BioWare Explains Mass Effect 3′s ‘Destroy’ Ending

Published 2 years ago by

BioWare Explains Destroy Ending Mass Effect 3

While the Extended Cut DLC has answered many (not all) of the questions gamers have been asking since concluding Mass Effect 3, there is one particular nagging issue that BioWare wants to put to rest. Rumors had been circulating for quite some time in regards to the games ‘Destroy’ ending, and now BioWare wants to set the record straight. But, in order to talk about it fully, a spoiler warning must be issued. So consider yourself warned.

In the ‘Destroy’ ending, which sees Commander Shepard choosing to eliminate the Reaper threat completely and not give in to the Stargazer’s wishes, there is a small scene tacked on to the ending that shows Commander Shepard’s seemingly lifeless body taking a breath. Now with the addition of the Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3, that ending also features Commander Shepard’s love interest, whoever that may be, refusing to place his name amongst the list of those Normandy crew members who were lost across all three games.

Many curious gamers took these two scenes to mean that Shepard had in fact not died, but was alive amidst the Crucible wreckage. Some even took this additional scene as validation for the Indoctrination Theory, which states those final couple of scenes all took place within Shepard’s mind, and only the ‘Destroy’ option would allow him to live on.

But now, thanks to some comments from BioWare’s Tully Ackland on the game’s official forums, we know what really occurred: Shepard is alive.

  • You may notice that in the “Shepard lives” ending, the love interest hesitates to place Shepard’s name on the wall, and instead looks up as though deep in thought. This is meant to suggest that the love interest is not ready to believe Shepard is dead, and the final scene reveals they are correct. As the Normandy lifts off, there is hope that the love interest and Shepard will again be together.

Ackland also answers a couple other questions in regards to the game’s new endings, but we had already summed those up pretty nicely in our ‘Pros and Cons’ post regarding the new endings.

Gamers can finally end speculation that Shepard’s movement was his last breath, and can rest easy knowing the star-travelling war hero is alive. Unfortunately, the crew of the Normandy is stranded on a lush, forest-covered planet, and have no way of reaching him.

Additionally, if BioWare chose to use this as the canonical ending for Mass Effect 3, that would be the perfect jumping off point for more single player DLC. So far, aside from the Extended Cut, players have only seen the release of new content for the game’s multiplayer mode, but we expect more single player content is in the pipeline.

Though the debates over the Mass Effect 3 endings will continue for quite some time, at least we have yet another clarification regarding one of the questions left unanswered. Unfortunately, if it leads to more DLC and undermines the other endings to the game, that could upset even more fans.

Does it bring you any solace to know that Shepard did survive in the ‘Destroy’ ending? Will any DLC featuring Shepard undermine the ending players chose?

Source: BioWare Forums

TAGS: BioWare, Electronic Arts, Mass Effect, Mass Effect 3, PC, PS3, Xbox 360


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  1. I think there should be DLC for finding Shepard and ending with him being honored or something. Cant just leave it like that. Yes the other endings he “dies” in them but those are choices to make. Should it upset the fans? No way! Its what makes the game. Choices. I think there should be a ME4 and Shepard should be in it. If he survived the ending of Mass Effect 3. I don’t think this series should of ending with just 3 games. There are tons of things that can make the story continue from the Krogan uprising and a war with them or Shepard training people in the N7 program only to be recruited again for some unknown threat to the Galaxy. As much as I love this series. I really think it should have more games added to it.

    • I agree, there should be a Me4 that has shepard in it. Look at the halo sires, at the end of halo 4, master chief looks like he’s done fighting but in the xbox one conference they showed the new halo game that had master chief back into the fight. Shepard should do the same, jump back into the fight but with a new enemy or creating peace with all the species. The mass effect sires has been way too fun, touching, emotional, and understanding just to let it end now. I Hoped shepard is in Me4 as the main character once again.

  2. Ok …. First of all why does shepard need to die ????? I just don’t get it. You can make an awesome game without killing off the protagonist. Allright …. make achieving that ending super difficult, like you have to complete ALL missions (side quests) in ALL the series (1,2,3) and renegade points must be less than 5% … and so on…I bet my life, everyone will replay the series again & again & again to get that awesome ending. But this ……. was it worth it ????? Anyway, I really hope bioware makes a new DLC where, it shows someone (geth ?) shifting through the rubble, finding shepard and after some years (say 2-3), he comes back to meet his LI and go on to marry him/her. Now that would be AWESOMEEEEEE !!! AND it would satisfy most if not all. For me a happy ending is the best ending.

    • +1 I like that

  3. I just read this article and am so glad that Shepard did not die in one of the endings. Now I know what to do and how to get too that ending I will play again. I also would like to see more DLC and story extensions where Shepard is found and celebrated throughout the universe. I would love to see Shepard or one of his children carry on the series….

    • Won’t happen all EA cared about was the money thats why the release of the game was made to be quicker too! The citadel DLC is the last DLC

  4. And that means……what? So he’s alive but you get nothing more. Whats the point of that? Its like heres a bone ME3 fans, but its only a picture of a bone. Enjoy

    • Nicely put. I agree entirely. I hate feelin like i wasted the past month finishing this thing for that. Spending the extra cash for the dlc, to boot.

  5. Shepard should be in the next game and continue the story…..

  6. The only issue I had with this new ending is the fact that they put EDI on the list of people who died. It would have been perfect to imply that she was alive. Of course, maybe just her physical form is gone, she could have been part of the ship again. But I’m glad they confirm Shepard is alive.

  7. Well for one yes i am a fan of the indoct theory but other than that i think that either way it was an amazing ending to the game. i read this one book were the book ended before the physical conflict ended because the emotional one already had. just like in this game. I mean who wouldn’t want to spend the end of the game watching reapers be slaughtered for the next hour of filler because if Shepard beat indoctrination or the reapers already then what else would it be. In the case of the indoctrination theory this applies the same if not better.

  8. Just beat the game with the Destroy ending with high EMS, but Liara hesitated to put Shepard on the wall, even though I romanced Miranda. WTF?

    • Because miranda wasnt on the ship, i romanced her too and ashley was the one holding the plaque.

  9. I am currently finishing ME2 and was excited to buy ME3 till I heard from a friend that Shepard dies. Now I get the “Sacrificing Hero ” death thing but I am greatly disappointed that I would have no “choice” in the fate of my character after having so many choices throughout ME1 and ME2. I was completely turned off from the whole ME series till I found this thread. To invest all the time necessary to complete the games and not have a chance at an ending where I can challenge fate and destiny, really sucks..I am stil not sure I will buy ME 3 much less finish 2 and certainly not 4 if I must resign myself to the ” death” of my efforts/ character. As a gamer, I look for games that allow me to develop a character and to control their fate. I had thought I had found that with ME as that is the format Bioware put forth. I feel jipped that they change the format and then give a tease of an extended cut ending to imply the Shepard may still be alive from a gasping breath and the hesitation of the love interest.. And neither scene is enough for me to want to purchase ME 4 unless Bioware is going to have a living Shepard connection or actually put forth a solid Sherpard is alive ME3 ending .

    • Mass effect 4 Will not have any “shepard” in it.

    • I know this is eight months in the making but life gets in the way of video games. I wholeheartedly agree, I bought the Collector Ed. of the game and was disappointed when friends told me about the ending, and even more disappointed with the extended ending. I thought ME1 was great, ME2 was more enjoyable but aside some great lines in the game I’m going through the motions in ME3 and ME4 is completely out of the question. In fact since EA and their subdivisions have given us two incomplete and unsatisfying games(ME3 and Dragon Age 2)and seemingly deep-six the Dead Space series I’m done with any and all EA games save Dragon Age 3, depending on how it turns out.

      • Don’t forget Command and Conquer 4

  10. I think Shepard survived in all endings in some way, except in refusal ending where everyone dies.

    In Destroy ending he breaths so he’s alive.

    In Control ending he becomes part of the reapers and talks at the end how he will watch over everyone, so I say if Cerberus could revive him in Mass Effect 2 then why couldn’t he come back with some kind of reaper technology if his consciousness is alive.

    In Synthesis ending EDI says that there aren’t any more barriers between organics and synthetics and that one day they could even transcend their own mortality. So for me it is plausible to think that Shepard somehow survived the choice and that he is alive in another form or energy or something like that that transcends mortality. If that is the case there could be a way to come back like inhabiting another body or something like that.

    What do you think?

