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Everything You Need to Know About the Mass Effect 3 Ending Controversy, As Spoiler-Free As Possible

By now, you’ve likely heard that the endings to Mass Effect 3 have made people a little bit…upset. Fan backlashes to endings are hardly a new phenomenon in the geek community, but this goes beyond angry letters and wistful fanart. A significant chunk of the fanbase is petitioning BioWare to change the ending entirely via DLC.

If that sounds ridiculous to you, you’re not alone. Many gaming sites have scoffed at Mass Effect fans, throwing around words like “childish” or “entitled.” However, this fight is far more complicated than a few fans whining over the lack of a sunshine-and-rainbows ending. The way this thing plays out could have major ramifications not only for the gaming industry, but for how we define the concept of creative ownership. If you care about gaming, storytelling, or digital media, this is a story you should know about.

EDITOR UPDATE: Bioware has, uh, actually responded, sort of. Read Becky’s response here.

Before I begin, I have to admit a bias: I am an enormous Mass Effect fan, and I was very disappointed in the ending. I wrote my review of the game after I completed my playthrough, so everything I said there holds true: Mass Effect 3 is one of the most spectacular games I have ever played. I cannot praise the game highly enough…except for the last five minutes. The last five minutes broke me. While a new ending would do a lot to fill the N7-shaped hole in my heart, it is not something that I have been actively campaigning for, nor is it something that I entirely expect to see happen (though my opinion on that is shifting). Still, if such a thing did come to fruition, I would be in favor of it.

That said, I’m going to do my best to stay objective. There are already plenty of articles arguing for or against a new ending, so I’m not going to go there. I’m just here to explain what’s going on and why it’s rather important. As some of you haven’t finished the game yet (not least of which, the managing editor of this very site, who would have to read this post at some point), and as some of you have no background with this series at all, I’m going to attempt to lay this whole thing out as spoiler-free and easily-accessible as possible. While I will be outlining the narrative issues that some fans have, I will be doing so in the most general terms by leaving characters, events and locations out of the discussion entirely. However, if you don’t want your opinion of the ending influenced in the slightest, you may want to put this article aside until you finish the game.

The Context

To start, let’s review just how big a deal this series is. The Mass Effect trilogy is a sprawling, intense space opera, adored by fans, lauded by critics, and honored by more awards than I can count. Within the world of science fiction, Mass Effect’s contributions cannot be ignored. A recent essay at i09 called the series “the most important science fiction universe of our generation.” An article at Scientific American hailed the setting of Mass Effect as “one of the most carefully and completely imagined sci-fi universes out there.” It is considered by many to be an example of one of gaming’s first true epics.

While the series’ gameplay mechanics themselves are top-notch, what keeps fans coming back is the staggeringly customizable story. The protagonist, Commander Shepard, can be male or female, and any race of your choosing (for convenience’s sake, I’m going to refer to Shepard as “her” for the remainder of the article). The player’s decisions affect not just the plot of the story, but Shepard’s personality and social ties as well. The player decides who Shepard is friends with, who she falls in love with, if she is compassionate or pragmatic, who she lets live and who she leaves to die. It is rumored that there are well over a thousand storytelling variables that could be imported into ME3. The end result for the player is a level of emotional investment that I have yet to experience in any other story, be it game, book or movie. This is a sentiment shared by many long-time fans. BioWare, the developer behind the series, is keenly aware of this fact. It is perhaps the game’s biggest selling point.

ME3 sold nearly a million copies within twenty-four hours of being released. With its final installment in place, the series now takes roughly one hundred hours to play through (depending on the speed of the player). That’s one hundred hours, stretched over five years, interspersed with books, comics, and additional downloadable missions that play out like bridging miniseries.

The standard edition of ME3 costs sixty dollars. One can assume that most people who purchased the game have long since purchased the other two games at a similar price, as well as at least some of the aforementioned books, comics, and DLC. BioWare itself is one of the big moneymakers in the gaming industry, responsible for some of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed RPGs ever made.

The Fan Reaction

Endings are always difficult to pull off, especially for ongoing series. But within just days of ME3’s release on March 6, it was clear that something had gone very wrong. Before the weekend even hit, a fan movement called RetakeMassEffect popped up, complete with a Facebook group, a Twitter account, and forum signature banners designating “fleets” organized by geographic location. A simple user poll on the BioWare Social Network entitled “What would you like to do about the endings?” (spoilers) had over 100,000 views (by now, that number has nearly quadrupled). It wasn’t long before some major gaming sites began to take notice, and in general, their comments were none too kind. In an effort to shed a more positive light on the campaign, some fans organized a fundraiser for Child’s Play (a game industry affiliated charity which donates toys and games to hospitals). The fundraiser site states:

We would like to dispel the perception that we are angry or entitled. We simply wish to express our hope that there could be a different direction for a series we have all grown to love.

They have currently raised over $70,000.

Over at Metacritic, ME3’s average user rating score is currently 3.7 out of 10. On Amazon, the game has a damning two stars. Though it may seem paradoxical, many of these poorly scored reviews mention that the users loved the game. The ending, they claim, is just that hard to swallow. To paraphrase one comment I read, “If the game had been bad, we wouldn’t care this much.”

If there was any doubt that this sort of response is bad for business, some players are now reporting that Amazon has granted them a full refund for ME3 — even for opened copies of the game.

The Perceived Problems with the Ending

So just what are fans in such an uproar about? As you might expect from the ending of any popular series, there some who dislike the treatment of their favorite character, or disagree with how a pivotal moment played out. But that’s not what’s driving the call for a new ending. It’s fairly obvious to anyone who sticks her head into the BSN forums for a while that fans are rallying behind more nuanced problems with the narrative.

After reading through copious amounts of forum posts and discussing the matter with fellow fans ad infinitum, it’s pretty clear that all of the hullaballoo boils down to a few core grievances. Now, of course, the points I’m about to outline don’t cover every complaint, and these aren’t views that every Mass Effect fan shares. They aren’t views that every fan calling for a new ending shares. They’re not necessarily views that I share. But I do think these three things are the general foundation upon which the new ending movement has been built. If you want a spoiler-heavy look at specific story elements, I recommend Ross Lincoln’s analysis over at GameFront. For the rest of you, here’s the gist.

Lack of Choice

The hallmark of the Mass Effect series is its intricate web of ethically complex decisions, all of which impact how the story plays out. Take, for example, the much-loved ending to Mass Effect 2. Commander Shepard goes into her last mission with no fewer than ten squadmates, all of whom are fully developed characters. They can all die. Permanently. So can Commander Shepard. Their fates depend not only upon which quests you do with them throughout the game, but what tasks you assign them to in the final fight. And depending on your other choices, these people include countless combinations of potential friends, adversaries, and lovers.

This is the level of customization that players had come to expect from the series. In May of last year, Mass Effect executive producer Casey Hudson promised more of the same:

If you just rip straight down the critical path and try and finish the game as soon as you can, and do very little optional or side stuff, then you can finish the game. You can have some kind of ending and victory, but it’ll be a lot more brutal and minimal relative to if you do a lot of stuff. If you really build a lot of stuff and bring people to your side and rally the entire galaxy around you, and you come into the end game with that, then you’ll get an amazing, very definitive ending.

In the climactic moments of ME3, the player is handed a crucial decision, as expected. The number of choices available is ultimately decided by the player’s Effective Military Readiness score — basically a measure of quest results and time spent playing multiplayer matches. However, regardless of how high your score is, every choice results in a virtually indistinguishable ending (I can attest to this, as I had every race in the galaxy at my back and left no side quest undone). None of the choices that a player makes in any of the games truly affects the outcome. Though one could argue that the writers were making a point about fatalism, it seems like a strange way to end a series that has always placed high value on player choice, and it certainly runs counter to what Hudson and other developers had talked up. Many fans were upset by what they saw as a jarring change to the series’ established structure — a change that only took place in the last moments of the final game.

Lack of Closure

The supporting cast of the Mass Effect series is an example of some truly outstanding character development (and voice acting as well). Your squadmates add their own insights and comments as you travel around the galaxy, and the personal details revealed within private conversations make these characters instantly memorable (in ME3, you can even discover them having conversations with each other aboard your ship). In the ME2 DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker, you can read through your squadmates’ computer usage history, which ranges from pithy (Grunt doing web searches on dinosaurs) to poignant (Tali struggling to write a letter to the family of someone who died under her command). These are characters that have been expertly designed to make you grow attached to them.

On top of all this, the worlds and cultures of the Mass Effect universe are richly defined. When you pause the game, you can access the Codex, which gives you encyclopedia-style entries on the species, planets and technologies you share the galaxy with. It is a canonical level of detail that Tolkien would approve of.

