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I am not going to beat around the bush. This is a very bad game compared to the previous Mass Effect entries. There are glaring design problems that are completely inexcusable from a team of this caliber. Make sure to watch my first impressions video below in which I go over most of these problems. No I am not going to harp on the shitty facial animations. That is NOTHING compared to the real design and technical problems. Much time has passed since my first impression and now I am ready to give you guys some more.

Gladly, I can say with no fanboyism, that there is plenty of fun to be had while playing Mass Effect Andromeda. The problem is the game is riddled with fun-sucking landmines which you need to avoid in order to reach the fun. You heard that right, Mass Effect Andromeda doesn’t just lack fun, it actively attempts to ruin your experience through very backward gameplay design. Here are three great examples of BioWare “admitting” to and fixing  horrible design choices:

  1. They released a patch which doubled your stupid fun-crushing item limit from 50 to 100, and now it upgrades all the way up to 200 instead of just 80. I am very pleased with this change. Thanks BioWare for realizing how fucking stupid you were for putting this tiny 50 item limit here.
  2. This game utilizes these sudoku-like puzzles to unlock vaults on planets. There is an item which will automatically solve the puzzle for you, but it was originally rare and prohibitively expensive. The same patch reduced the price to something trivial and made them available at more merchants. Sorry I lack details as I actually quite enjoyed these puzzles and never used this item. However I completely understand people who didn’t and they must have had a very frustrating time with these puzzles.
  3. Scanning planets, everyone’s favorite activity from previous games, makes another appearance. Except this time you need to spend ~10 seconds traveling from one planet to another, even inside the same system. Honestly, I thought this was a “hidden” loading screen at first. The idea that this un-skippable cutscene of traveling from planet to planet just to harvest 13 iron was superfluous didn’t even cross my mind. Never underestimate your enemy. This patch also added a skip button to these animations.

Anyway. Here is the best advice I can give you for maximizing your enjoyment of the game. Spoiler Free.

Don’t Play on Insanity

The start of the game is nearly impossible and frustrating… But I did it to myself. I asked for hard, I got it. I’m not mad, however there is CERTAINLY a problem with how the game scales early.

Once you get out of the prologue the trouble really starts. At least half the game’s combat takes place on hazard planets. This means you have a life support meter that depletes while you are exposed to radiation/cold/heat/cancer. The fights on insanity last SO LONG that it is very likely you will need to retreat just to replenish your life support. This involves sitting in your car for 5 minutes to get it back… Yawn. On some battles I had to go back to my car SEVERAL TIMES just to get my life support back.

Then you have to contend with the auto save system, which is spotty at best. You probably expect to die a lot on insanity. But do you expect to die 3 minutes travel time from the battle? Because that is going to happen. Getting burned out early from the frustrating combat is pretty much guaranteed.

It is important to point out that the achievement for beating the game on insanity can be claimed either by beating the game on insanity, or extracting on gold difficulty four times in multiplayer. If you plan on going hard on multiplayer, this achievement is pretty meaningless.

I would encourage you to start on hardcore if you are seeking a challenge and go from there.

Do Planets in Order of Fun

This game primarily takes place on 5 planets, the Golden Worlds. If you want to avoid frustration it is important to save the bad/annoying planets for last. They are much easier to manage when you have better skills, armor, guns, car and experience. Here are all of the planets from most fun to least fun:

  • Havarl (Fun!)
  • Kadara
  • Eladeen
  • Eos
  • Voeld (9th Circle of Hell)

The first planet you explore is Eos. You will notice that I put Eos second to last… A mind-boggling choice for the player’s first experience with open world travel. Suffer through this shit planet and soon you will get the choice to go to Havarl or Voeld.

This is the most important decision you will make in this game. Make sure to go to Havarl first. Because if you go to Voeld first there is a 10% chance you are going to break your fucking console, and a 100% chance that you want to play a different game. Once you harvest Havarl for all of its goods and deck out your car you should be able to handle any planet you want. But I recommend you use my order.

When Offered the First AVP Reward, Take Hidden Caches

When you start settling planets, you get to wake people up from cryo sleep. You are given a long list of groups to wake up and they give you various rewards. It’s pretty overwhelming at first and you might be temped to get something like cash or minerals.

The first one you want to do is the one which reveals hidden caches. It puts treasure chest indicators on the map on all the planets you are going to go to for the rest of the game. These chests are full of plenty of good loot like guns, armor, consumables, and rare materials (remnant cores). Your life much easier, and you will have more fun. It has considerably more value than the other pods, and it will make your exploration experience better. You will unlock around 20 total pods over the course of the game so don’t worry about missing something.

