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I was up until 2:30 this morning finishing Mass Effect 3. I'm a huge fan of these games and this was the fastest I've ever finished any of them. Not because it was easier or shorter than the rest but because I deliberately rushed through it, which is counter to the way I usually play these games. I am a "stop and smell the roses" kind of player; I think people who blast through content in order to get to the ending more quickly are doing it wrong. Epic games like this are meant to be enjoyed and savored and made to last as long as possible, especially on a first playthrough, which you only ever get to do once. But in this case there was so much public controversy and discontent swirling around the internet from people who had blasted through it to see how it all ends that I felt like it was only a matter of time before I ran into a massive spoiler - and when it very nearly happened this week I decided to stop smelling the roses and race to the finish before my luck ran out. So now I know how the story ends.

Guess what? I didn't hate it, although I do have many questions and a few criticisms. On the whole I thought it was audacious, provocative, and only partly nonsensical. I haven't yet had time to dive into the wealth of comment that's out there and review the criticisms in detail, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suspect that a lot of the discontent comes from people who have been coddled for too long by easy "Hollywood" endings in which the hero saves the galaxy, gets the girl and everyone lives happily ever after - but with one tiny dangling thread that leaves the door open for another installment. That's been the standard endgame language of big, epic, high-production storytelling for decades, and it's created expectations that cause us to be upset and confused when they're not met. The story of the Mass Effect trilogy does not end in an easy, feel-good way which leaves a clear path for future games, nor do I suspect it was designed to make the player feel comfortable. But it's not unprecedented in storytelling, in fact I can think of at least one other very popular story, a pretty old one, in which the hero sacrifices himself to save all of mankind and in doing so becomes an immortal legend that people still talk about and follow thousands of years later.

So for those reasons I didn't hate it. But did I think it was a good ending? I don't know yet. It's still very fresh, I'm still processing, and I'd be lying if I could tell you what it all means. And I'm okay with that. Again, I don't think storytellers have an automatic obligation to answer every single question and tie off every single loose end when a story concludes. It's good to leave some stuff ambiguous and open to interpretation and debate. Now it's possible BioWare erred a little too much on that side of the line here, and I'm less surprised about some of the complaints in this area. There are certainly some ways in which the ending does not make sense, at least to me. (I had EDI as part of my London assault team so the fate of the Normandy makes even less sense than it does to most.) But I think the bigger problem is really how the final sequence was handled - it was way too talky, with so much complicated and lengthy exposition being thrown at the player in a very short space of time that it was impossible to take it all in, much less fully comprehend. Remember that scene at the end of the second Matrix movie with the Architect waffling on endlessly about stuff we barely understood? Yeah.

The other criticism flying around is that there's not enough variation in the endings, that the player is left feeling like after all they've done they don't really get to make a choice that makes much difference to the fate of the galaxy. Okay, I get that. For the record, I took the middle path, and just watched a video that shows how the other choices play out. I think BioWare simply over-promised here. The previous games had different endings but they're really just minor variations on a theme that allowed players to more or less continue from a common point in the galaxy next time out. But if you're going to fundamentally alter the galaxy I imagine it's difficult to realistically present the player with a lot of choice over the nature of that change and still keep the door open for future games. Like the previous two games, the endings of Mass Effect 3 are variations on a theme, not the wildly different scenarios some players may have been led to expect. I understand that. Although here again I think a lot of the upset is coming from people who have been conditioned by storytelling tropes to believe that the hero should always be in control and the master of their destiny - where in reality of course that is almost never the case. In the end Shepard does all he can, and makes the ultimate sacrifice, when finally faced with a situation too galactically massive for even him to fully affect.

I think BioWare made a really gutsy choice to end Mass Effect 3 the way they did and I applaud them for having the courage to do it. I do think it could have been executed a little better. But I think it has to say something that the ending has generated so much discussion, and that this is the first time ever I've written an entire article about a game's ending. It seems like BioWare is now scrambling to respond to public demand and is making noises about "fixing" the ending. I think that's a shame. When you're writing a story you should always go with what you think is right rather than try to guess what your audience wants, and I think the same is true retrospectively too. No matter all the whining and complaining I think BioWare should stick to their guns. I'm sure they had a plan for where this would all go next before the game released, so why they are second-guessing themselves now I have no idea. And I think they should be flattered that all the complaints are stemming from a place of love and affection for the characters and the universe they created. Going back to my original point, an audience conditioned by decades of endings of no real consequence and easy reset buttons because storytellers are afraid to upset the apple cart is always going to be perturbed by an ending like this one which dramatically alters the nature of the universe and characters they have come to love while leaving no easily predictable way forward. But I love that. Even if there was no way forward and this was the end of Mass Effect I'd be okay with that. Because as much as I love the games and want to keep playing them, that's what all good stories eventually do. They end.

