Tag Archives: mass effect

Indoctrination Theory Confirmed: Or, How I learned to Relax and Love the BioWare

I’m a latecomer, I know. I’ve been clinging to pieces of the indoctrination theory because it was the only thing that I felt could POSSIBLY excuse, let alone explain that monster of an ending.

Yes, THAT monster of an ending. Wait, no, this isn't the monstrous part. Spoilers follow, obviously.

And the more I think about it, the more everything fits. It just… takes getting used to.

I’ve seen lengthy analysis on both sides, weighed the arguments, and finally been pointed to the one last piece of evidence that I feel constitutes proof that something is legitimately weird here, and that BioWare did it on purpose. And suddenly, I realized I’ve been maddened because I’m not used to treating games the way I treat movies. But the non-interactive nature of the ending… sort of demands that treatment.

And if so… then the ending to Mass Effect 3 may well be the most legitimately amazing thing in the history of video games, and I am merely disappointed that the story seemingly ends before the best part — something I now hope will be corrected in the Extended Cut.

Before I continue, though, I will also add: I still stand with RetakeMassEffect and HoldTheLine.Com – and I refuse, categorically, to accuse anyone of disliking the ending because they ‘don’t understand it.’ Simply put: there are multiple levels to view any piece of fiction on, and this is a BIG jump to make in a series like Mass Effect. One that has never before asked us to question Shepard’s perception of reality, or our own sanity. Viewed on a surface reading, the ending makes no sense and is objectively terrible, violating many of the series primary themes and possibly condoning genocide. But I write this because I now dare to hope that there’s something behind that surface, something that is begging us to look deeper and question what we are being shown. I write because I am convinced that BioWare took a huge storytelling risk… and is now watching it backfire spectacularly, and handling it the best they can.

Indoctrination Theorists: I beg you, let the theory stand on its own merits. Present your evidence to all you wish, but accusing people of being “too linear” or “not understanding” does you no favors. In short, don’t be a dick.

Let me run through what convinced me, and see if it will do the same for you. I’ll start with the common evidence and move on from there.

1. Shepard’s dreams.

First of all, these dreams (like much of the ending) are barely interactive. There’s only one thing to do: move toward the kid, hear whispers, see shadows, hear reaper noise, watch kid burn.

We hate this child. Seriously.

I won't lie. You go through this dream sequence enough times, pretty soon you start to cheer when the kid bursts into flames. This game gave us ISSUES, man.

Shepard has three of these dreams, getting gradually worse (more shadows, more whispers from dead friends, all that rot), but they’re all basically the same except for the last one. In the final dream, Shepard sees himself embracing the child, then watches both of them burn. Not happy, nor frightened, just staring at him. And since we’re talking about character models and not actors… we have to conclude that those expressions are very deliberate (Meanwhile the look on Shepard proper’s face is much more in tune with the nightmarish nature of the scene).

Side note: it could be argued that scenes like this are where Mass Effect 3 feels the weakest, and also the least like a video game. But that would be an entirely separate issue, and since Batman: Arkham Asylum/City both did it and got away with it, I’m willing to let it slide. Let’s move on.

The first two could be mere nightmares, Shepard mourning the loss of those he couldn’t save, but this one is different. It has a distinct meaning. And given the ham-fisted symbolism here it’s hard to read it more than one way.

The obvious interpretation: embrace the child at your peril. Following this child will lead to your doom, Shepard. Take heed. This is a warning.

This, however, is just true. And a little funny.

2. The trees.

Shepard’s “unhappy place,” as I like to think of it, has very distinctive trees. These appear again as Shepard sloooooowly staggers forward toward the teleport ray (and a possible death at the hands of Marauder Shields…) after Harbinger’s beam, but not before. They had to be added deliberately.

Seriously. THOSE WERE NOT THERE. There has to be a reason for that.

One could argue that they’re simply reused art assets, but one would still have to contend with the fact that they weren’t there before Shepard was struck. Why add them unless something has changed?

Either Shepard is unconscious and dreaming, (fairly likely given the other logical inconsistencies that have been well covered by many others, such as Hackett’s radio call), or she is conscious, but hallucinating. A LOT. And lest we forget, the second game spent a LOT of time hammering home the idea that Harbinger wants Shepard alive. And right now, Shepard is right where the reapers want her.

3. Shepard’s wound.

Putting aside the questions of the pathway – how Anderson got here first, how he followed us up when there’s only one path, where The Illusive Man even comes from, why there’s still TRAFFIC on the citadel when it’s been cleared out by the Reapers… Ignoring all of that, even though it’s reasonably compelling on its own. Putting aside the question of how The Illusive Man could control Shepard without a control chip (something the game reminds you you don’t have several times, very deliberately – the plot point gets like three subplots devoted to it).

We also spend a lot of time looking at this face, which now not even a mother could love. But that isn't important yet. Keep reading.

Shepard is forced to shoot Anderson in his lower left side… then shown shortly after clutching that spot on his own side, bleeding from a fresh wound. Don’t ask for a picture here: YouTube it if you want to double check me. It’s easy to spot.

That does not happen by accident. We are shown this very deliberately. We are meant to see it and question it and think about it. It gets its own close-up, and as an old girlfriend once told me, close-ups tell the story. A close-up only happens if the filmmaker (or game designer) wants to draw your attention to a detail.

In any film, this would be an obvious sign… and since the game is at its most film-like here (annoyingly enough: separate issue entirely, as I mentioned above) we have little choice but to interpret it the same way we would in a film. Conclusion? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

4. The sudden reversal.

Oh, HAI there, creepy child from my nightmares! I instantly believe everything you say, because I find the word of a genocidal monster that preys on my subconscious implicitly trustworthy! I'll just shuffle toward my doom, now.

Suddenly, we are lifted from a setting with a few inconsistencies (but still mostly believable) to a world of seemingly utter nonsense. If taken at face value, this scene raises more questions than I can count, and the only conclusion I can draw is that it was meant to. For example?

  • Why does the AI look like the child from my dreams when I’m the only one who knows what the damn kid looks like?
  • Why am I shooting this tube?
  • Who designed this crazy thing?
  • Why didn’t they just make a big red threatening button and put a sign over it that tells me, “please don’t touch that?”
  • Why can’t I argue?
  • Why do two of the options presented – the ones this child claims are optimal – sound so incredibly STUPID?
  • Why are we suddenly pretending that controlling the reapers is a paragon action when I’ve always paragon argued against it?
  • What the HELL, space magic?!?!!?1!?!ELEVEN?1!?

And so on.

Mass Effect does not deal in “transcendent planes of existence,” – never has, probably never will, and if it was going to it damn well should have foreshadowed it somehow – so anything this illogical can only be a) completely real, poorly written, and therefore a giant waste of my time and money, or b) completely unreal, and a construct of Shepard’s mind.

It only makes sense if interpreted as a fundamentally unreal experience… and it only makes sense if you understand Indoctrination and are familiar with the two previous major villains of the series, Saren and the Illusive Man… One of whom you were reminded about when you watched him die, indoctrinated, not two minutes ago, and the other of whom you MAY have been reminded of at the same time when The Illusive Man shoots himself – just like Saren.

Side note, Saren and the Geth would be an AWESOME Mass Effect themed band.

Yes, THAT Saren.

(Unless you’re like me and you just shot TIM yourself. And who can blame you?)

The AI offers you three paths, two of which it claims are better. Control and Synthesis. Control is advocated by The Illusive Man, Anderson (who has always been someone you trust and agree with) stands for Destruction… And Synthesis was advocated by Saren in the first game. Don’t believe me? Try this quote on for size:

I’m not doing this for myself. Don’t you see, Sovreign will succeed. It is inevitable. My way is the only way any of us will survive. I’m forging an alliance between us and the Reapers, between organics and machines, and in doing so, I will save more lives than have ever existed. But you would undo my work. You would doom our entire civilization to complete annihilation, and for that, you must die.

You, the player, are meant to remember this detail and question this. Shepard cannot. There is no other logical explanation for a reversal of this magnitude.

And lest we forget, I refer you back to Shepard’s dream. Siding with the child leads to her doom.

Proof? I can offer proof.

5. The music, and the final visual cue.

Sadly, these two last warnings do not appear until it is too late to change your mind. And had I not sought video of the two endings I didn’t choose, I might never have noticed them… and the first, I still might not have caught had it not been pointed out to me.

The first one is subtle. Right before making your choice, at the end of the pathway, right as the ending goes into full cut-scene mode (AAAARGH) the music changes. And right after the change, but before the soulful piano piece that now fills so many of us with rage and sadness… There is a brief musical cue. An interlude, if you will, separate from either track.

For Control and Synthesis, this cue is identical. It includes the distinctive sound of a reaper, and is dissonant and off-putting.

For Destroy, it is almost… Hopeful. Undeniably positive.

Listen for yourself at that point in all three paths and tell me I’m wrong. It’s there, and it’s deliberate, and it’s very obvious once you’ve heard it.

Music is never accidental in a big budget game, nor in a film. If that sound is there (and it is), it is there for a purpose. It is there for you, the player, to hear… even if you’re not consciously aware of it. It had to be written, uniquely for that moment. Especially for a cut-scene or a transition like that one.

The next point is a more common one. In the Control and Synthesis endings, Shepard’s eyes take on the appearance of Saren’s or The Illusive Man’s. The eyes of someone who’s been indoctrinated. And once again, we’re given a close-up to emphasize the detail. We see Shepard’s skin pulling back to reveal the same kind of metallic substance we saw on The Illusive Man’s face minutes ago. And then, we see Shepard seemingly die.

I remind you, close-ups tell the story. They highlight details the developers want you to notice.

In destruction, those visual cues do not appear. We see Shepard’s eyes are his own. We get a close-up, again, to hammer this point home. We see Shepard idiotically walking toward the exploding tube in a very purposeful manner, and then…


For once, Illusive Man, we DO agree.

We get the same bullshit “visions of hope” in all three choices, assuming your EMS was high enough to not destroy the universe by mistake. And if your EMS is high enough, in the destroy ending… You get that ridiculous teaser of Shepard breathing in rubble that does NOT look like anything on the citadel. At all. Especially if (as some of the writers have evidently asserted) the citadel isn’t destroyed in any of the endings.

And several have pointed out that it’s possible to see EDI alive in the Red ending if she was in your final squad…

Shepard breathes that last breath only in the destroy ending… despite the child’s claims that it would kill you, as well, on the grounds that “even you are part synthetic.”

Legion's sacrifice might not have been in vain.

Explanation? Simple. The kid is lying. I mean, seriously. He’s trying to con us. Make the two endings he favors (Control, Synthesis) appear as “good” as possible by claiming that the consequences of the red ending will be dire. The Geth are incredibly sympathetic characters, and the little brat knows it. He lies to you to make you hesitate to do what you have ALWAYS known you had to do. It’s a hostage situation, and he thinks he can use the Geth as shields to protect the reapers from your wrath.

Simple fact: we have no more reason to accept his word on the consequences of our choice than we do to accept that his “solution” is better than ours, and everything about this scene is designed to make us question his statements. We, the players, have to take the step he tries to steer us away from… and yes, that includes illogically shooting the exploding glass tube.

So why won’t BioWare just admit that this is what they meant?

When asked about Indoctrination Theory, the panel at PAX refused to confirm or deny it. Jessica Merizan has also refused to refute it on the grounds of “liking literary analysis,” which honestly is probably true (and let’s not forget, she is a fan, like us, and may not have the information she’d need to officially confirm or deny it anyway. And as always, the disclaimer that her tweets represent her own opinion and should not be taken as “word of God/Dev” applies. Be nice to her. She’s cool. Seriously. Don’t make me send out the owlbears, because I will.)

But I think there may be another reason why they haven’t confirmed it – despite the plentiful and now apparent clues that it MUST be true, or something like it. Keeping in mind that this is only speculation on my part (I know, we hate that word…)


I’m glad you asked. The answer is actually pretty simple.

Because they can’t.


They literally cannot tell us that this is true without completely destroying the point.

