Okay, I broke this up into two parts because I talked about my personal feelings on the game and the changes in the gameplay. They didn't mesh so well together, so I've broken them up. We'll start with my personal feelings on the game first. Also, my feelings have morphed a little as I thought about this, so I wanted to post what I initially felt and then add a final word.
This marks the finale to a sweeping space drama. The reapers have arrived, and they’ve started to systematically destroy all organic life. Shepard is again at the helm preparing to make a final assault that will hopefully save all organic life and “take back earth.” It’s up to Shepard to do everything he/she can to unite organic life and build an interspecies army to oppose the reapers along with finding the resources he/she needs to strengthen their attack.
I really enjoyed this game right up to the last twenty minutes or so.
The Mass Effect world is just as engaging as the first two games and added even more great elements over what we already had. It took me a while to write this because I wanted to truly think about how I felt about this because of how I interpreted the endings at first (and there is an addendum at the end of this). Conversations with friends about it have been over the top mostly because of the endings. We’ve debated it, denied it, headcanoned it, laughed at it, cried at it, but at the time of this writing it is, what it is.
So, I wanted to thank some people for putting up with some ranting from me.
And regardless of the endings, I wanted to thank Bioware for introducing this world to us, for lovingly crafting it. You can see they put so much of their heart into it. It’s been a long time since I was this attached to a game. I’m not sorry for all the hours I’ve devoted to this game or for even getting a Spectre tattoo. This will always remain one of my favorite game series ever. The characters, the stories, everything about it is just so damn perfect. Well... not Mako or the Hammerhead, but that’s a different story. It even opened the door to me meeting some of the most amazing people online and offline.
Slight spoiler warnings from this point forward, but only slight.
The story is amazing. I loved it. While I love many games, so few games make me truly passionate about them, and whatever gripes I have with the ending doesn't take that away from it. The fact that it's even sparked this much ire in fans shows how much this series has touched so many people who have played this series.
And even for the decisions that weren’t major, it was nice to see some of them weaved into the story, and I appreciated how they were consistent with some things like the arguing couple, refund guy, and Conrad Verner, bringing them with us from game to game with us like they were old friends. When I first saw the arguing couple in Mass Effect 2 still arguing, I was so pleased and again with refund guy and again with Conrad on Illium. Those were some of the moments that made the game magical for me. They cared enough to make this world "feel" consistent and real.
And that doesn’t end in this saga. This was a labor of love--even if I don’t agree with everything and there are other things I would’ve liked to have seen--I think they did so much to really connect the characters and their players. Sure this is a game, but it’s a game that really tries to reach out and make you care about it beyond “Pew! Pew! Pew! Shoot ALL the aliens!”
The endings. First, allow me to say this. The ending(s) didn't upset me as much as it did many other fans because these options are still fine for SOME situations, but I do still feel that the ending(s) severely crippled an otherwise great game. The options presented were interesting and could have been well done, but in my opinion, the last twenty minutes effectively pissed on all the things that you’d accomplished in the first two games and made it feel like it was all for naught, not to mention the earth-sized plot holes because really, Bioware. Retconning your own canon. You’re not DC or Marvel.
On Shepard’s end I coped with the ending I chose, but for the Normandy... I don’t even know what to make of that. I think that was my main gripe (aside from wondering if I even should’ve imported my Shepard, but I would’ve missed so many great moments). That seemed so off. The ending for this game felt incomplete mainly. There seems like there should’ve been a final option to tell the catalyst that you’d go down burning with earth rather than come to some “compromise” ending with the reapers. I don’t know if the writers just got lazy there, if they were rushing to meet their deadline after a delay, or if they felt they’d written themselves into a corner, but the ending(s) were a little disappointing.
If you enjoyed it, I’m happy for you. I’d love to hear why for more reasons that just “it was different” or “Shepard wasn’t supposed to live.” I’m tired of that. That tells me nothing. I want a well thought out reason why you like it, what made you like it, how you interpret the events. Maybe I’ll love what you have to say and headcanon it. And for that reason, I don’t think the endings should be completely scrapped. I think they will make fine endings for some, but that doesn’t take care of the plot holes... yet.
That’s neither here nor there, though, and I don’t want to end this sounding bitter because I’m not. I truly enjoyed this series. Will I ever replay it? Probably. I still have many Shepards to herald through to the end, but as far as creating new Shepards go, I’m done for right now. One of these endings is perfectly acceptable for all my Shepards, but if there was anything that I got from this game, it was that the end reflected my overall choices and not just that moment. So, it’s not really desirable to end them all the same, even if some come with slight variations.
An ending doesn’t have to be “perfect” to provide closure, but it needs to give some feeling of finality. I never expected there to be a promise of my Shepard surviving, especially not my renegade. I expected her to go down in a blaze of glory, and I would’ve even been okay with that, if she’d just ran into battle at the end and no real outcome was given because that’s how I’ve played her, to be that person. Then, I truly could have ended the game how I wanted in my mind.
Addendum: I just wanted to add this because I didn’t want to rewrite what I initially thought of the endings. I wanted people to see what went through my mind first with those endings because I think that’s important. I think that’s part of what they wanted.