Anthem Demo Impressions

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Feb 5, 2019

Filed under: Video Games 198 comments

I have pre-ordered Anthem, but I do not recommend you do the same. I got the game to feed the content mill for the ever-hungry internet. If I didn’t write about games for a living, then I’d hold off until after the first reviews came in. The public demo ran from February 1-3, and I spent as much of the weekend with it as I couldI was held back by health problems that kept me away from the computer for a lot of the time. Pardon if this entry feels a bit dashed-off, I’m just getting back to work now and wrote this in a hurry.. I managed to hit the demo level cap of 15, and then did some grinding until I was fully decked out in rare gear.

Based on what the demo showed me, this game is basically a showcase for the recent sins of EA and late-stage BioWare.

  1. We think all games should be LIVE SERVICES that require an online connection, except we can’t build a stable network to save our lives.
  2. We want to copy the money-sucking microtransactions that the competition is doing, but we’re too dense to notice that those other games are free-to-pay and our game starts at $60.
  3. Dialog is important! Story is important! But it’s not so important that we’re willing to polish the dialog and make sure it’s worth listening to.

Going into Anthem, I wanted one of two things. Either it should be a great game that recalls the days when BioWare could make a game with heart, or it should be a disaster that punishes EA for taking this “story first” developer and making them produce a “it’s all about the shooting and looting and who cares about story?” style of game. Sadly, the game seems to have fallen into the boring but predictable space between these two extremes. I did occasionally have fun with the demo, but I also occasionally had a really miserable time.

It’s Just a Demo!

I can't play the game because the game can't find anyone for me to play with.
I can't play the game because the game can't find anyone for me to play with.

Apparently the demo was based on month-old code. I’m guessing they forked the game when it went gold. Part of the team focused on adding more stability and polish to the final game, and the other part of the team began stripping out features to make the special demo build. This has resulted in a very annoying argument from apologists. Like I said on Twitter:

If you like the demo, then you should pre-order the special edition and sign up for Origin Premier so you can start playing a week before the plebs show up. If you don’t like the demo, then it’s no fair complaining about the problems because this is an old build. What’s your problem? Are you some kind of biased hater? Why can’t you just trust EA to deliver a quality product?

Are We Having Fun Yet?

I can't play the game because the game can't play with me.
I can't play the game because the game can't play with me.

So you join the game. It starts you off in town. You’re not allowed to run here, so you need to slow-walk all the way to the other side of town to reach your JavelinIt’s an Iron Man suit with chicken legs, basically.”. Then you use the overly convoluted match system. You look on the map to pick out what sort of activity you’re interested in. Then you set the matchmaking so you can join a public group. It FEELS like you should just be able to jump into the game by double-clicking on the appropriate map marker, but instead you have to switch to a totally different screen to hit the “launch expedition” button. Then you wait for an excruciating load screen.

Then you play for a while before it disconnects. You sit through another load screen before it boots you back to town and makes you slow-walk back to your Javelin before you can try again.

This would be bad enough, but the game doesn’t actually give you any rewards until you complete an expedition. This is a good idea in theory. During the game you’ll pick up glowy things and the game will tell you “You got a rare item.” But you can’t see what it is until the match is over. You can’t level up or examine loot until the expedition is over. That fixes the problem of randos who slow the game down by fussing around in menus when they should be helping the team. The problem is that if you get booted out of an expedition, you get nothing. On four different occasions I did an entire expedition and then crashed or disconnected during the final boss fight.

Ugh. The animations for all the little rewards take forever. The game gives you all these badges and things, but there's no mouse-over info so you can't tell what they are, what they do, or how you got them.
Ugh. The animations for all the little rewards take forever. The game gives you all these badges and things, but there's no mouse-over info so you can't tell what they are, what they do, or how you got them.

Some players pointed out that if you quickly join a freeplay game and then immediately exit, you can get the awards for the failed expedition. It’s true that you’ll get a screen listing your rewards, but I don’t think you actually get them. I dinged level 12 three times before it finally stuck. The game kept telling me I’d hit level 12, and then once I was back in town I’d discover I was still level 11.

Okay, so the servers are unstable and the reward system is designed to punish players for server instability. That sucks, but it’s safe to assumeEh. Is it, though?, this sort of thing will get ironed out at or around launch.

But How is the Story?

This story mission has a guy accidentally split himself into three distinct personalities. It tries very hard to be cute and witty. It does not succeed.
This story mission has a guy accidentally split himself into three distinct personalities. It tries very hard to be cute and witty. It does not succeed.

The demo worked very hard to avoid showing much story content at all. Yes, in a BioWare game the demo is designed specifically to sell you on gameplay alone. It is breathtaking how poorly EA understands game developers and gamers. It’s probably a good thing Will Wright left the company in 2009, or they’d have the poor bastard making shooters by now.

I can’t comment on the story, but the dialog is atrocious. It feels a lot like Andromeda: Vague, overly verbose, and constantly stopping the flow of conversation to offer the player the chance to say one of two things, neither of which matters or expresses what a person might reasonably want to say.

Most of the dialog I experienced came from the radio chatter during missions. In the demo, one particular strongholdLike a World of Warcraft dungeon. has you fight your way through a bug den while a three-way Skype call runs, with the characters talking to each other over the sound and fury of combat. They’re constantly commenting on the proceedings. However, their exchanges happen simultaneously for all players. Since the most experienced players will be out in front, newcomers will be hearing dialog discussing things they haven’t seen yet.

It feels like this:

NPC1: Oh will you look at that!

NPC2: Boy, that sure is amazing!

Me: What? I’m in a tunnel by myself, fighting bugs! What is everyone talking about?

In some games the story feels like an afterthought, but here THE PLAYER feels like the afterthought.

If you click on this woman, you will be forced to participate in a full minute of unskippable small talk.
If you click on this woman, you will be forced to participate in a full minute of unskippable small talk.

During the mission, I found one of the characters to be really irritating. He was an insufferable smug jackass who scoffed at the idea of showing up for a mission briefing, made fun of one of the other people on the radioWho he didn’t personally know, since this was their first time speaking. and was generally a self-important jackass. Then I glanced down at the subtitles and realized this dickhead was my character.

Everyone in the game is stuck playing the same idiot, who is commenting on things the player can’t see and expressing things the player isn’t feeling. This is the worst possible design for a player character. The dialog in town gives you a chance to do a bit of placebo roleplaying, where you chat with an NPC about yourself. But then all of that will be ignored for the party chatter during the missions.

This is like an MMO where every single player is Nathan Drake, except in this story Drake has no agency, no arc, and we play him from a first-person view where we can’t see him emote. The player doesn’t get the feeling of self-expression that comes from crafting their own character, but they also don’t get the pleasure of seeing a character with agency experience some sort of character arc. And they can’t even skip the dialog. This is the most expensive and least satisfying way of doing things. A silent protagonist would make more sense in an MMO like this.

You can also choose to play as a female. Once I realized how annoying my character was, I tried to switch. I couldn’t find any way to do that in the demo. It probably doesn’t matter. My bet would be on the female character having the exact same dialog.

The Environments

Attention: You have left the designated FUN ZONE. Return to the FUN ZONE immediately or you will be forcibly moved.
Attention: You have left the designated FUN ZONE. Return to the FUN ZONE immediately or you will be forcibly moved.

For whatever reason, every single area in the game was at the bottom of a hole, a crater, a canyon, or a cave. Sheer walls smother you on all sides, to the point where the world feels like a prison. Okay, it’s a gorgeous prison, but still. Why aren’t we allowed to see the horizon? We just spent 20 years developing graphics technology so we can have large draw distances and expansive views, and now we’re going to go back to the mid-90s thing of shooting dudes at the bottom of a canyon?

Shamus, this is a game where players can fly! We need the walls to keep them in!

The game already has an invisible ceiling on the world to keep you in the playpen. It also teleports you back to the playpen if you go somewhere it doesn’t like. The game could use either of these techniques to keep players in without needing to have the game take place at the bottom of a hole.

Okay, it makes sense that the mission where we fight giant bugs takes place in a cave. But why does EVERYTHING need to be in a cave?
Okay, it makes sense that the mission where we fight giant bugs takes place in a cave. But why does EVERYTHING need to be in a cave?

There are puzzles in the game. In one mission, players had to arrange three different colored symbols to open a door. The thing is, this a fundamentally single-player style of puzzle. The game has no text chat and I never encountered a single person using a microphone, so nobody had any ability to communicate. A puzzle like this takes some experimentation before you can suss out the solution. But if you’ve got one player who has been here before and another one who’s just flipping switches to get a feel for the thing, then it’s just chaos. Does this other player know what they’re doing? Are they enacting the solution? Are they experimenting? Are they deliberately griefing by scrambling the puzzle as the other players try to solve it? The symbols are on opposite sides of the room and there’s a huge column in the center, so you can’t even see the entire puzzle at once. Maybe your solution is wrong, or maybe you’re right but one of the other players messed up the bit on the other side of the room.

What are the possible outcomes here?

  1. Someone else solves a puzzle while I sit by and do nothing.
  2. Dumb or malicious people block the progress of the group by scrambling the puzzle while the sensible people try to enter the solution.
  3. Everyone knows the solution because they’ve done this mission a dozen times already and the puzzle is just busywork that takes everyone away from the shooting and the looting.

This is completely idiotic. It’s baffling that this wound up in the final product.

But What About THE GAMEPLAY?!?

A treasure chest opens and LOOT pops out. It's silly if you over-think it, but it still feels pretty good.
A treasure chest opens and LOOT pops out. It's silly if you over-think it, but it still feels pretty good.

It’s okay, I guess? The Javelin powers are fun and being able to fly and hover around a battlefield is really amazing. The special abilities are glorious to use. I saw a good variety of enemies with different behaviors and attack patterns, and I also got to fight them in a lot of different places. You need to constantly change your behavior based on your foes and the terrain. I never felt like I was stuck in a rut.

On the other hand, the enemies are bullet sponges to the extreme. As an example:

I get close to a guy and unload on his face. My rifle has a bit of kickback, so only one half or one third of the shots are headshots. The rest are regular hits. I empty an entire magazine into him and his shields are still up. I change mags, and halfway through this second mag the shield goes down, which means those headshots start doing extra damage. I change mags again, and finally finish him off.

Is this the intended experience? Three full mags and dozens of headshots to bring down ONE REGULAR GUY? I realize this is a looter game and so you need to feel a little weak so you can work towards being more powerful, but this is ridiculous.

And this was on normal difficulty!

I know there’s some silly level scaling going on under the hood, but without any way to know what it is or how it works, it just makes things a chore. You can’t see the relative levelSome foes do have a skull next to their name. This probably means they’re above you. How far above you? Who knows! between you and a foe, so you can’t get the thrill of taking down someone far above you. You don’t think, “Man this guy is strong” you think, “Am I firing blanks?”

