What’s Right With Mass Effect 3’s Ending

I love to imagine how something could think this image might be an ending spoiler.

The obsession with endings is a peculiar one. Perhaps it’s a result of having been indoctrinated by a lifetime of movies with “surprise twists”, or stories so poorly written that they rely on their final hook. But however we’ve come to this place, it’s one that fails to recognise the real pleasure of being told a story. Mass Effect 3 tells a story, and I’m here to defend it.

Clearly this post contains spoilers. All of them.

Another trap gamers have fallen into is the sheer disgust with which the notion of “being told a story” is met. The distinction with gaming, you see, is you get to make choices, and those choices have consequences, and thus the game is unique to us. That notion makes sense in a game like Minecraft, but applying it to narrative, pre-scripted projects like the Mass Effect series is just naive. Even in a game like Dragon Age, where our choices lead to what feels like a unique conclusion just for us, we still fought the same big dragon, still followed the exact same path, and merely received cosmetic differences, none unique but shared by tens/hundreds of thousands of others. And that’s great! Because BioWare had a story to tell, and they were going to tell it.

I feel like so many of people’s complaints about Mass Effect 3’s apparent lack of consequence would have been addressed by something as tacky as Dragon Age’s flash-card descriptions of what had happened to the characters in your party. Like an Eighties movie freeze-framing at the end and telling us who went on to discover a cure for cancer, and who finally settled down and had three kids, it certainly gives an immediately satisfying sense of closure, and perhaps would have dealt with a lot of the grumbling. But I’d argue it robs the player of so much potential for those characters. “Grunt went on to form a band, Grunt And The Tube Babies, who had 91 top ten hits in the Galactic Billboard, thanks to Shepard’s love and support.” I loved and supported Grunt! That means my choices were meaningful!

But here’s the thing: My choices did have consequences. So many, on so many of the characters, in so many ways. It’s just, those consequences occurred on my long path toward the ending. And, well, that’s bloody brilliant, isn’t it?

Many are upset by the final moments, a three-way decision that is not impacted upon by the rest of the game, as if this invalidates everything that came before it. But two things. 1) What about everything that came before it? 2) How is that decision not impacted upon by the previous three games?!

A choice I made wiped out an entire species. Unable to choose the Quarians’ wrath over the Geth’s capitulation, I was unaware that giving them the option to choose would mean seeing them wiped out of existence. Even less that Tali would throw herself off a cliff in understandable suicidal misery. And that choice, that decision to give the freshly sentient Geth my support, had one hell of a consequence on the galaxy. In that final battle the Geth fought alongside the Alliance forces, something that would have seemed impossible at the end of Mass Effect 1. The Quarian were all dead, every last one of them. My actions had consequences, and they were beyond huge.

I forged cooperation between the Krogan and the Turians. I’ve no idea if that’s a pre-scripted inevitability, or the result of my choices, and crucially I don’t care. As a result of what I did, however it came about, another remarkable change occurred in the galaxy. One with enormously far-reaching consequences. I saw the Salarians, albeit unwillingly, give the Krogan life. My involvement saw that real, extraordinary change occur, whether a race was broken free from a curse that would have seen them wiped out. I made the decision that even though there may be terrible consequences, this species deserved the right to breed.

Those are some of the massive consequences my actions had. Then there were the dozens and dozens of minor, more personal ones. The relationships I forged, the people I loved, the comments I made. They all influenced not only the on-going relationships with other characters, but so crucially, the moments themselves. By choosing to be supportive rather than strict, the instance of that conversation changed, the tone was a consequence of my actions, and the reactions of others were changed in context. Because I choose to shoot down the advances of Traynor, I didn’t have a sexual relationship with her. Because I opted to be supportive of Joker and EDI’s relationship, they found love. Because I said a kind thing, rather than a cruel thing to Liara, she felt good in a moment, rather than bad.

Characters I almost ignored, like James Vega and Ashley Williams, still were impacted by my presence in their lives, and mine was impacted by them. I encouraged Vega to join the N7. I teased Ashley when she was hungover, rather than admonished. And while all those things may have made no difference to whether the Reapers were defeated, of course they had consequences on my game. Consequences in those instances, affecting my story and toning my experience.

But what about those final three choices. Yes, of course, they were a strange way to finish. But to suggest that they were out of the blue is absolutely untrue. And to write off the “ghost boy” is to make the same sad mistake that so many do with the beach scene in Contact, when we see Ellie’s father. An alien/god choosing to appear in a meaningful form obviously does not mean it is that thing. The Catalyst appearing as that small boy could hardly have been more established by the game, via three separate dream sequences that demonstrated quite what a devastating effect his death had had on Shepard. He came to represent all the terrible deaths on Earth, and indeed throughout the galaxy, that Shepard was unable to stop. He haunted her dreams because he was the catalyst for her fear and drive. (Although you could argue that he himself did get used up in the reaction.) For the Catalyst to choose his form to appear to Shepard made sense – it was designed to create an emotional reaction in her, to represent the potential for gain after so much loss.

And then the choices themselves. Of course anyone is welcome to dislike the options, or dislike that they’re there at all, but to suggest they’re not relevant to the games isn’t fair. There was certainly a failure to properly define that it all comes down to the creation of Synthetics, and their eventual destruction of Organics, and I am confused by how an apparently ancient Synthetic race is the one arguing this. But as Shepard herself appeals, this is the result of an ancient race having lost its way. They firmly believe that what they do is for the good of the galaxy, and that they’re preserving these races in Reaper form, but they do not see how evil their actions have become. They’re wrong. But they’re wrong from a position of enormous power, and it’s a power that not only dominates the worlds of Mass Effect, but also the player. Those three choices – those are what you get, from a wayward god-like species that’s in control. Don’t like the options? Hell, maybe that’s the point.

My choice – to choose synthesis – was utterly and completely influenced by the three games I’d played. I had seen the potential, the evolution of the Geth into a race capable of independent choice, the relationship between an AI and a human, and the possibility of a massive uniting step forward from a repeating pattern that had gone on for countless aeons. It may be sci-fi hokum that it’s possible, it may spring from nowhere that a big wobbly green light could turn all robots and humans into robothumans. But I was cool with Mass Effect Relays transporting me millions of lightyears around the galaxy in only the time it took for one maddeningly unskippable cutscene to play through. I’m okay with made up sci-fi nonsense in my made up sci-fi nonsense.

The consequence of having played three superb games – games in which I’d felt relationships with characters like in nothing else I’ve played – played out in that choice.

I commented to others as I played the game over the last week how exciting it was that decisions I’d made five years ago were having an impact on the story I was being told now. My being able to continue a relationship with Garrus was a joy, and made a huge difference to how I experienced the game. The races I’d saved being present at the end, fighting alongside me, was more important to me than whether it actually made any difference to what happened.

I’ve played each game in the series once. At around 30 hours a time, that’s plenty for me. So I’ve not dissected them like a detached scientist, analysing which parts would have been the same no matter what I did. I find it so remarkable that so much of people’s fury with the game comes not in what they experienced, but what they learned about their experience after. For me, I filled up that bar with green, I made the choices that mattered to me, and in those final scenes I saw thousands and thousands of ships turn up to fight for Earth. That was my experience as I played, and I adored it. It was dark, brutal, often devastating. It was funny, silly and often heart-warming. In the end, it was the story of a small group of friends, and their particular experience of the end of the worlds. A story about the hope to be found in utter devastation.

The ending may not have matched up to your wishes. Despite my vociferous support for it, I can empathise with a number the arguments. But it was not a denial of choice or consequence – it was a series of three games about choice and consequence, the two happening constantly throughout. And good grief, thank goodness it didn’t fade to black and leave everything ambiguous, with just enough room for 900 more sequels.


  1. PopeBob says:

    I’d say there’s still plenty of room for 900 more sequels. With (oh look, he lived!) or without Commander Shepard. Bioware (as silly as it may be to put the huge team of writers under a single corporate heading) is, indeed, intent on telling a specific story- and whether or not you believe that character died in the past is irrelevant to the story they intend to tell. (link to social.bioware.com)

    • PopeBob says:

      I’d also like to say that the ending could easily have been just as dark and just as poignant if the final decision/decision room was cut entirely. While fans would still dislike the final minutes, it wouldn’t be because of a ridiculous new character and a badly-applied “this was the theme all along!” pull. Just as many questions would be answered, just as many sad things would happen, but the illusion of choice in the three colors would be gone.

      I tend to be in the camp where talk of the “Indoctrination Theory” is dismissed as fanwank, but if it ended up true I wouldn’t be upset.

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      • Calcographer says:

        I’m right with you there. My thoughts were that they should’ve just cut it with Shep dying on the floor.

        It would have a been a dark ending, and after all my Shep had fought for (or against depending on which one), I would’ve been ok with it.

        It just felt so right up to that point, so painfully right damnit! Then the god-kid showed up with the “Hey dude, I made synthetics to kill organics, so they don’t get killed by synthetics…” to which I replied, “…lolcatwhut?”

        • Lord Byte says:

          The moment you walk through that beam it went from an awesomely crafted game to the matrix revolutions ending. But that wasn’t the only thing, then they just lost all continuity and mixed up scenes that made no sense and called it an ending (how is everyone on the ship when they were fighting with you on earth moments ago. Which jungle planet in our solar system did they crash onto? I don’t mind the gates “exploding” even though canon said that would wipe out every system near such a relay. (There’s dead reapers everywhere so building a gate from their reactors should be child’s play).

          I think they just couldn’t think up a satisfying ending, went with an artsy “bad ending”, grafted whatever they could from the endings they tried up to then on it and called it a day.

          • Zelius says:

            “The moment you walk through that beam it went from an awesomely crafted game to the matrix revolutions ending.”

            I didn’t like the ending either, but I have to say the final confrontation with the Illusive Man, as well as the last talk with Anderson, was in my opinion among the greatest moments of the game.

    • Thrashy says:


      Given that the Green Option implicitly makes Shepard into the ghost in the (pan-galactic, bio-synthetic) machine, it would be comically easy to make any number of neo-Shepards into the protagonists of future games, or turn him into a kind of god-entity. The sci-fi options are vast and infinite!

      • Ruffian says:

        I thought it killed him and the blue one turned him into ghost in the machine. It sounded like the kid was saying he would use you kind of as a blue print in the greeny. I could be wrong though. lol. sooo vague.

  2. noodlecake says:

    Hear hear!

    It’s nice to hear someone talk sense amongst all this irrational pedantry.

    • BatmanBaggins says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the ending, but being critical of it is hardly showing “irrational pedantry”. Much of the criticism towards it has actually been quite rational indeed, which is why there’s so much to talk about in the face of how irrational some of the final moments are.

      • PoulWrist says:

        Being critical and demanding that it’s against the promised hype and filing lawsuits and demanding that the ending be rewritten is not “reasonable” .

        • Styles says:

          So you’re saying BatmanBaggins is responsible for that?
          The hype was immense, and the ending was pathetic, and gave no closure. People are perfectly within their rights to complain when something is made out to be amazing and then delivers a giant dose of disappointment, especially when it has cost (in my case) $100.

          A lawsuit is taking it too far, I agree, but I have no sympathy for Bioware or EA because everything including their own statements indicates that the last minute decision to make the ending vague and without closure was because they want to squeeze the franchise for more money in an MMO.

          And NO….it was NOT a good story, because a good story is one that leaves you feeling satisfied. A good story gives closure.

    • Zelius says:

      Dismissing people who express dislike over the ending as “irrational pedantry” is in the same vein as saying anyone who liked it is a “fanboy”. Differing opinions happen.

      Also, my largest issue with the ending is the Normandy escape and subsequent crash-landing. I don’t even care that the ending was bleak, or that there was basically only one outcome. But please tell me how that part of the ending made sense in any way, shape or form.

      • liquidsoap89 says:

        Yes but there are people that just disliked the ending and moved on, and there are people (MANY from what I’ve seen) who can’t go 10 minutes without making sure that everybody in the world knows they didn’t like the ending.

        “THE ENDING RUINED THE WHOLE SERIES!” “WORST ENDING I’VE EVER SEEN IN ANYTHING!” “MASS EFFECT SUCKS NOW!” These are all the types of sentences that MANY people are saying, whether they genuinely believe what they’re saying being a whole different story.

        I myself completely agree with John. To me the whole game was my “ending”. When somebody asks me what I thought of the ending, I think of all the events that led up to the credits. Not just the catalyst god child. *SPOILERS* Uniting an entire galaxy to defeat the reapers (“holding the line” so to speak), rekindling my relationship with past crew members (and a little more intimate one with someone in particular), getting rid of Cerberus once and for all, and then discovering that I could potentially stop war for good using synthesis… THAT was what happened in my ending. Not just me running in to a laser beam, but everything else as well.

        I will lose a lot of respect for Bioware when they inevitably decide to make some DLC that deals with everybody’s complaints, so in the meantime I will continue to defend them for the brilliant finally to their brilliant trilogy!

        Oh and how can people NOT like when the kid says “I want to hear more about the Shepard”! That was the perfect line to end my game on!

        • Apolloin says:

          I think the problem is that whilst the entire game runs the gamut from miserable abject and costly failure to big damn heroes the ending really only channels the former.

          It’s fine that the series COULD end with the destruction of all life or the destruction of Galactic civilisation through the breaking of the Mass Relay network (and thus the ending of reliance on Reaper Tech) but the ‘Big Damn Heroes’ ending is missing. Now, the working theory is that it will be added via DLC later (there are many hints to that effect) but it is FAR from surprising that the current state of play has caused a shit storm.

          • liquidsoap89 says:

            I think part of what I liked so much was that you get to make decisions throughout the entire series, seemingly shaping the galaxy around what you say, but in ME3’s final act you don’t get a choice. Shit hits the fan, and it hits it hard. I think you saving the world by the skin of your teeth actually makes it have more of an impact. It makes it seem like the reapers really were galaxy destroyers… No matter how powerful you become, they’re still godlike. The same thing happened for me with the Illusive Man. *Spoilers* When I was talking to him at the end I didn’t have enough paragon points to talk him down, so when he goes to shoot Anderson (and then me) I HAVE to be a renegade! I DON’T get a choice there, no matter how good of a person I am throughout the rest of the series, if I don’t make that one final renegade decision… I lose. That made the stakes much bigger for me, and it definitely made my story have way more of an impact.

            I almost feel that NOT getting to make certain decisions make the ending have more meaning overall than if I could have gotten a “everybody lives happily ever after” ending (which I surely would have gotten had it been presented, seeing as how I was as much of a paragon as I could have been).

    • tobias says:

      Pedantry is right. Also batbags, I think that what those of us who don’t side with the (seemingly) negative majority are depressed by is not by the level of rationale being employed- there clearly is a great deal of disturbingly deep, analytical thought brewing, as the lengthy conspiracies, theories and analyses of each tiny element of the ending and the lore building up to it attest- but rather is how that rationale is being directed. This was ultimately Bioware’s narrative, as John says, and for me it’s this bizarre combination of clearly intelligent people dissecting what is to them, a very important problem and mistake, combined with this infantile rage at what these same people thought was truly theirs, which I find particularly saddening. What exactly did people think they were playing?

