The galaxy's fleets enter the Sol system and advance towards Earth. Flying alongside hundreds of human, asari and turian ships are any combination of the Destiny Ascension, the geth armada, the quarian flotilla, the Terminus mercenary fleets and what remains of the batarian navy. On the Normandy's bridge at the very tip of the spear Shepard stands watching as Earth and the Reapers loom into view. A dialogue tree sets the tone of his or her order to fire and an epic space battle scene commences with every warship in the galaxy engaging at once. In an extended sequence the Normandy successfully breaks through Reaper lines amidst the chaos and Shepard departs planetside after trading either heartfelt or stoic goodbyes with Joker.
As he watches the shuttle enter Earth's atmosphere Joker receives a transmission from Admiral Hackett ordering all available ships to clear an opening for Hammer ground forces. The player takes control of the Normandy in a Starfox-style space combat sequence as it joins a squadron of Alliance, turian and possibly geth fighters into the fray. The various ship upgrades from ME2 come into play here, granting a bonus to armour and shields as well as a heavy attack if they had been installed. After fighting through multiple waves of Reaper interceptors Joker is forced to decide between assisting an Alliance battle group under fire or disabling a Reaper capital ship while its shields are down, being able to pull off both if the player picks the former option first and upgraded the Normandy's weapons in ME2. Ultimately, all or most of Hammer ground forces (depending on whether the capital ship was destroyed or not) are allowed to enter Earth's atmosphere.
The perspective switches back to Shepard and co. inside the Normandy's shuttle where Joker informs them that Hammer is in position and waiting for advance teams to clear anti-air defences. Shepard acknowledges moments before the shuttle is hit by a Reaper air defence cannon and crash lands on the roof of a destroyed parking garage. The pilot Steve Cortez is either killed or injured depending if Shepard befriended/romanced him earlier in the game. Shepard (helping Cortez if he survived) and the selected squad members climb out of the wreckage and stare out over a devastated London at sunset, the Conduit glowing ominously in the distance. Shepard snaps back into ready mode when Hammer mission control informs him or her that the accompanying shuttle carrying the ordinance needed to take out the AA battery has gone down half a kilometer east of their position. If Cortez survived Shepard leans him against the shuttle, hands him a pistol and a vial of medi-gel and tells him to stay safe until evac arrives, touching foreheads if he was romanced.
The squad makes then their way down through the garage and across the street into another row of buildings, getting ambushed by husks and cannibals halfway along. They find the street on the other side to be crawling with Reaper troops and in full view of the AA battery a couple blocks down. The player now has a limited amount of time to make it across before the fighting draws the Reaper's attention and it obliterates everything in the street with its eye laser. Using the second row of buildings as cover the squad approaches the other shuttle's crash site, the environment shaking violently each time the AA cannon fires. Emerging on the roof they find the defence cannon is standing right next to the crash but for the moment is unaware of their presence. Thinking quickly, Shepard recovers a heavy weapon from the wreckage, a door-mounted Cain, and rigs it to auto-target the destroyer in thirty seconds. A mob of husks suddenly blocks the squad's path back down into the building and the trio are forced to sprint across the rooftops as the Reaper turns to face them, the launcher scoring a direct hit the second before it fires its eye cannon. Shepard shields his or her eyes from the resulting explosion and peers up to see a large chunk of debris flying straight towards the squad. They scramble backwards as it crashes just short of their position, stranding them on a small section of rooftop two stories above the ground. Behind them what is left of the Reaper hulk falls to the ground with a deafening boom. Shaken and out of breath Shepard reports that the AA battery has been destroyed and calls for immediate evac. Mission control acknowledges but warns Shepard that Reaper ground forces are converging on his or her location.
The scene then cuts to dozens of Alliance shuttles supported by gunships and turian fighters flying low over the ruins of London. Inside them a montage of human, turian, asari and any combination of salarian, krogan, geth, rachni and mercenary troops gear up for battle before landing en masse and engaging Reaper ground forces. Back on the rooftop the player fends off against waves of husks, marauders and cannibals while the larger invasion rages in the background. Several minutes later the evac shuttle finally arrives and inside Shepard is unexpectedly reunited with Anderson.
