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OpEd: Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut- I Consider the Matter Closed.

oped-mass-effect-3-extended-cut-i-consider-the-matter-closed

I think we all were not expecting much from the Extended Cut given the lackluster promises given to us by BioWare beforehand and the free multiplayer DLCs in the intervening time period that might have smacked of desperation. That’s why when the EC finally rolled around, it, for most of us, if the forums are to be believed, fixed some of the most grievous problems regarding the ending. Believe it or not, those promises regarding closure and insight were really all that was needed to fix the bewilderment and anger.

That said though, was it that hard, BioWare, to put this content in? What I saw were elements that really should have been part of the ending narrative in the first place– a very targeted package designed to address the complaints that popped up most frequently and also fit into a specific budget and timeframe, not a package that really reflected a love or appreciation of the series from either the creators or the fans. A small text message at the end does not a heartfelt message necessarily make, however better it is than the insulting “Buy More DLC” blurb that was previously there.

What I believe we have now is the complete core game of Mass Effect 3, the one we should have had from launch. I would have rather waited for Mass Effect 3 to launch on June 26th instead of having to go through this almost four-month debacle and back-and-forth of ill-will between fans and devs. Perhaps if there had been a simple extended MP demo period encompassing March 6th and June 26th, it would have resulted in more data and more tweaks from the combat engine devs while the story team really worked on the campaign content. As it is, this is what that period of time felt like to me– whenever I played Mass Effect 3 after that ending, it was only ever for the MP as I waited for whatever story fixes were coming.

Now that I, and the community, have them, it is a close to a long, distracting war of who has more gall for many. Are there congratulations in order? That would be the wrong word and the wrong sentiment entirely. I don’t think anyone here has truly won, it is that we merely have what we were promised, but having cost us various prices beyond what was stated to get there. For BioWare, it would be another almost four months and however much money it took to regain a more civilized and depolarized fanbase that no longer spits vitriol at the mention of Mass Effect.

Are there still problems to be addressed? Yes. The Catalyst logic still flies in the face of video game escapism, the broad banner under which many gamers lie– that as a game, there is a problem that is supposed to be satisfactorily solvable; not discovered to be too complex to satisfactorily solve at the very end because a narrative element demands it. Mass Effect’s narrative track record demonstrated that there were no problems insurmountable, that interspecies grievances could be dissolved under weight of the Reaper invasion, that ingenuity could conquer the most implacable of destructive forces (at least until it was discovered what the Crucible/Catalyst really was), that Commander Shepard was a conventional force that could defeat many of the more personal elements of the Reapers– their indoctrinated shock troops, or at least the Reapers picked a very odd method of subjugation that would be risky at best in terms of chances of success; something that strikes me as odd given machine preferences for efficiency.

Basically, the oft-repeated doctrinal assertion that the Reapers could not be defeated in a conventional war of arms and men was undermined by the player’s repeated defiance and destruction of Reaper elements across three games, culminating in a climactic battle that turns out to be unwinnable despite having worked successfully towards victory; or rather what many thought was victory. Endings rendering efforts moot for a character in a movie tend to be acceptable across a wider audience because the non-interactive nature of the format allows for audiences desiring such, the ability to divorce themselves from the despondence of the character. As soon as that interactive element enters the equation, as soon as the player invests his/her own effort in putting the character through the story only to find out that there was no real solution in the first place, this becomes personally unpalatable.

However, given the fixes put in place, I am finally ready to say that this outcome, as a stylistic choice, is… acceptable. The new information at the end, in the very least, helps the player to divorce their own choices from the motivations of previous antagonists both in-game and in real life– players considering Control were heavily recalling the motivations of the rogue Spectre Saren and the Illusive Man, players considering Destroy were recalling the guiltless Synthetics of this cycle and how sacrificing an entire race of innocents would make them no better than genocidal dictators of past and present, players considering Synthesis were surprised and somewhat dumbfounded by an idea which heretofore had not been a central theme at all in the Mass Effect series and smacked, many players probably rightly recalled, of themes from the Deus Ex series. There is enough information given in these new endings that helps to take some of the moral quandary out of the choice, making it easier to countenance a choice between lesser evils. Is it victory? Still no, but few enough now feel less morally wretched about it that it seems be a moot point. What was antithetical to Mass Effect themes before now feels like a neutral, morally gray choice that will result in whatever it will result in. Easing the choice even more are small previews during the Catalyst’s explanations of the now truly differentiated outcome scenarios, having added cutscenes detailing concrete, physical differences in the outcomes, not just what color the light is coming from the Crucible or what texture shader is applied to the ending characters.

Am I personally more likely to buy a future product, full game or DLC, from BioWare? No.

Am I less likely to have sour memories of BioWare as it is presently operated? Yes.

It is the former that I’m sure you care about more, anyways, BioWare. Know that I am still wise to your current practices. However, I have gotten what I was promised, at long last.

The matter, to me, is closed.

 


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