Mass Effect 3 Ending Controversy

DRes82

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I don't love the endings, but I don't hate them by any means. I'm actually excited that one of my favorite series of all time didn't end. I'll be HAPPY to pay for DLC to continue such an awesome story. What is the problem? If you loved the entire series so much, how does it make sense that you actually want it to end?

The point is, I'm happy to continue the story line. I know that BioWare will put out some awesome content to provide closure. I'll be sad when it ends.
 

DRes82

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The.Bard said:
Brilliant post! Seriously...and the use of Mordin's speech patterns in the edit...just great. Its nice to see someone explain things concisely.

I just have one question about the indoctrination theory. How do you explain the short scene AFTER the credits? It might have been addressed somewhere else, but I havn't been able to find it and I havn't watched the entire video that you linked yet.
 

ThingInTheCoat

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The.Bard said:
Jesus Christ. I'm not apologizing for text blocks anymore. Evidently, you're writing your thesis on Mass Effect 3, so you reply to mine with a manifesto. I'm humbled. Inspired, even. Not so inspired that I'll reply in like, but it's the thought that counts. This is going to be a sloppy reply, since I'm too tired to give it a good structuring.

As I tried looking into the matter again, I keep finding that everything is so vague in this ending that arguing it is like trying to draw equations in the sand during a tide: All the variables frustratingly keep washing away as I puzzle over them. I'm starting to warm to the Indoctrination theory (as a viable interpretation, not as Bioware's original intention) simply due to how it's not much more implausible than the ending we've got.

Just assume that if I'm not responding to something, I've ceded the point, or else I just can't effectively respond to it with anything more substantial than "LOL LAZY WRITING." And let me tell you, this make a pretty repetitive bullet list if I did.

TO YOUR POINTS IN RESPONSE TO MY POINTS, REDUX

1)
I agree, the radio transmission about nobody making it to the beams COULD have been in reference to them thinking you're dead, but coupled with everything else, I still think it is evidence that something is off. Especially when time slows down. The game repeatedly uses time slowing down during dream states.

2)
James & the hum: I should point out that I am a borderline OCD gameplayer. My Mass Effect game completions hover on 60-70 hrs apiece. ME3 took me 71hrs 08minutes to beat. This comes into play specifically in regards to Vega. When I beat a mission, I talk to everyone on the Normandy. Then I go through every part of the citadel. Then I scan everything I can. Then I beat a mission and repeat the Normandy/Citadel/Scan steps.

Why is this important? Because if you talk to James once after EVERY mission, he will mention the hum at LEAST 10 times. Granted, the actual line is only one or two pieces of recorded audio repeated, but the normal James line for exhausting dialogue is "Hey." or "Commander."

Why would they have him every so often mention the strange hum? ESPECIALLY when the codex entry for indoctrination starts off with hearing a hum??

Taking this one step further, Kotaku reported a week or two ago that if you pause the game in the War Room, you can hear the "Vigil" song being played by the machinery. (http://kotaku.com/5895616/mass-effect-3s-musical-secret)

Shuffling our feet forward yet AGAIN, if you pause the game in the Shuttle Bay, the machinery plays something else... one of the geth combat songs from the first game. It's a synthy thing, but it's so there! I'll have to break out the soundtrack to grab its name.

This level of detail being implemented across the board is so strange when you consider the ending-as-is contains more holes than the back of Javik's head-piece-thing. Are we to believe that they put ALLLL of this effort into ALLL these tiny details, and then simply forgot or didn't care that Shepard shoots Anderson but Shepard is the one bleeding, or that they killled Ashley and then forgot about that when putting her on the Normandy? That is more ludicrous to me than believing the ending is indoctrination.

3)
I am afraid to load that save to check the last dream, as I'm afraid it will overwrite the "Restart Citadel" mission, but my Shepard was SOOOO evil looking in that dream. Maybe it's a Paragon / Renegade thing (I was a devout Paragon), but he was giving me the full on BroShep rapeface. There was nothing pleasant about it. Ok, I found it on youtube, but it's not exactly what I was hoping for: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6m_LOEeKdak

At 19 seconds, as Shep looks up, he has a slightly evil smirk, but I need to load up my save, because I swear the final look as he's burning was a wide full on evil grin. I openly admit it is possible I'm misremembering that final look, but I distinctly remember saying out loud "oooooooookayyyy, that wasn't tooo creepy." as it happened. I will let you know what I find after reloading it tonight. I'll take a picture if my memory is correct.

4)
TIM controlling Shep/Anderson with Reaper tech by itself isn't fishy. What IS fishy is that TIM is indoctrinated. If HE can control Shep/Anderson, then it would stand to reason that Shep/Anderson must be indoctrinate-able. In what world would the Reapers not be all over that like bears on honey? In fact, I was playing with a concept that TIM is actually the good guy, fighting to break Shepard out of Indoctrination since the start of ME2, but that might be stretching too far, and will require an extensive note-taking replay of ME2/3. If I ever do this, I will let you know my findings.

