Mass Effect 3

I finished the Mass Effect trilogy. Finally, after 5 years, I know how the story ends.

Might as well mention now,



What makes me a good FemShep? I have the voice of Jennifer Hale. Oh, and red hair.

The game itself was pretty good. I had some fun laughing at horribly obvious glitches and laziness with animations, not to mention the skybox leaking into the game world MANY times, even during one of the romance scenes (1:40 and 2:00 in this video). But overall, it was a well-made finale to an epic trilogy. The story was especially well-written, which was not surprising considering the game’s lead writer previously wrote BioWare’s Jade Empire.

Something I struggled with at first was having to adjust from ME2 to even LESS complexity in exploration, though it was made up for by a better and more challenging combat system. The only major gripe I had with mechanics was the clunky new journal/ codex system that was barely ever helpful (I REALLY miss the KotOR journal system, you guys). Other than that, I was satisfied with the way the game turned out. And again, the story was an amazing closer to this incredible journey.

And now, for the feature presentation.

The thing everyone has been talking about. The part of the game that made many people go from adoring the Mass Effect trilogy to completely despising it. The part that corrupted BioWare fans, driving people to even file an FTC complaint against the company for false advertising, or demand a refund for the game from Amazon. The part that is one of the most controversial topics in the last ten years of gaming history: The ending.

If you’re still reading, and you haven’t finished the game yet, just go ahead and close this tab/ window. Just do it. You’ll be REALLY sorry later if you don’t.


When the game released back in March, fans were in an uproar. Millions beat the game in the first few days of its release and immediately took to the extranet internet, displaying their outrage for all to see. Many didn’t even take the time to look into the ending and try to extrapolate some kind of meaning out of it. Others did, and for weeks there was a meticulous dissection of the ending of Mass Effect 3. Quotes and footage were collected and examined, theories sprouted (the “Indoctrination Theory” being one of the most popular and viable), and the ending was not left alone. Fans were determined to not have to just come out and say that Mass Effect 3 had terrible writing… only for the end of the game. It just didn’t make any sense. Then again, the ending makes even less sense.

I have looked at countless blogs, articles, videos, threads, and comments regarding this issue, and we’re going to take a look at a few. But first, let’s talk DLC, which comes out June 26th, actually.

There is DLC coming, called the “Extended Cut”. Supposedly, it will further explain what happened at the end of ME3. Now, think about that for a second. The game is over. The trilogy is DONE. At least, if this were a typical trilogy. But, apparently, it’s not. BioWare wants to try something new. They want to give us a DLC ending. Okay, I’ll indulge them on that. But what does that mean for gaming? Are games truly evolving into a DLC-driven future? Granted, this ending DLC will be free, but will more games in the future have downloadable endings that aren’t free? Not that this isn’t already going on – Final Fantasy XIII-2 has purchasable endings as DLC, and the only way to get the canon ending is to buy all the other endings. The new Prince of Persia is apparently the same as ME3, but with an actual, planned, pay-for DLC that extends the ending of the game.

I’m not opposed to endings like that of ME3. If the ending DLC is free, I think that’s actually pretty clever to leave people hanging. It would get annoying if every game did it, though. After a while, you would get pissed off that you just put hours into the game, only to get to the ending and have to download it (especially if the ending doesn’t even turn out to be good). That might stop people from making day-one purchases when the DLC isn’t out yet.

But enough about DLC. Let’s get to the ending. If you just want to read about the Indoctrination Theory, Reaper trap, and other deep thoughts on the ending, skip the next three paragraphs, which are just me ranting.

Okay, here’s my take. I found the ending acceptable to a degree. It was beautiful, especially with Clint Mansell’s haunting piece, “Leaving Earth” covering some of the final moments. It was thought-provoking, to be sure. I felt like my mind had been expanded after seeing the epilogue after the credits. I began to think about how this trilogy, long though it was, was merely a slice of the infinite possibilities in the wide expanse of the galaxy (hell, the universe). It really made me think – and I like endings like that, no matter how nonsensical they may be.

Although, speaking of nonsensical, the final scene with Joker made me angry with how little sense it made. If they wanted a happy ending, there were so many other ways to end the game on a good note that actually made sense. There was no reason for Joker to be flying through a mass relay at that time. Even if he had to for whatever reason, he wouldn’t have been able to make it to the Charon Relay in time, and he wouldn’t have gone through it unless he knew Shepard was dead, but even then – WHY? Why leave? There was absolutely no other place in the galaxy he needed to be at that moment. That was the final battle for everything – why would he run? Where would he run? In fact, I’m more interested in where he was planning on going than where he ended up. Nothing I have read thus far can explain this final scene, other than it is “visions of hope” in Shepard’s head, which is ridiculous.

The other glaring problem is with the geth. Why is it that the only choice that DOESN’T destroy the geth is the one whose consequences you’ve been fighting through three games to prevent from happening? Blue for Paragon = LET’S BE FRIENDS WITH THE REAPERS. Really? Or green for whatever = LET’S LET THE REAPERS GET WHAT THEY WANT. Okay, yeah, that makes even more sense. Red for Renegade! = KILL ALL THE THINGS! Whaaa? Wait, so you mean that race of synthetics I helped make independent a few hours ago is now going to be WIPED OUT? Even though peace between synthetics and organics through understanding is one of the MAIN THEMES OF MASS EFFECT? And don’t tell me the blue and green endings achieve peace or understanding, because they don’t. They force peace through space magic.

Okay, enough of my ramblings. Now on to ideas other people have come up with.

