Mass Effect 3’s Ending Is Great, It’s Just Not The One You’re Thinking Of

Last year, like many of you, I replayed the Mass Effect trilogy when the Legendary Edition launched. And, like many of you, I didn't want it to end – I even wrote about as much at the time. While Mass Effect 2 is my favourite in the series, it's much closer between 2 and 3 for me than it is for most people, and my desire not to see the ending was not because the ending itself is bad. I don't think it's great, but it's also not as awful as some people claim, especially once you factor in the Extended Edition flourishes. However, as I slowly approach the ending, I feel compelled to write a defence. Mass Effect 3 does not just end once, it ends many times, and all of them are great.

The main ending, the thing everyone calls an ending, could stand to be fine-tuned. I don't like Ghost Boy, but I do think trying to represent the pain of everyday civilians through a single representative character is a great idea and works perfectly in Shepard's haunting nightmares. I also don't like that none of our decisions matter by the end – you just choose A, B, or C. But of course, they do matter. The best part of a story like Mass Effect is the journey, not the destination, and to reduce something as vast as 'the ending' into a choice you make in the final 20 seconds is doing yourself a disservice. I don't think the ultimate ending is satisfying, and maybe having Shepard decide for you based on your playstyle might have had more weight, but I feel it has gone from 'a bit of a let down' to 'the worst ending of all time, no questions asked' through no real fault of its own.

Every character in Mass Effect is special. Okay, not so much Diana Allers, but everyone else. What Mass Effect 3 does so well is offer most of them an ending they deserve. This doesn't have to be in the form of a death or their ultimate fate once Shepard makes their final choice. Garrus', for example, might be the one up on the roof of the Citadel. No Shepard without Vakarian. Romancing Garrus (which I maintain is the wrong choice, narratively) gives him an even deeper ending through a tearful conversation with Shepard as they stand on the precipice. Tali's ending might be seen as the one on her home planet, however that mission shakes out. Jack has a resolution of her own, and again, it gets deeper if you had romanced her.

I have complained before about the circumstances surrounding Thane's death, but the death scene itself has a quiet, beautiful reverence. Mordin, too, has a tragic yet fitting send off. There are even some times, narratively, when it feels like death is fitting, even if it doesn't come. Grunt, for example, seems to be sent off to die protecting his own, only to emerge victorious. Some are not so lucky – Cortez's death is a cheap bus crash, while Morinth's is relegated to an Easter Egg if she survived Mass Effect 2. For the most part though, Mass Effect 3 nails endings, even if it doesn't stick the landing. We owe it a little more respect.

Aria's DLC, one of the most underrated in the Mass Effect roster, also acts as an ideal send off for one of the most beloved non-squadmate characters in Mass Effect's arsenal. The Citadel DLC, of course, acts not as a goodbye to any one character but to you, the player. It's the modern day equivalent of developers putting that cute little message in the credits.

Mass Effect 3's ending isn't as bad as people say it is, but I'll admit that it is still bad. But if you look beyond the final scene, you'll find some of the best endings in gaming, giving legendary characters the send offs they deserve.

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