An­them

Bioware is back to its best

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Why Bioware’s lat­est might just be its best game yet.

We try to not make a habit of judg­ing the pro­gres­sion of toolsets within the videogame in­dus­try against what a spe­cial ef­fects team is ca­pa­ble of in the film in­dus­try, though in this in­stance we are will­ing to make a small ex­cep­tion. It’s been ten years; ten long years since Iron Man made its de­but, in­tro­duc­ing us to ex­oskele­ton flight suits that moved with such flu­id­ity and grace on screen that never once did we ques­tion their plau­si­bil­ity. That ef­fect never quite made it to gam­ing, but we have to believe that de­vel­op­ers and en­gi­neers were watch­ing closely. Qui­etly ex­per­i­ment­ing with the me­chan­ics and sys­tems that would not only al­low for seam­less tran­si­tions be­tween ground and ae­rial movement in a hu­man-sized com­bat ve­hi­cle, but for it to feel com­fort­able and weighted un­der­neath your fin­ger­tips too.

Re­gard­less of whether it was an in­ten­tional as­pi­ra­tion for Bioware or not, An­them is per­haps the first game to prop­erly de­liver on the dream. Movement is the star of An­them. The suits al­low for tight and tem­pered nav­i­ga­tion within the sprawl­ing open spa­ces the stu­dio has en­gi­neered, and ex­plo­ration is to be as key to the ex­pe­ri­ence as com­bat; each of the Javelin suits are ex­pres­sive, de­signed to be dis­tinct at a dis­tance and hugely cus­tomis­able. The ex­e­cu­tion of the sys­tems is key in bring­ing tac­til­ity and tac­ti­cal op­por­tu­nity to play – per­fect for fend­ing off the swarms of crea­tures that in­habit large parts of the planet we will likely call home for years to come.

Bioware de­serves great praise for what it has re­vealed thus far and the man­ner in which it has done it in. An­them is a shared­world shooter with deep RPG sys­tems, built around a cus­tomi­sa­tion econ­omy that ex­ists to en­cour­age rum­mag­ing through the ashes of the re­cently de­ceased. The com­par­isons to Des­tiny were to be ex­pected – if not en­tirely in­evitable in the cur­rent cli­mate – and we can

“the suits al­low For tight and tem­pered nav­i­ga­tion Within the sprawl­ing open spa­ces the stu­dio has en­gi­neered.”

only ap­plaud the way in which the stu­dio has han­dled it­self in this re­spect.

While it’s cur­rently im­pos­si­ble to speak to how well Bioware is de­liv­er­ing on its lofti­est prom­ise: that of bring­ing its pro­fi­ciency in nu­anced sto­ry­telling to the shared-world shooter ex­pe­ri­ence – an area in which new­found ri­val Bungie has strug­gled with no end – we do have a sense of how ex­cel­lently the other el­e­ments are com­ing to­gether to form a co­he­sive whole. Along­side the ex­quis­ite movement sys­tems and the seam­less tran­si­tions be­tween land, air and, im­pres­sively, the un­der­wa­ter ecosys­tems pre­sented thus far, we’re also be­gin­ning to get a sense of just how pro­fi­cient the stu­dio has be­come in re­al­is­ing third-per­son ac­tion.

Shoot­ing had, ar­guably, al­ways been the weak­est part of the Mass Ef­fect se­ries, al­though the team fi­nally seems to have a handle on it for An­them. In pre­sent­ing com­bat spa­ces that de­mand free-form tac­ti­cal play and team­work to make light work of a va­ri­ety of im­pres­sively driven en­emy com­bat­ants, we see this lain out clearly. Each Javelin suit comes equipped with an ar­ray of ba­sic weaponry to com­ple­ment the par­tic­u­lar mod­els – some wield­ing heav­ier weapons that groan into ac­tion as you squeeze the trig­gers, and oth­ers that handle pep­pier firearms that jilt and jolt as you quickly un­leash shots. What we’re try­ing to say is that the third-per­son shoot­ing feels re­spon­sive and fluid – a no­table step up from what we’ve seen from Bioware in the past.

This is par­tic­u­larly ev­i­dent as you be­gin to con­sider the spe­cial abil­i­ties that come into play: ex­otic gear that can be found out in the world and looted from corpses be­fore be­ing slot­ted into empty spa­ces in the suit. These pow­er­ful at­tacks can be com­bined be­tween play­ers in a party, set­ting off chain com­bos and prompt­ing large-scale scenes of AOE de­struc­tion. It’s en­cour­ag­ing to see; An­them is a game that feels whole­heart­edly de­signed around co­op­er­a­tive play, lever­ag­ing the best el­e­ments of the shared-world shooter model with what it knows fans are des­per­ate to see in­te­grated.

An­them might not be a typ­i­cal Bioware ex­pe­ri­ence, but you shouldn’t dis­miss it. Its scope is huge, the am­bi­tion is ridicu­lous, and from what we’ve seen so far it looks like it will eas­ily fill that huge hole in your heart that has been made by the grad­ual de­cline of Des­tiny 2.

An­them is the lat­est project from Mass Ef­fect de­vel­oper Bioware. Find out more here: ea.com/ games/an­them

An­them is a shared-world shooter from the team be­hind mass Ef­fect and dragon Age. de­signed to be played in co-op or solo, bioware hopes to bring its tal­ents in the RPG space to the pop­u­lar on­linecon­nected third-per­son shooter genre.

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