Do you remember ANTHEM? I do. Despite Mass Effect: Andromeda’s disappointing release, I felt sure that BioWare would be back with a bang, with an attempt at the shared-world shooter, no less – my favourite genre.
Of course, what we got just simply wasn’t good enough.
Anthem launched last year as a buggy mess, with a lack of content and direction and a narrative formed of cliche after cliche. It was such a disappointment that the game was barely mentioned at EA’s E3 event, nor did it make an appearance in the company’s recent financial report.
Even more damning was Kotaku’s report on the development of ANTHEM, showing a studio wilfully ignorant of similar titles, overconfident in its ability to turn a directionless ship around.
With ANTHEM 2.0 (or ANTHEM Next) on its way as part of a "substantial reinvention", what changes do BioWare need to make to help get this Javelin in the air again?
1) Fix the bloody bugs
When ANTHEM launched, the game felt barely held together. Between locking up consoles, to frequent crashes to the dashboard, to invisible walls that prevented progress and even deleted saves, no part of BioWare’s title felt like it worked as intended.
Since then things have definitely improved, but loading times are still longer than we’d have liked. Add to that instances of enemies not spawning, or the occasional loot drop simply not dropping, and you’ve got a recipe for frustration.
Whatever comes next, we hope it's tested thoroughly.
2) Fix the tired and unrefined loot system
On the subject of loot, there were issues with it from the start, with the only “fixes” coming in the form of short-lived patches that showered players with fresh items.
In a game so lacking in content, offering loot to chase as a reason to play can not only keep players logging in, but also make that smaller content base a little more appealing by providing multiple ways to play through it.
Unfortunately, BioWare chose the wrong hill to die on – throttling player progression by allowing just a trickle of usable loot surrounded by items to be dismantled for no real reason.
Add to that an issue where weapon effects (known as inscriptions) are often confusing and unhelpful, and the entire loot progression needs a hard reset.
3) Fix the poorly planned store
One thing ANTHEM nailed is its visual customisation suite. Players can customise almost every aspect of their flying robot suit, from colours to materials and decals.
Add to that a ridiculous insistence on a rotating store, and you’ll grind all of your cash simply to find the item you wanted has been rotated out, or you’ll face the dilemma of whether to risk seeing what’s coming next week in case it offers a better alternative.
Or you can, you know, spend some real dosh to ensure that your Javelin's fashion is up to date. Make the store respectful of our time, BioWare.
4) Add some quality content
We’ll get more into the weeds of this later, but ANTHEM is severely lacking in content. The open world is beautiful in places, but it’s so vapid that it just isn’t fun to explore.
Add to that the dullest “paint by number” mission structures and all of a sudden, flying around as a space-age Iron Man loses its excitement.
Simply, ANTHEM needs a lot more quality content for players to chew through on a regular basis.
5) Add a real endgame
For months, ANTHEM's Cataclysm was the shining hope that players looked to for a fresh piece of content that many hoped would be akin to a raid in something like Destiny or World of Warcraft.
Unfortunately, BioWare essentially released a time trial mode with a blue filter over the map. Okay, that’s an oversimplification, but as much as the Cataclysm has grown into a fine experience, it simply isn’t endgame content.
Between that and the game’s version of difficulty levels seemingly focused on boosting enemy health to make them bullet sponges, alongside the aforementioned loot problems, and even the most diehard fan will find it difficult to feel enthused about logging in.
A proper endgame that keeps players coming back is an absolute necessity.
6) Fix the shambles that is Fort Tarsis
Fort Tarsis, ANTHEM’s main base of operations, is where your character returns to in-between missions.
Unfortunately, it’s the dullest place in the game, stuffed with thinly written characters and frame-rate drops aplenty. There’s also an entirely separate area where you can find other players, the Loading Bay – although that feels similarly abandoned now.
Hopefully BioWare can turn Fort Tarsis into the kind of hub area that makes Destiny’s Tower such a homely location. Having a home that you don't actually want to come back to is never a good thing.
7) Whatever you do, don’t charge for the update
It feels a tough ask of EA, but BioWare simply cannot charge extra for a revamped ANTHEM -- not after fans who stuck by the studio have essentially beta tested it for an entire year.
No Man’s Sky received sizeable updates after its divisive launch, and we’d love to see the same happen here.
In summary, BioWare knows that there is something to be saved by saving ANTHEM, be that in the game’s underlying combat or simply the studio’s own reputation.
ANTHEM won’t get another chance at a launch, but with any luck it can help win at least a few fans back to the storied developer – after all, nobody wants a game to fail.
And, if you were one of the folks who picked it up for £5 in the last few months, you'll hopefully have a lot to look forward to as the future of ANTHEM is revealed.
Do you agree with Lloyd's assessment of ANTHEM? If BioWare really can fix all of this stuff, would you come back? Try not to crash your Javelin into the comments section below.