The thing is, the level scaling is so strong that it makes things confusing. I fought the skorpion boss and every critical was doing just over 100 damage. Then I fought it again at the same level and with the same gear, but I’d been matched with a different group of players. This time criticals were doing ~800 damage. Then on a later run, I was doing ~350. Without proper context, the numbers don’t mean anything.

And ANOTHER Thing…

At the end of a long dungeon, after a long fight against a very durable HP, the game usually likes to disconnect or crash JUUUUST before you bring the beast down.
At the end of a long dungeon, after a long fight against a very durable HP, the game usually likes to disconnect or crash JUUUUST before you bring the beast down.

The mouse-based flight controls are abominable. Swimming is a crime against usability and creates horrible delays for the group while newbies learn to swim in black underwater caves where they lose all sense of direction and their character suddenly steers like a barge. The entire menu system has a horrible case of consolitis and the menus provide a pretty good game of “How many usability mistakes can you find on this screen?” The loading screens are brutal. The HUD doesn’t show your teammates, which means you can’t tell if they become incapacitated or leave the match.

The whole thing feels like it’s at odds with itself. BioWare refuses to accept their fate and become the shooter mill EA wants them to be, but they no longer have the talent or resources to tell a proper story or create interesting characters. Yes, I’m sure the disconnects and bugs will get fixed, but there are high-level design decision here that make no sense. Like Andromeda, it feels like they were trying to make more than one game here and they never stopped to resolve their creative differences.

This could turn out to be a solid looter-shooter, but it’s not the BioWare game fans might have been hoping for. Maybe such a thing isn’t even possible at this point. At any rate, I’d suggest giving this a few weeks to get the bugs ironed out before you put your money down.

 

Footnotes:

[1] I was held back by health problems that kept me away from the computer for a lot of the time. Pardon if this entry feels a bit dashed-off, I’m just getting back to work now and wrote this in a hurry.

[2] It’s an Iron Man suit with chicken legs, basically.”

[3] Eh. Is it, though?

[4] Like a World of Warcraft dungeon.

[5] Who he didn’t personally know, since this was their first time speaking.

[6] Some foes do have a skull next to their name. This probably means they’re above you. How far above you? Who knows!



From The Archives:
 

198 thoughts on “Anthem Demo Impressions

  1. John says:

    Is this the intended experience? Three full mags and dozens of headshots to bring down ONE REGULAR GUY? I realize this is a looter game and so you need to feel a little weak so you can work towards being more powerful, but this is ridiculous.

    That sounds awful and un-fun, but at least the sci-fi setting provides some sort of semi-justification for it. My understanding is that the mooks in The Division are the same way, and it makes no sense whatsoever there.

    1. Hal says:

      That was my experience with The Division, which was why I didn’t really spend much time with it (a shame, given the cost). Dudes in hoodies and jeans come running at you with a baseball bat; you unleash a full magazine from your SMG into them . . . they stumble back, shake themselves off, then charge again. Laaaaaaame.

      1. Scourge says:

        If only it was that easy.

        Single guy in a hoody with shotgun charges at us. Enire team unloads at him, 2 people with SMG, which have the highest DPS, one with a shotgun and me with an LMG.
        By the time I have finished unloading my 100 shots have my SMG teammates reloaded twice already and the guy still has half his armor bar, so it will take another thirty seconds for him to have no armor at all and we can scratch at his HP (Which probably will take the same amount of time).
        And that was just ONE Elite enemy, who of course can kill you with a single shotgun blast from 50 meters away.
        And in that mission there are two of them spawning at the same time.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      If they wanted fights to take longer, there’s lots of other options besides just increased enemy hitpoints. Extra hitpoints by itself isn’t bad, but when all of the enemies have high HP, it’s boring. Random ideas off the top of my head, which would make this combat better, but still take time so that players don’t burn through the content too quickly:
      – lower the rate of fire of the guns instead of increasing enemy HP
      – give monsters visually-apparent armor (they all appear to be space-bugs), that crumbles / breaks off, as you shoot them
      – have lots of small, swarm enemies, which harass the player while they try to fight the “big” enemies and/or bosses (these small enemies are effectively more HP, but at least are visually interesting)
      – have the enemies jump around a bit, to make it harder to land shots
      – have an overheating system, so the player needs to space out their shooting, with more flying, dodging, etc, and take longer to kill the enemy

      1. tremor3258 says:

        Suggestion to help avoid bullet-sponginess in a way that requires some coordination.

        Do things like GW2 Defiance bars, where specific crowd-control or other effects can combine to cause periods of vulnerability. Then you get a space where everyone brings out the big finishing moves in a big, Twitch-worthy explosion of color and visual effects as the whole team unloads.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          That actually sounds pretty cool; I’d only thought of single-person mechanics.

          1. tremor3258 says:

            Though to be fair in the other direction, GW2 with large groups tends to be explosions of color and visual effects even when people are just moving around. :)

        2. Nimrandir says:

          This sounds like Final Fantasy XIII’s stagger gauges. I’d have been concerned about multiple players agreeing to take on different roles (“I wanna get the big numbers and kill cams!”), so it’s cool to hear it works in an MMO context.

      2. Cubic says:

        Bullet sponging is a foolish patch on a larger game problem anyway. Let’s start here: People like gun games because you don’t need many shots to incapacitate your everyday target. (Well, at least if you’re a good shot.)

        1. Sartharina says:

          But it’s also a Mech game, not just a gun game. And people like mechs to be able to take a pounding. The problems is SELLING that durability.

          1. Karma The Alligator says:

            I’d imagine people like *their* mech to be able to take a pounding, not so much the enemy’s.

    3. Nick says:

      This was precisely why I hated Bioshock Infinite and wish that I had played it on easy rather than normal.

    4. It’s really starting to sound like it’s not as good as DDO. *sigh* They even have the stupid DDO loot chests, and it sounds a lot like it’s effectively instanced dungeons for the missions.

      If I wanted to just play more DDO, I’d, you know, play more DDO. I already HAVE DDO. I wanted to do something NEW for a while. Like, a week. I was only looking for a WEEK.

      (Oh, if Anthem sounds like fun and you hate EA, TRY DDO ALREADY. It’s got 14 classes and 11.5 races (soon to be 12.5 races) and 6 Iconic races and 12 Epic Destinies AND multiclassing and beautiful handcrafted dungeons and raids and actual puzzles and INTEGRATED voice chat so you can actually talk to your teammates. Oh, and the THIRTEENTH ANNIVERSARY of it is THIS MONTH. And there’s a brand new expansion coming out in like 2-3 months.

      Anthem’s been in development for like five years now! How can it sound like a mediocre pile of schmutz next to a THIRTEEN YEAR OLD GAME? Heck, the conversation screens look like 1995 where they just filmed the actors in terrible costumes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSs1UGSomOI

      Yes, it’s much higher fidelity, but that doesn’t disguise the fact that you’re basically watching an obscenely low-budget movie special effect instead of, you know, A FREAKIN’ COMPUTER GAME.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        What does DDO stand for?

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I’m guessing Dungeons and Dragons Online.

        2. Joe Informatico says:

          Dungeons & Dragons Online

        3. Owlbear says:

          I believe Dungeons and Dragons online.
          It’s a good game and definitely holds up (at least if you pay the subscription. Free to play won’t get you much further than the equivalent of Westfall in WoW.) but except for the instanced dungeons it’s a wildly different experience going for a wildly different audience.

          Warframe on the other hand is something I would recommend if you were looking for something similar with instanced dungeons.

          1. Actually, I have a f2p account in DDO. You can get everything except 2 expansions just by playing the game free. It takes a while, though.

      2. shoeboxjeddy says:

        I don’t think DDO is a replacement for Anthem in any way. If I want to play as Iron Man, I’m not going to be satisfied by being a warlock or a paladin. COMPLETELY different fantasy.

        1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

          As Owlbear mentioned, Warframe seems like a much better alternative for this game.

        2. Except you can play as a robot in DDO–warforged race. So, yeah.

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            A flying robot that shoots missiles? It’s NOT THE SAME. And this isn’t “Anthem rules, DDO drools.” DDO is probably the better game just in terms of features/stability/etc. It’s just that you’re doing it a disservice trying to force into this niche (military action sci-fi combat) that it doesn’t belong to. If you’re in the mood for Lord of the Rings, Star Wars won’t scratch that itch. Similarly, if you’d kill for a game about Mechwarrior, then you’d suspect someone was messing with you if they suggested Vermintide.

            1. Because “military action sci-fi combat” is THE definitive “niche” for Anthem, and not something like “solo/squad-based action/tactics instanced missions game”.

              1. Sartharina says:

                SCI-FI squad-based action instanced missions game. With Jetpacks and guns and laser missiles.

              2. shoeboxjeddy says:

                If all I want is a co-op game, then Destiny, Resident Evil 6, Overcooked 2, or even Mario Kart 8 might fit the bill. But usually, I’m feeling the desire to play something a lot more specific than that. I own both Mass Effect Andromeda and Dragon Age Inquisition. Ignoring questions of quality, I would be in completely different moods to play either one. I think MOST people interested in Anthem have interest in the flying and robot exo suits, neither of which would be satisfied by playing DDO. ‘Nuff said.

    5. Darius says:

      Neither EA nor Bioware have enough faith left on my account to consider this game as anything other than a bargain bin purchase… If the demo were a well polished masterpiece I’d consider picking it up for a $20 GOTY purchase. As it is short of GoG somehow getting it and a good selection of mods… honestly an EA game at this point would need to be somewhere around $5 bucks and playable offline before I’d consider buying it.

  2. Lino says:

    A couple of typos:
    – Under the second screenshot, one “can’t” too many: “I can’t play the game because the game can’t itself can’t play with me.”
    – One “a” too many (or maybe an “an” – I don’t know, everyone uses different rules): “a silent protagonist would make more sense in a an MMO like this”

    More to the point, though, the most disappointing aspect of this is that the game will probably do just fine – it’ll carve out a piece of the Destiny/Warframe market, and it’ll just coast along for a couple of years.
    Most likely, it won’t be a massive failure that would force EA to reevaluate their priorities, and it probably won’t be a massive success that would give BioWare a bit more freedom to start their own pet to act as a successor to their more story-heavy games…

    1. Sannom says:

      You forgot “choas”, but I’m of the opinion that Shamus should leave it in, so that I can imagine he’s got vox equipment in his room that makes loud noises every time he writes “chaos”.

      1. Kyrillos says:

        Makes the sound of a bolt pistol going off directly next to his ear?

        1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

          No, but it will require a small child to hold it up all the time.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      “Swiming” is the hip new sport, where you slog through Jell-O!

      1. Lino says:

        Alternatively, it’s Elmer Fudd’s favourite pastime (after hunting wabbits, of course).

  3. Jabberwok says:

    This doesn’t just sound like a Destiny clone, it also looks like one. In these few screenshots, I see nothing to distinguish the visual style from Destiny or Warframe’s ‘exotic science fantasy concept art circus’.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Didn’t that visual style start with “Darksiders”? I recall the PA guys commenting that the character design looked like the concept artist couldn’t stop drawing.