Oh, and to those people contributing to the growing meme that the ending sucks because it's not sufficient reward for all the "work" they put in getting there? Shut the fuck up. Games aren't work, if they were you wouldn't play them. They're fun, and the game is hugely fun to play even if the ending does leave a bad taste in your mouth.
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"audacious, provocative, and only partly nonsensical" is a box quote I can get behind.
Gary you are missing the point.

The backlash has ZERO to do with it not being a happy ending. Shepherd being dead (or at least likely) is the ONLY good thing about it.

The relays exploding, exploding but not decimating star systems like in arrival, joker somehow landing on a jungle planet with people that were on earth's surface make zero sense outside of IDK SPACE KID MAGIK?

The other issue is that all 3 endings are essentially the same with a different color might as well change the tint on your television to purple and call it the secret free fourth ending because that's the biggest change between them.

Also if you check out "The last hours of mass effect 3" app that has writers notes about the ending, even the writer Marc Walter's had no idea where he was going. At the bottom he writes in all caps "LOTS OF SPECULATION FROM EVERYONE!!!" So it's pretty clear the ending was purposefully written with multiple plot holes just to make people talk.

Hell an ending where the reapers win, and everything shepherd did was in vain would have been a much sadder but BETTER ending because it could happen without space magic+plot holes.

For an amazingly built universe that explains tiny details in the codex, for the ending to honestly be nothing more than space magic is a complete and utter joke.
Well said, well said. I pretty much feel the same. Here's a video about a theory about how Shepard was indoctrinated ( interesting. I just hope Bioware doesn't change the ending and stick to their guns. I hope they don't cave to winey entitled people bitching on the internet. One thing that seems wrong is the day 1 DLC. Javik material was so good and important to the story and should have been in the game by default. He was in my party throughout the rest of the game as he had a lot of interesting and revealing dialogue.

I am excited about potential future DLC and the potential for Shepard to save and reunite with his crew members. Don't know how though as all the relays have been destroyed...should be interesting.
Great read. As a game artist, after every project i look back and see what i can learn from it, and then i apply that to future work. If the game isn't broken, you shouldn't change a thing.
I have to agree with +Brent Nahmias. The issue I take with the ending is not that Shepard died, in fact I expected that all along and see that as the only reasonable ending for him/her. My issue is that this was supposed to be the end of the trilogy, it was supposed to close the fiction and all we got were questions. What happened with the Krogan, what happened with the Geth/Quarians, what about the Racchni, or Earth itself. After the events on Thessia did the Asari save most of their people? If all the relays exploded what happens to the massive armies not trapped in the SOL system. All it would have taken for me to be satisfied by this ending is some simple epilogue cards ala Dragon Age: Origins. It also had a potential sad ending with the Grey Warden but they wrapped up all the other threads, they let you know the choices you made along the way had meaning and changed the world in a specific way.

When I played through ME1 and 2 I always replayed them to try other styles and choices. I was all set to do that with ME3 until the last 10 minutes. Now, if they aren't going to give me any pay off on the choices I made other than "which group makes the bar get larger" I don't see the point.
Yup, im taking my time w/ this as well. I bought it at launch and im about 24hrs into it. Most of my time is spent w/ MP, (which i'm really enjoying). Im trying my DAMNEST to avoid spoilers but im afraid that someone (or some publication) might leak it and i'll be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

EDIT: oh great, i just read the post above mine. FUCK.
The problem is so clearly rooted in DLC, and that message they slap at the end says it all. Whatever they have been planning to release in the months to come obviously affected the ending and forced it to be as malleable as it was.
I have no issue with Shep dying. I have no issue with the choices you're given - in fact, I thought all three endings were very brave and original. Any of them could have been satisfying. I've seen the theory videos of what's "really going on" and I thought if true that's also really intelligent and well-done.

I think what left me with a cold feeling afterwards (and others) is that you don't get any closure with your squadmates.

The entire game was an ending for the races as a whole - in my game the krogans were finally cured, the salarians basically fell back as cowards and will likely lose clout in the Council - if the idea of a Galactic council can exist now, the quarians and geth are playing nice and going to rebuild the homeland. The Reapers are either dead or synthesized with organics (I have both saves). The entire universe has closure.

Except for my characters. They've created all these awesome squadmates and you just see a random choice walking out of a spaceship in the end. Just add a quick scene showing the characters mourning the loss of Shep, maybe a chunk of rock with an N7 carved on it and maybe pull back to show them building something on that jungle planet Swiss Family Robinson style and fade to black and I'm happy. Even better, do like DA:O or Fallout or countless biopic films and show a black screen with some of the fates of the characters, but that would probably upset the future plans of the series.

