DOING WHAT YOU DO BESTThe BioWare studio in Edmonton is known for developing some of the best games in the RPG genre. Anthem may be added to their highly regarded titles of Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Doing what you do best is building on that success and taking the next step forward. A new IP was the natural outgrowth of something they have been perfecting within their two main titles. A Shared World RPG. A co-op adventure set in a complex world Edmonton is known for, this time the world will be called Anthem.
THE TEAM AND CONCEPTDragon Age: Inquisition (DAI) had a multiplayer component, that was separated from the main game. This was developed by a separate team made up of members of the development team of DAI and ME whose sole task was to the multiplayer. This multiplayer component was an improvement over their ME multiplayer. I believe they had hit the right balance in a dungeon crawl. There was no story associated with the multiplayer only set in the world of DAI. Dragon Age a beloved single player RPG series, would not be the vehicle to realize a multiplayer game. To carry this any further they needed a new IP, a multiplayer or shared world in combination with the complexity of a open world RPG. The kind of RPG that they knew they could create.
In 2015 Drew Karpyshyn the writer of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, returned to BioWare in Edmonton to work on Anthem code named “Dylan”. They had their writer for the story set in a science fiction setting, and the core team who worked on DAI multiplayer a fantasy. Ted Reedy would lend his considerable talents in composing the music. A talented team had been assembled, the goal was insight. In that development time Edmonton has seen the likes of Destiny or The Division try to recreate their multiplayer in a FPS, without Edmonton's pedigree in RPG's. A campaign in a FPS is not an RPG. If anyone has a chance to pull this off it would be the Edmonton studio of BioWare. We saw the proof of concept at E3 2017. In their time of development they saw the pitfalls of other developers trying to create a shared world without a strong RPG background, story or team. Hopefully Lessons Learned. Always do what you do best.
THE SQUADWhy four (4) players or squad mates in Anthem? In DAI multiplayer they saw how the holy trinity + one, would work in a complex dungeon. The traditional tank, healer and DPS always limited the complexity of a RPG, adding one additional player would add to the design possibility. They had four players in ME multiplayer but their class system may have limited the design of each location. It is my thought that this proved not to be the case in DAI. The suitable character classes and abilities, would work in all the different iterations in any one location. Adding to the planning for each squads configuration in a host of variations in any said dungeon. This would add to the complexity and excitement of trial and error within the game. Each member in the team of four had a detailed backstory, pieces of armor and clothing you could buy or craft to upgrade them. Members of the team came from the three main classes warrior, rogue and mage. They also could be a subset class like assassin in rogue. All members (17 in all) could be found in DAI although you couldn't interact with them, but you could see they were fleshed out NPCs. A hallmark of BioWare in their three dimensional worlds that they are famous for creating. Hopefully this is the template for Anthem’s character creation for each freelancer. Consider the possibilities for a moment.
THE DUNGEONIn DAI they had settled on five (5) levels of difficulty in any one location, as opposed to the four (4) in ME, with each level increasingly harder. With the Frostbite 3 engine they had the added capability of a destructible environment. This added component would add to the natural abilities of each squad member to solve barriers in each level. Thus aiding in the immersion of each location, everyone had a purpose and a role for the survival of the team in each level and the acquisition of loot. In Anthem the dungeon now could be incorporated into the world, adding an additional level to the open world environment they couldn't achieve in DAI multiplayer. We could have been introduced to two such locations in the E3 demo, Deadlight Caverns and Longfall Ruins. Remember Sandra mentioned taking Kim into Longfall Ruins for XP in the demo, an excellent way to gain XP is in a murderous dungeon in this case ruins. This might sound familiar to you in playing another game on the market, but don't let your imagination be jaded of the possibilities that BioWare can
create. I believe BioWare has demonstrated that hard work will have a payoff when we enter Longfall Ruins. Their design in DAI multiplayer could serve as a template for Anthem’s interiors.
THE THREADThere is a thread that runs through Mass Effect to Dragon Age and now Anthem. The ability to improve on a concept through each multiplayer in each franchise. We as players bought these great games and enjoyed countless hours in ME and DAI. We also helped BioWare in their pursuit of an open world multiplayer RPG, by playing each multiplayer installment in each game. But why in each game, one is science fiction and the other a fantasy. Through each world of gameplay, I believe, they found the best combination. A science fiction setting with classes and ability of fantasy. Think about it, the deep crafting and customization that comes with fantasy for us to lose ourselves in our character development and progression. The myriad possibilities in science fiction that can offer us worlds and dimensions we can't dream of but now can explore, like shaper storms. The simple fact is that they have an excellent writer who excels in science fiction, and a team that sees the diversity in fantasy classes and abilities. That thread starts in the Edmonton studio that runs through their other titles, and now to Anthem. A proven track record in RPG's and the hard work over the years to implement a multiplayer in one. They have spent years developing this idea and on this engine to be realized in Anthem.
THE CLUESI believe there were clues in the E3 demo showing this linkage between the franchises. Futuristic structures among ancient ruins with religious overtones of a lost civilization. I believe the insignia on the Titan is in reference to the shield and sword of the Templar, both play the tank and have similar ability. The freelancer with the hood and torn cape draped over the shoulder, with the three elemental powers that the mages had in DAI. The lightly armored javelin built for speed to move quickly in and out of combat, designed for an assassin. Whatever the story is on each class you can see the tree of progression. The endless possible builds and customization. All this was in the multiplayer in DAI, and I strongly suspect this will be carried over into and improved on in Anthem. The detailed backstories from DAI multiplayer carried over to each freelancer, would solidly place you into the world of Anthem. This would be in keeping with BioWare's tradition within their multiplayer and all of their games, as we had with Shepard. In the repair bay for the javelins there were four stations and the ally of the month, an experienced dungeon player to complete a fourth man in a squad? Seeing the E3 demo in a different light what connections can you find, assuming you think my observations are plausible.
BioWare could succeed where others failed even if there are bumps in the road, because I believe they have paved this road with hard work. Where others haven't. A open world multiplayer RPG.
With that being said, it is hard to be even cautiously optimistic about the outcome of Anthem. With all the hard work that has transpired over the years on “Dylan”, now officially Anthem by an innovative team. The seemingly endless corporate greed by EA may send Anthem down a rabbit hole of shady money schemes. Anthem may turn out to be a underdeveloped overly monetized game/service that taints BioWare for years to come. If so, Anthem and the BioWare may be one more casualty in EA’s search for the perfect cash cow. We shall see.
Before posting this article the news came out about Drew Karpyshyn leaving BioWare. He will be added to the list with Dragon Age creative director Mike Laidlaw, studio general manager Aaryn Flynn, Andromeda lead writer Chris Schlerf, Dragon Age lead writer David Gaider, and Andromeda senior development director Chris Wynn who have already left. This is bad news and can mean that the vision of the game is gone and we are left with just the mechanics, of running around shooting stuff in a very beautiful environment. Will we see PVP added to complete the circle. This has a familiar ring to it, the sound of a cash register.