Author Topic: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny  (Read 780 times)

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Offline The E

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Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
So I've been playing this game for a few hours now. Time to have ~thoughts~.

Overall, I do like what I'm seeing here, but this game strikes me as being curiously indecisive and unfocused. On one hand, this wants to be a multiplayer experience: Whenever you go do the shooty bits, you are more or less forced to do so with a team of people, be they friends or randoms. Most of the gameplay seems balanced around things being tackled as a team; this isn't too much of an issue during missions (because everyone knows what to do in those and generally stays together), but in freeplay (Anthem's equivalent to Destiny's patrols), you're mostly alone on a pretty big map with no real points of interest or advertised events to draw people together.
On the other hand, the game's storytelling is that of a typical Bioware game in the Mass Effect/Dragon Age tradition. Between missions, you're dropped into Fort Tarsis, where you pretty much do the same things you would do in between missions in DAI: You talk to companions, vendors, all that stuff, then you head back out.
In Destiny, it's possible for a fireteam to stay together for a long play session; In this, if team members drop into Tarsis, the whole flow breaks apart a bit.
As a result, the MMO and SP aspects of the game are clashing in a not quite comfortable way; It's going to be interesting to see how this is going to change over time.

That said: Looking at each of those clashing aspects separately shows a game that has a good start, but could certainly be improved over time. The in-mission gameplay is tight and fun, Mass Effect Andromeda's combat but with more jetpacks and stronger class systems; The various Javelins have clearly defined roles and somewhat different gameplay each, and experimenting with loadouts and play styles is good.
The story is solid: the writers are pretty good at introducing characters and stakes, and the voice cast is stellar. There's an extensive in-game Codex similar to the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games; there even is an in-game mail system that people use to communicate with you.

On the technical side, this is pretty solid. The major bugs plaguing the demo weekends seem to have been fixed. It runs reasonably well on my (admittedly beefy) rig (An i5-6600k, 16 GB of RAM and an RTX 2070), but there's one massive issue: Load times. Whenever you move from Fort Tarsis to the open world or a mission, or from the open world into a dungeon, there's a lengthy load screen waiting for you. Where Destiny hides these things between pretty transitional animations, all you get here is a load screen with a bar filling up.

In terms of monetization, this game is certainly better about it than Destiny. While you are pointed towards the cosmetics shop pretty soon, the game isn't really insisting you interact with it, and even in the absence of bought cosmetics, the degree of customization on offer right from the start is pretty decent.
Given that you earn the MTX currency at a pretty decent rate just by playing the game, I don't see any particular need to keep spending money on this.

More words to come as I play more.
Let there be light
Let there be moon
Let there be stars and let there be you
Let there be monsters and let there be pain
Let us begin to feel again
--Devin Townsend, Genesis

 

Offline The E

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Re: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
Pictures!



Let there be light
Let there be moon
Let there be stars and let there be you
Let there be monsters and let there be pain
Let us begin to feel again
--Devin Townsend, Genesis

 

Offline MP-Ryan

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Re: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
I echo The E's thoughts.

PC controls, which were my main gripe from the demos, are fixed.  Combat is fun, satisfying, and has some depth - it's a little frenetic right now, but I think that's by design.  Javelins are powerful, responsive, and it feels like you really are a serious badass, made even more badass by a team.  This is also a distinct departure from the ME coop experience, as there you always feel a little underpowered until you hit the max level and loot tiers.

It's definitely a game to be played with friends, though.  While you can solo it, and the world-vs-between-missions balance is a little weird, you usually end up a squad and that's made quite a bit more fun by having other people to talk to.  That can also interfere a bit with in-hub dialogue, so striking a balance is still a bit up in the air.

It is nice to see that, as an $80 game (here in Canada), not only are microtransactions restricted solely to cosmetics, they are all reasonably attainable with in-game play.  This isn't another case of Andromeda or Battlefront II where they've built a full-priced paid game and then decided to screw the customer base into paying for digital items necessary to actually play the game.