I don't know. I think that's why many people are upset. I think everything worked out well, but that's why they're upset.
I don't think the ending is provocative at all, the choice is potentially incredibly interesting, destroying all AI, or merging it with Humanity, or just dealing with the immediate threat and leaving the ultimate fate of the universe up to chance. But when you see that all three play out identically all that potential is instantly lost. Man and Machine merge and the only outcome is green glowing eyes?

Also the nature of the crucible was initially explained brilliantly as the work of each cycles final efforts against the Reapers, it made perfect sense too that they'd use the Citadel against the Reapers, to then just drop that pretence and say 'oh no, actually it was god' just seems like they ran out of time to explain things better.

I reacted exactly the same way as you Gary after I finished but a few days on I've realised that people do definitely have legitimate complaints about the way the game ends, it does feel rushed and it doesn't do justice to the kinds of character Bioware allowed you to play in the game (we all know Renegade Shepard would have just punched out the kid at the first sign of a lecture).

Don't at all agree with the people demanding they change it though, it's a creative work and it's done now. Dont start Lucas'ing it up, nobody wins.
Honestly, the "coddled" argument is a strawman as Brent pointed out. A dark ending that was done well would have been fantastic, and there were many ways to do it. This ending introduced a nonsensical mystical character at the last moment, made Shepard go along with the notion that AI and organics will always destroy each other (even though we proved that wasn't the case), and turned the previously Lovecraftian Reapers (who had been established as impossible to understand) into a glowy space magic kid's puppets.

Have you ever played with action figures with another kid when you were younger and after an epic battle he suddenly said "Oh by the way this guy over here has infinite powers and he blew everything up"? That's what this ending was. Except he made one of your figures walk slowly to one of three colored buttons to blow it up for him.
Fresh off the ending I was okay with it as well. It had a bittersweet ending that left me to ponder things, which is the perfect ending to any story in my experience. My biggest mistake however, was replaying the last stretch of the game to get the other 2 endings I didn't choose, at which point I realized how little my choice actually mattered. Which I'll admit I can only blame myself for doing.

I think the rage towards the ending is more of a rage at a lack of any of your choices in the previous games mattering in the end. The game was always billed from day 1 of the first game as your choices carrying weight throughout the entire galaxy and across multiple games, and they executed on that wonderfully throughout all 3 games, up until the final scene with the catalyst where none of those choices mattered anymore because you were simply presented with 3 static choices. Each of the ending choices had very different powerful ideas behind them, but the resulting cut and paste scenes behind each choice cheapened the whole thing, and this felt decidedly un-Mass Effect too me.
If you don't mind me playing Devil's Advocate here, I have a bit of a counter-argument, from the perspective of someone who plays Tabletop RPGs, based on my own thoughts on the ending, and the thoughts of other people who play tabletop RPGs.

Mass Effect, along with the Elder Scrolls series, are the two western RPG series that are still going concerns, which come the closest to taking the level of freedom and choice available in a tabletop role-playing game, and bringing that onto a computer. Each provide experiences similar to specific styles of play.

The Elder Scrolls series, particularly Morrowind and Skyrim, comes closest to the "sandbox" style of campaign, where the party is put in a basically open environment, with settlements and scattered dungeons, and is, to a certain degree, left to their own devices. There are several tabletop RPGs that focus heavily on this kind of campaign, like Adventurer Conqueror King from Autarch and, in the western genre, Aces & Eights from Kenzer & Co.

Mass Effect, on the other hand, comes closes to what is referred to as the "Plot Point" or "Adventure Path" campaign style. "Plot Point" and "Adventure Path" campaigns have their differences, but, they're similar enough for the purposes of this argument that I can lump them together. Basically, the idea behind the Plot Point campaign is that you have a bunch of story beats or set "Adventure Modules", that tell an overarching story - each Point or Module being an act or episode in the story. The players are then able to handle each Plot Point as they see fit, with their actions effecting the over-arching story, but with the players still having choices about how things turn out - this is a role-playing game, it's not about the GM making you play his novel/manga/anime/whatever.*

The key to this, is that the players' choices have some meaningful effect on the narrative, and on the final outcome. Their actions determine if everyone gets out alive at the end, if the mission turns out to be a heroic sacrifice, whether galactic civilization is saved or is thrown back into a new dark age. The player's actions determined who lived and who died in the end of Mass Effect 2. This wasn't a simple matter of an A-B-or-C (and maybe D) ending. This was, literally, a flow-chart.

