Even With All Its Content, Mass Effect is an Incomplete Work

Warning! As usual, this post contains spoilers for Mass Effect 3. One day we’ll stop writing that — but it is not this day.

Mass Effect 3 is a curious case in the world of storytelling.

It’s not the only work of fiction ever to experience fan pressure that created a situation in which its authors, in some way or another, reworked its ending. But it is one of the rare examples of a story in which the authors created an ending, then had a chance to go back, to think about what they had to created, to expand on it and clarify it.

And yet, even with multiple downloadable content packs and an “Extended Cut” addition to its ending, which adds a significant amount of additional dialog and context to what BioWare originally created, many Mass Effect fans are still incensed about the failing of Mass Effect 3 to conclude the trilogy in a satisfactory way.

This week’s three-part reinterpretation of Mass Effect 3′s ending and its Catalyst character by Phil Owen, for which he replayed the entire series and all its downloadable and expanded content, has shown that there are multiple potential readings of Mass Effect that can help make sense of the series. But despite all the context BioWare has added to the situation, the best assessment of the material is that the trilogy is still, in a word, incomplete. Owen’s work found a way to read intentions in the authorship and a line of thinking that makes for some interesting insight — and it also reveals that, even with all the content BioWare added or could have added, making sense of it continues to require a lot of leaps of logic.

Owen’s work looks to interpret the statements made by the Catalyst, the apparent creator and controller of the Reapers, Mass Effect’s giant genocidal machines that return to the galaxy every once in a while to cleanse it of higher organic life. The original ending of Mass Effect 3 introduced the Catalyst through some quick lines of exposition, as an injured and bleeding protagonist Commander Shepard questioned him at the game’s conclusion. The Catalyst presented three choices for how to end the Reaper threat, all of which seemed to make little sense in context of the themes of the greater game and series.

The anger over the ending, which felt rushed and slapdash at best and which did a poor job of offering a satisfying conclusion to the three-game journey, was intense and, I still think, warranted. In response, BioWare created a few pieces of content that further expanded on that original ending — the Extended Cut DLC, which added further layers and explanation to the actual dialogue of the Catalyst and epilogues that put the choices into context, and the Leviathan DLC, which presented information about the Catalyst from the perspective of its creators. But what did these things add to the overall package, really?

With the games in a complete state, it’s possible to take all the textual evidence of the work together, from front to back. Owen’s playthrough, research and analysis was an attempt to try to use the series as a whole to understand the Catalyst better. With all the hints and subtleties throughout the series, all the things said by all the characters, and with all the DLC — basically, every thing BioWare had created, expanded and clarified — would one’s view of the Catalyst change? Would new insight be possible?

What Owen found was that, yes, it is possible to see some interesting potential undercurrents to the plan with the Catalyst and the motivations and actions of the Reapers, and his findings are very interesting for players of the series, in my view. But even as he developed an idea of what the Catalyst is actually up to, and more importantly, why, the primary work had been done by him — not by BioWare.

That’s not to say that nuance and understatement are effective literary tools, or that BioWare should have removed all mystery from Mass Effect to allow for a perfect reading. But instead what we’re left with is exposition built on a shaky foundation. Not everything has to be explained so long as what is makes sense, and while Owen’s read of Mass Effect is an interesting one, to me it still has to do too much of the work filling in holes. There’s evidence that suggests his read is potentially a correct one, but if any of those factors he’s forced to make assumptions about goes the other way, it can fall apart.

Even with the ability to basically clarify its endings into anything it wanted, with, at least in theory, creative freedom in issuing the Extended Cut and the Leviathan DLCs, Mass Effect 3 remains inadequate as a complete story. It still seems to run contrary to its own themes; it still seems to undervalue the life of its world after painstakingly creating a galaxy teeming with it; it still seems to favor “lots of speculation for everyone” over making a cogent narrative.

And what’s more, having all the information together in one place about the story still doesn’t leave us with any good way to make the overall Mass Effect series into something satisfying, because no matter what, the Catalyst still represents a painfully huge hole in the plot. He removes Shepard’s ability to be Shepard — there’s no agency behind the final choice of the series. After three games of being the lynchpin player in galactic politics essential to stopping the Reaper threat, Shepard picks one of three basically identical options.

The Extended Cut added epilogues that explain the context for each choice’s outcome, but they’re still all identical in serious, meaningful ways. And that makes the false choice so much harder to swallow. After three games in which Shepard’s agency was the crux of the plot, in the final moments, she’s stripped of it. As Owen points out, she’s basically a cog in another character’s machine.

The one thing that’s clear from spending the time with Owen to work through his analysis of Mass Effect’s textual evidence, and his interpretation of authorial intent in the Catalyst, was just how much there was to draw on — and how little it amounted to. BioWare skirts dealing with the ultimate conclusion of its series even as it “expands” on it. Was the trouble that the developer bought Sovereign’s line about the Reapers being unknowable, or just that good ideas about the direction of the series weren’t forthcoming until it was too late?

We’ll probably never know. That doesn’t mean continuing to look into the universe of Mass Effect isn’t without its benefits, especially with more games coming in the franchise and with the massive cultural impact the series has had on many players. And it’s clear that video game storytelling must be more than a figure-it-out-as-you-go enterprise, if those stories are going to have any lasting meaning.

Phil Hornshaw is deputy editor at Game Front. Read more of his work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

Join the Conversation   

* required field

By submitting a comment here you grant GameFront a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.

46 Comments on Even With All Its Content, Mass Effect is an Incomplete Work


On January 24, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I agree with you regarding the series being an incomplete work, though I’d also argue that even if they did fix the ending, it *still* would be an incomplete work. Why? Because of the unresolved narrative dead-ends like the dark energy subplot from the second game (people also say that it was also in the first game, I call BS).

R.S. Hunter

On January 24, 2014 at 3:27 pm

I think a lot of it has to do with the change of lead writers between ME2 and ME3. I mean, what happened to all that stuff about dark matter and suns going supernova before they were supposed that was introduced in ME2?

It felt like the series was going to go one way only to have it make a complete 180/ignore previous worldbuilding, and then try to say its hastily put together, plot-hole filled ending was what was intended all along. Anybody that got upset was just told that they were “upset because the ending wasn’t ‘happy.’” Or that they were acting “entitled.”

If you need to have somebody spend dozens of hours (and play all the optional material added after the fact to try and fill in the holes) just to come up with a plausible coherent explanation, then you failed as a storyteller.


On January 24, 2014 at 4:13 pm

It’s worse than incomplete. It’s a work that spends hours establishing things then completely undoes a majority of that in its denouement. I never, ever want to see another article posted about it on here.


On January 24, 2014 at 4:44 pm

@Phil: I agree that it’s still an incomplete work on the grounds that the game itself should bring the logical conclusion, not the DLC added after the fact. It’s almost as if they knew that their ending was bad, so they had to invent a means to force disappointed players to play through it again with the DLC. What they wound up with was many players swearing off EA/Bioware/Mass Effect/Etc., and as a result many of those players never bothered with the DLC.

@R.S. Hunter: I agree that the dark matter plot would have made more sense, especially if the suns going supernova would have resulted in the Citadel/Mass Relay Network malfunctioning at just the same time that the Reapers were showing up.

The analysis Phil Owen has given is compelling. However, I still think that in it’s current state, and with the current attitudes of the developers, the Mass Effect series will always have a sense of “incompleteness” to it. Any future Mass Effect game, if set in the same universe, will likely attempt to explain further plot holes, requiring players to keep getting more to the story.


On January 24, 2014 at 5:06 pm

I’d probably be on board with a lot of what Phil Owen suggested in his article, if not for the fact that I feel like he spent much more time and effort analyzing the series than BioWare ever did. As others have mentioned, it seems like the people making the story should be the ones putting the most effort into it, otherwise, how can I believe that there was the level of meaning that others have ascribed to the work? I don’t expect everything to be spelled out, but it’s also impossible to ignore what we were initially handed, or how much effort it took just to get people like Casey Hudson and Mac Walters to stop acting like people were stupid for not just imagining their own conclusion and doing their job for them.


