewhere else, but it’s a combo of roughly two things…

      The stories aren’t really self contained, and the overall arc wandered off-course.

      If I remember correctly, The Matrix only became a “trilogy” after the first one was a success, while Mass Effect was a “planned trilogy” right from the start (I can’t remember if it was LotR which started that whole “planned trilogies” trend in recent times). There’s been quite a few “planned series” which fell down when the first film proved unsuccessful, but in this case it did prove successful… but they don’t seem to have planned beyond the first.

      So, they’ve got 1 game, planned out, neatly wrapped (main antagonist goes down, citadel saved, etc), with a “coming threat” set up for subsequent follow on.

      At the start of ME2, you’re instantly killed, then billions spent to bring you back by terrorists… and gradually things become a bit of a shambles.

      I remember asking during ME1’s development if they were going to side-step that whole “space-swords/reskinned fantasy” nonsense that dogs so many sci-fi games… I was told resolutely, that ME would have no melee weapons, no knockoff light-saber etc… by ME3, we have a ninja with katana.

      The changes across games, apparently exacerbated by the loss of the original ME1 writer for ME3 shows that there was certainly a disconnect between that initial game, and any semblance of a consistent plan for a trilogy… or at least, there was no documentation keeping track of these sorts of things.

      • FriendlyFire says:


        Rumor has it that there was another ending planned before this one involving dark energy buildup from mass relays or something. Honestly it sounded all far-fetched (though not necessarily worse than what we ended up with).

        As with most series, I very much believe that they had no idea where they were going back when they did ME1, and it shows: the smaller, more self-contained bits are often extremely well done, whereas the bigger plot points feel confused.

        • viverravid says:

          It seems pretty clear from the hints dropped in earlier games that Karpyshyn’s original ending involved something about dark energy buildup, combined somehow with Human genetic variability being helpful to the reapers in combating it.

          The dark energy stuff is interesting, but the DNA stuff is a reach (and the ME2 ending was retarded because of it)

          In any case, I’d prefer something silly but related to the plot of the whole series, rather than the completely nonsensical non-seqitur we got.

  3. kyrieee says:

    I’ve been eagerly awaiting RPS’s take on the ending. I was hoping you’d entertain one of the non-literal readings of it.

    “Up to that point, the only reason to think of the Reapers as anything other than an unstoppable threat is that this is a game, and you’re Commander Shepard.”

    Do not underestimate that argument. Shepard is a ridiculous character, and there are many things that are only made plausible through “she’s Commander Shepard god dammit!”. Most people’s idea of Shepard is someone who wins. Have you not heard this song? link to

    I admit that I was so expecting Shepard to ‘win’ (even if it meant dying) that I sort of ignored all the despair in the game. I didn’t realize quite how bummed out everyone is in that game until I started playing it again, having accepted the ending (that took a while). Now I think the ending fits better, but it does not fit at all with the Shepard of the previous games.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “Do not underestimate that argument. ”

      I don’t. But it’s not the same thing as saying ‘the Reapers aren’t a threat’ any more than the Combine in Half-Life 2, the Darkspawn in Dragon Age, the Kilrathi in Wing Commander 3 or the villains in most other games. Mass Effect 3 does an excellent job of portraying it as an epic fight, from the numbers behind it to Shepard’s own responses at key moments. That’s what makes them formidable enemies, even though the only times you get to fight one directly are in very easy, canned encounters.

  4. Brun says:

    I can’t believe anyone was actually naive enough to believe that ME3 was going to finish the series. EA is not dumb enough to kill off one of its most popular franchises by finishing the story arc. Or perhaps, by finishing it in a satisfactory way. Even finishing it with an unsatisfactory ending leaves the door open for more satisfying prequels, sequels, and/or in-betweenquels that can be monetized and marketed. Remember, it took Ubisoft 3 whole games to finish off Assassin’s Creed 2, what makes people think Mass Effect will be any different?

    I haven’t played ME3 and as such I’m unfamiliar with the ending (I don’t particularly care since I gave up on Mass Effect after ME2), but it sounds like it’s just another cliffhanger designed to sell DLC and/or future installments to the franchise. Which is exactly what everyone should have been expecting.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      ME3 does finish the series, in so far as it finishes Shepard’s story. That’s all Bioware promised, and it’s already been said that the universe is likely to continue in future games. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, it ends on a new chapter for the galaxy that may or may not be followed up.

      • Redkid says:


        ME3 doesn’t end the series, it NUKES the possibility of continuing from that point. Any future games in the Mass Effect universe will be before, or during, the events of Shepards story.

        • Archonsod says:


          >ME3 doesn’t end the series, it NUKES the possibility of continuing from that point. Any future games in >the Mass Effect universe will be before, or during, the events of Shepards story.

          Why? With the end of the ME relays I’d say it was a textbook setup for the old “One thousand years pass before we can rebuild civilisation and take to the stars once more” cliche, which also lets you sidestep the three ending problem because by that point it’s ancient history so you can wave it away with some vague pseudo-mythological bollocks. Also kinda ties in with the final cutscene.

          • nameroc says:


            I agree with this. This gives Bioware a clean slate with a next possible game in the ME universe, without being tied down to any of the current canon. They don’t even need to be tied down by the last choices, they can just handwave it away, or say “The reapers destroyed the humans anyway because you missed a system with the magic beam!” (Remember that system that doesn’t have a mass relay anymore from Arrival?)

          • briktal says:


            It seems like less of a “clean slate” and more of a “completely different IP.” Pretty much everything “Mass Effect” except maybe the alien races and biotics would be gone.

          • FriendlyFire says:


            That’s only if you consider that to be the same universe again. All the races we know would be wiped, all the planets they inhabited would be nuked and FTL travel would take many orders of magnitude more time.

            The only similarity would be that it happens in a barred spiral galaxy with a lot of charred remnants from old stars that mysteriously exploded.

          • stkaye says:

            SPOILER BELOW

            Actually, it would be kind of cool to play a game where the main religion/mythology/cultural backdrop is veneration for ‘The Shepard’ and her legend… all the while knowing ten times more than the characters in the new story.

        • Jerakal says:

          It’s almost as if they’ve been planning to make an MMO or something.

          But no, Bioware making an MMO?

          Never in a million years.

          • stkaye says:

            I’m not sure Bioware would willingly create what would surely be the main competitor to Star Wars: The Old Republic… not for quite a while, anyway.

      • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

        The endings all feel very final. The problem for bioware now is probably that everyone expects to see familiars in an eventual future contiunuation of the franchise, while for others those will have been killed off in the first game. Bioware will have to go for one canon choice-tree, and that will have the same effect as it had now for those who didn’t keep their saves.

      • Sentient Waffle says:

        Actually, if you chose the “Destroy” ending, and have enough war assets (+5000 I believe), after the credits have rolled, this happens: link to (Shepard inhales at the end, can’t find one with the audio from the game, retarded youtubers feel the need to add their own music <.<)

        Shepard is apparently back on earth, still alive.

        Cliffhanger? :)

      • Lemming says:

        have you already forgotten the beginning of ME2 Richard? The fact that Shepherd is dead, doesn’t mean s/he won’t come back, let’s face it.

  5. Dave Toulouse says:

    *spoiler warning*

    Seems I’m the only one who doesn’t have a hard time believing that the “real” ending will be in fact a DLC. It’s all DLC these days anyway so why wouldn’t try to push the limit a bit further…

    There’s not much that makes sense in the last few minutes (which I enjoyed btw). Why would the Normandy be in the path of a mass relay exploding? Well it probably isn’t. The jungle planet? The silly DNA merging? A squad mate who was with you that magically appeared on the Normandy? All of that just look like the last few thoughts of a dying man… One of the cutscene you can unlock in fact pretty much look like Shepard really never made it to the Citadel.

    If they indeed push the “real” ending to a DLC it sure won’t stop the rage but honestly I wouldn’t be surprised by it.

  6. digitalgabeg says:

    Great article. You nailed all the points I had in my head, with a couple more I hadn’t seen, and kept it all in balance with the admittedly spectacular good qualities of the game. It’s very cathartic to see all the details out on the table like that, discussed without baggage or flag-waving on either side.

  7. Sivart13 says:

    “PLEASE *SPOILER WARNING* your comments due to them appearing in the sidebar.”

    Is there any way you guys can flag a whole entry as “spoilery, don’t put these comments in the sidebar”? The amount of “SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER” comments required is going to get pretty annoying.

  8. Muse says:

    Here’s the thing (*SPOILERS* obviously): Mass Effect 3 doesn’t really have an ending. It has a climax, and then it stops. If there was a Fallout 1/2 style denouement that discussed what effects your actions had on the galaxy and on the companions you care about, I don’t think nearly as many people would be complaining.

    *Of course* Shepard is going to destroy the Reapers. We don’t actually give a damn *how* that happens, because it’s inevitably going to be some form of “a wizard did it.” What’s important to a long saga like this one is the aftermath. That’s some primary-school English storytelling-structure stuff, and Bioware flubbed it badly. There are situations where you can end a story very effectively at the climax, but that generally works best in a long-form situation where you’re back next week (like TV) or where what comes next is really, stupidly obvious. At the end of a three-game space-opera epic? Not so much. Tell us what happens.

    That said, there’s so much that’s *good* in ME3 (everything with Mordin, Tali and the straw, etc.) that it sucks that the non-ending has overshadowed everything.