Mass Effect 3's endings, on the other hand, feel like the players have been dumped on the GM's plot railroad, with no way off. All their actions leads to galactic civilization getting plunged into a new dark age, with the destruction of the only form of interstellar trade or communication in the form of the Mass Relays. Further, all of the endings, no matter what the player did earlier in the game, leads to Shepard's death, or presumed death (which is effectively Shepard's death, since Commander Shepard Will Not Return In Mass Effect 4). In a game series that has made player agency and control of the narrative such an important part, and in so doing, bringing the genre of western computer role-playing game from a narrative standpoint closer to the tabletop genre than it's ever been (aside from Neverwinter Nights), this is disappointing.

From the people I've spoken to in this, they agree that if their GM pulled an ending like Mass Effect 3's (any of them) at the gaming table, they wouldn't get to run a campaign for a while - not because running a campaign like Mass Effect 1-3 would be a lot of work (though it would be), but because the ending would essentially railroad the player characters to a total-party kill, and there'd be nothing they could do about it.**

DLC could provide a way to allow for a certain degree of more meaningful choice, as well as clarifying some of the more muddled aspects of the ending. Maybe with sufficient Galactic Readiness, Shepard lives. Maybe there's DLC that involves finding a design for a drive system that allows ships to bypass the Relays without all that nasty static buildup stuff, dodging the new dark age crap.

I'm not suggesting that BioWare change the ending so everyone skips through a field of tulips while Tiny Tim music plays on the soundtrack. I'm also not saying that the series should return to status quo. I am saying that the player's actions should better determine what the state of the universe is. Hell, if BioWare wants to add an option where the player can choose blow the Horn Of Fate thrice and destroy and remake the universe, that's awesome too.* Just have the player's choice actually mean something, and effect the state of the universe after the game.

* Just to continue with the analogy - basically most other genres that aren't western computer RPGs (and even a few of those, like Ultima VIII), tend to be more along the lines of The GM's Novel.

** I do realize that the whole GM enforced TPK (Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies) is something of an internet meme at the moment - but it's also an example of bad gaming.

* Not-Prize if you get the reference.
It's more about the journey, not the destination.
Thanks Gary, for putting into words the same thoughts that I had but much more eloquently than I can.

I really love the ending of Mass Effect 3. I love that its ambiguous as hell. I love that it takes a left turn out of no where into philosophy. I love that there's so much left unsaid that people have been spending weeks talking about it and trying to process it. The fact that someone made a 30 minute video explaining their interpretation of the ending, in which Shepard was indoctrinated, is one of the most amazing things I've seen come out of a video game story. The vast majority of video game stories and endings don't really justify any sort of discussion like this ending has.

I guess the most shocking thing I have seen related to the ending of Mass Effect 3 is how everyone seems to ignore or discount the amazing after credits sequence with the star gazer (voiced by Buzz Aldrin). To me, that scene is one of the most inspiring scenes in a video game. It's a great way to tie up the end of the series. It inspires hope (people still live far in the future), awe (you have become legend), and imagination (there are million of stars each with their own stories). Yet people keep going on about how the ending of the game is depressing and lifeless.

I understand why people are angry, I really do. Beyond just the mechanical aspects of the ending (although I think people claiming your choices "didn't matter" are being silly. If you are really invested in that universe, of course the choices mattered. They are significant regardless of the ending), people tend to hate ambiguous endings. You see this every time a story dares to leave things open. I remember the backlash that Inception received because people refused to believe that the ending was ambiguous, that there just had to be an extra scene that got cut from the movie. I love ambiguous endings, they give you area to imagine and dream up what came of that universe. It gives wiggle room for each person to apply their own interpretations to the story, and all of them are just as valid.

Perhaps the third installment in a blockbuster title wasn't the place to tear down dogmatic story telling ideas, but I really think its a shame they plan to modify it.
Gary - thanks for the thoughtful comments. To clarify one specific comment you've made: we're not scrambling to react - rather, we're considering the feedback carefully (we value the feedback from our audience of fans) - and we're going to respond to it in a way that both considers the audience as co-creators in our artistic journey and yet thoroughly maintains the artistic integrity of the team's original choices. We'll have more details to share in April. In the meantime:
Mass Effect 3 was in no way a game that couldn't be rushed through. I enjoyed my first playthrough of 2 because of how deep and huge it felt. 3 did the exact opposite and really gave you no reason to explore. It was all about the rush to get the universe to fight off the Reapers. Sure there were side missions here and there, but they were so heavily action focused that I couldnt help but not like it because it was becoming just another third person shooter. Sure there are dialogue wheels and some well written stuff, but the game gives you no reason to go and do this. Only two of the side missions of 3 stick out in my mind as good. Where as pretty much all of the recruting and earning loyalty of squadmates in 2 are some of the best missions in any game. Each of these in 3 felt like they just needed to be done to add more to your Galaxy at war rating. You chose to cure the genophage, just because then you get the Krogans to fight. You chose to save the Geth just so they could be there at the final battle. In 2 I genuinely wanted to help each of the characters with their quests, not just to gain their loyalty, but because each mission in itself was an interesting and deep story.

