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Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut (EC) DLC

Good Guy Harbinger

Since there are already many discussions of this topic around the web, I’ll just toss in my thoughts concerning how the ‘clarifications’ fared from a storytelling point of view. Sure, for most it seemed sufficient that now there’s an explanation for many odd things, and a nice slide show afterwards, but I happen to be a bit more critical of the decisions authors make with their universe, characters, and plot.

So… (SPOILER ALERT!)

  • To explain how the Normandy ends up fleeing a mass relay meltdown, they completely shredded the intensity of the “charge the beam” scene. Suddenly, there is a pause, the Normandy arrives from the fight up in orbit(!), and Harbinger just stands there (possibly reminiscing about his childhood), while a reluctant evacuation of your injured teammates takes place.
    Where do I even begin?

    1. This is a final, desperate push to try and save all known civilization – Shepard’s teammates would not evacuate, and neither would he give them that order. There isn’t even anywhere to retreat to! Even worse, Hammer team is given the same order just seconds later, as if this were a battle humanity could afford to lose.
    2. If the Normandy is so close to the beam, why doesn’t it try to contribute?! It could attempt dropping the entire team into the beam, or unload even more reinforcements to assist in the charge (thank you for that one, Steven).
    3. The Reapers must be awestruck by that single ship’s slick design, since they make no effort to destroy it, even though it was THE SINGLE GREATEST THREAT TO THEIR PLANS IN THIS CYCLE. Harbinger is clearly capable of targeting individual soldiers running on the field (again, thanks Steven), but has no interest in destroying the Normandy?
    4. And finally, from a narrative perspective, this exhilarating, terrifying experience, of desperately dashing to the beam, in hope that somehow we might still manage to thwart the reapers, was turned to a cut-scene, without any player control. Now it is no longer you who gets hit by the beam, despite making your best efforts to survive, but the 3rd. person Shepard seen in the video. The involvement of the player is greatly reduced.
  • Why is the beam there in the first place? All the Reapers had to do was turn the damn thing off, and nobody would’ve ever made it into the Citadel. Of course, that’s a problem that existed before, but no effort was made to explain why this exploitable thing even exists. Did the Reapers use it as a deliberate trap, to lure their enemies out of hiding? and couldn’t they also spare a couple of Marauder shields to protect the inside of the Citadel? Apparently all the untold billions of them were required elsewhere.
  • Starchild’s dialog was expanded, but it just contained more of his horrible point of view, without providing you – the player and customer – with useful or interesting information. They did mention that the race that created the Reapers became the first one, not very happily, and that probably that first Reaper is Harbinger, but there is an outright refusal to give more info about the Crucible gizmo (oh, it’s a power source – give me a break, so is the sun!), most likely because nobody in the writing team had a clue to begin with. Neither is there any explanation to his claim that, “this also proves that my solution won’t work anymore”. One dying organic managed to get to a magical control panel, and that proves something? Let him bleed, and carry on with your nefarious solution, you little brat.
    Or was it that the combined might of the galaxy actually presented a threat to the ‘solution’? Not according to the refuse option, but then not many things make sense at this point.
  • Moving on – in Destruct, the kid doesn’t name the Geth specifically anymore, but they’re missing from the ending slideshow, so one can assume they still get wiped out, just after saving their good name by joining the victory fleet. The mass relays, based on reaper-tech, can be repaired, but a single artificial construct (a Geth Prime) – Quarian tech – cannot?
  • The rest of the ending is pretty much Do and Undo: the Normandy crashes, but then it is fine; the mass relays are destroyed, but then they’re fixed; the Citadel explodes, but then it’s quite alright; even Shepard is dead, but then survives (Destroy ending).
    Is there any other story that reneges on its own choices so quickly after making them? Probably not, because it makes for poor narrative, but then that’s what you get with a patch that simultaneously wants to keep everything that happened before, to show that a company doesn’t have to pander to fans, while also pleasing critics.
    Wouldn’t it be easier to not crash the Normandy to begin with? Not to mention that earlier, instead of rushing towards the Crucible like true heroes, and trying to retrieve Shepard, his team instead decides to believe he’s dead, and turn tail. Boy, what a bunch of no-questions-asked conformists this team of galactic rebels has become.

I guess I could go on, but this rant seems long enough, so to summarize, the ending makes perfect sense, as long as you don’t try to think about it, or if you have very low demands from the team that brought us Mass Effect 2.
For me, that is the whole issue: after being awestruck by the brilliance shown by Mass Effect 2, ME3 seems like its dimwitted, dropped-during-birth cousin. From Mordin completely lacking his earlier charm, and jokes that draw from internet memes about the series (Shepard can’t dance, haha, Garrus likes calibrations, hur hur); to the lackluster mission design (fight Cerberus here, then there, then everywhere), war asset collection (wow! An elite commando team of Elcor! Oh, it’s just a numeric value with some text and a generic picture), and ending with the reduced narrative, in which you discover absolutely nothing meaningful about the universe, the other races, the galaxy, or your companions.

Finally, even with the pretty slideshow, the philosophical, presumptuously complex endings are as cold and disturbing as they could be: if the ‘ultimate evolution’ of all life is glowy-eyed Cyborgs, than please, save us the trouble and let the next cycle fight the Reapers. Shepard should have never stepped on the Normandy in ME1. Instead, he could’ve sipped Margaritas on a beach somewhere. At least this way future organics wouldn’t be doomed to be abominations by his privately made choice.

The lesson we learn, then, is that switching a good writing team in a critical point of a story, without having a clue on how to continue it, is likely to result in major damage to that story. How unfortunate, it is, that it happened to what was the best sci-fi saga of our time, and one of the greatest video games of all times.


Finally, for all who may be interested, I have already written 2 alternate ending plots for the series:
Alternate ending 1
Alternate ending 2

Categories: Gaming, General
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