Mass Effect 3’s Ending (Base Game & DLC) Explained

Mass Effect 3’s ending was criticized by many fans as being confusing and inconclusive. The Extended Cut DLC served to provide a more satisfying end.

Mass Effect 3‘s ending, upon its initial release, faced heavy criticism from many fans of the series. Claims that the conclusion was confusing and failed to provide substantial closure were common among players, and in response, the Extended Cut DLC was announced. This DLC provided more context in the build-up to the climax as well as additional epilogue cutscenes.

Upon reaching the Catalyst in Mass Effect 3, players are presented with up to three (four in the Extended Cut) choices that determine the galaxy’s fate in the Reaper War. Shepard can decide to control the Reapers, destroy them, or merge all organic and synthetic life in the galaxy together. In the DLC, players can also opt out of making a decision entirely.

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Related: Mass Effect 3’s Biggest Twists Explained

BioWare has revealed that in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition players will not be given the option of experiencing the original ME3 ending. Instead, the Extended Cut will be presented as the canon conclusion to the trilogy. Additionally, galactic readiness measurements have been altered to accommodate the exclusion of a multiplayer game mode.

Explaining Mass Effect 3’s Ending

Mass Effect 3 Ending Shepard Avatar

Shepard’s actions on the Citadel at the climax of ME3 lead into a confrontation with the Catalyst, the AI creator of the Reapers. It explains that the cycle of destruction was created to spare the galactic civilizations from inevitably being destroyed by their own synthetic creations. Citing the construction of the Crucible as proof that this process is no longer effective, the Catalyst claims that a new solution is needed – but it can’t make a decision without Shepard’s intervention.

In the game’s Destroy ending, Shepard uses the Crucible to wipe out all synthetic life and, depending on galactic readiness measurements, various amounts of technology throughout the galaxy. In Control, Shepard takes over as the new master AI of the Reapers, while Synthesis creates new organic-synthetic DNA for all denizens of the galaxy. If the player refuses to make a choice or attempts to attack the Catalyst, the Reaper’s cycle continues. Depending on galactic readiness levels, the Normandy and many of the trilogy’s species and locations are shown in various states of destruction or repair in the aftermath of any given pathway.

The Extended Cut DLC made several adjustments to the game’s ending, particularly by adding or altering cutscenes. This additional content explains the actions of the allied fleets and the Normandy crew during Shepard’s meeting with the Catalyst. Updated narration is provided by different characters depending on the player’s decision and Shepard’s actions during earlier points of the series. One additional change is a thorough reworking of the Catalyst’s dialogue. Shepard can more fully investigate the origins of the Reapers and the Crucible’s abilities, giving more context to plot elements that many fans felt didn’t make sense.

Additionally, players who choose the Destroy ending and have a high enough military readiness rating also receive a short cutscene of Shepard gasping for breath in the rubble of the Citadel, making it the only ending in which Shepard is shown to have potentially survived the Crucible’s blast. The introduction of these additional elements help to give Mass Effect 3 a more complete ending and serve as a better conclusion to the iconic trilogy.

Next: Is Mass Effect Legendary Edition On PS5

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