By the time I first completed Mass Effect 3 – less than a week after its release, mind you – the fan outrage over the endings had already flared up so much that I’d come to not expect much from them. After initially choosing the Destroy ending, I never wished to “take back/retake Mass Effect” so much as simply understand what we watched in Mass Effect 3’s final fifteen minutes. But finding out that the difference (outside of the obvious implied consequences) was merely a color swap was a little more disappointing.
The Extended Cut, announced a month after release, serves as BioWare’s response to the load of criticism over the endings. It does not change them, which would have gone against the developers’ expressed wish to keep their artistic integrity intact. What the free DLC does do is provide clarification, especially where there seemed to be so much disconnect in the original endings’ scenes. Why is Shepard running to the Citadel beam all on her own, when Garrus and Liara were right behind her literally seconds prior? Why is the Normandy suddenly in another star system, filled with the same squadmates who I’d just taken with me through the streets of London? And for the big question: What truly happened after Shepard carried out her final choice?
Fortunately, Mass Effect 3’s ending DLC answers a lot of these questions and more. Bring your love interest through the final parts of London and you’re treated to one last, brief scene. (Garrus romance fans especially get some closure.) Several other gaps in continuity within the final minutes are closed, and upon finally reaching the Catalyst, I was more than happy to finally question and get more answers out of this godchild manifest. You can even go so far as to refuse the choices laid out for you, resulting in the loss of the Reaper War and a regretful time capsule recording from Liara. This “ending” – if it can really be called one – merely felt like BioWare saying to fans, “You don’t like the three choices? Too bad,” and the lack of effort here definitely shows. Be that as it may, the choice is there, as is the Mass Effect way, and I at least have to give them that.
If you choose one of the original endings, however, you’re provided with a little more clarity in each case. Even so, I find that this did not change at all how I felt about some of them (Synthesis in particular). On the other hand, the Extended Cut gave me more pause to consider the Control ending, which is viewed slightly differently by Shepard based on her morality. There will always be players who would like every single consequence to every decision made in the Mass Effect series to be shown in the final minutes of ME3, but the EC will not satisfy those cravings. Not only is this comprehensive approach really not necessary, but it would require a lot of resources, resources that BioWare would rather dedicate to more single-player DLC. For what they are, the new endings provide just enough closure, even if much of it came in the form of voiceovers and stills.
Perhaps if this Extended Cut had been the original endings all along, we might have seen fewer unhappy fans, but I suppose we’ll never know. It’s easy to understand why players wanted more closure than what the original endings offered – many of us became so attached to Shepard and his/her supporting cast over the three games, and understandably wanted a much more fulfilling, proper goodbye. Though it may be too little, too late for some, the Extended Cut has accomplished just that.