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Feature Article

BioWare's Anthem Shows An Exciting New Direction For The Studio

BioWare's big move.

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While playing Anthem, I had to repeatedly remind myself that I was playing a BioWare game. It’s the first new IP from the veteran RPG developer in a decade, and although it falls into that particular style of role-playing and third-person shooter hybrid the studio honed with the Mass Effect franchise, this is the hardest it has leaned into that concept. With Anthem, we're seeing a major shift in what BioWare is capable of. Although it still exhibits some of the studio's role-playing pedigree, it's the vast online open-world that sets Anthem apart.

In the vein of Bungie's Destiny and Ubisoft's The Division, Anthem is a shared-world online shooter focusing on groups of players taking on new challenges and chasing new loot. But in familiar BioWare fashion, your particular Freelancer will make important narrative choices throughout the game's main campaign, altering their relationships with allies and other factions. While this sounds pretty standard, this is all housed within an online world where other players are making similar or conflicting choices in their own story.

As of now, we only know what the story is about in the broad sense: humans on a hostile alien planet, a powerful ancient presence of some form, and major world-altering events. While BioWare wasn't ready to share just how those choices will be reflected in the game for others to see, it did say they'll be surfaced in some form. With that said, the general narrative feels much more of a nebulous concept right now, and I am intrigued to see how the developer will be able to inject that familiar BioWare-style storytelling into Anthem.

During a hands-on session with the game at EA Play, we got to check out one of Anthem's missions while getting a feel for the Javelin exo-suits and their unique powers. We played the Scars and Villainy mission, which took the game's Freelancers on an operation to take out an ancient weapon: a Relic held by the imposing Scar forces--one of the many groups on the planet fighting for control. While this mission was shown during the EA Play press conference, we saw an extended version of it, exploring some of the surrounding areas and fighting against the Swarm Tyrant boss. Though it's usually difficult to get a sense of the game's scale from standard vertical slice demos (as they aim to show a little bit of everything), I was impressed with the sense of scale and verticality--which felt particularly fresh for a BioWare game.

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As Anthem is an action-RPG, you're given a lot of options in how you'll fight against enemies. With a primary weapon, side-arm, and special abilities--like the Ranger's case, Frost Grenades--you'll be able to fly into combat and utilize your skills in quick succession. Coordinating with your team will also open up opportunities to use combination attacks which offer bonus damage to groups of enemies. For instance, you can use the Ranger's Frost Grenade and the Colossus' slam skill together to destroy frozen enemies, which sends shards of ice into surrounding monsters.

I was impressed with how punchy and tactile the shooting mechanics were, which made getting a feel for the new systems fairly easy. While the Mass Effect series had largely serviceable combat--which gradually got better as the entries went on--Anthem shows some major growth on BioWare's part thanks to its fast, responsive combat, which made many of the fights I played thrilling to take part in.

Your Freelancer's most valuable asset is their Javelin exo-suit, which allows them to survive the world's hostile environment. Movement is a core part of Anthem, and each Javelin can use their booster packs to fly through the world and glide underwater at great speed. Regardless of their archetype, each Javelin has a wonderful sense of velocity and mobility while zipping through the air, which recalled some exciting moments from films like Iron Man. While you're not able to fly indefinitely (as your suit's thrusters will overheat) flying through environmental elements like waterfalls will offer instant cooldowns and keep you going for longer distances.

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As you complete jobs, you'll acquire more resources and new gear for the exo-suits. While you'll focus on one Javelin early on, you'll eventually be able to switch over to other suits. So far, Anthem has four unique Javelins: the all-around striker Ranger; the Hulk-like Colossus; the glass-cannon Storm, which uses elemental attacks; and the agile Interceptor. As you can tell, the Javelins are not unlike classes in a traditional RPG, fulfilling those standard archetypes needed to round out a group.

While the mission culminated in a battle against the large Swarm Tyrant boss, who summoned smaller spider creatures and other hazards against the group, the demo ended about halfway through the fight. What's interesting about this battle is that it highlighted the game's focus on online gameplay, as it required a lot firepower to whittle the boss's health down. While the Mass Effect games had online modes, they were single-player games at heart. During the presentation, the developers stated that while players can go solo, they'll eventually come across some fights that will be too challenging to tackle alone.

While there's still plenty we don't know about Anthem--narrative-progression, PvP, and just what the endgame can offer--this brief taste of the game offered a whole lot to look forward to. Though BioWare has already dabbled in the sci-fi space with Mass Effect, Anthem comes off as a major departure for the company, specifically in how it's focusing much more on fast gameplay and dynamic battles. Still, we're eager to hear more about the larger specifics of the game, and just what that means for the bigger picture of Anthem.

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You can read more about Anthem and other news from EA's E3 briefing in our recap of all the announcements from EA Play. For our full coverage of the big event, be sure to visit GameSpot's E3 2018 hub to follow along with all of the biggest news from the show.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Avatar image for tarnalia
Tarnalia

There are no attractive women in this game. They're all ugly wtf?

Avatar image for wagswvu
wagswvu

As for the story component, its going to fail in comparison to their past works on that front. Come on, only have the story component be in the Fort area is going to feel like a bolt on or after thought. What made games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age great was the rich story immersion that drove game-play, from your dialog and choices effecting how world and characters interacted with you. In Anthem, its the multiplayer or shared world that drives the game and not the story. Popping into your fort and getting a quest isn't going to cut it. In the IGN interview, one of the Bioware guys mentions( I'm paraphrasing), "the story is only going to introduce you to the game and the world but then be over, but the story isn't important it's the world we want you to live in". That I think is what sums it up. Anthem might be a good multiplayer game, but it's going to fall flat on story RPG front which is very sad. EA seems to be the place where great game developers go do die.