      1. beleester says:

        PA liked the Darksiders art style (or at least Tycho did). Yahtzee was the one who said that it looked like they started drawing and then never stopped. He cares a lot about game art being instantly readable.

        That said, I don’t think either Destiny or Warframe hit the same level of absurd over-design as Darksiders did. Darksiders looked like an off-brand version of Warhammer 40k.

      2. Jabberwok says:

        Darksiders seemed like it was channeling late 90s comic books to me (particularly Image and Todd McFarlane). In that case, I didn’t really mind the over-designed characters because it seemed like everything was supposed to be bombastic and goofy, and it was clearly a cartoonish fantasy setting. I don’t think the same approach works as well for Destiny. And despite how silly it is, Darksiders has a much more coherent story than either Destiny or Warframe (which isn’t saying much).

        Aside from some of the more stupid looking armor and weapons, I think Destiny is a very pretty game, but in a particular way that has always suggested style over substance. And it really does feel like they just release teams of artists into the wild and glue the results together into one incomprehensible mass. Probably the same with Warframe, although everything about it is so alien that it seems more consistent, at least.

        And aside from that general problem, there are a lot of specific things about these screenshots that look like they could’ve come from Destiny. The menu UI, and the two characters could easily show up in that game and I wouldn’t notice the difference.

        1. Gautsu says:

          Considering Joe Madeira, famous comic artist, worked as one of the lead character and settings designer for Darksiders, you would be pretty spot on

          1. Jabberwok says:

            Haha, okay then. It definitely shows, in a good way.

  4. tmtvl says:

    I can’t play the game because the game can’t itself can’t play with me.

    I think you added accidentally added a word there.

    Shamus, this is a game where players can fly! We need the walls to keep them in!

    Counterpoint: Starsiege Tribes: everyone has a jetpack, there are flying vehicles, and there are no invisible walls/ceiling.

    Anthem seems like a tragedy. Then again, we could see it coming since ME2.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      The really tragic part, is that they didn’t realize that the flippin’ jetpacks were their strongest asset. If they’d toned down the graphical fidelity slightly (and had stable servers…), they could have had a much more open world, where players can experience the amazing freedom that jetpacks ostensibly offer.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        So, how DID Starsiege Tribes do map edges? Limited fuel (regenerating apparently) and sheer cliffs?
        There are so many neat things you could do with jetpacks. Use fuel to boost damage (like a gun afterburner?), make jump fuel only regenerate in friendly territory, have an automated reactive dodge, which fires your thrusters to avoid taking hits, using the jet thrusters as mele weapons, power for weapons and accessories coming from the jetpack. The simplification of infinite regenerating jetpack fuel really takes a lot of the depth out of it, just like with unlimited ammo.

        1. beleester says:

          Tribes just put a big ol’ forcefield around the borders of each map (can’t remember if it was an actual wall, or just one of those “return to the mission or die” barriers). It works, but it’s not very open world-y.

          1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

            Then again, that’s basically a smaller version of what every open world has.

            Well, that or the infinite wastelands of Oh Shit We Didn’t Think You Could Actually Climb Over That Mountain Range.

            Possible with a side of Return To The Fun Or Rocks Will Fall.

            1. Paul Spooner says:

              Could use edge wrapping… not that I can think of a game that does this.

              1. galacticplumber says:

                I prefer the method Subnautica used. The border of it’s map? Sheer underwater cliff that just keeps going down into an endless void. It’s full of bacterial life and the super-colossal glowing murder-serpents which will dead the hell out of you if you get too deep in their turf.

                Not immediately either. Going down, the murder serpents didn’t show up until 600 something meters deep. Ample warning as you hit the cliff telling you that exploration is ill-advised.

            2. Cubic says:

              I loved GTA San Andreas’ version of this, where one mission is you go to fricken Liberty City (GTA 3) and kill a dude. Oh just throwing that in there, guys. Because this game can swallow other games.

              If you use your jet pack to explore glitches, you will find that the whole Portland map (first third) was thoughtfully added, even if you just see a tiny part of it. Might come in handy I guess.

        2. tmtvl says:

          You can just keep going until you reach the very edge of the map (very far from the normal playing area) and it’s nothing but an infinite drop. I believe the maps were 9 times the playing area in size, so you had plenty of room to screw around in if you wanted to just have fun.

          In some (maybe all?) maps gravity was only enabled within map boundaries, so if you went all the way to the edge and walked off you just kinda floated there.

  5. Abnaxis says:

    I don’t remember, did you ever play Vermintide?

    For some reason, all this shooter looter talk made me think of it

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Vermintide also (from what I’ve seen) appears to be a better game. :)

    2. decius says:

      Yeah, the discussion of puzzles made me think of the Vermintide 2 ‘puzzle’.

      There are three doors in series in a hallway. Up the stairs are three buttons. Each door has a symbol which corresponds to a symbol on a button. Pressing the button which corresponds to the next door opens that door; pressing a different button opens a trap door and you fight some rats.

      Doing the puzzle in the ‘worst possible’ manner opens up all the trap doors. Behind the last one is a grimore that reduces your max HP but gives you better loot iff you complete the mission with it.

  6. Abnaxis says:

    We just spent 20 years developing graphics technology so we can have large draw distances and expansive views, and now we’re going to go back to the mid-90s thing of shooting dudes at the bottom of a canyon?

    “Come now it hasn’t been that long…”

    “… Shit, it’s been MORE than 20 years, hasn’t it? God DAMN I feel old…”

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Regardless of old-man-itude, I’d like to have graphics be secondary to gameplay and usability in more games. If the UI is ready to use, and the gameplay is deep, I don’t mind lower fidelity graphics. Hell, I’m trying to install the original Dungeon Keeper with Wine, because it’s got better gameplay than any of the sequels or spiritual sequels.

      1. John says:

        Are you using GOG Dungeon Keeper or installing from a disk? My experience with GOG Dungeon Keeper is that it does not work well with Wine. (Possibly because it’s trying to use Wine to run the Windows version of DOSBox in order to play the game.) Once you’ve run the GOG installer with Wine, however, you’ll have access to the uncompressed game files which you can then run with the Linux version of DOSBox. I don’t have it installed at the moment, so I can’t check, but I also remember that the included custom DOSBox config files are a little goofy. I got better performance with the default DOSBoxconfig file.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          It is the GOG version, and I think you are correct, in that it’s trying to run the game inside of Dosbox, but I was then trying to run that inside of Wine…which is flippin’ stupid now that I’ve had some time to think about it. I’ll definitely try the native Dosbox install. Hopefully if I also contact GOG support, they can provide a default / native-Linux Dosbox installer, so that people can have an easier time with this. :)

    2. Cubic says:

      “Wow, what is this place? The walls are so high. Creepy. The walls are so close I can’t breathe.”
      “Shit kid, you never seen a canyon before? Let me tell you something … heads up, here they come!”

  7. Hal says:

    Does the three personality guy look like Cory Booker to anyone else? Maybe it’s just me.

    1. Lino says:

      Yeah, he totally does! If Booker was a bit slimmer and darker-skinned, they’d look exactly the same.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      The guy in the demo appears to be of Middle Eastern origin and Cory Booker is black but… yeah they do have a resemblance.

    3. Mephane says:

      He reminded me more of Thom Allison.

      1. Hal says:

        Had to look that guy up, but yeah, I can see that.

  8. Chris_ANG says:

    Of all the things EA has done, destroying Bioware is probably the one I’m most upset about :-/

    1. Lars says:

      You do forget Maxim and Westwood and Origin and …

      1. John says:

        I listened to an interview with one of the co-founders of Westwood who argued that Westwood more or less destroyed itself by (a) moving from Las Vegas to California, (b) drastically expanding in size, and (c) making big bets on games in genres they hadn’t worked in before. I’m not saying that EA is entirely blameless, but the fact that a studio got into trouble after it was acquired by EA (or any publisher, really) does not necessarily signify that EA (or the publisher more generally) is solely responsible for that trouble.

        So maybe EA destroyed Bioware. Or maybe Bioware did it to itself. Maybe they did it together. Maybe Bioware hasn’t been destroyed; maybe it’s just different. I’m not sure it matters. Turnover is a thing. Staff comes and staff goes. The Bioware of today is not the Bioware of yesterday, and the Bioware of today would not be the Bioware of yesterday–could not be the Bioware of yesterday–whether it had been acquired by EA or not.

        1. Dreadjaws says:

          the fact that a studio got into trouble after it was acquired by EA (or any publisher, really) does not necessarily signify that EA (or the publisher more generally) is solely responsible for that trouble.

          Sure. If it was just a studio, instead of dozens. But at this point, you have to realize EA is definitely to blame. Hell, if EA was competent, they should have worked to fix any problems coming from before the acquisition. It’s not like they acquire the studios and then give them a blank check and free rein. Every major studio decision is not theirs anymore after EA acquires them.

          1. John says:

            If you want to argue that EA took specific actions that somehow ruined a specific studio, then I’ll shut up and listen. I am not denying that this could happen, nor am I denying that this has ever happened. But saying EA kills developers just because some developers have closed while owned by EA is not a serious argument. Developers don’t need a publisher to get into trouble and they close all the time whether they’re owned by publishers or not. EA has been in business for a very long time (as video games go) so if several developers owned by EA hadn’t closed by now it would be some kind of miracle.

            Furthermore, to say that EA is responsible for everything that happens inside the developers it owns (in the sense that EA directly caused those things to happen) is to absolve the developers themselves of responsibility for their own bad decisions and questionable management skills. If you read about the history of Origin, for example, you’ll see that EA did a fair bit of meddling, especially toward the end, but you’ll also see that Origin had serious internal problems and that Richard Garriot was not a great project manager. If it were possible to bet on this sort of thing, I would bet that Origin would not only have died even if it hadn’t been acquired by EA but that it probably would have died faster without publisher money propping it up at the end.

            1. shoeboxjeddy says:

              Even if we take the charitable interpretation that, BY PURE COINCIDENCE, something like 10 of the studios that EA purchased then later died of self-inflicted wounds, that STILL means that EA is full of complete shit managers. This means that, despite having MANY examples of what a studio in crisis looks like from the earlier failed examples, they have no strategies or methods for reforming the studio or resolving their issues. This is like if a doctor notes dispassionately that your body is covered in boils and offers no treatment. Later, when you’re dead, they might say something like “Huh… he should have done something about those boils I guess…”

              But no one is this foolish right? It’s EA doing it, this isn’t the case of the magically failing studios wut EA bought.

              1. John says:

                With or without EA, all developers die eventually. Sometimes it’s murder, sometimes it’s self-inflicted injuries, and sometimes it’s natural causes. Usually it’s some combination of the three.
                I’m not asking you to believe that EA is blameless. I’m certainly not asking you to like them. All I’m saying is that we should look at these things on a case by case basis.