On January 24, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Couldn’t agree more! Ending was terrible, the game was rushed out too fast, and Bioware didn’t fix it. Unless they do, I’m not getting ME4.


On January 24, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Thanks Phil; I think this is a great bookend to Owen’s three part entry. I appreciate that you didn’t just back your fellow editor and endorse his reading of the series, and that you’re willing to admit that he had to make presumptions that may not have been correct. I, unfortunately, didn’t agree with some of those basic inductive conclusions, which meant that I ultimately didn’t agree with the narrative he inferred underneath the trilogy. And that Owen had to creatively and tenuously infer the most important aspects of Mass Effects narrative is your criticism of the series itself. With that I wholeheartedly agree. I’m grateful to Owen for taking the time and making to effort to reanalyze one of, if not the, greatest game universe ever created, and grateful to you for pointing out why that analysis was both felt to be necessary and ultimately uncertain. Keep up the good work.

T. Jetfuel

On January 24, 2014 at 10:18 pm

See, the problem with unquestioningly attributing an “authorial intention” to Mass Effect as a whole is just ignoring the basic reality of the creation of said work. The “authorship” is pretty obviously ever so slightly complex in a trilogy written by a committee with a fluctuating membership, with the “lead writer” (presumably in charge of the overall coherence of the story) getting rotated to CPR duty on the developer’s ill-conceived MMORPG halfway through the trilogy (mid-ME2) and getting replaced by a… well, Mac Walters. (His talent being of so singular a nature that I couldn’t think of a general descriptor here. The Anti-King Midas, I believe, is the popular term.) Yet Mr. Owen treats the “authorial intent” as a simple given, and proceeds to stitch together a fabric of interpretation as if no part of the script could be questioned any more than if it had in fact taken place in reality.

Now I am not a literary critic. I didn’t click on the Wikipedia link Mr. Lincoln thoughtfully provided in the comments section under the announcement of Mr. Owen’s project, thinking it smacked of smart stuff that I couldn’t possibly understand as a simple gamurr, and thus resenting the very idea. Nevertheless, I have heard tell that them lit. critters have moved on from an absolute focus on the authorial intent behind a work into what the work in itself is communicating in the past century or so. Like, what is the meaning of the sudden shift in perspective from the first 99.9% of the trilogy, in which Shepard was the protagonist and the Reapers were the problem, to the ending, in which the resistance to the Reaper agenda was the problem and Shepard had to be dispatched with? Is this a case of the “deterioration of protagonicity” that guy Fred Jameson was going on about in “Antinomies of Realism” or what? Dunno. Maybe something a literary critic might be tempted to look into.

Of course, all this talk of “literary criticism” rather neglects the simple observation that the Mass Effect series might not be a work of literature as such. It has verbal narrative in it, sure. Then again, it has music in it too, and it’s not really an opera. And architecture, but it’s not a building. And so on. You get the point. It is in fact a video game. “Well duh”, you might say. But it appears that for all its banality, this insight is actually resisted by surprisingly many people. Maybe it’s all a part of the relatively recent wave of claims to legitimacy as an “art form” that has taken over the whole “field of discourse” regarding video games. Frankly it comes off as a little desperate. But more to the point, it leads otherwise thoughtful people to somehow miss blindingly obvious facts, like the one about Mass Effect actually being different from literature in that it placed us INSIDE the story as PARTICIPANTS. It’s not literature, and we are not simply an “audience”, there to “audit” the performance.


On January 25, 2014 at 1:06 am

T. Jetfuel should get comment of the week for that. In three paragraphs he explains why Phil Owen’s three multi-page articles are a failed concept based on a misguided assumption of what Mass Effect actually is and how it was developed. Trying to make out that there was a grand plan that was realised with the Catalyst is like suggesting the original Star Wars trilogy was all foreshadowing for the prequel trilogy. It’s retroactive continuity, putting the cart before the horse, and – frankly – delusional.

The Catalyst, the Crucible, and everything connected with the ending was created by a talentless writing duo (who entered the creative process halfway through) as a means of rushing out a superficially meaningful climax in spite of what went before, not the realisation of existing ideas from the previous two games or even from the rest of the third game. Articles like Owen’s, while well-written, are only a step down from fundamentalist religion, taking certain things for granted even though the very nature of how this work was created and executed – which is never addressed in any of the three columns since doing so would admit that everything he was saying was guesswork – means that they are at best questionable and at worst false assumptions. It’s just confirmation bias that ignores the large body of evidence that BioWare didn’t know what the hell they were doing at the time, were deliberately excluded from their own story, and had manpower sent off to focus on multiplayer which was an entirely monetary ploy by EA and BioWare and ends the argument about ‘creative integrity’ instantly.

Honestly, the people who send slices of toast to morning TV shows because they think they can see Jesus’s face in the marmalade have better reasoning than the ME defenders. The only legitimate defence I’ve seen is from those who say they didn’t really care how it ended because they enjoyed the rest of it. And even then, they have to admit (albeit in a tiptoeing fashion) that by association they agree the ending was a step down in quality. Everything else is mental gymnastics from the sort of people who think every piece of work – regardless of whether it’s art or not – has a larger meaning, when the simple fact is that most of the time it doesn’t.


On January 25, 2014 at 10:12 am

The story is everything in a game. And the ending is the most important part of the story.

As long as the story and the characters that make it are rich, deep, consistent, compelling, then I am a lot more forgiving on gameplay and graphics.
The story is what moves you in the end, this is what stays.
Even after a game is long surpassed in terms of graphics or gameplay, a game will survive and may even become legend if the story it is built on is rock solid.
ME had an incredibly strong story, an extremely rich and attractive universe, and that ending just didn’t do it any justice. Even an alternate ending without choice would have been satisfying if only it was consistent with the rest of the story.
A proper ending is what makes a story, a film, a game, legendary.


On January 25, 2014 at 10:15 am

Nobody mentioned books and comics. People who claimed to be a “hardcore fan” here are big fat gots.

Dan Miller

On January 25, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Yo, this site needs more T Jetfuel.

Terrence? Terry? Thomas?

Let’s call him T-bone Jetfuel.


On January 26, 2014 at 10:19 am

Chris, that’s bollocks and you know it. The books and comics were there as an accompaniment, not as part of the main cannon. The games should still make sense in and of themselves. If you’re suggesting that people “didn’t get” the ending or elements of the story because they didn’t want to read the books then you’re just wrong, plain and simple. Neither should you need the DLC in order to get the basics of the story and its focuses. Everything that should be integral to the game should be on the disk as part of the main experience, the rest should be optional.


On January 27, 2014 at 5:23 pm

I still say the Reapers should have simply existed. The real struggle for backstory comes on Shepherd’s side, as they try to right the wrongs of history. If they wanted a fatalistic ending, they should’ve made the Catalyst/Harbinger into more of a menacing villain, pointing out that Sheperd can’t possibly break the cycle, because existence itself depends on that cycle. Go full blown pessimist and have Shepherd go “dammit, I may be damning humanity, but we are gonna fight this thing” or have a Sheperd that, confronting the brutal reality of it all, submits to the design of billions of years of occurences.

That was a great theme, fate or predestination. Chance or design? Possibility versus probability? All these things could have been explored and made an interesting ME3. They didn’t, and you get the mess they put out.

Dr. Hazard

On January 28, 2014 at 5:55 am

If you want to look at where ME`s story began to take a wrong turn, look back at ME2. While still a great game in and by itself, it does very little to advance the overall plot. And sure, killing off Shepard in the game`s opening sure was a shocker, but what Bioware actually did there was write/design themselves out of having to take into account your choices in ME1, except as a few sentences here or there. To name one example, you are the first Human Spectre in recorded history, and guess what? You`re dead now so that`s off the list of achievements. Instead you are in fact a tool to serve the story Bioware wants to tell, rather than making your own. There is choice, but the fabled illusion of choice. Nothing more.

I would argue that you could have put any protagonist in there instead of Shepard in ME2, and it would have made more sense. The game could have revolved around finding Shepard after he/she was lost in the opening scene, but I am getting off topic. The series progressively got worse in both the story and `your choices matter` department.

The only complete game in the series is the 1st one, and its in my book the best.

Trying to make more sense of the games in their current state is commendable, but ultimately a futile endeavor.


On January 28, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Awesome article. You got great feedback at the Retake ME3: Initiative Log on Facebook!



On February 18, 2014 at 12:26 am

If people were looking for Shepard to argue with the Catalyst, and convince him to stand down due to, say, the Quarian/Geth peace deal, I’ve got news for you. It was stated in the first game that the Reapers don’t care about anything Shepard did. Even if Shepard mentioned that, the Catalyst could go “uh huh. Well that’s cool, but EDI/Geth still has to die. Too bad”.

Reapers are like terrorists. You can’t negotiate with them. Can’t reason with them. In addition, it was stated right in the very beginning, Reapers don’t share pity for anything Shepard may have done. They only care about completing the harvest and massacring trillions of organics. Even the original leaked script refers to the ending bit as the Reapers completing the harvest or “humanity’s ascension to Reaperhood”.

As for the choices, well, it would be a pretty easy victory if Bioware gave you all “Shepard wins” choices. Or every choice was in Shepard’s favor. Instead, there were two choices which align with the Reaper motives, and the original destroy choice, which was your plan all along. This game pretty much teaches you from the beginning that your goal was to destroy the Reapers.


So pick the center or left options. Reapers win, cycle continues, and everything you’ve done over the past 5 years gets flushed down the toilet. Most people die. Those who can’t be harvested are used for slave labor (as per codex: Harvesting).

If you pick the destroy option with 5000 EMS (3100 EMS for EC), then Shepard is alive, and you win the game and keep all that intact. That is the epitome of choices mattering.

There’s no way in hell Bioware could take all 1000 variables they were going to craft this story with and pin that on your final choice. You already saw the outcomes of your choices during the course of the game. The final decision at the end deals with Shepard’s fate, Reapers, and the Normandy. The rest of the galaxy got covered in the EC.

Forget the Catalyst bit, but do people really believe Bioware is silly enough to have Joker, a man with brittle bone disease survive the Normandy crash, and be the first one out the door? Let alone be alive. He breaks bones if he sneezes too hard. Then just sort of leave that scene untouched for nearly 2 years?

People seem to forget, writing a story is only part of that. You also have to edit it, as well as do the other things. Such as audio, level design, etc. The paragon/renegade switch at the end is not an accident.

Unless people are trying to assume the rest of the team had their heads up their butts too? If so, then I really can’t blame them for tossing the fans a bone (EC), and telling them to hoof it if they’re still not happy.


I didn’t personally need the DLCs because a lot of the stuff can be explained by using common sense. Even just reading the codex and such provides some of these answers.

However, people need every little detail explained. Why does Shepard have a gun with unlimited ammo? Why are you bleeding in the same place you shot Anderson, yet Anderson is unharmed, yet dies anyways? Why does TIM able to control Shepard and make him shoot Anderson? Why does the Catalyst look or say the things he does?

“If you need to have somebody spend dozens of hours (and play all the optional material added after the fact to try and fill in the holes) just to come up with a plausible coherent explanation, then you failed as a storyteller.”

Bottom line, it’s either real and completely poorly written. Or, unreal and merely some kind of dream like ending. There were several dream sequences during the game, so that’s technically what the ending bit looks like.

Very similar surroundings. Everything is in slow motion (like the dream sequences). You have a gun with unlimited ammo (a hint that this is not real). There’s no HUD like the dream sequences. The Catalyst sounds like FemShep/Ventboy/ManShep. A lot of extra work to go just to make some ending that doesn’t make any sense.

Bioware wouldn’t waste millions of dollars on something that is full of plot holes, lore contradictions and such, and just let it go for this long. Let alone ship the game in that state. And according to them, the ending doesn’t need to be explained because it “speaks for itself” or its meaning was meant to be quite obvious.

I still don’t buy the whole “if you have to explain it, then it’s bad writing” bit though. That’s just an excuse for people who don’t want to think about stuff, and just expect the author to spoon feed them. Seriously, does mommy spoon feed you pablum, much like you ask an author to spoon feed you information? This is an adult themed game for an adult audience. Real adults can think for themselves and don’t need people to explain every little detail. Like I said, a lot of that can be solved by using common sense. Part of participating in a story, is that you do some of the work too.

Some people managed to figure it out, so it can’t be that bad.




On February 18, 2014 at 1:13 am

@PeterSpouse – not this rubbish again.

Look – it’s been explained countless times already. We’re all aware that the indoctrination theory exists. Unlike you, however, since you’ve just bought into the theory out of wish fulfilment, we’re also aware that it a) was not BioWare’s intention at all (since they had a different ending planned until near the end of development when it was leaked), b) has never been confirmed or even alluded to by BioWare (aside from a couple of tweets that didn’t even mention the theory but were jumped on by its supporters as ‘proof’), and c) STILL doesn’t save the ending because if it’s true then it goes from an ending full of plot holes and little relevance to what’s gone before, to an ending with slightly fewer plot holes and even less relevance to what’s gone before.

No amount of posts with carefully selected sources from BSN of ambiguous quotes, and no amount of smug, sneering, condescending lines about how people didn’t “understand” the ending, is going to change that. We understood it far better than you did, which is why we understood that it was trash.

Still, love it blind I guess.


On February 18, 2014 at 3:26 am

Don’t bother replying to PeterSpouse. He’s a repeat offender on here who’s used several names such as magnetite, about 10 variations of csm/cms, midmup, EndingIsGreatFansAreWrong, and many others. All of which to post almost word for word the exact same comment and usually the exact same sources, albeit with different degrees of emotional outbursts and name-calling. He’s not here to engage in a real discussion on the ending or its merits, he’s here to stubbornly defend BioWare even when his defences are completely misguided and often are actually compelling criticisms of the game that he’s too blind to recognise. The sad part is that he’s still obsessively doing this almost two years down the line, while those who hated the ending have for the most part moved on.


On February 24, 2014 at 8:18 pm


I don’t know if you played the first game or not, but if you expect it to jump out at you and be real obvious, then it’s not going to happen:


There was plenty of hints throughout the entire third game to hint at this. However, seems you need to have some kind of “Shepard was indoctrinated”, “indoctrination was the ending” in order to believe this. In other words to have it made real obvious. Which is the opposite of how it is suppose to work. Clearly, it is you who did not play the first game or pay any attention to the story. Remember, this is a trilogy. Not all the answers will be found in the third game.

The whole game is littered with little subtle indoctrination hints. It’s not made obvious though. A datapad here, a random conversation on the Citadel about someone being indoctrinated. A letter from someone about indoctrination. Even a side mission, where you were dealing with Reaper tech or turning off indoctrination devices. Hell, one of your ex-squadmates, Samara, had one of her kids being indoctrinated and turned into one of those banshee things.

It is not Bioware’s problem that you can’t use the information they provided to you in the game. It is not their problem that you cannot ask people for help to try and figure this out. So in short, the answers were in the game, but you had to look for them. They aren’t going to do the looking for you. They aren’t going to hold your hand like a toddler and explain every little thing. This is a story, not a children’s book that mommy reads to you and you just sit, watch and listen. You need to actively participate in the story here.

Bottom line, Bioware doesn’t owe you an ending that is any good. It may be incoherent to you, but it wasn’t incoherent for everyone. If it was, they would have fixed it by now.

Mass Effect has lots of unexplained stuff, like how did Shepard magically get resurrected after being thrown into outer space in the beginning of the second game. You’d burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, and they wouldn’t be able to resurrect you, because there wouldn’t be any DNA to do it from.

Much like they didn’t explain how Shepard got from the Citadel to where he woke up at the end of the third game.

