Yes, yes I'm late to this party, but it took me a while to really collect my thoughts on what "my" ending would look like. That, and the fact that strong rumors of extended-ending DLC actually got me thinking about this particular issue in the first place.
Obviously, THIS POST IS MADE OF SPOILERS.
I'm superficially ok with the *options* presented in the original ending (Destroy, Control, or Synthesis), and the circumstances during the finale. However, it's when I'm done and doing something else that the fridge logic kicks in, and I say to myself, "Hey, that only kinda made sense." There are a few prongs on which the fridge logic attacks, but rather than enumerating them all right here, let's just jump into my revised ending sequence, and we can address various ....imperfections as they pop up.
First, I would not change anything until the final gunfight, just before the Spire run. All my changes would begin just before the Spire run.WORST ENDING - YOU LOSE!Conditions
: Insufficient/Low Military StrengthSummary
: Just after the destruction of the Reaper Destroyer blocking the Spire, a cataclysmic explosion lights the skies above Earth and a transmission crackles in from Admiral Hackett. He bears the worst news possible- Reaper forces have destroyed the Crucible! All allied forces are immediately struck with panic and despair as the Reapers begin a counterattack. Shepard's ground team begins a retreat when a particularly familiar Capital Reaper slams down in front of Shepard- it's Harbinger, in the flesh! Harbinger gloats and taunts Shepard before preparing a deadly energy beam.
As the beam charges, Shepard has a chance to respond:Paragon
- Boils down to "Even if we lose, *somebody* will beat the Reapers eventually!", and stands resolute in the face of the looming cosmic horror. Renegade
- Shepard prepares his biggest power or weapon and defiantly attacks Harbinger to the tune of a classy "**** you!" while heroic tears of sorrow-rage stream down Shepard's face.
Harbinger's beam continues charging and time slows down, the camera then cuts to one of the squaddies you took on the final mission dying. Cut to the other squaddie death cutscene (I'll detail these later). Shepard staring down/ attacking Harbinger. Admiral Hackett's flagship being torn apart by Reaper forces, see Hackett on the ravaged bridge of his ship just before it explodes. Shepard shooting/ being stoic again. Anderson and the Earth Resistance being overrun by swarms of Reaper troops. A mortally wounded Normandy beset by Oculi and Harvesters, desperately fleeing a Capital Reaper. Cut to Joker in the cockpit, eyes wide in terror as the pursuing Reaper begins to fire. Joker's eye fades into the Reaper's gunbarrel, a bolt of energy lances out and slices the Normandy to shreds. That same angle (for the bolt) is maintained as Harbinger finally vaporizes Shepard and the screen "burns" to white.Postgame:
A text crawl, similar to the opening cutscene describes how the Reapers go about consuming all the remaining high civilizations in the galaxy. The text is interspersed with details to each locale, and short cutscenes for each homeworld. Specific Squaddie Death Scenes:Kaidan-
Cut into a desperate fight with Kaidan fighting like a demon, shooting several enemies expertly and flinging biotic powers all over the place once his gun overheats. He takes a couple of hits when a Banshee charges at him. Kaidan throws a biotic field to hold the creature back, but the Banshee throws its own field in an attempt to overwhelm Kaidan. Eventually Kaidan tires and is violently flung into a nearby wall, sickeningly twisting one of his legs beneath him. He keeps his gaze to the ground as Cannibals and Marauders raise their weapons and gun him down.Tali-
Bearing a cracked faceplate and fighting with a pistol in one hand and her omni-tool in the other, Tali does a pretty good job of holding back low-level Reaper troops... until a Brute blindsides her and throws her to the ground. The sharp crack of shattering glass can be heard as she hits the ground. Cut in close- upper left section of her faceplace is gone, and we get a fleeting glimpse at her eye, now bloodied and bruised. Now visibly injured, Tali struggles to her feet and tries to take down that Brute, but ultimately to no avail as it overpowers her. Liara-
Visibly shaken severely by the Crucible's destruction, we first see her on the run from some Reaper troops. Flight overrides Fight as Liara tries to gain some ground. Soon an all-too-familiar shriek pierces the air and a Banshee lumbers out right in Liara's path. Suppressing a scream, she makes a too-sharp turn and slips. She scrambles to her feet, but it's too late- the monster pops up behind Liara and grabs her. Remembering Thessia and the Ardat-Yakshi monastery, Liara just loses it. The Banshee grabs Liara's face, and the screams and shrieking become nearly impossible to separate. Cut to Liara's dangling legs- a sickening CRACK cuts short all the screams and the legs stop struggling. Garrus-