                1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                  Again, going back to the doctor analogy, every patient will die in the fullness of time. If all of one doctor’s patients die soon after switching to their care… investigate the doctor. It isn’t right.

            2. Michael Miller says:

              “some”

            3. Chris_ANG says:

              It is of course difficult/impossible to really assign blame in specific cases, since these things are pretty opaque from the outside.

              However, in the case of Bioware it seems possible that quickly growing it from 1 studio to 4 (in one year?) was a serious mistake. Bioware was sold to EA in 2007, released Mass Effect in 2007, was grown to 4 studios around 2008, and released Mass Effect 2 in 2010. Mass Effect 2 was of course a major hit, but, as Shamus has exhaustively covered, it was already both a major break from the original and contained all the seeds of the eventual ME3 ending backlash.

              At the very least, Bioware seems to have been perfectly healthy when EA bought it, since they had such faith in their acquisition that they used it as the seed of 3 new studios. If it’s gradually fallen apart in the decade+ since then, it seems fair to blame EA.

              Also, based on Wikipedia’s tables of open and defunct studios, EA seems to be batting below 50% in terms of companies that it has acquired. It seems to have acquired and then closed ~13 companies, and acquired and then kept ~10 (rough counts, counting companies like Bioware that have lost some, but not all, studios in the still open column). If Anthem tanks and takes the remainder of Bioware down with it, those numbers will change to ~9 and ~14.

              1. John says:

                Thank you for raising so many interesting questions. The first thing I wish I knew is whose idea it was to expand. One of the reasons successful developers get acquired by publishers is to get the funds to expand like this. (See Westwood.) So, while it’s entirely possible that this is something that EA forced on an unwilling Bioware, it’s also possible either that it was Bioware’s idea or that Bioware cheerfully complied with EA’s suggestion. One of these days maybe someone will do an interview or write an article and we’ll find out what happened.

                1. Chris_ANG says:

                  Another fascinating thing from looking at the Wikipedia timelines is that Bioware may have ACCIDENTALLY sold itself to EA. From the timeline, Bioware combined with Pandemic Studios in 2005, with a private equity fund providing the funding. But, two years later Bioware and Pandemic were sold to EA. Nothing really says whether or not Bioware had any say in this decision, but the equity fund’s page makes it sound like it was a negotiation between EA and the fund (Elevation Partners). The page also notes that the EA CEO at the time was a founding partner of Elevation. It also lists the prices paid for everything: $300 million to create the combined company, and $860 million for selling it to EA.

                  I.e., it looks like Bioware might’ve been flipped by the private equity guys. They almost tripled their investment in 2 years with that sale.

                  (Pandemic is one of the closed studios, in 2009 (i.e., two years after being purchased). They were the studio that made the original Star Wars: Battlefront games, but other than that I’m not sure they were particularly successful)

          2. Cubic says:

            Sony seems pretty good at taking care of the studios they buy.

            1. Gautsu says:

              Ask SCEA about that

        2. decius says:

          Either EA destroyed Westwood, or Westwood destroyed itself and then EA bought it.

          It’s MORE charitable to think that EA bought a good studio and destroyed it than to think that EA bought a studio that had already self-destructed.

          1. Kylroy says:

            You can argue that EA isn’t a studio-killer…but that just makes them a studio undertaker.

            1. Nimrandir says:

              Alternatively, they’re a studio-euthanizer.

              1. Marc Forrester says:

                Except they wrap the corpses in animatronics and keep them dancing for the crowd until they fall to bits.

                1. Ciennas says:

                  EA is William Afton?

        3. DerJungerLudendorff says:

          Natural turnover is probably a big part. The original Mass Effect is now twelve years old, and most of the dev team seems to have moved on.

          They also expanded massively over the years, and Shamus chronicled the problems with that pretty well.

          1. certainOrder says:

            I’d almost buy the “natural turnover” theory…but Drew Karpyshyn left, came back, then left again. Seems to me like there’s a certain culture over there that is totally counter to the one which produced ME1.

  9. Hector says:

    Hey look! If EA works really hard, they mght catch up to where Warframe is now in, oh, three or four more years! Isn’t that cute!

    1. Ander says:

      Warframe did take a few years before its big resurgence which led to its current popularity. This does not excuse EA at all.

      1. Hector says:

        True, but it was also a low-budget free-to-play with basically no support network. Bioware had the option, and did exercise it, of being able to fully design and implement the complete game concept. They should be presenting a much more complete and polished experience.

  10. Mephane says:

    I have also played the Anthem demo over the weekend. I didn’t know about a demo open to anyone even without a preorder until early last week, and I had written off the game as just another mediocre thing released by EA. So I went in there with the expectation to fool around a bit on Friday night, then uninstall and never look back.

    It was an interesting experience for me. Usually I tend to enter public betas/prerelease demos etc. only for games that I am already hyped about anyway, and the beta may dampen the hype a bit or outright kill it. This here was quite the opposite for me, a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one. It just hits so many buttons for me. The robo-exo-suits. The customization options. The traversal both on foot and in the air, in combat and outside of it. The enviroment in freeplay. I’ve played both Warframe and Destiny 2 extensively, the two closest examples of other games like this, and in terms of just getting around between fights and during a fight, they hold no candle to Anthem. While Warframe has similar freedom of movement, a lot of it is just “my character can magically run fast and jump high”. In Anthem, it really feels like controlling a heavy power armor suit with jet thrusters. And finally, being able to customize the look of your mech suit independently from the gear providing the stats; I have no patience for bullshit like this, and I am indeed willing to buy MTX if that’s what it takes.

  11. Baron Tanks says:

    Looking back, I have long since accepted that the BioWare I know and love* is no more and that what we now know as BioWare is a husk (pun intended) of it former self. I consider it thoroughly proven that anything BioWare branded (so including the daughter/spin-off studio) no longer stands up to the standards of BioWare past, which means I’m not here for the story, plot and characters. In fact, perhaps perversely, I may be more interested in something like Anthem which is a very clear departure from the games of the past, rather than something like Andromeda which will not live up to and automatically invite comparisons to the RPGs of old.

    So far, the visual design and some excerpts of the gameplay of Anthem actually mildy entice me. Statements like:

    It’s okay, I guess? The Javelin powers are fun and being able to fly and hover around a battlefield is really amazing. The special abilities are glorious to use. I saw a good variety of enemies with different behaviors and attack patterns, and I also got to fight them in a lot of different places. You need to constantly change your behavior based on your foes and the terrain. I never felt like I was stuck in a rut.

    make me pique my ears. So you could call me as part of the tentatively interested, mayhaps enticed to give this a go. However, I then see the EA logo and all I envision is cut corners, server issues, hollow game designs and terrible monetization schemes, some mayhaps even introduced past the launch window to savour early buzz and reviews. Then if you look back at some of the crashing and burning launches of other ‘AAA’ titles in the past two years, with tons of drama and price slashing, I’ll be following the launch from a distance and doubt I will dip my toes in at any point before summer. And there’s a good chance that in the meantime something will come to light that will put me off the game for good. Seriously, there really seems to be very little reason these days to be around in the first month of the launch of any game, except perhaps for the fear of missing out as Jim Sterling pointed out yesterday (and Shamus alludes to from his professional perspective). I suppose I should count myself lucky I don’t have enough time to keep up with things as they come out and that the gaming buddies I do have meander in and out of new and old releases. It’s not like I ever wake up to everyone playing New Hot Game XX.

    *The last game I vigorously enjoyed was Mass Effect 2, with 3 being a letdown at the time and Dragon Age Inquisition just boring me to tears. This is before Shamus’ retrospective retroactively soured me on large parts of ME2.

    1. GoStu says:

      The line you quoted really hurt to read.

      So they’ve taken BioWare, and made their shooting gameplay go from “adequate” to “pretty good!”, at the cost of everything else. The story elements are dull, the characters irritating, the worldbuilding kinda off, and tons of server-side issues introduced because this is a multiplayer game because of course it is.

      I’m gonna give Anthem a miss, the same way I’ve given most of the last five years of gaming a miss lately. Sigh.

      1. Baron Tanks says:

        I hear what you say. The big attention grabbing ‘AAA’ games are less and less to my liking (both in monetization and the actual games coming out). I do have a bunch of more ‘indie’* types of games I’ve adored and loved in the last 3 or so years. So hopefully (most assuredly) there is something for you out there, it’s just non trivial to try and find it.

        *I don’t think anyone agrees anymore what indie is, but I meant things outside the usual big publishers, like the Stardew Valleys, Dead Cells, Into the breaches, RimWorlds, Slay the Spires and so ons in the world

  12. trevalyan says:

    “The game has no text chat and I never encountered a single person using a microphone”

    Screw me with a pineapple, so it’s a BROKEN Destiny 2/ Iron Man fantasy? You shoulda said so.

    I need to unfollow every reviewer that wasn’t saying this from the start. So sick og listening to corporate shills who can’t even figure out what the average gamer experiences.

    1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

      It’s a multiplayer game with no way to communicate.

      So many of these screwups are so basic and simple it’s almost impressive.

      1. trevalyan says:

        I mean, I -guess- Shamus could communicate with his friends. Otherwise those raids would not have gone well. And I definitely didn’t always turn my mic on when I played Destiny 2.

        But no typing?! Ahahaha, sucks to be people who installed this worthless thing.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        “Hey guys! I just had this brilliant idea on how we can get rid of mic-spammers and cyberbullying in our game…”

      3. Nimrandir says:

        I interpreted this as an indicator of a console-first mindset. If you’re thinking about PS4 and Xbox One users, the online architecture already handles that stuff for you, right?

    2. Lars says:

      Broken, only if you want to play with strangers. Every fixed group used Discord or Mumble to communicate while playing.
      An Open-Mic/Textchat communication is good for classic MMOs, but in a buddy-shooter for 4 players – I don’t need it.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        That’s great if you and a group of friends buy the game with the intent of playing together and only together, but I’m not sure how many players have this arrangement a priori. I played Borderlands 2 with a regular group of four, but I met two of those via random matchmaking in Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer.

      2. Guest says:

        Because you’re never gonna want to solo queue if you have buds right? Everyone’s online all the time, what does it matter if queueing is missing a basic feature-it’ll only kill the influx of new players you’ll rely on to keep the game alive.

  13. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    I should preface anything I say with this fact: I don’t enjoy MMO games. I just don’t. I’ve yet to experience a gaming moment that was improved by the addition of a racist, homophobic tween. But that’s just the initial bit of sour dough that ruins the whole loaf for me. Really, it’s just not an experience that I want to experience with other people. I’m stuck in the split screen age. I’m one of those aged fist-shakers who says “If you want your gaming to be a social experience, then you should be in a room with people and actually be social.” I took my cues from Golden Eye and Mario Cart and the occasional Madden game if the crowd was bro-y enough.

