So, I just played the ME3 Extended Cut. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it. A lot, actually. That might surprise some people, given the alternate ending I wrote and how it effectively railed against the original conclusions, but let me explain.
My problem with the original ending wasn't that it didn't make sense, because a lot of the Mass Effect universe doesn't make sense. Biotics, Indoctrination, Element Zero, Asari physiology and most of the tech and lore of Mass Effect is quite ridiculous, but the writers do a damn good job of covering that up and making you believe. So I'm willing to go along with a silly concept as long as it's executed properly, and the writers at least try to give you a reasonable explanation for why they're doing what they're doing. The original endings had none of that. It felt as if there was a whole stack of dialogue that was simply left out.
To compound that problem, you were left with three choices that were not explained very well and left too much room for interpretation, and that made them all seem nearly identical, even when they were all fundamentally different. Again, those differences weren't very well fleshed out, and you never saw the results of those choices or how they impacted the end of the game. I didn't care that there were only three real options, because there were only two options at the end of the first game, and two at the end of the second. Three (or four) ortions were fine. I just wanted those options to feel radically different.
Probably my biggest grievance was that you never saw your specific war assets in action. I still think Bioware missed an opportunity there, but I think that decision has more to do with the pacing of a scene and keeping the tempo of a game level up than laziness or bad writing. Yeah, I'm sad I'll never see a Biotic artillery strike, or Captain Kiraehe use his grenades to stop a charging Brute, but I can understand that choice. Every asset, (or even just the major ones) getting it's blaze of glory, and figuring out how to place them, who is alive or dead, etc. would be an editor's worst nightmare. I've done some editing before and that... that would drive someone to madness. And really, the rest of the game has a huge amount of subtle differences based on past choices, and I don't think many people appreciate how much work that takes. So I'm not happy about it, but I get it.
The Extended Cut did exactly what it said it was going to do, which was do it's best to flesh out what Bioware already had. When I wrote my ending, that was my goal, and if you read it, I did almost exactly what they did. I just wanted to add as much to the existing ending as I could with the minimum amount of work. However, I understood that people wanted to tell the Starchild to shove it, so I added in my 'fourth choice' to refuse them. Sitting at my kitchen table I had it well within my power to allow Shepard to suddenly realize he has the guns to take down the Reaper fleet, but looking at it now, there was no way that could happen. We've seen three games worth of play-time where the most fundamental idea shoved down our throats is "You CAN'T stop the Reapers. We've tried. We got our asses kicked." I could write an ending where that was ignored, where you gambled everything away, but looking at it now... I don't know HOW Bioware could have pulled that off and not been lambasted for total fan-service. So they took that idea and said "You want that chance, you've got it. But you're going to lose that gamble."
I'm happy about that, to be frank.
So is the Extended Cut the greatest thing ever? No, not by a long shot. There's still problems, there's still old holes and a few new ones (Harbringer not seeing the Normandy? We couldn't have added in a super quick cut of him turning to deal with Hammer forces on the OTHER side of the beam to distract him?) and to a lot of people it's still going to feel like it's a band-aid on a shotgun wound. But it looks and feels like the ending that was supposed to be shipped with the game in the first place. Would I love to see it end in a completely different way? Yeah, sure I'd love it. But the amount of work that would have to be done to work around the game that was already made would be massive.
I can deal with a bad ending, or an ending that doesn't pan out the way I wanted, but an incomplete ending is unforgivable. At the very least, this ending feels complete, and people can judge it as such, whether they like it or not. And as Garrus would say, "I'm ok with that."
STILL wanted to see Grunt wrestle a Brute, though...
PS: Anyone watch the refusal ending and think of me? Anyone?