As someone who didn’t share the prevailing hatred of Mass Effect 3’s ending, I found the proposition of DLC intended to “fix” the game’s conclusion worrisome at best. Modifying the story to satisfy fan protest, I thought, would set a dangerous precedent: developers would be less likely to push the limits of creative storytelling if they had to worry about spending their time and resources to make everyone happy. Good fiction is not a fan service circle jerk designed to make the reader, viewer, or player feel all warm and fuzzy; it’s a work of art, an outlet through which the writer can tell his story, regardless of how interactive that story might be.
I attempted to experience the three updated endings and the new fourth option from not just my own leave-it-alone perspective but also from the point-of-view of those who demanded a change. If the point of this DLC was to satisfy those unhappy with the original conclusion, then I think Bioware swung and missed. Sure, there’s a little bit more explanation, and the endings have been differentiated with unique scenes and voice-overs, but there’s still a ton of overlapping art assets and nothing particularly interesting. Bioware doesn’t tell us what “synthesis” actually means, or show us what the organics think of their new synthetic bits. We don’t learn anything about the relationship between the newly “controlled” reapers and those they were just trying to eradicate. And we don’t get to see the “destruction” of the other synthetic life in the universe–namely EDI and the geth–which could’ve been a particularly poignant scene. All three of the updated endings feel like they were ripped out of the standard “we won and everyone’s happily rebuilding but we won’t forget those who died” finale playbook Hollywood’s been dipping from lately, and they do nothing to elaborate upon the choices you made earlier in the series. I don’t think those unhappy with the original ending are going to change their minds.
As a fan of the original ending, there’s one big thing in the Extended Cut that bothers me: the scene featuring Joker and EDI (among other random crewmates) stepping out of the ruined Normandy and into a new life on a wild planet has been essentially castrated. It was a great scene that illustrated how much the universe was changed by the events on the Citadel. It was a fresh start, an existence free of the advanced technology with which the reapers seeded the galaxy to direct the advancement of intelligent life. Now the crew somehow repairs the ship and lifts off, killing what was a very thoughtful sci-fi ending in the name of “They escaped! Hooray!”
I also find it strange that the scenes aboard the crashed Normandy featured the entire crew. How did the two companions that accompanied you on the final assault on the elevator beam make it back to the ship? London was an absolute shitshow of a war zone, and extracting them in the seemingly short period of time it took Shepard to fire up the Crucible would’ve been extremely difficult. Now we know that they survived the laser blast (one of my original gripes–I spent about ten minutes hunting around for Garrus and Liara after that attack), but it feels like a cop out designed to not ruffle any feathers.
I enjoyed the control ending, wherein a new Shepard/Catalyst hybrid is running the show–although I’m still not sure how controlling the reapers is supposed to stop future forms of synthetic life from rising up against their creators, as the Catalyst states is his ultimate goal. The destruction ending made me want to punch my screen when it implied that Shepard might still be alive. The new fourth ending–wherein Shepard refuses to make a choice and we’re treated to a scene of a beacon-y Liara providing information about the reapers to some future civilization–was probably the best, and it’s something the developers should’ve thought of the first time around.
Speaking of things that should’ve been thought of the first time around, I, and everyone else who thought the relays were irreparably destroyed, should’ve known better. Of course the reapers have the knowledge to either repair the relays or build new ones, as they’re shown doing in both the synthesis and control endings. I feel a bit silly for not realizing that.
When we add all that up, what do we have? A few minor revelations, some static images that just feel lazy, and a big ol’ injection of “blah.” The Extended Cut DLC doesn’t do much to improve Mass Effect 3’s original conclusion, regardless of what you thought the first time you finished the game. I’m glad that they didn’t completely ruin an ending I enjoyed by wildly changing it, but I don’t expect many people who didn’t like it to change their opinion based on these new scenes. At least the price was right; it certainly wouldn’t have been worth paying for.