Think about it. If the entire point was for us, the players, to come to this conclusion on our own and wrestle with the damn thing, telling us it’s true ruins the puzzle. And if the theory is true, that would go against the entire purpose of the exercise.

Of course, the problem with this defense is that even if it’s NOT true, they probably still wouldn’t tell us, because it’s too brilliant. But let’s assume, for the moment, that we’re dealing with skilled writers here, and that they actually have crafted something incredible, if VERY frustrating.

My chief frustration in all this is that I was told before buying the game that it would be the end of Shepard’s story, and that this is not an ending: it is merely the place the writers stopped writing. If all this is meant to indicate that the real ending to the story hasn’t happened yet, I want to see what happens NEXT.

But now… I’m getting the distinct impression that BioWare has changed their tune.

Repeatedly since the outcry began, we have glossed over the message of the StarGazer (mainly because we were so ANNOYED by him after that perceived clusterfish* of an ending and the call to purchase more DLC while we were still emotionally fragile. It takes a real quad to ask someone for money after you’ve just kicked them in theirs.)

*Thanks to htewing for coining that one.

That message: One more story.

Blog posts from BioWare in response to our outcry have even casually (between all the apparent PR approved doubletalk and perceived marginalization of our collective voices) suggested the possibility of both story DLC and full Mass Effect games to come, along with the quote, you haven’t seen the last of Commander Shepard.

What do we do now?

We wait. There is every possibility that the free ending DLC (The Extended Cut) will clear this issue up, or at least make the game more satisfying without having to constantly play detective. Not that I’m against playing detective, mind you, but it is getting to be a bit of a headache.

We wait. We hold the line. We keep holding out for what we really need (the REAL end to the story and the fate of our friends) and support BioWare’s staff as best we can.

For me, there can only be one option.

I am an Indoctrination Theorist: I have Seen The Ending Within The Ending, and I Want to See What Happens When Shepard Wakes Up. I have Faith in BioWare, in Commander Shepard, and in my Fellow Gamers. I Trust that BioWare will Resolve This Controversy Well and Effectively, and Address Our Concerns, and promise that When they do so I shall Sing their Praises (and probably purchase everything I can find with a Mass Effect Logo On It). Until I Am Vindicated, I Will Hold The Line.

In loving memory of Marauder Shields, the first of us to fall.

Mass Effect 3: You keep using that meme. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Okay, a word of warning: I’m a little upset right now and apt to use crude language and cruder metaphors to make my point. If either of those things bother you… well, you probably wouldn’t be on the internet. But just in case, here’s a kitten.


Can I get a 'dawwww'?

Now that that’s out of the way…

I’m going to make a very crude argument for why the “changing the ending to Mass Effect 3 would set a bad precedent for art” argument falls flat.

Well, actually I’m going to make one less crude argument first and then move on to the crude one.

First of all, random person who disagrees with me but deliberately sought me out so you could insult my intelligence and demonstrate how poor your comprehension of the entire situation is, you can’t set a precedent unless you’re the first one to do something. And this would not be the first time an ending changed because people didn’t like it. That’s what test audiences are for in the film industry. It’s why authors have their friends and editors read a book before releasing it. It’s why Bethesda released the Broken Steel DLC. ‘Art’ changes all the time. It happens any time ‘art’ intersects with ‘the desire of artists to make a living.’

So. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my ending. Prepare to... um. Wait, what?

The problem is that in this case the test audience is composed of thousands of upset fans who preordered the game expecting something with an ending that wasn’t terrible (Or genius but incomplete, depending on what you’ve been smoking this morning). Specifically, something that lived up to the promises made during the prerelease hype that made us buy the game because they sounded good

Perhaps you can understand why we’d be a little upset.

Now, it’s time for the crude argument we’ve all been waiting for, kids.

I’m going to start this off by pointing out the even more obvious problem with the argument. I’m a design student. And arguing ‘artistic integrity’ to defend something that was meant to be sold but did not satisfy a significant portion of its audience tells me that you do not understand art, either.

You want to know what one of the first things we learned in design class was?

Design is to art as sex is to masturbation. 

I kid you not. I got that straight from one of the best teachers I ever had, and let me tell you why it’s applicable now.

If you’re having sex, and your partner doesn’t like what you’re doing… you fucking change what you’re doing. You don’t whine about how that would compromise your sexual integrity or some shit like that. You compromise. You find something that will make both of you happy. You seek middle ground. And if you disagree with this point I suspect your lovers will be very unhappy. 

If you’re masturbating, of course, nobody can tell you you’re doing it wrong. 😛

Now, sometimes a designer can argue that it’s better his way and convince the client and make them happy. Sometimes the client/customer doesn’t know what they want, and it’s your job to help them see it your way. That’s fine. But BioWare hasn’t exactly gone out of their way to make a convincing argument that the ending is better how it is. And claiming ‘artistic integrity’ doesn’t cut it.

Until they do, I’m going to keep holding the line.

I’m tired of the ‘artistic’ argument. I’m tired of the ‘bittersweet’ argument. And I’m tired of dealing with people who want to assume that I’m a ‘linear’ thinker who ‘didn’t get it.’ This is the kind of argument that makes me apply Hanlon’s Razor to your comment and opt to stop dealing with you.

I welcome civil discussion, but using the same tired arguments as everyone else will get you nowhere fast. They’re just as wrong now as they were a week ago.

Lastly: I support Retake Mass Effect. I believe that BioWare has claimed repeatedly that Mass Effect is OUR story, and we should have some say in how it ends.

And if you just want to insult me, I have one thing to say to you.

Get the hell off my ship.

Mass Effect 3: Understanding the Reaper Threat

So, I had an epiphany last night while discussing Mass Effect on Twitter with a few of the awesome people from my round table review session.

Specifically, on the nature of the reapers, and why the claims of the Catalyst… might not be as far fetched as I first believed. Though I firmly believe it is lying to Shepard, I am starting to glimpse the half-truths behind those lies.

Throughout the series, the Reapers make claims such as the following:

“We are your salvation through destruction.”

“We are the ultimate result of evolution.”

“Each of us, a nation.”

“We are eternal.”

“You exist because we allow it, and you will end because we demand it.”

They claim to bring “order” to the “chaos” of the galaxy. And everywhere they go, they create brainwashed sleeper agents and mindless husks.

Mild spoilers follow:

The Catalyst (a character I am obviously no great fan of, and who I believe may be the reaper known as Harbinger in disguise) claims the reapers’ purpose is to prevent an ‘inevitable’ conflict between organics and synthetics by ‘harvesting’ organic races at the peak of their civilizations and “preserving them in reaper form.”

Now, obviously from the perspective of an organic who’d like to keep his current form, this makes no sense. But maybe it’s not completely crazy. If we pause to think about it for a second. What sort of conditions could give rise to a being with this belief system, however wrong headed and evil it might be?

I’m going to spin a theory about the origins of the “Cycle” in Mass Effect, and about the origin of the series’ ultimate villains.

This theory makes a few assumptions:

1) Indoctrination theory is true… mostly.

2) The Catalyst is telling PART of the truth, as it perceives it, but bending that truth heavily in its favor.

3) It has reasons for those perceptions, but they are still wrong.


We’ve seen how reapers are ‘born’ in Mass Effect 2. A horrifying process that transforms thousands of organics into a single massive synthetic – a reaper.

Imagine for a moment a galaxy many cycles in the past. Say, several million years or more. Perhaps even billions.

A great civilization is at the height of its existence, and gives birth to A.I. Like many sci-fi horror stories, it does not end well. A massive war ensues. By the time it nears its end, no one can remember who launched the first attack. It’s kill or be killed. Synthetic versus organic. Created versus creator.

This massive war goes on for hundreds of years. It is brutal beyond imagination. Whole species are wiped out by the synthetics. And still, it rages on. No end in sight.

Finally, one advanced species – or a small group of them, perhaps a cult of scientists – in what they realize is the twilight of their existence, has a final moment of clarity. The only way to preserve their species in any shape, any form… is to distill the essence of their species into a single massive cybernetic creature. Part organic, part synthetic, eternal, unchanging, and powerful beyond anything their time had ever seen.

And so they do it. They subject themselves deliberately to the process we witness forced on humanity in Mass Effect 2. They create what would be the first “Reaper,” – a name that would be given to them later by the future victims – their species’ last devastating answer to the threat of extinction. They embrace “ascension.” Not all are on board with this plan; many are forced into it unwillingly. But regardless, the process is – beyond all probability – successful.

Imagine for a moment the kind of horror that would motivate a species to embrace a plan like the one we witnessed as their last hope. Imagine the scar that would leave on their collective psyche. If you can comprehend that, even for a moment, you have some idea of how a reaper thinks.

This first reaper destroys the synthetics threaten its former civilization. But it has been unhinged by the process that created it. It sees itself as a godlike entity (and understandably, for what could stand against it?). It believes itself superior.

And yes, it believes that the conflict between organics and synthetics… is inevitable. It sees itself as the solution to this problem – its original mission. But its not a life form any longer. It’s a machine. Unchanging, eternal, yes, but inflexible. Rigid.

It believes that other races must be “uplifted” and become like it to stop the war with the synthetics. It believes that only it is fit to control, and that organics are inherently “chaotic” when left to their own devices. By taking control, it believes it is ‘helping’ – after a fashion. By destroying what makes them unique, what makes them alive. The first husks, the first reaper creatures are born from the remnants of its own species, and soon those of others… eventually leading up to the creation of yet another reaper. And another. And all this time, it continues the war against the synthetics as well, who are ill prepared to deal with something this powerful. Some of them, it bends to its will.

It sets about forcing this process on the remaining advanced civilizations of its time period, perhaps discovering the tricks of Indoctrination along the way. It feels few emotions, save the rage of its creators, and its own sense of pride. Its belief in its own infallibility. It believes that it was born from chaos, and brings order – no, it IS order. It believes that it must take control in order to prevent organics from destroying themselves; that destroying some civilizations is better than allowing them to spawn synthetics that could destroy ALL civilizations.

It is a product of its time. It sees the conflict that spawned it as inevitable, and communicates this same belief to its newly uplifted brethren. It believes that the most worthy races should join it in its ascended state, and that the weaker races should be culled. And it believes, yes, that organics will inevitably create synthetics and lead to the same conflict again.

(And unsurprisingly, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The reapers use synthetics in their crusade, turning them against their creators at times, manipulating organic and synthetic alike in their new purpose. We hear of this from Javik; it happened in his cycle, and this does not surprise us because the reapers used the heretic geth in the same fashion.)

And so begins the Cycle. The new breed of reapers set up the Mass Relays, the citadel, and allow civilizations to develop until they reach their height, then they arrive and destroy them, or – if they are found ‘worthy,’ – they force them to ‘ascend,’ creating new reapers to aid in their work. At first they are stealthy – they sweep in undetected, out of – perhaps – a last remaining sense of self preservation.

As their numbers grow, cycle after cycle, they become bolder. The last several cycles have all resulted in long, dragged out wars, during which the “Crucible” (whatever it really is) was devised and expanded on by the brightest races before the reapers destroyed or converted them.

The problem: the reapers logic is flawed, because it does not see the value of free will, of independent thought. It sees those aspects of organic life as problems to be solved – because it assumes that the same patterns will always repeat themselves in the chaos. At first, it sees its course as the lesser of two evils. Eventually, it sees it as the only correct course. The “solution.” It ignores the values of diversity, seeing them as problems as well.

Essentially, the reapers are a product of the environment that spawned that first reaper. But because they lose what made them ‘alive’ in favor of becoming eternal machines, they are inflexible. They are unable to consider the horrifying possibility that they might be wrong. They are motivated to preserve themselves and create more like themselves, and they are motivated to control and devour in an effort to strengthen their forces. And, as they begin to see themselves as the superior beings, they desire other creatures to see them in the same way – part of the Indoctrination process creates a sense of “superstitious awe” in some of the victims.

After that… it was simply a matter of spending a few hundred thousand years perfecting their PR campaign to the point that they fell for it themselves.