      That Bioware may shy away from making such a bold ending again for fear of enraging what I hope is just the vocal minority is also pretty worrying.

      • Matt says:

        “Pedantry” is such a hollow argument. If you want to criticise something, you obviously want to list all the reasons, even when they’re all packed in one moment. It also ignores completely whether the arguments are actually right or not. Attaching “irrational” after it is obviously equally hollow and ironic when you tend to simply ignore any issues, or in reference to being angry about crap, rather than just being emotional about the purty music…
        Way to go coming up with any meaningful arguments instead of just talking about the opponents and attaching random, “cool sounding” tags. That precious pedantry is after all the only possibility for John to potentially gain some ground for the ending.

      • Zelius says:

        What you and others defending the ending seem to forget, is the fact that Bioware is guilty of false advertising. I present you this quote from Casey Hudson:

        “It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C…..The endings have a lot more sophistication and
        variety in them.” Source

        In the end, we did in fact simply get ending A, B, or C, with only slight variations between the three. Mind you, that quote is from an interview which was taken after the game was already finished, so it wasn’t just a case of them changing their minds. And again, your opinion (and that of anyone else defending the ending) is just as legitimate as ours, but please stop dismissing our claims as pedantry.

        • noodlecake says:

          I’m not defending the ending. I’m defending creative freedom and the fact that the game was really fantastic. I found the ending to be a bit of a let down. The journey was amazing though. I also think that if people invested their time creating art rather than criticizing it the world would be a much richer place culturally. In the amount of time some of you guys have spent bashing this game you could have started to develop your own skills to make your own game which would obviously be much better than Mass Effect 3 based on how not very good most of you seem to think it is.

          • Zelius says:

            I’m not sure what you’re referring to, as I am not criticizing the game as a whole, nor have I ever done so. The game is amazing, but I find the ending illogical (especially regarding the Normandy) and severely lacking. Also, I do not appreciate the false advertising.

            And what’s this about people needing to create art before criticizing it? That is such a non-argument. If I had the means to create games, I would. Even if I wouldn’t, that does not make my opinion any less valid.

            Addendum edit: I also think you might have mistaken me for someone who is now actively bashing the game, and demanding a new ending. I can assure you that is not the case. I am merely stating my opinion and pointing out that the criticism isn’t simply pedantry.

        • pretenderprofilergirl says:

          They did NOT falsely advertise. Just because the ULTIMATE ending had three choices doesn’t mean anything. The end of the game, meaning how everything turns out, has MANY options.


          Mordin sacrifices himself for the Krogan… Or not. There is peace between the Geth and the Quarians in the end…. Or the Geth destroy the Quarians causing Tali to commit suicide…. The Genophage is cured… or it isn’t. All these choices affect the end of the game, how everyone lives after the end. They weren’t just talking about the BIG ending, but all the little ones, the thigns that made this game so great to begin with.You can’t just focus on the big picture, but all the minute details.

          Anyway, I loved the synthesis ending… There should’ve been a little more detail on how everyone will survive, but other than that it’s great. I thought that the fact that form of the kid coming from Shepard’s head was pretty obvious. The catalyst was used by so many species over so many cycles that it couldn’t just appear in an originally designed form; it HAD to come from the head of whoever’s using it otherewise it wouldn’t work.

          I would have liked an epilogue, but you don’t always get that in every game or every movie. You have to THINK about what could’ve happened to everyone. That’s kind of the point. Appreciate the game and all its details… Without them, Mass Effect wouldn’t have been the great series it was.

      • Apolloin says:

        The argument that the game is a creative endeavour which the creators are completely within their rights to control in any way that they deem desirable is really making a fundamental error. You’re lumping games in with films, books, music and other non-interactive artistic creations.

        Games are much more interactive – especially a game like Mass Effect. The point of the series was to allow players to create their own version of the Shepard story. Should we really be shocked that those people feel a sense of ownership over the thing they’ve been nurturing for three games plus DLC? Bioware has been harping on and on about the fact that this is an interactive story as much as a Third Person combat game. Allowing the players to tell the story is THE POINT and, for the most part, they’ve totally pulled that off in ME3. Even in areas where it seemed that they had retconned some of the decisions to simplify the story tree there is usually some sort of way that a player can affect the way things turn out with some decision or some previous choice consequence.

        And then the ending.

        • stupid_mcgee says:

          It also completely dismisses the fact that Mass Effect isn’t art for the sake of art. Mass Effect is a game, a product, that is meant to be consumed. This isn’t making a painting of a dog crapping in a soup can just because you want to make a painting of a dog crapping into a soup can, or because you think that such imagery has a some social message.

          Typically, such a painting would have a hard time selling. You can still do it, of course, but you shouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t do well financially. If you want to sell paintings, then perhaps you should paint subject matters and in styles that people do find appealing.

          Likewise, if you’re going to make a game heavy on choices and how those affect further outcomes, then perhaps you should make the ending actually dynamic to the choices and decisions you’ve made. It would also be a good idea to show how those choices affect the world, rather than just having the player guess what happened.

          Thing is: people like narratives. Which is, interestingly, one of the big attractions to conspiracy theories. What’s more exciting? That a bunch of nerds crunched data and ran experiments and the USA eventually got to the moon, or that it was all faked using secret bases and crazy technology/feats to fool the world! The truth doesn’t really entice. There is no real story. We studied hard, we did tests, we went to the moon. Sure, there’s anecdotes and such, but there’s no real meat to the story. The conspiracy is rife with narrative, unfolding and weaving in and out of various details and subplots. It creates a very rich storyline. One that is crazy and pretty dumb once you begin to apply basic logic, but it is a very compelling story compared the truth. Same with 9/11. Is it more entertaining to think that there were intelligence mistakes and simply a failure to stop the attacks, or to think that there were inside men, hidden gold, insurance scams, remote-guided missiles, secret relocation, etc. etc? One is a boring textbook, the other is an episode of 24.

          Being left with a bunch of unanswered questions doesn’t provide narrative. It actually destroys narrative and leaves the consumer without a definitive sense of closure. Sure, you can imagine what would have happened, but people tend to want to know DEFINITELY what happened. And that usually means having the creator directly spell it out for them. That way it’s not just speculation, but defined canon. It’s why people hated the shit out of the end of Lost. I knew several people who absolutely hated the final season of that show, despite being huge fans for all of the other seasons. The vast majority of them hated it because it became apparent, and even JJ Abrams himself said so, that the writers didn’t really know where it was going and just kind of making things up as they went along. People were hooked on the concept that it was all some kind of big, crazy, convoluted, well-defined mystery of a plot, where you got see the all these Rube Goldberg-esque narrative machinations and plot twists being unraveled, but the truth was that it was mostly simple retcon and MacGuffins. The audience felt cheapened, and Lost forever has a tarnished reputation.

          It’s not that these types of literary tools are bad, but that they can easily be abused and when it looks bad, it feels really cheap and reflects very poorly on the author. Christ, ask any old, hardcore Star Wars fan about midichlorians and watch as their blood pressure drastically rises.

          I’m not a Mass Effect fanatic or anything, but it seems rather clear that something like this flowchart is much more preferable than how things actually ended up playing out.

      • kyrieee says:

        “This was ultimately Bioware’s narrative”
        Yes, it was a huge collaborative effort, and in the end the lead writer supposedly disregarded anyone else’s input on the ending. Lets assume that’s true, and many of the people who worked on the game feel the same way as the audience, then where does that put us?

      • dftaylor says:

        I didn’t feel the ending of ME3 was particularly daring or challenging – it was just badly written and non-sensical. To defend it under the banner of creative vision is weak when it delivers a literal deus ex machina to conclude a vast, complex tale, especially when the machine’s explanations make no real sense.

        To an extent, I’m not convinced BioWare is a particularly adept storyteller in any of its games. It’s been telling the same core story in all of its games for decades nearly. ME was the first of its games that I engaged with because I felt I was making a difference.

        My issue with the ending wasn’t that i was robbed of choice, it was that the concluding beats were so underwhelming. I loved Shepard getting blasted and being mortally wounded, I’d have loved if the game had been brave enough to let him die and conclude the story with uncertainty about the world’s fate.

        It’s fair that the whole final act is the ending to your ME story, but it’s not fair to criticise those who feel the finale diminishes that. Or to call them pedants.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      I agree. I loved the ending. It has some minor flaws in execution, but I think it gets most of the big stuff right. Enough that it might be one of my favorite video game endings ever (it’s certainly one of the more memorable).

      But from posting on forums about the matter it seems that not only am I wrong to like the ending I’m also an idiot and a Bioware apologist. Go figure.

      So, anyway, it’s nice to see a well reasoned argument in favor of stuff that the endings did right out there amongt the sea of fan hysteria.

      • Caleb367 says:

        That reminds me of that old adage – arguing on the internet is like the special olympics; even if you win, you’re still retarded.


        I’M SERIOUS

        GO AWAY

        I have mixed feelings about ME3’s ending. On one side, it’s not THAT bad as anyone seems to go nuts about; on the other, it’s far from perfect or satisfying.
        Me, on my first playthrough (which I didn’t like that much, as expected: my first is always a speedrun to see everything, with the standard story, without importing any saves – in brief: not MY story, but a shorter pieceholder) I chose the “save everyone” ending, and you know why? ’cause I felt bad for the geth. That’s it. Catalyst saying I could have destroyed the reapers and all synthetic life? Hell no. Not after having chosen the geth and hoping until the last moment the quarians would see reason and break off their crazy attack. I was not gonna let that sacrifice go to waste.

      • Aardvarkk says:

        Yes, apparently I have ‘no soul’ for liking the ending.

    • noodlecake says:

      Oh God no! i hated the ending. But I enjoyed the game a lot up to that point. I think people went a bit over the top with their dislike and I do think it should be praised for it’s merits. Most people who dislike the end said the game was pointless and that demanded that it be rewritten which I think is too much. I also think that my original comment was definitely on the trollish side. I don’t normally troll but this and the dragon age 2 thing did bring that out of me.

    • MarcusCardiff says:

      I can’t see how you and a few dozen Bioware apologists are correct and thousands of us are wrong.
      Too many pompous assholes hating on people with legitimate grievances for my liking.

      But the devs are always correct and we should just buy what they tell us and STFU, right?

    • Kadayi says:

      Irrational pedantry? Care to qualify that statement in some manner? Or should we assume you’re above such things?

  3. delta_vee says:


    I respect what you’re saying – and if they’d ended it after that conversation with Anderson, I’d agree. The kicker of it all (like a horse kicking you in the stomach) is the inferred holocaust brought about from destroying all the relays. That’s the point which made me feel like all those choices I’d made along the way had just been ground into dust. It was a “nice job saving the galaxy, man, but better job destroying it” moment. After that, I felt sick (quite literally) and turned the game off in disgust.

    If Bioware hadn’t put that part in, I think, then the uproar wouldn’t be nearly as tremendous as it is. It might have been disappointing, but I doubt it would have inspired quite the rage that it has.

    • HermitUK says:


      Indeed. Aside from the fact that Arrival went to great pains to point out that Relays exploding kills all the things, without them all those alien fleets you brought to the final battle get to starve to death in orbit around Earth.

      Nice job breaking it, Hero.

      • Shadram says:

        I don’t really agree with this argument. Throughout Mass Effects 2 and 3 you frequently travel between solar systems without use of a Mass Effect relay, and as you hop in and out of them, EDI often says “Jump to light speed successful” or something like that. Sure, it might take them a long time, and it may be too far for some species to get home, but to say they’re stuck in orbit around earth seems incorrect.

        • Robert says:

          Wasn’t the Arrival story specifically about thrashing a meteor against it, which is not necessarily the same as this?

          • Enso says:

            It’s most definitely different from this. I keep reading this over and over again.
            Energy wave = signal to destroy/control/synthesize
            Energy beam = Remaining energy sent to next relay
            Relay Blowing up = Just the relay/machinery blowing up, none of the main energy remains.

            To me, it’s a massive oversight of the critics of this particular aspect. Don’t they teach thermodynamics in secondary school anymore?
            link to en.wikipedia.org
            link to en.wikipedia.org

            EDIT: No matter how many times I see this debunked, it comes back, sometimes just a few posts after.

          • KaL_YoshiKa says:

            You are correct sir…I just don’t understand this part of the argument.

            So the people arguing about why the ending suck include as what boils down to as one of their reasons “A Meteorite impact is the exact same as a Magic Space Explosion”. This is much like the difference between switching on a Nuclear reactor with an electric signal and THROWING MASSIVE BOULDERS AT IT. But no the ending sucks etc. *sigh*

        • timmyvos says:

          There’s a difference between travelling between clusters of systems (mostly around the mass relays) , most of which are about 20-60 light years apart, a manageable distance for most ships and travelling the distances made possible by the Mass Relays, often in excess of a 1000 light years. The entire galactic economy, civilization, and supply lines in the Mass Effect series are based on the Mass Relays. Without them colonies will run out of food, Earth, and by extension the entire galactic fleet, will starve because of the huge amount of aliens and humans in its orbit without any land available for farming any time soon and nothing will get rebuilt because there simply is nothing available.

        • KvP says:

          Here’s what a writer from Bioware, Chris L’ettoire (sp?), allegedly said on the matter:

          “As for colonization patterns, yeah, the bulk of the galaxy is toast. There are three basic types of world in the IP:

          Homeworlds: Billions of inhabitants, too many to feed and maintain standard of living without massive resource importation. (Earth, Thessia, etc.)
          Colony worlds: Millions of inhabitants, self-supporting but may lack heavy industry or R&D capabilities. (Terra Nova, New Eden, Illium)
          Mining worlds: Hundreds or thousands of inhabitants, uninhabitable without regular imports of manufactured goods, O2, food, and so on. These worlds supply the resources that feed the homeworlds. (Therum)

          What you’d realistically see post-relay is a massive die-off back to sustainable levels. For the mining worlds, nothing is sustainable – everyone dies. For the homeworlds, massive starvation and scarcity – a Malthusian crisis akin to what killed off the drell. Life becomes nasty, brutish, and short as people fight over the leftovers. The homeworlds have all the tech, but they’re mined-out – there’s not enough to start again from scratch. If they use up what they have, they’re not getting back into space on their own.

          The colonies fare the best. They can feed themselves and maintain their level of technology (possibly barring a few key industries). They’ll certainly lack for brain power (the most prestigious universities and corporate labs are on homeworlds), and the smaller ones will have problems with genetic diversity. They may not be able to get back into space for generations, but they’re in good shape to do it eventually.”

          I don’t know if that’s legit but the in-game Codex goes into this to some extent. Conventional Faster-Than-Light (FTL) travel is limited by (1) Eezo supply and (2) “FTL drive discharge points”, which if I recall correctly tend to be magnetic fields around gas giant planets. If you don’t have one or both of either for long distances, FTL travel becomes really really dicey, and that’s the function that the relays provided in the IP – they’re mass teleporters. The Codex also states that galactic civilizations clusters around relays because of their convenience, but also because space is much, much more vast than it even seems in-game – it’s stated that about 1% of the galaxy is mapped. Without the relays, you’ve got thousands or millions of light years of empty space to get through before you hit your destination. For all intents and purposes, the kind of travel afforded by relays is technically impossible without them.