You might have this idea that the end of the game was supposed to be about X instead of what they came up with, and that’s fine. However, don’t go telling them that they were the ones who didn’t pay attention to their writing or other game design aspects and the fans are the ones with all the right answers, because that’s just going to make them ignore you. Not being really constructive there.

“We understood it far better than you did, which is why we understood that it was trash.”

You mean this:


Kind of reads to me “Fans are right, everyone working on that game (at least 200+ people according to the credits) were basically stoned when making the ending bit. We know this game inside and out, and have all the right answers. We paid attention to the lore, themes, and story, they didn’t”.

Can’t really blame them for not wanting to help you there. No company would want to work with someone who says “customer is always right”, “that company and everyone making the game didn’t know what they were doing”. “customers know this game better than the people who made it, and we’re the ones with all the right answers”.


I haven’t actually played much ME3 lately. Been doing other things. You guys are also still kind of stuck on this as well, because you come to a site like this to discuss the game, it’s “plot holes” or other flaws.

You say I am still complaining about the ending, yet, people still bring up the issue of plot holes, and such. So no, sounds like you haven’t moved on either. I’d say $5 and you’ll probably buy the next game regardless of what people say here. You might have moved past the ending bit (sort of), but you’re still connected to the game, otherwise you wouldn’t be posting here.

If people are going to pull the “fans vs Bioware”, “Bioware is the enemy” bit, and anyone who sides or agrees with them (eg. me)….well…it’s pretty obvious that they didn’t help you fix that ending. You can’t even pretend to work with them. So I don’t see why they would want to work with you. Mind as well dispose of you in the trash where you belong after the treatment you gave them. Bioware doesn’t care about you anymore. Deal. With. It.


On February 25, 2014 at 3:31 am

@PeterSpouse – hilarious. So you’re now trying to suggest that the IT dates back to the first game.

I’ve played the entire trilogy multiple times over. I know the series far better than you do. That’s why I know the IT has absolutely no relevance to even the first several months development time of the THIRD game, because I actually bother to do research instead of selectively reading fan-fic that other apologists got through Chinese whispers.

The IT is a delusion that has not been backed up by any single thing that BioWare has said or done in the last two years. Your defence is essentially “they won’t confirm it because it’s not supposed to be obvious” which is the most asinine reasoning imaginable considering there were absolutely no interpretive/surreal elements up until the final ten minutes, this isn’t a Lynchian dreamscape we’re talking about here. It’s about the most clear-cut, straightforward tale of people trying to survive against a big enemy threat. Just because indoctrination existed as a plot device elsewhere doesn’t mean you can suddenly claim it’s the explanation for anything that doesn’t make sense. But since you’ve convinced yourself that it must be true, in your blind eyes everything that BioWare does or does not do ‘confirms’ the theory even though any rational human being on the planet with an IQ above maybe 40 can see that none of your reasoning works.

- Fact: The original ending to Mass Effect 3 was scrapped because it was leaked. Not a single person who supports the theory ever even seems to acknowledge this inconvenient truth, because it calls into question literally everything they say. It sure as hell ends any speculation (of which there was none) that the theory had been in place since the first game, or even since the Arrival DLC.
- Fact: Casey Hudson and Mac Walters were not a part of the creative process for the first game, and they wrote the ending to the third game on their own without allowing any input from the rest of the team. So again, that just thwarts all your delusions regarding the first game.
- Fact: Two years down the line, the theory has not once been backed up by BioWare despite the fact that they had a whole DLC ending extension patch to do so. But again, for semi-religious nutcases like yourself, this somehow proves that it’s real since in Lalaland it only makes sense to not explain your work and to take several steps to deny and debunk theories on what it means.
- Fact: Even if it were canon, the IT doesn’t change the primary reasons for the backlash which were lack of closure and BioWare’s blatant false advertising regarding how many different personalised ending permutations there would be, not to mention it means that ending DLC was probably always planned. If the IT is true then it means BioWare are far more unethical and unscrupulous than if it isn’t true, which means people who don’t support the theory actually give BioWare far more credit than those who do, since we take it as given that they were just incompetent and egotistical as opposed to deliberately trying to string their customers along.
- Fact: The only people who still obsess over the ending now are BioWare’s defenders and desperate hangers-on to the IT. The rest of us have moved on because we’re not maniacs.

Unfortunately, your constant claims that you “understood” the ending and that people who don’t agree with you are lazy idiots who need to have their hand held doesn’t hold water. It’s you that shows a complete and utter lack of knowledge regarding how the series was cultivated, who was responsible for what, and what genre conventions are. The fact that you still think the IT somehow protects BioWare and saves the ending speaks volumes for just how little respect and regard you have for the rest of the games. But then, for you it’s not about what’s factually right or even theoretically plausible. For you, it’s just about trying to pretend that you got one over on the unwashed masses who rightly saw this for what it was, and for you to think you’re part of a private joke that BioWare in fact never intended to tell. Who cares that the only way you have to communicate this to us is to keep posting comments 20 paragraphs long filled with the same carefully selected, often out-of-context sources and the exact same arguments while using different screennames in a sad effort to make us think you’re different people? We certainly don’t, because we rejected the credibility of everything you have said and ever will say way back when you were posting as magnetite. We’re not falling for it anymore because despite your delusional belief that you’re on some sort of higher intellectual plane because you believe in a conjecture-based theory and a set of childish fallacies, you’re clearly not smart enough to realise how transparent and repetitive your posts actually are. Nor are you robust enough to accept it when people call you out on your nonsense, since even two years down the line you feel it necessary to google every single Mass Effect 3 article on GameFront and post these ramblings despite clearly not liking this site or what it stands for (i.e. challenging consensus).

Come back when you have something else to say.


On February 25, 2014 at 4:07 am

I couldn’t be bothered reading another one of PeterSpouse’s boring juvenile rants, but I picked up on his last line:

“Bioware doesn’t care about you anymore. Deal. With. It.”

I’m sorry, but how exactly is this supposed to support Bioware, Mass Effect 3, or the indoctrination theory? I paid my hard-earned money and spent hours of my life investing into their work. I was told several times by senior staff at Bioware that my choices were going to matter, that no two games were going to end the same. I’m not asking for anything unreasonable here, only what I was actually told I was going to get. And I didn’t receive that, none of us did. Sure, you and a few other idiots seemed to think that the entire game was an ending, but people who’ve actually read a book in their lives know this to not be the case. The majority of Mass Effect 3 was overwhelmingly loved. The ending – as in, the part that was actually serving as an ending instead of as an entire three-act plot – was overwhelmingly hated. What you want to think isn’t relevant, the statistical fact is that the majority of people who played the game loved the first 30+ hours of the game yet hated the final ten minutes of it. That clearly includes those like yourself who needed a complex, house of cards fan-developed theory in order to find any value in the ending, even though none of it was present on the screen or in the plot. So, when you say “Bioware doesn’t care about (me) anymore,” you’re including yourself in that without even knowing it. And yet you clearly can’t deal with it yourself, because you feel the need to keep bringing up this dead horse nearly 24 months after the game’s release, while those who hated the ending moved on ages ago, perhaps even managed to enjoy the rest of the trilogy again in spite of how butchered the climax was. But you? You still focus on this one element of the game, an element that probably wasn’t intentional and definitely wasn’t very well executed even if it was intentional. Why is it, if you’re such a massive fan of Mass Effect as you claim to be, and are so NOT effected by the ending as the peons are that you look down your nose at, that you’re the one still talking about it two years later and still trying to second-guess the intentions of the writing staff? That suggests to me that you actually don’t know anything about the games at all, your only focus is the last piece of a several thousand piece puzzle, and you’re determined to make it fit by any mental gymnastics necessary.

