2022.02.04

Mass Effect 3 Legendary Shepard Citadel space elevator Earth

My Mass Effect Legendary Edition playthrough has come to a close. Since it's wordy and spoilery, I'll put it last.
Real life


Usual fun stuff on the homefront: kickbacks, brunches, and testing the quality of sea walls.

ESPP dis/qualifying disposition

Random? Yes. But it'll help me remember/reference it later and perhaps someone on the internets will find it helpful.

For qualifying (probably most?) employee stock purchase programs, selling date tax thresholds are as follows:
If you're looking to sell earlier than 18 months, the 12 month threshold is better than 11 months. Share price notwithstanding, it's nice to get the ESPP grants primed by not selling for 18 months, then you can sell at the grant dates and have a less painful April.

Tree seeds that look like covid
From mine and Dani's walk recently. Didn't make me think of anything in particular.
Meta/lists


Over the years I've had some list content crop up organically - Speed Nite, J's video game punditry, rants about younger generations, etc. At one point I aggregated them in a side bar link, but I haven't created many new ones (this isn't Buzzfeed after all). Well, I was recently doing site infrastructure work and trawling for images to use in graphics processing so I set aside some of my favorite original image content.
Far Cry, Yaran liberation is nigh

Far Cry 6 Jose Castillo painting riding lion
And the game wants us to believe this is a bad guy?

Led by J and myself, Libertad has gained the allegiance of the three rebel factions and will be taking the capitol shortly. Juan better not be evil.

thumbnail Far Cry 6 tank pedi cab road thumbnail Far Cry 6 execution sword thumbnail Far Cry 6 shooting doves cinematic
thumbnail Far Cry 6 helicopter sunset view pistol
Mass Effect trilogy finale [spoilers/plot discussion]

Mass Effect 3 legendary Space Kid Citadel crucible

I'll start with a brief recap of the trilogy, in case you have never played the game or missed some DLC or are me in three years trying to remember the critical plot points.

Pre-history

Mass Effect 3 Legendary Shepard Leviathan underwater

Millennia ago, the (skyscraper-size and squid-like) dominant inhabitants of the Milky Way created AIs, for all the normal reasons like cleaning and bringing in the newspaper. The creators - called "Leviathans" by their contemporary discoverer - First Lawed their synthetic servants. The problem is, they weren't explicit enough; the AIs decided that organic life will always kill itself if it develops unchecked.

The synthetic space squids took upon the role and title of 'Reapers', giant, sentient ships that hibernate in deep space while life in the galaxy develops. Once each cycle of organic civilization reaches a high level of technological sophistication, the Reapers return to the galaxy, figurative scythe in hand. They wipe out all advanced civilization and leaving primitive organics to begin the next cycle. Equilibrium.

Mass Effect 3 Legendary Mass Relay discovery text

Also left behind are a collection of prehistoric FTL gates as well as The Citadel; a huge, self-sustaining space station that typically becomes a galactic hub during the rise of each cycle. The Mass Effect story starts with humanity discovering one such gate.

The trilogy and Shepard

Mass Effect 3 Legendary Thessia Reaper ending

ME1 begins a few years after the FTL gate discovery brings Earth into the galactic fold. The protagonist, Shepard, slowly unravels the mystery of the Reapers via artifacts from the last cycle. To anyone's knowledge, the creators of these artifacts, the Protheans, were the ones who built the FTL gates and the Citadel.

The trilogy consists of a lot of running around, character development, and worldbuilding. The organic/synthetic/AI theme presents itself in a handful of ways before the Reaper threat even begins to take shape. While the Reapers are the overarching conflict, galactic politics, backstory development, and fetch quests serve as both distractions and rungs in the ladder to the finale.

The finale

ME3 starts with the Reapers invading Earth and other galactic capitols. They are nigh-invulnerable and do the White Walker/Borg/tequila thing of turning friendlies into hostile automata. The only hope for the cycle comes from a mysterious superweapon whose plans were discovered, developed, and then hidden by civilizations wiped out in each cycle. A schematic in a bottle, as it were.

