Anthem : Blogging in a Video World

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.

Tassyn, a spy “Friend”, sharing into on another friend.

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:

“I don’t want to say her name… “

And yet, others still are just to show that your discussions with an introverted Sentinel captain are having real, human effects.

Plants have feelings too

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.

I hope to never make this wall of fame..

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.

8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. The lore is really neat. It’s a shame that it’s so well hidden. Aside from manually entering the cortex, and then clicking the Mailbox header, is there any other part of the game that shows you it exists?

    I’d have moved the Bard character to earlier in the game. He does a better job than that trailer/teaser/film from a week or so back. Would have liked to been able to listen to him say the same story again for some bits I think I missed.

    1. In the bottom corner a text message pops up saying “you have a new email from X” but it isn’t there longer than 5 seconds as easy to miss. Should be a notification bar somewhere…. although none of it is time sensitive or anything so I just check randomly to see =)

  2. Hah, not what I thought this would be about from my first read of the title. I thought this was going to be about running a blog in an era where video (YT, Twitch, et. al) have seemingly taken over as the consumption media of choice.

    It actually took a bit to reframe and understand the title in the context of how it was meant. Now that I have, I can say that I love these little touches too! 🙂

    Although at times I will admit to finding the rate of them a little overwhelming. I’m still behind, not in the email side of it perhaps, but certainly the Cortex entries over all.

  3. Bottom line, is Anthem worth dropping $60 on? Or am I fine waiting like I did with Destiny 2 (got it for free)? I think it looks like a blast but the negativity out there has me apprehensive.

    1. I am saying yes. The ‘demo weekend’ did more harm then good because the release is better in every way. It’s a little bit single player RPG with a very easy interface for jumping into multiplayer or joining Xbox friends. And levels don’t matter – seems to do that ESO magic in auto leveling everyone so the challenge is the same if your max level friends jump into your first story mission. The world they designed to explore is worth the price given movement is so amazing and they added fun discovery bits in corners so it’s worth looking everywhere.

    2. I’m perhaps a bit more reserved in a recommendation to jump in at $60 than Saltycleric, but where I do agree with Salty is that the demo weekend certainly didn’t do a good job of making Anthem’s case, and I do think Anthem is fun.

      What might be a better approach is possibly to hedge your bets a little with a month subscription of Origin Premier Access (if you were looking to play on PC).

      It’s very likely you’d know before the end of that month whether or not it’s something you’d like to invest further in or not. You can pick it up with 10% off if you decide you do like it and buy it before your sub expires.

      Another approach I’m thinking of now might just be to never buy it, but to treat it as a subscription game but with no box-price, and just ‘resub’ whenever you feel there have been enough content updates to warrant it or the mood strikes.

      All this said, I have got near on 80 hours out of it so far, it just so happened that this was (mostly) within the space of a week as I had the time off work. I figure I have another 15-20 at least from the launch content before I put it down waiting for more updates.

    3. If you have games you are loving then wait. If you are looking for something new – buy. You will get 40+ hours out of it. I’m having zero performance issues (PC) or bugs, the story is good, and the gameplay is awesome. We can finally properly fly.

      Waiting never hurts in a game like this (it’s improved a lot in the first week already) and I basically got it “free” with Origin Premier (based on the 24 other games I have played / been playing through the service).

      If I was a day 1 buyer is be really happy. Even more excited for the future, but definitely happy.

      Last caveat is outside of the major gameplay loop (story / quests / fly + kill) it could be considered an early access title as other features need to be better rounded out. So if you are someone who hates early access that may bother you.

      There. Trying to be fair and sensitive about your money LOL

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