Purchase All Car Mobility Upgrades First

You are going to spend a ton of time in your car driving around mountainous hazardous planets in this game. You want to make this experience as easy as possible so you can have fun actually doing your various quests. Giving the car all of these upgrades will ensure you can travel over hills and jump-boost over gaps without worry. Getting to where you want quickly is very helpful.

Additionally, because of the horrible design of open-world encounters, your car is going to be your sole source of cover for many battles. This is why some of the defensive upgrades are also helpful, especially advanced life support.

Tag All Forward Stations

Speaking of making travel easy, here is a tip I didn’t fully realize until halfway through the game. When looking at your map on planets you will see these icons resembling a lunar lander. These are forward stations, they provide a safe environment for you to: go back your the Tempest, change squad mates, change load outs and call your car. What I didn’t know for a long time is that clicking on an active forward station FROM the map allows you to fast travel to it!

The first thing you should do when coming to a new planet is immediately zig zag to all of the forward stations. Then you can teleport to any location on the planets without wasting time driving around and running into stupid Kett dropships at every mile marker. This will probably shave 10+ hours off your gametime.

Don’t Worry About Crafting Until About 30% Into the Game

  • You don’t know what is good
  • You don’t know what you want
  • You don’t have enough materials
  • Crafting is frustrating

Those are just some of the reason you shouldn’t worry about it until you are good and comfortable. No sense pulling your hair out dealing with the crafting interface just to make a gun you are only going to use for a few missions. A much better idea is to collect junk while experimenting with all the guns you find. Around level 25-35 you will start to understand what you need, at which point you will have enough augmentations, materials and research points to deck yourself out.

Don’t Waste Your Time, Do Story/Loyalty Missions

This game can boast being a 100+ hour game, but 80% of that is not gameplay they should be proud of. All of the fun is hidden inside the story-progressing missions and loyalty missions. The loyalty missions also unlock the 6th rank of your squadmates’ abilities. This makes them better in combat, which makes combat more fun for you.

When you start moving forward into the game you will see like 25 quest indicators on a planet! Look at all these amazing missions! Don’t kid yourself, they are almost all complete garbage, and it’s actually hard to tell what is real and what is a useless waste of time. Learn to navigate your journal and pick out the important stuff before you find yourself 25 hours deep with nothing to show for it.

I was playing Mass Effect 2 for like the 20th time when it finally dawned on me how silly the Purgatory (recruit Jack) mission is. Here is a summery in case you don’t remember:

You go to the Blue Sun owned prison ship, Purgatory, to acquire Jack. Cerberus paid for Jack’s release and you arrive to pick her up and on the way to the processing station the prison locks down. Turns out Warden Kuril is pulling the old “double-cross.” He decided Shepard is worth more as a prisoner. Then you proceed to fight your way out freeing Jack and getting off the prison. Not only thwarting Warden Kuril’s plan, but killing him during the escape.

Let’s break this down from Kuril’s point of view:

Kuril took a large payment from the Illusive Man to hand Jack over to Shepard. He decided it would be more profitable to kidnap commander Shepard … and then what? How exactly do you profit from having Shepard? I SUPPOSE he wants to sell him to the highest bidder? Who is that, the Collectors? Ok I guess that kinda makes sense although since the Collectors have a history of attacking human colonies and just making them outright disappear, it seems like a pretty risky deal.

Here are three more problems.

1. Kuril’s foolish confidence that his inept guards can handle a fully armed Shepard and his crew (Grunt and Garrus in most cases). Maybe Kuril hasn’t read the news for a while: Shepard is a bit of a badass… Shepard defeated Matriarch Benezia and a squad of Asari commandos. He defeated the Turian Specter Saren. Shepard eats battalions of Geth for breakfast. I guess Kuril didn’t really buy all of that…

2. The Normandy is currently right outside, in full radio contact with Shepard, and fully aware of what he is doing. Even if the prison has some kind of radio jammer, what do you suppose the crew of the Normandy will do when Shepard doesn’t come back after 2 hours? Just leave? The Normandy is fully armed and full of the most badass mercs in the galaxy that are all waiting for Shepard to come back. EDI is probably already hacked into the prison comm system and knows everything that is going on. Best case scenario, Thane, Jacob, Miranda, and Zaeed launch a little rescue party and murder everyone. Worst case scenario Joker blasts a hole in the station. Either way Kuril isn’t going anywhere with Shepard.

3. Betraying the Illusive man sounds really smart. Cerberus doesn’t have an longstanding reputation of murder, torture and medical experimentation or anything.

