"Well, that sucked." Many Mass Effect fans and/or players have both said and expressed strongly those three words in reviews and forums alike across the internet. After over 100 hours of cinematic choice-making gameplay, 4 years after the release of the last episode of the series, and with Mass Effect: Andromeda just around the corner, gamers are still negatively criticizing the 3-choice finite ending of the all-hype Mass Effect Trilogy (MET). Critics from IGN and Machinima gave high praises to its game creator’s division, Bioware, for awesome gameplay mechanics and for an innovative game engine.
However, when we talk about to the last 5 minutes of the trilogy, it may seem that instead of the predicted in-game galactic apocalypse, there is definitely an end to all positive reviews of the ending. Within this theory, we will explore and ponder upon the obvious and grand possibility of Commander Shepard being indoctrinated/controlled by a god-acting rogue Reaper who has arrived to a certain amount of intelligence that becomes superior to all beings both synthetic and organic.
Many N7 fanatics have stated that the ending of the trilogy was just laziness from Bioware’s part assuming that they ran out of profound plot schemes or story in their game. Others have argued that the ending was just too abstract and confusing, and that the ending had almost nothing to do with the three video game-long storyline. Honestly, anyone can search ‘why Mass Effect’s ending sucked’ and may find various reviews and even reddit forums on why no one enjoyed the last choice that the player must make before the ending cutscene rolls.
Having played through the MET exactly four times through in different paths (currently playing through for the 5th time), and being a constant forum user and reader on gamer topics, It has become only obvious that most people who have played this series have not analyzed nor examined the game’s story enough. There are many hints that Bioware provides the player with in order to make a more meaningful finale for everyone who controls Commander Shepard. Due to the three ending options that were given in the last decision of the series, it is obviously proposed that there is a lot more to the story than what the average gamer may think.
The Three Ending Options (NO DLC)
After an extensive battle against the genocidal reapers on Earth, Commander Shepard and his crew push forward towards the Crucible, the weapon that can destroy all reapers in the entire galaxy. At least, that was what was assumed. After dramatic slow-motion cutscenes and mind-blowing twists, the player is informed by an ancient computer program that the Crucible has three possible functions, and only one consists of destroying the Reapers for good.
One choice is to have complete dominance over the Reapers through actually controlling them, allowing them to exist as synthetic servants to all organic races. The other and last option is to combine synthetic and organic life into one strand of DNA, also allowing the Reapers to live, but all human and alien races will be half machine and half organic, creating a super species of every race and kind.
Now, these are cool and all, but the player has to connect Shepard’s position with the storyline in order to understand the plot. How was Shepard the only possible person who could have the fate of the galaxy at his/her hands? This question seems to emerge when we think of the vastness of the entire Mass Effect universe and the many capabilities that other races had at the time.
One may argue that he may have just been the chosen one just because Shepard is the protagonist of the storyline, and it just makes sense, but as we can read from amateur and professional reviews, the ending of the trilogy didn’t make any sense at all,and it doesn’t connect. Within the first two episodes MET, it seems that there was a pattern. Shepard’s crew strongly influenced and helped Shepard till the end of each game, even giving their own input on what should be done.
After all this, Shepard is confronted with three unpredicted decisions that haven’t been considered or anticipated at all within the whole storyline. This leaves Shepard with inner-conflict and without any help from Normandy’s crew. With all this in mind, Shepard being the “chosen” one seems to be chosen not only by Bioware’s story writers, but also by in-game influences.
Within the storyline of Mass Effect, the topic of indoctrination has been well defined and demonstrated as the game progresses, and this greatly supports this theory to be true. In the Mass Effect universe, constant and direct contact with the Reapers causes vulnerability to the mind-controlling powers of the Reapers. They literally can mind-control all races to do the will of the Reapers in order to prepare the way for galactic genocide and/or rewind.
A clear example of in-game indoctrination is the first episode’s antagonist, Saren, Saren, once a Council Spectre and galactic defender is found to be completely indoctrinated by the Reapers, having been exposed to Reapers after a battle. Saren takes over main defense posts, especially those of the human race, in order to prepare an easy takeover of the soon-to-come Reaper race.
