Anthem Could be a Good Game

Like a lot of gamers, I read Kotaku’s recent piece on Anthem. The crux of Jason Schreier’s article is that Bioware’s future might very well be riding on the success of Anthem, their upcoming Destiny-esque co-op shooter. It’s a new IP multiplayer produced by a company under fire for unscrupulously exploiting pay-to-win at the expense of the player base, crafted by their studio whose latest work looks like malicious compliance at best (sorry, Andromeda).

I am concerned about BioWare. I’m not alone. I don’t want them to be the newest addition to the graveyard of great video game companies fallen victim to EA’s greed.

Though Battlefront II has regained some of the playerbase lost when EA’s pay-to-win lootbox scheme came to light, it’s opened the company up to some very big questions about what constitutes gambling in video games. It’s an important conversation, equally as important as establishing boundaries for what players are willing to accept in terms of pricing. One of the main contributing factors in Anthem’s success, then, is this: did EA learn their lesson from the Battlefront brouhaha? After all, if the addition of pay-to-win practices for an IP as unstoppable as Star Wars nearly derailed a AAA game, what hope could Anthem possibly have if EA decides to have another go? A lot will depend on how they reintroduce loot crates to Battlefront II.

The concept for Destiny and Destiny II couldn’t be better made for gamers. A FPS MMO, co-op and PvP, set to the backdrop of space and the end of the world — in theory, it just doesn’t get better than that. It should be in a similar league with Halo and should be a major e-sport that builds off Halo’s fanbase (and event participation attendance). In practice, Bungie shorted players on content, hid exp scaling, and does nothing to make the weekly grind fun.

Their shortcomings are bizzare: how do you botch the use of Peter Dinklage? How do you ask players to treat the game as an MMO without the heart required (or anything to improve the grind)? How do you even encourage gamers to grind for the same handful of weapons over and over again with nothing but a stat difference? If the biggest complaint against Anthem is that it’s a Destiny clone, well, who cares? Bungie can’t fulfill the potential of the game it created, perhaps BioWare — whose forte lies in giving heart to their content — has a shot at it? After all, Cayde-6 is one of the best things to happen to Destiny, and BioWare writes Cayde-6s all day long. Where Bungie classically has the advantage is in combat — Andromeda, despite its many faults, shows BioWare’s has real combat chops.

If we’re being honest, BioWare wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for Andromeda. The tales of what exactly went wrong there are wide and varied. Depending on who you listen to, Andromeda was the victim of EA greed, misplaced trust in a support studio, mismanagement, or an act of malicious compliance on the part of a studio who just wanted to be done with their most public misstep. BioWare has made mistakes, but they’ve also publicly, actively, attempted to correct them. The end of Dragon Age Inquisition plays like an apology for the end of Mass Effect 3. What lesson did they learn from Andromeda? Will Anthem be their attempt to correct it?

In the aftermath of the Kotaku article, EA delayed the release of Anthem to a less crowded early 2019. It could help pick up sales, and it definitely gives BioWare more time to address reported production issues. As Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto famously said, “a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”