My SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER Thoughts About Mass Effect 3’s Ending (UPDATED)

I’m going to go ahead and talk about the ending of Mass Effect 3 and their curious decision to have Chewbacca appear at the very end of the game and lead everyone in the Macarena while the blue elephant plays his round piano. Yes, I know that didn’t happen, but I didn’t want the preview thing to show any actual spoilers to ruin someone else’s experience. I will wait until after the jump, which is right here.

When I played through, like everyone else, I got the three choices we all had available: control the Reapers, destroy the Reapers, or change all organic and synthetic DNA to essentially blur the difference. Of course, before then, I’d fought through waves of enemies on Earth, some of the hardest battles in the game to date. It was a tough slog. I went through my discussion with the Illusive Man and convinced him to shoot himself in the head, a nice callback to Saren and a bit of a chance for redemption for someone who really did have humanity’s best interests at heart. I sat with Anderson at the End of All Things, content to watch and die. I’d just saved the fucking galaxy, after all. Anderson passes out – maybe he dies, but it’s not definitive – and I am ready to do the same. There you go, galaxy. I’ve given it all I can. Shepard out.

Then Hackett gets on the radio, bugging me. My journey isn’t done. I need to do something. I don’t know what. I end up giving up, when a lift takes me to the true heart of the Citadel. There I meet the AI that is running the show. He tells me why it’s happening and I see his point. I still don’t like it, but at least I know why it’s happening. But I’ve fucked up his cycle, and now it’s up to me to choose what comes next. Now, I ended up seeing/playing all 3 of my choices, but my favorite is this one:

I just spent 3 game-years and 5 me-years fighting the Reapers. I reflect for a minute – I’d kill the geth if I chose to end the Reapers. I can live with that. I loved Legion, but he’s gone, and the geth that are now self-aware are not him. I think about EDI, and Joker, and I feel bad. Really bad. I liked EDI. I ask myself, would they sacrifice themselves, here at the end of all things, to stop the Reapers forever? I think they would. This isn’t the first time I’ve held a race in my hand and had to choose to end them or save them, or the first time I’ve had to pick someone to die.

I could control the Reapers and give up my mortal shell. I could control the single-most powerful thing in the galaxy and use them for Good. The synthetics and organics have to figure out how to get along. I think they will. I’ll be destroying the mass relays, just like with every other choice, but I believe there is enough “Reaper Tech” around to rebuild them. We have gathered the greatest minds in the galaxy in one place already; they can figure it out.

Or I can make the distinction between organic and synthetic a moot point. Joker and EDI can be together. Presumably, every race can bond together; I don’t know. This is Utopia, and by giving myself up I can make it possible.

But I am Shepard. A human. A soldier. I am flawed.

I have come this far to stop the Reapers. I have watched people I loved die because of them. I want revenge, not just for me, but for the Protheans and all the races before me. Goodbye, Geth. Goodbye EDI. I will miss you. But I know I will die if I choose the other 2 options. It is explicitly stated. I am part machine. I am not all machine.

I kill the geth. I kill EDI. More importantly, I kill the Reapers.

I destroy the mass effect relays, but I believe that is a technical obstacle that our peoples can solve, even if in lesser form. We can achieve this. The Citadel shatters, and I am alone, here at the End of All Things.

All is still. I gasp for breath. I am Shepard. A human. A soldier. I’m not dead yet.

I didn’t honestly expect this post to come out this way. Just happened when I let go of my fingers. But I think it sums up how I feel about it. The whole game was a giant eulogy for Shepard, the Avatar of this cycle. I got to say goodbye a dozen times to the friends I’d made along the way. And I saved as many as I could. It was very rewarding to me. I understand the feelings of the vocal masses, but I don’t feel the same way. I agree with Penny Arcade’s take on the apparently-quite-popular Hate Take on the game’s ending, 5 Reasons to Hate the Ending. The ending is good enough for me.

But what about you?


