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J.C. Wigriff is an author and guitarist from IL.

Mass Effect 3 Ending Potentially Most Impressive in Gaming History

Posted by J.C. Wigriff on March - 16 - 2012

Foreword by J.C. Wigriff:

I, like many fans, was initially upset over the Mass Effect 3 ending. One of the major selling points of Mass Effect was how your decisions impact the game; that your choices will significantly impact the narrative. Players carried their Mass Effect save file across all three games, building alliances, saving races, and fostering relationships. With the controversial ending to Mass Effect 3, BioWare seemingly negated all of this effort in one fell swoop.

In the wake of outrage, several theories have begun to emerge that strongly refute the accusation that BioWare failed their audience. The following article eloquently articulates one such theory. If the following proves correct, then BioWare has far surpassed anything ever accomplished in video game storytelling before, transcending into the realm of what would be expected from David Lynch or Christopher Nolan.

The possibility does exist that BioWare intentionally crafted a purposely ambiguous ending, anticipating such speculation on the part of gamers. BioWare could simply be waiting for a breakdown to emerge that would eclipse anything they hoped to accomplish, before pinpointing it as being the definitive explanation. We may never know.

Regardless, the following theory is fascinating. If it proves to be true, the ending of Mass Effect 3 concludes the most ambitious achievement in the history of video game storytelling. Without further ado, I present you with:

Commander Shepard’s Final Repose

By Terry Richardson

NOTE: I cannot stress enough that there are heavy, heavy spoilers for Mass Effect 3 within this post. You have been warned.

NOTE #2: I use the generic “he” when referring to Shepard. This is not meant to slight those who play a FemShep (I do as well); it’s just easier than making sure each instance says “s/he”.

NOTE #3: All of the “evidence” and conclusions for this theory can be found in many places online. I am not attempting to say that I am the one person who came up with this theory. I had the idea and read what others said about it, and below is my argument for the theory, which includes evidence found by others, etc.

NOTE #4: I like notes.


There has been a great deal of discussion, and outrage, over the ending of Mass Effect 3 within the online gaming community, with droves of longtime series fans crying foul over the way that Bioware seemingly pulled a bait and switch. An online petition asking for Bioware to change the ending has gained a large following, and the Retake Mass Effect movement raised over $30,000 for Child’s Play, a charity founded by Penny Arcade creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins that organizes toy drives for children’s hospitals.

The primary complaints seem to be rooted in the concept of your in-game choices throughout the entire trilogy not “counting” in regards to the decision made at the end of Mass Effect 3, despite repeated statements to the contrary by Bioware reps over the past several years. My purpose in writing this piece is to show that such complaints are, in my opinion, exaggerated.

Put on your tinfoil hats, my friends, and join me as I outline why the ending to Mass Effect 3could actually turn out to be the greatest accomplishment in the history of video games. Please keep in mind that this will require some suspension of disbelief, which I know can be an issue even when dealing with video games that deal with faster than light space travel.


When I read all the vitriol spewed by those who had experienced the ending to Mass Effect 3, I was intrigued; what could possibly cause such an outcry?

As I looked up general information on the game prior to playing, I hit some posts on an online forum where spoilers were not indicated, and ended up reading a decent amount of what the ending was before I even realized it. The cat was out of the bag, so I chose to adopt the cat (even though I am allergic) and read more thoroughly about the ending.

What I found, while troubling for reasons similar to those expressing their concern, fascinated me; did Bioware simply choose to troll a fanbase who had been fanatically following the entire Mass Effect universe for five years? Or was there something deeper? I wanted to find out, so I found each ending on Youtube, and watched them repeatedly.

What I found in the Destroy/Red ending, especially when comparing it to the Blue/Green endings, really got me thinking, so I watched it several more times, noticing new things almost every time. I started to formulate a theory based on these viewings, but I felt that perhaps I was just seeing things that weren’t there.

After all, I didn’t really think that Commander Shepard was being indoctrinated, did I?

Indoctrination or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Reapers

 I really did; or, at the very least, believed that the events that happened after getting shot by Harbinger were some kind of hallucination and didn’t really happen. The signs, although tentative and not altogether conclusive, were there, but I wasn’t sure if I really believed it or if it was simply an interesting sidebar I was using to amuse myself. I began to believe the latter, until I found a thread on Bioware’s forums that asked the question: was the ending a hallucination?

Maybe I wasn’t crazy after all.

I read the key points, many of which matched up with thoughts I’d had, and some that hadn’t occurred to me at that point. For the first time, I started to believe in my theory, and my belief has since grown into the closest thing I can come to certainty for something so vague. I asked Herr Wigriff if he was still bitter about the ending, and when he affirmed that, I laid my (and a lot of other people’s) theory on him. He was skeptical, but suggested I put it all down in text in order to post it on his website, and I agreed.

What follows is the Indoctrination Theory, with what I see as evidence (circumstantial or not) that leads me to believe that it’s The Truth.

The Theory

The theory, in case this is not clear by now, is that Commander Shepard is being indoctrinated by the Reapers – although there is a much deeper and more fascinating layer to this that I will get to later; it is the true centerpiece of the theory, but I don’t want to give it away here. Because of this, many of the events seen during the ending are a hallucination caused by Shepard’s indoctrination, and possible other factors. Now, this is clearly a bold statement, but it’s possible that, due to varying factors, the indoctrination has been more gradual/slowed, and not readily apparent. In addition, the indoctrination is not complete. However, it is my belief that it is there and has been there, at the very least, since the events in Mass Effect 2, and I offer up the following points to support it. After that, we’ll do a more in-depth examination of the ending.


1. The Codex—The codex entry for Indoctrination in Mass Effect 3 reads as follows:

Reaper “indoctrination” is an insidious means of corrupting organic minds, “reprogramming” the brain through physical and psychological conditioning using electromagnetic fields, infrasonic and ultrasonic noise, and other subliminal methods. The Reaper’s resulting control over the limbic system leaves the victim highly susceptible to its suggestion.


Organics undergoing indoctrination may complain of headaches and buzzing or ringing in their ears. As time passes, they have feelings of “being watched” and hallucinations of “ghostly” presences. Ultimately, the Reaper gains the ability to use the victim’s body to amplify its signals, manifesting as “alien” voices in the mind.


Indoctrination can create perfect deep cover agents. A Reaper’s “suggestions” can manipulate victims into betraying friends, trusting enemies, or viewing the Reaper itself with superstitious awe. Should a reaper subvert a well-placed political or military leader, the resulting chaos can bring down nations.


Long-term physical effects of the manipulation are unsustainable. Higher mental functioning decays, ultimately leaving the victim a gibbering animal. Rapid indoctrination is possible, but causes this decay in days or weeks. Slow, patient indoctrination allows the thrall to last for months or years.


Why is this relevant? Several bits of information in this codex can easily be construed as clues for Shepard’s ongoing indoctrination. These will become more apparent as we delve more deeply into this.


2.  The Child—The scenes where you meet/see the child at the beginning of the game, during the Reaper attack, definitely have more going on than meets the eye. First, he goes through a locked door which, according to the color indicator on the outside, remains locked the whole time. In your initial encounter with him, he appears in the vent after you pass by it, during which time it is clearly empty.  I find it very curious that Anderson doesn’t comment on Shepard clearly talking to someone else, or at least ask what he is doing at the vent opening. In addition, the child promptly disappears without making a sound, which seems unlikely if he is truly a terrified child in a situation like that.

When you see the child again while leaving on the Normandy, he has no interaction with any of the NPCs there helping other civilians onto the shuttle. Even when he climbs up into the shuttle, no one reaches down to help him – although there is a soldier standing very close to his location and the child is clearly struggling to get into the shuttle. In a situation like that, helping a child becomes even more paramount, as the potential survival of the species is at stake. Not attempting to help a child in escaping is incredibly out of character for the typical Alliance soldier, given our perspective on such individuals throughout three games.

