And then, Commander Shepard killed all the bad Reapers with a sticky grenade, and the world was saved, and everybody lived happily ever after and had loads of sex with their clothes on.
It was always inevitable, I suppose, that the ending of Mass Effect 3 was going to precipitate a controversy of apocalyptic proportions because because. If there’s one thing gamers love, it’s games complaining.
Even if the big finale had gone on for twenty hours, revisiting and resolving every single thing that’s ever happened, ever in the trilogy, and revealing that the fugitive omni-gel had been behind it all, even then you can be quite sure that some guy welded to his La-Z Boy with Nik Naks and Mountain Dew slurry would have had a whole lot to say on YouTube about it. Because because, and also the whole idea of omni-gel was scientifically untenable anyway.
SPOILERS AHEAD. TURN BACK NOW.
Okay, so full disclosure, I didn’t think much of the ending either. For all intents and purposes, it’s a clumsy, disingenuous deus ex machina (figuratively and literally) with barely enough space between the plot holes to crash land the Normandy on a relevant TV Tropes entry.
I mean, after everything that’s happened, it’s revealed that the machines are killing everybody else so that next time, they won’t invent the machines (even though they probably will). It’s basically the plot of Terminator 2 rearranged to preclude the inconvenient ontological paradox.
It’s a stupid concept, it’s poorly written, and – perhaps even worse – in the moment, it’s completely confusing. You know why things turned out the way they did in my game? Because I wanted to see what was up on top of the ramp. Oh, there’s a thing here. I guess I’ll shoot i- oh.
The best part? Exactly the same thing happened to a friend of mine. In my sample group, 100 percent of study participants destroyed everything, forever, totally by accident. Mega-oops.
Oddly enough, however, that doesn’t seem to be the big problem most people are having with the game. Instead, it’s apparently a matter of closure and an alleged lack thereof. But, wait.
Did these people actually, you know, play the game? Because there’s a whole lot of closure there. The Genophage? Sorted. Cerberus? Over. Tali? Stock photo’d. And with enough left over for the hope of a better tomorrow. There’s really no business left unfinished.
Even in the last minutes, you get the opportunity to be the big hero in the very moment the entire series has been working up to. It wasn’t unambiguously awesome for you? And here I thought we all wanted something we could actually meaningfully engage with.
Besides, Shepard was already technically a zombie.
Then there’s the complaint that, regardless of your final choice, the closing cutscene is almost exactly the same except for the colour of the explosion. That makes it three times more variable than both previous games, which, regardless of your final choices, concluded with exactly the same cutscene and no different colour explosions whatsoever.
At this point, changing or even adding to the existing ending could amount to nothing more than an artistically and intellectually dishonest retcon. Suspension of disbelief can really only go so far, and that can’t be much past one man saving the entire universe, one way or the other.