Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut: The fans won. Or did they?
26th Jun 2012 | 15:51
So, the fans won. Today saw the release of the 'Extended Cut', designed for fans very, very vocally unhappy with how Bioware originally ended
It's an unprecedented move in the gaming industry. The doors have been flung open for developers to go back and change their creations - but should they? It's been done in movies before, with mixed results. For every improved Blade Runner ending, there's a Return of the Jedi "Nooooooooo!"
So, while the debates rages on a wider scale (should developers cave in and compromise under pressure? Or is greater fan participation a good thing?), perhaps the most important part of this Mass Effect 3 DLC is that it's free. Whether you ultimately agree or disagree with its change of direction, at least your wallet remains in your pocket.
And, in the interests of full disclosure, let me say that, while I thought the original ending wasn't perfect, I thought it was good enough. It could have been better, it certainly could have been worse - for me, ME3's denouement landed somewhere in between.
Okay. Let's talks specifics. And, needless to say, there's SPOILERS AHEAD.
First, make sure to talk to anyone with a voice. This Extended Cut's not all cutscene; before the ending's proverbial big bang, characters like Anderson, Liara and Wrex are scattered around the London hub after the first flurry of fighting, and they might just have something new to say.
After that, the entire hour-long mission's as it was, right up until the assault on the Citadel (the part where Shepard makes a mad dash to the beam). Bioware's inserted an extra shot of your squad mates almost getting squashed by a burning vehicle sent flipping by a nearby Reaper.
Shepard helps them to their feet - in our case it was Ashley and Liara - then calls in a transport. Shepard stays behind and you've got a dialogue choice as they get on: you can either tell them to leave because they're slowing you down, or because "I need to know at least someone's getting out of here alive."
Bioware missed a trick by neglecting to make these Paragon or Renegade options - it could have improved your moral standing before the Illusive Man confrontation - but perhaps they didn't want to mess with what was already a finely balanced system.
After you beam aboard, there's an extra insert of the Crucible ready to dock, with Major Hackett's voice over radio commanding every available ship to protect it, along with extra shots of ships dogfighting in Earth's orbit that probably cost around £3 million per frame. They lend nothing to the story, of course, but they're welcome all the same.
Now for the confrontation with Martin Sheen's Illusive Man. It's completely unchanged, but certain options might have an influence on the outcome of the story as a whole. Of course, it's difficult to experiment with every variable in order to achieve every possible ending, but basically, he shot Anderson then we shot him. This is what happens next.
The AI Child appears and allows three extra dialogue options, seemingly written verbatim from articles ripped from a Wiki. They colour the Catalyst, the Reapers and the Crucible in rich detail.
It's detail only fans could appreciate. However, Bioware haven't filled in all the gaps. When Shepard enquires as to who created the Crucible, the child says, "You would not know them", and later dodges the question of who made him, simply saying, "A race before the Reapers, who later became the Reapers." It's counterproductive for Bioware to spend the effort clarifying things, only to make other things more vague. Yes, it's a bad move to explain away the entire universe, but surely that was the entire point of this DLC?
Nevertheless, Shepard can press for more. In fact, one of the options is, "I want details", which leads the Child into spouting extra granular exposition. All this, keep in mind, is for hardcore fans of the series. It'll either wash over or confuse casuals. It's like if Star Wars came to a crashing halt to allow Luke to ask how the Millennium Falcon's thrusters work.
Concluding the talk with the Child, it all goes a bit Independence Day. Along with the usual shots of troops fighting in a grey-skied London, there's a 15-second scene of the Asari fighting a similar battle on their home world Thessia, then the Krogan on Tuchanka. It doesn't necessarily clarify anything, but it's an effective way of giving the conflict greater scale than 'a street in London'.
Then comes the biggest change. At the end, where normally the credits roll, there's a montage of static shots - Mordin doing some calculations, Reapers flying away from Earth, the Citadel floating in bits through space. Think Deus Ex: Human Revolution's ending, Bioware, like Eidos Montreal, probably lacking time and money to go for a full-on, full-motion cutscene. In this case it's understandable.
During this, a post-human Shepard narrates. This is after we've given up our humanity to control the Reapers. He's clearly not himself, calmly referencing his 'past form' in third person. Basically, everyone's okay, and he goes on for three minutes, and then the Normandy's surviving crew pins his name to the board of deceased crew members. Closure.
After the credit's is one last gesture of goodwill - a "thank you" from Bioware. The previous one was basically a slap in the face ( "Well done for playing, now buy the DLC!") but this note's a little gentler, a little more personal. It sums up the ending, and in a way, the entire incident.
Perhaps Bioware, after putting every effort into making an incredible series of games, will think a little bit more about how to end it. Like I said, for me, the previous one was solid enough - but, for fans less certain and more vocally opposed, this should offer a softer extra layer of closure.