As the latest Anthem patch notes confirmed, after a not-insignificant delay and a spotty test period, the Cataclysm event has officially begun. That's far from the only major addition in update 1.3.0 - it's also got melee weapons, drastic Grandmaster difficulty changes, variable Inversion modifiers, Gear Masterworks, and a mobile app with Guild support.
The Cataclysm is a new game mode that BioWare plans to evolve over time. You can access it via the Start of Expedition screen provided you've completed the Incursion mission in the main story. Last time we saw it, the Cataclysm was basically a modified Freeplay mode with little in the way of new objectives, but at least it has some interesting supporting systems.
For example, each week the Cataclysm will feature two new Inversion modifiers. Inversions can boost your Gear or Ultimate recharge rate, increase damage dealt by specific weapon types, or reduce the amount of ammo you receive. Most Inversions are positives, though. They remind me of the Strike modifiers from Destiny 2, and seem to serve a similar purpose, namely encouraging different builds and play styles.
The Cataclysm also has its own ranking system. Completing challenges and objectives within the Cataclysm will add to your score, and you can compare your score to other players on the Cataclysm leaderboard. Completing challenges will also earn Minor and Major Crystals, two new currencies used in the new Seasonal Store, which "features time-limited rewards for purchase with the seasonal currency."
If you thought Anthem's Grandmaster difficulties were too grindy and bullet sponge-y, I've got good news for you: BioWare straight-up chopped them in half. Here's the full breakdown:
Basic enemy health reduced by 50%
Enemy shields reduced by 35%
Stronghold boss health reduced by 65%
Basic enemy health reduced by 50%
Enemy shields reduced by 20%
Stronghold boss health reduced by 75%
These are some gigantic changes. If you were barely keeping up with Grandmaster 2 and 3 before, you should absolutely shred them now, which will dramatically speed up Anthem's end-game grind.
Gear Masterworks, melee weapons, three new weapon classes
Speaking of end-game grinding, players have some new gear to chase. For starters, all four Javelins received two new Gear Masterworks which can further modify their abilities. Those are:
Upgraded Siege Artillery - Combo Effect: detonates another explosion briefly after the first.
Burst Mortar - Combo Effect: fires a volley of acidic rounds.
Upgraded Cluster Mine - Mines deal electric damage and electrify targets.
Upgraded Wraith Strike - Detonates Aura Combos.
Upgraded Pulse Blast - Combo Effect: hitting an enemy causes Energy Pulse to bounce to additional enemies.
Upgraded Frost Grenade - Combo Effect: Defeating frozen enemies will also freeze nearby enemies.
Upgraded Glacial Spear - Combo effect: deals ice and fire damage.
Upgraded Lightning Strike - Combo Effect: leaves a field that deals electric damage for a short time.
All Javelins will also have access to three new classes of weapons based on seal tech: Pulse Accelerators, which " generate destructive energy," Volt Casters which "focus ambient electricity," and Blade Slingers which "charge a circular projectile with dynamic force." It's hard to evaluate these weapons from their descriptions alone, but in my head they look like the BFG from Doom, the Railgun from Fallout, and the Ripper from Dead Space. Here's hoping they're actually that cool in-game.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, players can now equip dedicated melee weapons. These aren't just swords or flails or what-have-you, but rather items that modify your melee attack. As BioWare explained, "we are introducing new melee gear pieces that are equippable, have stats, and change the way you play. This will allow you to assemble new gear combinations not previously possible."
The patch notes also touched on how this will affect melee damage output. "Now that melee is its own actual item, it no longer uses this automatic scaling, but uses actual real scaling for the item and the bonuses that occur on that item," BioWare said. "This means that if players want to get their melee damage back to what it was, they need to get a melee weapon of the appropriate rarity with similar inscription rolls." If you're worried that you'll just be playing catch-up with the new melee weapons, you'll feel heartened to know BioWare also said that "because Melee is an actual item now, there is a much higher ceiling potential than there previously was."
For now, each Javelin received two melee weapons, each with an upgraded version. Here's the full list:
Seismic Glove: smash the ground for AoE damage. Earthshaker upgrade also sends out a shockwave that damages enemies in front of you.
Inferno Glove: smash the ground for AoE burning damage. Meteor Smash upgrade will ignite flames around you, further burning nearby enemies.
Twin Blades: double-bladed daggers used for fast attacks. Blades of Warding upgrade grants 10% damage resistance for 10 seconds upon hit, stacking up to five times.
Venomous Blades: double-bladed daggers that apply poison. Deathstalker Blades upgrade increases damage to enemies below 50% health.
Shock Mace: electric mace that shocks enemies. Transmuting Volt upgrade grants three Ultimate charges on hit.
Seismic Mace: harder-hitting heavy mace. Rampager upgrade grants a 10% damage increase for 10 seconds upon hit, stacking up to five times.
Explosive Strike: hit enemies with an explosion for high damage. Searing Blast upgrade sends out a fireball that seeks enemies.
Shocking Strike: hit enemies with an electric strike to deal shock damage. Lightning Surge upgrade will restore 40% shields upon hit.
Guilds and the Anthem app
The last big feature in the latest Anthem patch notes is the Anthem app, which you can now use to handle Guild shenanigans - make your own Guild, invite friends, or search for other Guilds. Early reports suggest the app - or at least the Android version - is struggling at launch, but you might have better luck.
If you want to pore over every last bug fix and minutiae, you can read the full patch notes here.