The big finale and perhaps most anticipated moment of the EA Play conference was the gameplay reveal of Bioware's new game, Anthem. First shown at last year's Xbox conference we were now treated to a section of what's called a "Stronghold mission", where we were introduced to the structure of the game and the four Javelins you've got to choose from (your power armour or mech suit, if you will). It's not as simple as there being four classes, however, and each Javelin will be highly customisable to further support your playstyle. So while a Colossus has tank properties it can both be geared towards long-range heavy bombardment and more of a melee build. Bioware is only talking about four Javelins at the moment, and given the many options seemingly on offer, you'll be able to customise them with a selection of weapons and abilities.
One neat ability we got to see was the shield charge of the Colossus that allowed the player to charge mines and absorb the damage with the shield. We also witnessed a rather neat electrical attack by the Storm Javelin in the demo. This Javelin, described as a bit of a glass cannon with extremely potent abilities, especially when combined with the attacks of other Javelins, was perhaps our favourite, even if we only got to see a little of it in action. The Ranger came across as a bit of a vanilla class without much of in the way of specialisation. The fourth and final Javelin confirmed for the game, the Interceptor, was not really shown off during the demo we saw, but it was described as the fastest of the bunch and that being the case perhaps it's a bit of a rogue to gel alongside the mage that is Storm, the warrior otherwise known as Colossus, and the Ranger that's a bit of a... well, ranger.
It's easy to compare Anthem with games like Destiny and The Division and there's a certain truth to that, but you could also easily compare it to something like Monster Hunter: World as there seems to be less of a "shared world component" here. The way Bioware puts it, it's an evolution of what they've done previously and it's not a stretch to say the combat is an evolution of what we've experienced in the Mass Effect titles (with a sprinkle of the combination spells found in Dragon Age thrown in for good measure). It's your world and you only share it with other players in specific missions. And while there is a certain type of narrative during missions, that's mainly to do with mission specific stuff and the world itself, whereas your story in the world of Anthem will be told in settlements when you're playing solo.
One point of interest explained during the extended demo at EA Play was the "Titan" encountered outside of the Scar stronghold. This behemoth was a chance encounter and part of the open-world rather than something that happens every time as part of the mission. In the case of the second demo, it was explained that the freelancers in question were not of a high enough level to take it down and so they continued on through the underwater backdoor of the Stronghold. Exactly how the level of the enemies you encounter will work is unclear, but one thing Bioware did make clear is that you can play together with friends regardless of their level. A level one player can join a party of three level 30 players and be just as important to the success of the mission.
We were intrigued by the underwater section, but at least in this demo there didn't seem to be any true gameplay underwater as it was merely a transition into the mission proper. Hopefully, there will be underwater gameplay and combat in Anthem as the scenery looked lovely. Clearly, you'll be airborne for much of the game so it's not hard to imagine underwater sections that play similarly (though more slowly for obvious reasons).
A bit surprisingly (given Bioware's heritage) was the focus on action rather than story as the game was shown off for the first time in a while. Sure there was a bit of banter with the crew of your forward base, and on stage the importance of the story and the world was hammered home, but we still learned very little about the world itself, the Shapers, the Scars and your role as a freelancer. There's plenty of time for Bioware to flesh that out ahead of the launch of Anthem in February next year, and as we recover from the disappointment of not being allowed to play the game ourselves at EA Play (we only got to see developers play an extended version of the demo shown during the press conference), we are nonetheless eager to learn more as there's plenty of potential here as the world design in particular impressed us.