Shepard also dreams of the child multiple times, with each dream seeming to be a metaphor of his failure to save Earth. However, this actually appears to be the indoctrination attempting to further manipulate Shepard. In addition, the final dream shows you and the child burning; this seems to be Shepard’s subconscious attempting to warn him not to trust the child or anything he represents.

It is my belief that the child is a hallucination, which, if you recall the codex entry I mentioned previously, is one of the hallmarks of indoctrination.

3. The Humming—At one point while in the shuttle bay of the Normandy with James Vega, James asks “do you hear that hum?”. Seems innocuous, but the Codex entry mentions that “organics undergoing indoctrination may complain of headaches and buzzing or ringing in their ears”. Isn’t it possible that the entire crew has been exposed to some form of indoctrination by being on the Normandy? It seems plausible, because…

4. Cerberus—Cerberus built the Normandy. It has since been retrofitted, yes, but the infrastructure is – for the most part – still in place. Cerberus has been attempting to study and use Reaper tech for some (undetermined) time, so the possibility of them using some form of it when building a state of the art ship cannot be ignored. In addition, they rebuilt Shepard himself using biosynthesis, which can also be construed as using Reaper tech; this could be the initial cause of indoctrination. It is also possible that Shepard’s exposure to Sovereign and other Reaper technology throughout the first two Mass Effect games is responsible for it.

5. The Tendrils—I wanted to keep talk of the ending separate, but this part is very central to the indoctrination of Shepard. During the scene with the Illusive Man and Anderson, black tendril-like shapes appear at the edge of the screen. If you encountered the Rachni Queen earlier in the game, she mentions hearing “songs the color of oily shadow,” which clearly points to the Reapers and their attempts to alter the Rachni; their indoctrination. The Reapers have definitely corrupted the Rachni with their communication via these songs, and describing them in such a way makes it quite plausible that there could be some form of shadowy manifestation within the context of the indoctrinated person’s perspective. In addition, similar tendrils are seen within the dreams Shepard has, which allows us to hypothesize that the tendrils also represent a dream-state.

The End Is the Beginning

In order to more accurately and efficiently discuss the ending, I will divide it into sections. Please note that, for the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming an EMS of 5000+, as some things I am going to mention only appear if you have reached that level.

I. Before the Conduit

While running towards the Conduit, Harbinger is firing shot after shot at Shepard and company and finally hits close enough to cause Shepard to stagger and fall, then everything goes black. Moments later, Shepard wakes up and you regain control, but things are definitely odd. The backgrounds are very blurry, the movement seems off, you do not heal, and you suddenly have a gun with infinite ammo that can kill Husks in one shot. In addition, you do not see any of your squad among the dead, just random Alliance soldiers; clearly, they would have been hit by the blast as well.

II. Into the Citadel

After Shepard goes through the Conduit and reaches the Citadel, you hear Anderson mention that he went in after you did but ended up in the “correct” spot before you, which is definitely an odd occurrence, but perhaps the Conduit simply dumps people into random places. After Shepard reaches the platform where Anderson is, the Illusive Man (TIM) appears out of nowhere, which is another odd coincidence, and with him come the tendrils I mentioned previously.

He discusses the benefits of using the Crucible to control the Reapers, while Shepard and Anderson argue against it; you can clearly see that TIM has been indoctrinated to some degree, both by his words and his eyes: they have the same pattern that Saren’s did in Mass Effect. During this exchange, TIM exerts some form of control over Shepard, and forces Shepard to shoot Anderson. Shortly afterwards, TIM commits suicide, much like Saren in Mass Effect (he even has similar looks at this point). At this point, there is a scene in which Shepard opens the arms to the Citadel then goes back to Anderson, who is bleeding from the gunshot wound; in another odd occurrence, Shepard appears to be bleeding from the exact same spot.

In another oddity, Shepard and Anderson appear to have no troubles breathing in what appears to be the vacuum of space. Anderson dies, and Shepard tries to get to the console when Hackett messages in to say that the Crucible is not firing; Shepard can’t quite make it due to injuries, and blacks out again.

Upon waking, there is the ghostly image of the child Shepard has been seeing throughout the game. The image explains that he is the Catalyst, the Citadel is his home, and he controls the Reapers. Note that Shepard is no longer bleeding from the stomach, and his hand/arm is no longer covered in blood, dry or wet. The child explains the purpose of the Reapers, which is to prevent chaos by eliminating organic life in order to protect them from synthetics. Seems legit. The child then outlines three possible choices for Shepard to make:

A. Destroying the Reapers

This choice is represented by the red text of the typical Renegade choice, as well as the image of Anderson destroying the terminal representing synthetic life. The child explains that destroying the Reapers will also destroy all synthetics, including Shepard, since he is partly synthetic, as well as most of the technology the various races depend on. In addition, the child states that with this option, the peace gained will not last, as future generations will create synthetics, and the chaos will begin anew.

B. Controlling the Reapers

This choice is represented by the blue text of the typical Paragon choice, as well as the image of the Illusive Man using the terminal to control all synthetics. The child explains that TIM would not have been able to control the Reapers because they already controlled him, but that Shepard could control them. The child also states that selecting this option will kill Shepard, but the Reapers will obey him.

C. Synthesis

This choice is represented by the neutral color of green. The child explains that by adding Shepard’s energy to the Crucible (thus killing him), all organic and synthetic life will have its code, or DNA, rewritten and combined into one. The child goes on to say that, by choosing synthesis, the cycle will end, and that it is the final evolution of all life forms; peace will last by selecting this option.

VI. Anatomy of a Choice

So, which one do you choose? As with every choice you make in the Mass Effect series, it depends on several factors. Are you trying to toe the line and go the Paragon route? Are you the galaxy’s biggest badass motherfucker and piss on authority? Are you a tweener, just trying to make the best decision you can at any given time?

What do you want to do? What happens if you choose the “wrong” one? There are several different endings, many quite similar; they are based on a combination of the choice you made and your EMS level at the time. However, it is my belief that there is one ending that is canon, while the others are a malicious sort of red herring. How so? Because all of the discussion regarding the choices, and the choices themselves, are the final attempts by the Reapers – and specifically Harbinger – to fully indoctrinate Shepard.

1. Synthesis—This choice is shown as a neutral one, which makes sense within the context of the three choices. By sacrificing himself, Shepard will end the cycle, although he will be giving up everyone’s humanity (or whatever you want to call it) in order to combine organic and synthetic life. That seems like a small price to pay to ensure the end of the cycle, right?

Well, no, not really. By making this choice, you are essentially completing the current cycle by destroying all organic life; the fact that they become synthetic and continue their “lives” is irrelevant if their humanity, identity, and individuality are stripped away. In addition, what happens if somehow organic life rises again in 50,000 years? Are the Reapers, and by extension, all synthetic life forms, going to sit idly by and allow them to live their lives, when their entire history is based around the opposite? I find that incredibly hard to believe. Also note that, during the ending if you make this choice, Shepard’s eyes get the same pattern as TIM and Saren; he has been indoctrinated.

There are many parallels between making this choice and Saren’s beliefs back in Mass Effect; he believed that submitting to the Reapers and being synthesized would be the only way for organic life to survive, even if it meant no longer being organic. But making this choice simply means that you’re willingly giving the Reapers what they’ve wanted all along: the end of organic life.

2. Controlling the Reapers—As the Paragon choice, this seems to be the one with the highest potential for peace, if you are able to actually control the Reapers. Again, it requires the sacrifice of Shepard’s life, but that definitely seems like a small price to pay in order to control the largest threat there is.

