Anthem’s Endgame is Seriously Under-Cooked
This weekend details emerged about what we’re going to expect for Anthem’s endgame at launch. It was disappointing, to say the least, but the game does have the potential to grow into something really special. Today, we’re going to be looking at exactly what the endgame will consist of and whether players should be getting stuck in straight away or waiting to see how the game looks when the dust settles.
Note that this video isn’t a demo impressions video and will only briefly cover my reaction and issues with the demo experience. Right now, I really want to be talking about the more pressing issue of Anthem’s endgame as we’re quickly approaching launch date.
Strongholds are Fun, but Few
Anthem’s Endgame is going to consist of three types of activity. Firstly, players will have access to three Strongholds, one of which is the Tyrant’s Mine we played in the demo. These tend to last around thirty minutes and consist of the players completing various tasks, defeating waves of enemies, and eventually taking down a big boss at the end. The Strongholds are actually really fun, barring some mechanics that will hopefully be fixed at launch like respawn bugs and players flying off with the echoes that you need. With more than a few stages, and a nice boss at the end, these missions are satisfying to play and complete.
However, three of them is simply not enough. Even on the ‘Hard’ difficulty, I was able to complete the Stronghold in about thirty minutes, and I wasn’t especially well-geared, nor would I hope to declare myself a very good player. Admittedly, there are many more difficulty layers to move up through, even into the ‘Grandmaster’ tiers (analogous to Diablo’s Torment system). The higher difficulties are reported to massively increase the toughness and damage of enemies, so players will need to approach them tactically with a strong, developed build. That suggests a good amount of replayability, but unfortunately that content is superfluous and repetitive.
Currently, the difficulty selection is a weak simulation of aspirational content because of the lack of variety. In Diablo’s similar difficulty system, dungeons are randomly generated in almost every aspect. No two ‘Greater Rifts’ will ever be the same, and there are a myriad of enemies and bosses to fight that will keep you on your toes. In Anthem, we’re talking about only three pre-defined mission paths, and three bosses. Unfortunately, though you can make them as hard as you like, people are still going to get bored.
Legendary Contracts Will Fill the Void… Once Per Day
The second activity type available to pilots is the Legendary Contract. These are full, layered missions, given out by one of the factions in Fort Tarsis, which will provide loot and faction standing/reputation. Beyond that, these are simply normal missions, and there is only a single Legendary Contract available to you per day. Now, that might not be as bad as it sounds for a casual player, who can return every day for their Anthem fix.
However, for dedicated players looking to power their way through to endgame and then farm the best loot as quickly as possible (read: me), this is only about thirty minutes of content a day, and eventually, the missions will begin to repeat. We also don’t know if these are simply going to be re-hashed versions of the story-campaign missions, which they very well might be. That’s even worse for replayability.
Nonetheless, these missions will provide a welcome break from running Strongholds, which looks like it will be our primary activity. They’ll also provide a reason to come back and play Anthem every day, at least until you get sick of playing the same missions. Again, though, the difficulty factor will come into play here and we need to consider that the high Grandmaster-tier missions could be incredibly difficult undertakings.
Free Play is There to Keep You Exploring
Finally, we have free play. This consists of flying around Anthem’s map, discovering world events that randomly trigger and fighting enormous World bosses. This type of gameplay is a great way to farm materials for crafting and fill time between missions and contracts, but unfortunately the world feels relatively empty. I’ll save the greater details for our upcoming reaction video, but really there doesn’t feel like there was a whole lot to do in Free Play. When you did find an activity, it was a short burst of action followed by the quick dopamine-injecting release of a loot chest, but then it was quickly back to flying around looking for more.
The devs have stated that there’s going to be more going on in the open-world when the game launches, and I actually really believe that. It’s not too hard for them to trigger events more often or make enemies spawn more frequently, and that’s all going to be more stuff for us to do. There’s actually a good variety of things we can do, too, and while most of the world events are classic affair, they are at least a change of pace from Anthem’s other, more repetitive content. Cranking up the difficulty is also an option in free play, and could make for some really cool encounters with epic World Bosses that have the potential to drop meaningful loot, too. This type of gameplay reminds me more of the random-natured Diablo farming loop, and that’s actually really good as long as there’s adequate stuff to do and find in the world.
Does +Difficulty = More Content?
Now, it’s worth mentioning that the difficulty options is a good thing, as we’ve been dancing around that idea for a while now. Enemies that simply have more health and do more damage might not sound like ‘fun’ to some players, but it really is the gameplay loop of a looter-shooter like Anthem. You fight bad guys, to get better loot, so you can fight harder bad guys to earn even better loot and so on. That gameplay loop is one that I personally find really fun; I love getting that amazing new weapon, earning my place in the next difficulty tier, and gradually feeling more and more powerful in the game.