  9. Roshirai says:


    I think my biggest issue with the ending is actually the destruction of the mass relay network. I definitely agree with Richard that merely having the relays gone would be a neat development, as there’s plenty of interesting ways the galaxy’s races could go about re-establishing long distance FTL travel, but… didn’t the Arrival DLC establish that busting a mass relay will totally nuke the system it’s in?

    Thus… doesn’t that mean that no matter what ending you choose, basically everyone in the galaxy, besides the Normandy crew… are dead? That’s definitely a massive WAY TO GO, HERO sort of moment. :P

    • Richard Cobbett says:


      My understanding is that the Mass Relays didn’t nuke their systems. I may be wrong about the lore, but this seemed more a case of using up all of its power in one overloaded shot rather than blowing them up per se. I very much doubt Bioware killed 90% of the universe, anyway.

      • Aemony says:


        We know from the colorful bubbles spreading outwards in the end that the energy discharged was, in fact, spread outwards. If you watch the galaxy overview cutscene you’ll notice that practically every destruction of the Mass Relays is followed by ripples spreading outwards through the surrounding galaxy. As I understand it this is the very energy being discharged that a) allows Shepard to take control of all Reapers, b) fuses all organic and synthetic life into a new DNA framework or c) destroys all synthetic life.

        The idea that the massive energy being released with the destruction of a Mass Relay is so controlled as to not, in any way or form, have an impact on other celestial bodies is quite preposterous. A similar case would be if a star went supernova yet somehow only had an effect on, say, communications satellites, leaving every other nearby body completely untouched. Hardly makes any sense.

        Ah well, I can explain it all with two words; Space Magic.

        • Nevard says:


          I think mass effect generators being able to explode in a way that only destroys synthetic beings is about as plausible as say, giant space railguns called mass effect relays.
          Or implants that allow people to use telekinesis make black holes wherever they want using the power of their mind.

          It’s a bit silly, but no sillier than what was already present in the mass effect universe.

      • briktal says:


        I’d imagine that destroying/disabling the mass relays would kill off 90% of the galaxy anyway. Most of the smaller colonies or outposts will likely die off without resupply, either from lack of food, medicine, or resources to deal with a harsh environment. Only the homeworlds or the largest colonies stand a good chance, but those are all burning. Aside from the death and destruction, how much natural resources do they have left?

        Also that’s sorta the backstory to EVE. We colonized our galaxy then found a wormhole to a new galaxy (7987) and started to colonize it but then the wormhole collapsed (8061) and cut the new colonies off, starting a dark age that lasted for nearly 10,000 years and then the game itself is currently in the year 23350 or so.

        • Logeres says:


          I agree. And that’s precisely while I disagree with Richards opinion that the ME3 brings any kind of closure. Think about it: All the fleets in the Sol system (in some cases implied to be a sizeable amount of the whole population of the given species) are going to starve, unless they’re going to start a war for the tiny amounts of ressources left in the depleted Sol system. They can’t leave the Sol system because they lack the fuel, energy and provisions necessary to survive a journey that may well take a 100 years or more to complete, in a completely sterile environment to boot. All that you (potentially) did in ME3 – broker a peace between the geth and the quarians, make the Turians and Krogans allies, preserve the rachni – is completely moot, because they’re all going to die anyway.
          Thanks for your efforts, you dunce.

          • Bishbot says:

            Anyone who is knee deep in the lore can correct me on this but I assume the fleets still have FTL capability. They might not be shooting around the galaxy using Mass Relays, but during the game you can move between stars in periods of what can’t be more than hours, which is decidedly faster than light. It doesn’t seem, from in game, to be the product of anything to do with the mass relays, but as I say, anyone who knows the tech might know differently.

            As for the ending, it was pretty much the sort of thing I expected – a big metaphysical clusterf+ck. Epic trilogies always end like that. I quite enjoyed it although I was sorry to have to destroy the Geth after siding with them over the Quarians (and sacrificing my beloved Tali).

  10. caddyB says:


    Freespace 2 Shivans > Reapers, by far. That undercover mission you go to a binary system to see what’s behind the Sathanas made me feel very hopeless. After that point the game becomes a lecture on how to get desperation and last stands and sacrifice right. Unlike ME.

    In Mass Effect 3 you know that you’re going to get the magic cannon and kill the Reapers right at the second mission. I know it must take something like that to defeat the Reapers, obviously the armies can only be a speed bump for them, but at least make it something other than “Well there is this thing on Mars that we found, and turns out every cycle the organics added to this thing so maybe now it works”. Maybe make it something that council has been working on secretly. Salarian Scientists and Asari biotics and some intel from Sovereign’s corpse? And you race against time to get it finished before everything is lost forever?

    Also I think Bioware could’ve done better, starting with invasion of Earth made everything else that happened later seem unimportant by comparison.

    I didn’t have that much of a problem with the ending, I knew it would probably suck, because it’s hard to finish a huge long story. Most of the recent ActionRPGs have endings that suck because I think they try too hard to force a last choice at the end or leave room for dlc/xpack. Maybe if they went the way of ending being decided by the sum of your earlier choices it wouldn’t seem so disconnected.

    • DogKiller says:

      Freespace 2, in my opinion(and as far as my memory goes), is an excellent example of minimalist storytelling that is highly effective. It doesn’t need Hollywood writing, or emotionally charged dialogue scenes with characters. It’s told only through briefings and the gameplay itself, and as such lets the player’s imagination fill in the blanks. I felt far more emotionally involved in Freespace 2 than I did a lot of games that really laid the cinematics and stuff on thick.

      • stkaye says:


        So here’s the question: Freespace 2 had an ending that really fails to provide any (urgh) ‘closure’ at all. No questions are really answered. No great victory is won. Earth may or may not now be reachable. Your nameless character protagonist may or may not die escorting refugees out of Capella, triggering subtly different ending cinematics (sound familiar at all?). The GTVA has had its arse handed to it, again, and the Shivans’ motivations, origins, and true nature are as obscure as ever.

        Yet nobody ever really claims that the ending of FS2 is somehow ‘game-breaking’ or a ‘betrayal’. Why the double standard for Mass Effect?

        • GepardenK says:

          Because the story itself is almost meaningless, it’s how you tell it.

          Freespace 2’s final act was a rollercoaster of emotions, peaking right at the end when they kill the player. That was masterfully done because they gave you real hope (i.e. you can actually survive). But of course 99% of players spammed the afterburner and screamed at their screen in desperation as the supernova hit. And that is the real ending that people was supposed to experience, the good one is just candy:)

          ME3 had a classic case of intriguing, but ultimately dissapointing, final act. And it was told through dialouge not gameplay. In Freespace there was idelogial mysteries (Admiral Boch, Shivans) that, by being left hanging, only enanced the aftermath of the desperation in the final act. In ME3 there was charaters and choices we cared about, and that is something a storyteller should explore to avoid dissapointement IMO

          Also, Freespace was supposed to continiue, it was a 2’nd act story like Empire. This is not the case with the “grand finale” that is ME3

          • sephiroth says:

            Freespace 2s ending was fine in that it ended that specific Shivan threat and left the rest of the universe primed for the next game. A game that could be set the next week or several years later much as freespace 2 was to the original.

            Problem is they never made the damn thing

            now space games are dead (AAA anyway) and we will probably never get an other story in the freespace verse despite how many peole like myself still seem to really care about that story and want more, The ending I think is a huge factor in that we have questions and want more answers even tho when playing the plot was mainly just a thing that was between the awesome gameplay. FREESPACE WAS EPIC for that very reason

        • caddyB says:


          It wasn’t supposed to bring closure, unlike ME3. I mean, in Freespace 2 you lose badly but you don’t know what happens next.

          At the end of ME3, let’s just say you shouldn’t have bothered to win.

  11. Dammekos says:

    I have to say that I really agree with most of what you’ve written here. While I admit that I felt totally crushed for a few days after beating ME3 I really thought about how much I loved the game as I played it. Up until the last five minutes I would have told anyone that it was the best game in the series and now that I’ve had a few days to think about it I really still think it is. The ending? Not so great. Every other minute of my 30+ hour playthrough? Fantastic. That’s not to say I wouldn’t *love* to see some epilogue DLC, or for DLC that modifies/adds to the ending to add a little more concrete closure.

    As for Bioware, they remain one of my favorite RPG makers ever. I’ve been playing their games since I first bought the first Baldurs Gate and besides DA2 being somewhat forgettable I think they’ve done a tremendous job in improving their craft. Each Mass Effect in my opinion has been better than the previous. Better combat, better dialogue, better character development (sans Jacob/James but that goes without saying right?) I’ll be first in line to buy their next creation.

    PS: By the look of your screenshots, you had one helluva depressing playthrough.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Actually, my play through mostly went okay. Though I did start with the defaults, which is a pretty bad starting point, I think i left the galaxy a better place for most of it.

    • saturnest says:

      I feel exactly the same way. I finished the game yesterday morning, and then spent the next 24 hours or so (barely slept at all) trying to wrap my head around the last ten minutes. This afternoon I realized that I actually loved almost every part of the 30 hours I spent playing it, despite the crushing frustration and nihilistic ennui inspired by the ending, so I will definitely be replaying the game again.

  12. Jim9137 says:

    I think it was just trying too much, to be honest. The problem with such climax building stories always is that it’s hard to find an ending to fit the build up. The journey is always the best part, after all, not the destination.

