At the EA Play 2017 press conference, Electronic Arts revealed Anthem, the next major game from acclaimed studio BioWare. The Destiny-esque online action role-playing game is a departure from the single-player experiences Bioware is known for, though its world-building and structure seem to capture the kind of size and scope you’d expect from the studio behind the Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises. Here is everything we know about Anthem so far, including details on its world, gameplay, and development team.
The reveal trailer
The game’s first teaser trailer, released at EA Play 2017, introduces players to Anthem‘s mysterious world. A walled city protects its denizens from what is lurking outside. We get a glimpse of a large reptilian creature and lush greenery dotted with ruins of civilization.
Outside the wall are people who either protect the city or have rejected its security. These people, called Freelancers, fight in powered armor suits called Javelins. “Out there, you either live with the choices you make or die trying to change them,” the narrator says.
The trailer brings to mind an Attack on Titan scenario, where humans use combat tech and walls to defend against hulking monsters. The suits themselves reminded us of the Titans found in Titanfall, albeit much smaller.
Exploring your Javelin
In a gameplay trailer shown during Microsoft’s E3 2017 conference, we were able to see Anthem in action for the first time. This included a look at the game’s combat, which seems much more action-focused than BioWare’s past work.
In the video, players in groups of four head outside the confines of Fort Tarsis (essentially your home and hub) and into the wilderness. There, they find remote crevices and canyons with upgraded items and loot, dangerous monsters of varying sizes, with missions to run and characters to find and help.
A storm surges through the team, giving them an opportunity to dive in head-first, jetpacks equipped, to find out what’s on the other side. The jetpacks on their Javelins allow them to fly from point to point, though they can overheat. You’ll have to occasionally land or find a water source to cool down.
There are four types of Javelin suits designed for different play styles and those are the Ranger, Storm, Colossus, and Interceptor. Each Javelin can hold two weapons at once. You’ll begin the game with the Ranger and unlock the others at levels two, eight, 16, and 26. BioWare has released detailed profiles of each of the four classes, which we’ll outline below.
The default Javelin suit, the Ranger is an all-around class that is said to be the most versatile. The Ranger can access all weapon types except for the Colossus-exclusive heavy weapons. Its melee ability is called Shock Mace, an electrified charge that courses through enemies in the area.
The Ranger has three ability slots: Grenade Gear, Assault Launcher Gear, and Support Gear. Grenade Gear supports the following five grenade types:
- Frag: Area blast damage
- Inferno: Deals area damage to those caught in the flames
- Frost: Damages and freezes enemies
- Seeker: Splits and seeks nearest enemy
- Sticky: Attaches to target
Assault Launcher Gear acts as your secondary projectile weapon and supports five types as well:
- Homing Missile: Heat seeking projectile.
- Energy Pulse: Blast of energy that deals heavy damage to a single target
- Spark Beam: Fires a sustained beam of energy for continuous damage.
- Venom Darts: Launches a volley of darts that seek out a target for acid damage.
- Blast Missile: Fires a missile that explodes for area-of-effect damage.
Support Gears deploy defensive mechanisms or help out teammates in the area. There are two of them at your disposal:
- Bulwark Point: Spherical field that protects from projectiles
- Muster Point: Increases weapon damage for nearby teammates
The Ranger’s ultimate ability is called Multi-Target Missile Battery. When activated, you deal precise damage to numerous enemies with guided projectiles in quick succession.
The tank class, Colossus Javelins favor defense over mobility. Colossus have a shield that can be used for cover at any time. You won’t move around fast, but you will have a lot of firepower thanks to mounted artillery weapons, heavy guns, and a flamethrower. Colossus can use every weapon type except for pistols and submachine guns.
Its melee ability, Heavy Smash, inflicts damage on enemies in two ways, both of which use your equipped weapon to strike enemies. You can either dive from the air to do area damage or get right up in enemies’ faces with a mighty swing of your weapon.
The Colossus has three ability slots: Ordnance Launcher Gear, Heavy Assault Launcher Gear, and Support Gear. Ordnance Launcher Gear supports the following five abilities:
- High Explosive Mortar: Explosive projectile that deals great damage to a concentrated area.
- Burst Mortar: A smattering of small mortars that strike across a wide area.
- Firewall Mortar: A mortar that erects a flame wall that hurts all enemies who touch it.
- Lightning Coil: Hits a random enemy with an arc of electricity.
- Shock Coil: Deploys electric waves that damage nearby enemies.
Heavy Assault Launcher Gear options are wrist-mounted weapons that deal copious amounts of damage.
- Heavy Cannon: Big rocket
- Flame Thrower: Shoots flames
- Flak Cannon: Barrages nearby enemies with a short-range arc of projectiles. Short-range volley of projectiles.
- Railgun: Devastates a single-target with a forceful and precise kinetic round. Hits one target with a strong, accurate shot.
- Acid Spitter: Shoots acidic projectiles
The Colossus’ Support Gear options focus on lending a helping hand to teammates.
- Taunt: Directs attention to yourself so enemies stop firing on teammates.