They are selfish. They are inflexible. Eternal, perhaps, but stagnant. They are domineering, with a pathological NEED for control. They are the Reapers.

(And just for the record: in MY version of events, that first reaper was Harbinger. We needed more Harbinger in ME3…)

To be clear: the reapers are wrong. Horribly, hideously wrong. But not as incomprehensible as they’d have us believe. To say I understand them is not to say I agree with their reasoning. To agree with them is to submit to indoctrination, and like Shepard, I must fight.

And the reapers MUST be destroyed if the cycle is to truly end. Any alternative presented is merely a distraction. Which leads us to the choice presented at the end of Mass Effect 3 – a choice the Indoctrination Theory would tell us is more than it appears, and simultaneously not an honest one… because the result you choose is a reflection only of whether you believe the lie you’re told.

Saren believed the Reapers could bring unity between organics and synthetics (synthesis). But organics combined with reaper technology merely create husks; they are not superior by any stretch of the imagination, except by the reaper’s definition. As tools to control, they are superior. Saren was wrong.

The Illusive Man believed that destroying the reapers would be wrong; that by controlling them, he could help humanity evolve and achieve perfection. The problem is, the reapers define perfection as themselves. The human reaper we faced in ME2 is where that line of thinking leads. He was also wrong.

Shepard has always known how the conflict with the reapers must end. The galaxy must be allowed to evolve and grow on its own, without the interference of the reaper threat.

The cycle must end.

But in the meantime, I need to finish these calibrations.

Mass Effect 3: What Does All This Mean For Gaming?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ending to Mass Effect 3. In fact, I’ve been able to think of little else. For the next week after completing it I was unable to sleep properly. Granted, about three of those days were because I’m a design student and had a lot of projects due, but part of it was definitely that ending.

That bleak, seemingly universe shattering ending.

Spoilers, obviously, but I’ll try to keep them minor.

There have been a LOT of very insightful posts on the BSN about why the ending is frustrating – posts about violating the reader/writer contract, posts about the definition of tragedy and why Mass Effect isn’t one until it abruptly ends like one in the last ten minutes, posts about the emotional connection we have with the characters and the universe…

I have a gut feeling about why the ending might be the way it is, and I’d like to share it here. But before I do, just a reminder: this blog is protected by trained owlbears, and they eat rude comments and produce sarcasm.

Sombody better give a hoot!

Do they really? I don't know, I'm not a cryptozoologist.

Anyway, on to my thoughts.

Essentially, my thought is that the problems with the ending feel very strongly of a phrase that I have come to loath as a comic book fan (and a regular viewer of Atop the Fourth Wall).

That phrase is: Editorial Mandate.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with that phrase and all its loathsome implications, editorial mandate is what happens when editors take it upon themselves to dictate the course of a story instead of, you know, doing their own job and letting the writers write.

Often it results in extraordinary levels of character derailment, world breaking changes, and large amounts of handwaving or A Wizard Did It. Or, in the case of the most loathsome Marvel offender, “it’s magic; we don’t have to explain it.”

Yes, I’m still upset about that DON’TYOUDAREJUDGEME. Ahem.

One of the problems with editorial mandate is that it often forces writers to write against their own storytelling instincts and more often than not, they really, really, REALLY don’t want to. “We need you to kill off X,” and so on. Or, in this case, maybe, just maybe (I have no proof of any of this mind you), “We want you to blow up the Mass Relays.”

It also often results in stories that are poorly written, because the writer has no real investment or ownership of the forced course of the story; he just phones it in. This happens in comics, and when it does it becomes pretty easy to pick it out from the contrast with the rest of the writers work.

See: the Ending.

Now, can I prove this? No, of course not. Heck, I’m still trying to decide if I think the ending was a giant hallucination that was intended by the writers to show Shepard fighting indoctrination (and indoctrinate US, the players, in real time). But assume for a moment that the endings were meant to be taken at face value (doubtful).

In all endings, the Mass Relays are destroyed*. The Normandy runs away from the fight*, crash lands on a garden planet*, and (improbably), characters who couldn’t possibly have been on the Normandy get out*. And in somewhere between 2 and 3 endings, Shepard dies*.

*Well, maybe.

Assuming any of that actually happens, it must have been mandated to happen. Which is INCREDIBLY annoying in an RPG that centers on player choice, because honestly, we didn’t realize we were being railroaded.

Now, the problem with all this is one little spoilery fact.

If you take the Destroy All Synthetics ending and have enough preparation, Shepard lives. Probably.

There’s a little problem with this, though.

If the weird little godling was to be believed, the Destroy ending would have killed Shepard, because, and I quote, “even you are part synthetic.” Ugh, now I have to wash out my mouth with bleach because I quoted that horrible plot contrivance. Give me a moment.


This is worse than Lost. And we were promised it wouldn’t be like Lost.

So if the god child lied about that… what else did he lie about?

And this is the part I find most annoying. Because we don’t know. And if the ending were left as is, we’d have no way of knowing. And since for most of us, the goal wasn’t so much “destroy the reapers,” as it was, “save the galaxy we’re emotionally invested in,” having an ending that refuses to answer the important questions AND fails to provide emotional resolution… well, for lack of a better word, sucks.

I was promised answers and resolution. Not a giant mind screw.

I want to believe it was all a lie… but at the same time, I don’t, because if it is, that is an incredibly mean thing to do to your players.

Now, I asked the question in the title: what does this mean for gaming?


A movement has been going on to get the ending changed. This movement, Retake Mass Effect, raised over $80000 for Child’s Play, and now supports a new charity drive, Full Paragon. There has been an amazing level of love for Mass Effect shown, and Retake Mass Effect has done a great job of keeping it (mostly) positive.

The basic thrust of the argument is this: we were not given the endings we were promised. We want BioWare to make them and provide the series with an ending it actually deserves.

Over 60000 players have voted in at least one poll, with something like 97% of them wanting the ending changed in some fashion. If this is a ‘vocal minority,’ it’s a statistically significant one.

There have been some arguing that if Retake gets the ending changed, it will “set a bad precedent.” Actually, it wouldn’t set any precedent – games have changed their endings before. What would set a bad precedent is if the fans just rolled over and took whatever a game company makes without complaint, even if it’s not what we wanted or were promised. That sets a bad precedent for capitalism.

There have also been a lot of smear pieces written by review sites like IGN, Gamasutra, and Kotaku (who apparently has writers on both sides of the issue and is chasing page views). None of these sites included the ending in their review of the game. None of them bothered doing any research on what the disgruntled gamers disliked about the ending. None of them are worth the server space they’re taking up, apparently – too busy publishing fluff opinion pieces instead of communicating the facts. Just my opinion, but hey, this is my blog. If you didn’t want my opinion, you’re in the wrong place.

Yes, I see the irony of that statement. Remember the owlbears, smartypants.

Forbes, meanwhile, has been overwhelmingly supportive of the movement (as well as well researched and insightful), and GameFront wrote an article that proved they’d done their research. Guess which one looks more important?

We have learned that we cannot trust the majority of paid reviewers, and we must instead look to our peers – our fellow gamers – and to ourselves for honest reviews.

(And yes, Angry Joe counts. The man speaks the truth. Angrily.)

And we have seen that BioWare takes us seriously. If not, there would have been no statement – even if that statement was worded oddly and could be taken as marginalizing the movement.

We were promised an announcement in April. What form that announcement will take, we have yet to see. But there is hope. Hope for awesomeness. Hope for Mass Effect.

I should go.

Mass Effect 3: Feedback is Important

Alright, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the first ever Round Table Review here at PG4D.

I’ve recently finished Mass Effect 3, and… I don’t feel my impressions by themselves would be good enough. Needless to say, there has been a lot of controversy about the game, and particularly about its ending. Fair warning to those who have not played: there will be spoilers.

But I didn’t want to talk about this alone. And I wanted to make sure that we discuss the game in its ENTIRETY, good, great, less great, bad, and ending. I don’t want to risk throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.

My impressions alone aren’t enough for me to feel that I’m being thorough. So I’ve invited a few friends to join in and give their impressions as well. I answered the same questions independently, and nobody read anyone else’s answers before hand. Though I will admit freely that we have discussed many of these factors outside of this review.

I want our honest impressions recorded. I’ve divided the interviews into three sections: the introductions, the main body of the game, and the ending itself. Pull up a chair, folks: this is a LONG one.

Let’s kick this off.


What brought you to RPG’s originally? What do you like about them?

@htewing responds:

Growing up, I was a writer and avid reader. I wasn’t popular, so I used writing as an escape. I grew up on epics like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. My first RPG (Neverwinter Nights) was an accidental stumble-upon in Walmart when I was in high school, and I loved the fact that I could craft my own personal story through the game depending on the choices I made, and thereby both make it my own and unique . . . along with taking out the day’s frustrations on inanimate pixels.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

My dad used to play RPGs in College with his buddies. So when my brother and I got old enough in his eyes he got us started with D&D. I like RPGs for a captivating story, lots of character customization options, player interactions, and combat.

@greil9 responds:

Initially I started with Final Fantasy series, mostly because I liked the fantasy setting and the battle system. For several years my whole experience with RPG was painted by games like Chrono Trigger, Pokemon and Final Fantasy. When I first heard of Mass Effect I thought “How can a shooter be an RPG?” since for me RPG meant fantasy with fireballs and abilites, usually with separate battle screen, since most of my RPG views were still from JRPGs.

When I first played DA: O, I learned how much more RPGs are with story, character and ROLEPLAYING your character. Later I bought Mass Effect 1 from Steam and 2 later when I got a PC that wasn’t a piece of shit.

@roryoconner5 responds:

A chance purchase of Final Fantasy 6. The ability to actually change things in the game and make choices, even if sometimes it’s only ‘I can’t carry any more, which of these two do I take’ level.

@xarathos responds:

I home-schooled as a kid and always saw myself as kind of an outsider… which is weird, because I actually enjoyed a small measure of popularity in high school. Regardless, like most people I liked the idea of stepping out of my shoes into those of someone greater than myself, and doing amazing things. That, and some friends who were very good at playing ‘let’s pretend’ probably led directly to my embrace of both video game and tabletop RPGs.

I played video game RPGs first, naturally, because there was no one to play D&D with. Neverwinter Nights and KoTOR, yes, but also littler ones, like Irrational Games’ squad based superhero RPG, Freedom Force (and the sequel, yes). I got into D&D in high school, and into Mass Effect as late as last summer during the Steam summer camp sale. Since that sale I’ve been a Mass Effect evangelist, basically, telling anyone who would listen how much I loved the series. I loved the character customization, but more than that, I loved the stories and the relationships between the characters. I loved the vast, detailed worlds.

How much of the Mass Effect series have you completed? Which game did you start with? Have you played other Bioware games in the past? Which ones?

@htewing responds:

All of it. Repeatedly. I didn’t become a console gamer until I was a junior in college (2 years ago) so I was rather late to the game, but after picking up 1 and 2 they easily usurped KoTOR’s top spot. I have at least 4 unique Shepards (a soldier, two vanguards, and an infiltrator) over approximately eight playthroughs of both games, all Sheps started in ME1.

As for other Bioware games, I already mentioned Neverwinter Nights and KoTOR. I also played DA:O, but not 2 or Awakening.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

I started with ME2. I then played part of ME1. I really like the story and combat of ME2. I started ME1 but because I played ME2 first I was not happy with ME1’s combat and thus didn’t finish it yet. I’ve recently played SWTOR when it came out and I have played Jade Empire. One of the things I really like about Bioware games is the story.

@greil9 responds:

I started from Mass Effect 1 and played all three, 1 and 2 twice. I also played Dragon age: Origins and 2 and played both partially again. I also tried Baldurs Gate, but I was 19 at the time and couldn’t cope with the old gameplay with tons of grind in the beginning and the UI wasn’t up to modern standards.

@roryoconner5 responds:

Mass Effect 2 and 3 several times, 2 I bought after a friend recommended I try the demo. I played a little of KOTOR when I was at a friend’s house, and I got the original Neverwinter Nights by chance.

