How would you save BioWare's Anthem?

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Hard to believe, but it's been a year since Anthem crash-landed onto PS4, Xbox One, and PC. We sent our intrepid editor in chief back into Bastion and - while surprisingly festive - it's sad to see just how empty the game now feels. We tasked our team with coming up with some solutions. Good ideas, bad ideas, barely comprehensible ideas, we humbly submit them all to BioWare to use as they see fit. We just want to help! 

This is the latest in a series of big questions we'll be interrogating our writers with, so share your answers and suggestions for topics with us on Twitter.  

Pretend it was a Mass Effect game all along

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Bless you, BioWare. You tried to make a new thing, and it didn't pan out. But let's face facts. All people have been asking for - nay, begging for - since you drew the curtain on Shepherd's trilogy is a new Mass Effect game. And not another half-baked Andromeda spin-off, but a proper, full-bodied Mass Effect game that actually lives up to the reputation of the beloved originals. So how about this? Why not pull an M. Night Shyamalan, and deliver a late game twist to reveal that Anthem has actually been part of the Mass Effect universe this entire time. Launch an elaborate in-game quest that leads Freelancers to the wreckage of the Normandy itself, kickstarting an adventure to locate the original crew and find out what they've been up to since the canonical ending of Mass Effect 3. Can you imagine the response? Suddenly, Anthem would feel relevant and exciting again. Sure, it would still be a broken game, but it would be a broken Mass Effect game, and that has to count for something. Alex Avard

Just make me care

Anthem problems

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Honestly, I’ve got no clever ideas here. No jokes. Just add in actual content, some story, a risk. The game, mechanically, is sound. Flying around that world feels amazing, looks beautiful and the gunplay during its big monster pulping battles is satisfying in a way few games can manage, but the lack of context, meaning or, crucially, a reason to care just sucks the life out of it. The first Destiny made endlessly playing the same missions in search of slightly more magic pants always fun because there was texture and variety, and the odd update to provide new pants to chase. Anthem has, at best, an evening's worth of reasons to play but has a frame with so much potential if only BioWare could hang more on it. Leon Hurley

Turn over a New Leaf

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Honestly, I've never played Anthem before in my life and the only thing I will be capable of thinking about for the next month (at least) is Animal Crossing. So my suggestion is to turn the players into an assortment of animals wearing cute floral tees, or at least turn those metal suits you have to wear (?) into big animal suits, then replace the weapons with bug nets and fishing rods, layer over some soothing plinky plonky music and we can all have a lovely relaxing time playing Anthem together. Ellen Causey

Make it Mass Effect 4

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There's a reason several of my peers have made this suggestion - because it's the right thing to do. Anthem was a hot mess from the start, and we've had far too many N7 Days with nothing to celebrate but some unreleased concept art from the original trilogy. BioWare has a history of making me care about characters so deeply I'm plagued with guilt over even the smallest indiscretion against them,  and Anthem made me care about nothing except the time I had lost to it. I know they were trying to do something different with Anthem, but I too was trying to do something different when I cut my own bangs, and that was equally a disaster. I say, go the route of the Reapers and erase Anthem from existence and let a new Mass Effect game rise from the ashes. It's the hero we deserve, and the hero we need right now. Alyssa Mercante

Do what BioWare does best: Tell me a good story 

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Mass Effect and Dragon Age are two of my favorite video game series for a reason. BioWare has always had strong storytelling roots, and its ability to make me care deeply for the worlds it offers up always kept me hooked. But when it comes to Anthem, I never felt drawn to it in the same way. It feels like character-driven narratives and great storytelling never truly found its place in the monster-ridden landscapes of the unnamed planet. Even as a live-service game that deviates away from some of BioWare's most beloved features, I can see the potential, it just needs more depth and substance to truly get me invested. Heather Wald

Develop the Detective Hops Mysteries into a TV show

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If Zootopia has taught me anything, and it's taught me a lot, it's that bunnies are pretty good at solving crimes. Head in the otherwise pretty bland hub in Anthem and you can find a number of radios which slowly tell the tale of Detective Hops and his side-kick Sentinel Quincy. Detective Hops is a bunny. Or as close to a bunny you can get in Anthems world, so it makes sense that this in-game radio show is turned into a kid-friendly, merchandise generating, Netflix cartoon. There's probably more story and lore here then there is in the actual game and who wouldn't want to cuddle up with a grabbit for a bed-time story? Okay, I've just looked up what they look like and we might need to redesign their look slightly but we can make this work. James Jarvis

