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No, they didn't like the end because (my view) it wasn't an END. Take something like, okay, take Star Wars.

Now, imagine that the movie shows the Death Star explode...and then the credits roll.

Is that really enough?

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No, they didn't like the end because (my view) it wasn't an END. Take something like, okay, take Star Wars.

Now, imagine that the movie shows the Death Star explode...and then the credits roll.

Is that really enough?

It is, and it isn't, but what comes after isn't "the end" to me so much as an epilogue. It's the "and then?" portion.

epilogue - n. - a short postscript to any literary work, such as a brief description of the fates of the characters in a novel

Did we need to see Luke and Han get medals? Not really, that added nothing to the plot. Did we need to see R2 repaired? No, but it was satisfying to do so. Everything after the destruction of the Death Star was epilogue, the icing on the cake, nice to see, and certainly nice closure to the character's stories, but it had nothing to do with the end of the plot.

At least that's how I see it.

To use a different example: Terminator (the first one). Sarah Connor crushes the T-100 (101?) in the hydraulic press and is taken to the hospital. That's the end. It completes the plot of the movie. The scene in the desert with the storm and the kid with the photograph and the voice over, that was not a required part of the story, it was epilogue.

edit: alternatively its a coda - n. - a concluding part of a literary work, esp a summary at the end of a novel of further developments in the lives of the characters

Ganted, these games are not, strictly speaking, literary works, but I think its understood that these terms apply to any story telling media at this point.

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Epilogues may not have to do with the plot, but they have everything to do with our appreciation of the plot. The French have a word; denouement. It describes the part of the story immediately following its climax, where the tension and angst that were built up in anticipation are bled off in catharsis. We need those moments.

Anyway, to extend the Star Wars simile...now imagine that the movie showed the X-wings heading for the Death Star. It showed some dogfighting. Then it showed Luke making the shot into the exhaust port. Explosion. Credits.

Would THAT be enough? That's closer to how it felt to me. Functional, in that it shows what needs to be shown to understand what's happening, but unsatisfying.

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Yes, that makes more sense.

That said, Gabe over Penny Arcade points out that one could argue just as easily that the entire game of ME3 is the denouement of the series.

Ultimately though I don't really have an opinion one way or the other since I have not played more than about 20 minutes of the first game. I find the story intriguing but I disliked the playstyle of the game, much in the way that I disliked it back when it was call KotOR. I've mostly been curious because it is interesting, to me, to see fan reactions and to try and understand them. :D

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You can indeed argue that, and I agree. I have no problem at all with 99% of the game. In act, I adore it.

I didn't understand the ending at first, mostly because I -know- Bioware knows how to make awesome endings. Then I analyzed the available evidence and decided that the game isn't over yet. The conclusion of Shepard's story has yet to be announced.

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I'd buy the "there's no epilogue/coda" complaint, except we DID have one - the scene, post-credits, in a far off future where a grandfather talks to his grandson about the legend of Commander Shepard.

It's on an unfamiliar world, or at least, a radically altered Earth; yet they know the legend of Commander Shepard, suggesting that Shepard's deeds are remembered, even if the specifics fade to time. The grandfather is quite confident that his grandson will see the stars, and then channels Carl Sagan for a little bit.

Now, people can say that that coda wasn't the coda they wanted, telling them what happened on all the worlds they visited after the relay network collapsed - and fair enough, though without a relay network, we'll never really know. (That said, QEC doesn't require the relay network - if they get the main Arcturus Fleet QEC relay working then FTL communication would be possible again.) But saying that there's no epilogue at all? I don't really buy that.

Basically, don't get your hopes up for a more detailed ending or a different one. I personally wouldn't MIND a more detailed ending - but a different one, I feel, would cause more problems than it solves. If video games are art - and Mass Effect is as salient an argument in favor of that as any game you'll find - then for better or for worse, we must take the artist's statement as it is, because while the art may be interpreted by us, it ultimately is NOT ours. It's Bioware's. We may have gone down a certain path here, made a certain choice there, but Bioware gave us all those choices, through harder work than most of us will ever toil in. (One of the reasons I never considered a career in game design is because I don't love games enough to commit to 80 hour weeks making them.)

