Anthem – After a Pause

I read a lot on the ship.  Nearly 5 books in the Foundation series.  I’ve read that entire series every 2 years since I was a teen.  It’s vision of hard sci-fi (and everyone smoking) was quite the pinnacle of the golden age.  What it truly missed was Haldeman’s appreciation for rate of change.  Which is fine really, since in the 40s the rate of scientific change was measured in decades.  Today, we’re lucky to go a year without a massive change on the tech scale – primarily driven though insane advances in computing technology.

When I played the original Diablo, what was delivered was pretty much what I got until the expansion launched.  Diablo 2 had more updates, but most were over years. Diablo 3 had big tweaks that took months to roll out –  the concept of Seasons alone was a big shift.

So now let’s look at Anthem.

The game “launched” on Feb 22, so we’re 1 month in.  Next week is patch 1.04, which is not adding content but is addressing a laundry list of bugs and some major complaints on loot.  More info from a recent livestream.

Let’s get to the point though – at launch Anthem’s end game was for most purposes broken.  The content was buggy, unbalanced, and un-rewarding.  Each patch has made large strides to correct this.   As the game stands today, the best way to get gear is

  • Run Freeplay only
  • Run at the highest comfortable difficulty (e.g. a normal enemy doesn’t take a full clip)
  • Kill everything you see (I got a legendary from a regular wyvern)
  • Use your highest power level (lower levels get less drops)
  • Have ~90% luck (hard cap)

Recent changes have made Freeplay better – Titan spawns are actually manageable, there are more events, and more enemies.  1.04 will add map icons for events (yes!!!), simplify overheating, but won’t address respawn locations.

Strongholds were recently brought in line, so that they generally have the same difficulty / duration.  Running them until you get your first MW skills is a smart move, but after that, there’s little reason to run them.  1.04 will change that.  Daily challenges provide keys, which can unlock after you take down the last boss.  1 chest per player who has a key (so up to 4).  There will also be Legendary Missions (replays of existing quests) – not sure what the rewards are here.

There are still some gaps left to address – among those I consider critical rather than Quality of Life.

  • Power scaling (Storm are the worst here since Gear stats are much worse than Weapon stats)
  • Support gear masterworks (given that power levels impact nearly every end game calculation)
  • Loot drops rates / inscription balancing

I would note that nearly all of these issues were identified in the demo open beta, or within a few days of launch (when people were at max level).  Anyone who’s reached end game could see these issues – which is the topic for another post.

After a month, I would say that BioWare has managed to apply 3 distinct kitchen sink patches, with another due next week.  As much as it’s a symptom of the times that these 4 patches are required, it’s worth note that this cadence of change is insane.  Can you imagine the hours the devs are putting in to push this much out?  I’ve done my fair share of crunch before a product launches, and as painful as that is, it is but a fraction of the crunch required once a product launches and things go sideways.  Taking a step back, I really hope the industry at large takes a look at what’s happened here and does it’s damn best to avoid it in the future.  For half the investment (time), it would have received double the return (happy players and positive news articles).

At the least it’s obvious BioWare wants the game to succeed and is taking very large strides to fix things in a rapid fashion.

4 thoughts on “Anthem – After a Pause

  1. I haven’t played in a while, but will go check it out when the patch launches. I really do want the game to succeed. I also want to be rewarded with some sort of progress, even if it is slow, for my time. Drop rates still need to be tweaked from when I last played and I don’t think I saw a mention of that?

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