Getting my mass effected

Okay. Blog posts are supposed to have pretty pictures because the internet hates text but I need to get my thoughts about the ME3 ending on ‘paper’ now while they’re fresh. So here they go. SORRY AMERICA.

[Ed. note: Also, because I wrote this last night at god knows how late, I went through this morning and cleaned up a couple wordings, which are noted]

It goes without saying: massive Mass Effect 3 spoilers below the cut.

Alright. First things first: that was a difficult choice. I chose “Destroy” in the end and am agonizing over it, because it means EDI and the (in my playthrough) newly-sentient Geth are bricked forever, and the game spent a LOT of time making me love those characters, so it gnaws.

But that decision should be difficult and the consequences should be hard to live with. In the end I don’t think the Control ending is ever the right moral decision because the reward is great but so is the risk; the Destroy ending is a great sacrifice for a massive good as Shepard is used to making, and the Synthesis choice is full of so many unknowns that it presents a grave risk with an unknowable reward. No matter what you pick, something bad’s going to happen. That’s how life is.

Now, all that being said, what ME3 really drove home is that Commander Shepard is Jesus Christ in Space. If you finish ME3 and don’t see the progression of Shepard as a literally messianic figure, give it some careful consideration. Even the name Shepard is part of that, though I understand it’s also a probable homage to Alan Shepard. But think about this.

Shepard is the child of destiny on many levels. She came back from the dead, and in ME2 you don’t know how long but in ME3 you find out: Shepard was as dead as possible, with no neural activity, before Miranda and the Lazarus Cell (also cleverly named) brought her back. She then proceeds to unite the people, one way or another, against a common foe. What happens after her sacrifice (teaser image of her possible survival [ed. note: I originally said “sacrifice” again] notwithstanding) is that the galaxy — life as we know it — changes forever. The old world is wiped away, literally thanks to the destruction of the mass relays, but because Shepard sacrifices herself, they have a chance to start anew and rise from the ashes.

Then there’s the child and the Stargazer who refer to her as “the Shepard.” That phrasing is intentional, I’m certain, and it’s just another push for Shepard as the herald of a new era, the one who leads the flock of believers to a promised land through her great sacrifice. [Ed. note: the Stargazer is voiced by Buzz Aldrin, which tells you something.]

There are other, similar religious/Christ figure overtones. Consider that the cycle of Reaper destruction and its focus on created/synthetic life paints the creation of  life [ed. note: specifically synthetic life] itself as an “original sin” scenario; the EDI replacement the Illusive Man makes is named “Eva” (Eve); the entire series begins on a world named “Eden Prime” and Rannoch, while different, is certainly a “lost Eden” for the quarians who would move heaven and earth to retrieve it. Never mind that the nagging, persistent, and harrowing refrain of the persecuted geth is “Does this unit have a soul?”

Of course you can make intermedia comparisons to the Battlestar Galactica remake, which is reasonable. I’m certain that the writers of ME3 were influenced by it and the language of the game shows that pretty clearly. But despite my gnawing feelings of regret for killing synthetic life in its relative infancy (and consoling myself that, as long as organics survive, the synthetics can be rebuilt), I’m satisfied with the ending.

I can tell you one thing, though: Shepard’s story is done. Maybe some DLC to expand it out within the context of ME3 itself, obviously, but to me, I’m satisfied. Shepard fulfilled her destiny and made her grand sacrifice. And honestly, I think the direction that the series can now take — how the galaxy copes with the departure of the Reapers and the network of mass relays vanishing, and the Citadel going up like a firework in Earth orbit — is really exciting. I think it’s now less a story about humanity’s reaching the stars and the aftermath, but about the races of the universe rebuilding civilization from scratch. I think there’s plenty of room for a new hero (or heroes) in that scenario. I’m excited to see where it goes.

You’ll notice I’ve refrained from commenting on the current ‘controversy’ with the ending until now. Well, here’s my deal:

  • Yes, there’s plot holes. Maybe they’ll fill them in. Maybe not. But they’re nowhere near as titanic as people have expressed to me.
  • I hope that this encourages fan creation and involvement in the universe. It’d be great if we’d turn to ourselves to answer these questions.
  • The petitions to Bioware are nonsense. I’m glad they’re taking fan feedback seriously. Maybe we’ll get some great DLC out of it. But they’re under no obligation to “fix” anything and I hope they don’t backpedal. You have to find some middle ground between “Addressing fan interests” and “Caving to pressure”

Anyhow, there you have it. My reflections on ME3. Enjoy!

