This may come as a surprise but despite all the noise that's been made about it, BioWare has never actually made an official announcement about Mass Effect 2 - until now.
The existence of Mass Effect 2 is no secret. In January it was announced that representatives from BioWare would be discussing the "Iterative Level Design Process of BioWare's Mass Effect 2" at the upcoming Game Developers Conference while a "Platinum Hits" version of Mass Effect for the Xbox 360 included a short documentary about the sequel. The official Mass Effect 2 website has also been plastered with a teaser trailer since late February, implying that despite the defeat of the greatest threat to galactic civilization since the last one, all is not well with Commander Shepard and his intrepid alien goon squad.
Yet it is only today that BioWare has made the official announcement that Mass Effect 2 is, in fact, in the pipe. The second part of the star-spanning RPG trilogy sees humanity facing off against an "even greater peril" than Saren's Geth legions while it continues to seek its place among the races of the galaxy.
"We're going to surpass the extraordinary gaming experience we brought our fans in Mass Effect by delivering intensified combat and expanded weapon options as well as increased depth of planet exploration, all while delivering a powerful, emotionally engaging story," said BioWare Co-Founder Dr. Ray Muzyka. "Mass Effect 2 is shaping up to be an unforgettable RPG-shooter experience, taking players on a non-stop roller-coaster ride filled with stunning plot twists and no-holds-barred action."
New weapon options and "intensified" combat doesn't do much to ring my bell but the promise of improved exploration most certainly does. Mass Effect was an outstanding RPG that was marred only by its surprisingly weak side quests and the virtual worthlessness of random planet-hopping. Most gamers saw the lack of depth outside the main storyline as a minor quibble but for hardcore side-questers looking for some Starflight-style exploration it was a real letdown.
While PC gamers had to wait six months longer to play the original game than their Xbox 360 counterparts (a wait that was, by all reports, worthwhile), Mass Effect 2 will apparently be released for both platforms at or around the same time: BioWare has scheduled the game for release on both systems in early 2010.