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Probing the latest Mass Effect 4 leak

Filled with constellation?

A new marketing survey for Mass Effect 4 has leaked online and claims to reveal detailed descriptions of the game's setting, story, missions, online multiplayer and more.

The galaxy map from last E3's teaser. Is this Andromeda?

Originally posted on Reddit, the survey contains countless new details about the untitled Mass Effect sequel. The Reddit poster who revealed the survey has since deleted their account, but it's worth remembering that accurate Dragon Age: Inquisition information previously leaked in the same manner.

So, as is Mass Effect tradition, it's worth probing the survey, comparing its innards with information we've already been told, as well as a few other discoveries uncovered by eagle-eyed fans.

The survey itself reveals its information in categorised chunks, which recipients were asked to rate (likely for the benefit of EA's sales division, to determine which elements should be emphasised during ME4's marketing campaign). Below lies the survey in full, along with our thoughts in text and video form:

THERE MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Next Mass Effect Context:

There's a huge amount of information here, but the paragraph opens with an answer to what is currently the biggest question for Mass Effect fans: how ME4 will relate to the existing game trilogy. Mass Effect 3's ending can leave the Milky Way galaxy in one of several different states, and crafting a canon ending that somehow ties all these together would likely have to handwave a lot of elements or retcon them entirely.

BioWare boss Aaryn Flynn previously said that the developer had "a really cool idea for how we're going to carry on," and - as many fans have suspected - it looks like BioWare will sidestep the matter entirely by setting ME4 beyond the reaches of ME3's ending.

Alliance Recon something something...

This is perhaps the wisest move, although it begs the question to what extent the original trilogy will still be referenced. Regardless, this fits with several things we have seen already, including the new spiral galaxy shown on ME4's galaxy map during BioWare's E3 2014 teaser. Word of a "pathfinder" fits well with BioWare's assurances that this game will return to a focus on exploration and fits word for word with the logo on BioWare's team shirts that it previously gave out to ME4 developers.

Seen right, the clothing shows off an orange logo with the words "Pathfinder Initiative A.R.K.C.O.N". Fans have taken this to suggest an ark-like mission from either the final stages of the Reaper war or shortly after, where the galaxy decides it should probably have a backup option for where to call home. We're betting those first two initials stand for "Alliance Reconnaissance..." something something.

Travel to a new galaxy opens up a whole host of other questions: how is travel to there possible? Once there, how will you travel within the galaxy without Mass Relays? How much will this limit the number of familiar races present? Some sort of long-term cryo sleep has been suggested by fans, as has a new version of the Mass Relays for inter-system travel. Handily, BioWare seems to be relying again on an ages-old alien race - "the Remnant" - so advanced technology could again be traced to them, just as it was to the Protheans and Reapers in the original Mass Effect trilogy. We'll revisit the Remnant in more detail below.

Finally, it's worth noting that the game puts a limit to your exploration on just one sector of the Andromeda galaxy, which also saves other areas for future sequels.

Collect Resources to Fuel your Growth:

Some of this was mentioned above, but a return to resource and schematic-finding, crafting and customisation comes as no surprise. The ability to upgrade your physical abilities is new, such as with an expanded jump, but would also fit with the expanded focus on easy exploration.

This paragraph also lays out how your efforts will feed back into unlocking more areas - which all sounds very much like the Power system in Dragon Age: Inquisition. It's worth remembering that Inquisition shares the same game engine with ME4, and BioWare has spoken of how development of the former has influenced the latter - especially in its new focus on building large, open areas to explore.

BioWare's E3 2014 teaser.

A Capable Crew:

A seven-strong set of squadmates seems a little small compared to other games, but fits with BioWare's recent focus on reducing potential party member counts and a greater focus on the characters themselves. The developer has also given more time to major characters who remain behind while you go off adventuring - not party members, but still central characters and potential love interests (eg. Samantha and Steve in ME3, Josephine and Cullen in Inquisition).

Cora, our first named squadmate, is a biotic - suggesting that even in Andromeda galaxy, combat and powers will remain similar. Our money's on her being an asari.

Your Crew, Your Story:

Look closely and there's the first krogan rendered in EA's Frostbite engine. Is it Drack?

Drack, another squadmate, seems to be travelling with the player separate to the colony ship of his own people, which suggests that the pathfinder initiative is an effort larger than any one specific race (ie. the humans).

