When BioWare announced that it was ceasing ongoing development of Anthem yesterday, the news wasn’t exactly surprising. Flying around in super-powered exoskeletons was a thrill, but Anthem’s wings were clipped right from launch. It was a mess of half-realized progression systems and broken combat, reportedly the result of years of troubled development. But that doesn’t mean Anthem’s demise isn’t disappointing to the few remaining players hoping that BioWare could pull off an unlikely comeback.
It might surprise you that, despite the overwhelmingly negative reception to Anthem and BioWare’s inability to sustain the game with frequent updates, thousands of players still remain active in its different online communities. The subreddit still has 170,000 members, while its official Discord server currently has over 4,000 online members. Even though the future looked bleak, a lot of people still believed in Anthem.
Holding onto hope
One of those who was still rooting for BioWare is a player named Vargoth. He recently sunk 70 hours into Anthem, and came to believe in its potential and BioWare’s ability to save it. Weeks ago, when news began circulating that EA would be reviewing BioWare’s progress on Anthem Next, a rework of the original game, devoted players began rallying under the banner of #IBelieveInAnthem to show their support.
“[It] made me decide that I want to support a community that needed the support in hard times like that,” Vargoth explains. So he and his Guild Wars 2 guild decided to take a virtual vacation in Anthem’s world for a bit. “Even if it wasn’t much, I decided to jump in, because even a little bit helps. The whole internet came to support Anthem on our subreddit, being positive and wholesome that everything was going to be alright, until it wasn’t and it went the entirely opposite way.”
Redditor Ohlander1 was also drawn to Anthem by that social media hashtag. He’d been waiting to hear the verdict of Anthem’s final review with EA but decided to say “screw it” and buy the game anyway. “I thought I’d post a picture on the subreddit with the hashtag for fun, to maybe have a discussion or two, get some opinions on the current state of the game or whatever,” he tells me. Six minutes after posting to the subreddit that he, too, believed in Anthem, BioWare made the announcement: Anthem was dead. “At first I thought the people commenting were just speculating and had given up hope, but when the first link dropped I just burst out laughing.”
Fortunately, he was able to request a refund and get his $10 back.
Not everyone I spoke to had Ohlander1’s unfortunate timing, but some were close. “I was actually playing Anthem when the news hit,” Vargoth says. “I saw lots and lots of messages on our Reddit’s Discord and, obviously, felt sad. I knew that it was a 50/50 chance from the start.”
Vargoth, like many players on the subreddit and Discord, had a hunch the future was grim. But that didn’t make yesterday’s news any less surprising. Almost immediately, the Anthem subreddit became filled with posts of players commisterating together or criticizing BioWare and EA for how it handled the situation. Some made grim references to Anthem’s “10 year plan,” while others angrily said that they wouldn’t be purchasing future BioWare or EA games.
“Some people are outraged, some are saddened,” a player named agentCGBSpender tells me. He’s been playing Anthem since 2019 and claims to have sunk nearly 4,000 hours into it between its different console versions. “I’m just glad there’s no more of this false promise that they’re going to do something else with the game which is what we’ve been waiting on for a year. I think criticism of BioWare and EA for how this game was handled is totally fair, even though I played it a ton.”
“In the end I just see missed potential all around with Anthem,” Ohlander1 says. “All those years put into a project that in the end amounted to very little. The time Anthem took from the studio could have been used to make two other games nearly. The world of Anthem probably could have made for a cool singleplayer RPG setting. Without Anthem we probably would have gotten expansions for [Mass Effect: Andromeda]. There’s so much stuff you could say about Anthem and what it ‘ruined’, so for it to now be doomed to just fade into nothingness is pretty disappointing.”
It’s the same bittersweet mess of emotions that any community experiences when the game it was founded upon goes away. When popular PC MMO PlanetSide shut its servers down in 2016, thousands of players gathered for one final battle. And when Asheron’s Call closed its servers after 18 years, players logged in to mourn the apocalypse of its virtual world by the hundreds. Fortunately for Anthem, BioWare said it won’t be shutting down the servers any time soon, but without new updates and an already dwindling population, Anthem will be a ghost town. Eventually, it’ll disappear altogether.
For many Anthem loyalists, that reality stings, because they genuinely think parts of the game are great. “Being entirely honest, I’ve loved everything in the game,” Vargoth says. “Starting from the story and flying to combos, endgame and the community—especially the community! The people are really nice and we’ve all bonded quite fast.”
“I played Destiny so I kinda knew what to expect from Anthem but also, I didn’t,” says a player named Musely. He’s one of the founding members and moderators of Anthem’s subreddit and Discord server. “It was clear BioWare wanted to branch out from [Dragon Age] and [Mass Effect] and I was interested in seeing that. It was very clearly different from their other games and I loved the foundation they had.”
Of the players I spoke to, the one common feature everyone talks about is Anthem’s flying Javelin mech-suits. In the hyper-competitive genre of loot shooters, being able to soar around like Iron Man was one of Anthem’s best ideas. The top post on the subreddit currently is recommending players return to Anthem for one last joyride through the green valleys of Bastion.
I reviewed Anthem when it launched, and fully expected players to praise its flying, but what caught me by surprise is how the community itself has become the reason so many stuck around. “It’s been great to see this community slowly take shape over time,” Musely tells me. “People really stuck with the game and waited for the news, good or bad.”
When I first joined the Discord server I expected it to be empty, but players were chatting, posting photos of their Javelin exosuit paint jobs, and asking for help with specific missions. You almost wouldn’t even know that Anthem had been cancelled a day earlier. “This is a perfect example when even if a game dies, a loyal and friendly community can still keep it going no matter what,” Vargoth says. “I am still going to be playing the game, because I love the community and helping new players.”
Not everyone feels the same: “I think I’m done with Anthem,” Musely says. “I’ll still be here to manage the community and help people sort things out but overall, I won’t be logging onto the game again even if the servers remain up. I’m not sure about the future of the community in the long term but for now, we’re still here.”
Despite the sad news about Anthem, a lot of players were also excited to know that part of the decision it was killed was reportedly to divert more resources towards future BioWare games like Dragon Age 4 and the new Mass Effect game. That said, many were also saddened by the idea of Anthem’s worldbuilding and lore going to waste, and are hoping that BioWare might one day revisit it.
“There is always hope, there is none only when you think so,” Vargoth says. “It’s not about the end point, it’s about the journey you have along the way. The people you meet, the new friends you make and the fun you have.”