BioWare's known for making some of the best choice- and character-driven single-player RPGs in the business, so it came as a surprise when the studio announced Anthem, neither an RPG nor a single-player game. What was presented to everyone looked more akin to Destiny than Mass Effect or Dragon Age, and this departure led many to be skeptical of BioWare's ability to pull it off.
I don't think you really need to look any further than Anthem's Metacritic score, which sits at 59 based on 76 reviews from critics on PC. Its PS4 score, based on 28 reviews, is even worse at 54. User reviews, no matter what console you look at, are overwhelmingly negative. This wasn't a case of player expectation being so grandiose and unattainable that BioWare could never live up to it — Anthem flopped because it couldn't compete with others in the genre. It wasn't as polished, it wasn't as interesting, and it certainly did not have the clout coming from a company like EA, which published it.
But Anthem doesn't need to be left to drown under the weight of its criticisms. BioWare still has a chance to throw it a life jacket.
Rainbow Six Siege notably received a lukewarm reception upon launch, but with years of substantial updates and gameplay tweaks, it now boasts over 50 million players, besting a lot of the competition. That's a hell of an accomplishment for a game that was criticized for its lack of content and progression depth.
And who could forget Destiny's launch? The poster child for why you shouldn't pre-order video games — and I'll raise my hand as someone who did pre-order Destiny at the time and regretted it ever since. Despite its rocky release, the series ended up becoming so successful that it allowed Bungie to escape from the clutches of Activision, ending what was once a 10-year publishing deal.
If No Man's Sky can pull a miraculous comeback from what was once considered one of the worst launches in video game history, then I'm confident Anthem can do the same. And No Man's Sky didn't necessarily have the benefit of being categorized as "games as a service" like Destiny, Rainbow Six Siege, and Anthem do. These types of games are designed to evolve over time.
So what can Anthem do? A lot falls down to one thing: more content. Whether this content is through unique bosses, more dungeons and proper raids, and expanded storylines doesn't exactly matter, but hitting all areas with new content would benefit the most. Destiny's expansions, especially The Taken King, were praised for overhauling the game and adding some much-needed depth and content. Anthem can pull off the same thing, even if it takes a soft reboot to do so. Whatever the Cataclysm event is that Anthem has going on, it's just not cutting it, though it is a huge step in the right direction.
Whatever the Cataclysm event is, it's just not cutting it.
To springboard off of new content, BioWare also needs to give players better incentives to keep coming back. A one-and-done story mission doesn't help anyone in this type of game. These missions need better rewards, too. Loot tweaks and being more generous with what is doled out will go a long way to retain players. I know many who quit just because of frustrations with the game's loot system. Masterwork weapons were obscenely difficult to get, and if you did get them, more likely than not they ended up being duplicates of a weapon you already had. If you add more variety and increase the drop rates — or make certain weapons tied to specific bosses — you'll feed into that addictive gameplay loop that players want. Even add a greater number of individual armor pieces like Destiny has so players can look forward to obtaining a whole set.
I know a lot of this is easier said than done. Simply screaming "more content" doesn't really help anyone. It's how BioWare goes about adding content that will make or break Anthem. An armor system combined with the pitiful Masterwork drop rates right now won't benefit anyone. New dungeons will get stale quickly if they're rehashing old mechanics and not adding anything fresh. A boss will just be frustrating if it's a bullet sponge and doesn't require any tactics to defeat other than "shoot it."
But these are only our main concerns. What would you like to see BioWare add or change in Anthem? Let us know what it would take to bring you back into the game, anything from small quality of life fixes to massive gameplay overhauls.
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