Mass Effect 5's intriguing relay footage has my mind reeling

Mass Effect 5
(Image credit: BioWare)

"We’ve intercepted some strange footage from one of the monitoring stations in known space," Mass Effect 5 project director Michael Gamble writes at the close of BioWare's N7 Day (opens in new tab). "It could be nothing, but…", Gamble teases… but if there's one thing we do know, it's certainly not nothing. The footage shows the image of some kind of new relay, and it's already got my mind racing. In fact, the text in the corner reveals that what we're looking at is a "Vacuum dock relay construction record". And just to heighten the intrigue, this isn't the first time we've seen this image. 

It's always an exciting time to be a Mass Effect fan on November 7. The date marks N7 Day, an annual occasion that brings the Mass Effect community together to celebrate the beloved RPG series with BioWare. It's been especially thrilling in recent years thanks to the announcement of Mass Effect 5 back in 2020. As a result, there's an exhilarating energy surrounding the day as the community comes together to theorize on the direction of the next adventure. Last year, for example, BioWare released an intriguing poster that had fans everywhere picking it apart for any clues (such as the presence of the Geth). And now, with this image, that very same buzz is back – I can't wait to see what the community comes up with to prove this "strange footage" very much isn't "nothing". ;

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Interestingly, this isn't the first time Gamble has shared this image online. A photo of concept art surfaced on Twitter from user Shionbi that was taken from the book, BioWare: Stories and Secrets from 25 years of Game Developer. The art just so happened to be the very same relay shared in today's blog post, except it doesn't feature any of the text featured in the corner. Shinobi speculated that the "MR7" designation on the structure could indicate that it's a new Mass Relay (i.e. Mass Relay 7). Gamble followed up with a clearer image of the art and also claimed that Shinobi is "wrong in his speculation". While the text in the bottom corner does refer to a "relay", it sounds as if it's not a Mass Relay as we know them in the previous games, but instead a new type of "Vacuum-dock relay" in known space.

Andromeda and the Milky Way  

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But rather than speculating on how it might work, perhaps the more important question is where will it lead? And why was it made? There's still a lot of questions surrounding the direction of the story of Mass Effect 5, but it makes the most sense to me that they might try to tie or link together the Mass Effect trilogy with Mass Effect Andromeda by taking us to both the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy. Could this curious relay help us navigate between the two galaxies? The initial announcement trailer referenced "Ark 6", which makes me think it could be referencing the missing Keelah Si'Yah Quarian ship that had several other alien species on board - which was intended to be explored as a DLC in Mass Effect Andromeda. Not to mention the fact that we see two galaxies in the trailer.

It may also refer to the Nexus, but the fact that the trailer appears to take us through the history of the series so far in short snippets suggests that Andromeda, or at least the events of it, may play a part in Mass Effect 5. Of course, it's still difficult to know when Mass Effect 5 will be set, especially given that the only recognisable presence we know about for certain is an aged Liara who can live for 1,000 years.

The text 

Mass Effect 5

(Image credit: BioWare)

The first thing that draws the eye on the image is the text in the bottom left corner. It appears to show information about the footage record we're seeing, including the name of a ship captain – Sub-Navarch Soa'Rhal Zhillian-Jones. I've yet to work out if it follows the naming conventions of a particular race in the Mass Effect universe, but I can't help but dwell on the name and wonder at its significance. You also have to wonder why it's being monitored specifically – especially given that we can see SA in the bottom corner which likely refers to Systems Alliance. Honestly, the text raises more questions than answers, but I can't wait to see what the community can draw from it. 

Interestingly, in the image we can also see the relay above a planet with water on its surface. We can also see several small ships near and around the relay, with several appearing to aid in its construction. Since Mass Effect 5 was first announced, the community has come alive with neat theories and ideas about the next Mass Effect game. This strange footage will no doubt bring more to the surface and I know I'll be busy thinking about what it all means for days to come. 


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