Defining Moments – Mass Effect 3


In 2007 Bioware gave us Mass Effect, a sci-fi RPG shooter with unique gameplay elements that captivated its players and a story that won over the hearts of thousands more. Fast forward 5 years, 2 glorious games, 14 DLC’s, 4 novels, 10 comics, 1 animated film, a few mobile games and literally hundreds of hours later, and you’ll find yourself at the final chapter in what can only be described as an epic roller-coaster ride of a videogame trilogy.

This was it…

Mass_Effect_3_Defining_Moments_03Bioware had led us through a rather emotional story that varied from player to player, that was what made it unique – my Shepard was my Shepard, your Shepard was yours – our experiences could of been completely different yet equally as satisfying and exciting. We had killed a Turian terrorist, uncovered a dark galactic secret, advanced the military ranks to Spectre, we could of cured a deadly race killing infection (or not for that matter), we were killed and revived by a shady group of pro-human para-militants, we had been through a seemingly impossible mission and seen friends die a long the way – we had been through countless battles and more and here we were, at the ending of it all… and it was complete rubbish.

Mass Effect 3‘s ending was (unfortunately) brief, confusing and under-developed. I had been through so much with my beloved Shepard and I didn’t want to believe that this was how his story would end. Simply put, I – like many other gamers – was outraged. The Illusive Man was dead, I had docked the crucible and Captain Anderson sat next to me, grievously wounded (not that I was looking any better) staring at the battle waging outside.

“We did it”, Shepard says.

“Yes… we did, it’s quite a view, you did good son… I’m proud of you” Anderson murmurs and draws his last breath.

Cue the sad music. So far so good, I could feel the emotion and I knew it was almost over. In a few more minutes the trilogy would be at a close, its various loose ends wrapped up and my unanswered questions answered. Right? Nope.

“Shepard?”, I hear over the radio.

“What do you need me to do?”, Shepard struggles to say as he stumbles up and topple over.

“Nothing is happening, the crucible isn’t firing… it’s gotta be something on your end.”

Shepard crawls over to a nearby console – there’s still more work to be done.

“I don’t see…. I’m not sure how to…”, Shepard says as he passes out, his name being called over the radio over and over – this is where things get unfortunate.

A boom is heard, a flash of light is seen and suddenly, out of nowhere, Shepard is on a lit-up platform rising up into the air as if somehow him passing out on a specific piece of floor activated the Crucible and its lift system.

A cutscene is shown of the Citadel opening up and suddenly I appear on what I can only assume is the Crucible, confronted by some astrochild spirit thing saying that he’s the catalyst. What!? What the hell is this? What was all that Mass_Effect_3_Defining_Moments_02rubbish before about the Citadel being the catalyst? What’s that? The Citadel is part of you? Well why didn’t you make an appearance earlier and warn us?

“I need to stop the Reapers, do you know how I can do that?” Shepard asks.

“Perhaps. I control the Reapers, they are my solution to chaos”, the so-called catalyst replies

So… what you’re saying is that the solution to chaos is wiping out entire races every couple of thousand of years to let the younger ones prosper and then rinse and repeat? You made some synthetics to kill us every 50 000 years so that we wouldn’t be killed by synthetics? Bioware…?

“The fact that you are standing here, the first organic ever, proves that my solution won’t work anymore. The Crucible changed me… created new… possibilities but I can’t make them happen.”

The catalyst Starchild then goes on to LITERALLY describe the 3 possible endings and then shows three pathways that represent each one and essentially tells us to pick which one we prefer. But whatever choice you chose, the result was pretty much the same – you got to watch one of 3 near-identical, context-free scenes of the Normandy crash landing on some random planet somewhere, followed by an epilogue featuring a Grandfather and his grandson staring up at the stars after the credits roll.


The experience I had at the end of Mass Effect 3 had absolutely nothing to do with any of the choices I had made over the 3 games and past 5 years, not even the moral alignment of my Shepard was taken into account or those tough decisions I made about whether or not to destroy the Collector Base or spare the Geth. No matter what, the dialogue and 3 choices are always the same and even then the only real difference between them is a slightly altered cutscene and a different colored explosion. Not once do we get to see how our past choices affected the galaxy or what happens to our crew after the war.

