Anthem was undoubtedly one of the biggest reveals at E3 2017, and is BioWare’s brand new IP. From the minds behind the original Mass Effect, the game looks to be targeting the likes of Destiny 2 and The Division in terms of being the next huge, live MMO-like. But what is it, exactly? We’ve got all the details right here.
Anthem places you in mechanised combat suits known as Javelins, effectively turning us all into Iron Man. These suits enhance strength, allow the user to wield incredibly powerful weapons, and even fly like a fighter jet. Those that use these Javelins – known through Anthem’s world as Freelancers – take on jobs to help the planet’s surviving population. This is a world plagued by monstrous creatures and colossal, destructive storms. By banding together in co-op missions, you’ll be able to do your part in making the world an easier place to exist within.
EA and BioWare have kept much of Anthem’s details to themselves, but a deep dive on stage during EA Play at E3 2018, lots of information from PAX West 2018, and a Twitter Q&A with Anthem’s executive producer Mark Darrah, means we now have a solid understanding of the game.
Anthem release date
Anthem will release on February 22, 2019. It can be pre-ordered for PC over at the Origin store, where two versions are available: the standard and Legion of Dawn edition, priced £54.99 and £69.99 respectively. If you want to play with friends playing on consoles, however, we have bad news: there will be no Anthem cross platform play at launch.
Pre-orders offer a bonus of the Legion of Dawn Ranger armour pack, a legendary weapon, a Founders player banner, plus VIP access to pre-launch demos. Should you opt in to the more expensive Legion of Dawn edition, you’ll also get a complete set of Legion of Dawn Javelin armour packs, a legendary weapon and gear attachment, plus the digital soundtrack.
This release date is later than EA originally announced, as the Anthem YouTube channel originally stated autumn 2018. However, EA has confirmed that it’s now aiming for early 2019 in order to allow 2018’s Battlefield V to stand alone in the autumn slot, with a report from Kotaku suggesting the 2018 window was “never realistic.”
Sources suggest that BioWare has experienced trouble with development, which could be contributing to that 2019 Anthem release date. The team is apparently concerned whether it can overcome similar issues experienced by Destiny 2 and its lack of content, but the vast majority of BioWare staff at both Edmonton and Austin at work on the game, so hopefully they can get this right.
For a little more on the game’s development, take a look at this interview from E3 with the game’s director, Jonathan Warner, below.
Not only will there be Anthem alphas and betas, there will also be Anthem demo access coming in February. That means there are plenty of chances to get your hands on Bioware’s shooter before its full release, but the “VIP Demo” that launches on February 1 will only be available to those who have pre-ordered the game or are EA/Origin Access members.
We have a confirmation from the BioWare dev blog that Anthem is now in its alpha stages and that “every part of the game is in, and functioning.” The alpha is currently making the rounds at the BioWare office and their partner studios.
After Anthem launches the devs plan on releasing content in an organised schedule. When a Twitter user asked Mark Darrah if there would be six month content droughts, Darrah replied that they “plan content a lot more frequently than that”.
Anthem is a “science fantasy” game according to BioWare, with the studio’s general manager Aaryn Flynn drawing comparisons between it, Star Wars, and the Marvel universe. “You see a lot of amazing things happening,” he explained, “but we don’t worry too much about why they’re happening or how they’re happening, the science of it. Mass Effect is more our real hardcore science fiction IP, this one is much more about having fun in a lush game world that really sucks you in.” In short, don’t expect scientific justifications behind every fantastical thing you see on-screen.
Anthem is set on a planet abandoned by the gods. These masters of creation – known as Shapers – left their massive tools behind when they fled. These tools make use of the Anthem of Creation, a powerful force that can achieve great things when wielded by the Shapers. But now they have been abandoned, the Anthem is causing great chaos in the form of monsters. Humanity separated itself from these monsters by hiding behind a colossal structure known as ‘the wall’ where we now live in a shantytown-like city called Fort Tarsis. Monsters are not the only threat, either – the planet suffers from ‘Shaper storms’ which are incredibly violent lightning events caused by the Anthem of Creation. These storms sweep the planet, reshaping the environment with their destructive force.
Mechanically, the planet works as an open world, with colossally huge environments. What we’ve seen so far is lush and vibrant, with a tropical rainforest feel. Huge trees, rivers, and rock formations seem to make up the majority of the landscape seen in the first gameplay trailers and demos. You can expect this world to feel dynamic, with technologies like water accumulation ensuring the environments feel alive.
The vibe is very much a sci-fi spin on Attack on Titan, with the omni-direction harnesses used to climb and swing around the huge monsters in that manga swapped out in Anthem for mech-like power armour suits called Javelins. These suits have been confirmed to be freely controlled by players, with BioWare noting that falling from heights will cause damage. The people who wear such suits are known as Freelancers and you are one of them. Humanity is at the bottom of the food chain on this aggressive planet, but that hasn’t stopped us from striking back.
