A lot about Anthem, the upcoming release from Electronic Arts' Bioware, has been shrouded in secrecy. It's easy to see why, since it's been about a decade since EA last released a new IP, and anticipation has been high for the latest outing from the creators of Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
However, as we count down to Anthem's release on Feb. 22, EA has been slowly revealing more and more detail. Thursday, during the Game Awards, the company released a new trailer that highlighted some characters and more details.
Members of the press sat down with Jon Warner, game director at Bioware, and Michael Gamble, the lead producer at Bioware, ahead of the trailer's reveal and learned a lot of all-new information regarding lore, characters, and just overall story. The world in Anthem has never been more clear, yet more mysterious. Here's what we learned.
The story so far
Anthem takes place on a distant planet unlike Earth, where an unknowable force of creation and destruction has its way with the world. This is the titular Anthem and it can wreak havoc on the lives of the world's residents. This can result in cataclysmic events that can literally tear the world and the fabric of reality apart. People are at the mercy of this force that they can't even begin to understand, but luckily, they've learned to manage.
Long ago, the gods of the world abandoned their creation (midway through creating it, mind you) and left behind their tools -- here called artifacts. Over the years, humans have learned to wield the artifacts' power and turn it into, among other things, weapons and other tools for survival. The main weapons in the game are mech-inspired exosuits called "javelins," which give the user a choice of four different classes of abilities (more on this below).
At some point in the past, an event caused a group of rogue adventurers and heroes to come together. Their success initiated the creation of the Freelancers, an organization of warriors and fighters that protect the hubs of human populations.
The Anthem can literally tear the world and the fabric of reality apart.
However, as it happens, the Freelancers split off into separate factions. A group of militaristic northerners broke off and became the Dominion, which has the same goals as the Freelancers but wants to take a more forceful approach. Others became what is known as Sentinels, which are essentially a local police force that uses Anthem technology. After all this in-fighting, the Freelancers aren't what they once were.
Besides fighting forces, humans are based in spread out settlements across the landscape. The one players will get to know the best is called Fort Tarsis and it's fortified by a structure known as The Wall. This will be the player's home base where they can stop in between journeys and pick up missions and story.
Developers described it as "a melting pot," where people from all over come together to settle. Players can also explore the settlement to learn about cultures elsewhere, but developers haven't revealed anything about the lifestyle outside of Fort Tarsis.
Each player embodies a Freelancer, who along with their team, goes up against the Dominion, along with one of its leaders -- the Monitor (he's the hooded person you see in the trailer). His goal is to harness the Anthem to carry out the Dominion's goals, but there's a twist. He believes he has insight into the Anthem and can control it.
Like many villains, he believes he's doing the right thing. Also, like many villains, he thinks he has everything figured out (spoiler: he does not).
Either way, he and the Dominion are after something and you're in its way, so you get the opportunity to try and stop them.
We've got some character reveals
You've seen some of them in the trailers and concept art, but now we've got some names to put to those faces.
- Haluk is a Freelancer but doesn't do as much adventuring as he used to. He mostly just pilots the Strider (the big moving base you begin missions from). Your character has a long history with him that'll be revealed as you play.
- Faye is what's known as a "cipher." Ciphers are a major part of each team and act as a communicator. They're trained in a piece of Anthem technology called an amplifier to broadcast over distances, so as to support the player and be the voice inside their head. Fay is your former cipher. Why you two no longer work together is explored throughout the game.
- Owen is your current cipher. He's a happy-go-lucky kind of guy who tends to break from tradition, but he's game for adventure. he's ambitious, happy go lucky, wants to see the larger world.
- Agent Tassyn is an agent associated with the Corvus, an agency akin to MI6 or the CIA. She tasks you with missions and has access to javelins, but has an agenda of her own.
- Sentinel Brin is a sentinel back at Fort Tassen who often gives you missions. The developers describe her as "quirky."
- The Monitor, described above, is one of your main opponents. He's one of the leaders of the Dominion and believes he has the key to controlling the Anthem.
- General Tarsis is a legendary figure (and yes the fort is named after her). We don't know much about her yet, but we know that she's responsible for founding something called the Legion of Dawn.
Each team in Anthem multiplayer is made up of up to four people, and this remains true for the single-player story as well.
What do we know about gameplay?
Anthem has both single-player and multiplayer modes and both will be available at launch. The single-player will involve the main story and will allow for some exploration, but for the most part, the latter is relegated to multiplayer.
In groups of up to four people, players can embark on missions and explore the landscape. Players can either group up with others through a matchmaking system, which allows for casual drop-ins and outs, or can group up with friends. The difficulty of certain encounters will scale depending on how many people are in your party.
For the most part, areas are open to anybody.. However, there are strongholds only accessible to four-player teams. There is also a small set of areas that can be accessed after completing parts of the story.
We also got some new information regarding how similar Anthem will be to other Bioware games in terms of decision-making. While some decisions will affect outcomes in the game, none will be as major as the ones in Mass Effect or Dragon Age. For example, you can't lose major characters if a mission goes awry. As previously confirmed, you also can't romance any characters (in-game at least).
Anthem will be released on Feb. 22, 2019 on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, but some players could get the first look much earlier. EA announced that customers who pre-order the game will get access to the VIP Demo from Jan. 25-27. You'll also get an exclusive in-game item. An Open Demo will be available to the public from Feb. 1-3.
Because of the demos, EA said that there won't be any open beta before launch.
As a final side note, EA was being coy in regards to how future content will be released. Anthem promises to be an endless adventure beyond the single-player campaign and there will be missions available at launch. The only thing representatives said was that it won't be released via a traditional DLC model. Details will be revealed at a later date.
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