A space opera five years in the making, Mass Effect is a truly unique series that has won the hearts of many video game fans – myself included. The third and final installment received a significant amount of mainstream press, primarily due to the controversial ending. Three months after its initial release, Bioware created the Extended Cut, a free DLC that aimed to fill in missing plot holes, provide more context for the ending, and help players attain the closure that many wanted with their favorite characters.This review provides an analysis of the Extended Cut DLC and how it successfully (and unsuccessfully) integrates into the story so many have grown to love.
—————– WARNING: THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD! —————–
One of the most prevalent qualms about the original ending was the degradation of unique choices. The ending cutscenes were 90% the same, regardless of what was chosen. The supposed 17 ways to get a different ending to the game quickly became What’s your favorite color? instead. As a long-time fan I was both confused and disappointed in the outcome of ME3. The more I thought about it, the less the final events in the game made sense. At first, the Indoctrination Theory seemed like the appropriate answer, but as more details were released, it quickly dissipated as a viable explanation. So how good was the ME3 Extended Cut? Did it clarify the gaping plot holes and provide adequate closure for Shepard and the team?
At just under 1.9 GB, the free Extended Cut DLC was packed with new cutscenes and ending content. The majority of it was used for specific ending clarification, providing an additional 20-30 minutes of visual content after making the final choice presented by the catalyst. Love interest flashbacks were corrected and additional imagery was added for longtime squadmates who lived and died throughout Shepard’s journey. These images and animations were both heart-wrenching and nostalgic at times, reminding the player of the relationships that have been forged over the past five years. Click the slides to for a sample below…
While the artistic slideshow is certainly stunning to view and emotionally moving with Clint Mansell’s track playing the the background, it felt somewhat disjointed and out of place. When the slideshow first started it immediately brought to mind those ‘real life’ waterfall pictures found in every doctor’s office and hibachi grill restaurant. The production value is still good, but simply feels tacked-on after interacting with such a living, breathing universe. Given, this is additional DLC to the main game and its main purpose was to provide closure and clarity in regards to player choices and squadmate interactions. Both of these concepts are successfully elaborated upon – kudos to you here, Bioware.
One of my main concerns about Mass Effect 3 was that Harbinger did not have a single line in the entire game. His incessant taunting from ME2 completely vanished and he was reduced to making those brrrrrrrzzzzrr sounds and firing his reaper lazor. What happened here? The main antagonist of the story and leader of the reapers had a very specific interest in Shepard in ME2, but there’s practically no interaction in ME3. The Extended Cut did add some dialogue about Harbinger during the Earth mission, which was a nice addition, but he still just made ‘reaper sounds’ during the final run to the beam. Harby was even nice enough to let Liara and Garrus get on the Normandy safely this time. Reaper IFF, I know, I know…
The Illusive Man confrontation remained relatively unchanged from the original ending, which is absolutely fine, because Martin Sheen and Keith David did a fantastic job voicing the characters during that scene. The incorporation of the crucible was further shown during cutscenes and the star child was revealed to be a VI, not a god (a much-needed clarification). All choices have been elaborated upon as well. Control no longer seems completely evil and brainwash-y. Destroy carries a bit more weight this time. Synthesis still creeps me the hell out, but it’s starting to grow on me…EDI’s monologue at the end is incredibly moving (reaffirming the overall synthetic/organic message of the game). And a fourth ‘refusal’ ending was added, giving players who don’t accept the crucible choices an alternative way to end the game. Regardless, every ending is bittersweet and powerful in its own way.
Is this the perfect finale fans were anticipating for months? No. Is it an improvement over the original ending? Yes. Does the final chapter in Shepard’s story leave the player satisfied? Yes and no.
The clarification of the events surrounding the final battle, crucible, and mass relays was highly welcomed. Squadmates no longer magically appeared on the Normandy after dying, the relays did not vaporize everything in the galaxy, and the crew wasn’t stranded on a foreign planet to die. It was great to see the choices and ramifications for both the Krogan and Geth/Quarians, but the delivery seemed somewhat disjointed in comparison to the rest of the game. Regardless of the ending chosen, the feeling of hope was much more prevalent during the story’s conclusion, providing a bittersweet outcome for both Shepard and the entire galaxy.
Regardless, Mass Effect is one of my favorite series of all time – on any platform of entertainment. This series – without a doubt – marks a significant milestone in interactive storytelling, emphasizing the importance of choice. Mass Effect is not Star Wars, nor is it Bladerunner. It’s not a movie at all. Each player has a completely different outcome to their Shepard’s story and every choice along the way shapes the events that follow. The Extended Cut to ME3 also marks a pivotal milestone for the gaming industry, proving that there are still development companies out there who value the feedback of their fans.