An Open Letter to Mass Effect 3 Producer Casey Hudson Regarding the Mass Effect 3 Ending Controversy

(This article contains Mass Effect 3 spoilers – ed.)

Mr. Hudson,

Mass Effect 3 is a great game, as so many reviewers and consumers alike have said, with their words and their money. But the growing number of players who don’t accept the ending (the Bioware forum thread has over 50,000 votes demanding a better, happier ending) of both the game and series doesn’t just stem from the final choice and cutscenes. Although you responded to fans on Saturday about this, it’s not as simple as “the ending doesn’t work”.

It’s a game-wide issue effectively left unresolved from the very beginning of Mass Effect 3, one that comes to it’s bitter conclusion leaving not only “passionate” fans without closure to one of the best game franchises this century, but everyone who has played one or both of the past games. To think otherwise insults the intelligence of Bioware fans and Mass Effect 3 players around the world.

This was done in one, over-arching way: remove any and all connections players can build with the game. Mass Effect 3 does it in a number of ways:

1. Too Many Plot Holes

Mass Effect 3 is a comfortable home to plot holes. Everything from Shepard’s grounding for six months to Mass Effect 2 characters popping into the game for 30 minutes at a time. Sure, the stakes are more dire and there isn’t time to reminisce war stories with old friends (yet time wasting is so easy), but haste is no excuse for simple explanations.

It may seem like a moot point, yet what makes Mass Effect, well, Mass Effect, is it’s incredible and very in-depth story. That story brings players around the galaxy for exploration, finding new worlds, and essentially doing the whole Star Trek thing in a darker, more realistic setting. The story makes that feel real…except when it doesn’t make sense because things aren’t explained or just happen with no questions asked.

Examples include nearly every Mass Effect 2 character not joining Shepard for the most important mission ever; how any alien race agrees to help Earth when their own homeworlds are being attacked; or how it took hundreds of ships to destroy a single Reaper (Sovereign) in Mass Effect 1, but a few thousand took on hundreds in the final battle for Earth. None of that make sense, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

2. The Decision Tree is Broken

In Mass Effect 1 & 2, it was very clear what dialog options were good and bad. Most of the time, options were actually exactly that, the good-guy or bad-guy move. This was obviously polarizing and too easy, so Mass Effect 3 has more grey areas than just black and white.

The problem isn’t with the grey, but that it isn’t the only change. Mass Effect no longer uses a good vs. evil choice progression: every decision aims to save the galaxy. The question isn’t “is Shepard good, honest and pure or blunt, harsh end evil,” it’s “do I get the job done right, or do I get the job done, period”. This is a mind-bogglingly big change. And frankly, that’s not what Mass Effect is all about.

Mass Effect has always spurred a single thought: how would you save the galaxy? Would you be a good person? Would you be merciless? Would you attempt to complete everything or rush to get the job done immediately? These are all important questions, but Mass Effect 3 doesn’t ask these questions. Players are force-fed the single task: save the galaxy from the Reapers, no questions asked. Be whoever you want to be, there are no consequences that really matter to your actions. All that matters is that you get to the end, and that you have enough galactic readiness points to choose your ending.

That’s crap. Mass Effect players signed on to make real choices, which are all but absent. The only real options to choose from are whether or not to complete certain missions, and the occasional rare decision like choosing between the Geth and Quarians. As Luke Plunkett of Kotaku so perfectly pointed out, players are forced at the end, when confronted by The Illusive Man, to perform renegade actions…or die. That isn’t Mass Effect. That’s bullshit.

What makes this worse is Bioware’s own Jonathan Perry, Lead Cinematic Designer on Mass Effect 3, had a session at GDC days after the game’s release discussing this exact problem: a lack of clarity in decision making, and how Dragon Age 2 was fundamentally flawed by it. I can’t even begin to understand how he could speak about it publicly after his latest work feels utterly and completely unclear.

3. Teammates are Too Few and Two Dimensional

Good stories revolve around interesting characters. The better the character, the worse the story can be. That’s why people love Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. You must have misplaced that memo early on Mass Effect 3’s development. Every major player in the game is bland with rare exception. Shepard is the only excusable one-dimensional character; after all, he/she is the player’s avatar. Everyone else should be interesting, or at least worth talking to.

The first problem is that there aren’t enough teammates to choose from. Mass Effect had six, the minimum required to make a perfect team based on character classes alone. Mass Effect 2 had nine, because the game was focused on building a perfect team. And the finale? Start with two, if all goes well, you had a good ending in Mass Effect 2, and purchased the day-one DLC, then you can eventually choose from seven teammates, which can’t perfectly match any class. Some teammates, like Ashley and James, are both Soldier class. Welcome to the department of redundancy department.

But if the stars don’t align and players missed any of those three things, then they are SOL and can end up with as few as four teammates: James, Ashley/Kaiden, Liara, and EDI. Garrus and Tali could both die in Mass Effect 2, Javek is a required $10 character, and Tali can die depending on your choices in Mass Effect 3. Even then, Tali isn’t a usable character until past the middle of the game. It’s too easy for even skilled and veteran players to not have access to these characters.

What’s worse is that the teammates available are boring. Garrus is loyal but dull, Tali is smart but too inexperienced and immature to be interesting, Liara too busy researching to share anything meaningful, James is just an annoying brute, and Ashley just constantly whines and complains. If Kaiden is anything like the first game, then forget it. And to hell with anyone who demands I pay $10 for a damn character that’s already on the disc?

Where are the interesting, unique races? Mass Effect 2 had some great, amazing teammates to choose from, like Mordin, a genius Salarian scientist with centuries of experience packed into just a few decades; Thane, the galaxy’s most dangerous assassin; Samara, a poise Asari Justicar who is a ridiculously powerful biotic; hell, even the psychotic Jack, which was made for players to hate, at least had style and an interesting story to tell. Yet all of these characters only make cameos. All we get in Mass Effect 3 are the remnants of exceptional storytelling and some of the best, most interesting characters in videogames to date. Which brings me to my next, and perhaps most personally important point…

4. Mass Effect 3 Effectively Discarded the Best Videogame Character Ever: Wrex

Urdnot Wrex is the best non-playable videogame character ever conceived. This badass Krogan is a walking tank, a lizard-like being who’s over a thousand years old, fought in hundreds of wars, killed likely tens of thousands (including his own father), all the while knowing his species has no future. He makes jokes about genocide and sexism and how weak everyone is compared to him, and has the battle scars to prove it. Yet under that rough-as-diamonds exterior, Wrex has a heart of gold and always, always means to do right.

You said that Wrex was incredibly hard to not kill in Mass Effect, and perhaps you’re right. I’d like to make this point crystal clear: Wrex was the reason I wanted to complete side quests. His amazingly brilliant, witty dialog made me take Wrex on every single mission. When Shepard goes toe-to-toe with Wrex, I knew there was no way in hell I’d shoot him. I’d start the game from scratch first. If there was an equivalent to a virtual best friend to me, Wrex was it.

His absence in Mass Effect 2, aside from a brief time with him on his homeworld, didn’t fill the massive hole on my roster. But the additional unique characters did, and Grunt’s very Krogan-esque personality helped me forget that loss. So I let it slide.

Mass Effect 3 shows no attempt to plug that galaxy-sized gap. No character can stand up to Wrex’s sheer brilliance and dialog. Even the few missions with him are utter genius; I laughed out loud listening to him talk about eating Salarian liver…in front of Salarians! That’s just too good for words. Yet when the moments passed, there was no character worth talking to except EDI, who is the Data of the series. Even Joker, voiced by Seth Green, lacks the comedic appeal so notable in past games. No one can take Wrex’s place, but it’s as if you and the development team didn’t even try. After a few hours of trying to coax interesting or funny conversation out of my crew and important game characters, I gave up. They aren’t interesting, aren’t funny, and I never cared about them once. Not even once.

5. Mass Effect 3 Doesn’t Follow Trilogy Guidelines

There’s no official guide for how to make a trilogy. The general gist is this: #1 is an introduction to characters, story, and is an all-inclusive tale that is open-ended. #2 demands the protagonist learn or achieve something while the enemy makes its move and makes significant headway. #3 ends the trilogy with the hero saving the day, good defeating evil, under the most dire of situations.

It’s more complicated than that, but as Bioware has stated before, you guys followed the traditional trilogy path. Mass Effect 1 and 2 reflected exactly that (considering, of course, the requirements of a game versus a film or book). Mass Effect 3? Read this in Nelson‘s voice: HA HA!

The entirety of Mass Effect 3 is a complete lack of hope. The Reapers have arrived, and Shepard isn’t trying to save the galaxy against an enemy that can be defeated. They can’t be beat. You and Bioware only give players the tiniest of strings to reach for, and you keep yanking it like we’re cats. There’s no way to beat the Reapers, then there may be a way but nobody knows how it can work or what it does. The whole time it’s up to Shepard to find the solution, do everything, and then save the galaxy. How hopeless can it get? From the get-go there is no chance for survival, and every hour or so Shepard reminds players of that in dialog with random people. Even if players are full-paragons, full of hopes and dreams, it’s the most sullen attitude from anyone in the series.

This down-trodden outlook, and the idea that everything is doomed unless this half-baked last minute plan works, leaves no hope or real desire to succeed for players. Unlike Mass Effect 1 and 2, players aren’t off to save the galaxy, on a merry journey, even knowing that some friends may not make it. Even Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission was at least posed as a challenge: beat this if you dare! Mass Effect 3 spits in players faces and says, “it’s over. There is no hope for victory.”

Now what kind of a game is that? Who the hell wants to play that? The end of a trilogy is about the hope of success, the trials and tribulations undertaken before and during to make success a possibility. At the very least the game should have been about the journey, the quest to find a solution and implementing it. Instead, the entirety of Mass Effect 3 is only about one goal: stop the Reapers. Which, as is talked about over and over, is impossible. Ironically enough, the only character with any sense of hope is the Illusive Man, who at least see’s a future where the entire galaxy isn’t wiped clean of life.

Not only does this break the general trilogy “guideline”, it decimates player expectations, hopes, and the whole “hero’s journey”. We all wanted Mass Effect 3 to be something special, just like the previous two. The way it is now, it’s mostly forgettable.

6. General Bullshit

To emphasize this point, I’ll be clear: I don’t use expletives when writing publicly. Ever. Yet Mass Effect 3 is so fraught with bullshit, I’m obligated to express my exact feelings on the matter.

First is the matter of DLC. Day-one DLC, as you’ve heard from the uproar, doesn’t work. Or maybe it does. But I know one thing for sure: it doesn’t work when you include something important like a full game character and dangle it in front of our faces saying, “just $10 for this important game extra!” On principle alone I’d rather buy horse armor. At least that’s clearly a cry for money. This? This is sneaky and hypocritical.

Next is multiplayer. I love the multiplayer. I play it nightly. But like every other human being when I get a new game I play single player first, MP second. So thanks for punishing everyone by forcing us all to play MP before completing the single player campaign. And for the record, the equipment purchasing and upgrades are also bullshit.

