November 7 marked two important milestones for Mass Effect. It falls in the same month as the first release of Bioware's sci-fi role-playing game series, which came out on November 20, 2007, giving fans a good excuse to celebrate its anniversary. And, more importantly, it can be contracted as N7, an alphanumeric designation belonging to elite soldiers within the game, like protagonist Commander Shepard. For years now, November 7 has been a celebration of all things Mass Effect, a time for news, announcements, and excitement all around.
But this N7 day kind of sucked.
"I swear, if they don't announce a remaster of the trilogy tomorrow, I'll cry," said one fan on Twitter on November 6. They'd better pull out the tissues. Yesterday's N7 brought nothing but a video of people reflecting on the making of Mass Effect, the addition of two character classes to Mass Effect Andromeda's multiplayer, an interactive web tool for nostalgic fans, and of course, some new wallpapers. Fans collectively sighed.
"Kind of a melancholy N7 day this time around isn't it?" asked StrngBrew in what became the Mass Effect subreddit's top comment under its "Happy N7 Day" post.
"We have to be at the lowest point in the history of this series with seemingly nothing new on the horizon. All today has done was serve to remind me of that. Bummer!"
Ever since the release of Andromeda, whose tepid reception and depressed sales led BioWare to scale down the studio that had worked on it, things haven't been right in the Mass Effect Universe. As Kotaku has reported, the series is on ice.
We may see more Mass Effect in the future, but right now, BioWare is focusing on other projects.
Image credit: BioWare
In all fairness, Andromeda wasn't bad, it just wasn't as iconic or memorable as the games which spawned it. I've been slowly tying up loose ends in its galaxy ever since launch and have come to appreciate its solemn, uninhabited worlds and the farmer-like patience it requires to cultivate them.
Nothing in the game was as memorable as Mass Effect 1's main villain Saren though, or the diverse crew of friends and allies you recruit in Mass Effect 3. And whatever people's complaints of the end of Mass Effect 3, well, you got to spend the entire game fighting skyscraper-sized alien cyborgs. Enough said.
Trawling through comments on the subreddit, forums, and Twitter, these were the types of memories most people looked back on or shared fan art of. It's not surprising then that with the series currently on hiatus, most fans were still hopeful, and would have been jubilant over, some sort of port or remaster of the Mass Effect trilogy on current-gen consoles.
The first Mass Effect had some basic designs, but I bet those skyboxes would look pretty amazing on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.
Sadly, it was not in the cards. Over the course of a seven-and-a-half minute video, the series' designers, including director Casey Hudson (who is now the studio's general manager), looked back on what Mass Effect has come to mean to them and fans in its now-10-year history.
"We started off with a grand vision, and as we went through it was amazing to see all of those dreams actually fulfilled," said senior art director Derek Watts towards the end. If that sentiment might have seemed a bit final, another developer off-screen added in a voice over, "The future of Mass Effect I think is really bright. People just want to know more about this place and these characters."
When people will get the chance to do that in game form remains unclear. Rather than announce something concrete, Casey Hudson recently on Twitter teased the idea of a short VR travel experience based somewhere in the Mass Effect universe.
"Was thinking about how cool it would be to see Mass Effect's Citadel in VR," he wrote. "What gaming location would you most want to experience in VR?" Whether that ever materialises or not, it's hard to see when BioWare's next opportunity to expand the series will be given the planned late 2018 release of Anthem, its brand new, Destiny-like space shooter.
Instead, fans will have to settle for re-living their experiences from the original trilogy in the Tapestry, a new online tool the company rolled out for N7 day that lets players revisit and toy around with the complex, interconnected web of choices that played out across those games.
For fans of Andromeda, there's always Mass Effect: Annihilation, a novel out June of next year that attempts to answer questions about the missing Quarian ark many thought might get explored in single-player DLC that never came.
But it just won't be the same.