  13. S Jay says:

    I am crazy to see what happens in Mass Effect 3, but won’t buy because of Origin. *sigh*

  14. bleeters says:

    The Romeo and Juliet comparison might actually hold water if, in the actual R&J ending, Romeo removes his exoskeleton to reveal he was secretly a race of sentient pythons in a human costume all along. And then just ended, with a cliffhanger of Juliet lifting poison to her lips but not necessarily swallowing it so maybe she’s still alive or something possibly.

    People aren’t complaining because the endings were sad, and demanding a happier ending. People are complaining because very, very little about the final ten-fifteen minutes made any kind of sense whatsoever. Followed by a cutscene which, for all scenarios, is virtually the same. Then threw in a bizarre and unecessary five second teaser of Shepard possibly surviving, but maybe not.

    As far as the closure goes… mmyeah. I would be inclined to agree, to a point. But the thing is, the mass relays going bang throws all of that out of wack. I don’t get closure on the Quarian/Geth conflict, for instance, because the Quarians – alongside every other race you brought to Earth as part of your armada against the Reapers – are now stuck on Earth. A planet which is in no position to sustain them. There’s a whole lot of closure and wrapping up of loose ends in the rest of the game, but given that the ending takes all that and flushes it out an airlock, it’s hard to feel as though any of that has any relevance afterwards.

    • Richard Cobbett says:


      ” I don’t get closure on the Quarian/Geth conflict, for instance, because the Quarians – alongside every other race you brought to Earth as part of your armada against the Reapers – are now stuck on Earth. ”

      You don’t have the entire galactic population hovering over Earth. There are still plenty of aliens out there who didn’t take part in the attack. The Quarians are unlikely to have sent their life ships to fight the Reapers for instance, and it’s a similar situation for the other races.

      • bleeters says:


        Quarians were using their lifeships as dreadnoughts. They’re visibly present in the final set of cutscenes at Earth. Every ship they possessed was armed and armoured in preperation for their war with the Geth, and they threw every last one of them into that war. I can’t personally see why they’d leave any kind of significant presence behind on Rannoch.

        • Richard Cobbett says:


          Really? I can’t imagine why they’d take their civilian population instead of leaving them in semi-safety on Rannoch to begin building. It’s not as if the majority of them would be any use in a space battle.

          • Nevard says:


            Well in my case they were left all over Rannoch, along with all of their fighters and other ships, in little pieces ;)

            I don’t get how it can show you all of those videos of the Geth, after you repeatedly pull the Quarians out of the fire only to have a hotheaded idiot hurl them back in, and then expect you to sympathise with the people who are actively chasing their own deaths over the ones that just want to live and are only fighting back because they were the targets of genocide.
            Considering the theme was apparently that Organics and Synthetics can never properly coexist because the synthetics will murder everyone, why did they make the Quarians the agressors? And why, after the Geth team up with me and don’t kill anyone at all and I have spent the last two games in the totally ungenocidal company of my own AI-powered ship, does it tell me that killing the Reapers would just lead to another repeat of the cycle, against all contrary evidence?

            If killing the Reapers wouldn’t also entail murdering my Geth friends and my robot wife (stay away Joker, she’s mine) then I wouldn’t have had any qualms at all about blowing up that robot ghost kid and his giant lice minions.

          • caddyB says:


            DON’T READ DON’T READ

            DON’T READ

            Well you do get an email about quarians living in their homeplanet now, but yes, most of those are in fact fighting in Earth, as they are also in your war assets.

          • bleeters says:

            I can’t really speak to that, other than speculating that whatever else they are, Quarians are all ship crew in some form or another, and all their ships are armed.

            Either way, there’s lifeships present in the final armada. They’re pretty hard to miss. I suppose it’s possible they left some of their population behind, but I shouldn’t think they’d either leave m/any of their ships out, or run them on skeleton crews. But again, I’m just speculating.

            Though really, I’d say I shouldn’t need to speculate.

          • Archonsod says:


            It’s a bit of a silly argument. Given the Quarian fleet has been the home of the entire Quarian race for three hundred years or so, and as such is pretty much designed to sustain a population for indefinite periods of time, surely all the loss of the mass relays would mean is it’s going to take a hell of a lot longer for them to get home.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            The home that they just started re-colonising after centuries in exile, from which it makes little sense to bring the entire Migrant Fleet’s population to have a space battle?

            There’s nothing to stop a Battlestar Galactica/Homeworld style ‘get back to Rannoch story’, but it’s far sillier to imagine that they actually brought all their people along to stand around uselessly in the final conflict. At the very least, I think we can assume that they dropped off enough Quarians to start getting the planet up and running.

          • FriendlyFire says:


            Assuming the Quarians survive, they apparently very quickly rely on the Geth to help them out.

            Also, it’s been mentioned numerous times that *all* Quarian ships have been armed. From lifeship to shuttle, they all were combat-ready because of the rush for Rannoch against the Geth. The vast majority of the Migrant Fleet was to be at the battle for Earth specifically because it was an all or nothing; what’s the point of colonizing Rannoch if the Reapers go “oh that’s a nice planet you got there…”

        • animal says:

          At some point you get a note or bit of info telling you about the amount of Quarian ships and how it takes them weeks to all pass through one relay. The attacking fleet sort of relays in together, breaking that bit of lore…but even so I’d like to think that only a small fraction of the Quarian fleet would have been stuck on Earth.

      • bleeters says:

        Like I said, Quarians are all ship crew in one way or another. They’re a society of seventeen million people who all inhabit ships, all the time. They don’t really “stand around uselessly”.

        I’m not saying every last Quarian was there. I’m saying there’s no reason to believe they left more than a handful behind at Rannoch. If they’re committing their lifeships and civilian vessels to the final armada – which they do – and were prepared to throw their entire species against the Geth – which they were – I can’t see why they wouldn’t do the same against the Reapers.

        Even if they don’t, that still leaves whatever number of Quarians were on Rannoch trying to scratch a living from a planet with no infrastructure beyond whatever the Geth built. They might be able to grow food without the aid of technology. They’re probably going to have a somewhat harder time putting together things like effective suit repairs/replacements/gene therapy to allow them to live without them.

        And really, all this? It could go either way. They could all be fine. They could also all die. All anyone can do is speculate. Which was pretty much my point about the lack of closure – the game shakes up the entire setting in a catastrophic way (to the point that we can’t say for sure one way or another whether the choices we made during the game will play out as they were suggested they would) and then makes no attempt to show where the pieces land. And I resent that.

        (I fail at replying correctly)


        Yes, because they could mass relay port to systems with resources whenever they needed them. They can’t do that anymore. They might be able to grow their own food, and process their own fuel, but they still need to mine the materials needed for that fuel. And they can’t manufacture complex ship components.

        Besides, even if they do just fine, it’ll still take them centuries to get back to Rannoch. They’ve already stated their fleet and shipboard existence is starting to show diminishing returns. It’s why they invaded their previous homeworld in ME3 – they can’t carry on as they have been for much longer.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          ” If they’re committing their lifeships and civilian vessels to the final armada – which they do – and were prepared to throw their entire species against the Geth – which they were – I can’t see why they wouldn’t do the same against the Reapers.”

          They have no real choice but to throw their entire species against the Geth – there’s nowhere for the rest to go, and no future if the ships get blown up. With their homeworld back, they have options, and the sensible option is to off-load the personnel who won’t directly help out in the final battle. You’ll note for instance that Tali makes a specific choice to go with Shepard instead of staying behind.

    • ThTa says:

      Definitely agreed on your last point (closure). I’d elaborate further, but I’m on my cellphone, so I’ll leave it at this: Even assuming the relays don’t destroy the entire systems like they did in ME2’s last DLC, you’ve effectively stranded every race you brought with you; causing death for the vast majority of them (the quarians and turians can’t even eat Earth-based food) and isolating the vast majority of their leaders. Closure would require showing how things actually worked out, not vague assumptions and handwaving.

      ME3’s ending wasn’t tragedic or epic, just tragic and fatalistic. (Not to mention, filled to the brim with plotholes)

  15. Seth says:

    Richard: you assume that this IS the ending BioWare chose. But BioWare isn’t a monolith.


    There’s cut content on the disc which could’ve played into a more fleshed-out, continuous ending.

    There are rumors of serious divisions within the BioWare writer’s room, centered around the fact that the endgame was written by Mac Walters alone, without much input from those who handled the (superb!) rest of the narrative.

    The leaked script contained the possibility of an epilogue which would show players the consequence of their actions.

    You assume that this is the ending BioWare chose – but what if it was forced on them by time and resource constraints, or by a rift within the writing staff?

    How do we decide when a work of art is entirely as it should be? Should we pretend that the artist’s singular will alone creates the ending? Many endings have been changed due to audience response – this is the whole notion of screening. Films shoot multiple endings as a safeguard.

    Why does the moment of a game’s release define some kind of terminus on the creative process, especially when that moment is driven by factors – deadlines, budgets – beyond the control of the creators?

    e: And additionally, how many of us really got up in arms about the change to the Portal 2 ending?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Honestly? I don’t care all that much about the politics. Whether the lead writer was responsible or one guy screwed it up, I still count as Bioware’s choice to make and put their mark on it. There’s always going to be disagreement in a company and different directions a game could have gone.

      This isn’t necessarily the case in other situations, like Obsidian having to cut KOTOR2 short. For Mass Effect 3 though, if they ended up with something they didn’t like themselves, it’s ultimately their fault.

