Microsoft picked a clear winner to close out their E3 2017 press conference with an Anthem gameplay trailer that gave an incredible first impression of their upcoming sci-fi action-RPG title. Before you can even focus on the features the trailer starts to highlight, you must first allow yourself to take in two glaringly obvious things—the gorgeous visuals and the annoying voice acting from the “players.” While showcasing the possibilities that can be unlocked with communication within the game is something to be appreciated, the rather unnatural dialogue was the gnat in the room distracting everyone from an otherwise delightful work of art.
The trailer didn’t really let anyone in on what the game’s actual narrative might be other than the fact that they will be taking on the role of “freelancers” who zip around in cool Iron Man-esque exo-suits. This is a bit disappointing considering the fact that this game is from BioWare, after all. When it comes to compelling narratives and a storyline that draws gamers in so deep that they may lose touch with reality, BioWare is something of an expert. The absence of any real narrative information leaves us wondering if BioWare has decided to bypass a beautiful, complex story in exchange for focusing solely on creating a Destiny competitor. Our hearts, however, are hoping that BioWare is just waiting to surprise us all with the type of dynamic overarching storyline that Destiny is missing.
Our first look at combat mechanics also seems to leave quite a bit to the imagination. When a giant creature approaches the two players in the beginning of the trailer, they size the beast up as a challenge for another day and decide to simply move on. Once they encounter smaller foes, we see them make light use of firearms and rather easily blow the enemies (some of which are referred to as Scars) away in no time. Of course, this is partly due to effective coordination as a team, which seems to be the heavier focus of this particular gameplay trailer. Anthem offers a variety of different exo-suits that come with different perks and cater to different play styles. The Ranger exo-suit is described as a well-balanced option while the Colossus is described as having more of a tank style. Based on those descriptions it’s easy to see that the main player shown in the trailer has a Ranger while the first friend to join certainly fits the description of a Colossus. This companion utilizes slower movements but shows off some powerful attack options that nearly clears out an entire wave of enemies at one point. Of course, it’s likely that even a Ranger will be able to pack a massive punch at one point depending on what kind of customizations the player makes to their suit.
Anthem also gets in on the rapidly growing popularity of in-game events. In this game, the events come in the form of “Shaper Storms.” What these storms actually entail is yet to be seen as our first look includes little more than a sort of strange portal and a group of players preparing to hop into it. What is waiting on the other side is a mystery and it’s not clear if these storms will offer new open environments or if they will consist of smaller maps with far more limitations. It also isn’t clear if the gameplay experience within these storms will vary greatly or feel like relatively similar occurrences that just come with different in-game bonuses like new items or new weapons.
What is far more clear and easy to see is the game’s potential to give the Destiny franchise a real run for their money. Anthem may have been pitched as a Destiny competitior but it boasts a world that seems capable of competing with the likes of Horizon: Zero Dawn when it comes to varying landscapes and the true limitless of where you can go and how you can go about getting there. At one point, the players coordinate an attack by having one approach from above while the other takes a leap and dives into the waters below to provide a stealthier option. This is perhaps one of the best edges Anthem could have over its competition. If this world turns out to be as truly open and exploration worthy as Microsoft has promised, it could easily be the most appealing way to team up with friends and take down extraterrestrial foes all while enjoying the view.