Regardless, I discovered that by buying Origin Access Basic for one month, getting access to 10 hrs gameplay, and then 10% discount, I actually paid less for the game that I would otherwise.  And yeah, E, I preordered today.  So when weekend timezones work out, you've got a transatlantic buddy.

And for everyone else... HLP_MP-Ryan on Origin.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2019, 09:24:14 pm by MP-Ryan »
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Offline The E

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Re: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
I really wanted to like this game. For a time, I even fooled myself into thinking that I did, that it wasn't so bad and that it could actually be good.

I was wrong about that.


One of the things that struck me was how unpolished the game was, how several of its design decisions actively were at odds with each other.

Turns out, there's a good reason for that.

I am so glad sometimes that Jason Schreier and Kotaku exist. Gaming needs good journalism like that.
Let there be light
Let there be moon
Let there be stars and let there be you
Let there be monsters and let there be pain
Let us begin to feel again
--Devin Townsend, Genesis

 

Offline Spoon

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Re: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
Quote
Perhaps most alarming, it’s a story about a studio in crisis. Dozens of developers, many of them decade-long veterans, have left BioWare over the past two years. Some who have worked at BioWare’s longest-running office in Edmonton talk about depression and anxiety. Many say they or their co-workers had to take “stress leave”—a doctor-mandated period of weeks or even months worth of vacation for their mental health. One former BioWare developer told me they would frequently find a private room in the office, shut the door, and just cry. “People were so angry and sad all the time,” they said. Said another: “Depression and anxiety are an epidemic within Bioware.”

“I actually cannot count the amount of ‘stress casualties’ we had on Mass Effect: Andromeda or Anthem,” said a third former BioWare developer in an email. “A ‘stress casualty’ at BioWare means someone had such a mental breakdown from the stress they’re just gone for one to three months. Some come back, some don’t.”
Working in the triple eeeeeyyyy industry always sounds so fun and uplifting!
Urutorahappī!!

[02:42] <@Axem> spoon somethings wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> critically wrong
[02:42] <@Axem> im happy with these missions now
[02:44] <@Axem> well
[02:44] <@Axem> with 2 of them

 

Offline General Battuta

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Re: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
I can't believe the E3 demo was made in a couple weeks from a build they designed purely to impress a single EA executive. Flying wasn't even going to be in the game until he demanded a wow feature.

 

Offline 0rph3u5

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Re: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
Quote
One was that in 2016, the FIFA games had to move to Frostbite. The annual soccer franchise was EA’s most important series, bringing in a large chunk of the publisher’s revenue, and BioWare had programmers with Frostbite experience, so Electronic Arts shifted them to FIFA.

[...]

After all, role-playing games brought in a fraction of the revenue of a FIFA or a Battlefront. “The amount of support you’d get at EA on Frostbite is based on how much money your studio’s game is going to make,” said one developer.

Am I allowed a quick "I told you so"?
"When you work with water, you have to know and respect it. When you labour to subdue it, you have to understand that one day it may rise up and turn all your labours into nothing. For what is water, which seeks to make all things level, which has no taste or colour of its own, but a liquid form of Nothing?" - Graham Swift, Waterland

"For a theft, a true theft, must be practiced to be earned." - The Lantern King, Pathfinder: Kingmaker

"...because they are not Dragons."

 

Offline Rhymes

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Re: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
Bioware's knee-jerk response to that article is even better.

Quote
...We don’t see the value in tearing down one another, or one another’s work. We don’t believe articles that do that are making our industry and craft better.

Jesus ****ing Christ on a goddamn pogo stick, how far up your own ass do you have to be to think that response was ever going to be a good idea?
If you don't have Knossos, you need it.