Avatar image for W4rl0ck
W4rl0ck

R.I.P Bioware You've FAILED this city.

- EA

Avatar image for slypher9
Slypher9

Actually its a do or die for the studio to be honest..

If anthem fails, bioware goes with it. Talk about putting all the eggs in one basket..

Ea will probably sell them or dissolve the studio but ask the really talented guys to stay..

Avatar image for ausgamer85
Ausgamer85

I really hope for local servers, or I have to pass, I cant stand playing over 200ms anymore.

Avatar image for Jasurim
Jasurim

I don't see how any of this is an exciting new direction. They jumped on the hype train of what was popular at the time in the style of Destiny and are making a generic game. They are turning away from what made them stand out from other companies. That isn't exciting to me in the slightest.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

@Jasurim: Right there with you. I’m a huge fan of past Bioware games (for the most part), but this is not doing it for me. I have a feeling this one is gonna get all the hype in the world and then get a 6 from everyone.

Avatar image for Pupchu
Pupchu

Sounds like the average shared-world shooter we see alot nowadays.

Avatar image for firedrakes
firedrakes

wait some one is running their studio for once. wow

Avatar image for TigusVidiks
TigusVidiks

they're making their own destiny look-alike to try and force a financial success. It's easier to expand income by adding shallow action content in that kind of game. But like destiny, don't expect much of a story. There's the bad guys, cool maps, pew pew. Done.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

@Fr0z1ndude: Umm... You’re clearly the one who needs to go back to school. “They’re making their own Destiny” is 100% correct grammar. They’re is a contraction of “they are.” He also used the correct spelling of “their” when referencing the company. This is the funniest thing I’ve seen all day. ?

Avatar image for gamingdevil800
gamingdevil800

@Fr0z1ndude: Ugh what?

"They are making their own destiny."

And

"They're making their own destiny."

Are both correct.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

@gamingdevil800: Lmao. I was thinking the same thing. This was hilarious. ?

Avatar image for VakarianGirl
VakarianGirl

It's Destiny with the home base having some peanuts thrown to the players to make them feel like they actually have some significance. There will be next to no story and next to no character interaction.

Avatar image for nativepixel
NativePixel

@VakarianGirl: So how does the world end?

Avatar image for mogan
Mogan

@nibbin1191: I kinda do. BioWare hasn't made a really great RPG in a while now, I like loot shooters, and I think the biggest thing missing from Destiny is decent story and world building. Anthem sounds like it might be exactly what I'm looking for, and I'd rather BioWare try something new than make another fair-to-middling RPG.

Moderator
Avatar image for lfebaggins
lfebaggins

@Mogan: Its funny that you think Bioware can still make decent stories

Avatar image for mogan
Mogan

@lfebaggins: The actual plot of Andromeda was alright, it's just that all the character and scene writing was awful. And other than Andromeda, I've though BioWare's stories have all been pretty solid.

I don't expect Anthem to have a super complex story driven by player choices, but there's a huge gulf between what Destiny 2's been doing for story (which is very little) and the traditional BioWare story. If Anthem can operate somewhere in that area, I think it could be a good thing.

Moderator
Avatar image for nativepixel
NativePixel

@nibbin1191: keep crying

Avatar image for VakarianGirl
VakarianGirl

@nibbin1191: Correct!

Avatar image for xenomorphalien
XenomorphAlien

Exciting? This screams Destiny. And we all know what that's like.

Avatar image for xenomorphalien
XenomorphAlien

@Fr0z1ndude: If people avoided Destiny they'll likely stay away from this as well. I feel no hype for this game and everywhere I look I see the same result.

Avatar image for ladykelta
LadyKelta

I stand by my belief that this is the game that put DA to sleep and murdered MEA. It looks like every other generic space game out there. I shall run away from it, and hope that someday I will stop crying over the death of Bioware. ?

Avatar image for mogan
Mogan

@ladykelta: Mass Effect killed itself, and when faced with the choice between another Dragon Age or a possible Destiny, I'm sure EA is going to chase the popular game rather than make another entry in a series that's only done alright for the past 6 years.

Moderator
Avatar image for VakarianGirl
VakarianGirl

@ladykelta: When you've stopped crying, let me know how you did it. I haven't yet.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

The employees aren't excited. They're being forced to make something they don't want to make. Hence why so many important people have bailed out of the studio after EA took over.

Avatar image for fishnpeas1
fishnpeas1

If you had to keep reminding yourself you were playing a BioWare game, then you weren't playing a BioWare game. This thing looks like all the worst bits from ME Andromeda with a shiny new coat of paint.

Avatar image for deactivated-5bfc8187829ef

Ea show was so boring i slept middle of it .

Avatar image for deactivated-5bfc8187829ef

What new direction ?? Battle royal or destiny clone??nahh tank you I will never buy ea games.

Avatar image for burnettaj
burnettaj

I'll pass. Thanks anyway

Avatar image for getshwifty94
Getshwifty94

Anthem would be awesome offline, always online = no buy. Overall i was pleased with EA but anthem is a let down

Avatar image for timthegem
timthegem

How much will it cost to unlock certain "perks" such as forward movement and the color red?

Avatar image for deactivated-5bfc8187829ef

ohhh that is the iron man that gamespot ever wanted~!!!LOL

it is another destiny clone who cares honestly ??? only Sony show will help this e3~