Since I promised no spoilers, let’s stick with the example of Tolkien and use the film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a passable analogy. Everybody jokes about how long it takes The Return of the King to end, but be honest: after twelve hours of movie spread out over three years, wasn’t that twenty minutes of catharsis exactly what you needed? Okay, now imagine that The Lord of the Rings takes a hundred hours to watch, and that The Return of the King ended with that shot of Frodo and Sam lying on the side of Mount Doom after the ring had been destroyed.

That’s how a lot of Mass Effect fans are feeling right now.

After spending years with a series that has gone out of its way to give you details about characters and events, many players feel that the lack of closure at the end of ME3 is not only akin to a broken promise, but does not reflect the level of detail presented throughout the entire series (including the majority of ME3 itself). Moreover, as BioWare had previously made it clear that ME3 was the final chapter of Commander Shepard’s odyssey, some feel that ending the stories of so many complex characters in such an abrupt manner marked yet another break in narrative.


Bound as I am to avoiding spoilers, I can’t say much on this point. Suffice it to say, the final moments of the game left players with some very big questions, and not just those related to a lack of closure. We’re talking basic questions of how characters got from one place to another within a very short amount of time, as well as either a total reversal or a complete oversight of the rules concerning some all-important technology (while this may sound like a nitpicky detail, it’s something that was used as a significant plot point in Arrival, the final DLC for ME2 — a plot point that is mentioned early on in ME3 as well). For some, the end choices themselves pose an additional problem, as they see Shepard’s acceptance of any of the options to be wildly out of character. This is of course a matter of personal opinion, but in general, the lack of logic in an otherwise straight-forward and reasonably plausible story is a major point of contention.

The fanbase is currently locked in debate over “the Indoctrination Theory,” an interpretation of the ending that neatly explains these issues. To put it simply, the Indoctrination Theory suggests that the ending cannot be taken at face value, and that in order to understand the real ending, the player has to read between the lines. Though my evidence is somewhat anecdotal, I would say that even though fans are split on this issue, most players on both sides still want the ending changed, regardless of whether the Theory is what the writers intended. The argument goes like this:

If the Indoctrination Theory is canon, this explains the plotholes, but makes little sense when compared to the storytelling style of the rest of the series. The player has never before had to do any guesswork when it comes to major plot points, which suggests that DLC revealing the real ending was planned from the get-go. If this is the case, fans feel that BioWare should be upfront about it, or at the very least, confirm that the Theory is correct.

If the Indoctrination Theory is baseless, then the plotholes remain. If this is the case, fans expect BioWare to fix it.

And therein lies the crux of the matter: Do any of these complaints justify altering the ending? Are fans out of line for petitioning BioWare to change the story? As a creative entity, what is BioWare obligated to do, if anything?

>>>Next Page: The role of the fan in popular culture, why this matters, and how BioWare might respond.

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  • Anonymous

    I loved 95% of ME3 and thought the ending was dreck.  I’m sort of on the fence about what I think should happen with ME3, but I really really hope BioWare takes some lessons learned from this when they make new games.  There is value here, underneath all the posturing and yelling from both sides of the issue.

  • Kath

    The thing is, I can’t help but feel BioWare knew this would happen. Perhaps not as sad as it should be, it’s bitten them in the arse. After the fiasco that was Dragon Age 2, they should know just how volatile their fans can be. They’re not stupid, they’re not blind, they know exactly how their fans will react.

    Now, I understand the arguments against the fans being outraged, but let me second what Becky has said. The players have invested many hours of their lives into this series, and in some cases many hundreds of dollars. With BioWare, you don’t have small-scale involvement, it’s huge whether you’re playing Jade Empire or whether you’ve got a 200-hour run of Dragon Age: Origins (at which point I’ll be scratching my head as to how you’ve made that happen). We’re not talking a $4 comic that took 10 minutes to read on the porcelain throne, we are talking days/weeks/months – even years – of investment. Again, as Becky implied, there’s a huge emotional investment too, which further adds to it.

    I’m glad some fans are protesting constructively, and kudos to all of those who are involved in the Child’s Play charity thing. That’s great, you guys are showing that gamers are awesome, and I hope more contribute to it – and even that BioWare make it up to some suitably big number.

    I hope BioWare do manage to work something out before I get my hands on ME3 (which will not be for a while), but also that they learn that their fanbase is *incredibly* volatile… as they should have done many years ago.

  • Borthos Morola

    The biggest problem with the ending is that it was the EXACT OPPOSITE of what it was advertised to be. Total bait-and-switch. The people who are defending it are either industry shills or contrarians with no appreciation for consumer rights.

  • Bel

    There is nothing entitled about:

    A) Saying a game had bad writing in places
    B) Saying you would pay cash money if the studio were to correct their terrible writing.

    I really hate the discourse surrounding this whole issue.  The ending was foolish and not as advertised and came after years worth of investment from a dedicated audience who want to solve the problem by PAYING MORE MONEY. 

  • Anonymous

    The biggest problem is biowares disregard for fans.  They are making vague statements that do not answer anything.  Fans who supported bioware and paid, or pre ordered  the game get weeks of protesting and b.s. answers.  I feel it is to late, many gamers already returned me3 or sold it.  At this point the emotional rollercoaster has caused me to end my relationship with bioware.  No more more books, comicbooks, games, and definetly no future movies.  Ill use Hudsons words and “use my imagination”.  WORST TREATMENT OF FAITHFUL FANS EVER!

  • Mathew Sewell

    The ending was pretty much awful in every way. One fan put up a youtube video of all three endings playing simultaneously next to each other. Other than the fact that they are colored red/green/blue, there is less than 3% different footage. That is pathetic.

    It’s worth noting that the company has admitted the endings weren’t even written until late 2011, and that only a single writer came up with the endings, superseded criticism from the rest of the writing staff, and slapped them on a month or two before the game went gold (that is to say, was finalized for mass production)

  • Gerard Schmidt

    Currently on Facebook there are now 682,000 customers  who want the ending changed….682,000…not 6, not 62, 620, 6200, 62000 but 682,000

  • Anonymous

    Bioware is still making mistakes, just give us an answer we deserve it!  Stop being vague with these comments that do not say we will make an ending, but do not say they will not.  Customers and fans will not wait much longer.  They might if they got a solid answer but bioware does not think we deserve it.

  • Corbin Allen

    I love how well-written this is.   It’s accurate, and shows that this attitude of “ohnoes, we can’t change it, it’ll set a precedent!” I’ve seen from industry shills and developers is full of garbage.  The precedent has already been set.  Fable: The Lost Chapters….Fable II’s dog revival expansion….Broken Steel….and in books, as you said, authors going all the way back to Doyle.   

    Even if it weren’t “art” it would still be a product someone interacts with and predicts a degree of a “real” outcome.   Gamers play their games for both the experience (A+ with Mass Effect) and the sense of accomplishment (F – with Mass Effect 3).  Games which fail to deliver these are defective product.   
    An interpretation of the ending that is obvious if plot holes are closed is that no matter what you do, you kill more people than the Reapers ever hoped to kill or process, right after one race starts popping out babies and another reaches a new era of peace and prosperity.  

    That’s right.   I paid $180 + DLC to play 200 hours (lots of replaying) or so, only to become a universe destroying babykiller.   Faster way to achieve the same end?  Euthanize the universe in advance by snapping the discs in half. 

  • Peter Garfield White

    It’s nice to see some reporting that does credit to the concept of Journalism instead of calling fans ‘entitled whiners’ or defending the ‘artistic integrity” of something that clearly falls short of the true artistry of the rest of the series. Thank you for actually researching the game and the issues, thank you for stating any bias up front and trying to rise above it. Unlike other reporters or reporting sites, mostly in the gaming industry, who have demonstrated a level of compromise that I’d be inclined to call corrupt. You still can call yourself a Journalist.

  • Anonymous

    Looks like Ill be playing kingdoms of amalur they have new dlc. And I cant even replay ME3 there is no point, no consequences no difference to ending but colors.  How the mighty have fallen.  I played ME1  5 TIMES, ME2 5 to 7 times, ME3 1 time.  How did good writers blow that.  But hey they got their money.  I dont think they will get any more.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, THANK YOU FOR YOUR JOURNALISM.  So many sites are biased to EA due to advertising.  We need more journalists like you.

  • Anonymous

    The other bad thing is the game was delayed from December 2011 to March 2012.  What for?  for that amazing (sarcastic) ending.

  • Loryanna Michalek

    Very well written, and nicely done. I think it also sums up the actual issue rather clearly. I’d be interested in reading your thoughts on the vast gulf between the fans and the critics. Some essays have come out on the topic already, but I think your take on the subject would be interesting.

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t have a huge nerdrage over the ending, it just left me going “wtf?” And the sequences after the credits didn’t help much either, just more “WTF?”

