I Really Didn’t Need Those New Mass Effect 3 Endings [Spoilers]

I Really Didn’t Need Those New Mass Effect 3 Endings [Spoilers]

SPOILERS AHEAD. I loved the Mass Effect 3 ending the way it was two weeks ago. It’s a shame that many Mass Effect 3 fans didn’t feel the same way.

Editor’s Note: What follows are thoughts on the ending of Mass Effect 3, both before and after the newly released Extended Cut DLC. Needless to say, there will be spoilers. If you haven’t finished Mass Effect 3 yet, you should probably stop reading now.

I loved the Mass Effect 3 ending the way it was two weeks ago. It’s a shame that many Mass Effect 3 fans didn’t feel the same way.

My Commander Shepard fought to the Citadel and, after talking to the Catalyst, I spent an agonizing time — 10 minutes? 15? An eternity? — making my decision. As much as I wanted to destroy the Reapers, I finally settled on the Control ending because the idea of self-sacrifice and turning the giant war machines to a greater good appealed to me.

Sure, I had questions about the fate of the individual races I’d united to fight against the malevolent synthetics. But, if I learned anything over the course of playing through 180 some-odd hours over three games, it was that humans, Asari, Salarians and other races in the Mass Effect universe would figure out their own fates one way or another. Yeah, they needed me, but only so much. The series lore excelled at establishing the idea that these cultures had existed long before Shepard burst onto the cosmic scene. They’d probably continue in the same way. I liked not knowing whether the Krogan would try to subjugate the galaxy again and wondered at the hazy maybes of future Quarian/Geth relations.

But then the Extended Cut came.

The whole reason the Extended Cut exists is because a very vocal group of Mass Effect 3 players felt like they didn’t get enough. Not enough closure, not enough explanation and, probably, not enough emotion. Bioware listened to them and went to work on an expansion to Mass Effect 3‘s finale.

The Extended Cut doesn’t spell everything out, mind you. But it does spell out too much. If you hated the Catalyst’s Space Child persona, you’re going to hate it even more after he keeps on just talking and talking. And if you liked his slightly petulant dismissiveness — like I did — then you’re also going to hate him more. Making the Catalyst explain things brings him down to earth, the last thing a machine god needs to have happen to him.

Now, I have my own personal feelings about each ending thread. For me, the Destroy decision is reductive and jingoistic. It turns Shepard into a hero for only organic life and leaves the cruelest fate for EDI and the other artificial sentient lifeforms that once fought by his/her side.

Control is the most Christ-like, reminiscent of the assumptions and ascensions from classical mythologies. The human form is left behind for something more celestial and a higher ideal gets achieved for the good of those still bound to earth. And Synthesis shines as a beacon of co-operation where a true peace gets formed out of formerly incompatible ways of life find a way to combine. Refusal is just… ornery.


It’s those meanings — the metaphorical ones that stand apart from the game’s plot points and story logic — matter most to me. And the power of those metaphors is exactly what gets lessened by all the explication in the Extended Cut. I already understood all of that imagery from the game’s three different endings. And anything that I still had questions about, I could answer myself. If that wasn’t enough, I could talk to friends and co-workers. Or, I could just live with having some questions unanswered. The universe is like that sometimes.

I didn’t need to explicitly see my Shepard’s tearful parting with his love interest Liara. I already knew they loved each other. Destiny tears them apart and that’s tragic enough. The new goodbye scene works but it isn’t necessary. Likewise for the Shepard narration in the Control ending. I felt like my ME3 avatar was more godlike and unknowable in that scenario before I got the skinny on his post-corporeal existence. I knew that the consciousness of Evan Shepard was doing good after taking control. That was the way I played him, after all.

To me, the Mass Effect games form an allegory about societal change. BioWare’s triptych of titles explores what happens when different civilizations encounter, ally and subjugate each other. Taken all together, Mass Effect1, 2 and 3 act as a fable about culture clash, how much we matter to each other and how those relations impact the universe. And, as befits a symbolic story, there’s tons of room for players to interpret and imagine the little side stories and divergences in a fictional construct. The Extended Cut crowds out some of that ideaspace with a bunch of detail that, I’d argue, the game never needed.