      • Seth says:

        If they ran out of time to complete the ending they wanted — and why else would there be this cut material on the disc, material that jives in part with what was in the leaked scripts — isn’t it analogous to the KOTOR2 situation?

        As for the politics: if one group of people wrote a brilliant game (95% of ME3), and another group, or individual, wrote the parts of the game that were weakest, and Group A wishes it had control over Group B, I have to say I agree with Group A’s regrets.

        I’ve heard from multiple friends-of-friends in Bioware that even the playtesting directors are deeply unhappy with the ending of ME3. That speaks to some serious internal strife.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          Regrets, yes. But Bioware as an entity was in a position of control on this one, much more than Obsidian was for KOTOR 2. I’m sympathetic on a personal and professional writing level if things went wrong, but as far as criticism goes, I can only deal with the game that they put their name on and sold.

          • Seth says:

            That’s a very well-stated position, and one I can respect. Thank you.

            I guess I’ll close with one additional angle that’s come up, verging, I guess, on consumer protection – namely the quote we got from the lead designer well after the game went gold:

            “It’s not so much that there is a fixed set of alternative endings, but all of your choices really determine how things end up in the universe. So, how you approach the end-game, for every player, you’re going to have a different set of results in terms of who is alive and who is dead, and which civilisations survived and which ones were wiped out.There is a huge set of consequences that start stacking up as you approach the end-game. And even in terms of the ending itself, it continues to break down to some very large decisions. So it’s not like a classic game ending where everything is linear and you make a choice between a few things – it really does layer in many, many different choices, up to the final moments, where it’s going to be different for everyone who plays it.”

            I guess I can see what he was getting it, and I respect Mr. Hudson, but this feels like an enormously duplicitous thing to say.

          • Bhazor says:

            I think you may be overstating their technical abilities somewhat. Dragon Age Origins and the first Mass Effect were pretty much broken. DA:O is the only game I’ve ever had to crack just to play and before that each patch seemed to find an interesting new way to irrevocably ruin it.

            With that in mind it is possible they had to bodge something to make it work. But based on the leaked script this is exactly the ending they wanted.

  16. Klarden says:

    link to

    A nice argumented post about the ending.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      There’s also some interesting articles about ME3 over on Forbes, though it’s more about what kind of interaction is going on between the (upset) players and EA/Bioware.

    • Arcanon says:

      I read that too, it’s spot on!

      Richard Cobbett has written an article I respect, but I can’t agree with it.
      The 5 reasons explain why the ending is unacceptable in detail, take a look at it!!!

      PS: I felt depressed for 2 days after beating the game…..I’m not exagerating.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        Reading it, it seems they make most of the same points as above.

        • Arcanon says:

          Strike my last, I don’t agree with ALL OF IT…..let’s be specific:

          -You say our decisions actually shape the universe and you are right…..but an epilogue after the ending, showing us the fate of the races we doomed or saved would have given us actual closure, thinking about the past 30 hours simply isn’t enough, after finishing the game I felt a bit empty inside, all the passion I had poured into these 3 games over 5 tears culminate into a multicoloured explosion…..not quite enough, not by a long shot.

          -The Catalyst nonsense is worst than you seem to acknowledge, because it can’t be “contained” or forgotten, it casts a long shadow on the franchise, Shepard is forced to make a decision that will forever change the universe because a random God-Child says so…..but his explanation doesn’t make any sense.

          “Yet again, this only really affects the Catalyst nonsense – which, yes, is foreshadowed earlier in the game, but not to the point that it matters – and to some extent why the Reapers are focusing on London. Remove that stupid plot point and everything else becomes much stronger.”

          But you can’t remove it!!! It’s so stupid…..I could have accepted the idea of a “Collective Reaper AI” taking the shape of your nightmare, the child that died on Earth, if at least his motivations where clear.

          This ending could have worked, but the writer just phoned it in without putting too much effort into it. He can’t have when fans have managed to rewrite the same ending with the one difference that counts: making sense (sort of).

          link to

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            “-You say our decisions actually shape the universe and you are right…..but an epilogue after the ending, showing us the fate of the races we doomed or saved would have given us actual closure,”

            Would it? Or would you have been left yelling “Bullshit!” after that peace you worked so hard to broker came crashing down around the galaxy’s legs. As it is, we get a good idea based on what we’ve already seen – for example, we don’t need to be specifically told “and then Wreav attacked the Turians” after seeing him standing around ordering his men to prepare for that attack.

            “-The Catalyst nonsense is worst than you seem to acknowledge, because it can’t be “contained” or forgotten”

            I don’t say it can be forgotten. I say it’s dreadful writing and should have been removed – with an arc welder, to be exact. However, I also say that if it wasn’t for that sucky moment, I don’t think the ending would have been horrible, even if the galaxy ended up in the same basic situation.

          • Arcanon says:

            “Would it? Or would you have been left yelling “Bullshit!” after that peace you worked so hard to broker came crashing down around the galaxy’s legs. As it is, we get a good idea based on what we’ve already seen – for example, we don’t need to be specifically told “and then Wreav attacked the Turians” after seeing him standing around ordering his men to prepare for that attack.”

            This would be acceptable if we were looking at the script with calm and cold logic, which is what we are doing now. But it’s how you FEEL at the end that matters, filling the blanks in hindsight doesn’t make up for the “emotional distress” (might seem excessive, but that’s how MANY people felt) that you experience at the moment.

            From a logical point of view, inserting a few clips at the end, showing us what the races are doing on their devastated planets after the war, even for a bit, is not necessary. But it feeds our brain the “emotion-triggers” it desperately needs, knowing what becomes of our squadmates and companions is important…..which is why the Normandy flying into the Mass Relay with everyone aboard for no reason is even more offensive.

            Btw, I much appreciate your active presence in the comments :)

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            Honestly, I suspect that after the bad bits of the ending, it could have fired chocolate chip cookies out of the CD drive and still feel like a damp squib. Bioware screwed up in several important ways with it. But that makes it important to look at the rest as it actually was, not simply under that cloud.

          • Arcanon says:

            Indeed, I still consider the rest of the game top notch, what flaws it has are overwritten by the rest of the good stuff, that’s what great games (and movies) do.

            Unfortunately Casey Hudson & CO. don’t seem to understand the importance of emotion in their own creation, if they did they wouldn’t say things like these:

            “I didn’t want the game to be forgettable, and even right down to the sort of polarizing reaction that the ends have had with people–debating what the endings mean and what’s going to happen next, and what situation are the characters left in. That to me is part of what’s exciting about this story. There has always been a little bit of mystery there and a little bit of interpretation, and it’s a story that people can talk about after the fact.”

            But not because they are stupid: my theory is that they, beign the creators, will never be able to feel them the same way gamers do.
            The child sees fantastic characters involved into an amazing story in the little puppet show, the Master of Puppets is clever enough to write and voice all of the above…..but he knows they are just wooden dolls. You don’t cry over the death of a wooden doll.

            I hope this last bit is clear, it’s a bit complex to express in words…..and this is not my language :)

    • sky_in_flames says:

      Thank you for that link… I feel a little better having read it. It’s somehow oddly comforting to know that so many people having similar feelings about that topic as myself… :/ Here’s hoping there will be DLC in the near future that will provide an ending to the ME saga that will leave you satisfied. Somehow sad maybe… but satisfied.

  17. Fox89 says:

    Finally, an article that doesn’t just patronise gamers and accuse us all of being self-entitled pricks. I do disagree with you when you suggest that they shouldn’t change it, but respectfully so.

    I am 100% behind the idea of creative freedom, and I do not think Bioware should be forced to change their story any more than Romeo and Juliet should have a happy ending, what you say there is spot on. However, I also think it would be to the game’s benefit if they did change it. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes by chucking him off a waterfall, but when it became clear that the public were unsatisfied and wanted more, he wrote Holmes back in and carried on the series.

    There is no obligation for Bioware to change those last, overshadowing 5 minutes of their game, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a damn good idea for them to do so.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I don’t think Holmes is quite the same situation. This is Bioware ending Shepard’s story and shaking thing up for the galaxy to continue in a different form, not walking away from the Mass Effect universe.

      (And Doyle was largely forced to write more Sherlock. I want Bioware to make games that excite them, and tell stories they want to tell.)

      • Fox89 says:

        Absolutely. But at the same time a story doesn’t have to be closed to changes once it’s been released. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with changes being made to a story based on feedback if the people behind the story agree with it.

        I like to think if I released a game and somebody came back to me with a list of plot holes and some well reasoned arguments as to why my ending wasn’t satisfactory, that I would be willing to consider those points and see if it could be improved.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          And that’s a perfectly valid stance to take. Though I think it’s one thing when it’s plot holes, as with Fallout 3, and something else when it’s “my ending sucked, I’ll do another one instead.”

          But that’s me. I’m not saying it should be the law or anything.

          • Fox89 says:

            I’d completely missed the Fallout 3 problem before you mentioned it! I think as a silent protagonist I was much less attached to my Fallout avatar than I was to Shepard, so the disappointments of the Mass Effect ending had a much more noticeable effect on me.

            I’ll continue hoping that changes are made, as I think Shepard deserved better than those last few minutes that put a stain on her glorious story… and then when they release the DLC that fixes it I’ll feel guilty about buying it. Because you’re certainly right about that: if they do make changes it is a very dangerous precedent business wise.