    (VAGUE SPOILERS) I think the problem with the ending, to me, was not that it didn’t recognize choices (I had to Google what all this color nonsense is about, and it’s actually quite offensive now that I know) or that there were plot holes (which there are), but because it was so very not what my expectation was going to be, and executed poorly. There was a clear goal set up for us, and we were literally charging towards it, expecting some awesome boss battle when we got there. Even on Thessia, there was this “do this, and we’ll be okay” sort of vibe. We *already* had a lowest of lows, so we knew there wasn’t going to be another. In a blink of an eye, none of that mattered. A character that was just introduced had no arc or purpose, died and said everyone around me died. My LI was with me, so I had to carry that “omg I killed them” throughout the whole ending until I saw that they were miraculous okay?? And the whole sequence with the Illusive Man looked tacky (I just wanted to smack that hat off of Anderson), not that the discussion was poor, it was actually quite good, it was just a poor-looking cutscene in my opinion that was just so out of tune of the moments leading up to it. And then I was forced to make a renegade option on my paragon (I ignored it at first, which made me game over and had to redo the scene which you cannot skip lines -_-). Had the game ended after that, and I made my color decision, it would have been a slightly better ending, but it didn’t. A whole new concept was rolled out and given a few lines to digest before we were supposed to react.

    I don’t mind sad endings. In fact, all of my favorite movies kill absolutely everyone in the end, but they were executed properly. This game should have ended with a series of flashbacks or flashforwards, to tie everything together (like it almost did when you’re selecting your color). You know. Closure. Touch upon each major person that affected the lives of our Shepards, either as they were, or as they will be. Or do that thing that is done in the beginning of each Mass Effect that is just a title screen where a briefing appears (“Earth had been saved, blah blah blah …”). THAT is closure, even if it’s just words on a screen. Not bringing us even more questions, wondering if the galaxy, or the people we care about, will even be okay after all that. 

    Do I think the ending needs to be changed? No, what I think needs to happen is Bioware learns from this. From their internal decisions, and what they wanted to accomplish, they saw the ending technically. Perhaps they wanted to solidify that there would be sequels, but as a player, all we saw was the depressing consequences of that on a galaxy we just tried to save. Perhaps they wanted to reassure us that some chars were alive, we saw something way more horrible. There are plenty of things I would like to change about ME3, but it’s not going to be the same things other people want. What I want them to do is to make a new game and to take their time with it, listen to the feedback, and then make more. If a Mass Effect movie ever does come around, that would be the time to make a new ending, as the director hopefully understands narrative and their audience a lot better.

    I apologize for the long post, but this is the only time I’m ever going to write about the ending, so I got it all out. =P

  • Joel Taft

    I know artists, If we want to call them that. They see the endings and say “That isn’t art.” The story they made that formed the universe and folklore is art, the ending they made is a write off.” A way to end the chapter of this story with little effort or care. To throw in a some space magic Star Child goes against the REAL art which was the Mass Effect universe. A real artist wouldn’t say a Mass Relay blowing up destroys a solar system. Then end a game by destroying the relays and saying that’s not what happened. A real artist and story writer wouldn’t have closed up a 100 hour game in the matter of 5 minutes. Especially with so many questions. Being as they actually get paid for their art, being it their stories or sculptures, or paintings I am inclined to agree. Especially after experiencing the endings after playing all three games you will see its not art, but a write off of a great series a last minute change as they deviated from their dark energy conclusion. Bottom line the fans are right this is not art because it goes against everything the story has lead up to. As my friend put it. Its like having a Harry Potter film, At the end if the film for the final conflict. Instead of facing Voldemort. Rainbow bright shows up and says. Hey you have three choices all of which kill you and destroy the world as you know it. But there are different ways in accomplishing that destruction. 

  • m h

    Bioware has no “obligation” to their fans/audience/consumers, legal or artistic. Not everyone can get what they want, nor can even a few get exactly what they want.

    But when ALMOST EVERYONE has major issues with the ending of a game, one that departs so violently from every indication and advertisement put out by the studio, something is wrong. Bioware marketed “ME3″ as the final chapter of Shepard’s saga, and that the ending would be incredible, fulfilling, and fit the theme that, “every choice matters.” At the very best, this was false advertising. At the worst, it’s an industry ploy to trick everyone into buying DLC in order to “win” the game.

    DLC, multiplayer, and add-ons should *NEVER* be needed in order to complete or finish a game or franchise. You buy a game in store, what’s in the box is the final product; everything else ought to be an appendix, an embellishment or side-track.

    Instead, Bioware is defending ME3 as everything they said it would be, with expectation that at least a majority would be satisfied, or that the series’ finale would offer some fulfilment.

    It just doesn’t.

  • Duke Fleed

    Creative entity they may be, but Mass Effect is not a novel, nor a film. It is, like all games, an interactive work. Of course, not all games have several possible endings, or even need them. But this is a case where it was promised, since the beginning, that the player’s choice would affect the story and ITS OUTCOME. Even Bioware reps said ME3′s ending would not simply a A,B,C thing — which it ultimately ends up being, ironically enough.

    As for the lack of closure, it is true. The problem here is that BW games have usually had copious amounts of it — BG2, DA:O stand as the best examples of this — even DA2 had more.

    The ultimate insult, I think was for the fans to discover that there were indeed plans to have plenty of closure and explanations at the end, but that, at the last minute, the powers that be decided that no, fans didn’t need to know the secrets of the ME universe, and that it would be best if there was “tons of speculation for everyone”; as if ME had been a James Cameron film where the studio decided to have the last 5-10 minutes be done by David Lynch instead.

  • Anonymous

    “imagine …that The Return of the King ended with that shot of Frodo and Sam lying on the side of Mount Doom after the ring had been destroyed.”

    And Gondor, and the Shire, and everyone they’ve ever known, all dead, because the Eye of Sauron generated an explosion that wiped out all of Middle Earth. THAT’S a slightly more similar analogy.

    The comparison I was going to make was the ending to Escape from L.A., where (you should forgive the spoiler) Snake sets off a spaceborn EMP device that effectively shuts down the world, sending it back into…maybe not the stone age, but the early steam age, after a bit of difficult engineering. It had little to do with the rest of the film, was out of character, and like Shepard, likely killed millions of people.  I could also go on about the ending of The Dark Knight, but that’s just cause I hated it, not because it’s germane to the discussion.  (Look up “Stella Dallas” for a clue as to why I hate it…I shall say no more)

    At its core, the ending breaks one of the classic tropes of fiction – The Hero Always Finds Choice C. When presented with “You have to choose between your sidekick or your girlfriend”, the hero almost always finds a way to save both.  And the occasional exceptions to that (one of which in the aforementioned Dark Knight) work because the hero has to DEAL with that choice, and either atone for it, seek revenge against the one who forced it, or just come to grips with it and move on.  No such option here – choose one of three pan-genocidal options, and then die.  Excuse me?  Where’s the last-minute “Or reverse the polarity of the neutron flow, and No One Dies” option?

    No ending would appease everyone.  Norton Juster came up with the most universally acceptable ending ever, “and they lived…if not happily ever after, at least reasonably so”.  That would have been just fine, thank you.

    Maybe I’m spoiled.  I’m a hard-core, hide-bound Final Fantasy player, a series that does endings like nobody else.  Every single solitary character you so much as bought a Phoenix Down from comes back for the ending, and they all get a coda.  If you’re not near tears (or well into them) by the end, you should put an ad up on CraigsList and see if anyone has seen your soul.

    Odds are if BioWare actually choose to slap something together, it’ll seem exactly that – slapped together.  The CGI equivalent of writing “He rode off into the West and everything was Okay” on the back cover because someone ripped out the last page of the book.

    As a result of the hoohah over the game on its release, I bought and started playing Mass Effect 1 this week, and am singularly impressed.  But in honesty, if that’s the ending I’m making my way to, I may not bother, and just go back to playing Skyrim when I’m done with this one.

  • Daniel Sean Keating

    I have to say that this is, by far, one of the best articles I have read on the subject.  You have a new reader.  The balance in the article and careful consideration to the issue is wonderful.  No matter how this debate unfolds or concludes, I say thank you for what you have done.
    Dan Keating

  • m h

    Star Wars Edition:
    Uncle Ben, Aunt Beru and Obi-Wan show up to talk to Luke while the Emperor is killing him, and ask him whether he wants to:
    1) Kill the Emperor and Vader, and put Leia in their place in the Empire,
    2) Unleash the Dark Side, killing them both and ruling the Empire himself,
    3) Blowing up the Death Star, Endor, and Coruscant so nobody wins.

    …And all of hyperspace is shut down forever.