The way Bioware set up the trilogy with the Reaper invasion caused the final game to focus on nothing but that. They kind of had to do so to finish the story out. I liked how open and free 2 felt as there was no real rush to save the universe and you could explore at your leisure. It's the same reason why I still consider 2 one of my favorites of all time and 3 is just a good game. Limiting the only on foot area to be the Citadel was pretty dissapointing too...sure they can't keep using the same areas in each game, but I'm sure there were 3 other places they could have made to wander around rather than 5 levels of the Citadel.

But like I said, they way Bioware set up the whole arc caused there to be no way that 3 would ever be the same kind of game that 2 was. The ending wasn't all that bad, but I didn't care much for it. Honestly endings don't matter to me if the rest of the experience is amazing. I started playing Deus Ex Human Revolution right after ME3 and so far the story is just okay, but the freedom to explore the cyberpunk cities is what is drawing me in. Each game has it's own weaknesses and strengths, but it has to either balance out or have one aspect be so much better than the other to make it interesting. There are many games I can think of that had pretty average game play but a mindblowing plot. Bioshock for example has some pretty uneven shooting, but the setting, the freedom to explore it, and the detailed story are what made me fall in love with that game. It was the same thing with ME2 and the big reason why I was dissapointed by ME3. I still enjoyed ME3, but it was a good game as opposed to possibly being an amazing game.
I haven't hit the ending yet... but I had been thinking since the start of Mass Effect 2 that it would take an Ultima 9/Matrix approach to the endgame (I haven't had that confirmed or denied to be clear... it's just what I thought). I had played every Ultima game (including Underworld's) which in my mind took many more years with more time invested in that character and I didn't feel slighted by how it ended (apart from the broken game).

Thanks for your post Gary!
As an aside - while I was kidding about the "Horn of Fate" ending - if, in addition to clarifying the ending in future DLC, they were to release DLC consisting of a collection of "gag" endings to poke fun at the uproar over the original ending as well as the revised ending [like, for example, the Newhart ending (two characters in an Infinity Engine game waking up in bed and talking about the strange dream they had), the St. Elsewhere Ending (dream of an autistic child with a snowglobe), the Elric Ending (destroy the universe)] that'd be hilariously awesome, and I'd find a way to buy it multiple times.
Finally some perspective. I was hoping either you or Brad would finish this soon so we can have a positive outlook on this game. I felt it was an amazing game that blended gameplay and story elements from 1 and 2 in a way that made me incredibly invested. The ending is not the greatest but it in no way ruined the incredible hours I spent in that universe. No one I know in person has expressed such extreme feeling either.

The "space magic" complaint is fairly silly when there are numerous other things in all of these games that criticism could be leveled at. It's great that Bioware tried to tie a lot of the stuff to possible "science" but I in no way ever thought of this as realistic or possible, just very cool to have that level of detail.

As to Kevin's comments I could use the same logic for 2: sure some of the loyalty missions were interesting but you were just doing them to get them to fly to the Collector base with you, how is that different? Plus those events in 3 involved the characters whose loyalty you gained from 2 so why are you now less compelled if you cared about the characters and their stories?
SPOILERS***********The main issue I have - is that it just doesn't make any sense. Is the galaxy destroyed? Why is the Normandy leaving the battle? Why does Shepard appear in rubble on the ground after blowing up in space?
I can try to answer those. No the galaxy isn't destroyed they show stuff after that. The Normandy is leaving because the Citadel went apeshit. My Shepard did not appear in rubble so I can't comment on that but if the beacon worked one way why can't it work the other way?
+Gary Whitta Actually I just said this in a post earlier. I thought the 'story' in Mass Effect 3's ending was okay. Would I have done things differently if I where making the game? Sure, everyone would say yes to that question... or they're lying to you.

What I most missed in Mass Effect 3 was the narrative between your squad and yourself that was kindled in Mass Effect 2, they felt more distant to me in ME3.

I missed the 'style' of ending that the previous game had. I would have liked to see the 'choice drive' consequence system that was presented in ME2 in ME3. Being able to direct what parts of your forces where used for what part of the attack, in space and on the ground. And those choices, would either spell victory or defeat, in varying degrees of grey of course.

