When is Mass Effect 5, and what will it be about? BioWare's Mass Effect series is one of the most beloved RPG series out there, telling a sprawling and hugely ambitious space opera tale of extragalactic invaders and heroes helping each other to survive through desperate circumstances. Mass Effect 5 was announced back in November 2020, and since then BioWare has kept the excitement alive with a very slow dripfeed of footage and images with hidden secrets inside each one.
Below we'll pull together everything that BioWare has released so far on their untitled in-development RPG, and use it to walk you through everything we know about Mass Effect 5. We'll go over when to expect the game, when it's set, what the story might be about, and what the gameplay might be like - and we'll also break down and analyse the teaser trailer and poster that the devs have released for all the hidden clues they contain.
Note: major spoilers for Mass Effect 3 follow.
There is not yet a Mass Effect 5 release date
Mass Effect 5 does not currently have a release date in place. The last we heard about the state of the game was back in February 2022, when BioWare general manager Gary McKay wrote in a blog post that they are "all actively prototyping new ideas and experiences". Sounds a long way off from release to us, so don't expect any news of a firm release date anytime soon.
What will Mass Effect 5 be called?
So far, Mass Effect 5 remains untitled by BioWare. Everyone calls it Mass Effect 5, but when the game is officially revealed, it may have a different name - much like the previous game in the series, Mass Effect: Andromeda.
And before you ask, we know it's a bit weird that it's called Mass Effect 5 when there was never a Mass Effect 4. Blame Andromeda for messing up the lovely numerical naming convention they had going on.
Mass Effect 5 trailer - what does it mean?
Below is the first (and only) trailer that BioWare have released for Mass Effect 5 so far - a short teaser which reveals a familiar face, and drops a few hints that we can pick apart below.
There is a very clear message to the first minute or so of flying through space, as we hear various transmissions across human history in seemingly chronological order:
- "We know now that in the early years of the 20th century, this world was being watched..." (from The War Of The Worlds, 1938).
- "Roger. Copy. Eagle, Houston. You are go for landing. Over." (from the Apollo 11 landing).
- "Arcturus Station, unknown vessel approaching. We need first contact protocols." (Humanity's first contact with the Turians).
- "Humanity now stands as partners of the galaxy." (likely an allusion to humanity's induction into the Citadel Council during the events of Mass Effect 1).
- "Ark 6 is away - godspeed." (referencing the Andromeda Initiative's sending of "Ark" colony ships to Andromeda, during the events of Mass Effect 2).
- "What is that?... They're gonna take down that dreadnought... Engines are going critical!" (followed by the Reaper horn, indicating the Reaper invasion of Mass Effect 3)
- "Is anyone receiving this? We've lost contact." (likely post-Reaper War, potentially after all synthetic life and tech was wiped from the galaxy in the "Destroy" ending).
After that, a transport ship flies down onto the surface of an ice planet, and we see a figure climbing a mountain - a figure who is revealed shortly afterwards to be Liara T'Soni, staple Asari companion of Shepard's throughout the entire original trilogy. She picks up a piece of N7 armour from the snow, and smiles. And in the background, we see a group of three figures waiting by the ship - a Krogan, a Salarian, and a human.
What does it all mean? The likely answer is that Mass Effect 5 takes place after the events of Mass Effect 3 - possibly long, long after. Liara is an Asari, a species that can live for 1,000 years. She has clear wrinkles on her face in the trailer and is dressed in far darker clothing than we've seen her wear before- an indicator that she has developed beyond her initial Maiden stage into the Matron or perhaps even Matriarch stage (which occur at ~350 and ~700 years old, respectively). Considering Liara was just over 100 years old during the Mass Effect trilogy, that would potentially mean hundreds of years have passed since the events of Mass Effect 3.
Mass Effect 5 poster secrets analysed
On November 7th 2021, BioWare tweeted a poster that has become known as "the Mass Effect 5 poster". It shows a top-down view of a small crew walking away from their ship towards a crater in an icy rocky landscape, with the words "Mass Effect will continue" at the bottom.
Of course, there are plenty of hidden details we can pick out from this poster. We'll go over the big clues below.
The crater resembles a Geth
The clearest secret of the poster is that the crater - and the way whatever made it carved out a portion of the landscape below - closely resembles the head of a geth. Geth were the main antagonist race of the first Mass Effect - a sentient AI race designed by the Quarians, who rarely venture beyond the Perseus Veil.
If the "Destroy" ending of Mass Effect 3 is canon, that means all synthetics in the galaxy were destroyed - Geth included. Which makes the Geth-heavy imagery very intriguing...
One of the crew is a Krogan - possibly Wrex
It's hard to make out details of most of the four-person crew venturing towards the crater, but one thing that is very clear is that the leftmost figure is a Krogan.
Moreover, that distinctive red armour has led some fans to believe that the Krogan is in fact Wrex, companion character from the original trilogy. Krogan live for many centuries, so it's definitely possible even if Mass Effect 5 is set centuries after the original trilogy.
There are two corpses near the crater
Halfway between the crew and the crater there is what looks to be a corpse on the ground. It's very hard to pick out details, but many are theorising that this is a dead Geth. Again lending credence to the idea of Mass Effect 5 taking place after the "Destroy" ending of Mass Effect 3.
There is one other, much better hidden corpse right on the edge of the crater. We can't see anything of this figure except that it's roughly humanoid in shape.
The ship is new, and contains a BioWare easter egg
The ship at the bottom of the poster is an entirely new design, never having been seen before in Mass Effect. It's not confirmed, but it may end up being the player's own ship in Mass Effect 5, much like the Normandy or the Tempest in previous games.
