Polishing the Turd . The Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut

It’s a great looking turd, with an astounding finish, the kind you’d put on your mantle to show off, and people would look at it and assume its value in gold, that kind of natural beauty. I’ve seen polished turds, and they look astounding, like a masterfully shaped piece of unglazed ceramic. That’s what you can expect from the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut—one of the best polish jobs you’ll likely ever to see, but at no point should you ignore what sits beneath that luster.

But let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes, it’s worth downloading. Watching it on “FaceTube” is kind of a cheat, unless you’ve already played through your preferred option and want to see the others without having to chum through the preamble. Just to make it clear, if the extended DLC ending was the ending I’d experienced three months ago, I would have been satisfied…provisionally. I wouldn’t have praised it as perfect, but I wouldn’t have lamented with such volume as to be the unlivable prick that I was for the month of March. I’d still have had issues, but at least I wouldn’t have felt like my puppy just died. And if you selected the red destroy ending, the romantic reunion, although unseen, is all but confirmed. The new ending explains what happened to your crew, what happened to the relays, but more importantly, what happened to the universe.

The Long Lead Up

To get to this new content, you have to download an impressive 1.9 GB patch and start playing, per Bioware’s recommendation, before the assault on The Illusive Man’s base. However, I challenge anyone to tell me what is added before the race to the Citadel beam in the game’s final act. I played through the last few missions and found nothing altered. I had hopes that the patch would address one of the biggest issues I had with the final few hours—the fact that everyone on the Citadel that you spent most of the game helping had apparently died when the reapers moved it. Still not addressed, sorry Kelly. No, it’s better to just load up for the final push. It’s actually rather annoying that you have to play the last two hours of the game to see this new content, as the game won’t let you save at any point other than auto-saves once the final assault on Earth begins. So take this advice, don’t bother with the last three hours, and unless you care about the evacuation scene, you could just load up the Citadel restart mission (though the evacuation scene is the best new additional scene). I would just hammer through it on narrative difficulty, save yourself the trouble.

Yeah, I get it.

My biggest issue with this new content is where most of the new dialogue is added. A large portion of new content is a significantly extended conversation between Shepherd and the most popular character of the series, the Catalyst / Starchild, a character so beloved that players would rather listen to Diane Allers talk then entertain this annoying dick for another ten minutes. A large portion of the added content is this dialogue you have with the Catalyst where it explains itself more clearly…like we didn’t get it the first time. Like the reason why we—I—bitched was that we simply didn’t understand. No, I got it. Everything the Catalyst said I understood the first time. I knew what it was saying. I just thought it was ethically vapid and badly written.

In my previous article about Mass Effect 3, I had stated the following: It’s a misguided and pessimistic view that machine life will always want to destroy their organic creators, an idea I have never agreed with, an idea that apparently Bioware didn’t endorse until its final twenty minutes. Beyond the obvious fact that there’s no precedent this will ever happen, many science fiction authors like assuming it as fact, unlike the concept of superior nations subsuming vulnerable or inferior ones. That does have precedence; that would have been a valid reason for the reapers to exist—to prevent the subjugation of primitive societies by superior ones…except that’s not what happens. Instead, the game takes the lazy route of mimicking Terminator, Matrix, and more blatantly, Battlestar Galactica by claiming that it’s the fate of organic life to create synthetic life that will eventually destroy them.

The Starchild spends a protracted amount of time detailing each choice and listing its benefits, bordering on preaching, like these were the only three options presented because there couldn’t be a fourth. If there was, it would have presented them, until fans came up with one on their own, rejection. But the reject option is so antagonistic to Bioware’s “sermon”, that they addressed it with an ending so abridged and discourteous as to appear a blatant middle finger to those suggesting it. My friend called it the “America, “F$%& yeah!” ending. I swear the Catalyst’s reaction if you shoot it is a direct response to Angry Joe’s popular Anti-Mass Effect video where he does exactly that. Instead, we have an extended conversation where the Catalyst’s explains why it’s right. We didn’t understand it the first time, so here it was in baby talk.

No, I got it; I just thought it was shit.

