November 7, 2022
Those of you with good memories (or who take the time to google these things) will note that this is nearly a direct lift from BioWare's 25th anniversary book, which was released in 2020, but rendered in greater detail than we've previously seen. There's also some text attached to this one, though: “Vacuum-dock Relay Construction Record / Monitoring Station Operated by Green Dagger Ltd. Property of Deepspace Dhow SAV / Ship Captain: Sub-Navarch Soa'Rhal Zhilian-Jones.”
I played and enjoyed the Mass Effect trilogy, but I'm not enough of a committed fan that I can suss out any secrets or surprises in the image. It continues to look like an under-construction mass relay to me, which doesn't tell us much. When the image was first seen two years ago, some fans speculated that the relay could suggest that new locations in Andromeda would be opened for exploration—only the Heleus cluster is available in Mass Effect: Andromeda—or might even be used as a way to return to the Milky Way galaxy.
Gamble actually commented on a spot of that speculation in 2020, although—of course—with no detail, or even to specify which part of it is “wrong.”
The Derek in question is presumably Derek Watts, the original Mass Effect art director, who returned to BioWare to take part in the new project.
Gamble did, however, suggest in a follow-up tweet that this is a mass relay, and that it's going somewhere new:
A most excellent question.December 12, 2020
Now, this is where it gets really interesting. The concept art is old, but as BioWare suggested in its tweet, there's more to it than meets the eye—or the ear, in this particular case. Redditor _baundiesel_ worked some audio magic on the video and discovered a hidden audio message:
“Exactly, the council will be furious, although they should know by now not to underestimate human defiance.”
Our in-house audio enthusiast Tyler Wilde duplicated the effort described by _baundiesel_ and confirmed that the hidden voice track is in there. It sure sounds like Liara T'Soni, one of the high-profile companions of the original trilogy, with Geth sounds in the background. BioWare—or, more specifically, Liara face model Jillian Murray—has previously stated that Liara will return for the new game, but ironically voice actor Ali Hillis was unaware of any such development. Two years later, it seems that either BioWare has found an impressive soundalike, or Hillis has been looped in.
So it's a deeper tease than it first appeared, but even so it's disappointing that we don't have anything more substantial to see at this point, especially since we still don't know much about the next Mass Effect game except that it's happening, may see the return of at least some characters from the trilogy, and will apparently be made in Unreal Engine 5. In case you missed it, here's BioWare's N7 Day tease from 2021, which apparently has “at least five surprises, all of which point to an amazing future in the Mass Effect universe.”
For a closer look at the embedded N7 Day image, here it is in full resolution, but without the animation. To see it in all its glory, click the icon in the upper-right corner: