In my last blog post, I talked about the unexpected emotional impact to BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 and how it prompted the once loyal fan base to launch an angry protest to hopes of getting it changed. I talked about how the protest was received by the public, both positive and negative, as well as how BioWare’s response only further divided their fans from them. In this second half of that report, I want to focus on what BioWare had hoped would answer some the biggest questions fans had surrounding the ending, fill in the plot holes, and maybe win back some back their trust.
Just like with my last blog post, I want to go on the record and say that while the Extended Cut was a nice attempt and it did manage to fix some of the major plot holes, I still didn’t like it all that much, For the sake of this blog however, much like that previous one, I will try to be as unbiased as I can be with this in order to give a broad and fair assessment of the situation.
It would be a huge understatement to say that by the time that Extended Cut was set to release, fan expectation were well within the range of either great anticipation or they were gearing up for even more disappointment. It’s important to know that by now, fan loyalty was at an all time low. Not only did fans have to deal with road blocks such as getting BioWare to listen and understand their concerns, but also the media opinion of their protest was being perceived as nothing more than a childish tantrum by “whiny and entitled gamers’ who just wanted ‘a happier ending.’ It was just type of thinking that made many rally behind BioWare, siding with them in their claims of ‘artistic integrity’ and dismissing fan outcry as a moment that would pass.
Still whether it was through bad press, bad PR responses or pressure from the higher-ups, ultimately the company caved. The Extended Cut to Mass Effect’s 3 was released on June 26, 2012 for free download for all platforms. The premise for this was to hopefully ‘clarify’ some of the details in the original that may or may have not been explained well enough. According to company co-founder Ray Muzyka, the idea was to give closure to their fans while also maintaining the artistic vision of the original.
So…did it? Was the Extended Cut really what fans were waiting in terms of closure? And did it address some of the major concerns and complaints fans had with the original?
On one side of the spectrum, there are few things that the Extended Cut managed to do correctly. Such as answering one of the more head-scratching question as how Shepard’s team got on the Normandy during the final push towards the beam. An alternative scene was added in as one last final goodbye to Shepard’s squad, as well as Shepard’s love interest. This was one of those scenes where you couldn’t help but sit back and say to yourself, “Why wasn’t this in the original?” An excellent question since this was at this point that the story of the game began to fall apart. This scene did indeed help clarify fan’s biggest complaints while also giving an truly emotional goodbye that had been lacking in the original. Any more time with these characters whom we’ve grown to love and adore is always a plus, especially when it’s done in a way that makes us emotionally invested in the moment.
Ten points to Gryffindor on this one!
Another improvement to the games comes in the form of what happens to the mass relays once the Crucible is activated. In the original ending, no matter what the player chooses, the mass relays are ultimately destroyed. However (and please excuse me as put on my nerd glasses here), it is established in Mass Effect 2 in the Arrival DLC, that destroying a mass relay would result in the destruction of an entire solar system. In theory, this is essentially one giant clean sweep across worlds.
This wasn’t exactly the uplifting end that fans were expecting originally. The idea that not matter what, players are effectively wiping out numerous of lives in various of galaxies, doing more damage in mere minutes than the Reapers could have accomplish in a hundred years. Just a little discouraging, don’t you think? In the Extended Cut version, the mass relays are not destroyed, but merely severely damaged.
This…was sort of 50/50 fix. Yeah, it’s a relief to see that Shepard is no longer condemning innocent galaxies to die with just a push of a button. That’s not who Shepard is. And it’s always great that the mass relays are not destroyed and leaving million stranded on Earth. But, having the relays damaged and later seen being repaired sort of feels phoned in at the last minute. The science and logical thinking behind repairing the mass relays is much more detailed than people realize. But that’s not the case for the Extended Cut. Instead, we’re made to believe that repairs are as easy as going to your local Home Depot and picking out new color patterns.
Seriously? There are numerous arguments in how this is not only inconceivable and it makes even less sense than the original. See: Mass Effect 3: Consequences of the Ending.
This one of those moments that seeing it, you know that BioWare was looking for ways to correct their previous fuck up, and you can’t help but be cynical about it. You don’t believe it and you don’t see it the comprehensive logic in how it all work. I don’t hate it only for the sake that I really what it was. So I approach this scene and shrug with expressed, “meh, it’s better than it was I guess.”
The Extended Cut got a few things right the second time around, I will admit. But there are also a great deal of what it got wrong. There were some important moments in the original that BioWare could’ve changed or taken out entirely that would’ve made peace amongst the fans, but were instead this opportunity to salvage their good name was missed for the sake of artistic integrity. Perhaps that’s unfair for me to say since I’m trying to be the unbiased one here. But some of the major problems that the ending had that should have been addressed were ignored, and no simple changes were going to make them any better.
Let’s look at an example:
It’s an overall accepted opinion that the very idea of the Catalyst kid, also known by fans as The Starchild, is not only uncalled for, but it perhaps the single biggest problem of the ending entirely. Fans, including myself, didn’t know what to make of this character, especially when his introduction is made at the final moments of the game. What little information we’re initially given on who he is and why is he here, we are supposed to blindly trust him and take him up on his offer, despite him practically being the mouth piece of the very creatures we’re trying to defeat! But what fans hated about him most of all was circular reasoning and his illogical rationing surrounding peace between organics and synthetics.
According to the little shit, organics and synthetics will always be at war. There will always be conflict between, and peace will never be established.
Then what the hell was this?!
This one scene completely negates the Catalyst’s argument and renders it absolutely false!! Brokering a peace between the Geth and Quarians, two factions that have been at war with each other for years shows that not only is the Catalyst’s knowledge of organics and synthetics is wrong, but also proves, as Shepard has proven many times before, is that there is always another way of understanding one’s enemy. By ending the feud with the Geth and Quarians, Shepard proves that the impossible isn’t always set in stone. Change can happen.
And yes, Shepard does bring this up in his conversation with the Catalyst in the Extended Cut, even through in the original, this conversation never came up at all. Why? I honestly don’t know. I’ve always had a problem with this scene even with the Extended Cut because no matter how much evidence is proving against the Catalyst’s theory, all the facts are thrown out the window. We’re supposed to settle with the Starchild’s logic simply on the grounds of, “He’s all powerful and all knowing” or “it might happen again.” I don’t buy that. This one example should be proof enough that whatever the Catalyst believes about the why organics think is wrong based upon what Shepard had managed to do.
But then again, such in the thinking with artificial intelligence.
Fans were expecting to see Shepard argue this point feverishly with the Catalyst, or at the very least, refuse to take anything he said as merit. Because it none of it makes any sense and Shepard would never accept it! The whole attraction of Shepard! He/she defies the odds in the face of adversity, saying ‘screw you’ to the doubters and goes out to prove them wrong. There was just no way he would swallow the Starchild’s logic when such a valid example was staring you in the face! In fact, I would go as far as to say that the accomplishing between with the Geth and Quarians is enough to totally render the three choices the Catalyst offers to Shepard later on completely pointless.
And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about that Refusal Ending.
Please bare with me here. Here’s another example to consider.
In Terminator: Salvation, the Skynet computer (played Helena Bonham Carter) mocks Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) on humanity’s need to believe in the impossible. “In times of desperation, people will believe what they want to believe.” Skynet orchestrates a plan to wipe out the human resistance by giving them what they want the most: hope. Much like with the Crucible in Mass Effect 3, Skynet plans to use humanity’ s hope against them to end the war while encouraging Marcus to make the right the decision and join Skynet, seeing as how he is terminator and has no choice but to submit.
Despite Skynet’s efforts, Marcus outright refuses their offer and choices the fight against his creators, in a sense. In what could be considered almost a Shepard-esque move, Marcus goes renegade and frees himself from Skynet. Keep in mind that this isn’t the first time a terminator has gone rogue. Skynet is constantly losing robot units to reprogramming, so Marcus’ betrayal shouldn’t come as a big shock to Skynet, but yet it does. Why? Because in all it’s arrogance, Skynet believed that they could predict the actions of humanity.
That’s one of the great things of robots as the enemies in science fiction. They are arrogant and cocky about their supremacy over mankind and just love to point it out every chance they get. They believe that they can calculate every move, every action, every thought down to the decimal, and humans, being the defiant and head-strong creatures that we are, love nothing more than proving them wrong. From the Darleks in Doctor Who to the Borg in Star Trek, robot villains are the villains you just want to see fail then point and laugh as they die in a fire.
Now in the Extended Cut, it’s a whole different story…unfortunately.
Unlike the original ending, where players were given three choices, the Extended Cut offers up a fourth choice. Enter the Refusal ending. This was a moment in which I felt truly showcased the appeal of Commander Shepard. For three games, he/she has stood as this beacon of hope for all races in the face of tyranny. Like every great hero, he rallies together his allies and brings them together in a defining moment to say in one voice, “we will not surrender.” At this monumental battle, species put aside their difference and they fight as a united force. It reminds me of that scene in Independence Day where Bill Pullman stands before his troops and gives that rousing speech declaring humanity’s right to survive.
