Anthem was undoubtedly one of the biggest reveals at E3 2017, and is BioWare’s brand new IP. From the minds behind the original Mass Effect, the game looks to be targeting the likes of Destiny 2 and The Division in terms of being the next huge, live MMO-like. But what is it, exactly? We’ve got all the details right here.
Anthem places you in mechanised combat suits known as Javelins, effectively turning us all into Iron Man. These suits enhance strength, allow the user to wield incredibly powerful weapons, and even fly like a fighter jet. Those that use these Javelins - known through Anthem’s world as Freelancers - take on jobs to help the planet’s surviving population. This is a world plagued by monstrous creatures and colossal, destructive storms. By banding together in co-op missions, you’ll be able to do your part in making the world an easier place to exist within.
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EA and BioWare have kept much of Anthem’s details to themselves, but a deep dive on stage during EA Play at E3 2018 means we now have a solid understanding of the game.
Anthem release date
Anthem will release on February 22, 2019. It can be pre-ordered for PC over at the Origin store, where two versions are available: the standard and Legion of Dawn edition, priced £54.99 and £69.99 respectively.
Pre-orders offer a bonus of the Legion of Dawn Ranger armour pack, a legendary weapon, a Founders player banner, plus VIP access to pre-launch demos. Should you opt in to the more expensive Legion of Dawn edition, you'll also get a complete set of Legion of Dawn Javelin armor packs, a legendary weapon and gear attachment, plus the digital soundtrack.
This is later than EA originally announced, as the Anthem YouTube channel originally stated Fall 2018. However, EA has confirmed that it is now aiming for early 2019 in order to allow 2018's Battlefield V to stand alone in the Fall slot, with a report from Kotaku suggesting the 2018 window was "never realistic".
Sources suggest that BioWare has experienced trouble with development, which could be contributing to that Anthem 2019 release date. The team are apparently concerned whether they can overcome similar issues experienced by Destiny 2 and its lack of cotent, but the vast majority of BioWare staff at both Edmonton and Austin at work on the game, so hopefully they can get this right.
Anthem has, of course, been in development for quite some time. Indeed, we actually saw a glimpse of it without even knowing in a tweet from Peter Moore last August.
For a little more on the game’s development, take a look at this interview from E3 with the game’s director, Jonathan Warner.
Despite the Anthem release date being just a few months away, a beta has yet to be officially announced. It will have one, though, as confirmed by game director Jonathan Warner on Twitter. So far there are no details on content, date, or if it will be open or closed, but BioWare will be testing it before launch. After all, it’s vital that the shared-world multiplayer features work bug-free upon release. We'd expect to hear something around E3 2018.
Anthem is a “science fantasy” game according to BioWare, with the studio’s general manager Aaryn Flynn drawing comparisons between it and Star Wars and the Marvel universe. “You see a lot of amazing things happening,” he explained, “but we don’t worry too much about why they’re happening or how they’re happening, the science of it. Mass Effect is more our real hardcore science fiction IP, this one is much more about having fun in a lush game world that really sucks you in.” In short; don’t expect scientific justifications behind every fantastical thing you see on-screen.
Anthem is set on a planet abandoned by the gods. These masters of creation - known as Shapers - left their massive tools behind when they fled. These tools make use of the Anthem of Creation, a powerful force that can achieve great things when weilded by the Shapers. But now they have been abandoned, the Anthem is causing great chaos in the form of monsters. Humanity have separated themselves from these monsters by hiding behind a colossal structure known as ‘the wall’ and now live in a shantytown-like city called Fort Tarsis. Monsters are not the only threat, either - the planet suffers from ‘Shaper storms’ which are incredibly violent lightning events caused by the Anthem of Creation. These storms sweep the planet, reshaping the environment with their destructive force.
Mechanically, the planet works as an open world, with colossally huge environments. What we’ve seen so far is lush and vibrant, with a tropical rainforest feel. Huge trees, rivers, and rock formations seem to make up the majority of the landscape seen in the first gameplay trailers and demos. You can expect this world to feel dynamic, with technologies like water accumulation ensuring the environments feel alive.
The vibe is very much a sci-fi spin on Attack on Titan, with the omni-direction harnesses used to climb and swing around the huge monsters in that manga swapped out in Anthem for mech-like power armour suits called Javelins. These suits have been confirmed to be freely controlled by players, with BioWare noting that falling from heights will cause damage. The people who wear such suits are known as Freelancers and you are one of them. Humanity are at the bottom of the food chain on this aggressive planet, but that hasn’t stopped them from striking back.
The EA E3 conference in 2018 revealed some new information about Anthem’s story. As you'd expect from BioWare, it is an important part of the game, and the devs claim that Anthem "solves" multiplayer storytelling.
Your job as one of Fort Tarsis' Freelancers will be to protect the settlement from humanity's enemies and the effects of the ancient, abandoned, Shaper technology. This tech is millenia ahead of anything humanity can understand, but your enemies, a human faction named the Dominion and an alien faction named the Scars, are both trying to gain access to the world-shapers. Your job will be to find, and interact with the technology and shut it down if it becomes too dangerous.
