Mass Effect 3’s Ending – If I Did It

May 20, 2012    

Note: This is part 5 of a series on the Mass Effect 3 ending. This segment contains spoilers. You can view the other parts here: 1 2 3 4 5 6

As I’ve discussed earlier in this series, the biggest concern I have with the ending is that the plethora of choices made over the years don’t matter. The actual ending relies almost solely on the final decision and, in either case, it doesn’t save the Galaxy. In this post, I’m not going to address any changes to the dialogue with the Catalyst; my first task would be to delete that entire scene and any foreshadowing thereof.

Since players may have enjoyed one, two or all three of the games, we’d need to ensure that choices from the early games can impact the ending while not excluding those new to the franchise from those endings. Additionally, we’d want to make sure that all possible endings are available to both good and evil (paragon and rebel, in the series) characters. Finally, it is readily apparent that the designers wanted one of three endings: destroy the reapers, control them or synthesis, a process through which living creatures and robots are melded into a new hybrid species. I’d keep those endings even if they were made more distinct.

First, to facilitate the control option for all players, we need a way for the Illusive Man to get the needed knowledge. In Mass Effect 2, Shephard could have chosen to save the Collector Base; in my version of Mass Effect 3, Shephard needs to choose between saving Oriana or stopping Kai Leng. If the Collector Base was kept OR Kai Leng escapes with the data gathered on Horizon, the Illusive Man can continue to proceed with his plans to control the reapers.

During Mass Effect 3, Shephard works to unite the fleets of the various species to build one gigantic force. The size of these war assets is measured as “Effective Military Strength” or EMS. This score, in the canonical ending, serves to color the final cut scenes. Let’s take it a step further.

EMS 0-1749 – The galaxy isn’t prepared for the final fight. The Crucible is attacked and destroyed before reaching the Citadel. Shephard watches it explode before bleeding out himself.

  • Cutscene 1: The soldiers on earth are slaughtered as the Reaper attacks continue.
  • Cutscene 2: An unknown but obvious alien planet and species fifty thousand years in the future. A human-form reaper descends from the sky and cuts a swath of destruction with dual eye lasers.

EMS 1750-2349 – The Crucible is heavily damaged as it docks with the Citadel. It fires a radiant orange bolt just before exploding.

  • Cutscene 1: The Reapers collapse moments before the Earth is destroyed. The Mass Relays explode as the orange bolt jumps from one to the next.
  • Cutscene 2: The Normandy crashes on the Eden planet. Shephard’s favorite crew members climb out.
  • Cutscene 3: If Gabby and Ken entered a romantic relationship, queue the canonical final scene talking about the mythical shephard. Otherwise, show Joker and EDI setting up a communications device outside the crash site. (No, EDI and the geth aren’t destroyed by the orange beam).

EMS 2350-2649 – Shephard collapses short of the final button and doesn’t get up. (a) If the control option is available and, if Shephard used any rebel options to recruit the mercenaries, Aria arrives with an armed guard. She activates the Crucible which discharges a blue beam. (b) Otherwise, Bailey arrives with a few C-Sec guards. He activates the Crucible which discharges an orange beam.

  • Cutscene 1a: The Reaper’s glowing red eye turns blue and they lift off Earth.
  • Cutscene 1b: The Reaper’s collapse.
  • Cutscene 2a: The Reaper armada approaches the Omega space station, laying waste to the remains of the Cerebrus forces there.
  • Cutscene 3: A funeral service for Shephard, somewhere recognizable based on dialogue options from Shepard’s romance(s). For example, FemShep and Traynor talk about settling down in London.

EMS 2650-2799 – Shephard collapses short of the final button and doesn’t get up. A Keeper makes it’s way over to the control panel and presses a glowing green button. The Crucible sends a green wave out through the galaxy.

  • Cutscene 1: The Reaper’s on earth disintegrate. As they do, the dust settles over the soldiers and the synthetic-organic zombies (husks, banshees, etc). The former gain the mark of implants, like the glowing circuit pattern on their skin and the Illusive Man’s eyes. The zombies seem to gain sentience again and look around, perhaps horrified.
  • Cutscene 2: If Joker and EDI entered a romance, we see them in the Citadel’s hospital. Otherwise, if the Geth and quarian are at peace, we see a pair of them in a hospital. In either case, we witness the birth of a hybrid child. If neither happened, this scene is skipped.
  • Cutscene 3: A funeral service for Shephard, somewhere recognizable based on dialogue options from Shepard’s romance(s).

EMS 2800+ – Shephard makes it to the final button and the player is presented with options. The control option is only available if the Illusive Man had the technology. After pressing a button, Shephard collapses.

  • Cutscene 1: Choose first cutscene from 2350-2649a, 2350-2649b or 2650-2799 depending on the selected option.
  • Cutscene 2a: If control is selected, we see the Counsel issuing a war decree. The Reapers descend towards a planet. If Shephard failed to make piece with the Krogan, it is their home world and we witness the first volley in the attack. The same for the Geth. Otherwise, it’s an unrecognized planet.
  • Cutscene 2b: For synthesis, copy cutscene 2 from 2650-2799.
  • Cutscene 2c: In the destroy option, we’ll see a parade in Shephard’s memory. In fact, this could be many separate parades or similar ceremonies on each of the allied homeworlds.
  • Cutscene 3: A funeral service for Shephard, somewhere recognizable based on dialogue options from Shepard’s romance(s).

EMS 4000+ – Exactly as above in 2800+, except that the parades are in honor of Shephard

  • Cutscene 3: Shephard and their romance (if any) standing over the grave of the young boy shown in the opening of Mass Effect 3.

Admittedly, there would need to be a number of conversations about “What if…” since the players could have made a number of different choices during game play. But I think these options are a solid foundation that would provide a more satisfying ending. At the same time, I don’t think any of the options depart too far from the developers’ artistic vision or operational budget.