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Anthem Gameplay Presentation Impressions

An early look at BioWare's upcoming sci-fi action-RPG.

by Dylan Siegler

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Today (June 9) was the first day of EA’s EA PLAY event, in which fans, media and influencers get a chance to check out some of EA’s upcoming games early. One of the most hyped games present at the event was Anthem, the new IP by Mass Effect and Dragon Age developer BioWare. While there wasn’t a playable demo of the game available at the event, there was a roughly 20-minute gameplay presentation in which various mechanics were showcased and detailed.

For those who aren’t completely caught up on your Anthem information and reveals, here’s the gist of it: Anthem is a science-fiction action-RPG in which players can team up in groups of four to take on the game. Players will control characters called Freelancers who operate mech suits called Javelins. In the gameplay presentation, viewers were able to see three of the four Javelin classes in action. The Ranger class appears to be the kind of standard, well-rounded class, while the Colossus is the large, heavy-hitter focusing on dishing out a ton of damage. The Storm class seems to be something of a glass cannon, with the ability to land strong attacks, but wearing lighter armor that lets it get around easier at the cost of lower defense. The Interceptor class was not shown.

One of the biggest mechanics emphasized in Anthem is that of teamwork. The gameplay presentation started with three players taking on enemies, exploring the world and picking up loot together, with a fourth joining mid-session. This means that if you and three of your friends can’t necessarily all start playing together at the same time, two or three of you can get started with others being able to jump in when they can without having to wait for a whole new session to start. Some teamwork strategies were on display during the presentation, showing why you may not want to just go in alone. For example, one strategy that the EA representatives who were playing the game utilized a lot was having one player shoot frost grenades at enemies, freezing them in place, while another player quickly dealt finishing blows with greater accuracy now that their enemies couldn’t move.

Another mechanic that EA and BioWare seem to be playing up is the ability for players to customize their characters. In this presentation, two of the four players were both playing as Colossus class Javelins, but it was clear through their customizations that they weren’t just playing the same character. There were cosmetic changes, with one Colossus being colored red and the other featuring a more white-focused color palette, but there were also mechanical differences. The most noticeable was that the white Colossus had a flamethrower equipped, which the red one was lacking. It was explained that the white Colossus was also customized to be better able to handle close-quarters combat. The player controlling the red Colossus, on the other hand, chose to go with weapons resembling mortars and grenade launchers in lieu of a flamethrower. Between the four players, there was a lot of variety in weapons, which leads me to believe that a four-person group could all play as the same class of Javelin, but still have each of their characters control pretty differently, depending on how they’ve been customized.

One of the coolest things about this presentation was simply the visuals. The graphics were amazing and tons of details were put into every setting that was shown. Sitting there, watching the presentation felt more like watching a legitimate science fiction movie, rather than just watching someone else play a game. Seeing all the different kinds of weapons being fired off at the various enemy types was a sight to behold. From what I could tell, scenarios aren’t scripted, but are played out based on how the players interact with the world. Despite this, every fight between the four players and an enemy group felt like a well-choreographed battle sequence straight out of a Star Wars movie or something. Granted, it was the players’ jobs to make the game look good, but they sure accomplished it. Even if you’re not a fan of science fiction, you’re bound to be amazed by the pure spectacle of Anthem.

Anthem is set to launch on February 22, 2019 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

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