Anthem is closer to Star Wars than Mass Effect

It probably won’t have lightsabers or giant slug mobsters, but BioWare’s upcoming action-RPG, Anthem [official site], is going to be more like Star Wars than Mass Effect. “Science fantasy” is how BioWare Edmonton general manager Aaryn Flynn describes it in a recent radio interview.

Spotted by PC Gamer, the CBC interview delves into Anthem’s setting and how it differs from the studio’s last sci-fi outing.

It’s in a genre we call science fantasy, very much like Star Wars, very much like the Marvel Universe, where you see a lot of amazing things happening, but we don’t worry about why they’re happening, or how they’re happening — the science of it. Mass Effect is more our real hardcore science fiction IP, this one is much more just having fun in a game world that’s lush and exotic and really sucks you in.

Elsewhere in the interview, Flynn talks about the impetus behind making a multiplayer game. While multiplayer modes have popped up in several BioWare games, this is the first time it’s been front and centre. It’s a product of BioWare growing up, says Flynn.

Ever since I’ve had two sons, I’ve always wanted a game I can play with them, and so this is my chance to build a game I can play with my two sons together. We like to play games together now, and I know a lot of the folks, the men and women at the studio, are finding themselves in that life situation too, so it’s sort of an evolution of the studio — as we all get a little older, a little more mature, this represents a chance for a lot of us to build that game we can play with our families.

Though Anthem is full of big alien beasties and folk traipsing around in power armour, Flynn notes that a lot of the team’s inspiration is drawn from personal experience and the communities they belong to.

We’ve had folks who have moved into Canada, who are immigrants, and so often those stories find their way in. We have those folks who are from smaller communities, and those stories make their way in. We have LGBTQ members, and those stories make their way into the games. And so it all comes from your personal experience, the writers, the designers, the artists, they all want to put into the game things they’ve admired or experienced in their lives.

Now that we’re a couple of weeks removed from E3, and I’ve had time to recover from watching yet another multiplayer demo full of fake buddies, I find myself more intrigued by Anthem. I have zero sons to play games with, but I’d still love to see what a studio traditionally focused on single-player, lore-heavy RPGs can bring to an area currently dominated by games like Destiny.

Anthem is due out in autumn 2018.

69 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Nothing wrong with science fantasy, but not sure “grownups play multiplayer” is a sentiment I can get behind.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      I mean, I thought games moved past that whole “multiplayer is the future of everything”-phase like ten years ago. Multiplayer is fine and can be a lot of fun, certainly, but it’s just a different experience from singleplayer and not one that everyone wants. Sometimes people just want to immerse themselves in a cool world with an interesting story and not have to deal with angry 12-year olds.

      • BobbyDylan says:

        While I totally agree with you, not all assholes who play MP games are 12. There’s plenty of 20-45 year old shitheads out there.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          Sadly, yes. In my experience the average maturity level of online players hovers firmly around 12-14, regardless of actual age. I have better things to do with my life than voluntarily interact with people who think spouting obscenities is an acceptable form of communication.

      • Williz says:

        It’s being moved towards as kind of a less invasive DRM, at least that’s how I feel it.

      • Nevard says:

        This seemed like a drop in/out game rather than one with a persistent MMO world, right?
        I don’t think angry 12 year olds are likely to be a problem unless you specifically invite them into your game.

      • PiiSmith says:

        My son is quite the the gaming partner, though he is only 13 years old. I have met others, who are older and are more childish than him.

      • ludde says:

        The online community ten years ago was actually pretty decent though. Further back it was outright friendly. Who would’ve thought that 19 years after Starcraft with its newbie channels and helpers, GGs to the winning team and all that, it would be standard to have options for turning chat features off in multiplayer games.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          With the ten years I was mostly thinking of Koster and others declaring at the time that everything was going to be an MMO (link to raphkoster.com) and I was like: that’s not what I want at all… but yeah, I seem to remember my few attempts at online play being more pleasant back then for the most part. Still, it’s not just the toxic behaviour. I’m mostly just not that interested in competing with strangers on the internet. Occasional exceptions: I’m liking Overwatch and Gwent, but definitely as soon as it becomes “serious business” I lose interest completely.

