With Mass Effect: Andromeda releasing this holiday season (hopefully), a new era of Mass Effect is being ushered in upon us. The question is, will it live up to Commander Shepard’s epic tale in his battle against the Reapers? Mass Effect 3 was the perfect conclusion to the series, hitting a series of emotional highs and lows, immersing you in a world full of memorable characters with an incredible journey. Mass Effect 3 is the pinnacle of choice-based gaming, and while some may argue the choices you make don’t completely carry over, there are some significant consequences that follow through all three games which cause the third installment to be extremely emotional.

Mass Effect 3 made me feel as if I was Shepard; I felt what he felt — I laughed, I wept, I went on an incredibly spiritual journey. And that is what makes the game so great: it is completely immersive. Forget what choices carry over and what choices seem to be pertinent; the story is deeply spiritual and delves deep into Shepard’s psych to make the difficult decisions, as he/she has always done. There are incredibly difficult choices that unknowingly lead to teammate’s deaths; there are choices that are so hard to make but they are the only choice to make. Playing simply Renegade or Paragon doesn’t really work in Mass Effect 3, or rather, it is incredibly difficult to do so because your conscience will tell you not to, every single time, because of certain choices that either betray your once-loyal comrades and result in their deaths or choices that simply aren’t so black and white as the classification system would have you believe.

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One such example in the game is Mordin. He is a brilliant scientist at the end of his life, trying to right his wrongs and cure the Krogan infidelity. Shepard is faced with a choice: lie to him about the cure, or tell him the truth, which results in his death. Every single time I play the title I simply cannot help but tell him the truth, even if it means his death. The results are tragic, and actually brought me to tears, but in many ways the game is about all the people Shepard has lost in his fight against the Reapers, as they continually haunt him in his dreams. There is even a point in the game where Shepard breaks down and reflects on this fact and questions whether it was all worth it. It is so immersive and brought me a level of catharsis like no game ever had before or since. I was Commander Shepard. So few games are actually able to accomplish that level of interactivity and immersion and it blew me away, even to this day.

Everyone knows the original ending of Mass Effect 3 made almost no sense. There was so much that was missing that it was pretty hard to defend. I loved Shepard’s spiritual journey throughout the game, but the ending was rushed, probably due in part because of pressure from EA, who acquired Bioware, and the fact that they allocated resources to a pointless online mode, although it was somewhat enjoyable. The “red, green, and blue” endings/choices seem a bit cliche, but they work thematically and the entire trilogy built up to that moment. The choices aren’t easy either. I would argue that the “control” choice, which was what the Illusive Man was after, was actually Renegade, although it was “blue” (which denotes Paragon), and that destroy is actually Paragon, as that is what Shepard set out to do from the beginning. The green choice, assimilation, is an anomaly and is actually very intriguing; Shepard’s life force is absorbed, disintegrated, and disbursed into every life form in the galaxy, so while he is “dead”, he does live on, in a sense.

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Thankfully, Casey Hudson, Mac Walters and company fixed the holes in the ending and added some additional content to make it both more profound and emotional. I teared up, several times. Some fans complain that this wasn’t the “original ending” intended for the series, but that is not necessarily true . . . to an extent. Drew Karpyshyn has stated that there were many endings that were considered, and one was the spread of Dark Energy with the Reapers trying to prevent this, along with the destruction of the universe. The lead writer on Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, who was Drew Karpyshyn, had this to say on his blog:

“Of course, some of you are also pinging me to find out what the “original” ending of the series was when we started planning out the trilogy. Sorry, but that’s not something I’m even going to attempt to answer. The collaborative creative process is incredibly complicated, and the story and ideas are constantly evolving as you go forward. Yes, we had a plan, but it was very vague. We knew we wanted to focus on some key themes and bring in certain key elements: organics vs synthetics; the Reapers; the Mass Relays. Beyond that, we didn’t go into detail because we knew it would change radically as the game continued to evolve.”

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None of this even takes into account the gameplay of Mass Effect 3, which is superb and takes what 2 did and takes it a step further. Mass Effect 3 is a masterpiece and ends Shepard’s journey in the most beautiful way possible. It is both incredibly emotional and spiritual, and incredibly introspective. Don’t let the different color endings fool you; it’s not necessarily how the game ends, but your journey to get to that point, and that is the most significant part; it’s what Mass Effect 3 did so spectacularly. Bioware built a monolith to live up to as they move forward with Mass Effect: Andromeda, and while I am hopeful, I feel that nothing can top Shepard’s story.

  • Jason Mounce

    I’d argue that 90% of the game was the best pacing, gameplay, story, adventure I’ve played in a LONG time – but the ending is far from perfect.

    What WOULD have made it perfect to me? Is if the Indoctrination Theory was canon. Then it would be absolutely perfect and mind blowing.

    Also, his name was Marauder Shields.

  • J.j. Barrington

    That ending begs to differ.

  • malbhet

    Mass Effect 3 was/is garbage!

  • ワサビ

    It’s good that you’re not defending the original ending. I was left dumbfounded when I got the original ending. Literally dumbfounded, in every sense of the word. I immediately closed the game, went on the forum to find out just what was going on and well, the rest was history.

    Aside from that, there’s so many things that could have been better, I mean hindsight IS 20/20. I hope they’ve learnt from that. All three games have all been building up to something, and then the significance of whatever that might have been were immediately diminished, in either the next game or by the ending. Take for example, ME1, either saving or killing the Rachni was supposed to be this big thing, and by ME3, where people were hoping for a massive Rachni fleet to sweep in and save the day, it amounted nothing but a literal side note.

    Execution could have been better too, take ME3’s last mission, it seemed rather muted compared to ME2’s suicide run.

    As noted above, the “original” original ending was supposed to be about dark energy leading the universe to ruin. In fact, the entirety of Mass Effect 2 was alluding to that end. I think the slightly abrupt U-turn of what the Reaper are threw the people, both creating the playing the game – off.

  • TerrorK

    I disagree with you on pretty much EVERY level. Mass Effect 3 was a horrible betrayal on every level. A once great RPG series that was dumbed down into a linear, poorly-written and soulless TPS for the Call of Duty audience instead of the original fans, rendering all your prior decisions utterly pointless and taking away all player agency and sense of control. ME3 prioritized ALL of the wrong things. It took the best aspects of the prior entries and either removed, dumbed-down or pushed them to the back for the sake of shooter mechanics, while taking a story that was once in our hands and putting it on the rails and also overly-defining the player character to the point where they were no longer ours at all. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The ending wasn’t even the main problem with Mass Effect 3, just the most obvious one.

    Mass Effect 3 is everything that is WRONG with AAA gaming today and with studios like EA. It’s one of the most disappointing games of all time because it was so utterly sabotaged by the people behind it, who deliberately twisted it into a near antithesis of what it started as for the sake of broadening mass appeal. A once great homage to classic 70’s and 80’s sci-fi like Blade Runner, Dune, Wrath of Khan, etc. quickly devolved into an over-the-top, mindless Michael Bay-esque affair of modern movie blockbuster garbage. I felt as if I wasted 7 years of my life and over a dozen playthroughs after finishing this train-wreck. Almost none of what made the series so great in the first place remained with ME3. The writing suffered, the role-playing suffered, the characters suffered, the consistency and tone suffered. All for the sake of “better” shooter mechanics for the dude-bro, millennial console shooter crowd.

  • adam thompson

    I can’t believe people actually defend this shit heap of an ending, and make it sound like the second coming of christ.

    stealth marketing or genuine awful taste in video games? I can’t even tell anymore.