Bioware is making a new Mass Effect game, and it's probably not picking up where Andromeda left off. At least, not exactly. From what we can tell, Bioware seems to be hinting at a return to the galaxy and characters of the Mass Effect trilogy first and foremost. That is Liara in the teaser trailer, after all.
But how much time has passed since the original games? Is Shepard still in the picture? We can't be sure of anything based only on a few images and a teaser trailer, but it's clear that nothing is off the table for Bioware. One piece of art suggests that Andromeda characters could enter the fold alongside original favorites, too.
Our best guess? This isn't a direct sequel to Mass Effect 3 or Andromeda—it's simply the next Mass Effect game, and there's a lot still up in the air. Here's what we can glean from Mass Effect's teasers so far.
When does the next Mass Effect release?
Bioware has yet to give a release window for its new Mass Effect game, but it's safe to say that it's still several years away. From what we can tell, the new project didn't really make it off the ground until sometime in 2019.
Bioware is also working on the next Dragon Age game. It seems plausible that one of those will be out by the end of 2022, but both of them? Dream on, space cowboy.
That part where Liara digs the armor piece out of the dirt and reveals the N7 logo? That's good stuff. The teaser itself is light on details (it's only really meant to stir up excitement), but we've been able to glean interesting observations from space shots and figures in the background at the end of the video. More on that below.
When is the next Mass Effect set?
Based on the teaser, we can make a pretty good guess. Fans have already begun to speculate that the two galaxies from the beginning of the teaser suggest that the next Mass Effect will be a sequel to Andromeda in addition to the Shepard trilogy. That, and the fact that Liara is front-and-center.
If true, the story likely wouldn't pick up where Andromeda left off, necessarily, but may bring back characters and locales. Either way, it seems like the game will have to pick a "canon" ending to Mass Effect 3 and roll with it.
Liara is back
As the teaser dropped during The Game Awards, we initially began speculating that the mystery Asari is indeed Liara, one of Commander Shepard's companions in the first three games (and the Shadow Broker, via a fantastic bit of Mass Effect 2 DLC). How did we know it was Liara? She's the only Asari seen in the series with eyebrows and freckles. Deep cut.
We only had to speculate briefly, because Liara's face model Jillian Murray confirmed on Twitter that she'd be returning for the next Mass Effect game. Meanwhile, Liara's voice actor Ali Hillis said that Liara's return is news to her. No need to panic yet that Hillis is being replaced in the role: it's likely that the game is still much too early to be recording voice lines.
Who else is returning?
Fun fact: The Drell and Salarian silhouettes in the new artwork are just flipped versions of Thane and Mordin from the ME2 squad selection menu from r/masseffect
Since we're pretty sure the next Mass Effect will be some sort of follow-up to the original trilogy, it now makes more sense that the concept art shared back in November 2020 included character art seemingly ripped from the old games. As the post above by ggo665 points out, the silhouettes standing by the ship are recognizable portraits of Thane and Mordin from Mass Effect 2. The chap next to them also looks like Mass Effect Andromeda's Jaal.
That's particularly interesting considering Jaal is an Angara, a race only seen in Andromeda. This strengthens the game's connection to Andromeda and suggests the next Mass Effect will embrace that game's setting to some degree.
Series veterans are returning to develop the new game
From the get-go, Bioware is making it clear that the next Mass Effect game is in good hands. Bioware project director Michael Gambel made that much clear in a tweet thread following the Game Awards teaser outlining some of the original Mass Effect team that rejoined Bioware for the new game.
Dusty was one of the key people responsible for bringing the original Normandy to life. Dusty decided to rejoin BioWare to work on the next Mass Effect game. There are more like him. We've heard what Mass Effect means to you. https://t.co/8dfGPV17iSDecember 11, 2020
Parrish was the cinematic director for the Mass Effect Trilogy. Many of the amazing moments you had were crafted from him and the team. Parrish decided to rejoin BioWare to bring this vision of a new Mass Effect to life. https://t.co/DxsuCqlAuRDecember 11, 2020
Brenon is a veteran of 3 Mass Effect games. His ingenuity and work helps to bring amazing gameplay systems to the Mass Effect Universe.Brenon is one of many who want to bring you the game you deserve. As time goes on, you'll get to know more of us. https://t.co/1jp3BJPGoQDecember 11, 2020
Oh, and lets not forget Derek Watts. Original Art Director for Mass Effect. He's back too. Ready to rock.December 11, 2020
That's certainly cool news, but the emphasis on veteran talent is likely a response to the sudden departure of Casey Hudson from Bioware, who directed the first three Mass Effect games and was working on this new project.
A big-budget space opera like Mass Effect has never been the result of a single auteur, but Hudson has been the face of the series since its inception. His departure (along with Bioware's recent streak of poorly-received games with Andromeda and Anthem) has been a point of worry for many fans.
Mass Effect concept art from N7 Day 2019
We have so many ideas for things we want to do in #MassEffect, so much concept art that hasn't yet been brought to life, and so many stories yet to tell. #N7Day pic.twitter.com/gDXbYComCCNovember 7, 2019
On N7 Day 2019, a full year before he would leave the project, Casey Hudson tweeted out concept art for the next Mass Effect game. Following the December 2020 teaser, it's clear Bioware has a story in mind for the game, but in 2019 it sounds like the team was still kicking around ideas.