Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Letter to Bioware

Dear Bioware,

I just wanted to step in and voice my concerns for Mass Effect 3. I feel it is necessary that I give my opinions because I think that with all that has happened over the last few days, it would be good for you guys to hear from a clear head. There seem to be a lot of angry fans out there, and while I am not angry, I am disappointed. First of all, I would like to begin by saying that Mass Effect 3 was immensely enjoyable. It was brutally intense and the story was better written than I could have ever hoped. I also really appreciated the more emotional side to the story. I felt that ME2 was a bit emotionally shallow in comparison to ME1, but for ME3 I am not afraid to admit that I cried more than a few times.

That being said, the ending really was a kick in the head. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what was going on. It seemed like Shepard was being indoctrinated. If that is the case, I applaud the ending, at least to some degree. It was cool how you designed the dialog wheel to seem like the Paragon action was really a Renegade action. Or perhaps it was a Renegade action. Either way, the real problem I had with the ending is that it really wasn’t an ending. The story just stopped.

There was no resolution. In fact, I am not entirely sure if Shepard even beat the Reapers. Was it all just a hallucination brought about by indoctrination? Did we take back Earth? What about all of those people on the Citadel? Are they dead? What about all of the races Shepard united? Where do they go? What happened to them? With the Mass Relays being destroyed, if they even were actually destroyed, then are all of the alien races stranded on Earth? I found this to be particularly alienating because I literally just got the quarians their world back. Now, they’ve lost it again. That was very unsatisfying. The ending took the choices I made throughout the trilogy away, and frankly seemed like a betrayal of concept, at least to me. I know I am not a game designer or anything like that, but to me Mass Effect has always been about our Shepard and the impact his choices have on the galaxy and the people around him. In ME3’s ending, I felt like nothing Shepard did mattered. I felt like the galaxy was in a worse state than if the Reapers would have harvested everyone. Of course that is assuming they didn’t harvest everyone. The ending was quite confusing on this topic.

I am also really upset with the Normandy crashing on the jungle world scene. It looked as if you guys were going for some kind of rebuilding the universe, brave new world type ending, however, the implications of what would have to transpire I found very unpleasant. I chose Ashley as Shepard’s love interest (all the way back in ME1), so am I to believe that Ashley is now a baby making machine for the future of the human race while Shepard lies in rubble? I find that notion to be extremely unsettling. Even more so when you take into consideration that Ashley just got Shepard back. She clearly had some deep personal issues that sprouted from Shepard’s death at the beginning of ME2. Now that they have been resolved, Shepard is lost to her yet again. That is such a depressing and cynical thought. So much so that it goes against the more idyllic vision of the Mass Effect universe. In fact, I felt the ending was extremely cynical all around. Do we not deserve a better tomorrow? Perhaps that was intended however the reality of the situation is grim. With no Mass Relays and entire races cut off from their homes, are we to believe that all of the races wouldn’t devolve into barbarians fighting for the dominance of their new world? The krogan would. The krogan did. On the topic of the krogan, we spent the whole first act of the game trying to build a future for their race, only to have that future destroyed. The males of the krogan race were out fighting the battle on Earth while the females were left on Tuchanka in order to protect their future. Does this mean that the krogan are extinct regardless of our choice? In which case, Mordin’s sacrifice is completely meaningless. The krogan die off anyway. Again, that is cynical and depressing.

If Mass Effect 3 had a more traditional ending, Shepard destroying the Reapers, saving the galaxy and living happily ever after with his or her love interest, if desired by the player, the ending would have been much more satisfactory to the players. This doesn’t mean that it would be all butterflies and roses. Obviously sacrifices must be made to ensure that victory. Sacrifice and hard work. I recall that Mac Walters said that Mass Effect 3’s theme was victory through sacrifice. I didn’t feel like Shepard was victorious. I felt like he lost. In my opinion, the theme seems to be nothing matters. Perhaps that is why the ending put such a bitter taste in my mouth. Because nothing seemed to matter.

I think Shepard deserves some happiness and peace. He’s been through enough. Some people may like an ending where Shepard sacrifices himself for the greater good. I do not. I want to choose an ending where my hero lives. If other players like Shepard dying for the cause then that ending should also be viable. That is the ending they should choose. I would like to choose an ending more fitting for my Shepard. I really enjoyed all of the endings in ME2. Shepard can sacrifice himself in the suicide mission as well, but it is one of a few options. Shepard can also live if it is what the player desires. Why could we not get endings like that in ME3? You say that the canon story for Mass Effect is decided by the players, but the ending of Mass Effect 3 is a canon ending that was forced on us. We players have spent 5 years with our Shepard’s now, and it just seems so depressing that this is how it ends for him, and for us.

Personally, I think it would have been cool if you made an ending like Dragon Age Origins. Perhaps a victory ceremony on the Citadel or Earth. The Council (provided they are even alive) could present Shepard with some medal or special honor. Maybe even give players a choice on where Shepard might go. There is an empty seat on the Council for humanity after all. Just saying. All of the squad mates and major non-companions like Wrex and Anderson (provided they are alive) could be in attendance, allowing the player to talk with them and get closure on their character arcs. And for players that like Shepard dying in the end, why not create a funeral scene. Anderson and maybe whoever the player’s love interest is could say some nice words and give Shepard the sendoff he deserves. Sure it is complete and total fan service, but isn’t that what it’s all about?

All in all, Mass Effect 3 is a fantastic game. You guys should all be very proud of the achievement that it is, even with all of the negativity around the endings. I loved every minute of Mass Effect 3, with one obvious exception. And it is not that the ending is bad, it simply feels incomplete and offers little variety for players who may not wish for the story to end in this way. Considering that the major most selling point of the series has been choice, it is somewhat distressing that the ending does not offer many choices beyond Shepard’s (and the galaxy’s) demise. In the event that the rumors of a DLC that will effectively end the tale of Shepard and Mass Effect are true, I wanted to share my thoughts. I loved Mass Effect 3. I just do not think it was the ending that neither Shepard nor the fans deserved. We all know that in reality, the whole galaxy would likely succumb to the Reapers. But that’s why we play video games. So we can escape the truths of reality and bask in the fantastic, experiencing a brighter tomorrow, if only for a few hours.

Thank you for your time,



LucidFox said...

Minor nitpick: it's canon, not cannon. Cannons go boom. Canon doesn't. :)

Ryan said...

Nice catch! Thanks. All nice and fixed now.