    But let me attempt to set that particular bias aside while I continue butting up against it to say that I also don’t want a Bioware MMO. I get why MMOs exist and why companies make them and why scores of other players enjoy them, but why-oh-why do you task Bioware with making one? I know that EA is a dangerous mix of “greedy” and “stupid” that constantly wants to put its own subsidiaries in danger, but why go to McDonalds and task them with making a good bucket of chicken?

    This game just seems like this big exercise in wrong-headedness. I don’t want to see Bioware making Anthem. I don’t want to see Bethesda Game Studios making Fallout 76. I want to see these studios continuing to forge their own paths instead of being myopic trend-chasers. While I certainly don’t think that Bioware should become strictly a well-maintained Mass Effect/Dragon Age factory or BSG should be strictly a Elder Scrolls/Fallout factory, I do think that those studios should really take stock of what got them here, what they’re good at, and how to best negotiate their own strengths and weaknesses. They should have a clear view of their own corporate identity, and that identity shouldn’t strictly be “What is everybody else doing right now and how can we cash in on that?” Though it could be argued that Bioware’s been on this path for a while and this is just EA handing them their hat.

    I have no interest in purchasing Anthem because it’s not the sort of game that appeals to me. But I can’t help but watch with interest to see what it is, and what it becomes, and how it’s received, because it feels like the very soul of Bioware is at stake on this one. Are the demos hiding away a deep lore and engaging characters? Has the studio become another purveyor of empty-calorie shooters? I admit that Andromeda doesn’t exactly give me high hopes on this one. An interesting sort of either/or has begun to form in my mind that I hope is a false dichotomy: That either Anthem succeeds and Bioware’s soul is destroyed, or Anthem tanks and Bioware joins a long list of studios that rest in the EA graveyard.

    1. trevalyan says:

      Paradoxically, Bioware has more business making good story driven MMOs than other companies. The Old Republic wasn’t the KOTOR style game the community demanded, but it had engaging stories and the Star Wars license back when that meant something.

      If no reviewer, from Shamus to AngryJoe, highlights the amazing story? It’s because one isn’t there. Not sure why people want to keep seeing life in this corpse, but meh.

      1. FluffySquirrel says:

        I’m thoroughly burned out on MMOs and couldn’t last long playing Old Republic because of that.. but yeah, what I did play, I enjoyed.. and found that the storywork was actually pretty good. Just wish it had been KOTOR 3

        1. Thomas says:

          I thought TOR was the bare minimum of what you could get away with if you had a good story. The combat sucked because it was an MMO. The sidequests sucked because it was an MMO. The environments were all oversized and sparse because it was an MMO.

          But playing through the story and making dialogue choices were fun.

      2. Nimrandir says:

        If you’re feeling charitable, you might suppose they’re trying to keep most of the story ‘behind the curtain’ to prevent spoiling too much. Even then, though, you’d want some worldbuilding hooks to get people excited for what’s going to be revealed.

  14. Trevor says:

    What is Bioware’s fascination with the high ankle joint? They gave them to the Turians and Quarians, then the Angaran, and when they move onto this alien-less (to the best of my knowledge) sci-fi world, they’re like, “we have to have those! Let’s give them to the human mech suits!”

    I get that it makes things look alien without screwing too much with your animations, but… what’s the deal? I’d say it’s one Bioware person’s fetish, but they’ve had so much staff turnover that it’s difficult to single out an individual person.

    1. Lino says:

      It’s probably the same guy that’s so enamored with the Towers of Hanoi…

      1. Trevor says:

        “Hey, babe, could you wear these leg prostheses while moving these large discs between three poles? Thanks. You’ve made this the best date night ever.”

        1. Asdasd says:

          Bioware has made me exclaim ‘oh look, it’s the towers of fucking hanoi’ before, but not, y’know, that literally.

      2. tremor3258 says:

        If Bioware really is a husk of everything it once was, then surely Tower of Hanoi guy left with the better writers. (Did they ever do a video walkthrough of their offices? Was there like one guy, or maybe the gameplay department with like a huge, five foot tell, twenty piece Tower? I’m willing to bet there was)

        1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

          Maybe they all had bunk-style offices, stacked on top of each other?
          Or some higherup really liked it?

    2. GoStu says:

      I think the word you’re looking for is “Digitigrade” to describe the legs.

      I’m just speculating wildly here, but digitigrade legs are more common here on Earth than the human plantigrade style leg, so maybe the designer is speculating that this style will be more common among other creatures in the galaxy. As for why human power armor has it, I can think of two reasons:

      1) From a artistic standpoint, it kinda makes your humans look distinct – if you see that kind of leg on a suit of power armor, you can guess that it’s from Anthem rather than another power-armor space marine type from another game.

      2) From a mechanical standpoint, it looks like that whole extension below the angle is where the jump-jets go, and it’d provide a longer leg and travel distance for impact/shock absorption.

      Or maybe it’s someone who just thinks it looks cool. I don’t know, I don’t work there.

      1. Cubic says:

        digitigrade legs are more common here on Earth than the human plantigrade style leg, so maybe the designer is speculating that this style will be more common among other creatures in the galaxy.

        Designer: Uhh … yeah? Yeah! That’s right buddy, you got it in one. Whew.

  15. Redrock says:

    I’ll admit that I really, really hate these endless online looter shooters. For me, Destiny represents everything wrong with gaming. It’s a meaningless treadmill that demands hundreds of hours of investment. It takes the worst parts of MMOs and completely obliterates the best parts – the parts where a good MMO becomes an actual world with actual communities, groups, player-made events and new professions. And from what I’ve seen, Anthem just looks like a poor man’s Destiny clone. The only one of those I can tolerate is Warframe, because a) it’s free, b) it has some nice movement systems and c) it’s on the Nintendo Switch. Also, Warframe has a pretty robust community.

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Yeah, I agree on the “pointless treadmill” part. If you want to spend hours shooting mindless monsters, I can play Left 4 Dead 2 or Vermintide or Doom 4. Having to spend hundreds of hours on a game so that my weapons are allowed to hurt enemies doesn’t really appeal to me.

      1. Redrock says:

        The bigger problem is that they basically require you to keep a schedule that’s set by the game. I’ve read somewhere that it’s a conscious decision that games like Destiny should basically be a second job. They’re built with the expectation that you play regularly. Given just how little variety there’s to those games, I find the basic idea presumptious as hell.

        1. Marc Forrester says:

          There’s a huge market of people that want games that make time go away, but they’re somewhat overserved now.

      2. Guest says:

        Vermintide 2 lands in the same box for me. Having my friends pivot from playing as a team, and having interesting experiences to “speedrunning” (they just rushing, not doing actual speedrunning) to farm chests to try to get reds, completely ruined the game for me.

        A survival game with an emphasis on teamwork, creating heroic rescues and epic last stands? Nah, just want some meaningless cosmetics. Interesting gameplay mechanics like darkness that forces you to stick together? Better whinge about that map! It’s too hard! Only because they’re playing wrong, but hey, it makes them feel like real men.

        I’ll always remember completing the gnome l4d2 challenge, I’ll never remember the nth farming run that got me a red item with a .2% better speed bonus.

  16. BlueHorus says:

    Worst thing about Anthem demo: When you complain about the bugs, disconnects, UI issues, & missing features, there’s always some fanboy saying, “It’s based on a month-old build! It’s not fair to judge the game on this!”

    Shit, kid. You deserve everything the publishers do to you.

    God damn right they do.
    It’s not fair to judge a game based on the demo the publisher has put out to showcase the game?!
    This is how companies get away with this much bullshit, for this long.

    Incidentally, I love Fallout 1. No, not the actual game that I have installed – it looks like pixelated ass, it’s buggy as hell on new systems and the UI is a nightmare.
    No, I love that version of F1 that I played in my dreams one night, which was fully remastered for VR.

    It’s not fair to judge the game unless you’ve played the hypothetical perfect version!

  17. Dreadjaws says:

    Ever since their last few games, I’ve been entirely uninterested in everything Bioware has to offer. So when Anthem was announced, I felt no hype. When it was revealed it was an online shooter, I realized I had heard enough about this game to know I was never going to play it. But I am interested in knowing if at some point they might try to do something interesting. Clearly, that’s not just out of their list of priorities for this game, it’s out of every one of their lists.

    1. Lino says:

      But I am interested in knowing if at some point they might try to do something interesting.

      I don’t know if they’ll even have the resources anymore. As far as I know, they’ve currently developing Star Wars: The Old Republic (as far as I know they’ll be doing an expansion this year) and Anthem. Both of these are MMOs, which are notorious for eating up a lot of resources. If they drop support for SWTOR, the team will likely be diverted to work on Anthem.
      I think the only chance of them developing something new is if both Anthem and SWTOR die which I don’t see happening anytime soon…

      1. Hector says:

        SWtOR is, and has been, on maintenance mode for a long time. There’s some development for sure, but its not remotely the same time/manpower investment as a whole game. In fact, there are numerous longstanding issues the Devs simply will not bother to fix as it isn’t financially worthwhile.

      2. DeadlyDark says:

        There are rumors (at least one YongYea video) about Dragon Age 4 in development

        1. Gautsu says:

          They put out a teaser trailor a few months back

    2. GoStu says:

      My pessimism meter spiked quickly when they revealed they were basically aping Destiny. Just look at the number of entries in this style of game:

      – Bungie has Destiny and its sequel.
      – Ubisoft has The Division (and an upcoming The Division 2 in two months, more’s the pity)
      – Warframe is the “F2P indie” by Digital Extremes
      – Gearbox has “all the Borderlands games” that are currently out, plus a Borderlands 3… someday (?)

      Doubtless I’ve forgotten someone, but still: EA has no compunction against being the fifth (sixth?) person to the party. All those fans that you irked with halfassing Andromeda are probably on the fence at best about whatever their favorite studio is going to release, and are likely not that into the “Destiny clone” gameplay…. or if they are, they’re already in one of your four big competitors.

      I predict about a C+ reception for Anthem, a “did not meet expectations” for Bioware, and another dead horse on the trail of destruction EA seems to leave in its wake. Sorry Bioware, maybe your name & IP can be bought by someone else once they’re done killing you.

    3. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Same. I was one of those dedicated Bioware fanboys, not the apologist kind but someone who got really excited whenver “a new game by Bioware” showed up on the news. ME3 had me literally yelling and pointing at the screen and nearly literally frothing at the mouth: humans are special! drop everything and save the Earth! Cerberus can fight half the galaxy now! I was very lukewarm on DA:I: I think some of the character stuff was fine but it was horribly diluted by the “single player MMO” mechanics, the villain was uninteresting and it felt like the game didn’t add to the world (I did not play the DLC which is where I’m told the interesting stuff happens, too bad EA/Bioware, this ship has sailed). After those two games I discovered I just don’t care. I thought maybe my total disinterest in Andromeda was because I was burned on the ME setting but when news came of Anthem I couldn’t spark any interest even before I learned it was a multiplayer shooter.

