Mass Effect 3′s Refusal Ending: ‘Artistic Integrity’ Achieved

BioWare’s Giant Middle Finger?

So why was the Refusal Ending added? Because of the consensus among unhappy fans that acquiescing to the Catalyst and its options seemed out of character for Shepard, who has fought the Reapers at every turn. To many, the original three options seemed much more in line with Reaper goals than with those of the rest of the galaxy (and this isn’t even taking into account the awesome and insane Indoctrination Theory).

Many fans registered their distaste for the endings by literally shooting the messenger — that is, opening fire with Shepard’s pistol on the Catalyst. Annoyed people have been doing this for months and thanks to the numerous YouTube videos immortalizing the practice, it’s quickly approaching meme status. One example is this 39-minute analysis of the ending. You should watch the whole thing because it’s really intelligent, but the clip below illustrates the way fans have taken out their frustrations:

BioWare clearly paid close attention to these videos, because they slipped in a trigger for the Refusal Ending that sidesteps the dialogue wheel. Yes, you can reach this ending by refusing the options via conversation, but if you decide to vent your spleen, or gun, as it were, and empty your clip in the Space Child, you get the SO BE IT, followed by the “Everyone Dies” cut scene.

In this sense, playing the Refusal Ending is almost like triggering a landmine, especially for players unaware of its existence after downloading the Extended Cut DLC. BioWare added the option many people thought they deserved. But without making it clear it could happen, it seems designed to give those players who were annoyed with the Star Child a quick slap in the face. Sure, BioWare will give you what you want if you complain loudly enough, but you can’t have everything if BioWare doesn’t want to give it to you — don’t forget it.

The ending also suggests BioWare was listening to specific fan complaints. Consider the well-written alternate ending created by DeviantArt user Arkis, which can be read in its entirety here. This script was widely circulated amongst the fans and on BioWare’s social forums, and was flung BioWare’s way on Twitter more than once. It feels like a lot of the spirit of the script made its way, in some form or another, into the Refusal Ending. Perhaps most notable is this element from the script:

*The child transforms into Harbinger*

Harbinger: So be it, Shepard. *then disappears*

This is almost identical to the climax of the Refusal Ending, particularly the vocal cue — the voice of the Catalyst morphing into something darker, deeper, more dangerous (similar to that of Harbinger). This gives the Refusal Ending a petty undertone, whether intended or not.

We grant that is is entirely possible BioWare is not razzing their critics; further, what appear to be specific call-outs to fan-made elements that take issue with the endings may be coincidental. After all, good ideas often occur to multiple people, and as we’ll discuss shortly, there is plenty of good in the Refusal Ending. But the coincidences stack up in an interesting pattern. As BioWare still has not answered Game Front’s request for interviews about the ending, we can’t ask them; we’ll definitely revisit this if that changes.

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.

28 Comments on Mass Effect 3′s Refusal Ending: ‘Artistic Integrity’ Achieved


On June 29, 2012 at 11:37 am

This is a comment I made on the lipstick article but seeing as it relates to this more I will post it here.
As a fan of the original Mass Effect (play style and the best story of the three imo) it seemed Bioware had already been making decisions that were questioning it’s artistic integrity. When you compare ME and ME2 the changes made were vast and somewhat unexpected. I know the original had a flawed cover system and somewhat spotty ai but what they did in ME2 was to nearly remove all the rpg aspects from the game. They got rid of the exploring, the earning experience by killing enemies and made a more linear level experience similar to Gears of War. In fact they took a lot from that third person shooter and then added a Bioware narrative over it. Next they decided that players don’t want unique weapons and armors for themselves and their crew so they cut it down to only a very, very small selection and removed companion armors all together. They went in the wrong direction when EA had acquired them instead of making a great rpg with well implemented third person shooter elements they made an good third person shooter with some rpg elements like EA was trying to ride on the back of the GoW money train. The missed potential reeks in ME2 and 3 and the terrible excuse of endings was the final slap in the face for many of the Bioware fans. There is nothing wrong with Shepard dieing, in fact someone who is suppose to stop the reapers I figured a great heroic sacrifice would probably be the only option. Then getting to the ending with all the assets I could possibly get plus spending multiple hours in multiplayer to have 100% galactic readiness only to be shown emo garbage like some JRPG crap that makes no sense what so ever is ridiculous. Bioware lost it’s artistic integrity long before this fiasco. It was lost when they let EA purchase them.