@xarathos responds:

I’ve played through Mass Effect 2 about six times on two different computers, including NG+ at least once. I have a half finished Mass Effect game I started later, because I played ME2 first like a complete blasphemer [Editor’s note: that was a joke]. At the time, I felt very strongly that in terms of both story and gameplay, Mass Effect 2 was probably the strongest game I’d ever played (my readers on StufferShack.com will know this already). And obviously, ME3 or we wouldn’t be discussing it now.

Before that… I’ve played both KoTOR games, Jade Empire, and the original Neverwinter Nights, though I have to admit to both a) not finishing it, and b) modding the HECK out of it, because… that’s just what I did with games back then. Dragon Age as a series has been on my ‘to-do’ list since I played Mass Effect 2.

Concerning the Main Body of the Game:

For your first play through of Mass Effect 3, did you import a save from the last game, or start fresh?

@htewing responds:

I imported my first vanguard character (second Shepard created), because she had a better playthrough than my soldier (first Shep created).

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

I started fresh, just to see what that would be like.

@greil9 responds:

Imported my first save.

@roryoconner5 responds:

Imported my ME2 Infiltrator.

@xarathos responds:

Imported a save. My Shep had a few choices tweaked from ME1(Wrex alive, saved the Rachni queen, saved Kaidan, saved the council and put Anderson on it, etc: I have a friend with Genesis and started the save on his PC before moving it over) but was otherwise a standard ME2 Shep. He was also one of the few saves I’d taken through NG+, so I started ME3 at level 30. Currently, I consider him my ‘canon’ Shep.

In that vein, for your first play through: FemShep, or BroShep?

@htewing responds:

Being one of the apparently rare female ME players, I basically always play FemShep. Plus, Jennifer Hale’s voice acting is AMAZING (So’s Mark Meer, btw, I just bloody love Hale).

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

BroShep, I have a FemShep ME2 save I like but I wanted to try it fresh.

@greil9 responds:


@roryoconner5 responds:


@xarathos responds:

BroShep. I’ve played ME2 once as FemShep for the novelty.


@htewing responds:

Vanguard. Biotic charge + nova = my new best friend.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

Engineer with both the Combat Drone and Turret so I could mostly use the guns.

@greil9 responds:


@roryoconner5 responds:

Adept, because I found in the demo I’m not too bad with biotics. Sentinel second playthrough.

@xarathos responds:

Adept. Because a space wizard did it.

Preferred loadout?

@htewing responds:

Black widow sniper rifle, Disciple shotgun, Scorpion pistol.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

INDRA and Hornet, I liked the INDRA’s Assualt Rifle fire rate with its sniper rifle accuracy. I took the Hornet because I could make it light and I was getting adept at moving the mouse down when I shot to give it high accuracy.

@greil9 responds:

Sniper for most fights (Valiant or Black Widow), but I wield a pistol if out of ammo or close combat, and I prefer accuracy over rate of fire so my usual choice is Carnifex.

@roryoconner5 responds:

Tempest SMG, Predator Pistol, Argus Rifle just because I like the style of it.

@xarathos responds:

Talon heavy pistol, and either the Locust, Hornet, or N7 Hurricane SMGs, depending on circumstance. Sometimes I mix it up a little and bring an assault rifle or sniper rifle instead, but for my Adept I generally like to travel light. I’m also a big fan of the Scorpion pistol, but the Talon is by far my favorite pistol in the game.

Why? Come on. It’s a shotgun in pistol form. What’s not to love?


@htewing responds:


@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:


@greil9 responds:


@roryoconner5 responds:


@xarathos responds:

This unit is a PC. We are building a consensus.

Let’s talk technical. What would you say is your favorite change from the last two games?

@htewing responds:

Definitely the rolling in and out of cover. While Shepard occasionally doesn’t want to get into cover no matter how many times I press the A button, being able to roll or sprint between cover was a godsend.

And the background squadmate interactions, if this can go under technical. I loved opening my map after a mission and going . . . “Okay, is Javik in his cargo hold? No? He’s with . . . oh god.”

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

I like the way ME3 implemented Weapon Mods. ME 1’s weapon mods were confusing while in ME2 there weren’t any. I like the ability to customize my weapons.

@greil9 responds:

Customization. Both with more weapons and mods for them and with more choice for abilities.

@roryoconner5 responds:

I can’t say for 1, but changes from 2 to 3… mining gone, improved pathfinding (ME2 when I played recently Zaeed chose to float 3 metres in the air) and the ability to take different weapons. ME2 as the Infiltrator it always annoyed me seeing my character with the default assault rifle in cutscenes then my SMG as soon as I was actually in control.

@xarathos responds:

Better interaction with cover means dying slightly less often, so I’m all for that. The fact that it’s all on one button makes things tricky, though – I’d at least like a separate interact key.

I hate to say it, but I was actually tremendously grateful for the removal of so many hacking minigames. I wouldn’t mind one or two, but after about the third matching game in ME2 when I got the hang of it, it just got tedious.

Also, seeing the squadmates move around the ship and interact with each other? Amazing. Such a seemingly simple little touch, and it instantly upgrades them to something that much more human. No more standing around waiting for Shep to come talk to them; they have conversations with each other. They seem to have lives, more so than any other BioWare game. And that’s awesome.

Customizing guns on the new weapon bench is probably my favorite part, though. Oh. And heavy melee. 😀

This is what awesome looks like.

Anything you miss from the previous games? Explain in as much detail as you like.

@htewing responds:

I felt like there were less dialogue wheels and interrupts, but I might be wrong. Well, I’m pretty sure there were fewer interrupts.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

Squadmate Missions, because on those squadmate missions I got to know why I should care about each squadmate and a bit about their history. ME3 has a few missions that require you to bring certain squadmates but it’s not the same as a mission all about their story.

@greil9 responds:

Missions in which you can do something other than shoot like in Kasumi: Stolen Memory or Samara’s loyalty quest from ME2. The shooting feels better when it’s not all you do.

Reducing city hubs from 4 in ME2 (Citadel, Illium, Omega and Tuchancka) to only the Citadel in ME3 really reduced the feeling of exploration, which was already reduced in ME2 even though ME1s vehicle exploration were just shit.

Having a large squad. This time the squad as sized down greatly and only 2 new character of any interest (Vega wasn’t the worst character but we had little to learn about him, unlike everyone in ME2).

@roryoconner5 responds:

A few of the armor items I had didn’t port over, the multiple mission hubs so for example there’s not a peaceful base on Tuchanka that you can access whenever you want to go talk to or listen to a random NPC… second is more just I liked the variety though, you can still do that and the citadel is far larger than I ever expect. Still get lost searching for the mission NPCs sometimes.

@xarathos responds:

Side conversations that were a bit more interactive. I understand streamlining some of the conversations, but I’d like it if, say, after a side/fetch quest, I at least got to see the look on the face of the person I just helped.

Though I don’t really feel the need to have the same, “feel like talking? No? Okay,” dialog with Garrus fifty zillion times. There’s no WAY he spent all that time calibrating the guns… He’s up to something. I just know it. “Calibrations,” my ass. 🙂 So streamlining those is fine by me.

I’d make the argument that we tend to connect with Bioware games because of the characters. Who was your favorite addition to the series in the new game? Who was your favorite familiar face? If you could have picked one squadmate from a previous game to have back, who would it have been?

@htewing responds:

I. Freaking. Love. Javik. Half the time, I can’t tell if he’s being dead serious or if he’s deadpanning.

Garrus goes without mention here, but I was also (as a Raphael Sbarge fangirl) so happy to get Kaidan back (also helps that 3/4 of my Shepards romanced him in 1 and no one in 2. My infiltrator hooked up with Garrus). And then there’s Joker, who’s sort of in Garrus’ category. And Tali. And Jack. And I’m going to stop, because otherwise this is just going to turn into a recount of 90% of the previous squadmates. I was also happy to get Engineer Adams back, though, as well as Gabby & Ken.

Wrex. Because Wrex is awesome. Or Legion, because Legion was equally as awesome. At least he went out like a boss.

Also, not a squadmate, but I really wanted Rupert Gardner back. I’m not sure why. He amused me.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

EDI joining the squad because she has some great lines 🙂

Mordin, it was really nice to see Mordin again because he sings 😄

Grunt, I miss having a Krogan in my squad, James may think like a Krogan, but Grunt was awesome.

@greil9 responds:

For the new game the best addition was Javik. Partially because he was the only good one (since only Vega was a new squadmate with some personality and I don’t count EDI as a new character only because she has a body). Partially because I could learn of the Protheans, and he was an interesting character based on how he pondered how the galaxy had changed in 50000 years, and how he reacted to seeing how the world works in the modern day.

Favourite familiar face, I’d say Mordin. He was still a funny and deep character, feeling even more guilty about the genophage. He was always fun to talk with, interesting and sympathetic. Not to mention he had a new song. Too bad he never got to do experiments on the seashells.

If I could have one back, it would be Grunt. He as always a badass and even now he kept being a badass, even if he wasn’t as intriguing as before since his conflicts were already resolved. Not to mention his defining moment. Even though Mordin was my favourite returning character, Grunt is just a lot better on the battlefield.

@roryoconner5 responds:

I think favorite new character, Cortez. Familiar face would be hard to pick, it was good to see Tali, Liara, and Garrus again definitely, but the changes to some of the ME2 introduced characters interested me too. I think Wrex, good personality and I wish I actually knew more than ME2 and the backstory comic tells me about him.

@xarathos responds:

Before I answer the question directly, I want to add that this is what kept me playing BioWare games after KoTOR. Because BioWare was the only company who was able to make NPCs seem real. I tried three times to play a dark sider in KoTOR, and failed halfway through because I felt too bad for the NPCs. Apparently, I’m just not that much of a jerk.

Contrast this with how I play a game like Magicka where the NPCs are little more than scenery with lines (namely, blast everything with fire and watch it explode), and you quickly see what I mean. There’s a fundamental difference between a BioWare character and a character in, say, Fable. Namely, I wouldn’t think twice about robbing a character in Fable blind and then burning their house down for laughs (or buying it and evicting him instead). Because in Fable, they don’t seem real. It’s a testament to how good BioWare is at writing and fleshing out world details that in every one of their games I’ve played, I almost necessarily gravitate toward a more… benevolent view.

Now, to the real question.

For me it’s a toss up between EDI and Javik. Both have some exceptional dialog and both had very interesting character arcs. Plus Javik brought that cool gun with him… Hmm.

In terms of familiar faces, I came to like Liara a LOT after playing Lair of the Shadow Broker and during my first half of ME1, so having her on the squad was nice. Garrus, obviously. My favorite engineers from ME2. Tali (always). Seeing all the ones I’d helped along the way was great, too. Wrex, Mordin, Legion, Thane, Miranda, and Jack—oh, yes, Jack that crazy badass psychotic biotic. Seeing how far she’d come and knowing that it was my influence that made it possible? Priceless.

If I could have one squadmate back, it’d probably be Miranda. I just like having her around. Probably because I’m a big fan of Chuck. Yes, that must be it. It couldn’t possibly be the fan-service camera angles. No. No, of course not. :whistles:

Editors note: Yeah, it's like that every time she shows up. We think it's in her contract.

Either that or Grunt. Having a Krogan around is always fun.

Of all the squadmates, who would you describe as your Shepard’s ‘best friend?’

@htewing responds:

Out of squadmates, definitely Garrus – they’re in platonic life partner stage by now. And, non-squadmates, definitely Joker. They’ve been together for too long.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

Garrus, because of the scene where he and you shoot things and because he was in the first 2.

@greil9 responds:

Garrus Vakarian. He was there with him from the first game and they had some nice interactions and just joking around a few times. Their best moment was the shootout atop the Citadel (Which I won, guess you’re not the best sniper Garrus. No one shoots better than Greil Shepard)

@roryoconner5 responds:

Best friend… hard to pick just one, but… Joker. I Nearly said Chakwas but she’s more mother figure I think, and says so herself.

