After the Mass Effect Extended Cut… Or, What’s in an Ending? *Spoilers after the cut*

I’ve never been ansty about a video game-related release before.

I mean it. I even have to fake excitement about new WoW content. It’s not that I don’t like new video game goodies, I’m just not the kind of person who anticipates. So when June 26 was announced as the Mass Effect Extended Cut DLC date and I near fainted, I discovered a part of myself I hadn’t met before.

Official FemShep Extended Cut Wallpaper. Can be downloaded from the Mass Effect Official Website.

I suppose terror might most accurately describe the emotion that surfaced when I found out about the release date.

I was among the many who didn’t like Mass Effect 3’s ending. I came into the franchise late and was prepared for disappointment so I was spared the cold shower given to long time fans. No amount of preparation, though, could keep my poor little heart from breaking. This was a game that had really struck a cord with me, that I played obsessively and that I became heavily emotionally invested in. I’m even sort of embarrassed to admit that I started a new game a couple of days ago… I couldn’t find joy in anything until I saw Mass Effect 1’s Shepard again.

The promises of the Extended Cut DLC gave me a little hope, but it wasn’t a healthy hope. It was more like that sickly hope you get after you break up with someone, that teeny tiny little belief that circumstances might change and your former partner will run back to you with flowers, begging for forgiveness. That last thread you cling to before accepting that it can never be. Hence the terror.

I did take into consideration what Bioware said about the extended ending (that indoctrination theory is disregarded, that the endings remain the same, only more fleshed out). I did realize that nothing can erase my experience of finishing the game for the first time. I used all the expectation-lowering self pep talk I could manage. But there was a tiny glimmer of hope that the game might come running back to me with flowers, begging for forgiveness. It was a scary feeling.

(On a total side-note, because these guys really deserve a shoutout, you know who didn’t screw up the original ending? (Or the DLC ending for that matter.) The music team. I’ve played the original ending a few times now, and invariably, the music grabs me by my heart and won’t let go. I found the music to be subtle throughout the series, like it was just waiting for its ultimate moment of glory. I simply must share my appreciation for the music team’s excellent work.)

Before I jump into spoilers, lets have a talk about endings.

What do you want in an ending?

I always hate endings.

There, I said it.

I’m impossible to please when it comes to stories.

Surprisingly, I’m a very detached person in the real world: I float from one side of the continent to another, I meet new people, I say goodbye to old people and I never look back.

With stories, though, I’m not like that. When my imagination is stirred, I have a tough time letting go. Toward the final turns of a long, long story, I’ll be looking forward to moving on with my life (I even said this a few times while playing Mass Effect), but there will still be a part of me that rebels against coming back to reality.

But when I’m forced to accept an ending, given the choice, I’ll always choose an easy happy ending over a tragic ending. I also like to know what significant things will happen to my beloved characters in their future. And I like straightforward endings that tie up the loose ends of the story and let me walk away sated. I prefer simplicity over surprise.

I knew I’d have to rely on my imagination to get my ideal ending for Mass Effect and I’ve come to accept it. (Fanfic helps.) But since I’m sharing my deep dark secrets here, I’ll confess that my ideal ending for Mass Effect would be a simple “we kick Reaper ass and take a vacation”. I’d like to see a Councillor Shepard (though I’m sure Shepard herself would hate me for it) or maybe an Admiral Shepard who takes over for Admiral Hackett as the official Mass Effect universe quest-giver. And I’d especially like to see her and Garrus spend some happy years together. I’m normally very disdainful of romance stories, but for some reason I really connected to Shepard and Garrus.

Ok, Spilling Out the Spoilers, Now!

You know what? I’m ok.

I’m ok with the DLC. I thought the team did the best job they could do with what they had to work with.

On the critical side, a lot of it was a tad farfetched (the Normandy pulling off an impossible extraction like nothing and the whole concept of synthesis are the two that come to mind), but since the original ending was a difficult starting point, I’m rather impressed.

