Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut: Opinions
So, the Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3 has arrived, and it was pretty good.
Mostly. Kind of. Sort of.
Before we delve into things, it should be said that this article will be spoiler-tastic. I’m not going to lay out each ending beat by beat; not only would that be dull as dishwater, but it’s also what Youtube is for. Still, here be spoilers. Abandon all hope, and so on. You know where the door is.
Over on The Penny Arcade Report, Sophie Prell sums the whole thing up quite nicely: “The Extended Cut DLC does fill many of the plot holes, and in that regard it is more satisfying. That being said, the holes are still there.”
“More satisfying.” I was honestly tempted to shorten this article down to those two words and leave it at that, simply because they say an awful lot in a little space, and quite accurately sum up the experience.
It’s probable that Bioware were never going to make an ending for Mass Effect that was going to please everyone. More than likely, people have invested so much time and effort into their version of Commander Shepard and the universe around her/him for any ending to give them the resolution and closure that they expect.
Onto the endings themselves then. You still have the three main choices – Destroy, Control, or Synthesis. Yes, they’re still color coded. This time around, Bioware have also added a fourth choice: the option to not choose. Shepard can reject the three options presented by the AI/Starchild/Reapermind and instead choose to find another way. It fails, of course – the Reapers outnumber and outgun every civilisation combined – but it’s an ending that’s not entirely without a sense of hope, which is pleasing in that it’s consistent with the game’s internal logic, what little there is of it. I won’t spoil that one for you though.
The DLC provides extensions to each of the original three endings, alongside clarifying the choices that lead to each one.
It also fills in some of the aforementioned plot holes, such as where the Normandy was and why, and what happens to Shepard’s team before the final assault. These points are well handled and fairly logical. They’re even touchingly romantic – my Shepard romanced Liara throughout the series, and they have an emotional goodbye just before the end, made all the more powerful because of its brevity.
The main three endings are unchanged at their heart. What has changed is that the reasoning behind them and their after effects are laid out much more clearly, with the enormity of each decision made plain for you. This is done through exposition from the AI/Starchild/Reapermind before you make the choice, and through the new material.
The “synthesis” ending, which tends to be regarded as the “best’” ending, has the enormous implications behind it recognized. You’re quite literally changing the fate of the entire galaxy and altering the path of evolution for every organic and synthetic creature in it.
The “destroy” ending leaves you with no doubt that you will eradicate the Reapers, but also wipe out a race that may or may not have been an ally, and place another one at a serious disadvantage.
The “control” ending benefits the most from the new material. You get a glimpse of what it means for Shepard to give up his or her humanity to control the Reapers and give them a purpose other than destruction. The immensity of this responsibility and power are hinted at as well.
That new material mostly takes the form of new audio, explaining the fallout of Shepard’s decision, spoken mostly by Lance Henriksen, who voices Admiral Hackett. It’s not restricted to him, with Tricia Helfer as EDI and your romance partner (if any) getting a look-in as well. There are some small cinematics, again filling some of the plot holes left behind by the original endings, and there’s a slideshow of images which hints at the future of the races you chose to save or condemn.
It’s the slideshow that I think will be the most-cited example of why these new endings still aren’t enough to appease some of the “hardcore” fans. In the end, Bioware are boiling down 100+ hours of gametime to around 15 minutes of exposition and cinematics, especially when much of if is reused for each ending. The slideshow in particular appears much the same, with only a color tinge added for the “synthesis” ending.
Someone somewhere is going to be disappointed, because there’s no way you can address every single decision made in those 100+ hours to everyone’s satisfaction. Unless you want to go down the Hideo Mishima route and start adding in 45-minute cutscenes, and then you’re just getting yourself into a whole new world of complaints.
There still a legion (ahoho) of questions that are not addressed, not least of which is the central issue that I and many others have; the questionable logic of creating artificial life (the Reapers) to kill organic life before they create artificial life which inevitably kill organic life. The word “inevitable” is chucked around so liberally by the AI/Starchild/Reapermind that I’m tempted to quite The Princess Bride. A smarter person than I would claim the existence of tautological thinking here, but I don’t have the education to back that claim up. There’s also still the fact that your actions throughout the series still feel meaningless outside of a handful of statistics in the war room.
All told, there’s a wealth of new content here for the shiny price of bugger all, so it’s churlish to complain too much about the quality. More than one person on both sides of this debate has argued that Bioware shouldn’t have added a thing; that the game, as a piece of art, should not be tampered with once it’s finished. There’s some sense in that argument, and were we simply talking about a well-crafted ending which answered questions and resolved plotlines but (for example) killed off major characters, I’d agree. But that’s not the case. The original endings left far too much unresolved, relying on the audience inferring too much from too little information which ultimately made the endings not just unsatisfying, but confusing and unclear.
It seems to confirm a suspicion that I’ve had for a while now. Bioware are great at telling stories, they’re just not so good at ending them. If you can’t be bothered downloading and sitting through the last part of Mass Effect 3 again, Youtube user Ladyinsanity has a full series of videos up which show each all of the new content, endings and even the farewell scenes with the various romance options. You should probably keep a hankie ready for that last part.
All images via Bioware.
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