Dusk has fallen as the shuttle flies over a deserted street littered with bombed-out cars,lowering into an exposed section of the London Underground. As the shuttle touches down Shepard and Anderson climb out and are admitted into fortified section of track serving as Hammer's Forward Operating Base. Vehicles and soldiers from the assembled races line the tracks, light and the far-off sounds of battle falling through broken gaps in the celling. Anderson tells Shepard to meet up with him later and leaves for the command centre. The player regains control of Shepard and makes their way through the base's tunnels, trading solemn goodbyes with each squad member as well as Wrex, Captain Kirahee (if either of them are alive), Primarch Victus and the holograms of the surviving squad members from ME2. Shepard eventually reaches the command post where Anderson fills him or her on the next stage of the attack: clearing a path for Hammer's infiltration force to reach the Conduit. When Anderson has finished Shepard assembles the squad and delivers an inspiring or angry speech, his or her signal reaching soldiers of the assembled armies as they hunker down on the battlefield and prepare for the final offensive. Night falls as the player selects their squad and the assault begins: zero hour. Meanwhile, the Crucible emerges at the Charon Relay and starts being towed toward the Citadel.
Shepard and the squad emerge from the metro and start fighting through destroyed streets and buildings towards the Conduit, radio chatter indicating that Hammer forces are either sustaining heavy casualties (Joker was not able to destroy the capital ship) or are making slow but steady progress (the capital ship was destroyed). At several points the action cuts to Wrex, Kirahee, the Rachni Queen, the surviving ME2 and the non-selected ME3 squad members each getting their moment of glory fighting Reaper forces as Hammer presses onward. Mission control eventually directs Shepard to assist an Alliance missile convoy under attack, although upon arriving the squad finds the soldiers manning it have been wiped out. A pair of Reaper destroyers looms in the distance, seemingly the last line of defense blocking Hammer's path to the Citadel. EDI radios that she can reconfigure the missiles to fire but advises the squad to take up defensive positions. Shepard and the others fend off increasing waves of husks, cannibals, marauders, banshees, ravagers and brutes coming at them from all sides, the fight considerably harder if the earlier capital ship had not been destroyed. When EDI informs Shepard that the missiles can be fired the player rushes over to the console and activates the missile battery, taking out both of the Reapers. A few minutes later Anderson and the rest of the infiltration force pull up alongside the squad and they climb aboard, departing for the Conduit.
The convoy reaches its destination where the squad, Anderson and the rest of the infiltration force unload and survey the Conduit from a distance. An open stretch of land separates them from the beam, closely guarded by several Reaper destroyers. Just when all seems hopeless the geth or quarian fleet informs Hammer that for the moment they can provide orbital support. As Anderson orders an immediate strike on the Conduit's vicinity Shepard notices something moving on the other side of the beam. Before s/he can warn Anderson the orbital strike commences and the signal is given to make the final charge. The player and a combination of the different races acquired frantically sprint for the Conduit as the Reapers are carpet-bombed from orbit. Even with the air cover most of the infiltration force is killed by stray Reaper cannons before the destroyers can be neutralized. The orbital strike ceases as Shepard and the others make it halfway to the Conduit, the path seemingly clear for the handful of survivors. Suddenly, a familiar voice addresses Shepard by name. The Reaper known as Harbinger rises menacingly above the wreckage, its eye cannon glowing as it prepares to fire.
If the player had let the Alliance battle group be destroyed Harbinger scores a direct hit on the survivors and everyone except Shepard is seemingly killed. Lying dazed and heavily injured Shepard watches as Harbinger flies off, the Reaper apparently satisfied the entire force has been decimated. Shepard picks up a nearby pistol, crawls painfully to his or her feet and starts limping past the charred bodies and destroyed vehicles of the infiltration force towards the base of the Conduit.
