There's a chance you played EA and BioWare's Anthem this weekend. Everyone who completed EA's release date puzzle will have known that the full version of Anthem released on February 15, although how much of the game you were allowed to play depended on which of EA's three subscription services you were signed up to. Sadly for members of the two lower-tier memberships, EA Access on Xbox One and Origin Access on PC, you are only given 10 hours and then must buy the game to continue playing, but that doesn't unlock until the February 22. PS4 owners might bemoan the lack of any sub option, but at least they have a simpler life and just have to wait until Friday.
News out of Anthem's first weekend suggests even those playing are having to wait, however, with the frequent loading screens giving Anthemeers lots of time to think. Don't be fooled into thinking these long loads are a bad thing. Oh no. Use this downtime wisely. Join us as we look back at all the great games BioWare has developed over the years. PS4 owners can actually do this too as no purchase of Anthem is required.
How to Get the Most Out of Anthem's Loading Screens
BioWare released a lot of really great games in the past, so we've got a lot of reading for you to do. Thanks, Anthem loading screens! First up is Baldur's Gate, the game that put BioWare on the map, so to speak. A lot has been written about how great Baldur's Gate is, but this Eurogamer article sums it up nicely (and also talks about the similarly excellent sequel). Right here on USG we have an entire episode of The Blood God podcast dedicated to why Baldur's Gate 2 is one of the top 25 RPGs of all time. Podcasts are a great thing to have on in the background while you play a game like Anthem, and thanks to Anthem's generous loading times you'll have even fewer distractions.
Neverwinter Nights might have disappointed players despite earning plenty of glowing reviews (read all about that on Eurogamer), but one game that didn't disappoint was the now legendary Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Not only was this BioWare's most high profile release (and possibly still is), but it earned extra attention by being a console exclusive for Xbox. It later came to PC, but it's fair to say that Xbox players latched onto BioWare at this point like a hair grip on Chewbacca. The Star Wars license helped give this BioWare game a wider audience than its previous games, but the characters and writing are what made such a long-term impact. If Anthem is currently loading and you've had enough coffee to stay awake throughout Rogue One (yes, it's a very boring movie), check out our article on why Knights of the Old Republic is the twelfth best RPG ever made.
Jade Empire came next, a game based on Chinese mythology that showed innovation in the RPG genre but didn't please everyone with its radical departure from the gameplay systems BioWare had become known for. These days Jade Empire is fondly remembered by many, including us. While Jade Empire was another strong Xbox console exclusive, it was 2007's Mass Effect that cemented the development studio as one of the best in the industry. You better hope for a string of long loads as there's plenty to read about this classic, including an entry in USG's Top 25 RPGs of All Time and Eurogamer's three-page Mass Effect Retrospective. If only Anthem was set in a world with ridiculously long lift journeys, eh?
Aside from the 'decent at times but ultimately wasn't a new single-player Knights of the Old Republic' MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect and Dragon Age dominated the studio's next 10 years. Although both of these mega-franchises have had blips and occasional negative reaction from fans and critics, most players associate them with incredible characters and storytelling. On USG we looked back at all three Mass Effect games to assess how great the original is, how good Mass Effect 2's final mission was, and why it's unfair to only think about the ending of Mass Effect 3. Dragon Age took a wobble with the second game, but the first is a much-loved classic, and Inquisition (don't forget) won numerous Game of the Year awards. And yes, it holds up. If you're reading this, EA, feel free to put some URLs to this great content on your Anthem loading screens.
People love to hate on Mass Effect: Andromeda, but it's not a bad game at all. It does perhaps represent a studio that can't get things right out of the gate anymore in a world where games are scrutinized more than ever. Andromeda was undoubtedly damaged by pre-release videos and gifs showing bizarre facial expressions, and it's currently pretty clear that Anthem wasn't quite ready either. There's a sizable group of players who are genuinely enjoying the core gameplay loop in Anthem, but significant issues blight what could be a great game. The recent betas suffered from unexpectedly poor frame rates and connection problems, and now the final (although sort of pre-release) version's loading times are dominating online discussions.
I really hope BioWare can build Anthem into a great game, not just a game that sells well and then rapidly falls away. Cutting those load times down would be a good place to start, but I've already seen talk of grinding and repetitive missions. Content will be king in the weeks and months ahead, as there's only so much cool aerial acrobatics can cover up the cracks. It's hard to tell just how important Anthem's long-term success is on the future of the studio, but if you've used those loading screens wisely you'll know that it would be a colossal shame if more games with superb characters and world-building weren't made in the future.
Major Game Releases This Week: February 18 to February 22
Here are the major releases for the week of February 18 to February 22. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2019.
- Anthem [February 22, PC, PS4, Xbox One]: Yes, EA has once again found a way to mess with the launch of a major game (and a brand new IP, no less!), resulting in the much-maligned release chart for Anthem last month. But Friday, February 22 is the day of reckoning for EA’s new shared world shooter, and perhaps the future of BioWare.
This Week's News and Notes
- Crackdown 3 actually launched! It’s been near a decade since Crackdown 2 released for the Xbox 360, and some of us on USG have spent their entire adult lives hearing about the upcoming Crackdown 3. But now, it’s finally here! To see what we made of Sumo Digital’s long-awaited game, head over to our Crackdown 3 review!
- Big Nintendo Direct, mates. Fire Emblem: Harry Potter release date was nice, sure, but no one saw the knockout blow of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening being entirely remade for the Nintendo Switch, for later this year.
- Also in the Nintendo Direct: Super Mario Maker 2 for the Switch! This sequel should be tons of fun when it releases in June, with plenty of new building mechanics and features already revealed in the debut trailer.
- Wednesday was a big day, but not for all the right reasons. Activision Blizzard announced record profits for the fiscal year of 2018, and then promptly fired over 800 employees with little to zero notice.
- Metro Exodus, the conclusion to the cult trilogy from 4A Games, saw the light of saw, both literally and metaphorically. The final act in the Russian apocalyptic trilogy released on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and took the series to the surface for the first and final time. For our full impressions, check out our Metro Exodus review.
- Final Fantasy 9 launched on Switch, but it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. Unfortunately, the port for the Nintendo Switch is the exact same port of the game that Square Enix released on PC and PS4-right down to the same bugs.
- Neil Blomkamp, the visionary who made District 9 and then, erm, Chappie, made a live action Anthem trailer. Billed as a ‘live action short,’ it’s really more of an extended trailer, piecing together some expositional sections that make little to no sense about Bastion, the world in which Anthem takes place.
- Hollow Knight’s getting a sequel! Big fan of this one. ‘Silksong’ follows on from the events of Hollow Knight, but this time we’re adventuring around the underground in the shoes of Hornet, who featured in the original game. Kickstarter backers of Hollow Knight will get Silksong for free when it eventually launches.
- Axe of the Blood God: With Kingdom Hearts 3 now effectively old news, as is the games industry way, we look back on Final Fantasy 8. We continue the Top 25 RPG Countdown with Ultima 7, and discuss the big news from last week's excellent Nintendo Direct. Subscribe here for the full podcast!