In a long-feared but not surprising move, BioWare has finally cancelled Anthem. To be specific, the company has abandoned its planned overhaul of the game in order to repurpose personnel to the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect games.
Technically, you can still play the game as it is, though BioWare didn’t state how long it would keep Anthem’s live service going in the company blog post announcing the news. Given the game hasn’t had a major content addition since the Anthem Cataclysm update in September 2019, you won’t see anything new – and presumably won’t get anything from the overhaul announced in February 2020 that a small, dedicated team had been working on since.
BioWare didn’t explicitly say why they abandoned the Anthem overhaul, but studio director Christian Dailey cited the pandemic’s effects on productivity throughout 2020 as reason the studio had not accomplished what it planned at the start of last year. But it was clear that the company is changing its priorities to focus on the much-hyped next Dragon Age and Mass Effect games, and likely shifting personnel accordingly.
“Moving forward, we need to laser focus our efforts as a studio and strengthen the next Dragon Age, and Mass Effect titles while continuing to provide quality updates to Star Wars: The Old Republic,” Dailey said.
Dailey was effusive in lamenting the move, sharing that Anthem was what brought him to BioWare in the first place: “I know this will be disappointing to the community of Anthem players who have been excited to see the improvements we’ve been working on. It’s also disappointing for the team who were doing brilliant work.”
Requiem for a battle suit
The cancellation isn’t a surprise – and some may wonder what took BioWare so long to abandon the game. Anthem launched in February 2019 to mixed reviews praising the controls and feel of flying and shooting in the mechanized Iron Man-like Javelin suits while criticizing the story, lack of content, and widespread bugs. Heck, it was hard to even log into the game at launch, and load times when transitioning between zones was extensive.
Though BioWare pledged to keep working on the game, the much-hyped AAA games-as-a-service title, which seemed like a clear rival to Destiny, continued coming up short compared to Bungie’s long-running online shooter game. While BioWare pledged a roadmap of content starting with the late 2019 Cataclysm content update, the game dwindled in the public eye. At E3 2019, Anthem was barely mentioned during the EA Play presentations.
The planned overhaul promised a radical revision of the game, especially in the game’s shoot-and-loot loop. Dailey released several blog and Twitter updates over 2020 explaining what improvements the team was working on, while candidly admitting things would likely take longer due to the pandemic’s impact.
The writing may have been on the wall by December, when Dragon Age veteran lead Mark Darrah announced in a blog post he was leaving Dragon Age 4 to be replaced by Dailey, a move met with trepidation on the Anthem subreddit.
In the end, effectively shuttering Anthem is regrettable given the game’s promise, but given the extensive impact of work-from-home conditions caused by the continuing pandemic, it’s understandable that BioWare would prioritize upcoming games over ones that may never recover.