Last week I got the urge to replay the first two games in the Mass Effect series. While looking something up in relation to those earlier games I noticed that the new downloadable content for Mass Effect 3, in this case a pack that was supposed to modify the endings, was slated to drop 6/26/12, which fell beyond the date I would be finished with the second game, but would be right in the middle of where I would be if I went ahead and started the third game.
I have talked before about my disappointment with the ending of Mass Effect 3. Had I not already been playing the earlier games I likely would have avoided the Extended Cut pack entirely, but as it wasn’t I didn’t see any particular reason not to go ahead and give it a try.
Honestly, I should have just given in and watched the changes on YouTube. I’m going to use bold letters for this part, because I am feeling very emphatic; not only does the Extend Cut not address a single of the problems I had with the game’s ending, but it doesn’t even do what it claims it sets out to do.
My primary problem with the ending of Mass Effect 3 was never lack of “closure”; it was lack of a coherent, well-written endgame. Rather than feeling as if any of the choices I’ve made have mattered, as if the hours I put in collecting war resources and getting my readiness up to 100% (and don’t get me started on how it fell to 99% when I had to restart due to a crash), I still get magical AI/god/Reaper-collective-consciousness boy, who feeds me a little song and dance before giving me three choices (after, of course, facing down the Illusive Man and still not having enough Paragon points for the final dialogue option even after doing all kinds of Paragon shit). That, far more than the predictably ambiguous scene which implies that Joker and Edi are about to become the dysfunctional parents of a future race of technorganic beings, is why the ending of the game falls utterly flat.
But let us set that aside for a moment, and talk about closure, and making players feel like the choices they made throughout their Mass Effect experience matter. This, rather than the poor writing of the endgame, were the issues that Bioware claimed they were addressing with this content pack. As I said above, they fail to accomplish either of these goals. Rather than being given information that might have been both interesting and personal to my experience, such as what happens to Tali? How does having left Wrex alive and curing the genophage affect the galaxy? What about Garrus? The Virmire Survivor? What about the Rachni (whom I spared for the second time)? No, the updated endings don’t bother to address any of the specifics of my gameplay experience; instead, I got some narration accompanied by static images telling me that I have brought about technorganic synthesis at the cost of my own life, and in doing so ushered in a new golden age. Sure, some of the static shots show the characters I traveled with or interacted with along the way, but as I said, nothing truly reflective of my experience of the game beyond which of the final three options was chosen. Not to mention that there’s nothing in the “hidden” post-credit scene that at all explains how what is happening there is in any way linked to either the gameplay that has gone before, or the ending that I chose.
The Extended Cut content pack for Mass Effect 3 might be free (at least until next year), but it isn’t worth the cost of admission. It does nothing to address the actual problems with the game’s ending, and goes so far as to not only fail to accomplish its stated goals, but in giving me a canned response unrepresentative of my gameplay experience manages to leave me feeling further alienated and dissatisfied with the way the series ended as a result.