@xarathos responds:

Garrus, easily. He’s my bro. It might have been Kaidan, but his… curiosity… has made just about everything with him seem intensely… awkward… for my BroShep. Words were said that cannot be unheard.

Did you have a love interest? If so, which one? Continuing a previous romance, or starting fresh?

@htewing responds:

Kaidan Alenko. It helps that he spent the first quarter of the game shirtless. In this game and most of the others it’ll be a continued romance from one.


Editor's note: I'm just going to leave this here.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

Starting fresh with Ashley.

@greil9 responds:

I kept with Liara since the first game, though not romancing anyone new in 2 might have been because I knew I can continue Liara romance in Lair of the Shadow Broker since it was already out.

@roryoconner5 responds:

Liara, continuing from the backstory comic, through Shadow Broker all the way to the end. Resulted in some amusing conversations.


@xarathos responds:

Tali’Zorah vas Normandy. She’s adorable, and I’m a complete sucker for adorable. Continuing from ME2, of course.

I was saddened when I had to let Liara down… I felt like such a jerk. 😦 [Editors note: you monster.]

She's doing that because she saw how it ends.

Bioware games have often asked us to make hard choices. Mass Effect 3 has a lot of big choices throughout the game. What choice hit you hardest in Mass Effect 3? Was it the choice itself, or the consequences?

@htewing responds:

Letting the rachni queen go or saving Grunt. At the time, I didn’t realize that Grunt wouldn’t die if he was loyal in 2, so I had to actually pause the game for ten minutes, weigh the pros and cons, and then finally decide that the rachni queen had more potential value than Grunt. I almost cried. Then the little bastard strolled out covered in Ravager blood.

It was definitely more the consequences versus one of the characters involved. I knew helping the queen would help the war, but I really just didn’t want to lose Grunt because, come on, while he’s not as awesome as Wrex, Shep practically raised him. It’d be like leaving your kid to die while you rescued the President. Sort of.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

If you don’t import from Mass Effect 2 The Quarians force you to choose between allowing the Geth to defend themselves or letting the Quarians destroy them and take back their home world. I allowed the Geth to Defend themselves and the Quarians attack anyways. The Quarians are decimated and Tali goes and jumps off a cliff. When I chose to allow the Geth to defend themselves I didn’t realize that the Quarians would lose so many ships, I thought it would just be that annoying general if anyone and I certainly didn’t realize that Tali would jump off a cliff. I feel sorry for anyone who tries a fresh ME 3 only play through because there is no way to avoid choosing between the Geth and the Quarians you have to allow one of them to be destroyed.

@greil9 responds:

Choosing between saving the Geth or Quarians. However there was a way to save both, so I´m not sure if it counts. [Editor’s note: yes, it does.]

@roryoconner5 responds:

I’ve been replaying so might not remember some, but I think the ending first time. Thessia in second, because I knew despite what Liara felt it was my fault that happened not hers, I’d seen what would happen if I took the other choice but because I forgot in that moment… Moving on.


@xarathos responds:

Probably the choice to save the Rachni queen again, because I fully expected that Grunt wouldn’t make it. I felt such agony watching him make what I thought would be his final stand (his ‘Boramir moment,’ was how I phrased it in my head while I sobbed and exulted in how EPIC that moment was), and then he came out of the cave covered in Rachni goo and I laughed for joy. Score one for completing all my loyalty missions in ME2, I suppose.

Either that, or when I had to break Liara’s heart. I suck. 😦

In that vein, what was the most emotional moment of your playthrough?

@htewing responds:

Mordin. Solus. Primarily because he was the first death, and also because I wasn’t expecting it. And then he sang. And . . . yeah. Pause the game, sob for ten minutes, come back.

Basically all the character deaths. Thane only because it was so well-written, Legion only after I realized that he couldn’t back himself up to the geth consensus anymore and died an actual person. 😦

Oh, yeah, then there was that bit with the ending where I realized that this was how they were ending it . . .

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

I really liked Mordin’s heroic end. Mordin singing, the long elevator ride, the explosion and his noble sacrifice all make it an emotional moment especially if you know Mordin from ME 2. Again, I feel sorry for those who only play ME3 because there is no way to save Eve from dying if you didn’t get to make any choices in ME2.

@greil9 responds:

This is too hard to choose from 2 choices, so I’ll include both.

  1. Seeing Grunt charge into the Rachni reapers, thinking he would die there. The music made me feel hopeless and seeing Grunt fight on even when he lost his shotgun was just awesome, showing his true Krogan spirit. And I never thought a piano score could fit a fight scene, but these guys pulled it off. Not to mention the joy I felt when I saw him walk out of that cave alive.
  2. The peace between Geth and Quarians. Ever since learning more about the Geth from Legion in Mass Effect 2 I started seeing them as not the evil side, but as a victim. The more I learned, the more I thought “maybe I can get a peace between them in ME3”. Then it was time. At first I was hopeless since I didn’t see an option for peace. I had to go on and finally saw the option. Seeing Shepard talk them out of attacking and Legion’s sacrifice really moved me. The final closure to that came as Quarians and Geth conversed about Quarians returning to Rannoch and the final talk with Tali.

@roryoconner5 responds:

Rannoch ending… having seen the other ending online either way it can end is to me, just opposite ends of the spectrum. There were a few others but they were only emotional in such force if I went One way.

@xarathos responds:

Mordin, Thane, Legion – all get crowning moments of awesome (not to be confused with the unrelated Awesome Moment of Crowning). I cried for all of them. I cried again when Thane’s final prayer was for me. I wept on the long walk at the end when Tali said, “I wish we had more time.” So do I, Tali. So do I. And I raged and mourned for the fall of Thessia in a way that I hadn’t when the reapers came to Earth.


Positive emotional moment: seeing Rannoch. Walking on the Quarian home world, and seeing Tali there. It probably had more significance for me because of the romance subplot, but it was absolutely glorious. Hearing Tali say, “I love you,” and answering back, “Keelah Selai.” Seeing peace finally a reality between the quarians and the geth. Watching the sunrise. Perfect.

Mass Effect 3 is also filled with moments of humor. What were your favorite(s)?

@htewing responds:

Where do I begin? Wrex on Sur’Kesh. Armando Bailey. “I’m Garrus Vakarian and this is now my favorite spot on the Citadel.” Garrus immediately recalibrating the guns. Joker. Javik and Wrex. Javik and just about anyone. James’ gambling problem. Helping that pair of people in the bank only to have one go “Who was that?” (finally). The Illusive Man: “You’re in my chair.”

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

Joker and Garrus having a joke contest, especially the part when they tell jokes about each other. I also like the part where Garrus and James talk about your accomplishments in ME 1 2 and 3 as if they were their own with some help from a few friends. ^_^ Also Joker and EDI getting together and your conversations with each of them about it is a hilarious moment, especially when EDI asks Joker who’s hot between people on the Citadel.

@greil9 responds:

I’d have to say it’s Vega and Cortez talking about the vehicles of previous 2 games. Nice to see the game laugh at itself. That or Garrus and Joker telling jokes to each other.


@roryoconner5 responds:

So many on the ship, I think the ‘Emergency Induction Port’ was my favorite, followed by I think Javik and pretty much anyone… “The lizard people Evolved?”

@xarathos responds:

Many, many little moments. The entire scene with the drunken Tali, especially “Eee-meer-gen-cy in-duc-tion port.” Garrus and Joker sharing jokes from their respective races about each others militaries (“how many humans does it take to open a mass relay?”). And when Jack made her crack about how we all know Shepard can’t dance. Priceless.

And let’s not forget the “please don’t touch that,” dialog chain on Sur’Kesh. Yeah. I totally touched that. ^_^

Khalisah Bint Sinan al-Jilani of Westerlund News: punched, or unpunched?

@htewing responds:

Punched for catharsis. Game reloaded. Unpunched in legitimate playthrough.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

Punched, or at least I tried, she dodged and punched me back. I saw the Renegade interrupt and went for it. I didn’t realize how quickly the next renegade interrupt would show up. [Editor’s note: good for her!]

@greil9 responds:

Unpunched. Paragon to the end. I never harm anyone if possible (Except Anders in DA2, fuck that guy with a rusty chainsaw.)

@roryoconner5 responds:

Unpunched… though it took some effort to resist, even in ME2. Convinced myself “Save it for Cerberus”

@xarathos responds:

Unpunched. Though I did punch her the first time I played ME2 completely by accident. It just… I didn’t feel right. Again, even a character as obnoxious as that one made me feel guilt over treating her badly.

Now, punching Admiral Gerrel, THAT felt right. Threaten Tali while I’m around, and the beatings will continue until morale improves.

I know there are some people who feel there are many flaws in the game, technical and otherwise. What flaws did you notice, if any? Feel free to discuss plot holes here, or anything else that just didn’t quite add up.

@htewing responds:

While there was interaction with the squad members, I felt like there could have been more cut scenes with them.

Plot holes? Well, I see there’s an ending section . . . apart from that, I didn’t see that many, and none that were that glaring, so we can forgive.

Though, I did want more Harbinger.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

It would have been nice to actually have squadmates who use SMGs and Heavy Pistols actually using those in all cut scenes instead of sometimes using Assault Rifles or something else.

@greil9 responds:

One word for plotholes: Ending.

Technical flaws were mostly in conversations when characters would disappear for the duration of conversation. Also the game crashed twice towards the end, but with a good autosave feature it never cost me more than 5-10 minutes.

Once I found an odd glitch in multiplayer: While playing with Vanguard in the fuel station map (forgot the name) my character started stuttering up and down, also losing barriers and armor. Later on it got worse as I went higher and eventually through the roof into some kind of negative zone. There I lost health continuously and I was stuck. Seems I´m not the only one with it (according to youtube).

Sometimes the online netcode seems a bit wonky. I have a very good connection, yet sometimes I still get lag-

Some characters reasons for not joining the squad were really flimsy. I don’t think Samara even gave you one. Also the more I think about it, the less Legion’s Sacrifice makes sense: Why didn’t he just upload a copy of himself or something? I’m not sure about the technicalities, but it bothers me a little.

@roryoconner5 responds:

To be honest I didn’t notice many, but as the guy who got me to try ME2 points out, I tend to ignore flaws if I can complete something at all. 500 hours on one save in New Vegas and 300 in Skyrim without giving up due to the famed bugs of either, I’m kinda used to working around odd issues. Multiplayer had a few worth warning about, invisible turrets, enemies that bug and are only moving and killable to some of the team, not always including the host… and the odd poor soul who ends up falling through the map infinitely.

@xarathos responds:

As someone who didn’t read the books, I’m a little confused by the appointment of Councilor Udina… Or why he tried to stage a coup… And there is one minor technical issue: I keep seeing Shep and crew using the game’s default assault rifle in some of the ‘cinematic’ sequences, even though no one present uses one. Magic guns! It hurts immersion a bit, so I hope the patch team gets word about this one; that would help a lot.

And then there’s the infamous, “I was talking to joker and now my feet are stuck in the floor and I have to reload the game,” bug. 😉

All in all, though, I didn’t feel there were many flaws that jumped out at me. Certainly not the first time.

What would you consider the top five greatest strengths of Mass Effect 3?

@htewing responds:

  1. Character interactions.
  2. You feel like the decisions you make actually do something important.
  3. The storyline feels real. You can actually feel the desperation throughout the entire game.
  4. Garrus Vakarian, the Milky Way’s Batman.
  5. Character expressiveness. Why did I have to tell them about the dalatrass’ offer of support if I sabotaged the cure? Because I couldn’t stand the look of hope on Eve and Wrex’s faces.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

The ME 3 has an engaging Story, superb Character Interactions, a variety of Choices when it comes to customization of Classes & powers, a good third person shooter with Customizable weapons & armor.

