Hands On With Anthem

Anthem is a game that has been utterly shrouded in mystery. From its development cycle to what is planned for a post-launch release, Bioware Edmonton’s newest creation has been a complete enigma up until its first demo several weeks ago. Even looking at its official social media pages, its hard to discern what the final form of Anthem is truly intended to be, with little focus on showcasing the game’s systems. Even now, after the first leg of its public demo, the discussion surrounding Anthem is more based on the failings of the demo than what the game actually is.


Developed by Bioware and published by Electronic Arts, Anthem is an always-online MMO-lite shooter in a similar vein of Destiny 2 and features a persistent open world with drop-in-drop-out co-op gameplay. While there are certainly comparisons to be drawn between Bungie’s MMO shooter and the newest addition to the Bioware catalog, each game exists in its own circle of influence and certainly stands on its own.

On the planet of Bastion, Elder Gods once shaped the world with great machines and a force known as the Anthem of Creation. A wild and untamed elemental force, the Anthem and its melodies could create life from inanimate objects while shaping the world at its whim. Long before the rise of humanity, these gods left, leaving their relics and instruments behind on a volatile world. Now these powers threaten the very land of Bastion, and heroes have risen to meet them. Known as Freelancers, these contract-soldiers take flight in their Javelin mech suits to defend humanity from threats based on the Anthem, and those that encroach from within the very ranks of humanity itself.

This, in my opinion, is one of the more interesting and under-utilized narrative conflicts that we just haven’t seen in western game development over the last decade. Too often do we see heroes backed against a wall by an unseen or omnipotent enemy force, when sometimes the best opposition can come from nature itself. Anthem certainly has that on full display at its onset with the melodies of Bastion ripping horrific monsters into being in an instant or glassing a plain with savage licks of fire. However, this quickly turns into the introduction of a big-bad villain who attempts to weaponize the Anthem and things quickly begin to hit a tired story beat.

The narrative of Anthem is, oddly enough, one of its weaker points. Despite being known for their fantastic storytelling and wonderful narrative construction, Bioware’s strongest skill set firmly falls flat in this department, at least within the first few hours. While the introductory missions are incredibly well written and serve to inject action into the world of Bastion there is a two year time-jump immediately after this plot-line, cutting any emotional attachment to the characters we just struggled with. From there things merely chug along in Anthem, hitting story beats until the introduction of the game’s main villain.

The Monitor, leader of the Dominion and intent on wielding the fury of the Anthem.

What’s slightly more disappointing, however, is how well written the game’s wide variety of characters truly are. From your co-pilot Owen, who’s neurotically charming to a fault, to one of the Sentinels who is standoffish and uncomfortable but warms up to your character over time. Each character has a wonderful amount of time and energy put into them, with their own development arcs and unique quirks. There is a living, breathing world in Anthem, but it simply feels as if the, “why,” in existing in it doesn’t build until later in the game.

Despite the lack of why, the “How do you play in Anthem,” is incredibly fun and well worth the purchase price of the game. Most of your play time will be spent inside a Javelin, one of the Freelancer’s exo-suits. Each one is unique in its design and playstyle, fitting a different role in a traditional RPG role. Each has six unlockable equipment slots, as well as a host of unique interchangeable abilities.

The first players will have access to is the Ranger, a medium armor class Javelin. Focusing heavily on gunplay, the Ranger features abilities that veterans of Halo or Gears of War may find familiar. Starting with several artillery abilities such as grenades and missiles, this particular suit is the best for those unfamiliar with RPGs or Anthem in general; much like Soldier 76 of Overwatch, the Ranger is a great introduction for FPS players and the most versatile of each javelin. After completing the tutorial players will be able to select one of the other remaining Javelins, unlocking the others as they level up their pilot.

The Colossus is the de-facto tank of the Freelancer fleet, originally a large construction suit intended to protect workers from hazardous materials. Now the pilots of Fort Tarsis equip them as mobile siege weapons, using their bulk as an advantage in combat. Each Colossus comes equipped with a large ballistic shield, which compensates for their lack of standard energy shield. Unable to wield pistols or sub-machine gun weapons, this Javelin instead can equip heavy weapons such as rocket launchers and gatling guns. This suit is a walking siege weapon, equipped to maximize damage and come up with blunt force solutions to otherwise complicated problems.

The Interceptor is the Javelin for those looking to unlock sheer speed, being the most nimble and deadly melee combatant on the battlefield. While it boasts smaller shields than any other suit available, it recharges its shield through constant moment and speed. Standing still for the Interceptor is not the way to play. Specializing in pure damage and one-on-one combat, the Interceptor cleaves through the battlefield at lightning speed.

Hands on Anthem

New Javelins can be unlocked at pilot levels 2, 8, 16, and 24.

The final suit, and the one I spent the most playtime with, is the Storm. Wielding the elemental fury of Bastion, Storm is the casting powerhouse of the Freelancers. Boasting wide-spread area spells and effects, gunplay is used as a back-up for the destructive powers of the Anthem. Whereas other Javelins do best flitting in and out of melee combat, the Storm is best suited to hover at a distance and unleashing its fury upon the hapless enemies of the Freelancers.

Any time you step outside of the safety of Fort Tarsis, the main hub of Anthem, you’ll be loaded into one of your Javelins. Each comes loaded with several firearms be they rifles, submachine guns, pistols, shotguns or heavy ordnance. Each also has a jump-booster, a system that players can utilize to hover, glide or fly over Bastion. These jets can be activated at any time, indoors or out, but can only run for a certain amount of time; as with any flame-propulsion system it will eventually overheat.

Players can instead maximize their flight time by soaring beneath or over bodies of water, using gravity to assist their flight (such as tilting downwards or even straight down), or by flying in water-related weather patterns. This is one of Anthem’s more rewarding systems, as it simply feels good to fly and pull off various maneuvers with each Javelin especially when you can manipulate your flight pattern and stay aloft indefinitely. Each suit handles a little differently from each other based on its armor class; the beefy Colossus is sluggish and takes artillery on directly while the Interceptor rolls in and out of combat and flies as daintily as a bird.

While customization is limited when it comes to the player-character (with only one voice per sex and roughly 24 pre-rendered faces to choose from), Javelin customization is incredibly wild and varied. While each Javelin not only has replaceable parts and armaments, attainable through in-game vendors and currencies, every single color and texture of the Javelin can be customized or altered to your specifics. Leather under-linings can be changed to an all-metal super suit, capes and cloaks can be altered to be leather of any variety. Even the loadouts for your mechs can be utterly unique, turning a tanky Colossus into a long-ranged assassin or a Storm into a front-line psycher.

Hands on Anthem

The Ranger

When it comes to the gameplay of Anthem everything just feels right. Gunplay is tight and fun to engage with, flight feels great, and even simply exploring the world is fun. However, this is where the cracks in Anthem’s designs really begin to show.

Like Dragon Age: Inquisition, Anthem moves through its narrative beats and story-progression via a mission system. While this does piece out the story and lore into palatable chunks, it also makes exploring Bastion incredibly jarring. After the completion of each mission the player will be thrust out of their Javelin and into Fort Tarsis to manage their Javelin and pick up quests. While this allows players progressing quickly to optimize their loadout this does not negate the issue for players enjoying the free-roaming aspects of Bastion. If you even want to change your firearms you will have to return Fort Tarsis, enter your loadout, adjust your guns and sit through two more loading screens to return to that open world.

It’s also clear that hovering was not entirely fleshed out in regard to combat; while the Storm is built around the concept of flying high and avoiding damage, every other Javelin can also do just that as well, minimizing the threat of any enemy encounter especially in group scenarios. This reaches a paramount point towards Anthem’s endgame, which players of more recent MMO-Lite franchises may find familiar.

As the Freelancers rebuild their forces and begin to wage war on some of the deadliest parts of the Anthem, players will earn the ability to fight against Strongholds. These multiplayer encounters revolve around silencing a dangerous relic, fighting off waves of often negligible enemies and fighting off a large boss-version of those enemies, which feels again like a large bullet sponge. As bosses have no set loot table, rewards can range from low-tier uncommon items, which I received during my time at EA Redwood, to blueprints. These blueprints can be used to create Masterwork weapons, requiring players to use Anthem’s crafting system to target and develop specific end-game pieces they want, making the end-game less a targeted experience and more of a wide-sprawling attempt to find exactly what you need blindly.

 

Hands on Anthem

Anthem’s Loadout Screen, only accessible through the Forge at Fort Tarsis.

There also doesn’t appear to be much direction in terms of what happens after the story campaign. While there have been promises from both Electronic Arts and Bioware that there will be additional content beyond the end-game, and a confirmation from producer Scylla Costa that Bioware Houston will take over the live-service aspects of Anthem, there’s no direction into what that’s going to be. For now, running Stronghold’s appears to be the entire post end-game content, meaning that this live service will be relatively deceased after players hit the end of this RPG.

So that leaves us with one major question: where does this leave Anthem? Frankly, Anthem is an incredibly fun game when you don’t look too far past the veneer and finish. While player agency isn’t as prevalent as in other Bioware games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic, neither is Anthem truly intended as a full-scale MMO nor a full-level RPG. Instead this game melds genres far more successfully than other more recent entries in the AAA sphere.

However, in comparison to those other entries, there are also quite a few gaps simply due to the setting of Bastion and the legacy of Bioware; players are used to complete agency in the designs of their characters, instead of the armor they wield. Other entries keep this customization out in the world instead of relying on older system concepts to force player evolution, allowing them to make basic adjustments on the fly instead of resetting their world to tweak a firearm. Anthem has a lot of heart, love and ingenuity baked into its very artistic essence, but the defects do stand out otherwise; some for the cracks in the façade, and others simply because Bioware has dominated this space for years.

For those interested, Anthem launches into the world on February 22nd, 2018

Disclaimer: Writer was flown out to EA’s Redwood, California Campus to preview Anthem at no cost.

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Anthem Interview: Taking Flight with the Development of Anthem

The wide world of Anthem has long since been in the works by Bioware’s ambitious Edmonton, Canada studio. Boasting a wide open reactive world, engaging gunplay and a story true to the grandeur of Bioware titles past, Anthem is a game destined for greatness. Despite this, however, information on the world of Bastion and its Freelancer defenders has been incredibly scarce, and questions from players have long since gone unanswered. I got the opportunity to travel to EA’s California offices and sit down with Scylla Costa, one of the Producers working on Anthem to talk about its development, player co-operation and the road map for launch and beyond.

 

With Bioware we have seen a bit of a change when it comes to Anthem in it being an always-online live service game, where as we’ve had strict multiplayer modes with other games like Mass Effect: Andromeda and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Why the transition to a live service game?

That’s a very good question. If you look at the history of Bioware you can see that we have been trying different stuff for a long time. We had Baldur’s Gate which was an isometric game that you could play in multiplayer if you had a LAN. Then we went to Neverwinter Nights which also had multiplayer but also had the mod aspect with user generated content. Then we jumped into the console with say Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire. Then from there we went to the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series, so we had a sci-fi cover shooter and a fantasy RPG with very different styles. Then finally Star Wars: The Old Republic which is an MMO for PC. So actually, if you look around you can see that we have been always trying something different and doing different things.

Anthem, maybe if you just look back one game or two, it may look like a big change but we have been changing [over time]. And the reason is also every time we’re creating a new [intellectual property] we need to look into the future. A new IP doesn’t get made in one year it takes maybe five years or more. When we finished Mass Effect 3 we started to think about Anthem and what was going to be Anthem and what kind of game we were going to do in five years. Just to remember now, five years ago we didn’t have Fortnite, Twitch wasn’t what it is today, so the way the players and consumers consumer their entertainment has changed a lot. Even Netflix has changed a lot! So you kind of have to try and project in that time-frame of five years, what kind of game do we want to make, what kind of game do we need to be playing in five years?

We wanted, going back to your question, to make a game that was an open world, that was also easy for me to jump in and out of so a seamless co-op experience with my friends, I could play by myself if I wanted to and we wanted to tell a story that wasn’t science nor fantasy but kind of sci-fantasy. We wanted to have a world that you could go outside and see a jungle and you go, “Oh, yeah, that looks like Earth!” But suddenly you have a Shaper ruin and there’s Ursics in your face trying to kill you and you go, “Woah this is NOT Earth! Where am I? What is that ruin? What activates these relics? What mysteries are hidden out there in the world?” Specifically, for the game of Anthem, we wanted to create also an antagonist, so we have The Monitor who leads the Dominion coming in from the north. That’s the enemy you need to protect humanity from.

What has Bioware, as a studio, faced in terms of difficulties and challenges in developing a live-service game like this?

Well first of all it’s a new IP. Creating a new IP is always hard because you don’t know the right answer or the wrong answer. If you’re doing a sequel, like we did with Mass Effect for example or Dragon Age, you can reach out to your consumer base; you can ask what they like, you can see the interviews, see the reviews of the game and try to build on the strengths you have while fixing the weaknesses. In our case, with a new IP, there is no right or wrong answer and that’s the biggest challenge. How do we create a new world that is fantastic and at the same time you want to explore but it’s super dangerous? How do you make people want to be there? How do we make people feel when they have a Javelin that they’re controlling they have all those super powers that make you feel very different from any other game? All the verticality that we have in the game as well, that’s something we tried really hard to make so that when you fly it simply feels really good to fly. We wanted you to have fun just traversing and exploring the world as well.

 

With [Anthem] being a multiplayer game, there are certain features that players expect going into it. One of them, which was confirmed by a tweet from one of the Executive Producers several weeks ago, was that [item] trading was not going to be available at launch. Was this an oversight or was this more due to focusing on single-player aspects of the game?

It was a design decision not having trade at launch. We wanted to make sure that progression wasn’t going to be short-cut. Let’s say that I’m playing with you and another two friends and you give me a super powerful Masterwork weapon. Let’s say I’m level 2 and you’re level 30 and suddenly I’ve got a level 30 weapon, it’s really going to short-cut everything. We’ve seen that happen with other games and we wanted to avoid that problem. We wanted to make sure that everybody would have meaningful loot every time they play. So, if I’m a Level 2 and you’re playing with me as a Level 30 every time I go out I’m going to find loot that is reasonable for my level just as you will find loot that is reasonable for yours. You can still help me level up and you’re still going to find stuff that is reasonable for you, even on the same mission.

 

With that ability to drop in and drop out, with people of different levels, is that more of the loot is set at that that player’s particular level?

Yes, it’s set based off of the player’s Pilot Level.

So character power isn’t dynamically scaled in such a sense?

Well, we scale the game in many different ways. If you’re playing together, we try to scale the [encounter] based on how many players are in your group, so you can play it alone if you want. The number of enemies you’d expect to be different if you were playing with a four player group, otherwise it would simply be too easy for the four player group. We can scale the waves of enemies, how tough they are, the types of enemies; so a group of four may see an Elite where as a [solo player] may not. We can also play around with the dynamic of the world as well, with how depending on the area of the world and the weather we can change what kind of creatures can spawn. If you’re playing in a group you may come across a bigger enemy like an Ash Titan for example, but if you’re playing alone we’re not going to make you fight that Ash Titan by yourself. We can play with many different variables so as to always make a challenge for you without making it completely punishing.

 

With a lot of live service games, especially with the introduction of the Steam Early Access model and development continuing post launch, there are some concerns among consumers that Anthem will be light on some features at launch, particularly with character customization and agency. What will players have access to personalize their character and immerse themselves into the world?

Let’s go first to personalization. For us, that is changing the materials of everything that you have [to customize your Javelin]. You can change the type of material which will give you a different look, the color of those materials, you can apply vinyls over them. You can also have different pieces of armor, for example different shoulders, helmets, legs. For the Storm you can have a different cape. There are many different things you can change about your character, even the animations you can use in the world or as a victory pose animation. We give you all of those personalization options and they are all cosmetic. You can acquire all of them just by playing the game and using the in-game currency. The more you play, the more you get, and you can spend it on whatever you want.

You also have player agency in terms of the equipment loadouts. You can have the same Javelin, say a Colossus for example, that can work as a tank. You can pull aggro, pull enemies to you, use your shield have a flamethrower. But you can also, because you want to, have a loadout that has a Sniper Rifle with an artillery gear slot that can fire from really far away to act as a support for your group. So we’re really giving the player the agency to choose how does he want to play with whatever Javelin suit he has.

 

Now let’s jump tracks for a moment and talk about the economy in Anthem. Now one of the Executive Producers, Mark Darrah, has said that the economy that players are going to see in the public demo for Anthem is going to be vastly different than what we’ll see in the final game. What are players going to see in that final release in February?

So for Anthem in terms of the economy, the demo was created quite a few weeks ago and therefore while it is a slice of the final game, we have been tweaking and iterating on the economy since then. We did find out that we need to make some changes in regards to the curve in which you gain experience. We also made changes to the amount of in-game currency you get, the prices of items in the store. We had to balance those out so that we could have a better experience overall. We always have the philosophy that we want to be fair to the consumer, to the player, making sure that, as long as they play, they always feel rewarded by playing because you’re going to have enough coins to get that cosmetic you wanted to buy. It’s not going to be like, “You’ve gotta play forever to buy that one thing.” We wanted to make sure it’s always fair for the player to do so. Of course there are different items, with different rarities and different prices but we have been tweaking a lot. That’s what Mark Darrah meant when he said the economy from the demo is different, because we’ve been tweaking it a lot over the last few weeks.

Right now we are aware of the fact there is a premium currency in Anthem. Are we going to see any other potential revenue streams introduced into Anthem post-launch?

At launch we’re just gonna have the cosmetic stuff. Post-launch it will really depend on the feedback we get from our consumers and from the players. We have a team in Austin that has been working on an MMO the last six years, Star Wars: The Old Republic. We developed Anthem with Bioware Edmonton and Bioware Austin. Bioware Austin is going to be responsible for taking the live service further, so I’m very comfortable about that, I’m very happy about that. I know they have the experience to listen to the feedback and change the plans according to that feedback. So according to what the players want to see in the game, we may have different stuff.

What’s the road-map for Anthem looking like post-launch?

There are a lot of things coming post-launch. We have many different teams who have been working on that stuff for a few weeks already, so you can see different cosmetic items, different creatures, maybe a new region to explore! You’ll have different events, different weather states. Anthem is a dynamic world; if you have rain right now it applies to your jets you can fly for longer as it cools down your jets. You can use electricity and therefore create larger effects. Try to imagine that we can create different weather states and apply that so not only are new parts of the world going to behave differently, but old parts of the world as well. If it’s day or if it’s night some creatures may show up or may be more powerful. We can play with all of these variables and create a new narrative for the game.

There was a lot of disappointment in the potential playerbase when it was announced that Anthem would not contain any Player vs. Player content at launch. Is that something that’s going to be incorporated into the game post-launch?

Like you said, PvP is not available for launch but it’s going to depend on the feedback that we get from the playerbase.

 

Bosses in Anthem don’t have a set loot table. When it comes to endgame player progression, particularly in gearing up your Javelin, is there a method for players to target specific pieces of equipment they are looking for?

Yes. In Anthem, specifically for the endgame, we want to give players the ability to craft their own weapons and gear. The way that we do that is you have Challenges, which will give you the blueprints for those Masterwork items. Now you can craft those masterwork items and in order to craft them you’re going to have to collect those resources through missions or freeplay, which will give you more resources. Once you have those items you can go back, craft your Masterwork items and now that you’re more powerful you can go into those missions and get even more powerful rewards.

There’s been discussion about Pilot Skill Trees and further progression after the end-game. Can you explain that a little bit and what impact that will have in terms of player power at the end of the game?

This is a very good question, but honestly I would prefer to keep that one for live. There are some things we want to do in live, exactly for the end-game and how we want Pilot Skills to show up. So we’re gonna keep that one for live for now.

 

Many thanks to Scylla Costa for sitting down with us to talk about Anthem and its development cycle beyond its upcoming release on February 22nd.

The post Anthem Interview: Taking Flight with the Development of Anthem appeared first on MMOGames.com.

MMOGames’ Most Anticipated Online Game of 2019

The end of the year is upon us and it is time to start looking ahead to what will come in 2019. We asked the MMOGames writing team what their most anticipated online game of 2019 is and got a wide variety of responses from the team, including a couple of surprises. After you’ve read what our writers are looking forward to next year be sure to add what game you’re most anticipating in 2019.

 

Ethan “Isarii” Macfie – Anthem

I started liking Anthem as a joke – I’m dead serious. As the game’s announcement came only a few months after the launch of the immeasurably disappointing Mass Effect: Andromeda and was followed shortly thereafter by the Star Wars: Battlefront II monetization debacle, the idea of jumping aboard the hype train for EA-BioWare’s next big live service game felt like the absolute height of comedy.

My friends and I set up a Discord channel just to hype the game up ironically, sharing news and info as it came out with our most sardonic fervor. Then the strangest thing happened: the news we were sharing started to look _really_ good.

I’m not sure exactly when I boarded the Anthem hype train for real, but I know I’m on it now. I haven’t preordered the game and I’m constantly on watch for the other shoe to drop, but what we’ve seen and heard of the game’s world, its feature set, and even its monetization strategy all sound extremely promising. Maybe we’ll all get burned again, but at this point, I’m willing to at least hope that we won’t.

 

Nick Shively – We’ll See

When it comes to online, multiplayer games 2019 is not a year I’m expecting much from. There are a few titles that I’m mildly interested in that have multiplayer elements, such as Anthem, but there’s no single title that I’m actively waiting to be released. The last few years have been fairly stagnant in the MMORPG genre and it will still be a couple more until the droves of crowdfunding MMOs finally start launching.

That being said, it’s likely that Crowfall will see some sort of soft launch or early access by 2019, but the game has already had a number of delays with the beta being pushed back. It’s possible that we’ll hear more from Ascent: Infinite Realm, however, a 2019 release seems unlikely at this point. I’m also looking forward to hearing more about the Magic: The Gathering MMO, but mostly because Cryptic has revealed little information so far. At this point in time, 2019 is more of a “wait and see” kind of year.

 

Phil DeMerchant – Project Zephyr

For 2019 my most anticipated game isn’t a massive blockbuster hit or even a massively multiplayer wonderland like 2017 and 18 have born. Instead, my focus is fully formed on Four Shore Entertainment and their little seasonal puzzle with a working title of Project Zephyr.

A season-based environmental platformer, Zephyr is one of the handful of indie games I got to demo this year at the Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo. Despite only having the alpha of the tutorial level, Four Shore absolutely blew me away with the warm and tender art of their game. From winding forests to chittering monsters there was no square space of charm overlooked in this game’s wonderful art style. Gameplay was just as entertainingly charming; by utilizing a little golem’s season-changing abilities one could grow a pumpkin to use as a platform or freeze an enemy to use as a projectile ice block. The possibilities were absolutely endless, my own gameplay even surprising the demoing developer in how radically different I set about my puzzle solving.

Zephyr is a game with unimaginable potential, and with a project Q2 release in 2019, I cannot wait to finally sink my teeth into it all.

 

Taylor Hidalgo – The Division 2

The Division 2

Garbage flows into the streets of New York City, joining the fresh snow and the muck of dirt, sludge, bodies, and blood splashed gracelessly along the packed street. A single working strobe spins soundlessly into the hazy snowfall of the fading evening light. A casually dressed agent in a leather jacket dusts the snow off of their jacket, shoulders their rifle, and walks up the street.

Of the many things The Division did well, the most inescapable was the city. It was beautiful. It is beautiful, and there’s no escaping that beauty for even the slightest fraction of a second. New York, plagued by infection, flooded with aggression and bullets, filling the streets with terror, has remained my impossible benchmark for what a setting can do for a story—hazy, blizzardous, littered, messy, garish, chaotic, impossibly beautiful New York.

In the time since I’ve played, The Division has never captured my desire to shoulder my weapon, hurl a grenade, and dive into danger headlong. But in the quiet moments, I find myself wanting to revisit New York. The streets, though devoid of the foot traffic that surges in its non-digital counterpart, the plague-stricken streets are just quiet enough here to let the abandoned cars tell a story of frantic escape. The darkness that hangs in the alleyways promises gunfight in the dark crevices for anyone foolish enough to try to slip through the shadows. The distant barks, errant car alarms, occasional directionless gunfire, the chirping of a discarded cell phone… All of it assembled into this package promises a world full of life, albeit a hobbled one.

I find myself wanting to perch atop a squad car, rifle dangling casually down the rear window, and watch the snow gather on my jacket’s shoulders while New York breathes around me again. The hazardous Dark Zone in the distance promises me all the action I could ever want, a short helicopter ride can crashland me in the biggest blizzard New York can throw, a sprawling fight encompassing an army of agents sits in a distant corner of the city, but this car is all I really need. The snow grows as it collects on the jacket, on my gloves, on the car, and on the ground.

I am taken in with this place. Gunfire and all.

In the distance, past the overturned ambulances and the bullet-riddled squad cars, beyond the armored APCs and the glass-walled high-rises, Washington D.C. waits for another agent, for another crisis. D.C. promises to be more of everything I love. More city, more gorgeous intersections of reality and aesthetic fulfillment. Sure, also more gunfights and danger, but the real siren call is another city. A new place to sink into. I cannot wait to destroy its art museums as I hurl myself through another fight to reclaim humanity. The Division 2 is just down that street, a short jaunt away, and I’m so excited to crawl its streets.

My agent stands, and together we descend the stairs and pass through the curtain of an overhead sprinkler. The snow on my jacket joins the spray and drips to its final resting place on the cheap tile of a subway. Deeper into this darkness leads to an airport.

Next time you see us, we’ll be in D.C.

 

 

Shannon Doyle – Rapture Rejects

Rapture Rejects

If I’m completely honest I’ve found myself falling out of love with online gaming in recent years and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Sure, online gaming is more popular than it ever has been before but the communities that made online games so great seem to have died. I do of course continue to hold a torch up for the City of Heroes spiritual successors. I’ll be giving those a try as soon as they come out, I’m just not sure that will be in 2019. We saw Dual Universe at Gamescom a number of years ago and it has intrigued me from the very first time we walked past their booth. But once again, Dual Universe isn’t expected to release until 2020 at the earliest.
So right now I suppose my most anticipated game of 2019 is…Rapture Rejects. Normally I’m not one to play Battle Royale games but there’s a special place in my heart for blasphemous comedy in video game form. During their free to play weekend I was having a blast and since then I’ve been squeezing in a match or two when I can. It’s a lot of fun and it doesn’t feel super serious like other games in the genre. Casual friendly even? Ehh…only if you don’t mind dying a lot. I’m also following Harry Potter Wizards Unite, the mobile game being made by the same folks behind Pokemon Go. Will it come out in 2019? Actually, yeah, I think it might. I’m just wondering how I’m going to jump between Ingress, Pokemon Go, and Harry Potter. Maybe Santa will bring me a third phone for Christmas.

 

Jonathan Doyle – Anthem

Everyone has their own ways of writing. When I was posed the question of my upcoming pick for 2019 I went to the playlist so I could let my thoughts run free.
The thing is the playlist came around to Muse and I can’t shift the association in my mind anymore. Anthem played a blinder with the reworking of Muse’s Uprising in the cinematic trailer.

It may be stupid to let that be the thing that draws my attention but I can’t help it. I know it won’t be like other Bioware games. I know how utterly bad I am at Destiny. I know that there will be plenty of other games vying for my attention when we finally get to grips with Anthem … but it grabbed my attention in a very definite way.

It won’t last, love affairs never do. I fully admit it’s a love affair with the idea of a Bioware game, my heart is drawn by their mastery in cinematic presentation beyond whatever the game may actually be. Until there is heartbreak or affirmation though, all I have is that impression in this ongoing love affair. The possibility that Anthem will bring me the right blend of gameplay, story and a world that I can lose myself in.

The trailer ends with a simple lyric. We will be victorious.
I believe it when Muse says it…as for Bioware? I remain hopeful. Hopefully, they will be victorious. If not? Well, maybe we’ll also get to move on from the Destiny like shooter games in the MMO space. Either way, I am victorious even if EA is not.

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Anthem Demo Dates Announced

If all you’ve wished for this Christmas were the Anthem demo start dates then you are in luck. The game’s executive producer Michael Gamble announced them on his personal Twitter account late last night. For those who are VIPs, that’s the people bought the Legion of the Dawn edition or the Standard edition of Anthem the demo will be live on January 25th. If you have a subscription with EA Access on Xbox One or Origin Access on PC you’re also a VIP.

Anthem

If you aren’t included in the list of people above for reasons like having a PS4 instead of Xbox One or you haven’t pre-ordered the game you will still get to take part in the Anthem demo, but you’ll have to wait until February 1st. Just under a week, not too bad really.

You can still pre-order the game if you want to take part in the upcoming Anthem demo. Michael Gamble confirmed on Twitter that it would still count and you would still be able to play. So, if you really, REALLY need to try it out you know what you need to do.

On Twitter Gamble also said that the demo is more of a stress test than a playtest. Considering Anthem releases on February 22nd this makes a lot of sense. There isn’t much time for big fixes or gameplay changes. The game is basically how it will be when it launches.

Just in case you missed it Anthem also released the official 2018 Game Awards trailer. You can see that below.

