Sunday, 18 March 2012

How Bioware dropped the ball (again) MASS EFFECT 3 SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!

Hey all FOC here,

Well that time has come for a new Bioware game, specifically Mass Effect 3! Huzzah! I cried, my favourite game series gets a new game!

So I played it and loved it. A fitting conclusion to 90 hours of sublime gaming...Well... 89 hours 50 minutes of sublime gaming and then...


What the fuck Bioware? That was without doubt the worst ending to anything ever. Battlestar Galactica had a better ending and that ending sucked on so many levels. It took the best game series I have ever played and destroyed it in 10 minutes that rejected every idea, concept and plotline that the game had developed over the previous 5 years. It was like seeing Kermit the Frog napalm the rest of the muppets.

So I suppose I should explain for those of you who do not follow computer games.

You are probably familiar with Mass Effect 1 & 2 but just in case you have been living under a rock I'll go through it in brief. You play Commander Shepard a Badass Space Marine type who is appointed to be a Spectre in the first game: effectively a freelance agent who works directly for the Citadel Council (basically the UN of the various alien races). Humanity wants to be the fourth Council member and Shepard's Spectre status represents a big step in that direction.

In the first game Shepard finds out that an synthetic race called the Reapers are returning to destroy all organic species that have advanced past a certain point of development. The reapers do this every 50,000 years but their reasons for doing so are unknown. The second game dlc ends with Shepard destroying a Batarian colony to slow the advance of the Reapers. However this is a stopgap measure at best and it is basically stated that the Reapers will arrive at the start of game 3.

And boy do they arrive, attacking Earth in force and smashing all before them. The entire 3rd game consists of Shepard trying to drum up a resistance force to send against the Reapers. In addition to this the Resistance has found plans for a device in ancient recordings from the last time the Reapers turned up 50,000 years ago. It is said that this device will destroy the Reapers once and for all. Throughout the game Shepard is looking for the final piece of this device- a component called the Catalyst. Eventually he discovers that the Catalyst and the Citadel (an ancient space station and headquarters of the Citadel Council) are one and the same thing but said Catalyst has been captured by the Reapers and moved to Earth. With no option left Shepard leads his forces to Earth to confront the Reapers and deal them a death blow once and for all. Shepard leads the attack squad across the battlefield in a desperate attempt to reach the transport beam to the Citadel, from there the plan is to use the device and destroy the Reapers. Unfortunately the allied forces start taking fire from a Reaper, Shepard is hit with a glancing blow and loses consciousness.

Up to this exact point Mass Effect 3 was pure unrefined awesome.

After this point it goes downhill fast.

Shepard regains consciousness, gets to the beam and uses it to enter the Citadel. After dealing with the Illusive Man (a major character from Mass Effect 2 & 3, but not really important for this summary) Shepard gets taken to see the Catalyst.

As it turns out the Catalyst is an artificial intelligence who has become concerned that a pattern has emerged of synthetic lifeforms rebelling against organics and starting a war. Its solution was to create the Reapers and wipe out advanced organic life every 50,000 years allowing other races to come to the fore.

It offers Shepard a choice: destroy all synthetic life, merge synthetic life and organic life so that there is no distinction between the two or gain control of the Reapers and thereby stop the attacks. Regardless of your choice Shepard dies, the mass relay system (basically jumpgates and the only means of swift travel between systems) gets destroyed and Shepard's ship the Normandy gets marooned on a lush jungle world along with all his squadmates, friends and (potentially) lovers. A cryptic epilogue of a man talking to a young boy then plays stating that this all happened long ago and a lot of information has been lost from that time. Nevertheless the man promises to tell another story of The Shepard.

That's it. End of game.

Now there are many reasons why this sucks as an ending so I will go through them in order:

1) Lack of consequences for your actions: This is the big one for a lot of people. Your choice at the end doesn't actually matter in the slightest. The only difference it makes in game is the colour of the energy wave produced by the Catalyst (Green, Orange or Blue) and which crew member is seen clawing their way out of the wreckage of the Normandy at the end. After being promised that your choices really matter the actuality of it is that your final and most important decision doesn't make any practical difference, the ending is effectively identical regardless. Extending this further none of your actions in any of the 3 games actually matter. It all comes down to a non-choice.

2) Deus Ex Machina: After 3 whole games of awesomeness the game is ended by a band new character who comes out of nowhere and pours pixie dust on the problem to make it go away. Yup a wizard did it... That sucks.