Your job as one of Fort Tarsis’ Freelancers will be to protect the settlement from humanity’s enemies and the effects of the ancient and abandoned Shaper technology. This tech is millenia ahead of anything humanity can understand, but your enemies – a human faction named the Dominion and an alien faction named the Scars – are both trying to gain access to the world-shapers. Freelancers are their own tech faction in the Anthem universe and Darrah has confirmed on Twitter that you won’t be able to leave and join others. Your job will be to find and interact with the technology and shut it down if it becomes too dangerous.
We know BioWare veteran Drew Karpyshyn was working on Anthem for some time. If you don’t know his name, you’ll no doubt be interested to hear that Karpyshyn was the lead writer on some of the studio’s most beloved games. His pen was behind the scripts of Mass Effect 1 and 2 and Knights of the Old Republic. Seems like there’s potential for Anthem to have a stellar plot, then.
Talking of returning talent, Ted Reedy – composer for BioWare’s Dragon Age: Inquisition and TV show Vikings – will be behind Anthem’s soundtrack.
Once you’ve polished off the Anthem story, there will be story-focused Anthem DLC that will be entirely free. At PAX West 2018, executive producer Mark Darrah explained how the team didn’t want to divide its player base between those who would pay for DLC, and those who wouldn’t.
Anthem single-player and co-op
EA and BioWare have confirmed that while you can play Anthem on your own or in co-op, Anthem will not have PvP, and will, at least initially, rely entirely on PvE gameplay. In the quick-fire Game Informer interview below, Anthem’s executive producer Mark Darrah confirmed that you won’t be able to play Anthem offline. There’ll also be a four-player game mode called Stronghold, but there’s no solid information about that just yet.
Anthem is a “live service” game, akin to the likes of Destiny 2 and The Division. “This game is built around a live service, and through our creative process, we’ve decided to add more to the disruptive new social designs for our players,” EA CEO Andrew Wilson said during a recent investor’s call. Ignore all the marketing speak, and that means Anthem is going to be a persistent online game. The publisher believes you’ll be playing it for a very long time, too; EA plans for Anthem to run for ten years.
Like other shared-world or ‘MMO-lite’ games, Anthem is designed around letting you play missions and activities in co-op. The game will support four-player co-op, and when out in the open-world environments you will be able to share your experience with other players. The co-op system appears to be drop-in/drop-out, too, with friends warping in to your location when they join your group.
HUD elements seen in the gameplay reveal show an ‘ally of the week’ award. This could, perhaps, be given out to players based on the kind of support they offer to their team, such as best shot or best supporter. We’re guessing it’s a bit like MVP for co-op. Though it might also play into the Alliance System, something mentioned during E3 2018 but with the caveat that BioWare wasn’t ready to talk about it yet.
Flying in your Javelin suit looks ridiculously cool. Even better, during our Gamescom 2018 hands-on, we found it plays even better than it looks.Read the full story
With the game looking similar to Destiny, there are questions regarding how teaming up for activities will work. When asked about looking for group or matchmaking systems on Twitter, game director Jonathan Warner said that he thinks players will be happy, hinting that it won’t restrict players in the same ways Destiny has in the past.
Mark Darrah has confirmed that Anthem will have raid matchmaking, meaning there’s no worries about finding other high-level players to complete difficult missions. There will be no settings for the matchmaking in Anthem with Darrah saying that it would be too “exclusionary”. However, he also said on Twitter that the team want to try and balance parties as much as possible.
Players are also encouraged to play alongside freelancers of all levels and experience. BioWare has a system designed to reward high-level players for helping out newbies, so even if you’re falling far behind your friends’ progress, they won’t be at a disadvantage if they do lower-level missions with you.
If you’d rather not play with others, though, Anthem’s story missions can be played as a single-player game. When asked on Twitter, Anthem’s lead designer Corey Gaspur confirmed that the game is designed so you can play the story alone or with friends.
Yes of course! The game is designed so you can enjoy an amazing BioWare story and explore an incredible open world alone or with friends.
— Corey Gaspur (@CGaspur) June 11, 2017
It’s worth bearing in mind that Anthem is an online game akin to Destiny, so even though missions are playable solo you’ll need to be online to do so.
Being a BioWare game, Anthem’s story is core to the experience, and this is emphasised through solo segments of the game. While the open-world mission areas are shared environments, the places you return to after questing are private zones reserved for each individual player. Examples of these are Fort Tarsis and your Strider; an AT-AT-like moving forward base. These single-player areas are explored in first-person, and are where you’ll interact with NPC characters and Anthem dialogue choices – which will not lock you out of any missions, don’t worry – and experience the more traditional story-led aspects of Anthem.