But is it really the Paragon choice? Shepard’s raison d’être since discovering the Reapers and their mandate has been their destruction; why does controlling them suddenly appear to be the “right” decision? In addition, showing the Illusive Man doesn’t really make sense, as he clearly does not have the traits of a Paragon; quite the opposite, in fact. So, what’s up with this?

Well, this is where that additional layer I mentioned earlier comes into play (although it factors into all of the endings; this one a bit more specifically). Harbinger is not only trying to indoctrinate Shepard: it is trying to indoctrinate YOU, the player. By showing this as the Paragon choice, it is attempting to ensure that those who are on the straight and narrow go along with it without question, and thus end up doing their work for them. By making this choice, you again see Shepard indoctrinated (the eye pattern); in addition, although the Reapers leave, they return to the Citadel as its arms are closing, a definite clue that the control “choice” was just bullshit.

3. Destroying the Reapers—Ah, the Renegade choice. Clearly this is not the way to go about ending the threat; it’s the Renegade choice after all. Or is it?

As I mentioned before, Shepard’s entire goal has been the destruction of the Reapers, so why would that suddenly be the “wrong” choice to make? In addition, showing Anderson as the one who destroys the Reapers doesn’t make sense, as Anderson is not a Renegade (punching Udina aside). So, what’s going on?

The child tells you that this will destroy all synthetic life in the Galaxy, including the Geth. Why mention the Geth? Well, if you have helped the Geth and they ended up on your side during the game, this makes it appear to be more of a Renegade action, as you will be destroying “friends”. In addition, the child says that, even with this option, the peace won’t last. Harbinger is throwing everything at you/Shepard in order to deflect you from this choice; it certainly sounds unappealing, comparatively. But that is the point. You are supposed to pick another, more synthetic friendly choice.

Making this choice is also the only way to see Shepard alive, which is one of the lynchpins to this entire theory. After the Reapers are destroyed, you see smoking rubble, and then an armored body (complete with N7 dog tags) lying in its midst. After a moment, you hear something like a sharp gasping breath and the body moves, and the screen goes black. The clear assumption here is that Shepard lived if you chose the Destroy option (and your EMS was high enough), but there is still a question: how did he get back to London (which is where you assume the body was lying, as the Citadel platform had no concrete structures and that was his previous location)?

Is This You Being Meta?

If the body is indeed that of Shepard, and there is no reason to believe otherwise, it seems unlikely that he landed on Earth and survived. It’s possible that he could have been flung into the Conduit and it somehow transported him back, but that seems unlikely considering that he wasn’t near the Conduit at the time of the events on the platform. The clearest explanation, IMO, is that all, or at least a majority, of the events after blacking out from Harbinger’s laser are hallucinations/dreams of Shepard’s. The meeting with the Catalyst might be a hallucination/dream, or it might have some basis in reality, or it could be metaphysical in nature; it’s impossible to be certain.

The relevant part of that entire sequence, however, isn’t Shepard, but you, the player. The entire ending sequence involving the choices is the game, and Bioware, attempting to indoctrinate you. As I mentioned previously, there are parallels with Mass Effect; these parallels seem to exist to allow you to have the proper perspective, like Shepard, to make the required choice. By not questioning the way the choices are represented (Paragon, Renegade, Neutral), the player runs the risk of being fully indoctrinated and destroying all organic life in the galaxy. This is YOUR decision, not Shepard’s; Shepard being there is simply an avatar for the player. While that is technically true in any game, I believe in this instance it is more profound than the typical decision, even those previously made in the Mass Effect games.

Take a moment to view one definition of a word that is significant within the context of the game and the ending, and might help understand where I am coming from.

Crucible—A severe test; a trial.

Essentially, if you choose the Control or Synthesis options, you have been indoctrinated. Selecting the Destroy option is the only way to both escape the indoctrination and allow Shepard to survive. This is your test; your trial; your crucible.


There are issues with this theory; I am aware. And not all of the questions, both for and against it, can be properly answered. Even with those concerns, I think it’s at least a strong possibility that this was the intention all along, that Bioware wanted to take gaming to the next level, a metagaming experience like no other. Clearly, each ending is open to interpretation, and you can reach your own conclusions. I just like to think that Bioware had a grand plan in place all along. And if not? Well, I still got to play three of my favorite games of all time, so I think that’s a fair trade-off.

~Terry Richardson

Categories: Video Games

75 Responses so far.

  1. Micah says:

    I totally agree with you. I had this conversation with a friend and we both agreed that this was what Bioware intended. Another less philosophical support for this idea is the history of DLC. The DLC for ME1 and ME2 were placed as addition, post-completion add-ons. Pinnacle Station and Bring Down the Sky were continuations that you could choose to do as you are continuing to fly around the universe waiting for ME2 to be released. Same goes for ME2. Shadowbroker, Overlord, and Arrival were all meant to be post-completion. Bioware has long stated there will be both multiplayer and single player DLC coming out in the year following ME3′s release. If they follow the pattern, they are developing DLC that players who have already beaten the game can use to add-on to their previously finished Shepard’s. I highly doubt the DLC is being developed as Joker hobbling around on the mysterious jungle planet. The story is about Shepard and he is the focus of the DLC. That gives merit to the idea that you are in the process of being indoctrinated and if you break your indoctrination, there is still more game to be played.

  2. Olasko says:

    Great article. Having finished ME3 last night, I too had many questions as to why ‘controlling’ the reapers was the paragon option but showed TIM at the controls. Whereas Anderson, a paragon, was destroying all synthetic life. I chose the apparent paragon option but after reading this I think I may have been ‘indoctrinated’ as you so describe. With all the anger over the ending I don’t think too much thought has been placed into their anger. I was content with the ending believing that Sheppard became a martyr to save all organic & synthetic life, I really didn’t see the series ending any other way. Time will tell I guess & I think a DLC is going to really add another dimension to this ending.

  3. Alaris says:

    This is a great theory and very well researched and constructed – kudos. I don’t agree with everything, but I did keep thinking “Shepard has had just as much exposure to the reapers – why isn’t he indocrinated … or is he.” Having the willpower to resist indoctrination is an ongoing theme of the series, and Shepard’s willpower to overcome the odds, defy death, and save the galaxy is a parallel theme, so it only makes sense that he would be fighting indocrination himself. TIM was unaware as was Saren. HOWEVER, with all the pissed off Bioware fans out there, it should have been a LITTLE more obvious that indocrination was going on the whole time – especially if the paragon choices and renegade choices start getting flipped near the end of the game … signalling to the player that they are intending one outcome and getting the other. I appreciate this article and will certainly look at my second playthrough differently. Thank you.

    • The Aardvark says:

      The fact that it isn’t obvious is very much central to the concept that we, as players, were being indoctrinated. If it was easy to see, then there is no struggle, no internal turmoil on which choice to make. It had to be subtle to actually work.

  4. SickPrid3 says:

    “It’s getting late but, okay…one more story.”

    Pretty straightforward ain’t it ?

  5. Ben says:

    As good as your hypothesis is (it is not a theory, what you are suggesting is a hypothesis), what still lingers is that if Bioware intended for it to be indoctrination, then they’ve just screwed millions of people who paid good money for this game. I would like the ending as intended, I shouldn’t have to pay more money for the final bits of a game.

  6. Casey says:

    How much is EA paying you to post articles like these?

  7. Ryan says:

    I like your theory for the most part, but there are a few things subject to interpretation, like it’s highly unlikely, in a game where choice is one of the game’s selling points, there would be no middle ground. Although their DNA would be rewritten to be one I don’t remember ever hearing that they would lose their humanity. Although saren was sorta a hybrid between organic and synthetic he still had some humanity, or I guess you could say turiananity, and that’s why he shot himself because he regretted what he had let the machines had done to him and refused to let them control him any longer.

