I don’t think I’ve ever felt as sorely depressed in an ending of anything since the end of Mass Effect 3.
As a thesis sentence, that about sums this up. I’m not disappointed because it was bad. Nor am I disappointed because it didn’t live up to my expectations. No, I’m actually disappointed because the ending to Mass Effect 3 is devoid of all signs of narrative. Not just narrative, it reads like a 4th graders ending to a book report.
Now I say this now, because I figure that someone may read this and feel obligated to complain about the following spoilers. So, Spoilers.
Now, let’s start out with a WinRAR compressed version of Mass Effect 3 as a whole. It was the best experiment in an attempt to tie every story together even the ones you never really noticed to begin with. Now, as a thought, yeah, that’s a great concept. Present characters that long-time players recognize, characters that reinforce their races own agendas, religions, and science. However, tying up every loose end is something that should’ve struck the developers and the writers as absolutely rediculous.
You can’t tie every string. You can’t tack on ideas at the end of a saga and say it makes sense because you say so. In the narrative variety, the open-endedness of a ending can hurt your base group of fans.
Here’s a great example, when you come to learn that the Rouge AI that you dealt with on Luna(the Moon) in ME1, turns out to be EDI who has been with you since the previous game, That says something. That’s tying a end to another one and saying “hey i’ve known you all along, this brings you into perspective as a character I have invested time into. I’m happy I didn’t blow you sky fucking high”
Now here’s a horrible example. The Citadel. If you’ve beaten it, then you know what I mean.
Let’s get this out of the water before anything else. The Idea that the Citadel is both a specialized Mass Relay, A floating city, and the Catalyst device for the implementation of a genetic modification throughout the entire galaxy is bogus. The sloppily laid plate of “Hey the Citadel is also a super weapon to destroy every Mass Relay across the galaxy”. It’s like saying that the Normandy was actually designed by Protheans or that the Illusive man is Shepard’s father. It’s a cop-out storywise, because what the hell does it mean that Soverign never figured out that it was made to that end?
Here’s another problem that doesn’t just dully ache, it burns a little. Bioware/EA, you hired an advertising company to do your advertisements. I’m sure that they had no idea that for all the “take back Earth” shit, for all the awesome Live-Action, running down San Francisco’s streets and stabbing people with Omni-tool blades, and for all the follow the floating copy of ME3 to the top of a tree, that the players were so let down.
Don’t tell me I’m taking back Earth, if really I’m just detouring.
Now, I’m not going to attack the integrity of the designers and the artists, nor am I going to fault them for some of the blatently bland quests they give. What I’m going to do is attack the ideas that motivated a game that decided that linking it’s Multiplayer to an essentially bunk “galactic readiness” meter. I’m going to attack the flying around of the galaxy pinging every living inch of space looking for single frigates or dreadnaughts in an attempt to increase my asset-o-meter.
The ideas that the majority of these MMO-style “fetch-quest” have spawned from are the most obvious harbinger to the overall mission statement of games today. It doesn’t mean a thing if it’s a Single-player game, weighted solely on it’s own merits. We can sit around and talk about how The Elder Scrolls V blew that idea out of the water. We can argue that the MMO-opoly that every company is looking for is a model for failure on every front.
Let’s face down their gun barrel. Why does a game like WoW or TOR hold up for so long? Is it because they’ve designed quests that face you down a gauntlet of true RPG tactics and actual tactical decisions?
Is it because they are designed with largesse in mind, where the mind stares out upon Corescant and says “shit man, That’s a place I’d like to live” and spend their time fiddling with an in-game economy and becoming a tycoon of digital proportions?
It lasts because people want to fucking play it with their friends.
Why is this important? What the hell does it matter if ME3 has a few fetch quests. They’ve always had fetch quests, Nick. What’re you going on about?
Simple. It’s not that they are fetch quests with a purpose of better endings. It’s that they are fetch quests with no obvious help besides alloting you a new character who emerges from a smoking wreck.
That’s a let down. That’s a let down among let downs. It tells me that they felt so overwhelmed to include a system of getting War Assets that they found themselves in the debt of actual characterization. Some of the side quests that you do in the previous game are the same way, but at least they were a means to an end. Side quest to gain the trust of a character, side quest to get some cash to buy some new shit, side quest to weaken the resolve of a merc company. These are all prime ideas.
Tell me how saving a bunch of “walking tanks” helps me when later on, I call upon them, and oh look. It’s all humans and Asari/Krogan/Salarians.
You know what it is, it’s noise. Frustrating white noise. It’s a distraction to distract you from the obvious. That ME3 is what Battlestar Galactica was in it’s final season. Cobbled together, a framework to make everything all neat and tidy. Every story had an end, every character a final statement. ME3 tried to cobble together too much with too vast a universe.
Now, I want to get down to Brass tacks. The ending. Now London was the most hard fought, full-on fuck you engagement in any Mass Effect game. There were some let-downs however, but not as many as you’d think.
My one let down is the fact that your final squad is not your final squad. It’s a “who’s who” of Who has the most Weapon damage bonuses. In ME1, your final squad wasn’t as big a deal as the work they had to do. In ME2, your final squad is a fuck-ton of people who were all great and all had their own little role.
Let me ask a question. Why, in the pre-Thanix missile launch, could the entire group of fighters come out and fight around those trucks under their own AI control?
Here’s another great example of “who gives a shit”, So Harbinger drops near the beam. Remember when harbinger was Assuming Control of everything under the fucking sun? Remember when Harbinger was a fucking doom buggy of a reaper who kept an entire fucking race in check?
Yeah, his big thing? Two lasers.
And that whole run to the beam thing, badass, really though. I liked that. However, Fuck it. Fuck it hard with god damn stick. Let me be frank. I lost my whole squad who was running to the beacon with me. So explain why they cropped up on the Normandy after the ending?
You can’t because it’s dumb and wasn’t written well.
Here’s another thing, When you get up to the Citadel/Catalyst, Explain to me where the rest of Cereberus is. I thought they occupied the station? I thought they were fighting for human interest in controlling the reapers?
Alright enough theoertics and condescesion.
The Illusive man show down was alright. For a character that has done nothing but seem nicely evil, this was where it came to a head. And I liked it. It made sense, it was a great philosophical fight. It made me feel that someone who has essentially spent all their time ripping apart humans and putting them back together (a la The Last King of Scotland-style) decides that he is in fact indoctrinated and goes bye bye.
Now…I don’t know how to approach this ending where you meet God/Boy/Indoctro-the boy scientist. So I’m just going to come right out and say it.
I have just fetched all your bullshit. I’ve played Multiplayer to get the fucking thing up to 75%. I’ve wasted massive amounts of my time listening to Liara cry about everything under the damn sun, Listening to Liaras annoying little Glyph, and fucking those two at the god damn War Room door.
Are you really going to turn around and give me a choice?
You’re really going to turn around and give me a choice.
You gave me a choice. You had so many moments in the game where you could have made that the outcome. That all of the parts of the whole became the whole, and you give me a fucking choice.
Let me be frank. Which ever choice you end up choosing ends up meaing absolutely notihng. It is the biggest let down in the history of an ending. It means NOTHING. IT HAS NO MEANING. There is no deepness to it. There is no big theological question between the struggle between synthetics and organics. There is no philosophy with the idea that giving civilizations massive leaps and bounds technologically that comes at the expense of an entire race of people. What it is, is the illusion of choice.
Now we can go back and forth about whether or not the ending was how indoctrination really is and that with 100%, someone in N7 armor is alive on Earth and it’s probably Shepard. I won’t.
If an ending is an implied ending, then it’s not ending. Kara Thrais disappeared into thin air, but was able to be touched three or four times earlier in the episode. Don’t imply that she’s some sort of fucking Angel. Don’t imply that with the illusion of choice, I’ve become indoctrinated.
Mass Effect is not a Kubrick film. Mass Effect is not Full Metal Jacket. Mass Effect is not 2001. Mass Effect is a video game that up until this point was about fighting against a galactic extinction event. Mass Effect 3 is a game about a galactic extinction event that has no reprocussions because you apparently are at the peak death cycle. Mass Effect 3 is a game that tried to be something it wasn’t. 1 and 2 were smart. They had commentary.
2 was about the struggles to come to both sides of an arguement over the future of humanity and the recognition of humanity on the galactic stage.
Mass Effect 1 was about the unrestrictive nature of an unrepresented people and the chance for those people to introduce themselves again on the galactic stage and it all hinged on a unknown becoming a known and working with the same aliens who had tried to murder him before.
Mass effect 3 is about fetching forces for a showdown at the Fuck-Off Corral and getting to the corral and realizing, Oh shit…What was happening here again? we were supposed to end this gigantic fight? Oh never mind. Let’s just have the illusion of being wrapped up and done with.