      To be fair I could probably be convinced to at least pay attention if they tried selling me on something like “Dragon Age 2 but polished”. You know, a story based RPG, sort of smaller scaled in terms of scope with a more personal story… but that is unlikely to happen since for a big studio RPG means spectacle, set pieces and saving the world.

  18. Ninety-Three says:

    I can’t comment on the story, but the dialog is atrocious.

    Yes, in a BioWare game the demo is designed specifically to sell you on gameplay alone. It is breathtaking how poorly EA understands game developers and gamers.

    I know EA is bad at everything, but “don’t show the story” looks like it follows perfectly from an understanding of “our developer’s writing is terrible”. And in 2019, is anyone really surprised that Bioware writes a bad game, especially when you go for a Destiny clone that rips out their biggest strength in companion party members?

    1. Nimrandir says:

      That’s the part that irritates me the most. ‘BioWare writing’ was never really about their plot construction (apart from the big twists in KotOR and Jade Empire, I suppose), but rather about the vibrant characters they gave you the chance to meet and bring with you.

      Maybe it’s another misdiagnosis of what players aren’t liking? “Players are in an uproar over the writing going downhill. Let’s pivot our focus onto the gameplay, since people seem to like setting off biotic explosions.”

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Even those plot twists turned on hidden depths in an existing, well-known character (one of which was yourself).
        They’ve never been much good at writing if it wasn’t focused on a specific character.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          Quite accurate on the twists.

          Upon further reflection, I should also have exempted the worldbuilding from the original Mass Effect. It’s still not really plot, but it did an exceptional job of making me want to explore what had been created.

  19. The Big Brzezinski says:

    I’ve been playing Warframe for about a year now. Even with my wanton disregard for sunk cost, I can’t imagine ever playing Anthem instead. And that’s not even counting EA’s proclivity for, well, evil.

    Anthem just looks to me like guys in discount E-frames yammering exposition to each other and shooting bugs on rocks. Now sure, what we’ve seen is “just a demo”, but it’s still a new game with whatever minimal amount of content EA thought the game needed on release. If the game was to then spend the next three or so years being renovated and added to, it might really become something special. Unfortunately, the working model from Destiny and The Division seems to suggest Anthem 2 is already slated to drop in a few years, at which time everyone will be expected to abandon the game they were enjoying and microtransacting with to play a totally new one with the same title.

    Warframe, on the other hand, has me cutting through hordes of Grineer marines on a space ship and sneaking into Corpus data vaults like Spider Ethan Hunt and zipping around space combat like an TIE fighter and planning out weapons, powers, and mod configurations like MTG deck and laying out a zen garden in my clan’s dojo and fishing for robots in a lake of coolant with an electric spear. Warframe’s writing is even good, too. It’s not the Big Epic Mission to be Heroes That Save the World. It’s personal, character-driven stories woven together with the gameplay. The bosses are delightfully fun to fight and goofy to hear, like the best Borderlands bosses turned down to 10.5. Sidequests are fun series of missions that tell wonderful little stories ranging from mechanic tutorials to comedic interludes to cosmic horror stories to gut-wrenching tragedy, and they always result in significant rewards. There’s a reason why the Warframe community is so rabid about not spoiling newbies on anything until they finish the Second Dream quest. On top of everything, it’s all free to play.

    So I don’t look at Anthem and see The Next Big Thing. I see every WoW clone, Rust ripoff, botched battle royale, fly-by-night MOBA, Minecraft wannabe, Greenlit zombie nightmare, horrible horror stroller, stolen hentai puzzler, military-industrial shooter, joke J-RPG, empty open-world, aborted indie Nonstarter and misbegotten mascot platformer that has briefly lurched across the scene and faded into the void. Maybe I’m just jaded, I dunno.

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Oh my god, the Minecraft wannabes still hurt to think about. How many times can people spend years of their life on another “You appear in an empty grasslands and have to punch trees to build tools” game that immediately fades into obscurity before people realize that Minecraft clones don’t work if all they do is copy Minecraft?

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Probably even more often than people trying to make another wow-clone that dies off in six months.
        Or another brown military shooter that get’s buried by the major annual releases.

        1. GoStu says:

          At least the Minecraft clones were probably (relatively) cheap. The WoW clones were heartbreakingly expensive.

    2. GoStu says:

      So I don’t look at Anthem and see The Next Big Thing. I see every WoW clone, Rust ripoff, botched battle royale, fly-by-night MOBA, Minecraft wannabe, Greenlit zombie nightmare, horrible horror stroller, stolen hentai puzzler, military-industrial shooter, joke J-RPG, empty open-world, aborted indie Nonstarter and misbegotten mascot platformer that has briefly lurched across the scene and faded into the void. Maybe I’m just jaded, I dunno.

      That’s exactly it. I see a publisher that doesn’t really understand its own industry that well, chasing after ships that have already sailed. They’re gonna spend a heartbreaking amount of money on this thing, find that it doesn’t get the reception they were hoping for, and completely miss the point that people who wanted that kind of game already have that kind of game. You’ll get a dribble of interest, but people are already committed elsewhere.

      If you actually have any interesting ideas, they’ll probably get ripped off and incorporated into one of your competitor’s games though. If you introduce a line-dancing element that’s interesting, do you think you can move another game’s entire fanbase to your game faster than the other devs can knock together their own line-dancing routine?

    3. Trevor says:

      Everyone forgets that WoW was a “WoW-clone” when it came out. The landscape had plenty of Medieval Fantasy MMOs in it, be it Everquest, or Ultima Online, or Final Fantasy XI. Those games had a bunch of people playing them and a bunch of people saying that those games weren’t for them. “Everquest already exists! If that’s the gaming experience you want it’s out there for you now!” A lot of people at the time thought Blizzard was selling its soul to cash in on the MMO model of getting monthly subscribers and that they should instead get around to making Starcraft II or Diablo III.

      And then they made a really good game. It was so good that now MMOs are thought of as WoW-clones. So, you can jump into a seemingly saturated market and distinguish yourself and succeed, but you need to make a good game. It’s just not clear Anthem is good enough to distinguish itself, and I don’t know that I want to shell out $60 to try (worth noting that Blizzard’s reputation when WoW came out and BiowEAr’s now are in quite different places and that influences things quite a lot). This game seems like it’s going to be to Mass Effect Andromeda what Fallout 76 is to Fallout 4. Hey, did you like that weaksauce sequel of a thing you liked previously? Here it is again, but ALL MULTIPLAYER.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        This reminds me of something I heard from a business professor in a committee meeting: “you either want to be first, or you want to be best.” Blizzard managed to be the best for long enough that we now treat them like they were first.

        Can Anthem manage to be the best in this genre? It doesn’t sound like it from here, but I suppose time will tell.

        1. DeadlyDark says:

          That reminds me. I really like NerdSlayer videos about dead MMOs, including the preWoW ones. He’s very informative, and considering that I never played MMO (outside of storymodes in SWTOR and a little of The Secret World), it was very interesting to see, what people liked about those games

      2. Xeorm says:

        I wouldn’t agree with this. When WoW came out there were a lot of MMO games, but at the time they were all structured differently. Primarily being open world playgrounds, essentially. The world had monsters and players killed them. Add in a few quests and lore pieces and you had the original experiences in a nutshell.

        WoW came around and setup the MMO as a theme park experience. It lead you by the hand through quests and setup instanced dungeons for players to go through and repeat.

        Before it came out you had people looking at it as a similar medieval fantasy MMO, but I do think it was the actual “first” in making themepark MMO’s a genre. It helps that they did it well.

        I don’t see Anthem as innovating and being more than a looter shooter so far. The flight is about all that stands out as being “new” compared to other entries in the current genres.

        1. Gautsu says:

          Everquest 2 beat Wow to market by a very small margin, but it did it first

        2. Boobah says:

          I’d say that the theme-park was one of two big things WoW introduced to the genre. The other was that the game was playable even without a group.

          Most games of the genre beforehand very rapidly became either impossible or a horrible slog to solo. And the first time you lost a level because the wimpiest monster that gave you any xp at all murdered you was kind of a buzzkill.

          Sure, the point of an MMO is that there are people to play with, but the ability to log on for a half hour and knock off a quest or two without worrying about the schedule of your static group or having to (inevitably) leave just as your pick-up group came together was huge.

    4. Rob says:

      I would love to hear Shamus’s opinion on Warframe. However, I’m hesitant to recommend it to him because getting to The Second Dream (the point where the game goes from “better than your average F2P shooter” to “I’m going to annoy everyone I know by constantly recommending this to them”) takes around 20 hours of grinding if you rush it, or anywhere from 40-80 hours if you’re playing at your own pace. The game makes an awful second impression*, which combined with the many complex, interconnected systems you need to learn can make the early game rough for new players.

      I will say that if Shamus was annoyed by the bullet sponge enemies and limited mobility in Anthem, Warframe will fill him with absolute glee. Time to kill for most enemies is measured in fractions of a second (it uses the “waves of disposable mobs with an occasional tough enemy interspersed among them” design that everyone seems to have abandoned post-Borderlands), and Warframe’s mobility mechanics are one of its main claims to fame. It’s also one of only a handful of shooters I’ve played where the melee is just as deep and engaging as the gunplay, which combined with the parkour really sells the “space ninja” aesthetic.

      * The tutorial was revamped into a cinematic quest a few years back so it makes a decent first impression, but once that questline ends you’re dropped onto the world map with no real goal and left facing countless hours of reskinned side activities disguising themselves as main quests (AKA Saints Row 3 Syndrome). The handcrafted cinematic quests don’t resume until The Second Dream dozens of hours later. DE really need to go back and rewrite the early-to-midgame content to bring it up to their current standards.

      1. Redrock says:

        What, is there more to Warframe’s melee than mashing the melee button? Man, I really must pay more attention.

        I kinda like Warframe and the fact that I can play it on the Switch, although the systems are absolutely, terribly complex and obscure. You need a wiki to decipher the Warframe wiki, for gods’ sake. And the mod interface is a mess. But, then again, it’s three, it’s on every platform, it’s fast and satisfying and constantly evolving. For all its problems, Warframe is probably one of the best things to come out of the freemium craze, as well as the online looter shooter craze.

        1. Rob says:

          All melee weapons have a basic moveset that’s unique to them, but also have a stance mod slot that unlocks alternate, more complex movesets (plus grants a bunch of free capacity, the same as aura mods do when slotted onto Warframes). The quick melee button’s attacks also differ based on which weapon you have equipped, sometimes significantly – for example, the Glaive is nearly worthless when used while wielding a primary (your frame tries to stab enemies with it for some reason), but when you have a one-handed secondary equipped the quick melee button turns into a room-clearing dervish.

          You can also directly equip your melee weapon, letting you charge your attacks for better damage at the cost of energy, or hold your weapon in a defensive stance to block incoming bullets. Plus there’s the stealth system that lets you instantly kill an enemy you’ve snuck up behind, and you can use melee finishers on stunned enemies to deal a ton of damage that bypasses resistances entirely (very useful against certain armor types).

