All the Reasons Mass Effect 3 somehow ended up disappointing fans

To Sum it all up, 45146 votes thought the ending sucked and let them down. One went to a shrink because of the emotional depression. Others reacted a little bit better, but not really.

3359 and 1043 voters either liked the ending as it was, or liked the main character’s ending but thought the ending needed the crew as well. So that’s about 45k to 4k or 10 to 1, in favor of ME3’s ending being horrible or full of holes.

Japanese visual novels usually have 3 types of endings to fit the belief, preferences, and desires of the fan base: a good ending, a true ending, and a bad ending. Fate/Stay Night had “a lot of bad endings” that involved the main character making the “wrong” choice and dying horribly as a result. In fact they were pretty entertaining once you got used to the gruesome nature of the deaths (they are written in novel format and much more immersive than some CGI characters on screen). The after death session where they explain your mistakes, a hint corner, is also hilarious and does much to take the psychological pain away.

The True Ending (FIN) is basically the artistic vision of where the writer thought the story and characters should go. Usually it completes story arcs from day 1 of the visual novel and has elements of good and tragedy to go together. The Good Ending is just what it says it is, it doesn’t let anyone important die and lets the main character live with his or her love interest and friends, happily ever after. Classical Hollywood happy/sappy ending. And there you have it. And there you also have an example of how Mass Effect 3 tried to reach Japanese dramatic levels… and failed. Didn’t even fail because they made mistakes that couldn’t be taken back. They failed because it’s like they reached the finish line then decided to take a nap : similar to the story of the rabbit and tortoise. Could have won, if they had bothered to try. That’s the kind of ending Mass Effect 3 feels like.

The better the gameplay was, the more horrible the end turned out to feel for players. As for me, I’m rather more objective on this matter than other players. They haven’t experienced G Senjou no Mao or Muv Luv Alternative. Being emotionally connected to fictional characters and seeing bad things happen to them, as if it was life, and you can’t do anything to change it, is tough. But you get used to it. Hardens you up emotionally, and if you don’t get this hardening, you’ll probably be too afraid to pick up another emotional and dramatic visual novel (especially from Key). As they say about life, love is only worth it because of how much it hurts when your loved ones die or are taken before their time. The only way to avoid the pain is to avoid the joy as well.

P.S. Some of the customers of Bioware wrote very emotional descriptions of their reception of the game and its ending. Too bad I can’t find them any more: their social forum thread is 1300 pages in length, after all. Yes, you read correctly: 1300 pages, with 10-30 comments per page. It took me an hour just to read a few pages to get a sense of customer dissatisfaction and its cause. And that is only one thread in one forum. Imagine what is going on everywhere else. It’s like the Reaper invasion… hence the Literal Video you see up here.


While I haven’t finished the game yet, if the endings are as bad (and bitter) as people are saying they are, ME3 will be my last Bioware game as well. The lack of not only a, I’ll say, more happy than bitter ending, but also the lack of a “Reapers win” ending really seem to make these endings ridiculous.

I just don’t understand why they would not add one of each of those to cover all the bases, not to mention pretty much destroy any future for the franchise due to no relay travel. From the sound of how the endings work out, they seem way too… “emo”, I guess would be the best term. Whoever thought the fans would be satisfied with the outcome obviously didn’t take time to go to the Character and Romance forum to see how many people wanted, not only a happy ending with their respective LI, but also wanted the franchise as a whole to be a success and allow for further content in the future (books, games, etc., and yes, obviously NOT with Shep, as this was his/her last hurrah).

After the debacle with DA2, ME3 is the final nail in the coffin for Bioware. Heck, even the DA2 ending seems better than what I’ve read about the ME3 endings, and that is saying something.

Edit: Just to add, what I’ve played so far, I’ve really enjoyed, but just knowing how contrived the ending was really scares me.

I’ll also add that I actually stopped my current playthrough of ME3 (my FIRST playthrough) and went back to ME2 in the hopes that Bioware sees the fan displeasure with the ending and offers a patch/dlc for additional endings like those suggested in my copied post, or until they respond to the fan backlash at least. Heck, if they do and decide to make future content in the ME universe, they can just go with whatever ending they want to canon (like they did with the Udina councilor deal) Fallout style. Seriously, the back to back disappointment with DA2 and ME3 has turned me off of all Bioware games from now on, and I’ve been with them since Baldur’s Gate. Heck, even BG2:ToB had happy endings!