I liked how we finally found out why the Normandy is flying away. I absolutely loved the exchange between Shepard and Garrus when she has her squad extracted. Part of me felt a little guilty for having the exchange in front of Kaiden, but the rest of me saw it as revenge for the nasty things he said on Horizon in ME2. (Interestingly, on the official forums, team Garrus seems a lot more satisfied than team FemShepXKaiden with their extraction conversation. Seems that once again the Kaiden romance get out-awesomed by the Garrus romance.)

I appreciated that the conversation with godkid was less depressing.

To refresh your memories, the original conversation goes like this:
“You can shoot that thing, and it’ll suck.
You can get electrocuted, and it’ll suck.
Or you can jump into a hole and it’ll suck.”

The new conversation goes like this:
“You can shoot that thing and it’ll be not too bad.
You can get electrocuted and it’ll be not too bad.
Or you can jump into a hole and it’ll be not too bad.”

I hadn’t spoiled the endings for myself at all, so I hesitated. All the options, happily, seemed somewhat promising.

By the end of Mass Effect 3, Shepard felt like my BFF. I don’t like killing my BFF. I knew better than to expect a happy reunion with Garrus, but still. Shooting the thing had the best chances of me imagining a future for Shepard. Electrocuting myself, though… For once it didn’t sound too bad. Maybe there would be a way for Shepard to stay in touch with her friends, maybe even a pull an EDI and get herself a hot robot lady body.

But… saying goodbye to Shepard is a small price to pay for world peace, wouldn’t you say? Plus, I found the Joker and EDI love story to be utterly adorable.

I let Joker and EDI be together.

The speech EDI then gives was definitely worth the sacrifice (as well as redoing the goddamn Cerberus Base and Earth missions!). At first, I wanted to play all the endings, just to see. But after EDI’s talk, I don’t want to. I don’t even want to watch the other endings on YouTube. I’ll see them with a different Shepard, but for this Shepard, the story ends here.

Well, sort of. I’ve got a headcannon all worked out where she didn’t actually die, she just ended up in the parallel universe I use to make up stories where BY CHANCE! she makes friends with my own characters who are able to restore her to her own world. Yeah, that’s right! Easy, happy and straightforward. The way I like my endings.

The following memorial wall scene is then delicious icing on the cake. I can’t remember if I was crying before, but I know for sure that I didn’t hold back any tears as the team comforts Garrus as he adds Shepard’s name. There are a lot of ways the game could have paid tribute to Shepard, but to me, a small informal ceremony by her friends on the ship she loved was simply perfect.

Shit, I’m crying as I’m writing this now. BRB, getting a grip.

PS I also appreciate that they changed the final message from “GG now buy DLC” to something more worthwhile.

PPS I was browsing through my reader and came across this post by The Renaissance Man drawing parallels between Mass Effect, WoW’s Old Gods and HP Lovecraft. Very interesting and informative for those of us who are less familiar with Lovecraft’s work.

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15 Comments on “After the Mass Effect Extended Cut… Or, What’s in an Ending? *Spoilers after the cut*”

  1. Right there with you. I think they did ok considering they wanted to stick with their own ending, but I think they should’ve done it right the first time. It definitely felt more fleshed out.

    I don’t think I’ll be buying any more Bioware products though. It’s not just been the same since Dragon Age 2 to me.

    • Ophelie Says:

      It does seem like Bioware sold more than just their business to EA…

      I haven’t played the Dragon Age games yet (though I own both games and fully intend to give them a go), so I can’t speak DA2. I’m not angry enough over the ME3 ending to boycott Bioware games, but when it comes to gaming companies (or anything, really), I’m not a loyal fan. I buy games based more on the games themselves than on who designed them.

      You know, for the Mass Effect 3 ending, I actually feel more bad for Bioware than I do for myself. There will be other epic games and one day I’ll have that Ultimate Gaming Experience. But for Bioware, they came so close to creating a masterpiece, only to totally blow it at the last minute. They’ll have that failure on their record forever.

