Mass Effect 3: A Poll Too Far

Published on March 12th, 2012

Over 20,000 BioWare fans unhappy with Shepard’s fate and why that’s bonkers.

Controversy and seem to have gone hand in hand as of late and the latest complaint about the sci-fi sequel involves its multiple endings.

Now obviously we won’t detail what potentially happens at the end of the acclaimed release, which we awarded 98% last week, but there’s a poll on the BioWare Social Network which allows players to vent their frustrations on what many are calling an “unsatisfying conclusion” to the trilogy.

At time of writing 88% (22878 votes) want the option of a brighter ending, 9% (2275 votes) think the endings are fine but wish for one critical component to be changed and only 2% (631 votes) think the endings are fine as they are.

You can visit the spoiler-rific poll here.

Whatever you think of the branching endings, they have at least provoked a lot of chatter amongst fans. In our opinion whatever ending you get absolutely makes sense in the grand scheme and leaves the series in a very interesting place for the inevitable sequel, while offering sufficient closure.

Mass Effect 3: A Poll Too Far

Is a fitting end to a trilogy the most illusive thing of all?

It’s not like Mass Effect 2 had a great ending or anything, a finale which included fighting off a two-storey tall Terminator torso, and we suspect that the real reason people are unhappy is that the ending of the third game radically alters the sci-fi universe’s status quo.

That’s something to be celebrated in a modern game franchise.

Usually developers do everything they can to keep franchises going long after they’ve hit their peak, but with Mass Effect 3 BioWare has created an experience which will change the franchise forever, with consequences which completely change the DNA of the series.

If that’s worth complaining about then it’s a very sad day for our hobby. Nobody complains about the endings of games in similarly successful franchises such as Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, but that’s usually because series of that ilk don’t have story at their core and players don’t care about the characters involved – at least not enough to engage with them outside the game experience. Not only that, but most AAA releases usually have such middle of the road endings that you’re just glad that they’re over, but if anything Mass Effect 3′s finales makes you feel hungry for more. For an experience that can last around twenty hours that’s something to be celebrated.

Mass Effect 3: A Poll Too Far

BioWare has made you care for these characters, you shouldn't hate them for that - even if you think they fell at the final hurdle.

BioWare games naturally stimulate debate, commentary and controversy purely because they tackle story in a way other developers don’t emulate. Admittedly EA has made the most of their abilities as of late, facilitating lots of DLC deals with drink, toy and book manufacturers, not to mention a crucial character only featuring in a piece of day-one premium content, but those matters aside without securing any additional content Mass Effect 3′s campaign on its own is a fantastic achievement, which does offer up a daring conclusion to a story-arc which has been going for five years.

So the game is fine, but what about the nature of this poll itself?

At GamerZines we strongly believe in the sanctity of artistic impression when it comes to game design and requesting a developer to change the ending of any campaign really goes against that view. It would be easy to argue that if Mass Effect 3 was a small ‘indie’ game nobody would be kicking up a stink, as you’d expect a bite-sized experience to offer a controversial ending, but because it’s a big-budget release it can’t defy expectation. The most expensive games this industry produces should hinge on accomplishing something different and move our medium forward, instead of following the established precedent such as good, bad, and indifferent endings, which the most successful option in the BioWare poll suggests. That’s over 20,000 voters for those keeping check.

In many respects the developer is a victim of their own success. They’ve gotten so big that they can’t do anything substantially different from what they’ve done before, as they risk upsetting their established fan-base, or at least those who voice their opinions loudest.

Obviously it’s very important that gamers can voice their views directly to a developer, but sometimes we all need to take a step back and realise what exactly we’re complaining about.

Do you want developers to produce sequels with stories that challenge your preconceptions, or do you want the same kind of tedium time and time again? Feel free to leave your answer in the comments.

Update: Well judging from the comments it seems a lot of readers aren’t happy with the Mass Effect 3 ending. Perhaps another perspective on Shepard’s final hour is needed:

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    Mass Effect 3: A Poll Too Far

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    1. Posted by John on March 12th, 2012, 12:49 [Reply]

      How? How is there any closure? NOTHING you do for all three games makes ANY difference in the ending. I could go back and make the exact opposite choices I did, and I will still get the same three horrible end-game choices. BioWare said your choices would matter; that you’re Shepard would be a unique experience. Instead, everyone gets the same three doors that offer no closure.

      Whoever wrote this article has either never played Mass Effect or simply doesn’t understand the criticisms (and there are many) of the ending.

    2. Posted by David G Hatch on March 12th, 2012, 14:33 [Reply]

      Quote from above “At GamerZines we strongly believe in the sanctity of artistic impression when it comes to game design and requesting a developer to change the ending of any campaign really goes against that view.”

      Arists have changed their work from as far back as the 1860′s with Dickens (Great Expectations; and it’s alertnatve endings) and more recently with the release of the last Mass Effect Novel (Deception) that Bioware have recently apologised for due to the amount of inconsistencies it contained.

      So I see nothing wrong with the idea of a company fixing the endings of a video game (1 ending; 3 colours) and answering the questions they raised. EG: making sure that dead team mates don’t miraculously come back to life on an Alien world.