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Offline Luis Dias

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Re: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
I think it was clear from the get go that their vision was vague and opaque, if it even existed. My only doubts were how much of that was on purpose, or if it implied deep structural problems with the development. That doubt impeded me from being harsh on a game that didn't even appeal to me (so why bother), but I guess those doubts are erased now.

The worst part in that article for me was how a developer's dream of having Inquisition fail utterly so that the message that that kind of developing was just unsustainable, but alas, the game was a success, which in hindsight we can plainly conclude that was the most unfortunate thing to happen to Bioware, making them completely blind to the huge structural problems in their development practices.

Bioware is tired, morale is nowhere, their design practice is dead. I think the sooner everyone realises that Bioware is dead, the sooner the ashes may give rise to new glimmers of hope within the overall industry. But of course that won't happen. Its dead corpse will hummer along within the ranks of EA, just like every other company under its heel. Who in 2019 is really dying to work in that company? Who is pulling every string, everything they can do in order to work for a visionless, corrupt, stressful and directionless company like Bioware?

It's dead Jim.

 

Offline Ghostavo

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Re: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
Quote
From the article
Even when a project feels like a complete disaster, there’s a belief that with enough hard work—and enough difficult crunch—it’ll all come together.

The EA spouse story is everlasting.

Project manager's belief in crunch, opposed to a realistic (humane?) schedule is one of the things in the software industry that will never change.
"Closing the Box" - a campaign in the making :nervous:

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Offline MP-Ryan

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Re: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
There's a lot about the game that I enjoy - a lot - but for every single decision decision I hate and that is causing fury in the community, there's an explanation in that article.  I have enough of a backlog that I'm going to largely put the game down until they fix it or it completely dies.  The loot balance is probably the most infuriating issue that's front and center, but for a game that has so much promise just sparkling out of reach, it has fundamental issues that scream out for resolution and BioWare simply isn't either working fast enough or giving enough information to keep people playing.  And that's unfortunate, because - properly patched, updated, and expanded - Anthem has the potential to be something very different and good.

This doesn't, however, address the problem that BioWare as a studio has been flailing for some time with inadequate project management and being, at least by that account, downright abusive to its employees.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2019, 12:38:44 am by MP-Ryan »
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Offline 0rph3u5

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Re: Anthem -- The loot, our Destiny
After an exchange on the Discord on Saturday, I though I am going to give you my two cents on the state of the game at present:

Areas most improved:

- You can go from one expedition into the next without having to load into the Fort first. At the end of each expedition you now get a choice to either go back to Launchbay (which is functionally a lobby), to the Fort (which is your story/singleplayer component) or go directly into the menu to launch another expedition. It is not an automated quene and you still have to slot you permanent buffs manually (which is kinda required once you graduate from Hard-difficulty; which is required to access the best loot). This essentially makes forming a squad much less of an inconvience during Freeplay, as you can just go out of a session, have your loot unpack and then form the squad before heading back out.

- You can access the Forge, aka the loadout menu, at any time. While you will still have to go back out of/finish an activity to unpack loot, and go back to the Fort or Launchbay to swap Javelins, you can now change your gear on the fly. I am personally not much a fan of this one, but I can see the convinence.

- The ammount of "broken at joing" Missions/Strongholds in Quickplay is down almost zero. Mission breaking because a player is dropped in by the matchmaking/disconnected or the matchmaking dropping you in an already broken mission was a plague at launch. This has gone down significantly.

Still missing:

- Functional map for the Freepay-area. The map in Freepay is bare-bones. It shows you where the other players are and gives you a handy "golden thread" of your last minutes of movements. But what it is still missing is an efficent way to find active world events, esspecially those other players are engaged in - the best point you can hope for that is when you either get close enought for game to provide you with nav markers, or player getting downed (as you can see that icon across the entire map).
Freeplay however now has a lot more navmakers to help you find mobs without having to be near ground level all the time. It also helps to keeps down the ammount of unwanted, aimless flying as you can basically go from one marker to next in any subdivision of the Freeplay area.