If the battle group had been saved the Normandy appears behind Harbinger at the last moment and Joker calls in a second orbital strike on the Reaper, knocking its aim off-balance. Harbinger still manages to get a shot off before being driven away whereupon both squad members and the rest of the infiltration force are injured by an exploding Mako. Shepard – knocked forward by the blast with his or her armour damaged and all of his or her weapons disabled save for a pistol – scrambles over to them and signals the Normandy for pickup. When the ship lands s/he helps the injured aboard as a soldier passes on a radio warning that Reaper reinforcements are inbound on the Conduit and closing fast. Knowing this is likely a final goodbye Shepard tells the squad s/he'll see them when s/he sees them and poignantly meets their gaze as the Normandy lifts off. If the player's love interest is in the squad they reach out and plead desperately for Shepard to come back alive. Shepard holds their arm and reassures them that whatever happens, they'll always be special to him or her (the dialogue changes slightly to reflect the love interest; Shepard's final words to Tali are "Tali… it's been totally worth it"). Left alone on the ground the player has 30 seconds to make it to the Conduit before the incoming Reapers arrive. In both outcomes Shepard catches a glimpse of a silhouetted figure entering the beam as s/he approaches from a distance.
The loading screen shows us a first-person perspective of Shepard rising toward the Citadel in a river of light before the screen fades to black. Shepard is roused from unconsciousness an indeterminate amount of time later when Anderson's voice addresses him or her over the radio. Bewildered, the Commander looks around to find a dim corridor filled with bodies and cautiously asks Anderson for his location. Anderson replies he stumbled upon some sort of control room but doesn't recognize which area of the Citadel he and Shepard are in. Shepard mumbles for him to sit tight and crawls to his or her feet. A faint growl hangs in the air as Shepard walks or limps down the darkened corridor towards an electrified chasm, the environment oddly containing elements of geth, Collector and finally Reaper design. As Shepard reaches the edge of the chasm (itself reminiscent of the Shadow Broker's ship) a bridge extends and on the other side s/he comes upon a control room overlooking the inside of the station's closed arms, the figure of Anderson leaning over a console.
When the player moves closer to investigate the growl intensifies and both Shepard and Anderson are suddenly frozen in place by an invisible force, black tendrils creeping onto the screen. At this point a clearly indoctrinated Illusive Man appears out of nowhere behind Shepard and casually strolls between the two soldiers. He remarks on the power the Reapers wield and reasserts that controlling them is the ultimate step humanity can take in this galaxy. Anderson insists the Illusive Man is indoctrinated, to which the latter smugly replies by forcing Shepard to shoot his or her mentor in the stomach with a gesture. Using the dialogue wheel the player attempts to dissuade the Illusive Man from his plan, their success hinging on both the arguments they choose and the persuasion options that become available. Shepard's vision also grows darker or clearer to indicate the impression the player is making on the Illusive Man. Ultimately, Shepard is either able to convince the Illusive Man he has indeed become indoctrinated, leading him to commit suicide in a scene heavily reminiscent of Saren's possible death from ME1, or is executed along with Anderson by an unconvinced Illusive man, resulting in a game over screen. In the first outcome Shepard is released and activates a control to open the Citadel's arms.
The scene cuts to the Crucible moving into position over the Presidium tower as the Citadel's arms fan into a giant star shape. The Crucible itself sustains various degrees of damage based on the player's EMS score (undamaged if 3000 or higher, moderately damaged if 2500 to 2999, heavily damaged if under 2500).
Shepard slumps down beside Anderson and the two share a moment gazing out over the human homeworld. Anderson tells his protégé he is proud of everything s/he has accomplished and dies peacefully in the light of his home planet. Shepard desperately tells Anderson to hang on but soon realizes it is hopeless. Distraught, the Commander stares at the battle unfolding silently outside then notices s/he is bleeding from the same spot where Anderson had been shot earlier. S/he glances over at Anderson once more only to find his body has disappeared, along with the Illusive Man's. Confused and on the verge of panic Shepard checks his or her radio to discover it had been disabled by the blast back on Earth. Suddenly, Shepard clutches his or her head in pain as his or her senses are overcome with the growl of indoctrination. The screen surging with black tendrils s/he is drawn to his or her feet and blindly stumbles to the centre of the room before collapsing once more. The section of floor s/he is lying on glows white and begins to rise.
The section of floor emerges onto a platform extending into darkened arena-like space, the ceiling pitch black save for a wide ring of starry sky around its circumference. Whispers from Shepard's dreams occasionally penetrate the silence. As the Commander struggles to stand a massive and ever-changing red hologram of a creature resembling a Reaper materializes and drifts towards the lone human. Shepard stands up straight and regards the hologram now towering in front of him or her. It addresses Shepard in Harbinger's voice.
