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.
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.