- Drop-in joing during any activity. This is the worst issue with higher difficulty Contracts and Strongholds. There is still now way to functionally invite players into an ongoing activity, as far as I can tell. Mostly that is because all activities are capped at 4 players and the matchmaking ensures there are no free spots.

- A system to warn you of priority threats nearby. There are number of enemies in Anthem that have very low time-to-kill against you, e.g. the Scar Hunter, and you frequently find yourself surrounded by enemies than can take you down with their numbers. So prioritizing which targets to tackle is key to survival, esspecially once you play on Hard or higher difficulty. In a team, having a functional composition will usually take care of that - having a Storm or a Ranger on your team means that you have a player that can hang back and coordinate - but if you are not that coordinated or just playing a pick-up game, you just out of luck and quickly find yourself downed by an enemy just outside your field of view.



Now, I also have access to the Cataclysm Test Server - like most players who bought more than the standard retail version.

The Cataclysm is not exactly a game changer gameplay-wise. It's essentially a mix of Freeplay and a Stronghold, as the objectives resemble more those of a Stronghold, both in difficulty and coordination with other players required, but there is no linear progression through it, you can theoretically tackle them in any order you like - you can technically even head straight for the Boss. I say "theoretically tackle them in any order" as the timer forces you to be economical about that - while completing an objective returns time onto the timer that ammount is fixed, which can leave you with a net loss.

In the Cataclysm activity you also have to content with a Stability meter, which constantly drains unless you are in safe zone (some objectives are in safe zones, some are not). You can refill Stability through drops found in the envoirment or dropped by enemies. If your Stability runs out, your shield shuts down and flight time goes down signifcantly. It's actually a nice mechanic to keep you moving outside of combat (in combat you are moving anyway), even if you just walk through the objectives.

There are also a few additions to regular Freeplay coming with the Cataclysm, which are, by my count less than a hand-full, new enemy variations, some new World Events and Crystals. Crystals are basically a new Harvet point, similar to Minerals, Vegitation and Scrap. However currently they exclusively provide Embers, which have been one of two limiting factors in Carfting so far (the other being Javeling-specific parts).

EDIT: Before I forget: I finally get the ability to change the attributes of your meele ability!



Vedict: The impression of playing an Early Access Game is not gone - neither on the normal build and esspecially not on the PTS build. But so far it has been moving in positive direction - and considering that is probabily still bottom of the barrel in terms of technical support at EA, huge leaps should not be expected.
I can't in good concience issue "buy"-recommendation, although I personally enjoy Anthem very much, but it much less worse than it used to be.



ps. The Cataclysm also comes with a little story campaign. While I won't comment too much on execution as what you see on the PTS is unpolished to say the least (a central story cutscene is even watermarked with "Unfinished Cinematic"), it is more supplement to the "Heart of Rage"-campaign than a continuation. Not just because almost all of the characters seem to be returning just for a cameo (including one of my favorites, fellow Freelancer Rythe) but because it mostly adds context to events of the "Heart of Rage"-campaign, e.g. why the Dominion was backing the Monitor.

There are some cringeworth moments in the writing, particularly one where writers forgot the cardinal rule regarding re-telling jokes, and like with the "Heart of Rage"-campaign some connective tissue appears to have been left on the cutting room floor, BUT it also very competent writing on average. I am actually curious to see if they can replicate the emotional ressonace I had with the presentation of the original campaign, once it all put together.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2019, 05:31:30 am by 0rph3u5 »
"When you work with water, you have to know and respect it. When you labour to subdue it, you have to understand that one day it may rise up and turn all your labours into nothing. For what is water, which seeks to make all things level, which has no taste or colour of its own, but a liquid form of Nothing?" - Graham Swift, Waterland

"For a theft, a true theft, must be practiced to be earned." - The Lantern King, Pathfinder: Kingmaker

"...because they are not Dragons."