Recent job listings from Electronic Arts may indicate that BioWare’s Mass Effect series is headed back to the Unreal Engine for the next game in the series, the same framework that was used to build the original three Mass Effect games. More recent BioWare projects, including Mass Effect: Andromeda, have departed from this and instead used EA’s in-house Frostbite Engine. This could be changing moving forward.
The fifth game in the Mass Effect series was first announced during The Game Awards 2020, and since then, little has been shown of the upcoming project. What was gleaned from the teaser trailer seems to indicate that the franchise will be returning to the story and setting of the original trilogy, potentially connecting Commander Shepard’s story with the events of Andromeda. Given the game is still likely in the early stages of development, no in-game footage has yet been revealed.
What does seem probable is that the next Mass Effect game will be departing from many of Andromeda‘s elements. Mass Effect: Andromeda was met with backlash when it was launched, due mostly to visual bugs and weak storytelling. The critical response, combined with the relative failure of BioWare’s other recent title, Anthem, could mean that the studio is looking to change directions when it comes to Mass Effect 5. A visual rework could just be the start.
An EA job listing for Technical Director, as posted earlier this September, specifically lists “experience with Unreal Engine 4+” as an asset. While this doesn’t definitively confirm anything, given the studio is probably still examining its options for the Mass Effect franchise, it does at least indicate that the Frostbite Engine isn’t a guarantee for Mass Effect 5. Although Frostbite arguably saved EA a significant amount of money due to its in-house nature, the visual letdowns in Andromeda may have warranted a second look at how Mass Effect 5 will be built. Other recent EA games, including the successful single-player title Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, have likewise moved away from the Frostbite Engine in favor of Unreal.
Either way, though, full development on Mass Effect 5 is still probably a way off. It appears as though BioWare is currently prioritizing development on Dragon Age 4, which was shifted to being only single-player in early 2021, partially in response to Anthem‘s lack of success. Mass Effect 5 could potentially follow suit, though whether that means anything regarding the game’s engine is difficult to say this early on. Reportedly, Dragon Age 4 is on track for a 2023 release, potentially pushing the next Mass Effect game to 2025 or beyond. By then, EA could even have an all-new in-house engine to utilize, though this remains to be seen as franchise fans await more news of the highly anticipated sequel.