Anthem details revealed at EA Play

BioWare is stepping way out of its comfort zone to build a massive shared world.

Revealed last year at E3, Anthem is BioWare’s attempt to move its role-playing game expertise forward into an always-online experience. This year, EA revealed more details from the shared-world action game on stage at EA Play.

The reveal began with a trailer showcasing some vague story details and that one Muse song you’ve heard roughly 3,281,903 times elsewhere. Then, BioWare team members, including director Casey Hudson, took the stage to do a “deep dive” on the game.

BioWare’s wheelhouse for the past fifteen-plus years has been single-player, deeply rich narrative experiences focusing on colorful characters and choices that make each uniquely-crafted setting come alive. According to the dev team, Anthem is that! Kinda! Anthem focuses on a massive shared world and a “single player hub” where you receive quests, turn in completed quests, talk to characters, etc. The hub is where BioWare’s core competency will shine, according to the team that took the stage, although it is obvious this is a major departure from their established strengths. The jury is sequestered and deliberating about how BioWare-y the game actually is, but it’s clear the team wants us to believe Mass Effect and Dragon Age diehards will be at home in the world of Anthem.

According to a live Twitter Q&A, there will be customization options allowing the player to change the paint job of each Javelin (the canon name of the mechanized exo-suit in which you’ll explore the world) as well as “change the geometry” of the suit, which I imagine is a fancypants way of saying “you can give your Javelin horns and stalagmites and stuff.” When addressing monetization, the dev team insisted you’ll only ever pay for cosmetic items that you’ll be able to preview before purchasing. There’s no pay-to-win.

Big exo-suits, big worlds, big voice chat Big exo-suits, big worlds, big voice chat

BioWare then showed off a gameplay trailer focusing on the overall gameplay loop the player will experience. You get a mission from Anthem (the home base), pick a Javelin, then jump into the huge world. There are four classes of Javelin to choose from and as a “freelancer” in the game, you can choose any class at any time before embarking on a mission. The classes should be familiar to folks who play Destiny, although it appears they’ve split the Hunter archetype into distinct Ranger and Intercepter classes. The Colossus looks like a tanking, high offense/low mobility option, while the Storm class looks precisely like a Stormcaller Warlock. But stormier.

Like last year, we got some truly breathtaking simulated voice chat from professional voice actors. I know all of my multiplayer squadmates typically have the buoyant voice of Paul Bettany doing improv exercises. The gameplay looks very responsive. BioWare seems to have taken the best parts of Mass Effect Andromeda’s punchy combat and upped the maneuverability of the player substantially. There’s a lot of vertical space in the world of Anthem, which means more ways to tackle each action set piece.

You probably should've killed the Rachni Queen when you had the chance. You probably should've killed the Rachni Queen when you had the chance.

After working together to dispatch a few waves of enemies and take care of various, extremely-par-for-the-course mission objectives, the crew ventured into a deep cave and was attacked by a...gross...purple, crawling, Metroid-looking thing. And then the trailer ended.

BioWare is building another massive world, but this time the team is leaning on the shared experiences of its players. We'll find out if the gamble pays off when Anthem comes out on February 22, 2019.

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