Note: This write-up will make more sense if you have played the Mass Effect series. There are also some spoilers.
The release of Mass Effect 3 brought along a terrible amount of controversy because of its ending which was considered ‘weak’ at best and ‘outright terrible’ at worst. Due to these fan complaints Bioware almost immediately set to work on creating an Extended Cut which was designed to expand on the endings, adding more closure and clarity to the narrative.
I was one of those fans that did not like the ending, I did not like the lack of clarity, and I did not like the sudden appearance of a character that we had never seen before taking my hand and forcing me into a decision that I did not completely understand. However if there was one thing I disliked the most about the ending it was the lack of closure. In the first two games you get a proper conclusion that makes you feel good or feel a bit sad, but overall you feel like you accomplished something. In Mass Effect 3, it just ends and leaving you feeling empty.
The Extended Cut fixes that.
Those that did not like the twist at the end of the game may still be disappointed, but the extended cut does what many of us wanted – gives us an explanation and closure. Rather than follow the Catalyst blindly we are now allowed to question him. By doing this we are allowed to learn more about the background of the Reapers, the Crucible, and the Catalyst itself. Some of the details I admit are a bit muddy, the Catalyst still does not make that much sense, but you are given a chance to get more details on the three choices you make. And if you don’t like those three choices you are even given an option to refuse to use the Crucible at all. This leads to a bad ending but being able to say no gives a bit more flexibility. I would not be surprised if some players considered this ending the ‘canon’ ending.
The new cinematics that are included in the extended cut are beautiful and more importantly, because you now have a better idea of your choices and the consequences of those choices, they have more weight. Seeing your allies celebrating or looking confused as the Crucible does its work only shows more that something was accomplished and the additional narration in the epilogue helps give a great idea of where the world is going after you win the war. Some are happier than others, but each one even the bad endings make it clear that the future has hope.
Overall the Extended Cut does one thing very well, it makes Mass Effect 3 feel like a more complete package. There are still problems, numerous bugs and glitches are still in the game, which will hopefully be patched with time, and the lack of side quests beyond the fetch quests and N7 missions does make the game feel a bit empty.
Those that absolutely hate the Catalyst may still hate the endings, but those that can tolerate the Catalyst as long as they get closure will find themselves to be satisfied with the Extended Cut, maybe even a bit happy. It clears up some details and gives the series a proper conclusion. Even though it is not the best ending the series could have, it is now good enough that I can think of this franchise with a smile on my face.