I recently completed the Mass Effect series, and I have a lot to say about it. Actually I have a massive amount to say about it (sorry). I am going to start at the ending, because with Mass Effect that is the best place to start. This means that if you have yet to beat Mass Effect you should stop reading now. You have been warned.
The ending for Mass Effect 3 generated a small amount of internet controversy. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I feel that most of the controversy was due to a lack of perspective. Many people were upset that the choices they made throughout the series did not impact the final 10 minutes of the game. In fact, the choice you made right before the final 10 minutes did not really impact the final 10 minutes of the game pre-revision. Players protest that in a series built around choice, this was treasonous on the part of Bioware. They say that Bioware abandoned their commitment to player choice at the very end.
I willingly concede that the final 10 minutes of Mass Effect 3 are pretty weak. The whole creepy space kid who created the Reapers angle is... lame. It feels tacked on, and frankly it isn't really justified by the story leading up to it. But that is all I am willing to concede, because the ending of Mass Effect is awesome.
I spent about 40 hours on each Mass Effect game for a combined total of about 120 hours. I think that it is silly to single out the final 10 minutes as the end of Mass Effect. In a way the entirety of Mass Effect 3 is the ending of the Mass Effect saga. You spend 40 hours reconnecting with the characters you have me throughout the series, and each and every one is in a state that you put them in through the choices you made throughout the series. Bioware did exactly what it promised, the final game incorporates all of the choices you made throughout the series. It ties up the ongoing storylines in spectacular and moving fashion. Your choices really mattered, in a way Mass Effect 3 was only about the choices you made in previous games. I think that if I had not played the whole series, especially Mass Effect 2, that Mass Effect 3 would have felt like a very strange game. I am not sure how well that game would work as a stand alone entry.
The ending of Mass Effect didn't make me mad, it made me want to put Mass Effect 1 in my XBox 360 and start all over with different choices. Let's face it, after the jump in quality to Mass Effect 2, it took a lot to make me want to put Mass Effect 1 back in the system. There are characters that were central to my friends' playthrough that were not even alive in my version of Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect 3 is a very personal game, based on everything that came before.
So I loved the ending of the Mass Effect series, because the ending of Mass Effect was about Legion offerning himself up for the future of his people. The ending of Mass Effect wasn't just some all powerful space cadet, it was the bitter argument with Liara when I left her for Traynor. It wasn't all the mass relays being destroyed (pre-revision), it was Miranda getting revenge on her father. It wasn't Joker and two random crew members looking at a space jungle, it was Mordin Solus wishing he had a chance to run tests on seashells (greatest videogame exit ever). The ending to Mass Effect was fantastic and personalized, but the final 10 minutes were pretty darn lame.