We heard some time ago that Bioware was still committed to Anthem, and that a major update would be coming at some point in the future, hoping to address many of the game’s major problems. It looks like this might be happening sooner rather than later, as Bioware has taken to their blog to outline their goals for the next big update.
I’m kind of curious as to what extent this is going to move the needle. The game famously sold very well out of the gate, and then players abandoned it in record time, as it was fundamentally not an especially interesting game, it had some serious design and technical issues, and it seemed designed for a drip-feed of future content that never materialized.
We have seen other games rebound from a shaky launch, and manage to recapture players’ hearts and minds, but this does seem like an uphill battle for EA and Bioware. Games like No Man’s Sky, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Final Fantasy 14 have all managed to overcome negative sentiment, technical shortcomings, and design problems, to ultimately become successful games with sizable numbers of satisfied players. Can Anthem pull off the same trick? Only time will tell. Those other examples were interesting games with some shortcomings that could be addressed. Anthem is not an inherently interesting game, where much of the criticism directed towards it centered around the game being dull and repetitive, which is perhaps a tougher challenge to address.
Plenty of people, myself included, thought that perhaps EA would simply cut their losses and abandon Anthem, once it became clear that it wasn’t going to be a sustainable success after the initial strong sales, but perhaps keeping it on life support, rather than pulling the plug immediately, will pay off in the long run. It’s to EA’s credit that in this instance at least, they’re giving a troubled game a second chance.
Anthem is somewhat of a divergence from the type of games people typically associate with Bioware. It still has somewhat of a narrative-focused RPG as the basis everything else is built on top of, but the moment to moment gameplay is much more of an action game. You pilot a mech and go on various missions throughout the story campaign. You can fly around a rather pretty word, and then you shoot and punch some baddies, then you fly around in your mech some more, then you shoot and punch some more baddies, with a few cutscenes sprinkled in. It was widely criticized for its repetitive nature, which hopefully they’ll find some way of addressing in the future.
We heard earlier this year that there is currently a team of 30 people working on Anthem. This is a fairly small team to be working on a game of this scale, suggesting perhaps that they are focussed more on easy-win tweaks that they can manage without more extensive work being needed. I’m not expecting to see huge complete overhauls of underlying systems, but perhaps some balancing and rejigging of existing systems.
This is hinted at in Bioware’s latest blog post discussing the future of Anthem, where they have announced plans to tweak the loot system, with the stated goal of reducing the time you need to spend grinding, increasing the rate at which you’re rewarded with new equipment and items, and reducing the reliance on completely random rewards.
They’ve also reworked several aspects related to combat:
“In addition to loot and equipment, there are some really good improvements to the feel and types of items we are supporting. Gunplay is overall more responsive with enemies reacting to hits near instantly with improved client-side prediction, we are looking into the role of melee items and builds, and of course, being able to spend skill points to unlock new types of equipment and synergies. One of the things I am most excited about is seeing all the awesome new weaponry concepts based on our factions.”
These are a band-aid on a deep wound, the game would need much more significant work to truly meet it’s potential, but nonetheless these would be welcome changes, that will hopefully be well received by anyone who is still playing it, might possibly convince some players to return to it, and might even draw in some players that never tried it yet.
There are a few other moves they could make to improve their chances of bringing in players. EA has found some degree of success in launching their games on Steam for the first time, with Titanfall 2 exploding in popularity. Anthem is not yet available on Steam, so launching it there would improve its chances of bringing in a significant number of players. There’s also the option to go Free to Play, where the game has been so aggressively discounted over the years, that perhaps their best chance of building it to be a success at this point would be to drop the upfront fee, try to get as many people as possible to try it, and hope that this leads to a net increase in revenue, as people spend money in-game.
We’ll have to wait and see exactly what EA and Bioware’s future plans are for Anthem, but I certainly don’t think we will be seeing an Anthem 2 any time soon.
Whilst Bioware has started sharing details of what the next Anthem patch will contain, they are remaining coy on the timeline it will be released under, with no formal release date announcement, or even a vague roadmap. Perhaps they are exercising an abundance of caution, where they want to be absolutely certain the update is ready to go before discussing a release schedule publicly. Or perhaps they’re just not sure how long this work is going to take. Either way, we’re going to be keeping an eye out for any new developments with Anthem, as and when they happen.
Have you spent any time with Anthem? What kind of updates might get you to play it in the future? Do you think it can even be salvaged? Let us know in the comments below.