There are a few more things, but they’re minor, so I’ll just mention two: bugs and PC controller support. We may live in an age where day-one software updates are the norm, but that’s no excuse for pushing out a buggy game. And I call severe bullshit on no controller support for the PC version. Every console game put on the PC can very quickly and easily get gamepad support. Saying you don’t have time before shipping, especially after doing exactly the same for the last two games, insults our intelligence and your staff. If Bioware can’t add gamepad support for the PC, how in the hell did they manage it for the 360, let alone the PS3?

There is no DLC band-aid that can fix these problems Mr. Hudson.

Because Mass Effect 3’s ending isn’t just 10 minutes of unfortunate plot devices, it’s 20 hours of combined gameplay and storytelling that is summed up in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with the game we all played. And that game? That game had nothing to do with the Mass Effect franchise. It just took the characters and setting, and left everything that makes Mass Effect Mass Effect, out.

As for the actual ending, Gamefront writers Ross Lincoln and Phil Hornshaw do an excellent job describing everything wrong with it. Or if you feel like taking a look at what many of today’s outspoken fans have to say about it, just head over to Reddit. Here are just a few examples of their thoughts. Or keep an eye on the Retake Mass Effect 3 charity. All I’ll say is that if Mass Effect 2 could have an ending this complex, why can’t Mass Effect 3? And if the idea was to be artistic, well…this game clearly failed.

There is a clear disconnect between Mass Effect 3 and players, fans, and Bioware itself. The game doesn’t make players feel connected to the game in any way the previous titles did, through story, characters, ideals, decisions, design…all it does right is gameplay. Even the multiplayer-single player crossover, universally hated, can be solved with a single warning pop-up. Why isn’t there one? Because the game you and Bioware made is not the game millions of gamers around the world were making for themselves. And ultimately, that’s something no amount of DLC can ever fix. You and Bioware took away our experience for one of your choosing, in a franchise that we built with our decisions. Mass Effect 3 doesn’t reflect on our decisions, our desires, or our hopes. No wonder so many people hate how it ends. Most of us don’t get closure, and we spent the entire game looking for it.

I’ll end this letter with a simple question: when did Bioware decide to make its games “good enough”?



James Pikover
Reviews Editor, Gadget Review

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James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.

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  1. Sorry i lost interest when you said garrus was dull and jack was created for us to hate….then i realised you were just talking bull…..

  2. I agree with most of what you’ve said, except your idea that ME1 and 2 were about ‘black and white good vs evil’ choices. Way to make a complex game really simplistic. Sure, paragon was pretty much the ‘good’ path in the conventional sense, but that doesn’t automatically make renegade the ‘evil’ path. Sure, it has some ‘evil’ options (like in the Overlord DLC) and almost always has negative consequences (for which I blame bad writing – being the hopeful optimist should’t always win the day, too predictable), but mostly it’s a mixture of ruthlessness/caution/cynicism and a lack of social skills.

    If anything, ME3 was MORE simplistic because we only ever got two dialogue options – paragon and renegade. That left people like me – who like to mix and match to make a more even, well rounded character – at a loss because you could only really choose cardboard cutout A or cardboard cutout B in your dialogue (though the moral choices were still morally varied and emotional.

  3. the ending was horrible but the game play was awsome it was one of the best games iv played. it was hard to figure out what to do after you died you just do stuff that you did not do during main game play it was bad to do all that just to die but its still the best game ever. i hope they dont do the same thing in mass effect 4 if they do even make one i hope.

  4. i burned the game cuz EA servers keep disconnecting me online when i play mp… always near the end of the game and the disconnect happens. there would be no lag what-so-ever throughout the game and all of a sudden i’m kicked out. perfect… wasted so many hours just to see the disconnect msg pop up and lose all the credits

  5. Well said. I’m a 52 year old gamer. I could not wait for mass effect 3, my wife thought i was nuts searching online for any hints,fan comments for months. This could have been a perfect game…if they did not cut out content, left javic in the game instead of dlc, used the dark energy theory, had Emily Wong as your reporter instead of the really creepy jersey shore look alike, been able to recruit Tali a bit earlier instead of 3/4 of the game being over  and had an ending such as dragon age origins.I look at it and say, it could have been the greatest game , better then dragon age origins but instead it was really good, not legendary.  Origins is a complete game, Mass Effect falls short.

  6. The statement about Renegade and Paragon is actually wrong.  It was never about being good or evil, it was about being diplomatic or being ruthless.  In fact, by changing Renegade from being ruthless to just being a jerk, you cheapen the whole experience.

  7. Just wanted to say that I’ve played this franchise the whole way through, and I’ve never been so affected by a game before. The ending was so poor, and so unsatisfying, that it almost hurt physically. That extra $10 for Javik should have included a personal grief counselor do help you deal with the shock of being mentally raped by that ending. I felt like I need to take a shower to wash it off. As much as the indoctrination theory makes sense (and as much as I desperately want to believe it), I’ve lost any confidence that it was Bioware’s original intention. Casey Hudson wrested control of the plot from the normal team of writers and tried to masquerade as an *arteeest*. That kind of arrogance is insulting. I may never again open my wallet for Bioware. I’m just one guy–so screw me–but that’s all I can do. 

  8. It isn’t necessary to play multiplayer, as it has no effect on the outcome of the game. This is because the ending does a great job of invalidating all multiplayer contributions to the campaign as well as invalidating all your choices from the previous games in the series.

    1. I ended up with around 3650 after the 50% penalty and making sure to complete every side quest, maximize decisions.  It may be possible to reach 4000 on single player but you’d have to f over the krogan, kill wrex and a few other choices. I refuse to kill Wrex. Seeing him excited about the cure was the best moment in the game, even better then ranoach and giiving tali a homeworld. Hopefully the dlc over the next year will fill in and create a game that really should be considered legendary. We can hope.

