Mass Effect 3 is a triumph. There’s really no other way to describe it. The game represents the culmination of a ten-year effort on the part of BioWare to craft the industry’s first true epic—a multi-game story in which every decision by the player has weight and meaning. Frankly, reviewing Mass Effect 3 within the same critical framework as one reviews SSX or Modern Warfare is an insult to BioWare’s incredible achievement, regardless of the final score assigned.
Despite its immense successes, there’s one big problem with Mass Effect 3: The ending sucks. At least, that’s the answer you’ll get from thousands of fans upset that the story of Commander Shepard didn’t wrap up in the way they had hoped. Angry players have stormed forums, formed Reddit groups and set up petitions demanding that BioWare modify the game ending, citing plot holes, false advertising and a general sense that the experience they got wasn’t the one they were sold.
Just a couple of weeks ago, BioWare finally answered all of this complaining by announcing DLC content that will help clarify some of the events show in Mass Effect 3’s ending sequences. The exact quote from the company states, “…the DLC will offer extended scenes that provide additional context and deeper insight to the conclusion of Commander Shepard’s journey.” In short, BioWare listened to player concerns and came up with a plan for expanding on the existing ending.
This may be a big win for fans, but it’s an enormous loss for the industry in general. Here’s why: fans are, for the most part, morons. Have you ever read fan fiction? There’s a reason it’s an Internet punch line. If left to their own devices, fans would tear down many of our favorite stories for “better” endings. Darth Vader lives. Harry and Hermione get married. Spock and Kirk make out. These are all things that happen in fan-written stories, every day of the week.
Fans don’t know how to end a story. And while Mass Effect 3’s “Extended Cut” DLC may shed some much-needed light on the game’s absurdly vague and nonsensical ending, it’s not going to be enough to satisfy every last upset player. However, it is enough to set a nasty precedent for every game released from here on out. Gamers now know that if they complain enough about one specific thing, the developer will eventually cave and change the title to suit fan preferences.
Listening to your customers is good, but folding over when they’re upset over something you did very purposefully sends the message that you don’t believe in your creation. It also sounds the alarm for complainers around the world, who will be inspired to throw hissy fits about every little thing with which they take issue. BioWare didn’t end Mass Effect 3 this way accidentally, so why do they feel the need to modify it?
The biggest problem with the ending isn’t its imperfections, but the overwrought passion of the game’s fans. If people weren’t so fanatically attached to Commander Shepard, they may have been happier with the ending.
Perhaps that’s the true sign of success for the folks over at BioWare. They created something so visceral and real that people simply can’t bear for it to be over.