Thoughts on Mass Effect 3's "Extended Cut"

Tuesday marked the long-awaited release of the Mass Effect 3 "extended cut", which promised to bring additional clarity and closure to the game's original ending, which was widely panned as disappointing if not downright decietful.

I've played through the new ending multiple times, and I truly believe that while this isn't the "perfect" ending to the saga some fans are looking for, had this been the ending that was originally released in March, the complaints would have been few and far between.

Interestingly, when Bioware announced they'd be releasing an extended cut, they said there wouldn't be any additional endings, just expansions on the three existing ones. However, that turned out to be false, as the extended cut did add a new ending, the "refusal" ending.

At first glance, the new ending seems a little troll-y, a kind of "fuck you" from Bioware to the people who complained about the disappointing choices in the original version of the game. "Fine, you want an ending where you fight the war on your terms. Here ya go. YOU LOSE AND EVERYBODY DIES AND THE CYCLE CONTINUES. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA." The thing is, that ending actually makes total sense, given the lead-up to it. And while it's obviously not an ideal outcome, had it at least been included in the original version of the game, I think it would've headed off a lot of the criticism.

While the new ending adds another option to the game entirely, it's the added context given to the other three endings that makes the extended cut successful.

The added context for each of the three original endings comes in two parts. First, there are additional dialogue choices during the conversation with the Catalyst (BTW, still hate that kid) that do a much better job of defining what Shepard is doing with each choice and how each choice will affect the galaxy. The extra details could've come off as a character reading the "Citadel: The Catalyst" section of a Mass Effect wiki, but instead it felt much more like Shepard wanting every piece of information possible before making such a galaxy-changing decision.

Having the new details actually changed my outlook on the endings. Originally I preferred "Destroy", followed by "Synthesis", with "Control" last. This time I actually went for Synthesis first, then settled on Control on my second -- and more complete -- playthrough.

Having addressed the concerns about what the choices actually meant, the developers also took care of expanding on what the choices led to with a longer, more thorough post-choice end scene. Once again, the visuals of the scene are nearly identical no matter which outcome you choice, but each choice has a unique voiceover that goes a long way toward giving the visuals a different tone. They might "look" the same, but they "feel" different, and that's important here.

I know some people will be disappointed that there's still no perfect happy ending, where Shepard single-handedly destroys the Reapers and saves the galaxy and gets a big parade and a medal while Chewbacca has to stand over to the side (wait... I might be mixing up my sci-fi franchises at this point). But that was never the point of this. As I said in my original piece about the ending, I fully expected Shepard to die at the end. As was brought up in a Twitter conversation I had, how many suicide missions can one man, or woman, survive?

I still can't say I'm wholly satisfied with the ending to the "Mass Effect" saga, but the extended cut has restored my desire to do a complete replay of the game -- and by complete, I mean all the way back to Mass Effect 1. I'm coming to save you, Kaiden! (No I'm not... I might make different choices this time, but Kaiden is super dying, every time.)

Past "Mass Effect 3" coverage

  • On "Mass Effect 3", Endings and Disappointment
  • A Week With "Mass Effect 3"
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