Remember what happened when you beat Mass Effect 3 months ago? Good. Now forget most of it. BioWare has just let out the free Extended Cut DLC which, at a massive 1.8GB for PS3 owners, expands upon what we knew to help fill up those gaping plotholes. Spoilers abound ahead, so turn back if you haven’t finished either the regular ending or Extended Cut endings.
(Also, forgive me for the use of female pronouns. I only play as FemShep so that’s how I tend to think of Commander Shepard.)
The changes start when Commander Shepard makes her run for the beam that will take her and her squad up to the Citadel. Previously, Harbinger would fly in, shoot a beam and the squadmates with Shepard disappear, only to magically reappear on the Normandy. Now, BioWare’s inserted a scene where one of the squadmates is injured by Harbinger’s attack. Shepard calls in the Normandy to pick the squadmates up.
I’m not sure if my experience was unique, but this segment was ridiculously buggy and glitchy. I took Garrus and Tali with me on this final mission, and Tali kept disappearing. The game would slow to a crawl or nearly freeze up throughout this segment. As a result, the meaningful goodbye between Garrus and Shepard, in which she told him she loves him and vice versa, was rendered totally unromantic and dramatic.
Things are much clearer once Shepard is on the Citadel as well. Anderson clearly says that he came up after Shepard, explaining why we didn’t see him running. Once Shepard reaches the platform area, it’s also made very clear that the black squiggles and clouds that appear on the edges of the screen are the Illusive Man’s influence. It’s his new Reaper-tech exerting a controlling influence over both Anderson and Shepard.
A new cutscene then appears after Shepard either talks the Illusive Man to death or shoots him. Admiral Hackett is on his ship and a datapad is passed to him. He then learns Shepard made it to the Citadel, which explains why he knew to hail her.
Unfortunately, you still encounter the ridiculous Starchild after Shepard passes out trying to reach the console to activate the Catalyst. The Starchild then goes into the diatribe about how the race that made the Synthetic Reapers did so to prevent chaos and prevent synthetics from eventually wiping out organic life. (You can’t point to EDI or the Geth as examples of synthetic/organic harmony). Starchild then says having the Catalyst added to the Citadel and offers each option for Shepard to choose. This time, an explanatory dialogue option is available as the Starchild lectures about the various choices, so Shepard can see what would happen, a vague idea why and how it would influence the galaxy.
The biggest change is the Refuse ending, which has Shepard rejecting all of the Starchild’s options. It’s really quite interesting. You can trigger it through dialogue choices or by just turning around and shooting at the Starchild.
Either way, it makes the Starchild break character. With Harbinger’s voice, he then says, "So be it." This has cemented the idea in my mind that Harbinger is secretly tsundere for Commander Shepard and offered the other options in the hopes Shepard would choose Control or Synthesis so Harbinger and Shepard could be together forever.
At that point the Reapers win. All the civilizations we know and love are destroyed. The epilogue shows Liara’s beacon on one of the developing planets, providing information about the Reapers, Commander Shepard and the cycle.
The absolute best part happens after the credits for Reject. Instead of Buzz Aldrin telling the kid about Shepard and such, we see a random female alien basically saying the same thing, indicating that Commander Shepard’s fight and Liara’s beacon did succeed and the cycle was successfully broken by the next generation.
If you stick with one of the original three choices, you then get treated to some new cinematics. It turns out Hackett ordered all ships to withdraw to a rendevous point, and Joker is coerced by one of the squadmates to fall back. The Catalyst fires. In Control, Reapers and their minions pull back and leave. In Synthesis, everyone pretty much has a kumbaya moment and stops fighting. In Destroy, all the Reapers collapse and the reaper minions pretty much disintegrate.
After that, it’s time for a slide show with some animated segments mixed in to show what happened with some of the Mass Effect 2 squadmates that survived. For example, Jacob seems to be some kind of official on the Citadel and, if you saved Keiji’s grey box and chose the Synthesis ending, Kasumi will be bonding with a Keiji AI. You’ll also see the crew of the Normandy in front of the memorial wall, with Shepard’s name being added to it in the Control and Synthesis endings and not being added in the Destroy ending. You also see civilizations rebuilding, the Citadel permanently above Earth and, most importantly, baby Krogan.
Each ending also has a new voice over to go with it. Should you choose Synthesis or Destroy, Admiral Hackett talks about the fate of the galaxy. If you go with Control, you get to hear Reaper!Shepard, which is one of the creepiest things I have ever heard. It sounds as though having her consciousness uploaded negated her sense of self and that her new decisions are guided more by the memories of her time as Commander Shepard.
Overall, I think the new ending was handled very well and wonder why BioWare couldn’t have just delayed the game to have this originally included. Plotholes were plugged for the most part. I also liked how the Starchild’s "true" identity was revealed via the Reject ending.
Personally, I consider Destroy or Reject my canon endings. Both fit in really well with my Shepards’ characters and wrap up the saga well. In one, people fighting get exactly what they wanted. People wanted the Reapers destroyed and they are. As a bonus, Shepard even survives if you were prepared enough. If you Reject the Starchild’s options to find a way to win without letting the Reapers get their tentacles in things, then your efforts ensure the people of the next cycle defeat the Reapers.
This is also due to issues with the other two options. Control concerns me, as I worry that ReaperShepard might lose touch or eventually restart the cycle depending on the course of the universe and its people. The voice over already shows that she’s become part of a larger consciousness and seems to speak about her old life as something separate from her new immortal existance as a Reaper. Things may stay good for now, but what happens hundreds or thousands of years later when ReaperShepard starts seeing what choices people make after the Reaper war is a distant memory? A renegade Shepard especially could decide that the cycle needs to start again, because she’s won’t let them be idiots after the sacrifices she and the people in her time made.
Then there’s Synthesis. Synthesis is a good idea, but I also question the morality of it as it forces a whole new lifestyle on everyone. During all the fighting, people never once say they want to merge with the Reapers. They want them gone so they can move forward with their lives. In theory, Synthesis sounds nice, but it also seems like too perfect an answer, if that’s possible. It just seemed odd to see everyone so accepting of Reaper and Reaper minion help so quickly after everything the Reapers had done. Maybe it’s just me, but it reminds me a bit of indoctrination, as Shepard is making the biggest decision ever for every single being in the galaxy.
Personally, I’d say I’m satisfied. I still think the Starchild is the biggest and most ridiculous "out of right field" deus ex machina device used in a video game ending and wish I could have seen some rachni troops in action, but overall I think BioWare did a good job of making the ending make a lot more sense. What do you think?