Wrapping up Mass Effect 3

I lost count of the hours long ago, but they were up there. After so many of them, it’s time to say goodbye to my Shep again.

There’s Shep, looking at her team. I get a green screen instead of a picture most of the time. This was the only shot I got.

Much easier on the feels this time around, for sure. I used Citadel DLC as my finale which concludes with Shepard looking nostalgically at the Normandy while her party attendees board. I held on to that feeling for a few moments after the screen faded to “Hit Any Key To Continue“. Considering last time I bawled my eyes out and moped for months, I believe I’ve made progress. (It seems there’s even an Urban Dictionary entry for this phenomenon.)

Then I went back to Mass Effect 1 and started a MaleShep Insanity run.

We’ll see how long that lasts.

It was lovely to play the same character, with roughly the same choices. I ended up with a few differences: despite my best efforts, Kelly didn’t offer to feed my fish, nor did she show up in the third game, and somehow I passed that reputation check with The Illusive Man in the end. As stated above, I was less of mess of this time so although I covered up the ending with MEHEM out of curiosity, I think I would have accepted the base game outcome. Except the Synthesis-disintegrated-in-a-well part (like WTF is wrong with whoever thought that was a good idea).

Interestingly, there were plenty of times I felt my heart race and my arms shake and had to say “chill out silly, you know what happens“.

Speaking of knowing what happens, I’m not holding back on the spoilers so I’ll stick the cut here.

1- Citadel Epilogue

I used Citadel Epilogue mod to recreate my past experience. Citadel originally came out well after the main game so unless you start over, you had to play it after the end. It fit and now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you’re the type who hopes for a quick return to normal, Citadel makes for a great “5 years later” and the mod has the bonus of changing the wording of some emails you receive so you don’t have to use your imagination to change “we are at war” to “we were at war“. You can also access all the party scenes in one go, in case you’re like me and must drag it out as long as possible.

I dragged out Citadel for so long that I actually managed to get this achievement.

I don’t think I would ever want to play Citadel before the end. While I can criticize and nitpick the main game story until I’m blue in the face, the tension buildup is excellent (see part above about being all shaky, even on round 2). Citadel releases that tension. Playing it too early would be at best, unsatisfying and at worst, an interference. Plus, without Citadel after the main game, something would be missing. You know how after a really intense gaming experience, you go to convention or something and geek out with fellow fans and it feels amazing? (If you’ve never tried, you should, it’s great.) That’s what Citadel is like.

There are even some fans who don’t like quick-return-to-normal endings who use Citadel Epilogue. They just view it as something “other”, a parallel story of sorts instead of a “5 years later” thing. So even if you like your Shep dead/too injured/space-god and your Citadel (the actual Citadel, not the DLC) is wrecked, you can still enjoy Citadel DLC as satisfying last moments with your character and crew.

2- Priority: Earth

Out of curiosity (and possibly out of lack of masochism), I gave MEHEM a try. It skips Star Kid and pretty much gives you Destroy ending without killing off the Geth and EDI. Joker brings the Normandy up to the Citadel and an evac team rescues Shepard. To the average spectator (like me) it’s almost seamless. Very impressive work. In front of EGM and MEHEM (and also Miranda Mod), I’m in awe of what a skilled modder can do.

Getting rid of Star Kid and his stupid conditions was great. After all, to someone who worked their arse off prepping the Galaxy, getting roughly the same unpleasant options and conditions as someone who did the bare minimum is grating. I know the fun-sux people and the tragic poets argue the “in real life blablabla” line, but it’s not real life. It’s not even a 2 hour movie or a 500 page book (though I hate when books have an ending that makes you feel like those 500 pages you read were for nothing. If I were the type who burned books, I would burn those books.), it’s a 150+ hour video game. In my case, more like a 300+ hour video game and there’s nothing I hate more than wasting my time.

I know the mod reduces the ending to pass/fail and I don’t think it takes much effort to pass but at least the pass is pleasant. Plus, it’s a mod, made by volunteers with little to work with. I can accept a blanket ending coming from them.

Story-wise, though, as much as I love/adore/worship Shepard, I don’t think she’s worth sacrificing that dreadnaught (that was a dreadnaught, right? I suck at warships. While I’m a Coast Guard brat, I’m a Canadian Coast Guard brat. I know icebrakers, tugboats, tankers, fishing boats, ferries…) and risking the Normandy and her crew for. She’s completed her job and as long as she doesn’t get disintegrated in a well (I will never get over that), her death would be a good one.