  18. Bob says:

    Yes I read the warnings, no I haven’t played. Some nice guys on a forum I frequent were in melt down over the ending. They didn’t mention specifics and when I saw this was Richard’s take on it I couldn’t help myself.

    I can see why people might be a little miffed, but I don’t know that it’s worth having apoplexy over. Anyhow, my Renegade Jane and Paragon John will jump into the fight when I have a new PC. I’ve enjoyed the series immensly and some whacked out minutes of an ending won’t detur me, as everyone seems to think, ending aside, that it’s an excellent addition to the franchise.

  19. Plinglebob says:

    Spoiler Warning!!

    While I would have changed the kid to an image of one of your surviving team-mates (or maybe switching between them at random), I thought the ending was fine. With a narrative that is as diverse as Mass Effects, they had to simplify the ending down to a limit number of choices otherwise too many resources would be wasted on stuff only a fraction of people would see. Also, If there had been no explination and instead they just had Anderson/Illusive Man/other random character tell you what each option is, I bet there would be similar uproar from the “everything must have a reason” crowd.

  20. PJ says:

    It’s impressive how awful you have to be in order to ruin a 100+ hour (and more than a hundred dollars at least) of narrative that was generally entertaining and satisfying with 10 minutes of pure utter bullshit.

    Bioware may do whatever it wants to do, but it isn’t unprecedented for authors to do revisions. Hell, Bethesda did that for Fallout 3; I don’t see the major issue.

    For those of you who don’t get it, I would suggest playing the game. It nails the feeling completely and is great UNTIL THE VERY FINAL MOMENT. That is more of the problem – the game generates so much pathos that you start having that feeling on your bones that the catharsis is going to be something epic.

    And it was. Epically awful.

  21. Hellfire257 says:

    Some food for thought here, RPS. I don’t expect you to read the entire thread, that would be crazy! But it is well worth looking into. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest it is correct as well.

    link to

    • DogKiller says:

      I don’t know man, some of that sounds a bit like denial. I find Occam’s razor to be a good rule in cases like these, and I think it’s probably giving the writers a bit too much credit. It doesn’t seem like something in keeping with the rest of the games, either. Maybe I’ll turn out to be wrong, but I think you’d need an answer from the writers themselves on that stuff.

  22. kyrieee says:

    Your screenshots are pretty good btw. You must’ve taken a few in your days :D

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I took over 4000 screenshots of Mass Effect 3. I saved about 70 of them to my Flickr account for later use in whatever I might write about the game.

      It’s almost a reflex after so many years of writing reviews. If I play something on a console (yes, I know), my capture finger itches every time I see something cool.

  23. skittles says:


    I had no problem per say with the content of the ME3 endings (destruction of relays etc). What I did have a problem with was how cheap they were. They all said exactly the same thing with a different colour (and depending on war assets the London backdrop either completely ruined or just a bit broken). It is obvious that they wanted the story to end exactly the same so they could continue it in a new game, or most likely DLC.

    My other and more important issue was that the choices were simply so arbitrary and has been said previously takes no account of what you have done ingame. That Shepard just seems to take moronic ghost kid at his word is ridiculous. E.g. ghost kid insists that organic and synthetic are always at war. Yet in the course of this very game I had saved both the Geth and Quarian, and they were building a society together. Which said so much shit on his opinion. Yet Shepard just accepts his/her three moronic choices.

    Certainly I am with Richard on this. They should of cut everything between the Illusive Man and the destruction of the Mass Relays.

    • Archonsod says:


      The Geth / Quarian argument is pretty silly to be honest. You prevented the Quarians wiping out the Geth after three centuries of war and in the face of a massively bigger threat. I think it’s far more likely they’ll be at each other’s throats within minutes of the Reapers being destroyed than both races simply forget about the 300 years of conflict between the two to play happy families.
      It also ignores the point of the argument the game makes – conflict between synthetics and organics is ultimately inevitable. Not that it’s the persistent state of affairs.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        I like to think they can make it work, and there’s sufficient evidence in the game to have some hope for that happening. The only one who declares it a rule that it can’t has a vested interest in you believing him, while your own experiences have demonstrated that he’s not necessarily correct.

      • FriendlyFire says:


        Except the Geth aren’t organics. They don’t think like us and have specifically stated that they only wish to be left alone, really. If you keep talking to Tali you’ll note things she say are very, very much in disagreement with your view. One of them in particular had the Geth enter the Quarian suits and simulate progressively worse infections (but with none of the danger) so that their immune systems could be boosted. She thought that with that help, she might be able to live on Rannoch without a suit in only a matter of years as opposed to generations. That’s just one instance.

        And then you have EDI.

  24. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    Yes, the ending was weird, and the Organics/Synthetics conflict suddenly got blown up as if they’d JUST thought of it.

    But what irks me a lot more about the game is the lack of variance in the enemies, and lack of hubs other than the citadel. I love bioware’s hubs and especially Omega in the second game gave the game so much character. But I understand that with the finality of the third game, it really isn’t about exploration anymore.

    Still, in the first and second games, we fought the geth, all kinds of very different mercenary factions, asari commandos, and of course reapers. In ME3, all we fight is a few different kinds of Cerberus solders that get old, very fast, and lots of Reaper forces that are just annoying! That’s where the game is lacking the most.

    Yes, I did actually play the game for the actual game, the gunplay and stuff, but also for the story, and I can still understand Jim’s problems very well!

    edit: I love the way that you stay and engage in the comment threads after your posts, Richard!

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “I love the way that you stay and engage in the comment threads after your posts, Richard!”

      If people take the time to respond, I try to take the time to respond back. Can’t always, and not to everything, but where I can…. :-)

  25. Dowson says:

    The only thing that really bothered me was how the hundreds of hours spend in both ME ME2 and ME3 had zero impact on the end.
    Someone who rushed through ME3 never playing to others will essentially get to the same ending as me, someone who replayed the games a few times to get what I considered the past setup to fight the Reapers.

    I just wanted that to be recognized.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “The only thing that really bothered me was how the hundreds of hours spend in both ME ME2 and ME3 had zero impact on the end.”

      Yes, but lots and lots of impact during the bulk of the game, which is a valid place for it too given the nature of the stories being told during it. Not that I’m saying you’re wrong, just that the last ten minutes aren’t the only bits of a story that matter.

      • Dowson says:

        “Yes, but lots and lots of impact during the bulk of the game”

        —Spoiler Warning——

        Not really, I mean my friends save, Legion was replaced by a VI as he died in the Suicide Mission, you mention the Rachni being replaced, it probably applies to most of the characters, they just get replaced by a similar ones, though apparently I’ve heard Samara mission doesn’t play out at all if she dies.

        But the fact is, these guys don’t really have any major impact other than some small interactions. I just wish if you made 90%+ of the ‘right’ decisions throughout all 3 games, you should be rewarded with an amazing ending, because despite what you say, the final is the actual fight against the reapers, and this is what the whole series has been building towards, you decisions should have a major and direct impact on it.

        • Richard Cobbett says:


          In the case of Legion, AFAIK you can only make peace between the Geth and the Quarians if you recruited him in the previous game, which is a fairly major choice to make. Wrex is smart enough to spot your work on the Genophage, whereas Wreav isn’t. The false Rachni queen is unreliable… it’s unreasonable to expect insane differences for every minor decision, but Bioware went one *hell* of a lot further than anyone else has ever attempted.

          • Dowson says:

            —Spoiler Warning——
            —Spoiler Warning——

            Yeah you’re right, and you mentioned about the Rachni as well being different, it probably applies to others as well.

            But then it doesn’t change anything, having both is just as good as having none as far as the final mission is concerned.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            I argue it does change things – the experience in the 20 or so hours that the game lasts, and how it moulds itself around your decisions and the narrative payoff of your decisions. The choice element falls flat in the last few minutes, no question, but I don’t think that the bits it does really, really well should be forgotten while acknowledging that lapse.

    • FinBen says:

      Having played all the games and religiously stored my savegames with dozens of backups, I have to say I didn’t feel cheated by the lack of the effect of characters on the story (though, as pointed out, some of their replacements don’t offer the same options). For me it wasn’t really about them affecting outcomes; it was the fact that I’d invested in these characters over a series of games, and their own personal stories were far more important to me than those of any stand-in. I found some of those stories really quite moving, which I put down in no small part to the excellent characterisation of the squadmates.

      Then again, maybe I get to easily invested in things like this. I don’t look for plotholes and storyline cock-ups because it destroys all the fun for me :-P

      Still, excellent article. It makes some jolly sound points which I, in my blissful world of over-enthusiastic wonderment, safely disregard!

  26. Big Murray says:

    I agree and concur with a lot of what you say, and also respectfully disagree on a bit too (I actually liked the ending. All of it).

    The only thing I fundamentally can’t agree with you on is that the Reaper’s “Lovecraftian” motives were ever appropriate to just leave as they are. If we’re never going to see the Reapers again (and I think after this trilogy has finished it’s obvious that we won’t) then some kind of explanation of why in Hades they were doing this whole cycle of galactic destruction was needed, otherwise they’re just “big evil machines”. And I’m actually very happy with the philosophical depth of the answer, if not the ethereal form that answer arrived to us in.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      ” If we’re never going to see the Reapers again (and I think after this trilogy has finished it’s obvious that we won’t) then some kind of explanation of why in Hades they were doing this whole cycle of galactic destruction was needed, ”

      I was fine with my pre-ME3 assumption that they popped in, used the dominant technological powers to upgrade themselves and avoid the risk of extinction through stagnation, then buggered off for 50,000 years to be smug about themselves.