  • Anonymous

    L. Frank Baum also fell victim to being driven back to the well.

    He’d planned to end the Oz books after book six, The Emerald City of Oz, and with quite a happy ending – Dorothy’s family move to Oz with her, and Ozma casts a spell to render the land inaccessible to the rest of the world.  Only after endless letters (and a couple of books that couldn’t hold a candle to the series’ sales) did he write a new book, claiming that a fan had suggested contacting Oz via the electric-type wireless telegraph.

  • regretfuljones

    As a long-time fan of Mass Effect, I loved ME3 from the moment I started it up. I loved seeing my favorite characters (and tons of random side characters from both previous games) and I liked the war assets component–I thought maybe we’d end up with an ME2-like situation, where you have to know how to use your assets or lose them. The writing on the main Tuchanka mission and the Rannoch missions was absolutely top notch. I was prepared to call it my favorite game *ever*.

    Right up until the last ten minutes. Unfortunately, those ten minutes are so important and so universe-changing, they outweigh all other fantastic moments. Those ten minutes take the long running theme of ‘strength in diverse peoples coming together’ and chuck them out the window. As one well-liked character says in ME2, “[We] believe all intelligent life should self-determinate.” This was an important and often remarked upon theme in all three games. Gone in ten minutes.

    Those ten minutes actually ruin any desire I had to replay any of the three games.

  • m h

    I would actually pay to see that.

    The Na’vi suddenly start raving to swing music, the humans are making out with their mech suits, and Jake jumps off a cliff while wearing an oversized novelty cowboy hat for no reason.

  • Shannon McLean

    As johnpb5 said, thank you for your journalism.  I’m getting really tired of sites that rely on EA for pre-released copies of their games and interviews immediately dismissing this matter as the result of ‘entitled’ fans and their unreasonable demands.  It’s not unreasonable at all.  We want what we were assured we would be buying.

    There’s a thread on the BioWare social network that has collected all of the pre-release quotes on ME3′s ending.  It’s truly inexcusable stuff – particularly when lined up with information from the Final Hours app, it seems that towards the end of development BioWare KNEW that they weren’t going to put out the ending they’d been promising, and yet, they continued to hype it up as being the exact opposite of what they made.

    That’s not creative differences.  That’s flat-out lying to your fans and customers.  If you tell me I’m buying a red jacket and ship me a green one instead, my obligation as a consumer is not to just be grateful that I have a jacket at all.  It’s to go to your company and ask you to make good on the product that you said they were selling me.  If I buy a painting that’s been marketed as an explosion of colour and my print arrives in black and white, I’m not out of line to go to the artist and ask for that colour-version he said he was doing.  Granted, he can refuse, in which case I can return his product and decide not to do business with him anymore, but that’s not actually a solution which will leave either of us satisfied, is it?

    It’s been my experience that ‘if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all’ is not, in fact, good advice.  Particularly not in the business world.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this post.  Since I won’t be buying the game for some years probably, I had no idea what the furor was about.  After reading this and two gamefront articles, I have a lot more sympathy for those in the Retake camp.  What an odd and inconsistent ending.

    Also, maybe this isn’t common knowledge, but my understanding from talking to some folks is that SWTOR was released around when ME3 was intended to, due to tester feedback saying overwhelmingly that the MMO was ready for launch (yeesh, not quite), and ME3 was pushed back to around the latest targeted date for SWTOR before they announced it would release 2011 (which was March 20th, 2012 today!).  This would imply the game ending would’ve had to have been pretty much settled before November, so the comment that they were messing with it even then would be incorrect, unless the decision to swap release dates was a decision made mutually between Austin and Edmonton in order to work on the ending?  Just adding more confusing information, here.  :p

  • Frodo Baggins

    “Thank you, but our princess is in another castle.”


  • Mike Rollins

    A very well written post. I’m like most of the people you mentioned who loved the game (I honestly think it’s one of the best I’ve ever played), but feel really disenfranchised once I experienced the ending. As much as I’d love to see some DLC and new endings, I’ve finally reached a stage of acceptance where if that is the ending BioWare wants and that’s final, then I’m fine with it. I probably won’t play it again for a long time, but I won’t lose any sleep over it.

  • Anna B

    This is exactly what I was thinking about. In a lesser scale, I remember finishing all those Super Marios and thinking each time that the endings were a colossal disappointment.  I just spent DAYS–even WEEKS finishing the game, and all I get is a stupid explosion of radishes and turnips? And that’s just Super Mario–so far removed from the interaction and emotional involvement of Mass Effect.

  • Joanna

    Considering games are defined as art, consumer rights don’t really come into it.  You can’t ask for a refund on your cinema ticket if you didn’t like the movie after all.

  • Drake Belmont

    While we are considering video games as art it is unfair to compare this medium to any other, just like you can’t compare Monet and Spielberg. What other type of art do you know of that makes personal choice essential to understanding and enjoying that art? Video Games. While we do not pick what is IN the video games, we should be able to, as advertised by BioWare, create our own adventure using the choices given in the game itself. But that’s the thing, the choices given were bogus and we feel like we wasted 60 hard earned dollars to finish off a stellar trilogy with nothing but a whimper. Please understand that this series, while run by BioWare, has always been influenced by the fans. Mass Effect 2 was a phenomenal success also on part because the fans wanted fixes to certain things after the first one was released. 

    Knowing that this is the end of the trilogy, and because of the last fifteen minutes a poor end at that, there is no game that stars Shepard anymore. We are afraid that this is all there is to know about this epic battle, and we hope BioWare and EA see the reason and rationale behind the movement.
    We are civil in our cause. And yes, we know this is just a video game ending. Not the end of the world. We might get the endings that rationally fit The mass effect universe or if we might not. However, we will at least get something worthwile done and put all of this energy to good use via donations to child’s care. 
    Please see our reasoning. That is all we want out of this. For people to understand our cause. 

  • Austin Murkland

    yes, yes you can.  you might not always get it, but you can always ask.

  • Borthos Morola

    Games are interactive entertainment - NOT art – and I don’t think you have even the vaguest notion of what art is.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, if the advertising outside shows a movie with dinosaurs and promises gigantic meteor explosions, but the movie inside delivers giant pandas and bamboo stalks, you certainly can.

    Personally, I consider the ME3 ending one of the great media missteps of recent years, but I’m not going to ask for a refund. I’m sure the market will take care of it – in the end Bioware damage themselves the most by such colossal misjudgements of what constitutes an appropriate ending to such a well-loved series.

  • Kate Falanga

    Thanks for writing this up this way. It was a good sum up of the controversy that is pretty big news in the geek circles for people like me who want to understand but aren’t as familiar with the subject matter.

  • maria colon

    actually you CAN ask for a refund if the ending of a movie was terrible. and you can get your money back. i’ve done it. 

  • Kerry Pocock

     I’m a big fan of ME2 and was looking forward to ME3 reading this article brings me back to playing Fallout3 where the hero dies at the end, they also had to make a DLC to fix that ending. You would think gaming industries would learn or seek advice from a few fans on what they think of a good ending? Reading the article it sounds as if they should have made the end to show what the future holds for Shepard and the rest of his crew, who he ends up with in a relationship etc, it would make for a better ending for an awesome game series that deserves it.

  • Tommi Mansikka

    Hi, I wanted to add one thing. It is true that Amazon is giving refunds but it is not the only one.

    There has several successful refunds for digital copies brought trough Origin, Origin is owned by Electronic Arts, the publisher. Not only this, but those who have got refund also report that they have been given one time 10% discount on next purchase.

    Which, in my mind, is pretty damn big thing considering it is essentially accepting that your product is flawed.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this article. After reading so many that either think everyone who cares this much is a basement dwelling child or is an entitled whiner, reading your article which presents the information in a calm, well-informed manner is incredibly refreshing. And not once did you say that we were upset we didn’t get a “happy” ending, which is one of the most common arguments I’ve seen. Thank you, again, for being this awesome. And for what it’s worth, I 100% agree with you - 98% of that game was the best thing I ever played, and it put me through an emotional gauntlet involving lots of giggling and crying. That last tiny bit though, it hurt, and not in the “hurt so good” sort of way that one would expect from a true ”bittersweet” ending.

  • Anonymous

    By now, you’ve likely heard that the food selection at Gaining Mass Effect made people a little bit… upset. Fooder backlashes to unappetizing meals are hardly a new phenomenon in the food enthusiast community, but this goes beyond asking for steak and receiving a salad. A significant chunk of the foodbase is petitioning BioWare Food Co. to change the ending entirely via menu.

    If that sounds ridiculous to you, you’re not alone. Many eating websites scoffed at Gaining Mass Effect eaters, throwing around words like “overweight” or “fatass.” However, this fight is far more complicated than a few eaters whining over the lack of tartar sauce and bean dip. The way this thing plays out could have major ramifications not only for the culinary industry, but for how we define the concept of competitive eating. If you care about eating, stuffing your face, or food, this is a story you should know about.

