**WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR MASS EFFECT 3**
So earlier this month I promised to do a number crunch to see if it is possible to get the best ending in Mass Effect 3 via the single player game alone, as has been claimed by Bioware’s Jesse Houston. Whether the endings are actually any ‘good’ is a subject of debate, although my feelings are fairly well summed up by this Game Front article, but I wanted to see if Bioware’s claims were true given their own statements, not our judgements. To that end, I asked Bioware via twitter if their definition of ‘Best Ending’ was the Synthesis ending, and to date have not received a reply.
The reason I asked is because there has been some debate on the internet as to what constitutes the ‘best’ ending, with the common consensus being that it is the one where Commander Shepard lives. Although there are 16 confirmed ending variations, although the variations are very slight. Regardless, this is not a discussion about the merits of the ending–rather a question as to whether the ‘Best Ending’ is possible.
The reason this is questionable is because players, by and large, have defined the best ending as the ending where Shepard lives–i.e. where you get the cutscene showing Shepard is still alive. This ending requires an effective military strength of between 4000 and 5000 if you have a high enough reputation (importing an existing ME3 character required) or 5000+ if you do not have a high reputation score. So allowing for a second play through (which is a requirement I would consider unsporting, but in line with the letter of Bioware’s claims), the question is: Can you get over 4000 War Assets in Single Player alone in the base game inclusive of currently available base game DLC? Or taking into account the 50% war readiness: Can you get over 8000 War Assets in a Single Player Game without playing multiplayer
In short: No.
Even if you go back to play through Mass Effect 1 and 2 and make specific choices with the sole aim of maximising your war assets, the best you can get in a single player game is 7729, and without playing any multiplayer to change your war readiness, that gives you a war readiness of 3864.5 (depending on rounding).
In Mass Effect 3, you can get a total of 4819 War Assets irrespective of previous game choices in Mass Effect 1 and 2. This requires taking Diana Allers and using the right Paragon/Renegade choices in her interviews, supporting the militarily effective side of any citadel conversation, doing all the side quests in time and scanning all planets.
You can get up to 2910 points more depending on the choices you make across the Mass Effect trilogy. To get all of these however, you need to do or have done the following:
- Have saved the council in Mass Effect 1 and had Thane survive Mass Effect 2.
- Recovered all of the Matriarch’s writings in Mass Effect 1.
- Saved Captain Kirrahe in Mass Effect 1.
- Killed Urnot Wrex in Mass Effect 1.
- Allowed Balak to survive the Mass Effect 1 DLC: Burning Down the Sky.
- Saved the Rachnii Queen in Mass Effect 1 and released her again in Mass Effect 3.
- Helped most of the Zhu’s hope colonists survive Mass Effect 1. Shiala must have been spared in Mass Effect 1 and helped on Ilium in Mass Effect 2.
- Completed Kasumi’s loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2 and had Kasumi survive the suicide mission.
- Jack must have survived Mass Effect 2.
- Samara must have survived Mass Effect 2.
- Zaeed must have survived Mass Effect 2 with full loyalty.
- Jacob must have survived Mass Effect 2 with his loyalty quest completed.
- Grunt must have survived Mass Effect 2 and you must have completed his quest by killing the Thresher Maw.
- Mordin Solus must have survived Mass Effect 2 (and likely needs to be loyal).
- Save all the Normandy crew in Mass Effect 2 (have all the upgrades to the Normandy). Choose to reinstate Kenneth and Gabby to the Normandy in Mass Effect 3.
- Kept Maelon’s genophage cure data in Mass Effect 2.
- Collected a large amount of surplus resources in Mass Effect 2.
- Keep the collector base intact in Mass Effect 2.
- Completed the Arrival DLC for Mass Effect 2.
- Completed the Overlord DLC in Mass Effect 2 as a Paragon.
- Refuse to take Dr. Chakwas with you on the Normandy in Mass Effect 3.
- Refuse to take Ashley/Kaiden with you on the Normandy in Mass Effect 3 once they become a Spectre.
- Convince Kelly Chambers to change her identity in Mass Effect 3.
- Choose to use the Grissom Academy students as Biotic Artillery in Mass Effect 3.
- Do not save the Turian Colony in the Volus Ambassador quest in Mass Effect 3.
- Support Admiral Xen over Tali in scavenging the Geth dreadnought in Mass Effect 3–do not rescue civilians.
- Do not punch Khasila Bint Al Jilani in any of the Mass Effect games.
- Save Admiral Kal’Zoris on Rannoch in Mass Effect 3.
- Convince Admiral Raan to rescue Admiral Gerral’s heavy fleet in Mass Effect 3.
- Convince the Geth and Quarians to stop fighting and both join you in Mass Effect 3.
- Convince Mordin to sabotage/delay the genophage cure in Mass Effect 3.
- Get C-Sec to focus on big crimes (Support angry officer and cafe owner in Mass Effect 3).
- Do not authorise the Alliance private’s transfer at the Spectre Terminal (Mass Effect 3).
- Do not allow the Asari in the hospital to have a gun (Spectre Terminal, Mass Effect 3).
This is the exhaustive list as far as I can determine, but as you’ll note it does require the sacrifice of a lot of your free willed choices. Even then, it’s not enough. However, if the ‘best ending’ being referred to by Bioware is the Synthesis ending, which is unlocked at an effective military strength of 2800, which would mean, yes there are plenty of war assets regardless of your past history or multiplayer, but brings us right back to the question of ‘is the ending good enough’. Of course, Bioware is expected to bring out an announcement about the planned DLC for Mass Effect 3 any day now, so we’ll just have to wait and see.