    • The Aardvark says:

      Well, by becoming synthetic, they would be, by definition, losing their humanity. Perhaps my wording was poor, but the point was that synthesis will eliminate all organic life, which was the goal of the Reapers.

  8. locsphere says:

    So I guess endings don’t matter as much as gameplay anymore? Sorry Bioware, I support you, but the gaming industry seems like it is no longer in touch with the gamer base it is suppose to serve. Its like Wall Street and Main Street for the economy situation.

    The game play is good I will give you that and 99.9 percent of the game is good. But it is my opinion that if something like the ending is what ruins a game and a franchise should also ruin the score.

    The gaming community on underground forums is now talking of the severe backlash this is going to cause. As these companies have separated from the gamer base and have become a form of “Propaganda” for reinforcing bad products, I hate anything conspiracyish, but seeing these results and its hard to argue against. … Polls taken across the internet and User reviews of the game show this to be a horrible game.

    Colin Moriarty stated that this was juvenile, however if it were only a few gamers doing this, it would have no impact at all. However, a majority of gamers are doing this as it is the only way to show how they feel when the gaming industry downplays there criticism.

  9. locsphere says:

    BTW, I use the individual gamer reviews as my source of information now and I am boycotting your media sources. You are reinforcing bad behavior on the production part. Sure there is flaming going on with gamers, but there are also legitimate gripes being made with Bioware from an overwhelming number of fans. Keep ignoring them and it is going to come back to haunt you. They seem like idle words now, but just you wait if BioWare doesn’t make good on improving these endings.

  10. Chris Pearson says:

    When I first beat mass effect 3, I was outraged at it, as alot of people were. But after reading this, all I have to say is wow, I’m glad I destroyed the Reapers. And I now feel that if you are right, this is the best game ever! ( Not that it wasn’t already, just the ending pis*ed me off a bit. ^^ )

  11. Jake says:

    I believe the indoctrination theory is what Bioware was going for also, and I had similar ideas before searching the web to see that others did as well. Very well written, this is the best explanation of it I have seen.

    The only thing I have not been able to figure out or find though, is what is the deal with the Normandy leaving and crashing on another planet? And why do squad members that were with me on Earth step out of the Normandy? I still can’t make sense of this part.

  12. TOBAL says:

    I have been reading and listening to as many counter-arguments to the RetakeMassEffect3 cause as possible in order to muster an adequate and succinct response, while encompassing all your “concerns”.

    Here goes my first attempt:
    MASS EFFECT is more than a simple product, I would go so far as to state it is now a cultural phenomenon.
    It was built upon a NON-LINEAR system of story-telling that has always allowed for several different outcomes. This has always been the case in ME1, ME2 and ME3 …save the last 20 minutes.

    We play as Shepard, but we have the privilege of witnessing events that as Shepard you are not able to witness. In other words, you are put into context, as a player, to allow you to focus on the grander scale of things, outsides Shepard’s immediate scope. All this and so much more is what set the game apart from all other games of its generation. All this and so much more is what made us truly LOVE this work of art (no doubt).
    But it is an INTERACTIVE WORK OF ART, shaped by your particular (albeit limited) set of colors. BIOWARE gave us the CANVAS and a few GUIDELINES,we are then allowed to paint it as we see fit, shape it to our particular tastes. If the owner of the canvas suddenly rips that canvas away from you and takes all your “crayons” stating that all you have painted so far must now be reset to a basic set of 3 colors …art is somehow compromised, not because we adulterated it, instead it is perverted by the creators.
    Heh, this somehow reminds of the GETH/QUARIAN conflict, we “The Retake Mass Effect movement” being the Geth.

    We just want to replay the game to death to see its different colors, that is all, as it stands that feeling has been …re-purposed.

    Fundamentally, your well constructed and plausible argument just evidence your NEED TO BELIEVE there is something more to THE END than has been presented. You attempt to find logic where there is apparently none. You did well, I feel the same way.

    I do have another issue though. If BIOWARE does release a DLC to expand on THE END, could it not be perceived as an unfinished product ? Because even if most of us have the means to download it, some do not. Not to mention said DLC to be provided free of charge, if it is not …sheesh, the precedent in this case would have gargantuan repercussions.

  13. SmithsonianDSP says:

    Excellent recap/summary of the theory. At first I was satisfied with the ending.. .I was alright with Shepard making the sacrafice for the universe. But as more time passed after finishing my first playthrough, I started feeling less “ok” with the ending… and started seeing holes in the story. One of the biggest ones not mentioned was that every option destroys all of the Mass Relays in the universe, meaning the *entire* fleet you just spent the entire game recruiting and building is now stuck in the Sol system. Many of those races (Quarians, Turians) are dextro- based and are incompatible with the food & other things on Earth… meaning most of them would suffer & starve to death long before any surviving humans on Earth could manage to build any type of dextro- food production facilities. (Not to mention Humanity’s own food-production facilities have likely been obliterated and need to be rebuilt themselves.) That prospect is just too bleak, to me.

    But here’s a point I think a lot of people are missing:

    *IF* what the Catalyst Kid told Shepard about the Reaper’s purpose is true—which I think we can believe because we *do* see foreshadowing & historical similarities about this in other parts of the game… there is a possible dialogue with Javrik after Geth missions where he highlights that the Protheans had issues with fighting synthetic life during their cycle, as well.

    So if the Catalyst Kid’s explination is true, then it would mean that all of the Reapers are actually FORMER ORGANIC races. The game Codec says that Soverign is the OLDEST Reaper, which would then mean that Soverign is the ORIGINAL organic species to be converted into a Reaper—-be it voluntarily (as a way of self-presevation possibly?) or not.

    That being the case, it *is* possible that if the events on the Citadel/Catalyst are just a hallucination/dream/indoctrination, then the Synthesis option might not actually be as bad of an option as it is being theorized. It may prove to Soverign that–if an organic like Shepard is willing to lay down it’s life in order to bring synthetics & organics together—that coexistance between the two may be possible this cycle.

    Another thing that I feel has failed to be taken into consideration: the options which are presented at various EMS levels. If “destruction” was *truely* the right choice, then why is destruction *always* offered, with Synthesis only being a choice if you have a high enough rating?

    Also, destorying all synthetics includes the Geth AND EDI.. .so I DO see why this would be a renegade choice—especially if you allowed Legion to upload the new code which effectively made each Geth an individual entity… so this option not only destroys the Reapers but now an entire population/civilization—effectively genocide. Also note the possible dialogue with EDI where she says that the original problem between the Quarians and the Geth was the fact that the Geth were different from the Quarians–a collective and not individuals with certain preferences like EDI. But after upgrading the Geth, they *are* individuals, and maybe this would no longer be the problem.

    Anyways, I think there *IS* something else going on—or at least I really really hope there is—I just think the conclusions and assumptions about which “choice” is correct aren’t accurate because we have to way of really knowing at this point. The biggest piece of evidence that people are using to base the “destruction = right choice” is the brief shot of what appears to be Shepard alive & in the rubble… except the destruction ending was the ONLY ending where that scene could logically follow. There *is* however a lot of evidence to support the fact that things aren’t exactly what they seem to be on the surface. I think we’re better off looking at the evidence SUPPORTING the indoctrination theory than trying to extrapolate what the “correct’ choices really are.

    • SmithsonianDSP says:

      Just realized I had mixed up Soverign with Harbinger… so replace “Soverign” with “Harbinger” in that post. My bad.

    • Andrew says:

      If you re-read the theory you will see that if he is right then that entire thing was etheir a clouded (indoctrinated view ) of what actually happened or never happened which is why when you survive you wake up on Earth (you were making these choices in your mind while unconcious).