Yes, this means George Lucas is free to tinker with Star Wars until it resembles Spaceballs. Yes, this means that the ending of The Prisoner will always be maddeningly surreal and open to interpretation (the hate mail for it was so intense that Patrick McGoohan had to go into hiding.) That's the price. If after I released something someone demanded I rewrote the ending, I would be under no obligation to accomodate them, and therefore I shouldn't expect someone to accomodate me. Especially since my in-head "perfect ending" was always "Shepard dies and the relays are destroyed." Any changes I'd personally make would boil down to fixing punctuation.

Also, after visiting the Bioware forums, going into the Tali thread, reading about the guy who purposedfully got Tali exiled so that "she'd never leave the Normandy," and then watching everyone nod in agreement and no one whatsoever point out how much like "Misery" this was, I have backed away very slowly from the Bioware forums and try to forget they exist. I don't need four thousand anonymous people telling me what an idiot I am for enjoying the ending. I much prefer the more civil discussion we're having here.

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In my case it's not so much a case of getting my hopes up as much as it is an earnest taking into account all relevant evidence. Everything I see points to a multistaged ending being the plan from the start.

If there isn't more, then it represents a mistake on my part in assigning too much meaning to events that turned out not to have any.

It just seems unlikely that it'll come to that to me so far.

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I would sincerly like a gag ending where the Illusive Man's face is ripped off and we find out he was Richard L. Jenkins all along, faking his death to get the Prothean artifacts, and he woulda gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for that meddling Commander Shepard.

One thing the ending is sadly doing is sucking all the oxygen out of discussion related to... the whole rest of the game, which is probably the best written video game ever made. There is an advertisement on the Citadel that is, essentially, an entire script to an 80's buddy cop movie with Blasto teaming up with an elcor C-Sec agent who doesn't have patience for Blasto and who goes by the book. It has eclipsed "Sixty Dollars!!" from Portal 2 as my favorite video game gag of all time. It is a salient argument for the justification of our species. It's amazing.

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Well, this is interesting. Casey Hudson up and says "we have not seen the last of Commander Shepard."

No idea what this means, but since Shepard pretty clearly dies in most endings, this will either be Magic Ghost Shepard, Younger Shepard, or Retconed Shepard. This will be interesting to watch.

One thing Hudson intelligently points out is that in many ways, ALL of Mass Effect 3 is "the ending." We see the conclusion to the genophage, for example, and the final resolution of the geth-quarian conflict, and the closing of your romantic subplot. It's probably why I wasn't bothered with the supposed lack of cloture - to me the entire game has been about cloture. The ending was merely the cloture to the Reaper plot, which as much of a driving force as it is, is not the only thing going on in the galaxy.

Interesting stuff.

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Oh don't get me wrong...I love Mass Effect 3 like the child I never had. It is not PERHAPS the best game I've ever played, ending and all, it IS the best game I've ever played.

However, I am still quite sure that the ending of the game as we've seen so far is not the real ending. It's something else. What, we'll have to wait and see.

Me, I like the scene where you go target shooting with Garrus. It's his favorite place in the Citadel. :)

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I missed that scene first playthrough. My infiltrator will definitely seek it out, since "get drunk on space beer with Garrus and shoot space beer bottles" is a DLC pack I'd pay the price of a full game for. Do I need to be romancing Garrus to do it?

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Nope! Garrus and my Shep were just old war buddies.

It happens fairly late in the game if I recall right...somewhere between the attack on the Citadel, and Rannoch. Garrus notices Shep getting moody and overly serious about everything and recommends she get some R&R. She says okay, but doesn't...so later on Garrus sends an email saying Shep should meet him on the Citadel next time they dock there. They take a skycar up onto the very top of one of those bridges across the Presidium and they hang out there, chilling and target shooting.

You have an option to shame him, or let him win.


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On the other hand they've also raised 50,000 dollars for charity to spotlight their cause.

The ending of ME 3 is not an ending. Endings do not introduce 2 new concepts in ten minutes. Endings exist to resolve issues that have been raised during the body of the narrative.

And the 'ending shouldn't be changed because its art' defense is invalid and hasn't ever been valid. Videogames are a very different form of art than either movies or books, they're far more interactive and they can be changed post-creation as was demonstrated in Fallout 3: Broken Steel. And in that case it was absolutely for the better. In a literary example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle changed the ending of Sherlock Holmes (so to speak) for essentially the same reason as Bioware - if they actually do it.

