Comeback plan announced for Anthem


  • Video games
  • Thursday, 13 Feb 2020

Anthem will be a year old on Feb 22. — AFP Relaxnews

February 2019's big action bellyflop Anthem is to undergo a longer-term redesign focused on gameplay first, its team has announced.

Announced in 2017 as an entirely new franchise from the celebrated Mass Effect and Dragon Age studio, received in 2019 as a fatally flawed, prematurely released product, science-fantasy action game Anthem is being reforged.

It was the second high-profile blunder in a row for Canadian studio BioWare, headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta.

Generally revered for its Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises, as well a studio history encompassing influential role-playing games Baldur's Gate and Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic, it was criticised for 2017's Mass Effect: Andromeda, developed by a new team in Montreal, and then its own execution of Anthem's promise.

Issues with technical performance, narrative cohesion, and unrewarding gameplay loops plagued the game's launch, as it failed to dethrone 2017's science-fantasy draw Destiny 2 or destablize Borderlands 3, which released later in 2019.

Now BioWare is connecting with a renewed vision for the project.

"I am so proud of the work the team has put into this game, and at the same time there's so much more that we – and you – would have wanted from it", general manager Casey Hudson wrote in an update on the studio's blog.

The game, in which players are exosuit-wielding soldiers whose planet is home to strange beasts, tech, and phenomena, was praised for its art direction and its flair for flight and combat.

"Over the coming months we will be focusing on a longer-term redesign of the experience, specifically working to reinvent the core gameplay loop with clear goals, motivating challenges, and progression with meaningful rewards – while preserving the fun of flying and fighting in a vast science-fantasy setting."

Hudson also suggested that the Anthem team would be working under a different set of processes.

"We'll be doing something we'd like to have done more of the first time around – giving a focused team the time to test and iterate, focusing on gameplay first."

There's precedent for significant post-release reworkings bearing fruit, not least of which has been Star Wars: Battlefront II from Anthem publisher Electronic Arts.

The subscription-based, massively multiplayer Final Fantasy XIV, lambasted upon its debut in 2010, was withdrawn and then re-released as 2013's Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, now considered a leader in its genre.

Space exploration game No Man's Sky was ridiculed when it touched down in 2016, but after its Next (2018) and Beyond (2019) updates it was hailed as a radically improved experience.

Alternatively, while Rainbow Six: Siege was by no means a wash when it launched in 2015, regular updates and improvements have cemented its reputation as a solid and nuanced team shooter. – AFP Relaxnews

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