Screen Critics Misael Duran voices his concerns over Bioware’s upcoming new IP, Anthem, and the state of the gaming industry possibly lacking originality.
Making a new IP is hard. Coming up with a fresh new idea and trying to sell it to an audience that won’t be familiar with it will always be an uphill battle. This is why sequels are so prevalent, in both films and video games. When a new idea for either a video game or film comes out, I will almost always admire the ambition in creating something new. Sea of Thieves, which was unveiled in Microsoft’s E3 2017 presentation, may not necessarily be my type of game, nevertheless I admire that it is trying to do something new. Bioware’s Anthem on the other hand, in its current state, feels completely void of originality.
Anthem is a game that takes place seemingly in the future and in far reaches of space, centering around a group of freelancers who use cool-looking armor to go on missions. Nothing about that simple premise was original; there have literally been several well-establish franchises that use a similar premises and settings. A space adventure in videogames has never been new; it has been a common theme in videogames since the days of Space Invaders. Using armor to do a variety of abilities has also been an old videogame trope, arguably popularized with Master Chief’s armor from the original Halo: Combat Evolved.
It’s the armor that irks me the most, as many of the features present in the E3 showcase seem indicative of what I seen from other games. The jumping and shooting reminds me so much of the Halo and the Titanfall series, it makes me rather want to play those games now instead of waiting for this one. I have already played as an armor wearing badasses, flying around and shooting across the galaxy. The environment even looks a lot like the setting of Titanfall and even Evolve – the creatures designs especially appeared to be unremarkable in the short presentation. Since the video was so short, it is still unknown what kind of game it will end up being. However, with that said, there was nothing in the showcase that I felt I haven’t seen before.
Despite that, the game has received so much acclaim from what little has been shown. I am not really surprised, as the game may lack innovation, but has a beautiful presentation. Though there are moments of uncanny valley on display in the graphics, particularly in the faces, the actually look of the game is great. There are a lot of details in the setting and it looks very real. The shooting may act very basic now; nonetheless it looks fun enough to gauge interest.
However, to me personally, I feel that does not show me it will be a fantastic game once it releases. At best, it feels like it will be a very competent game with gorgeous graphics when it releases. To me, truly great games are made when risks are being made. The Order: 1886 was, for the most part, a competent game. Yet it was also very generic in many places and it was heavily criticized when it finally came out, despite its initial hype. Anthem needs to be more than what it is being currently shown to be in order to prevent backlash. I don’t understand why the video of Anthem just shows the most generic parts, and not show something more interesting and new. Both Sea of Thieves and the Ori sequel showed something new, and they were highlights in the Microsoft presentation. Both games have a unique tone and setting; with Ori looking just as amazing as Anthem.
I can’t really harp too much on Anthem, as none of us really know much about it yet. I won’t deny it is beautiful and it may end up blowing all my expectations out of the water. I just wish it just didn’t seem so unoriginal at this current state. With that said, like I mention earlier, making a new IP is really hard. Familiarity with a brand helps it sell, and coming up with something new is becoming harder and harder. It is also the best for a company to do something that know would sell rather than risk with a new idea. New ideas do not often sell, and futuristic shooters set in space sell well often.
It is possible the market is moving away from futuristic shooters, evidence being Call of Duty’s decision to move back into a World War II setting; though the response to Anthem may prove otherwise. With Bioware’s latest “failure” in Mass Effect Andromeda, it maybe the best interest in the company to do something that would sell. It may lack innovation in its current form, but Bioware may need it to look like that to help it sell. Whatever form it takes in the end, I just hope it will be something that would be worth remembering.