At the end of the very first reveal of Anthem during E3 2017, Electronic Arts and BioWare teased the Shaper Storm. The trailer showed the storm beginning to brew, causing trees to sway and debris to swirl in the air. At the end of the trailer, the squad flew into a massive orb of roiling energy, headed to what was supposed to be Anthem's hardest content. "Experience massive, world-altering occurrences like Shaper Storms," said EA is a press release at the time.
On the road to launch, Shaper Storms were renamed Cataclysms. Just ahead of the game's release, BioWare put out a roadmap of content, promising that the Cataclysm event would go live sometime in May. Unfortunately, Anthem's launch was less than smooth and BioWare has yet to fully recover. Back in April, it took stock of where the game was and delayed many of the planned feature updates on the roadmap, including Guilds, the Mastery System, and the Cataclysm. A few days ago, BioWare updated the roadmap page on the official site to remove all dates, listing mostly the features that are currently in the game.
Last week, BioWare's community team took to Twitch to show off the Cataclysm for the first time since that E3 2017 reveal. The brief glimpse was, like the rest of Anthem's recent updates, a bit underwhelming. What was promised was a vast storm that would upend the environment and provide intense challenges for players. Instead, what was shown was a new zone with new story quests and score-based gameplay. The events look the same as the base game, but with a new Stability Timer and safe zones. Everywhere outside of the safe zones slowly kills the player, while the timer kicks you out of the event once it's up. The Cataclysm is an eight-week event, with new features added over the course of the entire period. What was shown is simply the first two weeks.Watch Anthem Developer Livestream - The Cataclysm | 3pm CT from anthemgame on www.twitch.tv
Yesterday, the Public Test Server for Anthem went live, offering players the chance to try the Cataclysm themselves. The response has been less than kind. Anthem's community has been waiting for significant improvements to the game, and the Cataclysm doesn't feed the machine. Players have lashed out at the event, many taking issue with the "blue filter of death" that surrounds the safe zones.
"It only took about 30 minutes of gameplay to realize that Anthem’s future is done. If this is what all the silence is all about, if this is what we can expect in future updates, then BioWare, I'm sorry but you’re wasting valuable time and resources into this game. To start, the Cataclysm is basically the Freeplay Area with a heavy blue filter of death," wrote Reddit user TheGame1011. "The boss mechanics are boring, baseless, lore-less, and lack all sorts of creativity. Same exact mechanics as a Titan found anywhere in Freeplay. So it doesn’t even feel like new content."
Another post referenced the original E3 2017 reveal trailer, showing the contrast between that and the Cataclysm stream last week. Within the larger PTS feedback post on Reddit, players are noting their issues with several mechanics within the event, including the event timers and safe zones. Some players feel the timers are far too strict, and have difficulty navigating through the blue death field to the safe zones and objectives.
"For one, the timer isn't fun at all. I don't want to race through content and then have to wait for it to spawn again so I can run through it as fast as I can again. One of the nice things about the way Strongholds are set up is they keep the team together. It was a nice change from games like Destiny where it was a race to the end. And now I have to worry about a score on top of finishing on time. Take away the timer and it's much better," said Reddit user MSsucks.
"This is just completely counter to the entire 'I'm in a world' design that Anthem is supposed to be, it also provides no direct player interaction, eventually the clock runs out regardless of how good your team is or how hard you want to fight," wrote Reddit user Zaniel_Aus. "Instead of a timer bar, make the actual sky more dangerous. The longer you stay out in the storm the more static builds up on your Javelin. This means instead of some boring immersion destroying bar you get an actual aerial hazard that needs to be navigated around, again making it feel more like a Storm."
While the overall tenor of the discussion is negative, there are a few players that are vibing with Anthem's new event. One user noted all the new enemy types, including Dominion soldiers with seeking grenades like the Ranger. and a new Brute type enemy the community is calling the Razorback. Others actually enjoyed the timer, making Anthem into something of a skill-based time trial.
"The Cataclysm map offers a lot of replay value. Maybe not because of the huge variety of things to do, but by finding out what strategy will be the best to get the highest score. I am personally very excited to try different things out," said user NcBadrock.
Despite some positive sentiment, Anthem is a loot shooter and its loot problem still looms large. "The Cataclysm is cool, it really is. I enjoy the challenge but I really wish we'd get an idea of where loot and end game progression is headed. Because despite the fact that I'm enjoying the game play I find myself wondering what's the point of the game play loop if I'm not rewarded in some way?" said EA forums user Jasenmp. BioWare has promised fixes for the loot problem in the form of new Warchests, a new vendor in Fort Tarsis, and the removal of the Luck stat for the game, but there's no window on when those changes will go live.
While Bethesda seems to be dragging Fallout 76 out of the Wasteland, Anthem is still navigating its path towards success. The Cataclysm doesn't seem to be the type of content that will bring back players who have left Anthem behind already. Instead, it looks to be something that caters to those who are already enjoying what Anthem provides in its Freeplay modes. Final Fantasy 14 had A Realm Reborn, The Division had patch 1.8, and Elder Scrolls Online offered up the One Tamriel and Tamriel Unlimited updates. It's hard to say whether BioWare will find that magic bullet for Anthem, but future isn't looking too bright.