5)
The Crew. So I reloaded and did the Destruction ending last night, and I paid more attention to things. In addition to the Crew showing up on the Normandy, why is the Normandy fleeing the system to begin with? And why does Joker look like he just saw a ghost? These are massive holes, and the only way I can chalk it up to Bioware incompetence is to go back to the development looking like this:

- Spend two years designing ME3. Create exceptional "Indoctrination Ending" (Alternatively, ignore ending entirely until game is 99.9% finished - which again, seems highly unlikely given the polish everywhere else)
- Get extension from holidays to March. Pull out and destroy indoctrination ending. Create new, rushed ending that coincidentally fits lock-and-key into original indoctrination ending. (This seems as oddly paradoxical as the "we don't want you to die by synthetics, so we're sending in synthetics to kill you so that synthetics don't kill you!" premise)

I just can't wrap my head around any world in which the ending was rushed. The game is so well crafted, from start to finish. Whether we like every second of every hour or not, we can't deny time and energy were put into this game's construction. I absolutely refuse to believe they just stopped caring in the 11th hour and threw this together intending it to go as is. It takes more suspension of disbelief for me to swallow THAT then it does for me to accept the whole thing is Reaper indoctrination and the "real" finale is forthcoming (I hope).

AND... when you take the Destruction path, Shepard awakens in the rubble of London! I just don't see how the Citadel could have exploded with him on it and his armorless body somehow crashes back to earth in London - still moving. It makes so much more sense to me that the "awakening" is moments after being hit by Harbinger's insta-indoctrination beam and Shepard in fact never left Earth.
1) As I replayed that part again, I can't deny how dream-like and ethereal it is. I could chalk it up to the haze of pain and shock that Shepard would doubtless be experiencing after having been blind-sided by a space cruiser-destroying stream of molten metal, but the details still just don't jive totally with me.

2) On my playthrough, Vega only ever mentioned the hum once, and that was before the decisive battle on Cerberus' home base, so along with every other character getting edgy, I chalked it up to his nerves getting the best of him. If he says it often in other people's games, I guess it's a little more odd a thing to repeat ad naseum. Theoretically, it might have been a good idea to have other characters perhaps make subtle offhand comments to cement this, had this been a deliberate foreshadowing of indoctrination.

As for the importance of soundtrack reoccurances, the amount people are reading into them is a little reaching, methinks. It's more likely they're just an innocent throwback to remind people of the good times, or else a simple recycle of assets (they reused some Shadow Broker and Project Overlord tracks numerous times, I noticed, even during instances with no apparent connection to either DLC). Since there's very little relationship between Vigil's theme or a Geth combat theme and indoctrination, I'm guessing it's just a case of one of the above.

And as for dead teammates on the Normandy . . . Huh. I . . . guess that could be a bug? It's not entirely clear what the significance of the teammates exiting the ship actually is, if there even is any. Hell, I've heard that even EDI has been spotted leaving the ship on the "Destroy" ending, although I can't confirm. That's so obviously out of place that it has to be a glitch; could be something similar for dead teammates.

Regarding the little details across the board . . . They seem to be little details that add up and fall into place, because they add up to you, not necessarily because the creators intended for them to do so. People make interpretations about media all the time that differ from what the author intended. For instance, many people believed that Lord of the Rings was an allegory for WWII, but Tolkien explicitly stated that such was not the case. Does that make those people's interpretations any less valid, any less founded?

(Quick aside: I never understood why people keep pointing towards Shepard bleeding from the side as evidence. Do they forget that Shepard just took the brunt of a Reaper beam and woke up in a massive pool of his own blood? Showing the still-heavy bleeding from his side after Anderson kicks it simply seems to convey that he also may not be much longer for this world as well as to explain his rapidly fading strength.)

4) It's never established just how or to what extent TIM's Reaper tech works. The method he uses to indoctrinate his troops seems to be similar to the "true" indoctrination the Reapers employ, eroding their will and psyche and replacing it with their own without them being any the wiser. What he seems to use on Anderson and Shepard instead is not "true" indoctrination, per se, but some sort of control mechanism -- something to hijack their nervous systems and will directly, without being able to affect their minds; he still has to attempt to convince them of the righteousness of his path the old-fashioned way. He's using a bootlegged copy of the Reaper's ability to control indoctrinated subjects, not indoctrination itself. Which . . . would possibly actually mean that Shepard and Anderson already suffer from some early stages of indoctrination, anyway, since he can control the indoctrinated. But that's a very concrete observation rooted in earlier evidence that would imply the entire exchange is taking place in reality. But that still implies that Shepard is possibly indoctrinated, reality or not . . .

