BioWare Wants You To Know That Story Is A Priority For Anthem 

One of the biggest ongoing questions surrounding BioWare’s upcoming online shooter Anthem is whether it will be able to hit the narrative bar that the studio has set for itself through series like Dragon Age and Mass Effect. With a new trailer tonight—and a presentation to press this morning in Los Angeles—BioWare is trying to assure fans that even its take on Destiny is doubling down on story.

Anthem’s new trailer, which debuted at The Game Awards, shows some of the non-playable characters as well as the game’s main antagonist, who’s known as the Monitor. BioWare says he’s the leader of a militaristic organisation called the Dominion that will be one of the player’s biggest enemies throughout Anthem’s main story. Your group, the Freelancers, is an order of storied mercenaries who go around the world fighting aliens and preventing bad things from happening as a result of the Anthem of Creation, an energy that exists throughout the game’s world, sometimes bubbling up and causing catastrophes. The Dominion is at odds with the Freelancers.

“They believe the way to keep people safe is to keep them well-heeled, keep everyone on a short leash,” said Anthem creative director Jonathan Warner during a presentation to press this morning. “That’s their objective—they want to bring peace through force.”

So how, exactly, will Anthem’s story unfold? There won’t be a lot of non-combat options in Anthem, which is structured around a single hub (called Fort Tarsis) in which you do all of your interaction with NPCs. You will get some dialogue options that will affect how these NPCs treat you, although the game’s developers say there won’t be any sort of branching narrative the way there is in Dragon Age and Mass Effect.

When you’re not talking to people in Fort Tarsis, you’ll be off on missions and activities within the game’s world, flying around your mech suit (called a Javelin) and blasting aliens, which from what we played at E3 last year seems pretty damn fun.

As anyone who’s played a game like Destiny knows, it’s hard to marry a coherent story with that sort of online gameplay that’s meant to be repeated over and over again. BioWare is aware of that, and appears to be happy to partition the main story from the grindier activities that will keep Anthem humming.

“I want people to think of our story with two lenses,” said Warner. “One is the story of the struggle against the Monitor and the Dominion, which has a beginning, middle, and end. And then there’s the story of the world conflict.”

Those world conflicts will form the backbone for Anthem’s side missions and replayable activities, and they’ll be enhanced by what lead gameplay producer Mike Gamble teases will be “plans for how we switch and morph the context of the game after launch.” They’re promising a more aggressive update schedule than DLC that arrives every few months, which will hopefully offer narrative innovations that we haven’t seen in a game like this before. “We’re going to give a big briefing on our post-launch stuff later on,” Gamble said.

There’s no way to know whether this new game’s story will actually live up to what we’d expect from a BioWare game, and we won’t have an answer to that question until we’ve played all of Anthem, which comes out February 22, 2019 (PS4/Xbox One/PC). But the studio wants fans to know that it’s still prioritising narrative, and one thing’s for sure: The story’s gotta be better than the first Destiny’s was. Right?


Comments

    After Andromeda and the leaks about internal strife within Bioware I am apprehensive about anything outside of their usual bit.

    So how, exactly, will Anthem’s story unfold? There won’t be a lot of non-combat options in Anthem, which is structured around a single hub (called Fort Tarsis) in which you do all of your interaction with NPCs. You will get some dialogue options that will affect how these NPCs treat you, although the game’s developers say there won’t be any sort of branching narrative the way there is in Dragon Age and Mass Effect.
    ...
    As anyone who’s played a game like Destiny knows, it’s hard to marry a coherent story with that sort of online gameplay that’s meant to be repeated over and over again. BioWare is aware of that, and appears to be happy to partition the main story from the grindier activities that will keep Anthem humming. “I want people to think of our story with two lenses,” said Warner. “One is the story of the struggle against the Monitor and the Dominion, which has a beginning, middle, and end. And then there’s the story of the world conflict.”
    Those world conflicts will form the backbone for Anthem’s side missions and replayable activities, and they’ll be enhanced by what lead gameplay producer Mike Gamble teases will be “plans for how we switch and morph the context of the game after launch.” They’re promising a more aggressive update schedule than DLC that arrives every few months, which will hopefully offer narrative innovations that we haven’t seen in a game like this before.

    So basically like Destiny/The Division, only hoping that copying the structure of those narrative failures won't mean copying what made their stories shit?

    Great. Good luck with that.

      In short, don't believe their lies!

        Hey, maybe they figured out why those stories were shit, and have avoided it while maintaining the same structure/format. It's Bioware. If anyone can do it...

        I'm beyond super sceptical, though.

      It's almost like they think they're the first people to think of 'making a lot of DLC'. It's crazy to think that right now someone at Bioware thinks the problem with Destiny is that they don't have their priorities straight. You just have to look at any game even remotely similar and it becomes clear that you're going to struggle to deal with the small group of people who play your game full time versus the people you need to come back and spend enough money to complete your budget.
      The team will shrink early because nobody can justify sinking AAA+++ money into DLC packs. Expectations are hard to live up to at the best of times and a smaller team will require shuffling of priorities and frustrating players. The other AAA+++ games aren't going to slow down so the grind won't hold the majority of players. A year after launch they're proud to bring us the opportunity to make microtransactions.

      *whispers* Bioware were never that good at writing stories anyway

    the game’s main antagonist, who’s known as the Generic-bad-guy. BioWare says he’s the leader of a militaristic organisation called the Generic-evil-organisation...

    FTFY

      That's all I could think when I saw the trailer too. The bad guy and his motivation seems as generic as everything else in the game.

      Didn't you hear his instantly memorable line? "The Plot-Device will be mine!!!"

      You can tell this story is going to be great and span many expansions and sequels because it starts out with a single god-tier threat.

      I'd be a lot more interested if there were hundreds of these safe zones with different cultures, ideals, alliances, etc and generic-bad-man was more like Genghis Khan or even just some generic aggressively expanding monarch. You could be legitimately betrayed if you're allies secretly chose the safety and stability a tyrant offers them over freedom with fear of the walls failing. You can win that fight and explore the power vacuum instead of just stopping an evil scheme.

    Bioware's priority might be story.

    But EA's is microtransactions.

    Hey Jason, whilst we have a dialogue open can you let Bioware know that whilst EA are signing the cheques that Anthem isn’t a priority for me (or anyone else who speaks up)?

    I jest, but this smacks of ‘appeal to our hardcore fanbase’ in order to get as sales as possible. I’d like to think people will sit on the fence, wait till it launches and gauge reaction from there buuuuut...... let’s face it, it’ll sell millions still (Battlefront 2 did despite all the reaction/trouble etc) and people will clamour to play it, spurred on by an effusive wave of positive press coverage.

    It might be good, but it’s a big might right now and just has more than a ‘whiff’ of the Destiny rollercoaster about it.

    Also not sure i’m that confident in Bioware narrative/storytelling anymore anyway - a lot of good people have left from the writing team which has shown in their more recent work?

    Considering they delayed the launch due to the loot box fiasco.... it appears this game was entirely loot box focused and they pulled it from launch knowing that it would fall flat on its face for the same reason SWBF2 did.

    I'm still extremely skeptical about how this game will be. I will not pre order, i will watch streamers play and then decide.

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