The Mass Effect 3 Journal: Day 7

Read Journal #1 here first.

Well I did it. After thirty hours, adding on to probably a hundred more I spent on past titles, I’ve saved the universe. I think. Probably.

The grand finale of the Mass Effect series is both epic and frustrating, and though we’ll discuss it later, right now it’s time for some talk about everything that came before it. I could have squeezed in another journal installment before this one, but I saw the finish line, put my head down, and just went for it.

Usually I’d do a follow-up entry after this where I report what it’s like playing through with my hardassed renegade female Shepard, but this is one time I don’t think I’m going to do that. Why? Well, outside of the fact that she’s just kind of a dick, there are no real “opposite choices” to be made here, with the only important one being in the game’s closing moments, and I could just reload that segment and pick another option if I really wanted to. Not that it would really matter.

No, rather being a Renegade or Paragon doesn’t have nearly the implications it used to. Decisions you made in past games will have big repercussions here, but as this is the “final” installment, there aren’t really many opportunities to make choices that matter, and often times the game forces you into a “Renegade interrupt” as the only way of saving your own skin or that of someone close to you. The fact is either path leads to the relatively same conclusion, it’s a bit frustrating that the illusion of choice existed in this series at all.

At least he’s still alive I guess.

But let me be clear, Mass Effect 3 is an amazing game, and might be my favorite of the series. From a gameplay perspective, they’ve finally refined everything to a point where there’s very little to complain about at all. The inventory and upgrade system is straightforward and clutter free. There aren’t any hours lost spent driving the Mako around clone-stamped planets, nor spent mining every last planet of its remaining resources. Rather, the “subquest” collection missions have been replaced by a straightforward “dodge the Reapers” minigame, and the closest thing to repetitive side missions are the N7 Cerberus raids, but even those have a purpose to them, and end up being a fun kind of “horde mode” with a touch of plot thrown in.

Your crew is not unwieldy as it once was, and there isn’t much overlap the way there was last time between biotic, mech and soldier crew members who all more or less did the same thing as one another. Loading times are down, navigation is quite a bit easier, and combat brings new enemy types and the most diverse selection of guns the series has seen to date.

From a plot perspective, the title surpasses the others as well. As much as I enjoyed the crew-centric nature of the last game, practically the ENTIRE story revolved around assembling a team, and though they were important for the final push against the Collectors, it hardly warranted the devotion of the entire central plotline.

Rather, in Mass Effect 3, your crew is collected in a far more natural way. You’ll have old friends at your side, and pick up a few new characters as you go. I wish the new members were a bit stronger from a character perspective however. Vega, the musclebound Jersey Shore stand-in, only has one “cinematic conversation” that I saw, usually only saying a line or two to you if you check up on him. Jarvik, the DLC Prothean is a bit more interesting from a lore angle, but I wish he hadn’t been downloadable, as it seems like he should have been central to the plot rather than just a mere afterthought.

As fun as ripping on other races is, it gets old after a while.

But your old pals? They make the game what it is. After all these years, the Normandy crew of past and present are like family. Your face will light up as you locate past crew members in the wild, and you’ll shed a tear as many of the end up sacrificed for the greater good. My favorite moments of the game have nothing to do with combat. Rather, a tearful goodbye before an unavoidable sacrifice, or a quiet moment shared between longtime friends are among the best I’ve ever encountered in a game, and this series alone has convinced me that video games can be a better storytelling medium than film at times. What can create more compassion in a viewer? Characters you’ve known for two hours, or ones you’ve traveled with for a hundred?

The storylines here are the best written in any of the games, as you’re not only taking on the Reaper threat, but in doing so you’re trying to heal old wounds throughout the entire galaxy. You take on series-wide issues like the Krogan genophage and the Geth-Quarian war, and you have to unite the entire galaxy in order to finally be the “cycle” that takes down the Reapers once and for all.

