Undoubtedly one of the biggest reveals at E3 2017, Anthem 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.
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Anthem release date
Anthem will release in early 2019. This is later than EA originally announced, as the game’s YouTube channel originally stated Fall 2018. However, EA have confirmed that they are now aiming for early 2019 in order to allow 2018's Battlefield game to stand alone in the Fall slot. Sources suggest that BioWare have experienced trouble with development, which could be contributing to that early 2019 release date. A March launch seems a sensible guess.
The game has, of course, been in development for quite some time. Indeed, we actually saw a glimpse of it without even knowing in a tweet from Peter Moore last August.
For a little more on the game’s development, take a look at this interview from E3 with the game’s director, Jonathan Warner.
It is likely that our next big Anthem reveal will arrive at E3 2018, but BioWare's technical design director Brenon Holmes has been hinting that we might not have to wait until the summer to see more Anthem.
Anthem is described by BioWare as a “science fantasy” game, with the studio’s general manager Aaryn Flynn drawing comparisons between it and 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 dominated by huge creatures. Humanity have separated themselves from these monsters by hiding behind a colossal structure known as ‘the wall’ and now live in a shantytown-like city called Fort Tarsis. Monsters are not the only threat, either - the planet suffers from ‘Shaper storms’ which appear to be incredibly violent lightning events.
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 trailer. 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 happen to be one of them. Humanity are at the bottom of the food chain on this aggressive planet, but that hasn’t stopped them from striking back.
Nothing much has been revealed about Anthem’s story, aside from a press release explaining that “players can delve into a vast world teeming with amazing technology and forgotten treasures.” Calling the treasures ‘forgotten’ does suggest a post-event civilisation, though. Perhaps Anthem is set on Earth?
The same press release says that players “are called to defeat the forces plotting to conquer humanity.” Seems like there will be a bigger, more calculated bad guy than simply the creatures on the other side of the wall.
What we do know, though, is that BioWare veteran Drew Karpyshyn is working on Anthem. 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.
Talking of returning talent, Ted Reedy - composer for BioWare's Dragon Age: Inquisition and TV show Vikings - will be behind Anthem's soundtrack.
Anthem single-player and co-op
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 plan for Anthem to run for ten years. With those goals, it will come of no surprise to anyone that Anthem will feature an endgame experience.
Like other shared-world or ‘MMO-lite’ games, Anthem is designed around letting people play missions and activities in co-op. We know that the game will support four-player co-op, and there will probably be social hubs where you can see many 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.
With the game looking quite 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.
If you’d rather not play with others, though, Anthem 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 appears to be an online game akin to Destiny, so even though missions are playable solo there’s a good chance that you’ll need to be online to do so.
Anthem mechanics and features
EA describe 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 skills and attacks dependent on their construction.
Talking of the things BioWare are known for, Anthem may well feature choice and consequences. "You either live with the choices you make," the teaser says, "or die trying to change them." That could well just be narrative drama, but it could also be referring to the choices you’ll be required to make during Anthem’s story.
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.
Acting somewhat like classes, Javelins are the exo-suits worn by Freelancers. They’re equipped with jets for some rocket-powered flight, which seems to switch between a fast mode for fighter jet-like travel, and a hover for combat engagements and slower exploration.
There appear to be numerous Javelin suits, and all of them can be customised with different gear and weaponry. 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 shows a player finding ‘ Brynnium shards’ as loot, which could be crafting materials.
These exo-suits seem to fulfil the RPG side of the game; a Javelin appears to be roughly equivalent to a class, while the gear you equip runs parallel to a skill tree. BioWare have yet to show off how all this will work, but it would seem that swapping between Javelins and gear will allow you to fulfill different roles in your combat unit. Basically, no fixed class roles (we think).
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 have shown off three Javelins. We know what two of them are called and how they 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.
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.
The end of the E3 demo shows a third Javelin design, but doesn’t describe its functions. It is very distinct and appears to hint that there may be a ‘mage’ style Javelin. It is much tighter fitting than the Ranger or Colossus, as you can see in the concept art above, and 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?
Finally, it appears that each Javelin has a ‘super’ attack, similar to Destiny’s Guardians. The HUD has an icon in the middle that indicates an ability can be used when holding down both triggers; exactly the combo required for Destiny’s supers. It’s not used in the gameplay demo, but we can only assume it’ll look incredible based on how explosive the standard abilities are.
If that’s not quite enough Javelin information for you, why not check out the above video, where you can see BioWare draw an exo-suit in a corn field. Why? Well, we’re not entirely sure, to be honest.
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 demo a player is shown to pick up ‘Jarra’s Wrath’, a lvl35 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.
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 sort of single-shot scout rifle. Considering the type of loot-driven systems the game appears to be based around, 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 are 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.
With the Anthem release date so far away, a beta has yet to be officially announced. It will have one, though, as confirmed by game director Jonathan Warner on Twitter. So far there are no details on content, date, or if it will be open or closed, but BioWare will be testing it before launch. After all, it’s vital that the shared-world multiplayer features work bug-free upon release. We'd expect to hear something around E3 2018.
Anthem loot boxes
While there are no specifics to discuss right now, BioWare are having internal talks about what they will do in regards to microtransactions and loot boxes. Technical Design Director Brenon Holmes explained on Reddit that a fair perspective on the idea of monetization is being represented by the team. 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.
That’s everything we know of BioWare’s impressive-looking new IP so far, but the moment new information drop-pods in we’ll be sure to get it to you faster than a speeding Javelin. Check back regularly for everything Anthem.