It's unclear whether we'll ever get a Mass Effect 5, after everything that's happening - but we can, at least, dream. At release, Mass Effect Andromeda was plagued with problems and garnered mostly mixed reviews. All the same it was a shock when sources revealed to Kotaku that the franchise would go on hiatus and Bioware’s Montreal studio would work on other projects such as Anthem and Star Wars Battlefront II for the foreseeable future.
Things then went full steam ahead on Anthem, but the questions after Mass Effect did not let up - especially after Anthem didn’t turn out to be the hit Bioware and publisher EA had hoped it to be. Fans called for Bioware to abandon Anthem altogether and instead focus on its single-player titles. Work on Dragon Age 4 is already underway, but of course Anthem isn’t simply being left for dead, which in turn affects potential plans related to Mass Effect 5.
Despite things looking particularly dire for Anthem as decorations from a Christmas event were left in the game world until late February, Anthem is currently being overhauled - which in turn means Bioware isn’t freeing up a large number of developers to work on Mass Effect any time soon.
Still, each year a few hints come trickling in. Here’s everything we know, and what we hope Bioware will look out for to make our next trip to the Citadel a hit.
Will we get a new Mass Effect?
On November 7, 2019, known as N7 Day among Mass Effect fans, Mike Gamble, project director at Bioware, asked people on Twitter where they wanted the series to go in the future. A report by Kotaku, which correctly predicted Anthem’s overhaul before it was officially announced in 2020, claimed only a few days later that Mass Effect 5 was in development at Bioware’s Edmonton Studio under Gamble.
Previously, Bioware’s executive producer Mark Darrah made it clear in a studio profile for Polygon that no one was planning to abandon the Mass Effect universe. “We’re definitely not done with Mass Effect. There’s a lot of stories to be told. We could pull on the threads we put down with Andromeda; we could pull on threads from Mass Effect 3. There’s a lot of interesting space to be explored,” Darrah told Polygon. Bioware’s general manager Casey Hudson also reaffirmed his desire to return to Mass Effect soon.
♫ #MassRelays pic.twitter.com/SxD7nQXVGEJanuary 14, 2020
This January, the Bioware Twitter account posted a short video with the hashtag #MassRelays. The video itself was nothing but a song from the original Mass Effect soundtrack, but it caused quite the furore. It turned out to be a celebration of the series' music, rather than an extremely cryptic sign. But, either way, if we assume Mass Effect 5 to be in development, it’s still a pretty distant concern: Dragon Age, unlike ME5 officially announced, won’t be released until 2021, work on Anthem is ongoing. With all of this in mind, we’re likely looking at a wait of several years.
Mass Effect 5 wishlist: here are the features we’re looking for
Until we officially know more about Mass Effect 5, if it ever truly exists, here's what we'd love to see from any kind of sequel:
A more linear mission design
As so many games of recent years, Mass Effect Andromeda made the jump to an open-world structure. While you always had the option to travel around the galaxy and solve several side quests at your own pace, the entire story of ME Andromeda requires you to first go to a planet in the Heleus cluster and finish enough quests to raise the viability level of a planet before you can proceed with the plot. These tasks can get repetitive, and both planets and their settlements looked and felt mostly empty. By comparison, gathering your forces in Mass Effect 2 and 3 was an endgame activity, preceded by interesting plot developments. Mass Effect Andromeda has you doing the same things over and over before it lets you get on with the plot, draining the game of suspense. A less open word in the style of previous Mass Effect games would help tighten the plot, which would in turn allow for more interesting missions.
Make it Andromeda 2
This one’s dividing the fanbase: about half of them want the next game to use Andromeda’s setting, the other half hanker for a return to the Milky Way. But acting as if Andromeda never happened would do all the work that went into it a disservice. While the story wasn’t different enough from the original Mass Effect trilogy to win most players over, it did leave open questions. A second part could explore conflicts between the different races after finally settling, or take a closer look at the Ryder family. Andromeda had interesting new alien races, and where the trilogy had several games to allow Shephard’s team mates to grow onto players, the Andromeda crew deserves a similar chance.
An overhauled morality system
Andromeda did away with the Paragon/Renegade system of past games. Generally, we don’t think it a great loss, as the dialogue options always divided into good, rude and vaguely sarcastic even before the system was scrapped, but it would be nice to see a stronger emphasis on consequences. While Mass Effect 3 didn’t make the most of all the decisions you made throughout the series, as far as the games themselves were concerned, you felt the consequences of what you did in some situations quite keenly, for example whether or not you rescued the general of the Quarian flotilla. When it comes to meaningful decisions, there’s still a lot of room for Mass Effect to grow, and we’d like for Bioware to explore such options further.
The ability to control squad powers
Mass Effect Andromeda has fun combat. Easily accessible to those who played a Mass Effect game before, it’s well comfortable in being a cover shooter, and thus didn’t look to innovate, but with the it added some interesting variety with the different combat profiles. Good enemy AI behaviour kept things sufficiently challenging, which can’t be said for your squad mates. Mass Effect team mates have never behaved optimally, but in prior games you make up for that by commanding them to use their powers. This feature is missing in Andromeda. Getting it back would round out the otherwise already great gameplay.