The last weekend saw the pretty problematic debut of the Anthem VIP demo across PC, PS4, and Xbox One. You can read our impressions about the game but in this article I want to delve into how BioWare’s latest looter shooter stacks up against one of the already-established series in the genre – Destiny.
Online shooters have been popular for a very long time. Some focused directly on competitive player-versus-Player action, like Counter-Strike, while others also offered some sort of Player-versus-Environment (PvE), such as Destiny 1 and 2.
Anthem, the new role-playing shooter from BioWare, is the next big entry in the genre. Offering just a PvE experience, the game has a lot to prove. The developer already organized a closed alpha some time ago and this weekend the VIP demo made its debut, trying to convince those who pre-ordered the title that they made the right choice.
I have spent hundreds of hours with both Destiny games and went through the alpha and VIP demo for Anthem. It’s time to see just how BioWare’s effort compares to Bungie’s own creations.
Destiny was supposed to be the next big gaming franchise. Coming from Bungie, the studio behind the hugely successful Halo series, the title didn’t exactly rise to the huge expectations of its fans. Even so, it got a sequel and, with the debut of the Forsaken expansion for Destiny 2, it has captured the hearts and minds of many fans.
Anthem is more or less in the same position as Destiny 1 before its launch. Huge expectations for a big developer that made series like Mass Effect or Dragon Age.
The two games, of course, differ in terms of story. While both have gritty sci-fi settings, Anthem puts players in the boots of the Freelancer, a mercenary that uses their Javelin combat exo-suit to uncover alien artifacts. Meanwhile, Destiny puts players in the shoes of the Guardian, a group of people chosen by a mysterious alien being called the Traveler. They are immortal and use their powers to drive off alien invaders from Earth and our solar system.
Both are looter shooters, with the only difference being that Anthem shows a third-person perspective, while Destiny mostly has a first-person view. You go through environments killing mobs of enemies, while collecting engrams that are then decoded into actual weapons and stuff you can use.
Your main activities in both games can be completed by teams of three (Destiny) or four (Anthem) players. These include story-based missions, tougher challenges like Strikes and Raids (Destiny) and Strongholds (Anthem), not to mention free roam through the environments of both those titles.
While the core mechanics are mostly the same, there are some pretty big differences in terms of specific systems. First, you mostly run around in Destiny, literally through the sprint option, while in Anthem you use your Javelin exo-suit to fly through the environment.
Secondly, Bungie’s shooter focuses more on using guns to deal damage, putting big cooldowns on your special abilities, including your Super power, your grenade, or your secondary ability. BioWare’s title, on the other hand, lets players use their abilities way more often as the key to inflicting big damage against foes is to use complementary powers that trigger fatal effects for your foes.
Anthem uses a tier-based difficulty system, with three major settings – Easy, Normal, and Hard – but also three much tougher Grandmaster ranks that promise not just a tougher challenge but also better loot. Meanwhile, Destiny ties its enemies to “Light” levels, meaning players must have powerful gear to even stand a chance against their enemies.
Both games rely on customization and link their microtransactions to cosmetic items, such as armor patters, vinyls, emotes, or full on armor designs. Anthem promises that all future content will be free, unlike the paid expansions of Destiny 1 and 2.
It’s also worth mentioning that BioWare has pledged to listen to fans much more closely, and even backed up its words with actions, as it managed to create a hub-like space similar to the Tower of the Destiny titles.
However, there’s still one major hurdle BioWare and publisher Electronic Arts need to cross: the actual release on February 22. It will be a do-or-die moment, much like it was for Bungie many years ago.