The Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut appeared with very little fanfare this week. You’d almost think Bioware was trying to sneak it out to the public and then pretend like it was there all along. At 1.9 GB, it’s a pretty hefty download. I’ve made my opinion of the ending known more than once. So now that the EC is out, has it changed my mind?
Yes and no. I’ll trying to keep spoilers to a minimum as I explain.
First, for the three original endings, the EC does fix a lot of problems. Joker running from the battle now at least has a reason. Your teammates ending up back on the Normandy is now explained. The logic of the starchild is now more fleshed out. And you get to see what happens to the galaxy as a result of your choice.
Many of these changes are very well done and necessary. Having a proper epilogue, narrated by the always impressive Lance Henriksen, makes the endings actually feel like proper endings. The galaxy continues on and the implied apocalypse has been diffused. Well done, Bioware. You get points for this. You can’t just end a trilogy of this size without such an epilogue, just as you can’t stop a semi-truck on a dime.
Some of the changes are good in that they actually change the “artistic vision” of the original endings, despite Bioware claiming they wouldn’t do so. Control, in particular, is no longer so abhorrent of a choice, and while Synthesis is still…disturbing…in its implications, it ends showing that despite being a kind of squicky choice, it all turns out o.k. Destroy continues to be the clear “best” ending, and now even more it lets you refute the starchild’s tortured, flawed logic.
Speaking of the starchild, his logic is expanded and it’s clear it’s false. He’s Space Hitler, no doubt about it. Not only did he force his creators to become the first Reaper, he’s tried to force Synthesis on races. His logic fails because of his own existence, and it’s a very clear sci-fi trope being played out here of an AI that doesn’t realize that its logic is flawed by its own existence. Starchild joins HAL, GLaDOS, Mastermind, and other classic diabolic AIs, which is good – there is no doubt this machine is insane. That was necessary – starchild needed to be a clear villain, not a neutral or helpful character.
Bioware also added a new ending, despite saying they wouldn’t. You can now, either through dialog or by shooting the little brat, refuse the starchild’s logic. This new Refusal ending leads to the defeat of the alliance of races, and you get to see a scene where the next cycle finds one of Liara’s time capsules. Unfortunately, it implies that the next cycle builds the catalyst and uses it…something you didn’t do on principal. This is, in many ways, a slap in the face. You stood your ground, didn’t compromise your morals…and it didn’t matter because the authors say you have to do it their way or you die. Bioware, you lose major points for this.
Overall, the EC is a much better experience. It fixes holes, it has some legitimately heartfelt moments that should have been there from the start, and it provides a good endcap to the series.
Now, let’s talk about the main problem…not with the EC, but with Bioware: lying. Bioware has lied over and over throughout the ME3 debacle. You start off with the Casey Hudson “no A,B,C endings”, which is EXACTLY what you get, and you end up with “there will be no new endings” when a new one was, in fact added. Bioware promised to keep us updated about the EC, but went completely silent about it from the time of the initial announcement till the quite sudden and unexpected announcement that it would drop in two days. The community managers were either dismissive or sometimes downright rude to people on the Bioware Social Network during the time between the EC announcement and the drop. They are still a no-show. Only Bioware members from a completely different team, chatting because they are also ME fans, have made any effort to talk to the customer base.
Bioware, if you’re listening (and supposedly you do look for blog posts) – you have utterly failed at Customer Relationship 101. I haven’t seen this poor of customer relations since Sony Online’s handling of the Star Wars Galaxies’ New Game Enhancement. I would not be surprised if people continue to feel that Bioware is a dishonest, uncommunicative company. It would have only taken a little bit of effort to really interact with your fan base, and instead you treated them like they were rabid animals. Sure, there might be a few bad apples, but cutting off all communication was tantamount to saying, “we don’t want you to buy our games any more.” Bad move, Bioware.
Bioware was once one of the most trusted names in video games. The handling of all of this, though it’s finally come to an ending that isn’t horrible and soul-crushing, has been the equivalent of burning every bridge they ever built with their fans. I’m sure that wasn’t their intention, but clearly they have no one there who knows how to handle fans. They also need to keep Casey Hudson from ever talking about an upcoming game again. Were I EA, Casey’s head would be on the chopping block, as clearly he doesn’t provide a net gain for the business.