          That’s all in-game sources, at least. Either they didn’t put much thought into the implications of the ending or they were, in fact, going for a primitivist “back to square one” ending (handwaving the certain doom that would befall so many fleets stuck in the Sol system, etc.) It sucks, but there it is

      • Archonsod says:


        Except all those ships have FTL drives, and the race that would have to travel the furthest has already spent three centuries living on the same ships they were flying.

        Also it’s the release of energy that destroys planets when the relays go boom. Given that self same energy is what’s being used to enact your choice, I think it’s somewhat implied that it’s not going to wipe anyone out. Unless of course you opted to exterminate the synthetics.

        • HermitUK says:

          Problem is that Mass Effect FTL cores can move about 12 Lightyears in a day; Ashley mentions this in ME1, and it takes an evening for Joker to move the Normandy to nearby systems to reach the final mission relays in ME1/2. The Citadel’s original location was about 50,000 light years from Earth, meaning somewhere over 11 years to reach it. Assuming similar times to reach the home systems of each species, I doubt they’ll have brought that much food; The Quarian Liveships which grow most of their foodstocks didn’t join the Earth fleet, as far as I can see.

    • Haphaz77 says:

      Spoiler etc.

      John and delta_vee make good points. The game itself is an ending of sorts – resolving the Geth/Quarian war and the Genophage and myriad other issues. If the game had ended with Anderson’s death I’d have been happy. But the Normandy’s end made no sense and the game opened more questions at the end, rather than answering them, ending the game on a sour note.

      The real shame is that Bioware can (and has) done better – the ends of ME1 and 2 were brilliant. Judging from the latest info, there is no conspiracy, the ending was just rushed and not properly QA’d. Of course, its hard to admit a mistake and Bioware of course are free to do as they like. It just seems like an easy win to make a new ‘director’s cut ‘ and please the fans. There’s a lot of money in that for them (DLC sales, future sales) if they do. Just swallow your pride for a bit Bioware. Thanks!

  4. Iliya Moroumetz says:

    I can see your point, sir, however, I would have to disagree about the ending on a creative level.

    It’s bad. There is no way around it.

    To introduce the Star Child/Catalyst/whatever, which clearly shows such pivotal importance to the existence of the Reapers, so close to the end, is bad writing.

    Not to mention the ten minute monologue that accompanies it. Grinds the game to a complete halt and you can’t help but feel that you’re being talked down to.

    It’s just like the scene with the Architect of the second Matrix movie.

    As a side note; it’s also bad story telling to ruin the mystery. I can’t remember who said it, but if you explain something horrible and terrifying, it’s no longer horrible and terrifying. Sovereign’s spiel from ME1 was all the backstory on the Reapers we needed.

    So, yeah.

    And don’t get me started on the whole Indoctrination theories going around. But that’s another subject.

    For what it’s worth, I wanted to spare the Geth, whom I was able to help reconcile with the Quarians, and EDI, so, I too took the Synthesis option. It’s a very unsatisfying conclusion.

    I apologize for being long-winded, but it’s hard not to feel somewhat cheated on the closure you wanted so bad since Shepard offered Retirement, Old Age, and Little Blue Children after Lair of the Shadow Broker.

    • PopeBob says:

      B-but the syntho-organic leaves! Joker’s circuitry-riddled hat! Surely this is the greatest ending ever devised by man!

      • Iliya Moroumetz says:

        Joker and EDI’s techno-organic kids!

      • Archonsod says:


        See, the reason people complain is because they just don’t understand the ending. By picking the synthesis option you reveal the true focus of the entire trilogy.

        Joker finally gets laid.

    • X_kot says:

      While I don’t disagree on any particular point you make, I would like to mitigate the harshness of the critique by suggesting that endings are hard to write, especially when a lot of people have very high expectations. So many television shows have ended with what were considered disappointing finales (many already mentioned in this thread) primarily because it is impossible to satisfy the desires of such a large audience. It’s le petit objet a, a resolution that no write could hope to produce. I was quite content to see the ME3 ending as akin to how 2001: A Space Odyssey resolves: science-fiction that renounces plot coherence in favor of abstraction. It’s a risky move because it requires audience members to put aside their cognitive mapping of the story and experience something nonlogic driven.

      • Iliya Moroumetz says:

        Quite true. Endings are hard to write. However, they are not impossible. Bioware’s developed a pedigree of excellent writing of stories, and endings with proper closure, so, it’s becoming a bit difficult to excuse them when they’ve become known for writing good stories with good endings.

        And while I see your point about 2001, I am not entirely sure that going for nonlogic and abstraction was the route to go for a franchise at the last minute. After all, Kubrick didn’t experience the blacklash that Bioware and EA are at the moment.

        And, if doing this, as you say, was a risky move, well, it appears that the gamble paid off, but not in the way that Casey Hudson wanted. He said he wanted it to be memorable, and, unfortunately, it is.

      • stahlwerk says:

        Excellent call about 2001. The set up seems similar, indeed. I wonder if Bioware had considered going all out white-room-old-man-embryo-in-space, and leave it at that vagueness vis a vis the cosmic.

      • Triangulon says:

        The difference is that the ending to 2001 is explained in the book. The book and film were released together and were intended to compliment each-other. As Arthur C Clarke offered a reasoned approach to closing out the story, Kubrick was able to produce such an abstract ending to the film without leaving it impossible for fans to achieve a sense of closure should they so wish.

        There is currently no such situation with the ending to Mass Effect 3.

      • Ruffian says:

        Endings are hard to write, damned hard. But you know what? they’re sure as hell not impossible and with a team of high quality writers, I don’t feel bad for them in the slightest. It’s nonsense to say that “endings are hard” as if they didn’t know there would have to be an ending from the second they decided it would be a trilogy five years ago. They’ve had plenty of time, and space to get this right. Endings are hard is not exactly a valid defense.

        That said I can somewhat appreciate the choices they gave you, and what they were trying to do, but it was horribly executed. My personal end scene was somewhat alright but it was mostly because I played with edi and showing her and joker together at the end actually made some kind of sense, I can’t imagine how let down the people who didn’t use edi as a party member felt when joker stepped off of the ship with two random party members and it made not even the faintest of sense.

    • Shadram says:

      I didn’t feel that it broke the pace of the ending. It was more like the eye of the storm, a moment of peace and quiet while the battle raged on in the background. It certainly wasn’t a perfect ending, and I feel they could have achieved the same ending without the ghost kid (you had Anderson and Illusive Man there to argue destroy/control, and I’m sure EDI could have recommended synthesis) but it wasn’t as horrible as everyone seems to think. It certainly didn’t make me hate three games that I’ve enjoyed so completely.

      • Iliya Moroumetz says:

        While you have a point, I would offer that ‘eyes of the storm’ have their places, and in a place as tense as in the middle of the final battle, seems quite out of place. You didn’t see it in any of the other highly lauded movies that still have staying power long after.

        And while it didn’t make me hate the entire trilogy, as some would think, given the reaction, it does, however, leave a very visible black mark on one of the greatest gaming franchises of the past few years. One that Bioware will probably never be able to live down.

        • Shadram says:

          And I’d argue that it was perfectly placed. You couldn’t end the series with a whizz-bang gung-ho ending, it needed that quiet, poignant moment, asking the player to make one more choice to end the game. I agonised over the decision for a long time before choosing, and it was everything that had happened before that made it so difficult. That wouldn’t have happened in the middle of a warzone with explosions echoing all around.

          • Iliya Moroumetz says:

            No, Sorry. I can’t see it that way. It was so ham-fisted that you could make a sandwich out of your hand.

    • Arbodnangle Scrulp says:

      The Catalyst ending was the least worst option so I took it, but with my teeth gritted.

      Wasn’t there a whole subplot over the last three games, over the moral indefensibility of uplifting a race against their will (Salarians and Krogan)? About how meddling in the evolutionary process shouldn’t be done? And here I am doing it to the whole galaxy!

      • Crimsoneer says:

        There was also the continuous thread of “multiple diverse races cooperating is better than one united racist front”, as defined by your CO in ME1, Ashley, Cerberus, and obviously Javik in ME3 specifically stating that the Prothean’s lost because they were all too similar.

    • f1x says:

      What you said about mistery: thats usually talked around Lovecraft’s stories, he never describes literally the horror, only the sensation of horror produced, (sometimes even in a too hiperbolic way) thus, its your imagination that visualizes the creatures and the monsters
      But after Lovecraft, there is been millions of visual representations of cthulu and none is as scary as you would picture it when reading a story from Lovecraft itself
      Same happens with Mass Effect ending (and many other videogame ending) as you mentioned, they didnt need to just show everything, but they did, they shouldnt have made the child a “physical”/visible thing they could have just drop a “god’s voice” there or something, or just entirely cut that,

      I mean it could’ve been much more easier (not saying that I can write a better story but just wondering)
      with 2 possible endings (+ degrees of ending)
      ending 1 – finishing after anderson dies, you just destroy the reapers with the crucible and depending on your choices, the races unity together in piece or the alliance just breaks after the main threat is destroyed (as its hinted through the campaign) also depending on your choices some companions live or die, there is more or less damage done to the galaxy, and it would be just like the end of Alien 1 and Aliens (2) threat is destroyed but the sense of danger and mistery continues, therefore the community will keep on building research around the misteries and the unresolved plots and theories

      ending 2 – you just fail, because of your choices or the lack of war assets, but presented as for example “the illusive man in the end betrays humanity” and therefore the reapers win, the resistance is savage and until the last man standing (possibly with some cinematic of shepards companion heroicly standing until the end) but ultimately everything dies and the cicle starts a new,
      a pessimistic ending, but also glorious and heroic sort of “Braveheart” / 300 classic history where the hero is betrayed but makes it definitely memorable unti the last moment, (the last conversation with Javik is sort of this style of ending)

  5. King Kong says:

    you are the biggest fruit on the planet

  6. Crimsoneer says:

    Hold on John, how did it NOT fade to black and leave the possibility for sequels? If you chose the correct ending, then Shepard is alive – SOMEWHERE – your friends are alive – SOMEWHERE – and the entire galactic fleet is stranded on earth. How is this not a big fade to black.

    Also, the main problem I had was the huge lack of explanation for the ending. Destruction will destroy all the synthetics, included Geth and Edi…I’m sorry, small Godchild, it will do what? Why the hell does it do that? How? Did you include a frigging killswitch in everything ever? What about synthesis? What and how the hell did that happen? What does it actually mean for the galaxy?

    rant over :P

    • Mungrul says:

      It didn’t fade to black. It popped up a reminder to buy more DLC. HUGE difference.

      • LintMan says:

        I saw this on another forum, but can’t find the original now:

        Boy: “Can you tell me more stories about The Shepard?”
        Man: “You’ll have to give me another ten dollars.”
        Boy: “But I don’t have any more money, Grandpa.”
        Man: “Then go to bed!”

  7. zeekthegeek says:


    I think the most offensive thing is that they tell you constantly that your efforts matter and you gotta get the preparedness up, but there is literally no difference to the last act if you don’t. The same cheap cutscenes play and the same non-sensical deus ex machina (literally) takes all illusion of you having agency over Shepard’s choices away.

    Here’s what I hate most about the ending three choices: none of them are something Shepard would choose to do. Shepard’s response in this situation is more likely ‘shoot the retarded god-alien-kid thing’.

    And a slightly less important but still annoying thing: the background in the after-credits scene? Google Winter Space. They just stole an image off a wallpaper site, and photoshopped two silhouettes onto it. Cheap cheap cheap, for such a huge budget game.

    • Unaco says:

      Maybe it’s a lesson on futility. Maybe you missed the point?

      • ezekiel2517 says:

        So the entire ME saga, all about beating mind shattering odds against impossibly powerful beings, comes down to futility…

      • Grygus says:

        Did you play the game and see the ending?

        Futility wasn’t the point. It could have been! That might been a good ending, actually.

        But the cycle is broken. The Reavers lose. The Normandy escapes. Earth is saved. In some endings, Shepard even lives. If you’re trying to communicate futility, this is a poor attempt.

        Unless you mean the futility of expecting sensible stories from video games. Then you might be onto something but it’s not a conversation I want to be in.

        • Fox89 says:

          Even if futility WAS the point I would have still liked the option to stay true to the principles that had governed me since I first set foot on Eden Prime. “No, your options all suck, I refuse even if it means the destruction of everything.”

          Sure, maybe everyone would die. But at least I would still have my self-respect. …That’s just as important as saving all sentient life to some people.

        • Zelos says:

          Sorry, but everyone is dead as a consequence of the Relays exploding. There are multiple references to the consequences of that happening, and everyone is definitely dead.

          On the upside, it means that everything was in fact just a story made up by grandpa at the end and that any idea of “canon” is thrown out the window because he can just remember things differently.

          • Grygus says:

            The Normandy is shown on a lush planet, with at least a few crew members very much alive, well after the local Mass Relay explodes.

          • Phantoon says:

            Yes, including members of your team that were with you on the final part of the final mission, in which case they’d have had no way to get back to the Normandy.

          • Bobzer says:

            Yes except now they are stranded on some lush world with no ship, limited supplies and no way to get back to their home systems due to the destruction of the Mass Relays.

            They are stranded there forever, I guess they will have fun though.

          • Zelius says:

            Not to mention the idea that Joker saying “fuck this, I’m out” even before Shepard makes his choice, makes absolutely no sense. Joker, and every other squad member, would have been on or above Earth until the very end. I would have been fine with the ending if that blatantly illogical sequence wasn’t in it.

    • essentialatom says:


      Edit – Damn, beaten to it!

  8. Eruanno says:

    So… how do you defend the part where Joker and the Normandy magically appears in-between two Mass Relays and crashlands on a jungle planet – despite the fact that he was at Earth, shooting Reapers with us only moments ago?

    • jaheira says:

      Do we know how long Shepard was unconscious before going up the beam of light?

      • Zelius says:

        That still wouldn’t make any sense, namely for these two reasons:

        1) Considering everything they’ve been through, Joker and the rest of your squad would not simply abandon Shepard (or the entire battle for Earth, for that matter). It greatly devalues their characters. I honestly believe they would sooner sacrifice themselves trying to win the war, rather than try to escape.

        2) Joker is still part of the Alliance, and the Normandy is still an Alliance ship, not to mention one of the most advanced ships in the entire fleet. Even in the unlikely event that Joker would attempt to escape, and convince your entire squad to escape with him, he would have been ordered to stay in the battle.

        Edit: might as well add what I think that part signified; Bioware had left-over footage of the Normandy exploding, and didn’t want to waste it. They likely added it at the last minute. Note how nobody speaks in those scenes, which could be attributed to them already wrapping up recording sessions.

        • jaheira says:

          Zelius, I was asking a genuine question, not trying to make a point. I just couldn’t remember if we had any indication of how long Shepard was out. I suspect that if they do any DLC it may involve this period of time. Your points are valid, but stuff may have happened that we don’t yet know about.
          By the way, was it you who was doing that survey about DRM on the forums? What was the result? (Ignore my wrongness if it wasn’t you!)

          • Zelius says:

            Indeed, that was me. Thanks for your interest! The result was that certain aspects of DRM will actually lead to players avoiding a product altogether, while not necessarily leading to an increase in piracy, but still leading to a decrease in potential profits. Aspects of DRM which were cited the most, were limited activations and the necessity to be online while playing (in the case of single-player games). That’s the gist of it, at least. The article I wrote is over ten thousand words long, and contained many other findings.

