Editorial: The Mass Effect 3 Ending Controversy

For the past week or so, I’ve had to almost ignore the internet. Since about the day after Mass Effect 3 was released, all I kept hearing was the controversy over how “Bad” the ending was. Not having beat the game myself, I didn’t want anything ruined for me. Mass Effect is a series that has grown close to my heart, and seeing the ending for myself –spoiler free– was something I couldn’t wait to accomplish.

Saturday, after 45 hours of gameplay (Single Player and Multiplayer). completing every single quest and side quest in the game and achieving 100% Galactic Readyness, I finished the story. For me (and to quote my twitter comment), the ending was a bittersweet ending to an epic storyline, which as far as gaming goes ranks in my top 5 easily. Bioware has successfully crafted one of the most spectacular stories in recent history, and should be praised for their accomplishment.

Instead, all that I’ve been reading online are whiners, naysayers, and trolls who didn’t get the ending that they wanted, and now think they have the right to DEMAND a new ending. One player even went so far as to file an FTC complaint. Hopefully, Bioware is smart enough to see past the “unsilent minority” and keep the integrity of Mass Effect intact. Afterall, it is BIOWARE’S story to tell. They wrote, and made possible, all three entries into the Mass Effect series. That gives the the right to make any creative choices that they choose. Let me reiterate that: Bioware is the CREATOR of Mass Effect; they can end it however they see fit. It is their right to do so as the creative artists behind the franchise. Don’t get me wrong, the ending was sad, and even unexpected in ways, but it was not “bad” or in need of a rewrite. Far from it.

Demanding that Bioware create a new ending (with all of the writing, coding, voice over work, and production that goes with it), is nothing short of childish.

If your favorite author decided on an ending to their newest book that you did not like, would you demand that the book be rewritten to suit your needs? NO.

If a movie you had been waiting to see for a long time ended in a way that you didn’t feel fit the film correctly, would you demand that the ending be refilmed? NO!

So what gives jilted gamers the idea that since they don’t like the fact that Mass Effect didn’t end the way they envisioned, they can demand a new ending to the trilogy?

It really speaks a lot of where our society is heading when people feel so entitled that they can just demand whatever they want and get it. I really hope that Bioware keeps their integrity on this issue and doesn’t change a thing.

And to those that still feel the need to huff and puff, read past the break:

*SPOILER ALERT*

Shepard dies to save everyone. That’s it. You need to stop raging and come to terms with how the writers over at Bioware decided to tell their story. As happens a multitude of times over the years in different works of art, the protagonist that we’ve grown to love sacrifices himself (or herself) for the livelihood of everyone that he (or she) has sworn to protect. The ending was extremely heart-wrenching. We’ve lost a character we’ve grown to love, and I still feel a bit of sadness over that.

To me, that just makes the story that much more grandiose. My Shepard did exactly what was necessary to save the galaxy, just as Shepard would have. There are no surprises there for me. I know that I would have loved to see Shepard and Liara’s babies running around after the final battle, with them living happily ever after on a beach somewhere.

But in real life that doesn’t happen. War is gruesome, and doesn’t always end on a high note for everyone. It’s that realism that I feel that Bioware was really able to portray in the ending sequences of ME3. And honestly, looking back at the trilogy as a whole, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not saying it’s ok to dislike the way it ends, because everyone is entitled to their opinion, but to say that the ending is “bad and needs to be rewritten” is nothing short of poor taste and lack of maturity.

My hat’s off to Bioware and friends for putting together one of the best series of the past decade, and yes, ending it in an amazingly epic and graceful way.

This was brought to my attention after I wrote this and thought I would share: does anyone remember the ending to Final Fantasy VII?!?! Talk about gaping holes…


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Author: Jeremy Goodson View all posts by
Jeremy is the Managing Editor for Vagary.TV. He has been gaming since the days of the NES and has no desire to stop anytime soon. He's also a veteran Blogger and Podcaster. When he's not writing, recording, or playing games, he loves spending time with his wife and son, reading, and watching a good movie or TV show.
  • Chris Scott

    “If your favorite author decided on an ending to their newest book that you did not like, would you demand that the book be rewritten to suit your needs? NO.

