Following the release of Mass Effect 3 it was hard for anyone to escape the controversy surrounding the game ending. Heck, I knew more about the games ending than I did any other facet of it before I’d even bought the game. Bioware did eventually release a free DLC that put in more fan friendly endings to quell some of the outrage, and for the most part it worked. In the wake of the incident many fans discussed their idea for what would have been better endings for the series. The most believable and creative, in my opinion, being the ‘Indoctrination Theory.”
Mass Effect: The Alternate Ending
Earlier this month the former head writer for Mass Effect 1 & 2 hopped on the VGS talk radio show to discuss an ending that was in the works but never made it out to show. Drew Karpyshyn was the head writer when ME2 introduced the idea of Dark Energy. If you haven’t brushed up on you Mass Effect lore recently then you may have forgotten that Dark Energy was even a mentioned in the series. It appeared in ME2 as an explanation for how the mass relays functioned and was utilized by the enemy to create a device that could warp to any relay. It was essentially Mass Effect’s explanation of the faster-than-light travel that was used throughout the game. This was completely dropped from the third game and never mentioned again after ME2.
Karpyshyn left Bioware before the development of ME2 was complete. As a result he didn’t have any input on the story in the last game. Perhaps that’s why the idea of Dark Energy was completely dropped from the third game. With the lead writer gone it’s no surprise that the replacement wanted to put their own twist on the plot. It seems like the plot originally in work didn’t get much focus after he’d left Bioware. Karpyshyk commented that the idea was, 砺ery vague and not fleshed out・ but still discussed some of the ideas behind the possible plot.
“Dark Energy was something that only organics could access because of various techno-science magic reasons we hadn’t decided on yet. Maybe using this Dark Energy was having a ripple effect on the space-time continuum.”
This would have been seemingly easy to work out as it seems like it would function similar to The Force in Star Wars. Ripple effects from it’s use would have been interesting to to see, perhaps power isn’t free. While he didn’t go into specifics, Karpyshyn did comment a little more on the possible effects that using this Dark Energy might have had.
“Maybe the Reapers kept wiping out organic life because organics keep evolving to the state where they would use biotics and dark energy and that caused an entropic effect that would hasten the end of the universe. Being immortal beings, that’s something they wouldn’t want to see.”
Now that’s a twist I can get on board with! Reapers end up being the (sort of) good guys, having the greater good of the universe in mind. It would have been very cool to find out that you’d been working counter to the benefit of all of existence without even knowing it. Bioware could have still had their final choice archetype but imagine how much heavier it would have been if you could ensure the survival of the races at the cost of existence afterward versus making the ultimate sacrifice for the universe. That’s real decision to give people, there is no good answer, no way to just win.
Fans seem to have taken a big liking to Karpyshyk’s idea for the ME3 ending. He spoke on how the Reapers have to keep recycling the universe in order to discover to key to stopping the end without having to keep wiping life over and over again. Essentially making all of the races one big experiment to find the right tool for the job. He explained a bit further that they wanted to, 鍍ry and find the perfect group to use biotics for this purpose. The Asari were close but they weren’t quite right, the Protheans were close as well.・ This all seems to be much better than what Bioware ended up doing with the much derided endings to the series.
Karpysnyk himself seemed a bit unconvinced of the love for the Dark Energy plot by comparing it to vapourware. That fans only like the ending because of how vague it is and that it’s, “always perfect, anytime someone talks about the new greatest game. It’s perfect until it comes out. I’m a little weary about going into too much detail because, whatever we came up with, it probably wouldn’t be what people want it to be.”
Maybe he’s right about why the ending seems so much better than what we got. I can’t help but think that a lot of the distaste for the ME3 endings came from a lack of explanation. It didn’t explain much of what had gone on and it didn’t explain much of what effect your choices had. Dark Energy just seems like a good explanation for why everything has happened with the Reapers, while making you deeply question what’s really “right.”Along with the dropped Dark Energy idea they also discarded ideas for making Shepard an alien and a cyborg. I can’t say that I’m too sad about those not making the cut.
With the head writer changing from ME2 to ME3 it’s no surprise that the official ending felt a little disjointed. It’s hard to say whether Karpyshyk’s ending would have been any better. It certainly seems as if it could have added a more interesting twist to the final encounter, but who knows. We’re all a bit bitter about how that franchise ended and just about anything other than what we got seems like a better idea. But maybe Karpyshyk’s right, Mass Effect was huge and it’s possible nothing would have satisfied it’s fans, maybe it’s just all in our heads.