Good Game: “Mass Effect 3″ ends like “The L Word”?


A column about video games and casual games.

Like AfterEllen.com’s Weekly Geek columnist Danielle, I’m a huge fan of Mass Effect (Xbox, PS3, PC). Not only have I played all three video games multiple times, I’ve read all the books and comics, downloaded the iPad game, and completely leveled up a few multiplayer characters.

In short, I’ve invested a few hundred hours in this fictional universe, which tells the story of a human commander’s attempt to unite the many alien races that populate the galaxy; subvert the nefarious agenda of a radical pro-human organization; and stave off complete anhilation by an ancient alien species that likes to cleanse the universe once every few hundred thousand years.

And after almost 40 hours of playing the recently released third and final installment in the trilogy — which has raked in million of dollars and racked up record sales — I finally experienced firsthand the controversial ending.

What controversy, you ask? The short version (vague spoiler alert!) is that Mass Effect creator BioWare is accused of creating an ending that not only doesn’t provide closure, but is incompatible with many of the laws of the universe in which it’s set, ignores many of the decisions you’ve made along the way as Commander Shepherd, and basically just feels like a tacked-on cop-out. (For a full list of its crimes, read the now-famous ChipIn petition to “Retake Mass Effect that raised $80,000 for children’s charity.)

In other words, it’s Jenny floating in a pool in the last episode of The L Word.

Or is it? There are many obvious similarities in the way both series end — large plot holes, major questions left unanswered, even hot lesbian trysts  — but with one major difference: In Mass Effect, you (not Ilene Chaiken) are supposedly calling the shots.

Commander Shepherd (center) and other women of “Mass Effect”

Also different from The L Word is the creator’s response to the outrage. BioWare has taken the unusual step of promising to release a new “extended” ending this summer that will provide “more context and clarity” that is “more personalized.” Or as Time magazine headlined it, “BioWare to Extend Mass Effect 3 Ending, Pacify the Mob.”

The game itself has received mostly positive reviews; the ending, overwhelmingly negative ones. The pundits and podcasters seem only to be divided on how bad the ending is, and whether the players’ request for a revised ending is reasonable (the whole art-vs.-product debate).

I’m divided, myself. I agree the ending is unsatisfying and bizarrely inconsistent with it’s own storyline up to that point, but perhaps because I’d been forewarned, I’m not quite as outraged as I expected to be. This may also be because I’m confidant the Mass Effect universe will continue in some form or another (there are rumors of an MMO in the works) — there’s just too much money at stake for BioWare to abandon it.

So where do the rest of you weigh in on this? Does the ambigous ending ruin the rest of the game(s) for you? And do you think players have a right to expect/demand a revised ending, or should BioWare be allowed to stay true to its artistic vision?

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