Anthem: Game of Potential

I was one of the early adapters. I bought Anthem on pre-order, I played the Beta.  I was lucky in that I didn’t have any of the hard crashes or significant glitches that others had experienced but the game was still a little rough.  It was fun, though. The flight mechanic made movement fun, the combat was fast and responsive, and each Javelin played differently. Then the full release came out and things came to a halt.

Everyone already knows about the bugs, the day-one patches, the load times, and everything else.  But the gameplay was still there, so I stuck it out. Drea and I played through the entire game in probably a week, maybe two, and then nothing.  There was no reason to come back. Our only options left were to keep replaying the same strongholds over and over again to get gear just to play them over and over again at a higher difficulty level.  There wasn’t anything to discover. That’s kinda where Anthem died for us.

When a new Stronghold came out, we logged in and played it.  It was fun, had some interesting parts. Was very glad they’d fixed the water movement mechanics.  But then that, too, was done and there was nothing left. This is the cricket bat smacking the equine corpse, though.  We’ve all heard a dozen different versions of my experiences and complaints. So, let’s move on, shall we? Let’s look at the potential that was there and what, if anything, might help it.

 

First of all, simple UI changes.  Little things here and there to speed up the process or just make the game flow better.  Right off Ft. Tarsis needs fast travel points. Walking around it got boring during the campaign, and then you at least had various NPCs to talk to and little lore bits to explore.  After the campaigns finished, though, all that is done. Let me check my trials, then move to the bar for whatever conversation I may have missed, then look at the state of my Challenge of Valor, and then let me go.  The walking simulator portion is a little played out. Unless movement speed goes up sharply, this is unnecessary.

The map is also in need of an overhaul, if nothing else than for functionality.  They finally added the ability to slap down waypoints, but they also need to fill out the map.  Put points of interest on it, common event areas. Most importantly, when a free-roam event does appear, put it on the map!  I can’t tell you how many times I got the radio call telling me that there was an event happening but not being able to find it.  And pinging your teammates is a must as well. If you put a waypoint on the map, everyone else should be able to see it. Simplest way to coordinate.

They’ve recently introduced clans to the game.  Near as I can tell, they don’t do anything. There’s no real reason for them.  Maybe this’ll become more meaningful in future updates but there doesn’t seem to be anything right now.  Possibly the most frustrating thing is that you have to download and set up the mobile app to create / join Guilds.  This also seems to be the only point of the app. So, how do we fix clans? I have a few ideas.

Firstly, give them a reason to exist.  Add Clan Trials, things clan members can participate in that gives everyone in the clan a reward when it’s completed.  These should be scaling by the size of the clan as well so that large clans do need to work a little hard, but they have more people to do it.

Secondly, clan houses.  Or rather, clan striders.  Let squad leaders ‘deploy’ clan striders into the map as fast travel points.  Let the clan members decorate the inside and outside with earned trophies, paint jobs, and upgrades.  Make it a social area. Let it be something they can work on together to make their own. Striders are an interesting aspect of the Anthem world and it is something that can be relatively easy to implement and give players something to work for.  Start off with little four-legged personnel carries and let them be upgraded, over time and with effort, to massive six-legged mobile fortresses. Have scaling difficulty missions available specifically to get rare parts and trophies for them. Again, give the players something to work for and a reason to play.  Heck, level up the striders enough to have the ability to be used to call in artillery support of some sort.

Third, just make the social aspect easier to work with.  It’s already awkward trying to get people into proper squads with the menu system, have settings that automatically put clanmates into squads when logging in.  Remove the need to use the app. Clan management should be built into the game, simple as that. I should be able to click on someone in my Friends list and select ‘invite to clan.’

 

Speaking of the app, this thing needs a use of some sort.  Add the ability to look over your vault and loadouts. Access the entire garage system.  Even slap in the various marketplaces and add push-notification whenever new trials are available or store stock changes.

