To say the original endings for Mass Effect 3 are highly controversial is putting it delicately. When plenty of fans protested for better endings, Bioware answered those calls by making what has been known as the Extended Cut. The people at Bioware didn’t “change” the endings, but gave people a clarification of what the endings mean by giving extra cinematic scenes and an epilogue.
The Extended Cut has been released in the U.S. on June 26th for all platforms. Since the release, I have downloaded and played the new DLC. It has been suggested by Bioware that players start from a save point that’s before the assault on Cerberus station to see the new content. If you haven’t played the Extended Cut yet and plan on playing it, then don’t read the rest of this post as it will contain some spoilers.
Beginning from Cerberus station in order to see the new content is sort of necessary and not necessary at the same time. Players don’t really get to see the additions to the endings until the part of the game where we have the race to the Citadel beam during the Priority: Earth mission. The player even gets a new final goodbye with Shepard’s chosen love interest, which is nice to watch and is worth seeing just once if playing from the final moments of the game. From there, you notice what’s new and what’s still the same in those final moments. The confrontation between Shepard and the Illusive Man, and having Anderson’s life hang in the balance remains the same. The rest of the new content happens from Shepard’s meeting with the Catalyst. The conversation between Shepard and the Catalyst gives Shepard a chance to really question who this Catalyst is, the purpose of the whole Reaper war, and finally a well defined explanation of how much the control, synthesis, or destroy options will impact Shepard and the entire universe of Mass Effect.
I went with the destroy option on my first round with the Extended Cut. Once I picked it, I was fairly satisfied with how things turned out. The destroy ending would probably be considered the most hopeful of the endings given, just as long as you have the highest EMS or Effective Military Strength by the end. Here’s a complete breakdown of the pros and cons of the Extended Cut DLC.
–Most plot holes get fixed. Bioware patched up the more jarring of the plot holes at the end of each choice, such as what happened to Shepard’s squad mates during the race to the beam, how does Hackett know Shepard makes it to the beam, are the mass relays really destroyed, etc. Again, the ending of the game still isn’t perfect, but at least Bioware tries to make the worse parts of the game’s closing much easier to comprehend.
–Emotional and character closure. We didn’t get much of that when the end of the game rolled around. Your Shepard had a war to finish, a choice to make, and suddenly stuff happens and things, such as where characters are and why they do this or that is thrust upon you without any clear explanation on the scenes you just saw. There was concern about the mass relays being destroyed, no one gets to go home and are stranded on a random tropical planet world, the Turians and Quarians will most likely starve, or characters like Joker have turned into complete cowards. With the Extended Cut, we definitely get lots of clarity and the players get to see how the rest of the surviving characters of the Mass Effect universe are doing post-war via a slideshow images epilogue. The Extended Cut did this right.
–Lowering the Effective Military Strength (EMS). When the game first came out, to get the supposedly best ending in the world (“Shepard takes a breath” scene), you need an EMS of 4000 or 5000. This is impossible to achieve without playing the apps or online multi-player. The release of the Extended Cut changes all of that. Now the highest EMS rating you need to get for better endings is 3100, which is absolutely possible to get on just single player and with a perfect 100% playthrough of the game. My final EMS score by the time I finished my first run with Mass Effect 3 was already around 3100 or more. But before the Extended Cut, I never got the “Shepard lives” scene at the end of destroy. I’m glad Bioware decided not to make it insanely hard to achieve a perfect ending by the game’s standards. Playing the Extended Cut, I did in fact get the Shepard breathing scene.
–The endings are still terrible as a whole. I do like the Extended Cut, and I’m much likelier to replay this than what the original game came with. However, the fact that the Extended Cut debunks the possibility of Shepard fighting an indoctrination attempt and the Catalyst is as real as real can be is most definitely a let down. Indoctrination theory made a lot of sense when you look at the pre-Extended Cut endings, but apparently this isn’t what Bioware planned. Regardless, the endings still feel horribly out of place when compared to the rest of the game, but you take what you can get.
–Shepard’s breathing scene. With the lower EMS requirement in place and finally having the Shepard breathes scene come easier, I really wish there was more to this scene. An extension of it perhaps. Most fans wanted a real reunion between Shepard and their love interests rather than an implied future reunion. I really would have liked to have seen something more. Maybe a search and recovery team finding Shepard after he/she breathes and then end it that way. Knowing your Shepard is barely alive and is lying on piles of rubble is still horribly depressing no matter how much it’s meant to instill hope and give us a happy ending, especially when you have the scene where Shepard’s chosen love interest hesitates to place his/her name on the memorial plaque on board the Normandy. I guess this is why we have fanfiction to help us fill in the blanks left by the game.
–Playing from the Cerberus station mission. After completing the game the first time, I was greatly disappointed by the endings. I didn’t feel like picking up the game since selecting destroy. The only time I bothered to sort of play again was around the point where Shepard wakes up after being knocked out by Harbinger’s beam. I only went through that just to see the other terrible endings everyone hated before the Extended Cut came out. Now that the Extended Cut came out, I wanted to play from the end just to see how Bioware made an attempt to fix things. The announcement that we had to play from somewhere before the assault on Cerberus station wasn’t as exciting. There were some hard parts in that mission as well as in Priority: Earth. Aside from that, none of the new content really kicked in until the race toward the Citadel beam. It was a lot of work just to see a few new scenes in the game.
Considering my pros and cons with the new add ons, I still believe the Extended Cut is a vast improvement on the original endings. Could it have been better? Yes, absolutely. Most players who have played the Extended Cut have expressed the same opinion. Bioware may have at least tried to do right by their fans, but it still doesn’t erase the fact that the final product of the game, or at least the endings, were a rushed job. If special care was taken to really make the game truly spectacular from start to finish, there really wouldn’t have been any need to fix anything or release a free clarification DLC pack. Does the Extended Cut give players a high replay value now? I’m not too sure. I have seen a Youtube video of the destroy ending on the lowest of EMS settings, so I suppose there could be depending on how you look at it. Bioware may have contradicted a lot of their history and lore with the endings, but at least we get better closure with the characters we have loved from the very beginning. The Extended Cut gives them a proper send off, and I’m happy that Wrex, Tali, Hackett, and all the cast of Mass Effect are living (or not living) their lives well post-Reaper war.