Fucking equations in the sand. I'm not even entirely sure what I'm arguing anymore. This shit is falling apart in my very hands.

Not sure what to make of your theory on ME2, though. That's . . . an interpretation, I guess. You'd have to do some serious English major kung fu to work that out.

5) Because fucking Casey Hudson and Mac Walters, that's why. We needs lots of speculation from everyone if it's to be good, you understand? Of course you do. Because art.

The Normandy scenes raise so many questions that I cannot begin to address them succinctly. But to address instead your vision of their development model -- you're actually a little closer to the truth than you believe you are. In the behind-the-scenes documentary "The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3", Bioware flat-out admitted that the ending wasn't even written until November; they simply didn't know how to end it until the eleventh hour struck its tones. Combine this other facts -- claims that future DLC would probably only happen before or during the ending, for instance -- and the rumors (allegedly spread by Bioware employees) that Casey Hudson and Mac Walters pretty much collaborated on the ending alone and sprang it on the rest of the writing team without peer review, and you've got just the right ingredients for a monumental disappointment.

Also, in case you're interested, here's a scan of lead writer Mac Walters' notes for the ending. Make of it what you will.


ON HAVING LOW EMS \ ONLY DESTROY OPTION

That's a very good point. A low EMS only gives you Destroy as an option? I didn't know that. Hmmm. OK, let's think here. What would a low EMS score represent? A small threat, effectively, right? The Reapers "Don't Fear the Shepard" (haha!) in this case, as he's failed to bring a real threat to them. So perhaps - if this is indoctrination - they are testing his loyalty. If the bit about "we only destroy high level organics" is true (Javik knows of Asari/Salarians/Humans, so I'm guessing this is true and the low level organics were spared in the last culling), then perhaps a low EMS score means you are so unworthy they don't even care enough to find out if you would really destroy them or not. I'll have to think about this one more. That's not the tightest theory, by any means, but a higher EMS score represents a higher threat, so maybe they only get scared if you bring a high EMS, where they go all: "OOh, you got moxie, kid! Maybe we'll keep you around for your dna! Don't you wanna give up on this "kill us plan" and just give in to indoctrina... er, no, Synthesis. Yea, yea, definitely not indoctrination. *ahem* Forget I ever said that word."
A fair point. You could argue that, I suppose. However, as to the Reapers losing interest in Shepard, I can't buy that very easily. In ME1, Saren claims that Sovereign expresses great interest in having Shepard come over to the dark side, and in ME2, Harbinger and the Collectors go through great pains to capture Shepard, either as a corpse or a warm body. Of course, the latter may be better explained as an artifact of Drew Karpashyn's original vision of the series' plot, which implied that Reapers were selective about the races they assimilated and had a special eye on humanity -- and Shepard in particular as the crown jewel due to his spearheading of Sovereign's defeat, an apparently unprecedented event. In any case, I think it's safe to say that the Reapers appeared at least intrigued at the prospect of wrapping their song of oily shadows around Shepard, even if their reasons sort of become muddied after ME3 charted a very different plot path from the original, so I find it odd they would just throw their hands in the air and let his indoctrination slip through their fingers without a fight, low EMS or not; he is, after all, still a potentially very valuable commodity.

On another note, the codex states that the most effective indoctrination is a slow burn, so as to maintain maximum mental stability. You could see this in play with Saren and the Illusive Man, where it took months if not years of a steady, gradual shift in mentality via self-delusion and rationalization. In other words, there was no apparent breaking point where they flipped a 180 into full-blown indoctrination. Call me odd, but a vivid, apocalyptic hallucination that ends with Shepard possibly dying and casting the galaxy into an unprecedented dark age, doesn't really seem the insidious, patient process of a high-level indoctrination. Of course, the Reapers may just be pouncing on an opportunity to snatch Shepard in an all-or-nothing gambit, but it seems to me that such a severe, hasty form of indoctrination would leave Shepard's mind deeply-scarred and less useful to their cause. Anyway, I'm just throwing that out there as food for thought.

ON POST CRUCIBLE CUTSCENES

You're making me work for this! I like it!

For starters, I was bummed that the credits spoiled Buzz Aldrin for me. I was like "BUZZ ALDRIN WAS IN THIS GAME?!?! WHERE WAS THAT?!" and then they showed him to me minutes later. Jerks.

I haven't entirely wrapped my head around the post-Crucible cutscenes. Here are some possibilities I've narrowed it down to:

A)
Indoctrination propaganda. Why? In the case of Synthesis or Control, it's a way to placate Shepard and KEEP him indoctrinated. "Look, Shepard, YOUR FRIENDS survived, and they ARE HAPPY with your choice of Control/Synthesis! GOOD BOY!" In the case of Destroy, they might want to give you a false sense of victory, but I feel that Destroy is actually Shepard breaking free of the indoc (thus going back to him in London).