  9. Thank you Mr Pikover for this letter . As someone who has invested heavily in the series it express’s everything i felt is wrong with Mass3. I can’t help but feel by ending it in the way they did that they have effectively destroyed it.

  10. Why don’t you guys do a second playthrough and see how the game really ends? Why don’t you stop b1tching to a developer and analyze what happens a little further?? The endings were great but most of you haters don’t even understand what happens it is hilarious to me when you call yourselves fans.

    1. It’s strange that all the people who buy into the indoctrination theory always say that everyone else just doesn’t get it and they find it hilarious and laugh at them as they sit high upon their pedestal of superior intellect.

      The Indoctrination Theory leaves the ending with more polt holes than it already has and results in the game having no ending because it was all in his mind. 

  11. SPOILERS: I think the problem here (concerning the ENDING only) is that people expected the ending to be a culmination of their choices, rather than another choice. Personally, I liked the ending, particularly the continuation of the theme of sacrifice, and the almost-deification of ‘The Shepherd’ hundreds or perhaps thousands of years later (if you didn’t ragequit, and actually watched past the credits). I chose the ending where Shepherd somehow sacrifices himself to unify the organics and synthetics, and can’t wait for the next Mass Effect game, hopefully far in the future, to see what effect that has on the galaxy. For the record, I can suspend my disbelief in the science behind that ending for the same reason I can buy it that all the races speak the same language, and with rarely discernible accents and dialects. It’s a game, it’s theories don’t have to necessarily obey the real world physical laws. The other thing that I think people fail to understand is that the illusion of the players’ choices effecting the overall trajectory of the game is exactly that, an illusion. No matter what you do, the show must go on so to speak, you will still go through the same story missions and be able to choose from the same pool of henchmen, you can’t go off and find a random colonist from Eden Prime for your team no matter how much you want to. So the real problem here is that Mass Effect is only a game, it isn’t really the sandbox universe everyone likes to pretend it is. And it’s a damn fine game at that.

    1. *more spoilers* Congrats if Indoctrination Theory is true which it more than likely is you were just indoctrinated the same way Saren was. Which presumably means the universe lost it’s last best hope for salvation and ultimate victory. Humanity does ascend to a higher evolution by being assimilated by the reapers.Should have stuck to your convictions buddy you might have woke up to fight another day (expanded and clarified DLC perhaps?) . Also if your going to have the illusion of choice why not maintain it throughout the narrative if you lift the veil it cheapens the experience. Also depending on your choices by the third game your choices of henchmen may not be the same as someone else due to things like the suicide missions so to a degree the story told can change by degrees.

      1. I recently saw the video explaining the entire indoctrination theory. The theory is sound (for the most part; there are some clear flaws with it), but I have trouble believing that Bioware knowingly did something like that. It’s not necessarily too intelligent (for a videogame though, it is), but nothing in Bioware’s past would suggest that the company is capable of thinking so far in advance, and so deviously.

        Furthermore, if that theory is true, it really is a slam in player’s faces even worse than if it weren’t true. At least if it isn’t true we can pin it to a weak development cycle, EA messing with the company, or a number of different things. But if you say it is true, that means that Bioware knowingly included a plot that they knew the vast majority of people wouldn’t understand, something that isn’t explained in any way, etc. The only possibility I see is either the guy who came up with the theory just found a way to make a great story out of the game (which, believe me, isn’t so difficult), or someone at Bioware decided to do it and not tell anyone.

  12. Oh my god, someone who loves Wrex as much as me! :)
    I agree with everything wholeheartedly written here, sir. For me, it wasn’t a ‘bleakness’ of the endings that have me so up in arms – it’s the injustice done to the narrative of the first two games. There were aspects of 3 that remained loyal, but others that betrayed it, and then add on the atrocity that is the current endings, and the entire game experience is soured.

  13. I still dont think Wrex was the most interesting character of ME…. at least not one of mine. And I kinda prefer Vega to Wrex ;)

  14. I’d like to ask about one particular part of the ending that has been bugging me, regardless of the other plot holes and what not. This is just one thing that I’d love for the people who like the ending to explain to me. How does Joker survive the crash? Don’t get me wrong, I love the character. But how does a guy, who by his own account has glass bones that will crack if he has a particularly strong sneeze, survive crash landing on a planet at FTL speeds, regardless of what color the explosion you’re running away from is?

    1. Excellent point. Not only did he survive, he walked out without a single broken bone. Even with the synthesis ending he’d still at least be nothing but jelly after a crash like that, with no cushions or safety harness.

      1. In a conversation with James (over the intercom) Joker mentions some kind of exo skeleton. He claims that he needs to move with the ship and it hinders him. Could Joker have upgrades, Dr.Chakwa was very close to him and a personal doctor. Perhaps in between games 2 and 3, Joker has some sort of upgrades?

  15. i disagree with pretty much all you have said, im not gonna call u names and give you shit over it cos its ur opinion imjust expressing mine, ME3 is a great game i mean yea i wish it had more planet exploration like in me1 but over all its a good game my only issue is the ending, and tbh the only main reason i dont like it is cos i didnt wanna die lol. but if this whole indoctronation thing is true which if it is i think its a really cool ending but still pissed off i gotta down load a dlc. mass effect 3 is a good game and i personally think it has replay value. just my opinion though…

    1.  I agree, I also didn’t like the ending, but the moment they introduced the reaper destroying device, it was clear me, that unless something extraordinary would happen, all the portals and the citadel would be toast. Throughout ME1 and ME 2 it became clear that they were reaper technology.

