In my previous article I looked at some of the changes introduced in the new Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3. I spoke about the run to the Citadel and the new dialogue options available with the Child. Today I conclude my breakdown of the DLC and specifically focus on how each of the three main decisions was expanded upon with new dialogue and imagery. Were the additions enough to shed the view many had that Mass Effect 3 had the worst ending in a video game ever? Let us find out.
The New Endings
The first big change in the new endings is that Hackett gives the fleets an order to retreat to the rendezvous location. This was done to explain why Joker is seen piloting the Normandy away from the battle at the Citadel when the Crucible goes off, as though Joker took it upon himself to retreat. There is nothing special about this change besides the fact that it helps make the scene believable and does not paint Joker to be a coward.
Another small but significant change is that we get to see what happened to the other races as the Crucible detonated. Where applicable, we get to see the Asari, Krogan, Turian, and Geth in a post-decision situation. The scenes are not very long, but they do not need to be. All fans ever wanted was something to show that the events mattered, and these additions were desperately needed.
There is also a voiceover done in all three main outcomes after the scene depicting the Normandy crashing on a planet. It helps summarize the result of the player’s decision but it also shows the crew of the Normandy surrounding the wall of names honoring the fallen.
The Destroy Ending (Renegade)
The first change we see in this ending is the addition of EDI in the thoughts of Commander Shepard as he destroys the power conduit. Images of Anderson and the love interest, Liara in the above video, were always there, but EDI’s addition is particularly fitting in this ending because Shepard knows that destroying all the Reapers also means destroying every synthetic life form, EDI included.
The voiceover for this ending is performed by Admiral Hackett. He stresses that the Reapers were only defeated because every species in the galaxy came together to help. He also says:
“It will take time, but we can rebuild everything that was destroyed.”
This is said while an image of the destroyed Citadel fades into an image of a fully restored Citadel. The implication there is that the Mass Relays would also be repaired. It is yet another addition made to quell fan rage over the original ending.
No matter which ending players choose, the Mass Relay systems are always destroyed. However, in the original ending, the galactic fleet was stationed at Earth when the Crucible detonated. That meant everyone was stuck on Earth because the Mass Relays were what made it possible to travel across the galaxy.
The DLC proposes the idea is that the Mass Effect systems can be rebuilt, although I question how effective this ending really is at quelling that fan rage. It is my understanding that a Mass Relay must be operational on both ends to function properly. The Citadel itself is instrumental in allowing that to happen. That would mean the Citadel needs to be repair, as it is destroyed in this ending, but so too do the Mass Relays at Earth and the destination worlds.
With the entire galactic fleet at Earth, repairing that Mass Relay and the Citadel should be relatively doable. But what about the Krogan world? Krogan are not typically scientists. Are they stuck on their home world until someone can get to their Mass Relay and fix it?
I think this is an inconsistency in the plot, but images show Urdnot Wrex returning triumphantly to his home world, so whatever needed to be done to allow him to travel back from Earth was accomplished.
And of course, last but not least we come to the wall of names. In the above video I had an effective military strength of over 5,000. Prior to the DLC, this ending depicted Commander Shepard taking a breath after the final cutscene, indicating he was still alive. It was the only ending where Commander Shepard can survive. That is still true. The odd thing is that Liara refuses to place his name on the wall.
It as though she knows he did not die. But that does not make sense. The Normandy is still on the planet it crashed into. The crew is unlikely to have contact with anyone else until the Normandy leaves the planet. It just feels very inconsistent.
The Control Ending (Paragon)
The most noteworthy change in this decision is that players now see exactly what controlling the Reapers means. Previously it had been unclear as to whether the Reapers retreated into dark space and were never seen again or whether they were being utilized in an active and positive way. We now know that Shepard enters the consciousness of the Reapers and uses them to protect the galaxy.
Images depict the Reapers helping to rebuild what was damaged on various worlds as well as the Mass Relays. It is a very noble end for Commander Shepard. He sacrifices himself entirely to be the guardian of the galaxy for eternity.
But why did Shepard need to be the one to do that? Could the Child not have simply used the Reapers in this way from the beginning? It feels very strange to me that the Reapers could be used in this positive way to prevent the extermination of all organics but the Child was unable to effectuate it. While I understand that, of all the organic options in the galaxy, Shepard might be the best choice, I fail to see why the Child, embodying the collective intelligence of the Reapers, could not understand the value of sacrifice.
It is also unclear how the Reapers really prevent the cycle from repeating itself. What happens when the synthetics try to rebel against their creators? Do the Reapers use force to shut them down? Will synthetics simply stop trying to kill their creators? These questions are sadly left unanswered.
The Synthesis Ending (Ideal)
Finally we come to the “perfect” ending. The line separating synthetics and organics disappears as everyone in the galaxy is now made up of “new DNA.” Except I cannot understand how any of it matters when it comes to lasting peace.
Think of the wars that took place in the Mass Effect universe. The First Contact War between humans and Turians, or the Rachni Wars between the Rachni, Salarians, and Krogen. Those were all organics fighting organics. Sure there was the Geth War between the Geth and Quarians, synthetics versus organics, created versus creators, but it does not fit the Child’s prediction of conflict. The Child makes it seem as though the created will always rebel. In the Geth War, the Quarians began the conflict and it is discovered that the Geth allowed the Quarians to live. In my playthrough of the game, the Quarians and Geth were on a road to living peacefully together.
It has nothing to do with organics versus synthetics. Wars are fought because of all sorts of reasons. I am sure there would be peace in the Mass Effect universe for a few generations. Everyone would remember the tragic war and not want to re-live it. But eventually, as generations pass, this conflict will become more and more distant until the same old conflict arose once more.
To the initial question, whether the Extended Cut DLC redeemed BioWare, I have to say no, it did not. There were two big problems with the original Mass Effect 3 ending. It was poorly executed and poorly conceived. This DLC arguably fixes the first problem, but it does nothing to fix the second problem.
The additional scenes showing the aftermath of the Crucible’s explosion, the voiceover work, and the new dialogue were all needed. The parts that left players scratching their heads and asking questions should never have been there. Questions like: “How did my squadmates get back to the Normandy?” “Why did no one see Shepard make it to the Citadel?” “Why is Joker running away from the battle?” “Who is this Child and why does Shepard accept everything it says?”
The fact that the fan base made an ending that fit the universe so much better is deplorable. When I spoke about the Indoctrination Theory, I said it would have been a brilliant idea. I also said that no matter what BioWare did in this DLC, it would not matter. Either the ending was fake and the Indoctrination Theory was true, meaning BioWare shipped an unfinished product, or the ending was real and it was poorly done.
Apparently, the ending was real and it was just poorly done. I am honestly not sure which outcome I would have rather preferred.