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Hallelujah, BioWare Seems to be Taking Story Seriously in Anthem


Hallelujah, BioWare Seems to be Taking Story Seriously in Anthem

As impressive as Anthem’s E3 2017 reveal was, the prospect of yet another Destiny-like shared-world shooter isn’t something that was ever going to get me excited.

I’ve played Destiny 2 for about two hours and found the story about as compelling as an IKEA instruction manual. It felt forced, corny, and a bit of an afterthought — which makes me shudder to ponder just how bad the first game must have been if that was considered an improvement.

Anthem looked like more of the same to me, despite the caliber of the BioWare team behind it. Or maybe I was just mad that a developer of quality single-player experiences had abandoned their forte to create one of those so-called “games as a service?”

Sigh, Bioware, I thought to myself, curse-you, EA — another developer pushed down the corporate rabbit hole; another soulless, grindy shooting game built around locking players into the gameplay loop first and story, lore, characters, and any semblance of something that actually represents a special “experience” taking a firm backseat.

I’m a glass half empty kind of guy if you hadn’t guessed already. I was probably being a bit harsh.

I say that now because The Game Awards has gone a long way to changing my tune on Anthem. A combination of the brief interview with BioWare’s Casey Hudson, the subsequent trailer, and that exceptional live orchestra performance has me thinking that Anthem has some potential.

No, before you ask, the Iron-Man meets Avatar thing wasn’t enough for me to come to that conclusion already.

Personally, I’m far more interested in what BioWare is doing to try and introduce quality storytelling and lore to this type of online experience.

Most importantly, I want to know whether they can actually implement their hallmark choice-based narrative in a multiplayer game and make it work.

Well, actually, I just wanted to know whether that was even a priority for them. And after The Game Awards, it seems the answer is a resounding yes.

Of course, the intention was to tee-up the story trailer, but there was almost a desperation in Hudson’s voice in trying to convince the audience that was the case.

Although, I don’t necessarily think it was always that high up on the agenda. I’m sure flying iron-men and Avatar-looking sandboxes came well before anybody on the design team started piecing together a cohesive narrative when conceptualizing the Destiny-like that EA wanted commissioning.

But the fact that BioWare is so bullish about Anthem being a typically story-focused multiplayer experience is good news, not least because to deliver anything less now would be a very bad look indeed.

And after the minor disaster that was Mass Effect Andromeda’s launch and the precarious reputation of EA as a publisher that has squandered franchises like Star Wars Battlefront, both developer and publisher have quite a bit riding on Anthem’s success.

I can’t believe that they’d make this much of a song and dance over Anthem’s narrative qualities and then not deliver. Mind you, it wouldn’t be the first time a developer has made promises that didn’t make the final cut.

As I mentioned earlier, though, it wasn’t just his words that finessed me into actually holding out hope Anthem can be something special. Call me a romantic but the magic of that live musical performance following the trailer really did help to get me on board.

More than just how great it sounded, it sort of took the presentation to the next level and suggested to me that BioWare is serious about creating an ambiance and a bit of an x-factor to Anthem.

Look, I know dancing emotes are popular, and I get that Cayde-6’s cringy one-liners are probably designed to make Destiny 2 more accessible for a wider demographic, but I found all that stuff hopelessly cheesy and phony.

I don’t want my games stuffed with pop-culture, I want them as far removed from it as possible, to immerse me in a compelling fantasy universe that feels genuine and believable.

Yes, I’m sure Anthem will have dancing emotes. All games need to have emotes these days, apparently. But after The Game Awards showcase, BioWare made me believe for the first time that first and foremost, it’s serious about producing a shared-world shooter with proper storytelling, interesting lore, and that all-important bit of magic. If that does turn out to be the case, maybe even I’ll consider dancing around like an idiot with one of those emotes.

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