So about that ending…

I have finally completed Mass Effect 3, and thus been able to see that ending everyone’s been harping about. (By the way, I think it’s important for me to point out that I did just receive ME3 last week, so it’s not like it took me all this time to finish the game : D ).

Both before and during my playthrough, I made sure not to avoid reading anything regarding the game itself, the ending, or the ending controversy, keeping myself blissfully spoiler-free. Therefore, immediately after finishing, I fired off a few emails and then went to Google to figure out what all the hubbub was about. I suppose it’s rather clear that if I needed to send emails and do research that I didn’t quite understand the ending issue at first glance.

After doing more than a little exploration, however, I can say that, now, at least, I get it. I completely sympathize will all those who felt as though BioWare didn’t fulfill their end of the bargain when it came to concluding the Mass Effect series. And let’s face it: that note regarding future DLC was just absurd. However, even though I do sympathize, I don’t necessarily share in the community angst. Allow me to explain.

I saw numerous testimonials stating that ME3 was “one of the greatest games [such and such person] had ever played… until the ending.” By the way, that’s a definite paraphrase, composited from multiple nameless, faceless sources. Here’s what I don’t understand, though. Mass Effect 3 was a very impressive game, particularly in terms of graphics, music, and gameplay. That said, the game had some major – major – flaws, and I don’t understand why people seem to have overlooked them.

For example, starting with the most obvious, the journal system was a mess. Your journal gave only the vaguest directions of where to go, and, far worse, didn’t indicate whether you had actually completed the quest or not! I legitimately hunted for numerous items I already had just on the off chance that I, well, didn’t already have them. How was I to know? I suppose I should point out that there wasn’t exactly an inventory to search through, either.

Then there were the Reaper invasions that occurred as you scanned a solar system. I didn’t realize until three quarters of the way through the game that if the Reapers caught you it was game over, with no chance of parole. I suppose that shows how ineffectual the Reapers tended to be. What I discovered soon afterwards was that I could just traipse into a system, scan until my heart’s content, which, of course, summoned the Reapers. If I died, so what? The auto-save let me reload upon entry into that system, with the knowledge of where to scan. Which basically made the whole thing pointless. Honestly, the scanning and exploration portion of ME3 felt even more haphazard and tacked on than it did in ME1 – and that’s saying something.

While I don’t know if this was a universal complaint, personally, I found the pacing of the game rather odd. It’s a subtle thing, but I had a hard time distinguishing between the important plot related missions and the less important side missions. The distinction between the two was quite clear in ME1 and ME2, and, frankly, in most games. Not so much in ME3, at least, not for me.

I could go on. Where did Cerberus get so many troops, or, more importantly, so many ships? To the point where they could challenge the Alliance, and perhaps the combined might of the galactic fleets? What was the deal with the never before mentioned ancient ruins on Tuchanka? What about a character based on – and voiced by! – an IGN employee? And why did IGN give ME3 such glowing reviews, and then lash out at anyone who dared criticize the game? And what was the deal with Tali’s picture being a quick edit of a stock photo?

My point isn’t to say that ME3 was a bad game, because it wasn’t. In fact, I think that Mass Effect 3 is one of the highpoints in video game cinematics. It’s almost an interactive movie, and better in some ways. Furthermore, my point definitely isn’t to say that the people criticizing the ME3 ending are wrong. The ending utterly fails to bring the series to a conclusion, unless you make an almost excessive use of your imagination. Plus, it doesn’t really make sense.

What I wanted to point out is that a large multitude of people seemed totally willing to overlook the flaws of Mass Effect 3… until they saw the ending. I find that interesting. Even odd. And definitely worth pointing out.

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