@greil9 responds:

  1. The impact of story. Of course it wouldn’t have been as powerful if we didn´t know all the characters, but we did so it was all the more meaningful.
  2. Improved combat and customization (counts as one for me). Not only is Shepard more agile, but you’re given the freedom of customizing your weapons and skills. The customization in ME 1 was just rolling around numbers, which isn’t fun in a videogame. Second one took it all away, giving you max of 3 weapon per class and one customization on each skill and there were 4 skills for non-Shepard, 6 for shepard. This time they nailed it.
  3. Characters, once again. The familiar faces were a joy to see and converse with. Especially Garrus “The Calibrator” Vakarian, a Turian so damn good even an AI couldn’t beat him in calibration. However, the impact was reduced due to not introducing us to anyone new and itneresting (Vega was kind of meh).
  4. Multiplayer. When I first heard I was skeptical about whether they could pull it off. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the forced co-operation, different play-styles for all class/race combos and weapons. Not to mention unlock system made you try different things, making the experience even more enjoyable, though towards the end it just got annoying how you couldn’t unlock that one weapon or class you want.
  5. Seeing the homeworlds of all the races. So far we’ve only heard of them, but now we got to see them. The ruined civiliation of Krogan, the science laboratory of Salarians, all the different locales.

@roryoconner5 responds:

Not necessarily in order;

  • Every mission to me was interesting and featured something that set it apart from any other.
  • The fact that even minor characters (bar my favorite cook, I guess because Alliance hygiene police got him) often returned or at least were mentioned. As in apart from Gardner I can’t think of one that didn’t reappear or send a terminal message.
  • The various ways you can deal with unpleasant things in new ways (Do I blow it up, do I shoot its driver and use it to stomp his friends, do I hack it so it turns on its creators while I laugh from behind this wall…)
  • Customization, even if some armor parts from ME2 didn’t show up, the ability to customize the guns to suit a role I want, and that as long as I can use that gun, I can mod it to be as good as any other, rather than ME2 where there wasn’t really a drawback to going for the newer weapon.
  • The ability to actually legitimately Be a Paragade, rather than just a few choices then you stop getting the choice your Shep is mostly aligned towards. If I continue the third playthrough there’s going to be a higher level of ‘evil for fun and profit’ from that save.

@xarathos responds:

In no particular order:

  1. Reputation system finally lets me play Shepard as ‘mostly’ paragon (“Paragade”) without penalty. Thank the goddess.
  2. An overall narrative that USUALLY does a great job of making my choices matter, and of showing me the importance of unity, diversity, and compassion. That shows me that differences between individuals are not problems, but valuable potential solutions so long as they are bridged by understanding.
  3. If a main character is going to die, it’s best for them to go out in a Moment of Awesome. Otherwise, it’s a senseless shock death, and taking away the ability to tell stories about a character for a senseless shock death is almost never worth it. Mass Effect 3 knows this, and for the majority of its narrative upholds it perfectly. Mordin. Thane. Legion. They all feel deeply meaningful. They all feel like important sacrifices. Brilliant storytelling.
  4. On a technical level, combat is more fun than it’s ever been, and the weapons are more balanced. Any weapon is a legitimate choice if it suits your style, and all can be modded and upgraded. If you find a new weapon, switching to it isn’t mandatory. There are no ‘strict upgrades’ anymore. This is WONDERFUL. And the hybrid weapons like the Raptor and the Mattock are excellent, too.
  5. Mark Meer. His voice acting as BroShep is the best it’s ever been, and let me tell you, it’s AWESOME. He brings a depth to the role that makes the character for me. I’m not kidding when I say that I hear everything I want to be in that performance. Badassfully. 🙂

On a similar front, what about the top five greatest weaknesses?

@htewing responds:

  1. I still feel like there weren’t as many dialogue wheels and interrupts as there were before.
  2. Putting the minor quests on the galaxy map. It took me an hour to find the damn volus homeworld. I didn’t even know what system the volus were from!
  3. Shepard doesn’t always want to get into cover when I tell her to.
  4. The weapons-screen loading scanner is clever, but seriously. This is my bloody ship. I can take weapons where I want.
  5. . . . dunno, since I doubt you want me to put “The Ending” here. Uh . . . . . . . . . . all those side quests? I’m saving the galaxy, not running a courier service!

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

1) The ending is like someone else wrote it, 2) their reaper chasing minigame could have been a lot better, 3) would have like more enemy options (reapers are fun to fight the first few times but after seeing them over and over again you start to wish there was more fights with the geth), 4) nothing you can do to avert the choice between Geth and Quarians if you don’t import from Mass Effect 2 or a way to save Eve, 5) not being able to skip the animation when you travel between star clusters.

@greil9 responds:

  1. Ending. Enough said.
  2. Loss of conversation options. Not only were the normal ones reduced from 3 to 2, they also greatly reduced the amount of paragon/renegade persuations and Paragon/Renegade interrupts rarely had any effect other than giving you more points.
  3. Lack of exploration. In ME 1 it was done poorly, but it was there. In ME 2 it was taken down even more, but there was still some with city hubs and with several areas on each planet with a city hub. Now there is nothing left of it. On two planets you got more than one locale and only one city hub. Maybe it’s bigger than before, but it all looks the same unlike different locales in ME 2.
  4. The size of your squad. Why couldn´t we have the same size squad as in ME2? You can’t pull the “to get more out of the ones you have” because we got more than enough in 2, every character had their place and personality.
  5. The bad business decicions like day 1 DLC. I usually don’t count it in reviews since they should just be about the game and not any circumstances surrounding them, but I was really out of options here.

@roryoconner5 responds:

  1. The ease with which, if you don’t know a major milestone is coming up, you can lose a lot of side missions because you tried to save it all up until you needed to go back.
  2. The limited multiplayer appearance options, but that’s just due to single player squad appearances including an armor set I would’ve loved to use on my Asari online.
  3. Even if it’s just a squad AI problem, the way My powers (Grenades, warp, stasis pre-bubble) have travel time whereas if a squadmate uses the same power it’s instant. It’s useful sometimes, but when I’m trying to combine some powers, for example instant warp and instant overload has a habit of leaving the guy with just shields gone.
  4. The lack of a map sometimes… I spent half an hour searching for the way back across the map on the DLC mission before I noticed that I could just jump down and climb the other side.
  5. Still no option to watch Blasto, the first Hanar Spectre movies? Sorry, couldn’t really think of a serious 5.

@xarathos responds:

  1. Minor glitches as mentioned above: to reiterate, Shep sometimes gets stuck in the cockpit after talking to Joker or EDI. I see characters using guns they either don’t have equipped or can’t equip in some cutscenes (usually the Avenger). The last section at the end switches us to a seemingly ‘magic’ pistol that I’d never carried after the first level. Little things like that.
  2. A few unexplained oddities. Choices from previous games that don’t seem to carry forward. Udina suddenly on the counsel, for instance. I mean, I could understand if Anderson got sick of the politics and went back to the military, but it would’ve been nice to have it explained somewhere. Am I the only one who feels like there was key exposition cut from the beginning? [Spoiler: no, I’m not.]
  3. Too many fetch quests, not enough interactivity on them. A cutscene would have been nice, at least. See above. And tying them into the galaxy map so heavily… Eh. I enjoyed the combat side quests well enough, but miss some of the great side stories, like the squad loyalty missions from ME2. Jacob and Samara’s both jump to mind. Samara’s because it was non-combat, Jacob’s because it was just… very well put together.
  4. Only one hub world. I like the citadel, and it works well, but I miss having Illium or Omega to explore. I understand why we wouldn’t from a story standpoint, but…
  5. The armor system doesn’t feel any deeper than ME2, and put next to the weapons system it does feel a little boring. Granted, it’s just armor, but still.5.5 The ending. I’ll get to why below.

If you could make any one change (technical or story), what would it be? Again, we’re not talking about the ending YET.

@htewing responds:

The dialogue wheels/interrupts, as I’ve mentioned twice before.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

Allow you to do some missions, someone to talk to, or change the default choices so you aren’t railroaded into choosing between the Geth and the Quarians, also so that you don’t have to lose Eve. Otherwise,

@greil9 responds:

I would add missions with more variety. Maybe even have space combat with Normandy when encountering reapers, or maybe traveling pirates.

@roryoconner5 responds:

Technical, whatever causes those invisible turrets would be nice. Story… not about the ending, maybe make one or two extra ‘support X or Y’ type ones, there were a couple of background characters I really wish I could resolve the issues of, where it gets slightly more depressing each time you hear that it’s not changed…

@xarathos responds:

The armor system is BEGGING for more depth. I’d love to see everything pulled into the customizable armor section: blood dragon/terminus/N7 Defender/Reckoner/etc armor split into separate components and made customizable (colors, patterns) as well. Make EVERYTHING mix and match: no prebuilt armors required. Prebuilt armor could be replaced with armor presets, basically saved armor configurations – and pen the possibility of saving our own presets. Armor mods in addition to armor components (so individual pieces could be tweaked the way weapons are). Mods for the Omniblade/heavy melee. Armor pieces that can be upgraded like weapons. That sort of thing. I would LOVE this. I would throw money at this.

Throw in support for custom textures/omniblade colors, and I’d be in heaven.

And for the record, I only even notice this because the weapons system is so cool already.

The Ending: Here Thar Be Spoilers. You have been warned.

Were you satisfied with the ending? A yes/no answer here, as we’ll be discussing the reasons to follow.

@htewing responds:


@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

Yeah, no.

@greil9 responds:


@roryoconner5 responds:

In one way yes, but first playthrough and own choice, no.

@xarathos responds:

Is there a stronger word for no? No? No.

What questions do you feel the ending raises? What plot holes stand out to you, if any?

@htewing responds:

. . . um . . . 1. What the hell happens to the mass relays? Do they all explode? Is everyone dead? 2. Where are the turians and quarians going to get food? 3. How long before the collected fleet blasts the hell out of one another over lack of resources 4. So nothing I did mattered? 5. Why did you insult Joker by making him run from the battle? 6. How did Anderson beat me to the control panel when he was totally not in front of me? 7. Who the hell is that Godchild AI? 8. What’s the real reason the Reapers were created (please tell me there was one)? 9. What are the Keepers? 10. What was up with all that dark energy buildup from the last game? 11. Why couldn’t I point out that the geth are technical pacifists and thereby could cohabitate peacefully with organics? 12. What happened to all those people on the Citadel? Are they all dead? 13. Did Garrus invent teleportation or something? 14. Why would my squad have left the fight on Earth when I know damn well all of them would have fought to the death?

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

Why did the Normandy leave and why were the squadmates that I took on the final charge with the Normandy? What happens to the Earth saving force if their way home is destroyed? What did your War assets actually do? How did Anderson get on the Citadel?

@greil9 responds:


  1. Why was Joker fleeing? He is loyal and would never leave everyone else to die. Even if he did all my squadmates would force him to turn around.
  2. Even if he wanted to flee for the sake of argument, how did he get into the Mass Relay? He would have needed to get my squadmates, then get to the relay and all that before it exploded.
  3. Wouldn’t destroying all the Mass Relays cause the same kind of explosions as in “The Arrival”? That would effectively wipe out all the most populated solar systems.
  4. Even if they said “Well these explosions are different”, which is a load of bullshit, the entire Victory fleet would be stuck and couldn’t go anywhere. Earth couldn’t support them all even if it wasn´t in ruins, not to mention quarians and Turians can’t eat human food. Not to mention if someone was visiting a system with Mass Relay that has no habitable planets, they would starve slowly.

@roryoconner5 responds:

The ‘best’ ending makes me uncertain whether it was real, the rest I didn’t see why Normandy flew off. If the majority of the fleet had died fine but I saw how much was left before I made the final choice. Plot holes… I’m bad at spotting, but trusting something the reapers took control of seems silly to me.

@xarathos responds:

More questions than it answers, to put it mildly.

Why should I listen to the opinion of some AI who has just admitted that It thinks genocide is an acceptable solution to a non-existent problem? It doesn’t have a great track record: why would it be right now? Why would following in the footsteps of The Illusive Man and Saren EVER be the right path? How will all those planets who rely on other worlds for farming rebuild after the mass relays are destroyed? What happens to all those fleets orbiting Earth? Why should the Geth suffer destruction along with the reapers? Why can’t the crucible just destroy the reapers and nothing else, like it was supposed to?

