Last year Electronic Arts revealed its next major franchise, “Anthem.” Showcased alongside the Xbox One X, the game showed the potential to be one of the publisher’s most promising new franchises in some time, rivaling Tom Clancy’s The Division and Destiny.
An appearance at E3 2018 shed further light on the elusive new project, breaking down its story, class-based gameplay, and long-term progression. We’ve brought together everything we know so far about Anthem and what to expect ahead of its planned February 2019 debut.
Anthem story: Venturing beyond the walls
Coming from BioWare, the renowned developer of Mass Effect and Dragon Age, Anthem marks a new and ambitious direction for the studio. In the game’s world, hostile monsters rule the wilderness, and humanity has taken refuge inside a walled city known as “Fort Tarsis.” Freelancers, bounty hunters bearing “Javelin” exosuits, are among the few who can venture outside the walls, forming the basis for Anthem’s gameplay. An evil collective known as the Dominion plans to use a mysterious force known as the “Anthem Of Creation” to destroy the remnants of society. As freelancers, you will be tasked with fighting back these forces and protecting humanity.
Bounty hunters bearing “Javelin” exosuits are among the few who can venture outside the walls.
Diverging from the developer’s heritage solidified in narrative-driven experiences, Anthem pursues an online shared-world, built with action-adventure mechanics in mind. However, even if action lays at the center of Anthem, the developer’s role-playing legacy won’t be entirely out of the picture. A story is set to intertwine with Anthem’s gameplay and have a greater emphasis that similar rival titles.
A majority of Anthem’s narrative will take place in Fort Tarsis, the game’s safe zone where players will obtain missions, visit vendors, and prepare their loadouts. This area is designed to be exclusively first-person, in contrast, to Anthem’s mostly third-person gameplay. Cutscenes and dialogue options will also be present, allowing players to forge their own adventure to some extent. And don’t worry single-player fans – despite its cooperative focus, the whole of Anthem’s story can be experienced solo with an internet connection.
Anthem gameplay: A world of loot to explore
While Anthem features class-based gameplay, loot systems and crafting, the game’s publisher, Electronic Arts, has been keen to stress that Anthem is not a role-playing experience. Andrew Wilson has previously emphasized to investors that Anthem is being created as “an action-adventure, not RPG,” assumedly putting focusing development on core combat mechanics.
So, if Anthem isn’t an RPG, what exactly is it? EA’s claims somewhat echo statements previously made by Bungie, with their own online shared-world shooter, Destiny. Back in 2014, the studio was reluctant to pin down a specific genre for the game – even to this day, its genre is still somewhat ambiguous. As of right now, the game appears to be shaping up as an action RPG, taking advantage of some elements seen in massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). Think Destiny meets Tom Clancy’s The Division, with a splash of Monster Hunter.
At the start of Anthem, you’ll be tasked with creating a freelancer, who defines your character through the game. You’ll soon be provided with Javelin power armor, which grants the basic skill set to survive outside Fort Tarsis.
Anthem’s Javelins are divided into four distinct classes, each with distinct designs and in-game abilities. While players will initially start with the default “Ranger” class, new Javelins can quickly be unlocked through missions. Below we’ve broken down Anthem’s four Javelins and how they differ.
- The Ranger is a balanced Javelin inheriting attributes of other classes and is best suited for beginners. This class is tailored for close-quarters combat and provides flexibility to adapt around situations.
- With heavy firepower and armor, the Colossus is specialized for devastating the battlefield. Limited mobility counters its strong frontline performance, but it can hold its ground with impressive stopping power.
- Packing elemental abilities, the Storm class is comparable to a mage class. This Javelin can hover for long periods of time and appears to be capable of delivering support from a distance.
- Although Interceptor details are limited, this Javelin is expected to be an agile, rogue-style class. Players can expect to outsmart foes using fast movements, burst weapons, and traps.
