Today I spent five hours powering through my Mass Effect 3 Insanity playthrough and then watched the latest episode of Pach-Attack. In it, industry analyst and friend-of-the-show Michael Pachter discusses the recent departure of Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk from Bioware, and has a bit of a rant about the entitled attitude of young gamers who complained about the ending of the game (which, in Pachter's mind, contributes to the kind of hostile atmosphere that may have driven the studio founders out of the games industry altogether). In case you aren't already aware, the original ending featured a dramatic change to the Mass Effect universe but didn't offer a great deal of closure; the resulting player outrage was so intense (and vocal) that Bioware eventually buckled under the pressure and patched in some additional scenes.
I haven't seen the new ending yet, nor do I care to.
I've been struggling to put into words how I feel about Mass Effect 3's ending and the controversy around it, and this afternoon something snapped into place. Mass Effect 3is the ending of Mass Effect 3. This is the game in which - depending on your decisions - you finally fly around the universe and defuse all the remaining racial tensions in the universe, rehabilitate a load of 'hostile' races back into civilised society, and put an end to the Reaper threat. When I first played through it all, I actually found saving the universe to be quite depressing. As the game rolls on, there's a growing sense that you're dismantling the Mass Effect universe far more effectively than the Reapers ever could.
This is a game series where you play as a independent special ops soldier, fighting to defeat an army of machine gods. If there are no more wars to fight, no more enemies to kill (or bore into submission), then why would Commander Shepard bother getting out of bed in the morning? Can you imagine the Quarians disbanding the migrant fleet and settling on planets again? The Krogan casting off the yoke of the genophage? The Rachni having a presence on the Citadel? Everything you know about these races - the whole context in which these games take place - is methodically taken apart by your own hands.
Nobody needs a new ending to Mass Effect 3. Nobody needs any ending. The whole game is spent wrapping up plotlines that have been building up for the last six years, with the finality of the Reaper invasion forcing all of your old friends into making some stark life choices. There's your closure. The conclusion of the Mass Effect series is a 20-odd hour interactive cutscene in which every background NPC you've ever spoken to sends you an email to say thanks again and let you know how they're contributing to the war effort.
The cutscene that plays at the end of Mass Effect 3 is your proverbial finger pointing to the moon. Stop moaning about the finger and remember the good times you had driving a tank around on the moon.