About the Author
Mass Effect
Final Fantasy X
Batman:Arkham City
Borderlands Series
Weekly Column
Champions Online
World of Warcraft
DM of the Rings
Good Robot
Project Frontier

Mass Effect 3 Ending Deconstruction

By Shamus
on Wednesday Mar 21, 2012
Filed under:
Game Reviews


It should be obvious, but this post is going to be complete and total spoilers for Mass Effect 3. Also, most of what I say here is just a re-hash of points that have been made elsewhere. The problems with the ending are very obvious, and I don’t think it takes a keen analysis or a deep understanding of the Mass Effect lore to uncover these issues.

The truth is, my nitpicking skills are wasted on this, and I don’t have a lot to add to the conversation. I’m writing this mostly to get it off my chest.

And to deflect the likely objections: Yes, the rest of the game is often quite good, and there were many “fanservice” moments where players got things they had been hoping / waiting for since the original game. But right now we’re talking about the ending to Mass Effect 3, which I rank as the worst ending I’ve ever personally played. Worse than KOTOR 2. Worse than Neverwinter Nights 2. It fails thematically, it fails logically, it fails at basic coherence, and it fails to be consistent with what has come before.

I know it’s childish and melodramatic when fans say, “This new thing has RUINED this series FOREVER!” I don’t want to go that far, but I will say it’s done a lot of damage. I just finished a re-play of Mass Effect 1, and it’s shocking just how many things seem stupid, contrived, inconsistent, or pointless now that I know how they turn out.

And no, I’m not a believer in the “indoctrination theory“. I think that would be better than the ending we got, but I don’t think it it was ever intended by the writers. This theory involves an incredible level of subtle symbolism, which goes against just how ham-fisted the rest of the story is. To wit: If these writers thought Shepard was indoctrinated in the last stage of the game, we would know it.



In the first game, Cerberus was a bunch of idiot mooks that you mowed down for XP. In the second game they were expanded to be this vast organization with research stations, ships, advanced technology, and the ability to build a ship more advanced than the ship that the Humans and Turians could build together. Despite this, they are still amazingly incompetent, with 99% of their victims being human and 100% of their experiments turning on them and destroying their stuff.

In the third game, Cerberus is even more ludicrously powerful. They now have an army, fleets, and military bases that dwarf the size of the human colonies we’ve seen. They’re everywhere, they know everyone’s plans, and have all the best technology.

The Reapers are attacking. Supply lines are cut. The dead and wounded are piling up. Populations are dwindling. And yet Cerberus can conscript, arm, feed, train, equip, and field this endless army, which is powerful enough to fight a war on multiple fronts and even mount an open invasion of the Citadel itself. You spend more time fighting them than you spend fighting the supposed enemy of the series.

This is to say nothing of Leng, the absurd plot-armored emo supervillain, who seems to be made of contrivances and looks like he just escaped from a school for Final Fantasy villains. (When his shields get low, he crouches in the open to become invulnerable to all damage while mooks spawn and his shields recharge. He has no business being in in a cover-based shooter that’s trying this hard to be taken seriously.)

All of this is a drawn-out way of saying that by the end of the game I was just sick to death of Cerberus, and so it was agonizing to have yet another nonsense conversation with the Illusive man right on the threshold of the final encounter. I was so uninterested in him and his goals, and the guy seems to be a sort of plot-hole singularity where the gameworld bends around him until it stops making sense. I was hoping he wouldn’t show up in this game. Instead he was a major focus of it. Not since Fable 2 has there been an annoying second-fiddle antagonist that so gleefully overshadowed the main villain.

The Reapers


The explanation for the Reapers is that they destroy all life, every 50,000 years, in order to fix the problem of synthetics rising up and killing their organic masters. This is akin to, “You burned dinner, so I have incinerated the city to save you from the dangers of a kitchen fire.” It’s ludicrous nonsense. It’s not even a solution to the stated problem. It’s just a bigger and grander version of the original problem, running in parallel.

I know we were all worried that the Reapers were going to be some horrible cliche. “Two million years ago, our creators gave us a simple order about being the ‘most powerful’, and our robotic monomania has driven us to this cyclical killing spree to fulfill it.” Yes, that’s a little tired. I admit that wouldn’t have been terribly stimulating. But I’ll take “tired cliche” over “comical blatherskite” any day.

The most offensive thing about this is that you’ve likely got Geth fighting at your side, along with EDI. You have two different synthetics as allies. It’s a major theme of the Quarian storyline that the Geth repeatedly spared their creators, despite having both the means and the justification for eliminating them. The central motivation of the villain is directly undercut by the story itself, and Shepard can’t even bring this up in conversation. The writers couldn’t even be arsed to hand-wave it.

Mass Relays


No matter what choice you make using the Ending-o-tron 3000tm, it shows the mass relays exploding. In Mass Effect 2 (in the DLC) it was a major plot point that an exploding relay would destroy the entire system. The game gives us no indication that this case is any different. So what happened? Did Shepard just wipe out every single inhabited star system? Did Shepard end up killing more people than the Reapers? We can’t know for sure, but that’s only because the game can’t be bothered to answer trivial questions like, “Did I just blow up the galaxy?”

The Galaxy


Here is what Casey Hudson had to say about the ending to the Mass Effect series:

For us and for you, Mass Effect 3 had to live up to a lot of expectations, not only for a great gaming experience, but for a resolution to the countless storylines and decisions you've made as a player since the journey began in 2007. So we designed Mass Effect 3 to be a series of endings to key plots and storylines, each culminating in scenes that show you the consequences of your actions. You then carry the knowledge of these consequences with you as you complete the final moments of your journey.

…and then all decisions are instantly negated or rendered moot. Did you enjoy working hard to bring peace between the Salarians and the Krogan? Nice going. Too bad they’ll never see each other again now that the relay network is destroyed. Did you side with the Geth or the Quarians? Doesn’t matter, because the migrant fleet is never moving again. Those colonies you fought to save in Mass Effect 2? Those idiots are probably going to starve.

He continues:

We always intended that the scale of the conflict and the underlying theme of sacrifice would lead to a bittersweet endingâ€"to do otherwise would betray the agonizing decisions Shepard had to make along the way.

(Emphasis mine.)

I don’t know that bittersweet is the only way to go, but I’ll admit it’s what I was hoping for. But what we have here is not a “bittersweet” ending. This is a nihilistic tragedy where everyone dies for no reason.

For something to be “bitterweet”, it must have some sweetness in it. There is nothing sweet here. Nobody hugs. There is no hope, no future, no joy, no understanding. The isolated people of the galaxy starve or explode. Whatever happens to them, they don’t even get to find out what it was all for or how it turned out. Shepard takes all the secrets to the grave, and the galaxy would have been better off if Shepard had just jumped off that cliff the moment they touched down on Eden Prime in Mass Effect 1.

The Crucible


The star child tells us that the Crucible has been in development for many cycles. Each race adds pieces onto it, finally perfecting the design this time around.

How? How are the races collaborating? The whole point of the series is that the Reapers surprise attack, kill everyone, and then leave no traces of their work. Does every single race just happen to never find any hint of the Reapers until after the Reapers attack? And then once the attack is begun they find ruins, or old computers, or whatever, and try to build their own crucible, even though nobody knows how to use it or what it’s for? And then they bury their modified plans in such a way that the next cycle will only find them once it’s too late?

Imagine that the first race, facing the Reaper threat and having no idea how to defeat them, sit down and design a trigger guard. And that’s it. Then they bury the plans for the trigger guard and they die. 50,000 years later, the next race is getting pulverized. Before they die, they find the plans for the trigger guard. They have no idea what it’s for or what it does, but they design a handle to go with it, add it to the plans, and re-bury them.

And so it goes. 50,000 years. A safety mechanism. A rifled barrel. A magazine. A rear sight. The trigger. A front sight. A muzzle. An ejection port. Nobody knows what any of this does.

Then Shepard & Co comes along. They follow the plans, which builds a Glock 17 pistol. Admiral Hacket points to the chamber. Something goes in there, but we don’t know what it is or what it does.

Then you meet the Star Child, who just happens to be a 9mm bullet, which miraculously is a perfect fit for this pistol, even though the people who built it have no idea what a bullet is or what it does.

Then the Star Child explains that the next step is to put the bullet in the chamber, aim the weapon at your foot, and pull the trigger. That’s how you “win”.

Actually, I think my explanation makes the setup sound cooler than it really is. A situation where you’re tricked into building the weapon of your own downfall would have been a great twist. This isn’t that. This is just writers who didn’t remember what they wrote yesterday and can’t plan for tomorrow.

Case in point: The crucible is the ultimate weapon, derived from Prothean ruins, yet it was never mentioned or hinted at in any of the previous games. None of the beacons talked about it. Vigil didn’t bring it up, and I’m willing to bet the Prothean squadmate (a DLC character) doesn’t mention it either. This is because it wasn’t planned at the outset. It’s a late-story asspull done by writers who never had a plan.

Did the Protheans build a crucible of their own? Did they try to use it? If so, what happened? I suspect I have just given this more thought than the writers did.

The Normandy


Shepard has just used the Ending-o-tron 3000tm, and now suddenly Joker is flying somewhere? Where is he going? The Normandy was a key part of the fleet to take back Earth, and suddenly he’s flying away. I suppose he’s running away from the exploding mass relays, but the game makes it look like he’s traveling to some other system, which would indicate he flew towards the mass relay.

We don’t know where he’s going, or why, or who is with him. He’s just inexplicably flying somewhere. Then the explosion catches him, and he crashes on a planet someplace. Where? We’re led to believe it’s uninhabited. The ship is smashed. The relays are gone.

So crew of the Normandy abandon the fight, flee like cowards, then crash for unexplained reasons and starve to death? Is that the end here? Because that’s the only conclusion we can draw based on what we’re shown, and anything beyond that is fanfiction.



Did you like the “Take Back Earth” marketing campaign? You want to get in there and reclaim your homeworld from the Reapers? Ha ha! You don’t take back anything, Commander Jerkface. Earth is wasted, and possibly incinerated by the exploding mass relay. Which is your fault!

You spent the entire game building a massive fleet, and now that fleet is stuck in orbit around Earth. So even if there are survivors on Earth, they’re probably going to die soon. All of those Turians, Quarians, Asari, and Krogan are going to get hungry, and then your hard-fought alliance will dissolve as the starving armada invades the remnants of Earth civilization and kill each other for the last few scraps of food.

How bittersweet!

Your Squadmates


Want to know how things turned out for them after the war? Dead or alive, they’re stuck on some random jungle world with Joker and nothing you did for them matters.

Wrex isn’t going to lead his people, Tali isn’t going to build a home on Rannoch, Ashley isn’t going to hook up with her family, Miranda isn’t going to see her sister again, and Garrus is done being Space Batman. If EDI managed to hook up with Joker, she can look forward to watching him slowly die of fever, malnutrition, and broken bones. This is assuming you didn’t kill her with the Ending-o-tron 3000tm.

Perhaps you’re one of those people who think of malaria and parasites as “bittersweet”.

In Conclusion

The ending has RUINED this series FOREVER!

Comments (819)

1 2 3

  1. Jon says:

    The style of this breakdown is perfect. The description of the crucible is particularly apt as it was a mystery throughout the game (if anything it felt like the elephant in the room).

    It’s just nonsensical how the purpose of the Crucible could fit in with the plans of this ‘Star Child’.

    Anyway, thank-you for dissecting the game. Each article, twitter message and facebook post will let BioWare and EA know that a significant number of gamers want a decent resolution to their Commander Shepard’s story.

    • ehlijen says:

      I don’t. I just want whoever committed this to not be allowed to do it again. Whoever it was would certainly be called upon again to write the reending and I don’t want to be exposed to any more of their dredge.

  2. LurkerAbove says:

    Perhaps the worst thing about this resolution, is that the chat with Sovereign, which once was a series defining moment, something truly special, turns out to be mostly bluster, bluffs, half-truths and lies.

    I particularly like (hate) that “we are each a nation” really meant “we are made of species pureé.”

    And not only can we understand/comprehend their existence, Shepard is offered the ability to re-define said existence.

  3. Lunok says:

    loved right up until I went back to earth

  4. Eärlindor says:

    Concerning the Reapers:

    Yeah, there’s something appealing about the idea of the Reapers trying to protect the galaxy from the Singularity, but the logic is just too circular and dumb to ultimately work.

    I think I liked my idea better: Short version — The Reapers were nothing more and nothing less than beings who tried to become gods.

  5. Captain Pandabear says:

    Excellent deconstruction. Now I’m wondering why you didn’t do the exact same thing to the entire story of Dragon Age 2? They both had terrible endings, the only difference is that Mass Effect 3 was great to the end, and Dragon Age 2 kept a steady pace of failure.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Mass Effect 3 was great to the end”

      It wasnt really.The ending was so bad that people overlook plethora of flaws that are there throughout the game.

      For example,the thing that pissed me off the most,near the beginning,the conversation with joker about the council:Why are they so stupid that they didnt prepare for another sovereign class ship attack?Bioware clearly knew how to make them smarter,so why didnt they?

      Then the whole cerberus thing:How come they are so strong now?How come they have so many husk-like soldiers when they have refined husk research only after reapers invaded?How did they manage to mount a huge attack on the citadel(this also ties in to my previous complaint)?

      Then the quarian/geth conflict:If our actions are so meaningful,why did the quarians mount an attack even if we convinced them to not do it?

      Then the prothean/reaper war:Why did it last for centuries,when it was established in the first game that the reapers attacked from the citadel,thus completely annihilating their government?And if they were so powerful that they could resist for centuries even after such a crushing blow,how come they didnt finish the crucible,yet the current alliance did it in weeks(months?),from scratch,despite being much weaker than the protheans,and despite their home worlds being decimated before they even started?

      Then the whole conflict with the reapers:One single reaper had managed to decimate an entire combined fleet,yet a fleet of reapers isnt capable of crushing all these fleets when they are separate?And why did they start planetary invasions without establishing space superiority first?And why did they start the vulnerable process of harvesting and breeding before crushing all the opposition?And how come a tresher maw can do more damage than a massive slug sped to a speed of light?

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        All of the above and one or two from me (all of these are IMHO of course and your mileage may vary).

        Why are all the “big” choices basically overwritten whenever Bioware sees fit? Anderson being on the council is not only retconned with “decided he’s a man of action and quit,” it’s hardly mentioned. You’d think if you, say, supported Udina on the Council, offed the old Council and gave the base over to Cerberus that would imply something about your sympathies but heck no. On that note even if the collector base blew to pieces, next to a black hole, in an are where nobody can go without a little gizmo that only I have, Ceberus STILL manages to salvage that skeleton thing? I can’t think of a single big decision having a major impact in this game.

        I’m still getting dialogues where I get, for example, “Will you work with me?” and the option “No” means Shepard will say “Only as long as it’s strictly necessary to get through this.”

        I noticed this especially early on but a lot of dialogues with “potential others” boil down to “Cause you know, I fight for those I love and care about (hint, hint, hint)” and “None of your business. Also, you’re stupid, and ugly, and smell of rotting cabbage.” Don’t know if this persists since I didn’t really take those squadmates to missions much. Related to this is something I call “Commander Shepard a man (yes, Shepard was a man for me) with no sense of personal space” where when you meet someone, who could be your partner from earlier (coughliaracough) there is this animation where Shepard gets REAL close which cuts either to a kiss (if the romance is going on) or to them standing apart and saying something like “hi.”

        I wept when I read the press release that promised “expanded RPG elements, skills will evolve several times.” I foamed when I realised that “evolution” meant that you just get 3 binary choices at the end, none of which really make that much of a difference.

        The combat was pretty boring, too many repetitive areas (though not as bad as ME1 sidequests or DA2 almost everything), not enough tactical variety, overuse of the same enemies and none that feel special. I mean, with ME2 they at least knew to use Collectors fairly sparingly…

        • Dreadjaws says:

          Thank you, those things drove me insane! So many of those big choices I had made suddenly were ignored whenever the writers saw fit.

          Also, I can turn Shepard into a slut who will flirt with just about anyone from every race, genre and species and it will not affect my love interest in the slightest. No scene with dialogue like “Hey, Shepard, you know I love you, but the crew keeps telling me you are trying to hump every creature with one or more butts. Can I trust in you being honest when you say you love me? Also, I keep calling you by your last name, isn’t that weird?”

          And let’s not even talk about the lack of choice in some key parts of the game.

      • tremor3258 says:

        I think on the issue of the centuries is mainly ‘The Galaxy is big. I mean, really big. You may think it’s a long way down the road to the store, but that’s just peanuts compared to space.’ They ripped the heart out, but it took a while to check every nook and cranny for advanced species to kill, and rig the remains to set people down the tech trapf or the next cycle. And even then, they didn’t quite get everything.

      • anaphysik says:

        “Then the prothean/reaper war:Why did it last for centuries,when it was established in the first game that the reapers attacked from the citadel,thus completely annihilating their government?”

        Vigil actually explicitly said in the first game that the war took centuries. This is nothing new at all. Obviously, though, Vigil never comments on the derpy superweapon inexplicably introduced in ME3. On balance, no one ever talks about Vigil and barely about Ilos. :/
        (From what I remember, Javik has a vague concept of the Crucible being a far-flung wishful idea of long-ago, and has never heard of any research base on Ilos (I think he maybe says that some other prior race had ruins there, though?))

    • Shamus says:

      I actually had my computer go sideways a while ago and lost my DA2 saves, so I never beat the game. Now I’m going to have to start over.

      • Cody211282 says:

        Oh why would you do that to yourself? DA2 is all the fail of ME3s ending stretched out over 30-40 hours.

        The characters are good but that was about it for me.

        • IFS says:

          DA2 is far better than ME3’s ending, it does feel rushed in places (repeated environments, annoying enemy spawns, the third act) but overall I didn’t think it was that bad. They tried something different and it worked in some areas and not in others.
          Also Shamus I know you didn’t like the length of the deep roads and the fade in Origins so you’ll be happy to know that the deep roads are much shorter as is the (entirely optional) fade section.

      • krellen says:

        It is so not worth it, Shamus. Not even for comedy effect. Not even for critique.

      • ehlijen says:

        Agreed with the above replies. Unless you got stuck very early on, it’s likely all you have left is the deteriorating end.

      • lurkey says:

        Eh, Shamus survived through ME 2 and 3, I don’t think DA2 isn’t going to damage his sanity. Plot-wise it isn’t stupider than ME2 anyway and has some interesting bits.

        Combat’s garbage, though. Don’t bother on anything but casual.

      • Dasick says:

        I don’t know… didn’t your buddies over at Escapist rate DA2 at 5/5 stars, one and a half stars more than ME3? It should be then that you’re missing out on an experience of a lifetime, a rare occurrence in the video game industry. Greg Tito compels you to finish that game which is a “A pinnacle of role-playing games with well-designed mechanics and excellent story-telling, Dragon Age II is what videogames are meant to be.” Right? …Right?

        • krellen says:

          The Escapist reviewers have no taste, as far as I can tell.

          I’m not terribly impressed by their news reporters either.

        • Shamus says:

          I met Greg Tito last year at PAX and we talked about the game. (I hadn’t played it yet at that point.) I know some people see conspiracy when reviews don’t line up with their perceptions, but Greg was genuine in his enthusiam for the game. He didn’t talk about it in buzzwords and marketing speak. He just talked about how much he enjoyed the game, just like any other gamer.

          Jennifer Snow (you’ll see her here in the comments now and again) also really liked the game, and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t paid off / indoctrinated by BioWare. :)

          • Dasick says:

            I don’t see a conspiracy theory; it’s fine for journalists to enjoy a game and be excited. All I want is for them to keep their pants on when the time comes to do their job. If a game is a “hate it or love it” deal, then it is your responsibility to see it coming and warn your consumer base.

            • acronix says:

              The problem is that they might not see the “or hate it” part if the loved it.

              • Cado says:

                Game reviewers aren’t critical enough on the whole. They constantly overlook massive flaws in storytelling and gameplay, like with the Assassin’s Creed series. AC2 was enjoyable but it was nowhere near game of the year material, yet it was up for consideration at nearly every major outlet.

                I don’t know what it is about games that gets them a free pass on stuff that other works in other mediums would get torn to shreds for. The only thing I can come up with is the inherent personal investment that comes with interactivity, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because I find it really hard to stay engaged with a game when I’m being inundated with plotholes, poor logic, and/or glitches. (I’m looking at you, FO3.) I actually have an easier time watching schlocky movies.

                I think my problem isn’t necessarily that the stories are bad, it’s that I always get the impression I’m supposed to take them seriously. Not only that, but it’s rare that games are unintentionally amusing in the same way B movies are. It feels like most developers look at Michael Bay’s work as something to aspire to. That’s a huge disappointment given the creative potential of the medium.

          • Sumanai says:

            The conspiracy image is partially the sites’ fault. Who thought it was a good idea to take advertisement money from the companies who’s products you’re reviewing? Is that Skyrim ad there because they gave it 10/10 and want it to sell, or is the 10/10 review because they have a Skyrim ad?

            I don’t think the second I see, in my opinion, a bad game get a positive review that they were paid out. But I’m ready to think they’re either fanboys or hyped by it because they didn’t have time to stop and look at it from different directions. Not that many reviewers seem to stop even later to look if the game has faults that weren’t obvious, let alone append the review with the findings.

          • Jokerman says:

            Wonder if he still thinks this way, honestly i really liked it first time through – 2nd playthrough i really got bored of the trashmobs.

            • Sumanai says:

              That’s one of the problems with most review/news sites. Opinions change, why shouldn’t the reviews or for a “retrospective” article to come out a bit later? Note: A bit later, not years and years afterwards.

            • IFS says:

              To be fair Dragon Age Origins had a similar problem with too much combat, DA2 suffers a bit more from the enemies spawning in the middle of combat (apparently you must know how to base jump in order to be a mugger in kirkwall) but combat in DA2 is also faster paced than in Origins.

      • acronix says:

        There´s always Youtube.

  6. Wraith says:

    I hated the ending too, but certain parts of it (and the rest of Shamus’s gripes) DID make sense to me. I found a lot of subtlety and irony in a lot of things throughout the game, whether the writers intended them or no.

    1. Yeah Cerberus kidnapped like a million civilians and indoctrinated them into a huge army. I’ll buy that, it’s somewhat ironic since in ME2 they made a big deal about fighting the Collectors, who were kidnapping millions of civilians and making them into a huge Reaper. I wasn’t under the impression Cerberus was fighting the galaxy on all fronts, more so that they were making what amount to “surgical strikes” on critical military targets to aid the Reapers and kidnapping the civvies left helpless. The Alliance and Turians have their hands full with Reapers on their homeworlds and the other Council races were being unhelpful jerks, as usual, until Cerberus invaded the Citadel. I was a bit iffy on how they managed to get through the Citadel defense fleet when I was like “Well Udina was in on it and the Turians needed their ships so I’m not going to worry about it.”

    2. The Illusive Man, even though he appeared at the end, pretty much was a secondary, Saruman-like villain. He himself only appears at major points in the game (Mars, Thessia, CerbHQ) and at all those points he is advancing his goals. His motives also made sense to me, in terms of TIM’s character – always seeking to control and dominate everything else. He’s become deluded by his fanaticism and believes he can control the Reapers, to the point that he thinks he needs to indoctrinate himself to do it. Why does he appear on the Citadel? I assumed he went to the Citadel, warned the Reapers about the Catalyst, and was still there when they moved it. The Reapers don’t care because he can’t actually fulfill his plans. So even though the justifications are a little flimsy I didn’t really mind that much.

    3. Star Child’s Motive: Whenever I think about Reapers, I go back to the speech Sovereign made on Virmire in ME1, and I thought things actually made sense. Now, what the writers SHOULD have done was made it clear that the Star Child was deluded, and had perverted his original programming over the course of millions and millions of years. Let’s divide this up:

    A. Where did Star Child come from? I assumed that he existed before the cycles ever began, where the organic races of that time created synthetic races, and the ensuing war resulted in a synthetic victory. The synthetics, as de facto rulers of the galaxy, would continuously nip rising organic civilizations in the bud. However, these synthetics continued to evolve, and the Star Child, similar to Legion, eventually became its own individual entity, and decided to prevent organic civilization from being wiped out completely by creating the Reapers out of organics…somehow. As he says, organics are technically preserved. Hence the “salvation through destruction.”

    B. Why the circular logic? Well, the Star Child has existed for millions of years and countless cycles, and claims that the whole “organics create synthetics, synthetics destroy organics” happened all the time. What if, since he is an evolved, individual entity, he made a logical fallacy (as many humans do), and that process repeated to such an extent that he merely assumed it would happen every time? As millions of years passed, this would become a deeply ingrained principle and his original purpose would become tainted, like say eco-terrorists or most religions. But the part I found ironic though, refers to Sovereign’s ME1 statement “My kind transcends your very understanding…You cannot grasp the nature of our existence.” The Reapers assume, because they are technologically superior, that organics are inferior. Yet, because the Star Child and the Reapers are immortal machines, thus unable of feeling emotions as organics do, or the sense of purpose and determination we have because of our finite lifespans, WE are the ones who are incomprehensible to THEM. The Reapers do not understand the core concepts that are central themes of the game – sacrifice, tolerance, individuality – that we hold so dear. The conversation with EDI where she speaks about her disgust with the Reapers does a good job of highlighting this. The writers could have done a better job implying this during the ending sequence though, because I’m sure most other people didn’t see it the same way, but rather as “Insane Troll Logic.”

    But then they had to shove in the Inferred Holocaust, be it through the explosions of the relays themselves or the suffering caused by being stranded. And the fact that without relays all those conflicts you resolved, all those hopes and dreams your companions and allies had, will never mean anything. And the Cowardly Normandy scene. And the total lack of closure for party members, races, and others.

    All I’m wondering is WHY wasn’t there an option to reason with the Star Child, and make him shut down the Reapers himself? This ending sequence could have been waaaaay better if they’d 1. Elaborated on the Star Child’s motives and given him a personality and 2. Just scrapped the whole “I don’t control them I just let them off the leash” crap. With the material they had it could have been easy to make the Star Child a somewhat tragic character, making it clear to players that his original, noble intentions were lost as he coldly contemplated patterns and data over the course of millions of years, losing sight of the goal. And an epic sequence to prove that this eons-old, highly evolved machine’s logic was WRONG, making a supposedly incomprehensible being realize that we were the ones he could not understand, would have been perfectly in tune with the series’s recurring themes. Hell, make certain conditions required for this to be an option, especially considering you can make peace between the QUARIANS and the GETH (inherently proving Star Child wrong), and if you don’t make the conditions you can at least give an all-or-nothing option to refuse the choice and fight it out – if you got enough assets you win, if you didn’t you fail and everyone dies.

    With the ME series, it’s as if they had the elements of everything there to make a fantastic story, but behind-the-scenes stuff prevented it from happening. ME1’s story was amazing – motivations made sense, there were deep characters and a rich, detailed world. There were few or no plot holes at all. Then EA acquired Bioware, and in 2010 ME2 came out. Spoiler Warning ripped that game’s plot and characters apart – characters were shallow, plot holes were everywhere, and many actions made little sense. It was as if a completely different writing staff had been hired; hell SW even pointed out that “the regular writing staff was probably working on Dragon Age” or something.

    In fact, throughout both ME2 and ME3 it’s like the series had two completely different writing staffs – one wrote stuff like ME2’s main plot, the interactions with Ashley/Kaidan, and Jacob/Miranda loyalty missions; the other wrote stuff like the Tali/Legion/Mordin loyalty missions. It feels the same here – the latter wrote most of the game, and the former wrote Kai Leng/Cerberus (control the Reapers makes sense as a motivation, but how they manage to achieve it is never really explained beyond “okay we know how to now because experiments”) and the ending sequence. I mean, it’s out there, but if not executive meddling from EA then I guess they blew out the rest of their budget on the mega space battle for Earth and said “screw it, just rip off Deus Ex and slap on a cutscene.”

    Clearly, I have given this faaaaar too much thought.

  7. silentlambda says:

    I liked the combat mechanics and the variety in the class system.
    The persuasion options in conversation no longer require a unilateral, unthinking playstyle to unlock.
    The characters have nice dialog and their arcs all wrap up with a satisfying conclusion.
    The ninety percent of the game where your choices DO have an impact on the universe is rewarding and impressively in depth.
    The equipment system finally has a good balance of customization and user- friendliness.

    Yep, the ending is most definitely an inadmissible train wreck of contrived crap. But I still played it twice.

  8. Sleeping Dragon says:

    This will totally disappear in the flood of comments for this one but hell if I’m not going to pour all this out somewhere (and most of my friends are nowhere near finishing the game and hate spoilers).

    Much as was mentioned in the deconstruction the game undermines it’s own point. The Quarian and the Geth, EDI. Heck, EDI was a great option to show that the AIs are dangerous. I don’t mean make her evil-evil, but at least show how she is growing increasingly frustrated with her inability to grasp organic behaviour, the limitations of imperfect communications (as opposed to, say, just copying memories) perhaps imply that she is every now and then verging on some sort of well meant but ultimately destructive interference and is only kept in line due to constant personal oversight by a group of people who are interested (I mean, she is a single “unit,” it would be impossible to maintain this kind of oversight and personal involvement with thousands or millions). I do realise this would probably annoy a lot of fans claiming that EDI is far too sinister but at least it wouldn’t undermine the main point of the game.

    On the same note, it was obvious to me since ME2 that there will be the “bestest” option to have Quarians and Geth become buddies but this is another dubious decision in light of the overall message. Again, make it so the differences cannot be reconciled, no matter how hard they try Legion and Tali can’t bring their two species together, if you don’t want to wipe out any of the sides then have the option to drive the Geth out (I mean, ultimately it doesn’t matter all that much to them whether they build their superstructure here or there) and who knows what future may bring. I mean, I really liked how they managed to make the Geth into something other than “must kill all organics” but weren’t they trying to make a point?

    The relays are probably one of the few points where I do not entirely agree. Even putting aside that the writers probably mean for the “universe saving explosion” to be different than “smash_a_rock_into)it explosion” (which is a dumb assumption if I’ve ever seen one. I mean, since Arrival I was pretty sure that exploding the relays and the terrible damage it does would be a plot point somewhere in 3) even the explosion as it was mentioned does not mean the end of galactic civilization as a whole, it only means a horrible, terrible massacre. For one, if that flying around in the normandy minigame told us something it is that relays aren’t in every singe colonized star system, so those that don’t have a relay in them can survive as long as they weren’t relying on something delivered through the relay system for survival, as a matter of fact people who happen to have a ship can probably still travel around much like normandy did, and that whole quantum communication thingy may still work.

    So basically even if the relays do explode the way they by all rights should that still doesn’t mean extinction of all life. Billions upon bilions of deaths in the initial explosion? Yes. Billions more in various places due to stuff like lack of food, medication or proper housing materials? Definitely. Descent into barbarism? Likely in many areas. Other fun stuff like a planet that happens to have a decent industrial base raiding its neighbours for their last scrap of element zero (remember, thanks to the whole “Reaper guided” technical evolution almost all technology is based on this stuff, but you can’t get it everywhere) is also likely to happen. Now doesn’t that make us feel all better?

    That said here is my real question, even if the relay network has to shut down for plot reasons WHY does it have to EXPLODE?! I mean, I am getting really sick and annoyed with this trope, everything explodes. Couldn’t the mass relays just sort of stop glowing, go dark and start to drift and fall apart, or be consumed in that impulse they send, or turn into fairy dust? I mean, after they established that a mass relay’s explosion is one of the most destructive events in the known universe they pick THAT just because “exploding stuff is cool!”

  9. Michael says:

    Anyone else notice the stories follow the pattern of indoctrination?

    And, no, this isn’t the Shepard was indoctrinated theory.

    In the first game we learn that, basically, the more indoctrinated someone becomes the dumber they get. Well, less competent, but still.

    So, the first game is a marginally intelligent space opera, with some errant stupid. It’s also a fairly open game, with a lot of freedom (nearly every solar system has at least someplace you can land and poke around, and there’s a lot of places to poke around).

    With 2, the game devolved into a corridor shooter, the stupids start to creep in. The ending of the first game is effectively overwritten, there’s some freedom, but it comes at the cost of a fuel system to discourage straying from the path, and the plot is frequently railroady.

    Of course the worst of it is the giant space terminator baby, but once that happens there’s literally no choices the player can make aside from blowing up or saving the base, which does (almost) nothing to the story. Dumber, less freedom.

    Mass Effect 3, almost everything is on a clock, you need to go from point A to point B with no sightseeing to get the best results (not really, but still), it’s a corridor shooter.

    The game offers you much less choice when it comes to dialog, with extended bits being said without the player’s consent, and while this spares us the “all roads lead to Rome” that some of the previous games had, it means we have less freedom. What’s more, the game offers a setting where you can abdicate your ability to choose completely.

    Also, with 3, while the stupid isn’t immediately apparent, it’s there, lurking, constantly. There’s no real choices, all of that is an illusion of freedom, even when major events are unfolding in front of the player, the only effect is to force the player down a singular path (to a higher EMS score).

    And then, the Starchild. No choice whatsoever, you will only see the ending the developers want you to see, but they’re so magnanimous they’ll let you pick the color.

    It’s not Shepard that’s indoctrinated, it’s the writers… :p

  10. Nick P. says:

    Mass Effect 1 is still in my top ten of games, it’s sad to see the series train wreck so badly.

    The thing that kills me overall is why do we even HAVE to come up with a hackneyed excuse for the reapers? I might be in the minority on this, but in the first game when Sovereign was all like “We are eternal, unknowable and our motives cannot be comprehended by you puny insect…” I was actually OK with that as is. It’s nice to actually leave some mysteries, you know, MYSTERIES and have the incomprehensible space-Cthulhu’s actually be incomprehensible space-Cthulhu’s…

    • Otters34 says:

      But then how would you shoot them to pieces so you wouldn’t feel like humanity wasn’t the strongest there is?!
      More seriously, keeping things mysterious kind of would get ragged on too. “Why not EXPLAIN what the Reapers are? It makes no sense hat something like that would come out of nowhere! And if you can’t explain it, it looks like you just made it up ‘because'”

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Use sort of something which they did with the crucible.Have a prothean device found that was a last ditch effort that was never activated,which would,for example,render all the reapers cores useless.This would also deactivate the mass relays.So you would lose earth and interstellar contact,but would still have colonies ready to rebuild.

        Or,make it so that the dlc character isnt dlc,but integral to the plot.Have him be a prothean incubator,a carrier of a virus that would attack the organic part of the reapers and kill them,which would render the rest of the reapers be just mindless machines.

        And you dont have to explain the reapers.They were made countless cycles ago,no one found out why and by who,and we only know that they harvest organics to make more of themselves.You dont need more than that.

  11. Stratigo says:

    It makes me sad.

    I love… loved the series. I mean I see such sperging rage on the games here. And I’ll admit the last boss of ME2 was one of the stupidest things I had ever seen. But despite that, the game delivered on what it was trying to do, and was one of the best told stories I’ve ever played (the story itself may have not been the best, but the way it was told was top notch). And then ME3 ends and I just lost the joy. I feel nothing any more for the series.

  12. Darkness says:

    I think the ending is perfect. I am not going to buy it. I spent my planned ME3 money on CDs that all have some cohesive plan to entertain me. At least they have an artistic intent and I am fine with that.

    Publishers no longer welcome at my house:
    UBISoft DRM Hell
    EA Dead Space 2 ad campaign
    Bioware ME3
    Activision Bobbi The Kotex
    Sony Other OS
    XBox next gen no used games or whatever else they screw up.

    Gaming looks like Steam on Mac or iOS and my gaming life just go a little cheaper.

    • Sumanai says:

      Apparently the Other OS option is functional again. That doesn’t excuse them removing it and then throwing a hissy fit when people cracked it, so I’m not suggesting you remove them from your list.

  13. Danath says:

    Personally I believe the ending is sloppy writing, but I WANT to believe Indoctrination Theory simply because it sounds so much more subtle and amazing than what we got. Angryjoe’s latest video on the indoctrination thing is amazing for instance, and it makes such a ridiculous amount of sense that it makes me WANT to believe it (especially pointing out the eyes at the end, something I never noticed).

    I kind of wondered… why NOT take control over the reapers? You have the ships with the technology to recreate the mass relays, so take them over and make them study the reapers instead of just flying away, then order them to blow themselves up. Your whole point was the idea of self-sacrifice anyways to beat them, killing yoruself/all the reapers seems like it would be a possible command, as well as shutting off the indoctrination process.

    ME3’s cover based shooting mechanic however is something that never did it for me, #1 was my favorite combat of the 3 games in fact, because I actually felt compelled to run out and shoot things and progress, while ME2 was “duck behind cover, recover HP, stand up, kill stuff, repeat until combat sequence ends” like every other cover based shooter. As far as those kinds of games are concerned, ME3 brings nothing new or particularly interesting to the table, aside from executing it in an “okay” fashion.

  14. Astor says:

    Ok I’m bored so…

    1) Can someone please explain to me why are the two squadmates you selected last (who were dead beside the beam on Earth, BTW a good touch would have been Shepard shaking one of them before getting beamed to Citadel) the people who get off the Normandy at the very end alongside Joker? It must be rather deliberate: its always those two specifically, but I can’t really conceive a human mind presenting as the very last scene such a non sequitur of the Normandy flying off somewhere, somewhy, somehow, somewhen (?) followed by an even worse appearance of characters that just couldn’t be there.

    2) Why did they reduce the Reapers from virtual Great Old Gods out of Lovecraft to mindless idiots, slave to the StarChild? Did the Reapers even understand what it was they were doing? ‘Cause if they did I’m pretty sure they would’ve been more about peaceful euthanizing than KILL-MAIM-DESTROYing. ME2+DLC started the idiocy when a full reaper became your nemesis (Really?) + spouted teenage dialogs… but you also had the Dead-God-That-Indoctrinated-Still which was Lovecraftian at its finest (well, it was Lovecraftian at any rate). But by the end of ME3 I had spoken to three Reapers and killed like 5, half of those while on foot!

    3) The war assets you collected where so useless, they barely changed anything. The crucible should have had at least 3 stages: a) If you didn’t get enough engineers on it, it wouldn’t be complete by the endgame, b) if you got a certain range, it would be but you wouldn’t know what exactly it would do, c) if you really got a good number of people on the thing, you would discover a side effect and be able to then avert one aspect of the bitterweet ending (say the relays being destroyed). And then the fleets should also have differential impact, where different fleets were best at something (like protecting the Crucible or saving the Alliance Fleet) and different values for each would make them succeed or not. Imagine some alliance captian saying Hackett’s flagship is down and everything’s going to shiet right before you get red laser beam to the face… some ending would have Crucible doing nothing, others Relays being destroyed, others the crucible being destroyed, Reapers winning, Repers losing, some Earth is completely lost, some Earth’s not completely gone, etc. all compounded by your impact on intergalactic future politics (genophage cure, Geths, Salarians isolation, etc) if there are future politics in your game.

    4) As others noted, the Crucible wasn’t so much disjointed mechanisms tackled together but a weapon perfected and preserved by several races throughout the cycles. So it wasn’t that bad. Sure, it would’ve been better it they had ChekovGunned the blueprints since ME1, but when you present a (supposedly) Lovecraftian horror beyond your comprehension asspulls are just bound to happen.

    5) These people need to replay the greats from the late 90s and check the slides at the end.

    6) The only thing ME3 explained was the incredibly idiotic human reaper of ME2.

    7) Cerberus will go down in video game history of infamy.

    • ehlijen says:

      The crucible is a weapon perfected?

      While I get what you mean, I’m not sure that phrase should be applied to something that consists of about 40% superfluous and overcomplex breakaway panels…

      It was built to do one thing and to do that one thing it needed to shed a good chunk of its mass as scrap after being built in record time by a desperate people?

    • Jarenth says:

      I took Garrus and Liara on that final death-rush, and it were Liara and EDI who got off the Normandy with Joker.

      • Astor says:

        @Jarenth, while it doesn’t make it any less bizarre, the three endings I know of had exactly those two squadmates you select last. Maybe it was just a coincidence? Was your the green ending?

        @ehlijen, the shedding off of panels is not so weird if you assume they are just super techno, heavy armor. I would like my Crucible protected as best its possible.

  15. Rick Tacular says:

    I don’t know if it’s been observed (likely yes, but here I go), but didn’t we all see this coming when EA bought BioWare? It happened to Origin Systems Inc when they were bought. Ultima VII part 2 was great (despite it’s flaws), and then Ultima VIII & Ascension were god-awful because EA forced Origin to meet a deadline, and so on. I’m sure we’ll hear in the future about how EA forced BioWare into terrible decisions.

    • wellwellwellavatar says:

      Oh, Ultima. I loved them to bits up to 7.2.

      Then 8 happened and it was Super Avatar with exploding mushrooms. And then 9 happened, with that engine and the number of bugs and that train-wreck of a storyline.

      I almost had forgotten about that :( Now I need therapy again.

  16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precursor_%28Star_Control%29#Eternal_One

    Read about the Eternal One, what does that remind you of that start’s with R…

  17. Tarrin4ever says:

    I was skeptical of Indoctrination Theory, but the way this guy lays it out….


    You know what, I buy it.

    At first I was pretty much sold on the idea of Bioware giving us a shitty ending. It’s not unheard of, they’ve underperformed before. But this would satisfy me.

    And here’s the best part. Even if this wasn’t Bioware’s intentions, they have a clear shot with this. The conspiracy theorists have done the work for them, they’ve paved the way for this to happen. They are in perfect position to deliver a mindfuck of unprecedented proportions on the fanbase. If they want to save their series’ legacy, they should act on this.

    They mustn’t retcon the endings. they must make the old endings part of the true ending. And they shall be legend.

    • Maldeus says:

      Not only that, but most of the strongest counterarguments don’t hold up to scrutiny, like, at all. Obviously, the counterargument of “all indoctrination clues are coincidental and BioWare writers suck” is always going to be plausible until the epilogue DLC they’re hinting at is actually released (or enough time passes that it becomes clear there won’t be any), but the supporting evidence for the anti-indoctrination crowd is actually fairly strained.

      Why can you only choose red ending if your EMS is particularly low? Well, because the entire Starchild sequence is a last ditch attempt to indoctrinate Shepard and get him to swing the fight in their favor. If the galactic forces just don’t stand a chance against the Reapers at all, they aren’t going to make that last ditch attempt. So, sure, resist indoctrination, they don’t even care anymore.

      The possibility of death via Illusive Man or the heroic marauder shields who died trying to save us from the ending might just be a reference to the possibility that Shepard simply dies from his wounds. Even according to indoctrination theory, he still got shot in the face by Harbinger. In the case of marauder shields in particular, it’s also possible that it’s just a gameplay/story oversight.

      Most of the other arguments seem to revolve around forgetting that the theory posits that everything on Citadel is a hallucinated metaphor. The Reapers can’t just spawn a bunch of bad guys to blow the weakened Shepard away, thus killing him, because the hallucinated metaphor doesn’t work that way. Shepard’s mind is reacting to the Reaper’s intrusion, and what we see is the Reapers giving it everything they have to indoctrinate him. Besides, the only reason the Reapers are still trying to indoctrinate Shepard in the first place is in order to manipulate him into swinging the fight their way.

      The only odd thing is what’s the difference between Synthesis and Control, and why is the former only available at certain levels of EMS? Having them become available at different levels of EMS implies there is an actual difference between the two, not just two different flavors of “become indoctrinated.” This implies to me that the Synthesis choice is some sort of genuine compromise between the Reapers and Shepard, offered because the Reapers are legitimately afraid of actually losing the battle, but the choice is still disguised in the hallucination.

      • krellen says:

        “Synthesis” is clearly “surrender and become the next Reaper”.

      • Sumanai says:

        Let’s see what I remember of that theory:
        Limited choices with the child? You had those in ME2 with the Illusive man and Miranda, why would you think it wasn’t bad writing this time as well?
        The kid isn’t helped up? They needed to emphasise how vulnerable and weak he was by having him climb up slowly.
        Anderson doesn’t comment on the kid? He also doesn’t seem to comment you talking to yourself and standing like doofus staring into an air duct.

        Tentacles? You got still tentacles in ME2 when you got wounded, why wouldn’t this time be similar?
        The Illusive Man? For god’s sake, the man is a one person deus ex machina. Where would he not be if the writers wanted him there?
        The bushes right after getting blasted? Symbolism for Shepard being weak (half asleep), or trying to say “don’t fail this time” as they’re part of a dream that symbolises Shepard’s inability to get over “failure”.

        Glowy eyes on Shepard in two endings? Even before I heard about this theory the two options sounded like BS, so it’s not like this is the only explanation. And in one Shepard controls the Reapers, so it suits the idea of “reverse indoctrinated” (that is, lazy symbolism), in the other option Shepard and everyone else becomes the Reapers.

        Wound? Shepard was already hurt, why couldn’t they have thought that it was a dramatic moment to emphasise it?

        They’ve admitted the ending was done at the last minute, so:
        No corpses of party members? They thought it wasn’t important, so they didn’t put in a code that checks who you had with you and then spawns their corpses.
        Anderson got there before you? The scenes were done separately, who knows in what order, and they didn’t have time to double check.
        Wound and clothes change? They didn’t check what was already done.
        Shepard (presumably) taking a breath on Earth (presumably)? A lazy short clip they threw in there for completionists.
        The Normandy? Didn’t double check.

        In fact, the part with the Normandy makes no sense with the Indoctrination Theory. Why was Joker driving quickly away from the explosion, since at least in two of the options it was supposed to be harmless? If it was Shepard’s imagination, then “Joker didn’t know” isn’t a valid argument.
        Also, why did the two explosions end up damaging the Normandy? Wasn’t it supposed to either: Influence the Reapers or Turn every living or synthetic sapient being into a cyborg.

        The colours of the options are trying to manipulate you (the player)? Just like in the Legion’s mission, where you got Renegade (red) for destroying the geth and Paragon (blue) for controlling them?
        And if Shepard was that strongly indoctrinated back then, shouldn’t every, or almost every, Paragon option afterwards be beneficial to Reapers in some way? Actually, in that mission the Paragon (blue, control) is helpful. Why would they manipulate you (player or Shepard) into picking up the correct one?

        And no-one say “because they want you to unlock the green option”, because that’s dumb. They can always offer that option if they want, and the practical output of the Control option there is that the alliance against Reapers have more soldiers.

        If Bioware now claims that the Indoctrination theory is true, I’m calling bullshit.

        • Sumanai says:

          At the second to last paragraph: by the Control option I mean the Control option in the Legion’s loyalty mission, not the ME3 ending Control option.

        • Sumanai says:

          Oh yeah: The burden of evidence is on those who support the theory. One of the criticisms of String Theory is that while it fits it is untestable. Since in this case every proof is circumstantial, there’s no reason for people to believe in it outside of simply wanting to.

        • Sumanai says:

          I keep forgetting this: If the Indoctrination Theory is true, then why does the game end even if you got the best red ending? Shouldn’t it keep going since Shepard isn’t indoctrinated or dead and the Reapers haven’t been officially defeated*?

          * As in, “there’s any sign that the Reapers have actually won or lost and there’s more than fanwank to finish the damn story”.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            The game doesnt have to end with a finished story.In fact,it would make sense for them to make a game with such a huge sequel bait.If only they didnt call it a trilogy,which would just make them into douches.In fact,whether the indoctrination theory is true or not,they end up being douches.

            • Sumanai says:

              “The game doesn’t have to end with a finished story.”

              Well no, not as such. But the general gist of the Indoctrination Theory is that the writers were great and did an awesome job. Leaving the story unfinished is proof that that is not the case.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                You dont have to finish a story to be a good writer.Its hard,but not impossible.And if you do it with a cliffhanger,its easier to pull out.

                But considering other parts of me3,I agree with you that these are not good writers.

                • Sumanai says:

                  Again, true. What I meant was “the way Mass Effect 3 ends, assuming the Indoctrination Theory is correct, is still crap”.

                • some random dood says:

                  @Daemian Lucifer
                  re don’t have to finish the story to have an ending. True – but if it is well-written, then the ending effectively writes itself. In fact (I think the book was “A Winter’s Tale” – been a looooong time since I read it), it’s possible to write a story with no explicit end, but to clearly imply both a happy and an unhappy ending, depending on your own feelings on what is or isn’t possible within the universe portrayed, and to feel satisfied with either interpretation.
                  ME3 ending? Just… WTF? Either you accept that it is a complete ass-pull with a deity-like figure giving you a console-controller with even less buttons than usual, or that the ending is completely arty, and if you cannot see what the authors (all 2 of them) are trying to say, then you clearly are just too philistine to appreciate good art…

        • Maldeus says:

          Great, couple of things. One, why on Earth would they put the trees from Shepard’s dreams into the sequence where Shepard enters the beam but not the one where he’s charging the beam? Two, you really think it’s a coincidence that the Rachni Queen describes indoctrination using the term “inky black shadows” and then inky black shadows show up in Shepard’s dreams? Three, there was never any indication that Shepard was at all strongly indoctrinated at the time of his choice between controlling or destroying the Geth, in fact, Indoctrination Theory is pretty much all about Shepard not being thoroughly indoctrinated at all unless you make the wrong choices in the ME3 ending. It’s only at the very end that the colors go screwy.

          • Sumanai says:

            They could’ve thought up the trees only at the point when they were making the scene where Shepard enters the beam. The other scenes were done either before, or after they had forgotten about them.

            There’s no reason for me to think it’s anything but a coincidence until there’s other proof. “Inky black shadows” look menacing, so happening upon them when you want a nightmare isn’t exactly unlikely.

            You missed my point. The ending colours fit with established system: Blue, Paragon, for control and red, Renegade, for destruction. It was established in the Legion’s loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2.

            Because the ending colours in ME3 fit this, in order for them to be the result of indoctrination, Shepard had to be indoctrinated back then as well. Since, according to you, Shepard wasn’t indoctrinated back then at all, the colours at the end of Mass Effect 3 can’t be the result of indoctrination as has been suggested by Indoctrination Theorists.

            Unless Bioware mishandled the story, in which case believing them to be able to pull a working mindscrew doesn’t make sense.

      • Dreadjaws says:

        What? No, that doesn’t make any sense. If your EMS is low, you can only choose the red ending. That means the Reapers are destroyed. Why aren’t they going to put a last ditch effort to survive if they know that if they don’t do anything they will be destroyed anyway, no matter the size of the organics army?

        Also, what most proponents of the Indoctrination Theory seem to forget is that the game is not a masterpiece of writing right up until the ending. The series has suffered from poor writing since ME2, and it only intensified with ME3, throughout the entire game we see some terrible writing. Not all of it, of course, some parts are great, but others…

        And the IT doesn’t change the fact that the three endings are practically the same, but with different colors. Not only that is some of the laziest writing in existence, but am I supposed to believe that the two endings that supposedly happen in Shepard’s mind are identical to the one that happens in reality? So, that scene where we see Joker crash land in a jungle is seen from the player’s perspective in the real ending and from Shepad’s perspective in the fake ones? No way. This is faulty writing through and through, specially if you consider that this wasn’t even supposed the way the game was going to end.

    • Wraith says:

      Mind just got blown by that video, especially the parts about Shepard’s wound and Shepard’s eyes. If that was the plan all along, I’d take back most of what I hated about that ending…unless they try to sell it to me, at which point I swear off EA for good.

      Assuming it is true, the HSQ might be really high, but it’s very dangerous to literally cut out your ending and then release it later even for that shock “twist ending” value. A lot of people might be unable to access DLC to the Mass Effect series (I used to play it on 360 until a RRD last summer, and never used XBL so I couldn’t get my free DLC; I got both games for sale on steam a few months ago in preparation for ME3, and though I had a redemption code there as well I was never able to get any of the ME2 DLC for some reason), so there’s the very real threat of alienating a sizeable portion of the fanbase even with such a dramatic fix.

      • Maldeus says:

        It’s possible BioWare may have released ME3 with a false ending in order to give themselves more time to work on the real one. Even more deviously, they may have released the false ending in order to stir up a hornet’s nest of fan reaction, which would conveniently tell them what the majority of fans wanted from the ending, thus allowing them to deliver.

    • Kian says:

      I find the Indoctrination Theory to be hard to believe mostly because it would imply that Bioware didn’t release an ending to the game. From what I’ve heard, sales of ME3 have fallen something like 70% (at least in the UK). I can only imagine the number of people who were waiting to see if the game was any good, and faced with all the complaints decided not to buy. No way anyone in sales or marketing is going to authorize something like this.

      • Wraith says:

        If they do release the ending as DLC in this way though, I suspect EA marketing signed off on it as an experiment concerning paying for DLC. Ever since the whole DLC craze began there have been those doomsayers that have claimed that eventually devs are going to start selling their games to us in pieces, ie “Okay, thanks for that $60 for the game. How about you drop $10 for this happier ending? Or $10 more for this vital exposition on the villains?” If this was the case then I don’t think EA anticipated such an overwhelmingly negative response to the given “ending.” If they really are insane enough to try and sell rage-filled fans a true ending, then I foresee a certain corporation’s stock prices dropping in the future.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        This is ea marketing we are talking about.The guys who gave us “Your mother will hate it”.I wouldnt put anything past them.

    • Attercap says:

      And, because it’s EA–where the company model really is “let’s make people pay for more bullets while they’re playing”–it’s even feasible that this was the plan all along. Get people really wanting a logical conclusion and make them pay for it. Because most people are just like me with Taco Bell. I forget how bad it tastes (to me) when the next new Taco Bell “innovation” is advertised.

  18. Zaxares says:

    I completely agree with all of the plot holes you pointed out here, Shamus. I can’t even go with the theory that Cerberus was secretly planting Reaper indoctrination devices in human colonies because then why didn’t the Illusive Man put one on the Normandy in ME2?? And why would he bother going to all the trouble of resurrecting Shepard and sending him/her against the Collectors? IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!

    With regards to the “bittersweetness” of the ending, don’t forget that many inhabited planets are not self-sufficient. The Citadel, for example, has absolutely no way of producing enough food to feed all of its citizens, thus condemning the vast majority of them to a slow death by starvation. (And let’s not even consider the fate of homeworlds like Earth!) Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of space stations and colonies on hostile planets like Mars or the Moon, that rely on imports to survive are all doomed. We’re looking at a catastrophe of unimaginable levels.

    And yet… I don’t really have a problem with the current endings, IF there was a way to still achieve a “perfect” ending if you did everything right. One where Shepard survives, the Reapers are destroyed, the Mass Relays are still intact, AND you don’t have to destroy the Geth/EDI. My biggest complaint is that no matter what you do or what choice you make at the end, the ME-verse as we know it ceases to exist. All the galactic races are once more reduced to scattered, isolated civilisations. Your closest friends and loves are stuck on some remote, uninhabited planet from which they can never escape. It’s like looking at the beginning of a mass extinction; yes, you know life will ultimately survive, but decades, perhaps even centuries, of incredible suffering, death and hardship awaits the races of the galaxy. Shepard may have broken the cycle, but the price is the end of the galaxy as everyone knows it.

    So yes, I’m still holding out hope for a DLC or patch ending that offers us this hope. Otherwise, I’m sticking with the “hallucination” (not indoctrination!) theory and just imagining my own perfect ending. :P

    EDIT: And actually, there’s hope for this! Check out this blog post by Ray Muzyka, co-founder and GM of Bioware:


  19. Stebbi says:

    Wait that is the ending!? But minor changes could have made it make so much more sense:

    1) Reapers being against inorganic life forms: Someone created the first reapers to periodically check on the races of the galaxy and destroy any inorganic life form that they find. Some idiot scientists of theirs decide that “hey why don’t we also have them absorb useful tech from those destroyed machines” and thus some flaw gets introduced and the reapers do what they do now.

    2) Crucible: The starchild was a never completed failsafe VI created to shut down the reapers if they got out of hand. It has been using a variation of the indoctrination stuff to guide races to it and finishing the crucible for it over countless millenia.

    3) Mass relays go boom: Unfortunately because the crucible is a hodge podge of technology from so many different races it doesn’t quite work like it’s supposed to. You get several options here:

    a) Fire it at 100% power shutting down all the reapers but also shutting down all the mass relays permanently.
    b) Fire it at 75% power shutting down most of the mass relays and shutting down many reapers permanently but not all. Some reapers will manage to reboot and some will not be affected.
    c) Fire it at 50% destroy many mass relays (more then half) and fewer reapers are shut down than in b and more will manage to reboot or are unaffected.
    d) Fire it at 25% Most mass relays will remain in working condition. Only the weakest and heavily damaged reapers are shut down.
    e) Do not fire it and take your chances with the fleets and allies you’ve assembled.

    4) Fade to pictures with a voiceover that covers what your choice did to the galaxy, the citadel and certain choice planets. Next we cover what happens to each squadmate and then finally we go over the effect of most of your choices in the 3 games going chronologically backwards.

    As the voiceover ends we zoom out a little bit and see we were actually looking at pictures on a table. We see a hand pick up a picture of the old Normandy SR-1 and her crew (if your love interest is dead you also pick up a picture of her/him). We keep zooming out and see it’s Shephard sitting at the table s/he picks up a cup of coffee stands up and walks to the window.

    Shephard looks at the picture smiles, takes a sip of coffee and looks out the window. We follow Shephards visions as s/he pans over the scene (if the sol relay survived s/he is on the citadel, if it didn’t s/he is in a ship orbiting earth).

    If your love interest is dead or you didn’t have one we finish the pan and then zoom in on the photos in shephards hands and *DUN DUN DUN* music and mass effect logo with a black background.

    If you had a love interest and s/he is alive then the pan gets interrupted with a “Honey are you still awake? Come back to bed” in the voice of the love interest. Shephard smiles puts the photos and the coffee on the windowsill and walks off camera. We zoom in on the picture, the coffee cup covers one of its corners *DUN DUN DUN* music and mass effect logo with a black background.

  20. Florin says:

    Somewhere in the basement of BioWare they are laughing their asses off while rolling in the mountain of money people threw at ME2 and ME3. Are you certain this wasn’t just an experiment to test how stupid the story can get until people stop buying the product?

    and the future will probably bring more of the same stupidity at higher prices.

  21. Indy says:

    Alternative idea:

    Tyranid hive fleet appears and wipes everything out. All synthetics are destroyed and all organics lose their form and are incorporated into the tyranid horde. Galaxy is eaten, Reaper problem is solved.

  22. Mumbles says:

    This is a Mumbles comment. There. Will. Be. Swears.

    Okay. The green ending is like the most insulting nonsense and I’m surprised to find people who actually found it “beautiful” or whatever the hell you nerds who sniff flowers say. Here’s the thing, I like being me. I like being organic. If I met a robot, I’d like that he’s all synthetic and despite our differences, we can be bros. This game is about unity, unity, unity. That doesn’t mean erasing our differences, but accepting them in each other. When the green light of space magic fuses us together it’s a nihilistic view that we can’t exist because of differences.

    But, we can. EDI is naturally curious, Legion is naturally a bro and they’d help us stop synthetics who are being assholes. ALSO. What is stopping future organic synthetics from building a tin man? Huh? THEN THE REAPERS GET TO SHOW UP AGAIN.

    Where is my fuck you Reapers I’m letting my friends blow you to hell button? Why doesn’t Shepard say “Yeeeaaah okay so I’m going to go back to earth and kick your ass my way because I united THE FUCKING GALAXY”? Why don’t the Reapers just wipe out synthetics if they’re the real threat? Jeeeezz. So many balls dropped, BioWare. I think you dropped them all.

    And, if anyone says the endings were cool all you have to do is flap your arms wildly and say “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MASS RELAYS”

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Where is my fuck you Reapers I'm letting my friends blow you to hell button?”

      In the dlc,of course.Which youll be able to get for the low,low price of $9.99.

    • krellen says:

      I totally want to see Mumbles and Legion drinking at a bar now.

    • lurkey says:

      I chose that one first time. TIM’s ending was no bloody way, Anderson’s – nooo, not my geth (fuck EDI, though), and going green was the only chance for the whole armada now stuck in Solar system to hypothetically survive, on photosynthesis or something. Figured there’s going to be another Mordin to eventually undo forced circuits.
      …yeah. :(

      • Lalaland says:

        I actually went with Green on the basis that as the unlabelled 3rd choice it was probably the ‘best’ ending in the fevered mind of the writers. I can’t get over the notion that turning people into Slurpee-Reapers to merge them with synthetics is wrong but nuking the entire galaxy with green radiation to merge with synthetics is A-OK. Still it promises to be an entertaining Spoiler Warning some day! Nothing like a good game gone band to get the collective dander up

    • Sumanai says:

      The green option is liked because there are a lot of transhumanists who aren’t thinking straight. Presumably a bunch of them are working at Bioware.


      I don’t think the writers’ have dropped their balls. And I suspect that’s the problem.

      Obviously the Mass Relays blow up because they release their energy as Super Happy Magical Explosion of Ultimate Peace.

      Or other stupid crap like that doesn’t explain the damage to the Normandy.

    • Indy says:

      “Where is my fuck you Reapers I'm letting my friends blow you to hell button?”

      It’s bound to the AWESOME button like everything else. But since it’s context sensitive, it just assumes you meant passive acceptance.

    • Jarenth says:


      The Green ending gives you fucking techno leaves.


      From now on, I’m judging all endings to all games ever by the amount of techno leaves involved.

    • Maldeus says:

      I suspect those who like any of the endings do so primarily for its music. That is some awesome music.

  23. ACman says:

    This is why you shouldn’t have “only you can save the world” style plots.

    Anybody who writes that sort of thing is being indulgent and lazy. You can have a massive overarching threat to a universe but is has to stay dormant. (See the Cthulhu Mythos with the threat of the Great Old Ones and the Crawling Chaos, Warhammer’s Chaos, Norse Mythology’s Ragnarà¶k, or even the Cold War).

    Bioware has recently been especially guilty of writing “one man to save us all plots”. In Dragon Age Origins and Mass Effect neither universe hangs together properly as all the inhabitants are either stupidly evil or need to be “convinced” to help you, you the “one man to save us all”.

    I’ve got a reason to convince you: THE WORLD’S GOING TO END.

    But I was really disappointed with Mass Effect from the get go. Or at least from the point that Shepard received his “vision” from the weird pillar in the first game. (A more eye-rolling plot contrivance I cannot conceive.) What was wrong with just having a conspiracy of xenophobic aliens that wanted to keep humans out of space/limit human influence? That’s a simple understandable plot (One that would have nicely counter balanced the stupid xenophobic aliens who want to DESTROY MANKIND FOR NO RAISEN in every other scifi shooter on the shelves. I’m looking at you Halo/Gears/Resistance.)

    But nope, in the first mission Shepard is made the space-messire, complete with fiery visions of the apocalypse where aliens want to DESTORY THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE FOR NO RAISEN. [Insert slow sarcastic clap here.]

    Still waiting for that follow-up to Buldar’s Gate and KOTOR Bioware. Not holding my breath though.

    • Miral says:

      This is one of the reasons why I liked DA2. It wasn’t trying to be a “save the world” plot, just a “save my hometown” plot — and one that you were ultimately unsuccessful with, but in a totally believable and interesting way. The only thing that really let it down was the environment reuse and teleporting enemies.

      ME3 on the other hand was a “save the world” (or galaxy) plot, and its ending was not only incomplete, but it also completely contradicted the established characters and lore up to that point, and made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

      About the only reason why I’m not warming up the torches and pitchforks is the Indoctrination Theory — which even if not originally intended by BioWare gives them a plausible way out of the current mess and to make non-stupid endings. Though I’m still keeping the pitchforks on standby, in case they decide to charge us to fix their mistakes.

      • ACman says:

        The thing that I hated about DA2 was the spammy combat and the childish characters and voice acting. Really couldn’t deal with the whiny mother, uncle, brother, Templar lady.

        That and the fact that the story stops and restarts so often. When you buy into the city I was hoping for juicy quests working for thieves or smugglers. But no, they just skip that with a “12 months have passed” placard and then you’re dumped into the slums. It seems like an important part of the narrative that the story glosses over and it causes a massive disconnect between me and my character.

        Then I stopped playing when I started getting jumped by 30-60 archers and dagger wielding assassins who were all nameless mooks while I was just trying to go about my day.

        Too much combat for no reason, when I want to wander around and explore and maybe do a fetch quest or two, is not endearing gameplay. If I wander into a scripted encounter that where I get jumped unexpectedly and have to fight off a few muggers and assasins is okay but when the streets are lined with people trying to kill me it gets annoying. It doesn’t even make sense. Who has the capacity to order hundreds of people to go die by my sword to make my life a pain.

        And it is a pain; especially with combat as tedious as it was. Varric breaking out of formation to wander into a group of sword wielding tanks when I had him safely behind a screen of melee characters while I waited for him to charge his piercing shot or whatever. My wizards wasting their spells on targets when they could be better applied elsewhere. The camera refusing to pan or zoom out enough so that I can sensibly consider the situation.

        Admittedly the story was personal.

        But this sort of shit didn’t happen in Baldur’s Gate. Each area had new mobs. The quests made sense and story was personal and didn’t go to sleep for twelve months while my character did a bunch of shit I never got to see (Except in between BG1 and BG2 but that’s sort of excusable.) and the groups of mooks quite often had at least one named character and weren’t around every bloody corner while I was trying to go shopping.

  24. Mrowakus says:


    Great, perceptive article. It’s a shame, though, that you didn’t mention the most obvious plothole in the whole franchise. The Reapers’ plan in ME1 is to take over the Citadel and use it to cut the power to all Mass Relays in the galaxy? I ask – what has changed in ME3? Why the Reapers can’t stick to plan A, take over the Citadel and singlehandedly slice the galaxy into separate pieces.

    This way Shepard and crew have no way to seek help. They can’t form alliances, they can’t collect war assets, the fleets can’t move from system to system, the trade routes are shattered, there’s no logistics to speak of.

    And even if you can’t disconnect the relays for some magical reason, why not take down the center of galactical politics in the first attack, throwing the galaxy into chaos? While we are at it, why is the Citadel treated as a safe haven, when everyone should by this point know it’s a death-trap?

    Again why the species of the most intelligent machines known to the universe acts so stupidly about the whole invasion thing?

    Edit: Corrected ortography.

    • Indy says:

      I forgot all about that plan. Vigil explains it to you, right? I wonder if that was a flourish of writing during the first game or just utterly forgotten in the third. I think I know which option is more likely.

    • Astor says:

      yeah, this bugged me too. Why on Earth (see what I did there?) would them Reapers concentrate forces on Earth??? How on Earth did the planet survive so long? Why on Earth would anybody think there would be any Earth left and thus that going off to get help was a viable strategy?

