The Extended Cut of Mass Effect 3 was released on June 26. As expected, it provides some clarification and a bit more closure than the original ending, but it’s still pretty much “pick your favorite color”. I still see several gaping plot holes that it failed to address and the ending cinematics are more reminiscent of the “Fallout 3” and “Fallout: New Vegas” slide shows than what I would have expected from Mass Effect. So, taken as a whole, all I can say with any degree of honesty it that the ending is somewhat improved.
As an example in the area of plot holes, BioWare tried to fix one by showing that your miraculously teleporting squadmates were actually picked up by the Normandy in response to Shepard’s call to evacuate a wounded member. But in filling that hole, they had to teleport the Normandy itself. Well, maybe not teleport, but if you consider the amount of time it took for Harbinger to break off from the fight and arrive at the transport beam and then compare that to the amount of time it takes the Normandy to break off from the fight and get to the beam, it might as well be a teleport. They also fail to explain how Harbinger can be aware of these teeny-tiny little people on the ground (because it’s shooting at them), yet overlook a frigate making a pickup right in front of it. Perhaps there is such a thing as “space magic” after all. At least Joker isn’t looking back over his shoulder during the escape sequence.
Voice-overs from Hacket (Destruction), Shepard (Control), and EDI (Synthesis) serve to explain the post-ending Mass Effect universe through a series of slides (which mostly get reused in each ending). I suspect that this was done to alleviate concerns that the destruction of the Mass Relay system effectively ended galactic civilization. However, the rosy future painted by each of the endings stands in stark contrast to my expectation of a return to factious infighting once the threat of the common enemy was removed (OK, rosy future mostly works in the Synthesis ending), but it’s their story, so I’ll just let it go at saying that it stretches my suspension of disbelief. The word “blivet” comes to mind, but that’s a bit harsh. Maybe “mini-blivet”?
On the whole, the ending is a bit (only a bit) more palatable than the original. We players are now faced with a different issue. Since this is the only fix we can reasonably expect, do we play the game or not? Taken in this light, I’m back to the conclusion of my original review: the game itself is very good. My heartburn was and is with the ending. To that extent, do you play a good game whose ending is less than stellar or do you let the ending color the whole experience of the game? I tend to go with the former in the hope that BioWare will learn from this fiasco and not repeat it in the future.
It’s impossible to tell a story in which you expect the player to invest themselves in a character and then also expect that everyone will be thrilled and overjoyed with the ending of that story. It’s not going to happen. But it is possible to tell a story where the vast majority can accept the ending with little fuss. This is what I expect BioWare to take away from the ME3 experience. Whether they will or not remains to be seen. In the interim, I suspect we can look forward to at least a couple of paid DLCs. My money is on Aria retaking Omega now that the Illusive Man is out of the picture. It might be worth it in light of the more palatable ending, but we shall see the future when it gets here. In the meantime, don’t let the ending get in the way of enjoying the ride. It’s still a very good game.