    If a movie you had been waiting to see for a long time ended in a way that you didn’t feel fit the film correctly, would you demand that the ending be refilmed? NO!”

    People do this all the time. Stephen King had death threats tossed his way over the ending to The Dark Tower. And films are even worse, Hollywood test screens many films months in advance and if the ending doesn’t test well with live audiences they call the cast and crew back in to change it. And sometimes if they aren’t changed before release, studios alter the endings for the home release and they market the product based on that fact.

    Does Bioware have the right to tell the story however they wanted? Sure, it is their story but as fans and customers we have the right to tell them we think their story sucked. Do some people go too far? Yes but then again shouldn’t we expect that of them. The word fan is short for fanatic and fanatics are crazy people. However for every crazy person that is out there, there are a score more of people that are unhappy with how Bioware finished out their story and by their story I mean, the gamer’s. Bioware spent five years building up the fact that Shepherd was the player’s character so in a sense it is just as much their story as it is Bioware’s.

    Personally I haven’t finished the game yet so as for my own reaction to the ending, it will have to wait. But I can state that I have major issues with the storytelling in the game as a whole. I think its sloppy and oftentimes forced and so far I’ve found it to be a giant disappointment, so much so that I’ve had a hard time getting into the game at all and have been more than happy to spend my gaming time with other, less high profile titles. I find this incredibly sad because ME1 and ME2 are two of my favorite games this generation and I was quite looking forward to finishing my Shepherd’s journey.

  • http://twitter.com/_JWGoodson J. W. Goodson

    Your mention of Stephen King plays right into what I’m talking about here. No matter how many threats or complaints he got, he never budged and never changed a thing about his work. His artistic integrity was kept in tact all the way through. Bioware needs to do the same thing. Once one person or company caves under the pressure of the vocal minority, where does it end? People will feel even more entitled to get their way on everything.

    Is it ok to hate the ending? Of course it is. As you say, Fans have a right to tell the studio they think it sucked if they feel that it did. It’s a whole different ballgame when people start demanding that the ending or story be changed or altered to fit into some expectations that people have created for it themselves. It is impossible to please everyone, and it is an extremely slippery slope for anyone or any company that tries.

  • Chris Scott

    If that was your point, then you didn’t lay it out very well. You unfairly question why jilted gamers would demand such action after stating with authority that fans of books and movies would not do such a thing, when in reality all types of creative media suffer these same types of criticisms.

    Additionally you seem to disparage those that disagree with your viewpoint on the ending, claiming them to be whiners, naysayers and trolls and lumping all those that dislike the ending into the same group that is demanding the ending be changed. Voicing a dissenting opinion on the ending and demanding a new cut are two mutually exclusive actions, grouping them together is unfair.

    But even those that are on the extreme end, demanding a new ending, organizing petitions or even filling FTC complaints are only voicing their displeasure. Much like you these people are passionate about Mass Effect. But while you are happy with your experience they are not and so they voice their displeasure via extremely passionate, and arguably misguided, means. Would Bioware’s creative integrity be called into question if they bowed to these complaints? Most certainly but at this point they haven’t made a change and if they do, it is a decision they will have to live with creatively.

  • Joey Alesia

    Honestly, after beating the game and seeing the ending, I’m torn. The writer part of me feels that it is BioWare’s story to tell and they told it. And for them to alter it in any way now would set a dangerous precedent for future games. The other issue is that within a day or two of the release, people took up their torches and pitchforks and were out for blood. So, even if BioWare had something planned that they didn’t mention, now if they were to release it they would look weak and as if they were giving in. Also, it could be people misread the ending. There’s an “Indoctrination theory” which may have been their original intent all along. The fan part of me does feel somewhat slighted. Not by the last fifteen minutes, but by the “ff7 style” no explanation portion of the ending.

