Mass Effect 4 focuses on exploring the stars (but don’t call it that)

BioWare shared some of the first concrete details about Mass Effect 4 — and reiterated once again the “Mass Effect 4” is NOT the title — during its panel at 2014’s Comic Con International in San Diego. The big takeaway from producer Mike Gamble is that the game is focused specifically on exploration and, to that end, the first Mass Effect‘s Mako rover makes a return.

Note that all details shared here come from a NeoGAF post that compiles tweets from The Escapist’s Andrea Rene, NerdAppropriate, and author Elizabeth Briggs. Take note before you read further that all of this amounts to secondhand information culled from multiple sources. Certain details may be inaccurate.

The Mako, which you can see in early prototype form alongside other previz looks at armor and environments in the video below, is said to be a speedier vehicle than its much-maligned predecessor from the first game. It’s also a pure conveyance, with no cannon or other armaments for defending itself. As for the exploration component, Gamble’s explanation brings to mind Star Trek‘s “five-year mission” of charting deep space.

There’s some suggestion that the game’s story is set during the lifetime of the original trilogy’s protagonist, Commander Shepard, though that wasn’t explicitly stated. Some panel attendees also seemed to gather that the next Mass Effect game is set in a completely different galaxy. Gamble did confirm that the new protagonist is human, but didn’t discuss any other races.

This is pure speculation from the perspective of someone who didn’t attend the panel, but given the way Mass Effect 3 ended — the post-credits scene specifically — it’s possible (light spoilers ahead) that the game picks up well after the events of the original trilogy. We already know from the events of ME3 that Shepard’s story carries forward through the ages, so that character could still be a readily referenced name in a story set well after his or her time.

The coming game’s exploration focus also makes sense if you follow this line of thinking, since the events of ME3 effectively leave humanity cut off from the galaxy it had once so thoroughly explored. If the new Mass Effect picks up in the post-Shepard era at a time when humanity has once again figured out how to venture beyond the known solar system, the voyage of discovery makes sense. (end spoiler talk)

Blame the hazy details on the fact that this game is still “years” away from being ready. Gamble didn’t share any other concrete details, though it does sound like cooperative play will return in some form after its Mass Effect 3 debut as the Galaxy At War wave-based survival mode.

Here’s a video from The Escapist showing off some snippets of what was revealed during the panel.

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