The topic of Mass Effect 3's ending is a big one. Not only was it controversial back in 2012, but players still aren't quite in agreement as to what it actually was, with fan theories attempting to explain away its less popular aspects. However, if original story drafts were followed, it could have been very different.
As revealed in a documentary from YouTube channel People Make Games, Shepard was originally meant to have a showdown with a Reaper Queen... and have the option to usurp her, becoming the new Reaper monarch. This comes from animation director Dave Wilkinson, who also explains that the final showdown was actually meant to take place in the Mass Effect-equivalent of the Matrix.
"At that point, Shepard was so augmented with electrical bits[...]that I actually just had him plug himself into the Citadel. And then we're in a virtual world and he has a conversation with the God of the Reapers, I think it was a queen", shares Wilkinson.
"The queen's basically saying that 'the way the Reapers keep going isn't sustainable, blah blah blah, we have to evolve. But we're incapable of evolution because of the limitations of our A.I.'". Wilkinson explains that the queen was locked inside the Citadel for sharing this warning with the other Reapers, and then proposes that her and Shepard evolve the entire galaxy by combining the Reapers with organic life.
This plan could be rejected in the paragon path, with Shepard instead taking control of the Reapers - not to send them away, but to use them for "good". You would then turn into what Wilkinson describes as "the big king Reaper", as the enemies now stick around to help out throughout the galaxy.
Sadly, not all of the tidbits revealed in this documentary were as lighthearted as transforming Shepard into a Reaper. Several others involved in the development of the game shared that they received vile abuse and death threats as a result of the actual ending's poor reception. This wasn't even a new occurrence for the staff, as some had also been abused around the release of Dragon Age 2.
Further still, the creation of the "extended cut" ending required four months of crunch at the workplace - after having already crunched to get the base game out in the first place. After moving directly from that to the development of Dragon Age: Inquisition, multiple devs were left burnt out, with some even seeking out therapy as a result of the stress.
The full documentary, which reveals many more previously unknown details concerning Mass Effect 3's development, can be watched below.
Vi and Caitlyn are gay and nobody can change my mind.