      Mordin and Thane, interesting as they were, they both were at the end of their life expectancy. And both had an exit truly to be remembered. Miranda, if she survives on Horizon or not, it’s in line with who she is. For Wrex I can play multiplayer, and adopt his style.

      Also noteworthy is that the biggest plot hole (for me) is that the reapers never have been found for all these cycles, actually made the intial ME story possible. The reapers. The reaper story hasn’t been fully explained, how they evolved to what the were. After all they didn’t create themselves. Lot’s of opportunities to bring a twist in a DLC.

      If Bioware releases a DLC with a better ending, then a changed on Rannoch os needed, where Sheperd brought a reaper down, and the final talk indicated the reaper found it impossible to coexist with the rest of the galaxy. But why? After all Geth and Quarians could make peace. The story of the reaper and their creators needs to be told to understand that point, and from there is a way how to truly save the galaxy.

      I also understand why ME3 turned out the way it is, and that is because of the multiplayer. A good single player game rarely mixes with a good multiplayer one, unless they follow similar gameplay ideas.

      If I could change one thing, then it’s not the ending, but introduce Tali earlier, and have more missions where her skills are truly useful, especially when playing on insanity level.

      Other things that need fix up: James, Ash and Kaidan are useless on insanity, They almost always go into positions where they cannot shoot at enemies, and having no really good biotic skills .. I usually don’t bother to upgrade their skills. The weapons are like toothpicks anyways on insanity

      Get rid of nova in multiplayer. It’s fun to play it for oneself, but for the rest of the group it’s not nice.

      Back to the ending though. If intended or not by the story writers, the clear message that I got is: over-dependence on technology is not good. In that view, the ending makes perfect sense, unless of course, I play complete paragon and unite the entire galaxy. On my first play through, I felt extremely sad, just because of these broken relationships.

      A DLC with an alternate ending, IMO should involve Shepard  being able to bring the reaper also into the galactic alliance. That would first require to have Shepard change his mind about the reapers, to be consistent to his approach with other species. To make that believable is nearly impossible, it would be best to rewrite of all 3 ME episodes.

      My biggest gripe with the entire series: With Shepard’s antagonism against the reapers, he never can live up to his full paragon status, that I like to achieve in may playthroughs. I’d be very happy if Bioware made the impossible possible and fully unite the galaxy. And there is only Shepard who could pull off that feat,

    1. Shawn’s review is his opinion, and while the above article is technically opinion as well, I see it more as facts about the game based on judgments made. As many have commented, my points are agreeable. But everyone will have their own opinion of the game, and I think that my letter is an explanation for why. 

      I’d also point out that most of the games media rates everything ridiculously high and that 4/5 stars, while considered very high by Gadget Review standards, is considerably lower than the 75 perfect scores given thus far. Not that that’s supposed to make it better…I personally would give the game 3 stars (a “good” rating) because the overall game is fun and the story moves along well enough to not be bothered by it, until the end.

      Ultimately all of the above are development concerns, things gamers don’t typically fret about because it’s always too late and generally too hard to figure out. But with the Mass Effect series being so close to so many, and with the sheer amount of time I’ve spent covering the franchise, it all seemed worth noting.

      1.  Hell I was grimacing throughout the game and expected the ending to save what was a very underwhelming game up until that point. Then the ending happened, and I never returned a game so fast. The dialogue was James Cameron’s script writing for dummies mad lib book, levels of cheesy and cliched. It is indeed and average game, made worst by the fact that we know they can do better. Gameplay was nice though. Even though the rolling/melee/jumping was pointless.

  16. I agree that the whole tone of the game was depressing.  Losing favorite characters like Thane and Mordin, watching that poor little boy get killed at the beginning, and then that terrible ending.  I played Mass Effect 1 and 2 multiple times with varying characters and found it highly enjoyable.  I intended to do the same with the third, but it was too depressing and I just don’t care.  I’ll make up my own endings in my head for each of the characters I developed, of which I put tons of time and care into.  There should multiple possible endings, one of them happy in that Shepard goes off with his/her love interest.  And that should include a happy ending with Thane for the Shepard that loved him!  Perhaps when caring for him at a hospital, a cure is discovered, and he lives and is fine.  I know war in general is a sad affair, but this is a game, and it is supposed to be enjoyable.  Sure, have depressing and sad ending possibilities for those who want or expect them.  But have happy ones available, too, for those fans who prefer such.

  17. Does any of this even matter any more?
    Bioware have now proven that they simply do not care about customer satisfaction (Dragon Age II. ME3). We can all spit and bemoan our woes for months to came, but it is not going to change a thing!
    I have decided to vote with my wallet and the awesome power that gives me. I solemnly swear NEVER to buy another Bioware product again.

  18. Well said, James!  Thanks for this post!  I too am saddened by the overall drop in quality…  It is the death of something great.

    That said, I believe those issues can be overlooked if BioWare will fix the ending and provide a proper closure to Shepard’s story.  If they must erase the last 15 minutes in order to fix most of the plot holes, I can pretend I’ve never seen it.

  19. Outstanding review. This game has been ludicrously overrated by mainstream sites while being panned by fans of the series. 43% fan rating on metacritic says it all.

  20. I love reading the comments, “your just silly james the game was good and the end good” HUH? those comments must of not played 1 or 2 because masseffect 3 is just a shell of it self.

    Where are the conversion trees, that i loved making choices in “talk to the man” “shoot him in the foot.” Where are the squad talking sure there was some but i loved the banter back and forth.

    Why are the conversion trees that you do have you have no way of knowing if they will give you paragon points or renage points. Also to the point well the universe is at war and something will die or be destroyed, sure some of the people die i get that yet bioware seem to of made lite of that as well.

