N7 Day: Mass Effect Continued

As yet another N7 Day passes, more speculation about the future installment of BioWare’s space-faring RPG ‘Mass Effect’ arises through the release of a seemingly ominous twenty-five-second clip posted by BioWare. Before delving into the potential indications for the future game, let’s first debrief on the importance of N7 Day and its namesake, reflect on the past year for Mass Effect, and acknowledge the other updates released alongside the clip. N7 Day, celebrated annually on the 7th of November, is a day dedicated to celebrating the four installments of BioWare’s RPG ‘Mass Effect’, with the special “N7” designation being an allusion to the protagonist Commander Shepard’s reverence as a high-level entity within the special forces of the Systems Alliance military within the game. 

Granted, 2022 has been a quiet year for Mass Effect as BioWare’s primary focus has been on the fourth installment of their other RPG series ‘Dragon Age.’ Nonetheless, 2021 saw some exciting developments for Mass Effect with the release of Mass Effect Legendary Edition earlier in the year and a promotional poster for Mass Effect 5 later in the year on N7 Day. Even further back, 2020’s N7 Day is what reignited the passion of the Mass Effect community via the release of the Mass Effect 5 trailer and confirmation that Mass Effect and the original trilogy’s story ‘Will Continue.’ Now, come 2022, fans are thrilled to hear–or read–that “pre-production development has been proceeding very well” for the fifth installment alongside other news. 

This year, BioWare published a blog post with an appreciative and heartfelt message to fans, a spotlight on members of the studio’s team, an announcement of a Mass Effect x Sims crossover, and, of course, a clip, as well as concept art, featuring “strange footage” of Mass Relay construction–Mass Relays are “mass transit devices” utilized throughout the original trilogy for instant travel within the Milky Way. The clip is paired with a short caption which encourages fans to look “a bit more closely” while the concept art is paired with a message from Project Director Mike Gamble saying “It could be nothing, but…” 

Now, veterans and newcomers to the series alike have rallied to uncover the myriad implications that this clip has for the future installment of the Mass Effect series, with both old and new theories brought to the table. From what we can see, the concept art is not entirely new, being an updated version of concept art that was released by BioWare on 2020’s N7 Day in an art book titled Bioware: Stories and Secrets from 25 Years of Game Development. 

Both the clip and concept art depict a Mass Relay donning a notorious yellow and black accompanied by an “MR 7” (which can simply stand for Mass Relay 7) in the midst of construction over a brownish planet, with various other spacecraft situated around the site, a moving ship in the bottom right corner, and text in the bottom left. The clip, in addition, has audio with eerie alien clicks and noises, incomprehensible whispering, and really just “space noises.”

Considering 2020’s own N7 Day trailer, we can assume that this next game will feature the familiar Milky Way galaxy as well as fan-favourite Liara T’soni–who is also a bridging character between the original trilogy and Mass Effect: Andromeda as she has a brief cameo appearance via audio logs to Alec Ryder (Andromeda protagonist’s father). From this trailer, we also see the intentional (as said by Project Director Mike Gamble) placement of two galaxies within the opening shot, which serves as an homage to the home galaxies–the Milky Way and Andromeda–of the franchise and potential intergalactic gameplay. And to further cement the foreseen relationship between the trilogy and Andromeda, BioWare’s 2022 N7 Day blog post states that the team has “been hard at work crafting new characters and locations that you’ll love, as well as revisiting many that you’ll remember.” With this, we can most likely expect an accumulation of both the trilogy and Andromeda that will present new worlds with memorable characters (old and new) “ buoyed by the series’ signature choices and consequences.”

Already, inferences and assumptions made from the clip point to several elements: a Quarian (an alien species within Mass Effect) captain or commander (according to the text in the bottom left that depicts a Quarian-esque name), the potential involvement of the infamous Cerberus (a human-supremacist paramilitary organization) with the construction of the Mass Relay (as seen through the yellow and black colouring of the text on the Mass Relay), the potential presence of Andromeda’s “arks” (as seen in the top left of the concept art and clip), and the potential major role of Liara (according to the later released clear transmission of the audio from the clip which contains Liara’s voice in conversation with an unknown character). 

The strongest connection here seems to be Cerberus’ involvement, as the published transmission of Liara’s conversation includes statements of “How did we miss this,” “The council will be furious,” and  “Although, they should know by now not to underestimate human defiance!” All seem to point to an unexpected–perhaps unwelcome–interference from humans, which is characteristic of Cerberus and their ventures throughout the trilogy. However, it’s curious whether this interference is a necessary evil as the nuance here is reminiscent of Mass Effect 2’s storyline with a resurrected Shepard due to Cerberus’s manipulation. 

With the still very much lack of particularly revealing information, there’s still no confirming whether or not BioWare has decided to canonize any of the three–sorry, four–Mass Effect endings. There is a multitude of factors that will ultimately dictate the direction of the game, but this specific piece of information is what has the Mass Effect community absolutely reeling. The timeframe of the game will likely also influence to what degree the consequences of the decisions made in the trilogy will be felt within this fifth installment. Shepard’s legacy is also another component that is up in the air, with the Destroy Ending and an alive Shepard, as well as Liara finding “Shepard’s” armour in the 2020 trailer, Shepard’s fate is largely unknown (that is if we are canonizing the Destroy Ending, as Shepard sort of disintegrates within ¾ of the endings). Despite the emphasis on player choice and consequence, canonizing the Destroy Ending seems to be the most viable way to incorporate an alive Shepard so that fans can once again witness Shepard be put to rest, as well as watch beloved companions find closure in their stories. 

It is also clear that this installment will not be abandoning the Andromeda storyline for the sake of the original trilogy’s nostalgia, but will instead (hopefully) meaningfully connect the two stories and incorporate more ‘Mass Effect’ elements into the Andromeda series that the first installment (Mass Effect: Andromeda) seemed to lack. Perhaps a dire urgency and nostalgic reaper-like intergalactic threat are what will unite the trilogy and Andromeda. 

Nevertheless, Mass Effect fans will likely not see this fifth installment until years after the release of Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, which has the earliest release window of 2023. With this in mind, Mass Effect fans can probably expect a release date of earliest 2027, which is generous considering an RPG as large as Mass Effect requires a certain level of astute attention to detail and development. However, this will not stop the community from attempting to dissect all possible Mass Effect content for clues and hints to uncover Mass Effect 5’s narrative. Until we see more news, take the time to embark on your Paragon or Renegade playthroughs in your choice of either the Milky Way or Andromeda galaxy.

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