Anthem E3 2018 Previews, Interviews

If you're interested in learning a few tidbits about BioWare's upcoming co-operative action-RPG Anthem, you might want to check out a couple of previews below, straight from the game's E3 2018 hands-on demo. Let's start with GameSpot's preview that offers a general overview of Anthem's gameplay loop:

As you complete jobs, you'll acquire more resources and new gear for the exo-suits. While you'll focus on one Javelin early on, you'll eventually be able to switch over to other suits. So far, Anthem has four unique Javelins: the all-around striker Ranger; the Hulk-like Colossus; the glass-cannon Storm, which uses elemental attacks; and the agile Interceptor. As you can tell, the Javelins are not unlike classes in a traditional RPG, fulfilling those standard archetypes needed to round out a group.

While the mission culminated in a battle against the large Swarm Tyrant boss, who summoned smaller spider creatures and other hazards against the group, the demo ended about halfway through the fight. What's interesting about this battle is that it highlighted the game's focus on online gameplay, as it required a lot firepower to whittle the boss's health down. While the Mass Effect games had online modes, they were single-player games at heart. During the presentation, the developers stated that while players can go solo, they'll eventually come across some fights that will be too challenging to tackle alone.

While there's still plenty we don't know about Anthem--narrative-progression, PvP, and just what the endgame can offer--this brief taste of the game offered a whole lot to look forward to. Though BioWare has already dabbled in the sci-fi space with Mass Effect, Anthem comes off as a major departure for the company, specifically in how it's focusing much more on fast gameplay and dynamic battles. Still, we're eager to hear more about the larger specifics of the game, and just what that means for the bigger picture of Anthem.

Then, let's move on to PCWorld's preview that praises Anthem's gameplay but wonders if the game will have the story to support said gameplay:

Bottom line

Anyway, as I said: Don’t write Anthem off yet. I’ve been surprised before—I still remember when I played my first Wolfenstein: The New Order demo back in 2013 and came away expecting the game to be a disaster. Instead, it’s an all-time favorite of mine. These short, highly-focused E3 demos are far removed from actually playing the game.

I just hope Anthem actually feels like a BioWare game when it finally releases next February. They can pivot into open-worlds, pivot into shooters, but when I hear “BioWare” I expect a thrilling and complex story I can sink hours into. If that’s not the case here, I’ll be disappointed. Anthem handles like a champ—but so does Destiny.

And then, let's see what the PC Gamer editors have to say about their time with the demo:

Chris: Although the demo left us with a lot of questions and didn't show off any of the narrative elements we're so curious about, I'll definitely say this: the flying feels great. Leaping off the ground an engaging your Javelin's jets, giving yourself a burst of speed, and especially being able to hover while engaging the enemy really does make you feel like Iron Man. Everything about it feels good. You also have to manage the heat of your jets, which was a bit of a bringdown (literally) because if you overheat you'll plummet to the ground until you cool off. I wasn't so jazzed by that—if you're gonna give me jets, let me use them for more than fifteen seconds at a time, though I assume we'll be able to upgrade them. On the plus side, you can use the environment to cool off. If you spot a waterfall, fly through it or hover under it and the water will cool off your rockets, letting you stay in the air longer.

Phil: Yeah, the flying was what made me think Anthem could be a thing I regularly play. I'm a sucker for a good traversal system, and I actually like that overheating is a factor. A space is more interesting when there's a reason to pay attention to its construction, and having to find water sources for longer flights fits the bill. My bigger concern is the combat, which I'd describe as functional. Being able to combo abilities is a neat twist. During fights, you can layer different types of attacks to deal bonus damage, like throwing an ice grenade and then hitting enemies with my wrist-mounted rocket. But the moment-to-moment gunplay didn't feel all that special. Admittedly I say this as a longtime Destiny player. For all Destiny 2's problems, its gunplay is spot on. Anthem isn't there yet, which means it'll need to rely on its layouts and teamplay mechanics to pick up the slack.

And with that out of the way, let's check out PC Gamer's extensive interview with BioWare's executive producer Mark Darrah, where he talks about Anthem's story, co-op elements, mechanics, and more:

PC Gamer: People have this expectation for what is a BioWare game and Anthem seems to subvert a lot of that. Why move in this new direction away from what BioWare has been known for?

Mark Darrah: You know the interesting thing is if you look back at BioWare's history, we've been changing the types of games we've been making the whole time. I think what has been happening for a lot of that time is that the definition for genres has also been shifting. If you look at Baldur's Gate compared to Dragon Age: Inquisition, they're both considered RPGs but they're very different from each other. There are relationships in [Baldur's Gate] but there are no romances, it's a different camera angle—it's different in a lot of ways. Evolution has always been a part of our lineage.

I think what's happening with Anthem to some degree, we were looking to do something that allows us to tell an ongoing story, to have a world that has really good watercooler moments. One problem we often have with our storytelling is that it's not really viral, people don't really share their experiences because they're worrying about spoiling it and also there's a tendency for people to think that maybe they like it but other people won't. But having this shared world gives people a lot more opportunities to talk to people and not worry about ruining that experience for them.

What's happened since Anthem first started development is that an entire genre has risen out of nowhere. I mean, Borderlands existed when Anthem started but nothing else did. I think that the connection to what we've done in the past is still clearly there, but there's expectations coming in from a genre that has emerged and encapsulated Anthem since then that is maybe throwing people off a little bit.

And then follow that up with VentureBeat's interview with BioWare's general manager Casey Hudson:

GamesBeat: Were there people who felt kind of burned out on Mass Effect, who wanted to do something new?

Hudson: Part of why we initially envisioned Mass Effect as a trilogy — you remember, that was around the time in Amsterdam, a long time ago – is because it takes a long time to make games. We could imagine that after three games, a lot of time would have passed, and we would probably, as developers, want to do some kind of significant update to what we were doing. Likewise, fans would probably want something that was a reinvention or a reimagination at that point.

The idea of it being a trilogy kind of provided a break point that everyone could look forward, and then a refresh period. It was around that time when the original Mass Effect team moved on to start Project Dylan, which became Anthem. Partly because it was a good time to do that shift into a period where we could create new IP.

GamesBeat: How did you fit in with the timing of starting up Anthem?

Hudson: When I was still with the studio in 2012, 2013—we kind of spent 2012 finishing out a lot of DLC for Mass Effect 3. As we got into 2013, we started putting people full time toward Anthem. I was on it for, I would say, a full year, full time on Anthem, before I left the studio. Then the first time I saw it again was the E3 stuff from last year, which was really interesting, because—I messaged the team afterward and said, “This is really everything I would have hoped you’d do with the world we were creating.”