Today is November 7th, a perfectly ordinary Tuesday to most people. Or, for fans of Mass Effect, November 7th can be shortened to “N7,” a nod to Commander Shepard’s special forces rank in the games. BioWare has historically celebrated all things Mass Effect on N7 Day annually with cast reunion livestreams and community artwork and, more recently, teasers for the next game in the series. Being a pretty new Mass Effect fan who discovered and fell in love with the original trilogy at the end of last year, this November 7th marks my first N7 Day. As such, I’d like to talk about the teasers and information gleaned from this year’s celebration with a healthy sprinkling of things I’d like to see in the next game.
Actual N7 Day Reveals
This year’s main event was a puzzle hidden among QR codes nestled in merch announcement photos, each leading to a a small section of a larger video. The above video is the result, and, in typical BioWare fashion, leaves way more questions than it does answers. Since the game is still very early in development, there’s a limited amount of information BioWare probably feels comfortable sharing with their players, but they still manage to stir up excitement. This trailer in particular is a huge tease, since it seems like the protagonist of the new Mass Effect game is present without ever seeing their face.
The short trailer starts off with a person walking down a hallway. Focusing on the boots and panning up to reveal a side of the jacket shows off the familiar colors and stripes of the N7 logo, most likely signifying this person as a Human in the Alliance Navy. The figure seems to also clearly have the physique of a woman, so the person shown in the trailer is most likely not James Vega. James is a character in Mass Effect 3 and has goals of becoming an N7 himself, with encouragement from Shepard. While Liara was featured on the first Mass Effect 5 trailer and will probably be a character in the next game, it wouldn’t make sense for her to wear N7 equipment since it’s a Human military program. Plus, it would seem like a stretch for Liara, the Shadowbroker as well as a gifted scientist, to be a highly skilled soldier as well. As the video continues to pan up, we are ultimately left with a face covered by a helmet, teasing fans yet again at the identity of the next game’s protagonist and Shepard’s status.
A letter by Michael Gamble, Mass Effect Director and Executive Producer, was also posted to EA’s website today:
Every November 7th, we’ve all come together—developers, superfans, regular fans, kinda-fans—to celebrate (and speculate about!) the games, stories, and community that make Mass Effect so special. It’s a testament to the long-lasting appeal of this universe and the characters who call it home. Eleven years of N7 Days and sixteen years of Mass Effect later, the franchise continues to inspire our development team, and with each day, gives us the opportunity to create more adventures for you to have. Whether it’s one of the many who have been here since the original game’s launch or those recently joining us at BioWare, we are all incredibly lucky to be envisioning this future.
That process is equal parts rewarding and challenging. We’ve asked ourselves many of the same questions you’ve asked us over the years! What happened to everyone you know and love in the games? Who really died? Who had kids with whom? What does a baby volus sound like? What about all the galaxies? The endings! What the heck is going on with our asari scientist-turned-Shadowbroker? What about S— nevermind…you get the idea. And of course, to those questions, there are answers, but you’ll have to wait to hear them. And anything we do say won’t be easy to find, just like you’ve come to expect from our #N7Day teases.
But for real… thank you. Thank you for everything, and allowing us to do what we do. We approach the future of this universe with gratitude and deep respect. Respect for you—the community. Respect for the love and dedication you’ve given to us. Respect for the history and the stories you’ve created, and the characters you’ve fallen in love with. And, respect for the future, and the opportunity to do something big—something amazing—for you.
Until next time…and Happy N7 Day!
—Mike Gamble, Mass Effect Franchise Director & Executive Producer
In addition to the positive note in regards to the next game, Michael specifically calls out a few questions that will be answered in time. He specifically cuts off the last question, “What about Shepard?” which is a callback to the first spoken line of dialogue in Mass Effect. I am content in knowing that the questions that I and every other player has asked themselves will be answered in time, yet impatient to know the answer to each. The status of Shepard and her crew has been so carefully skirted around that I think it must mean they’re being saved for a later reveal closer to launch, but it could also mean that BioWare is trying to distance themselves and the fans from the “old” cast. Only time will tell…
My Hopes and Dreams
Now that the actual information from this year’s N7 Day has been addressed, I’d like to move onto the “pure speculation” portion of the program. After all, what’s N7 Day without a little hopium?
Starting off easy, I would like an answer to the big questions. What is life like in the Milky Way Galaxy in the aftermath of the Reaper invasion? Which of the eight possible Mass Effect 3 endings will be used for the new game moving forward? What happened to the Normandy and her crew? And for the love of the Goddess, did Shepard ever meet Garrus at the bar? Michael Gamble’s letter seems to cover all of these, plus the added question on baby Volus that I didn’t have until just today, so I am confident that we will find out. After all, it seems extremely unlikely to develop a new game in the Mass Effect universe without answering questions regarding the crew that players had spent so much time with in the first three games.
In regards to the worldbuilding and RPG-ness of Mass Effect 5, I’d like it to focus on the world and lore of Mass Effect with third-person shooter combat like in the original trilogy. Mass Effect 2 and 3 each improved on their predecessor in many ways and I hope to see gameplay further improved on in the next. I’m hoping that puzzles like the hacking minigame and ship upgrades make a return. Managing fuel and other resources while out exploring a new system added a bit of extra strategy and thrill to exploration. The loyalty missions, while an amazing way to bond with each crewmember and learn their individual stories, should be handled up front in the first game of the series. Mass Effect 5 will in many ways be an introductory game, introducing players to a new storyline and new characters, and it should also feature Mass Effect 2-like loyalty missions.
I’d like to explore lots of places, some new and some familiar. I’d like to revisit Virmire and Noveria, and pay a visit to Aria on Omega. Maybe spend some time on a post-Reaper invasion Earth. For new places, I’d love to see Palaven or Kahje, the Hanar homeworld that is more recently also where the Drell make their home. The Citadel is a given, but I’m still excited to see what it’ll look like with today’s graphics. The game doesn’t need to be open-world either; in fact, I’d prefer it wasn’t. The original trilogy did a fantastic job of making limited spaces feel open, and give players lots of reasons to explore. Making a game open-world for no reason will only make it seem empty.
As for a possible main plot, I have no idea. I can only hope that it doesn’t involve Cerberus. Cerberus seemed to come out of left field in Mass Effect 2, and it should have mostly dissolved after The Illusive Man’s death anyway. It would make since to have Cerberus groups splintered throughout the galaxy, but they shouldn’t be a main threat anymore. The Leviathan DLC from Mass Effect 3 would be an interesting thread to carry forward, and could be a suitable threat. In the DLC, we learn that the Leviathans were the original inhabitants of the galaxy and possess mind control abilities that allow them to bend lesser species to their will. They created the Reapers initially to assist them, but it instead led to a conflict that nearly caused the Leviathans to go extinct. With the Reapers seemingly dealt with, it might be time for the Leviathans to come out of hiding.
Above all, I wonder where Shepard and Garrus made their home. Earth or Palaven? How many war orphans did they adopt? In all seriousness, my single biggest hope for the next game is that the world and story is as inspired as the games that came before it. Games that make you care about its characters as much as Mass Effect does is special, and I can only hope the next one is crafted with as much care. Mass Effect 5 is probably several years out, so, in the meantime, it’s all we can do until the next N7 Day.