      According to the theory mentioned here Geth and EDI were specificaly ment to be on the front of your mind to discourage this choice. Now what we do not know is if Harbinger/catalyst was lying and the only synthetic life killed was the reapers (if you notice the ending scene does not show other synthetics dieing it shows only the reapers dieing, also Asari are left alive which would be impossible since they are born with Synthetic parts (their biotics) thanks to the Prothians.)

  14. Patrick Henry says:

    Graping at fridge brilliance because of disbelief at the sheer idiocy of the current endings?

  15. cristi says:

    no. planescape torment had the best ending(s).

  16. Brooklyn says:

    I like your theory as it sounds a lot like mine. I disagree with the hallucination bit but if you check out the theory I made a topic about below you’ll see my main focus is on the brilliance behind BioWare to indoctrinate real players by the Reapers:


    • The Aardvark says:

      The indoctrination of the player is the central point, but I wanted to lead up to it by focusing on the hallucination angle and the potential indoctrination of Shepard. Indoctrinating the player was the entire point of the ending, IMO, so we’re in agreeance on that.

  17. Kat says:

    Interesting stuff, it makes me more interested in seeing the other endings. I’d like to hear your thoughts on “the Child” (perhaps its the creator) and the post credits ending. Although I still feel a bit disappointed due to the lack of explanation and the abundance of depression in the final act of Mass Effect, your theory has lifted my spirits a bit so thank you.

    • The Aardvark says:

      The Child is a hard one to figure. On the one hand, if the events of the ending are not a hallucination/dream/whatever, then the child is seemingly a manifestation of the AI that controls the Citadel and, apparently, the Reapers. If the events are imaginary, then the child is likely a manifestation of Shepard’s subconscious that is being “controlled” by the indoctrination, and at times Shepard’s subconscious attempt to reveal the danger the child represents in his dreams (being on fire and such).

      The post credits ending actually seems to work in favor of the Destroy ending where you see (presumably) Shepard alive. As someone above mentioned: “it’s getting late…but one more story” certainly hints to the fact that Shepard’s story is not done after the events shown in the ending.

  18. paul says:

    Yeah just beat the game … Crazy. But if the indoctrination hypothesis is correct then of course choosing the synthesis or control options would kill you because your indoctrinated after accepting their logic and you cease to be “shepard”, only choosing destroy would allow you to fail the indoctrination and survive.

  19. Alderis says:

    When taken down by the reaper beam, there were indeed some random soldiers around, but as you approach one, you almost fall to the ground… the person there for me was not someone random at all. It was my squad-mate, Liara that I had with me in the final mission and I remember it correctly because I was like “nooo…” at the time.

  20. R Steele says:

    I applaud the excellent work and time you put into this, however…
    I have a single comment/question to refute this theory, one that I feel that alone is more than enough to disprove it entirely.

    The entire ME3 game is dedicated to raising a military force capable of stopping the reapers. Clearly not some form of indoctrination.
    Your progress towards success is monitored by effective military strength, as you know.
    If your theory is accurate, why would you not have the options of control or synthesis with a lower EMS?

    It doesn’t make any sense to say that the stronger your EMS, the more wrong options you have; or conversely that no matter how horrible of a EMS you have as long as you have the minimum strength required you can still destroy them.

    It seems highly unlikely that you would have access to the correct (winning?) option with poor performance, but not the other two which results in Shepard becoming indoctrinated according to this theory – which I assume would constitute a loss.

    I understand that you must have a high EMS to get a ‘good’ ending from the destroy option – that you require 5000+ in order to prevent massive damage to Earth, and that there is also some similar requirement to see the N7 armor at the end which presumably indicates Shepard survives. However, the fact remains, that you still had access to the correct choice with a low EMS.
    This is similar to ME2 where your crews survival depends on your performance and preparation. Yes you could certainly embark on the suicide mission without taking the correct steps to ensure everyone lives and still succeed in destroying the collectors base, but you couldn’t expect a glorious and flawless victory.
    Same thing here.

    A lot of things with the ending doesn’t make any sense, especially if you take the time to look over it all and think about it.
    For example, there is no mention of the conduit on Ilos ever being destroyed, only that vigil shut down. If the conduit still existed, why wouldn’t Shepard simply take the normandy there and take a squad through into the citadel?
    How does Shepard end up (alive and presumably) back on earth after ‘firing’ the crucible and destroying the citadel? It was clearly not inside earths atmosphere, nor was his suit in any condition to save him.
    Why is the normandy fleeing, and where is the rest of the crew?
    Why is there no sign of any of your crew, even your current squad mates, as you sprint towards the beam?
    Take time to look for them, search around, they’re not there.
    There are clearly survivors left after harbinger decimated the forces that sped towards the beam as you can hear radio chatter – why are they not storming the beam after harbinger left?
    Why are there no reapers on the citadel, yet everyone that was on it is dead? We’re talking millions of people, many of which were military, c-sec, or the very least armed civilians who are already on high alert thanks to cerebus. Why is there no fighting? no survivors hiding?

    All of these questions, in my mind, are left unanswered by your theory, just as they were before reading it. There are just too many holes in the stories ending, even if we assume you are correct. However, as I said, I don’t believe it’s accurate anyway, simply because of the whole EMS bit effecting the options.

    That all said, I don’t really have another alternative to put forward. I however am beginning to believe that it is all just a very poorly built ending to an otherwise magnificent story – and that we as loyal gamers and fans of the series are just trying to justify it all for them… something they should have done with a nice epilogue at the very least, if not a cinematic ending.

    • Raudell says:

      I don’t get it. Why are you listing some of these questions as not answered by this theory? Many of these questions he addresses specifically.

      For example, you ask, “How does Shepard end up (alive and presumably) back on earth after ‘firing’ the crucible and destroying the citadel? It was clearly not inside earths atmosphere, nor was his suit in any condition to save him.” Terry mentions this very point when mounting evidence for the theory — Shepard is on Earth after destroying the Reapers because he never left Earth…the entire final sequence was in his mind. He wakes up right where he was when the hallucination started: on Earth after getting blasted by Harbinger’s ray.

      Or your other question, “Why are there no reapers on the citadel, yet everyone that was on it is dead?” The entire sequence on the Citadel happens in Shepard’s mind…so not having any presence on the Citadel makes MORE sense in this theory than in any other interpretation.

      I agree, there are some questions that this theory doesn’t answer, but it is more satisfactory than anything else I’ve seen, and its implications have the positive result of allowing me to actually go back and play the game again…something accepting the endings at face value has left me unable to do.

        • R Steele says:

          You missed the entire point of my reply.

          First… The hallucination and indoctrination I believe is inaccurate. Reason being the part you apparently skipped over:

          ” I have a single comment/question to refute this theory, one that I feel that alone is more than enough to disprove it entirely.

          The entire ME3 game is dedicated to raising a military force capable of stopping the reapers. Clearly not some form of indoctrination.
          Your progress towards success is monitored by effective military strength, as you know.
          If your theory is accurate, why would you not have the options of control or synthesis with a lower EMS?

          It doesn’t make any sense to say that the stronger your EMS, the more wrong options you have; or conversely that no matter how horrible of a EMS you have as long as you have the minimum strength required you can still destroy them.

          It seems highly unlikely that you would have access to the correct (winning?) option with poor performance, but not the other two which results in Shepard becoming indoctrinated according to this theory – which I assume would constitute a loss.”

          The rest of the questions are simply returning to other things that are then unexplained if the theory about indoctrination and hallucination is assumed incorrect.

          As I said, I don’t have a better hypothesis than the one you offer at the moment – I am simply pointing out a flaw, one that I believe proves your theory inaccurate.

