Bioware is back to its best
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.