Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut Thoughts

                    Proof that cupcakes win every argument

Mass Effect 3 was released back in March, and with it came a furious tempest of outrage aimed at the ending to the would-be great sci-fi epic.  Mass Effect 3’s ending was littered with plot holes, narrative inconsistencies, confusion, bleakness, and disrespect to the fans and the lore that came before it.  Now, Bioware has the right to shit on their game if they want to, but the fans understandably outraged over an ending that not only destroyed the entire galaxy, but also abolished every choice you have ever made for your Commander Shepard, right down to the character’s gender (“The Shepard?” Fuck that).  Due to the sheer power of the outcry, Bioware elected to calm the storm and release a new extended ending.  This ending would feature additional cutscenes and epilogues that would further expand and clarify the existing ending rather than change it.  But considering how utterly horrific the original ending was, would that be enough?

As it turns out, Bioware did not simply clarify their ending.  They did in fact change the ending, however, the changed it by working within the confines of what was already there.  The truth of the matter is that ME3’s original ending set out to destroy the universe, abolish your choices and end the franchise on a ridiculous Adam and Eve reference.  What other purpose does the revelation of the asari goddess being a prothean serve?  Why else is the Stargazer scene necessary?  And what other reason would they strip away any reference to Commander Shepard by referring to him/her simply as “The Shepard?”  Why else would the Mass Relays explode if not to cause a catastrophic event in every single system?  Why else is it necessary to separate the Normandy crew from the rest of the galaxy, if it is not consumed by hundreds if not thousands of supernovas?  Thankfully, the ending is now much less grim and apocalyptic and actually commits to stopping the Reapers.

There is not a whole lot that has changed in the EC, but what has changed is dramatically different and has a massive impact on the emotions you feel at the end of the game.  Firstly, the EMS requirements have been lowered to an achievable level.  Now, every single ending option is available to you and your Shepard’s without having to resort to multiplayer.  As much as I appreciate this change I can’t help but remember that Bioware promised this was going to be the case at launch.  Among some other changes were new cutscenes that expanded the battle for Earth slightly, including an especially excellent scene involving the chosen love interest.  Also included is a stronger, more effective confrontation with Harbinger.  

The Catalyst has also been rewritten to actually make some sense.  Before, the Catalyst was an artificial entity inhabiting the Citadel and controlling the Reapers.  Obviously this creates a massive plot hole in ME1.  If the Catalyst is the Citadel, why do the Reapers need Sovereign to open the relay in the first installment?  Now, the Catalyst is the collective consciousness of the Reapers (which was my theory!  Woot!!!).  The Catalyst scene has been rewritten quite dramatically.  Not only can Shepard argue with the Star-brat’s logic, but the space toddler even admits to its own logical flaws.  It also provides further insight to the Reapers, the Crucible and all of the choices you can make for the ending.  One other addition to this scene is a new ending.  The much requested “Screw you Catalyst,” ending now exists.  However, this ending results in the utter destruction of this cycle, paving way for the next cycle to finish the job we started.  Basically, the original ending is now the new ending.  Control, destroy and synthesis are also explained in greater detail by the Catalyst, and each have a unique epilogue sequence that explain the result of your choice. 

In my opinion, the Extended Cut does its job.  Sure there are still tons of plot holes, retcons, and a host of other problems, but at least there are no inbred colonies.  It’s not perfect, hell it isn’t even particularly good, but it does its job.  Had Mass Effect 3 shipped with this ending, the fans may have simply said, “Well that was kind of sucky.  But oh well.  Let’s start over and play again!”  However, the original ending was, in my opinion, an insult to the most loyal of fans.  It was like cutting off a limb.  This extended cut merely attempts to put a band aid on and act like it’s all better.  Sadly, the leg is still gone and there is nothing you can do to repair the damage. 

Overall, ME3’s extended end fixes what it set out to fix.  The real problems throughout ME3 are still present.  Just a little bit more closure was added… sort of.  The biggest problem I have with the EC is that it still refuses to commit to whether or not Shepard is alive.  That was easily the biggest gripe people had with the original ending, and yet, Shepard’s status is still up in the air.  I don’t think Bioware realizes the power Shepard’s fate has on players.  If Shepard stood up and dusted him/herself off, this whole debacle would be over.  Fans would accept what they can’t change and move on.  Instead, Bioware continues to force us to write the ending in our heads, without even bothering to give us compensation.   

Does my score of Mass Effect 3 change now that the EC has fixed a few major gripes in the ending?  No, because it doesn’t fix the major gripes with the entire game.  My biggest issues with ME3 had nothing to do with the ending.  They were the auto dialog, the lack of closure, the useless characters that go nowhere, the horrifically bad dialog and reputation systems, the lack of player agency throughout the game, no consequences for any choice you ever made; I could go on and on.  None of these problems were fixed in any substantial way.  When I beat ME3 with this extended ending, I feel exactly the same as I did when I beat the game the first time.  Disappointed.  Still, both ME3 and the EC have some high points.  I recommend getting the EC simply because it’s free.  Just don’t be surprised if you still feel like you overpaid.  Mass Effect 3, you still get a 7 out of 10.  Enjoy it. 

And one last note to my readers, don’t be expecting me to review any more Bioware games or DLC.  I think I’m pretty much done with them.  I know many of my readers jumped on thanks to my ludicrous amount of Mass Effect articles.  I may be done with Bioware, but I hope you guys stick around.