      • Big Murray says:

        I sort of thought that death by stagnation was something that only happened to things which could evolve? Seems that things as powerful as Reapers would’ve thought a while back “Wait … why do we keep letting these little buggers keep growing up to the point they can challenge us? Let’s just kill all organic life in the galaxy and then have some Reaper party-time.”

        I always just assumed that there’d be some explanation of the Reaper’s motives somewhere down the line. It never seemed like they’d ever end up being one-dimensional villains.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          “I sort of thought that death by stagnation was something that only happened to things which could evolve?”

          Nah. They’re powerful, but they’re not omnipotent or anything. The more strings they have in their bows, the better off they’re likely to be if new things happen. Like, for example, the galaxy clubbing together to secretly build a weapon to use against them.

    • bleeters says:

      Woooooooooooooooo spoilers woooooooooooo.

      I’m not sure I’d qualify the Reapers (synthetic lifeforms) rolling in and wiping out organics to prevent the organics from developing and being wiped out by synthetics as a good justification for the cycles. It also doesn’t explain why they’re only showing up now, rather than over three hundred years ago when the Quarians were tinkering.

    • Matt says:

      “philosophical depth of the answer”

      What is that, pray tell? The assumption that synthetic life is the biggest threat in the universe (apart from the Reapers)? Why haven’t they shown so? Or that there are no other options except for genocide in order to save the genocided? Or that all synthetic life automatically and without fail strifes for extinction of their masters? All of them extremely random and extremely poor. Not even one whit of “depth”. I’d really like to accept the explanation, since I could still enjoy the game despite any other issues, but it’s simply some of the worst writing they have done.

      And while the Reapers just being evil is certainly a valid criticism, it was clear that there were always limits to how deep a story like this could get. Not being original or deep enough is still another matter than failing at narrative logic and common sense.

  27. Godwhacker says:

    This, essentially.


    Having some nutso reason for the Reapers wanting to eat everyone, other than the reason mooted in ME2 that it’s part of their reproductive cycle is completely pointless. Having it told you by a sparkling child and not Harbinger is also insulting

  28. Bhazor says:

    “For now, Bioware has no choice but to fly the flag for the ending. The game’s only just out, and they’re not about to admit that they screwed up in the first couple of weeks on sale. After a while though, I suspect we’ll see the kind of acknowledgement of problems that we eventually got after Dragon Age 2 fell flat”
    Did Bioware apologise for DA 2? I don’t remember that.

  29. Klarden says:

    Also, i honestly considered the entire “retake the Earth” motive and arc moronic. (and as such, the beginning of the game and the ending part badly made in terms of story) I mean, i honestly couldn’t care much about some single kid (BioWare didn’t even bother to create a single more child for the entire series) and some single planet called Earth. Yes, i would care about Earth in real life. But in ME universe i don’t – i wasn’t there before ME3, it’s not the only place where humanity exists and there’s no one i care about (cept for Anderson, who could’ve fled in the dire situation). Places you actually care about, however, simply get discarded. Like the Citadel. It just blows up in every ending. What of all the creatures, who lived there? All the people you helped and saved countless of times? People you care about? Even the stupid Council? It’s just discarded for no reason. No, of course i would care about the surprisingly 21 century looking London with obligatory Big Ben on the horizon. Not the halls of the Citadel i walked for hundereds of hours. Top of the presidium i shot bottles with Garrus. It was just stupid and cliched. The ending was just the icing on “we didn’t really care about this part of the game” cake.

  30. ThTa says:

    This seems relevant:
    link to

      • ThTa says:

        Yes, that was really quite lazy of them. I honestly don’t see how they couldn’t have shown her face in-game (there were plenty of opportunities – heck, they should’ve done it in ME2), or at least made the ‘shop halfway decent. But I’d gradually forgotten/forgiven it due to the superb, well, everything else with Tali.

        And here’s the best part: When I initially saw that picture as part of a YouTube video, I genuinely assumed it was fake and a joke.

        Edit: I even posted the video on Facebook, stating beforehand that it was fake and not an actual spoiler. (This was all prior to the European release)

        • TheWhippetLord says:


          I at first assumed the Tali being near-human thing was a reference to the unmasking of Frankenstein in Death Race 2000. “Finally,” I thought, “a reference from those poncey writer types that a pleb like me can get.” I was even in awe of the long lead-up to such a classy reference. In hindsight I may have been overthinking.
          But yes, they could have put more effort into the piccy. Or at least found one with less lens flare.

        • Fox89 says:

          Personally I never romanced Tali in fear of seeing her face! Nothing they could make canon would fit what is in my imagination.

          • Nevard says:

            I thought this was leading up to you assuming she was some form of tentacled horror under the mask or something
            Although that would have been amusing I gather it probably would have upset a lot of people

  31. food says:

    Spoiler warning…

    The quality of the commentary is inversely proportional to how much pagespace Shep got in the last couple of weeks. If you could post the email from EA’s marketing department that spurred you to write this piece, that’d be keen. We all know they sent you one.

    I used to think Forbes was strictly for rich wankers, turns out it’s for people who actually like being respected as a consumer.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “If you could post the email from EA’s marketing department that spurred you to write this piece, that’d be keen. We all know they sent you one.”

      Please. They didn’t even send me a copy of the game.

    • QualityJeverage says:

      You need some pretty substantial evidence to be taken seriously with a snarky attack like that. Exactly the kind of evidence that this article has none of.

      Sure, Cobbett defends the ending from some of the complaints that have been levelled against it, but he brings up several of his own as well. If EA paid him to write this, that is not money well spent.

      The more likely explanation is that you skimmed the article, disagreed with the gist without reading the specifics, and knee-jerked into a baseless attack on the author’s integrity. Good show.

  32. delta_vee says:

    “Should the problems be fixed though? Honestly…”

    …yes. Exhibit A: the director’s cut of Blade Runner. Changing the ending (hell, key points of the story) not only made it better, but cemented the work into the canon.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Excellent counter-point. Hadn’t thought of that one.

      • delta_vee says:

        Honestly, most of those making an argument against changing the ending on artistic grounds ignore the precedent for same in almost every medium. Books get updated editions, movies get director’s cuts and deleted scenes (and sometimes Lucas’d), plays with living authors get halfway-rewritten during any given production, photos get reprinted in different sizes and using different processes…

        Art evolves. And in this case, given the torrential outpouring of disappointment by those most predisposed to ignoring the more minor flaws and embracing the work as a whole, I think Bioware has a nigh-unprecedented chance to make their art better.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          They get tweaked, definitely. Wholesale changing of an ending like this remains a very, very rare thing though, unless a work is being updated from something much older or format-shifted, and doing it because of poor viewer response is even rarer.

          Of course, as you say, there are exceptions. Epic poems would change with every telling for instance.

          • delta_vee says:

            Rare, yes. Exhibit B, though: Great Expectations. And yes, opinions are still to some extent divided, but most have come around.

            And especially if the rumours of writers’-room divisions and hasty rewrites after the script leak are anything close to true, there’s artistic merit to the change, as well.

            (Thanks for staying in the comment trenches on this one, btw.)

          • ThTa says:

            Exhibit C: A Clockwork Orange. (Though, to be fair, that was a change for the worse, and mostly an American thing)

          • Soup says:

            Exhibit D: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in it’s first appearance ended with everyone dying because of something weird like the furniture being made out of shape-shifting aliens. I think most people will agree that going on to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe was a much better idea.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Revenue opportunity too. They can release the Director’s Cut version with all DLC released to date for another $50, and encourage everyone to buy the game again to see the new ending cutscene.

  33. 9of9 says:

    **ME3 Spoilers**

    While I think it would be silly to expect the ending to be retconned per se, I could definitely see further DLC/patches expanding on it and adding on further explanatory wiff-waff to get it to make more sense.

    Thing is, even if it doesn’t continue the story from where the ending left off – which would be hard seeing as only one of the three choices allows Shepard to survive the goddamn thing – it seems to me like the whole situation is very similar to Human Revolution’s somewhat baffling ending. And just as in DXHR, I’ve a feeling they could add in DLC that takes place before the final assault, but still clears up and anticipates the finale somewhat.

    Maybe you’ll get the Catalyst as a new companion =P

    Or perhaps it’ll take more of a Fallout: New Vegas approach, where the DLC gradually lead up to a more conclusive ending and try to tie up loose ends in a weird kind of thematic space that is chronologically before the game’s final mission but narratively after it (even if Lonely Road did end up being kind of a let down).

    Whatever the case though, I’m fairly sure the writers had a reasonably good idea of what the reaction would be – whether they have some genius masterstroke of narrative up their sleeve, or just want to sell more DLC, it’s hard to say… but I reckon it’s no accident that the endings are followed by that odd after-credits sequence, that oddly no one seems to discuss much (voiced by Buzz freakin’ Aldrin himself), and the little reminder to buy DLC (wink-wink).

  34. Auru says:

    Writing well thought out articles about Mass Effect 3 is pointless at this stage.. the bioware ‘fans’ are already fully fuelled up in hate mode and can’t see sense in anything that conflicts with there own opinions

    I enjoyed how my game ended.. and I think this article is right on the money.