The Indoctrination Theory basically adds up to the conclusion that both Shepard and the player were successfully indoctrinated, and the ending was just a hallucination. Although, it is presumed that the results of Shepard’s choice actually happened. He/ she was able to make the choice through the Catalyst, which was giving him/ her visions through a hallucination (hell, if the Protheans could give Shepard visions through an ancient beacon, the Catalyst could give Shepard some pretty realistic visions). That said, it is likely that BioWare did not have this in mind for the ending (although some have said it was entertained as a possible idea, as documented in the Final Hours documentary).

While the theory is mostly sound, the ending doesn’t offer quite enough to fully support it, as with many theories (READ THIS LINK, IT’S SUPER INSIGHTFUL). For example, if the “true” ending is the destroy ending, then do the geth actually get killed off? Or was it just a ploy by the Star Child/ Harbinger to get Shepard to pick one of the other options that favored the Reapers’ ideals? Speaking of the Star Child, what the hell WAS it, anyway? According to the game, the Catalyst is some higher power that created the Reapers hundreds of billions of years ago. Yet, if the indoctrination theory or “Reaper trap” (more on that in a bit) is true, perhaps it was just a hallucination used by Harbinger. We do see Harbinger fly away at the beginning of the theoretical hallucination. Maybe that was Harbinger taking himself out of the picture for the hallucination to go into full swing without the player/ Shepard connecting it to him. Also, it should be noted that Harbinger has been talked about since ME2, but we don’t actually confront him until ME3. And then, the confrontation is just a rush to the Citadel that results in a laser to the face. So, perhaps the final “boss” is Shepard’s hallucination, which is his/ her battle with Harbinger over indoctrination.

The “Reaper trap” is another common belief about the ending, and it shares some similarities to the Indoctrination Theory. Basically, read the last part of the previous paragraph. The whole ending was Harbinger’s trap for Shepard, and the Reapers are feeding Shepard false information to get Shepard to pick the control or synthesis endings. However, this makes no sense when not having enough War Assets gets you ONLY the destory ending. Plus, why would the Reapers even give Shepard an option to destroy them? Why would not having enough War Assets (which means Shepard failed in the Reapers’ perception because he/ she didn’t get enough people to go blindly into indoctrination) lead to the Reapers’ own destruction instead of triumph? Why would BioWare act so confused when people hated the ending and then decide to make the Extended Cut to clear things up? For the Indoc Theory or Reaper trap idea to work, there needs to be more explanation in the ending to solidify evidence, but in order for there to truly be more evidence, BioWare would have already had to have had an extended ending in mind. Based on their responses to feedback, it sounds like they had no clue their ending made no sense. So, they’re either the trickiest, most clever storytellers in video game history… or they really thought they had a solid ending to their trilogy.

I used to believe theories like the IT and Reaper trap, but now I’m wondering if there’s something everyone’s overlooking. We’re not seeing the big picture, beyond the video game that is Mass Effect 3. The ending to this story is extremely vague and ambiguous. So much so that it has caused an uproar by even the most intelligent and well-educated players. With that in mind, read this quote from Casey Hudson:

“I didn’t want the game to be forgettable, and even right down to the sort of polarizing reaction that the ends have had with people–debating what the endings mean and what’s going to happen next, and what situation are the characters left in. That to me is part of what’s exciting about this story. There has always been a little bit of mystery there and a little bit of interpretation, and it’s a story that people can talk about after the fact.”

It’s a story people can talk about after the fact. Isn’t that what everyone is doing? Sure, some are dismissing the entire series as a waste of time and just sticking to “the ending sucks.” But clearly many people, including me, are continually trying to extract meaning out of the sorry end to this wonderful trilogy. Some fans say BioWare is always about the gray choices. There’s never one clear answer. Well, look at all these theories, discussions and controversies that have popped up over the ending: No clear answer. BioWare didn’t spell everything out because there was nothing to spell out. You spell it out. We, as fans, spell it out.

Finally, here is something else I constantly see people forgetting: The story is ultimately about the Shepard. We see this in the epilogue with the old man and little kid. These games are all part of a legend that has been passed down through who knows how many generations and being told by an old man. The key idea here is that Shepard is the main character in this universe, and that, coupled with the fact that he/ she is supposedly exceptionally strong-willed, makes the Reapers treat Shepard differently from others like Saren, Benezia, and Illusive Man. The Reapers want to be more subtle in indoctrinating Shepard, because they know his/ her resolve is stronger, because the Shepard is the hero.

Remembering this is all just part of story time might help to explain Joker’s run and crash-landing as well. Grandpa had all these characters lined up and he wanted to give a good ending to the kid, so he explained they escaped the dark energy, crash landed on an Earth-like planet, and then they lived happily ever after. The End. Just like stories we all got when we were kids, right?

Whatever it all means, we’re still missing closure to many other characters/ races/ worlds, so maybe it’s all just bunk. Maybe Mac Walters and Casey Hudson were just going insane from making the most epic original trilogy in gaming history, so they wrote the ending in a state of delirium. Maybe EA was grinding the axe at the end of their deadlines, forcing the writers to come up with something, fast. Maybe we’re all idiots, and BioWare are geniuses. Maybe – maybe we should all just shut up and wait until the Extended Cut hits in a few days, yeah?


Here are a few links (two of which can be found above) to some great explanations of different theories, ideas, and discrepancies about the ending:

Discrepancies with the Crucible, Star Child, and Citadel
Required viewing for the Indoctrination Theory
Interesting topic on the Reaper trap


I couldn’t resist taking a bunch of screens of this game (as I’m sure you’ve noticed throughout the post), because despite glitches, some muddy textures, and being a bit unoptimized for an Unreal game, it was kinda pretty at times. So, have a scroll below, use ’em as wallpaper, memes, whatever. Also, check out the two videos I made (also linked earlier) below that shows my frustration at some of the funnier quirks of the game.




~ by The Retro Gamer on June 23, 2012.

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