When Work Really Pays Off – Re-imagining the End of the Mass Effect Trilogy

 

Behold: the crucible!

The final choice that needn’t be there

Yeah, I know that this is the third article about Mass Effect 3 in a row, but I find it so fascinating simply because it was so bad that it ruined the entire franchise for a lot of gamers. You can harp that up to people being butthurt, but the fact that such a thing even happened is a clear sign that writing is a powerful tool. That we need to analyse this ending to make sure we don’t do the same. So this time I’m going to pose a simple question: what if the ending didn’t have the crucible VI and the three choices?

Let’s assume that we start the game as it does now. You find Liara on Mars and she comes up with the Crucible: a weapon that can kill the Reapers, but is incredibly difficult to create. You follow the game, gather all the war assets you can get your grimy little hands on, play a bit of multiplayer (hey, we’re not gonna forget you EA Games…) and you get to the ending with the maximum amount of EMS. You find your way to the citadel, activate the crucible and… the Reapers are destroyed. Would this be a better or worse ending for you?

For me the answer is clear: it’s a better ending, simply because I feel that the VI posing the three questions isn’t really necessary. It’s a pointless deus ex machina.

When Dead Races Are Your Best Friends

Throughout the entire game we get to hear that the Crucible is a weapon that can destroy the Reapers. But where does this crucible come from? Well, it is mentioned by Leviathan that the crucible has been built before in previous cycles, but that they failed. So I think the crucible could easily have been played off as a project that so many cycles have contributed to that it actually stands a chance to destroy the reapers. Considering that there have been 20,000 cycles so far I’d hazard a guess and say that’s enough to actually make such a weapon. It fits within the theme of cooperation within the game, as Shepard spends the entire game making allies. Couldn’t the cycles have “worked together as well?”

It would explain why the technology would be “elegant, yet simple” according to Hacket. Most civilisations reach a similar level of technology within the 50,000 year cycles because of the Mass Relays. It also explains why the crucible would use the massive power of the relays: ME2 showed that they’re capable of wiping out a star system, so that’s enough power to destroy the Reapers. They could’ve even added a “but at what cost” tag unto the weapon, which is very relevant to the theme of “war brings sacrifice” that the game explores. Instead of giving the middle finger to the VI Shepard could’ve given it to the option of “wiping out all of sentient life in the galaxy.”

The crucible and the reaper

Hey, they can’t steal the crucible!

It would also work for the Reapers. The game developers have presented the Reapers as this unknown force. They know no mercy, no pity and will harvest or convert you. While Mass Effect 3 did explain how they came to be, this is not actually relevant information for the game itself. The VI could’ve been destroyed or deactivated. It could’ve been a final boss that Shepard needed to deal with before it could’ve activated the crucible. Anything but what happened now!

Now, would this be the perfect ending to the saga? Well, allow me to compare this hypothetical ending to the ending of Dragon Age Origins. Throughout the entire game you are focused on gathering an army against the Darkspawn. After you deal with Loghain and have combined several different race armies into one you march to the capital city. You fight your way to the Archdemon and you kill it. That’s the end of the game and everyone loved it. Simply because all of your work pays off. You can use your army throughout the final levels and you finally defeat the thing the game has spent a lot of time setting up as a mindless big bad. Surprisingly similar, if you ask me.

So I honestly do feel that in this case “Less is more” would’ve sufficed. Considering that you spend the entire game uniting all races against one common foe I really don’t think it would’ve been bad to focus on and end with that. Maybe even made it so that you could’ve used the different races you recruit during the final levels. For me that would’ve been a better ending to the trilogy than what we got now.

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Copyright: The images used in this article are screenshots taken from the game series Mass Effect. We are allowed to use them under section 107 of the US Copyright Act of 1976. The Mass Effect game series belongs to Bioware and EA Games.

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