A krogan can be seen in the E3 2014 teaser trailer, and the angry horned race remains one of the series' most popular. Each game so far has featured a krogan squadmate (well, if you kept Wrex alive and played ME3's Citadel DLC), so their return in ME4 is not a surprise.

Deployed Strike Team Missions:

Dragon Age Inquisition's cut Keep defence system.

This new mechanic seems similar in part to Dragon Age: Inquisition's war table missions, where you send out resources to complete missions in real-time. The ability to balance resources and keep areas secure also sounds similar to a Keep defense system intended for Inquisition but then cut during production. Inquisition's creative director Mike Laidlaw previously told Eurogamer that this was due to the problems of supporting last-gen consoles, something which ME4 will not have to consider.

Active Strike Team Missions:

This feature mixes the N7 missions from ME3 (which were a similar way of introducing that game's multiplayer maps), although expanded with the ability to hop into other player's games at will. We'll cover the mention of the Khet race further below.

Multiplayer "Horde" Mode:

Hopefully Cerberus will not return.

It's no surprise to see that multiplayer will return to Mass Effect after the success of ME3's player-versus-enemy mode. BioWare has previously said that it was surprised by the PVE offering's success, and it is pleasing to hear that this new mode sounds fairly similar to the old.

Establish Settlements:

Iridium levels high? Let's get mining.

The survey is light on details of the game's overall story, but this is our best guess yet at why you're in the Andromeda galaxy - to find a new home for humanity, just in case a Reaper-sized enemy threat ever threatens the Milky Way again. It's interesting to see the emphasis on finding a home for humanity - suggesting that the game's single-player mode will once again be locked to a human protagonist. BioWare has remained cagey on whether it would offer playable alien races for the game's campaign - despite their popularity in ME3's multiplayer - presumably due to the narrative complexities it might add. This may be our answer.

BioWare has also said that it realised many players got bored with the mining part of ME2. The ability to automatically see your crafting materials refilled over time is a neat addition and response to this.

Dialogue:

BioWare has previously spoken of wishing to expand the opportunities given to players via Paragon and Renegade interrupts. While the survey does not mention the series' good versus evil reputation system, this all but confirms its return.

Seamlessly Travel Through the Next Mass Effect Universe:

BioWare first showed off its new space vehicle in an image from N7 Day 2014, and talked then about how it wanted to smooth the transition from planet to planet. The early E3 2014 teaser footage showed a vastly improved method of cycling through planets in a new solar system. All of this fits with what we know, including the return of the Mako vehicle for on-planet exploration.

A ship (presumably the Tempest) flying through open space in an image from N7 Day 2014.

Customise and Share Your Experience:

This details what you will be searching for. BioWare has previously mentioned the ability to customise your Mako, too.

Importantly, this details more of the two new races named in the survey: the ancient Remnant and the apparently antagonistic Khet. These two major additions fit well with the descriptions of two new alien races that BioWare mentioned back at N7 Day 2014, and which before that were detailed even earlier in the PAX Prime 2013 leak (based off of early discussions between BioWare and a core group of chosen fans, one of which decided to break their NDA).

Back at PAX Prime, a select group of fans were shown concept art for two new alien types - an "ancient, advanced guardian" race with a sci-fi golem-like look and an "arrogant", skeletal race with glowing eyes.

Then, last November, BioWare debuted art of two new homeworlds, one for a peaceful race that lives in harmony with its surroundings and another which is dark, angular and foreboding. It sounds like the Remnant and Khet are their names.

One of two new homeworlds, this presumably belongs to the Remnant.

Khet Outposts:

The other new homeworld, presumably belonging to the Khet.

Drive and upgrade your Mako (land vehicle):

Hundreds of planets sounds like an impressive target, but BioWare has spoken of how it is using the Frostbite engine to build many new areas. The question is - how detailed will these all be? Inquisition's Mike Laidlaw previously told Eurogamer that he was aware fans didn't like some of that game's later, more sparse locations.

BioWare has not responded directly to the leak, although studio boss Aaryn Flynn did post on NeoGAF to correct discussion surrounding the number of colonists needed to repopulate a new galaxy. Perhaps not so strangely, it seemed to be a topic he was well-versed in.

Fans have also since noticed a leading post on Twitter from Chris Wynn, ME4's senior development director. The post, which dates back to January 2015, links to an article on Andromeda. "There must be something awesome there," Wynn concluded.

Here's hoping.

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Tom Phillips avatar

Tom Phillips

Deputy Editor

Tom is Eurogamer's deputy editor. He writes lots of news, some of the puns and makes sure we put the accent on Pokémon.

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