Alex Birlo on April 12, 2019
What could be a better place to start writing than at the point where we all had about enough…
I want to talk to you today about Anthem, or Beyond? Or was it D… something with a D, this game had so many names that people at the studio were confused as well – as we know now from “Kotaku”. About a game that got BioWare’s fans’ hopes up and many others’ cautious anticipation.
I myself had misjudged the emphasis and efforts the studio would put into the game – ‘BioWare has to make it work to regain their name’ I thought – and trusted the developer, I believed that something that was in development for over six years is going to succeed. I put my faith in BioWare and “Anthem” just like I once put my faith in Digital Extremes and “Warframe” and done the unthinkable – by 2019 standards – I preordered “Anthem”. And later on was looking to justify even the game’s long loading screens – ‘Blood Born had longer ones when it launched’ – but let us say that, there were just too many of those loading screens.
The launch of the game and the following month were rocky, to say the least. The game had a short period of indecisive conclusions regarding the game’s financial success, but as Rebecca Smith wrote in her article for “True Achievers” the retail numbers are not the most precise measurement anymore. First, we have a dramatic shift towards digital sales of the products, which begin to substantially outweigh the physical retails that are accounted for in most official open sources. And indeed player counts – more than ever before – are a much more visible measurement for how well a game was received and ‘how many people want to actually play it’.
Do not take my words for granted on this one, listen to all the other YouTubers, Industry analytics, Video Game Journalists when they all mention the following one way or another – it is as though the studio didn’t even know how Looter-Shooter games work, and as explained in a great article written for “Kotaku UK” by Jason Schreier it is understandable, because the people working on the game did not even know what genre the game will be until in the reveal trailer at E3 2017 it all came together. Sometime before that, the game itself was even supposed to be called “Beyond” not “Anthem”.
Let us also recap what the game had delivered and went through in only its first month out.
‘Short story’ full stop. It is nothing close to any of the standards that BioWare set since they established the studio in 1995. There is no replay value to the game, because all missions are scripted – choices do not matter – which brings us to my next point.
A “Powerful, Personal Story” was what they called it. Nothing personal about knowing there are only two ways each conversation can go and all the conversations’ outcomes are almost the same – accept may be for that one with Nadira where you can vouch for her husband or not – and have no impact on the story. Your choices do not matter.
Then there are the bugs that lock out story-lines, shut down PS4s and result in broke loot drops – which was also a cause for a suggestion by the community to boycott the game after the developers restricted loot drops following a second attempt at solving a related bug. People already started considering the bug to actually contribute to making the game more enjoyable.
Only the moment to moment game-play is fun, but there is no incentive to grow. One of the ‘Three’ Strongholds is just a replay of the final boss and had a bug preventing you from reviving your teammates after the end of the first section.
All this, while the first major content update in the form of merely one new stronghold was postponed to two months’ time after the release.
And a personal thing I saw almost no one talking about. It is the fact that besides constant internet connection being required to play the game – which was also a thing with “Tom Clancy’s: The Division” – Anthem also requires a subscription, such as PS Plus, to be able to play it on consoles at all. This means that as soon as my console online subscription has ended I can throw the game out because I will not be able to play it solo at all – like you can in ‘Destiny’ when you still see other players in free roam but can’t join multiplayer or missions in groups.
At the end of the day, Anthem merely concludes another cycle of this hellish circle of developers that promise a certain vision for their products at the reveal event and then – due to mismanagement and marketing flops – are not capable of upholding it later on in the development and try to simply release it expecting what? Expecting that the consumers will not notice the difference?
This is an example that will be referred to many times more in the industry down the line. The game might become at least ‘just good enough to play’ later in like first “Tom Clancy’s: The Division” did, but nothing like the original promises that made me fall in love with the concept.
Article for “Kotaku UK” by Jason Schreier – “How BioWare’s Anthem Went Wrong” http://www.kotaku.co.uk/2019/04/02/how-biowares-anthem-went-wrong
Article for “True Achievers” by By Rebecca Smith – “Anthem’s Player Count Proves Retail Chart Analysis is Pointless”