Bioware and Backlash

Regardless of how the endings of Mass Effect 3 were meant to be interpreted it remains clear that Bioware really dropped the ball when it comes to ending this series. And because of that there has been a lot of anger towards them. Some of it justified, some of it less so.

It began before the game was even released, some of it was a continuation of what people saw as a betrayal from Bioware in regards to the quality of Dragon Age 2 (for the record I love that game). Some of it was because fans believed EA was corrupting the developer they loved.

Announcements of the inclusion of a multiplayer mode and day one DLC only fueled those fires. Bioware maintain that the multiplayer was handled by a different team and so did not effect the single player development. Since this appears to be true I am not quite sure why people were so upset by the addition of multiplayer. I personally like it, but I did not need it.

Also Bioware told us that playing multiplayer would not be required to obtain the best ending, so when that turned out not to be true, people were understandably upset.

And unfortunately this does not appear to be the only time Bioware mislead the fans. Many comments were made about the game and especially the endings that were simply not true. This is baffling to me, especially as some of these comments were made after the game went gold. Was Bioware's view of the ending so different to what it actually appears to be?

Not to mention the fact that the endings were confusing, full of plot holes and wrapped up with a rather huge and almost literal Deus Ex Machina.

While the Extended Cut served to fix some of these issues, giving the endings more variety based on your choices, filling in plot holes and explaining things much better. It also served to highlight how badly Bioware originally messed them up.

Some of the changes retconned entire events. Like during the save-the-galaxy-or-die-trying suicide run toward the conduit beam, where Harbinger is cutting through your troops like butter. It suddenly becomes a surreal moment when Shepard calls in an evacuation for your two squad mates because they get a little hurt! What a minute! Isn't this a do or die moment? But Shepard suddenly risks everyones lives including everyone on the Normandy by calling it away from the main battle in order to evacuate two squad members mere feet away from Harbinger himself who could supposedly destroy the Normandy with one blast?

So in order to explain the massive and illogical plot hole of squad members suddenly being alive on the Normandy at the end of the game we get a scene that is borderline absurd and illogical.

Other retcons include the Mass Relays not being destroyed anymore and the Normandy having less damage when it crash lands so they can repair it and fly away. All which serve to show how poorly those elements were handled originally.

So Bioware messed some things up. No argument from me.

But here is the thing. The only reason we care so much is because of how good these games are! And the only reason we care about the story making sense is because of how good the story is!

I have played a lot of games that I liked with crap endings. I did not feel the need to analyze them, post complaints on message boards or create a blog dedicated to them. Last year I played and loved the latest Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game which has an ending easily as bad as the original Mass Effect 3 endings (when viewed literally). But I did not care, I still bought the DLC a few months later and loved that too. Why? Because it was a great game and the story was not that amazing in the first place.

The thing with Mass Effect is that it is so well written that we expected an equally great ending, and what we got did not quite deliver (at least if you accept the literal interpretation)..

Add this to the fact that some people were all set to hate on this game for other reasons before it was even released.

But I am constantly shocked to hear people claim they will never play a Bioware game again because of this. Or that Bioware betrayed them or destroyed the series.

It is only because the Mass Effect games are so good that you care at all. Why would you give up on playing any other game by this company simply because they could not maintain the quality you have come to expect from them?

I personally believe that not only does the Extended Cut now offer a good ending even if you only accept a literal view of it, albeit flawed (I'll come back to those flaws later), but that Mass Effect 3 is the best game I have ever played. While I have massive issues with Sythesis even being a choice, I loved my Destroy ending. It may still have some confusing plot elements that need to be resolved, but it really hit all the right emotional beats for me and gave me the exact outcome I had wanted (maybe minus kicking Harbingers ass myself).

Hell I will happily go as far as to say that Mass Effect is the most important game series of all time. And it is because of this that the games ending is capable of stirring up so many emotions in the fans and so much media attention.