Mass_Effect_3_Defining_Moments_01To add insult to injury, after the credits roll the developers show us a message that tells us, “Commander Shepard has become a legend by ending the Reaper threat. Continue that legend through further gameplay and downloadable content”. Bioware wanted us to buy DLC after that horrific ending?


The response was immediate and disastrous. Legions of gamers around the globe took to forums, message boards and social media to complain that they felt cheated. All of the decisions they had made throughout the trilogy suddenly felt hollow and inconsequential. Such was the damage that Bioware eventually relented and released a free update to the game which extended the ending with new dialogue and scenes, while adding adding additional scenes after the end of the game that served as a more fitting farewell to the various characters and races you’d met along your travels through the galaxy. While many agreed that the Extended Cut was a vast improvement, the damage had been done, with some fans saying that they’ll never trust the developer again. Meanwhile, the entire experience is likely what led Bioware to begin surveying players over what they’d like to see in the upcoming Mass Effect 4.

Mass Effect 3 is a great game, but for many – including myself – it will always be defined by how the original ending felt like a betrayal of fans’ trust.

Oliver Zimmerman

Oliver Zimmerman

South-African raised, Dublin-resident. Oli loves games in all their shapes and forms. He particularly loves RPGs. He's also a keen wordsmith, and can often be found not just playing games, but also discussing their rights and wrongs.
Written By
Genre , ,
Available On , , ,

Related posts

  • Dirkster_Dude

    I agree with your comments. When I was in high school learning about history I learned how America participated in World War 2. What we overcame and how we kicked Nazi German butt. Then I read about how the Allied troops found the concentration and death camps and learned about the Holocaust and while I was still glad of course the Allies prevailed it made feel like it was a Pyrrhic victory. Time and distance was the only thing that kept the free world going after learning of such an abomination. When I got to the end of Mass Effect 3 and pretty much everything felt the same even the 1 positive ending – it was crap. All this reminded me and the rage I felt when I learned about the Holocaust. That is how much I hated the Mass Effect 3 ending. Even after they updated the end content and the ending where you never choose 1 of the 3 main endings it was still a cop out. According to everything else in the game you were winning and just needing a knockout punch to avoid even greater loss of life, but of course the replicators still won. So once again we found out all over again like the author of this article states it was still bullshit. I was even more angry wondering like during the holocaust how these people could be so stupid? Never again will I invest so much energy and emotion into a video game. Probably wasn’t healthy anyway.

  • Anonio

    People go on and on about the ending being terrible, which it was, but the whole game was by far the weakest in terms of narrative and overall plot. In the fisrt game your trying to prove yourself to the old guard while trying to stop their best agent gone rouge, al the wile getting bits and peices of lore and eventually figureing out that the ship was calling the shots th whole time and its part of a race that wants to wipeout this whole detailed beautiful world you have come to know, and for many love. In the second game you get to see the dark side of humanity in the new galactic lens while trying to solve the mistery of what the collectors are and why they are suddenly abducting humans alone when there are a bunch of other species who are equal yet different, and you meet interesting characters perhaps in many ways more interesting than the first game, Like legion who tells you that not all geth are bad and infact they would be more than willing to allow the displaced quarrians to return to their home world if they did so peacefully, you get to see the societies of the krogans and quarrians first hand, which you never got to do in the first game, and experience the underbelly of lawless space outside the citadel’s control. moreover your actions matter and impact the end of the game as to who lives and dies in a very specific way, and at the end you got to see the reapers as being massive numerous and all slightly different while haveing similer overall silhouettes as well as what they are made from. In the third game what are you doing? Running around trying to create a magic mcguffan to save the galaxy while trying to unite the galaxy despite the fact that there is no species unaffected by the reapers makeing all their squabbling look childish and silly by comparison, while makeing a number go up and if you indulged in the lore to any degree cringing every time the game contradicts itself, the reality is most of the good writers who worked on the first two games left because they couldn’t stomach EA sticking their finger into Mass Effect and going “yah this is good and all but it needs more generic scifi tropes.” and “cant you make it faster?” or “wait wait what are you guys doing we need the day one DLC now! we cant have you working on this characters dialogue! Oh by the way you know how you guys have a bunch of good actors voice acting for compelling characters? Well we got you some new ones from reality show jersey shore! what do you mean their stiff and can’t vocally emote?”