(Do they just show the squad mate you brought with you exiting Normandy, or is it always your love interest? I brought Ashley on the final mission, and she is also my love interest, so I honestly don't know if they differentiate between the two.)

B)
Shepard hallucinating. We've seen indoctrinated people frequently, and the thing they all exhibit is a propensity to freak the fudge out when confronted with things that indicate their choice to help the Reapers is bad. Saren, TIM, and Dr. Amanda Kenson ALL wig out when Shepard throws the "Dude, you are so totally screwing over all organic life right now" in their faces. Indoctri-Shep would be completely incapable of coming to terms with the fact that he just killed all his friends and every living being in the universe. He would very easily write it off: "No, no, no they totallysurvived! The woman I love survived, my shipmates surived! Everyone survived! Praise be the Reapers!"

C)
They are messing with time on us. Normandy really DOES crash and land on that planet, but they only show (for me at least) Joker/Edi/Ashley exiting it, or Joker/Ashley/Javik. The soon-to-come "real ending" would be a flashback to what happens in between Shepard's decision and the Normandy's fate. (I won't call this one likely, per se, but a large gap of time would explain how the squadmates got to the ship and bugged the hell out.) Imagine if we find out that Destroy-Shep is on the Normandy with them, too... you just don't know it yet!

As far as the Stargazer and his son, this is sooooo open to interpretation. Maybe it happened years later. Maybe it happened centuries later. Maybe it's cycles. Maybe they just wanted a philosophic wrap-up to fuck with us. I'm not sure, but I didn't take it as a direct tie-in, as much as a spiritual one. Sort of like... I can't even think of a comparable ending at the moment. It felt more like an epilogue to the fans, more than the story. Especially - holy shit, this just hit me - the kid says "Tell me another story about the Shepard!" and Buzz replies with "Well, ok, ONE MORE!" Shit, I didn't even think about that before. If WE are the kid and Bioware is Buzz Aldrin, then there is ONE MORE story coming! ... I'm actually shocked I didn't realize this earlier. Don't you see? They totally said One. More. Story. But we haven't gotten it yet! That was the message! That is the point of that cinematic! That is the proof! AHAHAHAHAH! I AM SO AWESOME! WOOOOO!!!
Quickly in regards to the teammates onboard the Normandy: I was under the impression that the ending cutscenes were all pre-rendered and set in stone; I was wrong, and they're in fact rendered using the in-game engine. Furthermore, I went back and replayed the decision on the Crucible, choosing all three endings with full EMS, and strangely I noticed that Tali was in every cutscene; she was my Shepard's love interest and on the ground with him. After looking around on some forums, it seems your love interest always exits the Normandy, for whatever reason. So, I'm wrong about the re-used art assets, and I can't settle on the significance of this criteria for who they choose to exit the Normandy.

As for your theories on the post-crucible cutscenes . . . I can't really argue with them except to draw Occam's Razor over their wrists and look for blood, and that's admittedly just kind of a cop-out when the ending is custom tailored for LOTS OF SPECULATION FROM EVERYONE! Its nonsensical nature doesn't help my case either. Even if they weren't thought out, your ideas are valid enough by default because I just don't have enough substance to back up why they wouldn't be, Bioware, goddammit.

Also, as to the "One more story" bit: I'm pretty sure they were just using that to hawk their side-story DLC, not as a lead-in to the "true" ending. After all, imagine, if you will, the following exchange:

BUZZ: ". . . Shepard had faith in the races that the Reapers never did, so with the power of the Catalyst, he finally brought the cycles to a full reset; and in so doing he allowed the races of the galaxy to blaze their own paths to the stars. The end."

BOY: "Wow, Grandpa. So that's how we got here. Tell me one more story about the Shepard! Please!"

BUZZ: "Well, it's getting late . . . but all right, my sweet. Here, remember how I ended the last story? You should know that
I was completely fibbing, you gullible little shit! Goddamn, you kids will believe anything adults tell you. Fine -- here's how it really ended, for complete reals this time . . ."

BOY: "You're the worst Grandpa ever. I just want to go to bed now."


Seriously, who gets asked for another story, and then proceeds to grant that request by retconning the story just told? Or admitting that the ending was chopped off for whatever reason and now here's the real ending? Answer: The best grandpa ever. Still doesn't properly add up to me, though.

