Since the series brought its tale of Commander Shepard to a (highly divisive and controversial) close, fans have been eager to see what was next for the Mass Effect series. BioWare had promised to bring something genuinely new, not seeking to continue its existing story, cast, or even timeline - instead, launch the series into a new time and place, with a brand new hero, or heroine.
The first official glimpse of just what they're bringing has been offered, with the announcement trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda, a next-gen adventure set, as the name implies, in a far off galaxy. Channeling the Old West frontier, sci-fi cowboy heroics, and the gunplay and action fans have come to expect, Andromeda's first details confirm that it's a new and, hopefully, baggage-less step for the franchise.
The trailer was unveiled today during EA's media briefing as part of E3 2015, not long after other veteran franchises showed what the new generation of game hardware will make possible. BioWare didn't shrink from the challenge, using the trailer to tease the game's environments and visual ambitions more than an explicit story. With worlds ranging from volcanic landscapes to dune seas and lush gardens of Eden, the scope of Andromeda is what's meant to impress and get fan excitement building.
As for the story: the studio's General Manager Aaryn Flynn offered a brief tease via BioWare's official website:
While we aren’t ready to go into too many details just yet, as you saw in the trailer and can tell by the name, this game is very much a new adventure, taking place far away from and long after the events of the original trilogy. You will play a human, male or female, though that’s actually not the character you saw in the trailer (more on that later). You’ll be exploring an all-new galaxy, Andromeda, and piloting the new and improved Mako you saw. And through it all, you will have a new team of adventurers to work with, learn from, fight alongside of, and fall in love with.
We built this trailer in Frostbite™, our game engine, and it represents our visual target for the final game. We are thrilled by what we’ve already been able to achieve in bringing Mass Effect to Frostbite and by putting our entire focus on PC and current gen consoles. With the time remaining in development, we’re excited about the possibility to push things even more.
There are sure to be those who refuse to get too excited by a cinematic trailer these days, but even if it's better to be safe than sorry, BioWare has established their goals and trademark style when it comes to open-world RPGs. The first Mass Effect proved a love letter to classic science fiction, spending as much time on characters, romances, and sidequests as its core campaign. As the trilogy progressed, those elements were removed in favor of a streamlined shooter, only to be added for Mass Effect 3 - and then added again post-release - following fan complaints.
The company made it clear years ago that Dragon Age: Inquisition would represent their RPG titles going forward, with a shared foundation in the Frostbite Engine. Inquisition released to critical acclaim, centered largely on its larger, sprawling environments. Where both franchises had previously traded large, traversable locations for confined, repeated templates, Inquisition straddled the line, allowing players to travel between several massive environments. Ideally, the same can be expected for Andromeda, with alien worlds able to be explored in the new-and-improved Mako (seen tearing down a sandy slope in the trailer).
The future of the Mass Effect brand on the big screen has slowed significantly, despite its cinematic presentation and the renewed interest in sci-fi blockbusters. That certainly wasn't helped by Mass Effect 3's story-based controversy, and it's hard to know if Andromeda can address the core challenges of a Mass Effect movie. But if this game achieves the studio's goal of breaking new ground, and proves a success with the masses and the hardcore fans, it certainly can't hurt the franchise's chances of a live-action adaptation.
What do you think of this first trailer? Are you excited to see a new setting and time for the next Mass Effect adventure, or were you hoping to continue the tale of Commander Shepard's crew, if not the hero himself? Sound off in the comments.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is coming Holiday 2016.