The other thing is that this is a story people have sunk fifty, sixty hours and over a hundred dollars (minimum, assuming everything bought new, not including DLC) into. Bioware have admitted to changing things based on fan interest (Tali as a romance interest etc.). They have already changed it to please the fans. So there's no reason why they shouldn't do it now when 60+ per cent of the gamers loath their ending with such burning fiery passion that they are cancelling subscriptions to SWTOR over it, boycotting Bioware as a company and hosting charity drives to try and get a better ending.

It's a pure financial issue in the end. if EA perceive this as something which will harm Bioware going forward, you better believe there'll be an executive order handed down in no time.

A further issue: Bioware mislead their fanbase horrifically with ME 3. There's a very big thread on the forums just listing the promotional interviews and the things they promised. Some of them - in interviews giving very close to release - skirt so close to outright lying that it's amazing they could keep a straight face.

The real reason to change it, though, is simply because it sucks, and the technological platform it was created on permits them to do this. Bioware have crafted an ending which does not breed satisfaction, or happiness, or enjoyment, in the large part it's creating seething hatred and outrage. And they did it with a sloppily edited, lazily written, pretentious screed that obliterates the entire ME universe from the ground up.

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The problem I have with the Green Science ending is that this choice is being forced upon the entire galaxy regardless of their wishes. If you choose the Green Science, Elcore refugees on a spacecraft far away from the Sol system are suddenly and irrevocably altered. Species that are not advanced enough to be a concern to the Reapers are instantly transformed in some unexplanable "event" that their science will never be able to explain. It's a TERRIBLE choice to make, and the only reason it is remotely appealing is because it would spare EDI and your possible Geth allies the fate that apparently awaits them in the Red Science ending, or the lack of free will that could potentially await them in the Blue Science ending. Is it worth saving the Geth and EDI at the cost of enforcing this transformation on the remaining life in the galaxy? We haven't even asked the question of whether or not the Geth, or EDI, desires to be partly organic? It could be that they would prefer death over an unwanted metamorphosis as that. We simply don't know.

In matters such as this, the best choice may have been to simply not choose and let the battle play out as it would, likely ending with a devastating Reaper victory. C'est la vie. We weren't given the option to bleed out at the feet of the god child just to spite him.

It would be so easy to hate ME3. I want to hate ME3. I hate the endings, all of them that I have seen and played through, with a terrible fury.

But the game itself is wonderful and at times even sublime. It's amazing how those 5 minutes can completely diminish the experience of 39 hours, 55 minutes of play prior to it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So this happened today:

  • Though we remain committed and are proud of the artistic choices we made in the main game, we are aware that there are some fans who would like more closure to Mass Effect 3. The goal of the (upcoming) DLC is not to provide a new ending to the game, rather to offer fans additional context and answers to the end of Commander Shepard’s story.

Essentially: Bioware is extending the ending (because it being something like an hour and a half long isn't long enough, I guess) but not significantly changing it.

This is probably the best overall path to take, speaking as someone who was overall happy with the ending, but wrote Bioware a five-page letter detailing what tweaks I thought they should make (and what they ought to leave alone.) I happen to like the ambiguity of what happens after Shepard uses the Crucible, since none of us know what'll happen after we die - but this'll be fine too. My big dread - that they'd charge money for it - has been laid to rest. Bioware is going to eat a significant cost on putting out this content, in fact.

"But the technology exists to change the game, so they should change it to the fanfiction I've been writing something else." Let me put it this way. Suppose that a massive undertaking is implemented, and people engage in a social media and letter-writing campaign, and say "well, we're affiliated with charity and therefore immune to criticism," and Bioware finally changes its position... and announces that in the next patch, same-sex relationships will be removed from the game. I'm uncomfortable with the notion that it's okay to change a work of artistic merit post-release for that reason. Thankfully, "the worst company in America" - Monsanto must be so relieved - is holding firm on this.

It's a testament to how effective Bioware's been at customizing the Mass Effect universe to the user's personal experience that people have taken the leap from that to thinking they "own" the game and can therefore "retake" it. But that's not the case and never was. Every choice that I made was there because someone at Bioware wrote it, acted it out, and programmed it in. It's a wonderful sandbox, but ultimately the castles I made are made out of Bioware's sand.

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I've never been one to claim Bioware should re-do the ending. I'm sympathetic to the complaints, because I understand where they're coming from...but I think they asked too much.

Extending the ending (and the ending is only about 15 minutes long, Priority: Earth is not the ending :)) is a good solution. It is in fact probably the only real solution. There are stories that can get away with ambiguity...I don't think Mass Effect is one of them. The game has been about exhaustive detail and explanation right from the start. You can't build that up, and then suddenly switch to ambiguity, and expect it to fly.

Anyway, I'm encouraged. Though I still sense there are pieces of this puzzle that are missing. Something is still amiss. Perhaps we'll learn more tomorrow at the panel discussion.

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  • 2 months later...

So the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut just dropped and I just played it. I chose the Control ending and will tend to the others tomorrow.

Short answer: damn near perfect.

Long answer is in spoilers.

So Many Secrets
- but first, one of two complaints, and that is that Shepard still moves too dang slow at the end. The first time it had tremendous impact, as my running, gunning she-devil warrior goddess was reduced to crawling an inch at a time. The subsequent times I found myself unconsciously holding Spacebar in the hopes that maybe I wasn't pressing it long enough.

- there's not a lot of content before the beam, but there is some. In particular, you see what happened to the rest of Shepard's squad and how they got onto the Normandy.

- after the beam is where the bulk of it comes in. We learn why the Normandy was on its way through the relay, that the relay did not wipe out the solar system (the animation is changed to show the power core collapsing instead of exploding.) We see what happened to all the old gang and to the planets they lived on and the people they belonged to. The only person I didn't spot in the end was Zaeed - and it might just be that he finally wound up getting himself killed instead of everyone around him.

- The extra cinematics comprised about fifteen minutes for me. I have heard that there are not only different ones for each choice, but different flavors depending on Paragon or Renegade. There are also different effects for different levels of readiness for Destroy, and there is a FOURTH option added - which technically means a change in the ending, but this is not an option so much as an anti-option. Shepard can choose to reject the use of the Crucible. What happens after, I don't know yet.

- The most controversial scene - the one with the Catalyst - is dramatically expanded. Shepard can ask the Catalyst questions about its origins, its purpose, what the Reapers are, how the Crucible works, what the effects of each choice will be. The one that dug at me the most - why is the Catalyst helping Shepard - is answered. I'm still chewing on the answer.

- My interpretation of the circumstances and why I picked Control - which is that a benevolent Shepard would help rebuild the relays - was borne out almost exactly how I pictured it, to the point I'm pretty sure Bioware did some manner of brain-scan on me. (Or they read my very polite letter.) Control is closed out by Jennifer Fucking Hale giving the closing speech as the AI born from Shepard's brain patterns, and it's Jennifer Hale at her Jennifer Halest. Worth the price I paid for the download on its own (which was free.) But this led to my other complaint, which is that we see the Normandy leaving the uncharted planet to head back to the stars, the relays having been rebuilt. That to me is maybe... a little TOO sunshine? A little too quick for what is a frankly tremendous sacrifice. But then again, I'm the one who chose to control the Reapers, so maybe I need to pick Destroy if I want to stick to my interpretation that we had to divest ourselves of the relay technology and its nature as a trap - after all, there is a new trapmaster and she is benevolent.

- Shepard gets to say goodbye to Liara. Presumably this applies to any one of his or her LIs.

- Buzz Aldrin still does his best Carl Sagan impersonation. I am of the opinion that when someone goes to the Moon they can talk about how great outer space is whenever they want and we all have to let them. I know that's not the law. It should be.

- At the very end, there is a thank you note from the Mass Effect team. Holly Conrad's name is in the credits under Special Thanks. The Faunts song is still awesome.

Like I said, damn near perfect. Not quite perfect, but nothing's perfect with the possible exception of Hot Fuzz. Any nits I could pick off this thing are dramatically outweighed by its thematic and emotional resonance. I can't honestly think of any other video game that's stuck with me like this.

I haven't got a clue how they'll reconcile all these endings with a hypothetical Mass Effect 4, unless they pick a 'canon Shep.' That, perhaps, is the ultimate sign of customization - that the possibilities have grown too large for any single game. Myself, I'd be happy if they let three games be enough and focused on building new worlds. Whatever Bioware chooses to do next, they have a customer in me for as long as they make games and I can still buy them.

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I'd like to add a bit to this.

I picked Destroy again for my first run through. Just getting that out early.

Mike's right. There's hardly any new stuff before the finale. There IS a little bit on Earth that's new, especially in the run to the Conduit where the gaping plot hole of how your team got back on the Normandy is explained. My first reaction to that was, "Why is Harbinger not shooting the Normandy?" But then I thought about it and decided that it made sense. Harbinger is guarding the conduit. It doesn't CARE about the Normandy. The Normandy won't zap up to the Citadel and push the Big Red Button.

