This has absolutely nothing to do with the Deus Ex games as Iíve never played them but I do feel that this title kinda fits in with the topic given that it translates to god out of the machine. Yes, I am taking the bait and coming outright and saying that I am very disappointed by the ending of Mass Effect 3. In this blog I will do what the people that like the ending claim has never been done, I will give reasons and explanations on why I donít like the ending and what they should have done differently. So obviously spoilers will be incoming for all the Mass Effect games.
The central problem the game faces as a whole is that it does nothing with the incredible universe that has been built up around this series and instead almost feels like it was built in a vacuum and as a result the ending feels like it belongs to a completely different game.
The first problem starts at the beginning of the game with trying to make this one kid you encounter early in the game mean something to commander Shepard in a series with such well fleshed out and defined characters just does not work. Deciding which teammate to abandon on Virmire in the first game was a gut wrenching decision and it was tough seeing what the collectors did on Horizon. The kid dying in this game was so predictable and the exchange with the kid so meaningless that I wouldíve just assumed he died anyways even if they didnít show it. The game keeps trying to make that kidís death feel important but it just isnít and to tack that onto the ending made me roll my eyes rather than feel anything. Instead having one of my fallen team members there wouldíve been way more impactful and seems much more likely to weigh heavily on Shepard rather than a kid we meet five minutes before he died.
The second major problem is how they present the three endings to the player. The ending happens after quite a bit of dialog where each possible ending is explained in detail to the player then the player is presented with three paths and they pick one from a list endingtron 3000 style. It felt very formulaic and very different from the rest of the series. To avoid this there were two options they could have gone with depending on how much choice they wanted the player to have. To really give a feeling of the playerís actions having consequences they could have had the choice the player makes based on their paragon/renegade score with each of the three options being mostly paragon, mostly renegade, fairly even paragon/renegade and then the success of your choice being affected by your effective military strength. Another option would be to give the player the decision to make but not spell out exactly what the consequences of their choice would be, this is something Mass Effect 2 did exceptionally well, and would make the ending the player gets seem more like an actual choice the player made about the fate of the galaxy as opposed to just picking an ending.
The third problem I have had with the game is that in a series that received so much of its praise as a result of having the choices the player made in game mean something not just within the game itself but in the rest of the games to come to have the conclusion come down almost exclusively to one decision is disappointing. The ending isnít changed as a result of letting the council live or die in the first game or as a result of any of my crew from Mass Effect 2 dying on the suicide mission. I understand you cannot have every combination of choices be impactful but the big ones should have.
Iím going to stop counting these because Iíll probably lose count after a while but another big problem I have is with the explanation of the reapersí origin and this is where the title ties into this blog. According to the game the reapers were created to purge the galaxy of organic life every 50 thousand years so that organics donít create machines that kill all the organic life. This is an absolutely terrible solution to the problem presented. The two glaring problems with this are, what if organics get there before 50 thousand years as indeed the Quarians have and the second is that the Geth disprove the theory by being sentient machines that are ardent pacifists and have flat out said they would be open to peace if the Quarians ever showed any inclination towards peace. This solution also has the problem of who built the reapers originally and while I appreciate the subtle jab at intelligent design theorists this is not the place for it. Instead what they should have done is use what is already established in the series to explain the reapers. They already had the story of how a machine could become sentient in that universe with the Geth, they showed that the reapers harvest organics to produce new reapers so al they really needed to do was stitch that all together and you have a plausible ending: The reapers came about originally in a manner similar to the Geth, harvest organics in order to reproduce and they only appear every 50 thousand years because they need to ensure that there is a sufficient amount of organic life in order to build new reapers. All taken from what we know about the universe based on previous titles.
A couple of other smaller problems I have with the ending are that it is internally inconsistent and that you donít really see the consequences of the ending you do choose. The internally inconsistent issue is that you could have a character die in the final push towards the citadel but still somehow come out of the Normandy after it crash lands completely unscathed which was likely a minor oversight more than something intentional but is still kinda weird. You also never really see the consequences of the choice you make. If you choose to take control of the reapers you donít see Shepard taking control and ordering the reapers to retreat or turn on themselves, if you choose to fuse organics and synthetics you never see those new forms of life. It would have added more weight to the ending seeing what my final choice has wrought.
I think Iíve written enough here to disprove any idea that there are no actual reasons given for disliking the ending and I am of course very willing to discuss with other people about this topic. I feel I should add that other than the banshees and the ending I had an absolute blast playing this game and it had loads of great, impactful moments that Ill never forget I just wish the ending was better.