In a press release Thursday, BioWare announced a free (until April 12, 2014) DLC for Mass Effect 3, entitled “Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut”, due sometime this summer. Casey Hudson, ME3’s Executive Producer, promised “to provide the fans who want more closure with even more context and clarity to the ending of the game, in a way that will feel more personalized for each player.” All of this will be provided through additional cinematics and epilogue scenes. The BioWare panel at PAX East fielded a few questions in this area without straying too far from the official line. One fan was kind enough to upload their camcorder video of the panel discussion to YouTube, although in five pieces and not including the Q&A session at the end. Remember, these folks are not addressing the DLC beyond what was in the press release, so the lack of the final 10 minutes or so isn’t crucial. Most of the relevant stuff about the DLC happens in the first 10 minutes or so.
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4
- Part 5
Another fan was kind enough to upload the full hour, again at YouTube, but the audio is pretty poor. It’s audible, but you’ll need to really crank up the sound and/or use headphones to hear it clearly and even that is iffy.
After all of the finger-pointing, name-calling, hand-wringing and assorted post-release hoopla over ME3’s ending, I’m not sure whether I’m in the “Oh, noes!” or “whatever” camp, but I’m certainly not ecstatic over the announcement. Add to this a series of threads on BioWare’s forums to the effect of “Do you feel sorry for (insert group or name here)?” and it gets even murkier.
Perhaps a bit of recap might help. I stand by my original assertion that ME3 is an outstanding game, provided one ignores the last few minutes. There are a few things that I found to be a bit less than satisfying, but it works well on many levels from the start until about 5 or 10 minutes from the end. To that extent, and with the understanding that I’m excluding the last few minutes from that assessment, I have almost no heartburn with what BioWare released. It’s only those last few minutes where I’m taking exception.
I’m not even up in arms over the Day-One DLC nonsense. For those who might not know what that’s all about, the “From Ashes” DLC was released concurrently with the game (for about $10). It introduced a Prothean squad member, Javik, and a mission to recruit him. All of Javik’s in-game assets were apparently on the original game disc, so players essentially paid $10 for a mediocre mission pack that simply unlocked what they already had. Bad marketing and suggestive of a very poor view of the customers, but not the most egregious of things that a gaming company could do. Just very indicative of a “let’s see how many different ways we can get players to part with their money” mentality. Considering that the entire economy is aimed at separating customers from their money, it’s not even unusual. It’s just tacky.
As far as the game itself and from a story-telling standpoint, there were only a handful of possible conclusions to the Reaper story arc. Shepard was either going to be successful in destroying the Reapers or not. “Not” might include some other means of removing the threat, but my initial guess would have been that “not” would be synonymous with “failure”, so I would have predicted that the successful ending would have been the destruction of the Reapers. All three of the endings effectively remove the Reaper threat. Whether that removal is permanent or temporary (according to story canon) depends on your final choice in the game.
Since this was to be the final game of a trilogy chronicling Shepard’s adventures, then Shepard was either going to survive or not (survival of squad members was probably going to depend on how you played the game). While a happy ending might have been nice, Shepard needed to be definitively and finally removed from the ME universe. Some heroic final sacrifice was not only within the realm of possibility, but almost certainly required. In fact, had the game gone to credits right after that final scene with Anderson and we simply assumed that the Crucible worked its magic and Shepard peacefully bled out, I probably would have been somewhat happy with it. I don’t like my characters dying, but sometimes that’s what needs to happen in order to make the story work.
As an alternative ending, I would have found some dark humor in Shepard being appointed humanity’s council member to replace Udina and could almost hear Claudia Christian’s voice in the background: "I feel like an old war horse, trotted out after a parade so all the kids can point at it" (my first Shepard to complete all three games was female). Or perhaps something along the lines of “Ulysses” would have done the job (Ashley’s not the only one who reads Tennyson). Any of those would have worked with Buzz Aldrin’s post-credits scene and we would have had a satisfactory ending, or at least mostly so.
But where were the wildly different endings? On both play-throughs, I ended up with three “pick your favorite color” endings. Since I did my best to acquire every war asset that I could during both play-throughs, I’m assuming that all other possible endings are “worse” than the three that I got. I’ve seen video of one ending where the Destruction option was the only one available. In that video, London (and presumably the rest of Earth) is incinerated and Shepard is blown to bits, so I’m pretty sure that I saw the “best” endings. OK, “ending” since the cinematics are almost identical.
BioWare is adamant that this Extended Cut DLC will not add any new endings to the game, so it would seem that we’re pretty much stuck with RGB as canon. The question is whether that can be improved or clarified through the addition of cinematics and epilogue scenes. My initial inclination is to think “not”. As one poster on the BioWare forums so colorfully noted, a turd is still a turd, no matter how much sugar you put on it.
So, if we’re stuck with RGB, then what can be done to provide clarity and insight? How about dropping that whole Star Child thing? Aside from a bit of exposition and presenting the color choices, it served no useful purpose and was probably the biggest “WTF?” moment in the game. A BioWare forum poster managed to dig up an obscure Codex entry from ME1 which might overcome the charge of deus ex machina commonly leveled at it. But it’s an awfully flimsy thread for tying up this monster.
How about we do something about that final Normandy scene with Joker trying to outrun the shockwave (or whatever that glowy thing behind him is) and then crash-landing on some jungle planet where the squad members who were with Shepard just a few minutes early somehow manage to safely disembark. That bit never made a lick of sense on multiple levels. First, if the Normandy has FTL capability, how is it unable to outrun an explosion which, in normal space, cannot go faster than light? Second, how did the crew members who were with Shepard just a few minutes earlier in London manage to get on board? Third, why was Joker running away at all? I don’t remember anyone sending him a “Get the ship out of there” order. All in all, it was pretty cheesy.
Since we have been told “no new endings”, I suppose that those two ideas are out of the picture.
Some of the more vocal fans on the forums are still ranging between dismay and outrage over the whole mess. I’m taking the more philosophical approach to it. BioWare says that they have listened to the fans. Since they would have had to be hiding under a rock or something to not know what the fans were upset about and why, I’ll take them at their word on that. BioWare has decided that they will not change the existing endings. I’m not thrilled, but that’s the decision, I don’t see them changing it and what will be, will be. So with those two points settled, what else is left but to wait and see what comes out in the DLC.
I’m trying to be optimistic about it. These are the folks that cranked out 2.99 really solid games (yeah, I’m still not giving them an ounce of goodwill for the ending). Not just solid games, but games that have developed an enviable fan base. The players love the characters, love the universe and (again, excluding the last few minutes of ME3) love the games. They have proven themselves willing to buy sequels, DLCs, souvenirs and trinkets, you name it. I don’t believe that their feelings about the ending will cause that to change. After all, you don’t passionately fight for something that you don’t care about. In the end, I think the vast majority will simply come to accept the ending. After all, it is what it is and either we learn to like it or go find another game.