 

Now let’s move on to more of the nuts and bolts of the game itself.  It needs more variety. The various Javelins are a good start. Each plays different and that’s great – unlike Destiny’s various classes which really only vary in how they jump and what their super does.  But the Javelins themselves need more variety in how they function. Each Javelin type having the same super, and appearance, from beginning to fully-leveled makes progress seem rather uninteresting. Some of the Masterwork weapons have neat effects but even that’s not really enough.  You can try out everything a Javelin has to offer in ten levels and only play towards getting bigger numbers. Shake it up. Add more super abilities, more launchers and support items. Anthem is dreadfully lacking in this.

Each Javelin had 10 different pieces of assault gear (5 of each category) and one super ability.  The game, as a whole, has 27 different weapons, (9 categories, 3 types each) not including the new exotic legendaries they just released.  This needs to be expanded. They really need to incorporate how the Anthem can make crazy tech, crazy tech that drive the Javelins in fact, and run with it.  The new exotics may help in this but they should really go nuts with this sort of thing. Adding Melee gave each Javelin three different types of “hitting things with sticks” but the mechanics didn’t change either.

Adding new super abilities at different tiers would be good as well.  Something to vary it up and make them a little different:

Aside from the Colossus’ Siege Cannon, maybe also add a Mortar Barrage super and an Immovable Object super (Colossus becomes invulnerable, immobile, and draws aggro from every enemy in the area for a number of seconds).  

The Ranger with his entertaining Missile Battery could also get an Overcharge super (all weapons have unlimited ammo/increased rate of fire/bonus damage for a set amount of time) or a Shock Surge (a wave of energy causes damage and primes all enemies in the area).  

Interceptors are fun and fast Javelins to play, but their Assassin’s Blade super get to be a little dull on bosses and difficult to use on flying opponents.  Add in a Cloak Field super (making the Interceptor invisible and greatly increasing its critical hit damage, although this could also just be a support system) for some mix combat ability or a Blade Storm (dozens of priming, or detonating, blade fly out and seek targets) super for long range.  

Lastly, the Storm with its high DPS Elemental Storm super is probably the most interesting, letting you very up the targets and racking up the combos, but there could be more to the ‘wizard’ Javelin.  Perhaps the most obvious is some sort of sustained, aimable Kinetic Cannon (a giant beam cannon) would be impressive to see and allow more focused damage on bigger targets. Perhaps a Cyclonic Shield super where an overshield that absorbs incoming damage, then unleashes the projectiles back out in a huge burst when it wears off, would be a good way to make them a little more defensive.

 

The weapon situation is also a problem.  With only 27 different kinds of weapons, there’s not a lot of variety, and once you have a Masterwork there’s no reason to use anything less.  Just add something different. Beam weapon versions of the different weapons, seekers, plasma bolts, experimental and unpredictable prototypes.  Add different ammo types so you can equip EMP rounds to strip shields faster or AP to chew through armor. Anything, just make it different. Use the weirdness you’ve hinted at and really throw it out there.  Joke weapons, even. Mark’s Mangled Mace and the Jade Ham were great in Inquisition, I’m sure Bioware can come up with something here.

The armor should change as you level as well, or at least have level-locked armor sets, aside from just the Wear State overlay, to make your Javelins look more impressive than just the starting set with a bit of a paint job.  Custom shields for the Colossus, cloaks for the Storm, blades for the Interceptor… something shiny for the Ranger? Not sure about the Ranger but surely something.

 

The enemies certainly need an overhaul.  They’re too similar, really. Aside from the Skorpions, it’s basically just a bunch of humanoid armies sporting a different Javelin of their own.  Outlaws have Rangers, Dominion have Storms, and the Scars have Colossi.

Speaking of the Scars, they are such an untapped wealth of freakish enemies that it’s a shame all we see are the humanoid soldiers with the odd tank.  They’re hordes of sapient insects that coalesce to make themselves look human. Play on that. Give us grotesque horrors using biological weapons, fast moving six-armed melee monsters, or actual swarms that need AOE attacks to damage them.  Make them scary.

 

Finally, we just need more content.  More missions, more strongholds, actual raids.  Things to work for. Extend out the story, give the contracts some variety, give us reasons to play and to care.  That’s honestly what it comes down to: a reason to keep playing. Something beyond bigger numbers to do the same thing but harder.

 

We love you, Bioware, we know you can do it.  We’ll be holding down the fort in the meantime.

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