There weren’t any new details about the game released but it as the date approaches we wouldn’t be surprised if more information came out. For now, keep an eye on Michael Gamble’s Twitter account, the official Anthem social media channels. Once again, the dates to remember are January 25th for VIP, February 1st for everyone else, and launch of February 22nd.

 

Source: Twitter

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Anthem Schedules a Gameplay Livestream

Things have been quiet over on Anthem’s side of the world, though that’s perhaps understandable given the work the team is doing. However, a planned Anthem gameplay livestream has been casually announced to show off where things are for the online multiplayer shooter.

anthem gameplay livestream

Lead producer Michael Gamble confirmed the stream plans on Twitter, initially stating a premiere date of Wednesday, October 31st but then amending that to the following November 1st. The reason? To give lead producer Ben Irving time to “wear his giant transformers costume without worrying about his camera face.”

Judging by the general tone of Gamble’s tweet, this showcase will certainly be off-the-cuff. “We’re going to just grab a random build and hopefully not crash,” reads the original tweet. “Hijinks and hilarity will ensue…we think.”

To that point, it’s hard to know whether or not there will be any major revelations for Anthem. Since we’ve not seen it in action since this past E3, however, it will be the first time anyone has seen the title in its current alpha state.

Our Thoughts

The casual nature of this broadcast could be intriguing indeed, particularly since it will presumably be devoid of the EA-led timing and spectacle of the game’s E3 offering. In other words, this is probably going to be as close to seeing Anthem “in the wild” as we’ll get without actually being invited to an alpha or beta test.

Source: Twitter via MMORPG.com

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Anthem Exec Producer Confirms New Raid Details

We mentioned before how Anthem‘s development seems to be one of the more open ones in BioWare’s history, and that trend appears to continue with another round of Q&A with the game’s executive producer Mark Darrah. This time around, we’ve got a couple of new tidbits about Anthem raids and how they’ll work. Roughly, anyway.

anthem raids

According to another round of tweets from Darrah, Anthem raids will absolutely have some form of actual matchmaking, unlike Destiny 2’s “guided games” feature, which is still listed as a beta in that game.

Additionally, Darrah confirmed that there will not be any loot trading between players, either in raids or any other content. That said, the majority of loot drops you receive will be tailored for you and the Javelin you’re piloting, which suggests that you’ll receive other items for other Javelins in case you care to keep your options open.

The likely most-often asked question of when beta starts still has no answer. However, a recent article on the game’s official website did outline a few ways for players to get a taste of the game prior to its February 22nd release. These include a VIP Demo for those who pre-order or are members of every tier of Origin Access on February 1st; early access to the full game for Origin Access Premier members on February 15th; and a 10 hour-long trial for regular EA and Origin Access members on that same date.

Our Thoughts

It’s an agonizingly slow trickle of information, but it’s certainly better than nothing and we still appreciate Mr. Darrah taking time out of what’s likely a very busy schedule to answer fan questions. We’ll just try to wait patiently for more from this one in the meanwhile. After all, it is making progress

Sources: VG247, official site

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Anthem is in an Alpha State

In one of the more open development journeys that BioWare has taken, a new blog post penned by general manager Casey Hudson has announced that an Anthem alpha build has been completed, bringing the full small-scale multiplayer online title that much closer to its release.

anthem alpha build

Now to clarify, this Anthem alpha build doesn’t mean it’s taking people from outside of the company. Yet, anyway. According to Hudson, the alpha milestone means that all of the parts of the game are functional, but it still needs bug fixing and tuning.

That said, the milestone does mean the devs are that much closer to announcing when larger scale testing will begin. “We have some really ambitious plans for launch and beyond, and we really want to get it right,” wrote Hudson. “We will have news soon about when you can learn more about Anthem and try it out yourself.”

For now, the team will likely continue to have its collective head down as development pushes on. “There’s a ton of work ahead, but everyone knows what they need to do and is working with a level of passion and effort that’s truly inspiring,” remarked Hudson.

Our Thoughts

We’d like to extend our congratulations to the Anthem team for making it to alpha. Naturally, we’re looking forward to seeing this shooter develop further, including head into a point where it can start taking applications for testing.

Source: BioWare blog

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Anthem Aims to Get Personal with Little Effect

BioWare has found itself in a rare situation. A fair amount of doubt has slowly been creeping over the creators of Mass Effect and Dragon Age. This has largely been drawn from the recent stumble with Mass Effect: Andromeda and how publisher Electronic Arts has handled the studio since purchase. Furthermore, the announcement of BioWare’s upcoming multiplayer title Anthem has drawn almost as much skepticism as excitement.

Anthem

While it is intriguing to see the studio try something new, it’s also a little alarming how many comparisons it seems to draw from the typical online shooters of today. The intricacies that made BioWare games so beloved before appear to be missing this time around. That has hardcore fans of the studio rightfully concerned.

