Revealed: the Mass Effect 3 ending BioWare canned before release

Writer discusses Dark Energy plotline in new report

Mass Effect 3's endings have delighted some, depressed others. Yay-sayers feel the absence of a sunshine-and-roses option is all grown-up and sophisticated. Nay-sayers think there's nothing wrong with a send-off that leaves you smiling, and argue that the game's surprise pre-credits twist renders many/most key trilogy story decisions irrelevant.

Will it help everybody to know that there's another Mass Effect 3 ending, mooted by former series scribe Drew Karpyshyn mid-development and canned long before release? Of course it won't. Here you go anyway. Watch out for series spoilers.

Haelstrom. Nice place to visit, but - hang on, it isn't even a nice place to visit.

Karpyshyn wrote the first Mass Effect script and was heavily involved with the second, but quit the Mass Effect team midway through to work on the recently released Star Wars: The Old Republic. Posting on SomethingAwful (via Gameranx), he tells a tantalising tale of Dark Energy, species preservation and humanity's unique genetic advantages, touched on at several points in Mass Effect 1 and 2. You might remember Dark Energy from the Haelstrom mission in Mass Effect 2, or from the Arrival DLC. According to various growly internet hintings, it makes the Reapers look about as menacing as a slightly wilted Greek salad.

"The Reapers' goal was to find a way to stop the spread of Dark Energy which would eventually consume everything. That's why there was so much foreshadowing about Dark Energy in ME," Karpyshyn wrote.

"The Reapers as a whole were 'nations' of people who had fused together in the most horrific way possible to help find a way to stop the spread of the Dark Energy. The real reason for the Human Reaper was supposed to be the Reapers saving throw because they had run out of time. Humanity in Mass Effect is supposedly unique because of its genetic diversity and represented the universe's best chance at stopping Dark Energy's spread.

"The original final choice was going to be 'Kill the Reapers and put your faith in the races of the galaxy in finding another way to stop the spread with what little time is left' or 'Sacrifice humanity, allowing them to be horrifically processed in hopes that the end result will justify the means.'

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Chin-stroking fodder, no? Go on, stroke your chin. Regarding the finalised Mass Effect 3 plot, Karpyshyn tweeted this week that "from what I hear, the basic concept of the original ending is there, though some details may have been tweaked."

"Dark Energy was on the table at one point, but the original idea for the ending was all about Reapers and Mass Relays," he added.

Mass Effect 3's script was leaked last November along with an unfinished Xbox 360 build. According to studio boss Dr Ray Muzyka, BioWare altered the story following the leak. "The script, frankly, has changed a little bit from what was released, too. It's been edited. They're always tuning it. They're always making it better."

I wonder what they changed in particular?