      One part of the bittersweet ending should have been that Earth was largely a virtually lifeless wasteland by the time you defeat the Reapers (sure some survivors would still be there, and maybe some areas still had flora, and you can always rebuild, but the biosphere should have been annihilated and Earth would’ve been renamed Cinder by the endgame). And that’s if you defeat the Reapers, because I would’ve assumed your actions throughout the three games, and specially during ME3, should have a say in whether you mange to defeat or not such an enemy.

  25. Andrew F. says:

    Right. So…

    I had just finished a re-play of ME1, with the intention of importing my character to ME2 and then on to ME3.

    Since what you, Shamus, like & dislike about games is very similar to myself, I think I’ll just stop here at ME1.

    I had been hoping they’d tighten up the writing for the third installment. Ah well. I have other things to do with my time and money.

  26. Flavius says:

    Ooooh! I seem to remember that when Spoiler Warning presented the original Mass Effect, Sovereign kept saying how, “OUR PLAN IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE TO YOUR PATHETIC ORGANIC MINDS!” Clearly, it was telling the truth…The Reapers don’t understand it, so how could Shepard?

  27. Garfunkel says:

    Fallout (the original) had a bittersweet ending. But not like Bioware writers can even copy it.

  28. Ragnar says:

    “This is just writers who didn't remember what they wrote yesterday and can't plan for tomorrow.”

    This is really the essence of all writing in Mass Effect unfortunately. It wasn’t that bad in ME1, but it has progressively become worse for each game.

  29. Kian says:

    I had a bunch of issues with ME3. I feel they copied the second game’s pattern of stupid beginning, awesome middle, and fucked up ending.

    I haven’t played Arrival yet (although I bought it, just need to get a character there) but I spoiled it for myself so I know what happens, and ME3 references it in the beginning (more or less explicitly depending on whether you played it). So Shepard dooms an entire system, to delay the Reapers and give the rest of the galaxy a fighting chance.

    After this terrible sacrifice, and knowing everything that’s at stake and how there’s no time to lose… Shepard goes to Earth and turns himself in, and lets the Alliance ground him for five months.


    Shepard is a Spectre, he doesn’t answer to the Alliance. The Council may or may not have reinstated you, but you never get your rank in the Alliance navy restored. There’s no reason for you to turn yourself or your ship over to them. You can do that after saving the galaxy, if anyone still feels your actions were not justified.

    And it’s not just that you piss away the time you bought with countless sacrifices. You being grounded actually allows some of the forces you had been readying to blow themselves up being stupid. In the five months that you spent on Earth, the Quarians declare war on the Geth and drive them to the Reapers. Had you been flying around the galaxy those past five months, you could have prevented that war and solved the conflict without needing to fight a Reaper on foot. You could have saved several ships, lives, and the Geth super dreadnought.

    Likewise, had you been looking for the Rachni queen, you could have moved her to a safer location and gotten her help without the sacrifice of the Krogan division.

    Or traveled to the Archives as soon as you heard from Liara that there was something of use there, before TIM could move in and steal half of it.

    But ok, they wanted to have you on Earth when the reapers attacked, and at least you get to see the brass ask you what to do before the Reapers kill them. That was nice.

    The ending as everyone has been saying was a mess. Now I’ll admit, I knew the ending was going to suck. Whenever anyone tries to present a threat “too alien and powerful to comprehend” they inevitably ruin it. It can’t not be ruined, because by definition no human writer can characterize an incomprehensibly alien force. Doing so requires giving them motives, and if you can give them motives, they aren’t so alien. You might not share their outlook, but you remove the alien quality outright.

    Even if you give them some weird goal like “they’re trying to achieve something in another dimension, and our destruction is a byproduct they barely notice, like someone destroying an anthill to build a house”, they stop being an unknowable factor by the very virtue that you know their goals. Tip to writers, if you are going to use an unknowable faction in the story, don’t remove the unknowable thing.

    The first game tried to play to this “they’re too alien and powerful for us to divine their motives” idea. The second game revealed that they harvest humans to make baby Reapers. I think the reason people hated this so much was because it removed the mystery that the first tried to preserve. They collapsed infinite probabilities into a single shitty one. Had we known from the very beginning that the Reapers merely wanted us to reproduce themselves, that they saw as simply as food, the revelation in the second game wouldn’t have been so jarring.

    The third went even further in thrashing the Reapers’ reputation by giving them an even dumber motive. They need to reproduce so that they can prevent synthetics from extinguishing all life. Never mind that this goes against everything the previous games set up.

    The solution is for writers to realize that they need to stop making unknowable forces as antagonists in stories. They can’t pull it off. If anyone knows of any example of such an enemy that has ever been done right, I’d love to hear it.

    The problem I think comes from trying to characterize these forces as ‘forces of nature’. That worked back in ancient times, when people saw an earthquake, a volcano or a tornado and could not explain them. Thus a force of nature was something with unknowable motives, that came, did it thing, and everyone had to live with it. You couldn’t empathize with it, couldn’t explain it, couldn’t stop it. It simply was, and then after it did it’s thing it was no more.

    But current thinking doesn’t work that way. We demystified all forces at work in nature. If something can be observed, we’ve studied it and know that ‘forces of nature’ for example are simple meteorological phenomenons. We know what causes them, and can even get some level of warning when one is coming.

    I suppose you could still work them into fantasy, but you need to be clear that you can’t explain them. You have to keep them in the realm of myth. In fact, you can see this at work with the Force in Star Wars. It was great in the first three films, until Phantom Menace claims it’s something you can test by measuring midichlorians. By turning it into a simple natural phenomenon, the whole mysticism that it evoked is killed.

    In conclusion, don’t try to build up something by saying it can’t be explained, and then try to explain it.

    Anyway, that explains why the ending was going to suck any way they made it. What it doesn’t explain is how they could conceive to mess it up in the particular way they chose to ruin it.

    • Bill says:

      “Solaris” by StanisÅ‚aw Lem.

      The “aliens”, or rather the alien, is not an antagonist in this book. It is actually very similar to what you described as “forces of nature”. However, the entity is truly and utterly impossible to understand, despite many great efforts on the part of humans. In fact, the futility of such attempts is the central theme of the book, and it is extremely convincing. A great read.

      The incomprehensible cannot be understood, but it can be described. You have nailed it, actually – Rule One is to never, ever, actually explain anything. Smoke and mirrors all the way. And it shouldn’t be that hard to grasp, too: bullshitting is, after all, the majority of writer’s job description.

      Pity the ME team had poor writers. It was very possible to tell the Reapers’ story without dispelling the magic. But it would have taken a subtlety that clearly was out of reach for people chosen for the task.

      It would have worked excellently gameplay-wise, too. You could justify all kinds of weird things Reapers do or don’t do during their invasion by not justifying the weird things they do, but still clearly hinting there is an explanation.

      They could conquer a planet half-way and then just go somewhere else. Or concentrate on particular spots, even if that means they take much higher casualties than usual. Have them stop and examine things, and then blow them away. Have some constants, of course, like absolute cruelty once they do decide to obliberate something. Have them be mysterious and foreboding in their machinations, not deranged or senile. They can even still be made by this Star Child insanity. Just have him remark that their programming has evolved to a point he can’t be sure what it is they want and how it ties to what they do. And of course, make the original reason less stupid.

      It is a much better justification for giving the humanity a sporting chance than that tired “my hyper-futuristic alien tech can’t hit a moving target” cliché. Imagine if in the second Mass Effect the Reapers did attack, only to retreat to the void. Seemingly without reason.

      The Coucil would eventually decide they have “beaten” the mechanical menace, produce some dubious explanation why the Reapers won’t be back, and go about patting themselves on their backs. Meanwhile Shepard would be this madman shouting the “end is nigh” and that the races should still mobilize and be ready, and no-one would listen. And then bam, ME3.

  30. gloops says:

    Leng was absolutely extraordinary. I think I remember one of the marketing spiels stating that they felt they hadn’t really given Shepard a proper nemesis in the series; fair enough, they hadn’t. Harbinger, as the leader of the main villains who has come to see Shepard as a personal adversary, and as, y’know, a near-unbeatable colossal space abomination, would have been pretty good for this role in the third game.

    Instead, the devs introduced this…bizarre-looking, personality-deficient figure and tried to quickly make players feel they had a real nemesis on their hands by having him turn repeatedly up in cutscenes and wreak havoc through his ability to break the laws of physics while Shepard and his allies, who have by this point been built up to be some of the toughest heroes in existence, gawp helplessly. And then all of the other NPCs call Shepard up about it. “Well, sure, Shepard, the armada of giant planet-destroying aliens is the primary threat, but don’t underestimate that hitherto-unmentioned Asian guy with a sword, either; he’s nearly as dangerous, our primitive guns are no match for him.’ And he emails you! That’ll send a shiver of dread up players’s spines!

    Someone like Leng (but…not Leng. Better.) could have worked in either of the two earlier games, but the scale of the conflict and the level of player achievement had been raised far too high by this stage for a human antagonist to be believable or threatening or anything other than an unwelcome distraction.

    • Indy says:

      That someone better was Saren.

      Saren seemed to understand you fighting against the Reapers but believed himself to be right. He tries to convince you twice before fighting you. You interact with him several times throughout the game and he comes to respect you, even as he prepares to fight you at the end. And he worked because Sovereign was to big to push a button.

  31. Dys says:

    Ordinarily I’d read through the comments before posting my own, but since this article has partaken thoroughly of the shitstorm surrounding the topic, there’s way more than I care to wade through.

    The only substantive criticism of the end of ME3 is that it was rushed and sloppy.

    The mass relays do not explode, because that would be stupid. The Citadel tells you what the Crucible will do, and how it will do it. Then if and when you pick a choice, it does what it said it would do. The relays discharge, because they are not transport devices, they are dissemination nodes for the Crucible mechanism. That is what they were built to do. Doing it does not make them explode. Why would you even assume that?

    Nobody is stranded. Every ship larger than a shuttle has a faster than light Mass Effect drive. Remember how you could fly from system to system inside a cluster in less than a human lifetime. Yeah. Faster than light. It’s a long walk home, particularly for the Quarians, Rannoch is on the Far Rim after all, but the galaxy is around 100kly across. Assuming the fleet can sustain faster than light for long enough, it seems reasonable that they can get back within an average lifetime. Oh, yeah, and handily, they only HAD a homeworld for a couple of days. They’re perfectly well accustomed to living aboard the Migrant Fleet. All the other races have colonies far closer to earth. The only conceivable problem would be fuel supplies, and there certainly hasn’t been any shortage of that so far.

    Is it just that you don’t get to see what happens next? You’re dead, it’s not about you any more. I imagine there will be a long period of mourning, and recovery, as follows any major conflict. The loss of the mass relays will hurt, but it’s not the death knell of galactic civilisation. You know what WAS? The Reapers. Remember them?

    The Reapers never wiped out life. Seriously, it takes a heck of a lot longer than 50,000 years to create life from chemistry. What they did was remove all civilisations capable of creating synthetic life. Why? Clearly whoever built them thought it was important. Possibly a civilisation capable of creating the Reapers in the first place might have some insights into the sociological impact of synthetic lifeforms? Beyond the experience of a few centuries of geth-quarian hostilities? Synthetic life advances at a far more rapid pace than organic life, who’s to say how long it would take before the Geth evolved into something so far beyond human understanding that communication was impossible? All of which is utterly irrelevant to the point at hand, which is that the Reapers were created, and now humanity is being harvested, and the only way to stop them is to trip the failsafe switch built into the cycle when it was first put in place. I saw one video which argued that there should have been an option to refuse the choice. And then what? Watch galactic civilisation slowly harvested over centuries, just to make some kind of point? The Crucible has three modes of operation, destruction, control, or synthesis. Don’t complain that your pistol won’t make you tea.

    Possibly you could add a three hour conversation tree with the Citadel in which you explore the various justifications and ramifications of the entire Reaper cycle. Personally, I think one of the greatest things about Mass Effect is those conversations you never get to have. I could spend hours talking to those characters about trivial, tangential and irrelevant things.

    The points about Cerberus are more valid. I’m not sure I’d say they were unreasonably powerful, just that they have a talent for being in the right place at the right time. Consider in the first game, there were a half dozen Cerberus outposts on various worlds all over the galaxy, and those were just the ones you knew about. I doubt they could go head to head against any navy out there, but the way they operate, they don’t have to. Everyone else is too busy defending against the Reapers to spare any time chasing Cerberus. I think it’s probably fair to say they exist mostly because the game needed a ground level bad guy, and the geth weren’t available. Also, the ‘control the Reapers, humanity first’ ideas needed a mouthpiece, hence the illusive man. Ditto for Leng, the conveniently punchable antagonist.

    The continuity issues surrounding the Normandy are probably the most objectively factual problems being complained about. People being on the Normandy immediately after being on the ground is a little weird, but given that you were blacked out for a good long time after getting hit by the Reaper beam, it’s not unreasonable that a “Sheperd’s dead, transport is lost. Fall back and regroup” order went out while you were unconscious. Admittedly conjuring justifications is just papering over the cracks. I don’t take issue with people saying the whole final sequence was a bit clunky, but to say that the end renders the rest of the game irrelevant is just not true.

    There are Quarians on Rannoch, the Krogan will live, the Rachi are free and no longer monsters of legend and the Reapers, scourge of civilisation for billions of years, are finally destroyed. At least that’s the way it ended when I played it, and that works just fine for me.

    • Shamus says:

      “Why would you even assume that?”

      Because the Arrival DLC told us that’s what happened. We said it was stupid and contrived at the time, but we’re just going by what the writers say. If they want to change the rules, they need to say so.

      “Nobody is stranded.”

      Except for everyone on the Normandy, because their ship is broke.

      “Is it just that you don't get to see what happens next? You're dead, it's not about you any more.”

      See, I didn’t WANT the game to be about Shepard. I HATED that you become Space Jesus in the second game and the Reapers suddenly cared who you were. I’m fine with taking the focus off of Shepard, but they should have done that two games ago. The problem isn’t that Shepard doesn’t retire in fame and luxury, it’s that none of this makes any sense.

      “Synthetic life advances at a far more rapid pace than organic life, who's to say how long it would take before the Geth evolved into something so far beyond human understanding that communication was impossible? ”

      Nice, but that wasn’t in the game. In the game, Shepard said we can get along and the Star Child said, “Nu-uh!” The fact that there COULD be an explanation isn’t the same as having the game make some kind of sense.

      “Possibly you could add a three hour conversation tree with the Citadel in which you explore the various justifications and ramifications of the entire Reaper cycle.”

      Nobody is asking for a three hour conversation. They’re asking for something that isn’t dissonant nonsense.

      “it's not unreasonable that a “Sheperd's dead, transport is lost. Fall back and regroup” order went out while you were unconscious”

      It’s not unreasonable, but it’s also not in the game. You’re arguing that the ending is okay because we can graft on extra things to try and patch over blatantly obvious holes.

      “There are Quarians on Rannoch, the Krogan will live, the Rachi are free and no longer monsters of legend and the Reapers, scourge of civilisation for billions of years, are finally destroyed. At least that's the way it ended when I played it, and that works just fine for me.”

      Glad you enjoyed it.

      • Sumanai says:

        If Shepard is the focus so much that showing what happened after wouldn’t fit in, why is there a segment in ME2 where you control Joker? Shouldn’t the camera be focusing on Shepard when s/he hears about the assault on Normandy?

        What about the part in the video where you’re shown what happens to the Normandy in the ME3 itself? Why is everyone else not worth the time?

        • acronix says:

          Joker is an Author Darling. He has a brittle-bone condition and yet he manages to shoot to the collector´s when Shepard´s is running for his life (ME2). And the fact that you control Joker once doesn´t mean the story isn´t about Shepard, s/he is still the Space Messiah Who Will Save Everyone and who made the reapers go specifically after him/her and humanity.
          What´s more: We are shown what happens to him (and EDI by proxy) after the end because the writers tought he was the most important character after Shepard.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Doing it does not make them explode. Why would you even assume that?”

      Um,because cinematic shows a mass relay clearly exploding,thats why.

      “The only conceivable problem would be fuel supplies, and there certainly hasn't been any shortage of that so far.”

      And the food supplies.Even with ftl,it still will take them looooong to reach the nearest colony,and I doubt anyone had months of supplies with them,with maybe the quarians being the exception.Furthermore,normandy is shown to have fuel to barely cross one cluster,and now these ships who expected to come to fight are somehow supposed to have enough fuel to reach another star cluster?

      “Is it just that you don't get to see what happens next? You're dead, it's not about you any more.”

      Fine,but what about the people who were with you during this journey?What happened to them?They got stranded somewhere and thats it?And maybe only 3 of them survived the crash?

      “Synthetic life advances at a far more rapid pace than organic life, who's to say how long it would take before the Geth evolved into something so far beyond human understanding that communication was impossible?”

      Except after 2 centuries of them existing,geth still wanted to end the hostilities and rejoin their creators,despite being treated poorly.And really,thats some faulty reasoning.Who knows what may happen to me tomorrow,I may very well die in a car crash,so its better to blow my brains out right now before that maybe happens.

      “The Crucible has three modes of operation, destruction, control, or synthesis”

      The problem is that you cannot,for example,destroy the reapers and preserve edi and geth.Or control the reapers and have the mass relays remain operational.

      The biggest problem is how lame these three choices are.Nearly identical.After all the talk how they dont want to offer us some lame buttons that lead to similar cutscenes,they did exactly that.

      “it's not unreasonable that a “Sheperd's dead, transport is lost. Fall back and regroup” order went out while you were unconscious.”

      What happened to “we fight or we die”?Heck,from what I saw,thats what your speech in the end is.No turning back,victory or death,but never retreat.And heck,one of your companions is liara,a person that went for your dead body once already.She sure as hell wouldnt leave you,even in death.Especially if she is your romantic interest.

      “There are Quarians on Rannoch, the Krogan will live, the Rachi are free and no longer monsters of legend and the Reapers, scourge of civilisation for billions of years, are finally destroyed. At least that's the way it ended when I played it, and that works just fine for me.”

      Yes,yes,but what of garrus,tali,wrex,mordin,liara,and everyone else you ever cared about?They all tell you “If we survive this,we will xyz”,but then that gets screwed,so what happens to them?

      Heck,what happens to humans,who have their homeworld devastated,and their colonies ransacked by both reapers and cerberus,and who now have all of the fleets of the universe parked in orbit of their now desolate planet?Devoured by krogans seems the most likely,especially if you cured the genophage.Way to go shepard,throwing your life away so that your race can be saved from one extinction,and thrown into another.

    • wellwellwellavatar says:

      >Nobody is stranded. Every ship larger than a shuttle has a faster than light Mass Effect drive. Remember how you could fly from system to system inside a cluster in less than a human lifetime. Yeah. Faster than light. It's a long walk home, particularly for the Quarians, Rannoch is on the Far Rim after all, but the galaxy is around 100kly across. Assuming the fleet can sustain faster than light for long enough, it seems reasonable that they can get back within an average lifetime.

      Of course they are. Ever bothered to read in-game lore about FTL? They need to discharge their drives all the time, and they can’t do that in empty space. That’s actually the explanation why so much of the galaxy is still unexplored. They can’t get there even with all the infrastructure in place. With the relays gone, they can’t cross these distances.

      I won’t get into the discussion about supply lines and colonies, all of that has been said before. And no, in-game lore tells us that for example dextro-food can’t be just synthetisied – this was the actual problem during the first contact war, that the turians had issues getting food for their troops in.

      >Possibly you could add a three hour conversation tree with the Citadel in which you explore the various justifications and ramifications of the entire Reaper cycle. Personally, I think one of the greatest things about Mass Effect is those conversations you never get to have. I could spend hours talking to those characters about trivial, tangential and irrelevant things.

      So could I. Your point being?

      >I don't take issue with people saying the whole final sequence was a bit clunky, but to say that the end renders the rest of the game irrelevant is just not true.
      For you, maybe. To me, they just threw their own lore and canon overboard for the last few minutes.

      >There are Quarians on Rannoch, the Krogan will live, the Rachi are free and no longer monsters of legend and the Reapers, scourge of civilisation for billions of years, are finally destroyed. At least that's the way it ended when I played it, and that works just fine for me.
      Glad it is enough for you. For me, it was not, and it ruined things.

  32. Dasick says:

    Hey Shamus, how many number of comment messages do you have? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a post with more than 300, so “n is a ridiculous number” is a new one (and made me chuckle a bit)

  33. Kian says:

    As an aside, I kind of grew resentful of Anderson during the game. Shepard took a lot of crap all throughout the game for the greater good. His name was dragged through the mud in his efforts to protect galactic civilization. All he asked of his buddy Anderson was that he deal with the boredom of being one of the four most important people in space, so that he could make as much pressure from within the system as possible.

    Instead, by the second game Anderson is letting Udina handle most everything (to the point the Council prefers to deal with Udina directly) and by the third he quit so he could keep playing with his military buddies at being an Admiral. Way to ruin all my effort, Anderson. And he still fails to get Earth geared up for war against the Reapers.

    And if that wasn’t enough, while you were grounded he tried to steal your ship! I could put up with a lot, but that’s a betrayal I can’t forgive. The Normandy is MY ship. HANDS OFF!

    • krellen says:

      So what you’re saying is, there at the end, when Anderson says “You did good, son”, you want an option to reply, “Yeah, well you fucked up, sir. Good job”?

      • Kian says:

        Maybe more like “Well, someone had to.” I wasn’t upset with him. Just frustrated. He failed to steal my ship anyway, so I forgave him for that. Not that he could, anyway. EDI is a bro, she wouldn’t betray me.

    • wellwellwellavatar says:

      Finally someone else who got ticked at this :)

      I was like WTF? when I discovered that the ship that I had left in good order in ME2 was now ripped up, cables everywhere, and to add insult to injury. PAINTED FUCKING BLUE. With Alliance logo.

      Me, I would have rather driven it into the next sun than surrender it.

  34. chrisw10 says:

    Career writers start off terrible and then become master storytellers after writing about a million words because they eventually find out through trial and error what does and doesn’t work.

    Usually what doesn’t work is writers making promises and then failing to fulfill them.

    I’m not sure what the turnover is in the games industry for their writers, but if it’s what I think it is, then the storytelling problems like what ME3 suffers from are going to plague the games industry for a good long while.

  35. Velkrin says:

    My prediction: ME4-6 will tell the tale of Marauder Shields and his attempt to travel through time in order to stop Shepard from getting to the end of ME3.

    He was born Marauder Shields, and died Marauder Health. Honor his sacrifice.

    • anaphysik says:

      Since Harbinger’s role was so small in ME3, his inclusion as a squadmate in ME4-6 should please long-term fans. Harbinger is likewise dedicated to Shepard’s salvation through destruction, and his devastating loyalty power adds additional optic units to all nearby allies.

      Sovereign, Saren, the Thorian, and Richard L. Jenkins will all play some role in the series, provided they survived the events of the previous game or the players forgot that they didn’t.

      Rumors regarding Blasto the Jellyfish’s appearance remain unsubstantiated.

      • Conrad Gray says:

        Good except you forgot Conrad Verner.

      • ns says:


        Fuck, give me a shot at Saren being my LI and I’ll play it!

        • anaphysik says:

          I should’ve also included Nihlus, but everyone knows that he already played a role in ME3 as the great hero Marauder Shields. (And therefore: http://i1.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/268/550/438.jpg )

          I do wish they’d brought up Saren more in the last two games. I actually felt pretty bad about how completely demonized he had become in ME2 (particularly since I managed to convince him to kill himself rather than continue submitting to Sovereign at the end of ME1). The statue in Kasumi’s DLC was cool, but It would have been neater if we could have expressed some opinion on him.

          • ns says:


            Saren was operating under a lot of false assumptions, but he was in some way trying to do the right thing. In my playthrough he shot himself, too, which was a major downer for me – I was actually trying to recruit him. That would have been awesome. Instead, it all got dumbed down as he suddenly has always been the big bad evil rogue Spectre. Sigh.

            Of course, in ME3 we then can do the same fucking thing to the whole galaxy – forcibly merge everyone into part organic/part synthetic. And after Arrival, I’d say Shepard has beaten Saren’s body count by far. Can anyone please point out the hero to me here, I’m having trouble seeing the difference….

            rotfl @Marauder Shields == Nihlus.

  36. Morgan says:

    Wow. It seems like no one paid attention to what the catalyst was saying. I have watched all three endings. in two of them only Shepherd dies. In the other Shepherd and all synthetics die and advanced technology is destroyed. I don’t know where this guy is getting his info on everyone dying. Seems to me that there are a lot of people alive on earth at the end regardless of what decision you make. Why would this be any different for other systems? The problem is that this guys is assuming too much with the endings. There are some parts of the review that I agree with. Oh and what makes the ending “bittersweet” is that Shepherd sacrifices himself to save all (or almost all) life in the galaxy.

    • Sumanai says:

      Wow. It seems like no-one paid attention to what happened to the Normandy in the “harmless” explosion.

    • ehlijen says:

      You didn’t play Arrival, did you?

      It was made very clear that kablooey mass relay = kablooey star system. Nothing in the end tells us this time is any different, which means the writers either forgot and muddled up what they tried to say or were trying to say contradictory crap deliberately. Niether of which makes it even tolerable writing.

      • acronix says:

        In case someone tries to play the “It was just optional DLC!”, I´d like to point out that the only reason for Arrival to exist was to establish what would happen if a Relay was blown up. Oh, and also to get extra money from the pre-MA3 hype.

        • Lalaland says:

          I fell victim to that hype and bought Arrival a few days before playing ME3 so I’d ‘know the full story’ for ME3. It was a waste of time and is barely referenced in ME3 despite being the supposed reason you’re grounded. In fact when you speak with Jarvik you mention stopping the Reaper invasion in ME1 but don’t mention stopping the second invasion in ME2 w/Arrival DLC.

          Worse you are told over and over while playing the DLC that the destruction of this relay will destroy the solar system but this a necessary sacrifice to prevent a reaper invasion. To suddenly have the relays exploding in ME3 with force strong enough to show up on the galaxy map instantly made me think I’d destroyed most life in the universe.

    • Kian says:

      Even conceding that this kind of explosion is different, the consequence of eliminating trade in a society as advanced and spread out as the galaxy was would be catastrophic.

      People need food and medicine just to live. In the ME universe, travel is so cheap and appropriate conditions for growing food so rare that food production is centralized in some areas and exported. So you have planets like Eden Prime that are essentially giant farms, producing the food that planets like Noveria, Mars and every space station then eat. By disrupting the relay network, everyone who relied on imported food is dead within a couple months. That’s a lot of people.

      Likewise, certain areas focused on making medicine, others on manufactured goods, etc. With trade ensuring an efficient distribution of material all across the galaxy, the galactic economy grew very specialized. Disruptions will cause widespread death.

      Earth for example was shown to be badly damaged, fields burnt and the like. The largest fleet ever assembled is now stuck without supply lines orbiting a ruined planet. The krogan are going to eat everyone.

      • ns says:

        Finally someone who points out the real consequences of the relays going kablooej.

        For everyone who still can’t imagine it: take any large city on Earth, and just transport it somewhere into the middle of some uninhabited landscape. See how long people can survive there with no outside help. Sure, some will survive and adapt. Most won’t.

    • birthofthecool says:

      Yes, even if you believe the solar systems are not destroyed, there would be major problems to survive the first few years.

    • birthofthecool says:

      Wow, not everyone agrees with me…

  37. Kimagure says:

    What’s sad is that the ending to the series could really have been salvaged by a few minor changes and modifications to the underlying ideas. What follows is just one possibility, there are others, many of which are better thought out than what I suggest below.

    1) Rationale for the Reapers: instead of having them exist to solve some straw man of an inevitable war between organics and synthetics, play to a different theme. One example would be to say that organic life inevitably develops technologies to destroy itself. When they first tested atomic bombs, they calculated there was a significant possibility that the bomb could ignite the atmosphere, killing everyone. The perfect counterpart to that would be the mass relays, which are known to be powerful enough to destroy star systems. Imagine what would happen if they were used as dark matter weapons in a war? Solution: AI reapers kill off any civilization that reaches an event horizon level of advancement by approaching mass effect/dark matter technology. Why wouldn’t they just destroy all the mass relays? Simple, it’s a roach motel, a trap. It’s easier to figure out when species are getting close to the point of technology when you lead them by the nose and have them push the shiny red button themselves. You could even play to the dark matter themes brought out in ME2 and say that extensive use of dark matter technology risks warping the time-space fabric and causing devastating results (think global warming or nuclear annihilation on a galactic scale).

    2) The Deus Ex Machina Crucible: Shamus wisely points out how the logic to the entire thing makes absolutely no sense. There are other, far easier ways to have it be a believable superweapon. Say, for example, it’s an incomplete control mechanism to turn mass relays into dark energy canons (or bombs). I’d say incomplete, since the Protheons were only starting to figure out relay technology. And while they did build a small one on the Citadel, that doesn’t mean they had any real mastery. The pieces you pick up along the way? Various different civilizations’ research into mass effect technology to correct the flaws of the Crucible and make the weapon work. After all, given how hard it was for the combined alliance fleet to take down Sovereign in ME, there’s no way conventional armies could destroy hundreds or thousands of reapers. Mass relay cannons/bombs on the other hand…

    3) The Reapers: It’s really, really, REALLY stupid to have the reapers be some kind of organo-synthetic hybrid created from intelligent species. The ME2 review did a fantastic job of explaining why. Better answer? The scientists/everyone at the end of ME2 were simply wrong and didn’t properly understand what was going on. Instead of being necessary to create a new reaper, the collected humans and liquified humans were merely the Reapers’ way of preserving knowledge of each organic species it destroyed. As such, each new Reaper would be a kind of trophy of theirs (though they might view them as more of a museum/testament to the races). Just because Reapers indoctrinate and kill every species doesn’t mean they don’t see it as a noble endeavor.

    4) The three endings: So many ways to fix this… For example, the kid could simply be Shepherd’s indoctrinated-overlayed-delusion on whatever the crucible’s control system is. The voice trying to convince Shepherd to do the wrong thing. The fact that you can get Saren to kill himself after realizing he’s indoctrinated in ME shows that there’s still some free will, even if it’s very limited. You have three endings? Make Blue paragon, red renegade, and green indoctrinated (hell, keep it the same where you think you’re doing some organic-synthetic hybrid and have a god-complex). Paragon: you use the relays to destroy the Reapers (but risking the negative consequences of organic life destroying itself and the galaxy). Renegade: you detonate the mass relays, killing the reapers, billions of innocents, but protecting future species from the Reaper threat.

    Anyway, that’s just one suggestion. I’m sure there are many other ways that the ending could have been far better than the mess it was.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      1) Still wouldnt make sense,because if they wanted to stop organics to do anything dangerous,they couldve always just eradicated all life.They clearly are capable of destroying whole planets,so why not do that?Go from star system to star system,and lay waste.It would take much less than 50000 years to do so.

      3) Making reapers into cyborgs isnt really that bad.In fact,its a much better tool to explain the reapers motivation than “they want to prevent organics from destroying themselves”.Why do they let organics reach a certain stage before harvesting them?Because that allows them to get the best genetic material for their evolution.Sure,real genetics dont work that way,but in reality there is no element zero either.

      • Kimagure says:

        Well, that’s just one idea, but the question isn’t one of trying to stop organics, period, but management, similar to what’s presented in the game. In the game, they take their main challenge as being: how do you keep organics from creating synthetics that destroy them, assuming that AI and organics will always go to war. There are other main premises you can use instead. For example: how do you allow organic species to continue to exist, assuming that they’ll inevitably reach a level of technology where they’ll kill themselves off? Solution: preemptively knock them into the stone age every 50k years.

        But there are other possible premises which might also work, and ones more centered around the actual title of the series (Mass effect) than the whole Organic/Synthetic war.

        For example: How do you stop civilizations from growing to such a point that they conquer the galaxy using mass effect technology and wipe out all the burgeoning intelligent life monopolistically? Wipe out the top players. (50k years isn’t enough to evolve from ape to man, but it might be enough to go from proto-civilization to civilization). Or how do you stop civilizations from trying to cross the galactic border with technology 1 step above mass relays?

        There are any number of possibilities that could be justified with a stronger rationale.

        And no offense, but I disagree with your opinion about the Reaper-cyborgs. It really was a terrible idea. What possible benefit could the reapers get from DNA and organic processes that they couldn’t replicate via machinery? If they really needed organic development, given their size, level of scientific advancement, and longevity, there are any number of ways to experimentally lab-generate life that would be so much easier. Not to mention that intelligence is something beyond pure liquified organic matter and DNA. This isn’t even getting into the chemical processes you’d need to develop to interact in any meaningful way with the organic matter of thousands of different species and… Yeah, it’s really pointless. If they’re not trying for the brain patterns(hell, even DNA) of specific individuals and just going for any random moron they come across en mass… Just vat-grow human genetic material at that point and randomly irradiate it. Saves you the mess and trouble. Or use your massive fleet of overpowered super-beings to take out civilization then make your baby Terminator-reapers then… There are just so many problems with the situation as presented in ME2

        • Sumanai says:

          There are any number of possibilities that could be justified with an insane rationale.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          There is only one way they couldve rationalized that stupid explanation from me3:If they left the rachni alone.How do you stop organics from making synthetics that will ultimately destroy them?Eradicate all but the ones who go the fully organic route,like the rachni.But nope,even the rachni arent spared.

          There can be a benefit from them being cyborgs and not pure machines:Machines cannot evolve.Sure,they can upgrade themselves and change their programing,but eventually they will reach a wall,because there is no randomness.Organics,however,can evolve forever.This is one of the key speeches mording gave in me2,about why collectors are a bad thing:They stagnate.So reapers let organics evolve until they reach a certain stage,and then use the dominant species to upgrade themselves.

