Mass Effect 2 is out there; it's been officially named, the teaser trailer has released and it's undoubtedly only a matter of time before the second part of BioWare's sci-fi saga is unravelled in full, either on the internet or in magazine land.
Before that though, let's piss in the wind a little and rummage through the interviews and PR blurbs to get an idea about the second game. Possible spoilers ahead then...
UPDATE 23/03/2009: Proper plot details have since been revealed in this news story. Original article follows...
State of the galaxy
Much of Mass Effect 2's setting has already been revealed in the Mass Effect: Ascension book, which bridges the gap between the two games.
After the first game's conclusion and the Citadel's attack lead by Saren and his army of Geth, humans and aliens across the galaxy are stunned by the assault.
As the final pockets of Geth resistance are hunted down and destroyed, the Citadel Council is restructured and the human Alliance Navy is left as the dominant military force in the galaxy, no longer number two to alien fleets.
Ascension's mystery-filled plot concludes with the Quarian race (they're the ones in the breathing masks) deciding to send ships off in search of a new home world outside of Citadel space.
The Quarians, who originally created the robotic Geth baddies in the first game, were kicked off of their original home world when their creations went all Skynet. The Quarians now hope to find a new planet to live on, or possibly discover how to drive the Geth away using an ancient robo Reaper - as Saren did in Mass Effect.
The Ascension book also introduces "The Illusive Man", the mysterious leader of the Cerberus group which appeared briefly in Mass Effect 1 and works non-stop to achieve its goal of making humanity the dominant race in the galaxy.
It's said in the book that The Illusive Man and Cerberus have "many other projects to protect" - plus the group clearly appears on Mass Effect 2's teaser website. So the two are a near-cert to feature in the second game's plot.
The single piece of Mass Effect 'information' released by BioWare has had the entire community in debate ever since.
The debut teaser trailer, if you haven't seen it already, runs down protagonist Commander Shepard's specs and military achievements on a computer HUD. As the camera pans along a rifle and the trademark K7 armour worn by the good commander, we're shocked as the screen flashes 'status: killed in action'. This is followed by a Geth head, which pans up and appears to look down at Shepard's familiar armour.
Has our clean-shaven hero really kicked the bucket? BioWare has already confirmed that you'll be able to carry over character data from the first game into Mass Effect 2, so popular suggestion has obviously pointed to a ruse on BioWare's part. The second game could possibly have Shepard 'going dark' Jack Bauer-style, say forum fans, thus forcing him to fake his own death.
The theory's backed up by the very likely inclusion of the Cerberus group, who aren't happy with Shepard at all after his antics blowing up their research facilities in the first game.