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Mass Effect 5: The return of Shepard and everything we know so far

Mass Effect 5 is shrouded in mystery, to the degree that we don’t even have an official title yet. Which isn’t to say we’ve got nothing to go on. Here is everything we already know about the highly-anticipated sci-fi RPG.

Mass Effect 5 will continue the epic story of Bioware’s acclaimed trilogy of RPGs…and Mass Effect: Andromeda. It’s fair to say that many fans, as well as the team at Bioware themselves, would probably rather forget about the fourth entry in the Mass Effect series.

However, for the purpose of clarity we are going with the Mass Effect 5 moniker, at least for the time being. Just because something wasn’t much good doesn’t mean that it never existed. Besides, there are some design elements from Andromeda that are likely to be carried over into the upcoming game.

mass effect 5 gameplay
Image: Mass Effect / Bioware

With that in mind, let’s get down to business.

The official Mass Effect 5 trailer

In late 2020 we received the first concrete proof that Bioware (and EA) had not abandoned the Mass Effect universe in response to the failings of Mass Effect: Andromeda. The trailer debuted at the 20220 Game Awards to great fanfare.

That said, its brief runtime, probably by design, left fans with more questions than answers. In the modern video game industry hype and momentum are king – and this trailer was designed to get tongues wagging.

The first half of the Mass Effect 5 trailer doesn’t really give anything away. There’s a bunch of largely indecipherable radio transmissions playing in the background, as we gaze over what could possibly be the Milky Way. Eventually, we see a small ship make its way into the atmosphere of a blue planet (Earth according to many fans).

sci-fi video game
Image: Mass Effect 5 / Bioware

What happens next is where shit gets exciting: Liara T’Soni on an epic, snowy mountain. For the uninitiated, Liara is an important character from the original trilogy of games; a one time crewmate/lover of your playable character, Commander Shepard.

We then see Liara uncover an abandoned piece of technology, which under closer inspection has the N7 badge, most associated with Commander Shepard. And that’s all they wrote, folks. The camera pans away and we see Liara smile and look over to a small landing ship. Why is she there? What is she looking for? Is she the key to Mass Effect 5?

Characters and the return of Shepard in Mass Effect 5

As noted above, it appears almost certain that Liara T’Soni will have a significant role to play in Mass Effect 5. But the question at the forefront of everyone’s mind is obvious: will players reprise the role of Commander Shepard?

At this point, I feel pretty confident saying yes. Well, sort of. As fans will remember, Shepard actually died at the very beginning of Mass Effect 2. The human chauvinist organisation Cerberus spent the big bucks to resurrect them with cloning technology, bringing them back to lead humanity against the alien threat of the Collectors.

And the plan ultimately worked; Shepard helps save humanity and then heroically dies again (in all but one of the available endings in Mass Effect 3). All this means is that Shepard is probably chilling under some ice, ready to be cloned again and reclaim the role of hero in Mass Effect 5.

mass effect 5 shepard
Image: Mass Effect 5 / Bioware

That said, judging by the appearance of Liara, a great deal of time seems to have passed since the events of Mass Effect 3. Therefore, while Shepard might return, most of the crew of the SS Normandy probably won’t. The possible exceptions, due to their life expectancy, are the following: Legion (synthetic), Liara (Asari), and Edi (AI/synthetic).

Of course, whichever Mass Effect 3 ending is actually considered canon will have an effect on which characters could appear in Mass Effect 5. And unfortunately, the team at Bioware have remained pretty tight-lipped on that matter.

galaxy art
Image: Mass Effect 5 / Bioware

The poster, the Geth and Reapers

The other main source of information we have to go on for all things Mass Effect 5 is the promotional poster. You know the old and somewhat trite saying that a picture is worth a thousand words? In this context it’s pretty spot on.

First of all, the poster suggests the Geth have survived in some way, shape or form (meaning the ‘Destroy’ ending, where all synthetic life is wiped out, isn’t the one the developers at Bioware are going with). The poster shows a giant crater that, when viewed from above, looks like the ‘face’ of a giant Geth.

mass effect 5 geth
Image: Mass Effect / Bioware

Whether the Geth are friend or foe is up for debate, but either way the poster makes them seem pretty ominous.

The main villains of the original trilogy, the Reapers, also make an appearance in the official Mass Effect 5 trailer, albeit briefly. In the background of the snowy scene you can make out the outline of a presumably ruined Reaper. This suggests that Liara is on Earth, many years after the Reaper invasion.

mass effect 5 reaper
Image: Mass Effect 5 / Bioware

Gameplay

Another piece of information that can be gleamed from the Mass Effect promotional poster is the size of squad you will be leading. There are four characters in the squad; a human, a Krogan, and what appear to be an Asari and a Turian.

The squad size in all the past Mass Effect games, including Andromeda, has been three, making this a significant development for Mass Effect 5.

Mass Effect 5 leaks

On May 11, 2022, a post on the Bioware store got Mass Effect fans rather excited. The now infamous post read:

“The show goes on. Shepard’s final quest may have ended the threat of the Reapers but at great cost including Earth itself. While Shepard and the survivors are left to pick up the pieces, fans are left wondering what’s next.”

Bioware project director Michael Gamble was quick to respond that the post was written by someone with no inside knowledge regarding Mass Effect 5 details; and was consequently misleading. However, he stopped short of actually saying that the statement was false. Make of that what you will.

Release date

There is currently no official Mass Effect 5 release date. However, it appears that the game is still some distance from release. In 2020, Casey Hudson described progress on the game in the following way:

“We are in early stages on the project and can’t say any more just yet, but we’re looking forward to sharing our vision for where we’ll be going next.” 

It’s been almost two years since Hudson wrote that passage. In the time that’s passed, Hudson has left Bioware and the studio has persevered through a relatively tumultuous period. It’s likely that this will have delayed Mass Effect 5 progress at least somewhat. Nonetheless, we remain hopeful for a 2023 Mass Effect 5 release date.

Be sure to check back in, as we will be sure to report on future developments.