    They did not take out some exploring/research/development They took out 90%, I dont know how many people remember in masseffect 2 you did Tail’s mission to get her. You arrive on Haestrom and after you did the mission you learn that something alien has been messing with the storm the quarian ‘s have no idea what it might be.

    Yet in masseffect 3 i expected oh it was the geth/reaper thing or better yet a old race that can fight the reapers. What did i get nothing i could go on and on I just dont get why a company knowed for making a good game would give us a shell of a game.

    p.s. dont forget the game was really short maybe half the size of masseffect 2?

    1.  About the dying star that the Quarians were studying: It was originally intended to be part of the plot in ME3 were the heroes would have to combat a dark energy force, which was the cause of the rapidly dying star. After ME2 Drew Karpyshyn (the lead writer for ME and the ME novels) left BW.

      So I’m guessing that’s maybe part of why that idea got scrapped and we didn’t hear anything more about it.

  21. As a member of the Retake Mass Effect movement. I respectfully but strongly disagree with this letter. I enjoyed Mass Effect 3 very much, and I do not feel changes are required to anything other than the ending. The game is out, it can not be remade, but it is not too late to change the ending. I would like to thank BioWare for all their hard work in creating 99% of the game, and express hope that they can make it 100%.

    1. I really enjoyed the game up too retake earth part, Although while i agree that the game is out and can not be remade. I have to ask myself why is the game short one play through should not be that short? (me1,me2 where both longer)

      Why where there so little choices to be made? Was that part of the story plotline heck i think masseffect 1 had more choice? Yea but the end was the worst part heck i would be happy and thank them for the there work if they fix the ending.

  22. Ok so I’ve just finished it. Loved every minute of all three games and have now witnessed all three endings.

    First thing. I saved Anderson without any Renegade actions I just talked the Illusive man into shooting himself.

    Second thing. Get over yourself, really and totally it’s a piece of entertainment made by someone else and it has their ending. Hell it’s not like it’s got Greedo shooting first or anything!

    1.  You sound like a conformist. It’s not just a piece of software. It’s a game i cant even bare to play, many have said the same. The ending MAKES NO SENSE. It doesnt belong in mass effect. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, and it reeks of half assery. That is why we hate it. You are the minority. Enough people have complained and gotten Hudson’s attention, thats right, casey hudson acknowledges the crappy ending.

      They were hoping most mass effect fans were conformist sheep but were not. We are very thoughtful. There isn’t a 800 page discussion about the ending for nothing. 55000 votes for a better ending means more than just a few whinny fans. Most of us hate the god damn ending. I cant even play 1 and 2 without thinking it’s all for nothing.

      The whole game is just too good to accept the ending. How can the last 3 minutes be shitty compared to the rest of the games. It just can’t be, Bioware planned this i think.

      1. Wow 55000 people out of a reported 1.7M sales so far.

        So 3% of people didn’t like it but I’m the minority?

        The ending makes perfect sense to me, and I’m definitely not conformist.

        1. It’s wrong to assume that ONLY the unhappy costumers will state their opinion of the game, and it’s equally wrong to assume that those 55000 people are 100% of all unhappy costumers. It’s a matter of statistics: a population of +1000 repondents can generally be accepted as a good representation of the general public, so the numbers on these polls are huge.
          I’ll admit, there’s probably a somewhat large bias in those polls, but statisticly, it is valid to assume that AT LEAST 80% of all people who played ME3 are unhappy about the endings.

  23. Wow so many still wanna see a colorful rainbow at the end of the game yeah I  guess if he was to add the very cheerful nyann cat. At the end people would all be satisfied right? No! There is not alot of people out there who Will be satisfied cause of how many two year olds play. I am just tired of the endless bickering of the game that they themselves made. Sorry to say but it’s annoying.

  24. Amazing how all of you are indoctrinated – just like Shep was if you lacked the necessary war assets.  Everything that happens with TIM, all the different colored explosions – that’s all part of the indoctrination attempt.  IT DOESN’T ACTUALLY HAPPEN!  IT’S ALL IN HIS HEAD!  Your Shep is either indoctrinated, or not indoctrinated (in which case you’re alive, covered in rubble).

    There’s clearly DLC coming.  Bioware has basically said as much.  They’ve said they’ll comment on the ending once everyone has had a chance to play the game.  There’s clearly more to the story.  They’re not going to leave it with Shep covered in rubble.  The Normandy never touched down on some random planet.  IT’S ALL IN HIS HEAD!  C’mon people. Figure it out.

    1. So, instead of releasing a complete game, with a complete ending, they are going to release the real ending to the game as DLC? if that isn’t complete bullshit I don’t know what is. 

      1. And bioware is going to charge us all an extra 10$ to play the ending the game should have had in the first place when it came out. 

      2. There was an ending, and it was complete in the context of the game – where instead of an epic final battle (with guns and powers ablazing), we got an epic dialogue scene that’s essentially a final battle of the mind.  

        DLC will expand upon the ending – just like DLC for ME2 expanded upon the events leading up to ME3. And for the record, if any game has DLC in the first place, I wouldn’t call it complete to begin with.

        1.  If the indoctrination theory is correct then no there is currently no ending for me3.  from what i saw shep is in the middle of a battle and it kicks you over to the glowing child thing and you get the make the choice of colors.  only by picking one does it kick you back to your body or what ever… probably still in the middle of the fight… thats not an ending thats a damn cop out because there is no conclusion.  Unless your saying the war assets beat the reapers while you were gazing at your navel.  just saying is all

    2. So by your rationale you just bought a game ($80 for the collector’s edition) with no actual ending because it was all in his head and while Shep is dreaming the war still rages on and are left with not knowing what happens.

