Is Anthem Bioware’s Heel Turn?

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At Microsoft’s E3 2017 press conference, the world got it’s first big look at Bioware’s new IP, Anthem, which looks like everything I wanted Destiny to become. Keep in mind that I’ve loved Destiny since day one of the Alpha. But when I see mountains in the distance during the Anthem showcase and I see the characters’ method of movement, you best believe I want to explore that world. It feels like the delivery of a promise Destiny made four years ago. And that’s why I’m immediately hesitant going forward with this game. It both excites and frightens me.

I respect any and everyone’s ability to do something different. Bungie wanted to make an MMO-like sci-fi fantasy first-person shooter rather than the linear military-space shooter that they had been working on for more than a decade. The decision to move production from Halo over to Destiny felt like it would be a revolutionary step. For as much as I love Destiny, it wasn’t though. And I feel like this is coming back around with the release of Anthem. Take a closer look at that demo. Did it look incredible? The answer is yes. Anthem looks absolutely stunning. But it’s a game, so evaluate it at it’s base. Did it look like it was fun? My answer is no.

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None of what I saw promised substance or intrigue. What I saw was a character flying around a beautifully-dressed environment. The one time a promising enemy tries to engage, the player bounces and flies away. All we really got was some close quarters action with some grunts that looked Andromedaish and his partner launching missiles from a ways back. The vertical slice that was demonstrated on stage was barely a demo. It was a sneak-peek of the potential power that Bioware and Xbox One X’s relationship possesses.

In the face of the utter disaster that was Mass Effect: Andromeda, Bioware has been doing damage control. Since that series is temporarily on ice, they had to come out this year and show what their A-Team was working on all this time. But despite the fact that it looks great, it almost feels like a stab in the back. It looks like what I would consider Bioware’s worst game to date, Andromeda. On top of looking similar to their previous project, it also seems to lack the depth that makes the Mass Effect series fun, and seems a little too light on the RPG elements that I’m accustomed to in a Bioware game.

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I know one the writers behind Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is apparently coming back to write Anthem, which sounds promising – especially since I’ve never actually played KOTOR. So that, at the very least, gives me faith in Anthem’s ability to present an interesting narrative. However, what I really like about Bioware games are their branching dialogue choices and fascinating characters. These characters often provide a window into worlds and perspectives that the story’s protagonist isn’t privy to; and unfortunately, it seems that Anthem may be as heavily focused on those aspects of gameplay.

In Anthem, it looks like the world has gone to crap and that humanity is locked behind some sort of walled off structure. While the majority of humanity hides behind the wall, a select group of pathfinders explore beyond the wall in order to scrounge what they can so that their kin can continue to survive and rebuild. So, it’s Destiny and more specifically, Attack on Titan. In my opinion, Bioware could have opted to create something more novel in nature, rather than pursuing a formula thats more tried-and-true. 

anthem gunsIt seems like Bioware is forgoing substance for spectacle, and I can understand why. After Andromeda’s lackluster acclaim, Bioware needs an easy win. Of course, Anthem wasn’t some sort of reactionary creation after Mass Effect: Andromeda, but it certainly feels uninspired. Anthem isn’t just a new intellectual property from Bioware, it’s a sign of a changing tide at the popular game studio. Alas, only time will tell as to whether or not the game will be good, and considering we’ve got until Fall 2018, we’ve got plenty of time.

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