The Purgatory is a slow, clunky, lightly armed prison ship. Even if this kidnap attempt it successful and he somehow gets Shepard into a cell. How is he going to deal with the Normandy, the Alliance and Cerberus which will all show up within 24 hours? Warden Kuril has no outs! This plan is VERY POORLY THOUGHT OUT.

Fitness, is it worth it? The short answer is “no.” The long answer is, 990 shields is the magic number because that is the level of shields you need in order to handle: a prime pulse, banshee ball, and phantom shot without having your shield gate broken.

990 Shield Sweet Spot

Anything less than this number is not worth it because most enemies on gold and above will do so much damage in a single shot, or single burst, it will totally obliterate your shields regardless of your fitness level unless you are one of the tanky classes. Squishy classes are better off using and abusing shield-gate, and generally staying hidden. The points you put into fitness probably could be better utilized in another skill.

Shield-gate is a term used to express how shields act when they take high amounts of damage. When your shields absorb the maximum damage they can, the remainder of the damage is simply removed, or consumed by the shields. If you have 500 shields and 500 life and you take a 1000 damage shot, you will not die. Your shields will absorb all the damage and drop. Basically that 1000 damage could have been 1,000,000 damage and the same effect would take place. The shield-gate would eliminate all the access damage.

Please observe this graph demonstrating shields gained vs points spent. The reason I am only counting shields and not health is simplicity. Generally once your shields drop you go into hide-mode and are no longer considering taking any damage because at that point you are likely going to die. The basic gameplay is shoot until your shields drop, then hide until your shields return. Unless you are Vorcha.

As you can see, you gain a tremendous amount of shields at rank 2 compared to rank 6. Out of a total possible gain of 65% shields, 25% are gained at rank 2, spending only 3 skill points. However there are no rational builds that end with only 2 ranks in fitness, it will always be rank 3 so you get some gravy melee bonuses. This is a very good value compared to the next at rank 4, giving only 15% health and shields and no melee damage. Things begin getting very inefficient from there. Rank 5 offers no health benefit, while rank 6 gives you the final 25% except you had to spend a whopping 11 points to get from 4 to 6! Was it worth it? Not usually. Let’s look at the enemy damage.

Enemy Damage Values

This graph has the damage all of the enemies in the game do in a single shot or a single burst, when applicable. The horizontal lines show the shields of a human at all the ranks of fitness. As you can see, at 0 fitness, every single enemy in the game will deal more damage than your shields can handle. At rank 3, you gain enough shields to withstand a few of the minor cerberus troops bursts. Which is nice, but look at how little you can truly handle.

After spending 21 points into fitness you are still getting shield-gated by a phantom, scion, ravager, atlas, nemesis, and banshee. You could have spent 0 points and suffered no ill effects! Now granted this is an over-simplification. Having more shields and health WILL help you survive because not all burst-fire enemies will land the entire burst into you. They will miss, or you will hide before taking it all. In that case the extra hp are worth it. It could mean the difference between getting into cover right in the knick of time, or getting dropped. This is why I do recommend putting 3 ranks into fitness to give you that extra edge, but further points… think long and hard.

Shield Recharge Delay

It is worth talking about fitness rank 5, which gives you +15% shield recovery speed. On gold, your shields recharge after 3 seconds of rest. Rank 5 brings that 3 seconds down to 2.55 seconds. Personally, I have never noticed the difference. If I have 2.55 seconds to hide, then I probably have 3 seconds to hide. I think those 5 skill points can be better spent. I have read the argument that the less time you wait for your shields to recharge, the more time you have to fire your gun and generally output damage. That might be true, but you also could have invested those 5 point in a skill, or 15% power damage.

I have heard people say that increasing shield recharge will allow you more shield gate opportunities. This isn’t true. The shield gate is on a separate timer that is not modified by anything. The shieldgate refreshes every 3 seconds, which happens to match shield recharge on Gold. However increasing shield recharge does not grant a new shieldgate.

There is something to be said about stacking shield recharge, you could get your shields coming up after less than 1 second with a good mix of passives and gear. Maybe on characters that have the potential to stack it like the Justicar, Blade Armor or Fortification classes this would be a good evolution but in general, I don’t see it. Bottom line is, you save half a second for 5 skill points.

Diminishing Returns

Here is yet another way to view the diminishing returns of fitness. Starting with rank 3, each individual investment in this tree yields a worse result than the one before from a HP per skill point perspective.

