The next Mass Effect game won't feature Commander Shepard or any of his or her crewmates, according to the lead writer for the series, Mac Walters. Shepard — playable as a female or male avatar — was the lead character in Mass Effects 1 through 3, and the focus of the galaxy's fight against the monstrous machine Reapers. Walters told Complex that he and his team at BioWare "agreed to tell a story that doesn't relate necessarily to any of the Shepard events at all, whatsoever," and that although the game had to "feel like a Mass Effect game," it would do so "without the Shepard character or the Shepard-specific companions."

BioWare agreed to tell a story that doesn't relate to Shepard at all

Development duties for the next Mass Effect have shifted from BioWare's Edmonton studio to its Montreal office, and executive producer confirmed the game will use Battlefield's Frostbite engine, but BioWare have yet to clarify any solid story or mechanical details. Walters' statements could point to a game set far before or after the events of the first Mass Effect trilogy, given that the player's actions in those games were so universe-altering that to dodge any relation to them would be difficult in a similar timeframe.

Mass Effect 3's lead writer underestimated the impact its ending would have

Walters also responded to the fan backlash aimed at Mass Effect 3's ending, saying that he and his team didn't fully consider the impact it would have on "certain players," and that they underestimated "how much ownership people would take" over a character they could control directly: a problem unique to videogames. He used Breaking Bad as a spoiler-filled analog to illustrate his point: although fans spent years with both Walter White and Commander Shepard, people watching their adopted character's exploits on TV had no say in what happened to him; those playing a game had "free choice to make all these decisions with a character," leading to an expectation of increased choice in an ending.