- Deflector Pulse: Gives nearby allies damage-resistant buff.
The Colossus’ ultimate ability is the Siege Cannon, a hulking attack that clears the area of small enemies and/or inflicts heavy damage to bosses.
The magic class, Storm uses “seal technology” to blast enemies around it. This javelin, developed by the Dominion through arcanist research, is highly mobile and wields powerful kinesis energy. Though Storm users can deal great amounts of magic attacks, you have to be nimble to operate Storm effectively since it doesn’t have strong defense. When playing as Storm, you’ll want to stay above the ground as much as possible.
Storm Javelins can wield all weapons expect for heavy weapons. Its melee ability, Fiery Strike, deals explosive damage and knocks enemies back so you have time to scamper away.
Storm Javelins have three kinesis gear abilities: Blast Seals, Focus Seals, and Support Seals. Blast Seals support the following five attacks:
- Lightning Strike: A targeted strike that deals lightning damage.
- Ice Storm: Spawns a field of ice that deals more damage as it gets colder.
- Flame Burst: Rapid fire damage to a set location.
- Rime Blast: Ice projectiles that damage and freeze close targets.
- Living Flame: A burst of heatseeking flame energy.
Focus Seals, the secondary gear attack, are also split into five attacks:
- Hoarfrost Shards: Rapid ice projectiles that gradually freeze enemies.
- Fireball: Can either be charged to explode on contact or shot in a rapid clip.
- Ball Lightning: Electric energy that can ricochet off walls to hit enemies behind cover.
- Glacial Beam: A beam of powerful ice energy sent to a set location.
- Arc Burst: A blast of lightning that deals heavy damage.
Storm Javelin Support Seals increase evasion and help out teammates.
- Wind Wall: Creates a defensive wall of wind that deflects projectiles.
- Nexus: Creates a field for gear cooldown for allies in the area.
The Storm Javelin’s ultimate, Elemental Storm, sends blasts of frost, electricity, and fire, and finishes with a devastating explosion.
The Interceptor is the smallest and fastest Javelin, with the best evasion and agility stats. It’s a great class for both those that want to fight at long-range and get up close and personal. Interceptor’s can wield every weapon except for those in the heavy class. Double-Bladed Daggers, the Interceptor’s melee ability is a multi-strike dual blade attack. Basically, you can use the Interceptor as a sword-wielding specialist if you so choose.
The Interceptor has three Gear types in its loadout: Assault Systems, Strike Systems, and Support Systems. The five Assault Systems attacks are as follows:
- Seeker Glaive: Throws Razor-sharp projectiles that latch onto nearest enemy.
- Acid Bomb: Exploding grenade that inflicts acid damage to enemies in its wake.
- Cryo Glaive: A projectile that locks onto a target and freezes it.
- Cluster Mine: Mines that explode when touched by enemies.
- Spark Dash: A dash attack that leaves streaks of electricity behind you.
Strike Systems attacks, the secondary attack gear slots, also have five options:
- Star Strike: Charges a nearby enemy with energy, explodes after it builds up.
- Plasma Star: Long-range plasma shuriken.
- Nova Strike: Deploys a “projection” of yourself that attacks enemies.
- Tempest Strike: A devastating single-target attack that can stun smaller enemies. A strike that stuns small enemies.
- Corrosive Spray: Unleashes an acid shower that hurts all enemies that it touches.
The Interceptor’s support systems bolster either your attacks or lend a hand to teammates:
- Target Beacon: Marks an enemy for increased damage.
- Rally Cry: Removes status effects from all allies in the area.
The Interceptor’s ultimate ability, Assassin’s Blades, work similarly to its melee attack. However, the suit powers up and the blades move faster, inflicting more damage at a quicker rate.
Players won’t be the only ones wielding Javelins. In November, BioWare shared on a livestream that enemies will be able to make use of the technology, as well. The Valkyrie enemy, for instance, makes use of a suit that acts like the Storm Javelin.
Fight to the death
As players dive into the wilderness in the first trailer, we see several enormous beasts sprinting away from danger. After being spotted by a group of gun-wielding creatures, one player pulls out a shotgun to dispose of them while another slams his suit’s fist into the ground, hitting several targets. Unlike some of Bioware’s other role-playing games, there are no numbers popping above enemies’ heads when they’re hit in this demo.
The Javelins can also be outfitted for long-range damage. After encountering a group of enemy called Scars, the player using the Colossus launches a mortar from its back, while the player in the Ranger suit uses a lock-on missile barrage. The results are devastating, with the entire squad decimated in seconds. Once the fight is complete, the Freelancers are rewarded with new loot. In this case, it’s a “volt rifle” called “Jarra’s Wrath.” Based on the item, it appears that weapons have an item level, as well as individual statistics for damage, accuracy, range, rate of fire, and ammunition.
During EA Play 2018, we got the chance to see several Freelancers go up against one of Anthem’s Titans, and a longer version of the demonstration was made available later in the year.
