Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut

The ending to Mass Effect 3 is fundamentally, fatally, flawed. Barring a complete rewrite, it cannot be fixed, and will never rise to the standard of a good ending, let alone a great one.

That being said, the Extended Cut is a vast improvement over the previous ending. This ending is significantly stronger, and significantly more cohesive. The Extended Cut is still a poor ending, and is not the ending the Mass Effect series deserves. But it is better than the absolute travesty that preceded it.

(Spoilers below the cut!)


Strengths

There are two major strengths of the Extended Cut.

First, it cleans up a lot of the unanswered questions surrounding the Choice that were alluded to. Why was the Normandy escaping? How did your comrades on the ground get on the ship? How do you control the Reapers when you are dead? The reasons given are good enough.

It also clarifies who the starchild is, making it pretty clear that its an AI that went rogue and turned on its creators. Why we now trust it to elucidate our choices is not clear, but I guess we just run with it.

The other strength is that it clarifies the aftermath of the Choice, showing what happens to the galaxy and your comrades after your choice. They also got rid of that silly "Into Eden" ending, making it obvious that it was just temporary, rather than a cliche.

Weaknesses

The weakness of the Extended Cut is the same as the original ending of Mass Effect 3: the Choice at the top of the Citadel.

I started detailing this weakness, but it got very long, so I'll turn it into a separate post. But basically, if you were unhappy with the Choice before, I expect that you will be unhappy with the Choice now.

Other Details

One minor change I noticed is that during the Battle for Earth there's a sequence where a civilian radios in for help and a medic walks her through bandaging a wounded soldier. In my original game, the civilian failed to save the soldier. Then when a husk approached she took the soldier's gun and commits suicide rather than suffer being harvested. It was quite tragic and shocking, especially as it was purely done over the radio/phone. But in the new play-through, the civilian saves the soldier, and everything works out. I'm not sure if this is an actual change, or if it's a consequence of the lower EMS ratings needed for the "best" endings.

Sadly, they didn't change The Illusive Man confrontation. It's still the impossible Paragon conversation option and double Renegade actions.

There is one new ending: Refusal. If you refuse to make a choice--or if you are like me and Azuriel, you shoot the starchild in the head at the first opportunity--a new ending triggers. In this ending the Reapers win and wipe out everyone. But the information Liara leaves behind allows the next cycle to defeat the Reapers once and for all. Possibly because Liara leaves better clues than the Protheans.

This is actually a really good ending. It makes sense in terms of what came before. It is a real consequence of your choices. The only bad thing about this ending is to get it you have to deliberately spurn the "real" choices, deliberately condemn everyone to death. If this ending had been unavoidable, maybe if your EMS rating was too low, it would have been a solid option.

Of the aftermaths, in my opinion, the best one is Control. Shepard as the Ascended God-Queen of the galaxy, guarding if Paragon, ruling if Renegade. It's totally in character, and so very Dune.

The aftermaths are all well done, and worth seeing.

Finally, baby Krogans! I'm pretty sure this whole kerfluffle was worth it for that one slide.

Conclusions

The weakness of the Extended Cut is the same as the original ending of Mass Effect 3: the Choice at the top of the Citadel. But everything around that Choice has been made as strong as it could be. A lot of the questions surrounding the ending have been fleshed out and answered. The ending is stronger and more cohesive for this.

But the Choice is still a gaping wound. A fatal weakness.

If the original ending was an F, I would say that this ending drags that up to a C.

However, Mass Effect is arguably the seminal science fiction work of the last decade, and it is extremely unfortunate that the ending does not live up to the rest of the series.

11 comments:

Rohan said...

Durentis posted this comment to a previous posted. I deleted it because of spoilers, and am reposting it here.

Though I'm sure I'm in the minority, a quick search shows that Bioware didn't cave on their excellent ending, so I'm happy. And I get new content. :)

I firmly believe that ME3 is about making difficult choices that have universal consequences. ME3 is only about killing the Reapers from the council's standpoint. It's equally about controlling the Reapers from the Illusive Man's standpoint, he did give you life for this result after all. It's equally about synthesis of man and machine, which you learn about, among other end-relevant lessons, in your dealings with the Geth and Quarians. You are put in a unique position to be responsible for the fate of man and machine.

The ending was very well set up. I think if you play through it with the idea of choice and consequence rather than the more simple "death to the Reapers, long live Huamnity" idea, the game will seem much more epic and well delivered.

It's all about choice.. do I dare take the time to recruit everybody? But if I recruit X, Y dies.. is X worth it or is it even right to sacrifice Y to begin with? Do these scientists really need better medi-gel at a time like this?

What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, such that I should choose one ending over another?

Shintar said...

So... TOR or TSW? :P

Rohan said...

Heh, I don't know. I'm going out of town, so I'll push off the decision until later.

Ephemeron said...

"It's still the impossible Paragon conversation option..."

What's so impossible about it?

Vrykerion said...

'It's totally in character, and so very Dune.'

Oh man, I just did the Control ending last night and you are dead on. I was regretting not naming my Shep, Leto II after seeing that!

But I missed the Krogan babies. :( I got to see the Krogan kill each other into extinction instead. >.>

For me personally, I actually enjoyed the original endings, and the extended cut just made me love it more. I know I'm in the minority on that one but meh. Can't wait to finish my other playthroughs and see what they did with the other ones. (No YouTubing for me. That's the easy way out I say. Easy way out!)

Anonymous said...

"It's still the impossible Paragon conversation option..."

It isnt just the Paragon choice that can be "impossible" to choose. The mechanic is that as Shepard you need to explore the 'left-hand conversation options' in order to get a Paragon/Renegade choice to throw back during the convo, each time you talk to the Illusive Man (I think its three times, Mars, Thessia and someplace else, I forget). Anyway, you have to explore and choose those Persuasion options EACH OF THE THREE TIMES to get the "impossible" Paragon/Renegade choices to light up during the final confrontation with the IM.

dahut said...

Yeah I agree it's still a mediocre ending. But at least now it's fairly logical, just contrived.

The worst thing about the ending was the idea of "choice" and that's ignoring the plagiarizing from Deus Ex and the literal manifestation of a Deus Ex Machina. )The whole Starchild construct negates the possible effects that your choices leading up to the confrontation could have made.

The missions up to the end were all literally side-quests. You could have skipped to the Earth showdown with the McGuffin in hand and voila you're a machine god, everyone's a cyborg, or bye bye machines. Well now a screw you mister AI option.

The Renaissance Man said...

Bioware's ending still shows that the bedrock foundation of the entire story, and their go to mode of creativity is still incredibly plagiarized. And poorly plagiarized at that. The things that Bioware stripped out from David Weber's book were what justified the ending. Without those elements, the ending is still completely detached from the rest of the narrative and hopelessly adrift with all the other shitty deus ex machinas that flawed writers have fled to over the years.

RJ said...

Sadly, they didn't change The Illusive Man confrontation. It's still the impossible Paragon conversation option and double Renegade actions.

I have to repeat another commentator's question. What's impossible about it? Getting full regular Paragon/Renegade requires certain convince choices during the game; choices I guess you didn't make.

Rohan said...

Well, I suppose it's not technically impossible. But I was pure Paragon through the entire game. Every time I saw a Paragon option I took it.

Personally, I thought I was 'Paragon enough' that the final Paragon option should have been unlocked.

I think the thing is that I don't see where I went wrong. If I had made a Renegade choice somewhere, then yeah, I could see not getting the Paragon unlock.

RJ said...

I don't really want to be spoilery about it, but what did you do with Illusive Man every time you saw him?