Anthem - release date, gameplay footage, classes, and everything you need to know

Fast facts: 

  • Anthem release date: Fall 2018
  • Formats: PS4, Xbox One, PC
  • Developer: BioWare
  • Price: TBD (likely $59.99 / £54.99)

Anthem, an open-world action RPG from BioWare and Electronic Arts and one of the most anticipated new games of 2018, enjoyed the spotlight when it debuted at E3 2017. Not only was it the first big AAA reveal of the show, but it was trumpeted at both the EA and Microsoft press conferences as the hot new thing vying to become your next MMO-shooter obsession. At first glance, the obvious comparison to make is that Anthem is aiming to be a cross between Destiny and Mass Effect - but a closer look reveals shades of Halo and Far Cry as well. Here's a comprehensive breakdown of everything you need to know about Anthem, as we take a magnifying glass to every trailer and relevant Tweet to get a clearer picture of BioWare's ambitious new universe.

Anthem's world is a mix of advanced technology and untamed wilds 

Prepare yourself for a bevy of comparisons to Destiny, given how Bungie's megahit FPS has become such a touchstone for players' expectations on how shoot-and-loot action RPGs should function. Here's the first of many: Freelancers are to Anthem as Guardians are to Destiny, the highly capable heroes that venture into the unknown to blast hostile creatures and gather any precious metals or weaponry they might drop. But before you go exploring the open world, you'd do well to take stock of things at your home base. Just as Destiny has The Tower and Destiny 2 has The Farm, your main hub in Anthem is Fort Tarsus, a safe haven for humanity that sits high above a perilous jungle.

Fort Tarsus is protected by The Wall (now where have we heard that name before?), which separates everyday citizens from vicious animals and plotting marauders. It's here that you'll meet up with NPCs and rack up quests, like saving marooned workers hired by the pleading foreman Praxley as seen in the Anthem gameplay trailer. Anthem's hub areas are effectively the reverse of Destiny, where you mill about town in first-person before embarking on third-person adventures. That close-up perspective should give you a better look at Fort Tarsus' high-tech bazaar - complete with a colossal quadrupedal robot lumbering overhead - and the highly detailed, uncanny-valley-triggering faces of its many human denizens.

Anthem's Freelancer heroes explore the world in Javelin exosuits 

Freelancers aren't expected to save the day with their regular, fragile little bodies - that's where Javelins come in. These full-body exosuits are like Iron Man / War Machine rigs with extended stilt-like legs, allowing players to jump incredibly high before soaring through the air using jet propulsion, a bit like squirrel suits that somehow fly despite being made of heavy metal. Interestingly, your character isn't constrained to a singular, permanent class choice; instead, the Javelins act as classes with their own unique abilities, and you'll have the freedom to collect multiple suits to diversify your playstyle. Anthem's game director Jonathan Warner points out that Javelins will be "heavily customizable so they look and play how you want" in his narration of Anthem's debut gameplay trailer.

Two Javelin types have been detailed so far: the Ranger, which sounds like a beginner-friendly DPS class that Warner describes as "balanced and all-purpose", and the Colossus, the "tanking powerhouse" that should be able to soak up and dish out big damage in exchange for slower movements and cooldowns. It's still unclear if your Freelancer will level up independent of their Javelin, or if each suit will need to be leveled up individually, though my money's on the former. Like Destiny, each Javelin has two special abilities and an ultimate move; Anthem's trailers highlighted the Ranger's lock-on rocket barrage and the Colossus' heavy mortar shot. As you'd expect, your Javelin has numerous gear slots to let you outfit your personalized model with additional attachments and enhancements.

Anthem's gameplay is a classic mix of open-world exploration and shootout action 

Donning your chosen Javelin and setting foot beyond the safety of The Wall is where Anthem really begins, as you skydive into the verdant jungle of an as-yet-unnamed planet. Though these lands were likely home to a thriving civilization at some point, only nondescript ruins remain, overgrown by lush fauna and serving as shelter for various species of wildlife. You're free to explore Anthem's universe solo or in co-op teams of up to four players, which could potentially provide extra damage buffs or defenses for the whole team (my guess for what those percentages and element-like symbols next to the party member's names mean). 