  • Rank 3, 6 points = +25% health/shields or 250 hp – hp per skill point 41.6
  • Rank 4, 4 points = +15% health/shields or 150 hp – 37.5
  • Rank 5, 5 points = +0% health/shields
  • Rank 6, 6 points = +25% health/shields or 250 hp – 22.72

The Cyclonic Modulator Clause

I should mention the cyclonic modulator III. This gear bonus grants +100% base shields. Note, it is base shields, as in pre-fitness shields. That means a 500/500 human with a shield cyclonic and no fitness will still end up with 1000 shields. Actually everyone class/race except Drell and Vorcha will break 990 shields with a cyclonic. I believe this further reduces the value of fitness, since this item will make any human sturdy enough to handle the most common danger attacks.

Race/Class Specific Analysis

Asari

Asari are identical to humans, except they have a much better dash. Because the Asari use up a slight amount of barrier when dashing, so the shield recharge has above-average value for them. Consider stacking rank 5 fitness with shield recharge gear on Asari.

Salarians

Salarians are actually surprisingly beefy maxing out at 990 shields, marking their shields strong enough to withstand both a phantom pulse and a banshee warp ball. In addition, both salarians have energy drain which not only refills their shields, but also can grant damage reduction making Salarian shields surprisingly valuable.

Quarians

Quarians are just a huge mess. It had to have been some mistake. The female Quarians top off at 990 shields which is perfect. The male soldier tops off at 875 and the male infiltrator tops off at 1050. Not sure what is going on with this race but all of them except the male soldier can reach the magic number.

Drell

Drell have no hope, max shields only 425 which is well below the damage of all the enemies. Although Drell gain speed bonus which brings additional benefits. It is hard to understand how much extra benefit Drell gain from speed, but the addition make fitness a worthwhile tree to invest in despite the sad state of their health. If you stack adrenaline mods with Drell speed, they can move sideways fast enough to avoid most fire.

Vorcha

Vorcha end up with 1750 (health+shields) total hp at rank 6, which is only 100 more than a human. However Vorcha regenerate health giving them a lot of mileage out of fitness. But they are also prime melee characters so your are going to have to make some tough choices. If I were you, I would take durability at rank 4, and melee at 5 and 6.

Krogan

Krogans obviously love fitness. They end up with very high numbers, and have very high damage reduction. I always max fitness on Krogan because of it’s tremendous value. Krogans also are at odds with themselves splitting melee damage with shields.

Volus

Volus gain almost nothing from fitness, and they have a cloak for extra survivability. Do not waste your points. Try to use cloak to stay alive.

Geth

Geth end up with considerable shields, 1237 at rank 6 (1650 for trooper) and that is shields only! Hunter mode does reduce shields by 500 however. So you need to make some tough choices to make.

Tuarians

Turians are an interesting case. The old non-jetpack Turians break the magic 1000 shields barrier at rank 3. Making rank 3 fitness pretty much a must for these classes. Going higher than that brings limited value but you must remember that they can’t roll or dash to avoid trouble. The sentinel has tech armor giving him damage reduction so I would highly recommend maxing his fitness.

Armiger Legion Turians need to hit rank 4 to break 1000 shields, which is usually worth it. I don’t recommend going higher, because they also have the jetpacks for mobility. These guys also happen to have a pretty awesome melee so if you are maxing fitness, I would go durability on rank 4, and then melee on 5 and 6. Some of these guys have Stimpack which pretty much removes the need for any fitness, since stimpack gives you shields above and beyond your max anyway. Rank 4 stimpack specced for max shields already gives 1680 shields, which is more than a Turian can even get maxing fitness out.

Infilitrators

Infiltrators shouldn’t spend very much time in fitness. They have cloak which does a great job keeping them from taking direct fire, and gives them plenty of opportunities to escape and regain shields unharmed. I would never go past rank 3 fitness on an infiltrator if not a melee build or a skill worth missing.

Vanguards

Vanguards can regain shields at will so they get lots of mileage out of every point. However if you keep your cool down at +200% often you can charge so often that shields are almost always at full. I believe a vanguard can go both ways in this situation.

I am sure there are hundreds of other examples and fringe situations, but the main takeaways is: 990 shields is optimal. Everything less is really not that useful. Please share your thoughts with me because I am very interested in exploring this further.

The Mass Effect Multiplayer system has a huge amount of design space that is currently not being utilized. Specifically in regards to credits and credit manipulation. I have a number of suggestions that I think would greatly increase the multiplayer experience if implemented.

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NES Ninja Gaiden level 1, demonstrating the Coca-Cola product placement.

NES Ninja Gaiden level 1, demonstrating the Coca-Cola product placement.

There is a knee-jerk reaction against any advertising but I argue that product placement can be tastefully done. Video games have a huge amount of advertising space available in the form of product placement. That extra revenue could reduce the cost of games.

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New female shepard face from Mass Effect

Mass Effect Data
Over three-hundred hours
I start a new game
ME3 Commander Shepard preparing for a mission looking into space

Data migration?
Shepard proudly volunteers
suicide mission
Shot of brandy on a colorful red table cloth

drinking to forget?
drinking to the memory
all the lost Shepards
Small espresso in a white mug on a metallic table

six ounce espresso
i drink out of boredom
and necessity

I was on my way to pre-order Assassin’s Creed III. I was deeply disturbed by the $60 price tag. Then, I started thinking… Is the game really worth $60? How do I value a video game?

Recently, in preparation for ACIII, I completed Assassin’s Creed II. Although it actually took me about 4 years to beat that game, in game time it took 32 hours. That means I paid approximately $2 per hour to play this game. Assuming I was “entertained” each hour. How does that fair against other games? Let’s compare that to Mass Effect .

I have played Mass Effect 3 160 hours. An eye-opening figure to say the least. ME3 cost me $60 which only ends up costing 37 cents per entertainment hour. That is already amazing and I am not even finished with that game yet! I still want to beat it at least twice more. Of course, the majority of my ME3 time has been spent in multiplayer. I am glad to know that Assassin’s Creed III will offer multiplayer otherwise I can only assume beating it will only take about 30 hours.

This way of valuing games is interesting. Especially when comparing console to mobile games. The iOS classic Game Dev Story only cost $3 put I have easily spent over 30 hours playing it (yeah I really like Game Dev Story). That is only 10 cents per hour! Mobile games usually carry a very low cost yet people are still hesitant to spend more than $1 on a game. They shouldn’t be, even if only an hour is spent playing it, it is likely more entertainment value than going to a movie.

Speaking of movies, if we apply this same measure of entertainment hours to a movie theatre, buying a DVD or even a music album it looks like we are being ripped off!

  • Movie $5 per hour ($10 ticket, 2 hour movie)
  • DVD $10 per hour ($20 DVD, 2 hour movie)
  • Album $8 per hour ($10 album, 1.25 hours of music)

Granted in the case of a DVD or music you will watch/hear the media multiple times and the value of that entertainment will increase each time. Sometimes buying media this way is worth it. Star Trek the Next Generation, the greatest series ever created, can be purchased for about $300. Total running length of TNG is about 150 hours. Watching all of it only once is about the same value as you get from a 30 hour video game, or $2 per hour. But who can watch that series just once? I am currently watching it for the fourth time.

I could go on all day but I better not. Keep this in mind when you are thinking about buying a movie or game though, it might help you make up your mind.

Well you morons finally put me over the edge. I have tried being reasonable but that didn’t work. All I have left is to tell you how stupid you are. I am forced to bash you over your thick fucking skull with insults just to make myself feel better. At this point I am not even trying to be helpful because you are beyond help. You guys actually find it more reasonable that after three entire 40+ hour epics, BioWare’s writers starting making mistakes like forgetting to give your gun ammo, teleporting teammates around? That is easier for you to accept than a dream theory? I can’t even beleive what I am hearing.

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A large amount of players seem to hate the Mass Effect 3 ending. I have been fighting many long and hard battle on the bioware forums about it. Doing my best to fight the good fight but but it’s alot like playing whack-a-mole. I noticed multiple ending detractors refering to this article: Mass Effect 3 Ending Hatred 5 Reasons Fans are Right as proof that the ending is indeed bad. I would like to take this article on, and prove to you that the ending is actually not bad. Most of my philosphy is based on a “Indoctrination Theory” which I believe solves all issue and is the intended interpretation of the ending.

Basically the theory says everything that took place after Shepard was hit by the Reaper laser on his way to the conduit is inside Shepard’s head. It is a dream, but more than just a dream. It is the manifestation of his battle against indoctrination. Everything that takes place during the final scenes is Shepard’s way of dealing with and either overcoming or succumbing to indoctrination.

Indoctrination Theory Proofs

1. This is the only game in the series that has dream sequences. Playable dream sequences introduced early in the game force you to question what is and is not a dream because not all playable sections in Mass Effect 3 are reality. It opens the door for a dreamlike ending; especially events that take place after Shepard is seemingly knocked unconscious.

2. If you choose the destroy ending (the correct choice), Shepard is shown waking up or taking a breath while lying on concrete rubble. Obviously it’s totally absurd to think Shepard fell to Earth from the exploding space station and survived. This scene shows Shepard waking in London after being hit by the laser because he knows he has unfinished business.