We see Garrus holding a barricade with some other Alliance troops, all of them fighting back a horde of husks and troops. Cut to an elevated view from a ruined building, and we hear the trademark electronic mumbling of a Marauder. The Marauder raises a rifle to firing position, and we see through the scope. Garrus pops up to shoot a husk, and the Marauder fires, expertly doming Garrus. He falls stiffly forward, landing facedown in the grit.Vega-
He's already right in the thick of a crowd of various husks, fighting like a demi-krogan. Vega ragedozes through the Reaper lines, no objective, no goal aside from staying alive and killing as much as he can. He puts muscle to use just as much as his guns, taking hits here or there, but a deep mechanical roar momentarily stops all fighting parties. Titanic footsteps foreshadow a Reaper Destroyer emerging from behind a building, glaring right at this offending human. Realizing that his life is absolutely at an end, Vega starts priming and dropping all the grenades he can grab. A stray shot drops him to a knee as he primes his last explosive... "loco...." he whispers before dropping the last grenade. The grenade leaves his hand, and everything in burned to white.Ashley-
We see Ash with a small group of holdouts; she's picking off Reaper troops with a sniper rifle (whatever the player equipped her with). A Brute smashes through a wall, tackling Ash and shoving her against a nearby, sturdier wall. She kept the presence of mind to hold onto her weapon, and with reasonable calmness shoves the barrel into the creature's face and re-arranges its thoughts. With a bullet. Once the behemoth falls, she manages to wriggle free and turns to see her squad overrun, Reaper troops advancing directly at her. Before Ash can raise her weapon or do anything, a Cannibal decks her hard in the side of the head with its weapon. Ash falls to the ground unconscious as assorted husks crowd around her.Javik-
Before the Crucible explodes, he's really tearing it up. Throwing husks all over the place and gunning down other creatures with his typically calm, ruthless efficiency. Once the Crucible detonates, however, he starts getting flashbacks. The Prothean Crucible being destroyed 50 millennia ago, his comrades-in-arms dying, and that signature Reaper roar. A Capital Reaper screams down from orbit to that same dread roar, and losing to the Reapers twice is just too much for the ancient warrior to handle. Javik falls to his knees, gibbering, whimpering, begging for mercy. Utterly in his own world, the last Prothean's last moments are of sheerest stark terror before being mercifully finished off by a Marauder's pitiless gun.EDI-
She puts her multitude of technology skills to use to destroy Reaper troops, a gout of flame here, an utterly convincing holographic decoy there, a computer-assisted headshot right in front of the camera. Nonetheless, despite her AI mind, EDI still shows some fear and desperation.... until a monstrous pillar of steel slams to the ground before her. EDI is momentarily paralyzed by the Capital Reaper's appearance, and that moment is all the Lovecraftian nightmare needs. EDI suddenly drops her weapon, and takes her head in both hands, in obvious pain. She suddenly throws her head back as a sickly aura glows around her. EDI relaxes, lifts her head to the camera, and opens her eyes, which now glow with an unearthly yellow corona.
Whew! Ok, that was a lot. But I assure you, the rest of the scenarios won't take nearly as long to detail. Largely because fewer people die.
Moving on... BAD ENDING- DESTROY REDUX
Honestly, this wouldn't be all that different from the original implementation. Well, there would be no Catalyst. As implemented, I think the Catalyst was kind of hokey at best.Conditions:
Minimally passable Military Strength; Fail a difficult Persuasion check (see next ending for details)Summary:
Spire run goes down mostly normally, except that you're dodging Oculus beams rather than Capital Reaper beams. Because obviously, if you see a Reaper on the ground, by rights you should be dead very, very soon. Near the end, you take an unlucky hit that wipes out most of the people around Shep, critically wounds your squaddies, blah blah blah. Shepard gets back up, fight the Three Huskateers and Marauder Shields while badly injured, enters the Sipre and gets to the Citadel, then has the original showdown with the Illusive Man. TIM either shoots himself (via persuasion) or Shep shoots him, ok what am I changing here? First TIM was wrong, the Reapers can't be controlled. F'kin duh. The Crucible has only one function- to kill the **** out of all the Reapers in the galaxy via the mass relays. Oh, and what *was* the Catalyst after all? Somebody to push the big red button. Those crazy Protheans! Postgame:
Classical Red Explosion ending, with expanded text-based epilogue for civilization homeworlds and major characters.
