We should warn, this story contains spoilers for the whole Mass Effect series.
As we all know by now, the ending of Mass Effect 3 is perfect, wonderful, and beloved by fans all over the world. Shepard is presented with three choices by the Catalyst: destroy the Reapers, but also all other synthetic life in the process; take control of the Reapers, but die in the process; or throw themselves into the Crucible, somehow creating a perfect unison between the Reapers and the rest of the galaxy, but also, of course, dying in the process.
There are a lot of reasons that people take umbrage here – personally, I feel like these so-called “moral” choices in videogames are usually very straightforward, and ludicrously weighted in favour of one, particular option, and that the ending of Mass Effect 3 is one of the best – or at least, most prominent – examples of the problem. But that’s just me, and I digress.
Drew Karpyshyn, a Canadian, former BioWare writer, whose credits also include Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, recently took to Reddit, explaining how Mass Effect 3 was originally planned to end in an entirely different, potentially more gratifying way, which would also have implications for a Mass Effect 4.
“We had some very rough ideas planned out,” Karpyshyn says. “Basically, it involved luring the Reapers through the Mass Relays then detonating the entire network to wipe them out, but also destroying/damaging the relays, and isolating every galactic community from the others. But we still had to figure out a lot of the details, and there were some issues with that option, like what we would do in the next series of games.”
So it sounds like there was an option to destroy the Reapers without killing everyone else, and that perhaps, the ending might not have relied on player choice at all. The fourth game, then, might have involved rebuilding the Mass Relays, and reconnecting the galaxy in the aftermath of the war. That sounds pretty promising, actually.
But I’m reminded of that meme, the gleaming, sleek, futuristic city, with the caption “what society would look like if…”. Perhaps, somewhere else, secreted among the vast, intergalactic firmament, is a portal to an alternate dimension, where Mass Effect 3 ended differently, and there was no Mass Effect: Andromeda. Sadly, that is not our timeline.