I’m not going to spend much time talking about the review bombs, legitimate concerns, legitimate available fun, or all the same things most people are talking about with Anthem these days. It’s clear there is an unfair bias in the review scores (lower than Fallout 76? Really?) and it’s a good research project to show how the monetization of opinion – clicks (etc.) is a driving force behind both the hate AND a lot of the love. we are seeing.
There is a good lesson in there somewhere. I am not exploring it today.
What I am discussing is how most people are missing out on the rich lore, history, the nuance and variety of the different characters and personalities of the both the main (and side) players in the world of Anthem. In Fort Tarsis and out exploring Bastion completely being missed over – and mostly because a lot of that is locked behind text.
Part of this is Anthem’s problem – no one is forcing them to do text. But they do, because it is cheaper. In Mass Effect Andromeda one of my favorite parts was reading emails from the other characters. It really fleshed out their personalities. Well, it’s here in Anthem too – and it’s just as great.
Not all of it is earth shattering, plot moving things. Nope, some is just the unbridled joy and immaturity (yet young insight) from a young merchant who loves wild animals. The emails are meant to make the world feel a bit more alive and … human … and this one did just that:
And yet, others still are just to show that your discussions with an introverted Sentinel captain are having real, human effects.
These little bite sized pieces really flesh out the characters. They do pop up in the bottom right corner when available but it’s a quick pop up and something I seek out frequently when I need a gentle break from the action.
My gameplay is a loop – explore the fort, talking to all that will bother. Grab all the “quests”, go into the world, hectically fly around, kill things, complete quests (get loot), return to Fort Tarsis, rinse repeat. It is very satisfying. And completely bug and issue free (For me) but sounds like the rest of the world is EXPLODING IN GAME DEFEATING BUGS (sorry.. it’s a loud minority).
It’s not just emails, but searching out in the wild gives great Codex text too.
It’s worth the time to look around. And while I enjoy reading the written word, there is something to said about using the power of video game media to it’s strongest. Using voice instead of text is far more impactful. Consider Marelda’s story.
([Minor spoiler alert]) Marelda has a story chain where she is waiting for her son. But as you chat with her you realize something isn’t quite right, and she suffers from a mental illness, and eventually you have to make the hard choice when she thinks YOU are her son, finally returning. Do you lie and let her know that you are her son, back finally? Or tell the hard truth? This was a hard choice for me. The various times I interacted with her made me care for her, and then I was put into a hard position.
Learning about her story through emails would not have been as strong. Having to look the elderly woman in her (digital) eyes and lie to her (or tell her the truth) was a struggle. Reading an email not so much.
Anthem goes a small step further using visuals to tell it’s story as well – consider the Wall of Freelancers which tells the story of how each Freelancer died. It’s a bit prehistoric in style but still a nice flavor add in.
The first dozen or so times I didn’t even notice the wall, because I was in such a rush to “get to the next mission / loot roulette” that I forgot to stop and smell the (digital) roses, so to speak. And that’s a shame, and I know most people experiencing Anthem are stuck with the (seemingly) big things in their head (loading screens, no map pings in Freeplay), not the small little details that truly world build and capture imagination.
Hopefully the tech gets worked out while the world continues to flesh out. I’m glad Bioware continues to explore world building using all tools available to them, but suspect a video montage spoon-feeding would make “the masses” more content than what is there. Truth is, they probably wouldn’t notice it anyway.