It’s already been six months since the online shooter Anthem came out. A lot has happened during that time, though not as much as players had hoped. The game launched with many bugs and flaws, and both players and the developers have acknowledged that it needs a lot of work.
While developer BioWare has addressed many of Anthem’s smaller issues, deeper problems persist, compounded by new updates getting delayed and being few and far between. But there has been the occasional bright spot, and the players who have stuck with it seem as committed as ever, at least for now. Here’s a rundown of everything that’s happened so far.
- Anthem opens to its first wave of players on February 15, going live for everyone on February 22. The staggered release schedule rewards players who purchase the game’s special edition or subscribe to one of EA’s services with early access to the game.
- That weekend, the game gets a hotfix to make the game’s Tomb Challenges, which occur just a few hours into the main campaign, less grindy.
- Around February 18, players realize the game’s rarest loot is dropping from treasure chests that randomly spawn in the game’s free-play area on harder difficulties. Maps are drawn up showing players how to farm them, but BioWare patches out the loot bug before the end of the day.
- The game’s load times are so bad that BioWare releases its day-one patch two days early. The patch also addresses other bugs, like loot not spawning for players while they’re waiting to be revived, while creating some new ones, leading to the temporary removal of some things, like the game’s Stronghold quickplay mode.
- The game’s lead producer, Ben Irving, says that increased loot drop rates some players experienced over the game’s first post-release weekend were an unintended bug, which BioWare promptly patches out. (To this day, players speak fondly of that time when they were drowning in loot.)
- Reviews come out over the next few days and are mixed at best. Many reviews, including ours, praise the basic feel of combat and flying around in an exosuit Javelins, but are much more critical of the game’s numerous bugs, repetitive missions, and lack of any real end game.
- Among all the annoying bugs, players also discover a fun glitch that allows them to mix and match parts from different Javelins. Players make creative hybrid builds like Colossi that can also perform Interceptor dash attacks, but BioWare eventually patches the bug out.
- Anthem’s inscriptions get overhauled in a February 28 patch. BioWare decides to make the randomized stat rolls on rare loot better on average rather than increase their drop rate overall. A bug that drops guns with ill-fitting perks, like a shotgun getting 20 percent bonus machine gun damage, also gets patched out.
- Some players discover that Anthem shutting down their PS4s on March 3. While some players originally believe the game had bricked their consoles, they’re able to get them working again by restarting their PS4s in safe mode. BioWare announces it’s working with Sony to investigate the issue, and reports on March 6 that while console shut offs are a problem, no consoles were actually bricked.
- YouTuber Gladd makes a video about being temporarily banned from the game for using one of the known damage exploits to beat bosses more easily. The exploit involves pressing shoot and dodge at just the right moment during an ultimate attack to deal up to one million points of extra damage. The ban is surprising, since Anthem is an entirely cooperative experience, so no other players are actually hurt by the supposed cheating. In a statement, EA tells IGN the ban will ultimately be limited to two weeks.
- An image comparing features shown in Anthem’s pre-release trailers and what’s actually in the game starts making the rounds on March 5. Irving responds to an image going around Reddit comparing Anthem’s pre-release trailers to the finished game and calls it the “cost of transparency.” He says it’s normal for a game to change during development. Deeper comparisons show Anthem changed a lot.
- Players find a new bug on March 6 that makes the game’s starting gun one of the strongest in the game. BioWare says it will fix the bug in the next update.
- Anthem gets a big patch on March 9 to stop the game from shutting off people’s PS4s, fix how the game calculates damage, and make the game’s hardest missions a little more forgiving.
- The following weekend, Anthem’s loot once again becomes bugged, dropping more often than it normally does, and BioWare once again commits to patching it out as soon as possible. Some players call on the community to enact a weeklong boycott of the game over its stingy loot.
- Anthem’s community director, Jesse Anderson, tells players in a post on the game’s subreddit that the community’s growing hostility has discouraged some of the game’s developers from talking more openly about the game and its continued post-launch development.
- For the first time since the game came out, BioWare makes the game’s loot more generous on purpose in a March 15 update that increases rare drops for the game’s hardest activities.
- Casey Hudson, the studio’s general manager, calls Anthem’s launch “rougher than expected” in a March 19 blog post. He tells players to the next stage of the game’s content is when “things really get exciting.”
