Mass Effect 3: Final thoughts

So, I made it well known that on my list of most anticipated games for the year, there was one that stood above the others in my mind for MOST anticipated. That game, was Mass Effect 3. Now I have played the game, and have made it to the end. I have seen the journey's end, if you will, and I have let it simmer in my head. I wanted to avoid any knee-jerk reactions to a game that should have hands down blown away the competition. But, did it live up to the hype, or did it leave me questioning my love of video games?

Let's find out...

Be warned. If you read further, there will be spoilers. I can't help it. They will be there. If you're OK with that, then read on good readers.
I think we need some history to fully appreciate things here, without perspective you may not fully appreciate what I have to say. I first bought my XBox 360 in 2007. I had to scrounge to get the cash to do so, foregoing such petty things as eating in lieu of getting my prized piece of electronic goodness. There were two games above all others that swayed me toward this choice. Dead Rising, the zombie game that sounded like Dawn of the Dead on crack, and Mass Effect, an RPG that sounded like it was the start of something spectacular. Bioware, the developer of the game, was a name that I remembered with a great deal of enthusiasm, as the developer behind Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which is arguably my favorite Star Wars game of all time.

So, suffice to say, I took the plunge.

I played the hell out of the first game. I played it so much, I think it might have been a contributing factor to the eventual demise of my original 360. The original died on me either the beginning of 2010, or the end of 2009. Right as Mass Effect 2 was about to come out. So, I went ahead and got the game for the PS3 instead, and went on to play the hell out of that game as well. To say that I was enamored with this series would be an understatement akin to saying that the sun was warm.

When the third game was announced, I immediately put in a preorder, and when the collector's edition was announced I then immediately upgraded to that. It shot up to the spot of most anticipated game of the year, possibly even my most anticipated game of the last 5 years.

When March 6th rolled around, I waited at the door for the game to arrive. I ended up waiting there for nearly 10 hours, due to being at the end of the UPS delivery route. However, once it arrived, opening that box was akin to a religious experience. Finally I was going to be able to see the epic conclusion to the series that I was so fond of.

If you want to hear praise, there is plenty of praise to be had. The game plays great, the voice acting is superb. The characters I have grown to love are all there. It plays just everything I could have hoped for. Moral ambiguity abounded, and I was in heaven.

And then... it ended.

Now, I know there are many that have complained about the ending, and I wish that I could say that this was going to be different. I think my take might be moderately different than the norm, but  I can't guarantee that. The potential for spoilers begins now.

There is no arguing that the writers are allowed to have their artistic vision realized. One could even easily make the argument for the necessity of the ending that was presented. My biggest issue is that the ending negates all of the moral choices you make through the entire series. If you were the biggest jackass the galaxy has ever known, it doesn't matter... you die. If you were a saint, that made Mother Theresa look like a horrific soulless monster, it doesn't matter... you die. You could walk the moral middle ground, being neither good, nor bad, it doesn't matter... you die. And yes, I understand that the trope of the noble sacrifice is a time-honored thing, and in a game such as this, it works, the problem is that if the ending was going to be the same no matter what you did, why offer any kind of choice?

Take for instance the example of one of my all time favorite games, Chrono Trigger. Chrono Trigger was made in a simpler time, with a simpler game engine, and with much less in the are of moral choices, and yet, it manages to fit in over a dozen different endings. Basically, there was something for everyone. Now, in an age of downloadable content, and nearly infinite possibilities, we are treated to a single basic ending, with absolutely no hope for variation. If this was their intention from the very beginning, why then do they bother to let us import or Shepard from the previous game? Why allow us to make a million combinations of moral and political choices, if you are then going to just give us the finger and say "Fuck you, you're dead!"

Bioware has taken a highly enjoyable franchise, and a highly devoted fan base, and spat in our collective faces. So, go ahead and make more games, Bioware... Make a million more, I don't care. Until my choices mean something in this game, I have no desire to give you another dime of my hard-earned money. And do not expect me to ever recommend another of your games to eager gamers looking for a new game to play. If this is how you treat your fans, then to hell with you and your games.

Mass Effect was a massive waste of time...

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