[Shepard, taken aback] 'Harbinger? …you're an AI?'
[Harbinger] 'A sentient consciousness, the combined knowledge of the first spacefaring civilization to emerge in this galaxy. The beings organics know as Reapers are our solution.'
'A solution to what?'
'Chaos. The eventual end to all life. We represent Order. This Cycle of harvest and renewal is our purpose, which we are to orchestrate until the last stars have withered from existence. In doing this, we are the galaxy's salvation.'
'I've heard this before, on Rannoch. And it doesn't make any sense!'
'All suffering and destruction wrought upon intelligent life are the result of its own actions, its own mistakes. Organic civilization must be controlled – halted and renewed with each Cycle – lest it reach its apex. This is the only means through which life in this galaxy may continue.'
'Apex? What are you talking about?'
'We were organic once. We expanded and flourished throughout the galaxy, relentless in our pursuit of new knowledge. Through our ambition we uncovered the secrets of the universe, the means to reshape the stars, to bend the very fabric of existence. Eventually, space and time could no longer define us.'
'The Mass Relays…'
'They are but a glimpse of what we had attained. Yet with each discovery we grew more disparate. The species we uplifted disagreed with our intentions, as did others of our own kind. Great wars were fought over conflicting ideals. Our technology, the knowledge we had strove so hard to attain, now threatened to destroy everything. It almost did. Countless lives were erased every instant, entire stars were torn apart by the dark energy we had learned to harness. It was here, at our darkest moment, that we reached the pinnacle of civilization. We had discovered the truth of existence.'
'And what truth is that?'
'Life is destined to destroy itself, if given the means.'
'Everything in the universe has a pattern that defines it. The pattern of sentient life is random, chaotic, ever in conflict with itself. Thus, it cannot co-exist. If it is allowed to advance as we did, its disparity will bring about the end of existence.'
[Shepard, flabbergasted] 'That…'
'Still, we could not accept this fate. We envisioned a great Cycle, a solution where life and existence could both continue as one. Our final act as a species was our ascendance into our current form, setting the Cycle in motion. We would bring Order to the chaos of life's evolution, guiding it with our technology, harvesting it before our own mistakes could be repeated.'
[Paragon] 'That doesn't make any sense! You think you're saving us by taking away our lives, our future? It's nothing but genocide!'
[Renegade] 'That's it? Your best idea is to prevent death and destruction with more death and destruction? This "salvation" of yours is genocide, nothing else!'
'Incorrect. Every advanced race halted throughout the millennia has been preserved, the knowledge of its entire civilization stored as the consciousness of a new Reaper. Through us, their memory, their very essence, is kept safe until our purpose is fulfilled.'
'Call it whatever you want, but they've still been destroyed. Their choice was taken away, just like you're doing with ours.'
'Choice is irrelevant. Conflict and death will always result if sentient life is allowed to flourish as we did. We have observed the pattern repeat itself over countless millennia. It has happened many times in this Cycle alone. If its advance is left unrestrained, unmediated as ours was, the very nature of sentient life will become its own undoing.'
[Paragon] 'That's not true. Intelligent life has had its differences, but sooner or later we always find a way. We adapt, we overcome, we persevere. It's what we do.'
[Renegade] 'Maybe. Maybe you're right and one day we'll destroy it all. Doesn't matter. If we all die, it'll be because of our own bad decisions. We wouldn't have it any other way.'
- If the player has a completely maxed-out reputation score and at least four of the krogan, salarian, geth, quarian, rachni and mercenary forces were added to the war effort, the following persuasion options become available:
[Paragon] 'You're wrong - this very invasion proves it. An entire galaxy is united against a common threat. We sentient beings may have our petty differences, but when enough of our lives are at stake we band together. Then this disparity of ours becomes our greatest strength.'
[Renegade] 'Tell that to the entire galaxy out there. We may not get along, but when it comes down to it every one of us wants the same thing: a future. Anyone who tries to take that away is in for a fight.'
- If either of the first two dialogue options were chosen:
[response to Paragon option] 'We once thought as you did, confident that our intelligence would meet any obstacle. We were wrong. Our actions exceeded our control, as will yours.'