Anthem mechanics and features
EA describes Anthem as an “action adventure” game rather than an RPG, but in the previously mentioned investor call Wilson said we can expect “the great RPG character development and story progression that BioWare is known for.” Again, like Destiny, Anthem will feature heavy action and shooting mechanics, backed up by RPG features like skills and customisation. It appears much of this will come through the use of the Javelins, which can perform various abilities and attacks dependent on their construction.
Talking of the things BioWare is known for, Anthem will feature choice and consequences. “You either live with the choices you make,” the teaser says, “or die trying to change them.” Out in the world you will play with and encounter other players, but when you go back to the mission hub in Fort Tarsis, this area will play host to most to key Anthem single-player components, including the building of relationships with NPCs.
Relationships are influenced by the Anthem dialogue system which will feature binary choices and consequences you would expect from a BioWare game. Don’t expect Anthem romance, though, at least not yet. The game will not feature romantic relationships, but Casey Hudson has said that the studio is open to adding them into the game at a later date. Both dialogue and Fort Tarsis were shown off in a recent Anthem livestream, which you can watch above.
— ANTHEMwhispers (@anthemwhispers) June 15, 2017
The tweet above shows off the multiple world markers that were seen in the gameplay reveal. While a couple of them were not detailed, it seems sensible to guess that the skull icon could represent a raid or other such challenging activity.
There are Anthem mechanics we know that BioWare are thinking about that won’t be available at launch, however: Anthem’s player trading won’t be ready straight away but, when it is, Fort Tarsis will be your trading hub. This won’t be between players right away but lead producer Mike Gamble admitted at PAX West that it could be something added to the game at some point.
The difficulty system in Anthem will be similar to the one in Diablo 3, where once you reach the top of your difficulty it escalates in tiers. From easy to normal then hard, expert and so on. This was confirmed by Darrah in an Twitter Q&A.
One mechanic that Anthem have introduced is being able to save particular gear loadouts per Javelin that can be quickly swapped out during combat situations. That means that Javelins can adjust to different styles of battle easily and efficiently. This, however, won’t apply to the ultimate for each Javelin which will not be interchangeable at launch.
Acting somewhat like classes, Javelins are the exo-suits worn by Freelancers. They’re equipped with jets for rocket-powered flight, which switches between a fast mode for fighter jet-like travel, and a hover for combat engagements and slower exploration. Be wary of how much heat your Javelin builds, though; overheat and you’ll stall and fall. Thankfully diving into water or flying through a waterfall will cool you down instantly.
You can own multiple Javellins and they can all be customised with different gear, weaponry, cosmetics, and paint jobs, including a suit of N7 armour for Ranger. The Javelin customisation options even extend to the kinds of materials are covering each area of the suit. Customisation items can be earned as mission rewards, found as loot, or crafted. We’re not sure how crafting works yet, but the gameplay demo at E3 2017 showed a player finding ‘Brynnium shards’ as loot, which could be crafting materials.
These exo-suits fulfil part of the RPG side of the game; a Javelin is roughly equivalent to a class, with the four types – Colossus, Ranger, Storm, and Interceptor – being roughly equivalent to a tank, generalist, mage, and, well, BioWare won’t say what the Interceptor is but our guess is that it’s a support unit. BioWare hasn’t explained the suits in depth but you will be able to switch between Javelins between missions, picking the suit that best complements your team.
Your Freelancer can progress too. While you develop your Javelins to specialise within their role, you can level up your Freelancer to activate perks that work across all your Javelins. BioWare has yet to detail what these perks will be.
Javelins appear to be elementally attuned, with the HUD displaying lightning bolts, ice, and other symbols next to player names. No further details have been offered, but perhaps this could mean there’s a rough equivalent to Mass Effect’s cryo and fire abilities/ammunition.
So far, BioWare has shown off one of each of the Javelins. We know what all four of them are called and how some of them operate, too.
The Ranger is a balanced suit designed to be a good all-rounder. In the gameplay demo from E3 2017 it is shown to be equipped with a missile launcher that fires a barrage of rockets that can be locked onto multiple targets. It also appears to have some kind of dive attack. A second Ranger can also be seen later in the trailer, equipped with different gear, as confirmed by the game’s technical design director Brenon Holmes on Reddit. Although the Ranger is flexible there will be some weapon types that I will not be able to use, Darrah said on Twitter that the Ranger will not be able to use heavy guns, using mini guns as an example.
The Colossus is a heavy tank suit with a much bulkier frame than the Ranger. We’ve so far seen it equipped with a shoulder-mounted mortar that causes incredibly massive explosions, and seen that it can do a ground-pound attack. They’re designed to carry heavier weaponry, such as grenade launchers and flamethrowers. They can also deploy a shield, which can be used to absorb the blast of landmines. Just like the Ranger will not be able to use certain weapon types, the same stands for the Colossus who can’t use pistols. It would seem that the Colossus being the solid tank would be perfect for damage and support roles but Darrah on Twitter confirmed that the Colossus has some explicit agro control, but any of the Javelin can hold support roles in theory.
