Mass Effect 4 Merch Has Fans Talking About Commander Shepard’s Return

Mass Effect 4 Merch Has Fans Talking About Commander Shepard’s Return
Screenshot: EA

If there’s one thing Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard has earned, it’s some goddamned rest.

Over the past 24 hours, flavour text for a promotional product, as spotted by a YouTuber, sent fans into a tizzy of speculation that the galactic hero would be returning in some sort of new adventure. But the fan-favourite role-playing series’ project director quickly put the rumours to rest, to which I can only say: Good. Bringing Shepard back is an abjectly terrible idea.

Though the main Mass Effect trilogy culminated in 2012 — and its follow-up, Mass Effect: Andromeda, came out to middling reception five years later — BioWare’s seminal series of bang-an-extraterrestrial RPGs is in the midst of a resurgence. The developer teased the “next Mass Effect” at the 2020 Game Awards. Though details are slim, it purports to connect the threads between Andromeda and the core trilogy. That announcement was followed by last year’s Mass Effect Legendary Edition, a 4K-resprayed compilation of the original trilogy, plus like 99.99% of its DLC, which resurfaced its operatic narrative in cultural consciousness.

And if there’s one thing our collective replays drove home — Ah, sorry, one sec…

Spoilers follow for Mass Effect 3, 10 years old as of this year.

Ahem. As I was saying, if there’s one thing our collective replays drove home, it’s that Commander Shepard’s story comes to a definitive end. For many, that means Shepard meets perhaps the most definitive end: death.

Most of Mass Effect 3’s story focuses on Commander Shepard’s last-ditch effort to defeat the encroaching army of Reapers, a collective of sentient machines who roam the galaxy every 50,000 years and eliminate all traces of moderately intelligent life. At the end of Mass Effect 3, though there are various endings, you’re given a series of broad choices as to how you defeat the threat.

One choice allowed you to destroy all synthetic life in the galaxy, including the Reapers. Another allowed you to subsume them under your control. A third, available only if you did enough side-questing, gave you the option to fuse all synthetic and organic life. (Post-release DLC infamously added a fourth potential ending, which allowed you to simply blow up the Catalyst, condemning the galaxy to death.) All are available in Legendary Edition, and all show Commander Shepard making that ultimate sacrifice (y’know, death). But if you manage to get to a maximum “military readiness” score — meaning you basically did all of the side-questing, and the collect-a-thons — you’d see a cutscene of Shepard taking in a single breath.

Since-deleted text for an N7 Day poster sold on BioWare’s store suggested that the hard-to-achieve, 3.4-second long cinematic was canon. (N7 Day is BioWare’s annual fan celebration of the Mass Effect series.) As pointed out in a recent video by MrHulthen, a YouTuber who specialises in covering Mass Effect, the flavour text initially read: “While Shepard and the survivors are left to pick up the pieces, fans are left wondering what’s next.”

That text was revised — see if you can spot the difference — to “The threat of the Reapers might have been ended, but at great cost including Earth itself. While the survivors are left to pick up the pieces, fans are left wondering what’s next.” And currently, the poster’s product page doesn’t contain any reference to plot details regarding Mass Effect.

Representatives for EA, which publishes Mass Effect, did not respond to a request for comment. Mike Gamble, Mass Effect’s project director, said on Twitter that the original text mentioning Shepard’s survival was put out in error. But if it’s even the barest indication of what the next Mass Effect is about, the potential ramifications are flummoxing, to say the least.

I mean, if Commander Shepard truly makes a comeback, does that mean time travel is in play? After all, if this new game is meant to connect to Andromeda, which takes place six centuries after the events of the main trilogy, the narrative would need to do something to bridge the gap in time. Or, oh, maybe there’s a multiverse thing going on, though I certainly hope not; we’re already at peak cultural multiverse fatigue, and I can’t imagine such sentiment subsiding by the time the next Mass Effect comes out. (The next game does not have a name or a release date.)