The lettering on the ship's hull reads "SFX" - a similar naming convention to the "SR1" and "SR2" of the Normandy ships, potentially suggesting Alliance make. But it's also a nod to "Science Fiction X" - the initial working name for the first Mass Effect game by the devs at BioWare.
Mass Effect 5 story and setting
Adding up everything we've found so far from the trailer and poster, it seems as though Mass Effect 5 will almost certainly be set in the Milky Way, some undetermined amount of time after the events of Mass Effect 3. There were several possible endings to Mass Effect 3, but it seems likely that the canon version is the "Destroy" ending - in which Shepard opts to destroy all synthetic life in the galaxy, destroying the Reapers but also the Geth, all AIs and VIs, anyone with extensive synthetic body parts (including Shepard themself), and much of the galaxy's present-day technology.
There were also two clear allusions to Andromeda in the teaser trailer. The opening shot of the trailer shows the Milky Way in the foreground with the Andromeda galaxy very deliberately framed in the background. And we also get the link offered by the line about Arks, the colony ships sent to Andromeda by the Andromeda Initiative. So while the game is likely to be set in the Milky Way, the events of Andromeda may play a large part in the story as well.
One more piece of information we haven't yet looked at is the above footage released by BioWare for N7 Day on November 7 2022: a short clip of what looks like a massive space station-esque ship surrounded by smaller ships, in orbit around a planet. There was some scrambled audio in the clip which was consequently decoded into a conversation between Liara and a Geth, in which Liara says, in a rather pissed off tone:
"I can see it. How did we miss this? [...] Exactly! The Council will be furious. Although they should know by now not to underestimate human defiance..."
So, humans have done what they do best, and pushed boundaries. How, we don't yet know. What is all but certain though is that the Geth are very much alive, and will play an important role in the events of Mass Effect 5.
Will you play as Shepard in Mass Effect 5?
It's unlikely, but not impossible, that Shepard will be the protagonist of Mass Effect 5. As you'll know if you've played to the end of the original trilogy, there is almost no scenario in which Shepard survives the ending. The only chance was added after the game's release in an Extended Cut, which alludes to Shepard's survival if (and only if) the player takes the "Destroy" ending and has a very high Effective Military Strength (the sum total of their War Assets at the end of the campaign).
So it's possible that Shepard survives. But the evidence seems to suggest a setting several hundred years after the events of Mass Effect 3, in which case the chances of Shepard still being around are very slim. Of course, Shepard has been brought back from death before thanks to Cerberus's Lazarus Project at the beginning of Mass Effect 2.
Still, it seems far more likely that Mass Effect 5 will feature an entirely new playable character. After all, Shepard's whole story revolved around stopping the Reapers. Now that the Reapers are gone, does it really make sense to continue Shepard's tale?
Mass Effect 5 characters
Of the characters confirmed to appear in Mass Effect 5, there is just one - Liara T'Soni. Liara appeared in all three of the original Mass Effect games as a staunch ally of Shepard's, and with her long Asari lifespan it's very possible that she could still be around during the events of Mass Effect 5.
Other character appearances are mere speculation, but it is possible that the Krogan in the poster was Urdnot Wrex, another of Shepard's allies from the original trilogy. Krogan are the other main Milky Way species that has the potential to live for centuries on end, so it's possible for Wrex to still be around as well.
It is possible that only a small amount of time has passed since the events of Mass Effect 5 - in which case, we may see other returning characters such as Garrus, Tali, Joker, and more. But this is not confirmed.
As for races, so far we've seen reference to Human, Geth, Asari, Krogan, Turian, and Salarian. But there are bound to be many more. There is a wide variety of alien races in Mass Effect's Milky Way. To name a few: Quarian, Drell, Batarian, Vorcha, Hanar, Volus, Elcor, Rachni, Prothean, Collector, Yahg... There's a lot of material to pull from here.
Mass Effect 5 gameplay
There have been no details yet on how the gameplay of Mass Effect 5 might differ from the core gameplay loops of the previous games. Assuming that as a presumed direct sequel it won't alter the formula too drastically, Mass Effect 5 will be a third-person shooter with a cover system, an NPC squad system, and RPG elements which allow you to customise and unlock powers and abilities for the main character and your squadmates.
Mass Effect 5 multiplayer
There is no word yet on whether Mass Effect 5 will feature a co-op multiplayer mode like Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect: Andromeda did. It seems as though the focus is very much on delivering a singleplayer experience. According to the blog post from McKay linked at the start of this article, the team are busy figuring out "what the future holds for a new single-player Mass Effect game." Emphasis on singleplayer.
This doesn't mean there will be no multiplayer element. Mass Effect 3 and Andromeda are primarily singleplayer games too, but they still have their (surprisingly solid) wave defence co-op modes.
Mass Effect 5 engine
Mass Effect 5 is reportedly being created in Unreal Engine 5, according to a tweet from known leaker Jeff Grubb. This is corroborated by a job listing from BioWare for an associate tech director, which stated that "BioWare is hiring talented programmers with UE4/5 experience".
This news was almost universally positively received by the Mass Effect community. The original trilogy was developed in Unreal Engine, after which the team shifted over to use the Frostbite Engine for Mass Effect: Andromeda - a decvision which caused a huge number of issues for the development process.
Mass Effect 5 developers
Mass Effect 5 is being developed by one of BioWare's "veteran" teams, under the lead of current BioWare general manager Michael Gamble. Several veteran devs of the original trilogy and Andromeda are also part of the team, including art director Derek Watts, designer Dusty Everman, cinematic director Parrish Ley, and design director Brenon Holmes.
That wraps up our in-depth, partially-speculative look at Mass Effect 5, when we can expect it, and what kind of story and setting it might bring us. Keep this page bookmarked and check back often, as we'll be keeping this guide up-to-date with all the latest info!