So this is a spoiler post. If you don’t want to know the Mass Effect 3 endings, don’t read it. Pretty simple. You’ve been warned.
So, at the end of Mass Effect 3, you get a choice of 3 endings. Control the reapers, destroy the reapers or join with them. Controlling the reapers is symbolized by blue (paragon) but the pre-selection sequence shows the Illusive Man, who is clearly red (renegade). Using this option ends the reaper invasion, by letting you control the reapers. Destroying the reapers is symbolized by red (renegade) but your pre-selection video shows General Anderson, who is clearly blue (paragon). Using this option destroys the reapers but also kills the Geth/Quarians and most technology. The third option is a symbiosis option or something, which is the happy middle ground I guess? You enter a beam of light and alter the DNA of everything to become a hybrid of machine/organic life.
But let’s step back a second. So the catalyst is a child? Or something, I guess. He’s the kid you’ve been seeing in your dreams, who is also the kid you saw die when you left earth at the beginning of the game. Wait. What? Yeah, I don’t get it either. And he lives on the Citadel or something. Waiting for the crucible, which he has no idea exists – because it was created by many disparate races over the different cycles that the Reapers have attacked the universe. Wait. What? It’s not logical.
But take a step back from there and let’s talk about things that -were- good ideas in the ending.
The idea that the reapers only harvest technologically advanced species, leaving the less evolved ones alone. This is why humans/asari/krogan/etal were left alone last time. This makes sense, if you presume that Reapers are feeding off the technology and energy from these cultures. It also follows from this that the spider things on the Citadel are taking a sort of silent census, your presence on the citadel determines that your species is advanced enough to be assimilated. I forget their explanation in the original Mass Effect – I think they were explained as the Citadel care takers or something, they ignore everything around them and just repair/maintain systems.
So every 50,000 the reapers come and destroy the species that are too advanced and are thus occupying the Citadel. If, as explained in Mass Effect 3, the reapers destroy everyone because they don’t want them to get to powerful to destroy the reapers, then wouldn’t it simply just make sense to destroy the Mass Relays? Since that is what allowed most races to advance so quickly – by pilfering knowledge they gleaned from these devices. The Illusive Man even says that humans have developed more in the past 100 years than they have in the past 10,000. So really, the reapers are bringing about their own destruction in this sense, aren’t they? If the reapers’ goal is to prevent societies from getting too advanced, then why not slow down their progress? Clearly, the method would be to destroy the Mass Relays.
It just seems like a convoluted plan by the reapers. Near nonsensical. It rendered the plot of Mass Effect 1 as irrelevant and pointless. And Mass Effect 2 as equally pointless. Why make a human reaper if your goal is to destroy the humans? Maybe there were other reapers created in similar methods? An Asari-Reaper, a Krogan-Reaper, etc? This would lend support to the catalyst’s claim that they are helping these races ascend. But no evidence of such is seen. Instead, Asari are turned into Banshee’s, etc. So the goal is different for each race. Why turn humans into husks if your goal is to make them ascend? It seems counter to the point.
Either the catalyst is lying (possible) or the writing just doesn’t make sense. I’ll go with the latter.
So anyways, let’s say you choose the symbiosis option (entering the beam). You die; apparently. Robots and organics merge into a new DNA structure. Normandy crashes on some planet and Robot Joker and EDI get to get freaky or something. So, I fought to save the galaxy so Joker and EDI could have sex? Really? I know I’m oversimplifying, but it’s not a very satisfying conclusion.
You choose the control the reapers option. You die, apparently. Reapers leave the planet. Normandy crashes onto some planet and Joker and (insert your love interest) leave the Normandy. What’s weird here, is that I had Liara on the mission -and- as my love interest. Yet there she is. I had assumed she died running towards the beam thing. Bad writing, again? Poor forethought?
You choose the destroy the reapers option. You live, or so you can infer from the final glimpse of y our body. Rest is identical.
Maybe the ending is just a dream and you do die on the way to the beam or are severely injured and the rest is imagined? This is somewhat possible as the rest of the game plays very oddly – you get a gun with unlimited ammo. You are injured, then suddenly not so injured. After the Illusive Man dies, you are lifted into a beam of light with obvious allusions. Then the choice of heaven or hell, as perceived by the gatekeeper (the crucible).
But either way, you have no real option as the ending. Mass Effect 2 left you with destroy the reaper ship or don’t. I opted to destroy it, and didn’t do the other play through; but there was a real choice with apparent consequences – especially given that the ending to ME3 is different if you didn’t destroy it (in some endings, the earth is destroyed).
All in all, 3 pretty terrible endings for an awesome franchise. During the game, I had assumed the catalyst would be something stupid (it was) but that it’d channel the power of the Mass Relays to destroy the Reapers somehow. Or, in a worst case scenario, you lose this “cycle” but you get a movie that shows your “progress in this cycle” allowed a future cycle to complete the crucible and finally destroy the reapers. This would have made Liara’s “time capsule” near the middle of the game relevant instead of a few pointless Paragon/Renegade points.
That might have actually been an interesting ending, too. Shepard, sensing defeat at the hands of the Reapers and knowing that the reapers ignore primitive cultures, orders Liara to fire her time capsules at planets where life is just starting to gain a technological foothold. Thus giving them a head-start, and consolidating all the data on the crucible so they aren’t working from behind in future cycles.
That probably would have made everyone’s sacrifice very worthwhile. Not for themselves, but for their prosperity. And that would have been a pretty good way to cap off this series.