      Kudos to Shep for overcoming the controversy in his mind but I’d really like to know how the game ended.

      As for the the incoming “Ending” DLC, BW initially said there was nothing wrong with the ending and weren’t going to add anything, clarify, or otherwise because that would compromise their “artistic intergrity” and were “hurt and surprised” by the fans reactions to the end. “Ending” DLC was never going to happen if not for the huge uproar from fans.

      Prepare to dig into your wallet to pay for an actual ending on top of already having bought the game.

    3. if they retcon the whole thing that way, it’ll either kill the franchise, or put bioware under so far EA just dissolves it.

  25. That was so well stated, James. I just wasted two weeks of my life trying to play this game to the fullest and get the best possible ending(without multiplayer), and it was a complete mess in many ways. I’ve been playing this franchise for years, excited about the final outcome, and what I got was hopelessness disguised as a bad “Matrix Reloaded” ripoff.

  26. Nicely written. And i agree with you on the ending. I didnt have much issues with the overall game beside the quest journal. But the ending was flatout and insult to a otherwise awesome trilogy. And it deservs better, BioWare deserv to end it better!.

  27. So now it’s no longer just the ending, but it’s EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of Mass Effect 3 that sucks in each and every possible way.

    Probably why it got such good scores on approximately every game review website out there.

  28. You use not getting to play your favourite character as an argument?

    The word ‘entitled’ just got a new meaning.

    1. As I stated, it’s a good, a very good game. The gameplay is some of the best for a 3rd person shooter. The RPG elements are a bit lacking, but the game is good. The problem is that it really isn’t “Mass Effect”. 
      As for entitled, perhaps. But I’m only human. I don’t demand Wrex be added, but having some characters worth even talking to seems like a fair request.

  29. You know what I hated about ME1? I could either save the council or not. Either way Sovereign ended up defeated.
    What a gyp. You know what I hated about ME2? I could only choose to
    save the collector base or not. Either way I still defeated the
    collectors. You know what I hated about Mass Effect 3? I could either
    control the reapers, become a reaper, save the reapers, become DNA, or
    destroy the reapers.

    Guess what’s wrong in that statement? My reactions. In ME1 your ending
    is the state of the universe. You are forced into a singular path with
    your crew status being your choice. The state of the universe is a
    product of your choice. Same for the council. In ME 2 you could die, and
    much of your crew could die. That was a reflection of your choices. As
    with the first game, generally spending more time with it reflected in a
    better outcome. However, in the end you must take on the mission and
    attack the base. In ME 3 you can change the DNA of the galaxy, become a
    reaper, destroy them and the geth, save the reapers, or control the
    reapers. That’s quite the outcome. Now you were of course forced into
    it, but that’s nothing new. Oppositely, you effect the galaxy on a grand

    Were there some problems with the game? Sure. Every game has them. What Bioware did here was make an ending that was harsh. It fit the nature of the threat. War isn’t pretty and coming out with everything perfect and happy isn’t always possible. What they effectively did was to slap you in the face and go, see everything you did? It was undone by the race of demi-god machines. That’s a harsh reality to accept, but it’s true isn’t it? That’s why I love the endings. You can go out in a way that gives you immortality (you’re part of everyone’s DNA). As for the state of the galaxy? Bleak and painful. I like it better than forever being stuck in the same drug on condition though.

    1. Hmm, I didn’t get the “Become a Reaper” or “Save the Reapers” ending choices. Which colors did they blow up the galaxy and strand all your friends on some random planet with no way of getting home in?”

      1. I’ll have to personally confirm the endings, but essentially it requires a low galactic score to get to those. Still, if you choose to exclude those you have the multitude of other aspects. Effectively the endings here are the same as the previous game in scope of choice. The only difference is they’re all bitter, and that captures the nature of the Reaper war pretty well.

        1. Also, I will assume my statement of the two extra endings is wrong.

          So, let me put it like this:

          ME 1: Sovereign killed. Council either saved or killed. Crew goes
          their own way, duties call. Shepard is deployed to finish off geth until
          his death.

          ME 2: Suicide Mission Complete: Shepard Lives(required for ME3).
          Collector Base destroyed or kept. Not all of the crew returns from new
          duties. New crew. Crew goes own way at end. DLC places Shepard as a war
          criminal under trial preventing any contact for 6 months.

          ME 3: Earth saved (assuming above minimum play through) via new DNA
          strand, reaper destruction, or reaper control. New crew, some old crew returns. Most of old crew tied up in
          personal conflicts or aiding their own species. Shepard (most likely)
          dies. Old crew is either stranded with the Normandy, or in Sol.

          This is what I mean by endings being similar in scope. The latest ending
          just happens to be tragic. It’s bittersweet, but it highlights the tone
          of sacrifice throughout the series. Not everyone likes that ending obviously, but the ending itself isn’t lacking in scope or a break from the series. It simply kills off you in a manner that lets you end the ultimate threat in the galaxy. Your number is up just like your allies were before.

          1. All fair and valid points. The problem is that ME3 diminishes those choices ridiculously. It doesn’t make any difference if you saved the council or not. It doesn’t make any difference if you saved the collector base or not. But that’s not really the point I’m bringing. Others have explained the final 3 choices far better than I could.

            My problem is with the DNA of the game, what it’s made from in the first place. With the constant flaws, there is no way to have a good ending. The endings may mean great things, but they are shown in such a poor light, because the entire game is shown in a poor light, that it’s practically impossible to walk away satisfied.

          2. Here’s my two cents. Bittersweet ending definitely fits the overall theme and feel to the Mass Effect atmosphere, and the BioWare writers have (or at least Casey Hudson had) explicitly stated they wanted a bittersweet ending. However, before writing something, it is just a concept, and it is how you execute and present that concept is whether or not people will perceive if something is precisely something you said it was.

            Aristophanes, the great playwright, had once defined tragedy and comedy as different sides of the same thing – make your audience empathise (not sympathy, but to relate to and feel with the characters) with the characters, do something bad to them, and you will have a tragedy. Remove the empathy and follow the same formula and you will have a comedy – that’s what Schadenfreude is.

            Following that, let’s examine the last 10 minutes of Mass Effect – most people I have chatted with or read comments on the ending, be they for or against it, agree that from the moment Shepard is hit by Harbinger there is a surreal and disconnected, dream-like quality – thus empathy is severed. Indeed, empathy and the degree of empathy varies from person to person, but from what seem like you being in the middle of it all to feeling like it was dream-like is a telling sign of severance of empathy – you actually do feel like a third person watching helplessly at Shepard than being right beside him, or outright BE him. Thus, Shepard’s death moments later was not met by anguished “NOOOOOO” but with mostly “WTF!!”. As has been established above, and the sentiments followed, tragedy it was not, and was not exactly what it felt like to most people, simply incomprehension and confusion. Now for the “sweet” part. I think no matter where we stand on this issue, we can at least agree that there is nothing sweet about plot holes, and I won’t get into the details of all the plot holes there are as I’m sure you are either aware of them or have read about them already. Even Normandy’s escape and Joker’s survival is a plot hole, in fact it represents a majority of those plot holes. The single fact of Joker and some of Shepard’s crew’s survival is strongly negated by the impossibility due to shear size of the plot holes introduced. Again, I won’t go into how or why they’re plot holes, you should know already. So in the end, we got neither a tragedy or sweetness, thus we didn’t get a “bittersweet” ending – we got NOTHING, period.

            I know this is getting long, but bear with me. As you will realise, another major source of contention is The Catalyst, now popularly known as the Star Child/Kid. It is not its existence that has drawn flak, but at which point in the narrative it was introduced. It was introduced in the last 10 minutes in a 100 hour + continuous narrative, which is equivalent to being the last sentence of a novel. Now if you have written essays at high school and univeristy levels, you would have been instructed in how to write them, and one of the first things you were told NOT to do is to introduce a new theme, concept, idea or character in the conclusion segment, as you will not have enough time and space to explain it thoroughly and completely throws off the pace and established tragectory of your previous narrative, thus causing confusion, as your audience had come this far to see you how you would tie all the strings together, not for you to suddenly say “oh lookie, here’s one more string! But let’s just leave it at that” . And no, this is a non-negotiable cardinal rule of writing, not matter if you are writing an essay, thesis, journalistic article, court ruling or novel, this is one of the rules that is strictly abide-by. The only way you may even be able to get away with doing this is to explain and resolve the who/how/why/what for the thing you have introduced, and quickly, which requires you to put it at the beginning of the conclusion, not the last sentence. If you fail the above then you will be rightly accused of bad writing or a lazy writer for you are unable to pull together a coherent stream of argument or narrative, which is what the accusations of deus ex machina is all about.

            So to conclude, we didn’t get an ending, let alone bittersweet, and the conclusion was written with a fatal flaw, and that is reason enough to strongly dislike the ending, especially to a hitherto well-written narrative, because that just amplifies the disappointment.

    2. Except blowing up the Relays, which happens in every ending causes a firestorm that destroys each system they are in. So, everyone dies. No matter what you decide or how heroic you played it, Shepard is Space Hitler and the next cycle deals with the consequences/benefits of the choice…which was no choice. Way to end a trilogy Bioware.

      1. Based on the DLC, yes. The DLC has an asteroid slam into a mass relay forcible breaching it though. Now is it plausible the destruction of the relays did the same? Yeah. If it did then the ending would suck. I’d have to agree there.
        However, we don’t know if they did though. This time the relays focused their energy into a pulse that produces the desired results of your choice. And I know, even if it doesn’t kill everyone they are stranded. That sucks, but plenty of other sci-fi universes feature months long space travel.

        1. Everyone dies every way you look at it. Mass relays being destroyed means no way for other alien races to get back home. They can’t all eat the human food. They came prepared for a battle, not a long voyage.
          Then there’s the problem of them just traveling back using FTL, from the positions of their home worlds from the Sol system, as indicated by the galaxy map, they are hundreds and thousands of lightyears away from their own home worlds.
          Earth is the only habitable planet nearby so wars will be fought by former friends for land.
          For all these reasons the ending is: Everyone Dies. Everything you did in the past games and this one is invalidated. Ridiculous.

  30. Nonostante Mass Effect sia degno di tutti gli encomi e elogi possibili: Partire da zero essere solo un soldato in missione su Eden Prime intraprendere una vera e propia Odissea nella galassia per poi veder vanificato ogni sforzo in una manciata di minuti finali. La morte di Shepard (a mio avviso l’errore piu grande che potevano fare quelli di Bioware) personaggio a cui io e scommetto tutti i Fan della saga ci siamo affezzionati, la distruzione della cittadella con la morte di tutti quelli che avevamo incontrato e aiutato sin dai primi giorni sulla stazione, la morte di tutti i nostri compagni tranne quelli nella scena sul pianeta sconosciuto e infine la distruzione dei portali galattici senza i quali l’intera galassia è destinata al tracollo. Invece di salvare il ciclo attuale come si aspettavano tutti la Bioware ha terminando la trilogia con il suo finale distruggendo il ciclo stesso nel vero senso della parola una pugnalata al cuore di Shepard dell’intera galassia e di noi fan che dal lontano 2007 abbiamo intrapreso un’avventura che è durata per anni e che si spera duri ancora.

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