ON BIOWARE'S NON-USE OF THIS IN OTHER GAMES

It all depends how deeply you want to look. I would argue that they have used it more-than-sporadically in several of their games, (would need time/research to pull up legit examples) but it usually is under the surface and easily ignored if you so choose. ME2 used subtle Biblical references in several of Legion's quests (heck, even his name is a Bible reference). They use subtle music & audio cues (as mentioned above) to psychologically impact us... I don't see it being THAT out of character for them, especially considering how easy it is to jump from "We should indoctrinate Shepard." ---> "No... we should indoctrinate the PLAYER!"
Let me clarify what I meant here, since you seem to have misinterpreted it somewhat. I didn't mean that Bioware does not typically make use of literary allusions in their writing or attempt to manipulate people's emotions with subtle musical cues, when I claimed that their story-telling was always straight-forward; virtually all artists do this, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Rather, what I meant was that their plot execution has generally been simple and unambiguous: A leads to B leads to C finally ends at D -- The End, or To Be Continued, as the case may be. Their plots have not required this degree of analytical gymnastics to unravel, where you have to connect B to E, back to C, then on up ahead to F, reverse it to A, then have it apparently end at G -- but ho-ho! -- it wasn't actually G that it ends at, but the number 7, if you were really paying close attention, maybe, possibly, we're not telling. . . .

I'm not saying it's impossible that they're changing their tactics, I just don't find it likely when comparing this to precedent.

IN CLOSING

Well, I 100% respect the people who think the ending is legit and hate it. There is no definitive all-powerful evidence anywhere, so ultimately, this is all up for grabs. My only gripe with people who hate the ending are those who refuse to concede there is ANY room for interpretation, when there clearly is.

Do me a favor. Read the codex description for indoctrination (boldiness by moi!), then watch the entire ending again. I just really at the end of the day can't fathom this being an accident:

I'm not going to pretend any of this is conclusive evidence, but it's more than an imaginative fan base rewriting the ending for Bioware. Ultimately, it's up to each of us to decide what's happening. I can happily choose indoctrination without feeling like I'm lying to myself. And unlike Return of the King, which pains me because I DO have to lie to myself, this is an easy ending for me to accept in the slim chance Bioware doesn't release ANY clarifying endgame content. I just wish more people were open to at least talking about it. You clearly are, and for that, you Thing in the Coat, I applaud you.
My argument was never that Indoctrination was impossible -- in theory. The more I think about it, the more meat I find on the bones. Details do start to fall into place Tetris-like with enough analysis and imagination (and if you ignore more likely explanations and the potential for just plain, old-fashioned bad writing); but I just can't accept that it was part of Bioware's vision all along -- not when it requires this many holes to be cemented over and this many critical flips to be jumped by the fans. Any theories and interpretations just won't ring true personally because -- and this may be intellectually stubborn or conservative or what-have-you -- the way I see things, when the fans have to put more thought into a work than the writers themselves have for it to all come together satisfactorily, then you have made a grave error somewhere along the way, and it's an error I have serious trouble swallowing, no matter how much deconstructing and dissecting I do to rationalize it and figure it out.

Oh well. Here's to seeing how the "game content initiatives" turn out.

For starters, I was bummed that the credits spoiled Buzz Aldrin.
It wasn't the credits that spoiled Buzz Aldrin for me; it was hearing him call a young boy "my sweet" in his wispy, awkward old man voice. But that's neither here nor there.

The.Bard said:
Ok, if you haven't already read my last uber duber mega post, don't bother. Everything I said can be summed up far more effectively by going here and devoting 20 mins of your time to a VERY worthy eye-opener:
Damn good video, isn't it? The "Loose Change" of Mass Effect 3. I've already seen it, and it's what initially made me think the Indoctrination theory has some feasibility as an interpretation, even if I don't believe Bioware intended it and even it has to rely on some wild-ass conjecture (and it does).

decay0815 said:
I *loved* the endings of Mass Effect 3!
But the authors of the game received so much criticism.
Show the authors of Mass Effect 3 your appreciation of their art by joing the facebook group and share this post to spread the news!
http://www.facebook.com/groups/362681940443797/
Decay, it's grand that you loved the endings. I'm ecstatic for you. But would you care to explain just what you found so enchanting about them, as is? How did you bypass or explain the plot holes, sudden shift in tone and theme, and general slap-dash nature of the whole affair?

Eh, I have a feeling you're just here to do a drive-by pimp for your Facebook group, anyway.
 

Shamus Young

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Just finished reading the Deconstruction article on your blog. Laughed out loud at the Crucible deconstruction. It's pretty much the best Mass Effect 3 joke I've ever heard.

Even though I don't agree with the "you can't please everyone" sentiment, /thumbsup.
 

The.Bard

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ThingInTheCoat said:
Oh, fine, though it pains me, I will also snip!
I doth promise this time to be brief. As brief as a summer rain in the springs on Rannoch! As brief as Lady Jack's fleeting patience! As brief as... *ahem* Sorry.

I think you pretty much nailed everything with this line:

As I tried looking into the matter again, I keep finding that everything is so vague in this ending that arguing it is like trying to draw equations in the sand during a tide: All the variables frustratingly keep washing away as I puzzle over them. I'm starting to warm to the Indoctrination theory (as a viable interpretation, not as Bioware's original intention) simply due to how it's not much more implausible than the ending we've got.

