Tonight I began my assault on the Cronos Station with 100% completion of all missions, the maximum Paragon score, all systems scanned and all races allied. My Effective Military Strength was slightly over 4000, the best possible score one can obtain through single player combat.
At the moment of truth, I chose to sacrifice my beloved Shepard to join synthetic and organic life for permanent peace. I was very satisfied with this ending, because I feel like it's what my Shepard would have done. In truth, it's what she has always done: sacrifice for others.
I must admit I experienced a flicker of disappointment
, however, that the so-called "perfect" ending--which saves Anderson and reveals the shallow breath of an unconscious Shepard in the rubble of London--requires a 4000 EMS and the renegade option that destroys not just the Reapers, but all synthetic life: the sentient Geth, the nascent and beautiful EDI, and more.
As my Shepard's story concludes, I have come to believe that the Internet drama surrounding Mass Effect 3's ending is BioWare's greatest triumph. Consider that tens of thousands of gamers are now grappling, in the real world
, with the moral implications we've been grappling with since the day we all put boots on Eden Prime. What a tremendous narrative victory this represents, to harness such raw and divided emotion from a story.
Let's stop to wonder at the psychology. In my ultimate moment, choosing the option that saves Anderson and Shepard comes at the expense of synthetic life. All
synthetic life. Billions will die so that I might have the satisfaction of what is ultimately self-preservation. For those who have taken the path of a Paragon, as I have, we must realize that this is a selfish choice.
Though it is selfish, we as gamers crave this ending. We crave it because we have spent five years growing fond of the Commander, and the gentle wisdom of Anderson. We crave it because it is emotionally gratifying for the hero survive--because we created
that hero. Our Commander Shepard isn't just a character we have built, but a vessel and an avatar for our moral center. It is natural that we would want her to leave more than a legacy, but to endure.
Ultimately, I think the drama stems from the entitlement of which "gamers" are generally guilty. That is to say, I think this firestorm could have been averted were there a tidy and easy-to-obtain "Star Wars" ending where the bad guys are crushed and the galaxy lives to receive a medal.
But Mass Effect has always been darker than that. It has always been less binary than that. In truth, Mass Effect has always
been about making the hard choices. As I take the hours to digest the entire continuum of my Commander Shepard, I have grown to acknowledge that my immediate and instinctual moral certitude on self-sacrifice was the surest sign that I saw the ending I was meant to see.
My Shepard did not live because she was not meant to. She did what she has always done.