Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut

The Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut is out. I haven’t written too much about the Mass Effect 3 endings largely because I agree with all the videos that were made about them. Here is a good one:

Generally, I agree that the ending was horrible. So was the ending to Mass Effect 2. Neither lived up to the rest of their games. I don’t feel like patching Mass Effect 3 was a good idea or something anybody “deserved”. On the other hand, I don’t mind too much if Bioware felt they haven’t quite achieved what they were going for and wanted to have a second go at it. There are plenty movies doing the same with “Director’s Cuts” and whatnot. It is hardly the end of artistic integrity as we know it.

That being said, here are some very specific notes on the new endings. Of course, there will be spoilers. This is intended for people, who already saw the endings in some form.

  • The Evac Is Silly – There is a new scene which shows how your team mates get back to the Normandy before Shepard gets hit by Harbinger and goes into slow-mo mode. The new scene shows Shepard requesting evac by the Normandy. I thought this was incredibly silly and really drove the point home that this actually should have never happened. The huge Normandy appears right in front of Harbinger and doesn’t get shot? If getting the Normandy in was so easy after all, why did everybody else walk all the way? Why evacuating just your team mates and not all the other people dying around you? Only one of your team mates seems hurt, why does the other leave as well? There are capable soldiers seen providing cover fire (WTF, BTW?) from Normandy’s entrance. Why don’t they help out storming the beam? Why doesn’t the Normandy give Shepard a lift all the way up to the beam? Surely, it would have been a better idea than running the last few meters without protection. Mass Effect 2 made a huge deal about the fact that all you team mates could die, why not simply doing the same in Mass Effect 3?

  • The 4th Ending – I thought the new ending where you say “no” to the Starchild was a a good addition. However, it is clearly a poor man’s ending compared to the other ones. It is an ending where all of the races of the galaxy are exterminated by the Reapers, yet all of this happens off-screen. I think it should have included at least few scenes where the heroes die trying. On a related thought – shouldn’t this ending also appear if Shepard dies before reaching the Citadel?

  • Explanations – The more elaborate dialogue is welcome. I also liked the fact that you could get the 4th ending either by choosing the right dialogue or by acting. The dialogue now offers the burning questions many critics also asked. However, Starchild’s answers aren’t quite satisfactory. It just becomes even more evident that the ending is poorly thought-out and doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the plot. We learn the reason for creating the Reapers was some sort of a conflict very different from the ones we ever experience throughout the trilogy. It would have been nice if the plot centred around learning about THIS conflict and not the Protheans, Krogans, Geth and so forth.

  • The Gates Don’t Kill Anybody – It is established more clearly that the Mass Effect Gates are just damaged and don’t eradicate every sentient race in the galaxy. It is also established that the entire fleet of the galaxy doesn’t get stranded on Earth to die of starvation. I do appreciate clearing this up. I never assumed this myself. But I saw many people lose a lot of time discussing it. I can understand how the old endings could have permitted this interpretation. It was a good idea to eliminate the ambiguity.

  • No More Indoctrination Theory – The new endings clearly establish that they are meant to be taken at face value. This won’t necessarily stop the Indoctrination Theory enthusiasts, but it should have a chilling effect on the speculation.

  • The Gates Are Pointless – That being said, the destruction of the Mass Effect Gates is even more pointless now. They are destroyed only to be rebuilt in the very same cinematic. Nothing changes so why even bother?

  • Normandy’s Crash is Pointless – Same goes for the crash of the Normandy. The old ending had the Normandy crash on some planet. The new ending has her additionally start up again and fly off into the sunset? What was the point of having her crash in the first place? Speaking of which, why did she even crash? The “energy wave” emitted by the Crucible seems to affect only the Reapers and the Mass Effect Gates.

