Anthem – A massive risk for BioWare

BioWare, at one point and time, could have been considered as the King of modern RPG’s. Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect are all titles that were both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. But, these were relatively safe ventures in comparison with their upcoming IP Anthem, which launches February 22. Almost every one of Bioware’s titles have been single-player, with an emphasis on deep lore and exploration. The only exception was The Old Republic, which was an MMORPG. Anthem, will be a step into the persistent online-only multiplayer genre, in which many studios have struggled to find success.

Their recent title, Mass Effect Andromeda, was a huge miss for both the franchise and the studio, even with it featuring the strongest combat in the series. It felt rushed with a number of technical flaws and weak narrative. BioWare was hammered by fans and critics as this could have potentially scuttled any future titles in the franchise. Needless to say, the studio needed to move away from its established IP’s and introduce something new.

Saying that Anthem is ambitious is an understatement. Persistent online-only titles have practically missed the mark due to their inability to provide sustainable content to keep players satiated between updates. Large publishers and studios have thrown their hats into the ring, to only come out beaten and bruised, ready to launch a sequel to their titles that did not require them in the first place. The good news for fans is that BioWare’s experience in RPG’s and their success with an MMORPG should translate into crafting a deep experience for players.

This all of course is in theory, as BioWare will still have to navigate the end game, which is the most important part of online-only titles. Even if you provide a 60 to 80 hour campaign, there needs to be content after the credits roll, as most players will want to engage in raids or other activities as they’ll be at their strongest. Constantly challenging players is difficult, but Bioware has more than enough examples around the industry of what not to do.

The gameplay in Anthem already looks satisfying as players can smoothly navigate areas and engage in enemies either in the air or on the ground. Players are giving three abilities to use, each with their own cooldown, and will be able to upgrade and acquire new skills as they progress. The combat is reminiscent of Mass Effect, so the action will be simple and fluid. Players can choose different exosuits, known as Javelins in the game, to combat any enemies and traverse the world.

All of this looks and sounds satisfying, but the recent VIP demo has players concerned about server issues when the game launches. There are a number of videos where the demo was crashing and players were unable to get online. In 2 weeks, this titles goes live, and should have a large number of players flooding the server, if Anthem struggles out of the gate to get players in the game, it could end up killing any chance the title may have for the future. The first few weeks will be crucial to Anthem’s success, as there should be no excuse as publisher EA has enough experience with multiplayer titles to know better.

Having great productions values, deep mechanics, and strong lore won’t mean anything if you can’t get past the loading screen. Look at Fallout 76, which has been crushed due to the numerous server issues it had at launch. EA and Bioware are asking for trouble if there are any significant issues at launch. Content creators would have a field day on their behalf and it could be problematic for Bioware’s future projects.

Anthem’s success would be beneficial for both Bioware and the fledgling online-only genre. It could serve as an example of what needs to be done to be successful when creating persistent online-worlds. Bioware has the pedigree to create a deep and engaging world, but they need to emphasize the endgame or fall into the same pitfalls as other titles. If Anthem fails, Bioware may find themselves at the edge of a cliff with EA behind them. EA has a long track record of cutting bait with studios that fail to meet sales numbers and expectations. It would be sad and unfortunate if Bioware was next.

(Credit to Anthem)

No pressure.

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