There is a theory going around, some fueled by the fans, some by admittedly cryptic remarks made by official Mass Effect channels, that indicates that this isn’t the actual ending of the game. Devs are making statements of “hold onto your saved games” and are indicating that there is more to the story. If you are interested in the Indoctrination Theory, as it’s known, go here and read its tenets for yourself. Is it true? No idea. Is it possible? I’d say yes. If I were Bioware, even if it wasn’t what I’d planned, you are damn right that I would be working on making it come true right this second. All I know is this: if this is a fake, fuck with people ending, then whoever was behind it has the biggest fucking balls in the history of gaming. It’s a stunt that can only work once. I’m good with the ending, but still hoping that this is true. Heh.

About Alan Edwards

Former cancer caregiver. Husband of the most magical and amazing person who ever lived.

Posted on March 19, 2012, in Kerfluffle and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I better understand why some of the fan base is upset but my opinions fall more in line with P.A’s take on things. I looked at this entire game as the end game. By hitting ‘import ME2 character’ I knew it was the beginning of the end so I don’t feel like the last 10 min were the end game.

    I didn’t assume to know what happens when the AI re-do explodes a Mass Relay vs. an asteroid crashing into it. I didn’t assume I knew the time that elapsed between the soldiers declaring that everyone needed to fall back vs. Joker getting out of dodge etc etc. So I gave the game wiggle room on points like that. Also yes, Shepard was about tolerance but the AI/Reapers weren’t and never had been. Sadly for us the AI was holding all the cards so we had to play by it’s rules. It was completely content harvesting the advanced races if we had chosen to say “EFF YOU I’m not playing in your sick twisted game”.

    I do understand the feel of the discontent better and so for that I am happy. I also understand that if you saved the collector base that you would have expected a different ending or whatever but I get why they did it the way they did – I think I do any way.

    I wish I could have more also but I think that for me I got the ending that my Shepard would have wanted given the choices the AI gave her. BioWare could have written me a 50 hour ending scene and it still wouldn’t be enough though because these charters were more than pixels to me, they were characters that had come to life over the years. They were as real as any character in a book, they live in my imagination and I am glad they are there because I’m still not ready to let them go just yet.

    • I completely agree with you on this one. Part of me wants to tell the people who are calling for boycotts to step back, think, and then thank the people that built something they can feel so powerfully for. They are more than just pixels to me, too, and I imagine they are for the outraged masses. I’ll be buying every bit of DLC that lets me revisit this franchise, quite happily. I’ve gotten something like 400 hours of palytime out of these 3 games. That’s insane. I’m itching for more.

  2. There were a few different trains of thought that formed my opinion leading up to the ending and my disappointment with it. I’m not sure I can meld them into one post but here goes. I will start off by saying, I’m sure I would have been sad even with a perfect ending due to the experience of having a game I really enjoyed coming to an end.

    I suppose my expectations for the ending began with how the 2nd game ended. I really liked how my romance played out and I felt that that impacted who Shepard was. A large part of (my) Shepard’s motivation was beating the bad guys to save his girl and live through it. Granted, I’m a single guy with lots of social skill issues, so maybe I escape into that angle a little bit too much. At the same time, I don’t think I’m all “purple unicorns and rainbows” about that sort of thing either. I enjoyed how that relationship was playing out in the third game, where my lady interest was off doing her own thing for almost the entire game. I suppose the bottom line of this angle for me is that (my) Shepard promised her that he wouldn’t die again, and while I realize that sort of promise is bullshit in reality, I feel that an heroic epic of this sort that kind of thing might mean something. I’m not sure how I would have felt if I had the ending where Shepard crawls out of the rubble at the end, and perhaps I could have imagined a reunification, but I didn’t, which made me feel that the multiplayer element was a little too important, as I felt like I had put in enough “extra” time randomly flying around for war resources. I will point out here that I went with destroying the Reapers (and all synthetics) for basically the reasons you lay out.

