Therefore, it is the talked about end of Mass Effecttrilogy underestimated.
The Savior did not rise again on the third day this time. It’s been nine years Mass Effect 3 completed the trilogy. Andromeda was a spinoff and does not count here, as Jesus’ forgiveness, Shepard, was not in that game. But now our space messiah is resurrected with the remaster collection Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.
Since the messiah is back, it may be appropriate to take a look at the overall theme of the games. Yes, and argue that the reviled end is an interesting attempt at something unique and exciting, of course.
“It was then a damn nagging about saviors here and Jesus there already in the preface”, you might be thinking now. But it is of course conscious, too Mass Effect is hardly subtle with its messianic theme. It is called for hell Shepard, as in shepherd – a recurring symbol of Jesus in the Bible. A not super flattering metaphor, by the way, as we ordinary mortals are the sheep cook. Sheep are one of the dumbest mammals (for their size), by the way. So when I think about it, maybe it’s most reasonable after all.
In Bioware’s space opera, however, it’s not just humanity that is petty, stupid and generally troublesome. All races have their downsides, and getting along with people out there among the stars is not the easiest thing. It’s been a while since I read the Bible now, but I have no memory of Jesus having to kill so many damned antagonists with radiation weapons and psychic powers. In a way, one can argue that Shepard is better than Jesus. But now we are not to provoke bile fever on the Pope unnecessarily.
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Birth and death
In a way, it’s a little annoying that EA did not release this collection around Easter. It feels strange to write about this kind of theme outside the short Christmas and Easter periods. The rest of the time, in the name of honesty, I want it to be as religion-free as possible. But now it is the case that it is not possible to turn a blind eye to the ever-present theme of salvation in Mass Effect. If you are going to write an analysis of what the trilogy is about, it is almost a mistake not to at least mention that aspect. The trilogy deals with many themes, by all means, but if there is one thing that runs like a common thread all the way to the end, it is the whole messiah choir. It’s also one of the aspects that actually makes that ever so controversial end to Mass Effect 3 surprisingly interesting. At least if you choose the “right” ending. But we’ll get to that.
The name is of course just one of many small and large small references to the messianic theme. It does not take many seconds into the first Mass Effect before the good Captain Anderson states that at least only one person like Shepard can do the tough job of keeping the galaxy safe. This is typical of role-playing stories in general, that you are the chosen, special person whose destiny is to save the world. But Bioware is more aware than many other role-playing game makers, and takes it a few steps further than that.
At the end of the first game, everyone thinks you’re dead, but then Shepard jumps out of the rubble – all to swelling hero music. It’s a very cheesy moment, but by then the game has served to swell up some figurative dairy products. It is that moment when we understand that Shepard, our messiah, is almost divine. Indestructible.
And suddenly Shepard dies.
It’s hardly a secret that the first thing that happens in Mass Effect 2 is that our dear protagonist dies. It also takes well much longer than three days before Shepard finally reappears, and by that time the disciples have already been scattered by the wind in the solar system.
It does not become much clearer than this – a savior who is destined to save humanity and who then dies and is resurrected. Admittedly resurrected by a person who is more of a devil than an angel, but still.
Now maybe someone objects that you can play evil in Mass Effectgames. It does not matter at all for the messianic theme, however. Whether you play as a generous angel or an evil asshole, you are still the one who saves the universe from the dark forces, albeit with different methods. It is you who sacrifices yourself and resurrects. You are the one who finally leads the disciples into the new Eden.
And vips, we arrived at that oh so talked about end.
The end is good?
What bothered many was that the ending of the trilogy did not reflect the players’ choices enough. That the trip there thus felt meaningless. I can understand that. For my own part, however, I think that the ending, at least in theory, is the most interesting thing about the whole series. Depending a bit on what you choose at the very end, the whole galaxy changes quite radically. It is a daring ending, but also one that is completely in line with the red messiah thread, albeit in an unexpected and for me very exciting way. I just wish they had dug a little more into that soil, rather than less.
I can absolutely agree that the implementation was a bit lame, of course. Not primarily because not all threads were tied together, though. I did not really feel that I was mainly longing for an extension of that typical standard ending that we often get in role-playing games, where a narrator’s voice talks about what happened to all the characters and all the places (more of that product was patched in later, as a patch on the wounds of anyone who did not like the ending in the original version, however). In this case, it is rather the philosophical implications I would have liked to get a little more of. The story in Mass Effect 3 feels a bit hasty at times, especially towards the end, and it’s a shame to have such a transformative and bold end as it still is. But only if you choose the right ending.
I will not go through every variant of the three possible ends here, but the correct choice is the “synthesis” end where organic and mechanical life in the entire galaxy is fused into something new. A post-humanistic Garden of Eden, which takes the whole messianic theme around in a rather elegant circle, all the way back to a science fiction version of the Old Testament. Or yes, it could have been elegant, with a little better execution. But even in the slightly shaky condition at release, that end aroused much more thoughts in my head most games. It weighs heavily in my book. For all who chose the other locks, I can only apologize. They are not as interesting at all, and do not work nearly as well with that messianic theme I have waffled about in this text.
So it’s well with a big fat piece of firewood I defend the end in Mass Effect 3, in the end. But still – under the right conditions, the trilogy goes from a fairly typical savior story to exploding in a strange post-humanist manifesto in the final minutes. There is actually Jesus himself in the shelter.
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