Here's where it gets interesting. At minimally passable EMS, Shepard only has the option to fire the Crucible to end the Reaper threat. This necessarily disables all the mass relays in the galaxy as well because, hey- they're Reapertech as well. At higher levels of EMS, the Reapers finally manage to grasp the very real threat to their existence and Shepard gets some negotiating room.BETTER ENDING- LEAVE US ALONE!Conditions:
Slightly higher EMS; Really difficult Persuasion checkSummary:
After dealing with TIM, Shepard moves over to the control console for the powered-up Crucible. Words of encouragement from Adrmiral Hackett are suddenly cut as an all-too-familiar profile appears on the console- Harbinger. This time, he's singing a different tune. Uncharacteristically for the inhumanly-arrogant Reapers, they are forced to recognize that the Crucible was, in fact done right and is one button press from wiping them away. Harbinger asks Shepard to reconsider, and spins the Godchild's original line about the Reapers "saving organics from synthetics". Persuasion attempt
- Shepard points out that "yo dawg, we heard that synthetics will kill organics, so we're synthetics that kill organics..." doesn't actually make any goddamn sense, and somehow gets Harbinger to agree. Or not, in which case Shepard nukes the Reapers, and potentially Earth too (low EMS).
Forced to evaluate the Reapers' purpose, Harbinger remembers something long forgotten- the Reapers' original purpose! Harbinger, as the first Reaper, remembers that their purpose was indeed to save organic life.... from the threat of dark energy, which will eventually wipe out all stars and snuff ALL LIFE. Reapers periodically munched the smartest species to increase their number and computing power to try and find a solution. Unfortunately, at some point in the eons of slaughter, they forgot the REASON for the slaughter, and fixated only on the harvesting.
At an uncharacteristic loss for words, Harbinger (and by extension, the Reapers at large) decide they need to re-evaluate their strategy. Shepard can either tell the reapers to leave the galaxy in peace, or he can blow them all away for the lulz (goto Destroy).Postgame:
Assuming Shepard spares the Reapers, they immediately cease their assault on the galaxy, pack up shop, and leave for dark space. The Reapers are not gone forever, but they will take time to consider the knowledge of thousands of civilizations, and to let the current batch develop some more. The last communications are hopeful, looking forward to the day when all life can work together to counter the force of dark energy. Text-focused epilogue, talk about characters and homeworlds, blah blah.GOOD ENDING- NO SHEPARD, YOU ARE THE REAPERS! (CONTROL REDUX) Conditions:
High EMS; Really difficult Persuasion checkSummary:
Let's pick up from a successful Persuasion in the prior scenario. Harbinger and the Reapers need to re-evaluate their life choices, etc, etc. This time, they extend a unique offer to Shepard- the Commander can voluntarily become the "prime mind" in a new Reaper body.... created from those harvested in this cycle. This option is offered because the races of this cycle presented a very credible threat to the Reapers, and manged to truly impress them. Humbled against all odds, Harbinger is fully honest with Shepard about the potential gains (immortal kilometer space-robot body, massive influence with a fleet of thousands of similar space robots), and the costs (getting melted down and losing your human body). Understandably, Shepard still doesn't buy it, since Harbinger has no need to tell the truth- why not just trash the Crucible and subjugate the galaxy once Shepard's out of the picture? Harbinger has nothing to offer except a gesture of good faith- immediate cessation of hostilities against all races. At this point, the fate of the galaxy, the Reapers, and Shepard's future is up to the player. Obviously, it would require a leap of faith for both the player and Shep to accept Harbinger's offer, and it would still be made to look like a sketchy deal at best.Join the Reapers:
Shepard boards Harbinger and is taken to a specialized Reaper processing center. Shepard is ushered to a single, familiar pod and after taking a steadying breath, climbs in. The cover slides shut and some chemicals begin doing their brutal work; we watch from a first-person perspective as Shepard's body comes undone. A hand held up to the glass disintegrates to muscle, meat, and finally bone as everything gently fades to white.