But even if you don’t accept that, there’s also that part about how those who hated the ending and felt annoyed by how Bioware broke its promises then treated us like children are the majority of people who bought and completed the game. This isn’t up for discussion, by the way. It’s proven in every poll ever conducted on customer feedback to the game and its ending, with those who support the ending not even breaking into a double-figure percentage of most polls until the extended cut was released. And a majority of this majority, while no longer bothered by the ending, are also not likely to plonk down $60 dollars on any more Bioware games or their DLC, especially while they’re owned by the hated EA. So, if you really love Bioware as much as you keep saying you do, you’d want it to actually retain as many of its fans as possible, if not through its content then at least by making them feel like they actually give a damn about them. Instead, you’re actively demanding that Bioware ignore hundreds of thousands of customers (possibly millions if you include those upset with them for other reasons like the From Ashes DLC or Dragon Age 2 not being properly playtested before release) because of what YOU want, which apparently is nothing since you can’t even talk about ME3 for what it is instead of what some people on the internet said it might be if you look at things in a certain way. You’re essentially hoping they cut off their nose to spite their face, probably costing them millions of dollars and losing dozens of talented but ever-more frustrated staff in the process. And then you say that other people are selfish? You’re easily the most selfish and entitled person on this article, denying the right of everyone else to be heard because you don’t like what they have to say. It’s this sort of insular pandering to corporate practice that’s only going to send Bioware out of business sooner. The real fans, on the other hand, are those that can actually hold them to account when they mess up. That’s why you’ll never be a real fan, you’re too busy being a shallow, narcissistic conformist who needs to have his way.

I’ve been unfortunate enough to read some of your other comments on here, and there’s no deviation in either content or tone. All of them read like Stephen Colbert, self-contradicting and increasingly grasping. The only difference is Colbert does it as a parody. You, sadly, appear to actually believe what you’re saying, and also apparently can’t say anything else. It’s people like you that Bioware and all serious developers (or “artists” if you want to kid yourself) need to stay away from, those that have no informed or independent ideas and will just say whatever they want to hear.

The indoctrination theory is not part of the story. Deal. With. It.


On February 26, 2014 at 4:25 am

it’s funny, i always assumed pissing off a large majority of your fans through lies and pr arrogance was a bad thing. it takes a pretty warped and stupid mind to think otherwise but apparently that’s what peterspouse is going for. after two years i was hoping maybe some of the fantoys would have grown up enough to learn some humility, but it’s still the same crap about how those who hating the ending did so because they didn’t understand it, even though everyone here knows full well that the last part is either all or in part taking place in shepard’s head. we get it, it’s nowhere near as complicated as you think it is and it’s also one of the most cliched and derivative twists in all fiction for the last two decades. it still doesn’t do a damn thing to fix the problems and to say otherwise shows that you never understood the problems to begin with.
but hey, keep beating that drum. it just shows how little the pro-ending lobby have added in all this time and how little bioware’s ass kissers understand games and storytelling. both of which can only send these greedy talentless backstabbers into insolvency sooner, something that can only be celebrated.

Ron Randolph

On February 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Jesus ing Christ this place is a cesspit of mindless rage, name calling, and toxicity.

Graham Dando

On February 26, 2014 at 3:55 pm

And how, Ron Randolph, is your comment any better? At least this so-called mindless rage is about something. Yours appears to simply be about the existence of other people arguing. Not particularly helpful.

Ron Randolph

On February 28, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Reading through these comments, some of you are calling people “Bioware ass kissers” who don’t align with your cause of wanting a new ending. That’s not really helping your case either. You’re essentially lowering yourself to the level of the guy who is insulting you. At this point, the closest thing you’ll ever get to a new ending is Citadel DLC.

From a business standpoint though, software is only in development for so long. Mass Effect 3 ended development on March 5th 2013. Much like Windows XP will end support this year, which means no more updates, support or anything. They’ve essentially pulled the plug on this game and have moved onto other things.

By any chance are you apart of the Retake Mass Effect movements? I think they had a slogan which stated “we’re not going to stop until we get our ending”. Which is what I’m seeing here. Despite the game no longer being in development, people keep pushing for a game company to give them a new ending, and I suppose they’d want it to be for free too.

Tom Davey

On March 1, 2014 at 2:56 am

@Ron Randolph – then you’re clearly not looking properly. The comments that are against the ending aren’t demanding a new one any more. They’re just stating that they can’t be bothered with BioWare after the BS they pulled over the whole thing. Those that are still obsessed with looking over the ending with a fine toothed comb are ironically now those who are hell-bent on trying to convince us all that the ending was ok, either because of the long-dispelled and debunked indoctrination theory or because they’ve fallen hook line and sinker for the “artistic integrity” line that was spewed out by the media machine and BioWare’s PR division. Nobody else gives enough of a crap about it to analyse the ending itself, only how BioWare’s reputation took an irreversible nosedive due to their actions.

And no, I was never part of the Retake movement and I doubt that many other people here bothered with it either. But the fact such a thing existed and was not only called a “movement” but that it pulled tens of thousands of followers shows just how out of touch BioWare and the mainstream outlets were when it came to this, and it also shows exactly why you cannot shut people down just because you don’t like what they have to say – exactly what you’re accusing others of doing when they don’t like the ending, but seem ambivalent towards when the reverse is true.

If there’s still a bitterness in this, it’s not aimed at the ending. It’s aimed at the way many have sought to look the other way in the face of corporate dishonesty or, worse, flat-out attacked people who paid attention and knew what BioWare was promising before release and how it conflicted with what we actually received. It’s about having to hear the same sneering, straw man bull from an increasingly distant and unprofessional media elite, and from fanboys who call the majority selfish while pleasing with BioWare and EA to only listen to the unwavering sycophancy that THEY have to say. It’s about far more than the ending to a videogame. I dare say in fact that the content of the ending itself is purely incidental. It’s about just how little regard a previously customer friendly developer has for its longtime loyal fanbase when said fanbase is critical of something, and how big a part the media plays in trying to keep people oblivious to the real reasons behind it.

It’s difficult to separate signal from noise, especially on something as controversial as this has been, so I don’t blame you for coming into this with a predisposition. I do, however, blame you for not being able to remove your pre-existing assumptions from what’s actually on the page.


On March 7, 2014 at 11:24 pm

People can complain all the want, but a company can either take your input, or leave it. Perhaps even disagree with the fact that you were lied to and explain why, which I recall Bioware did. Unfortunately, fans didn’t see it like that.

As someone pointed out, people are pulling the old “customer is always right” card and not allowing others to explain:

1. This is why your choices mattered
2. Here is why I believe you received your 16 endings and other things Bioware promised
3. This is why I believe you weren’t lied to
4. Here is why there was no false advertising regarding Mass Effect 3

Unfortunately, all I hear are people covering their ears and only siding with arguments that support the false advertisement or other things. People talk about criticism, but it seems pretty one sided, our way or the highway.

With a debate there are two sides to an argument, not one as people seem to see here (eg. Bioware did false advertise, and nothing anyone says will convince us otherwise. Bioware betrayed their customers/fans and nothing anyone says will make us believe otherwise).


On March 8, 2014 at 2:53 am

@ChristineM – you list four arguments that you claim people aren’t listening to. You then fail to explain any of them yourself.

So go on, then. Explain why our choices mattered, why there were 16 endings, why we weren’t lied to and why there was no false advertising – although the last two of those are the exact same thing anyway.

If your answer to all of these is “the entire game served as an ending because it was the third part of a trilogy” then I’m going to scream. This is literally the ONLY thing that apologists have been able to come up with, and it’s complete and utter bull.

The reason people haven’t been able to accept these explanations is because they simply don’t exist. Because our choices did not matter, there were not even six different endings let alone 16 (unless you count a palette swap as a different ending, which most people don’t – especially given the complexity in the C&C present in the rest of the game), and because BioWare REPEATEDLY lied about the nature of the ending and falsely advertised the game on the very premise of everyone’s game ending differently based on their choices throughout the trilogy. There’s even a forum post on BSN that shows just how much, and how often, BioWare’s senior staff were dishonest about it.

