The Most Important Character In Mass Effect 3 Didn't Show Up Until After The Credits

I didn't realise how important the Stargazer, the nameless old man who appears briefly after the credits in Mass Effect 3, was to me, at first. It took some significant changes to the way the game's final 10 minutes are told for me to realise how crucial he always was to my story.

I'll just get this out of the way up front: I don't hate the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut. I was okay with the original version, and for the most part, I'm still OK with the expanded version. I'm not here to argue whether or not BioWare should have made the DLC. For the most part, what's done is done, and it's fine. But one particular change doesn't sit well with me:

I wish the Normandy stayed on the planet where it crash-landed.

I'm OK with evacuating the crew; I'd have been fine with, say, Alliance shuttles showing up to ferry away those who wished to leave. But with everyone packing up and going, leaving that planet empty in their wake, suddenly the Stargazer doesn't make any sense.

That moment, with the old man telling stories of The Shepard to a young child, filled an absolutely vital role in the original endings. What it originally indicated, to crib from another epic, was that history became legend. Legend became myth. And the true facts of the story became lost in the mists of time, as events were told and retold.

But what mattered was that the living endured. They crashed, the galaxy burned, and everyone was forced to adapt and survive. And thousands of years later (in my mind, always 50,000 years later), there are descendants of the long dead, ready once again to try to reach for the long-forgotten stars.

Shepard — man or woman, kind or brash, it can always change in the telling — died. Those with whom and against whom Shepard fought are long gone. But the galaxy lives on in hope, on a thousand thousand different worlds, because this time, this time, the Reapers are not coming. Beings of every type from every world can reach out to find each other once again, and this time no mass extinction will follow. Hope, and life, endure.

While exploring the galaxy over the course of the three games, you can find many planets that bear the scars of Reaper destruction from cycles in the far, long-gone past. The people who lived and died there millions of years ago can't speak to you. And there are none left to tell their stories: the best we get is a pile of Prothean antiquities, from the cycle immediately before.

But this time? Any option (except the newly added "refusal") that Shepard chooses means that the cycle is well and truly broken. The Stargazer and the child are indelibly symbols of the future, proof that your success had meaning not for you and your contemporaries, but for all, on a cosmic scale almost beyond imagining.

Now, of course, the Mass Relays never were that damaged to start with, and everyone of every race and species continues to work together after the Crucible fires. And the slideshow — whoever is narrating it, and whatever they have to say — has one more layer of meaning that makes me sad.

Instead of the Stargazer being a symbol of hope, keeping an oral history alive for a generation that may someday once again reach for the stars, he is more like Grandpa Simpson. He's an old man, rambling. His message to the child, that anyone could be out there among the stars, and that someday, the child may be able to go out there and see for himself, no longer seems to fit. It's the babbling of a man who has forgotten his history lessons.

Because this new, repaired Milky Way? It's a galaxy that would have the history lesson featuring reasonably accurate information (as close as these things ever get) about who Shepard was and what she accomplished. And it's a galaxy in which someone, somewhere, is still travelling from world to world among the stars. Originally, it wasn't.

After sobbing my way through the last 20 minutes of the game, I needed that beacon of hope. As Shepard became mythic, and made decisions on a nearly unimaginable scale, I needed that tie to smaller lives, no less meaningful that our hero's. I needed that symbol of faith, that the war was worth it. I needed that proof, that the sacrifices of an entire generation of life, across the whole peopled galaxy, were worth it in the end.

The fight still was worth it. But we don't need the old man to show us that. Not anymore.


Comments

    They found a paradise world.....im sure their just not gonna tell anyone about it :) problem solved my "sweet"?

    I definitely agree that Stargazer is out of place with the more hopeful distinctions made by the Extended Cut. I like to believe that this conversation is taking place in the REALLY distant future, like another 50,000 years, and it's a hot topic because the reapers didn't show up again and everyone is taking a moment to remember the great Shepard. It makes it more palatable, but is not the same as it being a more recent history where much more had been lost and the stories are used to inspire hope.

