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HomeGaming NewsHow 'Anthem' balances story and shared-world action

How ‘Anthem’ balances story and shared-world action

The planet will be structurally similar to Destiny, World of Warcraft and Monster Hunter: World. It can be gorgeous and dynamic, with intelligent wildlife and a variety of enemies. Just don’t expect to blow up half the map, or cause a giant earthquake that is visible until the end credits.

Fort Tarsis, though, will change. That’s because no one else can venture inside your version of the city. You’ll be able to talk to NPCs, discover more of the game’s lore, and see the consequences of the story and choices you’re making. It might seem restrictive, but keeping the narrative heavy-lifting here — in a self-contained, private microcosm — limits the opportunity for unwanted spoilers that might occur while playing missions in the wild with other people.

Your hunting group will always be you and, if you choose, other player-controlled javelins.

If you don’t care for the story, you can simply enter the town, re-equip your javelin and head straight back out again. It will also be possible to maintain group chat while you friends are stocking up or experiencing story beats in their respective versions of Fort Tarsis. “There are certain game conventions that you just [have to] embrace,” Warner said.

The dual structure of Fort Tarsis and the lethal wilderness, which BioWare calls ‘Our World, My Story,’ affects the role of NPCs (non-player characters). In previous BioWare games, like Mass Effect: Andromeda and Dragon Age: Inquisition, you would meet and converse with characters who later became your party members. In Anthem, though, your hunting group will always be you and, if you choose, other player-controlled javelins. That will limit the presence that BioWare-written characters have in the field. Remote ‘Cyphers’ will chat to you throughout each mission, highlighting key objectives, enemy forces and ancient relics, but that’s about it.

The hope, of course, is that organic player moments will fill the void. The first time you perform a combo takedown, for instance, or push through a stronghold with minimal health, should be just as memorable as BioWare’s traditional storytelling.

The critical path story will have a beginning, middle and end. The larger word conflict, though, will be left unresolved. It has to be, so players can continue adventuring and shooting monsters in the wild. Warner sees the world of Anthem as a “stage” to tell fascinating stories well after release. Like Destiny and The Division, it will be continuously updated with new missions, challenges and gear to keep fans interested. “It’s a really exciting prospect,” he said.

Blending single-player storytelling with co-operative, shared-world action is tough. Warner said BioWare has learned from the mistakes of similar games. “We’re always mindful of our craft,” Warner said.” Just looking at how you engage with your community, whether it’s the type of content that you’re releasing, how you manage your community, and the community tools that you release. These are all things that we think about. And I think that there have been some valuable lessons learned for all game developers over the past several years.”

We’ll see if BioWare has pulled it off next February.

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