ANTHEM: An Optimistic Look Forward
While it is hard to overlook the disaster that has been the launch of Anthem, there are those of us holding out for hope. Bioware still has a shred of clout tied to its name despite recent failings and it shows when Anthem is running smoothly. Here, let’s take a look at directions that Bioware should take the title going forward.
One of the biggest failings of the action within Anthem is that there is very little sense of dread or sense of a threat. Where there is a fleeting sense, it is usually because of turrets that almost never miss or a boss that has devastating one-hit attacks. This is a departure from the slightly more tactical enemies featured in the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer mode. There, certain enemies worked together to flank you, they used cover, and then used various attacks to pick apart your team’s defensive strategy. Maybe my memory is a bit lacking but I seem to remember dreading certain enemies and feeling a regular threat in almost every round. Anthem doesn’t quite seem to have that.
Most of the difficulty in Anthem feels like it spawns from being outnumbered where enemies behind you are doing damage to you and you don’t recognize it until it is too late. There is no force feedback in your controller when you are being hit which kind of takes the rush out of combat in a way.
It’s also interesting that your enemies have no other tech or transportation outside of javelins. Where are the ATVs or vehicles with mounted weaponry? Those would be harder to shoot and would add more weaponry to the enemies you face as well.
As you play through the storyline, you encounter and build your reputation with 3 factions: Freelancers, Arcanists, Sentinels. As you help and increase your standing with them, it has visual changes to the fort as well as grants you different blueprints. In my mind, this could have been so much deeper.
Often times, when I think factions, I think of groups that contest or compete with each other in some way, shape form, or fashion. In a way, I kind of see them as guilds that you would join in Skyrim (Assassin’s, Fighter’s, and Mage’s). In Anthem, it is clear that you are a Freelancer so the idea of needing to build your rep within their ranks is simple. As for the other factions, I would think the need to build rep or the driver for it should be a bit different.
A part of me wished that each of these factions all had javelin pilots and teams and that each faction’s elite wore a special grade of their trademark javelin. Freelancers could have elite Rangers and/or Infiltrators. Arcanists would have elite Storms. Sentinels would have elite Colossus and/or Rangers. Having it so that you have to choose your allegiance would then make it so that becoming an elite pilot in that faction would grant an exclusive javelin with key bonuses to that style javelin’s weapon or defensive systems. It could also grant a special masterwork handheld weapon that only their faction could grant. In my eyes, this would put more of a reasoning to do certain missions or even worry much about the different factions at all.
The concept of the striders being a kind of mobile base that is used for javelins to launch from is kind of lost in the way they are presented. While I understand that, their practical usefulness in the game is merely a spawn point for missions and freeplay sessions. You do manage to have missions where you help fix one but there isn’t ever an in-game moment where a strider is moving and that it does anything more than provide a bit of scenery throughout the Anthem playground.
Somehow, Bioware should have a playable mission where you protect a moving Strider that can be damaged as the mission progresses or something. If that technically is too much work, maybe Striders could be strategic points on the map where players can return to in order to identify their loot and change weapons without exiting the session.
THE FORT MARKET/STORE
Let’s face it. There is little reason to have different places to walk to in order to buy things in the fort. They don’t provide different options and both take you to the same ingame store. Not only that, the only things you can buy are cosmetics and materials to craft with. There should be some kind of in game system in place that makes ‘grinding for resources’ more than just being able to craft a new gun.
The store needs to have the ability to buy javelin systems that you don’t have to craft as well as resources to craft with. The Division does an excellent job of having different vendors that not only provide different items, but they provide different rarities and their stock changes throughout the story and progression. Anthem needs that. To accommodate it means that they need more TYPES of loot and gear to find and craft as well that actually affect the javelin’s performance.
The weapons need attachments. This would add another layer of customization as well as more loot. The attachments could change recoil, highlight enemy weak points for temporary amounts of time, or even slight affect accuracy, mag size, range, and RPM. These bonuses could add to what the system components already do. Maybe there could also be limited clips of elemental ammo that could be equipped and used to take more advantage of possible damage combos as well.
I’m certain that additional content to flesh out the map is on the way but one thing in particular that needs to be added is simply more enemies period. With creatures only existing in groups of three sporadically about the map most times, the ‘danger’ from the creatures you find is relatively small. The ursix is an impressive challenge by itself but there should be areas where you know they’ll live or spawn from. Also, there should be spaces or dens where dangerous amounts of each of the creatures will be. Not only that, there should be different rarities of each of them so that you know what grade of loot they may drop if you slay them.
Another idea is to have Dominion supply runs that you can interrupt or raid. Speaking of raids, there should be more strongholds as well. The seemingly low number of strongholds as you play through the story kind of makes you wish for more epic boss battles. I would point to the old classic game Lost Planet where boss battles really made the game stand out.
Freeplay also needs to either have space to allow more players on a session or something (like a flare or call for help) to ask players that are on the map to come and help you take something down (like a Titan).
As you progress through the main story of Anthem, the one thing I wished for was some kind of attachment to how evil the final boss was or even how truly powerful he was. The final battle wasn’t really that memorable and didn’t really have that high of a difficulty level. A part of me kind of wished there were Dominion lieutenants or generals that you had to fight through in order to get to The Monitor. They could have been guys in special javelins with their own protective squads or something more than the weird creatures that you only really fight as you do the final mission.
Also, what’s up with not allowing you to pilot General Tarsis’ special javelin? Doing those missions just to get access and build the ‘Dawn Shield’ was a bit anticlimactic. Hopefully as content is added (and as I play through more of the contracts) that there are opportunities to earn special javelins. In fact, that could even be another loot aspect that could be added. Rather than adding weapon systems being the only way to increase the ‘rarity’ of your javelin, make it so that you can craft different rarity javelins in the endgame. The bonuses they add could be minor but the purpose of loot is to stack bonuses according to how you want to play anyways.
Also the story speaks of other Forts and cities that people came from and so forth. In the game, you cannot visit them. Possibly that is a part of the future content but storywise, to talk so much about other places like this that you can’t visit is a bit of a buzz-kill as well. Hopefully there are plans to extend the map to include those areas in the playspace as well.
After playing various missions, contracts, and dungeons, it is clear that the mission types need to change a bit. Sometimes you fetch stuff. Sometimes you stay in a radius to speed up mission progress points. Sometimes you reassemble things that prevent you from flying when you carry the pieces. Still, the missions feel a bit drab for the most part.
Having to defeat the mech walker or the ursix or multiple titans were good missions but that was only because of the difficulty in taking them down. Missions could use a bit of variety because the variety seems to be there but isn’t really pulled off in a way that is memorable.
Maybe a mech walker could be attacking a strider that actually loses energy if you don’t defeat the mech in time. Maybe you have to protect an ursix from the Scars to find its den where a person is stuck. Maybe the Dominion launches a big attack on the Fort and you have to defend it in a horde mode style wave based attack. Maybe they introduce a PvPvE area that increases the need to work together as a team and use combos. Maybe you have a mission where you have to explore more underwater areas and take on underwater creatures and foes.
As I play this game, I see so much that could be done with it as it evolves. We’ve all seen how much Destiny and Division have changed as they progressed through their first iterations so we should expect Anthem to get the same treatment. Hopefully it will be given the opportunity to do so.