So yeah, that was okay on some reflection.

The run to the beam is the same once Shep wakes up. Husks, Marauder Shields and all. When Shep gets to the Citadel, there's an all new sequence where the dialogue between Shep and Anderson plays during a cutscene, not during a player-controlled shamble. When you DO get control of Shep, she's moving at a pretty good clip, comparatively speaking (though still wounded, so still slower than normal). Also, they changed a tiny but important piece of dialogue. Anderson now claims that he followed Shep up, not that he got there ahead of her...and that instantly relaxed my continuity gag reflexes. Much more better now.

Illusive Man confrontation, basically the same. I suspect they made one or two subtle changes in wording, but it's been so long I can't tell for sure, and it's nothing that changes the semantic content. The scene with Anderson and Shep chillin' is still there, and still great. A small scene was added prior to the Citadel Arms opening, where Hackett is shown to be back on an Alliance cruiser (not the Normandy anymore), and is giving orders to the fleet to escort the Crucible towards the Citadel...setting up the scene later on where the Crucible is deployed.

The scene with the Catalyst is greatly expanded, and makes more sense. Significantly more. It also creates a dark, dark humorous irony out of what had been a logical paradox. Observers have always noted that it was weird that an AI would wage war on organics in order to save organics from having war waged on them by synthetics. The motivations and background of the Reaper cycle, and how it came to be are now more explicated...with the note that the race that originally created the intelligence that would one day become the Catalyst was also its first victim.

This is the reason why I rejected Control...which is actually much better explained and therefore more tempting. But then I thought, "You know, the Citadel AI used to be benevolent too...but eventually it reached a conclusion to which the logical answer (in its own logic) was the Reapers. Who's to say that the Shep, after a few hundred years of being rah-rah-organics, might decide that maybe the Catalyst was right after all? How much death and pain and stupidity can the Shepard AI witness before it finally decides that it's been naive, and that the best way to save organics from themselves is make sure they never develop to the point that they can annihilate one another?

Just sayin'.

The Destroy ending still kills all synthetics, though the Catalyst explains this much more effectively now, avoiding confusion and making it feel more like a natural part of the process rather than a vicious little stab in the back.

The Synthesis ending is still space magic, and I think the writers dropped a minor ball when they tried to explain why the Reapers had never synthesized in the past. It would have made more sense for the Catalyst to explain that the Reapers WERE a form of synthesis; the only form possible without the vast energies of the Crucible at its disposal. The enthusiasm of the Catalyst for that option reinforces something that I think was understated...that the Catalyst is not an omniscient 'god' being. It's not even terribly smart by human standards. Rather, it has a vast trove of stored information, but it hasn't innovated or changed its pattern in millions of years. It is completely resistant to the notion that change is possible, or that its conclusions may be in error. But wheras before that seemed like poor writing, now it's a bit more underscored. It's mulish stubbornness in insisting that synthetic-organic war is always inevitable, contrasted with its childish (hee) enthusiasm for the synthesis option (which, coincidentally, is the option that fulfills its original programming) paint a picture of the Catalyst as an intelligence with opinions and a personal agenda that it's trying to push. This, in turn, makes me feel better about the ending. It's no longer a literal deus ex machina, though it remains true that Shep's options are limited once she gets to that point. She can either choose which way to use the Crucible, or condemn Earth and the galaxy to the slow harvest and genocide of the Reapers. This choice is at least realistic, and consistent with the game's assertions and narrative to that point.

The epilogues are fun. My game was pretty freakily Paragon, so I got bright chirpy happy epilogues. I even saw Zaeed kicking back with a brewski. Kasumi obsessing over her grey box. Samara and Falere hanging out. Etc.

What I feel is interesting is not the crewmember epilogues included, but the ones NOT included.

No one in the ME3 crew gets an epilogue, for example. Neither does Jack. This, combined with the new sequence of the repaired Normandy leaving Jungle Planet, makes me think there may be some post-game DLC planned. I need to try again, in an ending where Shep doesn't survive. I feel that might make a difference. But it might not. We'll see.

Anyway, it's not the exact same verbatim ME3 ending I would have written had I been project lead from the start...but if the Extended Cut had been how ME3 shipped, I never would have even looked at the forums to know anyone didn't like it. The EC gave me the feeling of closure and the warm fuzziness that comes from that. It gave me what I needed.