Then again, one could argue that the dreadnaught was also covering for all the ships escaping through the relay so it wasn’t a pointless sacrifice.

As for how I would want my Shepard to end? The more I love a character, the more I want them tortured. (No worries, concerned reader(s), it doesn’t extend to real life.) An alive, but “broken” Shep would work best for me. What really resonated with me in Shep’s character wasn’t how her crew adored her, or her combat prowess, or how she brought the galaxy together. It was how, no matter how shit everything was around her, or how tired or defeated she was, she grit her teeth, put her head down and kept going. After everything she’s been through, I can’t see her going back to military missions in the Normandy, yet she has no idea how to live a “normal” life. Imagining Shepard trying to find meaning in her life after everything went to hell is the most interesting outcome to me.

MaleShep, if I ever play him that far, totally gets Control ending. Partly because I love seeing Mark Meer geek out about Control in interviews (I’m a total fangirl), partly because MaleShep just feels more like a surreal science fiction character to me (in contrast to FemShep who feels like an overachieving BFF).

As for the rest of the Priority: Earth, I love the space battle. London started out strong but draaaaggggggeddddd onnnnnnnn. I had to switch the difficulty to Casual (from Hardcore) because I was ready to just quit.

It’s not clear how all your squadmates get to forward camp before you. Wasn’t the Normandy busy space battling and didn’t Cortez crash the only shuttle? Who cares. Unexplained pleasant goes over smoother than unexplained unpleasant. I love the goodbye scenes. Except the part where I didn’t realize I missed Kaiden until the very end, couldn’t backtrack and had no proper saves. So I had to RESTART LONDON OMG. It probably wasn’t worth it. Kaidan’s friendship scene isn’t spectacular, but Shep’s fond of her ex-boyfriend so it wouldn’t feel right to skip him. Coincidentally, I think the same thing happened to me the first time around. Kaiden looks too much like Generic Alliance Soldier. Anyway, some of the goodbyes kicked me right in the feels. Javik and Liara stand out. (I think Javik is one of my favorite things about ME3 – I don’t know how they pulled it off but he’s completely credible as an alien from an ancient aggressive colonialist culture who spent his life hunted by the Reapers, yet he’s still totally likable.) And romanced Garrus goodbye still make my eyes prickly, no matter how many times I replay it (the voice acting here is something else, just pushes me right off the edge).

Speaking of Javik, here’s a picture of him fighting a hangover in Shep’s bathroom.

One thing confuses me about the run to the beam. After your squadmates get injured, the Normandy lands and picks them up. If the Normandy could drop off/pick up people in the middle of the run path, why didn’t it just do that from the start? Also, why are you running out in the open? I know nothing of war tactics, but wouldn’t running and hiding along the rubble on the side be a better plan? Can’t complain too much about the Normandy, though. I would rather a weird landing than letting my squadmates die in the field.

3- Priority: Thessia and Sad-just-to-be-sad

I feel like Mass Effect 3 is full of brilliant ideas, but time and motivation to properly tie them to the story wasn’t always there. In my mid-game post I ranted about the politicians who had interesting stances, yet bizarre or missing explanations for those stances. At the end of Thessia, there’s another of the moments.

As a side-note, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the beacon on Thessia. I don’t know if Thessia was edited after release or if From Ashes is necessary to understanding it, but it made sense to me. The Protheans saw the prehistoric Asari as a potential subservient species. They directly helped them transition from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural one (think paleolithic to neolithic) by giving them seeds and stuff. They left a beacon, either for themselves or for the Asari to use once their civilization evolved far enough. The Protheans are the quintessential arrogant colonial culture so if the beacon was meant to be used by the Asari, they never took into consideration that by the time they were ready, they wouldn’t be able to understand it (remember how shocked Javik is when Shepard tells him no one could use the beacons?). The proud Asari, who are only slightly less arrogant than the Protheans, view their uplifting as a source of shame (it seemed like Liara was more upset about discovering this than she was about her home planet being destroyed) and hid it best they could. Space-age laws about withholding Prothean technology probably made their desire to hide their beacon even more intense, so they waited until they were out of options before saying “well, it’s a far stretch, but maybe Shepard can find some use in this“. (It’s not clear why no one other than Saren sought out the cipher, but perhaps only Sovereign was aware that the Thorian could be used in that way.)