Shepard awakens, apparently in the same pod, but in a white space devoid of all features, save for the pod and a very high-tech-looking throne of sorts. Shepard leaves the pod and goes over to the throne and takes a seat. Just at that moment a surge of power wracks the entire scene, cut to the "face" of a Capital Reaper- energy arcs across the machine's surface as its "eyes" suddenly light up. The Shepard-Reaper is in space with the remainder of the Reaper fleet; pan over to an overview of the Milky Way, similar to the final scene of ME2.Postgame:
All of the usual, of course colored by the fact that the galaxy's greatest hero is now the defacto leader of eons-old killbot spaceships. Reapershep then lives forever as a guardian of the galaxy, and as a leader in the effort to save the galaxy from dark energy.Special Postgame:
If certain esoteric conditions are met, the Reapers are able to reconstruct Shepard's human body using advanced Reaperbiotech and cloning. BETTER ENDING- PREPARE THEM FOR ASCENSION (SYNTHESIS REDUX)Conditions:
Very high EMS; Really difficult Persuasion check x2Summary:
As an alternative to becoming a Reaper, Harbinger is sufficiently impressed by all advanced life (not just Shepard) that he extends the ultimate olive branch- the ascension of all organic and synthetic life to a unified whole. I'm still trying to work out some specifics here, the quickest contemporary I can offer is Bio-Metal from the 90's redux of Battlezone. Once again, Shepard would have to make a leap of fairth- since Destroy is the only ending that uses the Crucible, New Synthesis would be performed on willing individuals directly by the Reapers, adding biomachinery to synthetic life, and utterly sublime cybernetics to organic life. This option is incompatible with Reapershep since the Reapers would need a trustworthy spokesperson to get people to trust the Reapers. That spokesperson would be Shepard. Persuasion Check:
Shepard must convince the civilizations of the galaxy that a) he's not indoctrinated and b) this time, the Reapers are trying to help. (Please don't ask me exactly how that would work)
Failing this check still allows Leave Us Alone, Destroy, and Join. Succeeding in the check convinces most of each civilization to go along with the Synthesis, and the Reapers begin upgrading the civilizations of the galaxy. Obviously your squad gets to go first, since they were the vanguard of this impossibly awesome bunch of sentients. Once again, it's a bank of pods, and everybody steps into one as dozens of nimble robotic arms go to work. Cut- Shepard opens his eyes. The iris color is unchanged, but subtle circuitry can be seen glowing in the whites, and Shep's skin has a barely-noticeable metallic appearance to it, perhaps with an occasional circuit glow. After a brief acclimation to the new body, Shepard shares a tender moment with his love interest, and the camera pulls back to reveal long lines of people waiting for their turn to be Synthesized.Postgame:
Nothing really special here, epilogue text, as usual colored by which ending you achieved/chose.ULTIMATE ENDING- YOU ARE BACTERIA, WE ARE... BEATEN!?Conditions:
Absurdly high EMS; 100% completion and Max Level in all prior Mass Effect titles; Absolute maximum Paragon/ Renegade score in both prior ME titles; Lost no squadmates, ever (except when dictated by plot); Stayed faithful to ME1 Love Interest (because why the hell not); +1 random pointless prereq, maybe something with Conrad Verner Summary:
Against all odds and reason, the fleet you assemble for the final space battle manages to somehow defeat the Reaper fleet in orbit around Earth (!?). The Reapers retreat to cries of "hax!" as the allied fleet liberates Earth and installs the Crucible. Before the Big Red Button on the Crucible can be pushed, Harbinger contacts Shepard and all involved parties to essentially beg for mercy. Harbinger and the Reapers were supposed to be perfect, if the organics could beat them then maybe their purpose was wrong, blah blah blah. Shepard is presented with all the high-level endings without any Persuade checks involved, and can freely choose from Destroy, Leave, Join, or New Synthesis, with none of the mindgames involved in the normal versions of these endings.
Postgame: Special epilogue texts, and unique cutscenes appropriate to such a perfect avatar of Paragonism or Renegade-ness. Shepard is essentially revered as a new Messiah, and lives for many decades as the single most respected sentient of recent times.
Jeezaloo that was a lot, but I had many and detailed ideas. Hopefully this can get the pudding stirred a bit, so to speak.