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Worst Video Game Ending EVER: Mass Effect 3

VOICE OVER: DP
When reaching the end of any good video game, we want to feel like we've accomplished something. That tangalbe moment all gamers have experienced, putting the controller down and taking time to reflect on the the story, its characters, and the experience as a whole is both satasfying and reflexive. This is why a bad ending can feel like a betrayal, especially if it's to a great video game. If a game is awful from the start, we don't have any expectations for its ending -- or we just stop playing before we get to that point. But if we're captivated by what a game has to offer, a terrible conclusion will ruin the entire experience.
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Worst Ending of All Time: Mass Effect 3


When reaching the end of any good video game, we want to feel like we’ve accomplished something. That tangalbe moment all gamers have experienced, putting the controller down and taking time to reflect on the the story, its characters, and the experience as a whole is both satasfying and reflexive. This is why a bad ending can feel like a betrayal, especially if it’s to a great video game. If a game is awful from the start, we don’t have any expectations for its ending -- or we just stop playing before we get to that point. But if we’re captivated by what a game has to offer, a terrible conclusion will ruin the entire experience.



Calling something, anything the “worst ending of all time” is never easy, but for a lot of fans, “Mass Effect 3’s” conclusion fits the bill.



In previous Mojo lists, we’ve acknowledged the faults in Commander Shepard’s final moments – but at the time, never felt strongly enough to name it the worst ending ever. But lets take some time today to re-evaluate that conclusion. BioWare tried to rectify the situation with an extended cut, but the question remains... is the ending really that bad?



Keep in mind is that it isn’t just the end of a singular game, it’s the end to an entire trilogy. We first met Commander Shepard in 2007, a character we took complete control of. We customized Shepard’s appearance, background, sex, gender and as the story progresses, even Shepard’s attitude and personaly is shaped by the player. We had a hand in every single decision they made. The real draw? Our actions travelled with us throughout each installment of the series. What we did in Mass Effect carried over in parts two and three, so when it came time for the final decision, our expectations had reached the stars. There are a lot of Mass Effect fans out there who can’t simply replay a single game, if they want to play Mass Effect 3 they have to go back and play through the entirety of the first two games as well. In the minds of many players, its all one game, one story based around their decisions and their decisions have to be maintained and respected.


It’s one thing to have an ending that fizzles out after a few hours of gameplay, but fans of the trilogy had been waiting five years and invested hundreds of hours in, not Shepard’s story, THEIR Shepard’s story. A story with so many options and branching paths, both large and small, that everyone got to feel like their version was unique. In that way players, probably more so than any other single player series in gaming history, felt ownership over the entire franchise.

Lets look at the obvious flaw. Its not that the actual events of the finale, the plot itself was the problem. Its not that the ending was anticlimactic. We actually felt like we hadn’t gotten a proper ending at all. Sure, we saw what happened to Shepard, but the game forgot about the rest of its characters, characters we’d bonded with throughout the entire series. This wasn’t just about Shepard, it was about his crew, the places they visited and all the other people they met along the way. Because everyone’s game can be so different and there were lots of different variations for who will and won’t be dead, their conclusions are left ambigious. If this was truly the end of all of their stories, fans needed to know what happens to these people long term and they never got that closure, and probably never will.

More than that however, more than simply not getting all of the answers they wanted was that despite hundreds of hours of decisions made was the frustrating, crushing realization that no matter what else you did throught the entirety of three massive games, everyone who plays the game ends up in that same room; alone and faced with the exact same choices. No matter what Shepard does, doesn’t do, who he trusts, betrays, saves, sacrafices, the trappings of video game design connect all the paths right back up again into one single irritating MOMENT. A moment with three irrelevant choices.



Shepard dies, Reapers get taken out, the mass relay network gets destroyed, the Normandy is stranded… somewhere, and a child asks to hear more stories about “The Shepard”. Oh, and the sky changes color depending on your choice. Sarcastic Woot! Had this just been one bad ending out of a possible three, that’d be a different story. But to have a bad ending that gets repeated with a few tweaks when its supposed to be a galaxy changing decision? Not only did all the choices so far not matter but even the final decision they gave players changed virtually nothing.



And that’s the real meat of the problem: choice, or rather, a lack thereof. Games that give you a choice are a bold, unique way of storytelling, as the turn of events depend on your actions. This is especially true with the ending. We want just as many options with the conclusion as we had with the introduction and the gameplay that followed. There have been games where the final choices have been lacking, but no one expected that from a series that was so dependant on choice that your save file carried over into each title. Players came to rely on that save file; go online and you’ll find stories about how far fans went to recover or re-recate them.


When we reached the end, it felt like we’d been lied to by the very game itself and the people who made it. Bioware did a really good job at keeping up the illusion that everything was unique and that your decisions mattered. But the ending broke that bubble, it pulled away the sheet and ‘ta-dah!’ the emperor. Has. No. clothes.



This isn’t anything new as many developers make big promises that, sometimes, aren’t kept, but because the series was so good, so new and elaborate and fun, we absolutely believed that we’d be getting a slam dunk conclusion. The blacklash and rage over the ending of the final game needs to be viewed as a compliment to the series as a whole.



Does Mass Effect 3’s ending deserve the bad rap it gets? Yes. Yes it does. It’s ending felt panicked, safe and even thrown together. When examined next to the entire series as a whole the ending is even inexcusable, and we know they could have, and should have done better. The only thing worse than a poor ending is a disappointing one, and Mass Effect 3 managed to be both, which is why it will continue to be remembered as the worst of all time.
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