However, Saren doesn’t execute his plans alone, he also influences others in order to follow his plans through persuasion of words and eventually this sets others up for indoctrination. He even influences Matriarch Benezia of the Asari race, and matriarchs are considered to be the most wise and strong-willed of all the galaxy due to their biotic powers and their age. Saren’s influence isn’t limited to just Asari however, we find that any and all races fight for him to stop Commander Shepard from spoiling his indoctrinated plans.
As anyone who have played the game may already know, Shepard’s influence and reputation isn’t as different as Saren’s. They just have different goals in mind. It may be considered to be quite unusual that Commander Shepard can influence anyone to follow what he/she says, giving little importance to what is being asked. Shepard can ask nicely and quickly (and sometimes strangely) get what is wanted with the Paragon dialogue options.
On the other hand, Shepard can intimidate other characters in order to get whatever he/she wants with Renegade dialogue options as well. The strange thing is that whatever promise characters make to Commander Shepard, it is always fulfilled and kept, except it be from other Reaper-indoctrinated characters. Now, when does that ever work 100% of the time?
You have all kinds of interesting and thrilling plot twists in both video games and movies when promises are not kept, or when the protagonists gets stabbed in the back, but not in Mass Effect. Are Bioware game designers dull or is there part of the story that is not quite understood just yet?
It is obviously concluded that there is no way that Commander Shepard could have such an influence on other races without any help from Reaper indoctrination. There is actually an actual website dedicated to the theory that Shepard was indoctrinated by the evil Reapers, but even that theory is flawed to a certain extent because the whole philosophy of the Reapers is to destroy all organic races with their technology so that they can go back to caveman days, then when organics developed again into Star-Trek generations, the Reapers would come back and destroy all over again.
That is their process and purpose, but Commander Shepard is confronted with the choice to destroy the Reaper race for good. Talk about a little counterproductive. Why would the Reaper race indoctrinate someone like Shepard to end up with the choice to completely destroy all Reapers after killing various other Reapers before that? Unless the Reapers were suicidal, that sounds very irrational.
THE ROGUE REAPER
The only possible explanation of an indoctrinated Commander Shepard killing other Reapers and Reaper followers is that Shepard was indoctrinated by a rogue Reaper with a different purpose in mind. We are to believe that there was a Reaper who wasn’t aligned with the motives and purposes of its fellow Reaper brethren.
With all the decisions within the game, it is only credible that this Reaper reached a certain level of intelligence that is far more superior to those of its kind. It has reached a level of deity of a sense, realizing the flaws of the limitations that its kind makes upon every generation, and allowing this time an opportunity of choice instead of forced annihilation.
In the series, Commander Shepard becomes a friend of a self-evolving robot of the synthetic race, the Geth. Its name is Legion, and throughout the story, Legion learns to individualize its personality, and develops emotion. Now, the Geth are just a synthetic AI race that started just a few decades prior to this occasion, so imagine the advancement of the Reapers who have been around for possibly 20,000 years. The understanding of this Reaper advanced to the point of sympathy towards the races its kind have destroyed over and over again, even to the point of determining the perspectives of others.
This is why this un-named reaper rebelled against its kind, in order to stop the process of forced obliteration, but rather give the agency to choose for themselves. That is why gamers are given the choice to destroy the Reapers, this Reaper was willing to sacrifice itself in order to give the organic race the agency to choose their own destiny. If this is true, then why are there only three options? Well, the Reaper with its knowledge and capabilities calculated the risks and consequences, and led Shepard, through indoctrination, to a position where choice can be made.
In conclusion, with all the in-game hints and evidence in Mass Effect, the ending may now be considered a lot better knowing that this whole time Commander Shepard was indoctrinated for the greater good by a Reaper playing the role of an omnipotent deity. After all is said, done, and comprehended in terms of the story of this trilogy, players can hop back on Mass Effect and enjoy the game the way it was designed for.