3. The end sequence plays like the dream sequence. It is slow motion, wobbly, and the sound is distorted and distant. It is reasonable to assume this is because Shepard is super jacked on adrenaline, but the pretense of the previous dream sequences in the game set a precedent for this. Furthermore, each time Shepard dreams, he sees the child. The child appears here again. Possible to say the catalyst read Shepard’s thoughts to show the child, but once again, a precedent has been set.

4. During the dream sequence you have no HUD display, and your pistol doesn’t have ammo. These clues visually and mechanically remove you from reality. The developers/writers didn’t FORGET to give the gun ammo at the end, they are trying to tell you something.

5. When Shepard beams up to the Citadel he ends up exactly where he needs to be, about 200 feet from the crucible console. Anderson is already there, as is the Illusive Man, both of whom never made it to the beam and were never seen. It is possible to come up with some strange explanations on how they both got there, but it simply makes more sense that they are in Shepard’s subconscious. Shepard has an inkling that maybe the Illusive Man’s plan is right. After all, the Illusive Man was always right in ME2. So he appears in Shepard’s head like a devil on a shoulder.

6. Joker, the Normandy and squad mates that were with you on Earth are shown flying away from the battle and landing on some tropical planet. This doesn’t make sense in the context of the story, and is not a writing mistake. This isn’t a piece of the script that EVERYONE seemed to gloss over. The fact that the Normandy and the crew are no longer in the SOL system is yet another hint that this isn’t reality.

7. Never in the game are options so blatantly color-coded. The option is clearly “renegade red” while control is “paragon blue.” It is as if the game is trying to convince THE PLAYER that control is the “best outcome.” Because this is the first time anything by dialog choices have been color-coded, it is yet another hint that something is off.

8. Shepard imagines Anderson performing the Destroy ending and Illusive Man performing the Control ending. This is the first time Shepard is shown to use his imagination. Why didn’t Shepard imagine himself performing both endings? Also Anderson has always been a zealous paragon and is shown performing the color-coded “red” ending while Illusive man, a devout renegade is shown performing the “blue” ending. This might be Shepard asking himself “what would Anderson do and what would TIM do.” I think the Reaper influence is painting the solutions mixed colors to trick Shepard, and the proper Para/Gade characters are Shepard’s subconscious showing the real morality of the choices.

I hope understanding the ending in this context helps you come to terms with it. If it does not, then you are a dolt because this is the most refreshing ending I have experienced in a very long time. Finally someone had some balls and actually make an ending you need to think about. Not only that, but they actually broke the 4th wall and attempted to indoctrinate the player. Notice this tweet by Priestly, he seems to encourage players to extrapolate. I will take that as another hint.

Now that we are on the same page about the ending, assuming you are also familiar with the article in question, let me address each complaint.

5 Reasons Fans Are Right: Rebuttal

“5) Brevity

It’s not just that players are forced to choose from one of three nearly identical endings. It’s not even that they are presented with each choice regardless of what kind of game they played, so long as their EMS rating was sufficiently high. It’s that the player is never given any sense of how the choice they ultimately made affected the galaxy they worked so hard to save.”

The title of this reason is brevity but the actual explanation is something else. This is the often seen “your choices don’t matter” argument. This complaint doesn’t resonate with me because your choices in regard to the ending are no less important in ME3 then they were in ME1 or ME2.

In Mass Effect, no matter what choices you made the game still ended with the citadel under attack, Saren dead and Sovereign defeated. You make two choices at the end, save or sacrifice the council and who to leave in charge Anderson or Udina. Your previous actions have nothing to do with either of these two, and these two have almost no relevance in ME2. The ending animation plays out almost exactly the same with a slighting different space battle which has the council lives/dies.

Mass Effect 2 is different because your choices greatly affect the ending but it is actually not that relevant because simply playing the game thoroughly all but ensures that you get a particular ending. If you beat all the loyalty missions then you will probably have a 90% survival rate (probably just losing Mordin). The only choice you make is to keep or destroy the collector base which once again isn’t at all effect by any previous choices.

In actuality Mass Effect 3 offers you more choices than the previous two games. You get three entirely different choices. Although the cut-scene that plays is nearly identical, conceptually each option is very different. I had to think long and hard about what I thought the right choice would be, I felt like a true decision maker. I am not as troubled as everyone else that all the endings look the same at the end. That realization would only affect me on my 2nd play through. On my original experience (the one BioWare caters to the most) I felt awesome about my choice and I was happy with my cut-scene.

After you stop the reapers you need to use your imagination. To me that is very easy and I don’t understand why people demand to have their hand held by a montage of the entire galaxy. I suppose I wouldn’t have hated some stills of all my friends celebrating as the credits rolled but don’t need to see it to understand it.