Unlike class-based games where characters are tied to a certain playstyle, your suit doesn’t define you in Anthem. The game allows players to change their Javelins regularly and explore new approaches.
As expected from a modern multiplayer title, Anthem will adopt a Games-as-a-Service (GaaS) model for providing content post-launch.
Anthem will leverage online features significantly more than any other BioWare titles.
Live services are nothing new in the modern age, allowing dozens of games to maintain healthy player bases, sometimes years after their release. By purchasing Anthem, you’ll be buying into the game’s service, with future updates expected after launch. Few details have been shared on how this “live service” will develop going forward, although content updates, events and larger expansions are all common with this business model.
This also feeds into Anthem’s concept of a shared open world, adding an interconnected and somewhat dynamic edge to the experience. Anthem will leverage online features significantly more than any other BioWare titles, through both gameplay and post-launch support. Cross-platform multiplayer has been ruled out for Anthem despite its online focus, but its developer is “looking into” migrating saves between platforms.
Collectible loot will also play a significant role in Anthem’s progression system. Upgrades will mostly focus on your weapons and suits, improving gear accordance with your level. Earnable customization options are also planned, providing cosmetic paint jobs to stand out against other players.
Following the abysmal launch of Star Wars Battlefront II, a game also from Electronic Arts, questions still lie over Anthem’s gameplay and item economy. Battlefront II was ridiculed at launch for its “pay-to-win” approach to monetization and loot boxes, leading to widespread outrage, which even extended to government intervention.
Electronic Arts appears to have embraced a consumer-friendly business model for Anthem, abandoning loot boxes and embracing cosmetic microtransactions. Furthermore, all items available with real-world money will also be obtainable in-game, making premium purchases truly optional.
Enhancements: What to expect on Xbox One X
Electronic Arts appears to have worked closely with Microsoft to tailor its upcoming titles for Xbox One X, and Anthem is no exception.
Electronic Arts appears to have worked closely with Microsoft to tailor its upcoming titles for Xbox One X.
Used to showcase the power of the console at Microsoft’s E3 2017 press conference, Anthem will run at 4K resolution on the console, with support for High Dynamic Range (HDR). Anthem’s executive producer Mark Darrah, has also confirmed it plans to look console versions to 30 FPS, even on higher-end consoles.
Upon further analysis from Digital Foundry at E3 2017, Anthem’s original Xbox One X reveal points toward a “checkerboarding” technique used to achieve a 4K output. Although implementation can differ between titles, the method essentially renders a smaller percentage of the image and estimates the remaining pixels. Reducing tax on the system for a little trade-off, this allows resources to be used on other visual enhancements.
While Anthem does appear to be pushing the Xbox One X to its limit, the game is currently among the most graphically impressive titles showcased on the console. However, as a vertical slice of the full experience, it remains to be seen how this performance translates to the final product.
How to play Anthem: Release date, pricing, preorders
Anthem is currently scheduled to release on February 22, 2019, for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Two versions of the game are currently planned for launch, starting at $59.99 in the U.S.
Like many triple-A titles, Anthem’s standard edition is priced at $59.99, which provides access to the base experience. Preorders will also receive “The Ranger Legion of Dawn Armor Pack,” a legendary weapon, a founders player banner and access to “public pre-launch play demos.”
The premium-tier Legion of Dawn edition is priced at $79.99, which locks down additional in-game content for launch. Buyers will receive the complete set of Legion of Dawn Armor Packs for all four classes, alongside a legendary weapon, Javelin gear attachment and a copy of the soundtrack. Preorders will once again be paired with the Founders player banner and access to pre-launch demos.
Although Electronic Arts has announced plans for pre-launch demos, expect more information and firm dates closer to launch.
Over to you
There is more to discover about Anthem, with further details expected in the coming months and through to next year. What are your thoughts on the game so far? Drop into the comments section below and let us know.
Updated: June 28, 2018: Added the latest information on Anthem following E3 2018.