Whelp, I wanted to give myself some time to digest what Bioware tried to give me… and I really didn’t want to flood this blog with ME3 rants.
Then a couple weeks passed, and I found I had nothing else to say. So… here goes.
SPOILER ALERT!!! (even though you really don’t care)
At least the endings provided feel like actual distinct endings. Even though with the original version it was logically obvious that the end result was different, it is a very significant improvement to actually see and feel the difference.
A majority of the major gaps in the narrative were filled. It now actually makes sense why many of the disjointed events happened the way they did, although it’s obvious many of them were rather jammed in forcefully or outright retcons of what had been originally presented (like how the Mass Relays take noticeably less damage in the Extended Cut).
Sometimes it worked great. How your squadmates left the final charge for the Citadel Beam was remarkably well done at the very least, and heart-wrenching in its emotional impact at best (even if it requires a little bit of handwaving to make sense). Other times, it fit… like why Joker was seen leaving the site of the battle. Sometimes, it doesn’t work particularly well at all… the jungle planet scene now makes even less sense in the Extended Cut now. How could the Normandy have been damaged so badly considering it out-ran the shock wave… and how could it have been repaired so quickly?
There were also elements to the story that I thought were vast improvements… the Catalyst now at least clearly demonstrates a rampant circular logic flaw. You’re not supposed to agree with it. It’s supposed to seem a little off, but it also doesn’t change that it is the only way to defeat the Reaper menace. Datamined information in the Extended Cut seems to suggest that further DLC will alter the interaction with the Catalyst even further… so this is likely not the last we have seen of the issue.
There is even a new option that (in the dark recesses of my soul) I thoroughly enjoy. Not because it’s a particularly good ending (it’s actually the “worst” in a narrative sense), but because it demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bioware was listening to their fans, and was more than willing to mercilessly troll the most entitled, whiny brats among them. The “Refuse” ending is an absolute slap in the face to the whiners who demanded an option to reject what the Catalyst offered, and to bring the combined might they had mustered against the Reapers…
… only to watch that fleet get outright steamrolled by the enemy force that we had been told (both in-game and out) was impossible to defeat conventionally. As an added jab, a producer at Bioware tweeted that the next cycle then used the Crucible the player refused to use in order to win.
And on top of that… attempting to shoot the Catalyst (like a lot of raging children proudly declared they did), promptly segues into that “lol u git rolled by Reapers, trolololololololol!” ending.
It’s a thing of beauty, and inexorably putting the stamp on the silly notion that Mass Effect was in any way the fans’ story. I loved it, if only to drink the bitter, angry tears of the whining minority on the Bioware Social Network. They deserved the nothing they got.
Now… onto what still is a massive, gaping, catastrophic problem with the entire ending sequence as whole.
Even with the Extended Cut, the solutions the Catalyst pose still don’t actually… ya know… solve the supposed problem. Destroy only delays it (the Catalyst, however, readily admits to this, and even predicts that is exactly what will happen). Control is merely passing the buck onto Shepard (yeah, it’s your problem now… toodles). I’m still not sure how Synthesis is even possible, much less how it prevents synthetic life from being built in the future.
In fact, Synthesis actually comes out worse in my mind… because it makes even less sense than it did. How is everyone now having organic and synthetic elements supposed to prevent the greed and avarice that spawns the need to gain any advantage they can to be superior to those around them? Because that is really what is at the core of why we’re in this tech race towards the “singularity” that is the point of no return for the Catalyst. The drive to have the fastest computer or fastest car or tallest building… that’s what drives innovation. That’s what drives technological advancement. How does Synthesis change that? By forcing people to no longer have that drive?
Oh wait… the Catalyst says Synthesis has to be voluntary. What? How the hell does that work? Does the green colored shockwave stop short at every living person and give them a questionnaire? Does it set up Synthesis Hotspots where beings line up like at the DMV to change their plates?
Congratulations, Bioware, you have managed to make the most convoluted and head-hurting ending to one of your games even more convoluted and migrane-inducing. You should be proud, I guess?
Secondly, the choice itself remains painfully inconsistent, not just with the pre-existing lore of the game, but even with itself. The “sacrifice” of synthetic beings in the Destroy option still feel forced and jammed into the consequences for no reason other than to make Destroy less of a desirable option. And if the Crucible affects all synthetic life, then why doesn’t Control give you control of those same synthetic lifeforms? And Synthesis, no matter how much effort Bioware puts into it, outright refuses to make any logical or coherent sense to me. It’s like the Adam Savage of video game endings: “I reject your reality and substitute my own.”
I get what Bioware wanted to do here; to present a moral decision that had no “right” answer… and push the player to determine just what they valued more. But I feel there was a simpler, and more internally consistent way to go about it.
To put it in the most summarized terms: The Crucible targets Reaper technology.
Okay… how is that different, you may ask? Here’s how.
Destroy: The geth and Edi and other synthetic life forms are spared, and it destroys the Reapers. Great… but now isn’t that a perfect ending with no cost? Nope. Wanna know why? Know what else is Reaper tech?
The Mass Relay system. Oh, and the Citadel. Yeah… that thing you’re currently kinda standing on.
Yep. You’ve destroyed the Reapers… and everything that came with it. The galaxy has earned its freedom from the narrow confines the Reapers imposed on their development. Now you’re on the hook for it all. Good luck getting all those races home. Or keeping them fed on the way. Freedom can be a bitch, sometimes. Depending on your EMS, the ending outcome can have varying levels of hope to it, from utter chaos to a prolonged rebuilding phase that slowly puts the galaxy back together. Shepard’s survival could also come into play the way it does now. It might not be easy… but even the biggest hurdles can be overcome.
Control: I actually think Control works for the most part, in fact, my altered Destroy ending comes from the logical extremes of what the Control ending provides. The caveat however, I would include is one that is tangentially touched on if Shepard was played largely as a renegade, but I would put it in all of the variations. EMS would also adjust the extremity of the conclusion, but the conclusion itself should be hinted at the very least… that your Shepard is starting to think like a Reaper… and that eventually he might decide that the Catalyst had the right idea.
Basically, the cost of the Control ending is the strong likelihood that Shepard will fall prey to the same circular logic error that haunted the Catalyst.
Synthesis: Burned alive in an arsonist’s fire.
Honestly, my ending to ME3 wouldn’t even have it as an option… but if it must be an option (and honestly it seems to be the preferred one for Mac Walters as it requires the highest EMS to open), drop the entire “voluntary” bit, and leave it as it was implied to be in the original… a forced evolution of every life form in the galaxy, whether they wanted it or not. The moral abhorrence of such an option is more than enough to give most players pause.
So, there we have it. My thoughts on the Extended Cut. It’s an improvement… the endings are now, for the most part, tolerable, but it’s still not even close to an epic conclusion to the trilogy.
It’ll do, I guess… but at some point, “it’ll do” isn’t good enough.