BioWare has hinted that Mass Effect 4 will not relate to any of the events of the Commander Shepard story which ran through Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3.
The developer has made no secret that Mass Effect 4 is in pre-production, but in an interview with Complex lead writer Mac Walters spoke about how the team was looking to develop the series without Shepard. "Well, I can't get into details, but the idea is that we have agreed to tell a story that doesn't relate necessarily to any of the Shepard events at all, whatsoever."
Walters added that Mass Effect 4 can't feel like a spin-off, but that the game needed to accomplish that without Shepard or their companion characters. "Beyond that, that's what we've been deciding for awhile. But throughout it all, one of the key things is that it has to be Mass Effect. It can't just feel like a spin-off. It has to feel like a Mass Effect game at its heart, at its core. Just without the Shepard character or the Shepard-specific companions."
The developer also looked back on how the reaction to Mass Effect 3's controversial ending has developed over time. "It's been 18-19 months since it came out and my thoughts on it are that we addressed it the best we could in the extended cut. We're obviously not going to be changing anything now. We're only going forward."
"And I think that's one of the things we really underestimated, which was how much ownership people would take over a character that they could do that. You know, you've been given free choice to make all these decisions with this character, with the fates of millions of people, and then, you don't get to choose your own fate."
"I'm not saying that our decision was wrong or right. I think we just underestimated the impact that would have on certain players. To be fair, I get people, especially at the Cons, who will say, 'I loved it. It was heart-wrenching, but I felt it was right for my Shepard.' And to me, that's why it was the right path. But because there was no choice, it was going to be right for some people, and for others, in the middle, and other people were obviously very upset about it. In hindsight, I don't think there was anything we would have changed about that, but it is a really good lesson learned."
BioWare's next game will be Dragon Age: Inquisition, which will be released later in 2014.