Anthem release date, trailers, hands on preview and news

Anthem release date, trailers, hands on preview and news

Anthem, BioWare's new upcoming cooperative, team-based IP, looks like a change of pace for the makers of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, with a focus on cooperative PvE combat popularised by the likes of Destiny. 

It was a big surprise when it was first announced at last year's E3 2017, and with pressure mounting on a game that could make or break the developer's fortunes, BioWare has kept its cards close to its chest.

From the short trailer shown at EA Play keynote we got a tiny glimpse of the game world's wall: the only thing that separates the civilized world from a dangerous and savage animals. Flying exosuits (called 'Javelins') also seem to play a big part in surviving in the wilderness, and a player might jump into them as part of the game.

But what is this Anthem we keep hearing about? We don't know much about the artifact at the heart of the BioWare's new game but, according to the studio's director Casey Hudson, that's going to change before the game goes out in February. 

[Update: We've gone hands on with Anthem during an extended play-through session at EA. We've recorded our thoughts below and have updated this article with the information we learned at the event.]

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? BioWare's newest IP: an online cooperative shooter
  • When can I play it? February 22, 2019
  • What can I play it on? Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC

Anthem trailers

There's no better entry point to dive into the world of Anthem than a gameplay trailer. The latest one released from EA goes in greater depth with the game's combat, rewards and equipment cycle that will fuel gameplay.

Check it out for yourself below:

Nvidia revealed an exclusive 4K Anthem gameplay trailer at CES 2019 which showcased never-before seen Javelin, enemies, and environments. 

Check the trailer out below:

Want more backstory on Anthem? BioWare has been cagey with details, but according to studio head Casey Hudson, that's intentional. 

To start filling in some of the mysteries of the world, BioWare released a trailer that debuted during The Game Awards on December 6.

Check it out for yourself below.

E3 2018 brought a brand new cinematic trailer for Anthem which shows the incredible exosuits in action, with some smooth flying and a look at the sort of enemies you'll be taking on with your team.

You also get a first look at the Scars, an insect-like race you'll be battling throughout the game world – though we've also heard of another opposing warlike faction called Dominion who should pose a considerable threat of their own.

For those worried about the somewhat generic 'mech suit' design in the trailer, there will reportedly be a lot of room for customization and cosmetic upgrades (no loot boxes, thankfully).

Anthem release date

When it was first announced at E3 2017, Anthem was slated for a Fall 2018 release... but then the game got delayed.

We now have a new, firm exact date in hand: February 22, 2019. The release date comes after a report emerged from Kotaku that the game will be delayed until early 2019, citing three sources close to the project.

There is, the report says, now a feeling in BioWare that the future of the company is tied to Anthem and its success. It's for this reason that work on the studio's other titles, Star Wars: The Old Republic and the next Dragon Age, is now reportedly being done by much smaller teams.

Hands on impressions

Spending close to eight hours in the world of Anthem felt like an eternity... in a good way. In that time we were finally able to get a good sense of what the game is, why it's definitely unique for a BioWare game and how it differs from Destiny.

While the general story arc does sound similar to Destiny (the last bastion of humanity is under assault from a primeval, intergalactic entity) there's enough to differentiate one from the other. 

In Anthem, the world is under siege from a technological artifact called the Anthem of Creation. It's a lot less like the Traveler in Destiny and a lot more like the Anteverse from the Pacific Rim franchise that spawns kaiju. These monsters appear in all shapes and sizes and, occasionally when things get real bad, monstrous giants appear from the Anthem to threaten all of humanity. 

In Anthem, not only are you fighting against the spawn from the eponymous artifact, but you're also up against a force of human mercenaries working for a cult leader who wants the Anthem of Creation for himself so that he, more or less, can become a lesser god. (They're called the Dominion and their details are still a bit sketchy.)

So who's going to put an end to this faction before things get out of hand? You, of course. Well, you and a bunch of your friends.

To put the beatdown on the forces of evil, you'll need a suit of armor and a literal arsenal of weaponry. Thankfully, that's legitimately everywhere in Anthem and producing it appears to be the primary function of everyone in the entire world.

As a Freelancer, basically a super soldier that defends the last bastion of humanity, you'll go out on missions to rescue valuable persons, fight the crop of enemies that spawn from the Anthem and stop the Dominion from ruining your home of Fort Tarsis. In between missions you'll walk around the Fort (in a weird first-person mode) where you can gather intel, upgrade your armor and pick up side-quests. 

Importantly, when you're walking around Fort Tarsis, it's just you. You won't see mobs of other players like you do in Destiny, and that means the characters around the town can actually interact with you in meaningful ways. There are more characters than we can even list (or, at this point, remember) but they all have personality and interests beyond being a sedentary shopkeeper.

Unlike Destiny, which feels more like a multiplayer, stats-driven Halo, than a fast and ferocious shooter, Anthem's combat is fast-paced and action-packed. Each of the game's four classes have a different play style but they're all equally useful in combat. To that end, expect three specials that, at least on consoles are mapped out to the shoulder buttons, and one ultimate ability that can be used to decimate enemies. 

That last part sounds especially Destiny-esque, I know, but you have to trust that in practice combat feels more fluid with aerial dodging and constant explosions rather than slower, cover-based shooting.

In between the battles, Anthem offers a surprisingly full world to explore. Rather than huge empty battlefields, Destiny has resources aplenty as well as wildlife and pop-up events happening all the time. Admittedly, there's not as much of these extras as we've seen in other BioWare games where it feels like every nook and cranny of the world has been just stuffed with loot, but what's there is better than the bland, sterile worlds we've seen elsewhere.

The main gameplay cycle looks like this: You spawn in town to talk with the next quest giver. Along the way you're given some solid lore about the world around you and you'll meet (and grow to like) the various town people you interact with at Fort Tarsis. (Just don't get too attached - unlike other BioWare games there's no courting a mate here.)

Once you've got a quest, you'll spend some time outfitting one of your suits for the mission (you get one additional class at level two, and then the other two later in the game so you're never stuck with your first pick) and partner up with friends or randos via the game's matchmaking system. You can turn the latter off if you want a single-player experience, but the game's executive director, Mark Darrah, thinks it's a game best tried in multiplayer before you switch to single-player.

Missions run between five and 20 minutes long (at least the ones we were able to play) and you'll run, gun and loot along the way. 

After a mission, you can either head back into Fort Tarsis to get another quest, or hang out with your friends in the newly unveiled Launch Bay that supports up to 16 players at a time. You'll then upgrade your gear and head out on another mission.

Does this sound a bit similar to the structure of Destiny? Yeah. It does. But the hook is that combat and controls will feel so new and different that you'll overlook the similarities, ignore the fact that BioWare deviated from its formula and immerse yourself in a well-realized world that the company has built from the ground up.

News and rumors

Anthem public demo dates

A free free-launch demo of Anthem will be available for Xbox One, PS4 and PC from February 1 to February 3. However those who have pre-ordered the title, or are members of Origin or EA Access, will gain access to the Anthem VIP demo from January 25 to January 27.

Players will start the demo at level 10 but will be capped at level 15. 

Commander Shepard will live on

In celebration of N7 Day (the unofficial Mass Effect holiday), Anthem and Mass Effect lead producer Michael Gamble tweeted an image of N7 armor being worn in the Fort Tarsis hub. 

However, Gamble didn't release any details about when or how this skin will be made available to players

It will support 3D Audio

Through the PlayStation Platinum headset.

Dolby Atmos confirmed?

In an interview with the game's executive producer, Mark Darrah, we confirmed that Anthem will support Dolby Atmos. That being said, Darrah couldn't confirm whether the game would launch with Atmos support right out of the box or if it would come further down the road. (The same was said for Dolby Vision.)

It's going to be a graphically-demanding game

As earlier rumors suggested (see below), Anthem was indeed shown off at this year's E3, and it was a stunning looking game that ran in 4K resolution and 60 frames per second. That's all very impressive, but what kind of machine will you need to play Anthem at that kind of graphical level? 

Well, according to Mark Darrah, the game’s executive producer, the E3 demo was running on a PC with two Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards. While we expect Anthem to get optimized before its release, we'd still expect you to need a powerful PC to play at 4K and 60FPS. EA hasn't confirmed if the Xbox One X or PS4 Pro will be able to match that performance.

EA Play

EA Play brought us the best look at Anthem that we've had yet. What we learned is that the game  is considered by EA to be "the evolution of a Bioware game" that doesn't bolt on story content to a multiplayer game, but rather integrates those things together in a shared world. It's a little different from the standard BioWare fare since it seems it won't have any player romances available.

You play as a 'Freelancer' who can control the exosuit that we've seen, and you're tasked with protecting the people of Tarthis from a force trying to control the Anvil of Creation. The world is reshaped all the time and, because you're a pilot, you can change out your suit depending on your mission. Exosuit types include the Ranger, Colossus, Storm and Interceptor.

We learned that the game won't have loot boxes and will instead be an online world that expands with more stories as time goes on. Part of the condition of this, however, is that the game won't be playable offline. After the show Mark Darrah confirmed on Twitter that "you need to be online to play" adding that there will also be no PvP modes available at launch, if they're being considered at all, since he added that it's not guaranteed.

Darrah also responded to fan's queries online, saying that players could create multiple Freelancers for each user account, and would be free to use any of the four exosuits that had been showcased.

It'll have a big focus on story

Anthem's developer BioWare has promised a big story for Anthem after Mass Effect Andromeda fell short of fan expectations. Writing in a blog post, the studio's general manager Casey Hudson emphasised the importance of world, character and storytelling and promised that they would be a part of Anthem, "a game designed to create a whole new world of story and character that you can experience with friends in an ongoing series of adventures." 

Hudson goes on to say that though it will be unlike "anything you've ever played", if it's done as planned it will still feel "very distinctly BioWare" – and that he'll continue using the blog to update fans on the development process of the game.

Our World, My Story

One of the ongoing refrains from Anthem's development is the idea of 'Our World, My Story'. For players, that means your time will be split between the outside world – a shared multiplayer environment where you team up with other Freelancers for exploration and combat – and Fort Tarsis, where you develop a single-player experience unique to you.

Fort Tarsis will act as a home hub of sorts, where you face your own decisions and actions, accept contracts and missions, form platonic relationships, and generally act out more of the role-play elements expected from BioWare's usual IPs. By the sounds of it, events in the outside world will affect the individual experiences you have back at the Fort, though how this spins out is anyone's guess.

EA meets its Destiny in Anthem

The premise we know so far is that humanity is holed up in a bastion, cut off from the outside world. Venturing out, it appears, requires a suit of armor that will help fend off the wilds of the Pandora-esque planet.

EA is describing it as "a shared-world action RPG where Freelancers challenge the wilds past the wall, exploring a vast world filled with savage beasts and ruthless marauders, but also teeming with amazing technology and forgotten treasures". If this sounds like Destiny, you're not crazy. 

"Players will be able to join with their friends to unravel the world's mysteries and defeat the forces plotting to conquer humanity." 

Okay, this is Destiny. 

"Throughout their journeys, players can outfit their Freelancers with powerful Javelin exosuits, each of which are equipped with unique weapons and abilities. Freelancers can customize their Javelin with gear they earn and craft throughout the adventure, and leave a lasting mark on the world".

Admittedly, the word Freelancers make the game sound a bit more like a Borderlands game than Destiny, but considering that your class is determined by which Javelin you have on, we're still seeing Destiny written all over it. 

When Anthem was first announced, taking on Destiny 2 seemed like a tall order, but now that Destiny 2 appears to be having some growing pains, Anthem may be able to seize on a dissatisfied playerbase. 

Life after Andromeda

Anthem will be BioWare's first title after the somewhat polarizing Mass Effect: Andromeda. 

Anthem will, apparently, be a science fantasy game more in the vein of Star Wars and offerings from the Marvel universe, rather than hard core science fiction title like Mass Effect BioWare Edmonton general manager Aaryn Flynn has revealed.

In a recent interview with CBC Flynn said that like these franchises Anthem will be a game in which "you see a lot of amazing things happening but we don't worry too much about why they are happening or how they are happening; the science of it.“

BioWare has dipped its toes into the science fantasy genre before with titles such as the RPG Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and the online multiplayer game Star Wars: The Old Republic. Anthem will, apparently, be along these lines and "much more about just having fun in a game world that is really lush and exotic and really sucks you in." Unlike Mass Effect, which Flynn says was a "more a real hard core science fiction IP".

Taking this into account, alongside the game's more online multiplayer leanings, and it seems like BioWare is certainly attempting to step into a space currently dominated by games such as Destiny. It'll be exciting to see what else a developer with so accomplished a background in lore-heavy single player storytelling can bring to this genre. 

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