Mass Effect 3, the Internet fights back

By Tim Jones

Spoilers are abound in this article, so those who do not wish to know anything regarding Mass Effect 3 should look elsewhere.

The months leading up to the game’s release, the script was leaked and I wanted nothing to do with the spoilers. Mass Effect 3 is the culmination of five years of story, anticipation and fans, including myself, expected nothing less than a masterpiece. It was a day-one purchase for me, and I blazed through the campaign, knowing the Internet would be loaded with those whose only goal in life was to spoil key plot points to some people.

I can forgive the flaws of the game. The core gameplay and awkward cover system were not the greatest and never have been throughout the series. Gameplay has always been experimental, from clunky driving sections, to time-consuming planet probing. But what kept players coming was a compelling science fiction story. Granted, I’m not the most obsessed of fans. I never cried once during any of the games. I certainly did not pour over the info entries and I only had one character imported through the games, but what remained true is that as a consumer, I supported BioWare since it was created.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t help myself and ended up spoiling the main gist of the endings. It wasn’t a good day. When I managed to reach it for myself, disappointment was an understatement for how I felt. In a series dedicated to choices and consequences, as well as building a main character exactly how the player wants, the ending completely disregards anything the player has done, literally making practically all of the choices in the previous games meaningless.

The ending, with all of the plot holes, lazy writing and poor excuses for a finale to a spectacular trilogy, is a massive slap in the face to those who have supported the series. It’s as if BioWare didn’t even care. Shepard him/herself even sounds bored out of his/her mind when talking to the ridiculous God-child about the only actions available for the ending. As a fan, I felt extremely disconnected from the ending, and not only the ending, but a good portion of the story as well. While it’s great to see my actions finally have rewards in the form of the genophage cured and the Geth and Turians working together, it only felt to me like I had to run down several halls and then the cut scene took care of the rest.

It seemed as if there were far fewer dialogue choices to be made, leading to a good amount of NPC theater. The majority of the allies from the previous games have quick cameos and barely any interaction. But one thing that got across with flying colors was the sense of desperation. Shepard as well as the rest of the crew have strained their sanity. It’s a fantastic culmination to watch as the characters are losing their hope, losing their will, but persevere through the worst to save their worlds. It’s a shame that nothing matters though. As said before, the endings leave people with no closure, no idea of what actually happened and some horrible writing.

Fans have built up movements to get BioWare to fix the ending. Some donated over $80,000 total to Child’s Play, a charity that gives hospitalized kids games, to gain some attention. Unfortunately the particular charity was shut down recently because Child’s Play felt they were being used for press. To be fair and blunt, the whole thing was a horrible ploy with misguided intentions. The point of a charity is to donate for a good cause and I shouldn’t even need to say that. The fact that people wanted an extra perk in the form of press is unabashedly selfish. No matter how one tries to defend it, the fact of the matter is that the charity was used. One guy also went to an extreme, filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, stating the end result of the game was nothing promised during the development. It’s a case that will get nowhere fast, but it’s a thought with which I agree.

Leading up to the release, countless interviews with development staff revealed that everything would come down to the choices made and definitely would not be a cookie cutter ending. That was a blatant lie. Had I known from the start that I would be receiving an incomplete experience, I would not have paid full price for the game most likely. The main argument has been articulated so much better that there’s no need to delve into it, but the fact of the matter is that BioWare was deceptive in multiple ways.

BioWare staff has revealed countless messages telling people that they need to keep their copy of their game because fantastic additions are coming. In addition, they say the adventure with Shepard is not over. This could mean something regarding an ending, or maybe some extra missions. But honestly, without a new ending, I couldn’t care less about new missions, especially since they don’t even matter in the long run. I’ve poured over the Indoctrination Theory countless times. It’s the only way the ending could make any sense. If the ending was really the Indoctrination Theory manifested and if players were granted to a “real” ending if they chose the option to destroy the reapers, it would be one of the greatest moments of gaming in history. And I strongly believe it’s what will happen … for a fee and DLC.

Only recently have gaming websites and other news websites voiced their opinion that perhaps the ending is something that should be worked on. But what is truly awful is that almost no major gaming publication made mention of the poor ending, and then a good chunk turned their opinion around when it became a popular movement. It’s actions like these that completely disregard the consumer in favor for the business.

But the worst part is that Electronics Arts has already won. EA owns BioWare, and therefore the profits. We bought the copy of the game. We most likely have the DLC that was released on day one. No matter how much complaining happens, EA wins. It’s important to remember that BioWare is not the villain we make them out to be. EA is notorious for DLC and extorting money out of players. It is doubtful that BioWare intentionally did this to upset everyone.

But, even bad press is better than no press. If people will be taking about this for months to come, then EA still wins. But the worst feeling is that EA seems to have planned this all along. The writers at BioWare are of the skill to make the Indoctrination Theory the actuality of what happened. It’s a bitter taste. The more the staff reveals, the more it seems like it was the case to create a DLC epilogue, or true ending. But what does this say about the business practices? I for one don’t think in any way should it be acceptable that players need to spend additional money just to get an ending to a game. But if it’s going to be a practice from developers that becomes popular, then I hope they enjoy the massive loss of support they will receive.

And then there are the people who are against the whole thing, the people who think their voices matter when it comes to telling us about how wrong we are. The claims are numerous. Some say that BioWare has every right for artistic direction and that we have to appreciate it. How about this? I can write a paper that expresses me. If it doesn’t meet the professor’s criteria, I fail. Artistic direction means nothing if no one likes it. It’s like saying I should pay to be punched and enjoy it because it was art and I have no right to object.

Then there are those who say it’s just a video game and to grow up. Yes, it’s a game that I devoted over $150 into and with which I became well invested. Let’s talk about the millions of people disappointed with the tacked-on epilogue to Harry Potter and then go from there.

And then there are the people that just openly bash anyone who is trying to get change. I love this mentality. If something is seriously wrong and it is widely agreed upon that the ending is horrible, people should not voice themselves because they should just accept how everything is. In the long run, those people don’t matter to this situation, because the ones who are fighting are indeed the real fans, and will be the first in line to pay for more content, especially a new ending. Again, EA wins.

It’s a game of time from here. According to BioWare, reveals of something will be coming in April. EA severely limits what the BioWare staff is able to say as far as public relations. To the movement, remember to keep the feedback civil, constructive and fair. There are the bad apples making the majority of the movement look like children, but this is a fight on the Internet, so there’s always going to be that group. Don’t give up. Hold the line.

Tim Jones can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TimJones90.