This is not a game review. There are enough professional game reporters out there that have created a video reviews that illustrate the gameplay better than I ever will be able to do in a written article. You can start, as I always recommend, with IGN.
Also, of course, there are MASSIVE spoilers ahead. You have been warned.
Wow. What a resolution.
In order to understand it’s magnitude regarding me, you have to know our history. When I played the first installment of the series, I’ve just been issued to the IDF. I was a young private that wanted to make his name in the world. I could’t agree more with the Paragon Shepard’s decisions. I never thought my superior’s decisions were immoral, wrong or could be challenged. So I chose all the ‘right’ decisions. I killed Wrex on virmire, I saved the council, and I told Ashly that our relationship is a no-go, since she’s my subordinate (good thing Liara was not )
There was no question regarding killing the Rachnii queen — she was a threat to galactic peace. My favorite squadmate was Tali, because she wanted to do the right things for her cause, like me. I was perplexed by Garrus, who was always a renegade.
But when I played the second installment on the other hand, he was my best friend. By that time I was already a Commander by myself — a Squad Leader of my own. I had my agenda, which was not always in par with my commanders. No wonder that I’ve started to make more minded decisions. I decided to side with Cerberus as long as it served Humanity’s cause against the reapers (and wasn’t afraid to tell it to Ashly when our paths have crossed). I decided that allies were more important than commanders. So I got everyone I could to help me, and earned their loyalty. My scars were deep, and I thought I controlled everything. Suicide mission was successful — with NO casualties. I was on the top of the world. Oh, and I romanced Miranda. Dat ass…
And now I played the third and final installment as a Citizen, no longer in the military. A citizen controlled by the economy, my boss, and some woman. No wonder I was lost, just like. Shepard’s battle for survival is my daily battle. I had to balance my need for help, and the ultimate cause, with my own agendas.
If you played the game you already know that this was a perfect game in that sense. There were no ‘right’ decisions, and Shepard needed to sacrifice more and more pieces of himself in order to stop the reapers. Including himself.
I want to talk about the is the scapegoat first.
There is a lot of traffic regarding the ending on the web. Some of it is filled with youthful angst. Other? with righteous zeal.
I think that the ending is misunderstood.
The concept of choice here is ENORMOUS. You get the perfect conflict of ‘right’ vs. ‘interest’
The themes that were there throughout the games were now marked in flamboyant colors — the problem of Choice (1st theme) in Intelligent Design (2nd theme). You know what it reminded me of? This scene :
This was also a scene I liked much more than the rest of the internet (which is reflected in the subtitles of the video — sorry I couldn’t find the real deal).
These are some of my thoughts about the choices given:
1. Destroy all synthetic life.
The destruction of the Geth will give peace to the narrow-minded, but now I know that the Quarians were in-blame for this war anyway (for which they paid in their ultimate destruction). In addition — now with the Reaper code segments the Geth have free will and have un-shackled themselves, they will be more and more humane, just like EDI, who I’ve grown to love. Destroying all synthetic life means destroying all civilization outside hospitable worlds, and even with that — it will return all races back to the stone-age. That kind of designing the galaxy in an old-back-to-the-roots fashion, may be appealing to some. However, If there is one thing I’ve learned from Mass Effect is that there is nothing clear about Choice in Intelligent Design. But that’s too complex to illustrate in this article. Maybe I’ll write it in the future.
2. Control the reapers.
Taking control of the Reapers will ensure the end of all conflict. It’s an ultimatum of no match. All races will go about their business, fearing a Human attack. The galaxy will prosper, as long as everyone stay in-line and don’t fuck up with humanity.
But that’ll just turn me into the Illusive man, won’t it? When will we know our boundaries an a specie? Could we conquer our desire to claim all known — and un-known space? Or Will we end up just like the Reapers — harvesting others who pose a threat to us? Is the human kind ready for that kind of responsibility? After all, we did prove ourselves worthy — as the first organics to make it to the catalyst in all of the cycles.
3. Synthesize synthetics and organics to a new entity.
This is the most obscure possibility — and as such I believe it to be the most dangerous. What will guarantee the new life-form to cease the chaos in the universe? (the same chaos the start-child and it’s kind wanted to stop using the reapers and the cycle). Will there be anything left from humanity?