On June 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Another great article, guys. I know I’ve made this comment many times, but one of my main problems with the endings is that it feels like a game of chess, where you put the opponent in check, only to have them flip the table over on you. ME is primarily, a game and a game has to offer the chance for victory. That’s how writing a game differs from writing a film-script or a novel. On another note, “Vagueness does not equal ‘depth’ anymore than nudity equals ‘adult’, a point all would-be artists should commit to memory.” Is a great line! It reminds me of “Stranger in a Strange Land” where Jubal says “obscurity is the refuge of incompetence.”


On June 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Hear hear.

I think I’ll add, if I may, my realization as to what has been bugging me since finishing the game the first time. It’s the choices. It’s that we actually have them. In ME1 and 2, we were never explicitly given choices, decisions on how exactly the game would end. It was always a culmination of our efforts to that point that decides how things end. With ME3, the choices at the end almost disregard all of that. It only takes into account minor details like who your LI was, who survived thus far. Everything else was decided by that choice.


On June 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Brilliant, as usual.

Daniel S

On June 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Good writing and spot on. Don’t forget that when fans complained about the “red, blue or green” endings, Bioware lashed back by advertising the next multiplayer pack with a red, a blue and a green character. That, in conjunction with the refusal ending, DAMN WELL PROVES they’re being petty over this. I hope EA fires Casey Hudson’s pathetic ass over the PR disaster he’s more or less single-handedly created. Because I’m not sure they would have been voted Worst Company of the Year if not some tens of thousands of ME fans had taken that opportunity to avenge themselves just a little.


On June 29, 2012 at 10:16 pm

You know Bioware had the opportunity with the refusal option to:
1: extend the game by not using the crucible
2: Prove that they were listening and they did care
3: Allow the player to actually use the war assets he/she has acquired and actually fight the reapers.
4: Redeem themselves from the original horrible ending.
Well instead they just give us the middle finger for choosing option C.
I have said this before. I am just about done with Bioware. The only way I can see ever buying their games again is if they actually make a real and decent sequel to Origins. Honestly I don’t see it happening.


On June 30, 2012 at 1:30 am

This ending has no sense.
After 3 games, after all the struggle to survive….come on….suicide is not an option for shepard and humanity…


On June 30, 2012 at 9:55 am

And again everyone are just a bunch of crying babies. Get over it Mass Effect 3 is still a good game and better now with the extended cut, with how the endings end now i’m finally in peace with my Shepard. Control is my personal choice. What? I like the blue color!

And for those who cry again about Dragon Age 2 just shut up! The game was not perfect but was good, not as good as the first one but still an awesome game. For me Borderline even if i finished this piece of crap was a true mess and i dont get why evertyone love Borferline as an co-op game. Even Resident Evil 5 was a better co-op game than that.


On June 30, 2012 at 9:58 am

Oh and i have nothing against gamefront opinions because at least they are not a bunch of insulting jerks. They show respect for the works even if that work is questionable.


On June 30, 2012 at 10:29 am

Brilliant article. Bravo Bioware.

However, my Shepard beat indoctrination and thats his story. To hell with everything else.


On June 30, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Why all the hate on the Refusal ending? It’s perfect. No other Cycle was able to stand against the reapers with sheer might alone. The reapers only make a single Harbinger class reaper each cycle. Look at how many there are. The entire alliance fleet barely took down a single reaper. What did you expect when going up against the entire reaper fleet? Bioware got the message across big time with this. It’s simply not possible to take the reapers on with military might alone.


On July 1, 2012 at 12:34 am

I basically agree with what you’re saying about the refusal ending, but I do think it inadvertently opens up a new plot hole. Why does the Star Child get so pissed about you refusing his options, or from trying to shoot him, when picking his options result in his death? (Although maybe not in the synthesis ending, I’m not clear on that)

“What you want to let me keep doing what I’ve been doing? Well screw you!”

And really with the destroy ending, where according to him, you’re dooming organic life to eventually be wiped out by synthetics, the thing he’s been trying to prevent. And some of the new dialogue makes it clear that the control ending involves you overwriting him, something he doesn’t seem to pleased about, but even then he doesn’t whine about it. Makes it feel like Bioware projecting their frustration and not bothering to write the Star Child in whatever character he’s supposed to have beyond exposition fairy.

I also think that there’s a chance that Bioware didn’t intend it to feel that way, but they just didn’t care enough about this addition to think through how it would come across to people. I’m not sure which read of what happened here makes Bioware look worse.


On July 1, 2012 at 8:34 am

why must shepard die?:(

T. Witme

On July 1, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Superbly written, unlike the travesty that was the head writer who penned these.

“So be it.” I have no remorse left for Bioware right now.

As studios who did not deserve to be closed down like 38 Studios and Radical Entertainment, while hacks in Bioware continue to fistbump. I would not shed a tear if the EA closed the studio in the near future.