All the elucidation undercuts Mass Effect‘s best theme, too. The idea of cosmicism — that we exist in a universe that’s essentially indifferent to us — comes across better in the original ending. There, the Catalyst speaks to Shepard as if he doesn’t care whether your character understands or not. This cycle is as it always has been and now that you’ve broken it, you have a choice to make. That’s all you really need to know.

Look at how the expansion’s extra dialogue also chips away at the shock, wonderment and awe of encountering the Catalyst. Before I felt like I was meeting a god. Now, I’m meeting a construct, built somewhere by someone at some time. It’s the same thing but all the explaining changes the context, making it more knowable and less thrilling.

I can’t help but feel that other players forced this diluted ending on me. They didn’t get what they wanted and now I get something that I don’t want. Before, I had an ending that felt like its creators respected my intelligence enough to trust me to fill in the blanks. Now, it’s swollen with info dumps. As the Catalyst says in Mass Effect 3‘s endgame, “it is now in your power to destroy us.” Now, an ending that, for me, felt just a little lyrical and poetic comes across as unnecessarily bloated and just a little bit destroyed. Who needs a slideshow when the scenes in your head are probably so much better?


  • I’m happy to kick off the debate here:

    Do you guys actually listen to a word we say? A quite large portion of the people weren’t complaining because the ending didn’t explain enough. We complained that the ending sucked and was a copout.

    The computer child was there, invalidating all of the effort put in during the last 2.9 games that we played. I didn’t want what they gave me in the extended cut… I just wanted to unsee that shit they gave us originally.

    Now you are whining that YOUR ending had been diluted. Well at least you can remove the DLC and get back what made you happy. I have to live with a shit ending either way.

          • Yes. Look, the glaring issue with the ending of the game is the idea that synthetic kill all biologicals to prevent other synthetics killing all biologicals… Um… Think about it for a bit. Are they serious? That was the best the writers could come up with?

            It doesn’t matter. Im done with Bioware.

    • exactly this. The large majority of people who defended the endings, did not address ANY of the issues raised by those that complained about them. Their defense of the original endings for the most part is essentially “I didn’t pay any attention to the story or the lore, and I like explosions. Wheeee shiny”

      • Aww good on ya. If you use that funny thing between your ears you could piece together a hell of a lot of what happened. The glaring stuff ups were all addressed in the DLC.

        If you are a real fan then you would be pissed that BW and EA got rid of the Dark Energy story line from the game. Or, if you were a real fan of the franchise you would still enjoy it regardless of a 15 minute ending.

  • Well i for one actually like the extended endings. the issue i had with the first ending was that it didnt explain enough. i had dedicated hours towards a game series that i love and then it just ended with no conclusion.

    The extended endings bring what i wanted, a glimpse of the galaxy after the reapers were bested and a look at your crew.

    I am happy 😀

    • I agree! Though I was confused about the memorial thing for shep, because I still got the Shep Lives teaser thing at the end.

      • Unlike the other endings, in the destroy ending we don’t see Shepard’s name being placed on the memorial wall. Then it cuts to Shepard breathing.

        It’s sort of annoying to me that the most peaceful ending (green) ends with Shepard’s death whereas the most violent and least survivable scenatio (red) ends in him surviving. I get that Shepard is meant to be martyr in the green ending (and completes the nauseating Shepard = Shepherd = Jesus metaphor) but it just doesn’t work for me.

        I also would have preferred it if instead of becoming a Reaper in the control ending, Shepard actually succeeded the Star Child and became an intangible, omnipotent and omniscient force.

        Overall I actually like the reject ending the most because it feels like a big f you to Bioware’s original ending. Oh, and I still have no clue why the cycle of destruction existed when synthesis was an option and the Star Child clearly had no regard for free will and shouldn’t have had any objections to making that choice for organics. I’d like to see Evan Narcisse explain that one.

  • The extended cut fixed it for me and i hated the original endings!! 😉 and i Really hated the original endings. Destroy is Justice.

