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Opinion: Gorgeous New Anthem Story Trailer Still Isn’t Convincing

by Kizito Katawonga

Is Bioware abandoning their core fans with Anthem?

A new story trailer for BioWare’s new IP, Anthem just dropped. As with every other trailer of Anthem, the game looks gorgeous. BioWare also announced February 1st date for players to try the demo for themselves.

If the Sci-Fi lore of a massive, untamed, dynamic shared world isn’t enough of a lure for you, then those epic Javelins certainly should be. What geek hasn’t fantasized of donning power armor like Iron-Man at some point in their lives?

Anthem gives you not one, but four different Javelins with which you can soar the skies, kick ass and chew bubble gum. Not only that, but you can get your mates to join in for that complete Iron Legion fantasy.  All in all, it’s shaping up to be a serious contender for game of the year, but it appears to be targeting a completely different audience than the developer has in the past.

BioWare renown for single-player narrative games that immerse you in the lore and spectacle of the worlds they create. Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Knights of the Old Republic to name a few.  Anthem certainly looks to be the pinnacle of that experience. However, Anthem is not strictly a single player game. It is designed to be played in multiplayer to truly engage the world and its plethora of challenges.

Our world, my story?

BioWare has created the Our World, My Story concept. What this means is that for a player, everything that happens in the world outside of your home base Fort Tarsis, happens to every player. So if there’s a massive storm, you can expect everyone to experience it during their individual gameplay. Amazing. Your story happens mostly at Fort Tarsis, your home base. Here players engage in the more typical story and questing activities. Your choices affect the people and environment only within that area, according to what we’ve heard from the developer.

You will never see any other players in your version of Fort Tarsis.  I’m curious to know how BioWare plans to converge achievements and consequences of other players who join you on your quests. Where things get worrying for single player fans, is the design choice that several world challenges like colossus or titans can’t be defeated by a solo Javelin. And that just ruins it for someone that wants that solitary experience that Bioware RPGs have had in the past and the developer has potentially millions of players who don’t subscribe to, or want, the ‘Destiny formula’ of shared play experiences.

BioWare has made it abundantly clear that while you can play the game solo, there’s so much going in the game world that you can’t tackle alone — no matter how levelled up your Javelin is. Again, this is problematic for me as a solo player. Having other human players as part of the main storyline does make for a more thrilling and potentially more enjoyable playthrough, but besides the fact that many players may not have great internet to support pleasant co-op experience, there’s the obvious issue of time management that might now allow players to progress at their own pace.

Online co-op is like herding cats

Let’s be honest, many players, myself included, are unable to sync playtimes due to the sheer busyness of life. Work, school, family all demand so much more of our time as adults. Getting your squad together for a playthrough of YOUR single player campaign is rocket science. This is fine if it’s just some Fortnite battle Royale or Forza 4 racing or even a Destiny-esque Raid, but when it comes to playing through a campaign narrative, it would be extremely frustrating for players to get blocked because of a mission that is weighted for a team rather than solo Javelin to manage.

It’s a reality that more and more games are adopting online shared experiences. Which is fine except if you lock away the full solo experience by weighting the game in favour of a team. BioWare has every right to make Anthem the way they see fit. It’s a shame for me, that they seem to be constructing theoretically, my perfect game. Gorgeous to boot, adrenaline pumping Javelins, deep mysterious Sci-fi lore, and a huge dynamic world continually updated with things to do and see.  But if I can’t play the thing through from start to finish, alone, then i might just keep my $60.

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