3) The implied holocaust: The destruction of the relay system absolutely shits on the entire galaxy. Most systems have been heavily damaged by fighting to the point that they have lost great swathes of their production capacity. Others relied on heavily on interstellar trade to survive. Basically any system that is not entirely self sufficient is now screwed. Worst hit will be Earth because it has hundreds of different ships in orbit representing the fleets of virtually all the major races in the galaxy, two of which (the Quarians and Turians) don't even eat human food. As this becomes clear it is likely that the alliance that Shepard has formed will collapse as the various races scrap for survival. Elsewhere trillions will die as they slowly starve to death. A total downer ending of the worst kind.

4) The kick in the teeth: In the third game Shepard can solve many major galactic problems through diplomacy and (frankly) kicking arse. You can cure the Krogan Genophage, bring truce and friendship to the Quarians and Geth and give a resurrected Prothean reason to live beyond mere combat. In short you bring hope that after the war your friends can go back to their homeworlds to build new lives. Wrex wants to father a family, Tali wants to build a home on Rannoch, Samara wants to watch over her only remaining daughter etc. etc. To achieve this several other longstanding characters sacrifice their lives heroically.

Unfortunately at the end of the game all these people are either stuck on some random jungle planet or stuck on Earth. So yeah all that good work? Not only totally pointless but actually worse because you have created hope and then had it cruelly snatched away...

5) If it is on the level then it makes no sense: Hey there! I've heard you don't want to get killed by synthetics, so I've created a race of synthetics to kill you every 50,000 years so you don't have to get killed by synthetics.

That's basically the reasoning presented by the Catalyst for why he does what he does. Make any sense to you? Nah I didn't think so either.

Also why is the Normandy in hyperspace at the end of the game? The only reason to do this is if they had all run away. That makes no sense. In addition your team was on Earth, so how exactly did they suddenly get back on the Normandy? It is possible that the same character that accompanied you on your charge towards the beam not only miraculously survives but actually picks themselves up, dusts themselves off and then (for some reason) decides to ignore their mission in order to turn right around, leave the combat zone and go back to the Normandy with the rest of the crew. I know this because it's possible to have a companion that is with you as you are hit by the Reaper beam be the same one that is clawing out of the wreckage of the Normandy on the jungle world.

Plus after you get hit by the Reaper beam you suddenly are no longer wearing your combat armour. Why? That's an awfully specific bit of clothing damage.

And why does the Catalyst appear as the kid that you saw at the start of the 3rd game? It has no reason to do that. This makes no sense.

In short, as things stand the end of Mass Effect 3 doesn't have plot holes, it has plot chasms...

It's just awful. However there is a possibility that this could yet be one of the most ambitious and risky twists in computer gaming history. I will expound on this theory in a future post.

Your resident depressed gamer

Fall of Camelot


  1. Awaiting your theories on Mass Effect 4 with trepidation...

  2. One thing I would also say on Angry Joe's last point regarding the fact that multiple choice ending is just ripped off from Deus Ex:

    Yes Deus Ex had a multiple ending choice, but the story spent pretty much the whole last third of the game building toward it. Deus Ex's multiple choice ending has not been matched by any other because of the amount that the characters of the world seems to invest in the player and because the choices are not just dumped upon you at the last minute by some god thingy (both DE3 and ME3 have this problem).

    The proponents of each ending spend time talking to you, even going as far as allowing you a few options for debate and discussion along the way to further examine the merits and flaws of their arguments.

    You live through the problems of the world as it stands, and get to know the conflicting ideologies that are trying to make it a better place in ways that are not compatible with one another.

    It's YOU that gets to make a choice between THEM, and then you put some effort in, solving the puzzles and fighting the toughest bad guys, so as to make the final choice (you can even set it up for all three options and make the final decision at your leisure). You know the characters that are presenting their philosophical ideas and what their goals are because you have been fighting for and against them as the campaign goes on, and the final location and Bob Page's evil plot is hinted at in clues given in both the main story and the extra material scattered around the game environment.

    Let me stress this last point: the scenario doesn't just come out of nowhere; though you may not know the specific details of the plan until the last minute, you know that Bob Page is doing Something Bad With The Internet, and you set out to stop him.

    The choice presented at the end appears because so many far reaching groups have decided to put their faith in you, because you are the most capable person in the entire world of taking Page down.

    Imagine being sent by the Allies, Russia and a shady crime syndicate to take down Hitler; when he's gone you become the highest ranking person within 1000 miles and the fate of the world is decided by who you decide to let into Berlin first. This is the kind of power that the original Deus Ex ending gave the player; real choices based on existing concepts within the universe.

    What did DE3 and ME3 do? They removed the context from all of your actions.

    In the end they just put you in a small room and, at gunpoint, ask you to pick a box. When developers see a feature, why is it that they can never seem to look beyond the feature itself and actually see how its integration with the game world made it so compelling to begin with :(

  3. Look on the bright side, it got you blogging again!

    Does sound a lame ending. Hi my name is HAL and now I am going to kill you...