I was musing today whether there has ever been a Sci-Fi epic in either books, films, or TV where fan opinion was that the ending was brilliant.
I remember the outcry at the ending of Battlestar Galactica (updated version), Star Wars made a decent hash of the original trilogy (as you’d expect, following the heroes journey so closely) but clearly George Lucas still felt he had more to say, Babylon 5 also had its detractors – the final episode was good but was set 20 years after the rest of the story. As far as literature goes, Dune was good but they kept adding more books, and it’s been so long since I read it that I can’t remember what happened at the end of Foundation.
This week Bioware releases Mass Effect 3, which is the final installment (barring DLC or the oft-rumoured MMO) of the space epic action-RPG in which Commander Shepard saves the universe. I don’t think anyone really doubts that Commander Shepard will in fact save the universe (again) at the end, so it’s just a case of how bittersweet the ending will or won’t be in addition to that.
There are already reports of widespread pirating, leaks of old scripts, and pre-emptive nerd rage on 4chan from people who feel betrayed by Bioware.
But still, I was surprised to see a 500 page forum thread of fury on the Official Bioware Forums (ME3 spoiler forum) from people who have heard at second, third, or fourth hand about the ending and they don’t like it. Note: there may be spoilers in this linked spoiler thread, since neither I nor most of the contributors have played it, we don’t know. The complaint is that it’s too bitter for some people; BSG-style, the universe is saved and the adventures come to an end but the cost is too high for some fans.
I do find it odd for people to judge a story or a game purely on the basis of the ending, when you haven’t experienced the story arcs that got things to that point. I understand why people do it, and some stories do hinge on a surprise twist, but still, the kneejerk reaction of ‘Goddamn it, I want the ending where Shephard saves the universe and cures cancer and everybody lives and sends her birthday presents, even the people she killed in ME1” is a really interesting one for an observer.
Bioware could surely have made a lot of fans happy by providing a 100% upbeat and “Fuck yeah, you saved everyone!” ending. If they haven’t done that, then it’s rather brave storytelling.
But then, that’s actually one of the things I like about their games.