At Pax West 2018 in Seattle, executive producer Mark Darrah and lead producer Mike Gamble talked to select press about how Anthem will tell its story and allow players to shape their story while still remaining a part of the overall world that is shared with your friends. Bioware is calling this theme “Our World, My Story” and also unveiled a new trailer as part of their official story-telling panel.
Our World, My Story
All players share the world in Anthem, so as you play the game with your friends, the world narrative advances for your whole team. As soon as you move into the singleplayer portion of Anthem, however, your decisions will impact your story alone. Fort Tarsis is the singleplayer hub for the player, who is part of the Freelancers, an order of sorts. It is here that your decisions will have a real impact on your story. Your relationships with other characters in the game, in particular with your Cypher, a person that you communicate with through the use of technology and who is with you for the ride, is shaped by how you approach any given scenario. Fort Tarsis is where characters that you decide to rescue will appear. You may have characters living in Fort Tarsis that your friends do not, either because they haven’t reached that part of the story yet, or because they’ve told them to take a hike, for one reason or another.
Bioware has gone through quite a bit of testing to ensure that the synergy between your own story and the overall world remains intact. This decision made them face particular challenges which resulted in the decision to separate the singleplayer portion of your story and the global world narrative. It’s an interesting premise that will be somewhat unique from other titles that Anthem shares similarities with. Other games with a focus on co-op play, such as Destiny 2 or Monster Hunter: World, either don’t allow for any decision making at all or prevent players from genuinely experiencing the story together.
The Decision Is Yours
Bioware has years of experience in decision-making aspects of RPG games, but while Anthem has taken lessons from previous Bioware titles such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect, there are significant changes in how players can influence the storyline.
“So, Anthem is a different game. Anthem is not like a previous Bioware game, ” says lead producer Mike Gamble. “The focus on cooperative storytelling is a big thing for us. We’re not trying to build a massic sprawling story with a whole bunch of choice and consequence like you’d see in Mass Effect. We’re doing something different, and not only is there Fort Tarsis where you can learn about these characters, but we’re also setting it up so we can continue these stories for as long as we want to afterward.”
Decisions in Anthem take the shape of choosing from two options. Neither of them is right and wrong, but it does simplify the decision-making process for the player, thus preventing what Bioware called decision paralysis. Asked if there were ever more than two decisions to be made, executive producer Mark Darrah explained:
“No, we do just two. Couple of reasons for that. We’re talking to a different audience, an audience that isn’t as used to these kinds of decisions in conversation, so we want to keep it simpler. But we also don’t want to present you with any false choices, where it’s like, here’s three choices to lead to the same place.”
Teamwork and Social Spaces
Players can group up with three of their friends to engage in the missions in Anthem. Players will be able to replay earlier missions to join friends who may not have progressed as far in the story as they have. However, players will not be able to move forward by joining their friends, though this is something Bioware is going back and forth on.
Anthem will at launch be purely PvE-focused. At this point, there are no plans, and Bioware wanted to create “a great cooperative experience” and stated that weapon balancing issues are a concern if any PvP were introduced.
While players each have their own version of Fort Tarsis, there will be no social space of any kind that allows players to get together outside of missions. It is something that has been talked about, but the concept of “Our World, My Story” means that this kind of area is challenging to implement without breaking the story.
It’s also worth noting that all decisions you make as a player in Anthem take place in your Fort Tarsis, or in your Strider, but never during the actual mission that you’re playing with your friends.
Bioware also stated that Anthem would feature endgame activities like raids that require 4-person squads, but the rest of the game does not. Individual missions will scale in difficulty to allow you to play them solo or with up to three friends without being disadvantaged.
Alphas, Betas, and a Demo, Oh My
A demo of Anthem is expected in February of 2019 and anyone who has pre-ordered the game or is a subscriber to one of EA’s subscriptions models, such as Origin Access or EA Access, is guaranteed a spot in the demo. There will be various closed alpha and beta tests preceding this demo and Mike Gamble pointed out that the demo is indeed a demo, not anything that will impact the final form of Anthem.
The demo will be available on all three platforms, PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, and we can’t wait to find out more about Anthem in the coming weeks and months.