And ding ding ding, we have a winner. Yes, this is exactly it.

I spent more time ruminating over this during the weekend than is probably healthy. I tied my wife to a chair and made her watch the ending. At first she was like "Let me get back to my cooking shows & I won't divorce and sue you into oblivion," but then she started saying how it made no sense. And when it was over, she said it still made no sense.

And even now, it makes no sense. I could as easily drop Indoctrination Theory and introduce "Conrad Verner" theory. Conrad flies in on a Harvester, chases off Harbinger, gets on the intercom to tell Hackett you're alive, radios Joker to bug the F out, and then uses the Crucible to piggy back a signal to each Mass Relay to self-destruct, thus triggering a "soft explosion" rather than the Galaxy-killing one.

... and you would have absolutely no way to prove me wrong.

So I'm 180'ing by the hour. I still believe the ending is Indoctrination Theory, but I'm beginning to doubt whether Bioware intended it as such. I was listening to the soundtrack, and all of the tracks are very straight forward.... "We Face Our Enemy Together" / "I'm Proud of You" / "An End Once and for All"

I just can't imagine them being so brilliantly smart as to release a fake ending and then make the soundtrack fake to go with it. The number of people in the know increases by the hour for this to truly be a fake-out.

I want to believe they sacrificed money, respect, and glory for the sake of faking us all out, but I dunno. I'm still faithful, but I concede it's difficult to close the door on the other options.

James & The Humming Peach: Theoretically, it might have been a good idea to have other characters perhaps make subtle offhand comments to cement this, had this been a deliberate foreshadowing of indoctrination.

Agreed. Nobody else mentioning it certainly weakens the idea of the hum being important.

And as for dead teammates on the Normandy . . . Huh. I . . . guess that could be a bug? It's not entirely clear what the significance of the teammates exiting the ship actually is, if there even is any. Hell, I've heard that even EDI has been spotted leaving the ship on the "Destroy" ending, although I can't confirm. That's so obviously out of place that it has to be a glitch; could be something similar for dead teammates.

Good point. I do remember during KotoR, I... (KotoR spoilers follow) killed Bastila during my Sith run, and she showed up in the ending cinematic anyway. So yea, it could be a bug, but if so, that is one mighty gigantic bug.

I was also thinking, slightly off topic, what is the purpose of the grayed out portraits? In my game, I saw Joker, Anderson, & Ashley. In the past, the greyed out photo meant the person was dead, and it was an "In remembrance" thing. Like when exploring the downed Normandy in ME2, and you see Presley and Ash/Kaidan. But if Joker & Ashley are dead... how could they show up on the jungle... ohhhh, my head!

Regarding the little details across the board . . . They seem to be little details that add up and fall into place, because they add up to you, not necessarily because the creators intended for them to do so

Absolutely. This is purely a case of "The sign says Bioware did all of this on purpose." Or it says "Bioware is lazy, didn't think the fans cared enough to bother worrying about whether the game ending was terrible, and have probably rotted inside out from EA's influence."

Not wanting to believe it's Choice B, I am still desperately clinging to Choice A. But yea, it's not because I have irrefutable evidence of it. I just can't bring myself to consider the alternative.

(Quick aside: I never understood why people keep pointing towards Shepard bleeding from the side as evidence. Do they forget that Shepard just took the brunt of a Reaper beam and woke up in a massive pool of his own blood? Showing the still-heavy bleeding from his side after Anderson kicks it simply seems to convey that he also may not be much longer for this world as well as to explain his rapidly fading strength.)

Well, Marauder Shields shot him in the shoulder, and his arm (as best I can tell) is NOT covered in blood previous to that moment. It's just highly suspcicious that he would go from "I can walk and talk coherently" to "Oh, the spot where I shot you on my own body is now bleeding profusely, not the shoulder where I was just shot, and now I can't stand, and I feel fai--ohhhhhh." *THUD*

If Bioware's intent wasn't to make me think the wounds were matching, then I hate them. I hate them forever. Have him touch his shoulder, where he was shot. Not the left side of his gut.

In the behind-the-scenes documentary "The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3", Bioware flat-out admitted that the ending wasn't even written until November; they simply didn't know how to end it until the eleventh hour struck its tones. Combine this other facts -- claims that future DLC would probably only happen before or during the ending, for instance -- and the rumors (allegedly spread by Bioware employees) that Casey Hudson and Mac Walters pretty much collaborated on the ending alone and sprang it on the rest of the writing team without peer review, and you've got just the right ingredients for a monumental disappointment.

No, that isn't true. It can't be true! I just...


After looking around on some forums, it seems your love interest always exits the Normandy, for whatever reason. So, I'm wrong about the re-used art assets, and I can't settle on the significance of this criteria for who they choose to exit the Normandy.


So if the ending is truly legit, and not IT, then Bioware's intent was to imply that your love interest is gonna shack up with Joker to reproduce and eventually create an incestuous line of Buzz Aldrins seducing their own grandchildren? I just... I'm not even sure where to BEGIN on what I think of that. Please see the "Noooo" image above.


Also, as to the "One more story" bit: I'm pretty sure they were just using that to hawk their side-story DLC, not as a lead-in to the "true" ending. After all, imagine, if you will, the following exchange:

BUZZ: ". . . Shepard had faith in the races that the Reapers never did, so with the power of the Catalyst, he finally brought the cycles to a full reset; and in so doing he allowed the races of the galaxy to blaze their own paths to the stars. The end."

BOY: "Wow, Grandpa. So that's how we got here. Tell me one more story about the Shepard! Please!"

BUZZ: "Well, it's getting late . . . but all right, my sweet. Here, remember how I ended the last story? You should know that
I was completely fibbing, you gullible little shit! Goddamn, you kids will believe anything adults tell you. Fine -- here's how it really ended, for complete reals this time . . ."

BOY: "You're the worst Grandpa ever. I just want to go to bed now."


I laughed heartily at this. I hope when they release the new ending they put something like that in it. At the very least, a solid "Come here, my sweet, Grandpaw is feeling naughty today."

Seriously, though, in my mind, which is one of the more unsafe places for any sort of resolution to be coming from, I don't think it would be Grandpaw telling him he lied, as much as Grandpaw telling him a different story. So it would be as if he never told him the story of how the Shepard blew up more people than the Reapers did, doomed the rest of them to starvation, and kept his buddy Wrex from ever seeing Tuchanka, the Quarians from seeing Rannoch, etc.

Rather, what I meant was that their plot execution has generally been simple and unambiguous: A leads to B leads to C finally ends at D -- The End, or To Be Continued, as the case may be. Their plots have not required this degree of analytical gymnastics to unravel, where you have to connect B to E, back to C, then on up ahead to F, reverse it to A, then have it apparently end at G -- but ho-ho! -- it wasn't actually G that it ends at, but the number 7, if you were really paying close attention, maybe, possibly, we're not telling. . . .

Ah, my bad. The only one offhand that comes to mind is (KotoR Spoilers)in KotoR when you discover that you're really Darth Revan. That was an inspired bit of "HAHA, we got you, suckers!" storytelling.

Damn good video, isn't it? The "Loose Change" of Mass Effect 3. I've already seen it, and it's what initially made me think the Indoctrination theory has some feasibility as an interpretation, even if I don't believe Bioware intended it and even it has to rely on some wild-ass conjecture (and it does).

Yea. It pretty much IS the ending of ME3 for me, now. Shepard hears Sarens voice in his mind, flips back to memories of confronting him and Benezia... if Bioware don't come out themselves and reveal that is the true ending, then I'm basically indoctrinating into believing it to be that way!
 

ThingInTheCoat

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Nov 18, 2009
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I feel like I've been trying to convince a kid that Santa Claus isn't real. Not a terribly great feeling, that.

The.Bard said:
I could as easily drop Indoctrination Theory and introduce "Conrad Verner" theory.
Ah, yes. The Conrad Verner Theory [http://www.youtube.com/watch?src_vid=ythY_GkEBck&annotation_id=annotation_617338&feature=iv&v=hzYLTbQQEZQ]. I subscribe to that school of thought myself.

I was also thinking, slightly off topic, what is the purpose of the grayed out portraits? In my game, I saw Joker, Anderson, & Ashley. In the past, the greyed out photo meant the person was dead, and it was an "In remembrance" thing. Like when exploring the downed Normandy in ME2, and you see Presley and Ash/Kaidan. But if Joker & Ashley are dead... how could they show up on the jungle... ohhhh, my head!
I think they're simply there to signify Shepard thinking of his loved ones as he flings himself into oblivion, nothing more, nothing less. Also, examining the game's video files, there's a flashback scene each for only Joker, Anderson, Liara, Ashley, and Kaiden; Joker and Anderson always show up, and the third flashback is selected among the last three for fuck all reason that I can determine. I have no idea why they're the only flashback shots available, especially considering Shepard may be much closer to other characters and presumably be thinking about them instead in his final moments.

So if the ending is truly legit, and not IT, then Bioware's intent was to imply that your love interest is gonna shack up with Joker to reproduce and eventually create an incestuous line of Buzz Aldrins seducing their own grandchildren? I just... I'm not even sure where to BEGIN on what I think of that. Please see the "Noooo" image above.
Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Incest isn't the only thing to look forward to, in this brave new world. If there's any hope of populating the planet they're stranded on, then your love interest and the other females will, in addition to becoming Joker's new squeeze, also likely become breeding mares for the rest of the survivors. To compound this, the Normandy's crew has a gene pool with the approximate depth of a shotglass, give or take a millimeter, so recessive genes are going to start snowballing onto each other quite rapidly. Did you notice that you couldn't see the faces of Buzz Aldrin and his grandson? Well, that's because they've probably been so inbred that they now have cleft lips up to their foreheads and teeth where their nostrils should be.