          Unfortunately while this complexity exists, it’s mostly pointless. Most enemies are weak enough that the current meta for melee is just to grab something with long reach and good stats and “spin-to-win”, wiping out entire groups in a second with whatever combo works best for room clearing.

          This is a recurring problem with Warframe, unfortunately. Take the Damage 2.0 system – it’s probably the most ridiculously complex damage and resistance system I’ve ever encountered, but most builds are going to blindly include corrosive damage because armor is the highest-scaling resistance type at end-game by multiple orders of magnitude.

        2. Guest says:

          Yeah. I love melee, but guns, procs, status effects and a variety of important builds shake up the weapon combat, and power based warframes, who fit support, tank, dps, and some weirdly specific roles fill it out.

          Plus, slashing through hordes where strategy, placement and objectives matter more than kills, just works better than say, emptying 5 mags into a bulletsponge enemy in the division, and their bad over-level scaled BS.

          My big issue with Warframe is it does the scheduled FOMO event second job thing. It’s not as obnoxious as some, but that always irks me.

      2. Baron Tanks says:

        That makes so much sense. I loved my first two hours of Warframe, then stranded somewhere in hour four. I suppose it’d help if you had someone in your circle to take you through, but by myself it became a directionless slog and it makes you feel like, I don’t see this game everyone is raving about. Even if it’s there it feels like work trying to get there and I’m not looking for more work in my videogames.

        If anything, that’s the one thing that bothers me about all these looter shooters. They seem to cater to an endless model where there still needs to be something out there even if you play it daily for months on end. However, since content is not infinite what they all end up doing is stretching the content to the point the seams of the treadmill can’t help but show and for some (like me) break the game.

        1. Guest says:

          Yeah, if you’ve got a buddy, it helps, but the story content is lacking, and some of the early bosses are downright cruel to newbies.

          Once you’re at the second dream, things get goooood, but I can’t blame anyone who feels lost and uninspired till then.

      3. Ciennas says:

        For everybody who is curious about Warframe, they recently dropped their 2019 roadmap, which includes a revamping of the early star chart and story so that it can grab people sooner, a revitalizing of the melee system, because they noticed nobody was using channeling, and three new Warframes so far, with two far enough along to be showable.

        They will also be doing a major event related to stuff mentioned in Fortuna, the new open world zone, and around November-ish, they will be unleashing another open world zone and a new major faction.

        The game is putting a lot of other titles to shame with their enthusiastic support from the dev team.

    5. Lino says:

      Warframe’s writing is even good, too.

      When does the actual story start? And is it worth it? I heard SkillUp comparing it to Legacy of Kain, and I immediately jumped on the game.
      However, about 15-20 hours in, there was nothing of the sort to be found. The mechanics were fun, but the difficulty curve was very uneven – enemies either died the moment I sneezed in their general direction, or were complete such bullet sponges, that fighting them was a chore. The bosses were fun, but were very few and far between. I was very directionless, which is a problem in this game, because you have a very weak frame of reference for how leveled you are for the content you have access to. I took part in an event in the Void with my rank 30 Excalibur (i.e. the maximum level), along with all my best gear, I got in a party with some high-level players, and… I did ABSOLUTELY NO DAMAGE to ANY of the enemies – even my ultimate ability barely made a dent in their HP! One of the players called me a retard, and I started to think that maybe this event was a bit over my level :D. Which begged the question of why the game even allowed me to join this event in the first place, because the only thing I could do in it was to ruin all the other people’s fun (since we failed the event thanks to me contributing less than 1% of the total damage to enemies). It was very disheartening, because I had followed a very highly rated build. The only quest I had left was one where I had to scan Grineer Elites which I found immeasurably boring. I heard a streamer say that the actual story starts 40 hours in.
      And that was the last straw – coupled with the difficult way to actually make a basic build for any frame, I realized that this game is absolutely not for me. To use Shamus’ analogy in A Tale of Two Diablos, I’m very much a casual RPG player – I value an RPG’s atmosphere, story, and mechanics (in that order), and Warframe is apparently designed for the completely opposite type of player.

      So, after that long ramble, I’d like to reiterate my original questions – when does the “real” story start, and is it actually worth it to slog through it all in order to get to it?

      1. Rob says:

        The Second Dream is where the main story starts (technically it begins in the previous mission “Natah”, but The Second Dream is the start of the handcrafted “cinematic” quests that have unique level design and gameplay elements). You unlock The Second Dream by beating the junction at the end of Neptune, which as that streamer said takes around 40 hours. It’s definitely a real slog, though luckily most of the early junctions (the short duels against specters that unlock more of the star map) have easy requirements so you can rush to Neptune in half that time if you know what you’re doing..

        As for whether it’s worth it, I’d say so. There’s a reason nearly the entire playerbase refuses to speak of its events to new players – it recontextualizes everything that’s come before, and the story’s a wild ride from that point on.

        1. Gautsu says:

          As someone who has played this game for almost seven years now on and off, Warframe went from a great game with a decent explanantion of systems (seriously look at the original map to its current version) to a potentially amazing game bogged down by incredibly obtuse systems and the worst p2win grind I have ever seen. That said it does have a super unique visual style that is amazing to be found on a F2P game

  20. Darren says:

    Under-discussed element of the Anthem demo: the horrendous miscasting of Jack MacBreyer as a hunky bartender.

  21. Ninety-Three says:

    Not sure if “skorpion” is a typo or just a silly made-up space word.

    1. Shamus says:

      To be clear: That’s how it’s spelled in the game.

      I don’t know why. They look like spiders and nothing like scorpions.

      1. Hal says:

        Because spelling it with a ‘k’ is XTREME!

        1. DeadlyDark says:

          Because poor literacy is…
          EKstreme!

      2. Ninety-Three says:

        What!? I could’ve understood if they were giant dog beasts or something, but how do you make a bug monster and name it after the wrong arachnid?

        1. CrimsonCutz says:

          Just wait, I bet later on there’s a big bug monster with pincers and a huge poisonous tail that hangs above its head known as the Spydur

        2. Hector says:

          *Araknid, of course.

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            The plural is “Araknidz” and they drop “araknidium” when killed.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              And there’s a quest to get 10 Araknid legs, but only one in every 5 or so Araknidz drops a single leg,

            2. Asdasd says:

              RED BUGZ GO FASTER

  22. konondrum says:

    I have an Origin Access account, so I thought I would give this a go. I’ve played Bioware games since Baldur’s Gate 2, and though the company that made that game is long gone I thought there might be at least some fun to be had here.

    But, no. It’s a complete shitshow. I wish that was hyperbole, but it’s the simple truth. The interface and controls are abominable, The setting is a bore, the “characters” are obnoxious, it’s a chore to get anywhere. I can’t remember the last time I bounced off a game so fast.

    Also, performance is simply unacceptable. I built my gaming PC at the start of 2017 (Core i7-7700 / GTX 1070) and only play at 1080p. This well exceeds the minimum, and should be more than plenty for that resolution. Unfortunately performance is not stable at all, jumping all over the place. Digital Foundry did an in depth analysis of performance on all consoles and PC, and there simply isn’t ANY configuration that gives consistent performance. And this is for an online shooter! The mind boggles.

  23. Liessa says:

    From what I’ve seen so far of Anthem it’s pretty much exactly what I expected: a generic MMO shooter. I’m sure some people will enjoy it (at least once the bugs and control issues are ironed out), and I don’t begrudge them that. But I can’t help feeling a bit depressed, because there are plenty of other MMO shooters out there, whereas no one is making the kind of games Bioware used to make – and I’m not sure anyone ever will again. The only upcoming game that looks even vaguely similar to ‘classic Bioware’ is Obsidian’s ‘The Outer Worlds’, but we’ve seen very little of that so far so I’m wary of getting my hopes up.

  24. Ronan says:

    those other games are free-to-pay

    I Like this.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      So does Jim Sterling, but he uses it precisely for games like Anthem, as opposed to the free-to-play Warframe.

    2. Wiseman says:

      I believe this is a mistake. Free-to-play is what is meant and it only makes sense to use free-to-pay for games like Anthem itself which adopt microtransactions on top of a 60 dollar entrance fee.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I’m sure you are correct. Also, I believe I was off a bit about Jim Sterling; he calls the Anthem model fee-to-play, instead of free-to-pay.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Actually, Jim would call Anthem Fee-to-Pay. As in, pay a fee to get in and pay for microtransactions. “Fee-to-play” would be just… a normal game purchase.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            I managed to be wrong twice in one comment thread. On the upside, we’ve got the Internet to commemorate the occasion.

  25. adam says:

    I liked it.

    I didn’t preorder it, I just already subscribe to Origin Access, so I will get to play it regardless. You don’t have to shell out $60 in order to play Anthem.

    I liked the Triplet character. I thought his presentation was charming and amusing. Maybe I’m just a troglodyte.

    I enjoyed the gameplay. The fodder enemies went down in seconds. The shielded, tougher enemies go down slower but the intention is for you to coordinate your fire on them. That’s why they hover and appear less frequently: to get your attention. The bosses could use some work, as they’re a bit too bullet-spongey and don’t respond to being focus fired like they should, but they all made for interesting-enough fights.

    I’m not going to try to defend EA’s microtransaction business model. It sucks. But the developers did say ALL cosmetic items can be earned in-game. That, at least, is more than Destiny offers.

    I’m not going to try to defend Bioware’s storytelling. It seems obvious we can’t expect much from them on that front anymore, but I don’t play online looter-shooters for their stories. I play to get cool gear and kill hordes of bad guys. If Anthem delivers on that premise I’m sure I’ll get plenty of fun out of it.

    Plus, flying around like Iron Man is fucking awesome.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      You’re working off outdated info on how Destiny microtransactions work. And also incorrect info about Anthem. They have stated upfront for Anthem that new Javelins will come out for cash. So obviously you can’t earn everything just by playing when there will be entire classes you can’t select without putting in more cash.

      1. Jon Carr says:

        They said *maybe* new Javelins would cost money, from the statement I saw, not that they will. This is likely the case, but all other game content will be free, so I think it’s fine. See Destiny 2 requiring a $40 season pass or whatever to get new stuff. I’d rather pay $5-$10 for a new javelin then a big pass all the time.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          The thing that’s ignored in the “all the new content will be free” is “what is the content and when do we get it.” Gears of War 4 released all the maps to all the players for free if you’re playing in matchmaking (season pass was for custom games). Super cool! Except that by comparison with 3, they did a TON of reskins and returning maps. The playerbase got what they paid for… launch maps set at night instead of day, that kind of thing. Another example, Halo 5 launched with promises of no paid DLC and free updates for the lifetime of the game. Sweet! They also launched without modes that had been in the game since Halo 2 (such as Big Team Battle) and took up to a YEAR delivering all that missing depth. And a vast majority of the maps were Forge creations with mapmaker quality assets instead of truly new areas with custom assets, as all the earlier Halo games received. Another example, Battlefield V promises free maps and DLC to everyone. It’s been months and the Americans still aren’t a playable faction. In a World War 2 game. So rather than “free DLC” it would be much more accurate to call this stuff “a very slow rollout of the full game experience.” When you’re promised free, have the wisdom to realize what devs will offer for free. Unless it’s a free to play game, those create genuinely new content usually, because that’s what generates purchases in their market.

