I was at a loss for where to start (maybe I’m over thinking this, but hey), so I thought i’d make it easy for myself and start with something i’d already written (a tactic I utilized in school, btw. You’d be surprised how many classes you can re-use a paper on Kangaroos for). Here is a post I made in the Bioware Social Forums about Mass Effect 3. It was in response to the imminent release of the Extended Cut DLC (which could be another post…)
This might be a bit late, and I should have written this when the game was still fresh in my mind, but even after all this time, I feel like this still needs to be said.
Let me be clear. This is not about the ending. I didn’t even have a huge problem with the ending. Compared to other things, it’s not even on my radar. And that’s sad, because the ending was bad. The fact that something can make it seem okay is terrible in itself.
I feel that the over-encompassing narrative and character development was shot to the wayside. I almost feel like ME1 and ME3 were the same story, and ME2 sadly was another, because ME2 and ME3 had very little connection.
The big selling point of ME2 was that you had to build up a team and gain their loyalty. This was a literal action you had to do, or that character would die in the end. I thought this was great. In terms of story, character is almost always more interesting than plot. If you don’t care about the characters, then the plot, what happens to them, doesn’t really matter.
So you spend all this time in ME2 building these relationships, and in ME3, it means very little. Other than really Garrus, every character gets about one mission, and that’s it. They get a cameo, and then it’s over. Instead, you get the 3 characters from ME1, and a slew of new people that were hollow compared to what you built in the previous game.
None of this makes sense in terms of character, and perhaps the most important is you, Shepard. This is someone that you, the player, has fleshed out to make your own, made choices for them, pretty much become them while playing. ME3 is filled with actions from Shepard that just make no sense at all.
Perhaps we need to get into examples to really understand. Let’s start with the ME1 two character options, Kaidan and Ashley. It doesn’t matter which, they are essentially the same character, in terms of they fill the same role. I played as a female, so I’ll talk about Kaidan, but it would be the same for Ashley. So, in ME1, I romanced Kaidan, as he was the only heterosexual choice for me. Then in ME2, when you first see him on Horizon, things go downhill. While playing this conversation (and I tried several possibilities), none of Shepard’s responses really fit. You’ve been in a coma for two years, and while it may seem like only a few months for you, you’re painfully aware it’s been way longer for Kaidan. You wouldn’t say, “hey, how’ve you been?” But that is essentially what you say. That aside, no matter what you dialogue options you choose, Kaidan leaves you.
Shepard is a strong woman (or man), no matter how you play her. She isn’t going to pine after a man who dumped and rejected her. She’s going to believe she’s better off. Of course she’ll be sad, she is a human being. But she isn’t going to wait around, especially when her next mission might be suicide.
That leads to Thane, who I chose to romance next. I tried Garrus as well, but as I’ve read in many forums and agree with myself, he is more of a friend, an amazing friend. So going into ME3, Kaidan had dumped me, and Thane and I were in love. I believe it’s a 6 month gap between the two, during which some plot points happen. There is DLC, like the Shadow Broker story, but they are not in the forefront of my memory. I remember talking to Liara about whoever you romanced. So that love is still alive while going into ME3.
Here is what I am most angry about: Shepard turns into an emotionless husk. She doesn’t ask a soul about the man she is supposed to be in love with. He contacts her in a random email. So you go see him, have one interaction, and that’s it. Not only that, but you have the option to keep asking Thane to have sex. Really? He’s sick and in a hospital. And while all this is going on, you visit Kaidan about 3 times in the hospital, and you ask after him before that. When did Shepard start liking Kaidan again? It doesn’t track. Where is the evidence?
Now moving on to Thane dying. Shepard does not shed one tear, nor does she touch him at all. Why is this? Because it’s the same cut scene whether you romanced him or not, or whether you’re female or male. This is a travesty in my opinion. Now, I didn’t expect her to throw a crying fit and jump on his death bed. But something. The Shepard who just sat there is not the Shepard I played for 3 games. Later, you have a conversation with Garrus by the memorial on your ship, where Thane’s name is now written. Thane is not even mentioned, instead he mentions Kaidan, who is on the ship now. If memory serves, Thane isn’t mentioned ever again.
There’s a point later where Kaidan and Shepard can get back together. I wanted to see what would happen if I went along with it, and what happened was horrific. Kaidan states, doesn’t accuse, but states that he’s okay with you cheating on him. And Shepard goes along with him, agreeing with his assessment. This is disgusting. Kaidan is the one who left Shepard, and left her when her whole world has been turned upside down after losing 2 years of her life. To trivialize what she had with Thane as “cheating” is simply disgusting. And the strong-willed Shepard would never have gone along with this.
This is when I realized that this game is really geared toward men, and that is really terrible. It’s the year 2012. What really makes this weird is that here is such a heavy emphasis on gay/lesbian equality in the game. There’s an openly gay character, that as a man you can romance, Kaidan can be romanced as a man, and there are 3 lesbian options. This is one of the pros of the game. But what happened to us hetero girls? Your choices are the man who broke your heart and betrayed you, or your best friend who, let’s be honest, is too alien to be intimate with a human.
My main point in this article is that I want the narrative to make sense. I don’t care what happens, as long as it makes sense. Thane can die, you can get together with Kaidan, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s believable, and nothing in ME3 was. It almost feels like a rough draft of a story that needs to be thrown into a creative writing workshop.
Next week the EC comes out to “fix” the ending, (post note: it didn’t). I’m glad that Bioware is responding to fans, but unfortunately none of the things I was so disappointed in will be touched on. It’s just too bad that one of the most innovative game franchises of our time ended this way. I honestly have little hope for games in the future if this is the new definition of “innovation.”