Wednesday, September 19, 2012

End Notes - Mass Effect and the Rejection Ending

"So be it."
- Starchild, to Shepard (Rejection)

So it was pretty clear (to me, at least) that by the time that the Reaper's true nature was revealed, Shepard's tale could only end in tragedy. It was a huge mistake on Bioware's part to make a villain that was beyond the protagonist's capability to defeat. In the end, the writers had their backs against the wall and decided to give up by resorting to deus ex machina to save the day. It's such a shame that the lead-up was an excellent example of compelling videogame storytelling, only for it to fall flat upon its conclusion.

Admittedly, while I did find the original endings baffling, Bioware got one thing right - Shepard, for all his (or her, for you FemSheps out there) efforts, had to die. However, what most of the fans cannot accept is the fact that the choices they made throughout the trilogy had very little effect on the story's conclusion. It felt like the original endings were hardcoded, rushed and shipped, with the hope that EA could milk more money from the fans using DLC. It did not help that Javik, a Prothean whose species' history was made to fill the players with wonder, was released separately as Day One DLC.

For the record, I chose the Control ending, which was what the Illusive Man stood for throughout his campaign. For all of the Cerberus leaders' failings, he probably had the best solution for the wartorn galaxy. Unfortunately, controlling godlike entities did not make narrative sense.

I played a renegade Shepard, and I felt that in my story, he has relatively doomed enough species to extinction (namely the Batarians and Quarians) to inflict genocide upon the Geth using the Destroy ending.

The Synthesis ending did not make any sense to me at all, due to the fact that its very existence has pretty much invalidated the very purpose of the Reapers - regularly wiping out all organic life to prevent the creation of sufficiently advanced synthetics which would eventually wipe out all organics.

In all three endings, players were forced to choose which of the endings seemed like the lesser evil.

When Bioware released the Extended Cut, I downloaded it because we were promised that most loose ends would be tied up by adding more details for each ending. While this was nice, it did not change the fact that they still resorted to deus ex machina. Perhaps the biggest surprise was when I chose to shoot the Starchild out of spite. It uttered the now famous words and the game revealed a hidden fourth ending, Rejection, which depicts the victory of the Reapers thus ending the current cycle of life and allowing newer races to evolve.

In what must have been their personal 'Fuck You' to the fans, Bioware unwittingly created the most plausible ending, albeit one that ended in everyone getting wiped out. Rejection shows us that all of galactic civilization was insignificant in the grand picture that only the Reapers could see. This is reminiscent of the Cthulhu Mythos, which was an obvious inspiration for the Old Machines.

Personally, I feel that whatever 'artistic integrity' Bioware had hoped to salvage from this mess was in the fact that they were willing to throw everything away by concluding the story as a tragedy. It was a highly unexpected gamble but I felt that Rejection closed up everything pretty well.

So be it, indeed.

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