Mass Effect 3 - Extended Cut

Mass Effect 3 - Extended Cut
Mass Effect 3 Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Recommended? Yes
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I didn't mind the original Mass Effect 3 ending that much, but others did, hated it even. But even I can admit there were some reasonable arguments against the game's last few minutes, and maybe BioWare did too, because here we are with the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut available to download.

This introduction will be spoiler free, but after that, I'm not going to hold anything back. Nonetheless, the endings are now availabe on Youtube, but I still woke up at 4 AM this morning to download the update and replay the last few hours of the game. The developers recommend that you begin your Extended Cut journey before you enter Cronos Station, which is Mass Effect 3's point of no return. I'm not sure if it's totally necessary to start that far back (took me five hours to beat the game from this point my first time through, and over three hours my second time), but I wasn't going to take any chances the first time.

Before I go on, I believe the Extended Cut is a decent addition to Mass Effect 3, it does clear many things up, but I'm sure some will still be disappointed.

Spoilers from here on out.

First off, if you're looking for all of Shepard's old squadmates to gather around for a drink with Shepard leading the toast, you're going to be disappointed. Secondly, if you've spent three months putting your faith in the Indoctrination Theory, you're (probably) going to be disappointed. But if you were okay with the original ending and simply wanted more clarification and a better explanation of the timeline, you'll like the new conclusion.

I noted above that the devs recommend you start playing at the Cerberus Base, but the first new scene isn't until the epic dash into the beam that brings you to the Citadel. There's a nice additional scene where it shows your squadmates getting injured in the run and then the Normandy swoops in to pick them up. I had Liara, my love interest with me at the time and there was a final goodbye between her and Shepard. A nice, touching moment that also helps explain how the Normandy crew was suddenly on the other side of the galaxy when stuff started going down.

After beaming up, the ending stays on course until you reach the Star Child, so nothing different that I noticed with the conversation with the Illusive Man. But the Star Child finally allows you to ask questions about the Reapers, Crucible, and Catalyst. The answers many fans wanted are thankfully answered. The comparison of the Reapers to a fire struck me as a near perfect metaphor. The Reapers may be in combat, but they're not fighting a war, much like how fire burns but not maliciously. It's a bit hard to swallow when you've been fighting Reaper cannibals for 30 hours, but it explains the whole "cleansing" of species thing better.

Once you've picked a colored ending, you're treated to additional scenes of the immediate aftermath and what is apparently happening for years to come. For example, in the Synthesis ending, we see organics and Reapers working together to rebuild. There are still many similar scenes between the three endings but they don't feel as strictly color-coded anymore.

The Normandy crew still lands on a random jungle planet, but they're actually shown leaving the planet later on, which makes this feel less like they have to start over in the middle of nowhere and more like a temporary respite from the action. There's also a touching scene on the Normandy by the wall of names of crew members who have died. With Admiral Anderson's name already on the wall, Liara carefully places Commander Shepard's name above his (in the Destroy ending she doesn't place it on the wall, indicating that she doesn't quite believe he's dead; in line with Shepard's deep breath mini-scene).

The three endings have extended voice overs all this action. In the Synthesis ending, EDI explains how she's actually alive now, and how the galaxy has evolved. In the Destroy ending, Admiral Hackett details how organics won the war over the Reapers and the need to rebuild. And in the Control ending, Shepard speaks as if he is a god, explaining how the sacrfices of the human Shepard enabled him to take control of the Reapers himself in the rebuilding effort. That one is rather eerie.

But maybe the best part about the whole new Extended Cut is the brand new, Reject ending. While talking to the Star Child, you can respond negatively to him, telling him you won't accept any of his terms. The Star Child gets pissed, says "SO BE IT!" in Harbinger's voice (a clear nod to the Indoctrination Theory, if you ask me), and says the cycle will continue. Reapers and organics continue to fight, and it's implied we lost. A new scene kicks off showing a holographic recording of Liara explaining to future cycles that even though everyone in the galaxy banded together, they still lost. It's a rather depressing ending, until...

The post-credits scene where the (new) Stargazer speaks basically says outright that because of what Shepard did and with Liara's archive, the next cycle was able to successfully defend itself against the Reapers and destroy them. I love it.