After the somewhat polemical release of Mass Effect: Andromeda, developer BioWare is turning its attention to the next entry in its illustrious catalog of action RPG titles; the ambitious shared open-world third-person shooter Anthem.
With close to seven years of development under the hood, the blessing of EA, and a genuinely palpable fervor from players across the world, Anthem is either on the cusp of being 2019’s standout title or another expensive flop to adorn BioWare’s rap sheet.
With the launch just around the corner, we’ve gathered together all the Anthem news, rumors, and trailers for a comprehensive overview of what’s in store.
Anthem Release Date
EA has marked Anthem for release on February 22nd, 2019, nearly five years on from announcing the game at E3 2014 and after initially planning a launch at the end of 2018.
Multiple factors influenced the delay notably conflicting schedules with the next iteration of EA’s behemoth Battlefield series dropping in November 2018, and reports suggesting BioWare’s fate is linked to how well Anthem performs both in sales figures and critical response. Development is nearing seven years with a substantial investment of time and resources BioWare is intent on recuperating.
Pushing back the release has given the developer time to polish and round off the edges in anticipation and supposedly gives Anthem more breathing room commercially with a dedicated launch window.
However, a quick look at the release schedule for next year shows that February 22nd, 2019 is among the busiest days of the year with Crackdown 3, Days Gone, and Metro Exodus landing alongside Anthem. The logic appears somewhat flawed, but avoiding internal competition with Battlefield V is reason enough to push back release in EA’s estimation.
Borrowing from the jumbled release playbook of Battlefield V, players can get their hands on Anthem far earlier than February 22nd, 2019.
Those lucky enough to part with their cash ahead of time by pre-ordering Anthem get access to a playable VIP demo from January 25th-27th, 2019, while us mere mortals have to wait until February 1st-3rd, 2019 to get our hands on the open demo. Similarly, Early Access kicks off from February 15th for members of either Origin Access or EA Access.
Pre-orders also include an in-game founders player banner and the Ranger: Legion of Dawn legendary armor pack & weapon for the Standard Edition. While those who opt for the beefy Legion of Dawn Edition will receive all of the above plus a Ranger Javelin exosuit legendary gear attachment, Colossus: Legion of Dawn legendary armor pack, Storm: Legion of Dawn legendary armor pack, Interceptor: Legion of Dawn legendary armor pack, and a digital copy of the Anthem soundtrack.
Anthem lands on the usual triad of PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
EA doesn’t skimp on trailers, and the publisher has stuck to this habit with Anthem showcasing the game across no less than five trailers in the space of eighteen months and a lavish assortment of gameplay videos.
Although revealed back in 2014, the first look at Anthem didn’t arrive until E3 2017 with the first official teaser trailer. As trailers go, BioWare’s first offering was a thing of intense beauty hinting at Anthem‘s scope and ambition. With a smattering of lore-focused nods and world reveal, it set the scene for what was to come in later trailers.
BioWare didn’t stop there at E3 2017 and unleashed the first sustained in-game footage depicting a bustling market scene introducing the game’s freelancer protagonists and the predominant jetpack-powered Javelin exosuit mechanic. A swift trek through a jungle teeming with exotic flora and fauna leads to an equally rich underwater world before an encounter with a horde of diminutive tech equipped bi-pedal enemies.
The footage also stresses the cooperative aspect of Anthem with staged in-game comms, squad assembly, and organized tactics between players, best exemplified by a coordinated attack on a group of Scars. It also pushes the idea of a ”shared world” peppered with events, dynamic weather, explorable dungeon ruins, raids, and smaller narrative free play side quests.
BioWare’s presence at E3 2018 produced a more cinematic trailer. Anthem‘s world is a godless one left to its own devices with only the Anthem of Creation (the instruments of creation used by the gods to design the world of Anthem) and towering protective walls to keep it from heading towards complete and utter disaster.
In September 2018, the ”Our World, My Story” trailer surfaced shedding light on the dynamic between an ever-evolving world and the unique narrative experienced by each player through missions, free play, character development, a hub of sorts, and real-time storytelling. As the velvety tones of the narrator put it ”a reinvention of personal narrative in a multiplayer world”.
More recently, BioWare popped up at The Game Awards in December 2018 with a new trailer where we got a closer look at what we understand to be the game’s shadowy antagonist, seemingly set on harnessing the power of the Anthem to wreak havoc.
Anthem’s story is one that moves away from classic BioWare heavy sci-fi angle. Instead, events and technology exist without necessarily having a technical explanation to legitimize them.
With that in mind, Anthem sets up an ambitious narrative centered on a world abandoned by gods known as Shapers. The world they’ve left behind is unfinished; incomplete to the point of reigning chaos. The vestige of their creative playground is a savage world of myriad threats from bizarre beasts and unpredictable weather among stunning natural beauty.
A group known as the freelancers, whose role the player takes on, is tasked with safeguarding humanity’s fickle grasp on the remnant of the gods’ creation tools, the Anthem, which unleashes environment-shifting changes and transformations at every turn.
Through their superhuman ability-inducing Javelin exosuits, the freelancers traverse the world to fight off forces eager to harness the power of the Anthem for evil ends and ward off colossal monsters.
