Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In Which I Participate in Internet Nerd Rage

I have loved the Mass Effect games, created by Bioware, since release day of the very first game.  I've completed each game multiple times, using different character classes and making different decisions.  Like many other fans of the franchise (and of the company that made it), I was really looking forward to the conclusion of the trilogy.  And roughly 95% of the game played beautifully.  But the last 5% were just awful.  There is an abundance of Internet Nerd Rage© out there detailing the various grievances with the ending we, they players and fans, received, so I won't go into that here.

Bioware did seem to notice and decide they had to do something, though, and today they released the Extended Cut ending for the game, in order to address at least some of the issue with the ending.  The project director for the games was very upfront about the fact that they were not changing the endings they had created, just adding more detail to the existing endings to clear confusion on certain points.  And that's exactly what they did.

Does the Extended Cut make the ending any more palatable?  In the words of a recent bit on the Colbert Report: "Sure…the same way jumping helps you get closer to the sun."

Some of the cosmetic changes that were made did indeed help to differentiate the different endings from each other, which is nice.  Previously the only real difference was the color of the expanding energy field that 'solved' the problem.  Now there's actually a cutscene that shows events playing out a little differently based on the decision you've made.  It doesn't involve any of the characters you've become attached to over the course of three games, but I guess you can't have everything.

We also get a nice epilogue for each ending, that was sorely needed, to help establish that everyone didn't die as a result of the decisions you made.  One of the most important, but possibly subtle, changes made is the the Mass Relays (enormous space subway stations basically) aren't destroyed as a result of your actions, just heavily damaged.  Prior to the Extended Cut, regardless of the decision you make your character is informed that the relays will be destroyed.  'The Arrival' DLC for Mass Effect 2 established that destroying a Mass Relay results in an explosion that bears a very strong similarity to a Supernova.  So, really everyone should have died.  So Bioware basically just retconned this part of the ending to make it clear you didn't just wipe out all life in the galaxy.  I call that a good step that Bioware was willing to make that adjustment, but also find it sadly lacking giving the other big change.

Previously you had (at best) three options to choose from to end the game.  None of the three options are particularly good choices.  Instead of making a choice based on saving galactic civilization, you have to make a choice based on inflicting your decisions on the survivors.  These options literally boil down to:
1) Destroy all synthetic life, including one of your friends/companions and an entire race of synthetic beings that (if you made the appropriate decisions earlier in the series) have allied with you against your enemies.  Because you're ok with causing extinction level collateral damage.
2) Control your enemies, where you basically become Skynet and rewrite the bad robots to be nice and help the ordinary people.
3) Rewrite all organic beings in the galaxy to become part organic/part synthetic.  Outside the fact that this makes no sense (I know, I know, what am I doing expecting my science fiction video game to make sense?), this again boils down to you mandating a change for every living being in the galaxy, regardless of their wishes.

Which brings us to the new fourth ending provided in the Extended Cut.  Bioware listened to all the various arguments about how your character, given all he/she has been through, would react to those choices and indeed gave us the option to say that all three of those options are just terrible choices.

The only problem is that making that choice actually results in everyone dying, and the bad guys winning.  In other words Bioware said, "Sure, you can point out that these crappy decisions are indeed crappy, but we don't really care what you think." 

I'm grateful that the existing ending got a bit more meat to them so explain what happens, but I don't imagine I'll be playing the game again anytime soon.  Choosing to put myself in a position where I have to make crappy decisions sounds like a crappy decision to make in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment