The UK Advertising Standards Authority has weighed in on complaints about the ending of Mass Effect 3, saying that Electronic Arts' promises of player decisions shaping the conclusion of the sci-fi role-playing trilogy were not misleading.
After Mass Effect 3's March debut, fans vocally expressed their distaste for the endgame, saying the conclusion (which was capped off by one of three largely similar cutscenes) did not support player choices made over the course of the trilogy. Specifically at issue for the ASA were claims on the game's website that player decisions "completely shape your experience and outcome," and "drive powerful outcomes, including relationships with key characters, the fate of entire civilizations, and even radically different ending scenarios." Before ultimately concluding that the ad was not misleading, the ASA explained its position.
The ASA acknowledged the complainants' belief that players' choices in the game did not influence the outcome to the extent claimed by EA. However, we considered that the three choices at the end of the game were thematically quite different, and that the availability and effectiveness of those choices would be directly determined by a player's [Effective Military Strength] score, which was calculated with reference to previous performance in the game(s). We also acknowledged that there appeared to be a large number of minor variations in the end stages of ME3, and that those were directly impacted by choices made by players earlier in the game(s). Whilst we acknowledged that the advertiser had placed particular emphasis on the role that player choices would play in determining the outcome of the game, we considered that most consumers would realise there would be a finite number of possible outcomes within the game and, because we considered that the advertiser had shown that players' previous choices and performance would impact on the ending of the game, we concluded that the ad was not misleading.
Electronic Arts also offered its own defense of the ad, telling the ASA that it considered the ending of Mass Effect 3 to take place over the final three to five hours of the game, and not just in the very last cutscene. A portion of the publisher's spoiler-filled explanation follows below.
A Better Business Bureau representative said in April that Mass Effect 3's ending had been falsely advertised, but the US group differs from the ASA in that it has no legal authority to impose sanctions on companies.
Regardless, BioWare is revisiting the ending of Mass Effect 3 this summer with free "Extended Cut" downloadable content intended to expand on the RPG's endgame through "cinematic sequences and epilogue scenes."