In the video, we see Freelancers beginning their mission from a mobile base of operations, the Strider, before heading out into the unknown to complete an objective. After leaving the Strider, the player is able to invite others to join them on their adventure and then they head into a stronghold, where they fend off enemies as they approach the Swarm Tyrant boss. She has weak points that should be familiar to fans of action role-playing games, and using fire deals critical damage to her.
Dynamic events and freeplay
Not all of the missions in Anthem will happen at set times. Instead, there will be dynamic world events (like There Be Giants from the first weekend after Anthem’s launch) that players can encounter while exploring the open world. One of these, a Shaper Storm, is seen at the very end of the first gameplay demonstration. The objective isn’t made clear, but the team of two expands to four, with two players instantly teleporting to their location, and they all fly head-on into the lightning-filled storm.
Similar to Destiny 2‘s open-world exploration, Anthem will allow you to roam at your own pace in Freeplay. This mode will let you grab loot or select missions to complete, as well as give you an opportunity to try out new Javelin types.
Once you finish the main storyline in Anthem, your time with the game is really just beginning. Three “Grandmaster” difficulty levels are only available once you hit the endgame at level 30, and the highest of these offers the best chance to find top-tier gear and customization items.
New objectives are available once you complete the main story are split into challenges, contracts, Freeplay mode, and Strongholds. Strongholds are essentially small raids, similar in scale to a strike in Destiny 2, and task you and a few squad-mates with completing a difficult objective in a fortified area. One of these was available in the beta and ended in an enormous boss fight against the “Swarm Tyrant” monster seen in earlier E3 demonstrations.
Contracts, meanwhile, are essentially side missions given to you by various characters at Fort Tarsis, and increasing your reputation with groups will give you access to new crafting blueprints. Daily, weekly, and monthly challenges will also be available to obtain these, as well as currency you can spend on other items.
“Legendary” contracts are more involved than standard contracts, featuring multiple parts and a significantly increased difficulty level. Rewards should reflect this spike in difficulty.
This is NOT Mass Effect
It seems like EA and Bioware may put the Mass Effect franchise on hold for the time being, but don’t expect Anthem to cover the exact same ground. In a June 2017 interview with CBC Radio in Edmonton, Alberta, where Bioware’s main studio is located, former Bioware general manager Aaryn Flynn called the game science-fantasy, where the concrete answers behind some of its more unbelievable technology aren’t particularly important.
“[Anthem is] very much like Star Wars, very much like the Marvel universe, where you see a lot of amazing things happening but we don’t worry too much about why they’re happening or how they’re happening,” Flynn said. “Mass Effect is more of a real hardcore science-fiction IP. This one is much more about just having fun in a game world that is really lush and exotic and really sucks you in.”
Anthem is being directed by Jonathan Warner, a former senior producer on the Mass Effect series, who revealed the game will have a beta prior to launch, an event that didn’t go as well as everyone hoped. Previously, Mass Effect 2 developer Corey Gaspur was working on the game as its lead designer, but he passed away unexpectedly just a month after it was announced.
Anthem is paying tribute to BioWare’s Mass Effect past, however, with at least one N7-themed Javelin skin available in the game. It was revealed on November 7, 2018, which Mass Effect fans refer to as N7 Day, but it’s unclear if there will be additional similar skins for the other Javelin types.
Possible VR mode?
Electronic Arts and BioWare have not given any information on whether or not Anthem will support virtual reality headsets, but writer Jay Watamaniuk may have spilled the beans. At the studio’s holiday party in December 2017, Watamaniuk posted an image on Twitter that appears to show something labeled “Anthem VR” in the background. Given the game’s scale and detail, it’s unlikely the full game would feature such a mode, but it could be a sign of an interesting side experience — nothing has been announced yet as we approach launch.
Mass Effect games have featured paid expansions in the past, but Anthem is taking a different approach. The game’s story DLC will be completely free, allowing BioWare to continue telling its narrative to all players after the game’s initial launch. It’s an approach we’ve seen before with other online games, but BioWare aims to make you the center of the story rather than one linear plotline.
Anthem will have microtransactions available when it launches on February 22, but they will be limited to cosmetic items and everything purchasable with premium currency will also be available to buy with coins earned in the game the traditional way.
During beta testing periods, a leaked image of the in-game store appeared to show that buying one armor pack for your Javelin could potentially set you back $20. However, senior systems designer Chris Schmidt told concerned players that the prices were not set in stone yet, and that they could change by the time the game is in stores.
The “VIP” demo released prior to Anthem‘s official launch gave players the opportunity to try out the game’s Stronghold missions and explore some of its world, but it ran into issues that prevented many players from accessing the game for hours.
It persisted on all platforms, and when the game was working properly, console players and PC players both ran into framerate problems, with the latter system encountering issues even on a very powerful rig. Infinite loading screens were also experienced on PC, but it isn’t clear yet if they’ll affect the final game.
When can we play it?
Anthem is currently slated to launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC on February 22, 2019 but some players will be able to play it sooner. In the past, we’ve explained how players can access the demo and full game pre-launch.
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