Not sure you know this or not, but Mass Effect 3 came out last week. You might have heard about it, it's a pretty big game. It's also pretty good. Like really good.

Mostly.

The game released here in the UK on Friday, but I managed to get a copy on Thursday due to my superior choice in online retailers. First class postage sent out a few days in advance is awesome. So I got Mass Effect 3, and I ploughed through it pretty quickly and it's certainly a very enjoyable game. So I'm going to talk a bit about it.

As a heads-up, spoilers are going to be everywhere, major, major spoilers. If you haven't played and/or finished ME3, and don't want some of the finer details (including, but not limited to the actual ending) spoiled, you might want to stop reading right about now. If you're reading this on my blog's homepage, the rest of this entry will be placed after a jump.

So, Mass Effect 3 is here. The conclusion of this (genuinely) epic trilogy, one which has been called by many as the best new IP this generation, and I'm, inclined to agree. Having played through the original Mass Effect, ME2 and now 3 all with the very same character (nothing interesting, just Sheploo, for those interested), the series sets a pretty high bar when it comes to storytelling in this medium. I've always loved video games that tell a good story, stemming back from when I played Final Fantasy VII as a kid. Sure, there's absolutely nothing wrong with a game with solid gameplay, but no narrative, but being able to get invested in a game's story, world and lore has always been hugely beneficial for my enjoyment of a game.

And the third game definitely lives up to the reputation that the previous two games have set. I'm not particularly good at literary analysis, I only left school with a Higher in English, so I'm not going to attempt to break down how or why the writing in the games is good or bad. It is simply my opinion that the Mass Effect series is very high in the list of video games with great writing, and Mass Effect 3 doesn't change this. Sure, someone who is able to effectively analyse might be able to say why, from a technical standpoint, some of the finer details of the writing and plot aren't technically good writing, but that, in my opinion, is simply nit-picking, and doesn't matter. If you are able to get emotionally invested in a game, regardless of the technical quality of the writing, then that game is still well written. In my opinion, of course.

And Mass Effect is a series that I, and a great number of other people are certainly invested in. I suppose being able to import your character from the previous game, keeping the decisions and relationships you've made over the past five years will do that. Seeing decisions and characters from the original Mass Effect in 2007 make an appearance in ME3 is very, very cool. Conversely, seeing characters you've built up relationships in previous games dying in front of you, is heart-breaking. I'm generally not one to tear-up that much over video games (as opposed to movies), but seeing Mordin, one of my favourite characters from Mass Effect 2, dying, with nothing I could do to save him, is one of the most upsetting things I've watched in quite a long time. And there are multiple moments like this in the game. Couple this alongside some of the most amazing and memorable character interactions I've ever seen in a video game, and there's no doubt in my mind that Mass Effec 3 is one of the best written video games in recent memory.

And then there's the ending.

Oh boy. If you've been following the game, you're no doubt aware of the massive outrage from fans over Mass Effect 3's ending. Outrage which is fairly justified. Again, spoilers. If you don't want the ending to one of the best series of games this generation spoiled, then you should stop fucking reading right now.

I'm also going to assume you're at least somewhat familiar with the story. If you're not, here's a brief summary of the stuff that's important for the ending: Every 50,000 years, a bunch of huge synthetic/organic machines known as the Reapers enter the galaxy and proceed to harvest all the spacefaring life in the galaxy, before disappearing, leaving no trace of what happened or even their existence. In Mass Effect 3, the Reapers have arrived and began their destruction of everything in the galaxy. The plot of the game resolves mostly around getting together enough people to build the "Crucible" a superweapon apparently capable of destroying the Reapers once and for all.

Not to go too much into the detail, the ending is this: The "Catalyst", required to complete the Crucible, turns out to be... something, manifesting as a young child that had haunted Shepard's dreams through the game. Turns out, the Reapers are its creation, which it uses as its solution to life in the galaxy: Organic life will always eventually create synthetic life, which in turn will always rebel against their creators. So... the Catalyst and the Reapers save life in the galaxy from being annihilated by synthetic life by... destroying all organic life in the galaxy with synthetics. Yeah. Assuming your military readiness was high enough, the Catalyst gives you three choices: destroy the reapers, control them, or synthesis, which will turn everything in the galaxy into a new, organic/synthetic lifeform. If your readiness is not high enough, you only have the destroy and control options. In all scenarios, the Mass Relay network is destroy, leaving everyone trapped in the Sol system. In all but one of the scenarios (the destroy option with high readiness), Commander Shepard dies. In each scenario, Joker can be seen flying the Normandy through a Mass Relay, and crashing on an undisclosed garden world. Depending on the scenario, Joker and some of your squadmates are seen leaving the Normandy unharmed. In another scenario, the door can be seen opening, but nobody leaving.

Without going too much into more detail, that's pretty much the jist of it. In a nutshell, based on what most people will experience: Shepard dies, the Normandy is stranded on some unknown planet, and the rest of the galaxy's military is stranded in the Sol system (Earth).

It's just... the problem with this/these endings is that, apart from being completely unexpected and out of left-field, is that is completely disregards pretty much everything you've worked for in the past three games. It takes pretty much none of your decisions into account, in a series whose defining gameplay feature as making decisions that can have huge and drastic changes and influences on the story. And that's not to mention the gaping plot-holes. Who or what, exactly, is the Catalyst? If the Catalyst is/is on the Citadel, why couldn't it simply let Sovereign through in Mass Effect 1? Why was Joker trying to escape using the Mass Relay, and where was he trying to get? And that's not even the tip of the iceberg. For a game that's so well written and expertly crafted as Mass Effect 3, to go so, unbelievably downhill in the last ten minutes, is completely mind-boggling.

For those interested, here is a very well written article explaining down to the last detail why the ending is bad. It's long, but definitely worth the read. It does a fantastic job of detailing and analysing things much better than I ever could.

And, unsurprisingly, petitions and such-like have popped up to get BioWare to "change" the ending. As for my option on that, I'm just going to quote something that Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann said on Twitter:

All signing a Mass Effect 3 ending petition does is send a message [to EA/BioWare] that you care about the universe and are receptive to buying DLC/sequels. Somewhere, some dude in a suit is looking at a chart and saying "LOOK AT HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT OUR GAME" and grinning.

And that's all I'm gonna say on the ending. While I more than agree that it's a very unsatisfactory ending, but the game overall is still fantastic and if you're in any way invested in the Mass Effect universe, you should definitely play it. The actual gameplay and shooting is the best it's ever been, and there's even a pretty fun co-op multiplayer portion in there as well.

It's just a shame those last ten minutes are gonna sour the reputation of the entire series for a great number of people.

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