**Warning! Huge spoilers below!**Like seriously, "you are NOT the father" level of spoilers**Do not look directly at the spoilers unless wearing proper eye protection**
About a month ago I posted some thoughts about Mass Effect 3. I didn't say much of anything regarding the ending, partly because I didn't want to spoil anything. Little did I know that an internet storm was brewing, with nasty, big, pointy teeth. Apparently the ending was so bad, on so many levels, that it actually ruined everything that had happened up to that point, as well as earning a place alongside such fabled endings as "A WINNER IS YOU" and "CONGRATURATION THIS STORY IS HAPPY END THANK YOU."
The thing is, not only did I not have this reaction to the ending, I actually thought it was pretty good.
It might have helped that I didn't read any of the hype preceding ME3s release because, looking back, some of the statements made seem basically like lies, such as "It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.....The endings have a lot more sophistication and variety in them.”
No, actually that is completely what the endings are like. You either (A) destroy the Reapers, (B) control the Reapers or (C) merge with the Reapers. Aside from minor variations, any real differences between outcomes have to be inferred.
And I have no problem with this. Most of my questions were answered before the final showdown, and I respect that the events following your final decision are not explicitly spelled out for you. I like a little bit of mystery (and Shepard is dead after all, generally). I also don't mind that everyone's story ultimately comes down to a 3-way choice. Many of the choices throughout the series, when all possibilities are examined, don't have the great divergence in outcomes that is being implied. It's just the fans never collectively compared notes on any of the earlier choices and their consequences. Or maybe everyone assumed that every choice they made would be acknowledged and accounted for in the conclusion in some way that showed that it all really mattered. Well I'm sorry kids, it doesn't really matter; you were playing a videogame the whole time.
I've read a lot of rants against the ending, and people unhappy with it generally deny that what they wanted was a happy ending, and that their objections are only about logical inconsistencies and a lack of choice and explanation. I'm not sure I buy this. Mass Effect's ending is pretty dark. And it's not dark in an Empire Strikes Back "what will our heroes do now?" kind of way, like all too many videogame endings. It left me with a feeling of hollowness like many critics describe, but for me this hollowness was mixed with respect for BioWare being willing to let there series end on such a downer. It was made clear all along that if victory were to be achieved, it would come at tremendous cost. Most of the fan-made or proposed endings I've seen try to wrap things up far too cleanly and happily. We've become so enured to saving the galaxy that we don't expect there to be negative consequences, even though the idea of consequences has been stressed all throughout the series. We're narratively spoiled. For the record, I have seen no ending suggested thus far that I prefer to the one we got. The "indoctrination" theory is intriguing, but it merely defers the issue.
I've read complaints that the final choice invalidates your previous hard work because two of the choices are equivalent to the aims of Saren (merge with Reapers) and the Illusive Man (control Reapers). So you spent the entire first game trying to stop Saren from achieving his goal of merging organics and synthetics, yet in the end you decide this is actually the best solution. This is called DRAMATIC IRONY. This is actually my favorite aspect of the endings, and it fits perfectly with the theme of grey morality that permeates the series.
I've heard various complaints that certain things about the ending are illogical. I disagree, but I won't argue point-by-point. I'll agree that it isn't clear why Joker is using a Mass Relay when he ought to be trying to help out in the final battle, but this didn't occur to me at the time, so it didn't ruin anything for me.
The one point which I do agree on is that I was hoping to see my war assets actually take part in the battle. I think a few cutscenes could have been done away with if I could have seen the Blue Suns shooting at some husks, or a bunch of Geth ships take down a Reaper. That would have been a lot more meaningful to me. Aside from that, I was quite pleased with the ending. I found it satisfying, intriguing, heartbreaking, ambiguous, ethically challenging, memorable, and unique.
I'm very glad BioWare are sticking to their guns and not planning to change the ending with DLC and merely plan to pad it out and explain things a bit more. I could see this potentially improving something that, in my humble opinion, was never broken to begin with.