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Monday, 25 June 2012

A Brief Comment About Mass Effect 3: The Extended Cut

Hello, everyone!

Well, it's virtually unavoidable: time to dig up a metaphorical dead horse and possibly beat it with a stick. You know what I'm talking about: the Mass Effect 3 ending fiasco.

Wait, what? You don't know what I'm talking about? Have you been on the internet since March? If you've avoided it, by intent or accident, this should help: my post about ME3. If that doesn't help explain some things, this post might: a reflection on why heroes die. Go read them and come back, if you're confused.

Okay, enough shameless self-plugging. At this point, our proverbial horse is basically a slowly fossilizing skeleton, already leaving immortal calcium deposits on the history of gaming. The mess Bioware got itself into by providing three very different endings with radically similar animation is now legendary, and will probably be the bete noire of gaming companies completing epic stories for years to come. After all, is there anything worse than slaving over a beloved game and pouring your heart into it, only to discover that fans resent your decisions and consider them an emotionally damaging pile of slapdash phuquerie?

As a writer and a casual artist, I have to sympathise, and say I can't imagine anything much worse than that. However, I'm also not part of a large corporation rushing me to finish something and forcing me to achieve consensus with dozens of other writers. And, for better or for worse, I don't have hundreds of thousands of fans breathing down my neck every time I make a decision they don't like (yet). At the risk of being a hypocrite, much as there are plot holes that the Normandy herself could pilot through with ease, I can see why they wouldn't want to change their own work.

However, I am a fan, and though I enjoyed at least one of the endings, the emotional dissatisfaction with similar animation and similar implications for all three was truly heartbreaking. There have been other games that caught my attention, and made my heart beat faster. There have been other games that made me truly care about the their protagonists, settings, and struggles. And yet, I have not seen a game as richly alive and as soul-captivating as the Mass Effect trilogy. The ending, which was nearly a cliff-hanger in its brevity, seemed to foreshorten the struggle. A whole world of possibilities opened for the ending, but we didn't see them. The only options given were a variety of failures, and nearly all involved possible or implied genocide of various flavours.

Source. Personally, I liked the green apple flavour! Or, as some would have it, the watermelon flavour. Strawberry was also okay, but phuque the blue raspberry flavour. Did anyone choose blue? Didn't think so.

This downloadable content should fix the problem of tying up plot threads and fixing the "oops, we didn't mean to kill the galaxy" issue, but it's not going to change the ending. Our hero will still make the ultimate sacrifice, or kill everyone else trying. This was Bioware's decision, from the sound of things. I won't pretend it's perfect, but when you work hard enough to get either that much-vaunted red or green ending, there is still a certain satisfaction about it. They got their controversy, all right, and then some.

So, final thoughts. Have I seen the DLC yet? No, of course not, though you can bet your shapely blue asses I'll be writing some thoughts up as soon as I do. Am I happy that saving the galaxy (?) will probably require Shepard's death? Not really, because I really was crossing my fingers for a happy ending, or at least something less clich├ęd. However, if it's a question of whether or not I respect the writers for having the guts to say they weren't going to make everyone happy, that's an easy answer. In spite of all the fire, the dissatisfaction, the endless threats, raging, trolling, and even lawsuits, they're going to be faithful to their own work. And that represents an ethic that deserves no argument.


As always, I hope you enjoyed today's batch o' fresh thoughts. There will be more Humble Bundle, more writing updates, some missed-it reviews. Keep an eye on new releases by following on Twitter and on Tumblr. This is your SciFiMagpie, over and out!

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