They built the Mass Effect franchise on story. Despite a stumble here and there, they constructed one of the most interesting sci-fi universes I’ve ever encountered. Everything had a backstory. A reason. Even if it wasn’t explicitly mentioned, most things made some kind of sense.
I can’t explain the ending of the franchise. I can’t. Nothing about these games has ever hinted at the creators being lazy or ignorant. The ending was both. Nonsensical characters suddenly added that have no explanation. No epilogue that explains or even hints at the fate of most of the characters the player encounters over the course of the games.
All the decisions and efforts of the players, something the series advertised as paramount, are rendered moot in a choose your own adventure (almost) ending with three options.
Bioware forgot that the ME franchise has fans because of three things: Story, choice, characters.
The story telling is excellent (almost) all the time. The choices are hard. Poignant and long-reaching in their consequences over the long term, powerful in the short term. The characters begin to feel very real during Mass Effect 2 and 3. ME3 did some wonderful things with the characters. They wander around the ship. They get drunk. They have relationships amongst themselves. They brood and feel lonely and if you take the time, the little heart-to-hearts with your squad are more fun than the action.
Mass Effect 3’s ending ignores all three of those important aspects. The crew is almost completely forgotten, aside from a short cutscene that shows (at most) three of them alive. The choices are forced upon you with no explanation as to why they’re even viable options. The story of the entire galaxy (literally) you’ve been playing in and literally deciding the fate of is completely ignored. A half-assed cutscene with a couple of faceless characters tries to add some sort of legendary quality to the player’s decision. The main story, the story of the people we met, killed, or saved, is left completely up in the air.
I get that they were trying to make the decision seem galactic and huge and showing me that my decision changed every living being’s life forever. However, I don’t give a shit. I played the game for my squad. Bioware introduced me to a little group of people and told me to take them with me when I went to save the galaxy. Then they gave me a some choices to make so I cared about them. The missions were suicidal and tense and people lived and died and were mourned. I gained their loyalty and their trust. Then Bioware gave me three options and didn’t tell me a goddamn thing about how they impacted the lives of the only people I cared about. When I had to choose between control, destruction, or synthesis with the enemy, I didn’t think of the galaxy. I thought of my squad. How the choices would please or displease them. Reward or betray their loyalty and trust.
Bioware forgot about my squad. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how. My DLC of the Extended Cut is downloading. I hope this rewards my trust in BioWare. If not, they’ll have ruined my favorite game franchise, and squandered a wonderful story. I’m not asking for a happy ending. I’m asking for THE ending.
Christian Grey, the Edward of our story, is a 27-year-old ginger who likes white wine and using emoticons in e-mails. He refuses to use contractions when he speaks, so in my head, I sort of pictured him sounding like Andy Dick at the medieval restaurant in The Cable Guy. Our Bella, Anastasia Steele, sounded like Speedracer, mostly because she’s always shouting her catchphrase, “Holy crap!” At 21, she’s never given a blow job, but when she does, instinctively knows to use lots of teeth. That dry, skittering sound you heard is your fallopian tubes curling like party ribbon.
I get that this is supposed to be BDSM Lite for people with Aztec-pattern Kindle Fire covers, but the ideas about “alternative lifestyle” sex (James’s actual words) are kind of hilarious. It’s like it was all filtered through that sexually precocious but ultimately clueless friend from Catholic elementary school: Oh, yeah, S&M is all burgundy leather dungeons and sub-dom contracts. Also, if you spray Mountain Dew in your vagina after sex you won’t get pregnant.