    • Big Murray says:

      There is a certain … odd amount of rage going on over at the BSN, yes. The guys who’re treating the campaign to get the endings changed as a military mission, along with the people who are talking about the possibility of suing Bioware for false advertising, don’t paint a good picture of some fans.

      I understand the disappointment (how many games have we all played in our lives which we’ve felt let down by?) but it’s a little much.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      I happen to encounter a lot more people who consider the ending to be a work of art, really.

      The only thing we cannot expect out of this is moderation.

  35. McDan says:

    “Does not provide the wide range of possible outcomes that we have come to expect from a Mass Effect game”
    Agree with this very much so, if there were only more decisions that could have been made, then I would have been alright with those ones being options. I feel let down by Bioware really.

  36. X_kot says:

    First, let me say it’s really cool how much you’re engaging the comments, Richard.



    At first I was confused why the mass relays were destroyed, but I then remembered that first dialogue with Sovereign from the first game:

    “Your civilization’s advancement is based on the technology of the mass relays…our technology. By using it, your society develops along the paths we desire.”

    By the game’s lore, the relays have to be destroyed to avoid the predetermination of the Reapers/Ghosty.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Definitely doesn’t hurt! Though I think the galaxy would be fine either way. The Reapers appear to keep a fairly loose hand on the tiller, as long as they get cool stuff to harvest when they drop by for snacks.

    • Big Murray says:


      Yes, but then without the Reapers as a threat anymore, there’d be no harvesting to make that a bad thing. The point of the mass relays and the Citadel was just to make sure that by the time the 50,000 year deadline came about, civilization had arisen to at least a certain level of techological advancement worth harvesting.

    • Arcanon says:

      No it doesn’t make sense, because the Reapers are not a threat anymore, and even if the universe will survive in some new shape, OUR universe, the one that we loved and cared for, is dead… wouldn’t bother me if there was a good reason behind it.

      Then again, if the last 5 minutes had any reason to be there I wouldn’t be here talking about them :(

    • ThTa says:

      Just like the French should disregard any and all of their culture’s Roman heritage and go back to their former, more Germanic ways, right?

      The mass relays aren’t inherently evil – they served as an “easy” way to advance for most species, for them to develop along predictable paths. They were very much a part of the Reapers’ efforts at oppression, but tremendous advancements nontheless.
      Without the Reapers, the only disadvantage they might bring is one of stagnation in terms of technology, which is something that’s made quite clear by humanity’s ability to “catch up” with the previously established species in a relatively short time. But really, that’s hardly an issue without the aforementioned Reapers to compete with, and may yield a more egalitarian society.

    • X_kot says:

      @Big Murray and Arcanon:

      Very true, in any case the Reapers wouldn’t be a problem, so the harvesting and whatnot wouldn’t continue, but…


      I would argue that one of the criteria that the Reapers wanted to nuture involves Ghost ex Machina’s point about organics inevitably creating synthetics who would rebel, leading to internecine conflict (e.g., quarians and geth, rogue AIs). Preserving the relays would preserve the hierarchical relationship between machines and organics. Sure, no one’s getting harvested, but the core problem that drove the Reapers still results from leaving that technology in use.

      • Arcanon says:

        But that explanation about synthetics always killing organics doesn’t make any sense xD

        Even if organics, Geth and CO kept using the Relays there would be no harm in it, they would eventually learn to make their own Relays now that the 50.000 years deadline isn’t there anymore…..the game doesn’t give us any reason for thir destruction, other than “space magic”.

        Speaking of nonsense, if the Reapers wanted to protect organic life from their synthetic children….WHY DIDN’T THE KILL THE SYNTHETICS LOL?

  37. Vagrant says:

    The worst offense of Mass Effect 3’s ending is that they make you walk 2 miles at a snail’s pace. No game should force you to move at slower than walking speed for more than a few seconds. What is this, the 80’s?

    • Arcanon says:

      That’s the thing that bothered you? Walking for a few minutes?????

    • Bob says:

      Don’t play Anachronox then. The only thing I disliked about that hugely entertaining game was all the damned walking you had to do in places.

  38. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I haven’t read the article (because I haven’t finished ME3), but nevertheless this seems to be the right place to say this: The more I read about it, the more I dread the ending of ME3. Either it’s terrible, or I will spend the next few months being angry at everyone on the Internet. Both are things that I don’t want to happen. But, of course, not finishing ME3 is not an option. Damn.

    Is there anyone who likes the ending?

    • Christian O. says:

      I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I think the rest of the game more than makes up for what is a last-minute misstep.

      I’m not as bummed out as a lot of people are. I get and agree with quite a few of the criticisms, but it doesn’t really detract from the enjoyment I’ve gotten from the game as a whole.

    • Big Murray says:

      I liked it. My first reaction was “Holy god that was amazing”.

      Then I came out of my ME3 media blackout and found out nobody agreed with me. I think that was my biggest disappointment.

    • Grygus says:

      I am utterly mystified by the ending; BioWare are too talented to see what I saw and think it was good, which means that they saw something I didn’t. For the life of me though, I can’t say what that was. The ending is awful, but the rest of the game is so good that somehow it isn’t ruinous.

  39. Fox89 says:

    For the record (as I’ve already said here I was very disappointed with the ending), the rest of the game itself is brilliant and the way it ties all your stories up before those final few minutes is excellent. Now I’ve gotten over the disappointment, have worked out my own headcanon that improves things, and know what to expect, I have already begun again with a new Shepard.

    As a full product, Mass Effect 3 is largely brilliant, and I’ll enjoy it even more on my second playthrough now I know what to expect from the very end. It’s just such a shame that this is what it’s going to be remembered for.

  40. Bumble says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for that Richard. I agree with you on a number of points and it’s a more thoughful and measured response than can be found elsewhere.

    The only thing I would say, however is:


    One of the key themes, especially of ME3 is the sacrifice of one to save the many, both Garrus and Kaiden have key conversations based around this. Mordin, Thane and I’d even already reconciled myself to the fact of Shepard’s death as being a fait accompli in order to give closure to their individual story. The fact that whilst the ending points this way, and towards the Matrix/BSG ‘This happens, it’ll happen again, nothing you can do will change it.’ is rather trite and poorly constructed in terms of the feel of all that has gone before and the ME story is more about fighting against inevitable control and surrender.

    Whilst I agree each individual playthrough offers closure to all of the choices (Rather pointedly,l I cried more than once), it just felt like such a cheap cop out ending with the binary (or trinary) choice that does not invite questioning or speculation. To have Shephard go through everything and then hold up a black box and say ‘pick one’ is just disappointing and empty without the emphasis placed on cause and effect which has been the series motif so far.

  41. Phinor says:

    Some minutes after finishing ME3 I came to realize that the series as a whole might just be my favourite game of all time followed by utter disappointment at ruining my now new favourite game of all time the way they did. The ending really did hit me hard. I read few gaming boards, laughed at the indoctrination theory and just felt drained. How could they do this to me? It took me couple of days to recover and slowly start to accept the indoctrination theory and now, half a week later, I’m completely supporting the theory a) because it makes the most sense but b) mostly just to have some hope left in Bioware in that they knew what they were doing and they indeed have a plan for all this.

    Ok, maybe it’s not my favourite game of all time but the Mass Effect world is definitely my favourite “gaming world”. Take something like Rage. I consider Rage an underappreciated gem and I really, really enjoyed the concept and the gameplay. But, as we all know, that game also has quite a poor ending but I didn’t mind the ending, I had my journey. But for whatever reason, with Mass Effect, I no longer have any desire to play through the games again just because of those last five minutes. I was already planning playing them all again just mere minutes before the ending hit me.

    All in all, I’m desperate enough to actually want them to at least have a pretty damn good explanation for the ending or better yet, give me five hour DLC that finishes the story properly. I’ll hand in my Bioware bucks, I’ll pay for it, I just need to have closure because I want to play Mass Effect games again. Goddamn it, first DA2, now this shit. At least DA2 didn’t ruin the Dragon Age world, it was just a bad game.

    • ThTa says:

      Agreed wholeheartedly, including the “wanting to believe the indoctrination theory” and the bit about Rage.

      • Bumble says:

        Yeah, the ‘indoctrination theory’ is my only hope to pull this back.

        • Christian O. says:


          If they pulled out the indoctrination theory, I think that’s when I would get pissed off, because that’s spitting in the face of the fans. It’s illegitimizing the other two options by not giving the player enough information to make the correct decision. It punishes you, based on chance, for picking the wrong lever to pull and, more than the current ending, it actually attacks the very concept of player agency, the idea that you get to make informed decisions and live with the consequences.

          With the indoctrination theory you make an uninformed decision and are removed from experiencing any of the consequences.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            At the very least, it demands a hell of a deeper understanding of the lore and wider universe than anything else in the game has come close to, which would be a really silly thing for them to do in a game that’s intended to sell millions of copies. Something like The Witcher is in a better position for it, since that was written with the assumption that it was mostly going to be sold to existing fans.

          • FriendlyFire says:


            The indoctrination hypothesis is riddled with holes, though, so if this really IS what they’re going with I’ll be quite deceived too. Not necessarily pissed because I’m already expecting something like it, but I would’ve hoped better out of them.

            This is only a slight variation over the “and it was all a dream!” tripe.

      • sky_in_flames says:

        Totally agreed!