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        Multiplayer is pretty much the only venue available for cosmetic DLC, a cash cow that EA has never stopped chasing.

  2. comic knight says:

    When i read the quote he wanted to play a game with his sons i was excited and then the trailer says pegi 18? Thats not a family game. Very dissappointing.

    • StevieW says:

      I picked up on that too. I’m not naive enough to believe people won’t play it with their kids, but promoting it in that way will only lead to do-gooders readying their high horses for launch.

    • PiiSmith says:

      PEGI is only a recommendation (At least in Austria it is.)

      For a lot of trailers the publisher does not jump through the hoops to get a lower rating. So the trailers end up with 18, though the finished game has a lower age rating.

    • poliovaccine says:

      See, I’m actually old enough that, when I was a kid, parents didnt think any game with simulated shooting and killing was a “family” game. I dont feel that way myself, but like my folks, I’m a product of my times. I just still have a vestigial twinge of wrongness at the idea of a monster-shooting game being a “family” game, but especially in the modern gaming world, where grown assed men play Cook Serve Delicious.

      But that’s not really the part that sticks out funny to me, cus at 14 years old I was hardly unprepared for 18+ rated games. So that I can actually see. The really funny part is saying that it’s only as more of their studio become parents that they’ve acquired more interest in an exponentially more profitable design structure aped from the incredible success of Destiny, but of course for entirely wholesome and unrelated reasons.

      I dont think I’m being rancidly cynical if I suspect the omission of “profits” from that explanation of their design decisions is completely deliberate. I’d find it hard to believe the topic never came up.

      Frankly, it could still be half true, what he says. As you raise a family, you do indeed have multiplied incentive to boost your economic standing.

      Thing is, I dont tend to give a bum a dollar if he tells me he needs it for the bus cus his uncle has a job for him in Tulsa (and yet refuses my bus pass). I *do* tend to give to the guy who says he just wants a beer, cus he’s not shitting me. Maybe that’s screwballs, but I’m feeling that same principle at work here.

      • Unclepauly says:

        I firmly believe morals are only slightly bendable with the times. Humans have been around for a very long time so right and wrong doesn’t just flip in a span of 20 years. It’s ingrained into our dna for the most part. I just believe people make concessions to go with the flow or follow what they believe the crowd believes, but deep down we all really know. Unless you’re a sociopath that is.

  3. gulag says:

    Still looks a lot like Firefall.

    • Unclepauly says:

      Yeah it resembles Firefall for sure in aesthetics. Gameplay though, looks years better, and also it looks to be more co-op than mmo.

  4. laiwm says:

    I never dove too deep into the lore of Mass Effect, but it’s not something I would have described as hard sci-fi? They introduced the mass relays to explain FTL travel and then pretty much gave up on trying to explain anything after that – space wizards of different species all breath the same atmosphere and live at the same gravity while throwing sci-fi fireball spells around and it’s a good time. I’m sure this got addressed in some DLC or tie-in novel, but on the surface it’s basically Star Wars with a slightly more military flavour.

    • gunny1993 says:

      I wouldn’t really say hard sci-fi is defined by having the technology explained. I always defined it as speculative fiction with philosophical overtones that asks questions, usually ones about humanity and what we would do in a given set of circumstances.

      I mean, i’d never call mass effect Hard Sci-fi either, it’s Space Opera, it certainly touches on some interesting motifs, but it’s core is adventure more than contemplation.

      • Nevard says:

        As far as I always believed, Hard and Soft Sci-Fi are definitions that are pretty much entirely defined by how scientifically accurate, and thus explainable, the technology is.
        I might be wrong, but I thought that was the only thing the words meant, pretty much.

        And I definitely wouldn’t put Mass Effect on the hard end of that scale :P

        • poliovaccine says:

          Yknow, if somebody flat out asked me the difference, I think your answer is what I’d say. But thinking about Philip K Dick, I dont know if that’s entirely accurate. I know there’s always exceptions, but he’s not the only one who uses sci-fi more as a way to explore purely social philosophy than anything quite so tech-centric. Orwell and Heinlein also come to mind. It would seem to lump them in with entirely the wrong crowd to call their stuff “soft sci-fi,” but none of it has that technical focus. Or maybe some does, I havent read everything ever by Heinlein.

          (Of course, techy stories explore social philosophy too, and Orwellian or Huxleyan sci-fi still does rely a fair bit on its technology to set a scene, but I feel like the difference I’m referring to should be self-evident if you know those authors, even if I cant really articulate it.)

          It’s a worthy thing to hash out, I think – I dont know that there really *is* any “official” definition?

          But when I think of “soft sci-fi,” I think of the old short story compilations I’ve picked up for a dollar or less at garage sales and used book exchanges, stuff that drew me more for the kitsch or bemusing political incorrectness of their titles and contents than out of any earnest interest – stuff with Barbarellaesque Amazon women from space on the covers, or robots blasting lasers from their claws at little green moon men who hide in craters. I think of radiation-related gigantism of insects, I think of lurid illustrations of women in peril and torn negligee, maybe slung over a slimy green shoulder or something. There is a whole world of that stuff unto itself, and it’s usually what people envision when they think of sci-fi as being silly, lowbrow comic fantasy for kids. It just plain isnt the right category to describe those authors I’ve listed.

          I think PKD described himself as a “fictionalizing philosopher,” which is a title that works just fine for him and those authors like him, but that sort of edges them out from under the umbrella of sci-fi altogether… and somehow that seems wrong too. But maybe it isnt – maybe it only seems that way to me out of some lingering associative sense, rather than anything justifiable. And yet, they’re lumped under the heading of sci-fi pretty organically themselves – and with titles like “Martian Time Slip,” it’s hard to argue with that classification.

          “Social sci-fi” doesnt really sound like anything, and “philosophical sci-fi” sounds like a made-up thing designed to attract people into a man-sized roach hotel for exterminating genuine assholes. But I’m sure there’s a good way to describe that stuff nonetheless – frankly I’m hoping such a term already exists, and someone’s gonna clue me onto it, cus it’d make it infinitely easier to differentiate between the types I do and dont like when I go browsing around for something new. (As it is, my most reliable tactic thus far has been to settle on an author whose taste I can trust, and then read the everloving shit out of em.)

          • Premium User Badge

            subdog says:

            So, Dick is Hard then?

          • gunny1993 says:

            I’ve started to just describe books based on the book, in most cases genre tags are too reductive and don’t give a good indication of the book.

            Flowers For Algernon – Philosophical Sci-fi
            Babel 17 – Linguistic Sci-fi
            The Dispossessed – Anarchistic Linguistic sc-fi
            Dr Bloodmoney – Cocaine driven sci-fi (Describing PKD is usually too damn hard)
            City – Dogs are awesome sci-fi
            A Roadside Picknick – Sad Russian Horror sci-fi
            The Trial – Impotent rage sci-fi
            Snow Crash – Shitpunk
            The Demolished Man – ??????
            First and Last Men – Hilariously Wrong Sci-fi
            Cats Cradel – Wet Sci-fi
            Hyperion – Personal short story sci fi
            Fall of Hyperion – Not as good as the last sci-fi
            Dune – WORMS

          • TheOx129 says:

            My understanding is that, originally, “hard” and “soft” science fiction referred to the fields that the works focused on: the former on the “hard” or natural sciences, the latter on the “soft” or social sciences. Over time, this evolved into the current understanding of the terms, where they are instead seen as an indicator of how accurately the science and technology within the work are portrayed (or perhaps plausibly would be a better word than accurately, given the speculative nature of the genre).

            One sees a similar shift in the usage of “high” and “low” fantasy. Originally, it referred to whether the work took place in a completely new world or our own, respectively. Now, it’s instead used as an indicator of both overall tone and even relative presence of fantastic elements like magic: high fantasy works following in the tradition of myths, medieval romances, etc. with heroes slaying evil wizards and finding artifacts, and low fantasy works where magic is rare and the tone is generally grittier.

          • MrUnimport says:

            That’s just a holdover from people jerking off about how accurate and realistic their science is. Which is understandable, but it resulted in an underprivileging of soft sci-fi, which got branded with the sort of escapist connotations that Star Wars has in some circles. People forgot that soft sci-fi doesn’t have to be dumb sci-fi, it just doesn’t care as much about the technological realism and focuses more on people and societies.

      • laiwm says:

        @gunny1993 You’re right, I think hard sci-fi is more about undertaking a serious examination of a what-if. Mass Effect sets out like it’s going to do that, and the Reapers are a really interesting concept, but they just get treated as the Big Bad. I’m aware that there was a DLC that dove into their creation, but I can only judge the game’s lore on the parts that were included in the game.

        By either definition the ME games are basically science fantasy (and good fun too), just weird for them to market themselves as hard sci-fi all of a sudden. Only serves to make me wish harder for an Expanse RPG…

        • svge says:

          No, he is wrong. Hard sci-fi refers to only how accurate and thought out the science and technology are.

          • gunny1993 says:

            Which to me seems like a rather silly way to categorise something, without actually telling you anything about the book.

            Firstly, the nature of science is that most ideas are outdated, updated or proved just plain wrong in a number of decades so over time the list of Hard Sci fi books will degenerate.

            Secondly, if you changed star wars to be more scientifically accurate (Define lightsabers as plasma swords, change the force to graviton manipulation, make space battles realistic) it’s still going to a film about space wizards going on a hero quest to defeat some nazis.

            Just seems to me that the definition isn’t a very good one, and doesn’t cut to the core of what science fiction is about, which, since it’s a sub genre of speculative fiction, should be speculation.

          • Meatpopsicle says:

            @Gunny it’s a secondary descriptor of the story/genre – and really not relevant if you’re not a stickler for it. A bit of space magic, if it follows the stories own internal logic, never hurt anyone.

            If you’re actually interested just look up the definition of hard sci-fi, You can’t disagree with a recognised genre description because you think it doesn’t sound correct.

    • Nahadoth says:

      There’s actually a lot of stuff explained fairly in depth in the ingame codex about the workings of alien cultures and biology to ship weapon systems and ship vs ship tactics, and how the one influences the other. Specifically in the first ME there is a lot to read if you want it.
      I would also say ME isn’t “hard sci-fi” but it’s definitely “true” sci-fi rather Star Wars and other fantasy-in-space.

      • aoanla says:

        From what I’ve seen of them (I only really played much of ME1): Mass Effect (1) wanted to be the kind of semi-hard SF that Star Trek is – it cared enough to want to look like it had thought about how things were possible, even if some things were obviously not. The later ME games seemed to get progressively more Science Fantasy (and the genre shift is probably part of the backlash that built). None of them were “deeply-hard” SF, but the first one at least wanted to be mistaken for it if you took your glasses off, from 10 feet away.

        • Banyan says:

          Are we talking JJ Abrams-Trek, or Roddenberry-Trek? Because real Star Trek was at pains to keep its science fiction plausible, while Abrams just wanted to make Star Wars films but couldn’t get access to the IP at first.

          • Premium User Badge

            subdog says:

            And by great pains you mean used simple devices like “dilithium crystals!”, “anti-matter!”, and “reverse the polarity!” to conveniently explain away anything that got in the way of the screenwriter’s plot.

        • April March says:

          Yeah, pretty much. ME1 is definitively hard sci-fi; the remainder of the games are only hard because the first one put in the work, they didn’t care much about the science any more. (The only exception was the biotic powers, because apparently some people think they are allowed to have one (1) totally magic thing in their serious hard sci-fi. See also: telepaths in Babylon 5.) It’s easy to forget that the game was named after a sciencey thing that happens in its future.

      • laiwm says:

        Yeah, I’m dimly aware all that lore exists but it feels a bit like the extended universe of Star Wars, where some novelist explains how lightsabers work and what a parsec is. I feel that if it’s not addressed in the main story then it doesn’t really count in terms of deciding the “hardness” of the sci-fi.

  5. Kem0sabe says:

    Mass effect is this hardcore science ip? That’s damn hilarious.

    Considering the magic endings of the original trilogy, and how Andromeda ventured even into more ridiculous shenanigans, I very much doubt Bioware has a clue about what they are talking about.

  6. Hoot says:

    I’m not excited by this in the least. Mass Effect 3 (ending controversy aside) was the last awesome game to come out of that studio.

