Anthem is BioWare’s attempt to split the difference between living multiplayer and the dialogue-driven RPGs they’re known for, but it’s not quite the same as you’ve seen it in the past. For one thing, dialogue wheels are a thing of the past, replaced by binary choices that cut down how many options you’re split between when conversation comes up.
So when you’re talking to a character – always in first person, it happens – things will briefly pause and give you two options, one each to the left and right. It looks a little like the paragon or renegade cinematic moments in the later Mass Effects, but it doesn’t seem to be that sort of binary hero or jerk style.
BioWare says this is part of their effort to reduce the choice paralysis inherent for certain players in deep RPGs, and help bring the game to a new audience. As an added benefit, it cuts back on the sorts of false choices you often see in game dialogue, where multiple different options all eventually lead you to the same conclusion.
“We are talking to a different audience,” executive producer Mark Darrah says at a press briefing. “An audience that isn’t used to these kinds of decisions in conversation. We wanted it to be simpler, but we also didn’t want to present you with any false choices, where it’s like ‘here’s three choices that lead to the same place.’”
You’ll also get Cortex entries through dialogue – yes, it sounds like ‘codex’ for a reason. As you speak with certain characters, panels of additional information will appear in the upper right corner of the screen, giving you new lore information to scroll through as dialogue progresses. At first glance, it feels like a replacement for the purely investigative options you see in something like a Mass Effect, but instead of having that exposition delivered through dialogue, you’re seeing it in a different context.
One area where BioWare isn’t scaling back is the quality of the conversations. In previous games, they’ve had a concept they refer to as “bronze conversations,” where chats with minor characters wouldn’t be rendered with the same fidelity as more substantial dialogues. That won’t be the case in Anthem, as they’re working to build every conversation – even the “bronze” ones – to have the same sort of impact as those big talks, meaning the same quality of presentation, lighting, and facial performance.
Today’s Anthem news has shown that, indeed, this isn’t quite the dialogue-driven RPG BioWare is known for. But at the same time, it’s not the linear, sparse narrative associated with plenty of other cooperative shooters – it’s a hybrid that splits the difference.