Home > Gaming, General > Mass Effect 3: Alternate Ending #1

Mass Effect 3: Alternate Ending #1

Cmdr. Shepard

He’d be disappointed too

Since the ending of Mass Effect 3 was, well, deplorable from a story-telling perspective (you can see why here, here, here, and a literary analysis here), I’ve decided to write several alternative plot-lines for the series, as a personal creative exercise, and in order to provide people who love that universe (such as myself) with something better to imagine their favorite characters doing; while Bioware fumbles about in an attempt to clarify the artistic integrity behind corporate pressures and a development team that seems to have been missing one or more of its key writers.

Warning and disclaimer: SPOILERS ahead! Do not read, if you haven’t yet played Mass Effect 3 in its entirety.
Disclaimer #2: I do not own the intellectual property to any of these characters or stories – this is merely fan fiction without lengthy, gratuitous scenes of sexual relationships between every possible combination of characters.
Disclaimer #3: What follows are general ideas, meant to prove a point, not fully polished literary works. Constructive comments will be taken into consideration.

First, a little orientation: the following scenes take place after Shepard and the alliance storm the Cerberus Cronos station – this alternate ending plot does not touch anything that happened beforehand. Others most certainly will.
Now, without further ado…

Commander Shepard, looking battle weary as ever, finally manages to dispatch Kai Leng, gets to the Illusive man’s chair, and manages to recover the Prothean VI. Though parts of its data are missing, the team believes they have enough to finish  work on the Crucible, which is a dark energy weapon capable of tearing through just about anything.

Once this weapon of ultimate destruction is completed, Alliance fleets escort it to the Exodus cluster, where they are supposed to rendezvous with the combined forces of the other races.
Admiral Hackett tells Shepard, “the Turians and Quarians should be here in about two hours.”
The commander replies:
(Paragon) “We will show the Reapers what a united galaxy can accomplish.”
(Renegade) “The Reapers won’t know what hit them.”

However, before the allied ships arrive, a Reaper force of about a dozen capitals, led by Harbinger, emerges from the mass relay leading to Earth, and heads straight for the Crucible.

Joker: “Oh, c’mon! How many of us didn’t see this one coming!”
Hackett immediately commands the fleet: “we have to keep the Reapers at bay while the Crucible powers up. Everybody, buy us time!”

All hell breaks loose, as the Alliance forces scramble to delay the Reapers. Dreadnoughts and cruisers clash with the capitals, while fighters and oculi dogfight between them. During that battle, you get to fly the Normandy, destroy oculi, and assist Alliance vessels in inflicting severe damage on the nearest Reaper (the Thanix cannon comes in handy during this part).
A cinematic shows that another Reaper is disabled, while Harbinger, for the first time, displays just how terribly powerful he is.
Poor combat on part of the player leads to a cinematic of the crucible being destroyed, and the Normandy blown up.
A successful play, however, shows the Crucible finishes charging up.

As the collective human forces hold their breath, Admiral Hackett says, “this is it, everybody – clear the path!”.
The Normandy hurries away, before the Crucible unleashes an enormous, bright beam, that cuts right through a reaper, disintegrating him.
Everyone cheers loudly! Joker says, “holy shit, I can’t believe this thing works!”
Then, the camera zooms in on the Crucible, which is glowing in the same color as the beam. Despite not firing anymore, the glow becomes more and more intense, until you hear Hackett’s voice on comm, shouting, “the Crucible is about to overload. Everybody: get your ships-”
A roaring silence fills all comm channels; then, with a powerful burst of static, a massive shockwave emanates from Crucible. Everything turns too bright too see.
When the camera becomes clear again, you can see incinerated ships, Reapers and Alliance fighting in disarray. It’s unclear how much damage the shockwave has done.
Shepard stares at the screen in dismay. Nobody dares speak a word.
Then, Hackett snaps them out of it, yelling over the comm for surviving Alliance forces the get the hell out of the system!
The Normandy races to the Mass relay, with Harbinger on their tail:
“Shepard, you will not avoid your fate this time.”
Shepard yells at Joker, “make her go faster – step on it!!!
Joker replies, “the Reaper king is behind us – do you think I’m holding anything back?!”
They’re almost at the relay, and you can hear Joker saying, “shit-shit-shit-shit-shit-shit!!”, like the scene with the collectors in ME2. Then, just when the ancient construct is about to activate, and take them to safety, Harbinger shoots something at it.
You can hear his deep voice taunting you, “your road ends here, Sheppard. You will not reach your destination”, as the Normandy is slingshotted away.

We see the Normandy appears again in the vicinity of a small star, and a ring of asteroids.

Joker: “Where the hell are we?”
Shepard: ”You don’t know?”
Joker: “That freaky reaper did something to the relay.”
EDI intervenes: “According to my calculations, we’ve been thrown half-way across the galaxy, and are now in a completely unmapped star cluster.”
Shepard does not lose his calm composure: “well, can’t you take us back from here?”
Edi: “My readings tell me that there may be a mass relay in this area, although its energy signature is uncharacteristically weak. It may be disabled, or inoperable.”
Shepard: “There must be a reason why a mass relay was built in these parts. We should check the nearby stars.”
Joker comments, sarcastically: “sure beats starving to death.”