[response to Renegade option] 'Others of our kind once thought this way, blind to the effects of their actions. Their desire for free will would have doomed the future of all life had we not prevented them. Your species would have never existed.'
'You don't know that.'
[continued from both responses] '…the fact that you, an organic being, is standing here at this place and circumstance is… significant.'
'What do you mean?'
'When we first encountered this weapon called the Crucible, it served only to affirm the necessity of our solution. Each Cycle since has been handed the means to defy us, yet each has been too divided to construct it. This Cycle has proven otherwise. Our success is no longer ensured. A new solution is now needed.'
- If either of the second two persuasion options were chosen:
'Perhaps. No Cycle prior has been so united in their resistance. Countless races have spent their last breaths destroying themselves and one another as we closed in around them, yet the galaxy fights as one. It is… troubling.'
'It should be.'
'And you, this one organic responsible for rallying this alliance, you are an anomaly. No such individual has appeared in any previous Cycle. Your presence is significant.'
'What do you mean?'
'You, like us, are a force of Order, yet you are organic. Others like you may have emerged in previous Cycles had we not intervened. Others may emerge in the future. The necessity of our solution is no longer absolute. Our presence is no longer necessary to ensure Order.'
- The blackness surrounding Shepard lifts to reveal the Crucible docked overhead, the ring of stars formed by the gap between it and the exterior of the Presidium tower. The surrounding battle becomes visible with Reapers and allied ships fighting each other silently in the vacuum of space. As Shepard stares overhead a beam of light pours upwards from a chasm in the centre of the room, priming the Crucible to fire. A glowing circuit-breaker rises halfway between the beam and the spot where Shepard is standing.
- If Harbinger had not been persuaded that the Cycle was unnecessary:
[The camera indicates the circuit-breaker]
'You may destroy us if you wish, but the Chaos will continue. Life will become its own demise, as we have already seen of the species of this Cycle.'
'We'll be free. We can take that chance.'
'Correct, but take heed. We cannot allow our technology, our legacy, to become an instrument of Chaos. Destroy us and life in this galaxy will be free of our interference, but the Citadel and the mass relays will cease to exist. Life's eventual demise will be delayed for as long as possible.'
'Wha…? That can't happen! Countless lives will be lost we lose the mass relays!'
'It is the price of freedom. The relays are our technology, a relic of our time. Your civilizations simply chose to use them.'
'I… I can't do this. Everything we've fought for will be for nothing!'
'You will be free. Accept this compromise or allow the Cycle to continue.'
'There has to be another way….'
- If the player's EMS is 2500 or higher:
[Harbinger pauses] 'There is.'
[The camera indicates the beam rising up into the Crucible]
'Repurpose the energy of this device, assume control of the Reapers.'
'What!? What will doing that solve?'
'We have observed your actions since our arrival. You have acted as a force of Order, striving to unite the races of the galaxy against us. Our ultimate goals are the same. Assume control of us, ascend to a higher plane of existence, and the Cycle will end. The mass relays will be left intact and life will continue with you to guide it.'
'"Guide it?" That's what the Illusive Man wanted! You're asking me to become the very thing I've fought against all this time?'
'Only if you wish. Your physical form will be consumed in the Crucible's energy, yet your consciousness, your motivations, will remain as they have always been. We will obey whatever commands we are given.'
[Harbinger begins to dissipate]
'It is time, Shepard. Decide the galaxy's fate.'
- If Harbinger had been persuaded that the Cycle was unnecessary:
[The camera indicates the circuit-breaker]
'You may now destroy us, Shepard. We cannot stop of our own accord.'
'Is that it? After everything that's happened, you're just letting me destroy you?'
'There is no longer a reason for us to exist. Therefore, we cannot.'
[Harbinger begins to dissipate]
'It is time, Shepard. The Cycle ends.'
- The player regains control of Shepard and must now make a choice: destroy the Reapers at the cost of the Mass Relays, or control them with Shepard's actions afterwards uncertain. If the player was able to convince Harbinger only the destroy option becomes available, this time leaving the Mass Relays intact. Additionally, if the player waits too long before doing anything a brief clip plays of the Reapers wiping out the remaining forces on and around Earth, triggering a game over screen.
