March 26, 2014

The Mass Effect that could have been

Illusive Man Concept art Reaper tech

I came across this reddit post which discusses ‘what may have been’ with the ending of Mass Effect and I wanted to share.

Yes, every man and his dog has had something to say about ME3’s ‘brave’ conclusion but it looks like Geoff Keighly managed to get some really great insights into the structure of the game and what happened to it during production. Here's some key points that have been paraphrased and run through a washing machine.

Time, you can never have enough

ME3 was supposed to launch 2011 but production issues meant the game didn’t release until March 2012 and due to development pressures, content was cut and other stuff re-jigged. This is a pretty normal thing, no big deal, except some of it had real consequences for the story telling…


Case in point, Javick. Ultimately Javick was intended to take a larger role and provide more exposition during the campaign. Eventually he was shunted into DLC post the game being sent for certification. Javick was intended to have discovered the Citadel was the Catalyst by way of the promethean beacon that was found in the Temple of Athame on Tessia. At the point that the Illusive Man sent Kai Lang to ruin the party and kidnap Javick. That new information would have then lead to Cerberus attack in the Citadel as they would have known it was the Catalyst. Instead the plot was recast and the Cerberus attack was moved in the story. Knowing this, the attack on the Citadel makes more sense.

The 'Final Boss' Fight would have been against the Illusive Man

There were original plans to give the game a final boss fight, wherein The Illusive Man would 'pull a Saren' and you would fight the Invisible Man who had managed to intergrate himself into a Reaper construct. This idea went as far as having conceptual artwork designed (see above)

The idea was canned after producer Casey Hudson felt it didn't make sense from a story perspective. Instead the player gets to 'renegade' shoot Illusive Man (even if they are a Paragon through and though).


Lead Writer Mac Walters had envisaged the Destroy ending would create a Dark Age across the Galaxy. I’ve played ME3 three times now and still have no real idea of what the hell I chose and what its effect was!

Drey Karpshyn perhaps infamously also is on record (as in it’s on the internet) as noting a possible idea he had in mind was that humans would evolve to be able to use Dark Matter which its use would unwittingly cause the end of the world so the Reapers were intent on killing everyone to prevent that scenario from happening. So it would turn out the Reapers were the good guys of the piece...
Enough time has passed about the ending of the game now for me to ponder it as a player. I think it was a ballsy but confusing move. A hot mess of a date if you will, but I'm happy that the Extended Cut resolved a few of the quibbles. I'd still like to believe in the indoctrination theory though!

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