And the only things fanboys have been able to come up with in response is to laughably claim the whole game was just a long ending, or to still cling to the long discredited indoctrination theory, or to call the majority entitled for expecting what was promised, or to say it would compromise ‘art’ even though BioWare already did that with the inclusion of multiplayer as a device to get better EMS, holding back crucial content for day one DLC, and changing the ending in the first place just because the original ending was leaked. It is, in fact, these people who put their fingers in their ears and refuse to accept basic, irrefutable truths about what happened here.

Prove me wrong. But the fact that you didn’t even attempt to go into the counter-arguments that you established suggests that you actually can’t answer any of them. In which case, you’ve proven exactly why people don’t listen – because there’s nothing there to listen to.


On March 8, 2014 at 7:40 am

Accusing a company of lying and anyone who disagree with you Bioware apologists, delicious.

Even after two lawyers and an advertising agency did a thorough investigation of these false claims and concluded that isn’t false advertising, the endings are different, not as much as fans would like.

Let’s get something straight, no one is above the law. If two lawyers said that the ending were different and didn’t constitute false advertising, then that’s it. Case closed, verdict rendered. Not guilty. The law has spoken. Yet, people are trying to prove those lawyers wrong? Hah.

Fans are trolls, don’t feed the trolls.

Phil Hornshaw

On March 8, 2014 at 8:13 am


At the risk of getting in the middle of this, I need to point a few things out.

First, everything you just pointed out about lawyers is, uh, not how lawyers work.

“Case closed, verdict rendered, not guilty, the law has spoken” — nope, those statements of finality would have to come from judges and juries. You sound like Lionel Hutz. “I rest my case. …What? Oh no, I thought that was just a figure of speech. Case closed.”

Second, lawyers don’t decide the law, and they take cases based on what they think they can get a judge or a jury to rule. The endings ARE thematically different, which is what the advertising says, and trying to prove otherwise would require getting a judge or a jury to play through three games and read years of preview statements to convince them. Just because it would be nearly impossible to get a ruling in court doesn’t mean those lawyers have determined everyone upset about the endings is wrong. In addition, who cares what they think? What authority do they have to make this determination over anyone else? Are they Mass Effect lore lawyers?

Third, the argument of what lawyers think and advertisers determined ABOUT EA’s ADVERTISING is actually not at issue. In fact, I already dismantled that argument back in 2012.



On March 8, 2014 at 8:26 am

Sorry MikeC, i’m not going to humor an obvious plant even if Phil is. You’ve contributed nothing and have only proven me right that the fantoys have no legitimate arguments. Plus I suspect ypu and ChristinaM are the same person.

Still, thanks for the laugh at your desperate nonsense.

Phil Hornshaw

On March 8, 2014 at 8:28 am


Fair point but since I had actually written that editorial like two years ago I felt like it was worth a response. Plus it got me thinking about Lionel Hutz, so it was worth it. :)

Dan Barnes

On March 8, 2014 at 9:55 am

I’m used to seeing really, really bad reasoning on this site, especially when it concerns ME3, but even by those standards MikeC’s comment is almost unprecedented in its level of wide-eyed idiocy. He appeals to the authority of the legal system because some lawyers said it wasn’t false advertising, even though the case was about EA’s advertising on how the game would be formed by your choices (which was technically true and accurate) as opposed to Bioware’s many dozens of press statements in which they specifically said there would be multiple divergent endings (which are proven lies). So he’d rather accept an arbitrary decision by a few lawyers – who, as Phil points out, aren’t even the highest or most reliable authority even within their own field – than the many cogent and developed views constructed by people who played the games. I wonder if he would still have supported the lawyers if they’d decided that EA had in fact falsely advertised the game. Not to mention, it’s irrelevant anyway since nobody’s complaining about EA’s advertising. They’re complaining about Bioware’s public assurances. There’s a world of difference that only the wilfully blind or terminally obtuse would overlook. He then says that “fans are trolls” which is just so deficient of anything resembling a sensible thought that it almost borders on parody. I can’t even be bothered to get into just how rubbish that comment is, I’m sure someone else will give it a go though. Needless to say that if he truly believes such a peevish thing then it renders his entire reasoning for defending Bioware meaningless, since he’s doing so out of what he believes to be fandom and, by his own association, he must therefore be a troll. Of course, he’s a troll anyway because he’s taking what is a minute minority stance and using ad hominem terms and fallacies to try and draw attention to himself and away from the actual subject matter, the pure definition of a troll. Not to mention he’s posting under multiple screen names to make his view look more popular than it actually is (there’s no way ChristineM and MikeC are different people that just happen to be posting within a few hours of each other on the same article and share the exact same views, you must think we’re the most gullible people on the planet if you expected us to fall for that) which is another archetypal troll tactic. In the end I’m just glad Phil was on hand to put him in his place using facts, sources and rationale instead of the keyboard-spamming emotional outbursts that MikeC himself is only capable of.


On March 8, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Mass Effect 3 lore lawyers, that’s a good one. I take it the fans the experts on that.

So I’m Lionel Hutz, and that makes you one of Mr. Burns’ high priced lawyers?


Dan, use some paragraphs. I’m having a hard time reading your logical arguments. I got the part where you called them liars, but that’s about it.

Calling people liars doesn’t help any. I get the whole they promised us 16 different endings, but many people have dismissed this claim.

http://ca.ign.com/wikis/mass-effect-3/End_Game_Chart_-_With_Spoilers (24 endings)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJAcJdDxdlQ (EC ending slides)

24+X=more than 16 endings not less. Do the math. Sounds to me like your choices do matter.

Did you not read an article where they stated that part of this backlash will help improve future games? Kind of sounds like they are learning their lesson already.


Seeing as this has been going steady for 2 years, it’s safe to assume this:

5 years later: Bioware didn’t give us what we were promised! Liars!
10 years later: Bioware still didn’t give us what we promised! The lore is still broken! My choices still don’t make a difference! It’s still just ABC or with very little difference.

Hey people still complain about Star Wars prequels even today. I’d be willing to bet people are still going to about this for the next 10 years.

Mass Effect 3 will be known as the most embarrassing overreaction in the history of video games.

Yet, the consumer still plays the “customer is always right” and are the victim in all this.

Anyone who disagrees on the false advertising, promises, and that your choices don’t actually matter is a troll as per Dan. See, you just took my argument and reversed it to make me look stupid.

There are dozens of articles which take your points and have refuted them. Not just big time gaming journalists, but random people on the internet too. They must be trolls too because they don’t agree with you on everything.

TLDR, you’re not going to let this go until you get what you were promised. I get that.

You’re going to make sure Bioware learns their lesson, instead of being a good consumer and voting with your wallet. Probably buy the next game too, because you’re so invested in this series. Wouldn’t surprise me if you did.

At this point you are a bad customer in their books. Let me explain.

You waste most of their time, energy and resources. You the ones who are never satisfied and almost always cost a company more to serve than they spend (years worth of DLC, free extended ending, still not happy). You are rude and sometimes dishonest. Names like Grippage (ball sacks), Yolo (translates to idiot) referring to others. You complain about, or haggle over, everything.



On March 8, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Just give up, MikeC. You’re fooling nobody here. There’s nothing of any worth behind what you’re saying, and you’re deliberately ignoring the fundamental reasons behind the backlash – as all of your like do.

Dan Barnes

On March 8, 2014 at 1:48 pm

“You are rude and sometimes dishonest. Names like Grippage (ball sacks), Yolo (translates to idiot) referring to others.”

Pot, allow me to introduce you to my friend kettle.

Everything you post on here is beyond embarrassing now. Go and troll elsewhere, you little crybaby.


On March 8, 2014 at 2:56 pm

MikeC is just magnetite/PeterSpouse/midmup/csm/cms etc. You can always tell when it’s him because he only ever posts on Mass Effect 3 articles, he usually calls people trolls if they don’t subscribe to his opinions even though he’s the one going out of his way to stir sh*t in a community that he clearly doesn’t like and just wants to get noticed by, and he often posts like 10 or 15 links to other peoples’ entirely subjective and pro-Bioware articles as if that’s supposed to validate his empty, meaningless words and fallacy-based circular logic. No doubt he’ll crawl off for another week now then re-emerge with yet another new screenname just to repost the exact same thing all over again. I don’t see how it’s supposed to benefit BioWare to live in denial like this and endorse the alienation of 80% of their customer base, but I suppose that’s the price I’ve paid for being educated and living in the real world.