To me, if ME3 had that choice / consequence system coupled with the story? It would have been a much more powerful ending. I remember agonizing out my choices in the end of ME2 (but I never 'cheated' and looked online for the best solutions). Putting characters you cared about into danger, but realize it 'had' to be that way really made you 'feel' the story in ME2. I thought it would've made ME3 just as meaningful, if they'd have followed suit. My two cents.
SPOILERS******** I liked the ending. Perhaps the apparent fake choice in the very end felt a bit to much Deus Ex (both Deus Ex and DX:HR have the same type of chose-your-ending button and still two of my favorite games). The people who think the "boy" in the end is just a Deus Ex ending I don't understand. I was thinking long before that about the theme of organic vs. synthetic life and asking myself where they came from as they did not evolve and had to be created. The end does not answer this as the boy in the end appears to be a hologram of the great machine. Then I watched that "Shepard indoctrinated" video and first I thought it was interesting but that they were reading to much in to it but the part where you wake up in the rubble in one ending really makes you wonder "Did that really happen? What really happened?"
I can liv with Shepard's dead but the citadel and the mass relay network I CANT!!!!!, the citadel only gets save on control rippers end, and is crazy, Shepards become what and A.I.?, all the ends shows the Normandy on a WTF jump, that they should not be doing, why do they make the nromandy bail on anyone else? and even so, why do they will jump in that moment with the giant fuck ball behind? Why pay all mayor races on the galaxy to be stranded on SOL system for EVER for helping Earth? I think the better end is the stoping cycle, where all organic and synthetic life is combined. in the only ends that say, ok we save all and even evolve the so no more criclical galactic apocalypse, but that should NO FUCKING DESTRO THE MASS RELAY NETWORK. and also do not show the Normandy runing like hel and getting fuck up crash in some unknown planet.

The syntesis end should not destroy the relays and not crash/make run the normandy. and even if that kills shepard I will like that end.
I respect your opinions, but they come from someone who has very much not informed themselves of the other endings. Shepard doesn't always die, for example. And the comments and criticisms are made by those who really care about Mass Effect and see serious continuity and lore errors in the game's ending. Of course, the "Indoctrination Theory" serves to answer some of those questions. I have a feeling you'd find Indoctrination Theory fascinating.
Gary, I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts on the subject again if/when you read some of the reasons why people say it's a bad (as in poorly written and nonsensical, not as in unhappy) ending.

I think a lot of the people who hate the ending didn't feel that way initially - I know my first reaction was something along the lines of "huh, that was rather unexpected". But the more one goes back and delve into the story to try to understand the ending, the less sense it makes. For someone who only plays through the game once and then never thinks about it again, the ending is probably fine. But how BioWare thought it would go well with the type of player who would play through the game multiple times to see the different ways it can play out could be happy with the ending we got is simply perplexing. And at least one recurring statement from the developers about the ending (that it would be "very different" depending on player actions through the trilogy) is just patently false.

There's a Google Docs document named "A Logical Breakdown of Why the Mass Effect 3 Ending Makes No Sense" that's floating around, and while parts of it lean heavily towards the "Indoctrination Theory" that blurs the line between analysis of the game we got and fan fiction, it does also offer a lot of compelling arguments as to why the ending seems extremely out of turn with the rest of the Mass Effect universe.

And finally, one other point I just absolutely have to mention: way too many among the gaming press (not talking about you, as I don't consider you to be a member of that anymore anyway) have distilled this fan outrage into a simple "people are pissed they didn't get a happy ending" and then dismiss it as entitled whining, something that I feel has reflected very poorly on "gaming journalism" and reaffirmed a sentiment many have that most of them are little more than the gaming industry mouth pieces. Personally, I count myself as one who was greatly dissatisfied by ending, yet I never expected anything but a tragic (or bittersweet at best) end for something like a galaxy fighting for its survival. In fact, my favorite parts of ME3 all involve the loss of characters which I've grown to like and care for - the way the characters arcs of Mordin, Thane, and Legion played out are what I consider to be BioWare's storytelling at its best, and none of them are remotely close to being what anyone would call a happy end. So the problems and points raised by the outraged fans go far beyond that, and it does them a great disservice to just be labeled as entitled fanboys.
I liked the ending, I thought the choice you get at the end was mind numbingly hard and what I got from my choice was satisfying. I didn't feel like I needed an animal house ending, I don't care to see what X person is 'up to' or whatever.. I know what they are up to they say what they will do throughout the entire 40 hours I spent with them in the game, and I feel like the game gave plentiful closure for each and every person during the game, I don't need a final once over again to confirm all that shit.
Wow, it's like you read my mind. Great post.
Agreed, I have no problems with a sad bittersweet ending. In fact many of my favorite Sci Fi shows/movies end this way (Serenity, Cowboy Bebop, Babylon 5). There are just too many plot holes for the current end to make sense. There are some great videos online that point these out.

However, I will say everything directly up to the final moments was simply amazing. Best gaming experience I've ever had.
SPOILERS ******** If the indoctrination theory is true then it is the best.. ending.. ever! And also the best stunt pulled in a video game ever. It sort of makes sense.. not all of the things people claim but on closer examination the ending cannot be what it seems. Waking up in the rubble, Anderson getting to the panel but only one entrance. If they indeed wanted to manipulate me they succeeded. I went for the destruction at first thinking "Fu this Im killing 'em!" but hesitated when I realized I would kill the geth (I even forgot about EDI). The time ran out (which I have to say was not communicated well). I then chose control instead thinking I would not try to use them just get rid of them. Also I was a bit sad when the relays exploded as I first thought that was just for the synthesis option as I apparently didn't pay close enough attention.

If it is true it also puts the ME team in a bit of a predicament as they probably don't want to it away. That would be like adding a bit to the end of Total Recall that explains that it really was all in his head (it was btw) or that Deckard really was an android in Blade Runner (he is btw)
+Ray Muzyka Ray, many thanks for making an appearance in this thread, classing things up!
The whole campaign to complain about the Mass Effect endings smother out any real debate that could be had, and really trample on the hard work of many BioWare creators who worked hard on it. It really irks me.
Gary is a thought leader. Kudos on the Ray comment.

It will be interesting to see how Bioware tackles this.
I'm really interested to see what they do next with this universe. Don't hit the reset button!
I'm Marauder Shields, and this is my favorite post on Google+.
I'm curious then. Since the indoctrination theory states that absolutely everything that happens after the beam is in shepard's head, that makes it axiomatic that the citadel never opens, the reapers are never destroyed, and nothing at all post beam matters a jot. That basically makes the "indoctrination ending" the worst possible ending imagineable; Nothing ends, everything is a lie, and the post credits roll has no meaning whatsoever. You guys are giving Bioware way too much credit.
Very good points, Mr. Whitta, but I still would have preferred a happy ending. Sure, it'd be cliched and everything, but there's nothing wrong with liking cliched stuff.

I didn't hate the ending, but it just felt so weird and not Mass Effect-y. Especially after that great bit with Anderson and The Illusive Man. So what I'm saying is that the ghost-space-kid is what I didn't like (not counting plot holes).
Weird to rush to "fix" an ending that, honestly, was a-okay for most people, and ignore the gaping rotting time-exploiting non-design that is the planet scanning and side quest system. If this was a PC exclusive and it was, i dunno, 10 years ago, we'd see a system revamp, not a "plot fix" with extra content we most likely have to pay for. Making us pay for Javik is a damn sin, and funnelling players into the free2play style multiplayer with the promise of a "better ending" is as cynical as it gets. Bioware, if you cared about your fans so much, maybe you shouldn't treat them poorly.
Thank you for providing your input, Gary. You seem to feel almost exactly the same way I feel. I finished the game, loaded up a save and finished it again, and then watched a video of the third "major" variation. My two biggest complaints are that the slight variations strike me as a lazy solution to the problem of wanting a certain number of endings, and that their interviews leading up to the game's release did seemingly promise a lot more in terms of ending variety than was delivered. Granted, I fully believe that for them to have created logical endings that took player choices into consideration would have been almost too large of an undertaking to be practical.

I don't necessarily think the ending is bad, but I hesitate to call it good. I agree that it threw a lot of new information at the player very quickly, but I don't mind that. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions, which I guess is to be expected - they still want to create more content for the game, after all.

My biggest concern is them buckling to fan outrage over this. I have been disappointed by movies, TV shows, books, video games, etc. many times throughout my life, but I believe the creators of these sorts of forms of entertainment need to maintain their own control over their work and not crowdsource it. You can't please everyone, so you may as well do something that you (the artist, creator, etc.) are proud of and can stand behind. I would rather BioWare says "hey, this was our vision of the game, we think it's pretty good" because I would then trust them to put forth that same effort in the future. As it is, now I'm questioning if they're going to try to play it safe in each of their games from here on out and always try to please the crowd rather than try to produce what they believe is a quality story.

I am also mildly annoyed by this because I would prefer the team move on to their next thing and not focus on adjusting the ending to a shipped product. I still think BioWare produces quality games, and them wasting their time with this is only going to prolong their next game.
Coddled? Hollywood ending? Are you smoking crack?

It's ill-founded assumptions by professional journalists that anger me more than any video game.

Let's leave aside the fact that Dragon Age 2 reviews illustrated the lack of honesty by professional reviewers in awarding top marks to a game so fundamentally flawed and tedious that no-one will trust DA3 reviews. There's too much advertising money at stake these days for anyone writing for a game site or magazine to come out strongly and highlight flaws.

