As my Mass Effect conversations with Gabriel became more and more detailed, it became clear that even if someone or something showed up in both our games the particulars could have radical distinctions. Radical really is the word: there are scenes, thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of work, I will never see. The same is also true for him.
I completed the game on Saturday. Gabriel is essentially at the aperture of the game's final moments, ready to be slurped through a pneumatic tube very nearly to the end of the game. We've received a ton of communication regarding the way things resolve themselves, but since he hasn't cracked the finale I'm not entirely comfortable discussing it with him. But there's still something to talk about.
It's hard to remember, looking at this screen now with my fist propping up my chin, any games that have actually delivered an ending worthy of their premise. Many games deliver on the "climax," but when it comes time to put a fundamentally interactive work to bed, these things get... restless.
The filthy secret of Achievements is that they are essentially user surveillance, and I'm always surprised to learn how many people don't complete their games. Not that I'm always running them to the end, of course; I just figured that not getting all the way there was simply an oxide formed on my own fundamentally incomplete psyche. It's not the case. How much money you want to spend on something a nontrivial percentage of your purchasing audience will never see is a good question, and given the way most games end, we may divine the answer.
Mass Effect 3 is a special case, though, particularly given the 3 we see affixed at the end. They aren't merely ending a single game; they're ending three games, in what has been called gaming's first true epic. Mass Effect 3 succeeds, and succeeds, and succeeds as it unfolds; for it to be over, for it to stop at all, must certainly be seen as failure of a sort. The reaction to the endings is an index of player investment and seeming ownership over the narrative, years in the making, and is as much Bioware's creation as the game itself.