During a PAX West media gathering, there was a clear focus on narrative. This coupled with the latest footage we were shown no longer having damage numbers popping out of enemies leads me to believe they are taking fan criticism during E3 2018 to heart. Can romance options, a long time staple in BioWare games, be far off from being integrated? That’s not likely, but the importance of dialogue in Anthem does seem more inspired for the shooter genre albeit tempered by the studio’s standards.

Anthem

Character interactions appear to be more for flavor than function. Playing nice with one NPC and disparaging another does not shut out equipment or missions, but it rather acts as a way to make the Anthem experience feel more personal. Dialogue may open up and develop if you invest the time into certain characters. It may even have related characters react appropriately. The lack of divergence when aligning more heavily towards one character or another is still unsettling for a game by the studio that popularized that trend. Likewise on the fact that dialogue trees have been simplified to two options.

Considering the massive criticism from Mass Effect: Andromeda, it is good to see that facial animations look good so far in Anthem. It’s not at L.A. Noire or Until Dawn levels, but they’re more than acceptable for a game that favors tight shots when interacting with NPCs.

Anthem

It’s important to highlight that BioWare is putting so much of their resources into Anthem. They’re clearly banking on Anthem to be a big turnaround, but a lot of that is determined by a couple of factors. How will they cater to their hardcore fan base, and will they be able to capitalize on the popularity of Destiny? It would seem that the former is the key to the latter as this is a title in need of its own identity.

If BioWare can integrate their brand of personal storytelling and relationship building, then it may be enough to draw people in. Same goes for having tight controls and an intriguing enough game loop, which helped Destiny when first released. If not, then Anthem may go the way of Titanfall and get lost in the shuffle. BioWare as a company cannot afford that to happen if it hopes to survive.

With Anthem set to release for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on February 22nd, 2019, there’s still quite a bit of time until we get our hands on it.

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PAX West Brought a New Trailer for Anthem Focusing on Storytelling

Over the weekend at PAX West Bioware released a new trailer for Anthem and it is the talk of the whole convention. The trailer dives into the thing that people have been most interested in knowing more about, storytelling.

“At the heart of Anthem is the concept of Our World, My Story – the distinctive combination of a shared, dynamic world and a personal story. Discover how these two elements help create a connected world that remains unique to every player.”

But, the NPCs are still considered to be a radical shift for Bioware. You won’t be taking them out with you into the world, that’s what other players are for. Instead, you’ll find NPCs in a hub zone where you can interact with them. It’s being called “a reinvention of personal narrative in a multiplayer game.” These NPCs will give you missions, talk to you about their lives, and discuss the outcome of missions with you. None of the decisions you make will impact the story during missions. But you will be able to have very basic interactions with NPCs outside missions with two possible answers. How you answer will impact your relationship with those NPCs, which in turn impacts your missions and could result in different NPCs being introduced that weren’t previously there. Additionally, you’ll never be able to make an NPC so unhappy that you won’t be able to get a mission. They’ll also never be so happy that they’ll give you better equipment. This does indeed seem to be a radical departure from what Bioware is known for.

 

Between now and the release of the Anthem demo on February 1st there are going to be a number of events in which players can play the game and give feedback. Though it seems highly unlikely they will change the core parts of the game all that much if players aren’t happy. We’ll just have to wait and see how the game goes over. At least we know that Bioware is safe if Anthem is a flop.

 

Source: Kotaku

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Former BioWare Dev James Ohlen Talks SWTOR Regrets and Anthem Conspiracies

Now that game designer James Ohlen is “free” from the clutches of EA, he’s had some time to likely mull over things as well as speak out about the games he’s been a part of for the company. And that’s just what he’s done in a recent interview, where he talks about SWTOR and Anthem both among many other topics from his time in game dev.

swtor and anthem

On the subject of the Star Wars MMORPG Star Wars The Old Republic, Ohlen admits that the company perhaps tried to chase the dragon’s tail a bit too hard.

“I wish that I pushed a little bit more toward making it kind of Knights of The Republic online rather than ‘Star Wars World of Warcraft’. A lot of the feedback…was, ‘Hey, we wanted Knights of the Old Republic Online,’ something that was more similar to that than a game that was more traditional in the World of Warcraft sense. I can see where that was coming from, but I am still proud of where Star Wars: The Old Republic got to.”

As for Anthem, Ohlen responded to the prevailing assumption that BioWare’s life as a studio hinges on the success of Anthem and that EA’s finger is on the kill switch.

“I think EA is looking for BioWare to be a long-term part of the company,” said Ohlen. “If it [Anthem] doesn’t do gangbusters I don’t think that’s the end of BioWare. I think it will simply be a chance for BioWare to learn some lessons and apply it to the next game that comes out.”

Ohlen covers a broad range of other points in the interview, including word on his current work, so it’s absolutely worth a full read through.

Our Thoughts

This does bring up the point of why the early SWTOR team didn’t react to feedback about making the game more KOTOR online than Star Wars of Warcraft. Perhaps some form of external pressure? In any case, we wish Mr. Ohlen the best of luck in his future endeavors.

Source: GameInformer

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