BioWare Admits 'Anthem' Was a Failure, With a Promise to Rebuild It

There was not a more disappointing game in 2019 than BioWare’s Anthem. The promise of BioWare storytelling dropped into an ongoing and emergent space populated by friends and strangers could have been incredible. Could. Beyond the still-fantastic feeling of soaring through the sky, Anthem was anything but. It was frustratingly mediocre, and in the year since, BioWare has done precious to change that feeling. A Kotaku report from last fall suggested BioWare planned a “complete overhaul” of the game, and today BioWare has confirmed it.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/v743dj/bioware-admits-anthem-was-a-failure-with-a-promise-to-rebuild-it

And those are my thoughts on this.

Please Bioware, just stop. Move onto another game. Don’t let Anthem chew up more of your talent because your management got their ego hurt.

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there’s only one man who can save a game like this

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Yeah, this thing just isn’t worth saving.

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I actually enjoyed my time with Anthem up until the end of the campaign, so…I don’t agree with abandoning it? I’d like it to get better.

goes and hides again

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I would be interested to see what a “better Anthem” looks like, but I also want to see what BioWare does with…not that.

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Chucking two broken pieces of a pool cue into the octagon where ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’ and ‘BioWare’s Brand Equity’ must fight to the death to secure EA’s future

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The (reluctant) Anthem defender has logged on.

I get why folks here are in favor of Bioware just moving on, but I think that’d be a shame. Was the game as hot a hot mess as can be at launch? Absolutely. Did it get by on Bioware Magic? Not in one single way. Simply put: Game bad. However…the qualities that did make Anthem an enjoyable time are still there, and I have not found another game that can nail the feeling of momentum and flight as well as this one. Not to mention the level design (while lacking in quantity), is surprisingly good and interesting for a loot shooter. Unlike, say, Destiny, encounters in Anthem – especially in the dungeons – often required that the player to think hard about spatial awareness. Not just in terms of X & Y values, but also Z. Flying up to take down sniper nests, or being flanked from the rear below made some fights genuinely exciting in a way other games don’t really do for me.

And outside all the game elements worth salvaging, the bones of a good sci-fi story are absolutely there. Not in the sense that what we’ve seen had exceptional narrative focus or good direction. But the world of Anthem is actually interesting once you start digging into it. An enemy faction made up entirely of Homo Sacer? That’s there. Another one that lives underground and mimics the form of a dominant species? That too. The primary for of entertainment is radio serials? Oh yeah. Everything metaphysical is the product of divine singing? Sure, why not. Imagine what a campaign that actually understood its worldbuilding would look like if Anthem were to get a full ARR-style reboot. There is so much potential here – just in the lore alone – that were an Anthem 2.0 to have the right direction and production infrastructure in place, I firmly believe they could deliver on the “Next Big Bioware Game” that they promised all those E3s ago.

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To all the naysayers, I submit the opening menu screen for Anthem:

That stark logo, partially obscured by javelins, that haunting violin. Look me in the eye and tell me that does not deserve to belong to a good video game.

Anthem deserves to be saved because that start screen promises a check that I really, really want to cash.

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I’m also in agreement with Anthem deserving to be saved. Why should the developers of this game should just abandon it? For what? Dragon Age 4? Mass Effect: [Insert Subtitle]? There’s this idea that the only reason they’re revisiting this is because management is attached to the possibility that this game could turn a profit if they just polished it up a little bit. In my understanding, that’s probably right. But is there no room for the possibility that some of the devs working on this game actually, you know, want to work on this game and make it work? Yeah, I hope so.

Crunch is a massive, massive problem at Bioware, but part of the insidiousness of it is that it takes advantage of the fact that there are people who believe in this thing they’re making and want to make it work. The success of this game and its ideas is tied to their identity, and management takes advantage of this to pressure them into working harder. I read a lot of the articles reporting the crunch that went into this game, and nearly all of them touched on this point. So while I’m sure that some of the logic behind this is invariably shitty, I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that some of the people who worked on Anthem actually would like to go back to it and make it something that they can be proud of. However, I also don’t think it’s a stretch to say that management is definitely taking advantage of that emotional desire to get a product they can actually sell. They did it the first time, I don’t see why they wouldn’t do it now.

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I think the Anthem revisit is probably an amalgamation of a few different factors

  1. There’s a plausible business case for resuscitating it.
  2. The dev team wants another crack at it
  3. BioWare’s future credibility is potentially at stake

BioWare’s blog suggests that their principal focus is getting the gameplay house in order, but I don’t necessarily need BioWare to build me a better mousetrap. If in however much time they need we suddenly see people talking about Anthem like it just got its Taken King, I’ll be more than happy to jump back in, but given the choice, I’d rather BioWare get back to giving me friends to hang out with.

