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 2017: Master X Master – Titus and Natium Defense Line Hands-on

With Master X Master having officially launched a few months ago it’s likely that dedicated PvE players are craving challenging new content. Well, the September 13th update is definitely something for MXM players to look forward to. In addition to economy changes, the long-awaited Natium Defense Line and a new Master will be released. The Natium Defense Line PvE mode will require players to defend their core from increasingly difficult enemies for 30 waves, and Titus is going to fill a much-needed support role.

Master X Master Titus Natium Defense Line

 

Economy Rebalance

After looking at the rate of Master purchases, the NCSoft team has decided that SOL and X-Coin prices need a change. On launch, Master X Master was criticized for its high premium currency costs when compared with other MOBAs; typically, Masters were much more expensive in terms of real-money currency than similar games. In order to bring things in line with other games in the genre, NCSoft is decreasing X-Coin costs by around 15% per Master. This is a much-needed change and will hopefully allow new players to catch up more quickly without emptying their wallets.

Unfortunately, there’s another cost attached to this economy tweak. While X-Coin prices will be lowered, SOL costs will increase based on each Master’s tier. We can expect to see SOL costs increasing from 1 to 7 per Master in the next update, which means if you’ve been stockpiling SOL then now is the time to spend it.

However, things aren’t all bad. In addition to the SOL cost increase, achievements are being removed from Master purchase requirements. This means that players won’t have to waste SOL unlocking pre-requisite characters in order to obtain Masters like Vonak. Finally, there will be an additional free Master in the rotation each week, which will give players more chances to try out characters before they buy them with SOL or X-Coin. Of course, the overall trade-off doesn’t sound great for players who have already unlocked every Master or pure free-to-play users, but we’ll have to see exactly how much SOL prices increase when the update lands.

 

Power Support Titus

One archetype that has been severely neglected in Master X Master is the ‘full support.’ There aren’t a lot of pure supports in Master X Master outside of Vita, Demenos, and Maia, and if you’re looking for a dedicated healer then Vita is almost always the go-to option. Personally, I don’t always want to play a heart-throwing popstar, and it looks like Titus is going to be the perfect solution for those wanting a different type of main support.

Master X Master Titus Natium Defense Line

Each one of Titus’ main abilities focuses on enhancing his teammates. His four basic abilities include a targeted heal, holy bolts that heal allies and bounce to damage enemies, an area-of-effect cleanse that also prevents crowd control for a duration, and an area buff that increases allied movement speed. His ultimate feels like a combination of Kharazim (Heroes of the Storm) and Mercy (Overwatch); Titus will cast a buff on all nearby enemies that will resurrect them if killed within a certain window. The amount of healing they receive upon resurrection will be based on his ultimate’s level. Additionally, he can charge his auto-attack to provide healing to nearby enemies until he releases it into a small AoE attack. Finally, his right-click will teleport him after a short delay.

Overall, Titus feels like a great addition to Master X Master and should definitely make his way into many players’ rosters. Although most of his abilities are purely defensive, the holy bolts can deal a significant amount of damage against enemies that are singled out. I expect that many players will either take his targeted heal or holy bolts and the area cleanse in PvP. While I didn’t note the exact length of his ultimate, it did feel like it lasted between 5 and 10 seconds. Even if that doesn’t sound like a long time to avoid it, keep in mind that it can be simultaneously applied to an entire team.

In the short amount of hands-on time I had with Titus, the cleanse felt like his defining ability due to its large radius and long duration; if it will be able to stop all forms of crowd control and enemy ultimates then it could make him even more popular than Vita. That being said, his auto-attacks could prove to be relatively ineffective in PvP because of their delayed explosion and relatively small effect radius. More likely, his auto-attacks will be used to zone enemy players or charged for the AoE heal effect.

 

Next Level PvE

One of the other economic changes is going to be the removal of the Nightmare SOL cost and the SOL reward from the Nightmare loot table. This is going to have two major effects. First, more players are going to have access to the Nightmare game mode. Previously, it was incredibly inefficient to actually spend SOL on the Nightmare mode, which basically meant that anyone who actually wanted a positive return on investment had to solo it using dispatch tickets. Now players will be able to bring their friends and guildmates into Nightmare without having to potentially waste SOL.

Master X Master Titus Natium Defense Line

The other effect is obviously that players won’t have a way to quickly solo farm SOL anymore. I don’t think that simultaneously increasing SOL prices and removing the Nightmare farm is a move in the right direction, but there is always an opportunity to tweak these things in the future.

There will be another, more difficult, way to farm SOL once the patch drops. This will be in the form of the Natium Defense Line, however, this won’t be nearly as easy as soloing Nightmare mode. Natium Defense Line will feature 30 waves of increasingly difficult enemies that range from basic minions to Titans. I had my first taste at PAX West, and with four max level players we were only able to clear four waves. To be fair, this was the first time we all played together and we weren’t using optimal node loadouts, but even the NCSoft community testers hadn’t cleared all 30 waves at that point.

The way Natium Defense Line works is there is a grid that enemies spawn from and a base with a core and towers that players must protect. Enemies can spawn from numerous locations and for the most part will ignore the players. There are a few unique enemies that will focus on attacking players but generally, they will head straight for your towers and core. Occasionally, monsters will drop items that let players repair towers or summon defensive heroes for a short time. Additionally, players have access to unique cool-down abilities, such as turrets that draw aggro.

Overall, Natium Defense Line is hectic, fast-paced, and could definitely be a lot of fun with the right group. I suggest attempting it with a group that works well together. Otherwise, this game mode could quickly become frustrating due to its high difficulty. Groups will receive gold and experience based on how long they last, and those who finish the final wave will receive a SOL reward.

Master X Master Titus Natium Defense Line

 

All of these changes to Master X Master will take place on September 13, 2017.  We want to know your thoughts on the upcoming patch in the comments below!

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