It’s felt like years since I last thought about Anthem, but following the game’s seasonal update last week I decided to pick it back up and was immediately struck by how beautiful its new wintery vistas are.
Anthem’s Icetide event added flight time trials, a mission called Coolant Harvesting, and a new way to earn legendary gear by making offerings at old legionnaire tombs. The update also bathed the game’s whole world in snow, subtly shifting the entire mood of roaming around searching for things to do in its freeplay mode.
Anthem still feels bereft of content or an interesting end game to make grinding for loot worth it, but its lakes, forests, and mountain ranges have never looked prettier:
At a distance its backgrounds are sweeping and bold, reminiscent of the sort of concept art that makes it seem like the game it’s for will contain anything and everything your mind can imagine. I’d say Anthem’s snowy landscapes worthy of a Thomas Kinkade greeting card, but that feels like it would be doing them a disservice.
Walking along a river and seeing the red leaves of an alien oak burst out through the whiteness puts nature, its wonder, and its simple charms at the center of another otherwise empty game. The world’s many stone ruins, artifacts of bygone eras when humanity was more than just an outpost of freelancers killing the same enemies over and over until one of them left something sparkly behind, look more at home under the occasional snow drift. While they looked striking even in the game’s lush and verdant summer, it was hard not to be distracted by the fact that they didn’t seem to be used for anything important. Now at least they feel a part of something, even if that something is the world collectively going into hibernation.
I’m still hopeful Anthem’s many ruins will have a chance to have their stories told through missions and character relationships rather than lore collectibles. If BioWare manages to deliver on the second go around with Anthem 2.0, that hope might someday be vindicated. For now there’s the allure and mystery of its seasonal winter wonderland.