These thoughts managed to keep me busy for AN HOUR (at 3 AM in the morning, before a work-week). And that’s what I call a resolution. There is no one character I didn’t think about during this hour, and that was enough for a conclusion. Did I really need a choice to just go back down to earth and fight the Reapers to the bitter end, as some want? Or could I punch that annoying star-child in the nuts? No. That would ruin the themes conveyed throughout the game. All the big moments in this game led to this point — the genophange conclusion, the real reason behind the Quarian-Geth problem (the Quarian shot first!), and even the reason the Reapers Reap. The problem — is choice.
BTW, although I could choose the ‘best’ ending of synthesis between machines and organics, I chose the 2nd one. After all, I’m human. I want superiority over synthetic races. I want to take control over who survives and who doesn’t. I want to be an all-knowing entity, just like that star-child. Call that hubris if you want to, but that’s how software engineers such as myself think.
Which leads me to my conclusion — the game designers wanted the ending to be in YOUR MIND, and not in the actual game.
I don’t know about you guys, but if I had a few screens that describe what happened according to my decisions that would have been nice, but very much negligible. One example that I can refer to is the ending of Dragon Age Origins that used this method. I really don’t even remember what was written there. But I do remember MY decisions during the course of the final two-hours or so of gameplay.
I don’t really need one of the writer in Bioware to tell me that the Krogans were mad at my decision to now cure the genophage, or the Liara mourned my loss (or at least I think so ) and gave birth to a baby Asari named Shepard, or that the humans used the Reapers … it’s just too mundane in comparison to the process i went through while making my call with the catalyst. I wasn’t in the mood for that kind of wrap-up scene anyway.
The characters, places, dilemmas and themes of this game are now just too personal for me to forget them. I don’t need someone to ‘wrap it up’ for me.
Oh, and all that ‘What the fleets would do now that there are no Mass Relays’? Are they stuck at earth, will they ever get along, or will everybody starve and Krogans will eat ALL the humans?
If there was to be a sequel — sure it would matter! But right now it’s just… unnecessary.
This installment had me crying at times. One was when the remnants of the Quarian fleet were burning at the atmosphere of Rannoch I stopped and wept. Tali’zoarh’s dive into the abyss didn’t help. It was actually HARD for me to watch. I had flashbacks for the Quarians I met
Another event that made me question the meaning of altoisem, morality and even current events was malfunctioning the genophage cure. I chose to lie about the malfunction, and spread the false cure. Is lying about it to the Krogan leadership, and shooting my best friend Mordin in the back — just so that I’ll have another fleet really worth it? Some might say it’s for the greater good — because once the Reaper threat is dealt with, the Krogan will PROBABLY invade the other council races space dominion. But can I really make a decision regarding a future event that may not even occur? Should I give up everything I played for prior to this decision and NOT help my friend? The shot echoed in my mind long after the mission was done.
And clearly, it gave me a new perspective regarding the issue of an attack on Iran’s Nuclear Sites by the Israeli government, even though they have only talked about attacking Israeli and didn’t actually do anything (that has public proof, anyway).
Question that some may ask is will I play if (and, as my gut tell me — when) an MMO based on the Mass Effect franchise will launch? Probably so. I will do it from the same reason I play the Multiplayer when I get the chance, and from the reason I read the comics, novels and download the DLCs. It’s fun. It’s geek fun! But that’s not the reason I played the single player.
The reason is that the overall themes of the game have impact on my daily decisions. These games engage my mind, heart and gamer instincts in ways that make other video games a pale-shadow of an experience. That’s Bioware at it’s best.
And it made me check their careers page more than once.
Just last week an annoying co-worker have put me in an awkward position, and I had a choice. I could go down the ‘Paragon’ path. I tell you — I could actually see the paragon / renegade QTE in my vision.
So, I don’t know. Maybe In 10 years time I’ll re-play this game and re-consider other aspects of my life. I’ll return to it as nostalgia. I will probably want to be another Shepard and make other decisions. To be a Shepard that’s yet to be created.