Let's get to it, shall we?
On the surface, Anthem appears to be the lovechild of Destiny and James Cameron's Avatar. But there's more to BioWare's new IP than meets the eye.
It is, by design, a lavish open-world adventure told through the lens of a third-person shooter. But it's the online aspect that really allows Anthem to stand on its own.
There are freelancers, Javelins, and the Anthem, but what does it all mean?
Here's a little history lesson, courtesy of BioWare:
In the beginning, the gods harness the Anthem, a source of pure creation. Wondrous lands erupted into existence. Colossal beasts, creatures and monsters emerged. But before their work was complete, the Gods vanished, leaving behind an unfinished world strewn with the instruments of their creation. The power of the Anthem would not be contained, unleashing world-altering cataclysms, transforming and corrupting those that tried to wield its power.
Humanity sought a way to survive, so our ancestors created the Javelin exosuits, handcrafted armor that gave us superhuman abilities. Our world remains a constant struggle between the power of the Anthem and the instruments of the Gods who formed it. Today, the fate of humanity rests in the hands of a small band of Javelin pilots known as The Freelancers.
Anthem unfolds across a lush world in which the remnants of humanity have been forced to take shelter in Fort Tarsis, shielded from the dangers of the world beyond.
You see, while the so-called Gods planned to construct their world in nine days, they vanished after three, leaving behind an incomplete tapestry. That's where the story begins.
Let's begin with Ranger and Storm, two of the more nimble Javelin suits available in Anthem. The first is described as a 'jack-of-all-trades' in that it's "piloted by both Freelancers and Sentinels, this iconic suit's versatility is what makes it deadly. With strong offensive capabilities, respectable defense, and something in its arsenal for every situation, the Ranger is the jack-of-all-trades your squad needs."
Storm, on the other hand, is empowered with magic, and "channels the raw energy of the Anthem through its seals to hover over the battlefield and dish out damage.
With its powerful seals and minimal armour, the Storm is a tempestuous javelin that can challenge the skills of even a veteran lancer."
Finally, let's look at Colossus and Interceptor. The first is a heavy-handed weapon in Anthem's arsenal, one capable of blasting foes away with a single punch. Interceptor, by stark contrast, is a light and nimble fighter.
Here's the official intel, courtesy of BioWare:
Colossus – If you think subtlety is overrated and want enough artillery to take out a small army, unleash the pure devastation of this hulking war machine. While each javelin can equip two weapons, the Colossus is the only javelin sturdy enough to wield any of the Heavy Weapons.
Interceptor – The Interceptor excels in getting close to deal damage to enemies, then dashing away before they can react. Unleashing lightning-fast maneuverability to pull off powerful offensive abilities, the Interceptor makes the impossible look easy.
If The Freelancers are the allies, then Anthem's big bad arrives in the form of The Dominion, a "ferocious militaristic society" that want to harness the Anthem's world-building powers for themselves.
Our struggle against the Anthem’s world-changing power continues. And now, a new threat is growing: the Dominion, a ferocious militaristic society in the mountainous North. The Monitor, a ruthless Dominion commander, claims to have discovered a way to control the power of the Anthem. If he succeeds, no one will be able to stand in his way.
"A small band of Freelancers is all that can stop him. A battle for the future of our world is about to begin: a battle to stop the Dominion from harnessing the Anthem’s power.
Anthem features the usual three difficulty tiers from the get-go (read: easy, medium, hard), but upon unlocking the
endgame Elder Game content at level 30, you'll gain access to another three tiers: Grandmaster 1, 2, and 3.
Could this be the most emotional shooter of the bunch? That's how Game Director Jonathan Warner viewed Anthem. He told EDGE magazine the following:
[We might have] the most emotional shooter of our decade! Games you don’t connect with emotionally are not games that you end up talking about years later. To me, that is the delight of making games, because I know that somewhere some young person is going to pick up Anthem and play it, and it is going to be that game for them. It’ll be their game. That’s such an amazing privilege.
It can sound so pretentious to say, 'We really want you to emotionally connect to this game.' I do, but I want it to connect to lots of different people emotionally in different ways – whether it’s a touching story, or a character that you particularly love, or an adventure that you tell your friends about, or whether it’s just that adrenaline rush. It's all emotional.
The Anthem Launch Bay is, in essence, a 16-player social hub in which you'll be able to rub shoulders with your fellow Freelancers. And yes, it's available form day one.
Anthem is "best played with friends." There's no two ways about it, really, and one such mechanic that rewards players for the cooperative endeavors is the Alliance System which, as Lead Producer Ben Irving explained, offers an XP boost to your friends–even if they aren't online.
"Anytime you complete an expedition (Mission, Contract, Freeplay, Stronghold) you earn experience. That experience also goes into the Alliance System. Even better, the experience from the other people in your group also goes into the Alliance System. Even better still, players on your friends list who play without you—their experience also goes into the Alliance System.
Taking a leaf from Destiny's Strikes and Raid missions, the Stronghold missions will force Anthem players to form groups of four and battle alien threats together. More are said to be on the way, but on day one, you'll have access to three.
Coin and Shards are the game currencies around which Anthem is built, and they can be used to purchase various cosmetic items in BioWare's shooter.
However, to their credit EA has been quick to stress that, when it comes to Anthem, nothing will be locked behind a paywall.
There are no items, including cosmetics and emotes, that are only available for purchase with Shards. Everything is either available for Coin only or has a dual price, giving players the option of saving up their Coin or dropping real money on Shards for an emote or skin.
Anthem's launch period is nothing if not fragmented. Much to the chagrin of players across the world, EA has mapped out a series of preorder incentives, most of which offer early access to the game itself.
The only problem is, things got very confusing very quickly. But rest assured, things ought to blow over by Friday—regardless of whether you're playing the game early or not.
In the eyes of BioWare Lead Producer Michael Gamble, loot boxes "serve no purpose," and will not be a part of Anthem in any shape or form.
We aren’t going to add loot boxes. It serves no purpose. The cosmetics and MTX [microtransactions] plan is what we’ve outlined. Legion of Dawn is four new armor packs. They aren’t just skins. Each Javelin has four armor bits. You get 16 with LOD + weapons + other goodies.
Known as the Elder Game, upon completing Anthem's campaign you'll be able to enjoy a truckload of endgame content which, as Blake Grundman soon discovered, proves the longevity of BioWare's new IP.
Though they won't be available at launch, BioWare has been keen to stress that player guilds are on their way and will be introduced in the coming weeks.
While we believe the Alliance System is a great way to encourage social interaction with Anthem, we also understand Guilds play a critical role in helping players form organized groups with people of similar interests and play styles. Our goal is to release Guilds as soon after launch as we can.
Head of Live Service, Chad Robertson, took to Twitter recently to announce that, yes, players will be able to port their Anthem progress over to next-gen consoles–whenever that day may be.
Anthem's day-one patch is a biggie and is designed to address far-ranging issues like enemy shields and long load times.
True to the developer's word, BioWare has ample post-launch support waiting in the wings, beginning with Act 1 in March 2019. The details of can be found here.
The official Anthem trophy list has leaked onto the interwebs. But fair warning, here lie spoilers.
Curious to know more about Anthem and its many mysteries? Neill Blomkamp's (District 9) live-action short ought to do the trick.
If anything, it makes us want to see BioWare's latest make the jump to the big, big screen.
If this electrifying launch trailer doesn't get you stoked for Anthem, well, we don't know what will.
Our own Blake Grundman is heading up the review for PSLS, so stay tuned for his final verdict when it hits the site soon.