But what’s confusing while you’re doing this is one game mechanic I found troubling. Every mission you do adds a certain number of troops to your “readiness meter” found in the war room on your ship. It’s strange, as they seem to be just some arbitrary numbers, and as the most troops you can physically amass doing everything possible in the game is about 8,000. I’m guessing you have to multiply that times a thousand or so to get what the fighting force should be. The galaxy has trillions of residents after all, and I hardly think a fight force of 8K would stand much chance against the Reapers.

“Ooooh! I want to ride the ferris wheel!”

Stranger still, there’s an additional factor called  “Galactic readiness” that took me the length of the entire game to understand, as it’s not made clear AT ALL at any point during the game. You start at a “readiness” of 50%, and I assumed as I did missions, it would go up in the various sectors of the galaxy. But for the entire game, it stayed at 50%, meaning if I had 8,000 troops, only 4,000 were “fighting ready.”

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  1. I agree with you on the multiplayer being forced kind of sucking. My Sentinel Shep will live now that I’ve played some of the MP but I was a little ticked that Infiltrator Shep had to die >.< He was my favorite dammit and he died because I had the temerity to playthe SP campaign first.

    The ending reminded me of the end of Deathly Hallows – great lead-up, okay pay off. It could have been done better for sure. That said, the fan overreaction has been waaaay over the top. People got so invested in the game that anything less than their own personal "perfect ending" was going to be a letdown. They're letting it get in the way of enjoying the hands-down best story in modern video game history, which is kinda sad…

  2. My wife is really into Mass Effect (My thing is Elder Scrolls), she even re played the first two with perfect games the week before three came out to prepare and since she finished a few days ago she has done nothing but spend her time on the mass effect wiki board talking with other fans about alternate endings and fighting people who think this ending was fine. I agree after reading and watching the other i was disappointed and confused and i didn’t even play, the other point she brought up was, why does Joker and the crew just take off for no reason in the time it takes you to get to the catalyst leaving themselves and you if you were to survive stranded?, now after finding out bioware lied about the proethean being a DLC from the start when the code was in the game all along, great game, great series, but what a F*** you to the fans

  3. Oh and the Tali face reveal was super half-assed. Three games and all we get is Photoshopped stock photo? The fan made CGI version that was posted on here a ways back was both higher quality and eerily accurate.

  4. the entire finale was sub par compared to the other 2. the finale boiled down to, go to this location, shoot husks, move on…. the first game you had to race to the conduit, then you had the chance to turn saren to your side, then you had to choose whether to save the council, or focus on the reaper. 2nd game, you had to choose where your crew goes, if you chose the right person to lead and if they were loyal determined if they would live or die, then you had the option to either wipe out the collectors or use their technology… in the third, you land on earth, and you shoot stuff…. thats it!? They couldn’t have put some strategy like “call in a turian air strike, the sword team will lose a lot more ships but the hammer team will be able to take out this reaper” or how about “jack and her biotics are pinned down, go save them or try to take out this artillery piece so hammer won’t be pinned down” you never even see ANY of your old crew actually fighting on earth, at all…. the finale was just rushed honestly, “oh TIM told the reapers what you’re doing and they took control of the citadel and moved it to earth” HOW THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN!?

  5. I’m finishing this baby tonight after putting it off as long as possible. I so do not want this series to end. I kind of love the idea of multiplayer giving you the option of skipping some of the sidequesting, but I don’t like that it’s a necessity to see some of the endings. I enjoyed the multiplayer very much (aside from the awesome shit I toiled so hard to unlock and level up getting re-locked by some kind of bug) since it gave me the action I craved that was too far and few between in the main game, but it’s got a ways to go to become more than just an add-on.

    I’m going to need therapy after this game. Especially if the ending is as bad as people are saying. Man, the Tali/Legion and Mordin things freakin’ killed me. Talk about making you pay the price for your actions. Such an amazing story; no other game even touches the emotions this one has stirred up in me. And yeah, the Tali thing is garbage. They should have either done it properly in an epic reveal cutscene or not at all. I’ve been dying to see her face since the first game knowing, the ending of the trilogy would likely bring it, and having them do something so half-assed is kind of a bummer. It’s not like Bioware doesn’t know how obsessed with that character the fans are. Re-touching a stock photo was just pure laziness from a company that have proven themselves the best in the business at storytelling. All of that time spent on lore, creating amazing and interesting new races, backstories for all of the planets you don’t even visit, and so much more and they skimp on the reveal of the most popular character in the series? Unthinkable. They really should have known better. I hate to jump on the “blame EA” bandwagon, but it seems obvious to me that somebody forced them to shoehorn Tali’s face into the finished game at the last minute against their wishes.