2 thoughts on “Getting my mass effected

  1. I don’t have a blog at the moment, so I’m just going to spew my thoughts all over yours instead. That’s cool, right?

    Agree with you about the Messianic figure; the first comparison that came to mind was actually Neo in the Matrix trilogy, which probably says some weird things about my headspace but there you go. I was fully expecting Shepard to die at the end; one life for trillions is a bittersweet victory, but a victory nonetheless. Would I have taken a less depressing option if offered? Sure, but that’s not what the game was about. I did go for Synthesis, though; my oh-so-pure Paragon wasn’t about to kill all her friends, or defer the Reaper problem for some poor future generation, so she took the leap of faith. The Renegade will make a different choice. For me, the real gutpunch is the inevitable destruction of the mass relays, thus completely screwing over the galaxy that Shepard is so devotedly saving.

    I enjoyed the game quite a bit, although I think I preferred ME2 overall because I found the storylines smoother. It seems like Bioware cut some resources from developing FemShep’s narratives, and it shows.

    What I mean by this specifically boils down to the “love interest” element, which is tricky to argue about, because it risks coming across as “wah wah my character didn’t get to snuggle with her schnookums forever” and what I really mean is “I felt the story was choppy in places and the female iteration of Shepard had fewer narrative options than her male counterpart.” My comment is focused on LIs because they’re effectively the only parts of the game where FemShep’s dialogue/choices/scenes are different than MShep’s, and that’s where the disparity shows.

    Consider: if you’re talking about “Paramour” achievements and their related storylines, MShep has multiple options. Liara, Ashley/Kaidan, Tali, Jack, Miranda, Cortez, Allers. All of the ME2 LI options carry over, and Kaidan is added into the mix, as he is now bisexual.

    FemShep, on the other hand, can pursue Liara, Kaidan, Garrus, Traynor, or Allers. From ME2, Jacob is a complete nonstarter and Thane is an abrupt cutoff (the short dialogue available with him does not qualify for the game achievement). Ashley, unlike Kaidan, stays purely hetero.

    My personal Shepard threw over Liara for Thane in ME2, and the Thane dialogue in ME3 was… odd. He’s had a character reset from that carefully cultivated ME2 “let’s make the most of every moment” to “ehn, I’m going to die, no point in doing anything” — I suspect the conversation works well if he’s in the buddy zone, but it’s strange if his character was further developed through the “romance” arc in the second game. Even more jarring, however, is the way his death is never mentioned by the Normandy crew. Considering Bioware normally does a great job of making sure characters are “aware” of each other and past player choice has an influence on current dialogue, it was decidedly weird to play through Thane’s death scene only to have my Shepard return to her ship and be openly hit on by both Traynor and Allers within about ten minutes (while her BFF, Garrus, ignored her recent bereavement and instead waxed philosophical about how much he missed Ashley). Did it ruin the game for me? No (I will never not take that Kai Leng interrupt), but it was a story hole that started me thinking about the resources devoted to developing the dialogue/animation/story branches for LIs, and I realized that FemShep kind of got the shaft.

    Yeah, I see the gendering in that phrase. I know what I did there.

    I suspect it relates to that stat that said 82% of players (unforgivably! inexplicably!) chose MShep in ME2; however, it’s unfortunate that Bioware cut back on FemShep’s content in the same game where she was finally, finally part of some marketing/promotional materials. The gaming company giveth, the gaming company taketh away.

    1. So many notes.

      Hilariously, when I was talking to Nate about the ending, he mentioned the Matrix movies as an analogue to how the ending was an obvious slip off the rails into disaster. I’ve only seen the first one, which may be why I went right to the Bible, but it’s an equally viable comparison… perhaps moreso, given the indoctrination theory which has a decided blue pill/red pill vibe to it.

      I’m going to write a mini-post to follow up, but the more I think on it, the more I think the “Synthesis” ending is the “right” one, and the wording you used to describe it — “I took the leap of faith” — goes to precisely the reason why.

      As for the love interest stuff, it’s more fodder for that PCA paper, so I’ll give that some thought. I was under the impression that Fem!Shep could retroactively lesbify Ashley Williams, Space Racist just like Man!Shep can retroactively homofy Kaidan. I have to wonder if that fact is actually behind the bisexuality of, say, Allers, who will hit on you either way.

      I’m saving my story of my near-miss with lesbianhood in my ME3 playthrough for my PCA presentation, though.

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