Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut: Why it Doesn't Matter
by, 06-27-2012 at 09:02 AM (1735 Views)
I never said anything after I finished Mass Effect 3. I didn’t participate in the forums and I didn’t beg and plead Bioware to fix their mistakes and I didn’t throw money at charity to grab their attention. Why? Because I knew what I wanted them to do would be impossible. It’s still impossible. Bioware decided on their ending(s) and I hated all three colors and that’s fine. No amount of extra cut scenes that provide contextual support for the nonsense they originally cooked up is going to placate me. And I don’t think the fans were asking for that, were they? They were asking the impossible. They were asking Bioware to literally change the ending. Make it different, because the default one is terrible.
In short, the collective voice of the outraged community said, “Give us closure,” and Bioware interpreted that as the need for more information surrounding the events of the final game’s end sequence. But more information (cut scenes) doesn’t fix the problem (i.e., a bad ending). Believe it or not, a good ending fixes the problem of a bad ending. It’s really that simple.
Okay, now you know I hated the endings. But please don’t confuse this rant. This is not—in no way, shape or form—my own attempt at pleading with Bioware to change what they’ve already tried to change. I never asked anything of them in the first place because, well, reference my first paragraph. Mass Effect 3 is Bioware’s game. They decided how to end it and that’s perfectly okay with me. Did I like the endings? Heck no, I hated them. That’s my problem, not Bioware’s.
In fact, let me quickly say that I really appreciate that Bioware was willing to try and pacify their fans. They spent time and energy making more content to enhance—not to change—the game’s existing endings and they gave it away for free. That’s really ****ing tight, if I may be so uncouth.
The point of this rant is to argue that games that emphasize player choice do not need multiple endings. When you play a Bioware game, you take part in an experience that certainly emphasizes player choice. But does that necessarily mean the player needs a multitude of endings to choose from? You might argue that multiple endings increases replay value. Maybe so, but so do all the other choices the player is asked to make along the way. And multiple endings can really dilute the impact of a game’s intended conclusion. A narrative is a narrative, and Mass Effect 3 has shown that, no matter what choices you make, the story is basically the same. So why pretend otherwise? Why make three endings that are only slightly different and call them “different endings?” Why not just come out and say, “Yeah, the game ends this way, and you can’t really change that.” That, my friends, is closure. That’s finality. It’s the kind of closure we get from non-interactive media like movies and books, and loads of “linear” games. We’ve come to expect that kind of closure from every other form of media, why shouldn’t we be unhappy with make-believe, pseudo-multiple ending scenarios?
The Witcher 2 is game that doesn’t have a bunch of endings and still maintains a hefty amount of player choice. The game takes place over three acts following a brief prologue. The second act is arguably the longest. Depending on the choices you make in the first act, the second act will pan out one of two ways. There a literally two, wholly different second acts built into the game. Furthermore, the third act, though it takes place in the same place regardless of your previous choices, will be substantially changed depending on your second act. But the ending is the same. No matter what you do, the game’s ending comes along and hits every player with the impact the developers wanted them hit with. And if you’ve played the game, don’t pretend that the last choice you make—the one about eliminating a certain someone or not—allows for two endings. That’s a character, and his/her fate doesn’t affect the outcome of the game.
Were we ripped off? No, The Witcher 2 presented players with more meaningful player choice than most games before it. It had an ending that was designed by professionals. It was the ending we were supposed to see, not the one we chose. That’s how stories work. In a series like Mass Effect, where the the story is paramount, letting the player decide how the entire story arch ends really destroys any finality Bioware had hoped to achieve. On top of that, the endings were all virtually the same, so players were left with the bitter realization that Bioware had failed to deliver truly different outcomes and instead tried to set the cut scenes apart with the language of the decision and different color schemes, a trick no one bought.
Of course, that doesn't mean all games should stick to completely linear endings. The Witcher 2's ending, as well the closing scenes of both Mass Effect games before the third installment, allow for the of impact of earlier decisions made by the player. But those games all have one thing in common. No matter how different the elements surrounding the end are (e.g., who is alive, who is dead, how the final fight is handled, etc.), the ultimate outcome, or conclusion, is the same. Developers have to walk a fine line. They must simultaneously create the ending they want their series to have (giving players closure and the game its finality) and allow for player choice to change the context of the end, but not the end itself. Mass Effect 3 failed to do so with its supposed "different" endings.
I know plenty of people who would personally disagree with me, so I’m sure there’s a sea of individuals on the web who are of a completely different persuasion. A lot of people would say different endings are a good thing. That is okay. Not a lot of people would agree that the “different” endings of Mass Effect 3 were good, so that’s something to think about. As players, do we want player choice? Yes. Do we want the kind of closure that comes from the stories of other mediums? If the reaction of the game’s fan base is anything to go by, I think so. Games like The Witcher 2 prove that both are possible.