Love it or hate it, we can all admit that Mass Effect 3's sudden third-act twist has proven rather controversial. Legions of unhappy fans have taken to the game's official message boards to lodge complaints and petition BioWare to "fix" the ending, with some going so far as to claim that the game's last fifteen minutes have tarnished the entire franchise forever.
In the wake of the controversy, Mass Effect's former lead writer Drew Karpyshyn has defended the game's conclusion, debunking claims that the ending was changed following his departure from the franchise.
Karpyshyn, along with Mac Walters, served as head writer on the first Mass Effect game and contributed heavily to the second before transferring to BioWare Austin to assist on Star Wars: The Old Republic.
A popular theory among disgruntled fans claims that Mass Effect 3's ending was hastily thrown together as a last minute replacement for Karpyshyn's much stronger intended finale, which centered around Dark Energy. A snippet explaining the original plot was posted to the Something Awful forums, attributed to a source inside BioWare:
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 ME2.
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 it's 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.
But according to Karpyshyn, that so-called "original ending" was only one of several possiblities, and it certainly wasn't as definitive as some fans would like to believe.
"Dark Energy was on the table at one point," he wrote on Twitter, "but the original idea for the ending was all about Reapers and Mass Relays."
Though he's yet to play Mass Effect 3 for himself, Karpyshyn says the ending that made it into Mass Effect 3 is in line with what he'd planned for all along.
"From what I hear, the basic concept of the original ending is there, though some details may have been tweaked," he said.
Karpyshyn went on to express skepticism that his continued work on the franchise would have done much to change things one way or the other.
"Funny. Some upset fans say ME3 was awesome until the end ruined it. Claim it would have been better if I was still on the project. But fans upset about my [Knights of the Old Republic] Revan novel claim it was awesome until the ending ruined it. So maybe I wouldn't have made any difference."
So, there you have it, straight from the horse's mouth. You're more than welcome to hate Mass Effect 3's ending — I certainly felt a bit let down by the whole thing. Just don't make Drew Karpyshyn a scapegoat in the process.