For some, that might sound enormously boring, but to those people I would suggest that Anthem might not be the simple ‘looking-cool shooter’ that they were hoping for. Anthem is a looter at its heart, and with that comes a necessary element of grinding for power. Enemies will be spongy until you get stronger. Higher difficulties will be next to impossible until you have the right gear or build. That’s not really the issue here; the issue is that players will have to play through more-or-less the same content continually in order to earn that gear. Anthem really needs to keep players interested and excited throughout that gameplay loop, and right now it’s seriously lacking on the raw content front in order to do that. Admittedly, we can’t say for sure what’s going to happen until launch, but it’s safe to say we’re being shown what EA and Bioware want us to see so far. If they had more to show us, we’d probably be looking at it in order to entice more players.
What Kind of Anthem Player are You?
It seems more and more likely that there will be two kinds of Anthem players. Some will log in every day, enjoy a small session of the game’s story missions or exploration, maybe do a daily contract, and then log out. For most people, that’s all they have time for, and that’s absolutely fine. There’s probably going to be more than enough content for those people to sit down and enjoy Anthem quite frequently.
However, the second type of players is the ‘hardcore’. These are those players who will sit and grind through the main story within a week of the game’s launch, and then be looking to gear up and fight through the endgame content as quickly as possible. For those people, of whom I consider myself one, there really isn’t going to be much to do beyond the finish line when the game launches. I expect we’re going to find ourselves getting to endgame and realizing that we’ve some time to wait before we see anything new.
Difficulty levels will provide some elements of challenge and ‘aspirational content’, but largely, we’re going to find ourselves waiting for a ‘true’ endgame. Now, two things here. One, we’re expecting the announcement of a full year’s worth of content as soon as the game launches. This is classic EA, and keeps their players on a leash while giving them something to come back to when the new content comes out. The twist this time is that that content is free, which is actually really good. I just hope that the DLC that comes out is genuinely good content, or people will inevitably (for better or worse) riot.
Secondly, basically every looter-shooter type game that has launched in previous years has done so without much of an endgame, and effectively added one later as the game has grown. Destiny, Warframe, and the like have had years to evolve and develop. Hopefully, it doesn’t take Anthem that long, because if it does we’ll all be long gone by then.
What We Have to Look Forward to
So, Anthem is a game that has enormous potential. It’s clear to see that the game wasn’t in a perfect state during the demos, plagued by a variety of issues including but not limited to a disappointing PC port, subsequent menus and flying controls, server connection issues, sound bugs, and loading screens. Now, besides the loading screens, we’ve been told that all of those things are going to be significantly improved at launch, and again, I’m more than willing to believe that. I don’t think the menus will change much, but they can at least remove the offending ‘D-pad’ notifications, and hopefully do something about the layering of the menus (though the latter is unlikely at this stage).
We’re expecting to see some exciting things at launch, too, such as the introduction of leaderboards, the reveal of Shaper Storms, and the announcement of the year-long plan. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t do much to distract from the issue that three Strongholds is… not a lot.
What Anthem Really Needs
Anthem really doesn’t need much more to be added in order to be considered a great game, and I have to say that I’ve really, really enjoyed my time playing it. But, it worries me that the developers are keeping so tight-lipped about it in the same way that it worries me that they haven’t said much about last week’s leak surrounding the price of cosmetic items. Really, we’re all waiting to see what happens at launch in regards to what gets announced, but ultimately, it’s a real concern that there simply isn’t going to be enough to do once players finish the story and hit max level.
I don’t think that’s an unreasonable worry either; I know for sure that I myself am going to be powering through the game, covering it here on the channel. But, with other big titles like The Division 2 coming up, Anthem is going to have to fight to keep hold of its already-fractured player-base. In an ideal world, the devs would announce new content adding to the game every month. We still don’t know what Shaper Storms and Cataclysms are going to do to shake things up and keep us on our toes, and they could provide a lot for the hardcore player base. It seems more likely, however, that EA will announce DLC coming in a few months that will include some extra bits, and by then… they might have no player base left.
Alright, that’s going to be it for today’s discussion. I’m really interested to hear what you all think. Did you play the demo? Have you been watching streamers? Let me know in the comments what you think, whether you’ll be getting into Anthem straight away or not, and if you share the same aspirations and concerns.
Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I’m FaultyOptics, and I’ll see you all soon for more gaming guides and news.