      • Reds Says:

        What bothered me – and still does – is the bragging about so many ‘vastly’ different endings. You can’t do that if then you provide three endings that are in effect the same – hero dies – and just a little bit different in some points.

        In Dragon Age: Origins you had so much more choice. Your character could decide on who would rule and with whom – you could (depending on gender) shack up with the queen or king or make queen and wannabe-king marry each other. You could either become king/queen or just a secret lover or nothing at all. Or you could remain a Grey Warden. You could decide if your character was going to sacrifice themselves for the greater good or one of a small selection of followers. Or you could keep everybody alive and rely on some dark magical ritual instead.

        In a perfect ending – according to me – Shepard would have survived and be reunited with her loved ones. Maybe a bit beaten up with a leg in plaster or something but alive.

        A bad ending would have been Shepard and the galaxy being wiped out.

        Then, there’s a whole bunch of better and worse endings in between with varying amounts of death and destruction.

        THAT I would have called choice and vastly different endings. I would have chosen the ending that I could have been happy with.

        Now I’ve chosen the ending where I get the ominous breath and slapped a fanfic I wrote onto DeviantArt right after that so I can somewhat ignore the bitter taste it left in my mouth.

        • Ophelie Says:

          AAaaah Dragon Age spoilers! I’m not that far into DA:O yet!

          Sorry for not seeing and responding to you comment sooner. I haven’t checked the blog in ages and for some reason I didn’t get the comment notification.

          I agree with you 100%, and I would have loved an ending for Mass Effect similar to the one you described for DA:O. Something that fits with the feel of the story and that you can customize based on the Shepard in your mind.

          I’m ok with the DLC ending because I had resigned myself to SpaceKid not going away, but of course, it’s far from the ending I would have written for the game. What saddens me the most, is that this whole fiasco happened in the first place. Mass Effect came so close, so so so close to being a near perfect game, and it all got thrown away in a matter in minutes. I can how Bioware would like to experiment with an unconventional conclusion, but they should have done so with a short game, or a game that has already has a surreal storyline. Not Mass Effect.

  2. spacefiddle Says:

    I know how you feel. There was a lot that the EC did well, but it should have been there in the first place; and the whole experience since March has soured me on the whole series, on Bioware, and for a while, even on the concept of getting attached to games. Or characters. Or ideas :P.

    A gamebreaker for me was
    how Destroy kills the Geth. Then there’s how Bioware handled communication (poorly) or how Casey Hudson spoke down to everyone (insulting egomaniac) or how they never addressed the blatant lies of the marketing hype (What Was Your Favorite Thing about Mass Effect?).

    For those of us who felt a closer attachment to Bioware, I suppose it stung harder and made us react more negatively to their backlash. Could be a good thing, though. I think there are a lot of disilusioned former-fanboi Bioware ex-customers who will be smarter consumers now.

    • merridew Says:

      Absolutely. I hate that all my decisions — and MP grinding, and completing EVERY. SINGLE. QUEST. (on insanity, even) meant exactly nothing.

      My first thought on reading spoilers for the new (Leviathan) DLC was, “oh. a new war asset. ‘cuz that’ll make a whole hell of a lot of difference.”

      I hate that, having chosen the Destroy ending (My Shep swore to everyone the whole game long that she would destroy them, and swore to Liara that there were little blue children in their future. So she did. And there are.) my Shep took a breath in the rubble. Why is the (originally) Renegade ending the only one where Shep (maybe) lives? The choices are sacrifice, sacrifice, and life? But only if you did enough grinding? Bah. I didn’t really buy the “indoctrination theory” but it seemed awfully stupid to me that the Paragon ending was doing exactly what you’ve spent 2 games avoiding – being indoctrinated by the Reapers.

      I hate that the synthesis ending is the “preferred” ending, and the DLC just rubs in your face that that’s the ending Bioware think you should choose. It makes NO sense that, having brokered a peace between the Geth and Quarians, synthesis is the “only way” to prevent “The Cycle” from continuing.

