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How EA May Be Getting It Right With Anthem

Michael Bitton Posted:
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It’s all talk at this point, but I like what I’m hearing. Last year, EA got my attention with Anthem, the BioWare developed response to games like Destiny and The Division, but it was what I heard (and saw) at E3 2018 that got me truly excited for the game’s launch early next year.

The demo itself was pretty neat, but not too different from what we saw last year. However, I do admit that I am 100% about the Ranger Javelin at this point. That suit basically ticks all the boxes when it comes to living out the Iron Man/War Machine fantasy that it’s clearly going for.

The presentation wasn’t what led me to my newfound confidence on the game, that all came from BioWare’s Mark Darrah, who fielded a whole bunch of questions on Twitter during the show and also recently gave an excellent interview to PC Gamer. Let’s break down some of the key points.

No Lootboxes or Season Pass

Normally, this isn’t something worth including, but these are the times we live in. The shellacking EA experienced over lootboxes in Battlefront II seems to have successfully scared the publisher off of the controversial monetization scheme. It’s sad that we have to be excited about something like this, but EA’s announcement that both Anthem and Battlefield V won’t feature lootboxes were a huge relief. Had they decided to press on with lootboxes, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if Anthem blew people away, the controversy would have likely condemned the title to being dead-on-arrival. Cosmetics will be direct purchase in Anthem and EA won’t be selling anything that could grant players a gameplay advantage. Great!

Oh yeah, there’s also no Season Pass. All post-launch story DLC will be free. I’m all for keeping players together, so this is a huge plus for me.

No PvP

I’ve written about this on several occasions, but including PvP is a real problem in these games, and I’m just not a fan. If I want to play a PvP shooter, I have plenty of options out there, so why let PvP restrict your design in a game like this? Loot shooters are about loot. They’re basically quasi-MMOs mashed up with ARPGs, but PvP makes the sort of loot you can include more limited due to balance considerations. Anthem’s exclusion of PvP here really opens up the design space in a way that should result in interesting loot if BioWare is up to the task of creating it. BioWare isn’t saying never on PvP, it’s just not included in their current design. Mark Darrah’s comments to PC Gamer suggest that if they do ever include PvP, we’d see some sort of normalized loot or even PvP specific Javelin to address the issues PvP would introduce.

Meaningful & Steep Progression

This is it. This is what I wanted to hear about Anthem. It’s puzzled me to no end that these games, which revolve around loot, have such a huge issue succeeding in the most critical aspect of the game. Destiny was “too grindy” (Wut?) and Destiny 2 went completely in the other direction with a focus on cosmetics instead of meaningful loot. Tom Clancy’s The Division got interesting and varied loot eventually, but it’s sort of limited by its setting.

In Anthem, not only is BioWare talking about going crazy with loot possibilities, but the team is looking to provide players with a long term item hunt, which is the lifeblood of these sorts of games. Even better, your suit’s abilities aren’t static, but also determined by the loot you pick up, offering players more customization than I had originally anticipated. It’s one thing to have a solid item hunt with power upgrades or item sets that allow you to focus on building around a certain ability or supporting a certain play style. Those are all great and important, but allowing players to modify their suits with entirely different abilities through loot sounds incredibly exciting to me.

There are still a billion unanswered questions and ways all of this could go wrong, so I’ve not busted out my wallet for a pre-order just yet; I still need to see and hear more about the game. But I am very encouraged by the team’s thought process and approach so far. It’s clear that BioWare is thinking about things in a way that would bode well for the game’s success and long term health and I’m definitely more excited about the game than I was last year.

What’s your take on Anthem after this year’s E3? Are you more excited? Less excited? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB