The Game Awards brought a handful of new trailers with them, one of which is a story trailer for Anthem.
We get our first look at the villain of the piece, someone who – as my friend aptly put it – looks like Daft Punk and Darth Vader had a baby. Screen Rant has an excellent piece with new Anthem information that I highly recommend reading, but the story-centric part of that article is this:
In Anthem’s story, General Tarsis and the Legion of Dawn were responsible for saving the world from the Anthem of Creation (an unknowable force, like gravity, that can be used in many ways, not unlike the Force) and the Shaper gods, the people who created everything and who knew how to operate the Anthem but abandoned the planet centuries ago. And now, the Dominion, particularly a person called The Monitor (seen at the end of Anthem’s Game Awards 2018 trailer) is seeking to use the Anthem of Creation in order to establish “peace through force” in the world of Anthem (again, there’s no name for this particular planet, though BioWare’s devs did explicitly mention that this world has zero connection to Earth).
The Monitor sounds an awful lot like a fairly traditional fantasy/sci-fi villain, which is to say that Bioware isn’t really straying too far from the story templates that they’ve built for themselves over the years. At this time, the only thing that Anthem really seems to have going for it is that people say it’s a lot of fun to play, but having not played it myself I can’t confirm either way.
To be perfectly honest, Bioware hasn’t really pushed the storytelling bar any higher since the original Mass Effect, and actually lowered it somewhat with the tolerable but largely unimpressive Andromeda. We’re living in a post-Witcher world, one in which we’ve seen what complex choices, moral grey, and impactful decisions look like. Most RPG developers don’t seem to have caught up and, as a result, can’t really convey the emotional weight that the Witcher series did so successfully.
Anthem is pretty, yes. It looks like fun, also yes. But, dammit, in an RPG I want more. I want reasons to care. And this latest villainous cliche doesn’t seem like he’ll have that sort of impact.
Hopefully I’m wrong. We’ll find out on February 22, 2019, which is when Anthem releases on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
In the meanwhile, if you’d like a reasonably detailed look at gameplay, check out the full gameplay demo from E3 2018, the developer livestream from November 1. There’s also a Javelin customization livestream which, admittedly, was pretty damned impressive.