Think about that, and then try to remember how to smile. You won't be able to.

You're welcome.
 

Dreadjaws

New member
Nov 29, 2011
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Great read, Shamus. I only now read this article because today I finished Mass Effect 3, saw the "three" endings (basically the same in different colors) and finally understood why people are so mad at it. This was probably the worst game ending I've ever seen in my life. Even SNES Jurassic Park's "Congratulations! You have escaped Jurassic Park" wasn't as bad because, despite being just a screen of text, it didn't turn the enemies into a ridiculous joke, didn't unnecessarily kill any major character and didn't raise such a huge amount of questions which will remain unanswered.

Bittersweet endings are fine (Deus Ex), ambigous endings are fine (Inception), but endings that turn a 100+ experience into a mockery of themselves can't possibly expect to be welcome. Seeing such a ridiculous ending (let's not even pretend there's more than one, since all that changes are colors and a couple of minor details), specially for a game like this, which specializes in taking your actions into account, makes you feel like all your hard work was for nothing and the satisfaction you should feel was forcefully taken away. Now I know what the Illusive Man was feeling.

By the way, this is a major problem I had with the ending, I don't know if it has been mentioned, but:
If the entire purpose of the Reapers was to avoid the chaos produced by synthetics revolting against organics, why in the freaking hell didn't they use the Reapers to destroy synthetics instead of organics? Then use them to tell the organics "Guys, go easy on this AI thing, to make sure this doesn't happen again"
 

Thasic

New member
Apr 15, 2012
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The next time Bioware produces a three part-five year game I won't be buying so it really doesn't matter what kind of ending they decide to make.

As far as Bioware claiming the ME series is some kind of art, that's a bunch of bunk. Bioware is a company trying to make money, not a starving artist that is willing to forgo all he has for the sake of his personal vision. Bioware made a huge mistake and now they are trying to cover their butts that are hanging in the breeze. This ending was some nonsense they cobbled together with little or no thought or effort just to rush the product out the door on a time schedule. They figured they could patch things up with a DLC and charge even more money but the fan base is having none of it. They under estimated the fan base and now are running for over. Bioware now gets to reap what they have sown.
 

decay0815

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Mar 28, 2012
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ThingInTheCoat said:
Eh, I have a feeling you're just here to do a drive-by pimp for your Facebook group, anyway.
True, so true :D Hope you did not spend to much time on having tough emotions for this ;)
I ran this experiment on posting my group to some blog posts and forums to see what happens. (Result is: nothing happend, so its not that simple. Googling this would have taken the same half our for setting up the group.)

ThingInTheCoat said:
Decay, it's grand that you loved the endings. I'm ecstatic for you. But would you care to explain just what you found so enchanting about them, as is? How did you bypass or explain the plot holes, sudden shift in tone and theme, and general slap-dash nature of the whole affair?
You are right, I kind of owe you this one.
First of all, I have by far not as much reflected as you did. In the end ME3 is a computer game and I used it for entertainment.

I don't know how to do this cool Spoiler-Click-Thing, so rather than RTFMing I'll keep it general (better not read this part in case you are still afraid of spoilers):

I loved the ending until the platform went up. The final "battle" was well told and I also love this classical scifi-space-opera esoteric kind of an end. This was true to the genre. Yet, this esoteric part of the ending lasted about five minutes (at least it felt so) and I had the feeling that the game was over already anyway. For me the ending started much earlier which I loved.
The fact of becoming esoteric in the end was fine with me and the only totally strange plot-hole I could not at all relate to was the one about my two squad-mates who where with me.
So I liked the way the choices were presented after the platform to the light. Yet, I wondered why anybody would give me these choices or why not somebody almighty could have chosen this on His/Her own. This all is truly strange, but somehow it was okay when I played it.
I would have loved it more if Shepard in fact had no choice at all in the end. It would have felt terrible and therefore be true emotional gameplay. (The game is more about emotions than choice, isn't it?)
When it comes to The Three Colors, I do not care at all. I played parts of the games again and noticed that it's almost always like this. As long as I *feel* like having a true impact on the game, I'm okay with it. But of course there where these wild statements of BioWare that everything will be different...looks like they actually lied.
Then there are more questions such as what happens to the fleet, how can you flee, what's up with this grandpa under the moon, etc. These are just details. I am very curious how this story is continued in DLC and I would also love new alternate endings. Finally, there is the Harbinger-Conspiracy which would be absolutely great if it were true.