  • I didn’t feel like I was meeting a god when my Shep bumped into the Starbaby, I felt like I had just bumped into the End-o-Tronic: a wonderful machine that allows you to neatly wrap up your story in just one press of a button! It was the same mistake Deus Ex: Human Revolution made and it left a bad taste.

    • Was thinking exactly the same thing last night, it is sad that such strong games have such shallow not thought out endings.

    • Agreed. I immediately thought of DE:HR when I got to the end. An abrupt ending would not have bothered me if the endgame was of any substance.

    • i couldn’t kill her again. not after them making me even more guilty with the EC. i chose control, at least shep lives on in some form helping those in need.

  • “I can’t help but feel that other players forced this diluted ending on me. They didn’t get what they wanted and now I get something that I don’t want.”

    It’s downloadable content. You weren’t exactly forced at gunpoint by Bioware to go and download it. If you were satisfied with the ending you had, why would you download this? You could always have just looked at the extra content on youtube, or even on this site, really.

    Personally I’m glad they fleshed out the Catalyst. Meeting him in the original ending didn’t fill me with awe or give me a sense that the galaxy was bigger than I could possibly imagine, it left me annoyed that this thing was telling me what to do in the vaguest way possible. Now it’s a lot clearer, and I’m thankful for that.

  • I still don’t get how the Normandy was travelling through the mass effect whilst the biggest battle of the entire series was being fought – and how my companions on the last mission somehow ended up on it.

    Other than that – the endings made more sense than before and removed that whole argument that those who didn’t like it, couldn’t grasp the subtle hints that Shep had been indoctrinated.

    • Extended Cut Endings plug those two plot holes. The fleets are ordered to pull out to avoid the crucible blast and the normandy performs an evac on your crew members outside the conduit (no idea how but w/e roll with it)

    • The ending is impressive because it shows that decent writing for three games can go out the window with the conclusion to the trilogy. It’s clear now with the extended cut that bioware did not intend or revised the indoctination ending at some point and it was the poor writing and perhaps rushed development that is responsible for the terrible ME3 ending.

  • You’re all whiny morons. Could not agree more with this article. What was so shit about the ending? Honestly it made sense, don’t you get that Shephard just didn’t stand a chance against the reapers from day one? Lucky had a chance to make a choice at all rather than just die. Honestly bioware has crafted 3 awesome amazing pieces of entertainment for you, poured their souls into the fiction and then even dumbed down THEIR ending to try and please you and all you can do is bitch and whine because YOU didn’t like the way they ended THEIR game, it belongs to bioware not the consumer, write your own god damn fan fiction ending where shephard lives hapilly ever after with rainbows and kittens if you must. However you don’t decide how the trilogy ends self entitled jerk offs, will you butthurt nerds get over it already?

    • No. You are wrong. The original Endings did not make sense. The Extended Cut Endings plug some of those plot holes so at least the new ending is functional if not brilliant.

      Lets let this discussion die please? Its over.

    • Every time I hear someone use the term self-entitled with regards to a product that was actually paid for, I immediately ignore everything else they say and assume they an idiot.

    • Your sounding a lot more pissed off then anyone here. This DLC was totally optional, it literally has no effect on your life but you must be a really sad person that gets this frustrated over people voicing their opinions about how crappy a games ending was. No one demanded anything, Bioware chose to create the DLC to try and save their fanbase, after palming off some half-witted, plot-hole ridden crap on them.

    • I hated the original endings but liked the new ones. It wasn’t what I WANTED but I’m satisfied with them.

      Also, you’re a nerd too. You’re playing a video game, so you’re a nerd and you don’t get to call other people nerds as if it’s a derogatory thing. You don’t get to be a hypocrite.

  • With respect, perhaps instead the author of this article should have been given a list of indicative bullet points rather than the whole game, since any literal telling of the story and its main themes chafes on his love for reading into the implications.

  • “The whole reason the Extended Cut exists is because a very vocal group of Mass Effect 3 players felt like they didn’t get enough. Not enough closure, not enough explanation and, probably, not enough emotion. Bioware listened to them and went to work on an expansion to Mass Effect 3‘s finale.”

    hahaha. Oh My.
    Wrong. The vocal community complained the endings sucked, made no sense and ruined a franchise. You already said you were a fan of the endings, but dont try and front and lie about the response from people who just might have missed the original dismissal of said poor endings.