I honestly don’t know what’s with all the “dark, edgy” stuff going on lately. I mean, I get it for the DA series, as thats what it’s always been presented as, but ME had always seemed to have a more Star Trek kind of vibe going on where there was way more hope than despair and “grimdark”. This honestly feels like a NWN2 “rocks fall, everyone dies” ending. And there was a lot of disappointment with that (that thankfully got fixed in an expansion).

– mjb203

2012-03-09 05:07 AM
I’m really confused right now. I finished the game about an 8 hours ago but i’m not really feeling like the game is complete. I mean, The ending was lack luster and very cliche. The whole fear of machines taking over or killing everything has been done so many times… sigh… And in every ending Shepard dies, not just in the one i saw for my only play through? I’m not even sure what to think about the game at the moment. And that in it’s self is a very bad thing.

After ME1 I thought “Wow. I’ve never loved characters in a shooter before this. The Story telling was freakin awesome. And I can’t wait to take it to the Reapers”

After ME2 I thought “Wow. Shepard dies, is brought back, And still owned Reaper face! AWESOME! I can’t wait to see what happens in ME3”

BTW, the Suicide Mission was one of my favorite gameplay experiences ever. On my first play through with no spoilers I actually caught myself holding my breath on Shepard’s jump to the Normandy on the end run.

After ME3 I thought “Wow. I……. Finished…… the “Game”.

The Game itself was great. I liked how MP was blended with Single player (I got my readiness up to 91% before the assault on the illusive man). It added a connection to the new content which was cool. There was plenty to do in the game. The banter between crew mates was epic. At times i’d laugh out loud and wish i had saved before the convo so i could hear it again.

But once i got to the end it feels like all the connections i made with the crew emotionally were basically…. severed. I mean, what basically happens is, no matter what Shepard does he’s still screwing billions of people. The Mass Effect Gates go up in smoke leaving planets cut off from their colonies, people cut off from their families and loved ones and Shepard dead. I mean really? WTF.

If you ask me Shepard got off easy. There are now 20+ species in the SOL system and all of them have to survive of the resources of a single planet, Earth, that already had a population of 12 billion. They most likely would have hung him and posted it on the extranet. It doesn’t make any sense.

This ain’t the damn Bible. Why kill off the main character in every end scenario? At least one ending should of had Shepard live happily ever after with his/her Li. Maybe that’s the Ending that would have made me play through again. But for now, what would be the point? Re-playability was just murdered for me as was the ME franchise.


Additional excellent analysis about the ending and the reaction to fan disappointment. I particularly liked the “5 reasons why the ending sucked” article: very entertaining.

UPDATE2: For those wondering about Visual Novels mentioned above, check this section out. If you were wondering if Japanese visual novels gave the reader more closure… most definitely. I don’t watch American movies any more precisely because it’s been “Hollywood” morphed into some kind of brain dead mess. I wasn’t emotionally connected to Mass Effect 1, or 2, or 3, as much as some fans were, because I spent my time with Japanese visual novels. That was all the emotional attachment I needed. Or could handle.


Interesting Quotes: (Please note, some of these I’m transcribing from Video’s. I’m trying to be as accurate as possible. Will try rewatching the videos later and updating then.)
Mac Walters on the Star Child/Reapers
“Originally, with the catalyst, the star child at the end of the game, I had written that much more in the guise of a investigative style conversation, where there is something he tells you but then, you get to ask a bunch of questions and you get your questions answered. But then me and Casey talked and decided, lets keep the conversation “High level”. Give you the details that you need to know, but don’t get into the stuff that you don’t need to know. Like “How long have they been reaping?” You don’t need to know the answers to the mass effect universe. So we intentionally left those out”

Casey on after Mass Effect 3
“Whatever we do would likely happen before or during the events of Mass Effect 3, not after”

On delaying the game
In march 2011, he also faced a roomful of Mass Effect developers who expressed concern about hitting the promised holiday release date… New release date set for March 2012. After much deliberation, the CAT mission (or rather, the Prothean mission) had to be removed from the set of tasks. The missions would later be completed as post-release content”

Casey on the End Boss
‘We had the final fight with the Illusive man in the game, but it just felt very Video Gamey. It didnt fit in with the themes. And really, is there a point of the end boss if only for the sake of an end boss?’

The article also states ‘Although art was created for this sequence, it was ultimately dropped because it felt too predictable to end the series on a massive boss battle.’

On Tali’s Face
We eventually decided that she gives you a memento of her pictures, but the team was throwing around a lot of pictures and designs until we decided on something and said “Yup, that’s her”.