          For clarification:

          If Shepard is being indoctrinated and the rest of your theory is true… then why is it that you have the option to destroy the reapers with a very low EMS, but can not fall to the indoctrination and choose synthesis or control?
          It doesn’t make sense to say that with poor performance in ME3 you are not suffering the effects of indoctrination, but with a good performance you are.

          • J.C. Wigriff says:

            I think that it makes perfect sense. It takes time to amass an army – and the more time that is taken, the more time the indoctrination has to take hold.

            The more indoctrinated you are, the more you have the illusion of choice – hence, the more choices you appear to have.

            You always have the ability to do the right thing, because that possibility always existed. Only after you are fully within the grips of the indoctrination do the other options present themselves, because without the indoctrination, Shepard would have never decided those things.

          • The Aardvark says:

            I’ll be honest: it wasn’t really a consideration I took into account. What Wigriff says is as plausible as anything I can come up with offhand.

            I’ll say this: I mentioned that the argument has flaws. But I am not looking at it the way some people are, as “hope” that it isn’t just a terrible ending. If what I think is not accurate, and no real further explanation is given, my only negative thought regarding the ending is that it is unnecessarily vague. I don’t think the ending is some atrocity worth getting riled up about; I just thought that indoctrination and all the rest was plausible based on the “evidence” at hand.

            Maybe it’s just my perspective, having gone through the endings in detail without completing the game, so I didn’t view it the same way that others did.

          • The Aardvark says:

            After thinking about it a bit, the Destroy option is supposed to be the worst choice; it just feels wrong. By making the Control/Synthesis options more difficult to unlock, it makes the Destroy option seem even less desirable. This is part of the player being indoctrinated as well.

            That could be complete starshine, but it’s as plausible as anything else.

          • R Steele says:

            That’s kind of stepping outside the realm of the game though. To say that a high EMS is actually the cause of the indoctrination?

            I understand the part about making the other two options appealing, but it still doesn’t make sense for them to not be available without a high EMS. If the reapers began indoctrinating Shepard then the options to control of synth. should have been available regardless of the EMS score, and perhaps even seemed more like the right choice with a lower score.

            Or, lets say you’re right and that the longer it takes you to complete ME3 the stronger the indoctrination becomes – there should have been a stronger attempt to make the destroy option seem like a bad choice, not left exactly the same.

            I don’t believe that the higher the EMS the stronger an indoctrination, as you would have experienced more hallucinations, more examples of it. There would have been more and more supporting evidence the deeper into indoctrination you became. When in fact, regardless of your performance in the game and the subsequent EMS, you still have the exact same dreams, the same number of times, and there are no more or less hints at it.

            Again, I like the idea, I love the effort you put into it – it’s always refreshing to read a well thought out idea. I just don’t support it so we’ll have to agree to disagree and hope that they decide to release some DLC or something that will shed some light on things.
            I just felt that such a great topic could use some counter-points.

          • The Aardvark says:

            I have no problems with salient counterpoints, which you definitely provided. Not everything can be refuted, one way or another, when you’re dealing with so many different angles, and the vast majority of them are quite vague.

          • Tricky says:

            Probably it is because that the Catalyst purposely wanted to give Shepard an illusion of choice during the possible indoctrination no matter how high your EMS is. Even after presenting the Destroy choice the Catalyst still went on to convince Shepard not to make that choice. In order to make the scenario as believable as possible it is necessary to present the Destroy option otherwise it would create dissonance (and possibly break out of indoctrination) as they will have no other choice but to let synthetics/reapers live one way or another. Also, the stronger the EMS could also represent how much of a threat you are towards the Reapers. So in order to counter that more ‘alternatives’ have been given to try to confuse the Shepard and the players themselves.

      • R Steele says:

        “I agree, there are some questions that this theory doesn’t answer, but it is more satisfactory than anything else I’ve seen, and its implications have the positive result of allowing me to actually go back and play the game again…something accepting the endings at face value has left me unable to do.”

        This is one of the primary reasons I really don’t agree with the theory and the many others out there that claim that the ending is superb.

        You are essentially saying that you are believing this theory and supporting it because it gives you peace of mind, because it makes you feel good about an ending you otherwise don’t like.
        This shouldn’t be necessary at all. You should be satisfied, enough so that you can re-play ME3 (as we all have with me1 and 2 over and over) without having to justify anything.

        Speaking of indoctrination – here you are showing signs of believing something simply because you like the implications better than the reality.

    • SylverDragonREX says:

      About your first poin: that players are essentially being rewarded for poor performance in the game.

      You say this dissproves the theory entirely. While I have asked myself this before as well, I am still a firm believer in the theory. For example, perhaps Bioware intended to do this in order to make one feel as if they really earned those decisions. That would only further support the theory because it implies that the PLAYER (not shephard) has accepted indoctrination. Think about it: you’re more likely to choose an option that appears more attractive, escpecially if you worked hard to get it. Essentially, this is a part of the trick. Everyone knew in playing the game that a higher EMS would result in better options. It added to the appeal of choosing those options more. Does this mean that they were the right option storywise? No. You STILL have the option to destroy the reapers.

      In fact, the only way to get the ending in which Shephard wakes up breathing in the rubble is to have an EMS of 5,000. A prefect score. That sounds like the biggest reward I can think of (if you consider the thoery especially.) That scene alone pretty much says “this isn’t over.” And who could forget the conversation between the old man and boy at the end?

  21. manu says:

    Just commenting on your observations about the “eye patterns” because no one else seems to have mentioned them. TIM’s eyes have looked the same since he first appeared in ME2. I’ve assumed the patterns are meant to be caused by cybernetic implants or something similar. They do not change near the end of ME3. Of course he may have been already indoctrinated earlier, who knows.

    Saren’s eyes are just bright blue. There is no pattern such as in TIM’s eyes. (See: basically any screenshot or youtube video showing Saren at the end of the first ME.)

    Shepard’s eyes also do not appear to change or take on a pattern in the synthesis/control endings. They just light up due to the energy coursing through him/her. (Again, see any sufficiently high resolution video of the endings on youtube.)

    Just wanted to point this out because you seemed to treat those (non-existent, except in the case of TIM) eye patterns as some kind of definitive proof for your hypothesis.

    • The Aardvark says:

      It has admittedly been some time since I played ME1, and my memory of Saren’s eyes changing is a bit shaky. I thought there was at least one clear instance where you could see this, but I was possibly mistaken.

      As far as TIM, his eyes being like that the whole time could easily point to him being indoctrinated all along. Conversely, they could just be implants, as you mentioned.

      With Shepard, it clearly looked like a pattern to me when I viewed the ending(s), but, again, I could be mistaken.

      I wasn’t using it as definitive proof at all; just something else that was a possible indicator. It’s not critical to the theory (sorry, hypothesis), I just thought it was one of the more obvious/visual indications and believed that mentioning it was worthwhile.

      As I said, the entire line of thought regarding the indoctrination, etc. has plenty of flaws…but, in my opinion, the “it’s just a shitty ending” has plenty as well.

      • XSoldat13 says:

        Actually Saren’s eyes do have the same look as TIM’s. It is very noticable when he is talking to Nihlus. Nihlus has the natural eye look when Saren’s looks cybernetic. Also he has tubes entering and leaving his body. This is due to the Reaper’s Synthesis. I believe that even with the possibility of synthesis on both parts of TIM and Saren the eyes were made to look the way they do to create the indoctrinated look. While I am not leaning on this theory as most instances of theories have been crushed by future release or the developers, it does create a good debate.

        • manu says:

          Do you have any screenshots of this (Saren’s eyes)? The only pictures I could find of Saren with something resembling an eye pattern were pieces of fan art. Admittedly it has been a while since I played the first Mass Effect. (Still don’t see any changes in Shepard’s eyes at the end of ME3, though.)

