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March 11, 2012

So, I got Mass Effect 3 this week.  I’m gonna go on a nerd rant.  The flow will not be interrupted by spoiler warnings, so beware.

I’ve previously touched on the universe of these games and why it’s so cool.  It’s the kind of future we all sort of want, with all sorts of cool aliens and technology, lots of opportunities for adventure and exploration, and some very interesting mysteries to ponder.  The player character is kind of a blank slate. Your decisions are the player character’s decisions, but mainly he’s a tool to change your environment, and your lens to observe characters and events.

So you can imagine my joy when they said something like, “since this is the last game in this particular story arc, we’re letting the plot diverge wildly based on your decisions.”  I thought, awesome, this will end the way I cause it to end, and then it will be over and I’ll be satisfied.

And you know, 98% of the game was great.  So great, in fact, that I have a hard time believing that the people who made it also made the other 2%.  There were dilemmas, big problems, that were built up very well over the course of the first two games, and resolved in the third game in a great way.  My favorite character in the whole series died and I didn’t even mind, because it was such a perfect fitting conclusion to that particular part of the story.

But the ending of this game BLOWS.  I mean it blows bigtime.  It is a bowl of dicks.  The ending, in the last game of a trilogy, you’d think would be pretty important.  Important enough to handle with care.  Important enough to put some time into it to ensure that your decisions factor into it, even if that means there’s lots of ways that it could end and the player has to be very careful about it.

Here’s what you get instead: terrible frustrating ending #1, in which your character dies and the bad guys get destroyed, along with some of your friends, terrible frustrating ending #2, in which your character dies and the bad guys leave the galaxy, or terrible frustrating ending #3, in which everyone becomes machines except for your character, who dies.

And why does it have to be like this?  Well the leader of the bad guys, who is somehow a good guy, says he created the bad guy machines to murder you so you don’t become advanced enough to create your own bad guy machines that murder everything  (I wish I was making this up).  Makes sense, right?  Right???

Then the credits roll, and then Buzz Aldrin, THE Buzz Aldrin, says some lines that make him sound like a creepy pedophile (I wish I was making that up).  If  I was a man who had LITERALLY walked on the moon, and some nerds from a video game company wanted me to say those lines, I would have said yes and then flown to their studio just to piss on their shoes.

Then the game brings you back to the point before you start the last mission chain (and thus, to a point where the player character is still alive) and helpfully says, now you can keep playing.  Be sure to buy some downloadable content! (I wish I was making that up)

Oh and also, no matter what you do, the relays, the means by which people travel around the galaxy, get destroyed.  Meaning everyone who is on or near the earth is stuck there.  Everyone is stuck where they are.  Without the relays it would take centuries to get to other settled worlds.  So the diversity of the game, all the cool aliens and neat locations, the fun of exploring, the danger and persistent conflict, all gone.  The setting of the games is damaged beyond repair.  Beyond that, after these pointless frustrating endings, you don’t get to know what happened to everyone you just spent three games getting to know.  There’s one scene where some people are fleeing from a big explosion and then they crash land on some unknown planet and as far as the game indicates, they are stuck there forever.

It’s bad enough being stuck on this planet.  I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to be stuck on an undeveloped world after spending your whole life exploring the stars.

It’s like they sat around a conference table and said, you know guys, we’ve spent five years getting people invested in this.  This is one of very few times people have gotten invested in a video game the same way they would in a TV or book series.  But for some reason I just hate our fans so much.  Let’s see if we can screw everything up completely in 10 minutes.

Whew.  OK, back to reality 🙂

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