The Best Franchise of Last Generation: The Dangers of Expectation

Here it is, the final post in this trilogy

After the success of Mass Effect 2 there needed to be a push towards the inevitable end. By this time the series was in full swing. Its gameplay mechanics, while being very similar to ME2’s, were more refined and polished. Because of this I wont really talk about the gameplay like I did with the other two games.

For the most part, Mass Effect 3 is mechanically and graphically identical to it’s predecessor. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because ME3’s entire purpose is to complete the story. ME3 rounds out the Breaking Bad threesome of “Growth, Decay and Transformation”. In transformation, the final act, the ultimate challenge reveals itself and the protagonist is fundamentally changed by the consequences of their actions. The Reapers finally reveal themselves and invade the Galaxy and take hundreds of planets, including Earth. Great sacrifices have to be made by everyone to overcome them.

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In some cases the game ties up it’s loose ends very well. However, it fell short in the minds of many of it’s fans where it counts.

Where it failed

Something I was taught to do during my PGCE was start with the negatives because then you can end positively.

It would be impossible to talk about Mass Effect 3 without mentioning the ending at all. The ending of the story that so many sunk about 300 hours of play time was hated by the majority of the fanbase. There were videos pointing out that the three endings are almost identical save for the colour of light projected from the Crucible. It even led on to people creating the theory that Shepard was indoctrinated during the final act and what was happening was in their head. Memes such as Marauder Shields became commonplace.

There are three endings available:

  • Destroy – you wipe out all synthetic life in the Galaxy, including your friends like EDI.
  • Control – you subjugate all synthetic life in the Galaxy, races like the Geth and again EDI have no free will.
  • Synthesis – the lines between organic and synthetic life are blurred and all races are linked together genetically.

To a lot of people, these endings felt rushed and didn’t come anywhere near satisfying the story players had experienced for the last five years, it caused outrage and there was a huge backlash against the game. However, if you were paying attention to the games you were playing, one ending satisfies the series in my view.

Synthesis breaks the cycle of the Reapings, the war is concluded in a way where everybody wins. Synthetic and Organic life are able to co-exist in a peaceful way, as far as they are all concerned they’re all the same now. Mass Effect as a series is about your place in a community, you start off as an outsider to the Citadel and end the series as an equal amongst all species. The main theme of Mass Effect 3 is co-operation, you spend the majority of the game building an Armada to retake Earth. In Synthesis you truly end the game as equals.

Where it succeeded 

In my opinion, Mass Effect 3 satisfies the personal relationships you have developed with the crew of the Normandy perfectly.

Garrus starts off as a security officer who only works with you because you’re after Saren as well in ME1. In ME2, you protected him against an onslaught of mercenaries and pulled him out when he was wounded. Mass Effect 3 cements Garrus Vakarian as your best friend, he is your platonic life partner in space. There is no Shepard without Vakarian; the Shooting Contest in the Citadel was a great change of pace in the game. Honestly it was just nice to see these two characters just hanging out and being friends.

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I wouldn’t be able to talk about satisfying personal arcs without talking about Mordin Solus. For those who didn’t play Mass Effect, there was an engineered disease called the Genophage. It was used on the very aggressive Krogan race and resulted in 99.9% of all births being stillborn to control the population. Mordin developed this disease and that decision has haunted him for a very long time. It’s projected in his personality, he’s cold and calculated. He always does what is necessary, but not always right. In Mass Effect 3 he has the opportunity to reverse the effects of the Genophage and he’s visibly happier, even singing to his Krogan patient to cheer her up. The final act of the Genophage storyline is emotional and inevitable, it had to be him because somebody else might have gotten it wrong.

Mordin’s storyline is one of many like it within the game, I could talk about Legion’s “death” for an eternity. I believe that a series as lofty as Mass Effect would have been nearly impossible to end satisfyingly. Its a question I have posed to friends on more than one occasion, “How would you have ended it?” and they still haven’t given me an answer.

Mass Effect is about the journey you have just undertaken. 300 hours of difficult decisions and relationships built. Mass Effect 3 as a whole should be considered the ending of the series. Dozens of plotlines are tied up and their resolutions are perfectly executed. It is unfair to slate this game for the final 10 minutes when it contains around 100 hours of content.

ME3 is the definitely the high point of the series and should be celebrated for everything that it does well. Make no mistake, there is plenty this game does really well. Its a real shame that the enduring view of this game is that last 10 minutes. I have never been so engrossed in a game. I couldn’t put it down when I picked it up back in 2012. So I guess that’s why in my opinion, it is the best franchise of last generation.

2 thoughts on “The Best Franchise of Last Generation: The Dangers of Expectation

  1. Nice post! I just came off a whole Mass Effect month on my blog, so I’m enjoying seeing what other people are saying about the franchise now that Andromeda has dropped and is making the internet rounds.

    I personally like the destroy ending, since that was Shepard’s quest all along and it seems very Saren-esque to foist synthesis onto the whole galaxy, but I can certainly see the appeal of the synthesis ending, which you stated well here.

    It’s so funny… I got into Mass Effect because I loved Dragon Age so much, and thinking about which one I would choose as the “best franchise” sort of makes my head hurt a bit… They both have so much to offer to the gaming world.

    Like

    1. I can see the merits of Destroy but when I think about the Geth and EDI I couldn’t do it because I’m condemning them to death to stop the Reapers and it just goes against everything that the Legion storyline set up in ME3. For me Synthesis just seems like the most logical way to go about dealing with the problem, it’s a zero sum game. Happy you liked my post :3

      Liked by 1 person

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