          Sure,real dna doesnt work like that,but this is sci fi,and anything is possible in sci fi,as long as you establish it and keep it internally consistent.And thats the reason me1 is stronger than its sequels:It is internally consistent with its breaks from reality.That,and the fact that it doesnt have stupid leaps of logic as often as 2 and 3.

          • Kimagure says:

            Machines can evolve. There’s evolutionary forms of circuit design being researched and applied currently. What would you call the alteration from old AppleIIes to current ipads? Small elements are changed, modified, improved, and replaced. In some ways, you can argue that the process is faster than organic evolution since the generational cycles are quicker.

            Natural selection’s not a process in which you have some mystical being selecting winners and losers. It’s not even a rule. It’s simply a statement that things that are successful will continue to be successful until replaced by something that’s more successful–usually a modified version of the former.

            Any kind of self-aware machine inherently involves a program that changes with time and experiences and that does not remain static. Anytime you introduce uncontrolled change into a system, you have variation and evolution.

            You could even argue that it’s easier for machines since you can literally copy code from one machine to another. Especially with the programming complexity that any artificial intelligence will entail, you’ll have unpredictable bugs introduced into the system. Those bugs are the basis for evolution and change (as much as random mutation is). Most of the time, they’ll cause errors and crash systems (with varying differences in importance), but sometimes you’ll end up with a system that works slightly better.


            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Yes our machinery evolves,so to speak,but thats because we are changing them.If this was an automated process,it would stop once certain efficiency is reached,and then we would get just exact copies.

              Consider the geth,for example:They are upgrading themselves so that they can all merge in their dyson sphere.But then what?There would be no need for them to upgrade further,there would be no unexpected influences*,they would just exist,unchanging,until the end of time.

              Also,you wouldnt get any bugs when machines write the code.And at some point,a sapient machine will completely overwrite its original programing,so its whole code would be machine made,and thus bug free.

              Back to reapers,because they are the dominant race,and technically immortal,the only change they can introduce to their race is reproduction.But machines cannot reproduce,they can only clone themselves,which is also stagnation.Hence why they need to be cyborgs if they want to evolve.And how is that not a much better explanation than “we need to destroy organics so that they dont create synthetics that would destroy them”?

              *Disregarding their contact with other species this time,making them the sole ones in the galaxy.

              • Lalaland says:

                The idea that machines could evolve or improve themselves to a point of stagnation fights against evolution. The driving force in evolution is adaptation to environment and any form of life, artificial or synthetic, is forced to continue to change to adapt to the constantly changing environment.

                To my mind the only way any of this works is if the Reapers destroy civilisations every 50,000 years as that is some kind of mean time for civilisations to start creating AI sophisticated enough to potentially threaten the Reapers themselves. But that doesn’t cover why the Reapers don’t just destroy all life and arrggghhhh it’s all nonsense at this stage anyway. Too many holes to patch without just binning the lot and that would be ridiculous. Still I await the inevitably tragi-comic DLC.

                Edit: I think I’ve been thinking about ME3 too much, I think I just ‘Yo dawg’ ed evolution in the first paragraph.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  “The driving force in evolution is adaptation to environment and any form of life, artificial or synthetic, is forced to continue to change to adapt to the constantly changing environment.”

                  Yes.But when reapers became the dominant force in the galaxy,there was no environmental change for them to adapt to.So they could either travel to another galaxy,or borrow the changes that certain organics have achieved in this one.

                • Sumanai says:

                  There have actually been living creatures in the real world that have stopped evolving. A lot of them tend to die out completely.

              • Kimagure says:

                A few points about that:

                1) Beings can only have limited ability to rewrite essential processes. The nature of any complex program is that it’s impossible to predict the full effects without extensive testing. That’s the inherent problem with QA and video games, or FDA trials with new drugs. Minor changes to complex programming can have dramatic and unintentional consequences because complexity within a system increases exponentially with intricacy and scale and any form of sentience would need to be, by nature, large and complex. I can’t imagine AI’s being too eager to fundamentally alter their source code, not knowing what kind of blue screens they may achieve. And while you can save and reload, there’s a fundamental question of how many simulations you could run and the fact that not all fatal bugs are immediately apparent.

                2) No copying system is perfect. There will always be degradation of physical storage materials, the introduction of error during transmission or operation, etc. While this can somewhat be mitigated with backup storage, that also has its limits when you’re talking about a self-learning and sentient process that interacts with the world in real-time. It’s those small changes and alterations that are evolution. You see it all the time with humans, it’s called cancer. That form of random mutation is the basis of evolution and it’s not a problem that will ever truly be solved, if only because of the effect of quantum mechanics on all physical matter. All matter will degrade and undergo change over time, and so information will always need to be copied (introducing random error).

                3) This doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about a virtual environment or a physical environment. Electronic systems live on physical medium, which degrades. It’s why mp3s and old data files go bad over time. Of course, you could create backup copies, but that’s difficult with a constantly learning AI and evolving AI system and it causes real questions of cloning. What do you do, create a backup and keep it in the electronic version of cold storage? Back up core elements? There are still elements which would be fundamental which could never truly be preserved for an AI.

                4) Machine-made does not mean error free. Any kind of sentience would necessitate some type of self-learning capability. Which creates individuality (ie, change and another avenue for evolutionary development in a machine if only due to chaos theory dynamics) and further opportunities for the introduction of error. Remember, no copying mechanism is 100% precise over time. Plus, self-learning isn’t as simple as writing a basic computer program since it, by definition, involves interaction with new stimuli (otherwise it’s just a very well crafted VI and not a true AI). There is no reason to assume that machines developing self-learning code to deal with new situations will do so completely error-free in real time. We’re not talking about a programmer sitting down, looking at a problem, coming up with code and testing out solutions. We’re not even talking about an automated version of that. We’re talking about something with actual sentience.

                5) Your argument about the dyson sphere would apply equally well to humans and organics. In a perfectly stable world without any change, there would be no evolution. But life itself brings about change. There’s no reason to assume that it would be any different for AI. No two AI will have 100% the same experience, and if they are true AI and not just VI, then they will learn from them and adapt in their own way. Individuality brings about change, which is the heart of evolution.

                The distinction isn’t between AI and organic life. The distinction’s between a sentient being and a complex mechanical process that cannot exceed the bounds of its programming. Between real intelligence and a good turing test program.

                Since the Geth were able to question, think, and learn. They were AI and they evolve.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  First,its sapient,not sentient.Sorry,but despite what me3 wants you to believe,those two arent interchangeable.Anyhow:

                  1)If I got it correctly,edi did rewrite her core programing in me3 a few times,and was eager to do it some more.

                  2)While true,this however gets mitigated even more when you have a race such as geth,where everything requires a census,so even if one individual gets an error while copying,it would quickly conform back to the mass.Plus,we arent sure how slowly blue boxes degrade.

                  3)Geth again.They constantly switch between places they are stored on,and they constantly do censuses,so any change they make,they make to the collective,and only when they all agree about it.There is nothing random about that.

                  4)See previous two points.

                  5)Yes.And that is what mordin was saying about collectors:They stagnated for 50000 years because theyve reached the roof of evolution,and had nothing new to adapt to,so they were just cloning the same individual over and over again.Which is why reapers come back every 50k years,and dont just harvest one organic species every year or so.That is exactly on what I was basing this theory on.Reapers became dominant in the galaxy,so in order to improve themselves,they would let different organics to develop in different environments,and then harvest them in order to bring new blood to their race,because there was nothing new for them to adapt to anymore.Organic or synthetic doesnt matter at all,since they already did employ a lot of organic machines(the keepers and collectors,for example).

                  Of course,this whole thing is shot down in 3,when you are told that all species evolve in similar fashion in every cycle,which is just stupid.

    • I always thought that the slurry Reaper could make sense if you think about it as a way to consolidate biotic power, which would be the tech that they harvested this time.

      • anaphysik says:

        Ah yes, that’s why they didn’t target the highly biotic asari. Yes.

        (Actually, if the Rachni Wars were really supposed to a attempted start to the Reaper invasion, then it likely would have been the asari that got slurpeed.)

  38. Vect says:

    So what’s wrong with Miranda never seeing mini-me again? I thought bad things happening to Miranda was good for people of the site.

    And the thing about Kai Leng is that he’s a villain from the Mass Effect Books where he was mostly Anderson’s enemy. The reason he became Cyborg Ninja of MGS is because Anderson kneecapped him with a pistol, so… Blame Anderson?

    And I was surprised to see Shamus not rail against Vega. Personally I thought of him as not too bad of a character (nothing special of course) and at least better than Jacob.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “So what's wrong with Miranda never seeing mini-me again? I thought bad things happening to Miranda was good for people of the site.”

      Plenty of people dont like her,but some still do,so naturally they would want to see her be happy along with the others.

    • Sumanai says:

      Time to never read the books, then. Why is it that most of the time when a silly character ends up inside a series it’s “from the books”?

      • Vect says:

        Well, Kai Leng was pretty infamously silly in “Mass Effect: Deception”, where there’s a scene where he sneaks into Anderson’s apartment and starts eating his cereal and an ending where he kills a super-special-powerful Biotic with a sharpened toothbrush.

        In the previous novels, he was evidently pretty Villain Sue-ish. Guy could kill Krogans with a knife and such.

  39. Nemon says:

    Now I’m afraid of reading anything else by Shamus because it cannot possibly live up to the nailed-the-point-ness of this brilliant piece.

  40. Irridium says:

    Think we might have an explination.

    Rumor has it that the ending was writen by Casey Hudson and Mac Walters, with no input from the rest of the writing team.

    I’m just going to quote a bit of what he said: “It shows”.


    • Lalaland says:

      The ‘two writers in a room alone’ explanation makes too much sense, I can’t help but thinking that guy has a pink slip in his immediate future though.

      • anaphysik says:

        Which is the damndest thing of all, since considering some of the things he (assuming it was really him posting, which frankly I believe) actually wrote for the game – things such as Mordin – the man ought be promoted over the idiots who bungled this.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Huh, I like this guy’s line of thinking. He seems to understand the thematic elements of the story how it can be translated into gameplay, and, best of all, how unnecessary the Illusive Man and his megalomania are. And he apparently wrote for Mordin, Kasumi, and Jack, some of my favorite characters in the series. Bioware would probably better off with more writers like him, and fewer writers like [whoever was behind the human reaper baby], who I assume was Mac Walters.
      A shame if he ends up losing his job over this outburst (If it is actually him).

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Sooo…they outsorced the boss fight?That…is becoming a really disturbing trend.

      • Kian says:

        They didn’t outsource. The lead writer and director (not sure those are the exact positions, but essentially the head honchos for the project) locked themselves in a room, hashed out the ending, bypassed peer review using their status as head honchos and had the ending finished without input from the rest of the team.

        At least, according to what the link claims.

  41. anaphysik says:

    For the record: I believe the Indoctrination-Attempt-Hallucinated-Ending theory from a metatextual/Death-of-the-Author perspective. That is, I believe it nearly perfectly explains the ending, but I doubt that it was actually the intended vision of the authors. And even if it was, they completely screwed it up by leaving the conclusion to it out of the final product.

    And now, even if they do release some perfect continuation as DLC, there will forever be two problems:
    1) people will see it as Bioware leeching off of good fan ideas and theories rather than making something coherent themselves (this is actually what I believe – the writers put out some bullcrap that they didn’t realize was bullcrap, and lucked into fans dissecting it in a way that made sense of it, and now Bioware is putting on their best trollface saying they’d planned this all along).
    2) they still screwed up the ending by making it in two parts, and by alienating vast swathes of their fan base. This trick ending could have worked if it wasn’t the end. And not ‘wasn’t the end right now, look forward to DLC!’ but literally wasn’t the end – if there were already a proper True Ending that continued after the bullshit (perhaps only with the ‘breath’ ending, natch). Without that, the ending is necessarily incomplete and we still run into the awful idea of ‘game now, ending later!’

    (EDIT: And now I see I’ve gotten all angry sounding. Fiddlesticks.)

    The Son of EDIT: Because I realize I haven’t said this yet: Shamus, your post and analysis are as both excellent and entertaining as usual!

  42. […] a substitute for any content of my own, I will direct you to this fantastic deconstruction of Mass Effect 3‘s ending by one of my blogging role models, Shamus Young. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the […]

  43. Sai says:

    If not for the ending Kai Leng would definitely be what I consider the worst part of the game. The increased focus on Cerberus was just odd, even with Hackett’s hinting that going to the Illusive Man’s base was the start of the end I didn’t really believe it. I thought we were gonna go there, dispose of him, and then go deal with the Reapers. All of a sudden the Citadel is moved to Earth for no explicable reason after that and we rush into the nonsensical ending.

  44. Alex says:

    The ending to Mass Effect 3 is a black-hole, so awful it’s starting to pull everything around it into an event horizon of stupid. Namely, children’s charities (second post down).

  45. fixxxer says:

    People rising against the stupidity of videogame writing. I wonder if companies ever saw that one coming. :)

    Frankly, I suffered through part of the games because I wanted something to shoot at (and pretty graphics). The story became tedious pretty early every time. There’s so much bad writing in it that even the first game falls to pieces.

    Bioware gets too much crap from people though. Skyrim was equally mediocre and no one seemed to be bothered. Meanwhile, smaller studios like CD Projekt (Witcher) are doing it a lot better and no one gives them the credit they deserve.

    Anyway, congrats for the article, it’s very good. I loved the part about the Crucible the most. I’d also add that the very Citadel and the fact that people still decide to live on it after the first game is absurd. But.. oddly believable, for once. :D

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Skyrim doesnt get as much crap becasue story was never that important in earlier bethesda games.It was in bioware games.

      • Dasick says:

        Skyrim doesn’t get much crap because the honeymoon is still on. Once that period is over, it’ll be Oblivion all over again. I don’t think a single doom prophecy regarding the “next TES” hasn’t been fulfilled.

        -Regenerating health
        -Reduced the RPG system to three statistics
        -No matter what skills you major, the gameplay is all the same
        -etc etc

        On the other hand, when people say that story and characters were never that important… have we played the same Morrowind?

  46. some random dood says:

    How’s about a one-off Spoiler Warning for the ending? Sounds like you guys (don’t know whether Mumbles considers herself one of the guys, but take it in a good way!) have plenty to say, and the end-sequence isn’t going to run over 30 minutes, so…
    But here’s the challenge. You are each allowed only one “F**K” during the episode. Incoherence and rage-spluttering may be acceptable for up to 30 seconds, but then you have to be able to say something that sounds at least vaguely English.
    Perhaps it should be organised like a “tag” commentary – one of the team starts, and after he/she gets too emotional (incoherence and/or swearing) has to drop out and hand the commentary over to the next Spoiler Warning host.
    Hmm, with those rules, I don’t think it would make a 30 minute slot. 5 minutes, tops, most of which would be howling?

    Anyway – think it would be good to do. Would love it if Ruts had somehow managed to miss this whole controversy and get his reaction live!

  47. birthofthecool says:

    To be honest, I think your criticism goes to far in some places, other parts you nail perfectly.

    All those flaws in the ending, that is why I don’t get all this BS about a so called artistic ending and keeping the artistic integrity.

    “The perspective in your picture is wrong, the scale between peopl,e landscape and the building is off and you chose terrible looking colours. Is this suppossed to be some surrealistic masterpiece?”

    “No, I was trying to draw my uncle’s villa in the Toscana.”

    “Really? But then the picture is really horrible. You should probably give it a do-over and fix what’s wrong.”

    “No way I’m gonna do this, I’ve got artistic integrity!”

    “But the painting is crap.”

    “Yes, but it is artistic crap.”

    System shutdown because you can’t beat that logic.

    • anaphysik says:

      The thing that most people forget about calling something ‘art’ is that it’s still perfectly legitimate to go on to call it *BAD* art. Being ‘art’ does not immunize your work from criticism.
      (Especially considering that the term ‘art’ could be applied to almost anything, or some aspect of anything.)

  48. Mechakisc says:

    I wanted to like Dragon Age, and Mass Effect.

    I couldn’t bring myself to play them. Something felt off.

    I’m replaying Baldur’s Gate between WoW: Dragon Soul raids, and it still feels the same to me, story-wise. The tech is a little dated, I’ll admit.

    I don’t know if that is simple rose colored nostalgia or something else, but I wonder if Fargo had as much to do with that game as Bioware.

    • Sumanai says:

      I’ve had the same feelings towards Dragon Age and Mass Effect. With Dragon Age it was so strong I still haven’t even bought it.

      I don’t know if Fargo had a lot to do with it, but from what I’ve understood there’s not that many people at Bioware from the Baldur’s Gate team as it’s made to seem.

  49. Princess Rose says:

    Um, Shamus, I think you missed a couple of points there.

