Spoiler-Free: The Extended Cut DLC Delivers
In the months leading up to Mass Effect 3′s release the world was abuzz with excitement and hype. We were already being made promises and told what to expect of probably the biggest gaming franchise in RPG history (although The Elder Scrolls might have something to say about that) if not one of them. And then the game released to rave reviews all around, except for one place. Metacritic.
The Early Days
User reviews were coming in at confusingly shocking lows as more and more early purchasers submitted reviews online bashing this, that or the other aspect of the game until eventually Mass Effect 3 became the world’s most talked-about game since, well, there really hasn’t been a game that’s caused this much online banter. Unfortunately it wasn’t for the outstandingly amazing experience that developers BioWare had hoped for, at least not in every circle of the internet. There were those who loved the game — we gave the game an Outstanding rating in our review — and there were those who didn’t — as we all know by now — with the latter half a sales-wise minority but not so, vocally. Those who hated the game stated that above all else, the ending made no sense.
Regardless of which of three distinct endings you chose, all it really came down to was the colour of some explosions. Many standing questions were left unanswered and even more were raised after the choice was made, forcing the player to either assume their own answers or live on in darkness. This did not go down well with gamers, some who even began to form their own theories, and the resulting furore that erupted on various gaming forums including the BioWare Social Network forced the developer’s hand.
“Fair enough,” said BioWare. “We’ll put out some extended endings for you, to provide answers and closure. BRB.”
And the world hated them even more for it. Some asked why they didn’t do so in the first place, others called them sell-outs for going against artistic integrity and copping out at gamers’ behests. In the end the world agreed to disagree, everyone got over going at each others’ throats for the sake of argument and BioWare set about the seemingly insurmountable task of appeasing an angry mob of gamers.
Now the extended endings have arrived in the form of the Extended Cut DLC and the only remaining question is: Did BioWare achieve the impossible?
The answer is a resounding yes.
First and foremost it is important to remember BioWare’s previous statements that they would not be changing the endings as they stand, merely extending upon them to provide closure and help everyone to understand just what was going on through each of them. You could liken this to a conversation with someone who is being ambiguous or abstract, where you ask them to elaborate on what they are saying to you and they provide you the same statement either worded slightly differently or with a little more explanation, but not to the extent that they go and say something entirely different or write you a thesis.
The Extended Cut DLC takes the endings as they were originally presented to you in Mass Effect 3 and adds in little touches such as minor cutscenes, character animations and dialogue throughout the final fight, as well as a detailed explanation of exactly what the final choice presented to you is all about, why it is there and the full repercussions of each choice. As each choice is presented to you, you then have the choice of rejecting these choices if you so desire, more on this in a bit. The required amount of War Assets in order for all choices to be available has been dropped substantially as well, meaning it’s now easier to get all the choices without needing to play multiplayer.
Once the actual choice is made, you are then presented with cutscenes that show slight variations to the original. Where initially an explosion would be shown, now it shows something of an implosion, a much more timid blast that dismantles but does not destroy. A few new scenes have been added that show the explosion’s effects with further emphasis, during the final battle. Thereafter you are presented with an array of still-picture slides narrated by either of three characters depending on your choice, which show the effects of your choice and how the rest of the galaxy ended up thereafter. It serves to explain what happened as a result of your choice as well as how the galaxy moved on from that apocalyptic final joust with the reapers. The monologues serve to provide a decent sense of emotional engagement and feel rewarding, climaxing in a final scene which shows the crew of the Normandy, your crew, standing united as one as they mourn the losses of those who gave their lives for the sake of peace and prosperity. It is truly touching and heart-warming to witness, especially coming off three games where you fought for just that.
What BioWare aimed to do with the Extended Cut DLC is provide closure and explanation but in order to do so they first needed to know what they needed to explain to gamers, and so they set about researching and finding out exactly what parts of the ending gamers took issue with; of which there were quite a few. A pretty easy task initially, but setting about answering every one was anything but. As such, the Extended Cut DLC serves to address most but not all of the commonly raised problems gamers had with the ending. How did your crew end up where they ended up as you made your choice? How did that final confrontation come to be? Why was Shepard not acknowledged throughout? Why was Joker where he was while the choice was being made? And what damage did the explosions do? All of this and more, answered in its entirety.
Unfortunately not every question was answered and there are still a few nagging issues to contend with. This is of course assuming you contended with them in the first place. I didn’t, however it’s easy to still recognise them as unchanged. Perhaps BioWare opted to keep those questions unanswered, to keep ambiguity or leave the answer firmly in the player’s hands. Further, one of the extended endings actually provided yet another question that was not addressed. Whether that was developer oversight or not, again remains entirely up to you.