The Good Ending

It also appears obvious that the Catalyst’s endorses the green “synthesis” ending over the other two. I mean, it TRIES REAL HARD to push it as the best of the three. And it makes the argument, if I followed it correctly, that artificial life destroys organic life before there’s the chance for synthesis to occur. Now, I happen to think synthesis IS the ultimate future of evolved life, the way we stick it to the universe and gain godlike powers and immortality. But it can’t and won’t happen this way, as DNA just doesn’t “work” that way. Additionally, I don’t like the idea of forcing that decision on the rest of the universe; it just tastes of arrogance on Shepherd’s part. Evolution is slow, and synthesis is such a huge issue, it should be accepted, not forced. Furthermore, synthesis and the robot-rebellion are not related. They are exclusive points that don’t need to be, and are not generally, connected.

Your mission from day 1 was to destroy the reapers, so why is the red destroy ending not the best? I determined that it was a balance of sacrifice versus reward. Destroy causes the most damage, leaving the universe to rebuild on its own. Edi and the geth are most likely gone, but Sheppard survives to be later reunited with his true love off screen. The blue control ending takes away Shepherd’s body, but not his/her spirit. He/she lives on as a godlike entity, controlling the repears as they repair all the damage they caused. You lose your humanity and your love interest, but you still exist with a power unparalleled in the cosmos. Yes, conceited, but a more tempting option than the blue ending before the extension. With the green synthesis ending, you lose the lot, body and soul, a total sacrifice of everything your character is, so in balance, synthesis must offer the rest of the universe the most, and it appears so. It’s sold like it is, unless you disagree with the methods and the motivations. I don’t disagree with the logic; I just think the timing and method stinks. Couple that with the complete eradication of your character and the destroy ending suddenly sounds pretty good. And in my initial play through, I had destroyed the geth to save the quarians, so only one life was lost, Edi’s. Sorry Joker.

Indocri-what-now

My official stance on the belief that the entire last act of the game was a fabrication concocted by reapers to test Sheppard was that it was wishful thinking on the part of fans, in denial about what they were served. I was willing to entertain the concept ONLY if Bioware had plans to sell us the proper ending later. I would give them credit, lament them publicly, purchase the real ending, and then promptly never buy a Bioware or EA game again. When I discovered no plans existed, my belief in indoctrination fell into the toilet. Simply put, I don’t belief Bioware is staffed with competent enough writers to pull that off. The Extended Cut also firmly establishes that indoctrination was the real fabrication, and people still clinging onto it are those that simply can’t accept that such a great game could descend in quality so sharply.

As It Should Have Been

The Extended Cut was another calculated move, do just enough to satisfy most of the fans to break up the crowd. It’s going to work. The movement will fade. But what it will also do is concentrate the movement, making the fanatics fewer but louder. I won’t be among them. Like I said, it’s better than what we had, and it’s enough. I still have issues. I still won’t touch multi-player. I may still avoid EA games in the future, as my hatred for what they are doing to Dead Space 3 is unrelated. In addition to the expanded and altered scenes, Bioware also fixed the Military Strength Rating; you’re no longer required to play multi-player or that boring iPhone app to get the “good” ending. And I spent a month screwing with that Datapad for nothing. If it was up to me, I would have continued using the rating all the way up to its max, allowing a victory with the reject ending.

They also replaced the “Give Us Money” sign at the end of the game with a “Thank You So Much” message. Perhaps telling people to buy stuff after molesting them MIGHT not have been the best idea.

So I’m satisfied. The cock-knocker fade-to-black is gone, and that was my BIGGEST concern. However, I think this just proves that you really can’t expect cinema-quality writing from games, at least not yet. I should have known this wasn’t going to fix it. Anyone dumb enough to let the original ending fly could not be left responsible to fix it. Like George Lucas, after what he did to Episode I, you couldn’t have expected the series to get THAT much better.

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Chris Dias

Chris Tavares Dias is the literary equivalent of that crusty burnt cheese at the bottom of the fondue pot. Some people claim he looks like Mathew Perry. He would like that to be true. It's not. In 2010, Chris co-wrote and created Amethyst Foundations, a 4th Edition setting based on the previous version under 3.5. It has received critical acclaim for integrating science fiction into classical fantasy. In August of this year, Chris was last seen staring at a dead raven that had fallen beside his car. Two months later, his watch and notepad were found in the stomach of a basking shark that had washed ashore off the coast of Florida.

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