    Secondly, during the entire game, to me the emphasis was on fighting the enemy. First, fighting Saren and the geth, then the Collectors, then Cerberus, with the Reapers in and out of the action the whole time. In retrospect, sure there was some speculation about the Mystery of the Reapers, and what their origin really was, but to me Shepard was just a fighter confronting what was in front of him. So, when the starchild shows up and starts explaining crap, I felt like the style of the story had changed for me. Furthermore, I felt like during ME3, the Reapers start to seem more and more beatable by conventional means as well. One dies by a giant worm and another dies from just a couple rockets. I would agree that perhaps this is my “fault” for failing to pay more attention to the Mystery of the Reapers angle throughout the series, but I don’t feel like my experience as an audience is way out in left field either.

    During the part on the Asari homeworld, and Shepard talks to the Prothean VI, something in the conversation made me think that I was probably going to end up as the Catalyst. I don’t really remember exactly what was said, but at the point, I started to think I was going to be asked to make that sacrifice. My honest response to that was I started thinking who else I could ask to stand in my place. I kind of settled on Liara especially after she was kind out of it after watching her homeworld get decimated. I was thinking I could convince her that she could sacrifice herself to avenge that. I didn’t feel great about that whole train of thought, but I thought it made sense for my Shepard in this particular run through, probably due to the above point about his desire to leave and reunite with his lady friend. I have four other Shepards at various points along ME1-2, and I can say that probably all four of the others would have been more williing personally to make the sacrifice themselves. I guess this would take away from Shepard being the “ultimate” hero, but why can’t Liara (or someone else, Anderson, Garrus, etc.) have the glory, in at least one “version”?

    I suppose my final point would be, that you see that rebuilding some versions of the mass relays as a pretty easy objective. For me, my gut reaction was just on the opposite end of that spectrum. I mean the council refused to even consider the possibility of the Reapers, and then when they show up, the galaxy still drags its feet on any kind of idea of working together. I just saw the destruction of the mass relays as creating a much darker result, which for one thing, I felt made my sacrifice for naught, and as a player, it made me feel like my choices unraveled. Why does it matter that the genophage was cured, if the krogan are probably now locked away from the galaxy and probably doomed to civil war?

    Finally, I find at the moment that I agree with “the internet” that the endings seemed too similar and I’m not sure what exactly the Normandy was doing.

    I’m sure I’m missing something, but I will leave it at that for now, and get back to work.

    • I can respect absolutely everything you’ve stated here. My Shepard was with Tali, and that mattered to me, and I felt content that even if I died, I got her homeworld back. Even if she never set foot on it, keelah se’lai. She’d be OK. Hell, I’m playing through again in a very similar way (but with a different class) partly so I can resolve one Shep’s 3-game romance with Ashley Williams.

      I believe the Reapers that got taken down were the “destroyer” types, about 1/10 the size of Sovereign, and the missiles were designed after the Sovereign battle based on the specs from there. So I think taking down one of them was reasonable in those circumstances for me. I could deal with it, I should say.

      I had the same thoughts about the Catalyst and wondering who I could get to take the fall, so I’m right there with you on that.

      I don’t necessarily see it as “easy” to rebuild the mass relays, just doable. The races are capable of building comm bouys, which are essentially mini-mass-relays for communication purposes, and the combined brains of the galaxy might be able to come up with a way to expand them back up. Yes, I read too much of the Codex. I think it would have been impossible before everyone got their heads together. Maybe that’s why my Shepard is getting up from the rubble. Someone has to make those bastards keep working together.

      I could see Joker getting the crew onto the Normandy, since the Hammer team got wiped out. Probably when it looked like no one made it, there was a general call to bug out. They might even have done so beforehand, now that I think about it: the Forward Base they’d established was made up of the troops participating in the assault, so anyone not going would have probably needed to skeedaddle. I could see Joker trying to bug the hell out when the big pulse came.

      I think the ending cutscenes were similar, true, well, identical, nearly, but different enough in their implications that I can deal with it. I would have liked more stuff – maybe clarity around what Joker was doing, more info about the afteraffects, that kind of thing. Even a rundown of what the major characters did afterwards, Animal House-style.