    • I picked Destroy ending specifically for Shepard to be physically alive – not like in Control ending where really only Shepard’s memories survive. Though a massive Mass Effect series fan, I agree with BioWare – Shepard lived through his story and should not return in ME4…but that doesn’t mean she/he should be killed off as in Control ending. She/he deserves a rest after all :)

      Also, I kinda loved the scene where LI didn’t put Shepard’s name on the Normandy’s Memory Wall… especially in my case it was Liara, as that was the second time she refused to accept Shepard’s death, so…. she got to know what she’s doing, right? :) She knows Shepard’s alive, so it’s left for us fans to imagine how they play it all after the official ending…

    • Good call.

  11. Wait, I’m confused. How exactly “the crew of the Normandy is stranded on a lush, forest-covered planet, and have no way of reaching him” when you can clearly see the Normandy lift off and the Bioware guy said that there is hope for Shepard and his love interest to be together?

  12. Im pretty upset that they chose to kill Shepard in every ending, and that if Shepard did in fact survive, they should at least have given some furtherance. I hate leaving a game that I have spent so many long hours investing into, hours of both joy and frustration, only to be left with a sinking hole in my chest.
    It is nice to see that little smidge of a sign of his survival. Although, I blinked, and missed it.

    • after spending the cash for the dlc, to boot. Frustrating.

  13. The extended cut cleared up a lot of questions but if you choose the Shepard survives ending then how can he not be in ME4 and what of his love interest do they find each other or what. I would like some closure on that.

  14. A fact to suggest so is also that the little kid at the end of the game says tell me another story about the Shepard and the Grandad says oh alright one more story

  15. Hey all, Shepard survived. We should see scenes of him recovering on a beach some where with his love beside him handing him a drink. He reads a data pad telling a news story that opens us into what the next ME story is about. (What ya think?)

    Just my thought. Answeres it all and gives most everyone a happy ending. BTW Maby Edi’s body is destroyed but some inking of her conciousness would be held in the Normandy… Wait the normandy has run off without its crew? … Time for joker to chase it down and get his girl back…

  16. I romance Liara through all 3 so when Liara gave Shepard the gift at the end during earths goodbye i like to think she connected with him in such a deep way that she has this “sixth sense” if you will that he is alive. As if she could feel it.When he drew a breath maybe that was at the same time she hesitated to place his name on the board… you know, Like Leia knew Luke was off the death star. My 2 cents anyways. I would pay for one more dlc that shows the love interest and Shepard finding each other and some ends tied up neatly. I agree that so many off us have invested a massive amount of time and our self’s into molding the entire three chapters.I agree it certainly need just a few more ends tied up if Bioware is going to close the story and move on to new areas of this Mass effect built universe. I mean if i was Bio ware and knew a large amount of people are standing at my door saying ” YES WE WANT SOME MORE ” with money in hand um, im pretty sure i wouldn’t turn that down . Lets see some little blue children with a Lord of the rings 3 kind of happy closure ending. I don’t want to fill in the blanks Bioware i want to see them filled i got cash :P

  17. If you’re interested, you should go on deviantart or fan fiction sites and read some of the stories people have created detailing what happened after their Shepard came back. They’re actually pretty awesome. I read them all the time. I’ve even seen someone create a comic with jack as their love interest. It’s pretty cool. Just saying.

  18. I would really like to see my Shepard and his love interest (Tali) reunited. The reunion with Tali and the rest of the Normandy crew is something I want to experience with my own eyes. Imagining it just doesn’t bring me closure. I need to actually SEE it!!!

  19. I have heard that they may be revamping the whole Mass Effect trilogy for the next gen consoles. That being said it could be possible; Although unlikely, that they could change the ending a little or add the DLC for “Finding Shepard.” I played all the games and literally put hundreds of hours into creating my Shepard. I felt cheated by the endings. it would be nice to be given a little closure. Also it is possible that more mass effect games could be created with Shepard bungie said the same thing about Halo not being made anymore so it is possible. either way I hope we see more Shepard in the future because it’s hard to put so much time into something just to have it ripped away.

  20. To be honest, I just completed the last game. As a full paragon Shepard from the first to the third, I loved every second of this game. Its great character design makes it triumph over others, like Halo, in my opinion. The ending for me, I did see Shepard live with the extended DLC, and since I romanced Tali (best one ftw) I am glad to think that eventually they return to each other. I hope that in Mass Effect 4 your choices from the others will show how Shepard finished, and maybe you could possibly find him in the game with his romance.

    • totally agree, i did romance Tali because i like her a lot i mean A LOT, and i want that shepard keep his promise to build her a house, so they can live together

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