          • manu says:

            Disregard that, found a youtube video (searching for “saren and nihlus”). He certainly does have some kind of a pattern at the very edges of his eyeballs, slightly similar to the outer ring in TIM’s eyes, though not lit up in the same way. Not very noticeable, though.

  22. sky_in_Flames says:

    At some point in London, when you have the possibility to talk with all your crew mates and comrades once again, one last time before the final push through the wasteland, one of them (I forgot who – could’ve been Javik) says that you will have to make very hard decisions… and that you’d better THINK HARD about what you’re going to do. Seems to me like another hint. Think about what you’re doing… hence you might realize you’re being indoctrinated…

  23. Alderis says:

    Just an idea. The citadel being a reaper construction (used somewhat as a sabotage and a way to invade the galaxy) could it not be a center of indoctrination practices? The citadel is part of the “child” as mentioned. It can theoretically work as a huge helping hand for indoctrination due to the highly valuable people who reside there (ambassadors, spectres, Shepard). As a central hub it is like the perfect place for reapers to carefully choose their candidates.

    Funnily enough this can partially explain the ambassadors’ mistrust about the reaper invasion during the last two games. Nevertheless, it’s kind of a wild speculation but I think it is not mentioned yet.

    • J.C. Wigriff says:

      You might be able to tie the Keepers into this theory as well – especially since a Keeper will self-destruct if tampered with, scanned, or probed.

      • R Steele says:

        They don’t self destruct when scanned only probed or tampered with.

        They were said to have been heavily modified on a genetic level, likely by the reapers. I imagine the reapers did this to prevent anyone from gathering information about them and the citadel.

        I don’t recall everything that was learned from completing the scanning quest for chorban (I think that was his name) but it essentially just confirmed that the keepers were tied to the reapers, and that they were somehow set to respond to a signal every 50,000 years, which was due right around the time shepard was scanning them.

  24. jago says:

    That doesnt make sense you are talking about an ancient AI it is more effective to remove a threat all together then use shepard to make a choice for them. there is a risk shepard would take the renegade action anyways despite the geth. The reapers would not allow that chance. Its stupid this indoctrination stuff. think logically like an AI.

  25. Alton "The Kitchen Goblin" Brown says:

    What the hell did I just read? Even if any of these bs theories floating around are true, it still doesn’t change the fact that the ending we were given was a cheap cop out, void of any substance. And certainly not worthy of ending the trilogy. Regardless of how any defensive fanboys or production team members try to defend it, it is still a slap to the face of the fans who have bought, played and loved the series over the past five years. We shouldn’t be left to fill in the blanks ourselves with half baked theories, especially not after all of the promises they made leading up to the release of ME3. To say that the ending was acceptable is subjective, but to say it is “Potentially Most Impressive in Gaming History” is flat out ridiculous. I have invested hundreds of hours into this series at this point, and invested hundreds of dollars as well. I own the games, two of which are collectors editions. I have the comics, and two of the paperbacks. I also bought the soundtracks for 1 and 2. I even have models of both Normandys. I think my opinion and the opinion of other fans like me should carry some weight with the developers and writers. In fact I think our opinion should be at least equal to that of the developers and writers, because it’s us that have supported the series financially and we’re the reason any of this was even possible.

    • W1LD M0NGR3L says:

      I think you just realised, as I did, that you got indoctrinated and are feeling as frustrated as I do that a fricking game tricked your mind in such a way. To realise all the effort you put into all three games into doing WHAT’S RIGHT for the galaxy (or yourself) meant nothing because YOU screwed up in the end… is indeed the worst feeling i have felt in a long time. To realise this ONLY after reading this article makes it even worse. I scrapped the synthesis ending cause it smelled fishy to me… and I ALMOST chose renegade in the end, but because i held Legion (and his sacrifice) in such high esteem I chose parangon to spare his race. That is the most insidious writing i have seen in a game to date. I honestly feel really really bad right now, cause i have failed the final (the REAL choice) of the saga.

    • Alderis says:

      [Begin defense rage]
      Substance is not visible when people are not really looking for it. It is quite selfish though to be wanting a writer to specifically write an ending that just reveals everything the reader has ever wondered in the respective universe. Undeniably, writing is art and you buy the experience (without knowing the ending yet). You don’t buy the writer’s hand. Buyer opinions are really not the point when it comes to the story as it is predefined from the beginning of the franchise most of the times. Being left with blanks as you mentioned is common practice nowadays even in movies, let alone real life. I am no defensive fanboy in the sense of mindless defense on my favorite game. I am a web designer/developer and an amateur writer. It is often in the field of business that I see people (gamers) wanting me to design a website (game) for them but of course have no experience in this field as is natural but still enjoy the designs (gammes) that are out there. The problem is always that they want to feel a participant in the creative process, define the end product and have dictate their opinion. I am telling you, if I let them intervene on any aspect of the design, the end product will be a monstrosity. Arriving to this, it would be cool and curious to hear an ending with substance from a fan or even you. I guess the fan’s ending would be the common happy ending where Shepard and the galaxy are saved in the end, reapers destroyed and the ending of the cycles after you have beat the hell out of your enemies in an epic battle. I challenge people to find a more intriguing ending and say it. This one is very common, voids in substance and of course is incredibly predictable before even buying the game. So go, amuse us!
      [End defense rage] ;) lol

      • Alton "The Kitchen Goblin" Brown says:

        You seem to be mistaking Mass Effect for a some novelists own personal writings from his very own imagination. Mass Effect has always been written by a team of writers crafting a story SPECIFICALLY to make the fans want to play and purchase the games and merchandise. So yes, I think they should have catered exactly to what the players/fans wanted. Which they clearly didn’t with the ending of the trilogy.

        • Alderis says:

          As I recall, all writers write from their very own imagination. Mass Effect was writer by like 2 people if I am not mistaken. That is your team you mention.

          Anyway, you said it yourself… crafting a story specifically to make fans want to play and purchase the games. I believe they accomplished that to a high degree, don’t you agree? Making something so that others want it is different from making it suit them. Believe me, it can as well be a situation where half fans want ending x and the other half the ending y but both were introduced to the storyline of the game which fascinated them. Doing ending x or y will make the rest “mad”. Doing both to get all satisfied will result on a harsh story inconsistency and will lower its quality. This is how I view it, but I’m still curious as to what kind of an ending would the fans have liked. Curious to see how it wraps up nicely and doesn’t mess with the quality of the storytelling so far. I am not against another alternative ending so long it is not “standard”. :)

          • Alton "The Kitchen Goblin" Brown says:

            Mass Effect had at least six credited writers. ME2 had at least nine, and ME 3 had at least five. I stress credited because there are always people who give ideas or provide an influence who are not on the writing team, but have a large enough impact that they should be taken into account. In a situation like this ideas are pitched, discussed, modified to meet a agreeable point and then they moves forward. That is why I said “very own imagination” Make no mistake, I only think the ending is horrible. The rest of the game is fine in my opinion.

            “Doing both to get all satisfied will result on a harsh story inconsistency and will lower its quality” Now I think you are being intentionally obstinate. This isn’t a novel, this isn’t a a movie, this is a game. Interactive media. There doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, one ending path. And even if there was some justifiable reason to have one ending path, and “Doing ending x or y” as you said, then they still didn’t do a very good job because well more than half of the players and fans are clearly not happy with the ending they half-assedly slapped together. I honestly cannot figure out how this ending ever saw the light of day.

          • Alderis says:

            To clarify on my sentence there “Doing both to get all satisfied will result on a harsh story inconsistency and will lower its quality”… the story’s conclusion now that we know gives us a broad view as to where the creative team wanted it to go since ME1. In case they put another ending that does not reflect their initial intentions it would resemble “deus ex machima”, sort of an ending that was rushed and not thought of.