    First, the game clearly shows that Earth is okay (if you got 5000+ fleet strength – otherwise it burns to various degrees). For some (unexplained) reason, the Relays don’t explode so much as fall apart (for some reason).

    Does this make little-no sense? Yeah. But at least you DO save Earth assuming you have a large enough fleet. So there’s… that.

    Second, while the relays are gone, FTL drives still work. Ships are merely limited to individual clusters of stars. And, given enough time, ships CAN fly between clusters. They just better pack a lot of food and fuel.

    Speaking of which – we do have Dextro food on Earth. It’s used as an artificial sweetener. In real life. Seriously, look it up. The Turian/Quarian fleets will be drinking Diet Soda for nourishment.

    Third, Wrex and Miranda weren’t on the Normandy. Miranda was… whatever she said she was doing during the holo-chat. I’ve forgotten. Wrex was leading the Krogan troops on earth, and I’m pretty sure I saw him get killed by that Reaper before Shepard could get the missiles working.

    As for the rest, yeah, pretty much what you said.

    Just wanted to point out that things weren’t looking quite as bleak as you suggested. Nonsensical and badly written, yes, but not the galactic doom you suggested.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Sure,ftl works,but I doubt that the fleet has enough supplies to reach anything large enough to replenish them.Its a war fleet after all,prepared for a suicide mission.

      Even if turians and quarians can find some intact soda amongst the rubble,that would hardly satisfy the whole bunch of them.

      Wrex is on earth,but he had plans for tuchanka,which he wont be seeing now for a looooooooong time.If he didnt die like you said.

      • Sumanai says:

        Someone else has mentioned that the “normal” FTL causes static charge that only dissipates near planets, so you can’t travel too long in the “cold” emptiness of space.

    • zob says:

      It does show earth as ok but only before SOL relay explosion. Earth may have survived the flames of Citadel but SOL relay explodes after that. That is the problem. That causes destruction.

  50. Sandgolem says:

    thank you Shamus, fuck…I was getting really tired of like every game journalist argument against the fan backlash being “You just wanted a happy cake and ice cream ending” I was predicting that Shepard would probably die…I was expecting bittersweet with some closure. I got a slap in the face. This is the last Bioware product that I ever buy. EVER.

  51. Gary says:

    Not that it’s of much relevance, or does change the ending from terribad to slightly less so, but if you acquire +5000 war assets you can actually see a part of a soldiers chest and shoulder taking a gasp for breath, and (s)he’s wearing N7 dog tags.

    So I guess the best case scenario is for some post-ending DLC, but the thing is that it doesn’t matter. With all respect to the other writers of the series, Karpyshyn was the one who held the reins for the interesting story stuff in the series. With him gone, it’s just gonna be another piece written by the different authors. So basically there’s nothing to be done.

    And to those who aren’t aware of Karpyshyn, he’s extremely undervalued (ex?)videogame writer with having major roles in games such as:

    Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn
    Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal
    Neverwinter Nights
    Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark
    Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
    Jade Empire

    And as someone posted it above, here’s the link to his original ME endings http://www.strategyinformer.com/news/17086/mass-effect-writer-drew-karpyshyn-reveals-original-mass-effect-3-endings

  52. AJ says:

    Shamus, I love you man. I mean, none of these are new things to be brought up and the list of huge problems could keep going for another 4 pages of text but you always make me enjoy being upset with something. Somehow you add credibility to arguments I already knew and I appreciate that. So yeah, thanks.

  53. Justaidan says:

    Just chiming in about the Indoctrination Theory.
    At the start before it began to gain momentum the Mass Effect Twitter and Facebook were all “wink wink, wish we could talk about the ending hey heres a link” which lead on the bioware forums discussion possible indoctrination.

    As for subtle hints, did anyone kill Mordin? The gun you use isn’t used in any other cutscenes (which all default to that other one), Shepard throws this gun away afterwards, why? Because it is the gun Mordin gives you in ME2 when you meet him as a sign of “trust”.

    • anaphysik says:

      Oh, wow, it’s the Carnifex? If so, that’s amazing.

      (Did not kill Mordin in my playthrough (could have never brought myself to do that, plus had Wrex and Eve alive), but did see it on a youtube vid, and this does sound plausible from my memory thereof.)

      IIRC, the Carnifex’s in-game marketing is based around a facing down a charging krogan, which would also tie in nicely with throwing it away after preventing the cure.

      (If I had to guess, though, I’d say these were coincidences.)

      • anaphysik says:

        Also should note that I had warned them of the sabotage much earlier. I don’t even think there was an option to try to talk Mordin out of sacrificing himself – simply the option to say “I’m sorry,” to which Mordin responds awesomely.

        • anaphysik says:

          Apparently the pistol you use against the heroic Marauder Shields right before the ending is also a Carnifex. The one Shep uses to shoot the space glowy thing in the Red Explosions end might be the same Carnifex as well?

          If so, I wonder if there’re some added (quite probably unintentional) thematic elements to that sequence, particularly for playthrough in which Mordin sacrifices himself and releases the cure.

  54. My problem with the ending?

    The options you’re given ARE NOT THE ONLY OPTIONS.

    It’s just like the end of Mass Effect 2. Blowing up the base or giving it to Cerberus are NOT your options, and if they are, it’s because the narrative hamstrung you by forcing you in league with Cerberus.

    In Mass Effect 3, you have three options, but they never explain why you can’t do part of one solution and part of another. They try to handwave it, but they never say why the ten thousand other solutions that someone could think of don’t work.

    Good writing explains why the choices are the way they are. They’ve given us interesting choices, but nowhere near the logical range. It’s just like a good GM who hasn’t taken into account player autonomy and comes up with a cool moral dilemma, only to see it get sniped by players who find an alternative.

  55. Matt says:

    Totally agree, and the part about constructing an uber weapon and shooting yourself in the foot to win just made tea come out of my nose :P

  56. […] Mass Effect 3 Ending Deconstruction […]

  57. John Burkhart says:

    Listen to yourselves!

    YOU are indoctrinated.

    Suspicion: It's all been a social experiment. And you *bit*.

    It's going to be the greatest plot twist in the history of gaming (if only to see Penny Arcade be forced to eat crow).

    Because it's a game, they didn't have to show the twist until *everyone* got a chance to experience the twist… at the same time!

    What's more, they got a ton of free publicity.

    Social Indoctrination

    • Sumanai says:

      Not all publicity is good publicity. And Bioware didn’t need more publicity, so there’s nothing to gain from this, unless they intend to make money out of a new ending DLC. But that would further anger people, and make it less likely they’ll buy stuff from them in the future.

      The indoctrination theory, even if it were true, isn’t pulled off well. If you write a story that suffers from inconsistencies and shortcomings, you can’t then use inconsistencies and shortcomings as hints that “what you see isn’t what’s actually going on”. They have repeatedly made decisions that are based on The Rule of Cool and railroaded options before, were all of those signs of the indoctrination too?

    • Kian says:

      There’s no money in social experiments. EA is a company interested in making a profit. You don’t need to be a genius to know that pissing off your customers is a bad business policy. This ending has cost them money.

      It’s cost them the money of people like me, who pre-ordered CE versions but won’t buy another game from them. It’s cost them the money of people who were waiting for reviews to decide whether to buy the game but won’t now that they read the disaster the ending was. It’s cost them the money of people who might have been drawn to buy the game after reading how awesome the trilogy was, were anyone saying that.

      I’ve already seen the game’s price discounted, because there aren’t enough sales. They had the sales for the first week until people started finishing it, then the sales tanked. This ending has cost them millions.

      It’s also counter-productive for their long term strategy. Even had they pulled it off perfectly, and people hadn’t gone on the internet blasting their non-ending, they’d be shooting themselves in the foot. They’d be teaching their customers not to buy the game as soon as it comes out but to wait until the ‘twist’ is out. Companies like pre-orders, they wouldn’t come up with new incentives to avoid them.

      • Sumanai says:

        Make no mistake, if the Indoctrination Theory were true and they would’ve pulled the ending off successfully, there would be no fury online. It would’ve gained them sales instead of hurt them.

        That’s why Bioware did not “pull of the best ending in video games”. Because they have clearly screwed up, regardless of if you believe in the theory or not.

  58. ProudCynic says:

    Sorry if this has already been asked (you guys say a lot!) but are we going to get more posts on ME3? I think Cerberus probably deserves a whole post to mock them, between Kai Leng, the army that they probably could have used against the Collector Base for significantly less headache and their apparent ability to pop up wherever the game designers can’t think of/be arsed to create another enemy type (like that bomb on Tuchanka).

    Oh, and I would like to hear your thoughts on Mordin in the game. And the Geth/Quarian conflict, too. This game did have some really cool writing in it, which just makes the ending that much more awful by comparison.

  59. Dalendria says:

    I just can’t stop posting about this. Perhaps, it is my attempt at purging what I witnessed in the last 10 minutes of an amazing game.

    I heard people talking about not wanting to replay it because of the horrible ending. I have always had multiple replays of Mass Effect games so I just ignored them. I thought they were being a bit overdramatic.

    Now, I am almost done with Thessia on my 2nd playthrough and I can attest that replay value has been hurt by the bad ending. Some of the poignant things that the characters are saying this time around is laughable. Tali wondering what life will be like with the Geth on Rannoch. “It does not matter Tali because almost everyone dies after I set off the Crucible.” Liara grieving over the destruction of Thessia. “So what Liara, I am about to nuke the whole galaxy. So its let the Reapers destroy Thessia now or I will most likely do it later.” The scenes and my effort to collect war assets all seem so stupid on the 2nd playthrough. I was trying to change some things and went with my Renegade Shepard to see the different experiences. But when I play, I do keep thinking about the endings and the fact that the dialogue, sacrifices, collection, combat, etc do not matter – I will either take a breath in rubble or not after picking a color. So Bioware has effectively ruined replay for many and also, future purchases of DLC. Why would I want to go back to a wasteland that my Shepard created? Why would I want to see what happened before when I know it will not change the end? Why will I pay more money to a company that has already shown me it has lost touch with its customer base?

    As this goes on, I find myself getting more disgusted by all of this. I was not angry at first, just confused and disappointed. But I will be angry if it turns out that the ending was written with a DLC in mind. That would put this in the rip-off category.

  60. Johnny says:

    Maybe not having seen any of the marketing, I wasn’t expecting anything. I felt that the ending was, well, good. I’ve been reading up on all the criticism and maybe I’m just crazy or easy to please. The three pronged ending was a difficult choice for me after having played the first 2 right before release and I give mad props to the game for making me put my controller down several times and ponder what could happen, making me care deeply for 1’s and 0’s my Shepard was trying to save. Nothing of this war was going to be pretty and I enjoyed that for even how chosen one-y Shepard is, nothing he could do could return the galaxy to the way it was before. It wasn’t a happy ending, but it didn’t have to be. But I was satisfied.

  61. kevin lv says:

    I loved the catalyst bullet analogy. I think casey and mac may have shot me3 in the foot, if that me3 writer post is true.

    Have you read the dev communication log, off 4chan? It’s talking about a new ip, ‘mass shift’. It would basically continue from me3’s ending, starting with Sol Wars. Shepard would return as some catalyst hybrid named Advent. It could be completely fake, but that whole “hold on to your saves” could be for that.

    If this ending was built around supporting another ip (mass shift or other), it would make sense for bioware to staunchly defend the current ending; since they have a specific idea in the works.

    I hope that’s not the case, or they can full stop, finish me3 and shepard now.

  62. AOPrinciple says:

    This is all great stuff IF the writers had nothing in mind with regard to any kind of indoctrination theory and were as utterly and incredulously inept as he makes them out to be. It’s because that kind of perspective leads to the laughable problems he indicates that I have a hard time understanding why he takes it for granted. Why assume that the writers had no idea how this thing was going to end while making Mass Effect 2?

    This all hinges on his assertion that if Shepard was being indoctrinated “We would know it”. Not at all! That’s a very strange thing to say. I certainly agree that the ending as is, taken at face value, is thematically unrecognizable from the rest of the trilogy and ME3 more immediately. For one, it removes the significance of player choice (not to mention the choices themselves) and reminds the player he is NOT, in fact, Commander Shepard. They’ve spent two games trying to make us believe that we ARE Shepard! Why jump to the conclusion that this is indeed the case? If the writers were actually going to finish the ME series they began, and not a novel by Albert Camus where people jump out windows, what would and should we expect? We should expect that in the final moments they may make an even more radical attempt to immerse the player and unite Shepard with the one (the player) who has lived in this universe through him.

    Throughout the series we have noticed the things Shepard has noticed and seen what he has seen. If Shepard didn’t point something out in the environment, we didn’t get it because he didn’t get it. The rub is that if the final moments of the trilogy (as of yet) are an indoctrination attempt by Harbinger we would view the world as Shepard views it. An attempt to indoctrinate Shepard is at the same time an attempt to indoctrinate the player!

    This makes sense not only theoretically but grants insight with which to understand otherwise altogether odd in-game occurrences under different circumstances. More and more are coming around the indoctrination theory in general because it is the most reasonable interpretation. It makes the story coherent, adds real depth and gravity to the experience, and makes the writers out to be the great storytellers we’ve known them to be since ME1. It also sheds light on extra-narrative content like the otherwise cryptic tweets left by Bioware employees. For as well thought out and written as this piece is, it’s based on a remarkably uncharitable and faulty assumption.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      However,they arent such great writers,as they have shown multiple times.They can shine at times,yes,but not always.

      Also,this was always advertised and talked about as trilogy.Me3 was advertised to be the game that answers all.And if that answer comes in a dlcs,then it will be just a rip-off.

      So,in the end,no matter what happens,it will be bad.Because bioware will either end up being really bad at writing,or sleazy at business.

      • anaphysik says:

        My general belief on the matter is that they produced something “that would cause a lot of speculation” because they had no idea how to do the ending. BioWare was basically putting out their ‘artistic’ ending so that fans would do the actual work for them of explaining it.

        Indoctrination/hallucination theory simply happens to fit the nonsense BioWare produced uncannily well, and now they’re in a fine position to pluck all that creative work and produce an actual continuation ending to the game.

        I mean, really, it doesn’t matter if it was truly their original intention all along (heck, or even from the very beginning (which would be completely unbelievable)) – plagiarizing the fans is the way I and many others will see it should BioWare go that path. And if they don’t produce (in the sense of fund, primarily) the creative output these fans have put together, then they really will have left the series at a shitty place.

        So, yes, indeed, your assessment of ‘screwed it up either way’ is very in line with my thinking.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      Look, it doesn’t matter if the Indoctrination Theory happens to be true, it doesn’t change the fact that the entire thing is poorly written.

      Why give us the best ending after getting the least amount of resources? Why all the endings look the same, be they real or not? Why is Shepard an idiot? Why, be it good or bad, real or in your mind, the relays get destroyed, killing billions and condemning billions more?

      The Indoctrination Theory doesn’t fix things, it only makes them stupid in a different way.

  63. Chuck says:

    I **LIKED** the ending. I chose the green ending, which I suspect most people choose by default given their predilection to charge headlong into Brilliant Shafts Of Godly Transcendence.

    Lack closure? Holy crap, you just brought an end to an otherwise eternal cycle of bloodshed by martyring yourself and bringing about a reign of peace and “eternal life” for the civilizations of the galaxy (or at least longer than a few cycles). I’m pretty sure that’s a note to go out on. exeunt.

    What I didn’t like was how abrupt and disjointed the whole ending sequence was, starting from the weird slow-mo-marionette faceoff (concluding with yet another baddie shooting himself in the head to get away from Jennifer Hale’s raspy voice). Yes, the cycle is well established, but the notion that it was being directed externally was only hinted at, and never for a reason. When Sovereign spoke on Vermire, it was chilling. How cool would it have been to have the “big picture” of the cycle explained by Harbinger?

    Great ending, just terribly flawed in execution, not concept.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Lack closure? Holy crap, you just brought an end to an otherwise eternal cycle of bloodshed by martyring yourself and bringing about a reign of peace and “eternal life” for the civilizations of the galaxy (or at least longer than a few cycles).”

      But you didnt do that.You removed one extinction,and replaced it with another.Even if we assume that the ending explosion of mass relays is somehow different,there is still he problem of that huge fleet above the devastated earth,that cant go anywhere,and will be needing plethora of food soon.And then all the colonies that were devastated by war and cannot rebuild on their own.Therell be no peace,and certainly no eternal life for the majority of the galaxy(geth excluded).

1 2 3

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Nothing to See Here « Lee Collins Fiction on Friday Mar 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    […] a substitute for any content of my own, I will direct you to this fantastic deconstruction of Mass Effect 3‘s ending by one of my blogging role models, Shamus Young. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the […]

  2. By Mass Effect 3 « adrift on Saturday Mar 24, 2012 at 11:07 am

    […] Mass Effect 3 Ending Deconstruction […]

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *


Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>