T. Witme

On July 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Superbly written, unlike the travesty that was the head writer who penned these.

“So be it.” I have no remorse left for Bioware right now.

As studios who did not deserve to be closed down like 38 Studios and Radical Entertainment, while hacks in Bioware continue to fistbump. I would not shed a tear if the EA closed the studio in the near future.


On July 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Echoing others sentiments, this is another thoughtful and well presented arguement. The point about this ending RE-ENFORCING artistic integrity was particularly thought provoking. One thing I would add; as I haven’t seen this mentioned in any of the articles about these “new” endings; is that this is the choice that changes the post credit scene into something that doesn’t feel like a kick in the teeth.
All the scenes attached to the “good” endings feel like the game saying “Congratulations; you saved the galaxy. But isn’t it sad you’re dead? Wouldn’t you like to be Shepard again? Don’t worry DLC is coming.” Whereas the “bad” end scene is more like “You may have fought a hopeless war; you may have lost all that you cared about, but it wasn’t in vain. Because of your sacrifices we finally won. Thank you.

And don’t forget to buy the DLC when it comes out.”

Hey, I didn’t say it was perfect.


On July 2, 2012 at 2:35 am

Excellent article, as usual – I’m just not sure that I agree with the whole point.

“One may be justifiably annoyed that it feels like a giant middle finger, and more so that the Refusal Ending renders the bull inherent in the War Readiness system painfully obvious.” As many have already pointed out, if the Refusal Ending’s outcome was tied into the EMS rating, it could have been something absolutely awesome. As it stands, it might be better than the original endings (which isn’t much of an achievement, truth be told), but it still a giant middle finger from Bioware to its (former?) fans, as if they wanted to get into a pissing contest with those who buy and play their games. It’s BioWare being petty, immature and, above all, unprofessional.


On July 2, 2012 at 9:44 am

Didn’t that promise some years back (around the time that ME as released) that they would eventually release a complete package with all three games in it? If so, I have a theory regarding that. What if they bring Karpyshyn back to rewrite the endings in the complete pack later as a marketing tool to get people to rebuy the series?

The other alternative I can think of is that EA really does want to liquidate Bioware, so they screwed with ME3′s development cycle.


On July 2, 2012 at 11:04 am

Just one question. Why doesn’t the star child kill Shepard after he refuses all the colored choices? Or holograms cannot kill you? After all Shepard was selected by the catalyst to be the brain on the reapers forever and ever. Now, he can just go on? Suddenly the Catalyst is like “bring ‘em on”?.

What a bull. I just hope that whatever the universe is like after “so be it”, there is no Bioware in it.


On July 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Excellent post Blake, i agree with you 100%. I loved all of the Mass Effect games, including 2 and 3, though the endings to 3 were the worst written endings of any science fiction story i personally have ever seen. The fact that some fan versions of the endings are 200% better is telling as far as Mac Walters ‘artistic integrity’ goes.

I have to say though that there was something absolutely unique and special about the original Mass Effect. As a rabid Star Wars fan, there was something fresh about the techno music, angular and futuristic architecture and the intricate lore that was written right off the bat. Of course, once it proved that the series could take off, EA sunk their claws in and i will bet there were more than a few compromises Bioware had to make to please their EA masters and ‘appeal to a wider audience’, such as the reducing of RPG features, lack of proper exploration themes etc.

Good article Phil, so long as GameFront keeps a level and fair head and does not do a Kotaku and start posting articles about how the endings were ‘magic’ and that meeting the Catalyst was amazing and like ‘meeting a god’, you will further cement your place for excellent journalism. ;)


On July 3, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I’m somewhat torn on the Refuse option. On the one hand, having something the players asked for always result in failure feels like Bioware was sending a message not to ask such things of them. On the other hand, people did want to see the Reapers win if you “screwed up” and throughout they were pretty clear that conventional warfare never defeats the Reapers. So, I’m not sure what I feel about it.


On July 4, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Excellent article, sir. I agree entirely. …nuff said, i guess.


On July 8, 2012 at 7:04 am

Excellent article, ever since this debacle began, i have had a very high opinion of GameFront, when previously i barely knew who you were.

“Shepard’s dialog about freedom is more in keeping with the themes of Mass Effect than anything else written for the Extended Cut, or indeed in the original success endings, it results in total failure”
Thats why it pisses people off. No matter how many assets you have, you just lose, instantly. If they showed why you lose, the Reapers have backup FTL jump in and just destroy your entire force or something, then it wouldn’t be a giant up yours to irritated fans.

