N 7 Day, the annual celebration of all things Mass Effect, is one again upon us, and BioWare is once again teasing the next Mass Effect with codes, encryption, and video clips—but whether or not we'll get any insight into what's actually coming in the next game remains to be seen.
The whole thing started with a message salted into the BioWare's N7 Day announcement: A series of 0s and 1s that fans on Reddit quickly translated into "Epsilon." That led to a site with a countdown, which eventually opened up to a small "Access code: Epsilon" site containing a mysterious tease about an encrypted distress signal from Andromeda.
That's interesting. BioWare has previously indicated that the next Mass Effect won't be a direct sequel to either Andromeda or the original trilogy, but also that there will be some connection with both of them.
At first blush, there's not much more to see. The bit about "they should know by now not to underestimate human [redacted]," for instance, is a direct lift from last year's hidden message, spoken by Liara T'Soni—and unless something has changed, that redacted word is "defiance." That also sure looks like Liara striding purposefully in the five-second video clip embedded in the site.
Fans on Reddit immediately started digging into the teaser site, however, and have already uncovered more. The VJBSVU segment has been translated to "Oculon," which like Epsilon was a pre-release concept name for Mass Effect, and discovered a date, 2819, the year the Arks arrived in the Heleus Cluster in Mass Effect: Andromeda.
And from there we have a secondary site revealing an access code, Oculon-2819-Defiance, and another brief video clip:
There's likely more coming soon—executive producer Michael Gamble teased on Twitter that this is just the first and second "packet," whatever that is—and some fans are clearly having fun tugging at the threads. But I can't shake the feeling that all of this masks the fact BioWare doesn't have much more to say except that yes, the new game is still happening.
Sometimes that's unavoidable, especially with game development timelines as extended as they are these days. But repeated teases without any substance to back them up gets tiresome. We saw the same thing with a Dragon Age: Dreadwolf update from earlier this year, which was really more of a primer on game design than a glimpse at what's coming. It's a tease, yes, but do we really need another reminder that BioWare is in fact still making a new addition to its most popular game series? It makes me think that sometimes, the Bethesda model is really the way to go: Confirm that you're making a game, and then shut up about it until you actually have something to say. To borrow Fraser's reaction to that Dreadwolf teaser, I'm excited that BioWare is doing something new with Mass Effect, but for the love of god it's time to quit horsing around and just tell us something about it.
Ah, but it's also possible that something more substantial is coming. Fans have discovered another countdown site bearing the name Post-Nebula, which is slated to hit zero at 4 pm ET. Will a full reveal of the next Mass Effect follow? Will we finally learn whomst from the crew of the great Normandy will return for the next adventure? Will I have to take back everything I just said about "please quit screwing around and tell us what's going on?" Perhaps, on all counts.
Update: Sadly, the screwing around continues: The Post-Nebula teaser site went live with yet another cryptic message, and a longer—but still very brief—clip of someone dressed in a very stylish N7 coat pulling a gun and striding purposefully out a door into a decidedly unpleasant-looking environment. To some, the assumption that this character is Liara doesn't seem quite so solid now: Why would she be wearing an N7 insignia, given that it's a rank in the Systems Alliance military? But if it's Shepard, why is she masked? Confirmation of a Shepard return would be a huge booster for the next Mass Effect.
On Twitter, Gamble urged followers to "look closely," hinting at something hidden in the video, and of course many did. But a few expressed frustrations similar to mine: If BioWare is serious about winning back the Mass Effect fan base, it's time to put some cards on the table.
And one more update: Gamble shared some new Mass Effect artwork on his Twitter feed. In the hi-res version you can see some sort of club scene featuring aliens of various sorts from the Mass Effect universe, including some from the original trilogy and others from Andromeda. It looks like a higher-class take on the Star Wars cantina scene, and again it's not particularly informative: Yes, there are aliens! From Mass Effect! Maybe there's a secret buried in there that deeply dedicated fans will suss out, but to my eyes it's just another reminder that BioWare is making a new Mass Effect, and beyond that we still don't know anything about it.