    Every Dragon Age except the first one has sucked. Andromeda was a complete sham. No reason to believe this magical new IP will be any different.

    The Bioware of Olde is long dead. This new entity is a corporate android akin to Ash from Alien. Happy to throw people under the bus in pursuit of his companies agenda. Only instead of Weyland Yutani wanting to secure an alien life-form for a bio-weapons division, it’s EA wanting to rinse the wallets of everyone who once called themselves a Bioware fan by producing over-marketed, stale, badly written trash that has been done and done again by far better development studios.

    Not even sure how they can call this viable when Destiny 2 (not that I can vouch for it’s quality as I am a die-hard PC Gamer and never played the first one) is around the corner. I mean it’s still regarded as a good thing that the sequel is coming to PC right? And in the realm of casual online shooters it was pretty damn good?

    • laiwm says:

      I’m very interested in this, but not really for Bioware’s involvement. The art style has strong overtones of Titanfall 2, and I’m hoping that means they’ve moved some of the dev team over to this new IP. If they can get the moving & shooting to feel as good as it did in that game, then this could be magnificent.

      • SaltTitan says:

        I wouldn’t count on that. Respawn is an independent developer, EA doesn’t own them it just publishes Titanfall. They would have to woo developers over same as any new hire, not just shift them like they can with Bioware.

    • GameOverMan says:

      Burke, it was Burke.

      • Hoot says:

        Not sure if that’s a quote (Ripley does actually say those exact lines in ‘Aliens’) or an attempt to correct me. If it’s the former, fair play. If it’s the latter then you’re flat out wrong, sunshine. Burke is a sleazy human in ‘Aliens’ and Ash is the corporate android in ‘Alien’.

        They’re both bastards with the same end goal though.

        • GameOverMan says:

          Yep, I was quoting Ripley. In any case, I think Burke personifies better what you are referring to. At the end of the day “poor” Ash was programmed to act that way, he/it was following a set of directives whereas Burke had the luxury of free will.

          • Hoot says:

            You make a compelling point, matey. Although I would argue that EA are the “programmers” and Bioware are the “android”. Still, whatever analogy works :) At least we can agree that Alien and Aliens are among the greatest sci-fi films ever made.

  7. Pich says:

    “all our good writers left, so all science is magic now”.

  8. batraz says:

    It didn’t occur to that gentleman that one of the appeal of videogames is that until now, you were playing them without your parents. I mean, I don’t wanna grow old either, but that’s no reason for ruining everything for the real kids out there.

  9. batraz says:

    “Honey, don’t ask me anything this week-end : it’s starwars-lgbt-shooter time with my boys”

  10. Turkey says:

    “Papa, there’s a cache of thunder rifles 25 klicks north of here!”
    “Very well, Robert. you’re learning.”
    “Heh! Right in the middle of that nest of level 46 Moogoo lizards, you mean. Nice try, buttface.”
    “You’re the buttface!”
    “Now, now. I’ll have no fighting in daddy’s creation. Say you’re sorry to your baby brother, Ian.”
    “Pfft. No way!”
    “My beautiful baby boy, you leave me no choice.”
    **KillRaptor69 banned from server**

  11. bit.bat says:

    I guess that for an interview for a major news network, using references such as Star Wars and the Marvel universe makes sense considering the broadness of the audience. Also the whole family thing might have been mentioned for the same reason even if chasing the Destiny train might also have a lot to do with it.

  12. FreshHands says:

    Gods, how I hate all this marketing trashtalk.

    I guess it works well enough. But what does that say about the state of our civilization??

    Cue in the Rains of Castamere…

    • Unclepauly says:

      It says our civilization is still growing up, which is pretty damn accurate I think. There are some of us ahead of the curve who should be helping others instead of crapping on them but alas, that’s probably part of the process.

  13. Samudaya says:

    For Pride month Bioware decided to promote Mass Effect: Andromeda even though the game treats gay players as the very lowest priority. Something straight people will never unstand as they get catered to in almost every game. Now this rubbish. Star Wars: The Old Republic was even worse when Bioware announced gay content before launch and didn’t deliver anything until an expansion much later. It’s like Bioware’s development teams were pushed because of Dragon Age to be inclusive but besides Dragon Age the other teams don’t care all that much about diversity.

