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 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.
Explore in 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 small groups head outside the city, 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 in their Javelins allow them to fly from point to point, with movement speed far beyond what Destiny 2‘s Sparrow vehicles allow.
There are several types of Javelin suits designed for different play styles. Thus far, we know about the Ranger, the Storm, the Colossus, and the Interceptor, all of which offer different advantages. The Interceptor, for instance, is the fastest of the bunch, while the Colossus is, naturally, the toughest. You’ll begin the game with the Ranger and will unlock the others as you play.
But 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 terrifying bosses, 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 the 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 scenarios 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.
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.”
BioWare’s Edmonton based studio is also known for the Dragon Age series and Star Wars: The Old Republic. A separate studio located in Montreal led the development of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Following the game’s poor critical performance, many of the developers at the Montreal studio shifted to other Electronic Arts’ projects.
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. 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.
Mass Effect games have featured paid expansions in the past, but Anthem is taking a different approach. The game’s story DLC , 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.
When can we play it?
Anthem is currently slated to launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC on February 22, 2019.