We only just got confirmation that Mass Effect 4 even exists at last year’s Game Awards, but the short trailer was more than enough to inspire a lot of hope, as well as questions, for fans of the series. The original trilogy was one of the most ambitious trilogies of that generation and managed to grow a massive fanbase for a new franchise. The final game’s conclusion, regardless of how divisive it was among gamers, was a fairly conclusive wrap up to that entire universe. Since then BioWare has put out another spin-off entry in the form of Mass Effect: Andromeda. This title had a lot to live up to and, bugs and glitches aside, didn’t satisfy many of the fans who adored the deep sci-fi lore, intricate character relationships, and meaningful choices found in the first three games.
We only have the one trailer to work off of so far, but here is everything we’ve been able to piece together about Mass Effect 4.
This little teaser had no indication on when we can expect to see the next Mass Effect game. Not even a year was attached, which leads us to believe that it is still early on in development. Other evidence of this is that BioWare has multiple other projects its teams are working on, such as Dragon Age 4, the ongoing Anthem, and the upcoming Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, which remasters the original trilogy. Since Dragon Age 4 was announced prior to this, and also still has no confirmed release window, it isn’t likely we will see Mass Effect 4 for at least a year or so after that game launches. This could place its release as late as sometime around 2023 or even 2024.
If the release date is as far off as we suspect, perhaps as much as three or four years, then it would only make sense for it to be on the current PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S consoles. This generational switch has been the slowest to fully transition over in terms of games being released on previous- and current-generation consoles because of just how big the install base is, but also how much easier it is for games to be upgraded for the more powerful hardware, but by this point, massive titles like this should be targeting only the higher-end machines. If BioWare wants to win back its fans, it can’t afford to either hold back the ambitions of this new Mass Effect, or release a disappointing port for the old consoles.
So far all we have to work from regarding Mass Effect 4 is the less than two-minute teaser trailer from The Game Awards. We are shown the Milky Way galaxy as the camera zooms in and radio transmissions play out. The camera zips past stars, planets, asteroids, and a massive debris field as the transmissions become more panicked and erratic until finally focusing on a ship heading down to a mysterious planet. Here we see our first humanoid figure trudging through the snow and recovering a fragment of the iconic N7 armor. The mysterious person is then shown to be an Asari, a prominent race from the series, and perhaps even one we already know. Many believe this is Liara, though it is hard to be completely certain, but would be a very interesting way to tie in this new game with the previous series without Commander Shepard. Asari lifespans are upwards of 1,000 years in the Mass Effect universe, so it is more than reasonable for Liara to return, either as a protagonist or companion. The trailer ends with the cryptic message that “Mass Effect Will Continue.”
This is going to be pure speculation since the trailer we have was completely prerendered and nothing regarding gameplay has been shown or talked about yet. However, based on all four of the previous games in the series, we can be fairly confident in assuming Mass Effect 4 will continue to mix RPG elements with third-person, cover-based shooting. The series always has fit that definition but has become more refined and expanded in each game. Mass Effect 2 was the sweet spot for most fans, with tight gunplay but still a good deal of RPG elements to customize the experience with. Based on how BioWare games have progressed up to and beyond Andromeda, we can expect at least the combat to be a highlight, which just leaves how much of an RPG the game will be in question. Romance, relationships, and decision-making systems defined the series, so leaving those out would be a massive mistake.
The last two titles, Mass Effect 3 and Andromeda, both had cooperative multiplayer components attached to them. Additionally, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Anthem also allowed players to team up online, with the latter explicitly being focused on multiplayer. If that trend is anything to go by, then Mass Effect 4 will have some form of multiplayer component as well. Hopefully, BioWare learned its lesson with Anthem and won’t make the actual campaign be playable in multiplayer. It was already a mess in that game, and would only water down the experience in a game even more heavily story based like ME4. We predict another horde or objective-based cooperative mode with all the upgrades, leveling, weapons, armor, and other trappings of a game as a service. EA is still the publisher, after all, and will want to monetize this franchise as heavily as possible.
With the exception of Andromeda, every single Mass Effect title has gotten some form of DLC. The only reason Andromeda didn’t was, according to the developers, because they had to focus on fixing the game’s bugs and visual performance and then immediately shift resources over to focus on Anthem. We doubt BioWare will allow this kind of scenario to happen again. The story focused DLCs for ME2 and ME3 were seen as some of the best story expansions released on that generation, and gave even more depth to the universe and characters. Again looking at the current trend of the industry, it is likely that as they develop the base experience, the team will also plot out several DLC expansions to release in the months following the game’s launch. Plus, if our prediction on the multiplayer modes is correct, then new maps, guns, skins, and things of that nature can be expected to hold players over between story DLC.
There’s no word on pre-ordering ME4 yet, and we shouldn’t expect one until we at least get a firm release date. That being said, anyone excited for this title should rest easy knowing that there’s little doubt pre-orders will be heavily marketed and available, probably with exclusive content or incentives. EA values pre-order numbers to a large degree, and there’s hardly any game, AAA or indie, that doesn’t issue pre-orders. The only question is when, not if, they will become available.