For me Mass Effect 3 didn’t end poorly. Then again, it didn’t end as great as I wanted it to either. Still, it’s hard work finding an appropriate way to close up such an epic trilogy as the Mass Effect series. I will admit that there were plot holes and a severe lack of closure as the final credits rolled but none of that took away from my enjoyment of the experience. When everything was said and done I felt a mix of sadness and melancholy as my Commander Shephard finally brought an end to the Reaper threat. Like many others who finished the game I wanted more. I wanted to know how all my game-spanning decisions affected all the characters I had come across. I wanted to know how the galaxy would carry on after the final battle. I wanted closure.
And be warned, spoilers (obviously) follow.
Did the Extended Cut provide this closure? Yeah, a bit I guess. While the 1.9 gb download adds more dialogue, exposition, cinematics, and clarity it still leaves me wanting more. Let’s get this out of the way: no one is ever going to be truly satisfied with the ending. Over the course of all three games, Mass Effect has created a story with seemingly infinite permutations. To have created a unique ending applying all those different choices would have taken forever or, I guess, the writers could have asked every single player how they wanted their individual story to end and tailored a custom ending. I suppose another thing to keep in mind is that the extended cut is free. While rumors are being tossed around that the extended endings are paving the way for paid DLC, you have to admit that the free multiplayer updates and free extended cut are unprecedented for a game of this caliber.
The Extended Cut will mostly please those who were more than satisfied with the game’s original endings. Those three endings now provide more explanation and depth as to what happens after Shepard makes that final controversial choice. Ultimately, I enjoyed the closure provided by the final narration, each providing a level of satisfaction an emotional depth that were somewhat lacking in the original cut. Many (including me) were peeved that nothing was told about how Shepard’s crewmates ended up—not even a slideshow. Well, those concerns were addressed to an extent. Players are greeted with still shots of your old squad and a few of the other races in the universe. If you were hoping for more than just a glance or even video then you will be disappointed. Though I was kind of upset about not seeing more from the characters I loved the most, I did appreciate not having every answer given to me. Part of me wants to know every single detail but the other part likes things up in the air; there is enjoyment to be had with filling in the blanks on your own.
Additional dialogue options are opened up between the final conversation with Shepard and the so-called Starchild/Catalyst about your final choices and also about the origin of the Reapers. To the annoyance of many, those origins are explained away in a simple “you wouldn’t understand” concept. In the end, however, I feel a big question like that is better left suited to a different game or to the imaginations of the players. In a way, the writers shot themselves in the foot—they should have provided all the answers or not teased such things at all. You can boil it down to sloppy writing or you can say that all answers will be provided in future games or DLC but moments like this make the Extended Cut feel hastily put together (or at least given less care than the game itself). I love that they added Shepard’s “higher-being” monologue after the “Control” ending—it was eerie and left a universe of possibilities open about where a continuation of the story could go. The “Synthesis” ending became a touching and beautiful possibility with the extended scenes. While the “Destroy” ending still seemed a bit out of place for those who don’t believe in the popular Indoctrination Theory, I’m glad they left the possibility open for Shepard to still be alive. I know there are those out there that are upset that we don’t have an actual scene with Shepard walking away alive but I think a scene like that would be far too obvious.
While it pains me to admit it, I personally felt that the “Refusal” ending was a nice touch. Yes, it is a big middle finger to those complaining about the endings but it provides an ending that actually does feel real. Though the current cycle is destroyed you can rest in peace knowing that your actions provided hope and victory for the future. Those last lines by Liara still haunt me even though it isn’t the ending I ultimately choose. Though the “Refusal” option meant Bioware was sticking to their guns, you can sense a bit of spite with how negative the ending is.
For me, the biggest precedent that the Extended Cut sets is that with enough passion and reaction a game can be altered so drastically post release. We see patches all the time in games to clean up a few glitches or to alter certain aspects of gameplay to improve the experience. Even additional missions and content are added to virtually every game but most are planned or mere add-ons. Though one might argue that the content for additional endings was there all along it still creates this idea that the experience can be altered if enough backlash is seen. Whether it was out of fear or respect for gamers and consumers the ending was expanded and changed—something that has never been done before. I was surprised when the announcement came that additional scenes were going to be added due to fan reaction. I was glad more was coming because I wanted more from the ending myself but it made me wonder if such things would be possible in future game releases. Can the original vision be altered if fans push hard enough? The Extended Cut proves such things are possible now.
The purpose for the Extended Cut all boils down to the fact that fans of the game wanted Mass Effect 3 to end a brilliant series on a brilliant note. With a game that is all about choice and creating your own story that is a hard act to follow. I know that I wanted the game to end differently but I am sure my desired ending is different from the desired ending of countless others. I look to the final moment of the game with the Stargazer talking to the child about all the infinite possibilities in every star and world and how “every life is a special story of its own”. I’m not sure how a game like this could meet the lofty expectations of so many fans but the Extended Cut does atone for some of those missed opportunities. Not everything is answered in the way it should have been and not everything is wrapped up in the best way. I found a lot of closure to the story of my own Shepard and will probably have different questions and different answers when I play the game with a new character and a new agenda. Every player had a special story of their own told over the course of three games. The Extended Cut may not provide much consolation for some players; some might actually find closure in other rumors and theories such as the very popular (and very believable) Indoctrination Theory. A universe as rich and unique as Mass Effect’s provides gamers with the possibility of writing their own endings and their own conclusions. Filling in the blanks might not always be the best thing for developers and writers to do because players might want the option themselves. I certainly don’t want the problem “solved” with another Mass Effect sequel because it might cheapen the other games. Just play the game in different ways if you want more stories. However, I would welcome any opportunity to play in this universe again as long as it is given as much love and care as all three Mass Effect games have been given.