If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Okay, so first things first. I liked Mass Effect 3 up until the ending. The shortened roster of squadmates and tedious scanning sidequests aside, the game, up until literally the last five or six minutes was great! Combat was just as intuitive (moreso, now that grenades are hotmapped to your skill wheel) and challenging, characters are still just as likable/respectable from the previous games, and a few archs can be laid to rest in a very competent way, depending on your choices in the game. The ending, however, has admittedly soured the game for me. Without spoiling anything, it feels like a cop-out and the implications from the situation are pretty ugly when you look at everything. But put that aside for a second.
Then two major issues that gamers in general have had with this game are the From Ashes DLC and the ending. For those of you who don't know, From Ashes was a launch day DLC that involved a new character that, again without spoiling, seemed to be a pretty important part of the story. Now, everyone who had played the first two games got pretty irate when it appeared that BioWare had taken something that was likely to be part of the finished game and cut it out to make it DLC. This seemed like a legitimate complaint until playing through the game with it. Out of objectivity (Ok, so I just wanted to play the full damn game) I went ahead and bought the DLC on the night it released. And then, when meeting this "new character" and going through most of the game, I realized something. He was just like Kasumi and Zaeed from the second game. Sure, he was a character and was there, but his overall involvement was mostly just supplemental and had no real bearing on the plot overall. So yeah, you could just go through the game without him and be just fine and dandy.
The other thing the gaming community has gotten worked up over is the ending. Now I can agree to the complaints by people en masse about it. It feels like a let down after three games of build-up. And the fact that BioWare seems to be hinting at a "True Ending Epilogue DLC" feels like an even bigger dagger to our backs (and I'll get to that a bit later). But the main concern this hits me with is the air of entitlement that is starting to grow with gamers. When a week passed and we started seeing all this angry ranting and raving, there were all these slogans like "Boycott BioWare" and petitions for ending patches to make the game better. But when it comes down to it, who are we to demand this of them? Now, don't get me wrong, I was just as angry when I finished the game. I've spent four years playing these games, building relationships with characters, connecting to Shep, living experiences within the game universe only to have it fizzle out on the end.
But who am I/are we to demand such lengths for a game I had no hand in making/contributing too? A lot of people thought the ending to The Matrix trilogy was a shlocky pile of garbage, yet there weren't a bunch of petitions to the Wachowski's for a re-release of Revolutions with a better ending. Hell, last year Deus Ex: Human Revolution ended with almost the same issue as Mass Effect 3,and yet there was no one calling for boycotts of Square Enix and Eidos. So why now? Why with BioWare and why with Mass Effect 3?
I speculate that some of it comes down to growing idea that we need to throw our weight around. With the rallying cries of the internet and the sheer number of people that consider themselves gamers now, it is easy to see how we can get caught up in a massive mob of idealism. With all the power the internet has given to peoples voices, like the SOPA/PIPA protests, the Paul Christoforo/Avenger Controller debacle, hell even the fact that Double Fine has raised so much money through Kickstarter show us when the internet rallies, it can get results. So why not apply that to gaming as well? Well, the issue really comes down to: how much can we complain until companies just stop trying? Eventually, companies will be too scared to disappoint such a massive crowd, and fear the rage against them, and shrink away from battleground, or attempt to placate everyone with mediocre sequels for all eternity.
But honestly, I think most of the rage coming at BioWare comes from the already thin ice BioWare was treading with the gaming community. With all of the issues stemming from Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3 seemed like a way for BioWare to redeem themselves in the eyes of the gamer. This was a way to make up for shifty unsubscribe button glitches, game bugs and exploits, and banhammer-happy support forum mods. And that redemption was already drawn thin by a mishandling of the From Ashes DLC. So when the ending came, it was just the straw that broke so many backs. The betrayal of a franchise that people had come to love.
And now BioWare has been hinting, if not outright stating that there will be more to the story coming. This opens a new can of worms for everyone, and wreaks of EA's slimy, vestigial hands. What this means is, essentially, we were sold an unfinished game. A nice, big, 40-or-so hour trailer for the ending to a series. Why? Because of our reaction to the ending. Either this is a not-so-subtle covering of their asses when complaints initially began to amass, or even more nefarious, this was all a way to gain more money from an angry gaming community. Is it slimy? Yes. Is it underhanded, yes? Is it why we were angry? No.
Gamers were already outraged before hints of this began to arise. The angry rants had already started up before anyone knew about an epilogue. But where does that leave the fault? Honestly, both parties have black marks against them at this point. The gaming community is proving that we have a sense of entitlement. I'm not saying that we shouldn't have our opinions and that disliking the ending is wrong (again, the ending has frustrated me to no end), but at the same time we can't go around demanding things be changed just because we didn't like them. BioWare and EA, however, have shown that if you completely neglect your fanbase, or worse yet, view them as dollar signs rather than supporters, you're only stoking the fire under a pot of rage that'll boil over eventually.
My final verdict is: play Mass Effect 3. Play it, buy the DLC if you feel like it, and when you get to the ending, drink as much vodka as you can, pass out, and dream up your own ending in your alcohol-induced stupor.