Despite knowing it was coming, when the Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut was announced last week, I was surprised. Then surprise quickly turned to fear that Bioware's definition of "clarification" would be a lot more like the definition of "change" and that all the things I had come to terms with, headcanoned or just deleted from memory would be thrown painfully into the fire. So I summoned my support group - the people who'd been with me through the tears and pain and 2:00AM what the fucks and we promised to go through this together because no one. No one with a soul should have to deal with Mass Effect 3 feels alone.
|Guys! I found this at IKEA! Does anyone have an allen key?|
Replaying reminded me of how fantastic this entire series is (as if I really needed reminding) and, while it's always had its problems with things like logic and consistency, these things could always be overlooked for the greater good.
But those endings.
I'm sure there are many people who thought the original endings were fantastic and hates fandom for forcing Bioware to do this. I'm sure there are many people whose definition of "different" when it comes to the endings actually sounds a lot more like the definition of the words "very similar except for the colours." but I'll just assume those people enjoy gaping plot holes, inconsistency and the same cinematics brushed with red, blue or green and some added lens flare. I assume those people won't be bothering to play the DLC. I bet they like the fourth Indiana Jones movie, too.
Don't get me wrong. It's not the concept of the endings that I hated. I love inconclusive endings and I loved the route Bioware decided to take with the choices, rather than a typical boss fight. I loved all the thoughts and discussions that spewed forth because of this. In fact, I'm one of the few people who actually doesn't mind Starchild.
But the delivery. The execution.
That was filled with so many obvious flaws that it was painful. And for that, I blame EA for pushing to a deadline and Bioware for allowing them to do so. Integrity and quality were sacrificed for the sake of profit. It's not the first time this has happened with a Bioware game, but this was, evidently, the final straw for fandom. Well, that and the fact that it was all compounded by statements from certain Bioware staff that seemed to make it clear that they were either just blind to how clearly rushed the endings were, or were just plain arrogant and ignorant, hiding behind "artistic integrity," without heeding the constructive criticism fandom was offering (yes, there was a lot of constructive criticism - not just vile hatred from assholes and idiots). Fortunately, there were a few members of the staff who snuck through the defenses and confirmed what fandom had already figured out. For those people who were honest and humble -- those are the people who ensured that I could never quit Bioware.
When the DLC was announced, I was apprehensive. Scared. Because I had already come to terms with the endings. I had headcanoned an entire conversation with Starchild and determined what my choices meant for my Shepard, with help from fandom alternate endings and epilogues. I had reviewed the Indoctrination Theory and the Virtual Reality Theory and determined if those theories worked for my Shepard. I had shed tears over the cut dialogue. I had deleted everything that happened with the Normandy. I had filled in all the blanks, but the DLC threatened to take that all away. Because what if Bioware really didn't get it? What if they totally missed the point of our anger and tears? What if they foolishly glomped on to one of the theories and made that canon?
What if they changed the ending????
So I skillfully avoided the more spoilerific parts of the internet and pursued retaking the galaxy with Molly Shepard and yesterday, I nervously kept watching my Origin account, waiting for the DLC to pop. I refused any temptation to learn from those who gained access earlier, in the end, only allowing Digitaltempest, who had accidentally been spoiled, to reveal that ... it would be okay...
When the DLC finally arrived, my daughter had the audacity to be earning herself three certificates at school, so I had to go deal with that first. SIGH. Priorities! Then I finally played through.
And was disappointed.
But that was because my DLC hadn't worked. Instead of getting the extended cut, I got a refresher on the pain. After some frustration and tweaking, I managed to get going with the changes (though I missed the push to the beam) and ...
And I am happy. (Even though I didn't get my Jack and the Biotics, flaming rachni armada, Yahg uprising and/or krogans on kakliosaurs.)
Just enough questions were answered, while still leaving room for speculation and imagination, plot holes were filled, the lost were remembered, and there was always hope. Even if you lost the battle, the war could still be won.
And Joker. Oh bless. That was our Joker.
Oh and we got to have an actual conversation with Starchild. I couldn't help but notice that the dialogue wheel options here felt a bit bitter on Bioware's part - or perhaps they were just tongue in cheek. "I want details!" and "I reject your choices!" are what fandom cried and so that's what we got. This was the clarification and, while some of it still leaves room for improvement (lolscience), there's is now a whole lot less confusion about it all, while still being inconclusive enough for our imaginations to happily run wild.
And then, choices made, we actually got different endings. Four different endings that were more than just coloured variations on a theme. Because our choices mattered.
And, the part that really pleased me: at the end of the journey, a message from Bioware that did not simply warn us that we'd be paying more money for DLC. Instead, a heartfelt message about how much the journey has meant to them; a thank you.
So thank you, Bioware, for understanding. It's because we love your games so much that it hurts when you forget to put that love in there from start to finish. Quality always comes first. Always. And if that means we have to wait a little longer to get our next fix, then we will wait.