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The other half of the FFXIV: ARR story that people seem to keep forgetting is that they continued to update FFXIV 1.0 for another two years (until Nov 2012) while simultaneously building ARR with the rest of the team. I daresay it was a critical component to players’ confidence and willingness to give ARR a chance when in launched in 2013.

Also keep in mind that ARR took two whole years to make. Is BioWare willing to spend two years making another Anthem, hoping it’ll be good? By all accounts, it sounds like the dev team is shifting over entirely to remaking Anthem, leaving a dead live-service game in the interim, which is not what FFXIV did. For Square Enix, letting FFXIV remain as a permanent blemish on the series would have destroyed the company’s reputation (recall that this is around the same time that FFXIII had just landed with a thud and FFXV was DEEP in development hell).

Everyone loves an underdog redemption story. Does BioWare have what it takes to pull it off? Between Anthem and Andromeda, is the BioWare name so tarnished that they need this win or else risk destroying their reputation forever? If they want to follow in FFXIV’s footsteps, they need to put more resources into this, not less, and create a live team to give current players something to hang their hats on (Destiny 1 did this too).

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I’ve only played a bit of Anthem, and I really want them to salvage it. At it’s core it’s something fun, sure. But more over I think that it sucks that people are rooting for the dev team to just sit with an L and move on to something more traditionally Bioware, when the devs themselves said that they wanted to make something like Anthem.

I play FFXIV, I know that studios can turn this kinda stumble into something magical with enough elbow grease.

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I liked Anthems setting and visuals plus some but not all of the gameplay.

I really want it to just be Warframe with cool mech suits TBH.

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One big difference I see between this and FFXIV is that Square Enix reacted to FFXIV’s failure fast. They had Yoshida in charge within just two months, and a little while later they were sharing design docs and development roadmaps with the community. Almost immediately they admitted that from a gameplay and story stand-point the game was a complete failure, and would need to be replaced entirely with 2.0. But they didn’t abandon the game and rebuilt it stage by stage in an open manner. I’ve never seen Square Enix so open about anything.

I still don’t see any kind of coherent idea come out of EA or Bioware as to where the game needs to go or how to get there. Or who is even in charge and willing to take responsibility.

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I mean, it’s worth keeping in mind that a decent number of the devs seemingly didn’t want to work on Anthem, and had their projects cancelled to support it.

It sounds like the Anthem’s studio’s been haemorrhaging devs, too.

None of this is to say that BioWare should necessarily abandon Anthem outright, and if there are any devs still working on it who are genuinely passionate about the project, I’m happy for them. I just don’t think this is a simple case of fans trying to dictate that the devs at BioWare abandon a project they’re excited to keep working on, when you look at the (admittedly limited) information we have on how people working at the studio feel about it.

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I really liked the sound of anthem before it launched so I hope they can pull this off, but jeez, I dunno if they’ll be able to manage it

FFXIV’s big problem was similar to Anthem’s big problem, imo: ego. All that reporting on Anthem suggested that nobody was allowed to mention “other games” like Destiny during development, and that the “Bioware magic” would save them, etc. FFXIV was the same sort of thing where they just assumed other games (WoW) didn’t matter and all they had to do was make a bigger FFXI. They looked down on or ignored the things that they were inevitably going to be compared to and then their game came out and everybody went “This sucks compared to [other game that came out since FFXI].”

Anthem’s comparison to Destiny was always and is still inevitable, so I don’t know how they can fix Anthem without just copying Destiny. Make the loot better, make the shooting better, add a PvP mode, add repeatable/grindable content, stop banning your players when they find ways to grind better. Writing no longer seems like a thing that Bioware can use as a crutch so they’re probably going to have to get a bit better at everything else.

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dang thanks for the reminder, some of those tracks on the soundtrack were/are almost as good as the flying

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I played a fair amount of Anthem and did wring what enjoyment I could out of it, which sounds like a lot more than other people did.

Folks have already said it’s got a good core, and that’s true. The flying isn’t like anything I’ve ever experienced in a game before in how it just, 'ya know, works and feels good! And when the combat hits off it hits me right in the pleasure center of my brain.

But wow did they make you work to find that enjoyment. I was waiting for the game to get better the whole time I played it it and it never did. It was just an okay game for a long time. I don’t blame people for bouncing.

All my friends wisely stayed away from Anthem, but I still would love to one day have a crew of friends flying off in a bunch of customized mech suits! I still want to believe!

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