Is the Mass Effect 3 ending controversy justified?

As a raging fan files an FTC complaint against Mass Effect 3, we wonder if the fuss is really worth it…

Mass Effect 3

Unless you’ve been living under an exceedingly powerful mass effect field for the least few days, you’ll probably be more than aware that an army of Mass Effect fans have been less than satisfied with BioWare’s ending to the epic space opera trilogy.

In fact, the ending has caused so much controversy with players that several petitions have sprung up around the Internet with the sole aim of getting BioWare to rewrite it.

Fans who have, understandably, become very attached to the game’s characters and universe, felt that the endings on offer (there are slightly different outcomes depending on your actions) were woefully inept, and failed to close the story in a way that’s in keeping with the quality of the series. There have been countless forum posts, YouTube videos, blogs and more explaining why the ending simply isn’t good enough, and some have even gone out of their way to write whole explanations and theories as to the real meaning behind the endings.

This torrent of requests and downright abuse hasn’t gone unnoticed by BioWare, which has issued responses to the blitzkrieg of criticism stating that the company is aware of the fans’ feelings, and that all views are being taken into account.

Ad – content continues below

Some believe that BioWare may, indeed, cave in to the pressure, and release some DLC that remedies the faults, and there are even rumours floating around of a DLC pack called ‘The Truth’, which will offer a full explanation of the events seen in the game. Of course, this is merely rumour, so grab a fist full of salt.

You may well think that that’s a whole lot of trouble for BioWare to deal with, and you’d be right, but it doesn’t end there. In the last couple of days, BioWare forum member, El_Spiko, has kicked the ME3 ending situation into a whole different gear.

So infuriated with the ending is El_Spiko, that he’s actually approached the Federal Trade Commission in order to file a false advertising complaint against publisher, Electronic Arts. He also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. In these complaints he stated that the game didn’t live up to the promises made in the PR blurb and advertising campaign. As a last resort to try and improve things, he considered this approach to be his only remaining option.

Now, it’s a certainty that many people reading this story will instantly think El_Spiko has gone too far, and needs to get out more. And yes, he may have taken the whole situation a little too far, but let’s look at this, and the rest of the complaints, a little more objectively.

The Complaints

The Mass Effect trilogy has been around since 2007, and each instalment has a play through time of around 30 hours, give or take. The games are also some of the most well written around, with amazingly deep back stories and world lore, fleshed out and genuinely likable characters, and a truly great story arc. If you played from the very first game, you could carry over your own, unique hero to the next games, taking with you your own decisions and personally-shaped world.

Ad – content continues below

This level of quality and immersion could only have one effect on fans – it made them fall in love with the game. This is a title they’ve played over five years. They’ve gotten to know the characters, lived in the world, made difficult decisions, all to get to the ultimate goal of seeing the conclusion to Shepard’s story.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why so many fans feel they have the right to complain. After all, BioWare wanted us to get immersed in this world. It wanted us to live as Shepard, and feel the emotional weight of our decisions, and it even wanted us to romance digital love interests, both human and alien. This level of immersion was always the goal with the series, and so, when the ending didn’t hit the right notes, fans, rightfully, felt as if the rug had been pulled form under them, and the story ruined.

Just think of how many people laid into George Lucas and the prequel trilogy for Star Wars. True, there may not have been court cases, but the vitriol and venom spouted about the films was deemed by many to be justified, and the complaints were accepted.

Mass Effect is, to many gamers, the Star Wars of this industry, and so it’s no surprise to see the Internet hate. And, whilst it may not warrant an FTC investigation, and Mr Spiko may have gone that little bit too far, we can surely sympathise.

My Humble Opinion

Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it yet (there are plenty of places online that have taken care of that), but as I reviewed the game for Den of Geek, I thought it only fitting to give my own view of the game’s controversial closure.

Ad – content continues below

I’ve played Mass Effect from day one, and, like many other players, took my original, custom Shepard through the entire trilogy. I have to say, I simply couldn’t help but be impressed with the writing and storytelling BioWare crammed into the trilogy, and seeing events unwind as I made my own decisions and life or death judgements made for a truly immersive and unique gaming experience. Mass Effect‘s storytelling is simply second to none.

The ramifications of these past decisions really came to a head in part three. Characters I’d saved, both major and minor dropped in to say hello, entire plotlines changed from what could have been if I’d taken another route, and even bit-part NPCs from past adventures dropped me emails to thank me for helping out. It was some ride, and coupled with great (if-flawed) combat, I stick firmly with my five star rating.

But, what about the ending? Well, if I was to say it was a perfectly written and thought out ending, I’d be lying. There are several aspect of the ending that I feel are both incorrect and out of place, and after reading and watching many fan reactions, I can honestly say I agree with a lot of what’s been talked about.

That said, at the same time I simply don’t feel as hard done by than most. While the plot holes are there, I actually thought the ultimate reveals of the Reaper threat and the eventual conclusion was handled well enough for the most part, and I especially like the element of the story that’s left to your own imagination. This is certainly fitting with a game that prides itself on letting you shape the world and make your own decisions, so why not let you fill in some of the blanks with your own canon lore?

Yes, it could be argued that this design isn’t intentional, and that the overtly red or blue choice given to you at the end of the game goes against the freedom offered throughout the series, but this is always going to be subjective, and no matter want kind of ending BioWare had supplied, there would be someone, somewhere who’d hate it.

You simply can’t please everyone, ever. It’s impossible. If BioWare decides to appease the fans with an alternate ending, either via a patch or, more likely, DLC, then this may give Mass Effect fans everything they wanted, but it also sets a worrying precedent.

Ad – content continues below

How many more games will be assaulted with barrages of complaints should a story not meet everyone’s requirements? Will the gaming world devolve into a fan-made choose your own adventure book, with less professionally written content? And, if more and more games are revisited in order to re-write content, how will that affect production budgets and future game releases?

These questions may be a little OTT, sure, but if BioWare is forced to rewrite ME3‘s ending, there will certainly be a knock-on effect, make no mistake, and it’ll certainly be very interesting to see how the situation pans out.