When it comes to video game endings, none is more controversial than Mass Effect 3. The sci-fi RPG trilogy from BioWare emphasized the importance of player choice, but fans felt the ending to the final game erased the meaning of all their decisions. Notoriously the three original endings all looked like different colored versions of the same story. But new information reveals that the original plan was drastically different. Thanks to a Reddit AMA with Drew Karpyshyn, lead writer on Mass Effect 1 and 2, fans now have a glimpse at what could have been.
When Mass Effect 3 was released in 2012 players were met with three different endings. Destroy (Red) sees Shepard destroying all the reapers, as well as all synthetic life in the galaxy. Control (Blue) has Shepard merge with the reapers, now controlling them Shepard uses them to rebuild the galaxy. In Synthesis (Green) Shepard merges all organic and synthetic life in the galaxy, making the reapers' mission irrelevant. A fourth ending was added in the Extended Cut DLC that allowed players to refuse any of these options and let the Reapers wipe out organic life, restarting the cycle of evolution that has occurred numerous times in the galaxy.
When asked how he would have ended the Mass Effect series, Karpyshyn shared that he was part of early planning for the end of the series. This was the initial idea the team had:
“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.”
The journey from this idea to the endings players saw in the final game seems unclear. However, the idea of the Mass Effect relays being destroyed did make its way into the series. The Destroy ending of Mass Effect 3 also destroys the Mass Relays, much like this original idea from Karpyshyn. However, as one Reddit commenter points out, the idea of luring Reapers through the Mass Relay and detonating the network on purpose bears a lot of resemblance to Mass Effect 2’s Arrival DLC.
The Arrival DLC acted as a prologue to the events of Mass Effect 3. The story follows Shepard on a mission to prevent an imminent invasion of Reapers with the help of a deep cover agent. To delay the Reapers Shepard resorts to smashing an asteroid into a Mass Relay, destroying it and catching the Reapers in deep space. While this isn’t as drastic as destroying the entire Relay Network, Arrival clearly took some inspiration from the original ending idea Karpyshyn was working on.
The complete destruction of the Mass Relays would create a drastically different status quo for the Mass Effect universe for subsequent games in the series. Currently, BioWare is developing a true sequel to the original trilogy, as opposed to the oft-overlooked Mass Effect: Andromeda. The story will need to choose a canon ending of Mass Effect 3 to continue from — making it the Destroy ending could allow BioWare to use some of these original ideas from Karpyshyn.