Why release a new Mass Effect trailer when you can just send fans spiraling down the conspiracy hole with a brief tease instead? BioWare released its latest salvo of clues for the upcoming sci-fi RPG today, including ambient video of a new mass relay, giant space stations that shoot ships around the galaxy, being built. There are nods to the original trilogy’s ship, Normandy, the villainous group Cerberus, and a whole lot more. Strap-in.
Last N7 day all we got was a single image. This time around we got an entire 25 second clip of a mass effect relay being built in space complete with ambient noise and mysterious repeating sounds. “There are so many things for you to find in this.” tweeted project director, Mike Gamble. “Good luck, investigators!”
Fans got their first taste of the next Mass Effect from a teaser trailer shown at The Game Awards 2020. In it, Liara from the original trilogy canvases a snowy planet with destroyed Reapers in the background and comes across a piece of armor that appears to have belonged to series’ protagonist Commander Shepard.
It also included a shot of both the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, which Gamble said was an intentional reference, implying the new game might be a sequel to both Mass Effect 3 and Andromeda. That and subsequent teases have spurred on fan theories about everything from time travel (Andromeda takes place hundreds of years later) to Shepard still being alive.
So what have fans found so far in the latest video? Well, for starters this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this mass relay. It was originally revealed in a 2020 BioWare artbook which included other pieces of concept art teasing plans for the next Mass Effect. “MR7” implies this is the seventh mass relay under construction, and color of the paint points to human-supremacist group Cerberus as the builders.
A ship hovers in the lower right corner of the screen. Is it the Normandy from the original series, or possibly the Tempest from Andromeda? Or maybe it’s the “Mud Skipper” ship shown in last year’s tease investigating the remains of a Geth. You can also make out a blur moving across the screen at around the six second mark. Some fans speculate that THAT is the Normandy since it was the only ship known to have cloaking technology.
Then there are the numbers at the bottom of the screen: 11_07_90_000_1000-2013313. One interpretation is that this footage is from the year 2190, which would put it only four years after the Reapers were destroyed at the end of the original trilogy. 314, meanwhile, could be a reference to relay 314, the discovery of which kicked off the First Contact Wars prior to the events of Mass Effect 1, and lead to the creation of Cerberus. The title of the file also indicates that the footage was intercepted, implying it might be surveillance by Systems Alliance, the galactic governing body from the original trilogy.
One fan attempted to clean up the audio in the clip and arrived at a recording of what appears to be Liara saying, “Exactly, the Council will be furious. Although they should know by now not to underestimate..” The conversation continues, seemingly interspersed with Geth sounds, but the rest is hard to make out. Still, it seems to indicate that the Council, the Systems Alliance governing body, is still intact, and thus the fallout from the Reaper invasion didn’t send the galaxy into some sort of new dark age.
One big question ever since the next Mass Effect was revealed was how both the original trilogy and Andromeda could be tied together since there’s a roughly 600 year gap between them. That’s how long it took colonists to get to the new galaxy and begin exploring without a mass relay to help them travel. It’s possible that the new game will simply pick up at that new, much later date. Although Liara is in the first trailer, Asari can live to be over 1,000 years old. Time travel is another possible answer, given that the entire series is premised on faster-than-light travel through the manipulation of mass and energy.
Another big question is whether Shepard might actually still be alive. There’s now overwhelming evidence that the canonical ending from Mass Effect 3 is the one where the player destroys synthetic life and the mass relays. A final scene shows someone reluctant to Sheperd’s name on a memorial, and later cuts to the captain of the Normandy gasping. Between Liara seemingly discovering Shepherd’s old armor on earth, and the new game possibly taking place shortly after the end of the trilogy if the 2190 date is to be believed, maybe everyone’s favorite space renegade isn’t so dead after all. Earlier this year, a piece of merch on the BioWare store literally said as much, but Gamble quickly clarified that it was an error. Hmmm.
Whatever the case, fans will likely have to wait a long time to see where all the clues lead and which theories actually pan out. BioWare confirmed that while development on the next Mass Effect is moving along, it’s still very much in pre-production. We don’t even have a release date for Dragon Age: Dreadwolf yet, which the studio has been working on since 2018’s Anthem. In the meantime, fans will have to be content to plumb the depths of the Mass Effect wiki.
Update 11/7/22, 5:03 p.m. ET: Gamble confirmed the second half of Liara’s message on Twitter, which goes, “Although, they should know by now not to underestimate human defiance!”
Update 11/7/22 5:42 p.m. ET: BioWare has now released the full decoded audio from today’s tease: