Mass Effect 3 Ending: Should BioWare Change It?

written by Creston

Should BioWare change the ending of Mass Effect 3 based upon the outcry from fans?  Would such a decision harm their artistic integrity?


Sorry, but I cannot discuss this subject without describing sections of Mass Effect 3 (ME3).  If you have not played it yet, go get yourself a copy and play it.  Come back when you are done.  I will wait . . . 

A Game Design Challenge

Leading up to the release of ME3, I questioned how BioWare was going to pull off the story.  How was Commander Shepard going to take on a whole armada of reapers when multiple fleets had trouble taking down one reaper?  There was also no way you could do an ending with Commander Shepard battling a reaper "boss" such as Sovereign.  That would just be silly.

The Ending

Assuming the Indoctrination theory is wrong, at the end, a player encounters no final boss and is given a choice between controlling the reapers, synthesis of organic / inorganic life, and destroying the reapers.  After a short animation showing Shepard making his choice, you see the effect of his choice and apart from a few differences, you basically see different colored explosions.  

While completing the ending of ME3, I kept thinking to myself "well that is strange."  From the point that you get hit by Sovereigns' beam, it seems like a different game with many inconsistencies and oddities when compared to the rest of the game.  I really did not have a special feeling after I made my final choice.  I struggled to try to discern what the game was trying to communicate to me.  It seemed very anti-climactic right at the climax.  This is in contrast to when Mordin makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the Krogan.  That was a masterful conclusion to his story.

Needless to say, I was not impressed with ME3's ending.  Clearly, other players feel this as well.  So, should BioWare change it?

Decisions, Decisions

If BioWare has evidence that a sufficient number of players do not get the meaning of their ending, they should change it.  Presumably, they want to communicate something with their ending.  If players do not understand what BioWare is saying, they should repeat it in a different way.  Think of it as a conversation.  If someone does not understand you, you repeat it in a different way.  

If BioWare changes the ending, I don't think it sets a terrible precedent or diminishes games as an art form at all.  I see it more as in issue of communication.  As you create anything, you go through multiple iterations.  Whether it is a blog post, a book, a YouTube video, a movie, a game, a story, you go through iterations trying to make it better or more clear.  Maybe BioWare needed a few more iterations to perfect what they were doing.  Ideally, they would have released something that everyone got, enjoyed, and sill communicated their message.  Look at movies.  If every released movie was perfect, there would be no  Director's cuts.

The Indoctrination Theory

Now if you believe in the indoctrination theory, then a lot of the confusion and inconsistencies at the end can be explained away.  However, then I would ask, where is the end?  If the indoctrination theory is true, then the only "right" answer is to destroy the reapers which means you wake up in a bunch of rubble on earth.  So, you still have to fight the reapers.  You have "beaten" indoctrination but the reaper threat is still there.  Where is the end?  Does Earth get saved?  Or are we toast?


Sometime in the month of April we should be receiving news of future DLC content for Mass Effect 3.  I do not think it is wise for any company to cater to a vocal minority of their customer base.  However, if BioWare knows that a large number of their players had issues with the ending, then I would be happy to see them publish a clarification.  Think of it as Director's cut DLC.

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