    • Umama says:

      What, you don’t want to romance a bulbous pulsating blob man? :-P

      For what it’s worth, I’m gay and live in Edmonton, and Bioware is a consistent sponsor and presence at Edmonton Pride. They sponsored a youth activity centre this year and most of the pride flags I saw had the Bioware logo on them. They also sponsor our symphony and other cultural events.

      I do agree they’ve done best with Dragon Age for LGBT inclusivity, but even in games where they’ve fallen short they’re still doing more than most other game studios with respect to LGBT characters. And I believe Andromeda came primarily out of the Montreal studio, not that it excuses them.

    • Premium User Badge

      Drib says:

      Come on. They’re doing more than most people and all you do is complain anyway. Applaud them for starting! Maybe they’ll keep going! Maybe other people will join!

      Or join the lot of other people bitching about every fault in their handling of things, and ensure that no company will ever bother trying again.

      • brucethemoose says:

        Yeah. In the context of, well, every other AAA game, I thought Bioware handled it pretty well.

      • Unclepauly says:

        (Or join the lot of other people bitching about every fault in their handling of things, and ensure that no company will ever bother trying again.)

        That may be the intended outcome, a concerted effort to sweep this stuff under the rug.

    • Unclepauly says:

      To be fair gay people are what? 1 or 2% of the population? The fact that they have some type of lgbt input into pretty much every game is going above and beyond imo. I don’t think anyone should be forced into including things just for the sake of inclusion and they do it on their own free will(I assume).

  14. Levarien says:

    Mass Effect is based on a magical element that lowers the mass of objects when current is passed through it. Biotics exists because certain people can inherently create and alter these mass effect fields. I honestly don’t see much difference between biotics and the force (outside of the mind trick and precognition stuff).

  15. Premium User Badge

    Nauallis says:

    I cringe whenever I see those armored suits. In the demo video we see the character step into one, putting a leg into one of the suit legs. The problem is that the suit legs are double-kneed (like Halo’s Elites) or walking on their toes (like a dog’s leg & foot), depending on how you want to define it. Where is the wearer carrying their weight? Hopefully on their hips and pelvis, so they are effectively ‘sitting’ in the suit, but then that means that the wearers’ feet are constantly pointed towards the ground.

    Does that mean that when they run or sprint, it’s essentially like pedaling the world’s largest bike? Aside from just the awkward position of holding one’s arms up while pedaling furiously, I suppose that might not be too bad. But… if the wearer’s weight isn’t carried as if they are sitting astride the suit, man, that would be an uncomfortable way to walk around. Anybody else ever used a kneeling chair? This would be a combination of that and wearing high heels – lots of pressure on the balls of the feet and the top of the shin right under the kneecap.

  16. Babymech says:

    Bioware’s Destiny more like Destiny than some not-Destiny things.”

  17. Deviija says:

    I am looking forward to what they are going to do for this game. For the first intro outing, there is a lot of unknowns. I can’t say I am too thrilled by a Destiny/Wildlands/Divison type of game where it is purely about quest notification, then shoot everything, then grind for loot for months.

    This is BioWare, so I am hoping for a more choice and consequence roleplaying experience as the skin over the shooting. A lot more lively character, some great lore and world-building, more interactive relationships with people in the world, and perhaps some NPC companion cast of characters you can bring along (similar to SWTOR, where you can have one NPC companion with you and a hub where your band of misfits hangs out) and such. Flavor and meat, choice and roleplaying, is what I look forward to in BioWare games. If it is a barebones world focused purely on shooting, then I can’t see myself interested. I’m looking forward to more info and news in the coming months.

  18. Aspirant_Fool says:

    Everybody’s complaining about the definitions of SF subgenres and multiplayer cash-grabs, and I’m just sitting here thinking, “…Radio interview?”

  19. unraveler says:

    Star Wars is more Sci-Fi with some little fantasy elements.
    True Sci-Fi & Fantasy mix go more wild with both genres: like Warhammer 40k, and Shadowrun!

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>