The fact that narrative coherence and general good sense takes a back seat to “artistic integrity” is genuinely saddening. With Dragon age, you have an option to prevent your death via a ritual that may or may not be a bad thing. Do you question it? No, because it makes sense and magic is already prevalent in the story. A science fiction epic, that has a lot of well explained science and general sense just flies into space magic at the very end, while generally destroying the overall storyline of the entire series. If something is broken, you FIX it. You don’t try to patch it up, because in the end, it is still broken. The extended cut is like duct tape in that regard, it works, but not when you consider implications or long term consequences.

The fact you have to change Shepard’s very being, the one thing that has made him or her the single most important person in the galaxy, his/her determination and unwilling to just accept things, to change things for the better(paragon or renegade, that seems to be the motivation) and just accept something that makes no sense in itself makes no sense. Artistic vision is fine, but making it incoherent and inconsistent makes it terrible when added to something that was otherwise very good.


On July 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Forgive me, for I am a troll who constantly posts fanboy drivel on Mass Effect 3 articles and attacks people who think Bioware are capable of errors, or that they and EA are anything other than populist organisations who have only the consumer’s interests at heart and would never dream of rushing out an inferior product to meet a deadline in the hopes of releasing full-price post-ending DLC like Ubisoft did with Prince of Persia. I have nothing interesting or informed to say, and I am incapable of justifying my childish belief system, which is why I resort to ad hominem attacks instead. I am the sort of blinkered, easily-led spanner who the industry and the gaming press relies on in order to continue publishing weak products and claiming it’s “art” and therefore beyond scrutiny. So please forgive me, because my mind is not my own and my opinions have been passed down to me by my gods at Kotaku.

rista b

On July 11, 2012 at 1:19 pm

First of all thanks to Gamefront for covering this story in such a thoughtful way.

This is a very thought provoking article as my initial reaction to the refusal ending was in line with the “middle finger” interpretation. One thing I didn’t see mentioned in the article was the affect that choosing this ending has on the “secret ending”. And I think that’s an important piece to consider if this is really a “middle finger”. The secret endings implication that Shepard’s sacrifice has given the next cycle a much better chance at being prepared for the Reapers and ending the cycle of development and harvest casts a new light on the whole thing.

But my main problem with this ending is that no matter how you slice it, Shepard is a soldier on a mission and his/her mission is to save humanity from the Reapers. By rejecting all three of the Catalysts options Shepard immediately dooms humanity and all advanced galactic civilizations to destruction. I just can’t see Shepard making that decision under any circumstances.


On July 13, 2012 at 1:56 am

“The Catalyst makes its peace with Shepard’s decision and BioWare makes its peace with players’ decision with those three words.” In the worst possible way. You lose, and the catalyst goes from “my solution won’t work anymore” to “whatever, keep reaping”. It still feels like a big you. There was no indication in the codex in any information we are given, that the reapers cannot be beaten through sheer military might. But they decided to go for cool cutscenes that neglect half your assets rather than actually include the most widely spread and powerful gun on the galaxy’s side: The Thanix cannon. The batarians, geth, rachni, Aria’s pirate fleet and stuff don’t even bother to show up(geth is assuming you make peace). Its just lazy. If you did enough work, you should be able to beat them, with heavy losses, but still do it.


On November 29, 2013 at 5:42 pm

The more I think about it, the more Refusal is the only option that makes sense. The other 3 results in Shepard relying on a deus ex machina device that plays into the Reapers’ game and s/he could never even be sure it will work, unlike the player who has hindsight.

Because, frankly, the galaxy never really stood a chance. It did manage to do something the Protheans before them failed to do- unite as a galaxy. But it’s just too little too late. The actions of Shepard, from the first game, buys the galaxy a few more years. And how do they choose to spend them? Mostly by continuing to play politics and even outright deny Reaper existence. It isn’t until the Reapers finally arrive and start demolishing planets that the races are spurred to action.

Saving the galaxy from something like genocide is something far beyond the ability for one man/woman to choose, however influential Shepard may have been. Living with the consequences of choices in one of the themes of the “Mass Effect” series. The fact that the galaxy cannot be saved without the Crucible’s intervention in the end is the end result of an entire galaxy’s poor decision making until its final moment. It was a pretty good try though, better than what the Protheans did. Next time, the Milky Way will do better.


On April 17, 2016 at 11:20 am

You are is a exceptional website owner. Your website packing pace can be awesome.. web hosting The item almost senses that you’ll be accomplishing almost any one of a kind secret. In addition, The actual articles are generally must-see. you’ve got executed a wonderful task within this subject!