      I hate that they are clinging to the farce that the Reapers are merely collecting (and changing) the races to prevent their complete destruction. Why the mass slaughter, then? Why, then, does Sovereign (who gives me chills every time) tell me he is the vanguard of my destruction? Why not just indoctrinate the Geth – the current threat in the cycle – and whisk them off into deep space?

      I’m not saying there wasn’t a lot to like in ME3. And my husband can tell you how many hundreds (no exaggeration) of hours I’ve played 1 & 2. But I fired up ME2 the other day just for the hell of it and was blown away by how much more urgent, immersive, and compelling it was from the start.

      Ok, internet rants in the wee hours of the morning aren’t really my thing, but Mass Effect always gets me fired up. Heaven help me if the guys doing the Baldur’s Gate reboot screw it up. My head might actually explode.

      • Ophelie Says:

        I always do all the grinding anyway. I actually loved how Mass Effect rewards my OCD with little notes in my War Assets interface. Haven’t done a playthrough on insanity yet (my insanity Shepard is still near the beginning of Mass Effect 1), though, that must take freaking forever!

        Starkid says the peace between the Geth and the Quarians is just temporary, which I guess is possible, but not something you want to hear after spending so many hours working on that alliance. I’ve gotten over the fact that you can’t really save Shepard, even when you sacrifice the Geth and EDI to keep her alive, you’re not rewarded with a reunion scene between her and her crew, but I do think there would have been more satisfying ways to retire her other than invariable death (or an eternity of controlling the galaxy).

        With the Synthesis ending, I felt like they were trying to force a typical science fiction twist into the story, but a twist like that would have fit better in a shock plot based short story than an emotionally investing long story (I’m actually considering a blog post about the differences between short and long story ending needs). It’s the ending I prefer, though, the more I think about it, the more I’d love to see a future story based on the Control ending where Shepard’s crew pulls a Phèdre nó Delauny to set her free.

        • spacefiddle Says:

          Peace between humans is temporary; destroy all humans? I mean, we do a pretty good job of wrecking environments, and his “synthetic life will destroy all organic life” is nothing but his biased opinion. He’s a tyrant and a schmuck.

          I really enjoyed the War Assets screen and the mini-codex entries it unlocked as I did things. It felt like progress. It’s part of what made the ending worse, having that progress be rendered meaningless. Even when it helped, it was not seen in action.

          I think more time could have been spent on this, and less time bribing IGN. Chobot’s a tool, but they give her dialog and mini quests and a fully rendered and animated voice… while Tali’s big face reveal is a badly photoshopped stock photo.

          Argh argh argh argh.

          • Ophelie Says:

            Completely agree that Tali’s face was a huge disappointment. It’s one of those little things that wouldn’t have taken a big effort on their part to do right and would have given the game bonus points.

            I find they did kind of slack on the female characters in general. FemShep and Eve are excellent, and the others are written as good characters, but their visual design… Between Chobot’s teeny tiny dress, Liara’s catsuit and Miranda’s camel toe, I was a little discouraged. Don’t want to design proper female characters? Just slap on boobs and a form fitting outfit and no one will notice!

        • merridew Says:

          I always do at least one “complete” playthrough… and often end up doing all the quests even though I may not go into the game intending to, so I know what you mean!

          Starkid-MacGuffin-poorly-explained-(why do I see him in the first place? why does he say he can’t be saved, when he’s fully planning to continue running the Reapers roughshod all over the galaxy? why do I have dreams about him again? Oh right, no idea… )-kid may have seen endless Cycles, but he’s already wrong about ours because I’m standing on his #&*! bridge about to blow up all his toys, so I don’t buy that he can know the future of the Geth and Quarians. I have no problem with a sacrificial Shep, but I certainly agree that other “retirement” options would have been much more satisfying.

          I like the rescue idea, but to me the EC makes it very clear that Shep, as we know her (him?) dies. A new Reaper is created with Shep’s memories, but it is not Shep. I occasionally imagine Shep jumping into the light and then waking up on Earth, having survived the DNA – er – [ SCIENCE! ] process and going on to have ( blue / half-Turian / half-Quarian / zero ) children on some tiny planet on the edge of the galaxy…

          I get that they wanted a twist. I just think – as you say – this was not the right place for what they did.

