Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Mass Effect 3 Ending

So, after eschewing the internet for any Mass Effect 3 related content last week, I finally got round to finishing the game over the weekend. To say the ending to my generation's most epic sci-fi saga left me in a state of 'WTF' would be an understatement. My initial reactions were something along the lines of 'This can't be it?!'. 'It doesn't make any sense!'. 'Have I missed something?!'. Seeking clarity I immediately made a bee-line for the interwebz in search of answers. What I found was the biggest cacophony of rage against a finale since that directed against TV show Lost. So bellowing was some of the vitriol that I even began to doubt the old adage that 'in space no one can hear you scream'.

Warning, spoilers ahead.

To say Mass Effect 3 deserves the backlash it's currently receiving wouldn't necessarily be false. However, I am also in a minority of fans who think that many of the criticisms against it have been blown out of proportion. As the dust begins to settle, two camps have emerged over the interpretation of the final fifteen-minutes of Shepard's odyssey. On the one hand we have the majority who think it is the biggest cock-up since Hitler decided to invade Russia. As a standalone ending they're right. Taken literally, Mass Effect 3's grand finale is complete nonsense, tantamount to nothing more than lazy writing and/or EA pushing BioWare to meet deadlines. On the other however is a growing minority of fans who have postulated an incredibly compelling theory based on almost recondite 'evidence' given throughout the experience. Dubbed 'Indoctrination Theory', to date it remains the only possible explanation which makes any sense out of an otherwise utterly shitty ending. (Don't watch if you haven't completed the game yet).
Certainly there's a lot of evidence to support 'IT', although there is an equal case to be made that some fans are so desperate for answers that they've gone to elaborate lengths trying to create meaning where there is none. But while accusations of apophenia fly around, no one has yet managed to seriously discredit the theory either. If this interpretation proves to be correct, then BioWare may actually have achieved something so subtle, so insidiously clever, that to even attempt it is preposterously ingenious. It would genuinely represent one of the most adroit meta conclusions in science fiction ever. If, however, the masses are correct in saying BioWare aren't clever enough to have intended this, or were even stupid enough to attempt something so audacious and potentially polarising at risk of ostracising millions of fans, then Mass Effect 3's ending represents the most calamitous fuck-up in videogame history. It's an incredibly fine line to walk. And yet, even if 'IT' was never determined from the start as some suggest (alleged original ending), fans have nevertheless provided BioWare a lifeline to run with for when they finally do decide to comment. It really is that persuasive.

Indeed, since the raucous erupted BioWare have remained silent on the issue. So pissed were some gamers that they managed to set up a fund which raised $70,000 within a couple of days toward getting the ending completely rewritten and released as a patch. What irks most however, including those who subscribe to 'IT', is that for such a genre defining franchise of such epic proportions the final part of the trilogy failed to provide us with any finality. While concerns of overly saccharine endings are noted, there actually would have been nothing wrong with entering Spielbergian realms of sentimentality and predictability by giving Mass Effect 3 a vaguely mawkish ending because it would have satisfied fans regardless. In fact, judging from most fan reactions it seems to be the kind of conclusion many were quietly hoping for. We have been through hell and back with these characters. We've become attached to them. Likewise, they have also left indelible marks on us. We want to know what happened to them. Above all, we want closure.

Despite refusing to comment on any of the speculation BioWare have since gone into full PR mode, stating that they are taking fan criticisms very seriously. While planned DLC is supposed to be set before the final mission, perhaps the vehement backlash against ME3's ending will force them to reconsider that position. While I personally don't want the ending rewritten, I do wish for some lucidity. Above all though I want closure, perhaps in the form of some sort of epilogue. It's the least BioWare could do, and fans may well expect any such addition to be free. Should EA and BioWare decide to charge extra for 'fixing' an 'incomplete' game, then they might find themselves wishing to be harvested by the Reapers rather than face the subsequent shit storm which would likely ensue.