To dig into Penny Arcade's nonsense (and it is so much nonsense) a little more specifically...
I don’t know much about this one. I’m just not a big enough ME fan to know what’s supposed to happen when a Mass Relay explodes.
What I do know is that you can let yourself get bogged down by details like how long a Star Destroyer is or how many innocent people Luke murdered when he destroyed the Death Star, or you can try and enjoy it knowing that it all doesn’t match up perfectly.
"What happens when a mass relay explodes" is such a huge plot point that it raises questions about what's supposed to be going on in the ending, not a detail like "how long is a Star Destroyer," the answer to which is not something that can change the actual plot of Star Wars. Are all the worlds we worked so hard to save vaporized? Is the Crucible energy "different" from what happened in Arrival, and if so, why doesn't the game show us this? The problem here isn't that the ending may be the biggest inferred holocaust since Endor, there's nothing wrong with a downer ending in and of itself. The problem is that the presentation is mind-bogglingly confusing. If you have to step back and say to yourself "Well, maybe it's different than Arrival/maybe it's the exact same thing and it's a really downer ending," the writing is poor, plain and simple.
You can draw a direct comparison to the "Luke kills everyone on the Death Star" point with the Citadel. Everything that happened on the Citadel, all the NPCs you interacted with, are unresolved. Are there any survivors? Is Matriarch Athyta badassfully leading a resistance against husks/cannibals/indoctrinated civilians in the war-torn wards? Did the Reapers just drop nukes onto the Wards and sterilize the entire place, or did they want to catch all the humans living there first to throw into the goo bank? We don't care about how many people Luke killed on the Death Star because we see a few bit characters with no development, and the millions of others aren't even seen. If we'd spent more time on the Death Star, got to know some characters, their names, their jobs, their daily routines like we do with the Citadel, wouldn't we care more about them?
Furthermore, there's a difference between "unknown details" and "plot holes." The nature of what happens to the relays is an unknown detail. The fact that people can magically appear on the Normandy when it's not physically possible, even if they're dead,
is a plot hole. This should not be a hard distinction to make, and the idea that something like this should be acceptable is beyond absurd.
The claim here is that five years worth of gaming is wrapped up in a ten minute cut scene. I guess this comes down to when you think the ending starts. Like Tycho, I consider Mass Effect 3 to be “the ending”.
This does not fix the problem of the last ten minutes completely bringing into question the entirety of events beforehand with gaping plot holes to boot.
For me the final scene of Joker and EDI stepping out of the ship into that jungle planet was very powerful. A new Adam and Eve in their Garden of Eden.
Adam and Eve endings are horseshit either as a literal event or symbolism. As a literal event, you don't need to put one iota of thought into it to realize that two people does not equal restarting civilization, nor does the Normandy have sufficient population for it to work in the other endings. That's assuming Joker and EDI even can
bone and make babies, because it's not clear if the change is so extreme that she suddenly has a functioning reproductive system. As symbolism, it runs into the above problem of being completely unclear about what's actually happened to everything and everyone. It shouldn't be a matter of "does civilization restart/rebuild," it should be a matter of "does the cast we've been following begin the process of restarting/rebuilding."
Again if ME3 is the “ending” then I was making choices the entire time right up until the last second. I chose the “green” ending and I picked that out of three options. Were the other options similar to mine? I don’t know, I didn’t pick them.
Yeah, not the kind of thing you might want to research at all before discussing it. Youtube is right there.
Again, the presentation does not live up to this. Will different things happen if you destroy the Reapers instead of controlling them? Of course; maybe if you just control the Reapers and they leave, having the geth still around would make it much easier to fix the relays, whereas without the geth (if you either killed them or picked Destroy,) the stranded population has a much harder time and in-fighting breaks out over resources before travel is possible again.
The problem is, all of those are questions. We don't see
anything different. We see the same cutscene with different colors depending on choice. The problem isn't lack of choice, the problem is that there is absolutely no follow-through. The game segues from this into plot-hole city (aka the Normandy suddenly not at Earth, with transporter and possibly resurrection technology) and that's it. We don't get to actually see the consequences of the choice, we don't get to see if anything we did in the game, in the entire series, or with our ending choice itself backfired in any way. If you pick Control but Shepard is renegade, does s/he come to agree with the Catalyst and restart the cycle eventually? Does Control/Paragon mean Shepard orders the Reapers to help repair the relays?
You don't need closure on every little detail, you don't need everything explained in an hour length monologue or five page wall of text. However, if you come away from something and the only thing you can do is come up with questions for fanfiction authors to answer, something is wrong, and it's not the negative fan reaction. As writers, they really should know better, but they don't. Penny Arcade is good for some ha-has and their charity work, but not serious discourse about creative works.
NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES THEY'RE IN MY EYES