Conveniently, your Javelin is the perfect, all-purpose armor for intrepid Freelancers, able to explore land, sea, and air with relative ease; launching skyward and diving into bodies of water does little to slow down your forward momentum. Like the Far Cry series, it seems like you're free to chart a course in any direction and kill indigenous creatures (hostile or not) as you see fit, which will no doubt factor into Anthem's currently vague crafting system. Besides wildlife, you'll also encounter humanoid aliens known as the Scar, which fire at Freelancers on sight. They give off a similar vibe to Halo's Covenant, with diminutive Grunt-like troops being lorded over by Elite-esque commanders, all chatting amongst themselves in and out of combat. There's still no telling if their AI will be anything close to Halo's high standard, but the wide-open environments where you battle against the Scar suggest a similar level of improvisation and multiple approaches for each firefight.

Anthem also makes a big deal of of dynamic events that can spring up in the world, similar to Destiny's public events, that punctuate bouts of exploration. In Anthem, these events take the form of Shaper Storms, massive tempests crackling with lightning that wreak havoc on the environment as they intensify. Shaper Storms seem to warrant grouping up to prepare for an added challenge, and at the end of the gameplay trailer, we see our team of Freelancers diving into the eye of the storm. One player's comment of "See you on the other side" says to me that Shaper Storms are actually wormholes to instanced zones that transport you to new areas with their own objectives. When you aren't launching yourself into the great unknown, exploring the jungle also rewards you with the discovery of named zones and the occasional hidden loot box.

Anthem runs on the Frostbite engine and looks fantastic 

Like most modern EA games, Anthem runs on DICE's highly polished Frostbite engine, which has most recently powered graphical powerhouses like Battlefield 1 and Star Wars Battlefront 2. Anthem's reveal at E3 2017 was such a big deal in part because it was being demoed on the new Xbox One X hardware, pumping out gorgeous visuals in 4K resolution. It's able to do so thanks to checkerboard rendering (which is fully explained here), so you have every reason to believe that the finished product will live up to the hype generated by that gameplay reveal (provided you're playing Anthem on an Xbox One X or a high-end PC). Sure, there are some graphical glitches, but they're hard to notice when you're staring in awe at the ridiculous draw distance on Anthem's dense forests and faraway rock formations.

Read more: Will Anthem really look as good on Xbox One X as it did at E3? Early analysis looks good

Anthem's story is being worked on by a veteran of BioWare's best games

Though details on Anthem's story are currently taking a backseat to gameplay, you should expect the kind of vast, overarching narrative that can keep players motivated across dozens (or potentially hundreds) of hours of play. And if you're afraid that Anthem's plot will limp out of the starting gate like Destiny did with its moon wizards, worry not: longtime BioWare writer Drew Karpshyn confirmed via Twitter that he's indeed working on Anthem. You may not know Karpshyn by name, but you've surely played some of the classic RPGs he's worked on, including Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, where he was a senior writer, and Mass Effect 1 and 2, which had Karpshyn as lead writer. In other words, the guy knows how to craft a gripping story and convincing dialogue.

When it comes to Anthem's lore, there will also be plenty of things left unexplained, as it's going for what BioWare calls "science fantasy". BioWare's Aaryn Flynn has stated that you shouldn't expect in-depth backgrounds for every aspect of the universe a la Mass Effect, which Flynn says is "more our real hardcore science fiction IP. [Anthem] is much more about having fun in a game world that is lush and exotic and really sucks you in." Meanwhile, EA's Patrick Soderlund described Anthem as "a game that we see, once we launch it next year, will be the start of, I think maybe a ten-year journey for us." That's highly reminiscent of early rumblings about Destiny's 'ten-year plan', so perhaps in a few years' time we'll be gearing up for Anthem 2.

Read more: BioWare's Anthem will be penned by the writer of KOTOR and the first two Mass Effect games