On Deciding the End of the Game
The illusive man boss fight had been scrapped… but there was still much debate. ‘One night walters scribbled down some thought on various ways the game could end with the line “Lots of speculation for Everyone!” at the bottom of the page.’

In truth the final bits of dialogue were debated right up until the end of 2011. Martin sheen’s voice-over session for the illusive man, originally scheduled for August, was delayed until mid-November so the writers would have more time to finesse the ending.

And even in November the gameplay team was still experimenting with an endgame sequence where players would suddenly lose control of Shepard’s movement and fall under full reaper control. (This sequence was dropped because the gaemplay mechanic proved too troublesome to implement alongside dialogue choices).

-End Quote

More “insider” news or rumor, depending on where you stand. Like I said before, making anything, including a story, end based upon a committee of people who think they are smart… is not a good idea. Yeah, yeah, pass the ideas around and then “everyone agrees” that “it is her” is… pretty stupid all in all. Creative vision is not some hive mind of the reapers enforced from above. Creative vision is individual and often disagrees with everybody else around. That’s what makes it individual creativity and not “lowest common denominator”.

There’s a reason why authors don’t collaborate with more than one other author if they can help it. People’s abilities to write tend to go down hill when you add a third author, a fourth author, and so on and so forth.


This is really discouraging. They really just totally blew it.

In one of the other threads there was rumor of division in the writer’s room over having Mac write the final sequence with little input from the rest of the team. When I read it, and knowing a little about office politics, I thought, this is the most plausible theory out there–that they put a massive responsibility to tie everything together in the hands of one guy. And the guy they picked was the guy that wrote Arrival…

Here’s the thing. As a story idea, without worrying about all the decisions the players made, I think this is an emotional, epic ending, and if you played through in a very specific way, this particular ending might be okay. But this is a game where huge decisions made by the player should have altered the game much more than it did. I’m not just talking about the ending, either. Whether you destroy or save the Collector base makes no difference, really, and that should have made a huge difference. In short, they wrote the story and ending that they felt best, but ignored that it wouldn’t make any sense with 99% of all three games. They just completely blew it…

-Captain Arty

One of the commenters at the Final Hour Android app thread describes the development process thus. I don’t think this contradicts my line that stories should be written by a single creative director and author. What they did was take out Drew Karpyshyn and replace him with… the ones responsible for ME3’s ending. DK actually knew the lore of the ME universe judging by how he wrote his books. If they had given the authority to decide the ending all up to him, good things would have happened. But Bioware decided to delegate authority to a group of other writers, with predictable results. Even if they chose one person and that one person had final say, it was still a decision made by committee. With all the attendant problems that happens with decisions made by committee, including the fact that nobody is “really” responsible if it all goes to hell.

UPDATE5: I personally thought this fan author’s rewriting of the dialogue with Catalyst actually made sense…

UPDATE6: The Retake Mass Effect movement and charity drive paints a stark picture of the realities (ideological and political) that is mirrored by modern US status quo problems. Another way of saying human nature is flawed and nasty and doesn’t change just because the species gets older. —Since the above link is broken due to domain closure, here’s another one on a similar intro.

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11 Comments on “All the Reasons Mass Effect 3 somehow ended up disappointing fans”

  1. Anon Says:

    Haha, I enjoyed this because I agree and made similar parallels with VNs. I think Bioware really dropped the ball and if the indoc theory is right then it’s worse than something Key would sit you through for a true end. MLA had a relatable Deus Ex pull but was used in a much better manner than some casper god child who just nullified 5 years of gaming. More so than VNs you felt like it was really yourself who was the one advancing the story in ME, and then it all culminated to space magic, plot holes, and disappointment.

  2. ymarsakar Says:

    Japanese companies like Key knows how to bring out the pain, but they also know how to bring out the emotional catharsis. Which is a sort of purifying pain. It’s good for people’s character. I certainly never regretted the experience with Clannad or Planetarium. It feels good when it’s so sad, strange to say.

    MLA had actual physics. Most American fiction is fantasy (ever hear of Twilight) and made up stuff like fan fiction. But ME3’s fan fiction was better than the actual “canon” ending. I’m pretty sure that you can’t get a quantum leap effect done well without the … quantum mechanics, and you’re not going to see that from twilight quality writing.

    Brandon Sanderson (estate contractor for Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series), now Sanderson knows how to write a fictional world of magic using “logic” and “rules”. His Writing Excuses podcast is great for up and coming writers. Too bad somebody at ME3 must have glossed over that source.