And it didn't yank the carpet out from under my Mass Effect game's premise. Yay. :)

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Expanding a Little

One thing that's frequently forgotten about the Reapers is that they technically aren't purely machines, but rather, cybernetic organisms. They are, as Max described way back when Mass Effect 2 dropped, literal Leviathans, monsters made from the bodies of men. From their perspective, they aren't killing us. It's right there in Harbinger's taunts as you escape the Collector Base: "the ones you call Reapers are your salvation through destruction."

They are closer to the Borg Collective or the Cybermen - their goal is salvation through assimilation. It's okay that you're scared and that you're going to fight back, because those are the urges that they will burn out of you when they grind you down into raw material for the next Reaper. Of course, the Reapers are wrong - they're villains, so DUH - but they're wrong and also unfathomably powerful, and that's just as well as being right.

"But waging war in the name of peace is a contradiction!" Welcome to the history of warfare. And Mass Effect 3, is at its heart, about war. Yes, the Reapers are hypocrites and set in their ways, unwilling to consider new thinking - they would hardly be the first sentients in history to do this.

That out of the way, Destroy looks a lot more palatable as an option here, especially in my initial playthrough where I fell off the Rannoch Tightrope and had to choose the quarians over the geth, since the quarians might be stubborn and short-sighted and kind of racist but at least they don't get taken over by the Reapers every thirty minutes. Synthesis is still Space Magic, but no one forced me to pick it. I picked Control because ultimately, my Shepard always sought to first do no harm; the Control ending results in the least disruption and least death. That Shepard might wind up a malevolent dictator many years down the line is a possibility, of course - but on the other hand, is anyone going to seriously dispute the notion that Jennifer Hale is NOT a goddess?

Also, I recently replayed the original ending, and Anderson's line about coming in after Shepard is in there. I noticed that much of the new content was inserted in the midst of the blackouts that Shepard goes through, which is where I presumed all this disjointed feeling came from. I assumed it was intentional. Maybe it was and they decided that being explicit was better.

One welcome, if minor, touch is how Shepard seems far less passive when dealing with the Catalyst and more assertive. Granted, no one would blame her after the hell she's been through, but a non-assertive Shepard feels... wrong. The lighting is different. Her expressions are different. She can tell the Catalyst to fuck right off (and stick around for that ending, because the end-credits coda is VERY different.)

In terms of crew member epilogues, on my recent playthroughs I've noticed that who gets a scene depends on your choice - I saw Zaeed chilling on Earth in the Destroy ending, for example, and Jack was in my Control ending. No one from the Normandy crew proper gets an Animal House montage, though. But I think this is still clearly meant to be their last hurrah. I think future DLC will be in the wander-around phase, like reclaiming Omega.

Also, I didn't even really want to bring this up since it's the literally stupidest thing to complain about, to literally complain that Bioware didn't adapt my fanfiction - but I would have loved it if the first name of our Shepard had been on that name plate at the very end. It may not have been technically feasible - I don't know how the game talks to its saves. But I figured it would have been a welcome final touch to have the first thing the player customizes be the last thing we see of Shepard. That out of the way, I got a little misty there.

Such a beautiful universe with such wonderful people. I'll miss them.

I can't say for sure that the Extended Cut will please everyone - the fact that Marauder Shields is now some kind of mascot-totem... thing, is a pretty solid sign that rejection of the ending of Mass Effect 3 has become, for many people, a community glue of sorts. I can say that it worked for me - I'm still highly leery of the notion of artistic changes due to community demand because historically that tends to not end well. But this time it worked out great.
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Thoughts on the Ending including Extended Cut:

My full thoughts on this matter are available here.

If you want to know only what I think post-Extended Cut, continue to the massive wall of text below. Enough people have written about the majority of the problems that the Extended Cut doesn’t solve, such as the completely laughable scene where Harbinger and the Normandy face down each other without either of them firing or the fact that in the original ending the Normandy’s engines are blown apart in the Crucible blast regardless of your EMS but in the Extended Cut higher EMS shows the ship surviving intact. Of course, if it survived intact, why did it land on the jungle planet at all?

These are not the issues I’m going to address. I’m going to focus on how the Extended Cut and the Crucible work, and essentially, why they do not work.

Here be Spoilers

We’re going to use the words of the Catalyst here and assume for the moment that all of this is true, and that the Catalyst is not deceiving us.

