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Michael Bitton: What We Would Like to See from Anthem

By Michael Bitton on January 04, 2018 | Columns | Comments

What We Would Like to See from Anthem

The loot shooter genre popularized by games like Destiny, Tom Clancy’s The Division and Warframe is a great idea that has produced mixed results. It’s no surprise, really. Getting a shooter to feel and play right has been a challenge for as long as the genre has been around. Layering elements of an ARPG on top of that, another genre that’s hard to nail, and things can get a bit messy.


EA’s looking to throw its hat into the ring this year with its own loot shooter called Anthem. The title is being developed by BioWare and looks to be an all hands on deck effort by the studio with EA vice president Patrick Söderlund describing the project as “the start of maybe a 10-year journey.”

Can EA and BioWare pull it off with Anthem? I’ve got a couple of ideas for how I think the game can position itself to succeed.

#5 Make it Social

This is more a response to a problem we’ve seen in the Destiny titles more than others, but a game like this should be scalable for solo players, but also have the fewest number of barriers possible for playing with others. Chat, voice chat, and clans, are features that should be part of the game’s foundation. I shouldn’t have to resort to using external programs or services to socialize or coordinate with players in the game.

#4 Less Emphasis on PvP

Probably unpopular opinion here, but if I wanted to play a competitive shooter, I’d play any of the many shooters that come out every year. No matter how good your loot shooter is, it’s not likely to compare well to shooters that focus purely on PvP.  Game development is all about tradeoffs and I feel any resources that are spent on PvP would likely be better spent on the already challenging task of keeping players engaged on the PvE side of things.

#3 Story is Great, But Do it Right

The folks at BioWare are some of the best storytellers in the videogame business and the studio has even brought back the talented Drew Karpyshyn (Mass Effect, KOTOR) to work on the game’s story, but it’s important to play to the genre’s strengths. Players often demand a solid singleplayer campaign even in multiplayer titles as a matter of value, but I don’t think a traditional singleplayer campaign would be a good idea. The games in this genre that have done it best are games like Tom Clancy’s The Division and Borderlands. Take advantage of the open world and tell your story mostly in a way that fits a co-operative game session. Keep things moving and make sure it’s easy to jump in and play with your friends. The Division’s best story bits were told through the game world itself using recordings, for example.

#2 Item Hunt, Item Hunt, Item Hunt

This is what it all comes down to. I don’t know what Bungie was thinking launching another one of these games with so shallow an item hunt. The hunt is the entire point. If you’re complaining about the game being “grindy,” sorry, but you’re playing the wrong genre. Have a system like Diablo III’s Rifts ready to go at launch and plenty of stuff to chase. This isn’t something that can wait for your Year One plan. Whatever handmade content you have is going to be chewed through in less than a week.

Take some notes from The Division. The game’s live service has plenty of examples of misfires and successes and it’s finally in a great place after all the trial-and-error. Well done horde modes are great and BioWare knows how to do ‘em. Make open area zones feel alive with constantly changing objectives. Have enemies come after players instead of just waiting around to be killed.  Lean on global events to spice things up. Dazzle me with awesome item sets and unique weapons. Enabling build diversity should be a huge focus. Anthem isn’t tied down by the limits of reality. Players will be rolling around in crazy exosuits, so go nuts!

Make each activity worth players’ time. If any activity is better than another for acquiring new items, players will quickly figure out which is the best bang for their buck and focus on it at the expense of everything else.  The type of content being played should be a matter of preference so players can get their own variety by switching things up whenever they get bored.

#1 Learn from Battlefront II

This is going to be the big test for EA across the board in 2018, but if the right lessons aren’t learned from Star Wars: Battlefront II, I guarantee Anthem will be dead in the water before it goes live. All eyes are on EA and gamers will be paying attention to every word or announcement looking for monetization shenanigans. Battlefront II proved the market won’t bear progression tied to monetization, so let’s kill any ideas for that sort of thing right here and now. If loot boxes are still a thing by the time Anthem goes live, they’re going to have to be entirely cosmetic. But appetite for loot boxes at all right now is so low, EA may need to figure out something else entirely.

EA has no room for error here. None. Screw this up and you could have the best game BioWare’s ever made on your hands and no one will care.

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 as the site''s Community Manager.

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