    • Ophelie Says:

      What, you didn’t like spending hours over 2 games, winning over the Geth, then killing them? 😛

      I can understand why they did it though. It’s the ending where Shepard lives (if you’ve done enough). For those who weren’t willing to sacrifice Shepard, there had to be a penalty.

      • spacefiddle Says:

        I can’t. IN theory, you don’t know this when you play; you have the Illusive Man’s choice (control), Saren’s choice (Synthesis), and then “murder the geth, because you say i have to because we can never live together, even though I proved like an hour ago that we can.” If you decide, i don’t know wtf is going on -but we already know control and synth are bad, because three games spent hours telling me they are bad-, and i came here to destroy the reapers… you really do, it turns out, murder the Geth. And EDI. And as a reward for genocide, you maybe get to live.

        There is no redeeming feature to this catastrophic, brain-dead ending. It’s not even like “a slightly new direction by the new writing team,” it’s a direct contradiction of everything the games have been built around. And I can rant for hours… wait, I HAVE ranted for hours… on how badly the ending is plagiarized from other works. Ugh, i have to stop typing now before I start slamming my head on the keyboard :(.

        • merridew Says:


          I had a whole rant typed out but the internets ate it. But I totally agree with this. The “good” endings are everything we fought against as Shep for 3 games. Wholesale Reaper slaughter =\= Deux-Ex-Machina-ghost-child’s explanation of “preservation”. I was ready for my Shep to die in a fiery explosion destroying the Reapers. And then she took a breath. Which I think is terrible. You present me with three terrible, terrible choices, all of which – apparently – mean I sacrifice myself for the galaxy, and then because I picked the one most in keeping with what we have been trying to do for 5 years and 3 games, and did allllllll the quests, and played MP…. I don’t actually sacrifice myself. Then they release the EC where they try even harder to ram down my throat their preferred ending…

          Now I’ve gotten all rant-y again! LOL. Sorry.

          I think this is an improvement in that there’s better explanation of the endings, but it’s still broken.

        • Ophelie Says:

          Oh I totally agree that the framework of the endings is completely flawed. They should have gone with something simple and satisfying on the first go (the more EMS you have, the better and more spectacularly you kill reapers!), but once the damage was done, it was too late. I’m gritting my teeth and praying that, one day, some other company will make a game just as awesome, and not screw up the ending. I’m holding out for my Ultimate Gaming Experience. Someday I will have it.

          I also spend way too much time in the Garrus thread on the official forums where most of the posters go on about how they chose Destroy deliberately so they could imagine a reunion between Shepard and her love interest. I’ve come to view Destroy as the “cop out” decision because of that.

          • merridew Says:

            Ooh, yes! EMS = victory / completeness of victory would be SOOO much more satisfying. And MAKE SENSE. Didn’t put any effort into your EMS? Crucible fails. Low EMS? Reapers weakened. Relays damaged. Maybe we defeat them, maybe not… Mediocre EMS? Reapers @ Earth +/- surrounding systems destroyed, relays damaged… etc. etc.

            I like it.

            I like it a lot.

            Deliberate destroy for a reunion? Yeah, ok… I don’t like it much but I can see that for a romance you’ve carried for two/three games. People have done a lot of crazy things for love… genocide of some AIs? (Or like my friend who wasn’t able to save the Geth in her playthrough, only killing one AI…) I can see it.

            For me, I chose destroy because that’s what I came to do. The possibility of a reunion with Liara and the little blue children I promised her wasn’t a factor since I didn’t know about it. And I would have picked Destroy anyway (see: what Shep came to do. ‘Cuz that’s how that Shep rolls). But now that my Shep “survived” (maybe) there are little blue Shepards running about somewhere in the galaxy (in my mind…). I just don’t think I can bring myself to play through with my Garrus romance…

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