            But you are (or were) a fan. Please do tell what you as a fan wanted as if the creators hear you right now while developing the story. I would be interested to hear another view of a proper ending, not general talk. Specifics are always good. :D

    • J.C. Wigriff says:

      I will respond to this post out of order.

      “To say that the ending was acceptable is subjective, but to say it is “Potentially Most Impressive in Gaming History” is flat out ridiculous.”

      po·ten·tial (p-tnshl)
      2. Having possibility, capability, or power.

      sub·jec·tive (sb-jktv)
      a. Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
      b. Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.

      Therefore, saying “Mass Effect 3 Ending Potentially Most Impressive in Gaming History” is clearly subjective.

      Alton “The Kitchen Goblin” Brown says:”Regardless of how any defensive fanboys…”

      and: ” I have invested hundreds of hours into this series at this point, and invested hundreds of dollars as well. I own the games, two of which are collectors editions. I have the comics, and two of the paperbacks. I also bought the soundtracks for 1 and 2. I even have models of both Normandys.”

      First off: neither Terry or myself are “fanboys;” we are fully willing and capable of basing a product based upon its merits as opposed to adamantly defending a series based upon a misplaced personal attachment.

      Making the accusation of “fanboy” doesn’t hold much weight when you later attempt to validate your own opinion by, essentially, revealing yourself to be a fanboy.

      You then followed with:

      “In fact I think our opinion should be at least equal to that of the developers and writers, because it’s us that have supported the series financially and we’re the reason any of this was even possible.”

      The consumer is who supports any medium financially and determines its overall success, be it a movie, novel, or television series. Your power, as a consumer, is being able to express your opinion through choosing whether or not you support a particular product, and through reviews.

      If you don’t like the direction that BioWare and EA have taken their latest games, then simply don’t buy anymore.

      Disagreeing with the decisions of a writer is one thing. Feeling entitled enough to demand a writer change his product post-production simply based upon your personal dislike for how the story was handled is contemptuous.

      There have been plenty of games I purchased that I was exceptionally disappointed with – but demanding that they be changed based upon my personal dislike smacks of a spoiled child throwing a temper-tantrum in a grocery store because he didn’t get the chocolate bar he wanted.

      “What the hell did I just read?”

      An article that was carefully researched and thought out, eloquently detailing the personal opinion of the author. You read an article that was designed to provoke thought and discussion, and perhaps allow some disgruntled gamers to take a step back and view the ME3 ending from an alternate perspective.

  26. [...] worth a look if you’ve finished the game already or don’t care about spoilers. Read it here. Tags: gaming, Mass Effect, videogames Post a Comment or Leave a [...]

  27. Alton "The Kitchen Goblin" Brown says:

    Okay first, I don’t feel “entitled enough to demand a writer change his product post-production”. I’m not demanding or or even asking nicely. I’m not on that band wagon. The damage is done, any back tracking now will only further cheapen the game in my eyes at this point. As far as any power as a consumer, It’s a little hard to express an opinion in that way when you have to play the game to find out just how bad the ending is. I had the game pre-ordered for months anyway because there was no way I could have seen this coming. But I can assure you, I’m sure as hell not gonna buy any DLC at this point, regardless of any changes they decide to make to the ending. Or any spin off series EA decides to wring out of the Mass Effect IP for that matter.

    And no, it’s not clearly subjective in the way you presented it. And no, it still does not have the potential to be the most impressive ending in history. Why? Because all of this is nothing more than conjecture on the part of the players who are still trying to make this awful ending into something worthy of the series it has concluded. What actually is there, as given by the writers, is very stark and nonsensical. It doesn’t even clearly elude to any of the theories floating in the aether of the internet.

    Let me apologize and clarify, when I said “defensive fanboys” I was speaking in broad and general terms, about all of the people on forums and comment sections the world over, not specifically of your article. You are certainly right though, I am a fanboy of the Mass Effect series. That’s why I am so aggravated that the people at Bioware thought this would be appropriate.

  28. TheGorgon says:

    An interesting read on the end of the series. I think your ideas are pretty good; the facts you state are a little too open to interpretation. Seems some of them could be explained other ways. It also feels a little too forced or contrived to think that a major company would make a game for the masses and stake the explaining of such a heavy storyline ending/explanation on some pretty tiny details. Well, at least some of them… I DO think you are right about the bigger picture stuff like the themes of indoctrination and resistance though. I just think that Bioware flubbed the ending to a rather important series with some half@ssed writing. It could have been fleshed out a lot better, and not required a super sleuth to piece together. Cuz I’m definitely not that smart.

  29. Tricky says:

    When the ghost boy calls himself the Catalyst, could it be that the ghost boy was a catalyst for Shepard’s indoctrination?

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  31. magnetite says:

    The conversation on Ilos is a foreshadowing of the indoctrination ending of Mass Effect 3. Even before Mass Effect 1 was released, they wrote a book that hinted at Reapers indoctrinating organics. It is my personal belief, that this whole thing was planned all along. Given all the evidence that I found, it certainly makes sense. Absolutely mind blowing that they actually managed to pull it off too.

  32. techstepman says:

    the indoctrination theory is just a theory,and theories are called that cause they are not facts.i played, i had fun and in the end i survived.dont really get why people are going crazy over this.so yeah the ending should have been a lot more than just boom you won or you lost.

    the indoctrination theory is just a waste of time,i have checked almost all most popular points and most if not all of them are invalid,or assumptions or simply convinient missinterpatations of game design faults.many people talk about the “hum”…if that hum was proof then why dont you hear it all the time?then again…with the leviathan dlc all became clear.if shepard ever was indoctrinated im sure the leviathan would do something about that,like kill him.so yeah the theory gets blown up into pieces.the child thing is just bioware being bored.you must have seen talis pic right?if they are bored to paint a new face then im sure that putting the childs image in the end was simple.as for the shuttle scene i guess everyones ignoring the child cause mass effects cut scenes were always weird.The Reaper’s resulting control over the limbic system leaves the victim highly susceptible to its suggestion and that means that shepard resisted indoctrination from the begining even if the theory could be correct.

    so in the end even if shepard was really in the process of being indoctrinated he makes his choice with a clear unaffected mind,so talking about indoctrination theories is totally a waste of time.

    the oily shadows is a nice point though.

    instead of making up theories is suggest you people get to play as many play throughs as you want through the story cause there is going to be a mass effect 4(like theres a halo 4) and im pretty sure bioware will tell us all what happened

    • techstepman says:

      i forgot something…shepard or at least my shepard is not the type to be open to anyones suggestions.so it doesnt really matter how suggestive a reaper can be.indoctrination failed cause it simply has the basic fault of being suggestive…lolz

    • magnetite says:

      As with any theories, even in the real world, nothing is ever confirmed to be true.

      However, an interesting quote from Mordin in Mass Effect 2:

      No proof, but theory fits evidence.

      People say, what evidence? Well most of that would be kind of how the ending feels a bit off or out of place? Or the plot holes people mistake as the evidence.

      Someone who takes the ending literally might explain that Shepard blowing up on the Citadel and waking up somewhere that looks like Earth as bad writing even though the evidence says otherwise (wind sounds in the breath scene, there’s no wind in outer space).

      Thing is Bioware not only indoctrinated Shepard (based on your choice), but the player as well. So ever since March, people will only believe what Bioware says, and anyone who says something different will be cast aside. It’s kind of like cult brainwashing. The followers (the fans who took the ending literally as bad writing) only believe the leader (Bioware), and no one else. Anyone other than Bioware will viewed as a crock or full of it.

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