    Before I begin, I have to admit a bias: I am an enormous whale, and I was very disappointed in the desserts. I wrote my review of the food after I completed my first set, so everything I said there holds true: Gaining Mass Effect is one of the most spectacular sets I have ever eaten. I cannot praise the food highly enough, except for the last five minutes. The last five minutes broke me, and caused my chair to collapse under the weight of my huge ass. While a new ending would do a lot to fill the cake shaped, artery clogged hole in my heart, it is not something that I have been actively campaigning for, nor is it something that I entirely expect to see happen 9though my opinion on that is shifting). Still, if such a thing did come to fruition, I would be in flavor of it.

  • Anonymous

    I found this (the same article referred to the movement as a movement? over 600,000 people is not a minority!)
    __________________________________________________________________Among those who believe the gamers don’t have a case — or even a legitimate gripe, for that matter — is Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities.
    “It does not appear that the company misled consumers, intentionally or otherwise,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “There is nothing in the promotional materials that says “play this game and we guarantee you will save the world. The complaint is ridiculous to the point of being laughable.”
    It’s like suing James Cameron because the Titanic sank at the end of the movie, he continued, emphasizing that the game is fiction, and the complainants have “to grow up and accept that.”__________________________________________________________________not only is that a stupid analogy to choose (if the Titanic didn’t sink it would fly in the face of historical FACT). In fact a better analogy would be the Titanic not sinking and going against the lore and canon of what actually happened. Similar to that this ending forces three choices on you, all leading to destruction, and unrelated to anything that happened before. 

    They somehow expect you to believe that it was possible for everything to somehow be ok WITHOUT explaining how that was possible and flying in the face of the lore and technology we’ve had told throughout the game. I.e. the destruction of ME relay leads to Arrival like supernova destroying galaxies, the Turians and Quarians cannot survive on Human food on Earth, it will only be a matter of time before their supplies run out, long before they can reach home (in the latter case a home they only just got). 

    How did my squadmates end up in the Normandy with Joker a) when they were with me (some have said programming error which I can live with but b) MORE IMPORTANTLY WHY THE HELL ARE THEY RUNNING AWAY they would have stayed with me until the end!
    If Shepard used 10 mins or something to warn everyone to get away before he activated his chosen choice then it SHOULD have shown us such an event. 

    These plot holes don’t make sense, if the indoctrination theory IS true then imo that would only partly make up for it, why would they risk breaking the fourth wall unless they thought it was too obvious what they had done and the DLC was always going to be free. IMO they could have had that still happen in the game and then carry on with Shepard breathing and waking up, maybe those picking the ‘indoctrinated endings’ that lead to indoctrination lead you to be able to break it right at the end and still save everyone before killing yourself/dying (like Saren) and being the hero. It’s possible THAT was the only way to do it because they had issues with the gameplay mechanic as said in the app about indoctrination being the original idea. I still hold hope that is true, but if not they really really missed a trick.

    IF the ending made sense, both in terms of lore and without plot holes, then I wouldn’t mind there even being ONE ending, even negating the fact we were promised a wide variety, at least it would make sense.

  • unigolyn

    I have disliked my fair share of endings to books, movies, TV shows and games. Some (Lost, BSG, Matrix) have been so bad that I’m likely not ever going to watch anything made by the hacks in charge of said properties.

    But I have never in my life dreamed of demanding they CHANGE it. Until the end of Mass Effect 3.

    Why? Because the 99% of story preceding it was beautifully written by smart and highly talented people. Because this story stirred my soul as only the best Space Opera can do. Its theme (for my Paragon Shepard, at least) was the one I always gravitate to – hope and cooperation, justice and reason emerging triumphant over fear and ignorance.

    And the very premise the pile of crap Mac Walters wrote for the final 15 minutes just outright spat in the face of that theme. And not because it was his choice to do so, but because it was just terrible, terrible writing.

    I’m demanding a new ending because this series deserves one. I could easily just forget about it and move on to other things, but dammit, it’s too good to be betrayed like this. In an age where every piece of science fiction is hijacked by pseudo-intellectual hacks who think a pithy mind f*** covering up an ultimately fatalistic, anti-technological non-resolution is good storytelling, the one narrative that dares remain hopeful about humanity having the potential to grow out of our brutish infancy should not be smothered to death by those very same hacks.

  • m h

    “Bittersweet” is “Ship….out of….danger?”
    Not future-Spock telling him he has to decide between killing himself, killing the entire Enterprise, or killing the whole Federation, all while disabling warp travel.

    “Bittersweet” is the Dumb-Kids-In-Lust dying, but the Capulets and Montagues realizing how destructive their feud is, and making peace.
    Not the Montagues and Capulets doomed to kill each other until the end of time unless Romeo and Juliet kill each other, kill each member of one family, or force both families to intermarry until no one can tell the difference.

    “Bittersweet” is when two kids elope, sit in the back of the bus, and have absolutely no idea what happens next.
    Not God coming down and making Dustin Hoffman decide to break up his girlfriend’s wedding, break up his parent’s marriage, or annul the marriage of every adult in town regardless of happiness, fidelity, abuse or hypocrisy.

    “Bittersweet” is when Private Ryan wonders if his last 60 years make up for the deaths of an entire company.
    Not when J Robert Oppenheimer appears and tells Tom Hanks he has to decide to save the one kid, save his men, or instantly win the whole war, even if all choices mean randomly, inexplicably nuking the entire world. (Oh, and Matt Damon isn’t so much “saved” as “stranded on a desert island with no hope of rescue).

    Bittersweet would’ve been: (Apologies for masculine pronouns, my only complete play-through was male)
    1) Shepard dying to end the war, regardless of consequence.
    2) Shepard saving the galaxy, but knowing that he’d be enslaved into keeping the Reapers at bay until the end of time.
    3) Shepard being horribly crippled, and avoiding his LI to spare them (or himself) the pain of seeing him that way).
    4) Shepard winning the war and living for his LI, who died during the fight. (More ironic than bittersweet, but I was kind-of hoping for a MORE “Gurren Lagann” option than what it wound up being)
    5) Shepard making a decision to end the war and save trillions of lives, but knowing that he sacrificed his entire crew in the process without knowing it.

    I honestly didn’t plan on my Shepard living past the finale. Out of all the decisions I/he had made, there was no way he’d allow himself to live if a single more life could be saved, be it human or alien, crew or stranger, love interest or platonic friend. (My second Shepard, had I played through with her, would’ve sacrificed everything for human interest, throw the alien fleets into the fire, and get to liberate Earth ASAP so she could rule the galaxy as a queen afterward.)

    But offering an apocalyptic, horrible, open-ended conclusion with minimal color changes and crew survival, and selling it as “bittersweet?” That’s either trolling or cheap writing that gets a game out the door ASAP, while disrespecting the fans that have made the franchise what it is.

  • Comic Book Candy

    I was totally going to ask someone to explain it to me in Star Wars (I haven’t played ME3)

  • m h

    Matrix ending was high-minded philosophy that translated into CGI-driven disaster based off the incoherent ramblings of someone high on meth.

    BSG….I wish I could say it was budget cuts and a juvenile revenge fantasy against SciFi for not giving it a fifth season, but…it sucked. Ron Moore ignored multiple plots, chopped limbs off others, and tacked on an “OR DID THEY?” ending with the ‘angels.’ I loved that most characters got closure (cried at the Adama/Roslin resolution), but it was still rotten at the core.

    ….Never got into Lost….(feel free to shoot me now).

    Our “wants” as fans are innumerable and also immaterial to the final product. But the expectation of any sane player with a heart would be something far better than this. Out of all of the possible endings they could’ve written, recorded, animated and produced, they went with the cheapest, least-thematic, and least-fulfilling ending.

    Everyone has their ideal ending. Everyone has their ideal “endgame,” whether it focuses on Cerberus or dark energy* or the Protheans or conspiracies, but an ending that ignores years of lore, games, books, and codex entries, and gives a player three seemingly-random choices with equally-bad consequences is just plain b******t.

  • Anonymous

    Firstly, thanks for the article. I haven’t played the game and have avoided most articles about it because I don’t want it spoiled, so thanks for explaining what the fuss is about without any spoilers. (I’ve skipped reading the comments, because I’m sure some of them will be less restrained.)

    I may not be able to comment on this ending directly, but I can say that fans getting angry over endings of much-loved series is not a remotely new phenomenon. Off the top of my head, the endings of the Harry Potter series, Lost and Battlestar Galactica all caused epic nerd rage, and that’s just in the past few years. It’s not surprising that the same happened to Mass Effect. All of those are series with dedicated fanbases who are highly invested in the characters and plot, and some of them were always going to feel let down by an ending that didn’t match their ideas of how they should turn out.

    I would say that for series like these ones, it was always going to be impossible to make an ending that would satisfy everybody. That’s all the more true for a roleplaying game like Mass Effect, where everyone has their own version of Commander Shephard and his/her story. But Bioware shouldn’t feel too bad about it; on the contrary, they should be proud that they created a story that people feel so passionately about. In a funny way, the fact that this ending has got so many people angry just shows how well loved the series really is.

    As for the fans – those who can’t accept Bioware’s preferred ending can always do what fans of those other series did, and write their own! In the realm of fanfiction, the story can continue however you want…

  • m h

     Well, that’s about it. “Return” actually had a much more bitter ending before George Lucas fired the surviving screenwriter from “Empire,” Gary Kurtz.

    Kurtz had written a much darker, tragic ending to the series. No spoilers ( you can look it up on the intarwubs) but no character got a happy ending. They all get closure and manage to get on with their respective destinies in the best way how, but it was the farthest thing from Ewoks dancing around the campfire to music, fireworks, and the Ghosts-of-Jedi-Past.

    Lucas didn’t like it, rewrote the entire thing to fit “his vision,” and gave the other screenwriter, Lawrence Kashdan, full credit. Mostly it involved toy sales figures and other merchandising, with the fear of major character death putting a damper on royalties. Also, George Lucas’s apparent obsession with ‘little people’ alien races.

  • m h

    Harry Potter ended about as well as it could’ve. Lost and BSG were already beginning to take “late-season-decay,” but Mass Effect is definitely an outlier.

    The ending, is, well….bad. The story that Bioware allowed players to create in their own framework gets thrown out the window. In the end, you get a set of two or three choices that are entirely divorced from every single decision you’ve made in the last games, as well as this one. You get one ending, an identical ending with a different color scheme and morality, and a third that is also identical (but only if your aggregate ‘success’ at the game is high enough).

    Buy and play the game if you want. But you’ll be disappointed, no matter what. There’s not a single person out there who could’ve conceived this ending for their Shepard(s), and that’s not a a mark of good writing.

  • Anonymous

    Fair enough. I should probably stop giving my speculative opinion on things I have no personal experience of. :)

  • Steven Hager

     I think they can use the current ending to their advantage. What have we learned from ME2, you need to bring everyone and everything to the big fight for things to turn out right. Perhaps there is something missing, a mission, or person that you don’t yet know about, that you should have done or discovered in order to achieve a different path. One person can make a huge difference in a war, and with out Shepard’s team he could never accomplish it on his or her own.

  • Anonymous

    Ummm…actually you can, Joanna.  And games are not defined as art.  Games are both art and consumer products…just like movies.  They are far more consumer products.  If you don’t like a movie, you can get up and get your money back as you walk out (odd you didn’t know that).  Same with a game…ask Amazon customers who returned ME3.  Me?  Bioware ain’t gettin’ another dime from me for ME3.  They can keep their DLCs.  I didn’t like it, so I choose not to reward them with further monetary gain.  I’ve cast my vote.

  • Taylor

    I spent hours making sure everything was perfect in ME1 and 2 and I made sure that everyone was alive and well so that ME3 would be amazing!

     My brother only played the third game, rushed through everything and didn’t do any side quests and somehow we both got the same crappy 3 decisions.
    So basically all I did was waste hours of my life making everything perfect just so I could die, die, or hmmm die.

     I’m not saying Bioware should change the ending, I’m just saying that the game was kind of a let down and IF I replay the game I’m just going to stop playing when I reach the ending.

  • Brian Geukens

    Bloody brilliant article, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was kind of depressed about this whole debacle until reading this, now I’m obsessed and I don’t know which is worse. By the way kudos on this site it’s pretty cool.

  • Skald Fish

    Thank you for a wonderfully well-researched, well-written, and professional overview of this mess.

    I especially love your Tolkien analogy, and wonder if it isn’t actually even worse than what you describe.

    Imagine investing all those hours in the story and characters only to have it all come to an end with Aragorn, Gandalf, and the rest of the Fellowship outside Mordor, cheering in victory, then watching in horrified disbelief as the side of Mount Doom is blasted away in that terrifying eruption.

    “Frodo!!!” Pippin wails. Fade to black.

  • Kaarel Jakobson

    Obligatory mention that Deus Ex did it better.

  • Dork Matter


  • Ludvig Svenonius

    Excellent article, Ms. Chambers. I would only like to point out that you reference the number of facebook “likes” of Mass Effect’s disclaimer on facebook. The number of “likes” of the comment itself is however not included in the screenshot. The figure 679,905 in the screenshot is the number of facebook users that have “liked” Mass Effect itself, not that individual post. As of this moment, the post itself has 4,584 “likes” on facebook, while fairly staggering in and of itself, is on a quite different scale from the figure in your screenshot. Just thought I’d mention it.

  • Anonymous

    Gotta love all the pr stunts Bioware is trying with multiplayer.  They seem to think we will go away.  HOLD THE LINE. And as for Ken levine’s statements first off he is a part of bioware.  And second he can make those comments because he has good endings in his games so that problem doesnt concern him.  Bioware dropped the ball, there was no choice, only slight differences in color endings. And no closure, the game even went against there source material from arrival dlc, that a destroyed relay would wipe out a whole cluster.  Basically there was no need to play ME1 OR ME 2, cause everyone got the same ending.  Me 3 is basically a stand alone game, all the choices previously make no difference.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe since bioware wanst to bury its head in the sand, all the fans confront them face to face at pax in april.  And only talk about Me3, dont let them give gifts or try to go into something else.  Bring petitions, statements and corner them into giving us the facts and not vague comments.

  • Anna B

    I do respectfully disagree that Harry Potter ended as well as it could’ve. Though it isn’t really just the ending that made a lot of fans mad, but the entire 7th book.  But to be completely fair, I think the anger for the ME3 ending is more intense than the anger the Harry Potter series invoked in half its fan base.

  • Emily Elizabeth Fern

    ***SPOILER ALERT*** I watched my boyfriend play 80% of the game and he couldn’t have been happier with the ending.. It was very emotional for both of us, as I watched it like a movie.. but it’s the only way it COULD end.. ***SPOILER STARTS HERE*** He chose the middle path.. With the other two paths history would only repeat itself.. Lack of closure? Shepard sacrifices himself and everything starts over.. no more “synthetics” no more “organics” there’s just one.  They’re the same. Sure you don’t get to see the new lives of Ashley, Joker and Edi, but Shepard gave them that new life. In my opinion, that’s enough closure for us. 

  • Joanna

    I don’t think you can where I’m from.  Granted if the cinema failed to deliver the film in good quality, you certainly would.  

  • Joanna

    Oh yeah, I mean I get that.  I just don’t think you can legally under any consumer rights get any monetary compensation out of it.  That’s what I meant.  At best, all you can do is appeal to Bioware and hope that they listen.  

  • Joanna
  • Joanna

    Legally considered an art form in the US.  I didn’t just make it up =P

  • Dork Matter

    It’s totally understandable that some people might be happy with the endings as is, especially if they are in a deeper suspension of disbelief and so can credulously accept the narrative, but it’s indisputable that they make very little sense within the wider context of the story when properly analysed. Why should Shepard believe what this apparition tells him? Why would he not bother question it? Why didn’t he seek an option D?

    A lot of players will not have asked themselves these questions because they have become conditioned to accept the reality the developers choose to present them with. This is a good thing, especially for story based games. However, BioWare has trained it’s players through all three games to consider each of their choices deeply. The result of this is that when a logical inconsistency occurs many players will immediately spot it as they cross-examine the arguments for the decision.
    BioWare decided to end their game by leaving the ending open to interpretation. They wanted the players to have questions. 

    They chose the wrong questions.

    “I wonder what happens between Joker and EDI?” would be a fine question to leave unanswered. But, ”How did the Normandy survive jumping into the epicentre of an explosion that has been established as capable of wiping out an entire system?” is not. It is not ok to have players ask this, because the only logical answer is “they couldn’t have”, which calls everything else into question.

    If the events in the ending are illogical it becomes impossible for anybody to rationally predict the outcomes of everything else. If you accept the ending then Joker and EDI are fine, living on a tropical planet somewhere. You get closure.

    If, on the other hand, you can’t accept the ending as logical, you know that couldn’t possibly happen, that if they were jumping they’d be dead. Not only can you not choose to assume the fate of your companions, because you don’t know what parts were real or not, but you also don’t know which events you played in the game were real. This means that not only do you not have closure, but you now even have questions about events that you played through.

  • Fyre

    That was absolutely the most brilliant summation I’ve read. And, it sounds like maybe you haven’t played the series. I would highly recommend it. I’m a huge BioWare fan. And, there’s no mistaking that BioWare know what they are doing. Except for the last 5 minutes of this game where it feels like they had a major choke.