    3. Posted by Bob on March 12th, 2012, 18:43 [Reply]

      Were consumers wrong for being outraged when Coke tried to change its formula back in 85? Of course not. They were not happy with the new product and expressed their discontentment with the new product. No one can argue that Coke was being bullied by their consumers, and that they should have continued to produce a “bad” product.

      Coke at least had the sense to go back to providing the products that their consumers wanted. If Bioware can’t do they same for their customers and hides behind “artistic freedom” as a justification, then they are simply practicing poor business. They can make their product however they want, but they have no right to expect their consumers to be happy with the bad product provided, or to expect further business.

      Don’t tell me that I have to be happy with a bad product just because its creator likes it. Don’t tell me that Bioware cannot be criticized for providing a product to their consumers that the consumers are not happy with. Don’t tell me that video game or book different from any other product in this regard.

    4. Posted by hubahuba on March 12th, 2012, 22:42 [Reply]

      >Whoever wrote this article has either never played Mass Effect or simply doesn’t understand the criticisms (and there are many) of the ending.

      I agree with John. You really don’t understand some very basic plot issues that the developers very clumsily overlooked.

      Either BioWare is trying something slightly ambitious, lets say.. a false ending. Or otherwise it really is just one massive blunder of a false diachotomy and sloppy rush job to boot. Speak about artistic fibre as much as you want in that case. It doesn’t change the fact that they totally failed to deliver what they said they will.

      Regardless. We won’t know for certain until they respond directly to the angry fan base. inb4 fans discover BioWare was indoctrinated into delivering the best troll of all time.

    5. Posted by Cody on March 13th, 2012, 21:45 [Reply]

      “Over 20,000 BioWare fans unhappy with Shepard’s fate and that’s bonkers.”

      How is it bonkers for fans of the series to be upset over the shoddy ending of what would be, as a colleague of mine stated, “…quite possibly the greatest video game trilogy of all time…” Clearly the person that wrote this article hasn’t played the series or has missed MANY a critical parts of the story.

      There is little congruency between the ending of the 3rd game and the mythos/ethos of the entire series. What is the purpose of building IP around how your choices/actions directly influence the game environment if ultimately player choices are not considered in the conclusion?

      With the previous installments of the game I could understand how the endings, though brief, served as excellent narrative hooks for their descendant game. Authors have been using these techniques for ages and can get away with cliff-hangers with the respect that eventually the reader would find “some” or all answers/conclusions coherently. BioWare’s choice to produce ambiguity and lack of cohesion at the end do not indicate incredible story telling aptitude but in inability to do so.

      Webster defines “effect” as a result of a cause. “Mass Effect” is an excellent title for this series both for the science fiction connotation created and referenced in game with these words, but it is also appropriate due to the original intended theme, which was to demonstrate how your actions RESULT IN A CAUSE on a GRAND SCALE.

      Given the severe backlash of how this series ended, some of the final installments inconsistencies, and DLC controversy, I cannot blame people for being angry of feeling burned by BioWare or EA. I’m sure expectations were very high on the BioWare staff, but why falter at the very end only to tarnish a series known for its choice, continuity, and story?

      Whatever the case may be, I hope BioWare/EA feel the Mass Effect of what they have failed to deliver.

    6. Posted by birthofthecool on March 15th, 2012, 13:43 [Reply]

      Have you people actually played the game?
      Not just tested it, no really played it like a gamer?

      The point alone, that you say multiple endings, shows you probably didn’t delve into the subject so deep.

      No, it’s not about a happy ending (although I personally would like at least the possibility to achieve one.)
      It’s about taking everything the game was about and turning it upside town in the end.

      And it is about a promised and neccessary closure, which isn’t provided.

    7. Posted by Disappointed Fan on March 20th, 2012, 15:30 [Reply]

      We’re not upset because they tried something different, we’re upset because they did it badly. VERY.

      Mass Effect 3 has indeed a lot to live up to which it does amazingly until the last 10 minutes. But the fact that Bioware couldn’t even deliver a decent ending is really upsetting. They turned everything upside down, made loads of substantial plot holes and a really sloppy and brief epilogue. Considering all the other effort put into the game, it just so depressing that they’d stumble on the finish line after making such a kickass game.

      This outrage is justified, really.

    8. Posted by MEDIOCRITY on March 20th, 2012, 22:28 [Reply]

      Honestly, looking back at all the articles written by these “critics” criticizing the fan base is really really funny to read. Days after their initial posting,votes from the poll went from 20,000 up to 57,000 + votes. Not to mention charity groups participating in this event.

      91% of the voters want a NEW ending if not, MORE OPTIONS! Whoever wrote this article is someone who clearly NEVER played the WHOLE series through. Either they don’t have the processing capacity to see the wrongs done on ME 3 or they are talking from their derriere.

      NUFF SAID!

    9. Posted by Brian on March 21st, 2012, 18:42 [Reply]

      In our opinion whatever ending you get absolutely makes sense in the grand scheme and leaves the series in a very interesting place for the inevitable sequel, while offering sufficient closure.??????

      Are you kidding us? NO ENDING provides ANY closure at all, it all goes against EVERYTHING laid out in the entire series of the game. An interesting place for the sequel? You mean with 90% of the universe blown up by the relays and everyone gathered in the Sol system starving to death?

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