          So comparing Destiny to Anthem, yes Destiny charges for its DLC. It also delivers voiced storyline updates, new class powers, entirely new environments, etc. There’s a real danger of Anthem basically hitting the remix button on existing content and calling that “FREE DLC!!!!” with the real meaty new stuff (new Javelin classes) costing money.

  26. Nimrandir says:

    It’s probably a good thing Will Wright left the company in 2009, or they’d have the poor bastard making shooters by now.

    Let’s not go overboard, now. Even the least industry-savvy executive will associate Wright’s name with simulations.

    They’d put him to work on the franchise modes for their sports titles.

    1. Ander says:

      That’s such a sad thought

  27. Wiseman says:

    Now with the benefit of watching the DigitalFoundry analysis of the different versions of the game, and knowing your PC is getting old (or it was when I last heard you mention it), the performance was probably pretty poor, wasn’t it? On consoles this thing is struggling for that 30 FPS gold standard. So it seems like an al-around dud, or at least a “disappointing, but passable on all fronts”.

  28. Geebs says:

    “I’m thrilled to share that our public demo weekend exceeded our expectations,”

    I guess they mean “exceeded expectations” in the sense of being less terrible than the complete dumpster fire of the VIP demo, and (arguably) marginally less pessimistic press this time around.

    This is, however, going to make it doubly ironic when they shut down Bioware next year and blame it on Anthem “failing to meet expectations”.

    1. Mephane says:

      I am pretty sure they only meant it with regards to the number of players playing the demo. That would also explain why the servers would crash or disconnect all the time, they probably didn’t provide nearly enough.

      1. Lino says:

        Which is mind-boggling, given the fact that this demo was exclusive for people who had either preordered the game, or were Origin subscribers. In other words, EA and BioWare knew exactly how many people would be playing at any given time.
        This is why I kinda believe the conspiracy theory that they did it only so they could have the headlines going “So many people played the Anthem demo that its servers crashed!”

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          I don’t think many companies would be so unwise to deliberately have a bad demo experience in the thought that that would make people think the game was great. That thought is too stupid to even entertain. Especially when it’s a studio known for other things trying a big online multiplayer game. The LAST thing they want is the idea that their servers are bad and unreliable.

          1. Geebs says:

            After the SimCity debacle, EA probably figured that particular horse had already bolted, got a degree, been to business school, opened up their own livery stable, competed the original stables they bolted from in the first place out of business, bought their premises and burned them to the ground as part of an insurance scam.

            But yeah, Hanlon’s Razor.

            1. shoeboxjeddy says:

              I think if you said “SimCity” to an EA executive, they’d be like “what’s that?” It’s dead to them, they learned nothing from the experience.

        2. Mephane says:

          Nope. The first demo was, but the second one was open to all, and some news sites posted about it (I read about it on Polygon, just a few days before the demo began, and would have otherwise missed it).

  29. slug camargo says:

    Where is the Andromeda chapter for today? I’m entering withdrawal as we speak!

    brb gonna go watch the “Everything is fine” picture to calm down.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I’ll leave this here for you slug, just in case you couldn’t make it all the way there:
      https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/mea_fine.jpg

      1. BlueHorus says:

        *Added to Favorites*

      2. Karma The Alligator says:

        Many thanks, I was also itching for some good ole ME:A critiquing, and that calmed me down a bit.

      3. Lino says:

        By the way, what happened to this week’s Diecast? Was there a scheduling hiccup?

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          It’s in the first note “I was held back by health problems that kept me away from the computer for a lot of the time. Pardon if this entry feels a bit dashed-off, I’m just getting back to work now and wrote this in a hurry.”

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Shamoose mentions health issues so that might have affected it. /wildspeculation

          1. Lino says:

            I don’t know why, but I thought that his problems were during the weekend, and given that they record the Diecast during the week, I thought something else had happened.
            Next time I’ll try to read more carefully. I hope it’s nothing serious…

            1. Shamus says:

              We record the Diecast on Saturday night, when I was feeling terrible.

              I’m on the mend now. Thanks!

      4. slug camargo says:

        It’s so beautiful. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again right here: This needs to become a t-shirt. With the caption included, of course.

  30. Jon Carr says:

    Longtime fan, maybe 2nd time commenting here. Generally speaking I love your analysis. Glad you gave demo impressions.

    Agree with:
    -Puzzles are silly
    -Bugs/disconnects were insanely terrible. It took me 6 hours to get level 12 as I had the same XP issues as you. You do keep your loot however if you load in/out of freeplay. I actually got about 3 sessions worth of items in one go this way.
    – Not being able to run in the fort is beyond stupid. They need a run option.

    Don’t agree or disagree but:

    – Default flight controls are garbage unless you massively tune them. There’s actually 3 different flight control bars in the settings, and if you turn two of them down to 0% (I forget which ones) the flying suddenly becomes crisp and responsive.

    – Bullet sponge enemies – this is mostly a Ranger javelin suit problem. I had to plonk away at foes until I got a Colossus and suddenly I was stomping face immediately. I feel like I had 2-3x the DPS of the default Ranger suit and from what I saw the other suits also can crush.

    Disagree on:

    Bad story and dialogue. I very much enjoyed all the characters, and getting to choose options in the conversations. Did you talk to the kid at the bar? You can get him hilariously involved with a femme fatale and a silly side story about a mysterious package and a dead guy in his apartment. After playing lots of other looter shooters without either zero or little character speaking (Destiny, Borderlands) I really liked my character talking a lot. This much be personal preference since you hated it, so you aren’t wrong, I’m just saying I liked it. I agree its not on par with Bioware of old obviously, but I still prefer it to nothing.

  31. MadTinkerer says:

    During the mission, I found one of the characters to be really irritating. He was an insufferable smug jackass who scoffed at the idea of showing up for a mission briefing, made fun of one of the other people on the radio and was generally a self-important jackass. Then I glanced down at the subtitles and realized this dickhead was my character.

    Oh no… I’m having flashbacks to Prey (2006). The opposite of the Doom 2016 protagonist. In Doom, Doomguy is so self-aware that he skips cutscenes for you and is clearly pleased with his work. In Prey, Tommy is so un-aware that, in spite of being literally an immortal mystical warrior who is the only one who can save the world from imminent peril, he just won’t stop acting like he doesn’t have time to be an immortal mystical warrior who is the only one who can save the world from imminent peril.

    Doomguy knows his entire game is fun and does his best to make it even more fun from start to finish. Tommy has no idea how fun the fun part of his game is, and makes the tedious part of his game much worse.

    I appreciate that the writers often want to do a “hero’s journey” where the protagonist starts as a selfish jerk and learns to be a selfless hero (by the time they’ve single-handedly defeated the enemy army). But if players feel like there needs to be a button to skip your own character’s dialogue, then something has gone terribly wrong. Also, if your character is still acting like a jerk at the end of the game, something has gone catastrophically wrong.

    Anyway, Anthem is an EA game that isn’t on Steam or GoG, so that’s what I think about it.

    Man, I would be a terrible games journalist.

    Editor in Chief: “I want to pay you to review the latest Mass Effect.”

    Me: “You literally can’t pay me to review a game that doesn’t exist.”

    Editor in Chief: “Is… Is that your resignation?”

    Me: “I guess so.”

  32. Ravens Cry says:

    I haven’t played and I doubt I will, but the trailers on the Tube of You really put me off even if I had a rig capable of playing this. Like, seriously, it was the most cliche “Villain after MacGuffin” excuse for a plot, all set to to music, sound and visual design that’s trying desperately to make it sound epic. And, like a lot of trailers, it told you nothing about what the game was about or what kind of gameplay it had beyond it involving minimechs of some sort. Heck, I had no idea it was an MMO until this post.

  33. Agammamon says:

    >. . . but they no longer have the talent or resources to tell a proper story or create interesting characters. Yes, I’m sure the disconnects and bugs will get fixed, but there are high-level design decision here that make no sense. Like Andromeda, it feels like they were trying to make more than one game here and they never stopped to resolve their creative differences.

    I play Warframe a bit and I see people coming in to the forums talking about how great Anthem *has* to be – its done by Bioware after all! Its going to have a great story – its done by Bioware after all!

    When I point out Andromeda to them they go ‘but its Bioware! They’re great at RPG’s and stories, remember DA:I!’.

    And then the only response to that I can muster is;

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKQz5CO-1sI&feature=youtu.be&t=21

  34. Jenkins says:

    Even though I’m a huge fan of Bioware’s games, I don’t buy the narrative that EA is solely or mostly responsible for the shift in their design philosophy since 2007. EA certainly has a history of mismanaging their IPs, and while the fiction of hapless creatives being stifled by greedy corporates is an alluring one, I’ve never gotten the impression that Bioware hasn’t been making the games they’ve wanted to make – Bioware was making action RPGs long before EA came along. EA’s insistence on using the Frostbite engine across all their IPs is no doubt disruptive, but it has only affected two games so far. Mass Effect Andromeda was arguably doomed from the start, and Dragon Age: Inquisition (though by no means perfect) was a big success.

    I won’t be getting Anthem. The art looks dull, the combat seems repetitive, and the focus on co-operative multiplayer is destined to impinge on the worldbuilding, roleplaying, and character expression we’ve come to expect from previous Bioware titles, so I’m glad Shamus has been willing to criticize the demo. I couldn’t count the number of times I was told how good Fallout 76 was going to be, and how all the technical problems seen shortly before launch were just the usual hiccups one would expect from a beta test. Thankfully I avoided that game like the plague.

    I don’t think Anthem will be anywhere near as bad as that, but it’s foolish to expect the game will change that much a couple weeks from release.

  35. Ciennas says:

    My biggest feeling playing the demo?

    Why is this a Destiny style MMO?

    (Actually, of most games, like Monster Hunter World, and much of Destiny, I’m actually surprised that the games even need online mode to be the default primary state.)

    But this game would be awesome in the same sphere as Borderlands- not the comedic tone, necessarily, but the explore the wild wilderness with up to three other friends/squaddies, enjoying the story at your own pace and whatnot.

    In fact, as I free roamed it, I found myself wondering why this game needed to be online at all, or even really multiplayer.

    Also, the scout Javelin- Valkyrie(?) was the best one, because it had the most free movement to it. I preferred its melee system to the default not excalibur javelin, and its movement system by comparison was joyous.

  36. Simon says:

    Downloaded the Beta and tried it out. Played a mission or two and uninstalled it. With all those movements and hashtags going around I think I would join a “#notmybethesda” and “#notmybioware” at this point.
    Overall the past few years most of my former favorite dev-studios have developed (for me) in a very wrong direction.

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