  • The ‘destroy’ ending is the one which can lead into a potential sequel. Reapers are dead, tec remains (although damaged, but is stated it can be repaired) and Sheppard still takes a breath at the end.

  • Here’s an idea, the AI controlling the reapers is on the citadel. So ummm blow up the citadel? Or better yet people have lived on this thing for thousands of years and no one found this out? Better yet Reapers were the solution to ending conflicts between organics and synthetics at the basic level, I don’t remember anyone ever saying once that synthetics existed during the prothean’s cycle. I feel that if they had just made the crucible and catalyst just a massive reaper destroying weapon (NO stupid friggin kid made of electricity involved) it would have made for a better ending. Plus it would allow all the choices you made throughout the gameplay of series to oh I dont know MATTER! Seriously throw some cutscenes at the end like, the Geth and Quarians lived happily ever after, things like that. To the author of this article; the endings were not some great in depth “let’s sit back and theorize on the meaning of existence” idea. Anyone can see whoever the writers were for it simply went with easiest thing they could think of to tie everything together.

  • I suppose the endings were better 2 weeks ago, simply by virtue of the indoctrination theory still being more plausible.

  • “I Really Didn’t Need Those New Mass Effect 3 Endings [Spoilers]”

    SO DON’T GET THE DLC! SOLVED! *facepalm*

  • I don’t really see how you can honestly say that the best theme of the Mass Effect franchise was cosmicism, and that the ending(s), of all things, supports this. The ending is a subversion of any sense of cosmicism built up in the first two games. Cosmicism rejects the idea of the benevolent divine, yet we have a godly being who is here to help us. The god exists, and it is not indifferent. It and its goals are not even incompressible (though its methods certainly are). Cosmicism says that humans are not special, but Shepard’s journey, the fact that the god s/he encounters offers them a choice, says that humans are. The actions of humans have consequences, important ones. More broadly speaking, cosmicism tends to involve nihilism, yet we have entire story arcs within the game affirming the importance and sanctity of life, whatever form it takes.

    I didn’t like the endings, not because of closure reasons, not because I didn’t get enough explanation or emotion, but because they were not a culmination of the narrative and the underlying themes of the series – at least as I saw them. If the endings are a subversion of cosmicism, than they are also an outright rejection of the other themes evidenced (more clearly) throughout – strength through diversity, hope against impossible odds, the importance of choice the corruption of power, and more.

  • Thank god somebody finally said it. The original ending was probably my favourite ending to any video game I’ve played. Except perhaps for Lufia 2.

  • The only thing that explained with the “Extended Cut” was that your crew was ordered away from the beacon and that Joker was ALSO ordered away from the fleet. THAT is ALL that was explained. If you had a relationship with someone then you knew that person (in the game) would be upset over you “dying”. That didn’t nor does it need to be explained.

    One of the problems with the original ending was A.) Why did the Mass Relays explode and how did everything in that terminal system survive? Which in Mass Effect 2: Arrival we found out that if a Mass Relay was destroyed, everything in said system was also destroyed. B.) If the Relays were destroyed then how would anyone get home? The Relays were the only thing connecting the universe together. They tried to say they were just “damaged” in the Extended Cut, but them blowing up doesn’t look like they were just damaged to me. There are still things left up in the air. I personally picked the destroy option again, but I really did like the touch they put in where you can choice to pick nothing. Then have Liara become the beacon. That was personally my favorite and to be all honest, it was an ACTUALLY ending.

    I really wish that BioWare had of gone with the Indoctrination route. The reason the ending bugged me is because the god child was so out of place. Yes, we all know Harbringer was the child, but I would have rather had it out with Harbringer than a war of words with his child form. Also, I feel that showing Shepard breathing was so out of place. I know it’s to give people “hope” he’s still alive, but I’d rather he just died. He isn’t superman. He’s a normal human who has limits. Also, why was he in the remains of London? Wasn’t he supposed to be on the Citadel that blew up? So did he get rocketed by to earth and land safely on top of concrete ? Or was that whole thing actually a dream? If they didn’t show the breathing scene I would have just assumed that he died on the citadel to prolong the life of all living things. That’s MY problem with the ending.

