Well, I finished Anthem. I had to quit last night because I got a bug that stopped a mission from progressing, and after loading it up again and hoping for the best today it turned out that it was the second last main mission of the story and now I'm done. I mean, technically you're never supposed to be 'done' done, because there's always going to be a drip feed of new content to keep you playing and buying microtransactions, and the game is eager to assure you that you can go back and play the missions you've already played at higher difficulties in the now classic Bioware post-game message to the players. Commander Freelancer has become a legend by ending the Monitor thread. Now you can continue to build that legend through further gameplay and downloadable content. Please buy cosmetics so EA doesn't turn the lights off...
I'd like to use this cutscene as a demonstration of my argument here, so please watch it. It's probably my favourite part of the whole game, so I promise you'll like it. For context, the two characters on the right side of the table are our character's old frienemies that we haven't spoken to in a couple of years and now have to come awkwardly begging for their help while they're negotiating with a pirate princess:
Doesn't that feel like Mass Effect? Doesn't that feel like Bioware's best? Those facial animations, the characters, the bit where your character reaches out and eats the pheromone sac might as well be a Renegade Interrupt. It is such a great cutscene, but that's exactly the problem: it's just a cutscene. You just sit there and watch it, and then right after it ends you start killing guys again because that's the only agency you have over the world in this game. This game is screaming out for the Bioware touch. The characters are there, the lore is interesting enough, this could have been Bioware's newest and shiniest singleplayer RPG, and it could have been a great one. And instead it's just this monotonous loot shooter where the loot isn't even good and there's nothing interesting to shoot at.
Uuuugh, just... why did they do this? Why does a studio synonymous with great singleplayer RPGs bet the farm on a loot shooter instead? Have any of them really been successful? I still don't think I've ever met anyone who thinks Destiny is truly good without a laundry list of caveats. I don't even know if anyone plays The Division outside of the scripted banter gameplay demos they capture for Ubisoft's press conferences. Fallout 76 was a several-month-long slapstick comedy routine that couldn't stay out of the headlines for more than a week. It seems like all I ever hear about this grand new genre of Games-as-a-Service is dubious content-to-price value propositions, patches and updates that break everything overnight, and all the newest, lowest depths in the field of aggressive monetisation schemes. All these big name developers threw their lots in with loot-shooters six years ago thinking they'd be the next biggest thing, and now that they've actually got their troubled projects out of development hell and onto store shelves it turns out that people only want to play F2P Battle Royales now and maybe they should just have stuck to their strengths.
There's a parallel universe out there where Bioware did make Anthem as a singleplayer RPG, and all our mirror selves are having the time of their lives playing it right now. We know Bioware knows how to make that game, and make it damn well, and instead of focusing on all this multiplayer GaaS guff they could have been filling it to the brim with delicious sidequests and using those wonderful facial animations to build the next great leap forward in the field of RPG conversations. Perhaps then they might have come up with a better story than "evil man wants to use power to take over world, you should stop him". Perhaps then they might have thought up more than three types of mission design that repeat over and over for 12-15-ish hours of story campaign, and then presumably infinite hours of grinding after that. Yet here we are, we putzes, in our regular dark universe where Anthem is not a singleplayer RPG and dreams don't come true.
I'm upset, you guys. When I played Mass Effect all those years ago it hit me like a bolt of lightning, and Mass Effect 2 did it all over again, but then this developer that once upon a time I considered one of my favourites has embarked on a near-decade-long string of just not getting it, man. Mass Effect 3 has its moments, yes, but that ending is something I'll never get over. Mass Effect Andromeda is absolutely awful. Anthem is either going to be patched up into an acceptable state and then used as a microtransaction platform, or EA's going to cut the cord and that'll be that for Bioware. How did it get to this?