A couple of weeks ago I spoke about the issues in Mass Effect 3’s storytelling, primarily how bad its characterisation was. I’ve been playing the game since Extra Life in November. I went through the first game on a Renegade playthrough and then got as far as I could in the second one before the charity event ended. I picked it up again when I launched the LawfulGeek channel and decided to complete the trilogy with my renegade FemShep, the one I lovingly call Darth FemShep.
I remember one of the issues people had with the endings was that the three doors didn’t exactly work for both “alignments.” Some said control didn’t work with a Paragon character, or that Synthesis didn’t work with a Renegade.
Now, before I continue I will say I disagree with the three choices in the end. I think the choices should have come naturally from all decisions up to that point. If you stated that the only thing you cared about was destroying the Reapers then it should’ve picked that ending for you. If you valued synthetic life as much as organic, then Synthesis should’ve been the default way to go. If you agree with the Illusive Man on the idea of control and human superiority, then Control played for you.
All your decisions up to that point should’ve decided which ending you got.
Having said so, the argument that certain endings don’t work for a given alignment is a flawed one. All three endings work perfectly for both Paragon and Renegade, you just have to put them into context and allow for some roleplaying—something, as I’ve mentioned before, is central to a roleplaying game!
To prove that, here’s my take on what the endings mean for each path.
Synthesis: In this ending the Crucible’s pulses rewrites organic and synthetic life to be one and the same. All life in the universe becomes techno-organic, even plants. The Reapers become just another species in this new fused universe, sharing their knowledge of ancient civilisations and helping to rebuild.
- Paragon – A new beginning: The Reapers were the solution to end the conflict between Synthetics and Organics, resetting civilisations before they could eliminate all Synthetic life. Even if the Reapers were gone, the Quarians and Geth proved that conflict could happen again. To save the galaxy, to prevent the creation of a new breed of Reapers sometime in the future, the universe’s paradigm must change and discard notions like Organic and Synthetic. There is only life and it is awesome.
- Renegade – Crush Them: The mission has always been to end the Reapers, but destruction isn’t enough, not for the pain they have caused. Killing them is too easy. We need to destroy what they stand for, crush the very ideals they represent. But it’s not just them. There’s also Cerberus, another idea, one of purity and human dominance. Synthesis crushes both their dreams and directives, changing the universe into a form where they no longer hold any validity, where they have no purpose.
Destruction: The pulse from the crucible destroys all synthetics, Geth and EDI included.
- Paragon – The Greater Good: The Reapers must be stopped. The Catalyst mentioned this was its solution to the issue between Organics and Synthetics, but everyone deserves to make their own choices, to learn by stumbling and getting hurt. Those who remain will carry the torch for those that perish with the Reapers, and make sure the future is one that would make them proud. We will all remember and honour the memory of EDI and the Geth.
- Renegade – The Hammer of Justice: It’s time to end it all. The Reapers have done too much damage. First they took Earth, then Palaven and countless other worlds, leaving nothing in their wake but husks and ashes. They have to go and if other synthetics have to face destruction for it, then so be it. They’re machines after all, they’re not even alive.
Control: As the Illusive Man wanted, you become the Reaper’s master, sacrificing your body in the process.
- Paragon – The Guiding Hand: The Illusive man had a point. The Reapers could be harnessed for something different, and under your guidance, they could do so much good in the galaxy. With your consciousness guiding them, the word Reaper might take another meaning in the future, Restorers instead of Destroyers.
- Renegade – Indoctrination: The Reapers love dominating people, taking over their minds for their gain, making them turn on everything they once held dear. It’s time they had a taste of their own medicine, for them to lose their will to yours, make them do your bidding. As Harbinger loves to say, “Assuming Direct Control.”
For my playthrough I chose the Synthesis ending for exactly the same reasons I mentioned above. It was the end to a fantastic playthrough where I even managed to join Geth and Quarians together, something I couldn’t do the first time around playing Paragon. You should see my reaction, it’s all on YouTube and Twitch.
My decisions were roleplaying-based. I decided everything on my FemShep’s core personality:
- The Mission is everything.
- Blunt, brutally so.
- Generally selfish, but cares for her crew.
With that in mind, every decision was a Renegade one, unless it meant a member of the party or crew would get hurt. It also meant getting their loyalty and keeping them alive, but as Dr. Chakwas discovered at the end of my Mass Effect 2 playthrough, the Mission comes first at all times, so she died on the way back to the Normandy.
As for the crew, FemShep’s care extended only to them, not their family or loved ones, as Samara—or her spirit—realised when FemShep shot her daughter right after the Justicar committed suicide to keep her safe.
Before I go, I’d like to add another narrative flaw to the list, one I only thought of as I wrote this and highlighted the videos:
The “all Synthetics will die” aspect of the Destruction ending doesn’t make sense. This is a machine capable of targeting only the Reapers for their control and complex enough to rewrite the entire universe’s DNA, but it can’t specifically target the Reaper’s for destruction? Really? It’s basically the same as Control. Also, in Mass Effect 2 you get a Reaper IFF to track the collectors. Are you telling me a similar thing couldn’t be used with the Reapers, to just target them?
It feels as though they added that “kill all” condition just for shock value, to make you doubt and think against killing your Synthetic friends. But when you consider that even the most basic spacecraft in this universe could pinpoint the Reapers, and EDI herself in London targets a specific Destroyer with rockets, it feels forced. A final nail in this coffin is that all technology traces itself back to the Reapers, as they created the Mass Relays and use them to guide civilisations in predictable evolutionary branches. If all technology traces back to them, and all ships can target the Reapers, then why can’t this machine target just them for Destruction?
Consistency in your world building is very important, as is coherence. Not a nice way to drop the pen, Bioware.
One thought on “Aligned Narrative – The Mass Effect 3 Endings”
Love this article man! and the videos are so great 😀