4) It is Confusing and Under-Developed

Anderson, despite having come up the Conduit behind Shepard, beats him to the secret Citadel control panel room.But the majority of the ending is an exercise in increasing incomprehensibility, beginning with the abrupt appearance of The Illusive Man.

It turns out to be a ridiculous AI whose visual representation is the young boy haunting Shepard’s nightmares throughout the game. It is never explained why this is the form he chooses; we don’t even get the courtesy of the “I chose a form you were comfortable with” cliche.”

These continuity issues are solved by indoctrination theory. People appearing in places without explanation is a classic dream element. The boy has been in Shepard’s all game and is something I would consider a dream sign. We know for a fact the boy is either not real or dead. We know that each time Shepard dreams he sees the boy. Why would this time be different?

“The AI then claims that he created the Reapers billions of years ago as a means of solving the problem of synthetic life forms killing their organic creators. The Reaper’s whole purpose is to save Organics by killing them, and turning them into synthetics. So that Organics won’t make synthetics who will then kill organics.”

I have seen this pointed out many times as if it is something profound. First and formost, irony isn’t a plot hole. It is perfectly fine for a race of synthetics to feel like they need to keep organics from developing AI. The reapers do not kill organics, they ascend them. They also do not destroy all organic life; they only take the most advanced races and leave the rest to develop. They fear that if organics go unchecked they will create an AI that will grow more powerful and destroy all life. The Reapers goal is NOT to destroy all life.

Also it is perfectly reasonable that the Reapers are wrong. You don’t need to agree with them to accept what they are saying as fact. The same way you don’t need to listen to the Illusive Man or Saren; you can disagree with the Reapers. You can display your disagreement by choosing the “Destroy” ending breaking the cycle.

“3) Lore Errors, Plot Holes

No matter which of ME3′s endings you choose, the Mass Relays are all destroyed. Yes, despite the weakness of an ending that robs the galaxy of critical technology, the multicolored explosions (player choice!) are certainly pretty. But in The Arrival, it was firmly established that the destruction of a Mass Relay would result in an explosion resembling a supernova, destroying the relay’s star system. In Mass Effect 3′s ending, the Mass Relays are destroyed in explosions so massive that they’re depicted as being visible from a perspective that resembles the Normandy’s Galaxy Map.”

This isn’t relevant. There could be many reasons why they went nova in “Arrival” or why they aren’t going nova this time. We have no idea how they work. The crucible pulse is a totally different event than hitting the relay with a giant rock. This isn’t a plot hole or a lore error.

“Unfortunately, the burned husk of Earth certainly can’t support the combined military forces of the galaxy. And remember folks, Turians and Quarians can’t eat human food anyway. The assumption then has to be that everyone scrambles to find a colony to support them, and/or they all die. In all likelihood — faced with starvation, the krogan slowly eat everybody.”

Maybe this is 100% true. Maybe everyone stuck in the Sol system is going to have a really hard time? … So?

Who said life would be easy after a galactic war? Would you prefer death? This was a very dark plot and many BILLIONS of individuals from all races died. Every race knew the risks and they pretty much expected to die defending all life. Being stranded in a non-ideal situation is actually not that bad of an outcome considering. With the new-found peace all the survivors can band together and begin the rebuilding process.

“This is probably the biggest WTF of all. As the Mass Relays explode, we see a short clip of Joker furiously scrambling in the Normandy Cockpit, followed by the Normandy barely staying ahead of the chain of explosions. Eventually, the Normandy crash-lands on a convenient, Earth-like jungle planet. Joker survives, and as he staggers out of the ship to see the new, presumably permanent home, he’s joined by members of Shepard’s crew. In almost every ending, these crew members include Shepard’s love interest and at least one person who joined Shep in his/her final push.”

This is another issue that is explained if you look at it as part of Shepard’s dream. That didn’t actually happen; Shepard is just imagining his closest friends barely surviving the ordeal and ending up on a lush relatively safe planet.

“2) Key Philosophical Themes Are Discarded

*Tolerance and Unity

But where tolerance has always been an option in the games before, and has always been achievable before, it is discarded wholly in the end. There is no tolerance permitted among the Reapers or by the Guardian. And in fact, the synthesis ending dismantles the idea of tolerance and unity altogether by forcing homogenization on all the life in the galaxy, synthetic included. The control ending forces the Reapers to tolerate you, with the assumption that eventually, synthetics will ruin everything again through their lack of tolerance; the destruction ending, as the Guardian claims, will mean the eventual destruction by all synthetics.”

