BioWare's Casey Hudson has written a lengthy missive on the company's social forum, saying that the developers always intended "a bittersweet ending", but acknowledging that some of the fanbase needed more closure. He also confirmed that singleplayer DLC would indeed be coming, stating "this is not the last you'll hear of Commander Shepard".
Hudson reiterated that the ending was never supposed to herald scenes of ultimate triumph, citing the huge decisions players have to make along the way, and suggesting that an overwhelmingly uplifting ending would have betrayed those choices.
"We always intended that the scale of the conflict and the underlying theme of sacrifice would lead to a bittersweet ending—to do otherwise would betray the agonizing decisions Shepard had to make along the way," he said Still, we wanted to give players the chance to experience an inspiring and uplifting ending; in a story where you face a hopeless struggle for basic survival, we see the final moments and imagery as offering victory and hope in the context of sacrifice and reflection."
We rather think "moments" is the most operative word there, with the final, conclusive scenes playing out in uncharacteristically brief fashion, leaving vast plot-holes unanswered, and actively attempting to retcon a large proportion of previous narrative. However, Hudson recognises "that some of our most passionate fans needed more closure, more answers, and more time to say goodbye to their stories—and these comments are equally valid. Player feedback such as this has always been an essential ingredient in the development of the series."
It's this feedback that BioWare are actively looking into as, Hudson suggested, they have always done.
"I am extremely proud of what this team has accomplished, from the first art concepts for the Mass Effect universe to the final moments of Mass Effect 3," he continued. " But we didn't do it on our own. Over the course of the series, Mass Effect has been a shared experience between the development team and our fans—not just a shared experience in playing the games, but in designing and developing them. An outpouring of love for Garrus and Tali led to their inclusion as love interests in Mass Effect 2. A request for deeper RPG systems led to key design changes in Mass Effect 3. Your feedback has always mattered. Mass Effect is a collaboration between developers and players, and we continue to listen. "
Does it make that "our" story? Not really. Is it a clever bit of PR? More than likely. Will BioWare and EA attempt to flog us alternative expansions on the ending further down the line? Well, it sure looks that way.
"So where do we go from here?," Casey asked rhetorically in conclusion. "Throughout the next year, we will support Mass Effect 3 by working on new content. And we’ll keep listening, because your insights and constructive feedback will help determine what that content should be. This is not the last you’ll hear of Commander Shepard."
Considering that Mass Effect 3 was in fact supposed to be the last we heard of Commander Shepard, this might raise some eyebrows. But it would be difficult to create compelling DLC for a game with a conclusive ending. [BioWare Social]