A mass relay to a neoteric galaxy necessitates a substantial return to form, early developments on Mass Effect 5 shows. An Electronic Arts job listing for Technical Director dated September 1 requires interested applicants to have sufficient working experience on the Unreal Engine 4 or higher, implying an inevitable switch from EA’s Frostbite game engine to Epic’s Unreal. Writer Jeff Grubb confirmed the find on VentureBeat on Friday.
The original Mass Effect trilogy was developed using Unreal Engine. BioWare made the shift to EA’s proprietary Frostbite engine for the standalone reboot Mass Effect: Andromeda to skip on licensing costs, but the transition from Unreal to Frostbite wasn’t without problems. Andromeda, which released on eighth-generation consoles and PC in 2017, suffered environmental glitches and shoddy animation sequences. The issues were most evident in Anthem, a later BioWare exclusive, which featured NPCs uncharacteristically frozen in place, unlike the Mass Effect trilogy’s more dynamic background characters. Anthem also used Frostbite. Sources close to VentureBeat assert BioWare is going all-in with Mass Effect 5; everything is reportedly “on the table when it comes to tech.”
The studio announced Mass Effect 5 in December during last year’s The Games Awards. Check out the teaser trailer here:
The Mass Effect 5 announcement trailer depicts the ever-changing universe in a perpetual state of expansion. As the camera pans dramatically into a bird’s eye view of existence, Orson Welles muses in a haunting voiceover, “We know now that in the early years of the 20th century, this world was being watched.” The line is derived from the playwright’s seminal 1938 radio broadcast based on The War of the Worlds by science fiction author H.G. Wells, and provides an excellent backdrop for the futuristic setting of the Mass Effect series. As the view sinks into the heart of a nebula, revealing teeming galaxies and a molecular cloud giving way to a functioning star system, audiences are taken on a test jump through space exploration’s foundational firsts. From the Apollo missions to actual events in Mass Effect history, players bear witness to the series of coincidences that adequately set up what’s to come in Mass Effect 5.
Mass Effect 5 teases humanity’s first contact with extraterrestrial lifeforms, some more propitious than others. Mankind’s war with the militaristic reptilian Turians predates Earth’s alliance with the Council. Audiences are then shipped on a mass relay, sending us thousands of light years away into a looming graveyard for starships; debris blocks our view of the stars as transmissions scour the abyss for signs of visible life. A battle is in progress and contact is soon lost in the aftermath. The broken pieces of spacecraft are in fact destroyed relays — Prothean artifacts capable of interstellar travel. The Mass Effect series owes its name to these mass relays, technological remnants of an advanced precursor civilization that no longer exists.
The Mass Effect 5 scene converges on an alien planet one minute in as a small vessel descends into a wintry expanse. A figure in a thick overcoat braves a torrential snowstorm only to reach the pinnacle of a hill; she discovers the remains of a battlefield, hundreds of dead Reapers, and armor belonging to one Commander Shepard, the human protagonist of the original Mass Effect trilogy. Their equipment is distinguished by the N7 emblem, a vocational code in Earth’s System Alliance space force for which Shepard works. The hood of the stranger’s coat then billows back in the wind to reveal series mainstay Liara T’Soni — decades after her last appearance in Mass Effect 3. An Asari researcher specializing in Prothean culture, she dons her mother’s clothes and has aged significantly. Her crewmates can be seen in the distance, accompanied by the Mudskipper.
The plot specifics of Mass Effect 5 remain a mystery, but the teaser does offer some clues. The game is set in two galaxies at once — Milky Way and Andromeda — and occurs between the third entry and the fourth. This allows developers to bridge a connection between the events of Mass Effect: Andromeda and Commander Shepard’s adventures without having to sacrifice what made both iterations work. Liana and her crew are major characters in Mass Effect 5, and the story seems to involve a broken relay and life after Shephard’s war against the Terminator-esque Reapers. The latter forms the bulk of the original trilogy, while the reboot-sequel explored an alternate Mass Effect in Milky Way’s neighboring Andromeda galaxy.
More importantly, the announcement video boasts state-of-the-art visuals reminiscent of the first three Mass Effect, which may already point to an unanticipated change in game engine. Mass Effect 5 is still in early development stages. A live-action Mass Effect adaptation is on the way.