This post is heavy with spoilers so if you haven’t finished ME3 yet, STOP NOW.
Really, stop reading if you don’t want to get spoiled.
You’re still here? Alright, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I found this quoted over at the official BioWare forums from Geoff Keighley’s ME3: The Final Hours app in which he documents the development of the game:
Mac Walters on the Star Child/Reapers
“Originally, with the catalyst, the star child at the end of the game, I had written that much more in the guise of a investigative style conversation, where there is something he tells you but then, you get to ask a bunch of questions and you get your questions answered. But then me and Casey talked and decided, lets keep the conversation “High level”. Give you the details that you need to know, but don’t get into the stuff that you don’t need to know. Like “How long have they been reaping?” You don’t need to know the answers to the mass effect universe. So we intentionally left those out”
It’s a disappointing revelation that at the end of this five year journey, players like myself were left with impression of being hurried to the exits as quickly as possible. That on some level, we wouldn’t want to spend a few more minutes of this final curtain call soaking in the moment with as much as the game could offer up. There’s an in-game encyclopedia, so why was this piece of interactive fiction gutted?
Now, I have to say this: I was actually okay with the ending I chose in definitively ending Shepard’s role in the Mass Effect universe. The things building up to that point, not so much but the overall journey was well worth the time spent.
When Tom Hanks’ character in Saving Private Ryan wouldn’t be going back to his job as a school teacher, we understood why. Shepard’s sacrifice wasn’t entirely unforeseen, either, and shares that much in common. From the beginning, his one driving goal has been to do his job and stop the Reapers at any cost – even if it meant his end. It’s what he does. But I’m not here to pound this into anyone’s head. That’s just the context I had going in. Sacrifices needed to be made and his was the final one that, at least for me, needed to be what it was.
It’s also entirely possible for the designers to have chosen how to have Shepard live instead and I’m glad it didn’t happen. On some level, it might have trivialized the sacrifices that others had made on his watch ever since ordering Kaiden/Ashley to stay behind and save everyone’s asses.
It’s also why I’m not in the camp that thinks the ending should be changed. At least that part of it. BioWare should probably do what George Lucas does and ignore everyone by deciding to have Han shooting first decades later. Like it or not, that’s the story he chose to tell even though many think he’s wrong, including me. At the end of the day, however, it’s all on him. So as much as we have all participated in the Mass Effect universe, it is still BioWare’s story to tell for better…or for worse.
At the same time, however, it’s also not an excuse to gloss over what hasn’t worked, that they might have sold its audience just a little short especially after reading the quote above. Dragon Age: Origins ended things well enough with its smorgasbord epitaph on what your actions led to, even if only in text form.
If they needed more time to get things squared away, I would have gladly waited a few more months. Fans have been waiting years to get to this point. Why rush things?
If anything else, the brouhaha over how ME3 ended will be a lesson that they will take to heart – along with any other developer watching this from the sidelines. Miyamoto was famously quoted for saying “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever”. It’s hard not to wonder if ME3’s loudest critics have already gone ahead to substitute ‘game’ with ‘ending’.