"Mass Effect 3" has nose-dived from one controversy to another ever since its release in March. The cryptic ending to the game brought more criticism from the fan community, while both BioWare and EA have drawn flak for making false promises with a complete closure of the game's events.
The game developers had reportedly promised gamers a choice of different endings based on decisions taken during the course of the trilogy. However, EA later chose to snap off a critical part of the conclusion (reportedly to be available as a DLC), resulting in a cliff-hanger finale.
The move has understandably enraged franchise aficionados and there was even talk of forcing the developers to repay or refund sales. Fortunately for everyone concerned, EA and BioWare seem to have pressed the panic button and offered both single-player (with a more conclusive end) and multiplayer DLC release absolutely free.
However, the hitch with the DLC release remains that there will be no change in the ending. Therefore, any details that emerge will probably only add to gamers' cup of woes, particularly those who expect some reward for Commander Shepard's heroics rather than an all-out compromise in the finale that bears no connection to whatever decision the player made earlier in the game.
Meanwhile, a blogger at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has put EA's claims during the game's pre-release days under scrutiny.
Marjorie Stephens, Northern Indiana Director of Communications for the BBB, wrote on her blog that the statements written on the MassEffect3.com Web site technically met the group's definition for false advertising.
She specifically points out this one section: "the game would let players experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome."
Stephens further says the word "completely" in the statement is immensely misleading and can be construed as false advertising. She even points to the group's code of advertising, labelling it as superlative objective claims accounting to absolute deception.
"Objective claims relate to tangible qualities and performance values of a product or service which can be measured against accepted standards or tests. As statements of fact, such claims can be proved or disproved and the advertiser should possess substantiation," Stephen wrote.
According to Arstechnica, however, player actions do influence the outcome of the series' conclusion, by means of offering important ending choices for players to make.
"Even if those conclusions are largely similar, there are some important differences in precisely how things wrap up," writes Kyle Orland at Arstechnica.
"I suppose you could argue this player control over the story isn't complete because the player can't stop certain key events from taking place, but the player also can't change the ending so that it involves Shepard riding a rainbow-coloured unicorn while swinging a lightsaber at the Reapers. Truly complete control over the conclusion was only ever going to apply to the realm of fan fiction anyway," adds Kyle.
Another controversial statement on the game's Web site reads: "Along the way, your choices drive powerful outcomes, including relationships with key characters, the fate of entire civilizations, and even radically different ending scenarios."
Somehow, the fate of the civilizations has very little to do with the outcome of the game's conclusion or even the actions/decisions taken by the player in the course of the trilogy. Such a statement is largely exaggerated to the extent of setting wrong expectations with the gaming community.
Meanwhile, a statement made by the game's Executive Producer, Casey Hudson, has drawn severe flak in recent times.
"It's not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C," he said, according to Arstechnica.
In reality, the game offers only three (broken) endings, neither of which delivers proper closure. It is still unclear how much of those broken or missing pieces have been fixed in the DLC.