  6. The finale is either the biggest troll ever commited to fellow human beings or Bioware has really lost its plot. I’ve never been so active on a forum before (well the lead up to ME2), the amount of people who are unhappy is borderline astronomical. Myself included, obviously. Some people have ended up depressed, and have abandoned playing games altogether (for a while). It’s an emotional investment over years that has culminated in: this.

    Though everyone has a different Shepard, I believe the common ground we have is that, Shepard NEVER gives up and always find a way. The ending needn’t have been all rosy, but just.not.that.

    What was turning out to my be one of my favourite games ever, has turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments (this is including all other spheres of life).

    On the forums, there’s a theory going around that Bioware excluded the proper endings because of datamining and whatnot. Highly improbable, but…but possible.

    For now…I can remember as the bromance between my Shepard and Garrus, as the best damn connection I’ve had in any game. Period.

  7. ***SPOILERS***

    Before I get to the ending, I did want to make a couple comments about the article.

    1) You can, in fact, lose party members. Losing Tali is one of the most emotional scenes in the entire game, and I’m pretty sure I could have shot Ashley’s pretty new face off if I wanted to. Those two options combined with all of the sacrifices of old party members is more than enough loss, IMO.

    2) I agree that multiplayer should be in no way mandatory in a series that has been solely single player since it’s inception. From the beginning Bioware stated that you could see all of the content by just doing single player and that multiplayer would just make it easier, which was a blatant lie. Despite that, though, I would hardly call ME3’s multiplayer “shoehorned in.” Sure it’s really only “horde mode” that we’ve had in other games for a while now, but for what it is the system and gameplay are great.

  8. The ending is by far the biggest flaw of the game,but for me the entire storytelling is really sloppy,if compared to the first two chapters.
    There are so many things that wouldn’t find space in sci-fi b-movie,and lots of plot holes.

  9. ***MORE SPOILERS***

    I’m definitely just as pissed about the endings as the next guy (or girl), but there is a small ray of hope. There is actually a very well thought out and elaborate fan theory stating that everything that happens to Shepard after he gets blasted by Harbinger is actually Indoctrination. I know it sounds kinda screwy, but think about it. It explains a LOT:

    1) It would explain why the Renegade and Paragon endings are seemingly the opposite of what they should be. Suddenly controlling the Reapers and letting them live becomes the “good” ending and destroying them is the “bad” ending. Fulfilling the will of TIM (who was indoctrinated) is now the best possible outcome.

    2) On that note, the two “good” outcomes end with the Reapers surviving and Shepard dying. Given the right circumstances (more on that later), the only ending that allows for Shepard to survive is the ending where he destroys the Reapers. This would make perfect sense, in that it would signify he has defied Reaper control.

    3) The added scene to show that Shepard survives involves him waking up, charred like he was after getting hit by Harbinger, in a pile of STONE rubble. How would he survive the citadel, which is in space, blowing up? Why is he laying in a pile of stone and brick when the citadel is made of metal?

    4) From everything I’ve read, the requirements to have Shepard survive are that you must destroy the Reapers, and you must have a Military Effectiveness Rating of at least 5000. While at first this doesn’t seem connected to the story in any way, it makes sense if you think that you would have to have time to fight off the Indoctrination. What would buy you that necessary time? A strong military force that keeps the Reapers from coming over and finishing you off.

    5) The Catalyst tells you that if you destroy the Reapers, you also destroy all synthetic life, including your own implants that are keeping you alive. Why then, is that the only ending in which you can survive if, essentially, your life support has just been unplugged?

