After an otherwise quiet N7 Day celebration for Mass Effect fans, BioWare revealed one brilliant tease for the next entry in its space opera saga.
On the surface, this is a top-down shot of an impact crater, with a very Mass Effect-y ship parked right below. Four figures appear to have exited the vessel to approach the impact site and a piece of debris in front.
First off, let's take a look at that impact site. The whole shape of the image seems deliberately designed to look like the head of a geth (and indeed, that debris in front of the crater to the right appears to be a geth corpse lying on its side).
The object in the centre of the crater looks metallic, and may have markings engraved upon it. Is this a crashed ship, or some massive galactic bullet hole left over from an ancient war? And why does the centre look so fresh - has it been recently excavated?
Zooming in on the figures in front of the ship, it's clear from their shape that one is a krogan. The krogan's armour is red, which some fans have taken to suggest this is Wrex. Could the timing work? Krogan can live up to 1000 years, so yes, though this would mean BioWare picking a canon choice where Wrex survived the trilogy.
It's hard to make out the other figures, but their armour designs seem to have the white, blue and grey-coloured armour as the Pathfinders/Andromeda Initiative. Hmm...
Moving on to the ship, this is clearly a new design not seen before in the series - albeit one which is reminiscent of the Normandy and Tempest. Previous art teases have shown a smaller and more rugged-looking vehicle BioWare has dubbed the "Mudskipper". It is clear this is not it.
The suggestion, then, is that this is the main ship players will get to play around with in the next game - perhaps later on after acquiring a bit more freedom. Can this also traverse the space between galaxies to allow hopping between the Milky Way and Andromeda? Perhaps not without some other technology, but it seems much better suited to the job than the Mudskipper we saw before.
Zooming in we can see what look like guns mounted to the front of the new ship - interesting, since Tempest was much more of a scout vessel, and because this game is ostensibly set in the post-Reaper war era. Huh, you mean this isn't a time of galactic peace?!
Finally, the ship is emblazoned with the letters "SFX" - similar to how the Normandy was "SR1", which stood for Special Reconnaissance 1. As Mass Effect superfan Shinobi pointed out, this is likely a nod to the original codename for the first Mass Effect within BioWare: SFX.
Some fans also see another body on the crater's rim:
So what happened here? Were the geth investigating this crash site, long before the SFX ship turned up? And why are we returning to the geth now, after their story with the quarians was wrapped up?
Perhaps this ties into what we learned the geth were up to as a precursor to the events of Mass Effect Andromeda: that they were using Mass Relays as giant telescopes to peer into neighbouring galaxies - and knew more about the universe than they had previously let on. Last year's teaser trailer heavily implied that the game's story would feature elements from both galaxies - perhaps this is what Liara and her team are now investigating.
Did the geth also see something else while they were peering around the Mass Effect universe? Something which now threatens both the Milky Way and Andromeda? And will we see geth back alive, or will BioWare canonise the trilogy's Destroy ending?
All we know for certain of the next Mass Effect is that it will deal with the game's universe long after the events of the Reaper war - when Liara is older - and therefore when many other characters from the original trilogy are no longer around.
BioWare is keeping things pretty vague, but then there's still plenty of time before we see this game release. The next Mass Effect, whatever it ends up being called, is not expected to launch until some time after Dragon Age 4 - which is itself not expected for at least another year.
In the meantime, earlier this year I sat down with Mass Effect exec Mac Walters to discuss the making of Mass Effect 3 - and how his team brought Shepard's story to a close. It's a chat with details on a scrapped Reaper boss and some early plans for missions which got switched during production.