      I was a little surprised to find that multiplayer was necessary to get the “best” ending – if you define best as Shepard living, which I selfishly do, heh – but not completely. Of course, I’d fell in love with it during the demo and so happily played it until I was at 100% readiness, which didn’t take a lot of time, and I had a lot of fun doing it. Hell, if you’re on Xbox and want to try it with us, let us know. I find it enjoyable.

      • Alas, I’m on PC. I did try it a bit yesterday, and I found it surprisingly more fun than I thought. I got up to 63% in just like an hour. I was bummed though when my special character from my starter set was an Asari Vanguard, cause I suck at playing a Vanguard. Objectively, I always thought it was a neat concept to capture the idea that there has to be a lot more to this war than just what Shepard is doing.

        • Argh, that’s a shame. I’m glad you enjoyed it, though. And I always seemed to get the stuff I didn’t want to play (yay, the gun I hate! Yay, the class I don’t like!) and Mirwyn got the stuff I wanted and wnated the stuff I got. Heh. Oh well.

          • Let’s talk about the real travesty of Mass Effect 3: the lack of playable Volus, even in multiplayer!

        • Oh, and I was curious about something. Did you actually see Shepard die, or did you just not see him live? I was wondering about that, if seeing him alive was a reward for playing multiplayer, and that he actually is alive even if you didn’t see it.

          • There was no actual deathscene. I felt from everything that was said about the choices (in the game), I was sure Shepard was dead. But yes, I suppose it is open to interpretation.

          • Have you seen the Indoctrination Theory yet? If not, I’d say check it out. At this point, nothing would surprise me.

          • I saw the whole indoctrination theory. I do think its interesting and possible. At this point, I’ve decided to just back away from “the internet” on this though. There’s a lot of mob mentality flying around. What I really want is the Dr. Evil solution – thresher maws with “frickin laser beams attached to their heads!”

  3. Shawn Fitzpatrick

    I found the ending(s) excellent. I of course, like story, and couldn’t care less whether or not the story ends, happily ever after.

    The fascination with happily ever after nonsense, is most of what the ending crying is about.
    That Shephard isn’t alive, knocking boots with his/her paramour looking out over the burning detritus of AI life falling from the sky, would actually totally cheapen the ending. It would in essence CHEAPEN all the sacrifice that went into all that went before.

    The outcry more or less epitomizes why Audy Murphy’s and Mahatma Ghandi’s and Mother Teresa’s are so totally special. They sacrifice or are willing to sacrifice, absolutely everything, for the betterment of everyone BUT themselves.

    The outcry of MY WAY. Is so childish and sad, it makes me ashamed to be human. And ALL FOR ME. Rather than all for one, one for all.

    There is a reason they call it sacrifice, it hurts. It’s not a trivial, justifiable, I don’t wanna die, let me see if someone else will step up to it thing.

    You’ve been told for the last 60 hours of game time from me1, me2 and me3, that you are a very different and very important part of what’s going on. NO ONE Can take your place.
    No one can do it better than you. Anyone else, wouldn’t even have been able to talk to the catalyst. The cleansing then is complete and the next game features gary the dolphin as the promised one.

    Not all the Krogan are locked away on Tuchunga, and will all the brilliant scientists in the Sol System all at once, you don’t think they’d start attempting rebuilding the relays right away?

    Beatable by conventional means? Eaten by a giant worm isn’t conventional, hitting a target with missiles to stick a port open and vulnerable and bombarding it from orbit isn’t conventional either. And as Alan said, those were the tiny ones. When the epic big bad landed at the very end, it killed just about everyone in the assault group.

    It’s mistake was overlooking the two tiny little flies that made it up to the station.

    • I agree with a lot of what you are saying, although not necessarily the tone, heh. I get why people are upset, because they’ve invested just as much time as I have and had a connection to a game they loved. I think a lot of the outcry is getting formed by a few perspectives on the Net, and unless people think about it differently, it just adds fuel to the fire.

      In the end, though, I agree. It’s about hard choices and sacrifice, and always has been.

  1. Pingback: More Mass Effect 3 SPOILER Ending Thoughts – The Indoctrination Theory « Me and My Shovel

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