    6) The additional scenes of Shepard’s crew surviving the destruction and chaos the results in your choice could easily be the Reaper showing Shepard that, regardless of his choice, those he cares about will be safe, so he has nothing to worry about.

    7) The day after the game was released, one of the lead writers of the game tweeted something very close to “Hardest. Day. Ever. If you knew the things we had in store you would keep your copy of ME3 forever,” while another employee wrote “You are all reacting before you have all of the facts.” These both support the theory that the story isn’t finished yet. It would also explain the complete and utter silence from Bioware towards their raging fans.

    How cool would it be if the final twist in Bioware’s epic story is that the player themselves gets to experience Indoctrination and how even the strongest willed characters in the universe can succumb to it. By believing these endings are real, they themselves have been “Indoctrinated.” If you choose to control the Reapers, you yourselves have been fooled into believing that you had the power to control them, just like TIM. If you choose Synthesis, you the player chose to try and achieve galactic peace via self-disintegration and deserve the ending you got (trololol.) If you chose to Destroy the Reapers, you, the player, had the will and the sense to defy Reaper control and continue on. It would be one of the most immersive and deep story telling experiences of all time.

    I’ve gone on long enough, I know, but there’s a pretty good list of evidence that implies that the TRUE ending is coming in the form of DLC later, since they’ve already stated this game is the end of Shepard’s story. (Forcing us to pay extra for the end of a story 5 years in the making is a topic for another day.)

    I know this probably comes off as wishful thinking, and it probably is, but at least there’s some hope. Even if it’s all bullshit, at least some devoted fans out there did a pretty damn good job at explaining it. I desperately want to believe that Bioware, the kings of storytelling, wouldn’t do this to us…but these are apparently the same guys that used a stock photo for Tali’s face, which someone is obviously going to burn in hell for. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  10. PS
    If you read that last comment, then bless you good sir or madam, bless you. For the other absolutely all of you, TL;DR – There is still hope for the ending of the franchise.

    Now I will shut up for a long while and go back to observing in silence. =)

  11. Agree with everything said.

    Since I found out how it ends, I can’t bring myself to finish it. That’s not to say that I’ve gone all dramatic and am boycotting it, but I’ve just started a second playthrough as engineer (never played it, so I thought I’d try) because I do enjoy the missions and new enemies. I just have no desire to actually finish it.

  12. Bummed out about the ending too, but even before that I was wondering “Where’s Harbinger?!”

    He spent the entirety of the last game taunting you by name and telling you how useless your petty resistance is and I was really looking forward to kicking his ass in particular, but no, apart from being mentioned a few times he doesn’t even feature at all!

    Taking down the Reapers shoulda been an incredibly satisfying accomplishment, but instead they buried it in ambiguity.

  13. After reading the posts, I’ve noticed that Zydoxis’ post is the direction I’m thinking also. Bioware knows what its doing, for them to come up with Mass Effect universe you have to understand, they’ve thought this through, simple as that. If you read Zydoxis’ post, you’ll realize that something more is hinted at the ending where you see “Shepard” in the rubble.
    To just add a couple more points to their post and using the Arrival DLC as reference, in the ending we watch all the of relays blow up. As seen in the Arrival DLC, when the relay is destroyed (it doesn’t matter the colour of the explosion) the entire solar system is destroyed and yet, we can still see “someone” alive in the rubble on what is to be believed as Earth.
    Also, in the end scene with the child talking to the adult, they ask for another Sheppard story, not again, but another ..
    So I believe that this isn’t over, there are to many inconsistencies in the ending sequences to make sense, so I have faith that there is more to this ending and more to the Shepard story.

  14. Ahh, i have to say that the game is so far excellent, but i have a big question for all you good people at unreality and i would appretiate if you could help me. I would like to know if there a way to create a save game (for the PC) without playing the previous games? I lost both my previous saves and I don’t have the patience to play ME 1 and 2 again for the third time, but I remember all the vital choices I made.

  15. I was one of those unfortunate few who didn’t have his saved games to use, but I went through it anyways figuring the story would be more or less the same. I didn’t have multiplayer or DLC either, so I guess it was just vanilla how I was playing.

