Update 5/11/22: On Twitter BioWare product director Michael Gamble referenced the store description mentioned in this article, saying it was a mistake. “The original thing was written by the people who run the store and aren't familiar with the game,” wrote Gamble.
Bioware has been quiet about Mass Effect since the release of Andromeda in 2017, but with a new title on the way, there are plenty of rumors and theories. With that in mind, a new official lithograph released by BioWare could finally give us a crucial hint as to what might happen in Mass Effect 4. The lithograph is of the same piece of art BioWare released when it announced Mass Effect 4, with the words “Mass Effect 4 will continue.” Originally spotted by Youtuber MrHulthen, and reported by VGC, when the lithograph was first put up on the BioWare store the description read:
“While Shepard and the survivors are left to pick up the pieces, fans are left wondering what’s next.”
That description was then later updated to something quite different that read
“The threat of the Reapers might have been ended, but at great cost including Earth itself. While the survivors are left to pick up the pieces, fans are left wondering what’s next.”
The really interesting thing here is that the first description seems to suggest Commander Shepard, the hero of the original trilogy could appear in Mass Effect 4. Shepard seemingly died at the end of Mass Effect 3, sacrificing themselves to ensure one of the three endings happens. However, if you choose the destroy ending there is a very brief scene after the credits that shows Shepard’s N7 chest plate covered in rubble, as the person underneath quickly gasps for breath.
While we don’t quite know when Mass Effect 4 takes place, the trailer does show a seemingly much older Liara. Asari can live upwards of 1000 years, so Mass Effect 4 could potentially take place hundreds of years in the future. That begs the question of just how Commander Shepard would be alive? Considering this is the series that literally killed its hero and brought them back to life, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
Andromeda is set 600 years after the Mass Effect trilogy, with the crew’s body preserved in cryosleep for the voyage. It’s possible that the same technology could be used to preserve Shepard, or potentially some kind of cloning system has been established.
Outside of in-universe reasons, it’s easy to see why BioWare might want to bring Shepard back. The character has always been synonymous with Mass Effect, and the blowback from fans on the ending of Mass Effect 3 left a huge effect on the studio, even resulting in DLC that expanded the ending. The negative reception to Andromeda could be having the same effect as Mass Effect 3’s ending, just on a more prolonged scale, seeing BioWare pivot from their original post-Andromeda plans.
Ultimately, bringing Shepard back may restrict the series more than anything, however, keeping it from trying bold new ideas and characters, which is seemingly what Mass Effect has always been about. For the moment nothing is confirmed, and Mass Effect 4 is likely still at least a couple of years off anyway.