Mass Effect 3 Legendary Crucible Citadel docking Earth

At the climax of the series, Shepard activates the weapon with the help of military forces she united throughout the game(s). The superweapon (a big sphere) joins with the Citadel and summons an AI whose role is to oversee the Reapers. The AI tells Shepard that the organic-synthetic status quo is now in peril and that she must activate a deux ex machina device that will either:
Mass Effect 3 Legendary destroy control synthesis choice
Control, synthesis, destroy, respectively.

Meta

When it was originally released, ME3 caught some serious fan backlash. The players' primary qualm was that each of these three endings played out identically, except that the deus ex machina sparks were different colors.

Mass Effect 3 legendary Citadel Crucible destroy
Here you have the red/destroy energy color. Also available in blue/control and green/synthesis.

Story aside, this stood in contrast to promises made by the developers about having a wide variety of endings impacted by decisions made throughout the trilogy.

The outrage prompted Bioware to scramble to release an "extended ending". The revised ending didn't change any fundamental outcomes but added narration and a few short scenes that explained more about the fate of the galaxy.

Space kid

Mass Effect 3 Legendary The Illusive Man indoctrinated finale

Disgruntled players also panned "space kid", the holographic form chosen for the Reaper watchdog AI. Space Kid appears early in the game and then in dream sequences throughout ME3, but feels a bit silly after Shepard vanquishes the Martin Sheen-voiced Illusive Man.

The Matrix Architect

I'm actually less annoyed by the Space Kid than I was the first time around. In a scene that is functionally like Neo meeting the Architect, I guess any representation is plausible but both a kid and an ash-haired man with a pleasant voice are a bit tropey.

Tiers of goodness

Mass Effect 3 Legendary ending finale Normandy repaired flying

I don't know if the original ending had it or if it was introduced with the extended version, but on this playthrough I found out that there are better and worse versions of each ending. E.g. the low-tier 'destroy' ending basically EMPs the galaxy, killing everything synthetic (Reapers, AI, FTL gates, mass effect field toothbrushes). With enough galactic unity points that you accrue throughout the game, the FTL network remains functional and spacecraft can be repaired. It's ultimately the difference between sending the galaxy back to the stone age and lightly damaging everyone's cellphone.

It's a little weird that galactic unity somehow impacts how bad the damage is. Its primary purpose in the original release was to unlock the synthesis option and was difficult to obtain without online play (an extremely EA thing).

Destroy

Mass Effect 3 Legendary destroy ending choice

On my first playthrough (way back when), I went with 'synthesis' because even Space Kid says "it's the ideal outcome". This time around, it seemed like 'destroy' was the right play. I had enough galaxy points to get the least destructive flavor and it even ends with a teaser that Shepard survived. The other two endings explicitly require Shepard to die.

Mass Effect 3 Legendary RIP Shepard plaque Garrus memorial
Even with just three-ish endings, Bioware still kind of goofed by having the Normandy crew declare Shepard KIA rather prematurely.

And another thing

Mass Effect 3 Legendary ending Citadel damaged Earth

My remaining qualms come from the handwavey stuff associated with the ending:
Mass Effect 3 Legendary updated endgame dialog thank you
In the original release, the last thing you'd see after the credits rolled was a dialog encouraging you to buy the DLC. Already discontent with the ending, fans didn't like the EAness of it. Legendary Edition revised this a bit.

Final thoughts

Mass Effect 3 Legendary end moon Buzz Aldrin child

Despite some creeping flaws that progress with the trilogy, it's my all-time favorite single player game and one of my favorite sci-fi stories. And I would be remiss not to say that the writing and gameplay improved each game (save for some really tropey stuff near the end of ME3). I'm super happy to have replayed the trilogy, my only regret is that I couldn't let both Kaiden and Ashley stay on Virmire.

thumbnail Mass Effect 3 Legendary Illusive Man room EDI Tali thumbnail Mass Effect 3 Legendary Tali London Big Ben Reaper thumbnail Mass Effect 3 Legendary London Reaper space elevator
thumbnail Mass Effect 3 Legendary London Morinth
thumbnail Mass Effect 3 Legendary Liara London goodbye mind meld thumbnail Mass Effect 3 Legendary London Reaper space elevator thumbnail Mass Effect 3 Legendary Crucible Anderson
thumbnail Mass Effect 3 Legendary Liara London telephone booth thumbnail Mass Effect 3 Legendary London Garrus Tali injured thumbnail Mass Effect 3 Legendary Citadel over Earth