Five Possible Reasons Bioware Blew Mass Effect 3′s Ending



Yes, the ending of “Mass Effect 3″ is bad. But it isn’t just bad, it actively calls out for explanation. Why did this happen? What were they thinking? I have several theories, and because you have nothing better to do with your life, you’re going to come read them. Let’s speculate, Dear Reader, and try to come to some kind of peace.

Before we begin, let’s agree on why the ending is bad. I think there are three primary causes: massive plot holes, extreme brevity, and a startling lack of difference of outcome between character choices. Now let’s talk about why these things happened to one of the best RPG developers on the planet.

Possibility 1: Bioware Ran Out of Time/Money. The reason I suspect this one is true is not, as some have said, because “Mass Effect 3″ has multiplayer; rather, it’s because that multiplayer is actually good. It’s relatively well-balanced, deeper than you’d think, and it runs stable (although it does like to stutter between waves). Creating good multiplayer is a financially exhausting process, and trying to tackle that on top of delivering another full-length campaign may just have gotten the better of them. God knows that’s what happened to Bungie with “Halo 2.”

In truth, “Mass Effect 3″ bears several telltale marks of corner-cutting, from a dramatic up-tic in in-game dialog (as opposed to cut-scenes), to the Tali reveal being a modified jpeg off of Getty Images (I wish I was kidding). So this one seems quite possible to me.

Likelihood: High

Possibility 2: Bioware Actually Thought Their Ending Was Good. And I’m not saying this can’t co-exist with the first one in some weird way, either. The team at Bioware might genuinely feel that they wanted “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “Blade Runner” in the conversation instead of “Star Wars/Trek.” Even if money or time was tight, they might still have decided that limitation led them to something bolder and more philosophical.

This one almost inevitably is true, at least to some degree. On the other hand, Bioware’s hasty retreat from their hypothetical artistic high ground suggests they ain’t too proud to beg, so to speak. So I’m not sure.

Likelihood: Moderate

Possibility 3: Bioware Is Losing Their Edge. Bioware has had a slightly contentious relationship with their fan base lately. “Dragon Age 2′s” critic/user disparity on Metacritic was the stuff of legend, but “Mass Effect 3″ actually features an even wider gulf. Trolling happens, yes, but these numbers reflect a genuine sentiment, not just a couple of angry nerds. That’s two out of three flagship games received with serious disapproval in the past few years, and for a company as venerated as Bioware, that’s no joke. Is Bioware simply beginning a slow downward spiral as a company?

Nah, probably not. I don’t agree with all of their choices lately, but I think the culprit is the company’s wild ambition, not a lack of commitment to quality.

Likelihood: Low 

Possibility 4: We’re All Wrong and the Ending is Amazing. This is the theory put forth by Gabe at Penny Arcade. Of course, while addressing the mass relay controversy, he shruggingly admits he didn’t even remember that mass relays destroy star systems, so I’m not sure he’s an expert witness in this trial. But that aside, let’s consider the very real possibility that we are re-enacting the initial reception of “Blade Runner.” Maybe we went in with “Indiana Jones” in mind, pitched a fit when that’s not what we got, and failed to see something deep and profound underneath.

Again, I doubt it. Penny Arcade is right that a Forest Moon of Endor-style victory party never would have fit here, but I don’t think “it made me weepy” is the primary color in the palette of discontent. We’re angry because they didn’t fulfill their own stated agenda. I doubt history will look back and say, “Oh, those fools. If only they could have seen the genius in Bioware’s vague homogenization of the choices that are supposed to define the franchise.”

Likelihood: Low

Possibility 5: Bioware Did It on Purpose. Not the farthest flung idea in the world, especially when the ending credits kick you right back into the game with a reminder to buy some DLC. How better to keep an audience coming back for more than to leave them with questions they badly want answered? Could it be that Bioware doesn’t view “Mass Effect 3″ as the conclusion that we do?

Very possibly, but we can’t be sure. And even if this is true, I doubt they intended us to be unsatisfied to this extreme degree. They probably wanted lingering nostalgia and yearning, not full-blown anarchy.

Likelihood: Moderate

Anyway, those are the possibilities. What say you? Am I close?


you lot, or their lot, whoever gets me first 


  • Michal Manveru Kurela

    Reason no.1 seems very probable … especially as the corporationist monster called EA is involved, possibility no.2 is possible if the rumour of Casey not consulting the team is true … then it would be basically Casey’s beloved ending. Reason no.5 seems unlikely by itself, except if they combined reason 2 and 5: then they would imagine it as a riskless, very intelligent move to stirr up some noise around ME series … only then the things got out of the control

    • Andrew Allen

      If 5 is true, then yeah, they definitely got in deeper than they intended. It’s kinda like that theory about new coke being created so classic coke would become popular again. 

  • Sotasc de Kort

    maybe because in the ending you don’t know everything you wanted to know, and because of this bad ending, you think there will be no new chapter, mayeb they are already making a 4th mass effect with the final ending,

    i don’t know, just saying what i think

  • P Z

    Definitely ran out of money. Absolutely. Developing multiplayer, and jeez voice acting for the whole codex. The guy who voice acted it must have banked a heap. Such a waste of resources having voice acting for the whole codex. Oh and the endings – no voice acting from the main characters. Just a shitty montage of characters faces and a crash landing and stare into the sunset. Plus an ending that doesnt make logical sense. Plus the citadel level – very basic level design – no objects to interact with or explain anything. It screams a rushed last minute push to have “at least” an ending and an illusion of choice of different endings. There were level design glitches in the final level also. Sadly Bioware are not invested in a decent complex decision-based ending anymore because their release sale period is over and they are on damage control and they dont have the money for it. I have a feeling they “were” planning on something huge for the ending but just ran out of time and money. We will never see those endings because there will be no funding for this aspect of the project anymore. Like movies, they recoup the most income in the first few weeks.  You can see the absolute detail they put into it by glancing at all the shit in the codex and all that shit you had to do for the war assets – and what for? Shit all. With such invested effort a complex satisfying ending would have been almost guaranteed. This game had so much potential that was squandered. Not even any decent citadel levels or a chance to walk around and explore after the war was over. Looking back I can see how it all started going downhill around about when you had to defend the missles. The ending – just a bullshit mash together of poor cinematics for an ending so they can claim the game is “complete enough to sell.” They might as well have had Shepard wake up in a bed and realise it was all just a dream. This ladies and gentlemen is what you call a failure in project planning and resource allocation. Artistic integrity – bullshit. They just dont want to admit they fked up and sold ppl a product that tricked them into thinking this was a finely polished finale to the trilogy.

  • Tim McFadden

    They destroyed single player to easily transfer Mass into a co-op / multi-player Halo clone under EA’s orders, because EA just wants to produce quick turn around games with endless editions that only require a few extra maps and little money. EA sells a brand name not a good game