“The device you refer to as the Crucible is little more than a power source. However, in combination with the Citadel and the relays, it is capable of releasing tremendous amounts of energy throughout the galaxy. It is crude, but effective and adaptive in its design…We first noted the concept for this design several cycles ago. With each passing cycle, the design has no doubt evolved…We believed the concept had been eradicated. Clearly organics are more resourceful than we realized.”

Problem #1

We already know that the mechanism to initiate Control, Synthesis, and Destroy are located on the Citadel itself and not part of the Crucible. Which means if the Crucible is nothing more than the power source, the Citadel was designed specifically with these possibilities in mind. The likelihood that docking interface where Shepard and the Catalyst have their conversation was added later is almost non-existent, since the Catalyst indicates the design originated several cycles ago but not during the first cycle. The Catalyst also does not take credit for the Crucible’s design, which indicates it was not developed by it in preparation for a day like this coming.

In all prior cycles, we are led to believe that the Reapers entered the galaxy through the Citadel relay itself and then immediately took control of the Citadel. We are also led to believe that only the creation of the Conduit on Ilos and the subsequent tampering on the part of the Prothean survivors after the Reapers left (see conversation with Vigil: Mass Effect 1) prevented this from happening in the current cycle. It is therefore highly unlikely that any of the previous cycles would have been able to construct the docking interface after the Reapers arrived, and they would probably have had little reason to do so prior to their arrival.

So, again, I have to ask why do the mechanisms for Control and Destroy currently exist on the Citadel? An argument can now be made for the Synthesis mechanism, despite the fact that apparently all one needs to do is jump into the Crucible’s beam, as the Catalyst explains later that Synthesis has always been their goal and it has always failed. But why would the Catalyst or its predecessor race (who seemingly became the first Reaper against their will) have built a mechanism specifically to allow an organic to replace it or destroy its creations, one that is essentially useless without an independently designed organic device to give it sufficient power? What purpose did they serve, or were they intended to serve prior to the inception of the Crucible?

Furthermore, how did the previous cycles know how and where to dock the Crucible for these mechanisms to interface with it? If the mechanisms were, like the Crucible, built independent of the Catalyst and the Reapers, why do they all appear in one place? It’s doubtful any one cycle would have constructed all three of them, much less more than one of them. It’s also unlikely that Catalyst, who now admits to being aware of the Crucible’s existence prior to this cycle, would have allowed them to remain on the Citadel at all if it felt the mechanisms could one day threaten it.

Problem #2

We are now given the option to refuse the three main choices. Refusing to select a choice, or shooting at the Catalyst, will now end the game in the Reaper’s favor. At that point, the Catalyst either shuts the Crucible down entirely or it calls upon its forces to destroy it. We’re not shown exactly what happens, save that we do see the energy beam connecting the Citadel to the Crucible dissipating.

Which now returns us back to the heart of the problem: why does the Catalyst speak to us at all? There’s a throwaway line that the Crucible “changed” the Catalyst, and during the original ending, many people interpreted that as though the Catalyst was forced by the Crucible to offer these option to Shepard. Clearly, this isn’t the case. When Shepard refuses to cooperate, the Catalyst become angry and storms off, resulting in the eventual destruction of the allied forces.

Since the Catalyst isn’t being forced to speak to Shepard, why does it speak to Shepard at all? It was the one that activated the elevator that called Shepard to it. It could have easily left Shepard there to bleed out and die next to Anderson, thus allowing the current cycle to end as it had originally ended it to. Why does it even offer the Control or Destroy options to us? It doesn’t have to. It doesn’t serve its purpose. If Synthesis is its ultimate goal, why doesn’t it just state that this is all the Crucible can do and hide the other possibilities?

None of this makes any sense at all from the perspective of the Catalyst. There’s no need to find a new solution, as it tells us earlier, as the old solution would have worked fine had it not brought Shepard up to the docking area.

Which means, essentially, that nothing we did in preparation for the final battle means anything at all. The entire survival of the galaxy rests in our ability to please a malevolent god who for reasons we will never be allowed to know, deigns to speak with us and gift us three means of removing him from the galaxy. Should we refuse its generosity, we will instead feel its terrible wrath.

Yes, we had to build the Crucible. Yes, we had to get it to the Citadel intact or mostly intact, if you have low EMS. Yes, we had to get the Citadel’s arms open. But why do any of these things matter to the Catalyst, who can refuse to deal with us? Why, after all this time, does it feel the need to negotiate with organics after untold millennia of harvesting them?

