To say the road for Anthem has been rocky would be an understatement. Since its release a year ago, Bioware's open world multiplayer project has struggled to maintain a player base after fairly respectable initial sales, though not enough to meet the projection of 6 million units sold by the end of March 2019. The much anticipated game was drummed up with anticipation, actually spending about a decade in Bioware's planning and implementing, saw a laconic performance throughout the year, showcasing a lack of variety in gameplay, uninspired story elements, and boiling down to a glorified looter shooter.
This lead to a report in September 2019 Bioware abandoning the initial roadmap planned for Anthem less than a year in and deciding to focus on "seasonal updates". This has lead to much speculation about the fate of the game, many believing Bioware's fate is determined by its success or failure and Electronic Arts will quietly cart the game off. Developer and Bioware staffer Casey Hudson spoke in an update written regarding Anthem's future, which may clarify the more murky matters surrounding the project.
"It has been a thrill for us to see the creativity of our players in designing customized Javelins, and watching them master Anthem’s flying and fighting gameplay. I am so proud of the work the team has put into this game, and at the same time there’s so much more that we – and you – would have wanted from it.
Over the last year, the team has worked hard to improve stability, performance and general quality of life while delivering three seasons of new content and features. We have also heard your feedback that Anthem needs a more satisfying loot experience, better long-term progression and a more fulfilling end game. So we recognize that there’s still more fundamental work to be done to bring out the full potential of the experience, and it will require a more substantial reinvention than an update or expansion."
Aside from its lackluster design and repetitive gameplay, Anthem's run has been littered with many technical issues that hampers the experience. The game's loading times drew the ire of many, as well as crashes on the PS4 version that shut down Anthem and bricking the console entirely. Lead producer Ben Irving left Bioware in August, as well as departures from other staff members subjected to massive crunch periods held to finish the game. Its launch also ran very close to Respawn's Apex Legends, and while correlation isn't causation, it probably doesn't take much to read into another multiplayer game leading many gamers to make a decision about which one they would prefer to play.
Anthem's initial plans seem to run against Bungie's Destiny series, as many comparisons can be made aesthetically between the two. The conflict with development stemmed early and often, such as the mandate for all EA games to use the Frostbite Engine, so elements like crafting were omitted from Anthem due to difficulties with the engine. Many of the high-end promises were significantly scaled back from Anthem's original demo to the final product. It's not uncommon for a game during its development cycle to receive an overhaul to its design, but when it came to Anthem, there just wasn't enough time to fulfill what was projected. Casey continued:
"Creating new worlds is central to our studio mission, but it’s not easy. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we miss. What keeps us going is the support from players like you. Your feedback gives us guidance on how we can improve, and your passion inspires us with the courage to create. I look forward to working together with your involvement and feedback towards the best possible future for Anthem."
Should Anthem receive a complete gameplay overhaul, there's a possibility that it could be salvaged. It wouldn't be the first video game to see a refocusing and rebirth. The much maligned No Man's Sky revamped its entire design that provides a much more robust experience and Hello Games, who kept their heads down and got back to work throughout the vicious backlash, was given much praise. Final Fantasy XIV was rebuilt as "A Realm Reborn" after fans weren't please with its middling game upon release. It's now talked about as one of the best MMOs available. it's not impossible for Anthem to improve its reputation and rise from its own ashes, it will certainly be intriguing to see how Bioware recalibrates the focus and aim to have Anthem hit its mark, if it's not too late.