  • Sylvia

    Please read this… here’s the link I got it from
    http://masseffect.livejournal.com/1365525.html

    “Brent Knowles comments on ME3 ending

    This is from a comment Brent Knowles (former lead designer/creative director @ BioWare) made replying to someone who asked about the ME3 ending on his blog. He hasn’t played ME3, but he comments on what the ending of a video game, particularly an rpg video game, should do (and why it’s different from a movie).

    I read one recent blog post where the writer basically said “the ending was awesome because it was just like a movie” and I think she was missing the point.

    It is a game. Not a movie.

    And more specifically, its a role-playing game. The players are *part* of the game. Part of the process of building and experiencing the game, much more so than with most other forms of entertainment.

    Entitlement is really a right, for the gamer, because they have participated, actively, in the game itself.

    Again, I can’t speak to the actual ending myself, because I have not played it but in generally I’d say a Role-Playing Video Game Trilogy Ending should (try to) do the following:

    1. Reward the player’s choices throughout the series. The big stuff they did should be noted. They should *feel* like they had a unique impact on the world.

    2. End on a positive note. This is really important for video games… life in general is full of shitty stuff happening all the time. When I invest a hundred hours into a game I need to walk away feeling like a hero.

    When you waste a couple hours of a person’s life with an artsy/depressing movie or short story or even a novel, it is more forgivable because the time spent is less. And presumably the consumer knew what they were going into when they started. Certain directors create certain styles of movie. Certain writers write specific types of fiction.

    On the other hand somebody playing an epic role-playing video-game trilogy is going to *expect* to be the hero and save the universe. That’s why they are playing the game. When expectations don’t match reality, disappointment is created.

    It might be an artistic/creative move to go with a different style of ending but I feel its the wrong choice, especially for a videogame *trilogy*. Make your middle game bleak if you want to, but end the series on a high note.”

  • http://twitter.com/_JWGoodson J. W. Goodson

    For me, I feel like everything he says did happen. I did feel like a hero at the end. Just because Shepard didn’t live, doesn’t mean he’s not a hero. He made the ultimate sacrifice to save as many people he could. If that’s not heroic, I don’t know what is.

    Yeah, Shepard could have walked away and lived happily ever after. But would that really have fit in with everything that was happening in the game? I don’t feel it would have. The reason that I like the ending as is, is that it feels real. It leaves a lasting impression on the player. It also really got people talking, which means that Bioware did their job maybe even better than they had planned.

  • Jeremy

    You have completely misinterpreted what fans are outraged about. Your entire article is about how fans are “upset it didn’t end on a high note”. That is completely wrong. Mass Effect 2 did not end on a high note and that is considered one of the greatest games ever made by fans.

    Fans are upset because our choices meant nothing, the ending was abrupt, and it didn’t make sense. The illusive man had some barely coherent, rushed conversation with you that eluded to the fact that the reapers may have been controlling him the entire time (if they had, why did they attack him for doing research they were controlling him for?).

    The final scene, our choices through 3 games and 60+ hours of game play meant nothing. We were given a choice of A, B, or C. Each letter coincided with our ending being colored Blue, Green, or Red. Last but not least, why was Joker flying away? Why were we led to believe gaining more “galactic readiness” and “war assets” would help us win the fight when in the end it meant nothing?

    The truth is, the ending was rushed, it barely made sense and we were led to believe the size of our army would win the war, when it had nothing to do with it.

  • http://twitter.com/_JWGoodson J. W. Goodson

    The vast majority of the complaints I’m reading between the forums and the Mass Effect Facebook page are people complaining that Shepard died and that they want it rewritten so he does not. If it is Bioware’s creative choice that Shepard is to die in the end, then so be it.