Inspirational isn’t it? Yeah…I thought so too.
In the Refusal ending, Shepard stands before his/her’s greatest enemy and says that he will not yield to the Reapers nor will he accept their offer. He knows that so long as he fights, there is hope. There is hope in the people who will always say no despite the odds. And he has faith in the people to make a difference. This is the classic formula of what makes a great hero story, and this is exactly what fans wanted. They wanted to be the hero and win the day! It would’ve been so easy to use this opportunity to turn this ending into the ending every one was asking for! It probably would’ve smooth things over the fans and improved their relationship as well as ended all negativity towards BioWare!
As it turns out, the Refusal Ending is to merely show that the awesome supremacy of the Reapers. The ending shows that despite Shepard’s efforts, despite all the allies and resources players spent hours gathering in side missions and rounds of multiplayer, it equals to nothing! The Reapers ultimately win. The final scene players are treated to is the Reapers wiping out Shepard’s forces with horrific ease, and an holographic image of Liara lamenting who they fought against the Reapers and failed. We don’t know the fate of our allies, so for all we know they died horrible horrible deaths or they were turned into some kind of mutilated Reaper soldier.
Thanks for playing!
There is so much wrong with this ending that I don’t even know where to begin! First of all, I’ve already said that this would’ve been BioWare’s chance to use this ending as the ending fans wanted to see. The three original endings were still in the Extended Cut, so BioWare’s ‘artistic integrity’ were still intact. They had their endings, they didn’t change those hardly at all. So what not give the fans they were craving with the Refusal Ending?
Also having the Reapers come out victorious? I’m sorry, how is that okay? How I am supposed to be okay with the idea that Reapers are so powerful that even with the forces I have at hand, it’s amounts to a hill of beans?
By having the Reapers win, despite all the work players put into gathering this massive army, It does not fix the problem had with the original ending at all! In fact it only makes it worse! I’m sorry if I sound loud here, but this whole thing absolutely infuriates me!! What kind of message is it when you build up the hero’s story so high on the moral belief that even in your darkest hour, you can still triumph over evil, that there’s always hope, only to have all be a bait-and-switch and enemy walks out the victor? That has to be the biggest betrayal to your audience as you get. Clearly somebody missed the whole point of the hero’s story. The hero story is all about hope. It’s all about staring your enemy in the face and saying “Screw you” as you walk about from a fiery explosion. That’s the very persona of Shepard’s character. By having the Reapers win, the Refusal Ending not only takes all hope away for a better future, but it kind of drives the message home that everything that player believed in going into this series, like holding true to your morals, is wrong and it’s best to abandon everything.
According to Casey Hudson, he figured players would appreciate this turn of events because as we all know in life, things don’t always work out the way you want it to. That you can try and try all you want towards your goal and you can still fail. Great moral lesson there, Casey. But guess what? This is a video game! People play games to win! And while you may have build the Mass Effect series around the concept of morality choices, it’s still pretty shitty that one of your endings makes its so that sticking your beliefs is what dooms the universe! That your only opinion is to pick one of the lesser evils and enjoy the light show!
As I said, this ending infuriates me and makes me see red. It pisses me off because it feels like BioWare was simply trolling the fans and laughing at them as they sat in their ivory tower. It takes everything away from what made the Mass Effect series so great, and seems to push the notion that the original three endings were actually the best choices. BioWare had the perfect set up that would have settle waters with the fans, and instead they went another route that felt hollow and flat.
All in all, Did Mass Effect’s Extended Cut fix the problem fan had with the original?
Yes – to some of the compliants
No – to the majority
I will give credit to BioWare for doing what they did in at least attempting to fixing their mistake. They could’ve well enough ignored their fans all together and released anything at all. Granted some of the plot holes were rewritten and were made somewhat tolerable. And most of fans concerns were put at ease. But the truth of the matter is that there is remains a huge problem with the ending that the company never, or refused, to address. In reality, BioWare made the ending to Mass Effect 3 way too complicated than it needed to be. Truly, this was the work of somebody’s vision and no one’s else. And sadly it shows. Even with the Extended Cut, it didn’t feel as though the company drew enough input from the fans. There was so much more work that needed to be done and it felt as thought BioWare did the least amount in order to maintain their original idea.
In the end, the player doesn’t walk from the series feeling victorious.
Just tired. Really, really tired.