- Some players turn avoiding loot into a little mini-game of its own. Anthem still drops common-tiered loot for high level players, even though it’s mostly useless, so rather than pick it up and have to navigate the game’s cumbersome menus to break it down, players try to dodge it all together.
- Anthem gets its next big patch on March 26, adding special Elysian caches that drop new types of cosmetics. The update also breaks some stuff, including guaranteed masterworks no longer spawning after some boss fights.
- Kotaku’s Jason Schreier publishes a massive report detailing Anthem’s troubled development on April 2. In addition to explaining how the process had been plagued by indecision and mismanagement, the report also exposes a culture of high stress and lengthy periods of crunch at BioWare that led to large amounts of burnout.
- Rather than respond to requests for comment on the story directly, EA and BioWare publish a blog post. “We chose not to comment or participate in this story because we felt there was an unfair focus on specific team members and leaders, who did their absolute best to bring this totally new idea to fans,” it says in part. “We didn’t want to be part of something that was attempting to bring them down as individuals.”
- While BioWare remains silent publicly beyond the original blog post, general manager Casey Hudson sends an email to staff on April 3 addressing the report directly that Kotaku obtains and publishes. “The article mentions many of the problems in the development of Anthem and some of our previous projects,” it says in part. “And it draws a link between those issues and the quality of our workplace and the well-being of our staff. These problems are real and it’s our top priority to continue working to solve them.”
- As players wait for new content to get added to the game, some start playing dress up, customizing their Javelins to look like famous characters from outside the game, including Pokémon and various comic book heroes.
- Anthem goes a month without one of its developer livestreams airing on Twitch, and on April 17, community manager Jesse Anderson announces that the studio’s next one has been delayed by a week due to someone cutting the fiber optic cables outside the BioWare office.
- The game gets its biggest update since launch on April 23. It adds Anthem’s first bit of new content, a stronghold mission called The Sunken Cell that has some cool moments but nothing game changing. It also delivers a few quality of life improvements including the ability to continuously launch new missions without going back to the game’s hub area as well as swap out equipment on the fly while in the field.
- Later that same day, BioWare announces that major new features that had previously been scheduled to arrive in the game in its first few months have been delayed. Guilds, weekly stronghold challenges, and the game’s big Cataclysm seasonal event will not becoming to the game during the original time frame advertised, with no new dates given so that the team can instead focus on addressing issues with the base game.
- At the start of May, the month Cataclysm had originally been set to arrive in, BioWare announces that Elysian caches, one of the game’s few pieces of new content since it was released, will be leaving in an upcoming update. While Anderson says that had always been the plan, it takes players by surprise given the lack of other things to do in the game.
- After weeks of silence, BioWare releases a new update for the game at the end of May that lets players fast-travel between Strider locations in free-play mode, a feature originally hinted at during the game’s pre-release trailers earlier in its development.
- Players finally get some information about how Cataclysm will work in a developer livestream on May 30. BioWare reveals that it will be a score-driven, time-trial style mission where players will earn a new type of currency they can exchange for loot chests at a new vendor.
- Ahead of E3, BioWare invites players on PC to join Anthem’s public test server to beta test Cataclysm on June 4.
- Anthem is conspicuously absent from the schedule for EA Play at E3 and is only discussed briefly offstage in a short conversation between lead producer Ben Irving and the event’s host, Greg Miller. “We believe Anthem can be a very amazing game,” Irving tells Miller. “We know we have some work to do.”
- By mid-July, a full month after testing for Cataclysm took place on the game’s PTS, players finally discover the first signs of something changing in Anthem: a strange storm that appears off on the horizon.
- Pre-Cataclysm challenges go live in the game on July 22. Random crystal structures start popping up in the game’s free-play mode. Players can destroy the crystals to earn extra Coin, the in-game currency for buying cosmetics, as well as new Javelin decals.
- Cataclysm finally goes live on August 6. Alongside the new activity, the update adds a guild system, which players can only access through their smartphones, and a host of new equipment and cosmetics to collect. The activity itself is a welcome breath of fresh air by the standards previously set by Anthem, but is otherwise underwhelming. It gives players who still like the game a great excuse to come back, but doesn’t do anything to overhaul the game’s loot system or make the story any more comprehensible.
And that’s where we are now. Cataclysm is still ongoing for the time being, with new items rotating through a Cataclysm-specific vendor every week. It’s still unclear if the end of the event will be a prelude to the next phase of Anthem, or simply the beginning of another long wait for new content, much less the larger rework the game desperately needs.