  3. Anon Says:

    One of the things is that VN producers give you that emotional ride but they also give closure and they give sensical endings within the confides of their world. You give the MLA physics example, Ushinawareta Mirai had a workable science ending, Steins, Ever, RuiTomo, I mean even Flyable Heart made better sense of their universe. I’m with you in the more VN centric side and I was never too deep into the Mass Effect world but the difference between a sad ending that works given the writing like Saya no Uta or G-Sen versus destroys the rules that made the world feel real is just a glaring slap in the face, which is why I agree.

  4. ymarsakar Says:

    Hopefully the various ME3 fans that wanted story, and didn’t really care about blowing up enemies via biotics and combos, might look into the Visual Novel market.

    Given what other fans have said, they were willing to pay more than 60 dollars, or even more than 70 dollars. VNs certainly have that draw and reputation to match, which is why they can command 90-120 US dollars in Japanese yen, but can’t command half that price in the US. Nobody knows them in the market, so to speak. The market that would buy them, don’t know them, at least. They were busy buying Dragon Age and Mass Effect, heh.

    EDIT: Btw, Nilofeliu, good luck with your mission. Looking at Facebook, people have been organizing and the efforts are both positive and worthwhile. Even if nothing came about concerning fixing the ending, the feelings and thoughts poured into this series certainly cannot be ignored.

  5. Anon Says:

    Ha, yeah it’d be nice if people knew about the medium, it’s funny how similar the fan bases would be but the problems stem from the culture that many wouldn’t get when reading, at least at first, and also the prices and H would brew another conflict, it really is too bad because many of the stories are just amazing and wouldn’t be the same in any other form of media.

  6. ymarsakar Says:

    Yeah, the H scenes, like Mass Effect 3’s boys love? Hah. Perhaps not so different as one might think.

    But on a more serious note, I believe Jast/Mangagamers have produced Non-H rated and non 18 rated versions.

    Eien no Aselia

    Was translated by fans and then incorporated by JAST. All ages version. And the price is actually competitive. The fact that it came out here years later from Japan, helps.

    I can personally attest that Eien no Aselia gives money worth 60 dollars or more. It’s that good. And it’s got one of the best endings I’ve ever seen in visual novel history. Up there with MLA, G Senjou, and Utawarerumono. Too bad I just wanted a skip function to get past all the battles so I can read all the story lines. The battles got old eventually, after 80 hours or so. So yes, Bioware, some PEOPLE DO WANT A SKIP FUNCTION if the story is good enough.

  7. Anon Says:

    Very true in that sense but you know the media would have a ball with questionable age, lolis, and whatnot. At least in VNs you can say it’s better played than “I’m bisexual, he’s homosexual, that must mean ‘romance’!~” though.

  8. Anon Says:

    I’m going to try not to sound like an ass but Jast has really been on a roll with picking up already tl’d scripts at like 90%+ and then localizing, taking credit, and ripping off the people who worked on the translation by paying in coupons. Which not to say it’s the worst thing to happen because at least things are moving, companies know the Western market is there, and translators are getting something at all, but somewhere along the line it stopped being translations and started being picking up projects. That aside the English community is steadily getting bigger and Katawa Shoujo in January showed more people when VNs are.

  9. ymarsakar Says:

    The media definitely knows what is what all right. After all, they called ME3 fans homophobes and whining welfare recipients. Obviously they know what’s really going on. It’s also why Japanese companies blocked US urls, and so have filesharing services overseas. Eventually US policies are going to make us despised even more than our foreign policy.

    From what I’ve seen, the translators are almost donating their work. Some want the money, sure, but most have done it mostly because they are fans and are passionate about the work. Given the amount of license fees the Japanese zaibatsu or corporations are staking out, something had to give. My preferred solution isn’t raising the price, nor lowering the price, nor getting deals with US fans or Japanese companies. The Japanese are able to create the stuff they can create because of the way they work, from the ground up with a Single creative director/writer/producer. And their marketing ploys such as manga test this out through a very brutal survival of the fittest process. All a US company has to do is to go to Japan and hire their people directly, avoiding the companies and licenses entirely. Work out contracts with the voice actresses and actors in question, personally. No third parties. They just take up money you can’t afford. The “middle men” always wants their 60% cut. The US company’s problem is that they have no “feel” for the US market or the Japanese market, so they have no idea who to contact or buy or whatever.