    • Biometal says:


      Okay, after finishing the game, as everyone minimally invested in it, I was ver disapointed with the ending. It felt like a cheap cop-out and disregarded everything you’ve done so far, all the way back from ME1. Then I scoured the net looking for opinions, interpretations and stumbled upon the indoctrination theory. At first, it seemed too far-fetched, but if you look closely, the game gives you several obvious and not so obvious clues and it all comes together in a beautiful puzzle. It is also clearly said Bioware’s interviews there is more to it than it seems. At this point, I’m just waiting for them to confirm it. A very graceful way to finish Shepard’s trilogy would be to make a FREE DLC (to make up for the From Ashes fiasco) showing the aftermath if you choose get “right” ending (Shepard survives).

      @Christian O. I disagree it doesn’t give you enough information to make the right choice. The whole series you’ve been fighting converted and indoctrinated species. It is made very clear there is no way to control the Reapers as a whole. It is made very clear (if the right choices are made), the Geth, synthetics and AI can co-exist with organics. The only real choice is to destroy the reapers, or to be destroyed.

      • Christian O. says:


        The fact that we’re so uncertain about whether or not it’s indoctrination seems to suggest that it is pretty unclear and that the majority of players are uninformed. If it was an art game that encouraged you to give your own interpretation that would be fine. However this is a space-opera that has had a few tricks up its sleeve, but ultimately plays close to the genre. If you throw out something obtuse at the end of the narrative, then it’s going to be taken literally. Especially if you don’t reveal anything even after the choice was made. If the last scene was Shepard emerging as a Husk, then I think it’d be justified. Otherwise Bioware aren’t challenging their audience, they’re dicking us over.

        Destroying the Reapers, EDI, the Geth and the Mass Relays goes against the central tenets to the Paragon option – that it’s wrong to sacrifice the few (EDI & the Geth) to save the many. It means you’re forced to pick the option where you betray your own values, values you’ve been encouraged to hold through the game, in order to win and survive yourself.

        Disregarding the Indoctrination theory, it’s clear that Synthesis is the Paragon option (coexistence between organics and machines), Control is the Renegade option (domination and instrumentalization of machines) and Destroy is the middle option (luddite destruction of machines), the same way that you could “Save the Council”, “Kill the Council” and “Focus on Sovereign” in the first game.

  42. TheWhippetLord says:

    With any luck the annoying bits could be trimmed by enterprising modders armed with chainsaws.*

    *Completely speculative statement by someone with no technical knowledge of how impossible this is.

  43. GeromeDoutrande says:

    Spoilers to come.

    I generally agree with what is written in the post.

    I have no problem with Shepard dying for instance, that was messaged rather heavily in the run-up to the end sequence anyway.

    I do have a problem with an ending that parachutes in some sort of “god being” from out of nowhere without any meaningful connection to the storyline, then proceeds to offer choice alternatives that do not integrate player decisions from previous three games in any meaningful way (which the game up to that point had done rather well I thought) and finishes everything off with some nonsensical cut scene.

    It is understandable that the lead designer goes around claiming some kind of “edginess” for PR reasons at the moment. I also think that this will at some point in the future change into an apology for “rather subpar” work that for me – unlike as for the post author – has significantly reduced the enjoyment of the game in hindsight. I have for instance played the previous two Mass Effect games more than once and I bought quite a bit of the storyline DLC that was offered later on. It’s quite unlikely that I will do any of that with ME3, which is a pity since it would have been nice to replay the “whole of ME” in the process. I also don’t think that releasing a “proper ending” as DLC would change my mind for the reason outlined in the post.

    As for the “Bioware excitement impact”, I wouldn’t consider myself a big Bioware fan (although I have played roughly a third to half of what they have released overall I think, with a negative trend). The “ending situation” means for me that if I get interested in a Bioware game, then I now not only have to wait for a trustworthy review but also have the game “peer group checked” before I consider buying it.

  44. ChromeBallz says:

    link to

    All of this, plus the catalyst says “we” later on instead of “i”.

    Possible DLC coming:

    link to

    • CaspianRoach says:

      *spoilers* Yeah, if you think about alternatives, it all makes a lot more sense. There’s speculation on youtube which are surprisingly sound and there’s myriads of little glimpses about the ending not actually happening yet. The final “fried armor half-dead pistol shepard” was probably the indoctrination attempt.

  45. Sentient Waffle says:

    Glad to see you’re not jumping on the “HURR DURR GAMERS R DUMB FOR THINKING ENDING SUCKS, ENTITLED BASTARDS LULZ”-bandwagon as many other gaming sites have done, another reason to love RPS :)

    Yes “demanding” a new ending is as some fans do is a bit silly, I get that, but a lot of the critique about the ending is very valid and well founded, so dismissing it as “entitled sons of bitch players” just seems rude and childish. (NOTE: Again, this is something you, at RPS, didn’t do, and I love that, just had to vent my frustration over other major review sites here, sorry :D)

    I’m pretty sure every reviewer who praised the ending to the heavens and back was bought.

    Anyway, I don’t think we’ve seen or played the last of Shepard.
    Obvious reason is DLC, it is Bioware/EA we’re talking about here after all ;)

    Also lots of hints throughout the game, but I’ll let you look for them yourselves, or find some on the great interwebs, might just be hope from my side though :)

  46. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    I just realised. Details aside the structure of this ME3 thing seems very similar to Fable 3.

  47. Eukatheude says:

    I’m happy someone else noticed the omnipresent Miranda’s ass shots.

  48. TsunamiWombat says:

    Lord above I am tired of having to defend my views that these endings were a failure on very level. There is no closure (for Shepherd, the main goddamn character), no catharsis, no real direct influence from our actions – how the hell are you going to tell us the Krogans can now ride DINOSAURS into battle and not show us it at least in a cutscene!?- on the ending.

    As for being childish, I am not childish, I do not want attention. But I forked out 80 quid for this games N7 collector edition and 20 more for Bioware points to spend on the Multiplayer. 100 USD for one goddamn game? The only way that could be worse is if I paid in Euros! I have a RIGHT to be angry and a RIGHT to say “this product does not meet my standards”. And if that makes me entitled then to hell with it i’m ‘entitled’.

    If all the industry wants is to sell us ‘products’ and ‘licenses’ instead of have a relationship with the consumer, that’s -fine-. But don’t bitch when I exercise my free market right to demand a better product and to not buy your product based on previous experiences. Buyer Beware goes both ways – SELLER beware, because we pay your bills.

  49. BwenGun says:


    I’m conflicted, on the one hand the game up to the very end was fantastic. It was filled with some of the funniest moments in the series, as well as some of the most touching (I’m looking at you Mordin, you noble fool.) And the feeling of desperation was really well delivered, from the opening attack on Earth to the refugee camp on the Citadel that slowly filled up as the war spread, and then Thessia, a mission which really brought home the fact that this was an almost impossible task. An impossibility which was actually entirely brought home by the final run in London, which quite wonderfully demonstrated why when you pit a Human being against the guns of a reaper the Human has to have the quad of a Krogan to crawl away still breathing. Stumbling into the transport I was buying the suspension of disbelief that Shepherd might actually fail, that the Reapers might win.

    Then the real ending happened and I couldn’t believe it. I honestly stood in disbelief. The whole hour and a half long end run after initiating the earth mission was wonderful, and I was so swept up in it that I barely registered the fact that the actions you made during the game seemed to have little impact on it’s flow then the ending came and it was like the floor dropped from underneath the whole experience. For all the reasons already listed, the Catalyst is both unnecessary and lazy. What the Reapers described as incomprehensible for Shepperd to understand the Catalyst explains in a throwaway sentence or three that can’t last more than twenty seconds. Then there’s the actual options, none of which make a massive amount of sense and none of which seem to pay any attention to the pre-existing mass effect lore. It feels like the head writer or producer/director got so far into their own ego that they decided they had to do something edgy and cool for an ending, something unexpected. And then ignored all common sense and logic and did what the hell they wanted.

    Before I played the game I noticed off-hand the furor being raised about the endings. I suspected then it was just a storm in a tea-cup, now on the other hand I can understand their feelings, and why they’re being so vocal about it. It’s not the ending I would ever have envisaged, nor the ending I wanted. It was so deeply unsatisfying that it’s tarnished the entire game by association. =/

    So right now what I’m doing is declaring that in my own mind the last ten minutes of the game didn’t happen. My ending is me and Anderson, sitting down in the Citadel watching as the arms open and the Crucible is added. Anderson says he’s proud of my Shepherd, and I get a tear in my eye. Then Hacket says Shepherd needs to activate the button, but warns that the data indicates that the Council Tower will be utterly destroyed by the Crucible firing, killing Shepherd. Shep gets a call from his love interest, says a few final words looks back at Earth as the sun peeks around the side of the Earth and then hits the button. Energy wave goes out, triggers a chain reaction in the reapers reactors (as good as Deus Ex Machinima as anything) and then it pulses out to all the other relays using the Citadels ability to coordinate all the relays as established in Mass Effect 1. Reapers are ended, death toll is catastrophic and Shepherd dies a heroes death along with his friend and Mentor Anderson. Cue credits.

    That’s my ending, even if I have to bleach parts of my memory in order to achieve it.

  50. blind_boy_grunt says:

    “[RPS note: this is specifically Richard’s take on the ending, the rest of the team have some different ideas which we’ll discuss later in the week.]”
    has it been so quiet today, so everybody of rps can play through me3 and we can have a big clusterfuck article of opinions with fighting and screaming and crying? if so: yay.
    edit: hm seems i must have been imagining things, no fewer articles than usually