I wrote up a quick blog about the ending if anyone's interested:
Summed up: the ending is trash.
While I agree with most of what you said I can not agree with you about ME2. While I do like old style RPGs(FFVIII is one of my favorite games ever)I think the fact that they are not the end all be all to me give me a different view. I thought the combat was better handled in ME2,the characters were better drawn(they at least have more to say),I liked the fact that side missions didn't require me to drive around for hours on planets that all looked the same,I thought the story had more emotional impact because of seeing your choices play out,and I think it did a better job of showing your choices having an effect on your crew. Don't get me wrong I love ME1 but ME2 had more of an impact on me and I felt more in touch and cared more about the characters in ME2,even the ones from ME1. I think the first place Bioware dropped the ball in ME3 is when they limited ME2 characters to cameos and then killed so many of them off and didn't let you take any of them on your team,that was a huge step back from ME2 and meant that your choices in ME2 were having a limited impact. I also had that so many story points that were set up in ME2(like the dark matter)were not followed through on. The thing that makes me the maddest is that at the last minute they took a hopeful space opera that's message was "if people work together they can solve any problem" and in the last ten minutes changed it to dark Sci-Fi where they said "Ha! Just kidding! In real life there is no hope and your only choice is to enslave or kill everyone different" and that made me sick. I feel like for most of the series they were inspired by Star Wars and Babylon 5 and then at the last minute they ripped off BSG,DE,and 2001. Just take a look at this thread on the bioware boards. social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/10826761/1
Hopeful space opera and dark hard sci-fi just don't mix.
I think this post from the Bioware boards said it all.
The problem with asking "what we enjoyed" before the end, is that the end has for all extensive purposes made the rest of the series unenjoyable. All the good we have done is ultimately futile in all of the possible end games. That hurts, and it means I can't revisit them.
I think perhaps the moment with the strongest impact on me, was the death of Legion. His act of messanic sacrifice to bring his people full sentience was touching in itself but when combined with his final question to Tali, and her answer "The answer is yes.". I was moved, moved more deeply than I have ever been before, it was cathartic and meaningful. I stood up and clapped in admiration, fought tears because it was simply beautiful.
I felt the same way when Mordin sacrificed himself for the good of the Krogans, while he hummed that silly song of his, bravely facing death to right his wrongs. It was conflicting, it was heart-wrenching, it made me feel as though I was there, that I wanted my shepard to go up and save him, but I knew I couldn't, he couldn't, It made me feel like I was truly inside the world.
But because of the ending you gave us. You have robbed these moments of their meaning. This is true regardless of what we ultimately choose.
If we choose the blue ending, which if I have any trust in your writer's abilities, I must imagine was a trap (though not necessarily the indoctrtination theory I'm sure you've heard much about), because the cognitive dissonance of Shepard when he is told about it, after just arguing with TIM that control was too risky is too maddeningly unsensical otherwise. And thus Legion and all other synthetics like him will be destroyed anyways.
If we choose the green, then it renders his sacrifice, as well as Mordin's sacrfice completely unnecessary, you turn two of the most moving moments in the game into things that are painful to watch afterwards, because all I want to say is "No, you don't need to, no there is another way" and that is all supposing that the Synthesis ending is indeed good. To me it sounds exactly like the drivel we heard from Saren, a further indictment towards my theory that the final moments of the game, were if not a dream, most certainly a trick.
Finally, if we choose the red, it destroys all the Geth and AI , rendering his sacrifice just as moot.
And even if someone how there were one, say the Blue in which Legion's sacfice could indeed have meant something, it is still meaningless because the Mass Relays are destroyed. The one thing that made this series what it was, the single most identifiable feature is destroyed, and yes, that makes sense for one of the endings, it's powerful and emotional, but when it is true of all the endings, it means that no matter what the sacrifices of Mordin, Legion, Thane, and Ashley. Indeed all of their sacrifices meant nothing, because humanity and the rest of the galaxy's races are a best sent back to the dark ages and at worst destroyed utterly.
The geth will not survive the end, the quarians will not survive the end, humanity does not survive the end, the turians do not survive the end. Not with any semblece of what you've fought for.
What's worse is that, supposing you meant for this to happen, supposing this end really was exactly what you intended to create, a dark and grim afterlook, one that culiminates not in joy but in a gut-wrenching sorrow. Then you were so close to creating it, but instead through the way you culiminated the final scene with the normandy and the Stargazer epilogue.
You missed the oppurtunity to make a haunting, dark, but ultimately inspirational ending. If you had simply used your discarded Chekov's Gun. Liaria's time capsule. No matter how you played, Liara introduces this time capsule. No?
If you had wished for a no-win scenario, you could have discarded the entire end and simply let Shepard die. Humanity lose. The entire galaxy die. But that time capsule, would have made the ending brilliant. Brought the epilogue from tacked on and confusing to meaningful and inspiring. Life will go on, this will be the final cycle.
Instead, we get a message that seems to say to us, "everything you did" is meaningless, and that hurts.
Which reminds me, Liara was always my favourite character but where you took her in Mass Effect 3 brought her above and beyond, she developed in ways I never expected, I can truly say by the end of the game, I wished as though she were real. The moments like the time capsule, and of Thessia, and comforting her, these sorts of things gave me absolute chills.
But where do I go from here? I won't accept, nay can't accept that she is off on some other planet where she will never hear from me, of me, or at least of my death. Her story concluding with death in some far-flung planet, never having known that I saved the galaxy. Indeed, that is something overlooked on the forums, there is absolutely no way that without FTL communication, Joker, or any of the Normandy crew, indeed the entire galaxy would know that the Reapers had been defeated. Any world that hasn't been hit already will simply have to writhe in panic, the ones that have, at best know something has happened and at worst think they are the last organic life in the galaxy.
That's mind-numbingly bad. That invalidates the epilogue's ending even with the most cheery disposition. That reaches far beyond simple plot hole and into unforgivable mistake.
Anyways. Sorry, I'm still sore Bioware. But know this.
I'm not angry because I think you have failed, no. Mass Effect 3 is a triumph, as angry as I am about the ending, I reccomend any fan of the series buys the game, it is a masterpiece. It is a symphony, a beautiful end to the most engaging world I have ever been a part of, I am disappointed because that triumph is spoiled in the very last moments of the game, by something which throws away all that we cared for, all that you had done so well, all that truly made the series great. In favour of something that felt as though, and as the Ipad app now proves was, the result of hasty comprimise, misunderstanding and rushing.
Rather than the send-off we receive, we get mixed messages, mixed signals, convoluteddddory elements adulteresschina, where we already had a deus ex machina, the catalyst was already a god from the machine in the story, to make it literal seems like mehumorour gone terribly wrong.
I think one thing that is being over looked in all this ending stuff if the endings had been good ME3 is still one of the most glitch filled and I would say in some missions downright unplayable major releases in the past 5 years at least. From not being able to import your face,to just having missions go away,to the broken jurnal system,to characters who just vanish while you are talking to them,and to the game not letting you get all endings with out multiplayer despite Bioware swearing again and again that you can I think this is one of the most unfinished and untested games that I have ever played and the fact that it is a major release from a major studio and after two months none of these things have been fixed and Bioware keeps locking people out of their boards and tech support sites for asking them to fix these is very troubling and it is just as good a reason not to buy EA ir Bioware products any more. They seem to think they can rush out broken games and then if they just ban anyone who points out that they are broken they don't have to fix the games. That troubles me just as much as the fact that they lied about the ending and what features would be in the game. Anyone else agree?