Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mass Effect 3: The Endgame...or is it?

I've spent the last few weeks playing through what has been without a doubt my most anticipated video game of the year, Mass Effect 3. I laughed. I cried. Well, got choked up anyway. I thrilled to the final adventures of my Shepard. It was a great run.

I was aware that many folks were seriously pissed over the ending of the game/trilogy, but in the interest of keeping my own experience pristine, I put aside the links, essays, and Youtube videos until I had completed the game. Now that I have savored every last moment from the games, I have revisited these sources, and while they make some pretty compelling points in retrospect, I am surprised at how differently I initially interpreted the ending from many of my ME loving brethren.

So, I decided to dust this blog off for a quick discussion of some of the main points of dissension, as I just NEED to talk about this stuff, and there is no point waiting for the next BoneBat Show, because let's face it, Gord doesn't give a shit.

Spoilers follow in 3...2...1...

By way of disclosure, I was fairly satisfied with the ending ending I earned, which I found behind the green door, err, explosion. In my ending, Shepard sacrificed himself to merge all organic and synthetic life in the galaxy, thus breaking the 50,000 year reaper cycle and giving the universe a chance at lasting peace, while becoming a Christ-like figure in the process. (I also completed a play through of Mass Effect: Infiltrator, and spent enough time with the datapad app to achieve 94% galactic readiness, for a total EMS of around 6,000.)

I found this ending in keeping with other "big idea" science fiction, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Asimov's work, philosophical ideas contained Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, so it made a certain sense to me. How else do you end 3 games worth of "sheparding" the galaxy through a constant state of flux, where your every move is a matter of life and death, than by making the endgame a true game-changer? In essayist parlance, I understand why the writers would reach for the "U Joint" which would tie it all together with life as WE know it. "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...the hard way" if you will.

Coming from that angle, a lot of the complaints about the ending I have read/heard don't hold water for me, but even that is a good thing. To my mind, the very best sci-fi opens up these sort of discussions. So, here are my own opinionated thoughts on few of the questions brought about by the end of ME3. Got a rebuttal? Please share! I'd love to discuss while it's all still fresh in my mind.

In a game where everything is open to your own choice, why did Shepard have to die?
My Shepard died because I chose to nobly give his life to save the galaxy, so your mileage may vary, but clearly this was a writer's decision early on. And you couldn't have been surprised, the theme of sacrifice for the greater good was running thick throughout the game. Thane sacrificed himself so Shepard could live. Mordin sacrificed himself for the future of the Krogan race. Legion sacrificed himself for the future of the Geth. Could Shepard give any less? Plus, this ending was well telegraphed before the final battle as everyone you've ever met took the time to tell you how great you've been, not to mention the dream of you bursting into flame with the dead kid. FORESHADOWED!

Who the hell is the "Hologram Kid", and why is he there?
My interpretation was that "Hologram kid" was the face of a higher power, put into a form that Shepard would understand. This is certainly a trope, yet very few of the criticisms of the ending I've seen make mention of this possibility. See V'ger. Or the burning bush.

"Who am I to impose my will on the Galaxy, and turn all life semi-cybernetic?"
I find this particular argument laughable. You have been imposing your will on the galaxy LIKE A BOSS for 3 games now! And galaxy: If you don't like the thought of you new cyber-organic life, perhaps you'd prefer your existence (or lack thereof) in a reaper's colon.

What happened to all the friends I've made along the way? Why can't we know what happened?
Well, because you are dead. After you are dead, you don't know shit so much.

Why is the Normandy fleeing the battle? Did Joker chicken out?That's a pretty big assumption. I saw it more as the Normandy was fleeing the explosion, a la the Millennium Falcon at the end of Jedi. Where did they end up? I dunno, but I did like the idea of Joker and EDI as Adam and Eve.

With all the Mass Relays destroyed, all the armies in the galaxy are stranded around Sol. Turians and Quarians can't eat human food, and Krogans are bloodthirsty badasses. Won't everyone either starve to death or be eaten by Krogans?
Putting aside the fact that the destruction of the Mass Relays would smoke EVERYBODY per the events in "The Arrival" (a fact I DO think Bioware screwed the proverbial KEI-9 on), maybe not. You have all the great minds in the universe in one place working on the Crucible, and all the tech that made it possible. As Shepard, you yourself unlocked new Eezo and engine technology during the events of ME3. I have to think the scientists would overcome this hurdle in short order.


So...yeah. Those are my thoughts. In the end, I am fairly satisfied with my ending, and the fact that Bioware allowed me to draw my own conclusions about what it all meant. I enjoy art that trusts me to interpret it myself, and find myself still mulling it over a day later, which is always a sign of great entertainment.

Could it have been better? Sure! The after party would have been amazing, as I had really only begun to seriously drink with Tali, but given the overarching tone of the trilogy, that was never going to happen. This end was always going to be both epic and bittersweet, and for me, it was.

After 120 or so hours of truly sublime gameplay, I don't feel Bioware owes me a damn thing. I don't feel that they lied to me, or betrayed me, or porked my pets. To the contrary, I feel pretty thankful to have another truly great Sci-Fi universe to explore along with Star Wars, Star Trek, and BSG.

That said, I can't wait for more Mass Effect, and if those crazy RetakeMassEffect3 kids actually get us more game as a result, well then, awesome!