  • EDI & Geth Are Swept Under The Carpet – There are some additional scenes that show still images, which reflect some of the player’s choices and the fate of the remaining characters and races. I thought they were very good and certainly needed. There was one thing that did occur to me. One of the major points of the “Destroy” ending was the fact that all synthetic beings are destroyed, even including EDI and the Geth. Indeed, EDI and the Geth are missing in the new Destroy ending. However, their sacrifice is actually not commented on. So there is no scene showing the demise of the Geth. EDI is shown among the Normandy’s casualties but her Fate is left to the imagination. Nobody expresses regrets. That’s pretty cold and weird considering the entire “Synthesis” ending is written from EDI’s perspective.

  • Synthesis Still Makes No Sense – While all endings are explained more closely and bring more emotional closure, the Synthesis ending still makes no goddamn sense. Everybody is turned partially into a robot? Robots are partially not robots any more? Even plants are robots? We see robot Krogans get robot Krogan children? Robot Quarians don’t need masks any more? Somehow this makes Reapers not want to kill everybody anymore? It’s space magic!

I feel like Bioware did the best they could under the circumstances. Going any further would have been disingenuous. The Extended Cut clears up the vagueness that caused a lot of the speculation in the discussion of the game. But ultimately, it absolutely doesn’t address the core reasons why the ending was and continues to be poor. If anything, the shortcomings are even more apparent now.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

2 responses to “Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut”

  1. blah

    oh come on, man, if you’re having trouble keeping up at this point you might as well give up.

    Evac is silly; Harbinger is probably targeting according to priority, i.e., what’s closer to the beam, Harbinger could try to shoot down the Normandy but then it might be a wasted shot(which they evidently have to recharge) as the Normandy is a brick(assuming you actually updated the hull, weaponry and shield in me2) when there are a whole bunch of other targets more easily wiped out that are actually closing in on the beam thereby representing a larger threat. If it really was as simple as firing the main gun to win then why didn’t Harbinger fly off and cruch Hackett’s ship or shoot it’s way through the paper mache fleet and fry the crucible on the spot?

    Normandy crash is pointless; Not really, if you pick the destroy ending EDI will be pointedly absent from the cinematic(i.e., she died), the “point” is that regardless of ftl speed, nobody, not the alliance, not the council, not the geth and not even EDI will survive(possibly make the choice harder).

    Synthesis makes no sense; Personally this has been my favourite choice from the start(a; I actually like the idea of becoming partially digital, b; destroy = lose reaper tech and control just gives you the bare-bones benefits, c; the indoctrination theory was blatant wishful albeit not entirely illogical, thinking from the fans). I don’t see what’s throwing you really? Everybody gets a digital component(technology DOESN’T replace organic aspects of an individual). “Robots are partially not robots anymore?” not sure how you got there but obviously robots are still robots, they can just connect to the digital half of all organics including plants. Also, your incredulity about the reaper’s restraint in the face of these new developments proves you didn’t really get what the reapers were all about in the first place(they’re big picture orientated, incorporate/”harvest” advanced life in the interests of expansion opportunities for primitive life, nothing is actually lost, it just exists in reaper form against its will). Put it this way, the new DNA doesn’t override or remove older parts(not to be confused with junk DNA), this is obvious inasmuch as trees, Krogan humans etc are all physically and behaviourally distinct/retain individualism from one another, it just means there’s a new bit they all have in common that manifests as circuitry and probably a remote extranet connect and shit like that. Plus, synthesis = you become the heirs of a massive legacy of civilizations, what dumbarse wouldn’t choose synthesis? compared to it, control is like a nibble of the cake and destroy is mashing your mate’s head into it until he suffocates and refuse does nothing.

    1. Rhue

      “Harbinger is probably targeting according to priority”

      If the normandy is so fast that it can fly out of a fight in space and onto the ground in like five seconds and so tough that it can survive several direct hits from a soverign class reaper, why didn’t they just avoid the entire hammer thing and just have the normandy drop shepard and co. off at the beam? The Normandy evac turns the whole earth section up till that point into nonsense. Either the reapers are stupid for not blowing up the normandy, or the alliance is stupid for not using the normandy for that sooner and avoiding the massive losses they took getting to the beam in the first place.

