Friday, April 6, 2012

The Wait.

*More about the ending of "ME3"...and yeah, SPOILERS are within!*

Okay, I was wrong before, sorry. I thought BioWare would announce a new DLC for the single-player game that would be released in April, but it turns out yesterday they simply announced that the DLC would come out during the summer. No exact date has been set. However, there is a multiplayer DLC imminent that'll give that part of the game some mileage. According to the announcement, because BioWare listens to their customers, the Summer DLC will add extended cinematics to the ending -- it's unknown if they'll be interactive or not, as in you can choose a conversation path -- giving supposed clarification of some events (like, I hope, the "Lost" nonsense with the Normandy crashing on an alien planet) and the closure I and a lot of fans wanted. We can only hope.

Nice of BioWare, isn't it? Please note that I ask that question with sarcasm.

I've been patient and polite up until now, even after a lot of speculating by me (and many others) over what in the world went wrong...I even thought that maybe they deliberately gave us the ending they did with something else in development to complete the climax later. I'm not going to stop being polite, but my patience has limits. My opinion hasn't changed about the greatness of the "Mass Effect" trilogy. But even the best stories can be damn near ruined with an ending that doesn't meet the expectations of the audience, and we as fans had great expectations. Nothing out of the realm of reality, we just expected the same diamond quality in the ending -- whichever one our choices led us to -- that was evident in the rest of the saga that was "Mass Effect". But we weren't even given that. We weren't even given something that conformed to the statements and promises of the trilogy's creators. THAT is the core of the frustration and anger, those who are uninitiated should know, behind the controversy over the ending.

The endings we were given -- red, blue or green, collect them all! -- were a virtual (no pun intended) injustice to not only the fans, but the story and characters we had grown to care so much about.

A few words from someone else, if I may....

"As 'Mass Effect 3' is the end of the planned trilogy, the developers are not constrained by the necessity of allowing the story to diverge, yet also continue into the next chapter. This will result in a story that diverges into wildly different conclusions based on the player's actions in the first two chapters." -- Casey Hudson

That makes matters even worse, doesn't it? BioWare didn't even live up to their own claims about how "Mass Effect 3" would end. The expectations we had were in part BECAUSE of BioWare, not because of unrealistic hopes on the part of the fans. No ending for a Paragon who did good for everyone else. No ending for a Shepard who went a bad-ass Renegade path. Nothing for those who were somewhere in between, sorry! We were told to expect one thing -- more than one thing, because there should have been more than one ending! -- but we got something else entirely. Outside of what happens directly to Shepard and the Reapers, the exact same events happen in all three endings. Mass Relays and Citadel, gone. The Normandy and Shepard's loved ones, crash-landed and stuck on an unknown planet. The united fleet is stranded with no way to get to their homeworlds. And as salt for the wound, one ending is a virtual cliffhanger where Shepard is left barely alive! That's no ending at all!

Why no different endings, even a happy one, where Shepard heals up and reunites with his/her loved ones? And finally, once and for all, if BioWare wants to make an ending with the theme of sacrifice, fine. No problem. But why not give us the choice of having an ending which is a positive payoff? We play video games to win the game and see some gold at the end of the rainbow, as I said before. Some games, like "Red Dead Redemption", have gotten away with doing the opposite, but that wasn't what many fans like me expected in a good versus evil epic like this, so clearly following in the footsteps of classics like "Star Wars". The good guys should have the chance to win out for our gratification, and even if we don't know what they'll do next, at least we can see them ride off into the sunset. See Shepard marry and move in with the guy or girl the gamer wanted them to get together with. Or get medals, or something!

Think of "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi"...imagine Luke and Darth Vader getting blown up with the second Death Star, the Millenium Falcon getting wrecked on Endor, and Han, Leia, Chewie, Lando and the droids being stuck with the Ewoks with no way to get back home and let the rest of the galaxy know there's no more Empire!

Closure. That wasn't too much to ask, especially from the end of a trilogy that would have 'wildly different conclusions'. But for some reason, it was.

Take everything I've said, and even include the "Indoctrination Theory", which means there's only one real ending, which means...sigh, let me get right to it. Did BioWare overreach themselves? Were they ultimately unable to give us the choices they promised for the ending? Did they lie? According to Dr. Ray Muzyka and Casey Hudson, the ending we have at the moment is the ending that BioWare wanted to craft for us. In spite of the fact it flies in the face of everything they told us would and would not happen. We'd have very different endings. We'd have a climax that in quality matched the excellence of the trilogy on the whole. I think BioWare was capable of so much more, and I doubt they'd lie so bald-faced to their fans -- their customers, their bread and butter! -- and give us less than what we wanted. Would you want to suddenly tell your customers you no longer care how they feel? What could have changed so dramatically that the ending didn't meet even the minimum expectations of so many?

I haven't got a clue, and BioWare won't say. All they will say is that even though they're listening to the fans, even with such a massive "Retake ME3" response, they're saying they're staying true to their vision and their artistic integrity and they won't change a thing. Except add some narrative material as a download, which at least will be free. Even I agree that "Mass Effect" is the artistic property of BioWare; video games are their own artform, like film and television. But taking the stand they have, not in fact listening to us, is a mistake. Even the best of us make mistakes, and the ending we've been forced to swallow was a mistake of the first order, a contradiction to the entire philosophy behind the gameplay that made this trilogy great in the first place, and that in the end we as gamers shape the direction of the story. It's therefore a virtual betrayal of the fans, and it's no wonder so many are upset. Instead, we're left with red, blue or green. That's 'artistic integrity'? Any claims of integrity seem like a self-serving shield to defend BioWare from criticism. Shepard argues with the Catalyst that gives him/her the final choice, but we're not even given the option to do something else and reject the little bastard!

And you want to know why I say all of these things, that the ending was a mistake and needs to be different, not just given a band aid?

Because BioWare gave me the reason, saying they're going to add on narrative to the climax this Summer...and that more than anything is an admission that what they 'wanted' didn't meet the expectations of the fans, and worse didn't even meet their own standards!

All we can do -- for now -- is wait until Summer, and for what BioWare has in the works.

Next time, I'll go even further by doing something that compares "Mass Effect" to another well-known trilogy...and they have more in common than you'd think!

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