Gameplay in Anthem is a mixture of exploration, combat, looting, and leveling focused on the Javelin exosuit, which comes in one of four types.
The first is the Ranger, a versatile combat suit with a selection of weaponry including a melee shock mace, grenades, missiles, and supportive gear. The Ranger’s ultimate is the multi-target missile battery, which rains down a barrage of precision-guided projectiles on a given target.
Next up, we have the Colossus, a heavy suit designed for damage with more armor than a tank. It sports heavy weaponry including artillery cannons, mortars, and a flamethrower. The Colossus can perform the heavy smash attack to clear out hordes of enemies in quick succession. Siege cannon is the Colossus’ Ultimate.
Third, we have the Interceptor Javelin. Centered on stealth, the Interceptor is ideal for fast-paced and agile combat. Similarly to the Ranger, it can support everything except heavy weapons including a set of double-bladed daggers and supportive systems like the enemy freezing Cryo Glaive. The Assassin’s Blades ultimate carves through enemies at breakneck speed to clear a path for other Javelins.
Finally, we have the mysterious Storm Javelin that channels the energy of the Anthem through kinetic powers. It doesn’t have a jetpack and instead levitates offering unmatched control. The Storm is, however, lacking in defensive capabilities although it can channel natural forces such as fire and lighting to stun enemies. Marrying these together, the Storm can unleash the Elemental Storm ultimate, which fires off a succession of frost, fire, and electric blasts.
There are two progression branches in Anthem: pilot progression and Javelin progression. Pilot progression is character specific regardless of what Javelin is used rewarding points for every mission, kill, and successful sortie into Anthem‘s colorful world. Points can then be assigned to different abilities to improve overall performance.
Javelin progression, as the name suggests, is Javelin specific. Repeated use of a particular type of Javelin amasses abilities, equipment, and rarities. These are then arranged for maximum efficiency depending on the situation. Options are where BioWare is heading with all this to ensure each player can define a loadout that works based on their style and personal preference.
As for the co-op aspect of Anthem, BioWare explains it is aiming for flexibility with the ability to jump into a friend’s mission at any moment to lend a helping hand or conversely leave when you want.
The Javelin squad format follows in the same footsteps by not imposing any rigid composition requirements (like in say an RPG game where you need a tank, healer, damage dealer, etc. to succeed), meaning players can mix and match suits depending on their personal preference without any effect on in-game progression.
Much of the game will originate from Fort Tarsis, a bustling trading town that acts as a hub or HQ. Players can pick up missions and contacts from the town’s colorful inhabitants, interact with NPCs to get a deeper understanding of the world’s history and lore, and develop relationships with the various factions and support characters. From there, players don their favorite Javelin suit and venture out into the great unknown for the meaty combat segments of the game.
Anthem News and Rumors
During an interview with the enigmatic Major Nelson at E3 2017, EA vice president Patrick Söderlund explained that a Destiny style flurry of post-launch content would see the light of day with ambitions to foster a close relationship with developer BioWare for upwards of a decade. BioWare qualifies the content as an ‘ongoing series of adventures’ in keeping with Anthem‘s focus on story and character development as central pillars of the gameplay loop.
Anthem follows the recent trend of ”live service” games but omits the need for a subscription or the ever popular Season Pass paywall numerous recent titles have adopted. DLC will be accessible to all owners of the game.
BioWare qualified this at E3 2018 by noting that Anthem would be devoid of loot boxes in any shape or form with an emphasis on microtransactions for cosmetic Javelin exosuit customization; a rather wise move on EA’s part given its choppy history with much-maligned loot boxes.
Anthem‘s lead producer, Mike Gamble, confirmed in September 2018 that the game would not incorporate the romancing synonymous with the studio’s previous games, with the focus instead on close-knit friendships and cooperation.
Mark Darrah, the executive producer on Anthem, noted during E3 2018 that the game requires an internet connection and isn’t playable offline.
From the trailers and gameplay demo, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Anthem is a demanding game hardware-wise, notably for PC players. Darrah revealed that a dual GTX 1080 Ti setup was required to run the 4K/60FPS demo showcased at E3 2018.
How this will shape up after optimization work is anyone’s guess. As for console editions, there’s no word on what players should expect, notably whether the game will be capped at 30 fps like Horizon Zero Dawn to ensure a uniform experience.
We’ve also learned that no PvP is planned for launch day, although BioWare is actively considering the implementation of such modes further down the line as part of DLC content.
The Final Word
A new IP is a cause for celebration at the prospect of a fresh approach to an established genre. With Anthem, BioWare and EA appear to have conjured up a world ripe for exploration brimming with an intriguing story.
How they manage to marry a multiplayer game with the purported unique narrative each player will experience is yet to reveal itself fully. The deficiencies and failings of Bungie’s Destiny immediately spring to mind, and if anything it will be interesting to see how BioWare fares at improving upon a similar template.
If they pull it off, Anthem has the potential to catapult itself into the records of gaming history as a defining entry of the current generation and more importantly reasserting BioWare’s position among the AAA powerhouse studios.