Spoilers for the Mass Effect 3 Ending. The Extended Cut is just that by the way in that the new content presents a more rounded, fleshed out conclusion in comparison to the original spartan ending sequence. What it does not do however is fundamentally change the outcome(s) of the game in any significant way; So anyone who at heart was unhappy with the original ending as a whole is likely to remain so after playing through the DLC.
What the new content does accomplish is to fill in the gaps by adding in more dialogue and animation sequences to smooth out some of the logical inconsistencies lingering behind. For example, why the Normandy seemingly ran away from the fight and how the crew was picked up off of the ground. Quite a bit of additional dialogue was added, allowing Shepard question the Catalyst about the consequences of each path. Also most importantly, new content was added so that each option feels distinct. IE: The endings are now more than the explosion color being green or red.
There is also more of a sense of closure. I really liked the sequence at the end; Showing the Normandy’s crew hanging his name plate on the memorial wall was a touching moment, a nice personal addition to the game’s ending, and an overall fitting farewell; Which is really all that we were asking for in the first place. Also worth noting: A completely new path was added, allowing you to take no action effectively let the world burn (look it up on YouTube, it’s well worth a watch). I am fine with a tragic ending. One could after all, argue that the series has always had a religious connotation (his name IS Shepard and he does tend to his flock I guess) and it’s not too far fetched of an idea to believe that the only appropriate conclusion would involve Shepard, the galaxy’s savior dying at the end for our sins (to complete the metaphor).
But that said, now that I have played through the new content, I am still dissatisfied with the ending as a whole. Why? A commenter on Reddit (or wherever) hit the nail on the head: BioWare gave Mass Effect 3 a Gainax Ending (the name stems from Gainax, the studio that produced Neon Genesis Evangelion. A Japanese animated series with a notorious ending). Basically, a Gainax Ending lacks resolution and is presented in a manner that does not make sense, usually as a mind fuck but a bizarre layer of bullshit philosophy thrown in from left field always seems to be involved.
One of the primary reasons why I enjoy Mass Effect is because of the believable character stories, which has in my opinion at least has always been one of BioWare’s strong points. The setting and overarching plot are decent but to be honest, not too far off from standard science fiction fair (good versus evil robot wars are a dime a dozen nowadays). The characters and relationship dynamics as they affect the player character are what really sets the game apart from other similarly themed titles. So, when you take that element out of the picture, the story loses all meaning and connection to the point where it feels at best, detached and at worst, widely inappropriate. I wanted the ending to ultimately be about the character relationships that we have so carefully created and not a faux layer of metaphysical crap about Shepard transcending human form.
The ending, though more fleshed out feels cheap in that the game still does not lead up to the ending sequence as it should. Paragon or Renegade, no matter how you chose to play the games, spending possibly hundreds of hours doing so, you are still presented with the same options at the end. Fatalism or not, having all of your decisions thrown out of the window in a game distinctly featuring and built around the ability to manipulate the outcome of your story by the power of choice feels particularly insulting. Also along those lines: I also strongly dislike the catalyst. He feels like something someone pulled out of their ass at the last minute, I loved everything about the game up until that point (specifically through Anderson’s death scene). Deus ex Machina is a weak plot device that feels forced and contrived. It is a lazy way of resolving conflicts without having to legitimately explain anything.
Despite my objections, I am glad that they didn’t completely cave in and redact the ending. Love it or the it, it is what it is.