Fan backlash against how BioWare executed the long-awaited Mass Effect 3’s branching endings has become a cacophony within the game’s first week in release for Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms. Rest assured director Casey Hudson has heard the frustration.
To his credit, Hudson has endured with a smile fans’ frustrated grievances over what has been perceived as an overly ambiguous conclusion that collective in-game actions influence minimally, if at all. Since the March 6 release, multiple full-blown movements have arisen demanding in fashion reminiscent of Stephen King’s Misery that the studio craft an entirely fresh conclusion.
“Lots of great feedback coming in on #MassEffect3 – Keep it coming! We listen to it all,” Hudson tweeted March 12.
Mass Effect 3 has quickly become regarded as a disappointing series departure, despite multiple perfect or near-perfect remarks from respected critique sources such as Gamespot (9.0) and IGN (9.5), among others. The crux of the rage has been that the previous two installments afforded players a bevy of possible endings impacted by numerous pivotal decisions and actions throughout the game-play. Decisive factors that render unto Commander Shepard quite literal life-and-death consequences could include something as minute as backing one squad member’s play over another’s or success-versus-failure in a single given mission, to the resource level attained before embarking on the final two installments’ respective end-game missions.
Mass Effect 3? Hardly so much.
Players indeed once more proceed through the primary story making choices that shape Shepard either as a Hell-bent-for-leather, Patton-esque renegade commander, or a heroic paragon-of-virtue Boy Scout. Whereas those actions and the loyalties they reflected would eventually decide ultimately who lived to fight another day, who would not and how Shepard’s relationships with survivors would proceed – even trickling down from decisions and outcomes in previous games – Shepard’s near every choice has the same endpoint here: he will ultimately die (or in one possible instance dependent upon resource-gathering during play, be presumed dead with a faint possibility he survived); the Normandy crew will emerge marooned but alive on a lush jungle planet; and depending on which of two choices he makes in the final sequence, he may or may not wipe out all the universe’s synthetic life forms.
It’s left many series loyalists feeling at least disappointed, but at worst, enraged at feeling betrayed. The feedback has reflected that fans who carried over save files from at least Mass Effect 2 – if files they actually originated with Mass Effect, carried down to Mass Effect 2, then ultimately ported into the third game – feel that three games’ worth of meticulous decision making (often across multiple play-throughs…) has ultimately no impact at all upon how the entire saga ultimately ended. There’s no closure, fans have lamented. It’s too wide-open in the end.
In this wake, movements such as “Retake Mass Effect” have arisen. “Retake” proposes somewhat of a symbolic exchange: in lieu of simply signing an angry petition, gamers have risen up and offered a massive drive of donations to the Child’s Play charity benefiting children’s hospitals worldwide in exchange for BioWare producing and releasing DLC or patches offering additional potential outcomes. So far, the movement has topped $29,000 in contributions.
Meanwhile, Hudson himself broke his silence concerning the adamant reactions with an exclusive Digital Trends interview. Hudson explained how, in a sense, the reaction received has been exactly the reaction desired.
“I didn’t want the game to be forgettable, and even right down to the sort of polarizing reaction that the ends have had with people – debating what the endings mean and what’s going to happen next, and what situation are the characters left in,” he claimed.
“That to me is part of what’s exciting about this story,” Hudson explained further. “There has always been a little bit of mystery there and a little bit of interpretation, and it’s a story that people can talk about after the fact.”
Nevertheless, that desired reaction, may have placed Hudson’s back against a wall. While the current Metacritic overall score sits at an impressive 94, user scores have averaged a stunningly low 4.9 out 10. That being the case, and though he clearly stands by the path he chose, Hudson hinted that forthcoming single-player DLC will indeed be shaped by feedback taken in thus far.
“That’s why if you look at Mass Effect 2, we knew that people wanted to spend more time with a character like Liara, and so we created an ongoing storyline with her as part of the comics and then built it in the DLC stuff, and we’re always listening to fans,” Hudson said. “We have some really great multiplayer content and some really great single-player content coming over the air, and their feedback will become part of how we design that.”