We must ask these questions, because after the time invested in allowing the cycle of destruction to continue, the logical and easier path for the Catalyst is to let Shepard die, destroy the Crucible, and then comb the galaxy for any trace of evidence of the Crucible and eliminate it prior to leaving for dark space again. Or, the easier path, just remove the mechanisms from the Citadel that would enable the Destroy or Control options, especially if Synthesis is the ultimate goal.

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Regarding the faceoff between the Normandy and Harbinger, I think Max's explanation is the best - that a confrontation is not in either side's interest. It's a bit of an out, but it's not the first time in the game that a Reaper within spitting distance of the Normandy doesn't kill it stone dead. Maybe it's just too pretty a ship to destroy. :)

Regarding the Normandy's landing, just because it's not blown to pieces doesn't preclude the need for an emergency landing. I've seen that exterior shot a few times, and there's clearly some damage on the outside, and even if there isn't much damage on the outside internal systems could be fouled up. A plane doesn't need to look damaged to be grounded. If nothing else - ships in the Mass Effect universe have to discharge their electrical grid on a lanetary body or else they will short out. This alone could necessitate a landing to discharge and complete repairs that couldn't be done in a vacuum.

(Why change the animation? Same reason they changed the relay animation. Just as the change in the relay animation clarifies that entire solar systems were not wiped from existence, a change in the Normandy's crash clarifies that the Normandy eventually left the planet.)

Going further into it:

Regarding why there is Control and Destroy in the Catalyst's hub, it's telling that instead of hitting a Destroy All Reapers button, you have to actually manually destroy something. That tells me that it's not something INTENDED to destroy so much as something that can be appropriated for that purpose. Your brain keeps your body moving - that doesn't render it illogical that a Carnifex bullet to the brain would stop your body from doing so. As for Control, this is as close to the Catalyst's central processing unit as we know one can get. If there's going to any place to swap out the brain, it'll be here.

I saw more evidence to support my theory that the Crucible shackles the Catalyst's AI than I saw to disprove it. If the Crucible didn't exert control, though, it's not a stretch to say that the Prothean science team that was smart enough to build a mass relay, beam themselves onto the Citadel, and literally hack its immune system could set things up nicely so that the next cycle would be able to complete the use of their crowd-sourced device. Or a combination of the two. It's a question that I don't really feel the need to ask further than I've already received answers for.

I made a solemn vow, ever since I learnt what the word 'Talimancer' meant, that I would never return to the Bioware Social Network lest I be forced to drive a truck over myself to get the burning stupid out of my brain. So I can't address anything from there.

Like I said, damn near perfect - but not perfect. I choose to concentrate on the first half of that sentence, as I do with everything I wind up liking that happens to have flaws. The Dark Knight hinges its second act on a plan that has to include Batman that Batman acts like he knows nothing about, even to his closest confidant. It later manages to wound its central character arc for Batman with the death of Harvey Dent - and for all this it's still an outstanding film and a landmark in the genre. Children of Men gets through an entire movie about a world where children can't be born, without ever mentioning the word "clone" - it's still a gripping portrayal of a society that's completely given up. Citizen Kane hinges upon the final words of its title character, words that the nurse who relates them could not possibly have overheard - it's still possibly the most important film ever made. Lord of the Rings was lampooned famously for having flying man-carrying birds that are not, for some reason, used to fly the Fellowship straight to Mount Doom - okay, so I'm not a Lord of the Rings fan, but it has nothing to do with that. The Avengers has one-dimensional villains and falls down somewhat when it comes to introducing crucial characters - it still is a really good superhero film (and for the crime of saying it wasn't perfect, I took it in the teeth on damn near every forum I went to.)

Even the original Mass Effect's main plot is based around finding the Conduit and using it to get onto the Citadel - rather than Saren using his Spectre status to just, y'know, walk right in. It's still a revolutionary game on multiple levels and the opening chapter of gaming's biggest epic.

I can't speak for anyone other than myself, but Mass Effect 3's flaws are outshone by its virtues in the way that the stars in the sky are outshone by the sun. Details like where, precisely, the weak spot of the Citadel is located is on par with asking why there isn't a screen door on the exhaust port of the Death Star - it's just so low down the list I barely pay it any mind (and in the words of Film Critic Hulk, MOVIE IS NOT CHECKLIST.) You can drill down far enough into any fictional reality that it won't make sense any more. I don't see a need in this case. I'm happy.

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