    To say that choices meant nothing is completely short-sighted. I spent 45 hours seeing how my choices over the course of the first two games played into the third game. All of those choices played directly into the story. Example: Because of my choice to save the Rachi Queen, she helped me in ME3. Another Example: Because of my choices in ME2, Mordin Solus lived. In ME3, he manages to find a cure for the genophage and then sacrifices himself to make sure that his work was not in vain. Choices mattered.

    You’re right, in the final scene everything came down to three choices. Three choices that all have very different implications for the overall canon of the series. It’s up to the player (US) to choose the future of the galaxy. Three games worth of amazing storytelling led up to this moment where we have to make a monumental decision.

    Just because this didn’t lead into a two hour cutscene doesn’t mean that the entire rest of the series can be completely discredited. The people complaining are, for some reason or another, ignoring everything else that has happened in this series and choosing to focus on the last two minutes. When you look at the big picture, it makes a lot of sense.

    The ending was not rushed. I would guarantee that Bioware spent hundreds of hours meticulously plotting the ending of this game. By the controversy that has stirred up because of it, I would say they did a damn good job. People are talking. And if you take the game, and the rest of the series as a whole, the ending makes perfect sense. Shepard makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the galaxy from the reapers (with one ending having a hint of him possibly being alive still).

    Bioware doesn’t need to explain it beyond that. They leave a bit open to interpretation because they want the player to be able to fill in the blanks how they see fit. In my mind, my team is all dead except for Joker, EDI, and maybe a few crewmen. Some people may choose that everyone lived happily ever after. What is important is the choice that Shepard made and the implications that has on everyone else.

  • Mark

    It was also said that Mass Effect 3 will be shaped by 1000 variables from ME1+ME2. Not the last 5 minutes, but the game as a whole.

    http://callousedthumbsgaming.blogspot.ca/2012/03/mass-effect-3-fans-enemies-of.html

    http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/downtime58/blog/the-end-of-me3-replying-to-some-of-the-common-crit/92177/

    Oh, Bioware has to end the game on a high note? They told you before the game launched that “Reapers can win” and the price for allowing the Reapers to win is “galactic extinction”. Reapers harvest and kill most living things. Anything that can’t be harvested is used for slave labor under total Reaper control for the rest of their life.

    Anyone who thinks that you were going to kill the Reapers and have life return to normal is fooling themselves. The Crucible is said to cause a galactic dark age, where this cycle got dealt the middle finger.

    In the Extended Cut, it was subtly revealed that the Crucible is of Reaper origin, and that you were being merely used as a pawn to gather allies, construct this weapon, only to blow yourself and the entire galaxy up with it at the end.

    Aside from the ending where Shepard lives. That is the good ending where Shepard wins and the Reapers die. As was said in the first game “you job is to kill (destroy) the Reapers. Again in the third, “we’re going to beat the Reapers or die trying”. In the Arrival DLC, it was said “maybe you’re right (to Harbinger). Maybe we can’t win this. Maybe we’ll lose half the galaxy, maybe more”. In the end, it’s all about destroying the Reapers at all costs.

    TLDR, Mass Effect is not a Disney movie. It is a galactic war story against a race of hyper advanced machines which can wipe out all live in the galaxy without hardly lifting a finger. It is extremely grim that you and the rest of the galaxy will make it to see another day (as said in game). It does not have you walk away feeling satisfied. It is regardless of what you do a visceral punch to the gut, coupled with a small ray of hope which is only there if you manage to have Shepard live and destroy the Reapers.

    Essentially an end of the world plot, because there aren’t any sequels to this game as stated by Bioware. The galaxy is a huge toxic wasteland after the third game. As for the “games can’t tell realistic movie like stories”. Gaming is just the medium the story is presented. A movie you sit on the couch and watch. While gaming is interactive storytelling that you participate in. Both can have such dark, grim, depressing plots. The whole “we play games to relax and feel like heroes”. Life sucks enough as is. Well, your life may suck, but mine certainly doesn’t. I make the best with what I have. I don’t let a video game like this ruin my day. Others might though.