The endless debate reminds me of what Bill Hicks said about the controversy around Basic Instinct when it came out. Stand back, take a deep breath, look at the ME3 ending again...

...oh, now I see. It's a piece of **

Game critics should not presume to know what our taste in entertainment is like. Despite EA's best efforts ME hasn't become Call of Duty yet. Give the audience some credit.

Primary school teachers regularly instruct their pupils not to end their stories with "it was all a dream". What Bioware did was the faux-intellectual equivalent.

We've all watched movies with rubbish endings and not been too bothered. Why? Because we didn't invest over 120+ hours in the movie.

The marketing for ME3 was about "Taking Earth Back". A lot of money was spent promoting a message completely at odds with the nature of the ending. And then you are surprised when people get really angry and complain?

I love Bioware and 95% of ME3. But as a sci-fi fan I found the ending as laughable as The Matrix trilogy ending or anything by M Night Shyamalan.

I don't believe they should change it. It'll serve as a reminder that if you fall at the last hurdle, high scores on MetaCritic won't save you from public opinion.
I love that somebody with an audience as big as you have is expressing this opinion.
Jay B
There is no greater event than this to completely reveal the large gulf that has developed between the games media/press and the people they supposedly exist to serve (gamers). While gamers around the internet rallied together to start a campaign that would bring to light the massive disappointment that is the ME3 ending, video game 'journalists' were tripping over themselves to label them as 'entitled whiners who can't deal with a sad ending', and to somehow NOW be concerned about 'artistic integrity'. I'm sure that has nothing to do with justifying the 9s and 10s that were thrown Bioware's way in the week before us normal folk got our hands on the game.

The ending was simply bad. We get led along for 3 games and over 100 hours of content with the notion that our choices have consequences, that our story is our own. We are led to care about the galaxy and it's citizens. All that is washed away in a 10 minute pseudo-intellectual space magic ending that the Final Hours app has exposed was specifically designed to create 'LOTS OF SPECULATION FROM EVERYONE'.

So while the Games press can do it's usual thing of picking out a few crazy posts and misrepresenting the entire movement with it, the reality is that people don't care that the ending was sad. In fact, I would be disappointed if there wasn't an ending that ended on a down note. The problem is that instead of getting a personalized ending based on our choices and struggles, we got a copypaste cutscene with different colors. Pre-release quotes from the developers even said this would not be the case.

The fight against the ending is legitimate, deal with it and realize that you and your ilk are on the wrong side of history with this one.

Now on to the games press (sorry if this is long).

For years it's only gotten worse and worse as journalists get further entrenched within the development and PR communities and turn their back on the actual gamers. This entire ordeal is an embarrassing apex of that development.

Why now are you all suddenly concerned with 'artistic integrity'? Where is the outrage when a game gets post-release DLC that changes it's story or adds content in the middle that wasn't there on initial release? Is it only because now the actual gamers had to stand up and do your job for you that you suddenly have a problem with feedback inciting results?

Games change all the time, and usually it is a publisher decision to get more money out of the gamer. Bethesda changed the ending of Fallout 3 to sell DLC. Valve changed the ending of Portal to sell a sequel. Where were you all then? It is far more admirable for a developer to go in and change something to correct their mistake than to go in and add in more hooks to make money off their customers.

So yeah, talk about entitlement and artistic integrity now to protect your buddies in the development communities and/or protect what little credibility is left in the joke of a games journalism career. Just don't expect us gamers to forget whose side you are really on.
It's telling how quickly the "ME3's ending sucks!" contingent has devolved into parroting dogmatic mantras and endlessly linking the same 3 articles as if they prove the ending is objectively bad. There can be no room for interpretation, the only inferences about the story that can be tolerated are those that make Bioware look as stupid as possible. Oh, and of course there's a conspiracy in the media to smear their viewpoint as "entitled", as if the passive aggressive charity campaign wasn't proof enough of that.

Tragically, what should have been an opportunity for a landmark critical debate in the gaming space was instead quickly politicized. It's not that surprising in this case, given the strangely combative fandom Bioware has faced for a number of years now. It would be foolish to claim the "Ending Controversy" had no roots in the DLC controversy, the Jennifer Hepler harassment, the Dragon Age 2 review bombing, the Mass Effect 2 "streamlining" debate, etc, etc, etc. Bioware's fan community has become increasingly adversarial since at least the acquisition by EA, if not their original leap to console development.
Please hire me as your house keeper. I really need a job away from home. please
+Brad Grenz Right, because Knights of the Old Republic generated all kinds of hate for Bioware when it was released on a console.  
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