- Shepard repeatedly shoots the control panel, activating the Crucible. As Shepard fires images of the player's love interest, Joker and Anderson momentarily flash on the screen, all smiling in approval. From space, the lights on the Citadel's arms glow in inward-flowing waves as the Crucible draws energy. It fires, resulting in one of five possible outcomes:
- If the Crucible had been heavily damaged (EMS under 2500) it misfires, causing the Citadel to explode regardless of whether Harbinger had been convinced or not. Earth, the Reapers and all of the assembled forces are obliterated in a massive supernova. The beam fired from the Crucible spreads throughout the entire Mass Relay network, triggering similar explosions in each relay and destroying nearly all life in the galaxy. The sequence fades to black then cuts to either an idyllic alien landscape, untouched by the destruction (Paragon) or a barren and blasted wasteland (Renegade) an indeterminate amount of time later. Static and snippets of Liara's voice are heard as the camera pans beneath the surface to reveal one of her information caches. Liara's recording plays, informing any future civilizations of the Reapers, the Crucible and, ironically, how the efforts of the galaxy weren't enough to stop them. The last words spoken in the series are "Please, use this knowledge. Life must go on."
- If the Crucible had been moderately damaged (EMS between 2500 and 2999) and Harbinger had not been convinced it misfires and wipes out everything in the Sol system but successfully destroys the Reapers elsewhere in the galaxy. The Mass Relay network disintegrates as the Crucible's beam spreads, isolating each solar system from one another. On their respective homeworlds the asari, turian, krogan, elcor, drell/hanar and volus all watch in silence as the Reapers crash lifelessly to the ground, signifying the Pyrrhic victory. A sequence then plays of human colonists and the other surviving races adjusting to life on their newly-isolated home planets. If Shepard had been mostly Paragon each surviving civilization rebuilds and eventually comes to thrive, cut off but free forever of the Reaper influence. If Shepard had been mostly Renegade each race attempts to rebuild but slowly reverts to their tribal roots amidst the ruins of their civilizations. In both outcomes the krogan either eventually die or wipe themselves out if the genophage had not been cured.
- If the Crucible had been moderately damaged and Harbinger had been convinced it still misfires and wipes out everything in the Sol system but successfully destroys the Reapers elsewhere in the galaxy, this time leaving the rest of the Mass Relay network intact. On their respective homeworlds the various races cheer and celebrate as the Reapers crash lifelessly to the ground, their victory made possible by humanity's sacrifice. A voiceover by the asari, turian and salarian Councilmembers begins with each of them vowing never to forget the sacrifice Shepard and the rest of humanity made to ensure the galaxy's future. As the voiceover plays the remaining races are shown to be either banding together to rebuild and move forward (Paragon) or to be at peace but gradually drifting their separate ways without the threat of the Reapers to unite them (Renegade).
- If the Crucible had made it to the Citadel undamaged (EMS over 3000) and Harbinger had not been convinced it fires successfully, destroying all Reapers in the galaxy but causing the Citadel and the Mass Relays to disintegrate. In London the assembled ground forces fight desperately as the Reapers close in around them. A turian and human soldier crouch side-by-side behind a destroyed wall, turning to face hopeless odds when the Crucible's energy washes over them. The two look around, stand up and stare silently at the Reapers falling to the ground in the distance. The sequence plays of the other races looking on in silence as the Reapers are destroyed throughout the galaxy. On the Normandy's bridge Joker (joined by the selected squad members from the final leg of the mission if they survived) watch in despair as the Citadel disintegrates into nothing with Shepard on board. The environment crumbling around him or her Shepard stares up at Earth with the Reapers dying in orbit, hopeful in the knowledge that s/he did the right thing before the screen fades to black. The scene cuts to the Normandy floating in Earth's orbit some time later, Reaper debris and the galaxy's fleets in the background. Onboard, the surviving ME3 squad members along with Wrex, Joker, Admiral Hackett, Doctor Chakwas, Specialist Traynor and Lieutenant Cortez stand assembled around the memorial wall. Shepard's love interest (replaced by Joker if they are dead or not present in the case of Miranda or Jack) steps forward, holding a plaque. They glance at it sadly, pause, then carefully place Commander Shepard's name on the wall beside Anderson's. Everyone present stares at the memorial in silence, honouring the Commander's sacrifice. In the epilogue sequence that follows the other races depart the Sol system in the hope that their descendants will one day see their species' homeworlds. A voiceover by Admiral Hackett remarks that the galaxy has won its freedom, but at a cost greater than any could have imagined. He expresses hope or concern for the new era as either sequence from the second possible ending plays, this time including humanity and Earth. If the quarians had been spared on Rannoch the ships of the departed forces are shown arriving at their home planets many years in the future.
