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PAX West 2018: Anthem Pre-Panel Press Event Report

Robert Baddeley Posted:
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We finally have more information on what might be the most anticipated upcoming games: Anthem.  Earlier today I got to sit on the pre-panel press event before the big PAX panel to get a sneak peek at the entire reveal before everyone else and a unique chance for a small public Q&A with other members of the gaming press.  But you didn’t click into this article to read my gibberish so without further ado it’s time to dive in!

One of the things Anthem hopes to bring to the table is to deliver a compelling single player story telling experience to a multiplayer game.  They don’t want to approach storytelling how other multiplayer games do where it’s more of a bug than a feature so they’ve opted to try and evolve the way the story is told and do so in a more evolved setting.  To accomplish this, we have the two main story ideas of “My Story” and “Our Story”.  My story aims to fix the problem of multiplayer games being devoid of individuality and Our Story maintains the aspects we love about multiplayer games: experiencing things with friends like public events, missions, weather and day/night cycles and the fun changes they bring.

In Anthem you take on the role of a Freelancer.  In the game you might be called by a few different names such as a Fire-Jumper, Ronin and perhaps even superhero.  As a freelancer you are a member of a relatively independent protector-oriented group.  Almost like a modern knight in a javelin suit.  Your main goal to try and help people by traveling the world and quieting what are known as shaper relics.  Shaper relics are tech that have been left by the Shapers that try to harvest the energy of Anthem.  Every now and then they turn on and generally start doing bad things and wreaking havoc so you and your friends will go on missions to quiet them.

In addition to the missions you partake on with friends you will have your own personal story to worry about and it will largely take place in your own person corner of the world called Fort Tarsis.  Fort Tarsis is your personal area that will change as you make decisions and partake in missions for the characters you interact with.  In Fort Tarsis you will find shops and vendors you can interact with as well as characters you can have deep conversations with.  These conversations can have consequences that include exiling that character from Fort Tarsis forever.  Players don’t have to worry about missing out on a mission or piece of loot from doing something like this though; in Anthem no decision can be made that will gate you friend content.

An example of changing your own Fort Tarsis will be a rescue mission.  You’ll pick up a mission to rescue an arcanist, which is a scientist of sorts that’s obsessed with shaper technology.  Once you have the mission you can go it alone solo (the missions will scale to group member size), grab a friend, or even enter a matchmaking session for other people on that quest.  You’ll go out on the mission and eventually find this arcanist named Matthias and bring him back to Fort Tarsis.  Now he’ll be a permanent staple in Fort Tarsis which each player can interact with in their own way.  The decisions you make with Matthias might not be the same as the ones that I make.  In addition to that if you’re the kind of person that decides you’re going to be a diehard jackass to Matthias it may even affect how other characters treat you if they have a good rapport with Matthias.

A big staple of BioWare games is relationships.  We all know about them and they fun that you can have figuring out the best way to get a character into bed.  You may be disappointed when it comes to Anthem in that while the depth of the relationship will remain the romance will not be seen at launch - possibly not at all.  In Anthem they’ve taken all the effort usually put into the ability to romance one to three characters and spread it across a multitude of characters, allowing you to have deep relationships and conversations with almost everyone in Fort Tarsis.  This aspect really propels the idea of My Story in that it will really be your story.  How you play it and the story you create will depend entirely on how you interact with people - including straight up ignoring them if that’s how you want to roll.

Telling a story in a multiplayer environment is one of the biggest challenges the team faced.  They had some experience with SWTOR and learned some lessons from it and things they didn’t want to repeat - such as group voting on dialog choice.  They found that it could really ruin people’s experience because you could end up with choices you didn’t want.  It’s for that reason that missions won’t have decisions to make.  You’ll have an objective, you complete it and decisions will be made back in the solo safety of Fort Tarsis.

With Anthem they want to focus as much as possible on Anthem. They learned some lesson from Andromeda and Dragon Age on how to launch massive projects like that and are paying special attention to bug checking.  Games will always launch with bugs - it’s just inevitable - but they want the Anthem launch to be as smooth as possible for gamers.  They have also paid particularly close attention to facial animations (*cough* Andromeda *cough*) and showed us a small preview video that unfortunately won’t be released and I can say that they look great and certainly will be up to the standard gamers expect in 2018.

I have a Q&A with Mike Gamble later and will be hoping to get even more information to share with everyone so keep an eye out for that article later.  I’m officially having a harder type tempering my hype for Anthem and while I’m not a pre-order person it’s getting harder to keep my hands from clicking that button.  I can’t wait to find out more information.

Oh yeah, EA subscribers and pre-orders will be treated to a demo on February 1st.  Not a beta, not a tech test, but a full-on demo.  Betas and alphas will take place between now and then so keep an eye on your emails!

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Robert Baddeley

Robert got his start at gaming with Mech Warrior on MS DOS back in the day and hasn't quit since. He found his love for MMORPGs when a friend introduced him to EverQuest in 2000 and has been playing some form of MMO since then. After getting his first job and building his first PC, he became mildly obsessed with PC hardware and PC building. He started writing for MMORPG as his first writing gig in 2016. He currently serves in the US Military as a Critical Care Respiratory Therapist.