We know BioWare veteran Drew Karpyshyn was working on Anthem for some time. If you don't know his name, you'll no doubt be interested to hear that Karpyshyn was the lead writer on some of the studio's most beloved games. His pen was behind the scripts of Mass Effect 1 and 2 and Knights of the Old Republic. Seems like there's potential for Anthem to have a stellar plot.
Talking of returning talent, Ted Reedy - composer for BioWare's Dragon Age: Inquisition and TV show Vikings - will be behind Anthem's soundtrack.
Anthem single-player and co-op
EA and Bioware have confirmed that while you can play Anthem on your own or in co-op, Anthem will not have PvP, and will, at least initially, rely entirely on PvE gameplay. In the quick-fire Gameinformer interview below, Anthem's executive producer Mark Darrah confirmed that you won't be able to play Anthem offline. There'll also be a four-player game mode called Stronghold, but there's no solid information about that just yet.
Anthem is a “live service” game, akin to the likes of Destiny 2 and The Division. "This game is built around a live service, and through our creative process, we’ve decided to add more to the disruptive new social designs for our players," EA CEO Andrew Wilson said during a recent investor's call. Ignore all the marketing speak, and that means Anthem is going to be a persistent online game. The publisher believes you’ll be playing it for a very long time, too; EA plans for Anthem to run for ten years. With those goals, it will come of no surprise to anyone that an Anthem endgame will be part of the experience.
Like other shared-world or ‘MMO-lite’ games, Anthem is designed around letting people play missions and activities in co-op. The game will support four-player co-op, and when out in the open world environments you will be able to share you experience with other players. The co-op system appears to be drop-in/drop-out, too, with friends warping in to your location when they join your group.
HUD elements seen in the gameplay reveal show an ‘ally of the week’ award. This could, perhaps, be given out to players based on the kind of support they offer to their team, such as best shot or best supporter. We’re guessing it’s a bit like MVP for co-op. Though it might also play into the Alliance System, something mentioned during E3 2018 but with the caveat that Bioware wasn't ready to talk about it yet.
With the game looking quite similar to Destiny, there are questions regarding how teaming up for activities will work. When asked about looking for group or matchmaking systems on Twitter, game director Jonathan Warner said that he thinks players will be happy, hinting that it won’t restrict players in the same ways Destiny has in the past.
Players are also encouraged to play alongside freelancers of all levels and experience. BioWare have a system designed to reward high-level players for helping out newbies, so even if you're falling far behind your friends' progress, they won't be at a disadvantage if they do lower-level missions with you.
If you’d rather not play with others, though, Anthem's story missions can be played as a single-player game. When asked on Twitter, Anthem’s lead designer Corey Gaspur confirmed that the game is designed so you can play the story alone or with friends.
Yes of course! The game is designed so you can enjoy an amazing BioWare story and explore an incredible open world alone or with friends.— Corey Gaspur (@CGaspur) June 11, 2017
It’s worth bearing in mind that Anthem is an online game akin to Destiny, so even though missions are playable solo you’ll need to be online to do so.
Being a BioWare game, Anthem's story is core to the experience, and this is emphasised through solo segments of the game. While the open-world mission areas are shared environments, the places you return to after questing are private zones reserved for each individual player. Examples of these are Fort Tarsis and your Strider; an AT-AT-like moving forward base. These single-player areas are explored in first-person, and are where you'll interact with NPC characters, make your choices, and experience the more traditional story-led aspects of Anthem.
Anthem mechanics and features
EA describes Anthem as an “action adventure” game rather than an RPG, but in the previously mentioned investor call Wilson said we can expect "the great RPG character development and story progression that BioWare is known for." Again, like Destiny, Anthem will feature heavy action and shooting mechanics, backed up by RPG features like skills and customisation. It appears much of this will come through the use of the Javelins, which can perform various skills and attacks dependent on their construction.
Talking of the things BioWare is known for, Anthem will feature choice and consequences. "You either live with the choices you make," the teaser says, "or die trying to change them." Out in the world you will play with and encounter other players, but when you go back to the mission hub in Fort Tarsis, that will be a solo experience where you build relationships with NPCs. Those relationships that will feature the choices and consquences you would expect from a BioWare game. Don't expect Anthem romance, though, at least not yet. The game will not feature romantic relationships, but Casey Hudson has said that the studio is open to adding them into the game at a later date.
The tweet above shows off the multiple world markers that were seen in the gameplay reveal. While a couple of them were not detailed, it seems sensible to guess that the skull icon could represent a raid or other such challenging activity.
Acting somewhat like classes, Javelins are the exo-suits worn by Freelancers. They’re equipped with jets for some rocket-powered flight, which switches between a fast mode for fighter jet-like travel, and a hover for combat engagements and slower exploration. Be wary of how much heat your Javelin builds, though; overheat and you'll stall and fall. Thankfully diving into water or flying through a waterfall will cool you down instantly.
