BioWare has just finished their Cataclysm livestream where they introduced the new 8-week event and announced a ton of great changes to Anthem, but will it be enough to convince players to return?
In a 30-minute livestream event on Twitch yesterday, we learned what was finally happening with Anthem’s long-delayed Cataclysm event. While we still didn’t get a release date, we at least got to see that it exists and where BioWare is at in terms of development. It’s not much, considering that Cataclysm was originally due out in early May, but it’s something.
Anthem lead producer Ben Irving along with community manager Jesse Anderson covered a lot of ground in their presentation, starting with an overview of the Cataclysm itself. After the events of Anthem’s main story missions, the Dominion is scattered and disorganized. A new threat emerges named Vara who somehow triggers cataclysmic storms (hence the name), and it’s up to the Freelancers to stop it.
The Cataclysm will first start with 2 weeks of pre-events, followed by 6 weeks of the main course. We didn't get too much info on the pre-event, but cosmetic gear will be provided to sort of whet player's appetites. Then after that, the Cataclysm occurs and everyone gets introduced to a new area and the massive storm that wracks it.
Freelancers flying through the Cataclysm will need to keep an eye on a stamina-like gauge while flying through the storm. If it runs out, their Javelin will be downed. However, there will be safe zones throughout the map and players will be able to create their own safe zones my firing at strange glowing red objects. Managing your stamina will be a key mechanic in Cataclysm, at least in its early iteration.
Not all parts of the map will be accessible at first. Freelancers will need to unlock new areas through what is likely a set of three new missions that expand on Cataclysm’s story. After that, the player will need to take down Vara and shut down the storms, however that is accomplished.
Each area is set up to be sort of like an arena. Adding to the gladiatorial feel will be scores and leaderboards that will pit players against one another as they chew through Cataclysm’s content. Inversions will keep the arenas fresh by adding random variables to combat, such as a decrease to ability cooldowns or an increase to certain weapons.
But what will really get players motivated is loot, and Cataclysm brings a ton of it. There will be all new weapon types available which we have zero details on, as well as completely new Masterwork gear that is different from any existing gear. There will also be Masterwork and Legendary versions of Support Gear, as well as a brand new melee equippable slot.
In addition, there will be a bunch of new cosmetics, and even new players can get in on the action. Cataclysm's loot will scale with the player, although veteran players will get items that are of a higher level than ever before.
Perhaps best of all is what will happen to Anthem’s drop rate. BioWare has decided to entirely remove luck as a rollable stat, and will instead give a flat increase to the game’s drop rate as though everyone had max luck. Any suits that had a luck stat on it will instead have it replaced with additional armor, which nobody is likely to complain about.
Before Cataclysm releases, BioWare is opening a public test server for PC players to see how it all shakes out. The test server will be open for 2-3 weeks and require a separate download, but it will allow Freelancers to take a look at the new content and provide Feedback directly on what they like and what they don’t. This is a really big switch for BioWare, which has been almost radio silent for all of May as they try to figure out what they can do to revive Anthem’s playerbase.
A public test server is a great place to start. It will allow BioWare to act on feedback before the Cataclysm update goes live and will hopefully avoid alienating Anthem’s few remaining players. But will it be enough to convince players to return?
Recently we found out that Anthem’s playerbase has decayed so much that it isn’t even listed as one of Xbox One’s top 50 most-played games. High-level missions are seeing wait times of over 5 minutes just to fill a squad, with many players complaining that those missions simply aren’t possible to complete without waiting extended periods. Twitch viewership dropped to the double-digits earlier this month as another troubling sign of Anthem’s longevity, and EA hasn’t even bothered giving Anthem a spot during their EA Play press conference.
There are rumors that point to Anthem going free-to-play in the near future. That would certainly give the game players--nothing beats a free ticket, after all--but a free-to-play game is hardly the grand vision of a Destiny-killing looter-shooter that EA sold Anthem as. And if they do make it free-to-play, what will EA give to every player that paid full price for a game that’s now free?
We still don’t know the answers to any of these questions. We don’t even know when BioWare plans to unleash Cataclysm upon Anthem’s remaining players. We especially don’t know what EA’s plans are for their fallen flagship game. Cataclysm offers a ray of hope, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it might be too little, too late.