Mass Effect: New Earth 4D Experience Brings Epic Sci-fi Action to California’s Great America

It's fair to say that people were initially surprised by the reveal of a brand-new Mass Effect amusement park ride, expecting more news about the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda. Themed attractions at amusement rides have been a staple for quite some time, but the video game-themed ones are usually few and far between. (Another ride is a Plants vs. Zombies shoot-'em-up attraction based in a Great America North Carolina theme park.) But with the launch of Mass Effect: New Earth, the developers at BioWare in partnership with California's Great America aim to create something ambitious and exciting for park visitors.

While at a special press event debuting the ride, many of the key minds behind the creation of the ride from BioWare, Great America, and the engineers and programmers at 3D Live were on-hand for the opening of their new Mass Effect experience. During our visit, we got to spend some quality time with the ride and see just how this dubbed "4D experience" panned out.

Similar to theme park attractions like Back to the Future: The Ride or Star Tours, Mass Effect: New Earth brings visitors on an adventure through new worlds based on the events of Mass Effect 3… while avoiding danger at nearly every turn. After being seated, we put on our 3D glasses and were treated to a quick intro by the ship's captain. On our voyage to Terra Nova, our ship gets caught up in an invasion led by Reaper ships, and the crew of the Normandy (featuring appearances by Wrex and Garrus) have to use the visitor's ship to battle the Reaper threat.

[In a neat reference, the captain's name is actually Conrad Verner, who Mass Effect fans will recognize as "Commander Shepard's Biggest Fan" from Mass Effect 1. So according the canon of the ride, Verner doesn't die in a needless death in the storyline. ~Ed. Nick Tan]

Cosplayers for (male) Commander Shepard and Ashley Williams.

Speaking with Mac Walters, the Creative Director for the Mass Effect series at Bioware, he spoke about living up to fan expectations while working on something so different.

"Whenever we have the opportunity to talk about the franchise, it's clear that it's only going to continue to grow and people are eagerly waiting for what we're going to do next," said the Creative Director. "I was blown away when I saw this ride for the first time. That was one of the things that I loved when working with this franchise. It's exciting to work on a property like this, and getting to meet so many talented people in the field and to bring them together? I love that."

One of the most interesting things about this ride was how immersive it was. I was initially a bit skeptical about all this "4D" talk during the presentation, but I was quite impressed when they had it coming our way during the ride itself. Literally, in some cases. The theater is outfitted with motion seat systems, atmospheric surround sound, and brand new water, air, and smell jets that pump out at specific points during the show. So yes, this is indeed the first time you'll be able to smell a Mass Effect experience.

At one point during a crash landing, our ship was swarmed with bugs, and the air jets at our feet trickled out occasionally to give the sensation of bugs crawling on you, and smell sensors gave an aroma of dirt and grim. It sounds gross, but it was actually pretty cool. [It smelled much like the mulch section of Home Depot… ~Ed. Nick Tan]

The theatre goes dark to focus on our tour guide for the ride.

Just when I was getting really into the ride, it was already over. At about 5 minutes, it's a pretty quick run. And I'd have no doubt that actually getting seated and ready to go will last longer than the experience itself. Still, I had a blast and was very impressed with what I was shown. It looked gorgeous, and it's loaded with fan-service for fans of the series. Set to open to the public on May 18, the first day of Great America's summer season, the talent behind this project have something rather cool in store for fans and newcomers alike.

With the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda in the near future, the minds at BioWare are just as excited about the future of the series as fans are.

"We saw it grow over the course of the trilogy, and it continues to keep growing, which is very exciting for us," said Walters. "And the hardcore fans have been waiting for awhile now for something over the four years, but because of the distance we've had, we were able to freshen things up a bit. Whether that's been working with the Frostbite engine or focusing on the new console generation, all things allow us to do things we haven't been able to do before. And I think that's where the excitement for us comes into play."