Given that we know next to nothing about the plot of the next game at this point, I suppose it’s impossible to rule out the laziest of all worlds: that Shepard actually survived getting disintegrated in an incandescent flash of heavenly blue light, or disintegrated in an incandescent flash of heavenly red light, or disintegrated in an incandescent flash of heavenly green light, or, uh, trampled by an ageless species of intergalactic machines who are strong enough to level cities.

Read More: Everyone Makes The Same Choices In Mass Effect, Apparently

But all speculation is, ultimately, beside the point. The return of Commander Shepard would likely come as a disappointment to fans — it would essentially do away with the entire thrust of the original trilogy, whose appeal was predicated on making tough choices at key narrative moments, of living with the consequences, and seeing the ramifications all the way through to the finale. That finale was pretty damn definitive. Fans have had a decade to let it gestate. There’s no reason to rewrite that history.

Plus, c’mon, if there’s any supposedly dead character who should make a comeback, it’s not the good commander (who, again, has seriously earned some peace and quiet 10 times over). It’s Thane.



  • I don’t want Shepherd to return, I just want a damn sequel to Andromeda, the game sets everything up for a great and expansive sequel the same way ME1 did for ME2.

    • Absolutely this.
      It undeniably had issues (some big), but it was a really really solid base to build off imo.
      Gameplay was amazing, the design of crew interaction was fantastic in both scope and method (sometimes let down by weaker characters/dialogues), exploration felt good (even if some of the worlds were kinda meh).

      And story was fairly cool, Benefactor and it actually being an escape from the reapers gave it its own internal intrigue and the remnant/kett setup made for outside trouble and mystery. It wasn’t fantastically executed overall, but i liked the two streams of story that were going and think they could have been quite interesting.

  • I will play as many Shepard games as there are, because Jennifer Hale is brilliant. My laziest take on it is that the aftermath of the Reaper invasion sufficiently advances tech so that travel from the Milky Way to Andromeda becomes faster, and the Normandy can get there. Won’t Ryder be in for a surprise?

    The cynic in me says that this leak, whether deliberate or not, will be monitored to see what the fan reaction is to having a Canon World State, and/or to get the idea out there so long before anything meaningful is announced that the shock will have worn off for the people who will care about it the most.

  • Destroy ending chads win again.

    Plus its realistically the best/easiest ending to be followed up on, even ignoring the shepard potential.

    My crackpot theory/idea that builds from a fairly common one.
    In the rebuild after the war, studies/experiments on mass relay tech are going on. Something goes wrong during a test for intergalactic scale mass relay test causing timey wimey stuff. A group from milky way is sent to and stuck in Andromeda, ages in the past and end up starting a new civilisation. This group eventually becomes ‘the remnant’.
    Whether something they make or a symptom of their timey wimey stuff the scourge appears and starts “attacking” as it was shown in Andromeda (game).
    Kett really kick off their conquering and conversion in response to this attack on their galaxy.

    Liara (plus shep and rest of team if thats how it goes) are sent through/get sucked into said timey wimey stuff and are sent to andromeda, plan to fix things, but somehow their travel hasnt taken them back in time its sent them to around the time of Andromeda (game) and they join together to work out whats the deal with everything going on inside the andromeda initiative, what happened with the mass relay and the scourge it has eventually caused, plus how do they stop the kett from fully converting the galaxy and then beginning war against the milky way for its perceived first strike.

    I think this simultaneously sounds fun and a decent way to join the 2 series of games (as others have said of similar theories) and also seems like straight C tier dollar bin sci-fi movie. So its more of a rough outline that actual writers should fix, haha.

    I think if it does go this way (something along this similar trajectory lots of people have thought up atleast) i’d prefer if only 1 or 2 of sheps team showed up, Liara and 1 other, it should be set a decent bit after ME3, where they have all had time to recover a bit, live some of ana actual life and are back into regular stuff. Research in Liaras case, maybe Tali is helping on the tech too, maybe garrus is a security guard for the project or Liara personally etc etc.
    But having all the team would feel way too fan wanky and i think they really got a good send off with Citadel DLC, dont need them all dragged out for more.

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