    They may not, but fans of VNs do. The fans know what the CEos do not. Even if the fans can’t quite explain it very well.

    The US has also had our own individual creative works and it’s very easy to tell them apart. Babylon 5. Carnivale (perhaps, haven’t seen it). Firefly. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (even though it went to mass market).

  10. Anon Says:

    The US already has the title of most despised, after the SOPA/PIPA affair and that backlash with filesharing it just solidified our position. Media obviously will never be an altruistic information source, it’s about how can they spin a story the best to get the most people hoooked on their choice of handpicked info. Along the translation vs company thing I agree about the fan perspective and passion but there comes a point when a business can take advantage of that. Not just in translation but this ME incident too, all the petitioning and “entitlement” issues come back to Bioware, they had the trust of their fanbase and betrayed it in the fan’s eyes. (Also I know how we got here but this was an interesting conversation path to say the least.)

  11. ymarsakar Says:

    They can try, but often they don’t understand each other: the fans and the company hierarchy. Communication is a very difficult thing to do. Both in war as well as in modern internet, and it’s a subject Japanese artists and creators have done much to study and create subject matter on. The author of 5 centimeters per second (the rate at which sakura blossoms fall) did great work with his short piece. Great work. Hell, the fans might want to pay him to do the real ending hahaha. He could get a lot of stuff in under 20 minutes. Check out Voice of a Distant Star to see what’s what there.

    The company should just say to fans that something is feasible or not, and list the reasons. Saying that the fans don’t understand this or not, is really an attitude reserved for aristocrats. Japanese zaibatsu are technically Japan’s aristocracy so they can carry it off with some dignity and flair, but not Americans. Americans should stay far away from sounding like aristos talking about people with special “elite” education know what to do (and you the peons do not know anything whatsoever). Obviously, their education didn’t mean much of anything in the end. Sure, the fans don’t know how some game development processes work, but often times the instinct of a bunch of individuals counts for a lot more than the opinions of experts. Ignorance can be a liability, but it can also allow individuals to break through status quo limitations of thought. They might provide you a solution for why it is feasible, even when you tell them it isn’t.

    Overall Jast has been catering to the H segment demographic for, I think, awhile now: dating sims I believe they called it. But Bioware has a lot of offices and cash reserves. I tend to give smaller companies like JAST much more of a benefit of doubt than something like Bioware. The larger the corporation, the harder it is for them to adapt to customer requirements. That doesn’t excuse companies like Kerberos trying to sell preorders of SOTS II (black hole in the making), of course. They should have known better, especially since they touted themselves as a “small developer”. Arrogance can know many shapes and forms.

    There’s actually two good articles on the matter of distributed intelligence and how smaller weaker people can defeat larger opponents.

    The other article was about how somebody conned various museums into buying an ancient Greek statue or something, because it was authentic. But some appraisers looked at it and just had a gut reaction that said it was wrong. But all the scientists and their scientific scans showed that the material and structure was the right carbon date and material. Then they found out later that the scientific experiment, which took 6 months, was incorrect. The statue that was bought for millions of dollar from somebody, was fake. And this “gut” reaction (from the book Blink), was made by people who appraised artwork such as the statue for years. Gut instinct, not a rational process. Often fans behave just like that. They can’t quite explain it, so they get ignored by the higher ups.

    Japanese stories are amazing, of course. But part of what makes them exotic for a Western audience is precisely the Japanese culture. I think the Japanese decision to “localize” so many PS2 games and what not and remove the Japanese connotations AND language (check out undubs) is precisely the wrong way to go about things if they want to tap into the “adult” market in the US. And not just the kiddie 16 year old market. The Japanese have some false stereotypes about Americans liking “power” or some kind of thing like that, when in reality we actually prefer exotic cultures like the Japanese. Shogun Total War II sold rather well, and it wasn’t about American power.

    I never went into consoles like playstation, so I’ve never realized how many localizations of japanese rpgs and games (with voice) they have made. But recently I’ve researched this matter and now understand better why Japanese companies are so worried about the “localization” of their visual novels. They are attemping to use the Playstation 2 model and duplicate it. That is the WRONG MODEL. The kiddies in America play rpgs and PS2 games for the action, not the story. But for VNs, it is the total opposite. And of course, that also explains the “licensing” fees. With fees comparable to licensing a PS2 Japanese game to the US market, there’s got to be a lot of financial bleedthrough. JAST and Manga gamer do not have the cash reserves, income, or customer numbers to sustain that, and also advertise and spread the product like anime has been spread now.

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