On March 6, “Mass Effect 3,” the final game in the space opera trilogy, was released. The series has been popular from the beginning due to its interactive storytelling which gives each individual player control over many choices that affect the course of the game.
“Mass Effect 3,” however, has created a storm of controversy over its ending, leading to a backlash from fans who believe they’ve been cheated out of a proper way to really end the epic story.
The fury over the ending has led to the game’s rating on Amazon.com to reach two stars (while the first two games sit at ratings with five stars), and on Wednesday, game developer Bioware announced that content would be available in April that would change the ending and bring “closure” to the story.
Criticism of the ending ranges from its dark tone to its mystical, Battlestar Galactica-like quality. But the most constant complaint stems from the lack of individual choices that influence it. “Mass Effect 2’s” ending was praised due to the various factors that decide what will be the ultimate outcome. Choices made throughout the game influence which characters live and die in the final mission. Nothing like that comes into play in “Mass Effect 3”; everyone gets the same options, no matter what they’ve done before in the game.
For a series that has prided itself on making this game an individual experience for each player, the ending’s lack of personalized choices is disappointing. The one-size-fits-all choices you are given aren’t necessarily bad, but the fact that they’re the only opportunities available is a mistake.
With that said, a lot of the fan reaction has been severely over the top. One went so far as to file a lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming false advertising about the ending and other content of the game. Others have said they’ll never buy a Bioware game unless substantial changes are made.
The most unfortunate part of the ending is how it has overshadowed a fantastic game, much like the endings of Lost and The Sopranos have become the only real conversation point among fans. Those endings divided fans and still inspire arguments years after they aired. “Mass Effect 3” is now at the same level, and Bioware’s forthcoming changes probably won’t make a difference.
The “Mass Effect” series is a masterpiece of interactive storytelling that should be looked to in the future as to how to make a non-linear story in a video game. That is the main reason so many people care about the ending, and why there will be disagreements about it for a long time, no matter what comes next.