- If the Crucible had made it to the Citadel undamaged and Harbinger had been convinced it fires successfully, destroying all Reapers in the galaxy while leaving the Citadel and the Mass Relay network intact. In London the assembled armies fight desperately as the Reapers close in. The turian and human soldier crouch side-by-side and turn to face hopeless odds, this time standing up and cheering as the Crucible's energy passes over them and the Reapers crash to the ground in the distance. The montage then plays of the galaxy's races celebrating victory on their respective home planets, cutting back to Joker and the surviving squad members from all three games as they cheer and rejoice on and above Earth. The scene cuts to the Normandy floating in orbit some time later as Wrex, Hackett and the Normandy's crew stand assembled around the memorial wall, Joker or Shepard's love interest holding a plaque. As they gaze up at the memorial the med-bay suddenly doors open in the background and everyone turns. A bandaged but alive Shepard steps out with Chakwas in tow, the camera trailing behind him or her as s/he approaches the others (a nod to ME1's opening sequence). When the Commander draws up alongside them Joker or the player's love interest hands Shepard the plaque with an empathetic nod. Shepard takes it, looks at it sadly and places it on the wall, revealing it to be Anderson's. After paying their respects Shepard and the others step into the port observation room and survey a battered but liberated Earth, the galaxy's fleets assembled in orbit. The sun breaks over the planet's hemisphere, signifying a new beginning for the galaxy.
- Shepard walks or limps past the circuit-breaker and towards the beam of light emanating from the Crucible. In the final few steps s/he symbolically throws away his or her pistol, sprints and dives into the beam. The Commander's tiny silhouette rises toward the Crucible, cutting to a close-up of him or her grimacing as his or her physical form is slowly consumed with energy. Clips of the player's love interest, Joker and Anderson momentarily flash onscreen, this time looking at Shepard with a mix of hope and concern. Shepard lets out one final scream before s/he is consumed entirely and the Crucible fires. The Crucible's energy spreads throughout the galaxy, leaving the mass relays intact. On Earth and the other homeworlds the Reapers lift off and fly away as the series' characters and races all watch in silence, awestruck to what they are seeing before the screen fades to black. The memorial scene from the fourth destroy ending begins, although in this instance Joker or the player's love interest refrains from placing Shepard's name on the wall and smiles hopefully. The action Shepard now takes hinges on the morality path the player has chosen, resulting in one of three possible outcomes.
- If Shepard had been over 75 percent Paragon the Reapers help to repair the damage they have caused before disappearing into the galactic core, presumably to be destroyed. Shepard's ethereal voice remarks that even in his or her new state s/he will not compromise who s/he is and what s/he has always stood for, vowing to "fulfil the promise I have given this galaxy" and to watch over life as it continues.
- If Shepard had been over 75 percent Renegade the Reapers repair the damage they have caused and remain in the galaxy as benevolent "guardians" under Shepard's control. Shepard states that the actions s/he sometimes takes may be harsh, but s/he "will not allow Harbinger's words to become reality", revealing that s/he ultimately abandoned his or her ideals in favor of the Reapers' logic.
- If Shepard had been a more even mix of Paragon and Renegade the Reapers are shown departing the galaxy, Shepard's ethereal voice vowing either never to return and let intelligent life make its own decisions (mostly Paragon) or only if "the need arises" (mostly Renegade), implying that the Cycle may one day begin anew.
My (very late) take on a Mass Effect 3 ending that could have been.
Credit goes to [link] and his alternate ending for inspiring some of the dialogue between Shepard and Harbinger.
Feedback/suggestions are welcome.
Credit goes to [link] and his alternate ending for inspiring some of the dialogue between Shepard and Harbinger.
Feedback/suggestions are welcome.