Once again the player is welcome to reject this assumption. If you think the Quarian Geth peace is enough to reject the assumption you are given the option. The option is called destroy. Break the cycle and take your chanced. Also for the record, when speaking in the scale of 50,000 year cycled. The peace between the Quarian and Geth which has lasted all of a few days after a 300 year war adds up to exactly nothing. Hardly “proof” that organic and synthetic life can and would coexist. Give the Geth another 40,000 years of expanding and evolving and then tell me what they would thing about the pathetic meat bags.

Regardless, you can disagree. This is just the Reaper’s opinion and belief.

“Mass Effect continually asks “Can’t we call just get along?” and as Shepard, players can work toward that end for three full games. Doesn’t matter how many alliances you broker or how much understanding you cultivate: it makes absolutely no difference.”

I cannot even wrap my mind around this. During the course of this game you work toward uniting the entire galaxy. Bitter rivalries like Krogan and Turian and Geth and Quarian are solved. Everyone comes together to fight side by side for a common cause. This is the absolute APEX of “all get along.” Unless you are seriously suggesting that we should get along with the Reapers also.

I really want to not believe that people actually want a big group hug ending in which Shepard somehow convinced the Reapers to “cut it out.” The Reapers have been doing this for … what, billions of years? You think some nobody named Shepard is going to convince them to stop it? He is going to think of something new to say? I am so happy this didn’t happen.

“*Free Will and what it means to be alive

The concept of free will is alluded to, sort of, in the final conversation with the AI, but it has no bearing on any of the (identical) outcomes. Instead, much like the victims of the Reapers themselves, the player is robbed of all free will or even the chance to make the case for it. They must do as they are told, and choose.

Another rehash of the “choices don’t matter’ argument. The endings are only visually similar but conceptually very different. Every single choice in Mass Effect plays out the same way. “They must do as they are told, and choose.” Well… yeah pretty much. But you DO get to choose right? Not sure how else this could be.

>1) Player Choice Is Completely Discarded

They are all functionally identical. Once players reach the Citadel, they are taken along a low-interaction pathway, engage in conversation with the Illusive Man that can only end with him dead if you wish to proceed further, and then have a conversation — with a very limited set of responses — with the AI child. This experience is the same regardless of your Shepard’s moral alignment, and regardless of the decisions you made to get to this point. The AI does not alter his dialogue if you kill the Geth, he doesn’t offer different justifications if you spared the Collector Base; he does nothing different.”

Your alignment dictates your choices, not the other way around. There has never been a “Renegade or Paragon” ending to a Mass Effect game. You are always presented choices and you can pick either one. It doesn’t matter how many paragon points you had when you get to choose to save or sacrifice the council in Mass Effect 1. If you choose to sacrifice them, then do your previous paragon choices not matter?

The goal was to gather a huge army to fight the Reapers. Every single choice you made helped you reach that goal. Shepard had no idea how the Crucible worked, all he could do was make his chance of success as high as possible by winning favor. Why does the AI care about the collector base, or the geth or the Krogan? Those things were a means to an end, the end is now and you need to make yet another choice.

“And then, you are given the same three choices, choices that you must accept even though none of them fit with anything Shepard would ever have done at any previous moment in the entire series.”

The entire game your job is to destroy the Reapers. So in the context of Shepard doing anything but “destroy” you are right. It doesn’t fit with his character. And you clearly made the wrong choice (because you somehow were convinced that destroy isn’t the right answer: indoctrination). If you choose destroy, then you are doing exactly, EXACTLY what Shepard has been trying to do the entire series.

“Whether the choices succeed or fail depends solely on your Effective Military Strength score, and nothing else. And once made, the only difference between them is a slightly different cutscene, and a different-colored explosion.”

Well I guess this is partly true. I mean your goal all game was to “fill the green bar” which is accomplished by “playing the game” and the more you play the game the more you fill your bar. It really is no different than experience points or just completing levels. Frankly I don’t see how this is a complaint. You need to play the game to have a higher chance of winning and this game mechanic is cleverly disguised by a very reasonable story of you convincing everyone to help you. So I guess the ending cut-scene is based “solely” on your score. But that score is based on all the collective choices and game-play you performed. So I guess you are rewarded for completing the game… and nothing else? This is a problem?

Casey Hudson, the executive producer of Mass Effect recently spoke up about the ending. Not sure if his comments do much very much to give players the closure they want, but it does confirm that the BioWare staff loves this game as much as the fans. To me, this says that it is very unlikely that the writers and developers made stupid mistakes wrapping up the game they have been working on for many years. I think his sentiment is a fitting way to conclude this blog post.