  • Anonymous

    I am playing the first one right now and am quite impressed.  But there’s a bit of sadness knowing where it’s all going.

  • Stealth Flower

    Do you have a link for that? I’d like to read a bit more about it.

  • Christopher Janelli

    The ending would make sense if ME3 was like lost however it was the complete opposite. Mass Effect was a story that gave a back up explanation to information while exploring it’s universe even the weirdness of it. I loved Bioware since SWKOTOR, however attaching an ending where the whole point of decision making resulted in a different conclusion was some how tossed out was a very big mistake. I can no longer trust or even buy another product made from them because of those empty statements. This event will probably rethink how the game industry should handle between consumer expectation and developers handling their own art. Not to mention reviewers who will hopefully have better opinions.   

  • Kristin Moran

     Actually, you can. And I’ve known people who’ve received refunds. I’ve only asked when there was a technical issue – the sound or picture quality was terrible, and it was granted.

    Not every cinema manager will give a refund, but some do.

  • Anonymous

    That’s the most bizarre definition of art that I’ve ever heard of Roelandt. Art has always been a consumer product. Artists throughout history have survived through patrons and commissions, creating works of art to be sold. Your post seems to suggest that art is created in some sort of vacuum, and only for the purpose of creating Art with a capital ‘A’.

  • Anonymous

     ”My LI was with me, so I had to carry that “omg I killed them” throughout
    the whole ending until I saw that they were miraculous okay??”

    I had the exact same experience. I felt awful knowing that Liara died, then watching galaxy after galaxy get obliterated, and then watching Joker try to escape the wave as the Normandy was overtaken. Then magically they are ok!

    Even the “best” ending makes me feel like a supervillan. Remember the first X-Men movie where Magneto’s evil plan was to mutate the entire human race to take them to the next evolutionary step. That’s exactly what my Shepard did. From hero to villain. :(

  • Anonymous

    I’ve heard of Kurtz’s plans, and I’m not a fan. I really like narratives to go dark, but maybe I’m just too much of a pansy for them to oppressively stay that way. I think, in terms of story structure etc., Jedi ended as it should have. Plot points alone, of course, how it was executed, however, is rightly subject to a variety of opinions. Though I tend to be kinder towards the film than many of my fellow fans. 

  • Jerry Merci

    I honestly do see why a lot or people are angry and upset over the ending. After finishing the game, I was left with a dissatisfied feeling. I physically wanted to hurt another person…grrr. We’ve spend so much time learning about all the details that the game has to over, and so much time developing the characters that the developers itself failed to connect any closure, and they gave us a freaking “open to interpretation” ending. 

    I think if this was the first Mass effect or the 2nd, it would have been forgivable. Considering that this is supposedly the ending for the series itself(1,2,3) I expected more. 

    The ending was so bad in my opinion, that I actually don’t want to play the game again. A lot of developers forget that for some, the reason why players repeat and play the game over and over again, is because the games will always remember how the game made them feel.

  • David Truhlar

    So if a museum advertises Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, but doesn’t display it, would that not be false advertising, hence a bait and switch hence illegal? Hence resulting in a refund?

  • Joanna

    That’d be on the museum, not the artist =)

  • Joanna

    Not every cinema manager will give a refund, but some do.”

    True, but they are not legally obliged to.  I work in film rental and our company policy is that we cannot give a refund if the film was not to the customer’s taste.  They can exchange it or ask for store credit, but we are not legally obliged to give a refund unless the product was faulty.

  • Corbin Allen

    They ran for the “BUT WE ARE ARTISTS” defense right quick at first, and it was unsurprising. 

    As an indie game developer who also intends to turn a profit from my art, there’s something that is forgotten when you make the “BUT ITS RUINING THE VISION” claim in a video game. The customer is always right.   When you sell your art, you step away from art and into business.   At that point, it is subject to quality judgment just like any other product in any other industry.   I can keep a copy of my own game and say “this is the original.  This is my onus.  This is the unchanged version that is my vision”.  I can’t expect someone else to share that vision, and when I provide then something interactive that touts itself as a “user-defined story” then I have no right to try to sell my customer a lie, much less something they don’t want.  

    If you commission a painting and are not satisfied with the work, you’re justified in sending it back to the artist.    If you commission a graphic designer to do a t-shirt design and dislike the result, you have the same right.    Movies don’t observe the artist’s vision at all; a focus group typically picks the ending based on what consumers will like most.   Books have been altered due to poor customer reception for over a century. 

    Video games are special, but they are not special in the way that they don’t have to observe the rules of business in art.  Someone developing art must accept that others may not share their vision; they must cater to their customer if they wish to maintain a business based on that art.

  • Frank A. Kadar

    Here is a great thread on Bioware’s social form. A member gathered all the quotes by the creators in saying what they WOULD NOT do with ME3, but then did the exact opposite. This is why fans are in an uproar. Please read it and see why everyone is really angry.

  • Anonymous

    As an outsider to ME3 culture, I just wanted to join in on the praise for your work here, Becky. Thanks for respecting the fans’ voice a lot more than is usually the case in these situations, and outlining the case for non-gamers. 

  • Eric Bazilio

    I just have to say how honestly sad I am over the amount of likes to this empty comment of yours.

    I hold on to the hope that they are only a consequence over nerd anger about the poor ending, not a real reflection on how society views videogames.

  • Anonymous

    Playing the Mass Effect series is a little like studying for an exam months in advance convinced that you’ll get an A+ for the effort. Then the shocker… The final question counts for 95% of the exam mark and it wasnt even in your study material! I mean come on Bioware…

  • Anonymous

    Seriously? I can’t believe people are pissed about this.  Have you not heard of the hero’s journey? Joseph Campbell anyone? sheesh, coming into this last game i knew it was going to end that way.  Theres only a certain number of ways you can end an epic story esp. when your character is kind of super ridiculously OP like Shep is.

  • Anonymous

    FYI if you arent up on joseph campbell:
    “Master of Two Worlds” is the ME3 ending.  Duh.

  • Bel

    Where exactly in Hero With a Thousand Faces did Campbell suggest that the epic will always end with shoehorned transhumanism and nonsensical deus ex machina?

  • Bel

    You are suffering from a fundamental failure to understand the problem.

  • Anonymous

     Don’t get caught up in the sadness. 99.9% of all three games is sheer fantastic awesomeness. I’m tempted to replay and just never let the game “end.” I’ll just imagine my happily ever after ending in the place of the WTF-ery. The hours of game time I have put into the ME universe is otherwise quite worthwhile.

  • Jasmine Law

     Just to ask, what is this anger that was invoked with the last installment of Harry Potter? I was one of the fans who like to say they “grew up with Harry”, I sat up for 51 hours to read the final book and enjoyed every last second of it. I couldn’t fault it, even if I wanted too. To say there were some anger invoked by “half its fan base” is quite the surprise to me.

  • Anna B

    I know that most of the people on my section of the fandom was angry, and I suppose I construed that to mean half, just because that was my exposure. Over the course of my Harry Potter fan haunts, I suppose I got so deep into that fandom that I forgot how huge the HP fandom really was. There was a lot of anger from my end of the spectrum. Maybe it we were not a large number after all, but considering this were the voices I listened to for years before and after the release of the last book, I can’t help but think that we represented a bigger part of the HP fandom than we actually were. 

    Obviously, there was a lot of shipping wars going on, and that may have contributed to some of the anger, when their pairs didn’t pan out the way they wanted, but I witnessed great discontent about a lot of things that had nothing to do with pairing–mostly with the way the material was handled. Most especially because when the material was first leaked *before* the book’s official release–what we called the “Carpet Book” because it was basically photographed, page by page, against the backdrop of a carpet, we all seriously thought it was Fanfiction, because the writing read pretty badly. None of us believed JKR could’ve written it. I personally believed it was a far cry from the quality of the previous title HBP, but so many argued vehemently that the last great book had been OotP. When we realized that the scans of DH were authentic, it was–well, disappointing is an understatement, considering most of us had been following the series, and been part of the online fandom, from the very beginning.

  • Cory Ducey

    Yup.  If the movie is not up to snuff and you complain about it, money can be returned or a coupon for another showing at the same theatre.

    The point is, there was a promise that the outcome of the game will depend on what you do…there are multiple choices, but the endings are so similar, it’s a joke and an insult to the consumer to advertise it any other way.

  • Anonymous

    Personally, I enjoyed the endings. While I agree that the case cannot be made that they prioritized player choices, I do think that the fatalistic bent of the last installment was not strictly confined to the last 10 minutes and that the ending was in keeping with the tone of the game established at the very beginning with a child who could not be saved no matter what decision I made.

