OK, I think that I know why people freaked about Mass Effect 3 (SPOILERS!).

We’re going to have spoilers on this, so let’s start after the fold.


OK.  The basic issue?  Shepard dies.  Period.  There’s one hint of a suggestion that, if you went nuts on getting War Assets and was a ruthless son of a bitch willing to kill off the geth AND EDI in order to kill the Reapers, you might have survived the big explosion that took out the entire mass effect relay system.  Otherwise… roll up another character, Sparky: this one’s toast.

Total GM railroad, in other words – and if this was a tabletop game and the GM tried this on a player without the player’s prior and enthusiastic agreement, then the player would react… pretty much as your average person freaking out about the Mass Effect 3 endings is freaking out.  That’s because there are a lot of people out there who are emotionally invested in their Shepards; and when a player-character like that dies it kind of hurts.  Especially if you couldn’t do anything about it.

I think that one reason why I’m not particularly upset about the aforementioned railroad is because while I was just as emotionally invested in my Shepard as anybody else I had already had experience in the process (I don’t know how many computer gamers have played tabletop RPGs) and I knew going in that the medium of computer games required a certain amount of railroading.  Plus, I also knew that Shepard was going to die after the first dream sequence; the foreshadowing was blatant.

Hell, the game’s last two storyboards ended with Shepard stripped of her armor, down to her last hit point, and holding a pistol as she staggered into the light (gee, was that symbolic of something?) and confronted her final demons/options.  You don’t come back from that*… and, again, if a human GM ever tries that kind of heavy-handed allegory on me without warning I might respond by hitting him.  But in a computer game when you have that happen to you, you go along for the ride.

And it was a hell of a ride.

Moe Lane

*Note that I wasn’t happy about the way it ended, for Shepard’s sake.  She didn’t deserve to be chewed up and used up like that.  But I got my money’s worth out this series, yes indeed.


  • Neil Stevens says:

    [Note: I haven’t touched any game of this series. I’ve heard parts of the series don’t even exist on the PS3]

    I don’t think I agree with your justification. This is a series that has prided itself on letting you make choices, ensuring those choices have consequences, and carrying those consequences from game to game.

    After all that, it’s pretty cheap to turn around and kill you, regardless of everything.

    • Moe_Lane says:

      Neil: I think that it’s a fair result in this instance, though. They never promised me that my character would survive saving the galaxy; and I think that I was lucky to have accidentally used the game save where my character started out as an orphan.

      It’s… weird, running a game where you know that your PC’s a dead woman walking – literally, in Shepard’s case; she was brought back from the dead once, so that option was lost. And it’s doubly weird where you feel obligated to lie to everybody that you meet and pretend that you’re hopeful. Fun, but weird as all hell.

  • Rob Crawford says:

    I call this the “Karl Cullinane option”.
    20 quatloos if you get the reference.

  • richardfroste says:

    Rob, I see that someone else out there read the Guardians of the Flame series besides me! 🙂

  • Luke says:

    Yeah, I get the reference.

    I’m extremely irritated about it.
    Not becase Shepard died, but because the end didn’t fit the tone, themes, or scope of the rest of the series, which had been painstakingly established over some 120+ hours of gameplay. It was a malign deus ex machina wrapped inside a non sequitor.

    I suspect executive meddling.
    It looks to me like the original plan was for the crucible to be a red herring planted by the Reapers. (Which indeed, remained the case). It was well established that the Reapers shaped cultures by providing technology to get them to move in predictable fashions. It was a major plot point in both of the previous games. (After all, if the resources used building the crucible had been instead dedicated to saving a remnant, there would almost certainly have been at least some successes. Shepard convincing the Council to build the crucible sealed the fate of the galaxy. And like good character-based railroading, Shepard could not have done otherwise. His attitiude of taking longshots and bringing the fight to the enemy was much too well established.)

    The ending should have had Shepard and Anderson sitting in the space station, bleeding out, and watching the end of the world. Simple and poignant. And that’s exactly what happened, right up until Shepard started levitating and visiting with a malign god-child.

    • Moe_Lane says:

      …But that’s not space opera, Luke. 🙂

      I mean, I didn’t spend a couple of hundred bucks over two years or so – plus all that time sadistically stripping my PC of everything that wasn’t capital-H Heroic* – just to watch the Reapers win. In the end, this wasn’t the Cthulhu Mythos in space after all.

      Moe Lane

      *She had nothing left for her, at the end. Not even the cold comfort of revenge. And she will only be remembered as the Shepard. The cruelty there is subtle, but vast.

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