This Is The End, Beautiful Friend: Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut Will Offer Closure, Not Changes
BioWare, a Label of Electronic Arts Inc. announced Mass Effect™ 3: Extended Cut, a downloadable content pack that will expand upon the events at the end of the critically acclaimed Action RPG. Through additional cinematic sequences and epilogue scenes, the Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut will give fans seeking further clarity to the ending of Mass Effect 3 deeper insights into how their personal journey concludes. Coming this summer, the Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut will be available for download on the Xbox 360® videogame and entertainment system, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and PC for no extra charge.
We are all incredibly proud of Mass Effect 3 and the work done by Casey Hudson and team," said Dr. Ray Muzyka, Co-Founder of BioWare and General Manager of EA's BioWare Label. "Since launch, we have had time to listen to the feedback from our most passionate fans and we are responding. With the Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut we think we have struck a good balance in delivering the answers players are looking for while maintaining the team's artistic vision for the end of this story arc in the Mass Effect universe.
Brief pause for a possible SPOILER ALERT: I know there are more than a few fans of Mass Effect who think everything about the third game's ending (and some, the game itself) is a right clusterfuck, but those people are wrong. The ideas behind the ending are absolutely intertwined into the whole series -- the age and origins of the Reapers, the strife between organic and synthetic life forms, making a single choice that affects the entire galaxy -- and whether or not any of it is actually happening is almost besides the point. If we're inside Shepard's mind as she/he fights against Indoctrination or if we're only seeing the attempted takeover as Shepard really does stop the Illusive Man and turn on the Crucible, the ultimate outcome is essentially the same. Either Shepard dies/becomes a Husk or Shepard dies/survives but is mortally wounded. Regardless, the war against the Reapers is over. For the record, I've changed my mind and decided that no matter what interpretation of the end is true, the "red ending" is the only one where you "beat the game." End possible SPOILERS.
All that matters about Mass Effect 3's ending is whether you won or you lost, and, of course, what happens after that depending on all the other choices you've made. So it makes sense that BioWare's announcement would reflect the possibility of a deeper epilogue of cut scenes rather than some sort of gameplay element. After all, if your Shepard dies, who exactly would you play as in the DLC? But that's probably also why Extended Cut will be free, because paying for something you don't get to play, and if that's true then it should have been included in the game initially, would be an even greater folly. But what I still find intensely intriguing is whether or not this was planned from the very beginning as part of the previously mentioned "additional content initiatives." Here's Casey Hudson, the main creative voice of the trilogy, on the plan:
"We have re-prioritized our post-launch development efforts to provide the fans who want more closure with even more context and clarity to the ending of the game, in a way that will feel more personalized for each player."
Obviously, pissing off an incredibly large number of your customer base just so you can make amends later would be a horrible business model. But I wonder if Hudson and everyone else at BioWare thought the loudest response to the game would be a pleading wail of, What happens next?! And then they would have graced us with their planned-all-along epilogue, also likely free. It would certainly prevent anyone from spoiling the real conclusion of Commander Shepard's story for anyone who can't find the time to complete the game in a matter of days much less weeks or months. If most players had been genuinely anticipating a revelation, this could have been an amazing storytelling achievement. And if there really was the possibility of "perfect ending," the Indoctrination Theory would also hold true, giving audiences two revolutionary feats. We'll probably never know, now, because the current endings really did drop the ball by being more head-scratching than jaw-dropping.
Oh, and anyone who makes the argument that this is a fundamental reason why video games can't be art, because an artist's vision is never question: Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes only to resurrect the character because of fan outcry and DC killed off the second Robin because the fans demanded it. Michelangelo worked for hire. The audience always has a say, unless we're talking about George Lucas.
Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter @RobOfWar, and his ware can be purchased here (if you're into that sort of thing). He's pretty certain that Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut damn well better be satisfying when it comes out this summer, or else Mass Effect: Paragon Lost will be dead on arrival.