You can own multiple Javellins and they can all be customised with different gear, weaponry, and cosmetics, and paint jobs. Customisation items can be earned as mission rewards, found as loot, or crafted. We’re not sure how crafting works yet, but the gameplay demo at E3 2017 showed a player finding ‘ Brynnium shards’ as loot, which could be crafting materials.
These exo-suits fulfil part of the RPG side of the game; a Javelin is roughly equivalent to a class, with the four types - Colossus, Ranger, Storm, and Interceptor - being roughly equivalent to a tank, generalist, mage, and, well, BioWare won't say what the Interceptor is but, our guess is that it is a support unit. BioWare hasn't explained the suits in depth but you will be able to switch between Javelins between missions, picking the suit that best complements your team.
Your Freelancer, too, can progress. While you develop your Javelins to specialise within their role, you can level up your Freelancer to activate perks that work across all your Javelins. BioWare has yet to detail what these perks will be.
Javelins appear to be elementally attuned, with the HUD displaying lightning bolts, ice, and other symbols next to player names. No further details have been offered, but perhaps this could mean there’s a rough equivalent to Mass Effect’s cryo and fire abilities/ammunition.
So far BioWare has shown off one of each of the Javelins. We know what all four of them are called and how some of them operate, too.
The Ranger is a balanced suit designed to be a good all-rounder. In the gameplay demo from E3 2017 it is shown to be equipped with a missile launcher that fires a barrage of rockets that can be locked onto multiple targets. It also appears to have some kind of dive attack. A second Ranger can also be seen later in the trailer, equipped with different gear, as confirmed by the game's Technical Design Director Brenon Holmes on Reddit.
The Colossus is a heavy tank suit with a much bulkier frame than the Ranger. We’ve so far seen it equipped with a shoulder-mounted mortar that causes incredibly massive explosions, and seen that it can do a ground-pound attack. They're designed to carry heavier weaponry, such as grenade launchers and flamethrowers. They can also deploy a shield, which can be used to absorb the blast of landmines.
The Storm has little armour but its weapons are extremely powerful. It's your glass cannon Javelin. As you can see in the concept art above, Storm is outfitted with a cloak. Importantly, it seems to not use thrusters to move around, instead utilising what appears to be an energy field that ripples around the armour plates. And while other Javelins seem to do the ‘super hero landing’ akin to Iron Man when they drop into the game, this suit instead warps in. The right arm also appears to be elementally charged. Could Anthem feature its own sci-fi parallel to magic?
While BioWare isn't saying much, it looks like the Interceptor may be more of a crowd control and support class. In the cinematic trailer we see the freelancer in the Interceptor throw a grenade that freezes a group of enemies in place and it also pulls the Ranger out of danger, suggesting its role in saving other teammembers.
Finally, each Javelin has a ‘super’ attack, similar to Destiny’s Guardians. The HUD has a bar beneath the weapons section that shows that an ability can be used when holding down both triggers; exactly the combo required for Destiny’s supers. It’s not used in either the 2017 or 2018 gameplay demo, but one was shown to people at the EA Play demo in Los Angeles, and it was suitably explosive.
The guns in Anthem appear to be industrial and chunky. As an RPG from BioWare, you’ll also be unsurprised to hear that they’re based on stats and levels, too.
In the 2017 demo a player is shown to pick up ‘Jarra’s Wrath’, a lvl35 Legendary Volt Rifle. This already tells us a lot about the weapons system. Guns have names, are ranked by level, come in different categories, and are graded by rarity.
How this all works is yet to be revealed, but it seems very close to Destiny’s system. The level of the weapon probably indicates its power, but also may relate to the level your character needs to use it. Since the Jarra’s Wrath is a Legendary item, we can also guess that there may be a variety of rarity ranks like common and epic.
Weapons have five statistics: damage, accuracy, range, ROF (rate of fire), and ammo. The Jarra’s Wrath appears to have high damage but low range, 300 ammo, plus a ROF of 1200, suggesting a volt rifle is a kind of assault rifle.
The gameplay demo also shows the player using a shotgun and a sort of single-shot scout rifle. Considering the type of loot-driven systems the game appears to be based around, expect there to be a massive variety of weapons to be used alongside your Javelin’s abilities.
Weapons will have ammunition counts, so you will eventually run out of bullets. BioWare is currently working out the specifics, but resupply of ammo may come in the form of returning to the HUB town, using consumables, finding restock locations, or even Javelin suit abilities.
Anthem loot boxes
Anthem will have no lootboxes. While there will be cosmetic customisation options available, there will be no random or pay-to-win elements included in the game, according to an interview with executive producer Mark Darrah. You will always know what you are buying, which suggests microtransactions will operate as a standard store setup.
Technical Design Director Brenon Holmes explained on Reddit that a fair perspective on the idea of monetization is being represented by the team. EA have also stated that Anthem microtransactions "can't afford" to make the mistakes of Battlefront II's loot boxes. We won't know exactly what this means until EA and BioWare reveal many more details, so do not jump to conclusions just yet about if loot boxes will appear in Anthem.