The Normandy travels to several star systems, inspecting planets for clues… for anything.
Eventually, they arrive near one star that has holds two interesting discoveries: a dormant relay, and a planet with ruins of unknown design. Some of them look almost like reaper architecture, but considerably less eerie.
A team is landed on that planet, which turns out to be…
The place where the Prothean science team from ME1 went to, after they reprogrammed the keepers on the citadel. Unfortunately, the rundown ship they’ve used to make the trip has ran out of power, and the planet could not sustain life.
Still, while searching for a way out of there, the Protheans managed to acquire some interesting information:

  1. The Citadel and the relays were created by a race of organics, which had also created the Reapers. Besieged by an unknown force, these organics have fused together members of their species, in order to form a powerful war vessel that would save them from extinction. Unfortunately for them, when the war was won, the vessel decided it was now superior in every way to its creators, and proceeded to harvest them. Out of a peculiar sense of cruelty, the Reapers allowed that race to exist… as the keepers.
  2. Because the Protheans studied the keepers and their neural links better than current Alliance races, they managed to decipher the language of that forgotten race. That gave them the knowledge required to manipulate relays, and unlock the full power of the Citadel. Shepard, who has been exposed to Prothean beacons, and the cipher, now has this information.

Unfortunately, while the team now knows how to activate the Relay in orbit, they do not possess the energy required to ‘jump start’ it. In a moment of desperation, Garrus waves his hand at the sky, and mockingly says, “perhaps we could sprinkle it with some space fairy-dust”.

No sooner than he finishes that sentence, Joker reports that the relay had sprang to life. After a long moment of disbelief (during which Garrus swears it wasn’t him), the team then hears than an unknown cruiser had jumped into the system, and is now making its way towards the planet.
Once the ship lands, and its doors open (slowly), the Illusive man steps out, along with a contingent of bodyguards. He casually explains to Shepard that while the Alliance manged to locate all of his original tracking devices, there was nothing stopping his agents from planting others during the Normandy’s many stops.
The Illusive Man has another philosophical argument with Shep, regarding destroying or controlling the reapers.
Paragon options can persuade him to the point where he says, “perhaps there is value in joining our efforts, assuming you are willing to temporarily let go of your stubborn self-righteousness.”
Using renegade or regular conversation options causes a fight to break out between the team and Cerberus.
During that fight, (or before Shepard gets to give his answer), Joker gets on the comm, and yells in slight panic, “sorry to interrupt, guys, but a frigging Reaper just jumped into the system!”
Not one bit impressed by that, the Illusive Man replies, “but of course. I expected it to come.”
Shepard: “You intentionally brought a reaper here? You’re even more insane than I thought!”
Illusive Man: “Weren’t you listening? I told you – I can control them!”
Shepard waves his arm angrily: “You do what ever the hell you want. I’m getting off this rock before it turns into our grave.”

As the team flees to the shuttle, the Illusive Man is seen chuckling. While they fight their way through husks and other baddies, he flaunts his newly acquired powers: at first, they seem to be working perfectly, as Reaper ground forces halt their assault, and kneel before him. He even manages to cause a couple of oculi to crash into each other.
However, then the Sovereign-class itself, in all its gigantic size, lands on top of the ruins, and emits its robotic, scary sound.
The camera zooms in on TIM’s face, which is strained to the point that his veins are all bulging.
He yells, “no! I can control them!”, before a red beam envelops him.

Either way, the arrogant attempt of an organic to control the Reaper forces has bought Shepard enough time to get to the mass relay, and out of that forsaken star system.

The Normandy arrives at a new location, and immediately tries to contact friendly forces. For a few moments, there is nothing but silence on the comm, and Joker wonders, “maybe they’re all dead?”
Then, much to everyone’s relief, Admiral Hackett’s voice is heard.

Hackett explains that following the Exodus relay battle, the various fleets had scattered, and were doing their best to avoid combat with the Reapers. Shepard tries to convince the admiral that he knows how to defeat them this time, but that the fleets would have to converge at the Citadel first. Hackett asks if this plan is going to work better than the Crucible.
Shepard: (Paragon) “It has to work, because it’s the only chance we have left.” (Renegade) “It will work, because this time I’ll be the guy pulling the plug.”
Hackett: “Then this is your lucky day, because four hours ago, (Salarian STG/the Quarians) discovered a large Reaper fleet heading straight to the Citadel.”