    I found it interesting that they decided to replace the old man with an Asari if you chose the refusal ending. What does it mean?

      Probably that humanity was extinct.

        OR more likely that they didn't want to bug Buzz Aldrin to record more dialogue.

      I'm not certain if it's meant to be asari, but I'm pretty certain it is meant to signify that humanity is dead, therefore a different stargazer is telling the story.

        But the child appears human.

        Key point is noone knows how much time passed between the ending and the stargazer scene, it could be a generation, a century or an entire cycle.

    As obvious as it may seem may want to throw up a spoiler alert.

    Here's my question : If I'm a renegade Shepard, evil beyond measure (one who was heartless enough to kill Mordin) and I control the reapers for the shear absolute power of them.. Why am I nice?

      Because ultimately renegade was really just jerk Shepard not really evil.

    I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to completely disagree with most of the assessments here. I never liked the idea that the Normandy would be stranded in the Garden of Eden v2.0. It didn't make me sad in a good way for my crew mates, it made me frustrated. What was the whole freaking point of fighting for the future if they're just going to be stranded on some no-name planet? I don't WANT my crew mates to adapt and live out life there, I want them to return to their lives and achieve their hopes and dreams. I wanted Tali to build her house on Rannoch, have James go on to become an N7 operative, have Javik and Liara write their book together. None of this pseudo Gilligan's Island 'we're stuck here so let's adapt and make our own little colony' BS.

    I guess part of my reasoning is that the Stargazer scene never really resonated with me. Honestly, I felt the whole 'Shepard as a legend' thing was so incredibly tacked-on. I never cared for the legend, I cared for the reality. I wanted to see what happened to the galaxy and my squad mates. That's why I really, really like the new Extended Cut ending; it gives me closure to almost everything I wanted to know about. I don't care about the distant future, I care about NOW.

    I agree the Stargazer is a bit out of place in the new ending, but I much, MUCH prefer the Extended Cut endings over the old ones. I would have been happy to ditch the Stargazer in place of what we have now.

      Exactly this. The original ending with my crew stuck in the middle of nowhere made the whole fight feel pretty pointless, which was my biggest problem with the ending. The Extended Cut made me feel like I actually made a difference. Especially since the mass relay network is no longer destroyed, only damaged.

    the stargazer is simply there to say that some of the stories were lost along the way. Making way for the reasoning behind the extra DLC

    Im happy with the extended cut endings. Now im more curious about the games they will be making in the Mass Effect universe, it has been said in many locaitons and interviews 'Although Shepard's story finishes with Me3, the universe will still continue in other games'.

      The Stargazer says "One more story" and the "Best possible" ending shows someone in N7 armour taking a breath under a pile of rubble.

      Really, none of the endings, including the new one, ever actually show Shepards death. It is implied, never confirmed.

      Cornerstone of good narrative, imply and let the consumer decide.
      The things that the extended cut did clear up were:
      - Why the Normandy left
      - That the Mass Relays could or already have been repaired

      For me...Shepard isn't dead. The choice made will reveal what type of Shepard comes back. Bring on the DLC.

    Originally I thought you were just a blind Bioware lover Kate, that you genuinely enjoyed it because you don't actually know anything about plotting, pacing and general storytelling... with each new 'ME3 is good' article you post I'm beginning to think you're smarter than that and simply in denial, and I wish you luck with overcoming that.

    Yeah, the stargazer scene at the very end doesnt work with the new endings.
    The kid says something like "Will I go to the stars one day?"
    The old guy says something like "Maybe" or whatever. The whole scene is about looking to the stars, the future, exploring space once again.

    But, with the new endings the old may may as well say "Shit yeah. Lets head on down to the local space port and buy a ticket. Which galaxy do you want to visit? Ill phone your parents and tell them youll be home in time for dinner."

    Also the poor voice acting makes me skip the scene anyway.

    I love how every games "journalist" plays as female Shepard and makes a point of referring to them as "she" rather than "they".

    You're all so contemporary, man.

      You did notice this article was written by a female, right?

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