The Storm has little armour but its weapons are extremely powerful. It’s your glass cannon Javelin. As you can see in the concept art above, Storm is outfitted with a cloak. Importantly, it seems to not use thrusters to move around, instead utilising what appears to be an energy field that ripples around the armour plates. And while other Javelins seem to do the ‘super hero landing’ akin to Iron Man when they drop into the game, this suit instead warps in. The right arm also appears to be elementally charged. Could Anthem feature its own sci-fi parallel to magic?
While BioWare isn’t saying much, it looks like the Interceptor may be more of a crowd control and support class. In the cinematic trailer we see the freelancer in the Interceptor throw a grenade that freezes a group of enemies in place and it also pulls the Ranger out of danger, suggesting its role in saving other team members. When asked via Twitter if the Inteceptor could fly and run faster than the other Javelins, Darrah said that it wouldn’t in overland flight as BioWare want everyone in the party to stay together.
Finally, each Javelin has a ‘super’ attack, similar to Destiny’s Guardians. The HUD has a bar beneath the weapons section that shows that an ability can be used when holding down both triggers – exactly the combo required for Destiny’s supers. It’s not used in either the 2017 or 2018 gameplay demos, but one was shown to people at the EA Play demo in Los Angeles, and it was suitably explosive.
The guns in Anthem appear to be industrial and chunky. As an RPG from BioWare, you’ll also be unsurprised to hear that they’re based on stats and levels, too.
In the 2017 demo a player is shown to pick up ‘Jarra’s Wrath’, a level 35 Legendary Volt Rifle. This already tells us a lot about the weapons system. Guns have names, are ranked by level, come in different categories, and are graded by rarity.
How this all works is yet to be revealed but it seems very close to Destiny’s system. The level of the weapon probably indicates its power, but also may relate to the level your character needs to use it. Since the Jarra’s Wrath is a Legendary item, we can also guess that there may be a variety of rarity ranks like common and epic. With the higher tier gear such as Legendary and Ancient items, you need to be over a certain minimum level.
Weapons have five statistics: damage, accuracy, range, ROF (rate of fire), and ammo. The Jarra’s Wrath appears to have high damage but low range, 300 ammo, plus a ROF of 1200, suggesting a volt rifle is a kind of assault rifle.
The gameplay demo also shows the player using a shotgun and a single-shot scout rifle. Considering the type of loot-driven systems the game appears to be based on, expect there to be a massive variety of weapons to be used alongside your Javelin’s abilities.
Weapons will have ammunition counts so you will eventually run out of bullets. BioWare is currently working out the specifics, but resupply of ammo may come in the form of returning to the hub town, using consumables, finding restock locations, or even Javelin suit abilities.
A big question that should be asked about any online game is, what happens after the game and its story have been finished? In this case, the endgame will be characterised by Anthem raids, know here as Strongholds. Also it turns out that we’ve seen one of the raids already: the 20-minute gameplay footage of we saw shortly after E3 actually had a portion of one of the raids in it.
So, how do Strongholds work? As we’ve seen in endgame content in the likes of Destiny 2, Anthem’s raids are aimed at players who have completed the story and want to continue building their skills and customising their Freelancer. These are the only missions that must be played in a team – the rest can be completed as if Anthem were another single-player BioWare game – and give you the chance to get elite gear and bragging rights. Strongholds will scale in difficulty based on the number of players in a squad.
Anthem loot boxes
Anthem will have no loot boxes. While there will be cosmetic customisation options available, there will be no random or pay-to-win elements included in the game, according to an interview with executive producer Mark Darrah. You will always know what you are buying, which suggests microtransactions will operate as a standard store setup.
Technical design director Brenon Holmes explained on Reddit that a fair perspective on the idea of monetisation is being represented by the team. EA has also stated that Anthem microtransactions “can’t afford” to make the mistakes of Battlefront II’s loot boxes. We won’t know exactly what this means until EA and BioWare reveal many more details, so do not jump to conclusions just yet about if loot boxes will appear in Anthem.
Anthem system requirements
Here are the Anthem system requirements based on information provided to players who signed up for the upcoming closed alpha. As such, these are not the final specs for the release build and are subject to change before the game’s release. No minimum PC specs were given either (though our friends at System Requirements Labs have done their best to figure it out), so we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out if our rigs are up to it.
- CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K / AMD FX-6350
- RAM: 8 GB
- OS: Windows 10 64 bit
- VIDEO CARD: Nvidia GTX 970 4GB / AMD R9 390 8GB