    One more thing before I end my thoughts on the matter. I honestly am glad they released the extended cut. This way I can see that your ending actually does matter. All the endings are in away different now. They have some back story to make your ending personal. Not just by colors. But, as some people in this thread as commented on, I wish BioWare as a whole did a better job with the ending. They tried to fix it the best they could and they did well. I just feel the ending as a whole should have been done better and went in a different direction. I just pray to the EA gods that they do not bring back Shepard and his friends. That the series can go on a different path with a DIFFERENT main character. That’s what I’m scared of the most. That in two years we’re going to get Call of Effect 4 with Shepard magically coming back to give Liara and friends a surprise. (All thanks to Shepard breathing at the end.)

  • Everything about it was wrong, in every way.

    – The 10 minute unskippable forced dialogue, wherein an infodump explains nothing yet forces you to make three preordained nonsensical choices that have NO relevance to ANYTHING that has been brought up in the last 60 hours of gameplay.

    – The starchild, by GOD the starchild. What an annoying little prick.

    – The way that NONE of the characters you’ve spent the last three games with have any impact or agency in the ending sequence or your actions.

    – The lack of a denoument involving those team members where you see the CONSEQEUENCES of their actions.

    – The fact that the extended cut gave you more superficial information, plugging several plot holes but without rectifying any of the problems inherent to the sequence itself.

    I say cut the starchild, in fact cut the three forced slow motion dream sequences that serve no real narrative purpose except to set up Shepard’s remorse and guilt… which as a Renegade Shepard in my playthrough was practically nonexistant.

    Have the confrontation be with Harbinger, the big bad of the second game who you never get to face directly.

    Show the war assets in all their glory, fighting and winning their battles if you did well, or going to their deaths if you did poorly.

    Make The Illusive Man NOT indoctrinated at the end, showing that his character retained SOME level of intelligence and motivation. What if his method actually would have worked, gaining control but losing all of his “Humanity” in the process? Why does Shepard have the power to enact that ending for himself, essentially doing exactly what both Saren and The Illusive Man were going to do, but winning the scenario just because it’s Shepard.

    I could go on…

    • Most of that can be explained by information that’s in the game. It’s not Bioware’s problem you can’t use all the information in the game to figure it out. That’s your problem.

  • I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to completely disagree with this article. I really liked the new endings. I liked how I got to question the Starchild and at least try and understand his smug attitude rather than just going ‘lol okay.’ I liked how it made him seem like less of a machine god and more of a flawed AI using circular logic to reason his embittered experiences of synthetics and organics; the ME universe was never suited to having ‘gods’.

    Even though a lot the new scenes like the Normandy evacuation and the ending scenes were a bit sappy, I liked it for that; it’s a game about your squad mates and your attachment to them. It broke my heart to send Liara (my love interest) off and have one final goodbye to her.

    It sounds like the author of the article is one of those ‘I like vague Gainax Endings that are open to interpretation’ types. I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with that assessment. Endings that are ‘open to interpretation’ are more than often used by people who like to appear deep and meaningful than actually look at things in context. I disagree that Mass Effect is a symbolic story laden with metaphors (outside of the obvious social comparisons, but that goes without saying). Mass Effect is a hard sci-fi universe. It’s about technology and science and society. It has no place for god-children or vague symbolic representations.

  • I disagree with the article, since I think the extended cut does improve the endings.

    Also, I don’t think the whole “must stop a Skynet scenario by harvesting advanced civilizations every 50k years” thing is a bad motivation. Why? That’s what the Star-child AI believes. AI’s are not omniscient. They can be wrong. And in my case (since I got the “make the Geth and Quarians get along” outcome), the AI WAS wrong!

    The AI’s explanation doesn’t have to be IN FACT CORRECT to be a legitimate motivation.

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