            I’ve actually been asked to present my findings at a New Media conference soon, which I’m pretty excited about. I’m also thinking about translating the thesis into English (I wrote it in Dutch). When I do, I’ll be sure to link to it in the forums, in case anyone here is interested in reading the whole thing.

        • jaheira says:

          Nice. Good luck with that. Look forward to reading it (in English!)

  9. HermitUK says:


    I recommend reading this article, which articulates the issues with the ending rather well: link to gamefront.com

    The overall impression, to me, is that the ending(s) was rushed; an impression backed up by The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3, which suggests they were still messing with it close to Gold date. It feels like they ran out of time, and had to run with whatever they had. It explains why the endings are so similar and reuse so many assets. It explains why events in the ending make little sense (The Normandy crash, teleporting squadmates). It explains why they didn’t have time to flesh out the Catalyst dialogue, which could have cleared up some of his incredibly vague and nonsensical statements that Shepard takes as fact.

    I think a lot of players will accept the ending, or agree that while the ending was a bit odd the game was great. And those folks will move on. The problem BioWare has is that the core fanbase seems to be the most vocal and the most upset (And I’ll readily admit I’m among that number). This is the same core fanbase that they’re hoping will buy the DLC they peddle in the final textbox.

    Don’t get me wrong, I loved 98% of ME3. Everything up to the final elevator was brilliant – heck, the showdown with The Illusive Man would have been a fine moment to end on. And I’ve already started a new ME1 game to see how some different choices carry over the entire series. It’s just a shame the closing moments don’t stack up with the rest of the game, or the series in general.

    As for the “Indoctrination” theory, don’t forget that The Final Hours makes clear that the plan WAS to have Shepard fall under Reaper control at the end, as late as November 2011; in other words, at least some of potential clues throughout the game probably were meant to foreshadow this, at one point. And when they finalised the ending at the last minute, they didn’t have the time to remove all those hints and clues.

    I really like the idea of a battle against indoctrination – it’s been shown time and again to be one of the Reapers’ strongest weapons, and there’s a lot you could do with the concept.

    But I don’t know if it would gel well with the game they finally released. If Indoctrination had been the ending presented in the game, great. But now, if they release DLC which reveals the final section never happened, then the current ending becomes invalid. It means ME3 is a game without an ending, rather than a game with a bad ending. In some ways that’s worse; it leaves anyone who is unwilling (or unable) to get that additional content with no resoultion at all, rather than simply an unsatisfying one.

    • Phantoon says:

      Speaking of The Final Hours, there’s a design note that literally has “LOTS OF SPECULATION FOR EVERYONE!” written on it.

      Then they went with that, rather than tying the ending in some sort of neat bow.

    • tyren says:

      I’ve read that article and I agree with pretty much every point it makes. Honestly though, I’d be a lot less frustrated if Bioware hadn’t flat-out said that THE ENDING SPECIFICALLY (not “the whole game as the end of the franchise,” the end of ME3) would be significantly affected by our choices throughout ME3. It gets discussed on the second page of this article, read the first several paragraphs:

      link to gameinformer.com

      Bearing in mind this interview was made in December, when the ending was already finalized, I feel safe in saying Casey Hudson was knowingly lying through his teeth when he said “At this point we’re taking into account so many decisions that you’ve made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.”

  10. PleasingFungus says:

    Here’s a question for the comments thread: can you think of any other game in recent history with an ending that has inspired nearly this much controversy and argument and interest?

    For better or worse, I certainly can’t.

    • Eversor says:

      Can you name a game that allowed for such continuity across the trilogy and shaped up based on your decisions, thus causing you to be emotionally invested in the characters you chose to help? I can’t.

      A better comparison would be a TV series. Battlestar Galactica, The Sopranos, Lost etc. “What does this have to do with games”, you might ask? Writing. Bad writing ruins a story. Badly written end ruins a well written story.

      • John Walker says:

        No it doesn’t ruin the story. It may spoil the ending for you, but if you were enjoying the story before then, then you enjoyed the story!

        • Grygus says:

          That is true, but I do not recommend good stories with bad endings to my friends, so it does make a difference. When someone tells me watch the first ten episodes of LOST and then stop, they are telling me that LOST sucks.

          • Fox89 says:

            Very true. Ever watch the anime ‘Death Note’? There are 30+ episodes to that. As far as I’m concerned; it ends at episode 26. Terrible endings can, perhaps not ruin, but severely damage your experience of the fiction as a whole.

        • Eddy9000 says:

          John I thought you were the literary theory man of the group, wasn’t it you who wanted to ‘bring back Barthes’?

          Our experiences change dynamically given the emergence of new information and experience, ‘you enjoyed it at the time’ doesn’t matter, because we are not ‘at the time’ anymore, experience of past events changes dynamically with the context change caused by future experience. You cannot ‘enjoy something at the time’ because that experience of the present is set in the context of past and future experience. So the ending spoils the experience of the narrative, and any future engagement with that narrative. What I enjoyed at the time I no longer experience as having enjoyed because of the new context set by the shitty ending. So now I’m carrying a spoilt experience of 90 hours of game-play and have little desire to engage with it again in a replay, which was something I was looking forward to.

          • Red_Avatar says:

            I cannot agree with Eddy more – and I’m surprised John actually believes what he says is true. To make the frankly bafflingly ignorant statement that because you enjoyed the story up till the end, you enjoyed it, is staggering.

            A great mystery book can leave a very sour taste if the ending makes no sense (Stephen King ahoy) – a book you’d never recommend because you felt the ending was a rip off.

            Or a TV series that ruins the entire solid premise by having an utterly baffling ending.

            Would you honestly say you’d watch or read either of those knowing the ending will just be a painful disappointment and reminder of what could have been?

            It doesn’t matter that you enjoyed it as you were playing it because that’s not how our brain works. If you bite in an apple and enjoy it until you discover its inside is filled with maggots, would you honestly say you enjoyed the apple? Don’t be daft …

          • Eversor says:

            This, precisely. I have five different Shepards that have gone through different variations of the story. After finishing ME3 with my first Shepard, I didn’t want to replay the game with another of those five. I saw no point. The end soured the experience so much that it was difficult to motivate me to even attempt to play through again, and believe me, I tried. I got past Mars and stopped. I knew how it will all end. I knew all I do will be ultimately meaningless in front of the Reaper god’s merciless dictate.

            This is opposed to ME1, where I replayed the game three times with the same character, and ME2, where I instantly replayed it with the SAME character, doing the absolute SAME choices. There was nothing like it with 3.

            Javik’s memory shard is an appropriate metaphor to this whole ordeal. “If you could relive it all, knowing how it ends… would you do it?”. Like him, I am very reluctant to do so, and it’s all because the last ten minutes that are like a spoonful of tar in a tub of honey.

          • Juan Carlo says:

            I don’t see what BArthes has to do with this. Yes, he believed that Our experiences change dynamically given the emergence of new information and experience, but the conclusion I think he would draw from this claim, in this instance, would not be that the ending to the game would ruin our past experience with the narrative. Rather, his basic idea would be that we never would experience the same ending twice–mainly because our contexts/experiences are continually changing so we are, quite literally, different people viewing the content via different “filters” at different times in our life.

            So if anything, I think the main idea we can get from Barthes in this situation would be that if you don’t like the ending now, try it again in 2 years. Even if you still hate it then, your experience of it will be a completely different thing than it was the last time you watched it. It will, basically, be an entirely “new” thing to you–at least in terms of the subtle ways that you are interpreting it.

          • Eddy9000 says:

            I just used that as an example of Johns literary theory interest (thought I remembered him saying it in an electronic wireless podcast, whatever happened to them?) rather than Barthes theory having relevance in this case, was interesting to hear what you said about it though!
            I’m a psychologist so I’m coming at it from systemic and narrative theory, broadly under social constructionist thinking.

        • Phantoon says:

          John, I still reserve the right to hate the Star Wars Prequels and say that they cheapened my enjoyment of the original movies.

          And I also reserve the right to hate the ending of Battlestar Galatica, which was completely terrible, and ruined my enjoyment of the series. In that way, leaving things open ended would’ve been fine. We didn’t need to know everything- some mysteries had been pushed along too long for there to be a meaningful answer in the end. Sure, the same could’ve been true of Mass Effect, except that this was just badly written the entire time.

          Introducing the final boss in the bridge to the second act of the third game is not good writing. Deus Ex HR’s bosses sucked because they didn’t fit and had no introduction.

          Grandpa storytime is also not good writing.

          And having the last two words in your game be “downloadable content” is a load of Horse Armor and is completely unacceptable.

          • Juan Carlo says:

            BSG is the ultimate argument, though, for how a subpar ending does not necessarily ruin a well constructed narrative. Regardless of the ending, most of season 2, the beginning of season 3, and even a large part of the middle of season 4 of BSG are still awesome–ending or no, mainly because they are just really well constructed episodes of TV.

            Of course, I don’t think the ending to BSG was as bad as many say, but that’s probably a topic for another time.

            Point is: I think the same is true for Mass Effect. It’s constructed mostly like a TV series–i.e. episodically. So even if you really hate how the series wraps up, I still think you can enjoy many of the earlier missions for what they were on their own.

          • Kadayi says:

            @Juan Carlo

            You remember the brave human resistance guys at the beginning of Season 3? Turns out they were in fact all Cylons. Remember how the President was dying, but then was rescued by the miracle baby blood? But said same blood couldn’t cure anyone else a few episodes later on? Remember how Callie had been making moon eyes at the Chief for a couple of seasons finally nabbed him? But then it turned out that the baby wasn’t really his (because he was apparently a Cylon all a long) and in reality she’d been banging Hot dog instead? Remember how basically you were invested in humanity being on the run, but the writers killed off pretty much all the human characters or revealed that they were in fact Cylons all a long? Great writing? More like Ret-con city.

        • LintMan says:

          “No it doesn’t ruin the story. It may spoil the ending for you, but if you were enjoying the story before then, then you enjoyed the story!”

          Perhaps for you, but I disagree. For me, a lousy ending (especially one filled with plot holes, bad/lazy writing, cliches, and ridiculous logic) totally and completely overshadows what might otherwise have been an enjoyable or even great ride up to that point. The annoyance I feel outweighs the earlier good moments, leaving my lasting memory to be a negative one.

        • Kadayi says:

          What has been seen, cannot be unseen John. A badly written ending inevitably colours an experience in its entirety. I absolutely loved the storyline of BSG through the first couple of seasons, but about midway through the 3rd the rot started to set in when it came to the revelation of the ‘final five’ (which was basically a plot cover to explain the lack of contract actors to fill as yet unseen Cylon roles) and trudged slowly towards a storyline that seemed to indicate that entire human apocalypse was pretty much a resultant of Dean Stockwell having Daddy issues and wanting to (literally) fuck with his creators on a galactic scale (and let’s not forget that ‘God did it’ in the finale). The whole thing turned from TV gold into TV lead over the space of a half dozen episodes. It’s impossible for me to muster the enthusiasm to rewatch it, given I know how it’s going to go and how disappointing that conclusion was.

          With regards to ME3. Shepard dying wasn’t a big issue for me (the most heroic sacrifice is self sacrifice after all). I wasn’t even that unhappy with the 3 choices option. However the escaping Normandy footage was frankly risible (as was Buzz Aldrins godawful grandfather speech), and a poor substitute for some form of aftermath vertical slice montage showing how Shepard’s decisions throughout the game(s) play out under each of the three choices, as well as the fate of his companions. A challenge? Certainly. But nothing that other games haven’t done before.

        • Sarkhan Lol says:

          “No it doesn’t ruin the story. It may spoil the ending for you, but if you were enjoying the story before then, then you enjoyed the story!”

          I understand what you are saying and disagree completely. Endings are not separate from the stories they crown. The ending is part of a story as well, and a critical part at that. If I’m eating a delicious meal, and then my last bite contains a solid spoonful of dogshit, then sorry, I did not enjoy that meal. If a massage ends with me being shot in the foot with a nailgun, I am not relaxed and fully satisfied.

          That’s an extreme comparison, the sort of hyperbolic nonsense you generally see from fans angry about Tali’s stock-photo picture, but one that hopefully illustrates the point. We’ve all seen less than stellar, possibly even flavorless endings. No big deal. It takes a very, very badly written and ill-considered ending to retroactively bring down an entire storytelling experience, but it can and does happen. If I was enjoying the story and well-invested into it before then, so much harder and further does that ruin hit. It can taint everything that came before it if it’s drawn the player/viewer/reader in enough til that point. (Hello, Ego Draconis.) More precarious still, ME is a series, and it stands or crumbles on the merits of all its components.

          It’s not the sudden railroading into three identical conclusions. I was satisfied with the culmination of choice up til that point. So what if they promised something different? I never believe anything developers tell me, and neither should you. But these conclusions were so forced, arbitrary, disconnected and senseless that they lost all meaning. I was told the ending was bad, and I thought I, a connoisseur of bad games, was ready for it. Man, was I wrong.

          It’s not the tone. I love bleak. The Witcher series and STALKER both had quite bleak endings (at least, my Witcher 2 did,) and I thought they were terrific, ladybirds and all. Mordin died in my playthrough. My favorite character, dead, and I thought it was fitting and well-done. I don’t want a ‘happier’ ending, and neither does a good portion of the discontented audience who stayed with this series. Just one with a degree of literary competence that doesn’t engender wild theories about how it was all a dream because, and this is the really telling part, that would be preferable to what we actually got. ME3’s ending isn’t bad because it’s unhappy, it’s bad because its terrible, jarring, nonsensically bad writing that seems to bear no logic or relation to the series as a whole. It’s trying to be clever and deep at the expense of anything and everything else. See also: The Matrix 3, which ME3’s conclusion rather strongly resembled, for me. You can fudge a lot of things and get away with it, but not on this scale. Remember the last third of Indigo Prophecy? Of course you do. How could you forget?

          However, I’m glad ME3 had the ending it did. Not because I can find any merit in it, but because of the hilarious responses it’s generating. Marauder Shields is the funniest damn thing to come out of a video game in ages. LOTS OF SPECULATION FOR EVERYONE is a pretty damn versatile catchcry. Watching screenwriters and PR people dissect and analyze things is fascinating. The support group is working overtime, and, like the Daleks, a greater good has come from a terrible evil. It gives me a strange and unsettling kind of hope.

          One day, my sweets. One day.

        • copernicus_phoenix says:

          Wind rushing through your hair. The adrenaline coursing through your body. The experience of weightlessness. The majesty of the world, spread out beneath you. All very enjoyable.

          It seems almost churlish to complain that someone has tampered with your parachute…

        • Matt says:

          Yes, everything that comes before will always “exist”, but a serious enough flaw makes a whole work unsuccessful. You can still refer to anything unspoiled as doing things right, and wishing more of that, but the thing itself will always be unsuccessful. If you have a movie with only a few good scenes, you won’t call it a good movie. You might want to have more of the director in the vein of the good scenes, but you won’t refer to it as one of his good movies.

