The planned conclusion of Mass Effect 3 looked very different from the ending that came in the last game, bearing little resemblance to the much-maligned finale.
Talking about Mass Effect and other BioWare games in a Reddit AMA (opens in new tab) (ask me what) thread, writer Drew Karpshyn shared a few details about the original ending of the series. Karpyshyn worked as lead writer for Mass Effect and co-lead for Mass Effect 2, and was asked how they would have ended the series had they stayed for the third game.
“We [had] some very rough ideas planned,” they said. “Basically, it involved luring the Reapers through the Mass Relays and then detonating the entire network to wipe them out… but also destroy/damage the relays and destroy every galactic community of the others. isolate.
“But we still had a lot of details to figure out and there were some issues with that option… like what we would do in the next batch of games.”
A better ending?
That’s fundamentally different from the ending in the final version of Mass Effect 3. The Mass Relays (the intergalactic transport system that allows starships to instantly jump through space) aren’t blown up and the Reapers aren’t lured to their deaths. Warning, spoilers ahead.
Instead, Commander Shepard encounters the childlike Catalyst and faces three discreet choices: destroy the Reapers and all synthetic life in the universe in one final devastating explosion; merge with the Reapers in a final sacrifice; or jump into a big green beam to combine all organic and synthetic life and leave the universe in harmony.
The ending has been a source of consternation among fans since Mass Effect 3 was released over a decade ago. It removed much of the player desk that the series loved so much, and offered the player three, clearly discrete options that had little impact on their previous decisions. While the extent of destruction and how many squad members survived the finals depended on how much “total military strength” you’d amassed before the final mission, the biggest and most meaningful choices you’d made so far seemed irrelevant.
The ending Karpshyn outlines sounds more focused, with players inevitably destroying the Reapers using the Mass Relays. But even that may have left more room for player agency to shine through, as past players’ choices affect the final state of the game’s universe, after it’s broken into isolated chunks by the destruction of the Mass relays.
This isn’t the first prototype Mass Effect ending to be thrown on the internet. Former BioWare animation director Dave Wilkinson said: People make games last year, at one point, the ending of Mass Effect 3 was directly tied to the game’s Paragon-Renegade moral system. Even then, however, it was split into three different versions that were similar to that of the final release.
Maybe Mass Effect 5 will finally give us the ability to blow up the mass relays.