The end game is a concept which always looms large over any ongoing multiplayer game. For most games, things are over once you beat the main story, but for MMOs and MMO-lite the main storyline is only the tip of the iceberg. Even for players who take their time while leveling the basic game design is intended for the majority of a player’s time to be spent playing after the leveling content (because they want you to keep playing for as long as the game is around). Thankfully I got a peek at the endgame for Anthem at the recent media event in San Francisco.
First, I want to point out there were certain parts of the endgame we could not play because they contain substantial story spoilers. So, the parts we could do were the less story involved parts. At max level we had the option of choosing between doing a legendary contract, two strongholds, and freeplay. In this respect, the endgame seems to follow the same basic formula as it does while leveling and though the specific thing you’ll be doing will be different, the basic recipe stays the same with the focus on gear rather than XP.
On the one hand, this might sound like a negative, but I think it’s a bit of a positive. One huge problem I often run into in MMOs is the way a character plays during the leveling process is often completely different than the way it plays at max level. This dichotomy is often a problem for players because playing a class you love and having everything change and be terrible at max level is no fun for anyone. Similarly, it can be hard to find a character you like if the leveling of that character isn’t fun. Even if it is an end game playstyle you would like, you’d be less likely to make it there. Although more gear slots and ways to augment your Javelins are unlocked throughout the leveling process, their fundamental playstyles didn’t seem to change all that much. As a result, the player will waste as little time as is possible before finding the playstyle which works best for them.
This isn’t to say leveling is stagnant, unlocking the different gear slots allows you to customize how your Javelin works, but the basic feel of each Javelin doesn’t seem to be significantly changed by any of the gear slots. Sure, with one gear set-up the Storm might freeze enemies, and with a different one they might put up a windwall to protect your team. These things will augment what you specifically can do, but they don’t change the general feel of the Javelin itself. There’s very little chance of dumping 30 hours into a Javelin and then suddenly realizing you don’t like it once you get to the endgame. Of course, even if you do find yourself in this position, you can switch to one of the other Javelins to keep everything feeling fresh.
I did, however, notice two things while doing the Temple of the Scar Stronghold. The first is it seemed much longer than the other missions I had previously done in game. Even longer than the Legendary Contract Threat Assessment. There were multiple points while doing Temple of the Scar where I thought we were done… and then Faye’s voice came over coms telling us what was next. So, Strongholds seem to be the bigger launch content. The things people hop in and take part in when they have a fair amount of time to play and Legendary Contracts and Freeplay will fill the gap on quick, repeatable content.
The second thing I noticed about Strongholds is they have more things to do aside from just killing the enemies. While both Freeplay and the Contracts did have some other objectives to do the Stronghold was jampacked with these. Sometimes it was moving objects from one spot to another. Sometimes it was guarding an area while the Scar attacked. We even had a moment where we needed to find specific things around the area and destroy them. Of course, all these things are marked to help you figure out what to do even if you miss the dialogue clues. However, it can be quite hectic when you have a ton of Scar barring down on your team, and no one is quite sure what is needed to move on. We also had a moment where the indicators broke so finding the last thing we needed, and this game can be quite dark in a lot of areas, was difficult.
Honestly, my biggest question regarding endgame in Anthem is why do I want the better loot? Currently, the whole reason for trying to get better gear is entirely based on the desire to do harder versions of everything to get even better gear… which for me seems pointless. There’s no PvP, so I don’t feel like I need to compete with other players at all. There is no raid content at launch which would require me to get a certain gear level to participate in. I don’t see the carrot currently.
There is a small glimmer of a carrot in that there are some Javelin customizations which can only be unlocked through accomplishing certain things in game. In other words, you won’t be able to buy them in the store. There’re no specifics on what these customizations look like or what will have to be done unlock them. I’ll be quite disappointed if all unique customizations can be unlocked just by completing the main story. I’m hoping for customizations which can be unlocked through completing the hardest content in game, exploration, and accomplishing specific additional tasks in the various mission content. This kind of setup would give most people, no matter how they choose to play the game, something to go after.
The final question of course if after launch if BioWare is going to be able to keep the pace of content a rate which will keep their players happy and engaged. Players will no doubt consume content much faster than they can produce it, that’s the natural balance of things. However, BioWare has the track record to know they need to have the What’s Next ready quickly after launch. Their plan of doing frequent small content updates interspersed with less frequent large content updates sounds good, but we don’t have any idea what that will mean in practice. Small updates could be as simple as balance and customization updates or possibly new missions/contracts. We don’t know for sure yet.
All of this was a long way of saying I did have a lot of fun playing the endgame content I played, but I also hadn’t played through the whole game to get to it. It’s hard for me to judge how fun and exciting this content will be at the far side of 30 hours played in game. It’s possible there is enough mission variety while leveling things won’t feel like old hat by the time I get there. It’s also possible though I find myself in the same position I have been with other games where before I even reach endgame I am bored. I’ll have to wait until February 22nd to find out.