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Next Mass Effect said to be 'years away' as new details emerge

Redesigned Mako vehicle to return in fourth series entry; old characters may return

BioWare's next-generation Mass Effect project is years away from completion, according to the game's producer Mike Gamble.

Gamble suggested the game was still in relatively early production during a show-and-tell session at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday.

Mass Effect became one of the most critically acclaimed series released during the previous generation of consoles

Details from Gamble's panel have spread online via a number of games forums, websites and social media accounts, including NeoGAF, The Escapist and NerdAppropriate.

One of the key details is the return of Mako; the polemical vehicle that featured frequently in the first Mass Effect, though was dropped for the second and third games in the series.

The six-wheel Mako was used primarily for reconnaissance on distant planet surfaces, though it carried weaponry for self-defence.

Because the fourth main Mass Effect game will focus on exploration, said Gamble, the Mako is once again a necessary addition. According to a video montage of the project, the next-gen Mako is a zippier vehicle.

We have learned some things about vehicle frustration, Gamble was paraphrased as saying.

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"The animation team is now doing stuff we couldn't even dream about before"

The BioWare Montreal and Edmonton development teams have persistently claimed this game will not be named Mass Effect 4 - a position which Gamble reiterated during is Comic-Con panel.

There are somewhat mixed reports on setting, but the general understanding is the new game will be set in a different galaxy, although it will showcase familiar elements.

Old characters could return too, likely as cameos, as Gamble insisted this was a new story with a new hero. Commander Shepard, the highly customisable hero of the Mass Effect trilogy, will not be central to this story and may not feature at all. (One report of Gamble's panel suggested he claimed the game was set in the same time as Shepard's story, though this has not been confirmed.)

The game's producer was quoted as saying it is part of BioWare's philosophy to give players "as much choice as possible".

New amour designs for the game's protagonist can be customised too.

EA's Frostbite 3 engine was praised too. Gamble was quoted as saying "the animation team is now doing stuff we couldn't even dream about before".

He added that, while competitive multiplayer is important, "cooperation is bigger for us" - a suggestion that the next Mass Effect, much like many other next-generation action games, will build online co-op as a key feature.

It is also claimed that the game's new hero will be connected to N7, the military designation Shepard held before becoming a Council Spectre.

A selection of early off-screen images can be found below.