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.