Mass Effect 3 very nearly had a different ending, and one that fans may have much preferred compared to the controversial finale that shipped with the retail release. Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 lead writer Drew Karpyshyn revealed as much on the gaming radio show VGS (via Eurogamer). Needless to say, you’ll probably want to stop reading right now if you wish to avoid Mass Effect 3 spoilers.
Karpyshyn left BioWare shortly before the second game was completed, and his replacement, Mac Walters, completed the trilogy as lead writer on Mass Effect 3. Before his departure, Karpyshyn had a vague idea of how the trilogy would end, and that idea validates fan theories about allusions to something called “dark energy” in the second game.
“Dark Energy was something that only organics could access because of various techno-science magic reasons we hadn’t decided on yet,” Karpyshyn explained on the show. “Maybe using this Dark Energy was having a ripple effect on the space-time continuum. Maybe the Reapers kept wiping out organic life because organics keep evolving to the state where they would use biotics and dark energy and that caused an entropic effect that would hasten the end of the universe. Being immortal beings, that’s something they wouldn’t want to see.”
There’s more: “Then we thought, let’s take it to the next level. Maybe the Reapers are looking at a way to stop this. Maybe there’s an inevitable descent into the opposite of the Big Bang (the Big Crunch) and the Reapers realise that the only way they can stop it is by using biotics, but since they can’t use biotics they have to keep rebuilding society – as they try and find the perfect group to use biotics for this purpose. The asari were close but they weren’t quite right, the Protheans were close as well. Again it’s very vague and not fleshed out, it was something we considered but we ended up going in a different direction.”
In another version Karpyshyn shares, Shepard finds out he’s actually an alien, and in an alternate version of the beginning of Mass Effect 2 Shepard became a cyborg. Part of that idea seems to have carried over to the eventual ending of Mass Effect 3, the one that left fans unsatisfied, and sparked petitions, protests, and death threats.
That backlash eventually led to BioWare creating a more fleshed out conclusion in the free Extended Cut DLC. But Karpyshyn says fans would not have been happy no matter what, even if his intended ending had stuck.
“I find it funny that fans end up hearing a couple things they like about it and in their minds they add in all the details they specifically want,” he explains. “It’s like vaporware – vaporware is always perfect, anytime someone talks about the new greatest game. It’s perfect until it comes out. I’m a little weary about going into too much detail because, whatever we came up with, it probably wouldn’t be what people want it to be.”
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