What bothered me in Thessia is how random (and forced, maybe?) the setback feels. I absolutely love that Shepard fails on Thessia. It builds tension, it drives the already present sense of urgency wild and it presents a vivid reminder that Shepard is as vulnerable as anyone else. The scene following Thessia, where a defeated Shepard doesn’t want to take the call from the Asari Counsellor is one of my favorites. To see her in such a human state, then watch her gather her strength makes me fall completely in love with her. (It is the scene that is missing from Inquisition and didn’t quite go there from Andromeda. Both games would have been so much better for it.) I would, however, love this scene even more if I had felt like Shepard failed properly on Thessia. See, instead of Shepard failing because of a bad call (perhaps saving one of the Asari units outside, or a squadmate) or because Kai Lang/Cerberus outsmarts or defeats her, she fails because Kai Lang feels like he’s from a different story. Reaper ground troops don’t touch him. Your squadmates freeze around him for no reason. He punches holes in the floor that you fall through (WTF). So instead of being right there feeling defeated or remorseful or ashamed with Shepard, I felt predominately annoyed and confused and really had to seperate myself from the events leading up to the scene to properly enjoy it.

Somewhat similar moments were Legion and Anderson’s deaths. If you save the Geth, either by siding with them or brokering peace, they get some kind of reboot and Legion dies. It’s not really explained why he dies (or why the reboot makes the geth start referring to themselves as “I”) so it just feels like it was tossed in to make the scene more emotional. Except I couldn’t focus on the feelings because I was too busy planning my google search of “ME3 Legion Death Explained”. Same story with Anderson. On my first playthrough, I figured he dies from the gunshot wound while they’re mind controlled by The Illusive Man. It’s a death that could have worked earlier in the game between Shepard and a squadmate, but it didn’t sit right with me at the game climax and between Shepard and Anderson. I feel like story climaxes, mind control and killing a mentor character are all tricky business and the mix of all three was very messy. Plus, TIM never explains why his mind control doesn’t behave like Reaper and Levianthan mind control. Anyway, after the gunshot, there’s no wound and Anderson doesn’t look hurt. Plus, unlike Shepard, his (bullet proof) armor looks intact. So I figured maybe he dies from his injuries getting to the beam. He’s less injured than Shepard but Shepard is like 30 years younger and has a reconstructed body so it could makes sense. All we know for sure, though, is that Anderson dies because this part needs to be sad.

I can picture the meeting in the writers’ room:

Boss: Kill Legion/Anderson.
Writer: Why?
Boss: Game’s not sad enough.
Writer: Can I have a day to work something out?
Boss: No. Budget’s maxed out. Kill them. Now.
Writer: writes “Legion/Anderson dies” Happy?
Boss: I’ll take it.

In contrast, I feel like Mordin and Thane both received excellent and meaningful deaths, so there such thing as a well presented sad or bittersweet event.

What Now?

It’s so hard to move onto other games after Mass Effect! After the Shepard roller coaster, everything else feels dulls.

I do have a Witcher 2 game a few hours in. I hear so much about the Witcher 3 that I feel that I must play it, to see what the fuss is about. But it’s so hard to get attached to a character I didn’t make myself. Then I have a few smaller games from Origin’s On The House like Syberia II, Dungeon Keeper, Dead in Bermuda, Steamworld Dig. I also snagged Jade Empire during Steam’s latest sale.

But I think I’ll just go back to my Insanity MaleShep playthrough…

Despite my complaining, it’s still the best.

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2 Comments on “Wrapping up Mass Effect 3”

  1. Redbeard Says:

    One of these days I’m going to have to sit down and get back to playing the entire ME series. But at the rate I’m going, all three kids will be in college by that point.

    • Ophelie Says:

      It is really time consuming if you want to do everything! I spent A LOT of my days off. I think it’s worth doing sometime, though, even if it has to be a retirement project, haha. I can criticize a lot about the story, but it’s rare that a video game series has a story worth criticizing.

      Warning: playing all three Mass Effect games is an intense experience and may ruin all video games for you forever. ;D

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