EA Unveils their Destiny Competitor: Anthem
Yesterday, EA gave us a taste of Bioware’s latest project, Anthem. Just an hour ago, they closed the Xbox E3 show with a 6-minute gameplay reveal. It's a “live” MMORPG hybrid game that vies for a place in the genre that Bungie cracked open in 2014. Competition is key to advancing the genre, and gaming as a whole—but competition can also be deadly. Anthem ultimately vies for the same niche of gamers that occupy Destiny. In a post-The Division-world, we once again find ourselves asking ourselves what to make of this Destiny competitor.
3PS vs FPS differences be damned, as I explained in my previous piece, What Does a Destiny Competitor Look Like?” the core idea of this genre is to take a popular, accessible game genre and expand it into one that fills play times with RPG gear grinds and activities. For Destiny, it was the FPS genre that Bungie mastered with Halo. For Anthem, it’s the next evolution of BioWare’s Mass Effect. And while Halo and Mass Effect were similarly comparable franchises, the genre gap gave each breathing space. Destiny and Anthem may be different types of shooters, but now Bungie and BioWare are within shanking distance of each other.
These two games may very well coexist peacefully: what some call “shanking distance” is what most would consider “handshake distance.” And right off the bat, Anthem embraces RPG elements that I’ve missed in Destiny. EA kicks off the gameplay reveal with the player accepting an NPC-delivered quest. I’ve wanted this from Destiny. In my opinion, Destiny fails to fully embrace its RPG nature: it needs branching storylines, faction-based missions and a world where we live with the repurcussions of our actions. Because of Destiny’s singular obsession with loot and the taking of it, the “Role Playing” of the game is resigned to our player’s gear.
My player isn’t the sum of decisions, it’s the sum of a smattering of armor. If I change my character’s armor, or switch subclasses, that image of a Guardian is vaporized. My Guardian ceases to exist. There is no abstract identity of him that cannot survive a few clicks in the character menu. Destiny never allowed me to really create my Guardian.
Superficially, sure, they let me use severely neutered character creation to create a physical appearance. But my Guardian looks like shit, and I’ve kept “Keep Helmet on in Social Spaces” selected since Year 1. Barring a hideous patch of skin from a laughably bad character creator—my Legend only exists within my memory. Destiny excelled at creating legendary memories. But I’m looking at a three-year-old character that I’ve poured thousands of hours into, and he stares back at me with empty, soulless eyes. They know nothing of what we’ve done together.
Destiny 2 will fix many flaws with this genre. But it’ll never be the end-all iteration of the whole game type. Anthem’s success or failure will inform Bungie on what Destiny 3 will look like. And if Anthem succeeds—which I both hope and fear it will—you can count on it pushing and pulling the fabric of the “live game” genre. I look forward to what BioWare will bring to the table, and look forward to Bungie surpassing it. Destiny fans should hope for a competitor and pray for a rival.
Watch the Anthem gameplay reveal here
Anthem Gameplay Reveal | EA