          Endings that rewrite the entire premises are especially problematic, because that is what everything hinges on. And you want to see everything in context and not just “imagine” another context.

        • Werthead says:

          This doesn’t really make sense. MASS EFFECT 3 is a whole game that can be analysed as a whole, with the ending included. When you look at art, you look at it as a whole piece, whether it takes ten seconds to look at a painting or five years to wait for a computer game or TV series to be finished. What the ending could have done, if the ‘indoctrination theory’ is correct and if this was handled better at the end, is make replaying the game before it have much greater resonance and meaning. For example, as I spoiled myself on the ending I had great fun spotting all the references and mentions of indoctrination, questions over Shepard’s rebuilding by Cerberus, questions that he ‘might just be a VI in Shepard’s body’, the weirdness of the dream sequences and so on. All excellent little touches that might be missed given the stuff going on elsewhere.

          However, the ending was not handled correctly. Now replaying ME3, if indeed not the first two games, it will be impossible not to consider the fact that almost everything you’re doing is going to be undercut by a confused and nonsensical ending.

          People aren’t irritated by the fact that the ending is ‘down’, they’re irritated because it doesn’t make any sense, at all.

        • equatorian says:

          Well, if that was true, you’d be okay with playing Amnesia only to learn that your kids had just thrown you a surprise Halloween party in the Gothic castle your mother-in-law happened to own, and all the monsters were basically your sons and daughters in state-of-the-art bedsheets?

          Endings don’t matter much to the overall narrative if they’re average. But if they’re bad or great, it can shift your experience into a whole another spectrum.

          (Nothing about ME3 here because I haven’t played it, I might end up liking the ending, but I take issue with the idea that the ending doesn’t matter if the journey’s been fun. Might’ve been true of the years of dump to C:>, but games and the gaming audience have changed since then.)

        • Beva says:

          Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

      • Consumatopia says:

        I don’t think ME to BSG or Lost is a good comparison. BSG and Lost were “mystery” stories–viewers tried to find explanations for the strange things they were seeing on screen. Finding out that they were just making it up as they were going along completely ruins that (I didn’t see Lost, but I did see BSG, and, yes, dammit, it’s ruined by the way it ends).

        ME, on the other hand, seems like its more about drama, characters and experience than ultimate explanations. The Sopranos is probably closer here–even if you think that ending sucks, it doesn’t retroactively ruin what came before it in the way BSG’s ending does.

    • delta_vee says:

      Not just interest, but reaction. And no, it’s not really precedented in gaming. Reminds me of riots after Rites of Spring or black armbands after Doyle killed off Holmes.

      And regardless of anyone’s position on this particular issue, I think this is a conversation gaming needs to have – one about the boundaries of players and creators, and sorting out just how much an interactive story belongs to the audience.

    • Grygus says:

      I guess you slept through all the bitching about Dragon Age II, which was certainly not helped by another very bad ending.

      I had partly the same problems with the end of Human Revolution, actually. All that story and choice-and-consequence boiling down to “push button, receive bacon” at the end. It didn’t matter what you had done, or why, or how. If you pushed A, you got ending A, same as anyone else who pushed A. It was like it wasn’t part of the game at all.

      • Xocrates says:

        While I haven’t played through ME3 to really make a comparison, I would like to present a short defense for DX:HR and why it’s different.

        1) that game was about that final choice. The entire game was built around the theme of transhumanism and the final choice was simply “where do you stand on the issue”. Even if it was lazy, thematically it made sense.

        2) HR gave you mostly choice on how to approach a problem, not what the solution to the problem will be. Even the ones where you did choose the solution didn’t have any far reaching consequences. Yes, you got to choose whether a couple minor characters lived or died, but that’s about it. You certainly didn’t have the option to cause the extinction of an entire race.

        3) At the end of the game you knew exactly what every character would be doing (i.e much. the same they were doing before, since, again, none of your decisions had far reaching consequences). So you had all the closure necessary.

        • Ruffian says:

          I agree with you simply based on the fact that dxhr was a game about our world becoming one in which the push of a button could alter everything. It was the central theme of the game. it was about transhumanism. ME was also, but the concept simply wasn’t adressed enough or in the same way throughout.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        Yea, while they follow a similar “3 choices, pick 1” set-up, I’ve seen a lot of people stand up for DE:HR (and DE1) in the comparison, simply because it essentially caps the story, which each option based on the themes running through the whole game, the various character motivations, the sort of “prolog” play-out, etc… ME3 on the other hand cuts a lot of it free before you reach the point of “choice”, leaving it to feel much more “clinical” and unrelated the rest of the game, and series.

  11. Fiyenyaa says:

    You may see the entire game as the end of the series. I can see that, to an extent.
    What makes that argument invalid for me is the way that the final choice makes any of these resolutions gained through the final game essentially meaningless because they shift the galactic paradigm by such an insanely large degree. They absolutely did fade to black with ambiguousness, because nothing whatsoever about the last decision you make is addressed.

  12. Unaco says:

    It ain’t about the destination, surely. It’s about the journey.

    • Grygus says:

      Sure, but if the journey ends in a cesspool you will forgive people for taking a dislike to it.

    • bwion says:

      If you have a great road trip that culminates in a car crash, then yeah, it kind of is about the destination.

      (Note: I don’t know if I think the end of Mass Effect 3 is a car crash. I’m just saying.)

    • Hanban says:

      Sure, but if the journey ends in you getting stabbed in the eye you’re bound to be at least disappointed.

      I can’t say I was furious over the ending, but disappointed certainly.

    • Nick says:

      In life maybe, not in storytelling. As in lots of things, people remember the beginning and the end more than the middle bit and having a bad one of either can be damaging, its pretty basic stuff, not leaving your audience wit a sour taste in their mouth due to terrible deus ex machina crap should be pretty obvious to a writer with talent and/or respect for its audience. Its the writing equivelent of sticking a middle finger up and saying fuck you.

  13. ShEsHy says:

    You spent half the article defending what didn’t need defending. The majority of ME3 is a great game, it’s just the quality of the ending that is below average.

    • Grygus says:

      I’m of the opinion that the uproar exists because the rest of the game is so excellent and choice-driven.

      • Snidesworth says:

        This. Nobody is knocking the bulk of the game (though it certainly has a few problems). The ending is just truly and irredeemably awful, making the terribly written first couple of hours look inoffensive in comparison. Stressing that what proceeded it was good doesn’t improve it. If the whole game was shit then nobody would care, but such a wonderful experience is capped with such an awful ending people will be disappointed.

  14. S Jay says:

    I still didn’t play Mass Effect 3 (because of Origin), but that seems to be a fair point of view also.

  15. Grover says:

    Defending the ME3 ending: a Contrarian Devil’s Advocate game fit for Ivory Tower lovers “so beyond the common fan’s petty distastes” the world over.

  16. Xzi says:

    “The distinction with gaming, you see, is you get to make choices, and those choices have consequences, and thus the game is unique to us. That notion makes sense in a game like Minecraft, but applying it to narrative, pre-scripted projects like the Mass Effect series is just naive.”

    No, nope, nuh-uh. I have to stop you right there. Partially because it’s almost time for me to leave for class, but also because you’re dead wrong. Not only has the idea of choices with consequence been executed well in other narrative-driven games, but when an entire series like Mass Effect is both predicated and advertised with that as the focal point, that’s what we expect to receive as customers. So sue me when I expect Bioware to deliver on that point. Personally I’m not fond of being bent over a barrel, but if that’s your thing, I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong. What I will tell you is that you can’t begin calling others naive for expecting to receive the exact things they were promised. Unless those making the promises are politicians. It’s a dangerous precedent to set for game developers, however.

    • Eversor says:

      This right here. Casey Hudson told us a week before release that the game will have numerous distinctive, satisfying endings, and that that there won’t be such a thing as “A ending, B ending or C ending”. “Sweet”, we all thought. What better way than to end series whose central theme was choice not only from a design perspective, but also reflected in its story? Choice to live on, choice to change, choice to overcome the shackles of pre-determination.

      And then we played the game. In the last ten minutes, we got mad. Because those last ten minutes were completely against all of what was promised and what the series were about.

      Sorry John, I disagree and remain rightfully pissed, because I was falsely advertised something that I never got.

  17. ezekiel2517 says:

    I like 98% of John Walker. It is a shame that last 2% will be my freshest memory and will forever spoil the rest.

  18. Grygus says:

    Much like BioWare’s ending, I am shocked into comment after seeing something of lower quality than I have come to expect from the name. No offense meant, but this argument seems poorly thought-out to me.

    You start out by burning straw men – nobody with any sense has claimed that Mass Effect 3 as a whole ignored decisions – then you agree with the core problem: that the ending ignores this mechanic entirely. Surely the last ten minutes of a 100 hour story is not the time to change the very nature of the storytelling?

    You then assert that the ending isn’t out of the blue, but I notice you never support that assertion; tell me how I should have seen that coming, please. Giving Shepard nightmares is brilliant characterization, as is his fraying temper as the game continues. Claiming that this reasonably points to a mystical ending in what has been a relatively hard science setting is purely hindsight. Tell me the moment you thought to yourself, “you know, the Reapers aren’t the real threat here.”

    I do agree that the ending doesn’t retroactively ruin the series, but I do not see a logical argument that the ending isn’t bad; indeed all you seem to be saying is that it’s bad, but so what?

    If you want to know why people are upset (because you don’t seem to entirely understand it,) this video explains it quite well: link to youtube.com

    • newc0253 says:

      I didn’t have a problem with ghost kid, nor his explanation of the cycle. Hell, I’m one of that narrow minority that actually liked the Architect in Matrix Reloaded and all that eternal recurrence guff.

      But even i thought the three endings sucked galactic-sized donkey balls. And it baffles me that John Walker – the one RPS contributor i find myself in agreement with 98% of the time – contrived to find some satisfaction in these endings. The only way i could enjoy the endings, i think, would be to induce some kind of moderate brain damage.

      Again, my problem isn’t ghost kid. It was always likely that the Reapers had some terrible hidden secret, and that this would be revealed very late in the game. Mass Effect 3, moreover, continued to hint at this and the Catylst’s mysterious nature. And on an intellectual level, i can even see that the game had also laid the groundwork for the Destroy ending, in that Reaper code had been incorporated into the Geth, into EDI and so on.

      The problem, rather, is that the setup wasn’t nearly enough. It didn’t work intellectually, for all the gaping plot holes that have been pointed out. And it didn’t deliver on an emotional level. Not in the slightest. On my first playthrough i went for the Synthesis ending, not because i wanted to but only because it seemed the least-worst option after Control (basically validating the pro-human supremacy of the Illusive Man) and Destroy (which would kill all the synthetic life like EDI and the Geth that i’d worked so hard to promote and defend across all three games). But it felt phony as all hell – cheesy flashes of Joker and Anderson as i fall to my doom, but nothing of the core characters that i actually cared about – and it got worse when it involved the needless destruction of the relays and ended up with glowing green Joker walking into the sunset with his robot girlfriend. That was what i was dying for?

      Fuck that noise. Like the ending to the Matrix trilogy in which Keanu agreed to a peace with the machines that presumably involved most of humanity still hooked up to battery farms, my Synthesis ending had just involved me forcing the entire galaxy to go half-synthetic, whether they wanted it or not, fuck free will and self-determination and all those other values my Shepherd had been fighting for. Not to mention the idiocy of it, as though the only cause of conflict in the galaxy was that between synthetics and organics, right? I’m sure the half-synthetic Krogan are gonna be singing kumbaya with the half-synthetic rachni.

      So i went back and replayed the ending and this time went with Destroy, which works on a more emotional level, save that i now have spent approx 100 hours building a careful symbiosis between Geth and Quarian that gets completely fucked over, because the Geth are dead and the Quarians are gonna die too because they’re now relying on the Geth to help them settle. And also killing off Joker’s chances of ever getting laid. This might have worked if there was kind of resonance to any of it, any depth. But i then i thought back to the FedEx quest i did for an Elcor diplomat earlier in the game and realised that that mini-auto-dialogue had more moment and more gravitas THAN THE ENDING TO THE ENTIRE FUCKING TRILOGY.

      It reminded me of nothing so much as the contrived ending to Dragon Age 2, another Bioware title i otherwise love, in which my pro-mage Hawke spends the third act fighting all those folk who i’m fighting for. If John Walker can recall his irritation at that particular outcome, then he’s about a twentieth of the way to understanding the contempt that most Mass Effect fans have for the three endings.

  19. Sivart13 says:

    The merits of this argument aside, I find it odd the proportion of “The ending is fine!” articles coming from game journos vs. game fans. Most major game news outlets published some sort of article defending Bioware’s amazing artistic choice, while most fans either said “eh, I liked it” or joined the thundering hordes.

    I think it speaks to the lack of investment of critics in any specific series. When you’re playing a game a week, you can see an ending like this and say “oh, another Deus Ex ending, right”. But if this game is the one you’re most looking forward to this year, a bad ending stings much harder.

    • Grover says:

      Exactly, the game journos who play a new game every 3 days are simply never going to care as much as a true fan who pours themselves emotionally into a series for 5 years the way you would a great television show.

      Is there no common man’s hero among the game journalists to stand up for the Retake Mass Effect movement?

    • Grygus says:

      That is a much better take than, “contrarianism generates hits.” Thanks.

    • John Walker says:

      What a peculiar thing to say. We’re people too! I’ve been looking forward to playing ME3 for a long time, and played it entirely in my spare time or when I should have been working

      Also, there are plenty of “fans” saying they like the game, and plenty of sites arguing why it was crap, including this one.

      • Grover says:

        What planet are you from? The overwhelming fan response to the ending has been negative.

        • Shroom says:

          The mistake you are making there, Grover, is thinking that the loudest fans (i.e. the ones feeling they’ve been “betrayed” or some such) are the only fans. I’m sure there are many millions quietly fine with the way the game ended. Just because the minority cries loud doesn’t mean everyone shares that point of view.

          • TsunamiWombat says:

            I certainly do not challenge that people enjoyed the endings, i’m happy for them though I respectfully disagree. I challenge the idea that we, the Haters, are in the minority.

          • mr.lutze says:

            I don’t believe that’s true. Over 50,000 people voted against ending on Bioware forums survey. At first it might look like minority since 3,5 mil copies were shipped (that’s right – shipped, NOT sold). But apparently only 10%-20% players finish games they bought (google it) and Bioware excuse of not discussing the ending is that they wait for more people to finish the game (again, you can google it). So even if we assume that everyone from that group of people who even got to the ending registered on Bioware forums, found that survey, knew English enough to participate and actually voted, 50,000 is still disturbingly large amount.

          • Zelius says:


            You’re also making a mistake in your reasoning. You assume that just because someone doesn’t speak out, that he or she must have liked it. I very much doubt that “millions” liked the ending, seeing as that would be about 99% of every single person who bought the game.

        • Shadram says:

          I liked it. I’d have done it slightly differently, but it wasn’t horrible. All the choices I made still had consequence, I just wasn’t told what every last one of those consequences was.