Another point of discussion is that the extended endings showed you future representations of the repercussions of your choice, meaning if you picked a particular option then you were shown the results of that in the follow-up slides, but these weren’t always very well-presented. One of the choices is downright silly in how things play out later on. Sure the emotional engagement is still there from the harrowing monologue, but the presentation of everything else will have you staring into your screen in wide-eyed bemusement. Not exactly a fault of the ‘extension’ of an ending, so we’ll let it pass in that respect.
A fourth option was added to the ending to answer many other criticisms from gamers who asked why they needed to make a choice in the first place. It wasn’t the best addition, indeed it seemed a slap in the face to the indoctrination theorists but it does still leave the door open for that theory and showed the forgone conclusion that the final fight would have been, without Shepard there to save everyone.
One final issue I had with the Extended Cut DLC is that BioWare still opted not to show the collective power of your gathered War Assets. Sure you saw Asari and other militant ships hovering around the final fight but what of the war on the ground? Why were there no krogan battlemasters charging in with Grunt at the vanguard? Why were there no Turian snipers providing support? No Elcor battle-tanks charging into a field of husks. No Rachni or Geth army taking on ravagers or brutes. None of that. Nor was there any of your previous squad-mates and stars of the show. Why was there no Miranda using her
booty biotic slam, or Jack screaming: “I will destroy you!” or hell, even Zaeed cursing at something or the other? Your War Assets remain an entirely cosmetic aspect of the game and that was my only real gripe with the way the Extended Cut DLC was handled. Still, considering the budget and time, perhaps it was deemed something they couldn’t afford to work on. Which leads to the next bit.
It’s easy to see from this Extended Cut DLC that BioWare are a humble developer, able to admit they made mistakes and rectify those. There are some who would question why they made those mistakes in the first place, and those people have a valid point, if a little whiny. If anything this DLC proves that the game was rushed out the door by publisher Electronic Arts, because look at what the developer was able to do with such a limited budget and a few months. Perhaps it’s something else, perhaps the story scriptwriters slacked in the final days of production and it was too late to go back and change things thereafter.
Either way, this Extended Cut DLC is testament to BioWare’s appreciation of their fans and their willingness to please. They could have thrown us the middle finger — some would argue that with this DLC that’s exactly what they did, to which I say: “Fuck you, go play more Call of Duty you whiny little twat.” — and not released any extension to the current endings, and many would have respected them for upholding their artistic integrity and freedom of expression, but they knew that you, the gamer, are who they want to please. They basically treated us like a wronged lover here, apologising and appeasing us until we came around to loving them again. And this is exactly what the Extended Cut DLC is; it’s an apology.
We’re sorry for what we did. Please accept our humblest of apologies and love us always.
Hugs and kisses,
That is what this DLC is. This was BioWare accepting their mistakes, coming out and saying that perhaps they were wrong and they could try their best to do something about that without sacrificing their ability to produce something that’s theirs, and hopefully we’ll be happier with it.
Asking them to change their ending entirely was us being self-entitled, whiny, cry-facing bitches. Asking them to elaborate on their ending… not so much. And that is what they did.
The Final Words
The amount of closure you can derive from these endings depends entirely on the amount of closure you needed in the first place.
For those like myself who never had a problem with the ending, the Extended Cut DLC is something of an early Christmas present; a little more content from BioWare for a game we loved, that not only adds to the experience but is almost a bonus to what enjoyment we already derived from their product.
For others who weren’t unhappy but still had many questions that nagged at them, this DLC will be sufficient at providing answers and explanation wherever necessary, to which these gamers may now rest in the knowledge of what went on in those concluding sequences in the game.
Then there’s the final batch of people who went onto every forum and website they could think of to complain about the game, who will play this Extended Cut DLC and remain entirely unappeased. To you people I say thank you for bringing about a decision to put out the Extended Cut DLC, but to you I also say stop being such naggy cunts and learn to accept that this is a Science Fiction franchise, of which very few have award-winning conclusions and even fewer leave the entirety of their audience happy. We get that you are unhappy with the ending but BioWare are telling their story, through allowing you to think it’s yours. If you don’t like the ending, then you’re going to have to make peace with it, as those who don’t like Angry Birds have made peace with that, or those who don’t like retarded AI have made peace with it.
Allow me to explain the repercussions of the Extended Cut DLC to you. If this DLC failed to appease most gamers and another uproar occurred then it would send the message to most gaming developers that creative freedom is dying and that if they wished to do something different, to innovate, then they would have to risk the same sort of backlash from fans. Most studios are not like BioWare, where they are above reproach as far as creative expression goes, from their publisher. What this means is that you would see more and more military shooters and ‘trend-following’, ‘checklist’ types of games that follow a tried and true formula instead of innovating and providing new ways to go about doing things. That the Extended Cut DLC is done so well as to have appeased most gamers means that first and foremost, we are a bunch of gamers who can be pleased and we have more of a say than we thought, in the production of games. But also that creative freedom is not dead or dying, it just needs to be done right.
And BioWare have pulled that off.
With their Extended Cut DLC, they have truly delivered.