Old Problems Still Present
My biggest gripe about the ending is the complete focus on Synthetics vs. Organics being the center stage argument for it. On hearing old sound tracks from ME 1 and 2, and the Indoctrination Theory video, I will admit that Bioware has been setting up it being Synthetics vs. Organics for a while, but that isn't what the core "Reapers vs. Everyone" is about. If it is, then they failed fundamentally at their attempt in establishing the villains, because no part of the Mass Effect story (up until the end w/ the catalyst) would be different in the Reapers were organic in nature. The Synthetic story line is also further undermined by the Geth/Quarian angle, which with a Paragon Shepard has already been peacefully resolved before the end of the story; an act that completely disproves everything the catalyst is saying.
I also still stand by my dislike for the Indoctrination Theory, even if it has lots of evidence. Again, not saying it isn't the case, but if that is what is going on then Bioware has again failed at story telling. It happens sometimes, but it sucks.
Ultimately I Like It
In general though I like the extended cut endings. They show what happens beyond the pretty colored explosion. Bioware has again blatantly cut corners and is just reusing art assets with different texture shading on certain parts to show the difference, but that's ok. Mass Effect has long been a series that gives the illusion of choice over actual choice. Honestly, looking through the story from 1 to 2 to 3 I can't see how their couldn't be only 2 choices - success or failure to stop the Reapers.
Still, it is neat seeing what happens after Shepard's choice. Bioware has also gone back to make a point of saying (at least in destruction) that the Mass Relays are only heavily damaged, not destroyed, which is probably their attempt to cover the fact that when they destroyed those relays in the original ending they doomed most of the galaxy to death (populated systems around relays, and "Arrival" shows that destroying a relay destroys the system it is in completely, which is why the Batarians are so boned in 3 and why Shepard is in jail at the beginning) or a slower more humiliating death via starvation due to the entire galaxy being codependent on inter-system mass relay travel for vital goods and medicines. The endings also give a much better sense of closure.
The Two Endings That Matter
What I like the most about the extended cut is that we now have two endings that matter. Namely, Refusal and Destroy. For my sake I would say Refusal is the Paragon Choice and Destroy the Renegade choice. This also neatly answers why "Destroy" is red in the catalyst's choice. This is also where the spoilers are.
Paragon = Refusal
If your Shepard has been a paragon the whole way through then every chance you've had to completely destroy a species, any species, you have chosen to spare them because you don't have that right to wipe out another race. This is shown with the Rachni queen twice (1 and 3) and again a few other times, including the Geth where the Paragon choice is to alter their programming instead of destroy them. As such, when faced with the choice to destroy the Reapers, but at the cost of all synthetic life (all the Reapers are gone, all the Geth are gone, and possibly all Quarians and everyone with a pacemaker dead too) I could see a full Paragon Shepard refusing and saying they'll find another way. The result? Well, it's right here:
Renegade = Destroy
With everything I listed above, I could see a Renegade Shepard choose to make those sacrifices to continue the mission. This is even doubly true if you have a "Ruthless" Shepard (remember the first game where you had the choice of war hero, survivor, or ruthless? yeah, that) as your renegade. Can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, after all. So, Shepard makes the hard choice, kills all the synthetics and then you get the "breath" scene at the end that hints that maybe Shepard (and people with similar synthetic enhancements) are still alive because they're "organic enough."
Before you call me on it, I'm aware that destroying all synthetic life plays into the "it's all about synthetics vs. organics" stuff that I don't like, but I'm fine with thinking the Repears would exact a toll for their destruction, and the sacrifice of Shepard's great achievement in bringing peace between the Geth and Quarians is fine to me there.
Here is this ending btw:
Win or Lose
The other fun thing I like about focusing on these two endings is that you have the chance of failure. If you watched the video, you know this already but Refusal means the Reapers harvest everyone. Essentially, my version of the paragon ending, where Shepard isn't willing to make that last sacrifice, means that everyone dies for Shepard's ideals and it is up to the next generation to make it right.
On the other hand, the Renegade choice results with the war being won. The reapers are gone, the galaxy is united as it tries to rebuild and fix things. All is well.
The Shepard Nameplate
One thing that does amuse me in the endings is the "Commander Shepard" name plate that Liara puts up on the Normandy's memorial wall at the end of the new endings. This is just kind of silly because it seems..well...kinda lazy. You get to name your Shepard, and if you didn't - because you didn't know - there are default names. John Shepard is the male default. Jane Shepard is the female default. Sure, everyone calls you Shepard (it works for the voice work) but why not take the name we've given our Shepard and put it on that plate? It just looks silly having everyone else on that wall have a full name, and then right under "Adm. David Anderson" you have "Commander Shepard" what? Did the Alliance misplace Shepard's first name? What about his crew of good friends?
I understand there may be a technical limitation, but it was a jarring enough shift to me that it actually broke suspension of disbelief for a bit. Why didn't Shepard have a first name? Maybe in the future he/she is known as "The Shepard" but right then and there? It baffles me that Joker, Liara, and Garrus of all people don't know Shepard's first name.
All In All
All in all, Bioware provided at least 'acceptable' endings to Mass Effect. I don't like them fully, and think there are issues, but they at least provided an ending to the story I was playing. I'm fine with stumbling in an attempt to make something as grand as Mass Effect was. I'm fine with disagreeing with the creator on how the story should end (I still really want to see a happy ending where Shepard + love interest go to do whatever it is they chose to do after the war.) These are matters of preference that I can accept as being there. The endings presented, now, are decent and work. Some are actually even good. I just don't get why they needed time to make this the extended cut, unless they were all just operating on the "we know what happens after, so these problems aren't as jarring to us" mentality.
Still, at leas I can finally say it. GG Bioware. GG.
My Shepard still lived and went off to be lost in space, and happy, with Liara though. :P