Sit the Hell Down; Anthem Doesn't Actually Look That Great

Anthem's reveal was met with some positive reactions, but it may not be the Bioware game players are expecting it to be.

This year's E3 saw the unveiling of Anthem, a sci-fi action RPG from Dragon Age and Mass Effect developer BioWare. As one might expect for a brand new IP coming from such a well-known developer, fans went nuts. Too nuts, in fact, considering how little information we actually got from the 1 minute teaser trailer and the 7 minute gameplay reveal.

And since I'd hate to see this hype train end up barreling off the tracks Mass Effect: Andromeda style, I think it's best if everyone is just informed now: Anthem doesn't actually look that great.

But before we begin quelling the surge of hype, let's get something out of the way. See the screenshot below.

Yes, the graphics are gorgeous. Now let's move on with our lives.

We don't really have much gameplay to go on...

Despite the 7 minute gameplay reveal showcased at Microsoft's E3 conference, we saw a disconcertingly small amount of actual gameplay. After seeing the two players hop into the Javelin exosuits about a quarter of the way through the demonstration, viewers are treated with a minute of jetpacking, followed by a pair of generic skirmishes in which we find out that the game has guns and...bigger guns. Novel. Oh, and then they flew into a storm, which was relevant for unexplained reasons.

Though it is hard to deny that jetpacks make everything better, it's not enough to show us how, if at all, Anthem is different than a 3rd person Destiny or a sci-fi The Division. Based purely on what was shown, the game doesn't seem to feature much more than the standard multiplayer shoot'n'loot.

What should be there to exemplify what this game can offer -- that its contemporaries don't -- is that awesome BioWare narrative that players have come to know and expect. Speaking of which...

There isn't much of a story yet.

Most of the information regarding Anthem's plot came from the initial teaser trailer shown during EA's conference. The trailer tells us that humanity has been pushed behind walls by monsters and natural disasters, while promising that players must "live with the choices you make or die trying to change them".

Other than that, we have almost nothing -- which seems like a strange choice from the typically narrative-focused BioWare. And although the bit about choices certainly sounds very BioWare-ish, the gameplay reveal from Microsoft's conference showed nothing resembling the dialogue trees, moral dilemmas, or loyalty trackers that the developer is known and loved for. 

Without any explanation of why players are exploring this world or what their motivation is, that narrative immersion we've come to expect from a BioWare game simply isn't there. It's possible that this is an intentional choice by the developer, who may be choosing to abandon the plot-heavy style in favor of a more straightforward multiplayer action game. If that is the case, then that's cause for concern because... 

It may be losing its identity as a BioWare game.

Though BioWare games have definitely veered further and further into action RPG territory in the past few years -- compare Dragon Age: Inquisition and Mass Effect: Andromeda to Dragon Age: Origins and KOTOR -- they nevertheless retained their BioWare identity thanks to the developer's focus on branching narratives and memorable characters.

But if that focus is going to be dropped in favor of your standard multiplayer shootin' and lootin', Anthem will become almost indistinguishable from Destiny 2 or even The Division. And while it's not necessarily a bad thing to be like those games, it won't satisfy the expectations or tastes of players who've come to enjoy BioWare's unique style of storytelling.

If it can't offer any unique mechanics or plot, why would I pick up Anthem when I'm already dedicated to a raid team in Destiny 2 (which will probably be a couple expansions in by the time Anthem hits store shelves in fall 2018)?

That all being said, it really doesn't look like a bad game. Not by a long shot, actually. But if you plan on purchasing Anthem with the expectation that it's going to be the greatest BioWare game ever made, there is a strong chance that you're going to be let down. Instead, go in with the expectation of a sci-fi shooter you can play with your buddies. Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised. Could Anthem still be good? Sure. Could it be spectacular? Absolutely. Just don't assume it will be when you haven't seen any actual evidence to support that idea.

What did you think of the game's reveal? Does it look like everything you wanted from Mass Effect: Andromeda? Would you rather have another Dragon Age? Let us know in the comments below and remember to check back with GameSkinny for anything and everything Anthem

Published Jun. 20th 2017

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