• Mass Effect 4 may bring back Liara T’Soni, hinting at a return of Commander Shepard, but canonical issues may complicate this plot.
  • The absence of Shepard in Mass Effect 4 suggests a need for a new N7 leader to fill the power vacuum left by Shepard’s departure in the Milky Way galaxy.
  • Introducing a new N7 Commander in Mass Effect 4 could provide an interesting narrative opportunity to honor Shepard’s legacy while forging a new path.

There has been much speculation regarding Commander Shepard’s return in Mass Effect 4. While the game’s early teasers offer little in the way of concrete information, they have strongly implied that the game will be set in the Milky Way, not Andromeda, and that Mass Effect mainstay Liara T’Soni may be returning in some capacity. If these details are true, then they may give some hint about certain narrative aspects, including whether Shepard is coming back.

In the 2020 Mass Effect 4 teaser, Liara is shown recovering a piece of N7 armor, which many read as a suggestion that Shepard, being the most famous N7 member, will be making a comeback. This is a fair assumption, but it is belied by some complicated narrative elements. Assuming that BioWare makes canon the Destroy ending, which is the only Mass Effect 3 ending that sees Shepard survive, there’s an issue of location: Liara finds the N7 armor on what appears to be an ice planet, but Shepard loses their armor in London, so it doesn’t make sense for the piece to be in that location. It should also be noted that, as an Asari, Liara can live for hundreds of years, so her return doesn’t necessarily offer much plot insight—the story could take place centuries after Shepard’s death. All of this is to say that, while Shepard could come back, such a development is far from confirmed.


Mass Effect 4 Should Address a Weird Element of the Series’ Romances

Though Mass Effect has featured many great romance stories, the next game ought to shift away from one strange and uncomfortable aspect.

Mass Effect 4: A New Shepard

A Direct Successor to Shepard Seems Like a Good Call for Mass Effect 4

If Shepard is out of the picture, either by way of death or retirement, then they’ll need to be replaced, not just as the protagonist of the Mass Effect franchise, but within the lore of the ME universe; by the end of Mass Effect 3, there are few people in the Milky Way who are more important and influential than Shepard. Without their guidance, the galaxy will most certainly be experiencing a power vacuum, which will need to be sealed by a new leadership figure.

This is obvious, of course—it’s not too much of a stretch to presume that Mass Effect 4‘s protagonist will be a leader akin to Shepard—but the fact that this new protagonist will be replacing Shepard comes with some less obvious strings attached. There’s the question of who exactly will take Shepard’s place, but also how this new position will affect them on a psychological level, as well as how they may be perceived by characters who cherish Shepard’s memory.

A New N7 Commander in Mass Effect 4 Would Make for Interesting Storytelling

Mass Effect Andromeda‘s protagonist doesn’t hold the distinguished rank of an N7 officer, which is fine given that game’s narrative direction, but ME4 may want to walk this decision back and star another N7 operative. This character could either look up to Shepard, aiming to fulfill their legacy, or struggle to get out of the former commander’s legacy. The player could even have an impact on this characterization, deciding if they want to be Shepard 2.0 or a different sort of leader entirely.

If Shepard doesn’t come back, Mass Effect 4 could be put in an awkward position, as it would be straddling the line between honoring the series’ legacy and pushing forward with a new vision. Featuring a protagonist who is similar to Shepard would allow BioWare to take the series’ story down a new path while recontextualizing the previous games in a satisfying and unique way. In other words, Shepard has big shoes to fill, and Mass Effect 4 may be best served by playing with this notion, rather than trying to ignore or absolve it.


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