The Normandy arrives at the Serpent Nebula in the midst of an epic battle. Along with it are Alliance ships, and forces of multiple species, according to the war assets that the player has accumulated during the game.
Now, Shepard gets to put them to use, by assigning tasks to fleets during the second battle of the Citadel, against the Reaper forces led by Harbinger. Based on his decisions, lives may be saved or lost (the Destiny Ascension gets to do something besides looking pretty), and the battle unfolds according to his decisions, while the SR-2 races towards the Citadel tower, struggling to reach it before the enemy does.
When it arrives at the edge of the great wards, the Normandy is seen chased by multiple oculi. Based on how many allies the player has gathered during the journey, the ship would either fight on its own and sustain heavy damage, be only partially damaged due to intervention of friendly forces, or it may come out of the encounter with just superficial scarring.
In the first case, they crash land on the Citadel, and Joker is mortally wounded. EDI stays by his side, as the others leave.
Otherwise, the Normandy drops off Shep, and docks safely.
The Citadel itself has been evacuated from civilians, but a few devout C-sec officers (including Commander Bailey) remain at the tower, fighting against Reaper forces. In the midst of that chaos, the team rushes to the tip of the tower, fighting off any enemies that get in his way.
When he is finally within reach of his destination – a control panel behind the area where the council convenes – something makes Shepard stop, and fall down to his knees.

It is Harbinger, who invades the Commander’s mind, in an attempt to crush his will. Now, it is up to the player to overcome the Reaper’s influence: a dream world is presented, in which the enormous synthetic towers over the tiny body of Shepard, and blasts at him with his powerful beams. The player must display his own resolve, by insisting on going forward, despite being hit several times, and seeing his character wounded, limping, barely alive. During this scene, he is emboldened by lines that were said previously by his closest comrades – both dead, and alive.

When this trial ends, the dream world fiddles suddenly, and the Commander stands before the control console.
Harbinger, who is now heading personally for the tower, says, “Shepard, you will fail. Your cycle shall end, just as we demand.”
To which Shep retorts:
(Paragon): “This cycle begs to differ!”
(Renegade): “I have a few demands of my own to make!”
He then proceeds to activate an ancient program in the Citadel mainframe. A cutscene shows how the keepers’ eyes light up, as if they had regained intelligence. Yearning for both revenge, and redemption, they simultaneously activate a series of consoles all over the space station.
The Citadel opens like it never had before, and a mass effect field begins to take shape at its core.

All the friendly fleets are flying away from the station – while the Reapers rush towards it in an attempt to take over.
If the Normandy had crashed earlier, Shep has nothing left to do. He is seen embracing his love interest, as the Citadel suddenly gets sucked into the unknown, along with the reapers.
Otherwise, the ship manages to pick the team up in the last second, and take off, but as the Citadel gets sucked away, a colossal shockwave emanates from it. In case the Normandy was damaged earlier, the shockwave hits it, and one or two team members die. If, however, the player came out of the battle in good condition, the SR-2 manages to escape in the nick of time.

After the devastating explosion dissipates, we can see Citadel space is now empty, save for some ship debris, and a few dead reapers.


Weak ending: Councilor Anderson is on Earth, standing behind a somewhat burnt podium, and speaking before a gathering of members of different species (based on whose allegiance was won throughout the game):
“To the best of my knowledge, Commander Shepard has given his life in order to give us the chance we needed to reclaim our galaxy. Though this war is not over, we all know that from now on, the reapers are no longer the unbeatable threat they once were. With Harbinger gone, and our great civilizations mobilized, we will drive these fiends back to where they came from! Let us forever remember this day, and the sacrifice made by so many who gave their lives for the greater good!
Commander Shepard, the galaxy salutes you!”

During the speech, the camera pans to several different species in the crowd, who look grim, but resolved. Cinematics show Alliance/Turian ships clashing with single reapers, and scenes of rebuilding (Earth, Thessia, Palaven).

Finally, two rows of marines fire their weapons into the air, as the scene fades to black.

Good ending: In the same location, Shepard is giving a speech from the podium, with all the surviving team mates from the three games (Grunt, Jack, Miranda, etc.) standing behind him:
“Today we have given the galaxy a fighting chance. By reversing the Citadel’s mass relay, we’ve launched Harbinger and his fleet to unimaginable distances of space; possibly even destroyed them in the process. Though the Reaper threat is not gone, we all know that from now on, they are not the unbeatable threat they once were. With our great civilizations mobilized and united, we will drive these monsters back to where they came from!
(Paragon) Today, let us remember those who have given their lives in this struggle. Their sacrifice shall not be forgotten.
(Renegade) Today, all shall remember the victory that we have given this galaxy. Our glorious triumph shall not be forgotten.”

During the victorious speech, the camera pans through the many different species present in the crowd (based on choices made in the three games: Rachni! EDI and joker, Geth, Quarians, Krogans, Salarians, etc.), who seem genuinely hopeful. There are also cinematics showing Alliance/Turian ships clashing with single reapers, and scenes of rebuilding (Earth, Thessia, Palaven).

Finally,  Anderson walks over to shake Shepard’s hand, and whispers, “you did good, son. You did good.”


So, is this the ultimate Mass Effect story? No, but I believe it beats what we’ve got, even without trying hard – which was the point.
When time allows, I’d like to take different approaches to the issue, such as what could’ve been done about the largely ignored Cerberus and Collector’s station decision.

Categories: Gaming, General
  1. Dallas
    21/04/2012 at 16:53

    Really good work, I would try to make the dialogue more frequent and closer to actual game speek, allot of Shep’s lines are repeated .

    • Dallas
      21/04/2012 at 16:53

      They are repeated in the real game, sorry for the confusion.

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