Warning: This post contains major spoilers for the end of Mass Effect 3 and general plot lines. Do not read it if you don’t wish to be informed.
I think it’s about time to try and gain some perspective on Mass Effect 3.
I’ve been waiting for this game for almost a year, after I had obtained the second game from a second hand game store and flirting the attendant down to a fraction of the price. I don’t know what made me pick it up, I guess I just… liked the look of it. I’ve always been an RPG fan and have been anxiously looking for something to fill the void that the unsatisfactory Fall Out: New Vegas had left in me. It turned out to be one of the best choices that I could’ve made as the game literally provided me with hours of fun. As a PS3 gamer, I couldn’t play the first game but I managed to get it on PC and I googled the death out of its plot. I played the second game no less than seven times over the course of the couple of months, sometimes changing my tactics to see what results I’ll get and sometimes choosing to follow the same, well trotten and beloved path of my original paragon Shepard. To say that I was excited for the third game’s release was to say that the ocean is a little bit damp.
I had hope and my expectations were high.
And, I wasn’t disappointed. Every step of the game, every action I took, every scene that played off before my eyes, was a shot of brilliance. I cried more than I had over the course of the time it took me to play through the game than I have in years. I shed tears when a scene made me happy, or proud or devastatingly sad. I was involved as Bioware undoubtedly wanted me to become when they pointed out that we were going to see a more human side to the normally unflappable Shepard. And, all the while that I played, I knew that I had to enjoy this – because it was going to be the end of Mass Effect as we knew it, the end of Shepard’s story.
Of course, what I had not anticipated was what was going to happen in the end. I’m not going to go into details, it’s become such a debated topic that even BBC news have been writing about it and all you have to do is google Mass Effect 3 to catch a glimpse of the fan’s reaction to Bioware’s controversial “work of art”. The work of art that destroys all that you worked through for over 100 hours of game play in approximately 10 minutes.
There are many opinions about this end, very few of them positive, and I’ve certainly had my say about it already tweeting about it for the first time in the minutes after I finished the game. I was shocked, hurt and disappointed that it could all come to such an end, that Shepard, my Shepard – could end in such a horrible fashion. As I stared at the credits of the game, picking out who the writers were and who had been involved, I found myself wondering which one of them thought that I would enjoy seeing my Shepard torn apart in front of my eyes and the destiny of their world destroyed in an explosion that was either green, red or blue…
My initial reaction was to beg for a retraction, to turn to Bioware and demand them to fix it (through constructive if slightly desperate criticism naturally). But, as the week passed and I became more detached from what I saw, I gained some perspective and realized that in a way, I was wrong.
Bioware succeeded in the one thing that very few people actually have. They made me care. A lot. As a somewhat cynical INTJ who doesn’t know how to deal with emotions, I was taken for the ride of my life. They took me through the death of close friends, of bitter victories and of silly moments of shooting bottles from a roof top. Every step they took in manifesting personal relationships between Shepard and her crew members drew me more and more into the game. In the last hour, I was so emotionally shaken that when I encountered that bitter bitter end, my first reaction was completely irrational. Unfounded. I lost perspective.
I think that the same can be said for a lot of fans, which is why I urge people to take a step back and evaluate their response. Now, bare with me, I’m not saying I liked the ending, far from it, but I realized that I wouldn’t have hated it so much if I had not just had some of the most emotional moments in the game before that. The pain of lost friends, the worry over those who were on the field with me, took over all reasoning and made me want to lash out at Bioware and every single one of their writers, demanding to know what they were thinking… I also thought that I would never play the game again.
My tactics and resolve have changed somewhat. And I have come to realize that before that horrible 15 minutes, I had had some of the most amazing game play that I had ever had in a game. The graphics, the writing, the actions sequences and decisions that I was forced to make was some of the best ever portrayed in an RPG. For me, the romantic interest still carried the game, and the near cinematic cut scenes. It didn’t feel as if I was playing a game but rather watching a very long movie that I could not tear my eyes away from. My Mass Effect 3 gaming time amounted to over 40 hours on my first play through and when I weighed that up against the last 10 minutes I realized that my logic was flawed. That I will play it for a second, and a third and perhaps even a fourth time because I wanted to live through those first moments again. I can ignore the end and rather focus on what I had.
An incredible game.
So, I leave you with this fan video, posted to YouTube by an artist called Genol3oost. It might be male shep (who does not exist in my world, sorry Mark Meer…), but it portrays some of the strongest and best scenes of the game. When I watched it, I remembered why I had loved it, why I loved the series. We might not get the end that we wanted, but I had come to the conclusion that we didn’t need it. That it was our choice what we made of the Mass Effect Universe. And, we can ignore the misjudgement of one or two foolish decision makers at Bioware when they slipped that catalyst of disappointment into the game.
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