      “Normandy crash is pointless; Not really, if you pick the destroy ending EDI will be pointedly absent from the cinematic(i.e., she died), the “point” is that regardless of ftl speed, nobody, not the alliance, not the council, not the geth and not even EDI will survive(possibly make the choice harder).”

      It’s pointless to have the normandy crash if it’s just going to take off again. They could have just as easily had the scene with a missing Edi in space or on earth and it would have had the same level of narrative significance. If the point is just to show that nobody can outrun the… explosion(?), then the fact that we saw the entire galaxy map exploding and covering the galaxy in light makes that very same point in a far less nonsensical fashion.

      “Personally this has been my favourite choice from the start”

      No. Synthesis makes no sense and you’re bending what was shown into something different. None of the claims you made were supported in the ending we got. We were shown that all life and all sentient robots started glowing green and had circuit board patterns. That’s IT. Everything else you said was completely made up by you. It was never mentioned that robots would be able to connect to the “digital half” of organic life. It was never explained what the digital part of biological life did or what it represented or how it would affect anything other than by letting the quarians take their helmets off. Are the plants part synthetic now? What does that mean for the plants? We get no explanation of any kind about what synthesis does or why it’s good other than the fact that somehow it will stop the reapers without killing the geth. It’s TERRIBLE from a narrative perspective because it offers a simple solution with no drawbacks where everyone is happy forever for reasons that make no sense. Why WOULDN’T everyone choose synthesis? It’s too easy.

      Here are some other reasons synthesis makes no sense. So Shepard adds her “energy” to the beam. What kind of energy? Kinetic? Heat? Strong or weak nuclear force? Is it her DNA? DNA isn’t energy. Is it DNA converted into energy? How does that translate to glowing circuit krogans? Do non-sentient computers like VIs now have biological components? What do those biological components in synthetics even do? What’s to stop these new cyborg people from creating even better cyborgs and starting the nonsensical conflict that made the reapers necessary in the first place? Also, if synthesis was a good solution, why didn’t the reapers do it earlier? If the crucible is just a giant battery, isn’t it something the reapers could have created themselves? Why not just synthesize everyone and avoid the whole reaper thing in the first place? This line of reasoning goes on for miles because NOTHING was explained or shown in the ending we got.

      “Also, your incredulity about the reaper’s restraint in the face of these new developments proves you didn’t really get what the reapers were all about in the first place”

      Could you be more arrogant and insulting with the way you phrase that? I don’t think it’s quite patronizing enough.

      “they’re big picture orientated, incorporate/”harvest” advanced life in the interests of expansion opportunities for primitive life, nothing is actually lost, it just exists in reaper form against its will”

      What about the races that they can’t turn into reapers? We’re specifically told that the quarians aren’t suitable(it’s a pun!) to be turned into reapers because of their weak immune system. If reapers were storing all sentient life like some kind of library, they would actually harvest everyone, but they clearly aren’t doing that. They also wouldn’t be stomping around blowing up buildings and lasering everyone, they’d knock out military strongholds and then start reapering, but again, that’s not what we see. In fact, humans seem like the only species out of all sentient life in the galaxy that the reapers were interested in “preserving”.

      Furthermore, how does it make any sense to preserve a species by turning them into paste and then siphoning them into a giant terminator? What does that accomplish? Also, why aren’t they doing that in ME3? What’s the deal with the hallways of scattered corpses being poked by one of those bug worker guys on the citadel? Why is it so different from what the collectors were doing?

      Synthesis is a bad ending because it introduces a bunch of new concepts all at once right at the end and doesn’t explain any of them at all. The only way you could see it as a fully fleshed out ending is if you sat there headcanoning for a long time afterwards and made up a completely different ending like you clearly did.

      The reapers make no sense and every detail we get about them is contradicted by a different detail. Synthesis makes no sense and all we get is a bunch of cryptic imagery and we’re left with a pat on the head. You can be satisfied with that if you want but don’t go telling people that they didn’t “get” it if they didn’t get it, because there was nothing there to get.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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