Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut Ending DLC Review
The “clarification” BioWare harped on is definitely present in the final minutes on the Citadel, where everything said by the Catalyst includes additional clarification. What is synthesis? Why, the evolution of organic DNA and synthetic understanding, of course! And if I kill everything, what happens? The relays get messed up, as does some technology and all synthetic life, but the galaxy isn’t a garbage heap or anything. And if Shepard takes control of the Reapers? He becomes a intergalactic protector and keeps the peace between organics and synthetics, using his Reaper army to repair the relays, bring flowers to everyone, help old ladies cross the street, and create double rainbows. Ah ha.
Yes, it all still smacks of many of the issues about which players complained before. There’s no shortage of space magic, that’s for sure, and it doesn’t take a magnifying glass to start exposing plot holes. But, again, there is one key element throughout — closure. Implied holocausts are tied off, people still exist, and the galaxy is not in a worse way than when the player left it. The game ends, and it ends in something of a satisfying way.
There’s also a great deal more catharsis in dealing with Shepard’s team and with Shepard him or herself. Joker’s flight with the team to the unknown planet, and some mourning of Shepard, goes on there — before the Normandy departs, capping off the implication of future Lost in (Dark) Space episodes. No, your whole squad was not annihilated at some point on Earth. Plot hole closed.
And something very much worth noting: the endings now feel a great deal more distinct, both visually and thematically. They’re not nearly as different as BioWare implied Mass Effect 3′s endings would be last year during the run-up to the release of the game, but they certainly feel like much more effort and time was spent on them, even if many assets are recycled.
For all the positives with the Extended Cut, there are a lot of negatives that still remain. The framework of the three endings (four, now, actually, although the fourth “Refusal” ending, triggered by shooting the Catalyst, is more of a failure state) retains all its inherent weaknesses, and while the consequences of your choices now make more sense, they remain at odds with much of the rest of the series in terms of themes and plot through line. The troubles from before still remain — they haven’t gone anywhere — but at least these endings bring the game to a conclusion that makes sense for the characters and sufficiently closes off the trilogy.
It would appear that BioWare has also slipped in a few knowing chides to its audience, or rather, the complainers among them. A sizable portion of the fanbase complained at a lack of ability to refuse the Catalyst, claiming that Shepard wouldn’t accept a Reaper solution to the Reaper threat (which makes sense, given the prevalence of issues like Indoctrination and the lack of free will throughout the series). Despite claiming there would be no additional endings, BioWare fibbed (again?) and threw in a fourth ending. Refusing the Catalyst triggers scenes showing that the galaxy loses to the Reapers, but Liara’s archive of information about the Reapers lives on. The entire ending feels like a slap in the face to angry fans, however: Shepard basically throws a tantrum and is punished by the wise authority figure for arguing about his role in the story, and BioWare used many elements that have appeared in YouTube videos and fan-made endings (like shooting the Catalyst to trigger the ending). It’s a comment thinly veiled, and it colors the Extended Cut, implying that while BioWare will give you what you demanded, you’ll still know what the developer thinks of you.
Still, if BioWare’s Mass Effect team was set on the endings to the series it eventually created, the Extended Cut is the version of those endings that the company should have shipped. It at least shows quality of writing, some respect for the audience, and a general understanding of important aspects of conclusion in storytelling of this kind. It makes the endings as shipped better, which was sorely needed. I doubt somehow the Extended Cut will add much replay value to Mass Effect 3 on the whole, but at least it won’t make people angry when it ends.
- Quite a bit of improvement over the game’s endings as shipped
- Adds much-needed closure and catharsis to the story
- Helps to make more sense of the choices and their consequences
- Adds length to the endings, which all were criminally brief
- Endings still wrought with plotline and thematic holes while relying on deus ex machina
- All the endings still reuse most of the same visual assets, though are more thematically diverse