The unfortunate thing is that he’s getting his way, he’s managed to divert attention away from Mass Effect 3 and the debate over the ending and towards himself, even getting Phil Hornshaw to join in on the act. But I guess empty vessels really do make the most noise. It’s just a shame the noise doesn’t change occasionally instead of being this constant dirge of personal attacks towards the fans and verbally fellating Casey Hudson.

There’s nothing more dangerous to any emerging art form than stubborn, unwavering obedience even in the face of credible criticism. People like MikeC who claim to be supporting the medium are in fact going to destroy it if they get their way. It’s up to GameFront to keep them at bay and continue to challenge their little echo chamber of ignorance and elitism instead of bowing down to it and claiming it’s the majority view like the rest of the mainstream outlets have done. Everyone – from gamers, to the media, to the publishers and developers themselves – will benefit from continuing to scrutinise and analyse. And those like MikeC who wish to keep this culture static and insular will be left in the dust. Good riddance to them as well.


On March 8, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Toxic feedback detected


On March 20, 2014 at 11:58 pm

I can’t believe there’s people who still desperately try to cling to such a dumb idea like the IT is. It’s just unbelievable (and all it does is harm any chance of getting an ending that makes sense).

The idea of someone being in a coma or having their mind controlled is so incredibly cliché, but people still think these idiots making things up are geniuses, when it’s just unoriginal bull; you can see a lot of “articles” and drawings saying that Adventure Time, Pokemon, etc. are happening inside the main character’s head.

It’s just so stupid.

Deryn Braun

On March 21, 2014 at 5:17 am

@Eh – it can work if it’s the centre of events. Total Recall, Mulholland Drive, Minority Report and many others have reveals or insinuations of some or all of the events being in the mind of the protagonist. They all lie to the audience in their own way, but they also all establish within the plot that the narrator may be unreliable or they make the rules clear of what is and isn’t possible and what can be seen as a clue to the true nature of events. None of which can be said of Mass Effect 3, which is just a space shooter with morals about unity and self-determination, that happens to have a minor plot device about indoctrination. The only ambiguity present in the rest of the story is an ethical one, not a literal one, and those dreams with the kid don’t count because they’re too infrequent and tell us nothing useful. So if Bioware was actually going for the IT, they failed miserably. You don’t just change the tone and central conflict of a massive story in the dying moments just because you want to troll your audience. That’s pathetic writing. And if the IT was not Bioware’s intention, then that means the fans who originally came up with it as a potential interpretation (not the leeches who support it out of blind loyalty to Bioware because they think they’ve got one over on the proles, one of whom is clearly a repeat offender on this very article) understood the lore of the game far better than the lead writers could have done on their best frigging day – and were still completely ignored and rejected when the extended cut was released. Either way, it’s epic fail on Bioware’s part.


On March 25, 2014 at 6:04 am

Phil has a valid take. Bioware can’t complete/finish the Mass Effect trilogy, mostly because the ending was poorly thought out, but was already experienced by millions of players, and the company doesn’t want to admit their mistake, which would also anger some of the fans.

I don’t mind that Shepard gets given new choices that are not what we had in mind, as the character faces some force that has it own kind of logic. The idea that this IA had turned autistic could have even made a very challenging ending, had it been decided on purpose, rather than being three choices written on a napkin at the end of a lunch and poorly implemented in the story. It’s just that we can’t relate to any of the choices. We’ve spent dozens or hundreds of hours micro-managing our relationship with various NPCs and squad mates, then we have to make a choice that concerns the entirety of the galaxy, and we have zero idea what it means, because your experience as a player came mostly from the ties you had with your squad mates, who were your connection to this world.

And the only connection you have to this ultimate choice is about how you want Joker and EDI to end up together. It has no other impact on your squad mates, just on trillions of intelligent beings (organic or synthetic). That’s what makes the ending totally un-cathartic. You can’t project yourself into Shepard and what the squad mates would feel. You’re supposed to focus on a bigger picture, that ME3 failed to make you embrace in the narrative. I cured the xenophage mostly because I had bonded with Wrex and Grunt during the previous games, and because it was Mordin’s conclusion. I was responsible for a peace between Geth and Quarians because, even if the Quarian admirals were idiots, they could see now that they could cohabit with the Geth after I revealed the facts that their propaganda had hidden from them. And now, I’m supposed to decide the fate of trillions of minds, with my main reference being how intelligent will be the sex doll that Joker wants to spend time with.

Then, regarding the comments section, Dogma has at least one big fact wrong:
“Fact: Casey Hudson and Mac Walters were not a part of the creative process for the first game, and they wrote the ending to the third game on their own without allowing any input from the rest of the team. So again, that just thwarts all your delusions regarding the first game.”

FACT: Hudson has been the director/producer since the first game. Drew Karpyshyn was the head writer, but still answered to him. Hudson has always been the main arbiter in the creative process. If he was unhappy with one of Drew’s ideas, he could ask him to change it.
FACT: Mac Walters has been part of the writing team since ME1. He was promoted to head writer after Karpyshyn left.
So, both have been involved with the game and the story since day one. They are not suits from EA who butchered the conclusion after it had been pried from Karpyshyn’s cold dead hands.
The real problem is that Walters and Hudson, as storytellers, are not as good as Drew Karpyshyn. They attempted to make a twist with the ending of ME3, mirroring the reveal that it was Sovereign, not Saren, who was responsible for the events of the first game. But they failed miserably, and their grand arc of the Crucible (the largest enema syringe in the galaxy, that you have to dock on the Citadel) makes little sense. If they had kept Karpyshyn on board as a consultant, we may have a more satisfying ending compared to what they tried to improve with the Extended Cut:


“In any kind of writing, if you as an author include some kind of surprise or twist that NOBODY sees coming, then you have FAILED! The best twists are those that flow organically from the story; they have foreshadowing and they tie into the themes. On a second run, any audience that has seen the twist should be able to notice things that make them go “aha – they were telegraphing this all along!”. This can be very subtle, but no matter how subtle there will be a handful of folks who see it coming before it arrives. The only way to make a twist catch everyone off guard is to have it come with no warning or foreshadowing at all… and that will almost always feel wrong, or forced, or unnatural.”


On March 25, 2014 at 7:15 am

@Dwigt: Thanks for the correction regarding Hudson and Walter’s work on the first game, I must have misinterpreted the ME timeline GameFront published a while back.

The rest of my point, however, still stands – they took it upon themselves to end a story that had, up until that point, been mostly peer-reviewed by the majority of the team, and they did so for the most cynical of reasons (proven by internal communications to be nothing more than raising controversy) that were nothing whatsoever to do with creating a natural conclusion to the series or its lore. And they did so despite neither of them being part, at least not major ones, of the initial conception of the series. Why did they think that they could exclude the rest of the team from the conclusion of years of their work when this was not the means by which the rest of the story was written, and the story wasn’t even their idea in the first place? They clearly played an appeal to their own authority and the rest of the team either refused or failed to challenge their pride. And they did so in order to appease EA’s desire for focus on multiplayer and as a prerequisite for DLC and further sequels.

So ok, they weren’t planted there by EA as their minions, but I never said they were. That doesn’t mean they don’t represent EA’s interests and that they weren’t willing to compromise the REAL artistic integrity of BioWare in order to make EA happy. It’s called Tone at the Top and it’s an unfortunate biproduct of corporate culture.

Agree completely with the rest of what you said.


On March 28, 2014 at 11:13 pm

If people want to make a case, you could start by not insulting their employees (writing, PR skills or otherwise).

As a business owner, the second you insult my staff (or any organization’s employees) is the second I essentially send you to one of my competitors and refuse to give you service.

Regardless of whatever Bioware promised you, the deal is off once the insults start happening. To them, or even people here, who you refer to as crybabies or trolls. I don’t want to deal with customers like you. No other organization would either.


On March 29, 2014 at 3:25 am

@Roland – clearly you have no idea what you’re talking about. Your use of circular reasoning to justify Bioware’s actions is worse than the circular reason Bioware used to explain the actions of the catalyst.

The insults starting coming BECAUSE Bioware broke their promises. Bioware didn’t break their assurances because of the insults. Bioware’s fanbase was one of the largest, most loyal and least fickle fanbases in the games industry. They betrayed that faith, and were quite understandably criticised for doing so. To try and claim that they’re the victims in this is so outrageously dishonest that it’s almost impossible to even challenge. And what do you mean “as a business owner” anyway? What has that got to do with anything? Are you suggesting that people who own businesses are more or less inclined to be affected by negative responses to their work? I would have assumed the exact opposite is true, that owners of large businesses should be more robust to cope with it. Your endorsement of what is the business equivalent of taking your ball and going home is basically an endorsement of unprofessional, unethical business practice and is most assuredly NOT advice that Bioware or any large developer needs to listen to.

And then, to top it all off, you prove yourself a massive hypocrite by calling people “crybabies and trolls.” So it’s not ok for customers to criticise a developer based on publicly released statements of technical assurance but it IS ok for you to call these people childish names? Based on your logic that Bioware should just ignore people who aren’t completely positive towards everything they do, that means we should care even less about what you have to say since you’re providing nothing except fallacious nonsense and personal attacks.

Our case has been made perfectly clear, coherently, and diplomatically. It’s about time you learned to do the same. Until then, we will simply leave you behind.


On March 30, 2014 at 8:09 am


We definitely agree on the most of the points.
The only thing I want to highlight is that you tend to idealize a little how much writing is done for a video game. Mass Effect was never “Drew Karpyshyn’s Mass Effect,” mostly because it’s almost always a producer’s industry. Even if the writing is the secret weapon, which it was in the first two games, it’s subject to what is deemed feasible — if they want to develop a plot about female Turians, but modeling is too expensive for what it brings to the game, the plot will be cut by the producer. Even in the first two games, there were elements that had to be excised due to budget and time constraints.

It’s also hard to blame Bioware for not sticking to the original plan for the sequels. Even in the film or the TV industry, it almost never happens, unless you have an already completed work that’s supposed to be published in several installments. Drew Karpyshyn is the first to admit that they didn’t think much about Cerberus during the first game, and it was only when they started to develop the second game that they decided to use it as a main component to the plot. Similarly, elements that were supposed to be important can evolve into a dead end (like an initially promising character who ends up being repetitive and boring) When you have a huge arc in project, you may have some clues about what the sequels may deal with, but a first episode from a sci-fi saga is already so huge in scope that it requires full attention from the writer(s).
So, Karpyshyn mentioned that the original idea for a resolution was about dark energy (which is alluded to in the ME2 rescue mission for Tali near the dying sun), but it was just an idea, not a synopsis or a workable draft, or the supposed climax of the entire trilogy. It was the ending… until somebody would come up with a better idea or would notice that there were huge issues in it. The problem is that Hudson and Walters aren’t good with the main plot — all the stuff about the Crucible and Cerberus was too abstract. ME had a compelling and multi-dimensional villain with Sarrus (and Benezia, and Sovereign). ME2 brought the very shadowy and ambiguous Illusive Man. ME3 has the galaxy building some sort of huge device somewhere… and abstract numbers (war assets and EMS). Sure, there are great character moments (the other staff writers are really good at it) but they’re a more of a continuation of what was built in the two other games (which is what’s asked from staff writers), not introduced in the beginning of ME3 then developed in the rest of the game (with the exception of Javik), which is more of the responsibility of a head writer.

Conclusions of long and complex sagas are also often a disappointment to the readers or the audience. Writers often introduce new ideas during the development, that can make for great sequences, a thrilling arc, but have to get some kind of a resolution, along with the initial premise of the story. Even if it had been handled better, the ending for ME3 would have disappointed many people, just like acclaimed shows such as Lost or Battlestar Galactica or a saga such as The Dark Tower turn to crap in their final moments, as they can’t make a satisfying conclusion for everything, as they had so many ideas that made for great sequences, and added more and more during years. The endings turn to crap because of the weight. Writers tend to adopt a cop-out or try to reduce too much stuff under a catch-all concept. So, what made the ending crap is also the same thing that made previous moments fresh and great.
A few months ago, a TV show on Adult Swim named Eagleheart tried to serialize a third season they called “Paradise Rising.” The finale was actually exhilarating, because they used every known trick in the book for an ending to a complex plot. They played one card, then they moved to a totally different one, which makes things extremely confusing and artificial (which was the point). So, you get “time is circular”, “it was all a conspiracy”, “it was all a dream”, “the hero takes the ultimate sacrifice”, the deus ex-machina (or in that case the devil), and even a post-credits short scene.

Lastly, I agree that the head honchos at Bioware didn’t make a great job with the requests by EA, but, as I said, there are always priorities and pressures in this industry, which means compromises. Compromises always exist. I won’t put all the blame for the failures of ME3 on them. Had Bioware stayed independent, they may not have been entitled to the budget that fueled the scope of ME2 and ME3. So, yeah, EA loves DLC and multiplayer, but it could have been much worse. Remember the micro-transactions in Dead Space 3, and the emphasis on coop mode? Now, that was a franchise killer.
Walters and Hudson locking themselves in a room and writing the ending has little if not nothing to do with EA. If anything, it was a sign that the head writer and the director benefitted from too much autonomy. If rules had been established by the management (and EA), somebody would have been notified that there were issues in the creative process for the final part of the game, and some corporate lackey would have politely asked everybody to contribute to this part of the script, instead of releasing an ending that felt at best lackluster, at worst idiotic.
I don’t think it was a ploy to make people buy DLC. If anything, Bioware and EA had to fund development for the free Extended Cut DLC, because they weren’t aware of the issues in the original ending. From Ashes and Leviathan were released as DLC (even if From Ashes should have been part of the main game), but there’s only a fringe of ME players who are ready to redo a game months after completion, because some paid content has the whole plot making a little more sense.

PS: I’m writing this hours after completing ME3 for the second time, two years after my first play through (before the Extended Cut), and one year after getting at last ME1 (I’m on a PS3) and using the same character for the three games. I was originally angry at the ending, and I waited for the DLC to go on sale (which was the case this month on the European PSN) to go on a second run. The Catalyst is still a complete loser — the writing is awful with the various “It would be too complex to explain” or the weak metaphors from a supposedly super-intelligent entity. Actually, why I was moved by parts of the ending (the final conversation with your crew in the building almost brought me to tears, like the pictures of Wrex and Bakara with kids or Quarians and Geth working together), but this time the explanations by this awful kid made me laugh along with the preposterous speech by EDI for synthesis (“Hey, by the way, we may turn up immortalz. LOL!”).
I still can’t relate to the final choice in the game. There are actually no organics or synthetics. There are just fictional characters within a game. I decided that EDI or Legion were “alive” and deserved to live not because it was the natural evolution of synthetics, but because the writers had decided to give them the voice of a real character, and I was interested into knowing what they had in mind next for the character.
But the fate of all life in the galaxy? Meh… If you want me to care about the fate of intelligent life, start by not having a stupid script…
The best ending in my mind is to keep the Citadel Party away (but do the first part of the DLC) until you complete the game and you go back to the time just before the attack on the Cerberus HQ, as if the party was a flashback, the final thing you remember before dying.

PS2: The Indoctrination theory is false. The truth is that the kid in the post-credits scene with the Stargazer is also the kid that dies at the beginning of the game and who becomes later the embodiment of the Catalyst. In reality, the kid from the Stargazer is autistic and imagined the whole plot of ME3 based on the tales of his grandfather about “the Shepard” and watching the globes of the moons. I call it the “St. Elsewhere theory.”