Mass Effect’s (almost) Ending

Much has been said about the ending to Mass Effect 3. Some people hated it with the white hot fury of 10,000 suns, other people… uh… didn’t like it very much. Rarely have I seen anyone post that they liked it. That however, is not what I’m here to talk about. Instead, I want to discuss one of the most poignant (in my opinion) few minutes of a video game that I’ve ever experienced.


I’m going to talk about the last few minutes of the game here, so don’t read this if you haven’t played it through!

Before all the space child nonsense, there’s a scene that will forever define the Mass Effect trilogy for me. It happens at “the end.” The crucible has been delivered, and all that’s left for Shepard to do is watch as all of his hard work pays off. The buttons are pressed and the crucible docks. Admiral Anderson has been gravely wounded by the Illusive Man (who is no longer an issue) and Shepard sits down with his father figure to watch the fireworks. I’ve bookmarked this playthrough at the scene in question. Watch it until about 9:30 (a little more than 2 minutes of video):

Here we have the end of a 60+ hour journey. Shepard has been through everything – treason, galactic politics, death and resurrection, impossible decisions, suicide missions and even some romance. This is it – victory is at hand, the job is done. It is finally ok to let his guard down and just sit. Admiral Anderson says his piece and passes on. Shepard looks down at his hand, bloodied from the battles before this moment and looks out into space.

And then it happens. Hackett comes on the comm and says: “Commander!”

Shepard has done more than anyone should have to do – this is HIS victory. If there was ever a time to *not* be humble, this is it. How does Shepard respond?

“I– What do you need me to do?”

There’s no hesitation, there’s no “good god man, haven’t I done enough?” or “I can’t do any more” or “What the hell else could you possibly need?” It’s just “what do you need me to do?” Shepard can’t even walk to the terminal, but he drags himself across the floor before finally passing out, determined to continue on.

Mass Effect doesn’t have the best animations, facial or otherwise. There’s been plenty of criticisms of male Shepard’s acting. But in this one moment, I could feel exactly who Shepard was (is? OMG DID HE SURVIVE!?!?!?!). Every single bit of his character is exposed in a matter of 5 to 10 seconds. I’ve seen movies that can’t get this much character development across with some of the best actors and directors in the world. It’s brilliant.

*That’s* the moment that I think about when I think about Mass Effect, not the ending. For all the left-fieldedness of the star child stuff, this part rings true. I would have been happy had the story ended here (assuming something happens to deal with the reapers). In fact, if I could rewrite the end of Mass Effect, this is how it’d go:

Hackett: “Commander!”

Shepard: “I– What do you need me to do?”

Hackett: “Nothing’s happening. The Crucible’s not firing. It’s got to be something on your end.”

Shepard crawls along the floor, using every last bit of effort he can muster

Hackett: “Commander Shepard!”

Shepard reaches the console

Shepard: “I don’t see– I’m not sure how to…”

Shepard sees the button that will trigger the crucible to fire and pulls himself up the console so he can reach it. His bloodied hand hovers over the button as he surveys space.

Shepard: “This. Is. Over.”

Shepard presses the button, the crucible fires, the reapers explode, the war is over. Roll credits.

Have I mentioned that I have a thing for simple, happy endings?


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