BioWare Mondays

So, of course, the expanded endings for Mass Effect 3, wrapped up in a DLC with the name Extended Cut, was released last week…for consoles as well as for PC. As should surprise exactly no one, fan opinion is sharply divided as to whether the changes address the concerns that many had about how BioWare initially chose to end Mass Effect 3. “Too little, too late,” some said. Others have praised the DLC and the changes it makes.

Indeed, the sheer volume of media attention that the Extended Cut has garnered is kind of mind-boggling. Some at BioWare may not feel that the company has had a breakout hit yet, but it’s clear as anything that the company commands the attention of the industry and the gaming press.

If you haven’t checked out the Extended Cut yet and don’t mind a few spoilers — oh, I should warn you all: here be spoilers! — anyhow, if you don’t mind a few spoilers, hit up this article and this article (both at Kotaku) for some side-by-side comparisons and other notes on what changes BioWare elected to make.

For what it’s worth, I love the changes BioWare made to the endings (and once I finish sorting through screenshots, I’ll post my thoughts in full), and I largely agree with Thepal’s comments:

Ok… Just got around to playing the Extended Cut. I am so frickin’ happy right now. The little ghost child started talking and… the weird part… I didn’t want to shoot him in the head. What he said actually seemed perfectly fine with just a little tweaking by some extremely talented writers. To the point I didn’t even tell him to go screw himself (which I found out was an option when I tried for a different ending). I chose the same ending as the first time I played, Control, and damn… so much better. Best of all was the correction of all the inconsistencies. The Mass Relays didn’t explode (they just fell apart a little). The Normandy had a reason to leave (and your companions were actually meant to be on board). There was no part where I was thinking “This doesn’t make sense” or “Now everyone is screwed”.

I do wish I had been able to experience these endings after originally playing it. It’s been a few months, so I’ve lost some of my attachment to the characters and the story that I had, but it was still amazing. And I think this is officially now, in my opinion, the greatest game ever made (or perhaps I should say series as well).

The endings are indeed happier.

One interesting thing I saw in a couple of different places was opinion pieces about who, in light of the changed endings to the game, the most important character in the Mass Effect series actually is: the Stargazer and Liara T’Soni.

Much of their commentary concerns the new ending that BioWare added with the Extended Cut. No longer are players confronted with a trinary choice between destroying the Reapers, controlling them, or creating a galaxy full of organic-synthetic hybrids. A fourth option is presented: rejecting the Catalyst’s offered choices entirely and letting the races of the galaxy stand on their own.

As I wrote in my Examiner column, the rejection ending can be accessed “in one of two ways: Shepard can — via a dialogue option — refuse to make the choice that the Catalyst offers, or Shepard can open fire on the Catalyst once that dialogue completes. The result is the same: the Catalyst growls “So be it,”…in Harbinger’s voice, and the Crucible shuts down (apparently). The screen fades to black, and we are left to assume that the Reapers succeed in their mission to harvest the races of this cycle. Humanity, the asari, the turians…all are wiped out, and pass into the annals of legend.”

This led some to accuse BioWare of trolling their fans, but the Rejection ending is far too brilliant to be just that. As I wrote, following on from the above, “that’s just where the “Rejection” ending gets started. The screen fades in on a lush, verdant world…with a piece of technology (it kind of looks like a transmitter of some sort) sticking out of a field. The camera pans down into the ground, revealing one of Liara T’Soni’s information caches and its message: a complete dissertation on Reapers, their trap, the Crucible…and a chronicle of the losing war fought by the races of her cycle, of Shepard’s cycle.

Which, okay, is cool. The game cuts to the credits at that point, and I have to admit that (having watched it only to that point) for a few minutes I thought that the ending was a bit on the lame side. Was BioWare actively trolling those who had clamoured for new options and sweeping changes in the game’s ending?

But then the Stargazer scene popped up again. Which, I thought, was kind of weird…since the Reapers had wiped out humanity’s cycle, there really shouldn’t have been a Stargazer left to tell stories to a curious child. But no, there he was, and there was the kid.

And then the Stargazer spoke…in a woman’s voice.

This is the brilliant subversion of the “Rejection” ending: it’s not the same Stargazer. It’s the same world, sure, and it features two people (one young, one old) doing the same thing (which speaks to, well, the cyclical nature of how history plays out in the Mass Effect universe) their human equivalents would have done had the Reapers been defeated by Shepard et. al. But these two aren’t human. They’re from the next cycle, or a later cycle at any rate.

And they have defeated the Reapers. The dialogue between them makes it clear; humanity’s cycle may have fallen, but thanks to the massive quantities of information it left behind (expertly secreted away by — remember — archaeological expert Liara T’Soni, note), the cycle that followed was able to defeat the Reapers.”

So there, that’s it. Mass Effect 3 has been ended. Oh, sure, there will be more DLC, the first of which may be called Leviathan which may involve a rogue Reaper, but for all intents and purposes, the saga of Commander Shepard is at an end. What comes next? And will whatever does come next involve Commander Shepard at all, since BioWare have now confirmed that s/he does in fact survive in the Destroy ending (assuming your Effective Military Strength score is high enough)?

Okay, okay, okay…moving on! Patch 1.3 for Star Wars: The Old Republic is live, adding new Legacy stuff and a bunch of other things. Oh, and there’s a new (and fairly short) community Q&A thread up as well.

Somewhat more excitingly, a Knights of the Old Republic collection has been sighted in a list of upcoming releases at GameStop, slated for a July 17th release date. Evidently, this is a compilation of both KOTOR games, and should be available for $20 USD.

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