I can't think of another game that led to such a massive amount of conversation. And I think Bioware should be congratulated for what they have achieved despite the shortcomings of the endings.

The Mass Effect trilogy is a remarkable achievement in gaming, never before has a game done so much for the medium of interactive storytelling. And I think we should celebrate that.


  1. Well stated; I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you for continuing to update this blog. I too am fascinated by the subject and would love to see a curated, organized selection of facts and theories for post-DLC IT without having to read through hundreds of message board threads.

    You are providing a good service to the gaming community.

    Have you by any chance seen this video of a BioWare panel taking questions at Comic Con?

    It's a bit long, but I thought perhaps there might be some related discussion in there. I have yet to watch it myself.

    1. Thanks. I had been looking forward to seeing this comic con panel but had not seen it had been uploaded yet.

      I have been slacking on updating this blog recently. I fully intend to rewrite the whole thing to bring it inline with the EC at some point soon. Just been distracted with another (Mass Effect related) project that I will be revealing in a few weeks hopefully.

  2. Hi! I'm new to this blog and I'm surprised that I didn't know about it even though I'm a HUGE Mass Effect fan. Congrats on the initiative, I think you're doing an amazing thing!

    I agree with what you said here, it's obvious that many people absolutely love this series and have invested incredible amounts of time and emotion into it. I think the EC is good too, although being a girly girl I would have liked a small sign of a reunion with Kaidan. Not complaining though, by any means.

    I'll be reading through the blog with great interest. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks. I intend to do some massive updates this month.

  3. I'd like to point out that it is possible to get the best ending without doing multiplayer, but you'd almost have to complete everything in the entire trilogy. When the game was released, you needed 5000 EMS in order to get this ending. When I received the ending with my "100% completion" save which basically completed every assignment and mission in the entire trilogy, it worked out to be around 5600 EMS (pre-EC, and Leviathan DLC which adds more war assets).

    It's definitely possible, but most people probably aren't "completionists" per say. They probably would just do the main campaign and no assignments or anything.

    1. I'm sorry but you are mistaken. It was impossible to get the best ending without either doing a little multi-player or using the IOS app. It is not possible to have an EMS of 5000 pre DLC.

      This was confirmed by Bioware.

      I also completed everything (as far as I can tell) from all three games and my war assets added up to a 7515, far less than the 8000 which is what is needed to reach the 4000 needed EMS with only 50% readiness *which is what you will have with no multiplayer/IOS app usage).

      The maximum with everything from all three games is about (seen a few SLIGHT variations on this calculation) -

      Total Military Strength — 7515
      Effective Military Strength — 3757.5

      You could not have possibly have reached an EMS of 5000. Simply not possible. Sorry.

  4. Hmm, I am 100% sure that the theory is valid. Although there are some blank points, for instance how shepherd survives or does he really go to the citadel after the beam hit.. STILL, yesterday I saw something interesting and I chose to believe in it. I watched the "Final Hours" info that came with my game in origin and something grabbed my interest. Casey spoke about the ending and the message in ME3. He said that "you dont have to say something specifically , about for ex. in ME3 The idea of organics life and synthetic life or whether he synthetic life will rival our intelligence.. You can explore those ideas , without the game having to make a statement about it. " I hope I quoted him right. I've read so many tweets and messages from Bioware and I completely understand the idea of not wanting to share or make any kind of statement about this ending. I think its clear now, that they've put a lot of thought in the game, even the rushing at the end.


  5. You know what I have noticed. No one mentions that the ending of mass effect three doesn't just attempt to indoctrinate Shepard, but it most metaphorically attempts to indoctrinate the player themselves. Causing you to see the logic and choose the reapers will over your own after 3 games of fighting them. Seems to me that this may be part of what the devs were aiming to accomplish, though no one mentions it.

  6. I believe I have mentioned this, but as you say it is a very good point.

  7. We need to keep sending Bioware these pages. This theory makes so much sense, it's almost insanity not to roll with it. Without this theory there can't be a mass effect 4 with shepard