A segment of its player base were upset with Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s ending. More precisely they were upset at how the endings are reached. While it was clear that people were revolting against buttons, I discovered something much more fascinating. Something Mass Effect 3 would try and replicate, but ultimately fail to.
From all the discussions I saw online concerning the endings, everyone chose different endings for different reasons. There was no clear consensus on which ending was “best” and which was “worst”. This is how it should be. On my first playthrough I also had a preferred ending. It was on my second go at it that I realized the truth.
My brother is a much more intelligent man than I am. He finished the game once, and when he did I asked him which ending was the good ending. Without hesitation he said: “There is no good ending.” That is the correct answer. There was no fairy tale ending where everything works out and we all live happily ever after. There was no catastrophic ending where it was basically doomsday. Every ending brought severe consequences with it, both positive and negative. The ending monologues were able to make a sensible case for all of them. Mary DeMarle’s writing was outstanding.
This is what I believe Bioware was attempting to replicate with Mass Effect 3. They failed to acquire the same effect because:
A. It was missing something that is crucial that a large audience needs.
B .It may have been inappropriate for the type of game Mass Effect 3 was.
Here’s an unpopular opinion: I don’t think Bioware should have released the extended endings. Before all the DLC, people boiled the endings down to being the same ending but with different colors. People even went so far as to bake cupcakes for Bioware staff, as a form of protest. The cupcakes were subsequently donated to a youth shelter. No matter which ‘button’ you pressed at the end of the game, players were left to speculate on whether or not they did the right thing.
People did indeed debate their choices, but these debates were difficult to find through the anger filled comments. Entire 20+ minute videos were produced based on the ‘Indoctrination Theory’. It could have been a much simpler explanation: Bioware wanted players to apply some of their own imagination.
So why didn’t it work out? Too much of it was left up to the player’s imagination. What is that crucial thing that the Mass Effect 3 endings lacked, but Human Revolution had? Exposition. Human revolution’s monologues didn’t tell you exactly what happened afterwards. They told you what might happen, and gave you reasons as to why your choice might have been the right one.
Mass Effect 3 swung between two extremes of telling you nothing and telling you everything. Before the extended endings were released, quite a significant portion of the comments I saw, were from players who had chosen the ‘destroy’ ending. After the DLC that all changed. It became obvious which button should be pressed. All the mystery was snuffed out.
Synthesis = Best ending
Control = Good ending
Destroy = Bad ending
Shoot Casper = Worst ending
The other reason it was a failure had to do with the number ‘3’. Human Revolution was a reboot of a franchise with all new characters, and it was technically a prequel. Mass Effect 3 was the end of a series of countless player made choices all the way from the first game. It’s important to add that the choices made in Mass effect 1 and 2 largely had no direct impact on the endings. A few could either help or hinder in various roundabout ways, like killing Wrex. But most affected missions in some way. Still, people felt like the choices they had made throughout Mass Effect 3 itself were pointless.
I could have lived without the extended endings, but because of the backlash, Bioware had to do something. Unfortunately they ended up doing a bit too much. What’s more baffling to me are the people who disliked the ending and then went on to judge the entire game negatively because of it. They went back in time and said that they did not enjoy the game, despite playing it all the way to its conclusion. Some exaggerated further and said that the entire franchise is worthless now. Let’s all just calm down.