I, like many people in the world, was somewhat upset when I first finished Mass Effect 3 and viewed the ending to the game. I was less than pleased for pretty much all of the same reason everyone else in the world was. The ending, it just seemed so final, I know that sound stupid, but regardless of the choices you made throughout the game, ending the Reaper threat came at a very high price, stranding thousands of sentient beings on a destroyed alien world without any viable way of getting home. With two of the species unable to even consume the food of the planet.
Worse yet, the crew you spent three games forging relationships with are also abandoned on a possibly deserted alien world, with no real fairytale ending for any of the main cast of the game it made for a very depressing end the series. There was plenty more to rage about, and people did, hundreds of minutes of footage on YouTube videos already have. But in a nutshell, those were the two major issues that I had with the ending.
Where I differed from the apparent internet at large was I didn’t kick up a major stink about it. I was upset, yeah, but I was bewildered when I saw that people were petitioning Bioware to change the game’s ending, I was even more shocked when I heard that they were actually going to do it. I think about how many great series have notoriously bad ending, and then I think about how much less these series would eventually be if the creators listened to the nerd rage and changed them, I was worried that these changes would be for the worse.
So Bioware did cave in/listen to their fan base and announced they would be releasing an extended cut of the ending free of charge to all owners of the game. An extended cut that came out recently, for those of you who have seen it, or aren’t that bothered about seeing it first hand, I’ll discuss the changes made that I noticed and how they change the ending to the series. So yeah, obvious spoilers.
The extended cut of the ending adds extra details to each of the three endings, not only that but it makes a ton of changes to what was already on screen, some of these being rather major, while others are really minor. Like the original ending that pissed everyone off, the three endings are still primarily the same cut scene, but with many of the superfluous scenes removed and replaced with a few different ones.
Changes that all appear in all three endings include a small scene where Admiral Hackett informs the fleet that the crucible has activated and everyone to return to the staging post, which explains away why the Normandy was going through a mass relay when the crucible fired. The scene where the mass relays are destroyed are removed and replaced with a scene of their inner rings being broken away, meaning that the majority of the relay remains intact.
Another tiny little change I noticed was that Joker no longer looks behind him when the Normandy is being chased down by the rainbow explosion, I never noticed it at the time, but people were even poking fun at this part of the ending. While this was a minuscule change, it was a change none the less and makes me wonder if Bioware had a checklist of things people were pissed about.
On top of this, the Normandy is no longer destroyed, but merely crashes on the planet, and once the crew honour Commander Shepard on the wall of the fallen, they take off again and leave. I like this, because despite being no less deserted than before, the crew still together and their adventures aren’t over yet.
In regards to the three different choice endings, an few additional clips are added to show the further effects of the crucible firing as well as an epilogue explaining the true effects of each ending and giving insight into each of the choices and what happens to humanity and all of the other species from that point.
The ‘Destroy’ ending, or red ending if you like, has an epilogue by Admiral Hackett, he talks about unity between the species after the destruction of their enemies and how they will all work together to rebuild what was destroyed. Images of the races working together to rebuild are seen and Hackett even makes a comment about the Mass Relays only being ‘severely damaged’.
This is still the only ending where Shepard can survive, but the game doesn’t touch upon it anymore than it did before. Before the changes made in the extended cut, this was seen by fans to be the ‘best’ ending of the three, in the extended cut though, this seems like the worst one. While Shepard does still survive, the humans and aliens on earth are on their own rebuilding, with no help from any synthetics.
The ‘Control’/blue ending is narrated by Shepard him/herself, or at least the new life form that was created from Shepard’s union with the Reapers consciousness. This ending seems very different in tone and feel from the original one. With Sheppard’s influence changing the reapers completely, they become something of a benevolent race, which only seeks only to help the sentiments of the galaxy rebuild and thrive. The ending shows the reapers rebuilding the cities of earth and the mass relays and ends with Sheppard’s voice saying his/her single sacrifice was to help the many.
This ending is much more poignant of Shepard’s journey throughout the games than the others, a character that has always been about sacrifice and helping everyone eventually gives up his/her life to become something of a godlike protector of the galaxy.
The ‘Synthesis’ ending, the green one, is very much the best ending ,as I think it was originally intended to be. It being the most difficult ending to unlock, it was the first one I chose when I played through the game, and I was pretty disappointed with it, now though, through a narration from EDI the true ramifications of this ending are revealed.
Now that they are all the same, what were once organics and synthetics work together to rebuild not only what was destroyed, but to make it even greater than it was. Is describes that with the Reapers vast collective knowledge at their disposal, this new united synthesised race is able to create a perfect utopian society. This ending also implies that all of the issues of different biology of the Turians and the Quarians stops being an issue as it shows a Quarian in profile with its mask off implying that their biology has changed in some dramatic way.
Based on the narration and what is changed within the endings, they all become very different outcomes for the player to choose from. While before, there was very little to differentiate between the endings other than a colour, these all leave the galaxy in different states with different projected rates of recovery. The main theme underlying them all is how much the player wants to harmonise themselves with the synthetic races, the more the galaxy does so, the better their eventual future prospects.
I’m not done yet though, on top of all of these changes, there is a new, forth, ending that can be unlocked through conversation with the Starchild on the citadel. If players continue to argue the choices being laid before them and eventually decline the paths set before them they will unlock the ‘refusal’ ending. This ending is by far the grimmest of them all, and it kind of makes me think that it might be Bioware giving the middle finger to the people who complained that they didn’t want to make the rigid choices set before them.
In the refusal ending, Shepard merely denies the Starchild and watched the fleet get destroyed by the Reapers on the Citadel, allowing the cycle to continue and the Reapers to consume all life. It cuts to an undisclosed time later on a pleasant looking grassy plane, the camera pans down and reveales a bunker with Liara’s warning probe playing back and warning who may come next about the reapers and the crucible.
One final little change I noticed was the card shown to the player at the very end was changed to no longer mention upcoming DLC and merely thanked the player for taking the journey with them.
To their credit, Bioware did take the fan’s opinions to heart and decided to do something about it, something not many other companies would have done. They seemed to take every complaint aimed towards their ending and try to rectify it in at least some way. While Bioware said that they weren’t going to change anything within the ending, and merely add additional scenes, there were two very significant changes made to the ending, which happened to be the two things I was most annoyed about.
The Mass Relays are no longer destroyed and are always merely damaged, and the fate of the crew of the Normandy is much different. Overall, in tone, the endings are much less bleak than they were in the original version of the game. There are varying degrees of hope on the table, some choices having much more than others. And after seeing the three colour endings I feel that the game ends on a much better note than it did originally.
Before I played these through, I wondered if Bioware should have bothered with them at all, despite the initial backlash, people had cooled on Mass Effect 3 and Bioware could have probably left it as it was. To their extreme credit though, they wanted to end their series in a way their fans appreciated and I’m surprised to say that I think it was worth it.
If I’d seen these endings after my initial play through I would have praised the series endlessly, called Mass Effect the best series ever etc. The thing is though; I know that these ending came about as a result of fan outcry and not what the writers had originally intended. And while this isn’t actually going to take away any of the enjoyment I had from the series, I’m always going to know, at the back of my head that this wasn’t what we originally had.
At the end of the day, the Mass Effect 3 extended cut can go down as a lot of things. It’s an example of a company actually listening to their fans and their market and doing something about it without a view to make money out of it. It could be seen as a company back peddling on a story to give people what they want rather than what they think they need. But most importantly, it is a much nicer cap to a series which many people have become very invested in. I’m glad that the extended cut exists for Mass Effect 3, and while it is still getting criticised by some, I think it was a worthwhile effort on Bioware’s part and makes for a much better ending to Mass Effect 3.
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