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Mass Effect 5 — everything we know so far

A Mass Effect 5 promotional image
(Image credit: Bioware)

What we're calling Mass Effect 5 for the time being, is officially in the works. 

And it's expected to follow in the footsteps of the story established with Mass Effect Legendary Edition perhaps with some Mass Effect: Andromeda sprinkled in. 

Based on the brief description given by Bioware's general manager, Casey Hudson, we shouldn't expect Mass Effect 5 to release any time soon. However the fact the studio is willing to talk about it and reveal a few tantalizing details is great news.

Mass Effect 5 release date speculation 

While we know that the game is coming, there's no release date just yet. Going by the statement from Bioware's Casey Hudson that the game's in its "early stages," we've likely got a couple of years to wait.

As such, we'd tentatively predict we could hear more about Mass Effect 5 this year. But we'd not be surprised if it's comes along in 2023 or even 2024.

Mass Effect 5 trailer

Currently, there's only one Mass Effect 5 trailer. This debuted at the Game Awards, showed Liara T'soni, a companion from the original trilogy, trekking through a frozen wasteland and coming across a piece of armor marked with the N7 insignia. 

This seems like strong evidence of the game being a direct sequel to Mass Effect 3, although given the longevity of the Asari, the alien race to which Liara belongs, the story wouldn't have to follow on immediately after Shepherd defeated the Reapers.

Mass Effect 5 story and setting

Mass Effect 5

(Image credit: EA)

The N7 Day post from Hudson mainly focuses on the upcoming Legendary Edition remaster of the original three Mass Effect games (see below), but we were shown one piece of concept art as a teaser.

On the side of the ship in the concept art, we see "XT8." This is a common naming convention in the Mass Effect universe for vehicles used by the Alliance, the human faction in the game.

As it uses two letters and one number like Mass Effect: Andromeda's ND1 Nomad, rather than the two-number designations of original trilogy craft like the M35 Mako, M44 Hammerhead and UT-47 Kodiak, we can infer that the new game will be a sequel to Andromeda. In Mass Effect: Andromeda, the game was centered around humans and other races from the Milky Way galaxy arriving in the Andromeda galaxy, after a 600-year journey. 

This fits with an interesting observation from Rock Paper Shotgun's Imogen Beckhelling, who believes that one of the silhouetted figures in the background is an Angara, a race of aliens introduced in Andromeda.

On the other hand, it could just mean that this craft just belongs to a civilian organization, like the Andromeda initiative. As such we can't tell if Mass Effect 5 is an Andromeda follow-up or another game taking place in the Milky Way. But it could hint that wherever the next game is set, it could focus more on ordinary citizens rather than the galaxy's military and political elite as the original trilogy did.

Mass Effect 5 gameplay

mass effect 5

(Image credit: EA)

We've seen no footage of Mass Effect 5 in action but that doesn't mean we don't have high hopes for the game. The original Mass Effect series blended third-person action and role-playing systems with conversation, character interactions, and a bevy of choices. And on top of that was sprinkled on some mild exploration. 

This combination worked very well, leading to a series of games that felt taught and thrilling from start to finish. But Mass Effect: Andromeda tried to adopt more of an open-world feel, leading to a lot of busy work and bloat to the game that soured its overall experience. 

So we're hoping Bioware goes back to its roots a little and concentrates on building a game that's more story-focused rather than exploration orientated. 

That's not to say there's no room for exploration and building upon the Mass Effect trilogy foundations. Some space combat would be great fun, as would the scope to play as other races or explore a story from different perspectives like Dragon Age Origins allowed players to do. 

Whatever direction Bioware takes Mass Effect 5, we're hoping it focuses on nailing the single-player experience rather than try and draw upon its multiplayer efforts. 

We have recently got one tidbit of information that suggests Bioware is looking to avoid repeating the mistakes of the relatively divisive Mass Effect: Andromeda. That game was built on Frostbite, EA's proprietary in-house engine which reportedly caused serious headaches during the development process. 

The original trilogy was built using Unreal Engine 3, and according to PC Gamer, Mass Effect 5 will be reverting the series back to Unreal. The news that the next Mass Effect will be created using Unreal Engine 5 came about due to a Bioware job listing. It's a very small update, but a promising one nevertheless. 

Mass Effect 5 — what to play while you wait

Mass Effect 5

(Image credit: Bioware)

While you wait for the sequel to appear, you'll be able to play the original games in a new refreshed format next year. The Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is a remastered version of the original Mass Effect trilogy, along with all the DLC and other content bundled in and released in Spring 2021.

The remaster is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, and boasts better "textures, shaders, models, effects and technical features" as well as 4K resolution, HDR and higher frame rates among its improvements. 

While the Legendary Edition isn't for sale specifically on the PS5 and Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, the game is playable on these newer consoles via each machine's respective backwards compatibility function. 

There's no mention of a next-gen port of 2017's Mass Effect: Andromeda, likely because it's a generation younger than the original trilogy. Perhaps we'll see this game reimagined in the coming years so all games can be played at their best on the newest consoles.

Mass Effect 5 outlook

The key thing to take away from the information so far is: be patient. While it's very exciting to see Bioware start up the hype machine, there's not a lot to really grab onto at the moment. 

It's possible that will change in the coming few months and years, and there's nothing stopping you from making your own theories about what the game will involve. We're just glad Bioware hasn't abandoned the Mass Effect franchise, and we're cautiously optimistic to see what it will come up with in the next few years. 

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.