And who the heck designed this thing, anyway? In continuity, I mean. Unless this machine is a manifestation of Shepard’s shattered psyche and not literally there, it makes no sense at all. I seriously found myself reacting to it in Shepard’s voice: “Wait. So this thing was designed with three completely different functions? Why? Why not just one—destroy the reapers? And what is UP with this interface? Let me get this straight. If I want to control the reapers, I’m supposed to grab those electrical looking rods until they kill me to death. Fantastic. And if I want to… I don’t know, magically make everyone part synthetic, I’m supposed to jump into a giant green laser beam of death so it can vaporize me. GREAT, I just evaded a RED laser beam of death, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by standing still. Oh, and if I want to fire the giant death gun of death and destroy the reapers like I originally intended, I fire it… by shooting that power conduit? Really? Who designs a gun to activate when you break it? What, is this one of those ancient glow sticks? Seriously, it would make WAY more sense if you’d just directed me to a big red threatening button and told me not to touch it.”

Yeah. Not an intuitive interface. Unless it’s a dream. Or indoctrination.

Plus, there’s the whole, “Joker and my squad would never abandon me,” issue with the Normandy crash… And the question of why Tali looks so hopeful without me. And the question of how long it’ll be before half of them starve to death because of being built on the wrong proteins.

If you were satisfied, why were you satisfied? If not, how do you rationalize the ending to yourself? How did it make you feel?

@htewing responds:

First I made the Doctor come in and fix everything. Then, the next morning, as I reflected back on it and did some internet searching, I stumbled across the indoctrination ending. That made everything make sense, and I was thus able to rationalize it.

Initially, I finished the game at 12:30 AM. I then youtubed the other endings, figuring I’d just picked the bad one. I ended up having to sit up and write the aforementioned Doctor fix in order to sleep. The next day, I felt pretty disconnected from everything because I was so emotionally distraught. I moved into the displeased phase rather quickly, though, primarily thanks to the fix fic and the indoctrination theory, to the point that I was able to help my one friend cope through talking through that theory as well.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

It’s all a Hallucination and Shepard isn’t actually dead.

@greil9 responds:

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@roryoconner5 responds:

On the satisfied side, Shep properly saving the galaxy. As in 5,000 odd years legacy at least of saving everything or being a badass who decided if whole species deserved to live or die…

On the unsatisfied side, it was more selfish reasons than anything for me. All the talk pre-ending with Liara, Chakwas, Garrus, etc. about settling down and retiring afterwards, little blue babies and all, and then that happens. Three choices, two of which you guaranteed die, a third where you’re going to die unless there happens to be a really determined medical team or a second Lazarus project…

@xarathos responds:

I was not satisfied. I was being asked (to my thinking) to make a largely arbitrary choice between three non-optimal solutions. Not only non-optimal, but choices that Shepard, as I knew him, would never have accepted. I was presented with, at face value, a genocidal little godling, expected to care about its opinion when I had no familiarity with it whatsoever, and to believe the word of something that just ADMITTED to being the greatest war criminal in history. And for the first time, I was not allowed to argue.

Not to mention: he just admitted to thinking that the reapers were a good idea at the time. He doesn’t exactly have a fantastic track record when it comes to deciding which solution is most optimal.


Yes, we went there.

I was forced to accept a choice that invalidated everything that made Shepard great, everything that had brought him this far in the first place, every sacrifice that his friends and allies had made along the way, every loss, every triumph…

And then, when I finally made my choice, I was treated to a few vague visuals that raised more questions than they answered, was struck by the oddness of the Normandy’s escape (see the, “why’d Joker run and how did he rescue my squad and also WHY WOULD THEY LEAVE ME BEHIND” plothole), and was annoyed to see that they didn’t even look sad that I wasn’t there with them. Add a sharp intake of breath while covered in rubble, giving me one tiny mind screw, and cut to credits. None of this gave me any sense that my choice was a good one, or even a substantially DIFFERENT one, and none of it resolved the biggest question of all: was it even worth it?

In short, I was denied the chance to feel anything, even sorrow. I was left with only frustration and pent up tension that had nowhere to go but the forums.

I found the indoctrination theory sometime after my initial shock wore off, and it makes a lot of good points. It fits the evidence far better than anything else… But the fact that it needs to exist strikes me as galling, and a number of its proponents have been less than pleasant to me.

Right now, all I’m left with is the sense that it was all for nothing. It’s bleak and nihilistic, and a bit upsetting. And it’s not what I wanted from Mass Effect.

What path did you choose: Control, Destruction, or Synthesis? What were your reasons for making this choice?

@htewing responds:

Destruction. After the Godkid AI told me that the relays would be destroyed no matter what, I knew that everyone would die. So, and I believe my exact muttered phrase was this, “F*ck it, I’m taking y’all with us, bitch.”

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

Synthesis. To be perfectly honest, it was late when I started the ending and by the time I finished it was about 6am. I was hearing blah blah 3 choices blah blah destruction, synthesis, and control blah blah if choose destruction blah will kill geth also. Blah. I had bothered at rather great expense to allow the Geth to exist, so I chose Synthesis. [Editors note: 6am is a bad time to decide the fate of the galaxy!]

@greil9 responds:

Destruction. I wanted the Reapers to be dealt with once and for all, so control was out of the question, and I was insecure about synthesis. Sacrificing the geth sucked, but I was acting on instinct like I usually do when I can’t decide in a moral choice.

@roryoconner5 responds:

First time, Control. Thought the relays breaking was only destruction due to wording, and felt ‘well if demon child is right, why not have the extinction army on our side? My life or the lives of all my friends, and LI, seemed the best choice. The relays destroyed ruined that plan though… a random planet somewhere unidentified which may or may not be through a dozen mass relays and so decades or centuries away…(source: Codex entry Mass Relays)

@xarathos responds:

Destruction. Because I couldn’t stomach the morality of control or synthesis, and I believed the Geth would rather die to defeat the Old Machines than let them continue… And as sad as it made me, I knew EDI would agree. I hated myself for making that choice, but it seriously felt like the ONLY real choice.

And the ‘Shep Breathes’/Indoctrination theory lining up with it hasn’t made me feel worse about that. But I still hate it. It’s no real choice at all. And the more I think on it, the less happy I am with it. Even if it’s a dream, it’s just… Not presented well.

List the 5 most important reasons why you did or did not like the ending.

@htewing responds:

Only five? Uh . . .

  1. Plot holes.
  2. Did not make any sense looking at the overall themes of the work and previous established canon.
  3. I didn’t get to melee the Illusive Man to death. (Minor detail)
  4. There isn’t even a chance to get a happy ending, even by working at it. I’d shell out $20 a month to up my galactic readiness on multiplayer if I thought it’d give me even that chance.
  5. Poor writing, which stuck out with how awesome the rest of the game was.5.5. My Shepards, who are all highly argumentative, don’t even get a chance to argue.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

1) The ending is inconsistent with the rest of the story and all that “let’s destroy the reapers” stuff, 2) no big boss fight like in ME 2 — I really liked that end sequence, 3) not enough or in some cases any screen time for your war assets, you see hardly any of them actually do anything, 4) No what happens to your war assets or squadmates after the ending, and worst of all 5) Shepard dies no matter what you choose.

@greil9 responds:

  1. No closure. It doesn’t really feel like you finished the story when it just kind of stops without explanation or showing what happened to everyone afterwards.
  2. GIANT plotholes mentioned above.
  3. It made no sense. So Reapers kill all advanced organics so they wouldn’t create synthetics who would kill organics. So couldn’t they just have left a note, like “Synthetics will kill you so don’t make them!” or maybe just destroyed the synthetics instead?
  4. Choices didn’t matter. Bioware always pressed how much our choices matter and they will create different endings. Yeah, they didn’t, at all.
  5. Going against several themes of the series like organics and synthetics getting along (EDI and joker, Geth and quarians), defying fate (Shepard just goes along with Starchilds choices, never questioning him, never arguing), unity of all, while keeping individuality (synthesis ending).

@roryoconner5 responds:

Leaving the entire fleet stranded, again due to mass relays. I just got the Quarians their homeworld back, and now they’re stuck… well, pretty much on the opposite side of the galaxy for one. Some of the species I got to join the fleet I’m 90% sure can’t even breathe in an earth-type atmosphere, let alone eat our food etc…

From end choice, having to destroy an entire synthetic species, and a friend, just because of some ancient beings paranoia… after creating peace with them, and giving EDI true individuality.

@xarathos responds:

Only five? Fine, I love a challenge.

  1. I hate the indoctrination theory, even though it makes sense. Because anytime I try and discuss the ending as its actually presented, I get hit with: “you don’t like it because you don’t understand it,” which is not true at all. It’s not exactly complicated, people. I followed the plot to Inception just fine.
  2. I am bored with seemingly senseless tragedy. I am bored with strange plot twists and Inceptions. I admit all this, but I want it understood that it is not my main complaint. If I merely had to deal with sorrow, I could have accepted that. If the ending were legitimately bittersweet, I could have accepted that. I admit, I WISH there was a happier epilogue. I want Shepard to get his chance at happiness. I want to see his squad digging him out of the rubble, see his loved ones crying over him if he is dead, or rejoicing at finding him alive. One way or another, I want a reason to CARE. And i don’t want to hear anyone telling me that “it needed a Sudden Downer Ending because All True Art is Angsty.” If you believe happy endings are childish, never have children.
  3. I believe we were promised ‘wildly varied endings,’ and while from a certain point of view they are… they don’t appear that way in presentation. I never feel the consequences of that last choice. And because Shepard ‘dies’ (maybe) and his squad is thrown goddess knows where, I’m separated from the only characters who could make me feel them. I want to FEEL something.
  4. No matter how I look at it, one of the consequences of an ending like this (frustration, nihilism, inevitability) is that it also destroys my sense of accomplishment for beating the game. There is no sense of victory, no closure, no clarity, and nothing to strive for. I had hoped the ending would be more like ME2’s suicide mission, with varying levels of tragedy and a sense of accomplishment for doing exceptionally well. A chance to survive, though not unscathed or without loss.With no sense of accomplishment, there is no motivation to play the game again. At least, not one to overcome the crippling sense that whatever I do, it’ll never have a better outcome than the one my last Shep got.
  5. If the ending is left unaltered, the underlying message of Mass Effect 3 is that diversity is a problem that needs to be fixed. The Geth and synthetics are different from organics, and that is the problem. The “solutions” (so-called) we are given are either a) genocide, or b) forcibly removing these differences through homogenization. The problem – we are told – isn’t intolerance of these differences. The problem is that these differences exist. That is a disgusting message, one that runs completely opposite to the entirety of the series as a whole, and indeed to the rest of Mass Effect 3! If it is left as it stands, it destroys the integrity of the series, and yes, creates a lot of justifiable anger.

When it comes down to it, did you feel like your choice mattered?

@htewing responds:

No. I feel like everything I did was in vain because, well, everyone’s dead and I picked a pretty color.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

Not really at all: it looks like almost exactly the same cinimatic, no matter which option you choose.

@greil9 responds:

They did, exactly one line you couldn’t comment on: if you saved the Geth then the Starchild said all synthetics will be destroyed “including the Geth”.

That’s how my choices mattered.

@roryoconner5 responds:

First time, I did. After seeing the other endings… I do not.

@xarathos responds:

… No, unless I subscribe to the indoctrination theory, according to which I made the sole ‘correct’ choice. And since we’re not shown the real impact on the galaxy… Still no.

How do you feel about the speculation regarding the ending – fan theories, etc? Do they make you feel better or worse? Discuss.

@htewing responds:

The indoctrination theory is probably the best one out there, and yes, I definitely agree with it. It makes me feel better as well, because even if Bioware had thought the ending would be fine as-is, they can easily fix it by rewriting an ending and releasing it as DLC along these lines.

Hell. Bioware, contact me. If you don’t know how to do it, I will write it for you. For free. Or, mostly free.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

The visual that gives me hope that what I saw wasn’t the ending is when Sheperd is in the rubble and takes a breath.

@greil9 responds:

I choose to ignore them until I have offical news from Bioware on what they’re going to do to the ending since so far we’ve got nothing but delaying our inevitable assault to their offices with torches and molotovs. [Editor’s note: he’s kidding, BioWare. We think. Also note, this response was collected prior to the most recent announcements.]

@roryoconner5 responds:

Some, Indoctrination theory and ‘might be a DLC’ make me feel better, and will do until a statement from bioware themselves… I’ve been on the bioware forums since checking the various ‘this disproves Indoc. Theory completely’ threads and so far I’ve not seen something clear and definite. The number of “Russel’s Teapot” responses are enough that if I go into space I will take a teapot just to anger all who use that rather than giving an actual answer though.

@xarathos responds:

On the one hand, the indoctrination theory is really well thought out and draws on clues within the level itself, the game as a whole, the series lore… On the other hand, some of its supporters have been kind of jerks about it. “If you don’t like the ending it’s because you don’t understand it.” <— Typical indoctrination theorist.

And if it IS true, then what we see isn’t a real ending to the story at all. And that’s just sad.

Do you feel that the ending, as currently presented and ignoring speculation, meets the criteria promised during the pre-launch hype?

@htewing responds:

No. The rest of the game, yes. The ending, absolutely not.

Well, more Reaper interaction would have been nice.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

It does not have a widely varied end based upon our choices or feel like the end of Mass Effect 3. It left me feeling that Sheperd wasn’t done. When Moridin died I felt sad that he died; but his end was massively heroic and epic. I felt that Sheperd’s supposed end was confusing at best and a compromise, not an epically heroic destruction of the Reapers.

@greil9 responds:

No. It didn’t give the conclusion we were promised, our choices didn’t matter as we were promised, Bioware just lied to us. 100% lied, no going around that.

@roryoconner5 responds:

At the moment, taking the actual ending rather than the various sub-endings which would be fine without the relays issue… No.

@xarathos responds:

Honestly? No. I wish I could say otherwise. But I was expecting something that was at least emotionally satisfying. Instead I got a bizarre twist ending that makes less sense than Lost and a prompt telling me to buy DLC – the LAST thing I wanted to think about after spending $80 sight unseen on the promise that there would be ‘varied’ endings impacted by my choices throughout the series – and that I wouldn’t be shoehorned into an “A, B, or C” end.

If you could change anything, what would you have liked to see in an ending to Mass Effect as a series, and Mass Effect 3 in particular?

@htewing responds:

I didn’t go into the game expecting a “sunshine and butterflies” ending. I went into the game expecting people to die, civilizations to be destroyed, massive destruction, and answers. I would have rathered anything to have happened that wasn’t this ending. I would have preferred a deus ex machina (Daleks, maybe?) to this ending.

What this series deserved was this: an ending that lived up to the previous writing, that tied up all loose ends as promised, and that didn’t leave me feeling like I was a worthless human being for pouring probably over 200 hours of my life into these games. I expected better writing from Bioware, I expected closure, and I certainly didn’t expect a screen asking me to buy more shit.

Hope this helps. I could go into more depth on the last question but I’m actually running a little behind this morning.

@Shad0wSTR1k3r responds:

An option that doesn’t require Sheperd’s sacrifice and gives us a movie sequence of how our choices shape the Universe and we get to see our war assets in action. I don’t want to feel like the fleet that rescued earth is going to be stuck there for a very long time.

@greil9 responds:

For one I’d like a conclusion to my decicions. I don’t care if it’s just DA: O style textbox as long as I know my choices mattered. Maybe even let me visit all the planets myself.

Second maybe it´s best to leave Reapers origin and motivation unknown with just their cryptic messages and speculation. We remember what happened in The Matrix: Reloaded and ME3 did the exact same thing: introduce some bullshit new character who suddenly created the villains for some bullshit reason.


@roryoconner5 responds:

If Shepard has to die/be near death, at least don’t condemn every force that followed him/her to slowly travelling home for tens or hundreds of years, and that’s assuming that every ship has FTL drive.

The Quarians just got their home back, any remaining civilians on Palaven, Tuchanka, Thessia, and every other homeworld of some entire species Shepard pulled into the war left not even knowing if anyone survived, as the codex goes on about All communications going through the relays so there’s minimal delay between transmission and receiving…

Trying not to dwell on all the people on the Citadel… Any and all essential forces who were left to hold X War asset during the battle, some of which were in systems totally uninhabited except for the planet that’s on. Thinking of the side mission on Cyone where that N7 squad stayed behind to guard the factories, and pretty much any world which relied on Mass Relay based trade for food or materials to produce things.

The Normandy crashing regardless… the war assets were high enough that random Hammer forces didn’t get hurt, yet the most expensive ship in the alliance navy does?

Plus the whole stuff about Arrival’s mass relay, which at low war assets would indeed be the case based on the vids for Destroy.

@xarathos responds:

Something that honors the following themes:

  1. Strength comes from unity of diverse species and people brought together for a purpose. This includes organics and synthetics alike. Both are important, both are necessary. This has been hammered into us for 3 games, and I don’t want to see it tossed aside.
  2. Overcoming impossible odds is possible, but hard and often costly.
  3. Shepard, specifically, can do the impossible because of these strengths.
  4. The reapers are an unfathomable Evil with a Capital E.
  5. We care about the people we fought with, not some grandfather and his child hundreds of years later. We want to know it was worth it.

I want to argue with the catalyst AI. I want to prove it wrong. And then I want the chance to win or lose on the heroic plane.

I would also like to see ending possibilities that run the gamut from happy to bittersweet to downright tragic. And the current endings… Well, they should be presented better, but they should be included in that spectrum. All endings should offer closure and emotional resolution. Resolution that shows that yes, we accomplished what we set out to do. We saved the galaxy we cared about.


And there you have it.

BioWare has issued a statement since these interviews were collected indicating that they are open to the possibility of changing the ending, and that they’ll be announcing specifics in April. Until then, they are collecting constructive feedback.

My honest impression? Look, it’s a great game. Except for the ending. If that’s acceptable to you, jump in. The journey is fantastic, and the setting is as wonderful as it’s always been… but unless the ending changes, you might not want to finish it more than once. On the plus side, the multiplayer is very fun, so if that’s something that will motivate you, great. This is the warning official review sites will not give you. This is the truth.

If/when the ending is changed and my issues are resolved in some fashion, my final recommendation will change with it.

If I can spin a theory for a moment before I depart. There has been a tonal shift from BioWare with regard to Mass Effect 3 and its place in the series. Originally, we were told this would be the end for Shepard. That this was “the end of Shepard’s story.” Now, in response to this backlash, we are hearing, “This is not the last you’ll see of Commander Shepard.” To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of that yet.

I guess we’ll see in April. BioWare, I look forward to seeing what you can do to fix this. I know you can find a way. You’ve built an amazing game. We just want it to have an ending to match.

Also, I want to issue a personal thanks to Jessica Merizan, BioWare’s community manager, who helped me talk through some of my initial reaction to the ending. While it didn’t strictly make me feel better about the ending itself, it helped me see why I was really upset. She’s a great person, and a credit to BioWare.

I’d also like to thank Marauder Shields.

Mass Effect: What I Learned From It


It’s been awhile since I seriously gave thought to gaming in a sci-fi world, and I’m starting to think I was missing out.

Mass Effect has just about the coolest setting I’ve seen since George Lucas killed Star Wars, and I can’t seem to get enough of it. It has, as I’ve mentioned, even reached the point where I’ve agreed to run a one-shot game session based on the Mass Effect setting ported to Mutants and Masterminds.

Why Mutants and Masterminds? Because I like it, that’s why. Okay, fine, there’s more to it than that, but let’s just say that even though it’s a bit of a departure from the default assumptions of the system, I feel like it bends very effectively in that direction.

Plus at this point it’s either that or Fate, and I’ve never done anything with Fate. Most of my players are at least passingly familiar with d20, so it’s better for me to stick with that.

And having looked at the combat system again, I’ve found it extremely robust. I will, however, be doing something I wouldn’t do in a 4 color superheroic setting; I’ll be using a tactical map and miniatures.

What the game itself has taught me I shall put below:

  • Mind your surroundings.

Mass Effect is a sci-fi world with guns, powered armor, and “biotic” abilities (which here basically means space magic. IN SPACE). The presence of automatic weapons makes cover a very important consideration for survival, something that every D&D game I’ve ever been in has basically ignored. I’m tempted to make this translate to a universal rule that all characters are defensively undercapped and thus need cover to compensate, but we’ll see how that works when I get to actually making the character pregens.

Either way, it’s forced me to make note of the rules for cover (as well as the rules for automatic weapons) and commit both to memory.

Additionally, Mass Effect forces you to pay attention to the other elements in the environment – whether cover is fragile and could be destroyed by a dedicated foe. Whether those barrels are filled with something explosive. Can your biotic abilities knock the enemy off the ledge? Despite its relatively linear nature, the game is full of questions like this. Questions that can mean the difference between life and being filled with bullets.

Characters who ignore this important point will undoubtedly be filled with bullets. (The characters. Not the players.)

  • No man is an army (except maybe Shepard): OR, the importance of teamwork.

In Mass Effect, you have tech, biotic, and combat focused characters. Each have abilities that are more or less useful in certain situations, but teammates are there to help cover your weak points. In general, it’s a good idea to have a variety of abilities covered since you don’t know what you’ll be facing ahead of time.

Well, that translates PERFECTLY to tabletop RPG conventions, doesn’t it?

  • Aliens ROCK.

The thing I’m really enjoying about Mass Effect 2 (never got to play the first game, sadly, but looking forward to the third) as a sci-fi fan is the in depth alien races, with their histories, cultures, evolutionary commentary, and so on. And thankfully, most of them DON’T suffer from the issues that plagued Star Trek and Star Wars way back when… or that is to say, most of them don’t look like humans in makeup (some of them, maybe, but not all). There’s a lot of really impressive information in the in-game codex as well as on the Mass Effect Wiki.

The best part, though, is that the vast majority of the alien races are just plain COOL. Not in a, “humans suck by comparison,” sense of cool, but in a, “unique and different in an intriguing way,” sense. Their characters are compelling enough that the fact that they look different isn’t a big deal. At least not to Shepard.

Granted, a few of them are just distressingly alien, but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? This isn’t a horror story in space… well, most of the time. I shall say no more to avoid spoilers.

  • No one worries if you’re on rails when you’re on the train to Awesomeville.

Like I said, Mass Effect 2 has its moments where it feels a little linear (in missions, to be exact) but the linear plot doesn’t matter too much when you sit back and realize that it’s AWESOME. Besides, a few linear missions in the context of a larger game where it feels like you’re in a living breathing galaxy where your actions MATTER? I can handle that.

  • An overwhelming threat is a powerful unifying force.

Sauron. The Borg. Magog. The Reapers. They all have one thing in common: they are powerful, almost elemental foes that are designed to terrify the lesser races and push all our horror buttons. The Reaper Threat is very real, and it’s going to take more than just humanity to overcome it. Thus providing  a solid motivating force for our group of heroes.

I’ll write more about the setting and lore later on, and throw in some character writeups when I have them finished. Enjoy!

In Hindsight

I needn’t have bothered. Our one other player dropped out that night, too, so there was no rpg to be had.

On the other hand, I have a new line of thinking based on a recent realization: Mass Effect is pretty wonderful, and with a few tweaks here and there it would make a pretty awesome basis for a good sci-fi pen and paper game.

I wonder if it’s worth thinking about.

The other sci-fi project I have on the brain is my take on Star Wars – because every sci-fi nerd HAS to one day answer the question, “knowing what you know now, is there anything about the Star Wars universe that you would have created differently (aside from the really obvious part about Midicholorians never existing)?” Of course bearing in mind once again that to my way of thinking, Star Wars isn’t sci-fi at all – it’s fantasy set against a sci-fi backdrop.

Right now, though, I’m really satisfied with Mass Effect 2. What a wonderful Space Opera … so much fun.