It’s been a long and arduous road for my version of the Mass Effect hero Commander Shepard, but it finally came to a close last night. I’m not quite sure why I put off finishing the game for this long, but it may have ended up being for the best. A huge amount of the extra downloadable content, perhaps more than it should have been, really enhanced my play-through and left me pretty satisfied with the ending where most people were not. Join me, or don’t if you haven’t finished this game yet and intend to, as I explore how the end of one of my favorite trilogies in gaming made me feel and how it might have affected me differently had I finished it back when it first came out.
As with most games that involve moral choice, I tend to steer in the direction of the choices that I would make personally. The Mass Effect games were no different and thus my Commander Shepard leaned heavily in the paragon direction. What can I say, I guess I’m just kind of a positive person. Don’t get me wrong, when I felt strongly enough about a situation, I didn’t hesitate to activate some renegade interrupts, but for the most part I like being the nice guy.
At the end of Mass Effect 3, I had long since been poisoned with the knowledge of exactly what my choices would be and the consequences of each action. In all fairness, I’m finishing the game just short of a year after its release, so this fact didn’t upset me in the least. After being briefed by my choices when playing last night however, I was more torn than I thought I would be. Knowing which ending people were calling the best, I first thought about choosing the destroy option. It seemed like an easy choice, that’s what I’ve been striving to do the entire time. The only problem was that, when thinking a bit more about it, the Commander Shepard that I had taken through all three of these games would never make that choice. It would mean the destruction of all synthetics and my boy scout of a Shepard would never allow that to happen to EDI or the Geth. I also couldn’t choose synthesis, because that’s a huge choice for the universe that my Shepard would never make for everyone.
This left me with only one choice and a knot in my stomach. As has happened several times before, my character needed to sacrifice himself in order for everything to work out the best way possible. This concept is a little tired, especially in video games, but I was at the very least able to swallow the result. After a slow walk up to each section staring at each of the choices for a bit, I finally made my decision and saw the end of the story for my version of Commander Shepard.
Upon seeing everything the game had to offer, I thought about some of the pieces of DLC that I had purchased. The vexing thing is that I really couldn’t imagine the game without these pieces of the puzzle. The From Ashes content, while it doesn’t add terribly much in terms of extra missions, introduces a character that deserved to be explored. It seems to me to be ridiculous that Javik would not be part of the main game since the fall of the protheans has been a major part of the Mass Effect story throughout the whole series. He also has quite a few awesome asides to add during missions, especially during the trip to Thessia.
As perplexing as Javik’s presence is from the on-disc material, I am more surprised that Leviathan was added content. I can understand wanting to make sure you have something that makes this stuff relevant, but this particular piece of DLC really should have been in the main game. It downright explains the origins of the Reapers and makes the end of the game make a whole lot more sense. Neither of these exclusions are game-breaking, but nonetheless would have detracted from my experience had I missed them.
As far as the extended cut of the game is concerned, after I finished the game my curiosity got the better of me and I checked out the original ending online. It’s not terribly fair of me to comment on this version, having seen the extended cut just beforehand, but it didn’t offend me a great deal. If the series had been a movie that had no choices or interactions whatsoever, I would’ve really enjoyed that ending to be honest. Considering those interactions did in fact take place, I can understand people’s negative reaction to the culmination of their actions up to that point.
Overall, I actually had a pretty good experience with my ending of Mass Effect 3. It’s hard to pinpoint why my experience might have been different enough to evoke that drastic a difference of opinion from those that played it at release, but I have a few suspicions. Either the inclusion of the additional content or perhaps my tempered expectations from what I’d heard through the grapevine are the things that improved my experience over those that came before. I’m inclined to think that the latter held a bit more sway over my opinion, based on my past experiences with games like Bionic Commando which I had a great time with, but I do believe that both played a critical role.
In games, and series for that matter, that we invest a lot of time and energy, sometimes it’s hard to let go when the time comes. Sometimes, a series will peak in the middle and set our expectations very high for the dramatic conclusion, which more often than not can lead to a bit of disappointment when it finally comes to an end. Some of this is a part of us disappointed that the experience is over and it’s time to move onto something less familiar. I’ve put my Commander Shepard story to bed, but instead of feeling sad that his story didn’t end in quite the way I imagined when playing through Mass Effect 2, I’m just going to look forward to the next, brand new, epic adventure that steals me away into a new and unknown universe.