To date, we know very little about Mass Effect 4. However, a recent piece of official merchandise may have just leaked the return of a major character.
Series developer BioWare has begun selling a “Mysteries from the Future” lithograph on its webstore. This limited edition piece depicts Mass Effect 4 key art, but it’s the item's product description that has really caught fans' attention.
As spotted by YouTuber MrHulthen (and relayed by VGC), the description originally read: “While Shepard and the survivors are left to pick up the pieces, fans are left wondering what’s next.” Shortly after, the description changed to: “The threat of the Reapers might have been ended, but at great cost including Earth itself. While the survivors are left to pick up the pieces, fans are left wondering what’s next.”
Commander Shepard is the playable protagonist of the original Mass Effect trilogy. The character is fully customizable, and can be either male or female depending on the player's preference. Most endings in Mass Effect 3 involve Shepard making the ultimate sacrifice to save the universe. But if players bring enough war resources into the final battle, it’s possible to unlock a secret ending, which heavily implies that Shepard survived the conflict.
It's possible that Mass Effect 4 could feature Shepard, either in the lead role or perhaps as a supporting character. The next Mass Effect may be something of a franchise course correction after 2017’s divisive Mass Effect Andromeda, which became an internet meme due to its freaky facial animations.
The marketing materials for Mass Effect 4 so far have relied heavily on callbacks to the beloved original trilogy. These include references to N7 — essentially an in-universe military rank held by Shepard — and the appearance of an Asari, who may be Liara T’Soni, another popular character from the Mass Effect trilogy.
We don’t expect to see much more from Mass Effect 4 any time soon. As of last November, the game was in the “early stages” of development and is almost certainly several years away from launch. In the meantime, you can relive the original three games courtesy of Mass Effect Legendary Edition, which came out last spring on PS4, Xbox One and PC.