Whether it’s a game series, a developer/publisher’s games, a TV show, or whatever, there are those who get so frustrated with the direction a series is going that they decide to drop the whole thing altogether. The series could be dropped because the quality is in decline, an unexpected twist is not received well, or any number of reasons. I didn’t make a habit of dropping series in which I had invested a lot of time. The good times were good, and though there may have been bad times, surely it was only a momentary lull. I’m not losing all faith in a series just because its latest titles was less impressive, or not as appealing to me (Metroid, Paper Mario, Golden Sun, Castlevania, and Resident Evil seem to fit this description for me). Dropping something seemed like an overreaction, or even a false claim by attention seekers. It would just feel wrong, strange even, to cease all interaction with something after having enjoyed it so much before.
I’d like to thank Bioware and EA for pushing me to drop finally drop a series. And it feels right.
The ending (and its subsequent revisions via extended cut DLC) are not the sole reason for dropping the Mass Effect series as a whole, just the straw that broke the camel’s back. But when I say straw, it’s more like a one ton ACME dumbbell being dropped on top of an already weighty load. My biggest complaint about the original endings, as I had discussed with Ryan before, was the lack of control over the endings.
ME is a game series that’s all about making tough choices, finding solutions that weren’t apparent before you, the hero, stepped in, and then dealing with the consequences. To have the same multi-colored endings force fed to me, without being able to argue with or correct the Vent Kid/reapers , felt wrong. My hope for the extended cut was some sort of dialogue between Shepard and the child, citing all the things I’ve done to make the galaxy better and solve problems, rather lamely having to accept this last minute space magic ending.
This sentiment was shared by a large amount of other players. It seemed as if Bioware acknowledged this by adding another ending choice other than control/synthesis/destroy, that choice being Reject. Upon choosing it Shepard tells the kid that he refuses to submit to his options, and that they would find a way on their own. Now, there didn’t have to be an actual good ending here, just some back and forth between the two parties. Maybe some reasoning behind Shepard’s claims (“Hey, I sorta made peace with synthetics and organics just now, so we’re OK”) or the Reaper kid’s (I don’t know, “This has happened before, here’s why you’re wrong, etc”, just something better than “YOU CANNOT COMPREHEND, IT WON’T WORK”). But instead, after Shepard refuses, the kid gets all deep reaper voiced, tells you off, and then it cuts to game over. If this isn’t a big “Fuck You” to anyone who argues with Bioware’s endings or artistic vision, then I don’t know what is.
I tried to get rid of the bad taste the endings left me with after finishing ME3 by replaying ME1 and ME2. Playing ME1 felt good, even with the often sub-par shooter sections, omnigel/gear all up in my inventory, and recycled maps all over the place. I really enjoyed exploring planets with the Mako and wish it could’ve come back to the series. ME2 felt alright at first, but the same-y missions began to weigh on me the farther I went. I guess because it felt so much like ME3 I began to ask myself why I was doing this. It just didn’t feel as fun as before knowing where it was all leading to. I stopped in the middle, somewhere in between Thane and Samara’s recruitment, and decided to just wait for the promised DLC ending extensions, to see if it’d make things right again.
Needless to say, it didn’t. The DLC fixed a few simple plot holes and inconsistencies (Joker fleeing, squadmate warping, relays exploding/short-circuiting), but the overall theme remained the same (which is what Bioware said, so my hopes were a little unreasonable). This made all the previously ignored shortcomings of the series become much more apparent. The unresolved mystery of the dark energy appearances (possibly due to a change in writing staff and focus), the strange focus on synthetics/organics for the ending over every other conflict, that the games featured less and less exploration with each iteration in favor of more action. I couldn’t wave these off anymore, and as a result, the series now feels different to me overall.
Sure the good times are still there. I’ll still remember the great setting, especially how awe-inspiring the Citadel seemed. And bro-ing it up with Garrus (and Shep’s other pals, to a lesser extent) was always welcome. Like any game series it had its highs and lows, hits out of the park along with some utterly stunning whiffs. I’ll choose to remember the crazy fun I had playing through it the first time, but still keep in mind the flaws that become more apparent when you look back. Because that’s what I’ll be doing with this series from now on, even if there is a new release under the Mass Effect IP; I’ll be looking back.