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Parker’s Resignation

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.

  1. September 19, 2012 at 3:16 am

    It’s a very bitter-sweet feeling isn’t it? I’m kind of in the same boat as you are. Ever since I first played Mass Effect back in early 2008, I was star-struck. It was like nothing I had ever played before and while I granted that it had its issue, they never really bothered me, in fact to this day the gameplay of ME1 is my favorite of the series. It got me involved in the gaming community, posting on the forums and what not. Mass effect 2 was good to and focused on the things I liked so the more streamlined action wasn’t an issue. You were right though, what really drove it was wanting to see how everything came together in the end, seeing the kind of galaxy my Shepard had created. At any rate, I was as much a fan of the series as I could possibly be.

    Then came ME3. Like most I was happy to see that weapon upgrades were back and was a little off-put by the newer gun-play but the story, plot and characters were good so it was still forgivable. That was up until the ending, just being presented with the choice was what disappointed me the most, never mind the different outcomes (even post dlc). Mass Effect was supposed to be driven by you, your Shepard, and your choices. Your previous actions were supposed to define the outcome, but instead we got a choice at the end. One choice defined everything, and that is what was disappointing.

    I don’t want to give Mass Effect up, but I can’t summon the enthusiasm. All because of one question: “What’s the point?”.

    I’m not done with the franchise, after all there’s still a whole galaxy to explore, but I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to return to the original trilogy.

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