It always frustrated me that in Mass Effect 2 you could almost completely side with Cerberus, but in Mass Effect 3 that roleplaying option was removed. Cerberus were no longer a pro-human extremist group trying to save the day in an arguably misguided manner, instead they were simply the bad guys. I’ve always been a proponent of arguing that Renegade is not evil, but instead more of an ends justifying the means type character, but in doing so I always wanted a darker path.
I’m sure this has been done a million times, but after enthusiastically replaying through the entire series to keep the Andromeda hype alive, I almost wish that there would have been three distinct routes you could have taken instead of the paragon/renegade two, and that those three paths had a set ending instead of a random choice, perhaps with variations between them so you had something like 6 total endings with three paths. Something like this:
- Cerberus Path (High War Assets) – you help the Illusive Man instead of the Alliance. Your war assets go to Cerberus instead of the Alliance too. At the end, you turn on him, kill him and take his place, and kill the Catalyst too in order to get the Control Ending. You are now Lord Reaper, and you use this power to assert human superiority over the galaxy.
- Cerberus Path (Low War Assets) – you help the Illusive Man instead of the Alliance. Your war assets go to Cerberus instead of the Alliance too. At the end, you’re indoctrinated like he is and you get a pretty sad ending where you and the Illusive man think you won, and the Reapers let you think that, but you’re completely under Reaper control. The indoctrinated humans then conquer the galaxy and the Reapers win.
- Paragon Path (High War Assets) – You gather the galaxy together to fight the Reapers, and in a final climactic battle you fight them back, only to realize that the Reapers are no different than another sentient race. You’ve saved everyone so far – why are they any different? The catalyst says the Reapers and everyone else are too different to get along, but you can merge with them and achieve lasting peace in the galaxy, but it will be very hard and painful and probably won’t be popular. You grapple with this awful decision, saving everyone but being forced to decide their entire futures for them. Eventually you do it, and it’s wildly successful, and you’re the most famous person in history, but as a Paragon, you’re racked with guilt forever.
- Paragon Path (Low War Assets) – You gather the galaxy together to fight the Reapers, but in the final climactic battle your side takes heavy losses and are nearing total defeat. The Reapers however are impressed with how far you have come, and offer a solution that will keep you alive and make them stronger – instead of total annihilation in the harvest, they will allow you and your people to maintain your individuality as long as you become partially synthetic too. You merge with them to achieve lasting peace in the galaxy, but the process is horrifying and while you were ultimately successful, everyone hates you for it.
- Renegade Path (High War Assets) – You stop at nothing to accomplish your goal of destroying the Reapers, alienating a lot of people and races along the way, take down the Illusive Man, get to the Catalyst, fuck it up, and save the day. The cost is extraordinary, but you’ve imposed your will on the galaxy at the expense of your personal relationships, any Alliance relations with other species, and you end up alive but utterly alone.
- Renegade Path (Low War Assets) – You stop at nothing to accomplish your goal of destroying the Reapers, alienating a lot of people and races along the way, take down the Illusive Man, get to the Catalyst, fuck it up, and save the day. Unfortunately, while the threat is destroyed, and the Alliance are clearly the heroes, the Galaxy is just as polarized as ever. Soon, the Geth and the Quarians go back to war, Krogans begin an expansionist campaign and the Turians go to war to stop it, the Asari and Alliance fight for ultimate control of the council, etc. You accomplished your goal, and people survived the Reapers, but there is no peace to be found and more and more people die.
What do you think? How would you have done it differently?
Paragon seems a little contrived. Little bit too Disney, I think.
Honestly, and I haven’t given this a whole lot of thought so I’m really just spitballing, I think they should have just made the Reapers’ destruction the endgame and then focused on how we got there. For two games the sole focus has been ‘Destroy the Reapers’ and then suddenly at the last possible minute we find there are all these other possible outcomes. I kinda didn’t like that we have this iconic speech from Sovereign about how they are incomprehensible to lesser beings, and then in the final moments we get this full exposition on Reaper motivations and history. I would have liked for that mystery to remain, I think. Gives the whole ‘overcoming impossible odds’ a little more meat I think.
So if we are arriving at destroying the reapers no matter what, I think it then you can make it about how we get there, which really makes the whole Paragon/Renegade work a bit more within its original intent. Cooperation and all that vs. My-way-or-the-highway/Victory at all costs type stuff. Maybe even work in the third Cerberus option like you suggest. I kinda like that idea. Then show how the galaxy is shaped in the aftermath. Focus on the characters we’ve all grown to know so well, show the consequences of how you chose to go about destroying the Reapers, etc. Control/Synthesis, at least in the way they were presented, seemed to make a lot of what we went through up until that point seem less impactful since we spent 2.5 games working towards one conclusion that suddenly is only one of three conclusions.
Like I said, I haven’t put too much thought into this as far as making it work, just how I’ve always really felt about the last minute ‘but wait, we have choices‘ ending they went for.
Original Link – Continuation of discussion