      • Gira says:

        Walker, around ten years ago the games journalist community at large were singularly dedicated to furthering the idea of player agency, ludonarrative, and non-linearity. These were considered the central tenets of good so-called “narrative” gameplay, and the idea that preset designer narrative should ever take precedence over player agency was frowned upon. Because, fundamentally, narrative is ancillary to what makes a game a game – that is, interactivity. Gameplay. Systemic interactions between various player and non-player variables resulting in ludonarrative. Generative stories were debated and proposed and worked upon and so forth, and we generally had an idea of What Was To Come.

        But then you guys just kind of gave up? Now, every second article I read is about how BioWare Just Wanted To Write A Good Story and It’s Their Story, Not Yours and all this stuff that really should belong in fanboy critiques of films and books, not videogames. But here we are: sub-adolescent ham-fisted cliched sci-fi bilge is now taking precedence over the goal of player agency.

        Why, Walker?

        • Sivart13 says:

          I don’t think games like Mass Effect really emphasize non-linearity or ludo-anything.

          I love them more than anything, but they’re really just fancy shooty things (guns ‘n’ conversation) that do an excellent job of acknowledging certain multiple-choice questions you answer. Mostly thanks to a crack squad of writers inserting a whole bunch of if-this-then-that dialog cues.

          I don’t think too many highbrow game journos have been aggressively pushing for more and greater high-production-value interstellar manshooters.

        • John Walker says:

          I can assure you that no such thing was the case ten years ago. I have been doing this job for thirteen years, and reading the gaming press for 25, and at no point has there been any such unified consensus. What is in fact happening is you are personally being affronted by a small selection of the press arguing for gaming as a means to be told a story, and then applying nostalgia to an imagined version of the past. Games get to be different things, and can be enjoyed for being different things. Never mind that to suggest ME3 doesn’t offer enormous degrees of player choice and narrative consequence is simply gibberish.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Ah. Classic John Walker reply. Well played, sir.

          • Gira says:

            Weak reply.

            To deny that the emphasis on ludonarrative and player agency seems to have fallen out of favour in games journalism is ridiculous. Left, right, and centre, I see journalists arguing for the increasing dominance of designer narrative over player narrative. I see journalists suggesting games should Just Tell Great Stories, as if it’s somehow preferable for elegant, consistent rulesets to be bogged down with arbitrary narrative restrictions. I see journalists defending DXHR bossfights (and, for that matter, DXHR). I see people unironically praising BioWare as the Saviours Of The RPG, when they have almost singlehandedly presided over the dilution of the genre into meaninglessness.

            But that’s beside the point: let’s presume for a minute that junk sci-fi is now the literary standard to which all media should aspire, and that BioWare genuinely writes Great Stories. Let’s move onto the fact that you honestly believe the Mass Effect games offer player agency, rather than, you know, the odd binary Moral Choice now and then, and a bunch of dialogue-centric fluff choices that have absolutely no impact on the gameplay in any way, and don’t even have that much impact vis a vis branching narrative. Let’s compare to something like Fallout – 1, not 3, since it seems it’s now en vogue for games journalist to ignore the existence of the first two – and the extent to which it offered both narrative and ludonarrative choice nearly at every possible juncture. I mean, people tend to defend BioWare by suggesting their form of agency is analogous to choose-your-own-adventure novels, but even those offered far more variation than in anything BioWare has done since probably Baldur’s Gate 2.

            Why has this become the gold standard? Why has this become perfect marks? Can’t you see how lazy it is, especially in comparison to its forebears? How utterly devoid of any meaningful interaction it is? I’m not just talking about the endings – I think you’re right in suggesting expecting some kind of massive narrative payoff is naive, but I think we agree on that for entirely different reasons – I’m talking about the entire damn series.

            And finally, you pull out the Gaming Can Be Anything argument just to cap it off. Well, no, they can’t. You don’t get to hold up a book and say it’s a movie, and then tell people that if you disagree it’s just because they’re too Clouded With Nostalgia. Games are ruleset-based interactions between player and non-player agents within a simulated or abstracted playspace. Can you honestly come up with another definition that doesn’t reply on soft fluff terms like “emotional experience”? And even if you could, why would you want to? Wouldn’t you prefer videogames to aspire to, you know, actually affording true compelling ludonarrative? I mean, if you can honestly get all the meat of the experience out of watching a game get played on YouTube, something is very wrong, and that’s where we’re at at the moment, to varying extents.

            Demand more.

            … stole John P’s line there. But why not? It’s perfect.

          • Tubbins says:

            Games like Deus Ex and Fallout are paragons of game design. They aren’t remembered as the greatest games ever made because of their stories or emotions or rich deep characters. It’s the gameplay alone that makes them great. The “rose-tinted glasses” argument fails before it even gets off the ground because nobody is remembering them for their graphics or sound or writing (even if they were a thousand times more well-written than any of the fanfic-level trash Bioware sharts out), it is the gameplay; gameplay doesn’t age, it is timeless.

            I cannot get my head around the fact that game consumers aren’t demanding more of this and are happy with the non-interactive choose your own adventure movies that developers are serving up. Deus Ex, Fallout etc proved that perfection is able to be achieved and there is absolutely nothing stopping games in the same vein from being made except for the modern gamer’s constant acceptance of mediocrity.

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            And it’s not just an acceptance of mediocrity; it’s a refusal to engage with games that are standouts of the medium. Remember that a certain someone refuses to play Stalker. And also refuses to play The Witcher 2, which, while not a great game, does the Bioware thing much better than Bioware does.

            How many people in the games journalism field today have played Fallout, do you think? How many believe playing a Zelda and a Metal Gear Solid equip them with the critical faculties to evaluate and judge the medium today? Can you imagine any film critic being taken seriously if s/he hadn’t made an effort to watch and critique a century of classics (a neverending task)? We’d at least expect them to have a grasp of what a film actually is.

            I suppose we can’t expect the majority of young gamerz to be familiar with Fallout, or even be aware of its existence. But perhaps if people who earn a living by writing about games educate themselves and offer some informed analysis and criticism, we’ll see some trickling down.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            @ Gira: Gag. There’s no point arguing with people like you, but it’d be nice to see genuine examples from these hideous journalists you’re on about.

          • LenyLeonardo says:

            @ Gira: Gag. I’m too incompetent to form even the most incoherent semblance of an argument in response, but I can assure you, you are wrong and I am right. Thanks.

          • Ruffian says:

            Has everyone gone retarded? No one is arguing that the game denies player choice as a whole. People are arguing that it does it when it counts most – at the conclusion. This is what I don’t understand. I love RPS and John can defend the game as a whole all he wants. I understand that he is trying to draw people’s focus to that fact that it is indeed not a bad game, but no one is arguing that. What they are arguing is the fact (yes I said fact, it’s an entirely subjective thing so I think it’s safe to call it that) that the lazy ass endings to an otherwise great game, have retro-actively ruined they’re enjoyment of the rest of the game. And honestly you can’t disprove them in any way. it’s personal experience.

    • Fox89 says:

      If I were a game journo for a site like IGN, I’d be pretty self-conscious about pissing off EA :)

      • John Walker says:

        I’m never sure with you kids and your irony, but if this is an accusation of corruption, I think you picked the wrong guy to suggest avoids pissing off EA.

        • Fox89 says:

          That was certainly not aimed at you, John. It was an insinuation that perhaps those at a site like IGN (or other very big mainstream sites that are oft accused of such things, especially when reviewing) do not have the same moral integrity and honesty as you do here at RPS.

          Not that I’m honestly suggesting they’re corrupt either. Just that…you know… maybe :)

          • briktal says:

            IGN, the site that has an employee as a character in the game?

        • Ruffian says:

          Nah, we know RPS don’t give a damn about EA’s opinion! That’s why we’re here.

    • thegooseking says:

      I’ve noticed another pattern. People who like it (like me) are quite content to say it’s ok to not like it (we do support why we like it with some pretty solid justifications, but they only justify why it’s valid to like it, not why you should), while people who don’t like it by and large say that it’s wrong to like it and that everyone who does is an idiot.

      You can fill in the blanks for what that speaks to.

      • Gnarf says:

        Uh, it just comes off like you’re saying that the people who disagree with you are idiots. Only they’re arguing wrong instead of liking wrong. Huge difference.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I find it a bit weird too… especially in light of the complete lack of communication coming directly from Bioware (with the exception of some hilariously arrogant statements).

      I don’t think it’s a particularly good idea to second guess the makers in order to defend them, at worst you find yourself in a situation where Bioware has made a rapid retreat, and you’re stuck following suite. Hell, how many “professional journalist” defended DA2 as the best game ever, only to flip their opinion on its head once release had died down.

      A lot of the articles are misreading their “problems”… leading to the defence of things which simply don’t exist (people saying Bioware shouldn’t make a “happy rainbow” ending… something nobody is actually suggesting as a solution).

  20. Tei says:

    Spoiler padding
    Spoiler padding
    Spoiler padding
    Spoiler padding

    Theres a lot to love on the end of ME3.

    I really like that part where you and anderson sit, and look at earth from space.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I can’t help but feel that if Shepard had just hit a big red ‘destroy the reapers’ button, and then sat next to Anderson and stared into space it would have been a far less shitty ending.

      • Ruffian says:

        I could not agree more. I honestly didn’t even need the three choices. after I said my goodbyes on the holocomm thing I was all set for a cutscene to play and be at the end. And then they had to go and turn it into a jumbled mess.

    • Fox89 says:

      As much as I hate the ending, I did like this. In fact I felt it was fine at this point, it was only post-elevator that things went to hell.

    • sabrelord says:


      Aww that sounds nice. I called The Illusive Man’s bluff and Anderson ended up with a slug in the back of the head. :(

    • lzaffuto says:

      I loved the game and hated the endings. To all the people that say “you just want a happy ending with sunshine and rainbows” I will say this: I would have been fine if they would have ended right here. With Anderson and Shepard looking at Earth while the battle rages on in the background. After all, Bioware said this was the end of Shepards story, and you can say if it ended here Shepard had done all he could do to win the battle, and now it was up to everyone else. It still would have left all questions unanswered and up to your imagination… and left room to continue the universe with future games, books, and whatever else if they wanted to, but it would have been a great end to Shepards story as far as I’m concerned.

  21. DiTH says:

    You didnt touch some points like:
    a)Normandy is out of the galaxy the moment you blow up everything leaving you behind.
    b)The Squadmates that were next to you while you were going in the beam appear in Normandy?
    c)The catalyst,aka Robo-God,aka Space Magic, reads your mind and takes the form of the same boy you saw at Earth
    d)Some races like Turians and Quarians are strangled at Earth (with tens or hundreds of millions of aliens and humans who can eat food from earth) without being able to eat anything and without being able to go back to their systems.
    e)Marauder Shields try to stop the ending but unfortunately failed :< RIP
    f)Tali's stock photo , photoshop.

    What you did say i think its fair and i agree.I have no problem with the endings ( although they could have used a bit of different movies than just different colors).I firmly believed that Shepard had to die but the plot holes are just too many atm.I do believe that they are going to fill them at some point in the future.

    I do believe though that they did something really bad and i say that because at this point in time after ME1 and ME2 release i would still play a different Shepard.But on ME3 i have 6 Shepards that i played in ME1 and ME2 with different choices and i dont have even the slightest urge to play them out and see what happens.

  22. thegooseking says:

    I’m pretty sure that almost all my choices subtextually changed the meaning of the endings, even if they didn’t change the superficial light show. I didn’t feel that meaning needed to be spelled out to me. In fact I probably would have felt slightly insulted if it were, as if I couldn’t figure it out for myself.

  23. Crane says:

    “Many are upset by the final moments, a three-way decision that is not impacted upon by the rest of the game, as if this invalidates everything that came before it. But two things. 1) What about everything that came before it? 2) How is that decision not impacted upon by the previous three games?!

    The three-way decision isn’t impacted on at all, by any of the player’s actions!
    You listed a bunch of epic, consequence-heavy choices you made throughout the games, and yes, they were meaningful choices. The problem I (and many others) have is that there are no effects on those three options! Regardless of how you treated the Geth, regardless of who lived and died, regardless of who you allied with, you have the same three options available to you! The sole impact of your choices throughout three games on the overall ending is to add a quasi-arbitrary amount to your War Readiness, which in turn affects the cutscene you see in a very minor (and entirely nonsensical) way!

  24. briktal says:


    Yeah all the choices you make affect the futures of whole species and really mean something. Up until you ride the magic elevator and meet the Star Child. Cured the genophage? That’s great, now the krogans stranded on their nuked to death lifeless planet can have lots of babies before they all starve to death. Same sort of thing with nearly everything else you accomplish. The quarians might be the one exception due to having a decent ability to sustain themselves with the migrant fleet and having an undamaged world to live on (though there are like 17 million total pre-ME3, so it could take a while for them to build up).

  25. Eddy9000 says:

    You’ve defended the choice or lack of it, that was never a problem for me, I’d have been happy with ‘reapers defeated, everyone has a party’. The major problem for me, and for others from what I’ve seen on the forums is that the narrative of the ending makes absolutely no sense in the context of the actual plot. In the last ten minutes of the game a decent and consistent plot is torn apart by unnessecary plot holes. That is what sucks about the ending.

    My top three plot holes:

    1) The logic behind destroying all sentient life to prevent AI’s from taking over, destroy AI’s instead perhaps? Made even worse by the fact that AI’s may have ended up living peacfully with organics by this point.

    2) The inferred holocaust of the mass effect relays blowing up, an entire galactic armada stranded in the sol system, the citadel stranded there also.

    3) The odds and sods – why is the illusive man on the citadel, how is your crew on the normandy, why do you have to die for the choices?


    • Max.I.Candy says:

      Yeah its those plotholes that piss me off too.
      If the reapers can pick and choose who they destroy, then why not just kill off the synthetics?the explanation is just complete and utter bullshit that looks like lazy writing.
      Having your love interest and 2 others climb off the Normandy at the end (when she/he was by your side minutes before) just looks obvious that this was’nt the ending they had planned.

  26. McDan says:

    Well said. This kind of alleviates my annoyance/anger at the ending I have experienced (haven’t picked up the game since, plan to though). But still I feel a bit disappointed that I couldn’t see what happened to everyone afterwards, that’s my opinion and I’ll stick to it. It’s a shame for me and did affect how I enjoyed the game overall.

  27. Rattlepiece says:


    There are many consequences for your decisions in ME3. The problem I had with it was that the last few minutes rendered all of them useless. I was sat there watching it and growing more and more confused. How the heck did Ashley end up on the Normandy and where did they crash? She was with me on the planet then suddenly appears on the Normandy? Oh, the confusion…

  28. Fox89 says:


    “Don’t like the options? Hell, maybe that’s the point.” – This is very true, but I think being forced to comply with the options was very anti-Shepard. It was certainly not the sort of thing my Shepard was about, she was willing to stupidly tell the Guardian to sod off, we’ll take our chances without the damn Crucible. But alas that wasn’t an option. I tried shooting the Ghost Child first. It didn’t do anything.

    I also want to comment on: “And good grief, thank goodness it didn’t fade to black and leave everything ambiguous”. Well… didn’t it? Where is the Normandy? Did the fleets survive? How did my crew escape Harbinger’s death beam? DID Synthetics eventually return and wipe everything out? Or were there any consequences, happy or otherwise, to forcing every living thing to synthesize? I think a large part of the problem is that it does leave a heck of a lot of plot holes and ambiguity.

    I’m with you on that everything else was great. The story up until that point played on my decisions, had huge consequences, and wrapped individual stories up in a bow. But then again those of us who hated the ending have clarified that since the start. “Oh, the rest of the game was brilliant,” we would say, “apart from the last five minutes that were abysmal”. And I absolutely enjoyed the experience up to that point, and if I played it again I would enjoy it to that point again. But it’s like having a wonderful 3 course meal, and then desert comes and instead of a cherry on top of your cake it’s a sprout. The rest of the food was lovely, but try as you might you can’t help but come away from the restaurant with a bitter taste in your mouth.

    • pkdawson says:

      but I think being forced to comply with the options was very anti-Shepard. It was certainly not the sort of thing my Shepard was about

      Those were very much my thoughts at the beginning of ME2. Being railroaded into joining Cerberus with very little justification wasn’t great writing. Obviously you can’t offer infinite choice in a game like this, but you can at least be subtle and not ham-fisted about forcing certain situations.

    • Grygus says:

      At the time that the beam knocked out Shepard I was calling this easily the best game in the series and the series a triumph of modern game design. Then Starboy presented me with the Ending Machine and now I can’t recommend anyone setting themselves up for that disappointment.

      • Keymonk says:

        Marauder Shields did his best to try to shield you from it.

  29. Discopanda says:

    I liked my Mass Effect 3 ending. I chose mint chocolate chip. :D

    • Fox89 says:

      Youtube gets you Mint Choc Chip, Blueberry AND Raspberry Ripple all in one! Flakes are DLC though :(

    • timmyvos says:

      I just realised Bioware stole the ending from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It’s either Green, blue or red, just like their films!

  30. cypher says:

    I couldn’t agree more, though that end movie is still a lame final note…

  31. Insidious Rex says:

    I think that the main problem with the ending is the lack of a proper denouement. After you make one of the three choices the game just seems to rush to the conclusion. A lot of people seem to be upset that they don’t get to see what happened to the characters they spent 90+ hours with. Though I agree that an 80’s freeze-frame ending would be equally bad.

    • Ruffian says:

      I don’t know man, at least you would have the information from an 80’s freeze frame.

  32. PJ says:

    Now JOHN WALKER, making an article like that is something I never thought to see. One of the most attentive (perhaps the most attentive!) journalists for narrative is defending that atrocity of literature?

    Bloody hell, at least you didn’t be like that guy that compared Mass Effect to Salmon Rushdie or Romeo and Juliet. Mass Effect is a bloody space opera, not some great statement of art. It can have a nice textbook-according-to-the-Poetics ending. Even better that this is a game and this can be patched up much more easily than a book or a film.

    • Grover says:

      I love RPS, I’ve followed it for years, but this is a travesty. Some said it might be because of this: link to i.imgur.com (ad revenue) but I don’t think so. I just think they are out of touch with video game fans and consider themselves to be academic connoisseurs passing artistic judgment of video games rather than die hard fans with a soapbox.

      • Fox89 says:

        Hmm, you seem distressed when somebody has a different opinion. I’m not sure the internet is the right place for you.

        • Grover says:

          Trying to get contrary opinions off of RPS by telling them they shouldn’t communicate their opinions since they differ? You sound like you’re confused about public forums.

      • kael13 says:

        You missed the part where the other writers of RPS have already expressed their own opinions on the ending and discussed what they didn’t like about it.

      • Ruffian says:

        Did you not notice the post about why the endings sucked right below this one?

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Walker’s default position is to defend developers who write Emotional Narratives, and to oppose the Entitled Gamers who offer more insightful criticism than he does.

  33. Vander says:


    “But here’s the thing: My choices did have consequences. So many, on so many of the characters, in so many ways. It’s just, those consequences occurred on my long path toward the ending. And, well, that’s bloody brilliant, isn’t it?”

    No. Because all these consequences are impacted by the final 10 minutes of the game.

    And the ending don’t explain well enough his immediates repercussions…without solid ground to base my assumptions, is difficult to imagine what happen next. I can imagine that with Wrex and Eve at the helm, the krogans are going to reconstruct and change the mindset of his entire race. But at the end i don’t even know if Wrex is alive. I don’t know if the explosion of the Mass Realy is just a small one or the same one that the one in arrival, a supernova sized one.

    When i don’t know what kind of impact these decisions have in the long run, its okay. Thats not what i like but i can accept that.
    But when i cant even imagine what these decisions do in the long run because the ending change everything in a less than adequatly explained way, i cannot find that brilliant.

  34. Darthy says:

    I agree that many of the players decisions in the previous two games influence things through the length of ME3, rather than its ending (its only possible to save both Quarians and Geth if you achieved certain things in ME2, for example).

    But although the fan complaints around the ending have achieved the hysteria of many an internet campaigns, I simply can’t agree that their anger is unjustified. There is simply too much of it to ignore as hard-core fans taking things too far, as Bioware have since implied.

    The ending was full of plot holes and failed to provide any real sense of closure to the story. While John is right in saying the ‘synthetic vs. organic’ is hardly out of the blue, nor was it ever really developed as a theme throughout the series. There is more time given to the development of EDI as an organic-friendly AI then there is given to the concept of inevitable conflict, and that’s including the input from Javik (which was cut from the full game, but lets not go there).

    Then you have the confusing situation with Normandy; the destruction of the Mass Relays apparently not wiping out half the habitable systems in the galaxy (as had been established previously), the Normandy already in flight for no apparent reason, the squadmates supposedly killed by Harbinger who pop-up alive and un-injured at the end.

    Mass Effect didn’t need a ‘happy’ ending, but it did need an ending that made sense within the wider context of the story. It’s tragic that people are obsessing over the ending to the degree rather than re-living all the fantastic parts of the story, but that’s ultimately why John is wrong.

    Endings DO matter; they colour perspective, and this ending will likely rob Mass Effect 3 of all the ‘Game of the Year’ awards it would otherwise have had thrown at it.

    • Fox89 says:


      And I take a bit of issue with the sentiment of “Why are you getting hung up on the ending when the rest was so good?” Well… because the ending was Just. That. Awful. There are plenty of media I have disliked the ending of. Batman: Arkham City I thought wasn’t great. But that wasn’t poor enough to spoil the experience. The last few minutes of Heavy Rain were pretty nonsensical, and before that Fahrenheit descended into chaos in its latter stages as well. But again, nothing so egregious that I come away feeling unfulfilled. A bad ending does not ruin the game; it’s not what I remember about an otherwise good game.

      Unless it is truly awful. It takes a special kind of bad to have me lamenting an unsatisfactory ending over the previous 30 hours of awesome. And yet here we are.

  35. Grover says:

    As though the other article was even REMOTELY NEGATIVE enough about the ending as to justify this Biodrone drivel.

    • Wisq says:

      I wasn’t aware that subjective opinions need to be justified, or that the net output of RPS needed to balance itself out in order to agree with the general sentiment of the fans.

      Or did I miss something, and we only come to RPS to see our own opinions repeated so we can feel better about ourselves?

      • Grover says:

        The articles were set up as though they were contrasting opinions. Even in the comments one RPS staff says they already have an article mentioning what’s wrong with the ending.

        I’m saying that’s simply not true. They are closer together than peas in a pod.

        • nootpingu86 says:

          RPS has been denied review copies in the past. I’m sure it has something to do with having to be ‘fair and balanced’ to earn them and other fringe benefits like early access to the games (by fair and balanced I mean: devoid of all editorial integrity and being a PR outlet for the games industry, like every other major site).

  36. Bantros says:

    Having read about the “bad” ending before completing the game I was fearing the worst. It wasn’t abysmal, but it certainly wasn’t all that great or satisfying. If it had ended when you get chopped down by the mega laser then that would’ve something! For a second I thought that was it and I nearly cried because it was so unexpected and also weirdly brilliant.

    • Grygus says:

      Yeah when I went down and it was clearly scripted, my jaw dropped. Had we lost? Was my readiness too low (thought I’d filled the bar, but maybe I’d missed a pixel?) Would they really end it this way?

      I wish they had.

    • BatmanBaggins says:

      Having it end right there would have been a hell of a way to do it. If people are mad about the current endings’ lack of choice, though, imagine if all roads lead to “and then Shep got melted by a laser and the Reapers won. BAD END.”

      Actually, that would be awesome.

  37. LintMan says:


    The Mass Effect series has always been about choice and consequences. You make the decisions and then you see how those decisions play out, for better of for worse, often with unexpected results. Yes, we get to see the impact of many of the decisions of the earlier games, but there are many more decisions in ME3 that the endings render moot.

    For example, curing the genophage vs faking the cure. I did the actual cure, knowing that it was a risk that might end up with the galaxy at war with the Krogan once again. Same with my orchestrating the Geth/Quarian peace, which could possibly backfire in the long run. There were other, smaller decisions: use the medical supplies on the Citadel, or leave them for the relief efforts of the colonies after the war? Pay the soldier families their full wages at the expense of the post-war economic recovery?

    I fully expected the game to show me some of the costs of those decisions. Possibly a galaxy-wide depression as everyone tries to recover and rebuild. Some colonies dying due to a shortage of medicines. Some factions of Krogans clamoring for revenge. Salarians plotting a new genophage. Etc. Instead, all those decisions are moot – The ending doesn’t show any of it, so it all amounted to just the number of war assets you get, and in stroy terms, with the mass relays and citadel destroyed, galactic society is pretty much demolished anyway.

    Beyond that, there’s also the lazy railroad ending, with Casper popping up to offer a lame reason for the Reapers followed by a choice of different-colored near-identical endings, with a “Is he alive?” kicker at the end only for those who bothered with the multiplayer.

    I totally get that Casper’s appearance was supposed to be symbolic, but WTF – Who the hell is he? Why isn’t Shepard allowed to tell him his resoning is completely bogus and proven false? Why does he remind me more of the spoiled Trelane from Star Trek than of some AI-based superbeing that controls the Reapers? Why is the Crucible a magic wish lamp that is equally able to destroy all synthetic life, control all the reapers, or rewrite all the DNA of every living creature on the fly without otherwise changing them? Why did Casper leave the decision up to Shepard? Why did Shepard have to die? — “Or DID he?” This isn’t good storytelling, it’s lazy and cliche.

  38. Grover says:

    Another game journalist savior descending from the heavens to scold the filthy masses for our ungrateful demands that Bioware keep it’s promises and deliver varied, unique endings with closure. What a surprise! I am shocked, SHOCKED!

    Hark! The established authorities on gaming hold forth their vaunted opinions! Silence you dirty rabble! Ninety percent of you may have contrary opinions, but that doesn’t mean the voices with giant megaphones and media attention should stoop to your level and ATTEMPT TO EMPATHIZE WITH THE MAJORITY OF FANS, or even ACKNOWLEDGE THE ARGUMENTS MOST FANS HAVE BEEN REPEATING! Perish the thought!

    I’d rather listen to self appointed VIDEO GAME EXPERTS MISSING THE POINT ENTIRELY!

    Thank you for this my noble betters!

    • John Walker says:

      You realise we published a post saying why the ending was bad last week, right? You conspiratorial nutcase. I finished the game last night and wrote my thoughts on my website. Sorry!

      • Grover says:

        I love you RPS, I’ve read you for years. But that “why it was bad” article was more supportive of the ending than not, and totally left out the bullet points reiterated on every fan list.

        You’re out of touch with the fans. That’s not conspiracy, that’s a fact. I just don’t feel any empathy in this post for the upset fans. What did you think of the Battle Star Galactica ending? Even if you loved it, if you didn’t acknowledge the majority opinion as valid but different I’d say you were out of touch. Same here.

        EDIT: What’s worse? Being passionate about something you love even to the point of annoying authors you normally love or being in the final stages of dying and always accepting whatever you’re given?

        • FunkyBadger3 says:

          There’s a reason people are more interested in the RPS grouptink than fan-written lists of bullet points.

          • nootpingu86 says:

            I come here for information much more often than I do for the editorial content. I think it’s because of articles like this.

          • Grover says:

            Of course your definition of people in this case is: people who read RPS and rely on it to make their opinions for them. People who haven’t even played the game “agreeing” (look through the comments) that RPS are right when they have no first hand knowledge. Simply agreeing to be agreeable is not a virtue.

      • LintMan says:

        “You realise we published a post saying why the ending was bad last week, right?”

        You mean Richard Cobbett’s article? To me, that article read like an apology, saying “Yeah, there were some bad things at the end, but here’s a list of fan complaints and why they are invalid. Bioware shouldn’t fix/change any of it and I’m looking forward to their next project”. Oooh, that’s really sticking it to Bioware! They’ll be stinging for months. I bet Cobbett really made some enemies over there with that article.

        Sarcasm aside, I certainly wouldn’t have expected the counter-viewpoint article to that one to be a “the ending was fine” article.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          Well, except for the bits that weren’t. And that article was about discussing the ending, not calling hellfire down on it. Some things I agree with other fans on. Some I don’t. I wrote up my feelings for good and bad because it was how I was thinking after finishing it.

          And my view of the ending was pretty straight-up “This sucks”. Most of my counter-points were saying “These aren’t fair when you look at the whole sweep of the game instead of the last five minutes.”

          • Grover says:

            Maybe you shouldn’t have set these articles up as though they were contrasting views since they are so monochromatic?

          • LintMan says:

            Richard, I certainly don’t begrudge you for having written your honest opinion.

            To me, your article seems to be acknowledging but downplaying the criticism and overall providing a positive spin on things. Now, that’s absolutely fine OK with me. My sarcasm was directed at John’s implication it was a counterbalance to his even more positive take on the ending, when the zeitgeist of most of the angry fans is at the “rain hellfire down on it” end of the spectrum.

      • Ruffian says:

        John, Richard. I love you guys, and I love RPS for the fact that you guys actually talk to us. For better or worse, lol. Definitely better.

    • X_kot says:

      Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

      • Grover says:

        Licking their boots isn’t going to make them your friends. And Monty Python references were old about two decades ago.

        • jaheira says:

          Grover, what is it you expect Richard and John to do exactly other than write their opinion? They disagree with you. Would you like them to pretend that they don’t?

          • Grover says:

            Did you read this comment section? I expect them to not set up two article as though they are opposing views when they are both more positive than not, and both far removed from fan outcry. I expect at least one person at RPS can empathize with the fans enough to actually read the complaints, watch the videos of analysis on why it was a terrible ending, and write it up because it is news whether or not they agree.

            Maybe even ask for comment by Retake ME3 movement organizers and Bioware employees?

            Currently RPS’s take on this is:

            Point: ME3’s ending wasn’t perfect but it was an awesome game and you’re silly for wanting a fix!
            And in “opposition”:
            Counter Point: ME3’s ending was perfectly fine, fans should shut up, Bioware can do whatever they want in the narrative!

            If RPS has NO ONE who empathizes with the majority of fans on this (I can hardly believe it to be so) then a SINGLE article supporting Bioware would have been enough. The rest should be interviews and news reporting.

  39. sabrelord says:


    I’ve not seen anybody else mention this so I’m really not sure what I did wrong during ME3, but at the end of the game I only had one choice and that was to “Control the reapers” and vapourise myself doing it. There was no option for synthesis or to destroy the reapers. The little blue boy told me that the only choice I had was to sacrifice myself and control the reapers.