    I wound up with six teammates — Vega, Ashley, Tali, Garrus, EDI and Liara. Mordin and Eve died, and the Quarians wiped out all of the Geth. My heart broke when I realized it was only Ashley that loved me, as Liara wasn’t interested at all and my true love Tali was mackin’ on Garrus. Something about a mandible getting stuck on her helmet. There was a point where Shepard wakes up and it lingers on the empty bed next to him. Sorry Shep, I was holding out for Tali and it never happened.

    I don’t know where it is that Tali sacrficies herself, but I’m glad I missed it. Myself, I find myself wondering how Garrus and Liara, the two I took to Earth, managed to survive and get onto the Normandy after having been shot by the big Reaper.

    The idea of Shepard being indoctrinated makes sense, but I question why he still fought to make TIM to see that he was indoctrinated. If they both were, why not go skip off the edge of the platform and let the reapers do their thing?

    To those of us who don’t have DLC, or don’t play Multiplayer, then no wonder there’s an outcry — it seems too much was left out. Our end choices were just as bad. Why play through this whole game as either Paragon or Renegade, to just be able to choose whether to be Paragon or Renegade at the end?

    I chose to control the Reapers, as it was the option lighted in blue. I didn’t see any third option that allowed me to merge with the Reapers. However, to control the Reapers I had to grab what appeared to be two streams of electricity. They subsequently vaporized me and all the Reapers flew away. It either worked or the Reapers are all just flying off to laugh their asses off and have a party before getting back to destroying everything.

    The last scene, to me, just signifies that somehow Shepard did the right thing no matter what, and left a legacy that turned him into a Deity. It’s not “Tell me another story about Shepard” but “Tell me another story about THE Shepard”.

    So that’s my experience with it. I was disappointed, for sure, but its beyond my control.

  16. I agree with everything you said. One thing I’d like to add though: one of the things that bugged me every time he made an appearance was the Kai Leng character. It always seemed like there was more about him that just wasn’t explained, which annoyed me to no end.

    I now know that he is part of some of the books (or was it comics?) that are based on the game. Why do this? Why throw in a character that is based on non-game material and then expect everyone to go “Ooh!” “Aah!” “It’s Kai Leng!” I know it’s nice to see a person in the game that has made appearances in some of the other material, but if you do that, make them brief.

    They did so with whatsherface (Jacob’s new squeeze), which also seems to make an appearance in some of the books/comics, but with her it never felt like there’s more we should know. She made one apperance in the game and that was it. Case closed.

  17. I’m sure everyone has heard about the Final Hours of Mass Effect 3 app for the iPad. I bought it yesterday and looked through everything. Things are looking grim. It seems the ending was planned from the start. One of the story notes (a picture) says, I’m paraphrasing, LET EVERYONE SPECULATE.


  18. The thing that baffles me most about all this is that the fans are holding up the Indoctrination hypothesis as if it would be some kind of improvement.

    That’s the sorry state of the current ending — people are actually clamoring for that tired old chestnut “and then she woke up.” As an improvement. An IMPROVEMENT.

    That’s not a twist, that’s a cop-out. Mind you, so is the current ending.

    I actually would have been quite satisfied with Shepard and Andersen slumping against each other, cut to black. Throw in a few of those half-assed Reading Rainbow style epilogue snapshots that have been so popular lately. A thoroughly mediocre but inoffensive ending with no additional effort required.

    Personally I didn’t feel slighted or ripped off by the ending (mainly because I didn’t keep up with pre-release hype at all) but it is objectively true that ME3’s ending is not what was promised (quite recently too!) and not true to the overarching themes of the series.

    When developers and reviewers can’t be trusted, gamers are forced to gamble on Schrodinger’s Ending — every newly purchased DVD case contains both the greatest game ever made and the biggest fail in the history of the industry. You won’t know until you open the box, by which point it’s too late to make any difference. Certainly too late to get a refund. You should have known what was in there before you opened it and broke the seal!

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