Mass Effect 3 Ending-Hatred: 5 Reasons The Fans Are Right
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4) It is Confusing and Under-Developed
Of course, the ending’s brevity wouldn’t matter if it actually made sense. But the moment you’re struck by Harbinger’s beam, events lose structure, outcomes become preordained, new concepts and characters are introduced literally in the last seconds of play, and all of it free of any context or explanation. Granted, some of this is kind of trivial, like the fact that Anderson, despite having come up the Conduit behind Shepard, beats him to the secret Citadel control panel room. Maybe BioWare agreed to put Keith David in the final scene in order to make up for his absence during most of the game. It’s silly, but having Anderson in the final scene feels right, so it’s easily forgiven.
But the majority of the ending is an exercise in increasing incomprehensibility, beginning with the abrupt appearance of The Illusive Man. Without any warning, he just kind of… shows up in the control room with Shep and Anderson. It is never explained how this is even possible; there isn’t even a cursory “Shepard, as you can see, I planned to save Humanity by purchasing a penthouse here on the citadel. PEACE.”. Of course, we’ve known throughout the game that the Illusive Man has indoctrinated himself in a foolish attempt to control the Reapers. A comment minutes later suggests that the Reapers allowed him to arrive in a last ditch effort to either talk Shepard down, or kill him. Fine, we accept that.
But it’s the reveal of the game’s primary villain that ultimately cripples the end. It turns out to be a ridiculous AI whose visual representation is the young boy haunting Shepard’s nightmares throughout the game. It is never explained why this is the form he chooses; we don’t even get the courtesy of the “I chose a form you were comfortable with” cliche. The Citadel, the AI explains, is his home and he is the Catalyst needed to make the Crucible work. The AI then claims that he created the Reapers billions of years ago as a means of solving the problem of synthetic life forms killing their organic creators. The Reaper’s whole purpose is to save Organics by killing them, and turning them into synthetics. So that Organics won’t make synthetics who will then kill organics.
Yes, this is exactly what he says.
This explanation for the entire history of the Mass Effect universe is the most precise example of all that is wrong with the end of Mass Effect 3. In essence, the player is told that everything they experienced has happened because it was going to happen, and will happen again. Making things worse, the player isn’t even provided with enough data or context for this to at least make some kind of sense. Instead, they’re simply baffled by events they cannot control, and left with far more questions than any “definitive” ending should have.
Mass Effect has long been held up as a shining example of a well-constructed, fully developed universe. Players are rightly unhappy to see it end as nothing but a series of forced choices justified by tautological platitudes.
Read on to see reason 3…