    Excuse me? My renegade Shepard who punches reporters in the face and shoots anyone in her way, willingly sacrifices herself to control the reapers? F*ck that!

    Also calling it a choice when there is only one option was a final kick in the teeth.

    • Fox89 says:

      I believe what you did was Save the Collector Base and then not have very many (relatively) War Assets? Technically there are 16 endings but some of those are identical except “in Ending 3 you don’t have access to Choice X”.

      And I think the only way you can only get one option is if you Save the Collector Base and have a low Effective Military Strength.

      • sabrelord says:


        Oh well that explains the mechanics of it because I did save the collector base and didn’t have very many war assets. I let the bomb blow up on Tchunk and didn’t rescue Jack and the kids etc.

        But seriously 1 choice is not a choice, no matter how badly I’ve played.

        And anybody who tells Shepard that she has only one choice and expects to leave with all their appendages still attached has never met Shepard.

        • Fox89 says:

          Then god-kid should be very grateful he showed up incorporeal! ;)

    • Grygus says:

      Here there be spoilers. If you are reading this in the sidebar, you should stop now. Thank you, and enjoy reading the sidebar. Welcome to RPS.

      The number of choices depends on your War Readiness. I only had two choices, myself. Apparently we are slackers.

      • sabrelord says:

        Oh well played alot of Multiplayer over the weekend to take my mind off the single player so have 100% galactic readiness now. Whenever I can bring myself to play through a second time I will hopefully get more pointless choices.

    • Max.I.Candy says:

      its funny tho that you had only 1 choice, i mean how the hell would those things you didnt do, affect what choices that casper gives you?!

    • Firkragg says:

      Spoilers, ahoy! Spoilers, ahoy! Spoilers, ahoy! Spoilers, ahoy! Spoilers, ahoy! Spoilers, ahoy! Spoilers, ahoy! Spoilers, ahoy! Spoilers, ahoy!

      Just to chime in here (seeing as I haven’t seen anyone else mention this either and it fits abit with your comment).

      EDIT: Terrific, my reply went here instead of to the person I was replying to, ah well.
      2nd EDIT: OH HAI Sabrelord, this was meant to be up there :)

      My Shepard also had a very high renegade score, mainly coming from his “whatever it takes” approach, trying to get any and every asset possible, at whatever cost to stopping the Reapers, but always with the long goal of keeping humanity in power in mind.
      Had high war assets, chose to save the collector base (who in their right mind would blow up such a treasure trove of tech? Boy, did that backfire later!). Made it to the catalyst’s chamber, got my 3 choices and without hesitation took control of the reapers.

      My logic was thus: Shepards physical form may have died but he still took control of the reapers, meaning his conscience now dominates all reapers. My Shepard didn’t die, he still exists in the reaper network.
      Sure all the relay beacons are now gone, but hey, humanity/all aliens now have reaper-Shepard as an ally! How much bigger an asset could one ever ask for? Suddenly galactic travel doesn’t look so far away, techwise.

      Sidenote on my take on the ending: I was absolutely gutted at first, knowing that no matter what choice I took, my Shepard would inevitably die, leaving behind a galaxy that still needed some seeing to. Especially my Shepards relationship with Tali left unfulfilled.
      That was, until I had some time to absorb the ending, it left room for interpretation. My Shepard was still alive in a sense. Reapers have technology so advanced, it makes the Elusive Man’s resurrection of Shepard in ME2 seem like childsplay. My Shepard would make a construct to house part of him (ala EDI) and send off into the galaxy again as a sort of ambassador, representing the reapers.

      Point I’m trying to make is after having thought about the 3 choice endings for some days now, I’ve come up with my own idea for what happened after I made my choice. Which I’d rather prefer than having everything spelled out for me. Sure I would have loved more closure in the end. But now I’ve come up with my own ending instead.

      And I swear to god, if there IS some DLC in the works that renders all of the above obsolete, I’ll… I’ll!… I will make a nasty thread about it!

  40. nimzy says:

    I think what really stood out to me about the ending was the fact that you are, ultimately, freeing the galaxy. It’s not just the “cycle” you’re ending. You’re freeing it from the Mass Relay technology, which has already been pointed out by Sovereign as holding back technological progress by giving scientists an “easy out.” You’re freeing it from the Citadel, which not only holds the Council that runs galactic government and culture, it basically represents “the brain” behind the Reapers. And finally, crucially, you’re freeing the galaxy from Shepard.

    How did you react to the ending of the first Fallout when you get forced out of the Vault to wander the wastes for the rest of your days? Shepard as the savior would have essentially controlled the entire galaxy after the Reapers were dealt with. The same applies to the rest of his party, the people dragged along in his wake: Tali must never return to the homeworld she helped to save, Wrex must never return to rule the krogans he returned to power, and so on. They are, all of them, heroes too big to ignore.

    That isn’t to say I liked the ending, I think it sucked. But the consequences of your choices are all there writ large: it’s the culmination of all of them, an answer that, no matter what you choose, still says: enough.

  41. v.dog says:

    @John: I agree that the choices made in the game were galaxy-shaping and massive, but I felt like they didn’t matter, which makes it worse. In the end it was all down to numbers. After the suicide mission of ME2 where every choice you made had an affect, it seemed like a bit of the let down.

    I enjoyed it for what it was, but I just wished the two parts were more entangled.


    On a side note: Anyone else find it odd that the solution to synthetics wiping out organic life was to have synthetics wipe out organic life?

    • Chirez says:

      The Reapers never wiped out organics. That was the whole point.
      Any organic civilisation which got dangerously advanced was harvested and preserved, allowing others to grow.

      The Reaper cycle maintained a steady state within the galaxy for god alone knows how many billions of years. Without the cycle, so the theory goes, synthetic life would have utterly destroyed organic life a very long time ago. That is the argument presented by the Crucible as I understood it.

      I wonder what the Reapers do to synthetic intelligence. Clearly it’s not allowed to survive.

      • sabrelord says:


        So why do the Reapers ally (use) the Geth and upgrade them so that the Geth are practically unstopable force on the verge of wiping out the Quarian fleet.

        Surely the Quarians who invented the synthetic lifeforms (Geth) in the first place were the type of race that the Reapers would want to harvest themselves and not let the Geth kill?

        • Bantros says:

          In ME, the Geth sided with Sovereign because they thought of him as a God, their ultimate evolution. These turned out to be called the Heretics in ME2, a small percentage of Geth population overall.

          In ME3 the rest of the Geth were preparing for war with the Reapers and were building something massive but the stupid Quarians attacked the Geth first, destroying parts of it and weakening them significantly. Because of this they felt they needed the Reapers help or be defeated by the Quarians so they gave up their free in exchange for tech upgrades.

          Probably not explained the best, but that’s the gist of it. Thought they were one of the highlights of the series, their whole arc is fantastic.

          • Ruffian says:

            yeah legion’s arc was probably my favorite of the series, but then again I think I just have a soft spot for synthetics. Seems such a lonely existence.

  42. Uthred says:

    Leaving aside whether you like it or not the ending simply makes no sense, once the Reapers had control of the Citadel (and it sure was awesome doing that tedious scanning to bulk up the Citadel and then have it captured with no resistance or cinematic, just a passing mention) they had control of the Mass Relays, why didnt they lock every system down or at least lock the Sol relay to stop the fleets reaching earth? Even worse the ending gets stupider the more you think about it. If the head of the Reapers is the Citadel then what the fuck was ME1 all about? etc. etc. I also love how all the supporters of the endings saw it all coming, even down to the (literal) deus ex machina, with prescience like that you should be doing the lotto lads not playing videogames.

    • Fox89 says:

      Hell, what was ME1 about in general? Sovereign was supposed to be there as a vanguard, to keep an eye on the progress of organic civilization and call the Reapers when the time came. If deus ex Citadel the whole time, why couldn’t he do it?

      • Uthred says:

        Its best not to think about it it just gets stupider if you do

        • Qwentle says:

          Sovereign was doing the intergalactic equivalent of ‘running to tell mummy’ in ME1.

      • Apolloin says:

        Actually, that part made TOTAL sense. Sovreign DID try and do exactly that. In previous cycles the Reapers always ran the same plays.


        Play 1: Vanguard (Sovreign) watches as civilisation develops to ensure it follows the prearranged path of least resistance.
        Play 2: Vanguard (Sovreign) acquires allies/slaves to aid Reaper invasion.
        Play 3: Vanguard (Sovreign) moves to Citadel system and sends signal.
        Play 4: Keepers align Citadel to Dark Space and turn on Relay.
        Play 5: Reapers come through Citadel Relay and quickly conquer Citadel, decapitating Galactice Leadership and gaining control of all Mass Relays, shutting down all transit.
        Play 6: Reapers use Mass Relays to allow them to defeat Galactic Civilisation in detail, moving from system to system, wiping out any resistance and assimilating the population before moving to the next target.
        Play 7: Reapers harvest the dominant synthetics and attempt to create new Reapers. This either succeeds or fails.
        Play 8: With all advanced organic life harvested, slaughtered or well and truly indoctrinated the main force of Reapers pulls back to Dark Space, leaving the Vanguard behind.
        Play 9: When everything is quiet and the Vanguard has waited long enough to see if someone has just been faking, they reactivate the Relay system and hide out.

    • BatmanBaggins says:

      Shh, by the end of Mass Effect 2 you were supposed to have completely forgotten that the first Reaper scheme (having Sovereign activate the citadel to call them in) was completely pointless since the Reapers could just fly into the galaxy en masse and start wrecking everyone’s shit in a relatively miniscule amount of time anyway.

    • MrWolf says:

      I guess I should head straight to the local mini mart, as I saw a “deus ex” moment with the kid coming from a mile away. It’s been said in many places — Bioware are very good at telling very clumsy, heavily borrowed, predictable stories.

      • Uthred says:

        So when you saw the first dream with the kid you didnt think “PTSD caused by what happened on earth” you thought “Oh in twenty hours or so this kid will be revelaed to be a sparkly spacegod who controls the reaper”, thats pretty impressive

  43. 2Emotionography says:

    I’ve never seen someone be objectively wrong before.
    How much money is BioWare giving you for damage control?

    • Eddy9000 says:

      That’s unnessecary, this article is a counterpoint to another one saying why the ending was bad, the idea that EA could pay off every major games blog to defend the ending and keep it quiet is ridiculous, and making serious accusations like that without any evidence whatsoever is beyond rude.

  44. Chirez says:

    Funny, this more or less describes exactly how I feel about Mass Effect.
    Yes, the ending was held together with spit and faith, but compared to the wealth of joy inherent in the previous 60+ hours of story and game it just doesn’t bother me all that much.

    Synthesis is about the only option which contains any hope at all, but given that the entire third game is unrelentingly grim, that’s not entirely surprising.

    The fact that there exists in the spectrum of possibilities one wherein the Quarians are destroyed makes me extremely uneasy, purely because I care enough about Tali to feel that loss. That’s incredible, and probably unique, at least in my experience.

    Funny, the more I think about it, the more disconnected I feel from the actual end of the game. For me it ended as soon as I set foot on the Crucible. Everything after that I largely ignored, possibly because I was just waiting for it to end so I could go eat for the first time in two days.

  45. Consumatopia says:

    Comparing a trilogy of games, which collectively a player has spent tens or hundreds of hours playing, to a two hour film is a mistake. The sheer number of hours makes it more comparable to a multi-volume fantasy book series, in which more detailed, explicit endings are more common. And explaining what happened to all the characters makes more sense in a game where those outcomes are the result of the player’s actions. The events at the end of ME basically reshuffle the entire galaxy’s deck–your actions have consequences, but you don’t really know what they are.

    This reminds me of the Skyrim vs. Dark Souls argument–where Dark Souls offers enigmatic hints while Skyrim usually explicitly spells everything out in character dialog or in-game reading. In a book or film, I’d favor Dark Souls approach. But for a game, Skryim’s approach is defensible–the player is given freedom to decide exactly how much of the narrative they want to make explicit, how many of those in-game books they want to read. I don’t think the same notion of “tackyness” applies to a film or book as to a large-scale RPG like ME or DA.

    One thing that I would argue is that same in films, books, and games is that ending the story with a trolley problem is always lame. “Those three choices – those are what you get, from a wayward god-like species that’s in control. Don’t like the options? Hell, maybe that’s the point.” I’m not sure that point even makes sense (there’s a quite a gulf between god-like and God, no?) but the exact wrong time to make that particular point is at the very end of the game. If the point is that forcing binary (or trinary) choices on people is corrupting, then more time should be spent exploring the particular kind of corruption that results from this choice. Heck, maybe it would have made more sense if you made that choice at the midpoint of ME3, and spent the second half of the game dealing with the consequences.

  46. armaankhan says:

    I haven’t played ME3, but the thing that interests me most about this controversy is that everyone assumes the Catalyst is telling the truth about the Reapers wanting to save organic species through assimilation. Sounds to me like the kind of lie I’d tell the person who was about to destroy my species in order to make him make doubt himself.

    • Consumatopia says:

      The ending already seems so underspecified that adding “how do we know so-and-so was telling the truth?” makes everything worse. It would even undermine John’s interpretation “Those three choices – those are what you get, from a wayward god-like species that’s in control. “–but how can you believe what said god-like entity is telling you about the choices in question?

    • Eddy9000 says:

      There’s a fairly substantial body of people that agree with your theory, and many reasons why it does/ doesn’t stand up (I don’t think it does). Google ‘mass effect indoctrination theory’ if you’re interested.

  47. kyrieee says:

    “I find it so remarkable that so much of people’s fury with the game comes not in what they experienced, but what they learned about their experience after.”

    First of all, that wasn’t my experience, I was mad right away.
    Secondly, having the other outcomes there, even if you didn’t get them, matters. It’s at the core of every game that has a failstate. You could say “if you finish the game without dying, what’s the point of a death mechanic?”. It’s there because it gives meaning to success. Your choices don’t affect the outcome in any meaningful way, and therefore the choices ultimately lack meaning.

  48. tiradesgalore says:

    Hear hear. I couldn’t agree more, John.

  49. TsunamiWombat says:

    Sorry John, not buying it, endings were rubbish :\ Lovely article though

  50. stevethehare says:

    John, I think this is a great perspective and hits on exactly why I’m so confused by all the outrage the ending has caused. There is plenty of room to criticize specific points, but the series provided an incredible amount of personal and emotional payoff, and the ending left me with a satisfying finality.

    In terms of SPOILERS, for me the big take away is that the Reapers are stopped and the universe is left in tatters due to rebuild itself. All the choices you make it the three games all resolve to bring you to one point and you are left with one final choice. Depending on how you look at it, Shepard may have committed mass genocide by destroying the relay, but the point is life will rebuild itself like after the last cycle and in 50,000 years the Reapers will not return. It’s a feeling of hope and a new beginning.

    I wish I could see Shepard live out her life happily with all her friends and it makes me sick to my stomach to know that is not the case, and that so many characters I met along the way are likely dead. However, for a series of games that stands out so boldly in my mind, I find this ending an appropriately bold and exceptional finish, and I’m happy to leave it there. It’s sad that so many people see it as something to be angry about.