Despite impressive sales figures and overwhelmingly positive critical response (read our review) for Mass Effect 3, the conclusion to Commander Shepard's space saga has been met with a number of heated controversies - including frustrations over the depiction of fan-favorite character Tali’Zorah as well as Mass Effect 1 character import problems. However, nothing has been more contentious than reaction to the various Mass Effect 3 endings.
The debate about whether or not the ending should be changed doesn't appear to be limited to gamers either - as we're now getting conflicting reports from inside the BioWare umbrella about whether or not there is any chance that the developer will redesign the ending (or offer-up some DLC to address the larger concerns).
Last week, Mass Effect 3 director, Casey Hudson, defended the current endings during an interview with Digital Trends but seemed to indicate that frustrated fans might find catharsis in upcoming DLC episodes, which could help sure-up some missing character-related closure, i.e. potentially addressing what happened to all of your in-game friends - the ones you spent around 100 hours getting to know.
Unfortunately, gamers woke up to a harsh twist this morning - when a post on the official BioWare media channels (which has been deleted) indicated that the developer was not open to altering the Mass Effect 3 ending - essentially asserting that frustrated players should let it go. Needless to say, the post only fired-up already touchy gamers even more.
In the meantime, BioWare's community manager, Jessica Merizan, responded (via Twitter) to the ground swell of outrage with encouraging news - claiming the prior post was not representative of BioWare's actual stance on the subject:
Someone misspoke on our Mass Effect channel. We're still gathering feedback to create content that keeps it in mind. Thx 4 understanding :)
BioWare further elaborated on their position with an official response on the Mass Effect Facebook page:
We are aware that there are concerns about a recent post from this account regarding the ending of the game. In this post it was stated that at this time we do not have plans to change the ending.
We would like to clarify that we are actively and seriously taking all player feedback into consideration and have ruled nothing out. At this time we are still collecting and considering your feedback and have not made a decision regarding requests to change the ending.
Your feedback and opinions are of the utmost importance to us. We apologize for any confusion this has caused. Our top priority regarding this discussion is to keep communication with you, our loyal fans, open and productive.
Ultimately, the updated response is in line with a second round of comments that Hudson made a few days earlier on the official BioWare forums (essentially elaborating on the Digital Trends interview). To read Hudson's full comments on the subject - head to the official BioWare forum post HERE, otherwise we've included the most relevant quotes below:
We always intended that the scale of the conflict and the underlying theme of sacrifice would lead to a bittersweet ending–to do otherwise would betray the agonizing decisions Shepard had to make along the way. Still, we wanted to give players the chance to experience an inspiring and uplifting ending; in a story where you face a hopeless struggle for basic survival, we see the final moments and imagery as offering victory and hope in the context of sacrifice and reflection.
[We] also recognize that some of our most passionate fans needed more closure, more answers, and more time to say goodbye to their stories–and these comments are equally valid. Player feedback such as this has always been an essential ingredient in the development of the series.
So where do we go from here? Throughout the next year, we will support Mass Effect 3 by working on new content. And we’ll keep listening, because your insights and constructive feedback will help determine what that content should be. This is not the last you’ll hear of Commander Shepard.
Overall, it's unclear, especially given how the game actually does end, how BioWare intends to remedy some of the frustrations - specifically finding a meaningful way to say goodbye to fan-favorite characters (within the parameters of the final act). That said, the over-arcing tone coming from the BioWare camp indicates that they're proud of the core ending experience but realize that it might not provide enough closure for die-hard fans (and are willing to improve upon the current situation).
Despite, what looks to be an open ear from BioWare, angry fans are still finding a variety of outlets for expressing their frustrations - lowering MetaCritic user scores and starting a charity drive (to benefit Child's Play). However, the hysteria may have hit a new high (or low), as one disappointed fan has filed complaints against EA with the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau - citing that the publisher is guilty of "false advertising" with regard to Mass Effect 3 promises versus the final product:
After reading through the list of promises about the ending of the game they made in their advertising campaign and PR interviews, it was clear that the product we got did not live up to any of those claims [...] This is not somethign I was happy to do, but after the terrible ending that was in no way the product that had been advertised to me and the lack of any kind of response from Bioware/EA to address this, I felt it was one of my only recourses. I'll be returning my copy of the game before the end of my 30 day return policy if the ending still hasn't been addressed by then.
It's hard to argue that the Mass Effect 3 endings weren't, at the very least, underwhelming; that said, it's still pretty hard to justify the level of outrage in the system, especially given that BioWare does appear to be listening - even if they aren't ready to make concrete promises. It sounds as though the developer is in the process of revisiting their long term DLC plan - and will try to rectify some of the inequities in the Mass Effect 3 conclusion. However, to get it right the second time around, they're going to need to work out details behind the scenes. Wouldn't we all rather they have the time and space to deliver something satisfying - instead of having to put out PR fires left and right?
As a result, remember what Hudson had to say: "Throughout the next year, we will support Mass Effect 3 by working on new content. And we’ll keep listening, because your insights and constructive feedback will help determine what that content should be." Maybe, instead of outright complaining (or rushing to the FTC), frustrated Mass Effect 3 fans are better off providing the developer and publisher, EA, with constructive (and realistic) ideas about what they'd like to see in future DLC - while at the same time keeping their expectations in check.
Mass Effect 3 is available now for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates.