Disection – Mass Effect 3 (Idiots and their “space magic” lies need not enter)

An imperfect (but still pretty damn great) end to an amazing trilogy.

I’m going to break from my usual MMO game reviews and impressions for today. I want to talk about Mass Effect 3. Namely, the ending… and the stupid backlash about “space magic” that so many knuckle-dragging idiots seem to be on some kind of damn witch hunt over.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD Read more after the break –>

Apparently people in general are stupid and require every last little bit of detail explained to them, and most even still are bitching and whining even with that. First off, let me be clear about something: there’s no “space magic” in ME3. None. Zilch. Nada. There’s not anything in the endings that hasn’t been used in one way or another in other science fiction stories from time to time for decades. All of them do have a basis in scientific theory and hypothesis. All it takes is a little brain use to grasp it, but apparently most Americans would rather be spoon-fed everything like they are toddlers and then start a damn witch-hunt when they have to think about something. Was the ending lacking in information that anyone who hasn’t taken high school science might need? sure. Could there have been more explanation about how certain things made sense, for the neanderthals out there? Absolutely. Does that make it space magic? Nope. I admit, it’s not the best written ending segment, and frankly the build-up to the decision as well as lack of final game end-boss was hugely disappointing and anti-climactic, but that doesn’t make any of it “space magic.” All anyone is doing by claiming it’s “space magic” is showing their lack of understanding and pure, medieval ignorance.

The problem isn’t as much the endings themselves, as the build-up, climax, and explanations in the game that lead to that ending choice. People don’t seem to grasp anything in the synergy ending despite it being somewhat plausible, or at least about as plausible as biotics are. Want to know what would have likely changed everyone’s mind and made synergy make more sense? Some kind of mission or side-mission that dealt with something in a similar vein, namely altering the sub-atomic makeup of living organisms to allow for traits not inherent in the original organism. That’s what Synthesis is – an energy beam that re-writes the sub-atomic structure of both organic and synthetic beings to include materials and traits of each other. So why not set the stage by introducing a side-mission that touches on that kind of concept? It just makes sense. Maybe something to do with an improved or altered version of Project Lazarus being run by Cerberus and using captured Reaper troops or the Rackni hybrids? How about a way to turn Husks back into people, using a similar principle in reverse? They were experimenting on turning people into husks, why not have another branch also working on ways to reverse that process? Perhaps the Illusive Man got so many people to volunteer to being augmented because he promised those Cerberus troops that the “improvements” could be reversed once the Reaper threat was contained, and the Lazarus project has been re-purposed to find a way to keep that promise. That would make for both an interesting story and also set the stage for the synthesis ending.

“We’ve spent the whole game building up to this moment… Players are going to be eager to see their hard work pay off in a huge and fun confrontation…”
“Nahh, we’ll just show them cutscenes. That’ll be fine, right? I mean, it’s not like they think much…”

The ending options themselves and that last choice aren’t the only beed I have with the game’s ending. Here’s a question – what happened to Harbinger and the Reaper ships? The biggest beef for me was that the last segments of the game seemed anticlimactic and more like I was watching a movie than playing a game, especially since there was no epic story-ending “boss fight” in it. The whole game built up for this huge all-out grudge match with the reaper fleet, and I got to do very little after Shepard’s fleets got to earth. I was hoping, maybe even expecting, some kind of major throwdown with Harbinger itself after all that transpired between him & Shepard since ME1 saw Sovereign killed. But we didn’t get that. We saw Harbinger shooting at Shepard and the other humans as they ran for the teleportation beam, but even that was impersonal and bland. It didn’t matter that it was Harbinger, it could have been any random generic Reaper. That lack of connection and personal investment made me feel gypped. And the scenes on the Citadel with the Illusive Man, though really kewl to watch, felt boring to play through compared to the rest of the game, also fairly anticlimactic. Again, I felt like there should have been more interaction, even if it were just dialogue. Maybe he should have become an avatar of Harbinger, the way that Saren was an avatar of Sovereign at the end of ME1? Heck, I’d have loved some more dialogue between Shepard and Harbinger, perhaps a little banter through the deceased corpse of the Illusive Man? I’d be fine tying the War Resources system into it, too, so that the stronger the allied fleet is, the little bit more desperate Harbinger sounds. The Reapers supposedly have never faced so many races all united in a single cause, or had the Crucible get this far before; it’d be understandable if Harbinger started crunching numbers and realizing the amount of resistance ran the risk of his primary function failing.

Which brings me to The Catalyst. Okay, I get why he might take the form of the child, though I would liked to have had Shepard not and ask why. I also get the whole thing about the variables being changed and a new solution needs to be found. But why start off talking like the solution is unchanged and the Reapers will destroy organics, then contradict itself? Why act so angry and cold, then suddenly talk like the options Shepard must choose are a kindness? I did not like that whole section of dialogue. There were so many better ways it could have been written. Heck, here’s an idea – what if Harbinger was more free-willed than the Catalyst knew, had been able to eavesdrop on the conversation via it’s connection to either the Citadel or the Catalyst, and decided to try to intervene with Shepard’s making that final choice? What if the Catalyst had to protect Shepard from Harbinger while Shepard made his choice? It would become a final fight between two species on the brink of extinction. That would be awesome to play through.

“But Shepard, that info is vital… People are just too dumb and won’t figure it out without us drawing their conclusions for them…”

Okay, sure. For the idiots out there, having a more distant aerial shot to show how Shepard is breathing without a suit would be a good idea, just so they can see that there’s an energy bubble keeping the atmosphere in or some kind of dome display showing the battle. Also, in the preferred ending where Shepard lives, some way to show where he really lands would be better, too, since people are just barely smart enough to know he can’t survive a fall to earth like that, yet too stupid to think he might have fallen onto other wreckage of the Citadel or the Crucible instead. And seriously, they already showed Shepard’s crew getting on that shuttle, before that final push to the transport beam. So why is everyone so pissed of about his crew being on the Normandy in the final cutscenes? Seriously, people, that shuttle they got on just took them to the Normandy after everyone at the base of the transport beam got decimated, simple as that. It’s not that difficult to figure out. But fine, since you can’t put 2 and 2 together, throw in something to show that happening, maybe between when Shepard gets to the transport beam and when he opens his eyes on the Citadel.

There’s a lot of room for improvement in Mass Effect 3, not just in the ending. If anything, Bioware is probably guilty of 2 things – 1) cutting corners in the games layout of the story by not including certain info for the player or just poorly writing dialog to gloss over or poorly state certain things, and 2) foolishly assuming that the majority of it’s player-base has intelligence and would be able to connect the dots without being lead by the hand like a toddler through the logic behind the endings. Everything else, even the lack of major final boss-fight, I could live with, if they hadn’t made those 2 other mistakes. Now they have armies of ignorant wretches on a witch hunt because they claim science their feeble minds can’t grasp is “space magic,” and despite having a brilliantly conceived (if poorly expressed) set of sci-fi endings for the game, they are loosing the faith of their primary customers which means the decent players with half a brain, like me, will end up loosing out on more awesome games because they have to pander to these neanderthals to make money.

If anything, I’ve learned a lot to keep in mind as I make my own game.


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