So, after spending over three thousand words looking at the endings, I feel like I have to bring this theory up.
Oh, and before I forget…
Because, well, I really like it. Even though I know I shouldn’t.
It Was All A Dream…
One of the more subtle abilities the Reapers have is the ability to subtly control someone else’s mind, to get their victims to side with the Reapers and aid them in their grand plans. This was done to great effect in all three games, and is one of the more terrifying things about them, because the process is slow, the victim believes wholeheartedly that what they are doing is right, and you can never tell if its happening to you.
And so, the theory is that after Shepard gets hit by the mega-ultra-laser that nearly kills him, everything that happens after is a dream, designed to Indoctrinate Shepard. The Reapers are trying to get you to give up trying to destroy them by convincing you that destroying the Reapers is a bad idea, that what you should REALLY do is try to take control of them (anotion that’s quite popular among the Indoctrinated) or have everyone become a merging of Synthetic and Organic material (which, in the end, are what the Reapers ARE).
So, Shepard taking the Destroy option is him fighting the Indoctrination, and taking the other two is him giving in, which is why only the Destroy option has Shepard potentially survive.
Why Does the Theory Work?
There are two real strengths for the theory.
The first is rather populist in nature: It gets rid of the bad endings, and replaces them with the hope for better ones down the line.
Now, that SOUNDS like simple optimism. And there’s a healthy amount of that in this theory, no question. But given the quality of the rest of the game’s story, its hard not to think that the ending was so bad on purpose.
Okay, its REALLY optimistic. But there’s another reason for this Theory’s prominence: It explains a LOT of plot holes. To name a few…
- Why is your ship running from the energy wave, when it was in the fighting around Earth last time you saw it?
- Why are party members who were with you on the ground on Earth suddenly back on your ship?
- Why are the obvious faults in the Reaper Intelligence’s logic never examined or questioned?
- Why does Shepard’s pistol in the end have infinite ammo? Not just infinite clips that he can pull out of nowhere, but infinite rounds per clip?
- Why can Shepard breathe in the final area, considering that it looks like there’s no walls or windows keeping the vacuum out?
- Why does the Reaper Intelligence have a form that looks like a kid that Shepard failed to save at the beginning of the game?
- Why don’t the exploding Mass Relays wipe out entire systems, like the Alpha Relay in The Return DLC from ME2 did?
- How can an energy wave combine all organic life with Synthetic life?
- Why do you hear an NPC say that no one survived the attack while you are limping towards the finish, in clear view of others.
And there’s more. A lot more. A lot about the ending doesn’t make sense, only using the logic internal to the game’s universe, characters and technology. I mean, I didn’t write three posts tearing the endings apart for nothing.
There’s also a dark reason for this. You see, Mass Effect 3 is going to have DLC developed and released post-release. Its implied by content in-game that some of the DLC will involve retaking Omega, a space station that was heavily featured in Mass Effect 2. There will likely be more, but, from a business perspective, what’s the point of DLC for a game where the ending is known? Much of ME2’s DLC involved events that its quite likely took place after the end of ME2’s regular campaign.
If all of ME3’s DLC has to take place before the end of the game… well, it doesn’t sound that impressive, from a sale’s perspective…
Like I said, its a dark and cynical reason. but it does make some sense…
Why Does the Theory Not Work?
The obvious reason: Never ascribe to malice what can be attributed to incompetence.
The ending is bad. But Bioware has been bad before. Mass Effect has been bad before, although, admittedly, not THIS bad.
And, well, this was released. If it were any other game, this ending wouldn’t be given a second look, because everyone was hoping for a perfect ending.
It was a Deus Ex Machina, sure, but that was the only way you could beat the Reapers. It had plot holes, but its hardly alone in that regard. The Synthesis ending IS, on its own, an impressive concept. And, if there had been an anti-climax after the ending, explaining what had happened to your companions, the ending would have largely been shrugged off as “Its bad, but how else could it have been done?”
Besides, the dark, cynical reason why it could work? It could only work once. Extorting DLC money to get the REAL ending is the sort of community breaking action that would basically destroy any trust that the players have in Bioware. Even evil corporate overlords wouldn’t go that far.
So, Where Do I Stand?
The rational side of my mind sees the logic in both sides.
…and the emotional side of my mind wants to throw as much money at Bioware as it will take to make a good ending. Please note the “I’m a whiny fanboy and I don’t care” tag on this article…
But. There’s one other side of this.
If this is Bioware’s intent all along? That this ending is really just Shepard fighting Indoctrination? I kinda want to see where they go with this. Its an impressive curveball to throw, and given the quality of the rest of the game…
Yeah. I’d want to see how it plays out.
But I won’t hold my breath.