    The inevitability of the game was something I found oddly refreshing in its brutal realism. The choice of the player in the series is, after all, a well-crafted illusion. 

  • Anonymous

    wow, that really offends me, + i’m sure the actual writers/developers of the games would feel likewise.
    i thought if *anyone* would recognize the artistic value of games it’d be *gamers*. i guess not.
    once more, this makes me sad.

  • Anonymous

    one thing; i haven’t played the game, so i’m not going to call anyone out on “whining” or a sense of entitlement.
    only, bringing up blade runner, the hobbit + star wars isn’t exactly fair play because the authors were the ones to choose how/why to change their own stories in those cases. not fans signing petitions.
    (once again, i have zero opinion on the me3 controversy because i do not have the relevant information. but i *am* a star wars fan, + if george lucas ever took jar jar binks out of ep i as a result of ‘fan’ pressure, i’d have lost what little faith i had left in humanity.
    maybe the me3 ending *should* be changed, i don’t know. only that those other examples aren’t at all analogous)

  • Shoumik Hassin

    I’m not particularly concerned about the business side of this issue. I’m just annoyed by what I see as a fundamental inability to accept the ending as what it is. 

    People are totally allowed to think that the ending was terrible. They are totally allowed to wish it was different. Totally allowed to argue why and how it failed. All of that’s fine. In fact I think all of that is great.

    I just don’t agree that you have the ‘right’ (consumer or otherwise) to get someone to change an artwork if you don’t like a part of it. Sure, it’s been done before. And I haven’t liked it then either. 

    One some level the game designers wanted the series to end like this.

    Idealistically or not, I think they absolutely have the right to do that. You can complain about it and all, it just seems to be taking it a bit far by asking them to change the ending. I don’t think you should be able to force the artist to change something just because you don’t like it. Not unless you have been part of the creative process. In this case I don’t think those decrying the game can claim to have been part of the process so I don’t agree with them.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    It’s not “ALMOST EVERYONE”. An Australian games journalist did the math – the petition was signed by 60,000 people. That’s 3% of the opening weekend’s sales of Mass Effect 3 – opening weekend sales alone, not total sales. That’s a tiny percent.

  • Maiari Gervazoni Gervazoni

    The biggest problem of people who play video games is to consider themselfs fans. WE ARE NOT FANS, WE ARE FREAKING CUSTOMERS! I’ve been buying EA and Bioware games for several years. ThE marketing done regarding ME3 was massive and promissed much more than what was delivered. People bring excuses up saying it’s art. BULL S..! This is a business and when a product doesn’t meet spectations is a serious problem. Bioware is paying attention to the complaisn because this will affect their shares and future business.

  • Mark

    I like this article and agree with all of it except one point… I do not believe that if Bioware changes the ending they are setting a new precedent. There are few if any game universes that gives the players so many choices and provides such affectionate characters. For example, if any character I play in Call of Duty dies, I really don’t mind… I don’t have any deep emotional attachment to those characters.  But ME is totally different. I disagree with the argument about this being about changing art.

    ME evolved over the course of the games, based on fan input.  So Bioware has no right, in my opinion to claim that they truly own the series. It belongs to the fans as much as to them and the fans should have a say in how it all ends.

    With that said, let me make another point… I don’t believe that Bioware has or had any intention of this being the end of the series.  I think they are planning more ME games in the future and perhaps this dismal excuse for an ending was expected to tie into that.  If you think I’m crazy, look at Halo.  How much money was made from Halo 3 which was supposed to be the last game?  A few years later, they made so many games they practically need a shelf dedicated to the franchise in the local stores.

    And with that last comment said let me add this… If Bioware is planning on making more games, I think that bitter ending would have been accepted if the fans knew that more was coming.  But as it stands we don’t know and I think that is another reason why this ending is unacceptable to so many people.

  • Mark

    That to me is the real underlying issue here… Money.  If BW had any forecasts on how much they would make from ME3, they had better throw those numbers out the window.  Now both BW and EA are looking at losses which is so unnecessary.  It’s quite obvious to me that if they were not concerned about losing a lot more money they would be charging a fee for this so-called extended cut DLC.  

    But from where I’m sitting I don’t see how any amount of extended cut scenes is going to squash all the anger out there.  I personally demand a better ending, or at least the added option of a better ending.  Anything less and I will never play ME again nor any other BW RPG. 

  • jcreamx23

    I’m lucky this ending didn’t devastate me as much as it apparently did with everyone else. After RDR ripped my heart out through my asshole and kicked me in the grapes with their ending, I’m unable to get attached to characters or have any kind of expectations for endings. . 

    I feel your guys’ pain though; just be happy that you have a huge amount of support and might even get some DLC out of it. Barely anyone had a problem with the horrible RDR ending. Everyone said “that’s how it had to be”…..nevermind the fact that it was a video game and nothing has to be anyway but the way the writers make it.

     Hopefully game developers will start taking note of this whole ending problem, though, as it’s nothing new (fallout, rdr). There needs to be a huge outcry that let’s these game companies know that we as fans don’t like to invest hundreds of hours of gameplay — and our emotions — into games just to get slapped in the face at the end. Like I tried to explain to people after the RDR debacle: video games are entertainment. We have enough disappointment & letdown in real life; it’s not immature or childish to expect a halfway happy ending in games that are designed to get us attached to the main character and their story. Not to mention you can still get very creative with a happy ending, it doesn’t have to be predictable or cheesy — just don’t screw us over

  • jcreamx23

    m lucky this ending didn’t devastate me as much as it apparently did with everyone else. After RDR ripped my heart out through my asshole and kicked me in the grapes with their ending, I’m unable to get attached to characters or have any kind of expectations for endings. . 
    I feel your guys’ pain though; just be happy that you have a huge amount of support and might even get some DLC out of it. Barely anyone had a problem with the horrible RDR ending. Everyone said “that’s how it had to be”…..nevermind the fact that it was a video game and nothing has to be anyway but the way the writers make it.

     Hopefully game developers will start taking note of this whole ending problem, though, as it’s nothing new (fallout, rdr). There needs to be a huge outcry that let’s these game companies know that we as fans don’t like to invest hundreds of hours of gameplay — and our emotions — into games just to get slapped in the face at the end. Like I tried to explain to people after the RDR debacle: video games are entertainment. We have enough disappointment & letdown in real life; it’s not immature or childish to expect a halfway happy ending in games that are designed to get us attached to the main character and their story. Not to mention you can still get very creative with a happy ending, it doesn’t have to be predictable or cheesy — just don’t screw us over

  • Anonymous

    Finished the game twice and I still have no clue what the hell you are talking about. A Kill the Reapers along with the Geth. B Control the Reapers. C Join everyone together as one big super creepy family. D Do nothing

    Let’s be straight, the endings sucked but it’s no reason to get hysterical. Baby killer? K.

  • Anonymous

    ALL the games in the series had their share of bad writing. If you wanted to fix them all you would have to go back and change the series in numerous places. More than that there were issue of iffy gameplay, design and graphics. Most people loved the original soundtrack but not all did. Where does it end? It’s stupid and silly and, yes, entitled.

  • Anonymous

    It is not that people are defending the ending (though a few like it) it’s people are saying Bioware shouldn’t have to change the ending if they don’t want. Consumer rights? What about the rights of the creative person? If I ever wrote a book I loved, I don’t people to try to force my hand and change it just because it didn’t meet their expectations. Scathing reviews are fine, but all this hoopla is unnecessary. For all you know Bioware thought they were doing something clever and creative (even if it really just amounted to bad writing).

    They did an incredible, incredible job with most parts of this game, though. If you don’t believe that then you must at least believe that they put a great deal of effort. I mean compared to the first game which was essentially a few decent gameplay missions, buffered by a bunch of mediocre in and out missions, where almost all levels outside of the Citadel never rose above the level of “okay,” compared to that ME3 was a Masterpiece of complete and meaningful missions. Yes, there were a bunch of “scan for meaningless artifact” mission but they were mostly missions you got from overheard conversations. The main missions and side quests almost completely outclass the first game in number and quality. And they all looked and generally played DRASTICALLY BETTER.

    Honestly the ME series didn’t meet all it’s goals (or at least perceived goals): Big universe, could never ever really be as big as players wanted it to be, not as choice friendly as we’d like, and story missteps and disappointments throughout. The ending as we have heard probably 628,000 times is terrible, but it is what it is. I mean, if you want to truly correct everything, then you would have to start all over and reorder the lore or something. Some might agree to do that but that would give me even more confidence in calling them “entitled.”

  • Anonymous

    A sad ending for that game wasn’t out of place with the rest of the game.

    For me, the game ended with the conversation with Dutch. Now THAT “ripped my heart out through my asshole and kicked me in the grapes.” It is a shame the rest of the game didn’t shake me up like that. It was fantastic.