A whole lot of world-building

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Shortly after Anthem launched, a behind-the-scenes book of concept art hit shelves. It was crammed with juicy but heart-breaking details about the game that could have been, including an early idea where we were colonists who crash-landed on a hostile world for reasons unknown – galactic Robinson Crusoes, for lack of a better word. We would then have struggled to survive against other races who'd also become stranded in this Bermuda Triangle of space, cobbling together settlements from the remains of our ship. In short? It was exciting and unusual. Sadly, none of that made it into the final product. As such, I’d love to see BioWare swing back around to this idea (perhaps with a new batch of humans who become shipwrecked with us, offering a fresh entry-point for new players). But most of all, I’d like them to give us a real mystery to get our teeth into. The studio's best games hinge on a story you can’t put down, so that’s what I feel we need now. Benjamin Abbott

Change that tune

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Well obviously the answer is to soundtrack it with absolute anthems. Mr Brightside by The Killers. Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes. Go Square Go by Glasvegas. Flying Without Wings by Westlife. Wait, did I type that last one out loud? And have all your favorite national anthems play while arranging load-outs or waiting for the game to spring into life. Star Spangled Banner, God Save The Queen, the German one that all church-going Brits mistake for Glorious Things Of Thee Are Spoken. Russia’s one is a colossus of a tune, too. There you go, EA: fixed your underwhelming shooter for you. Oh wait, you wanted actual gameplay suggestions? Sorry folks, I’ve never played Anthem. Too busy practicing Westlife, er, White Stripes covers. Ben Wilson

Change that (better) tune

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I appreciate the idea behind Ben W's suggestion, but there's simply one problem: none of those are "absolute anthems" at all! To really save Anthem, you need to pick the epitome of anthems; songs such as Intergalactic - Beastie Boys, September - Earth, Wind & Fire, Memento Mori - The Streets, MMMBop - Hanson, and Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison. Mr. Brightside and Seven Nation Army are so overplayed and outdated at this point, if Anthem adopted these tunes, it wouldn't just be stuck with Christmas 2019 decorations – it'd be all the way back in 2009. We want anthems, not overused sweaty club tracks that come on at 3am when you're desperate to leave and get a kebab. Ford James

Build whatever's next and new around the flying

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It'll be tough to shrug off the baggage of all that Anthem got wrong, but it can take a great step forward by going to town on the stronger/least bad aspects of what's in there. One of those successes is the flying. This was, using a broad brush, one of the most well-received and enjoyed aspects of the game during its first year and could be the center, or at least the crux of a big new push, of a revamp. If BioWare can hone this to really make it feel like you can control your character in the same way that Tony Stark moves, navigates and fights in his Iron Man suit, maneuvering effortlessly and smoothly, and smashing into controlled and bombastic combat, then you may have something that's not actually matched by many other current or recent big games. 

Exploring a newly revitalized world - crammed with new and gripping meta and micro-narratives - by boosting the travel, combat, and exploration with superhero-like quirks, but also offering enhancements, will be a big boon to Anthem's experience. It might not be a silver bullet, but it'll be a solid start. Rob Dwiar

Cheat off other looter shooters

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Anthem had countless issues at launch, but the one that stood out to me was how old it felt. Anthem had problems that Destiny and The Division solved ages ago, to say nothing of other loot-based games like Diablo and Borderlands. I realize Anthem was in development for a long time, and big games like this are like oversized U-Hauls speeding downhill in that it's very hard to change their course. That said, some of Anthem's issues were over five years old when it came out. Just by making a new looter shooter, BioWare is already standing on the shoulders of giants. I reckon the studio should lean into that and learn from the games that came before them. I'm not saying Anthem should copy Strikes and Incursions, but it should study the likes of Destiny: The Taken King and The Division update 1.8, if only to help shape its own comeback update. Austin Wood

Ditch the loot grind and up the wow factor

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I'd like to see a full-on, we've-learned-from-our-mistakes-sequel to Anthem. That's despite not even having played the game since quite enjoying the beta. And why would I drop into another looter shooter loop when free-time for gaming is so precious and I can't find a soul to say a kind word about the game nowadays? Rather absurdly, here in the UK the game currently costs just £5.97 and comes with a FREE six-month Spotify subscription and I still can't be bothered despite the Spotify sub being worth nearly £60 - I'm that worried about wasting time playing the game just hoping everyone else is wrong! Maybe EA and BioWare should stop trying to make the next Destiny (when we're getting a bit bored of that too by now) and just make a great single-player game. Sure, that's not very EA, but neither was the excellent surprise hit of last year, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Brendan Griffiths

Focus on the flying 

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Anthem has plenty of issues and flaws that need to be addressed if it's ever going to capture a sizeable audience, but the flying has always been the game's secret sauce. Every time I played Anthem, my frustrations with it were soothed by the sensation of soaring over the game's world (I think it's called Bastion? I dunno, this feels like one of those aforementioned flaws). There was a lot to like about the flying, from managing the suit's temperature by flying through waterfalls to pretending that the Javelin was actually an Iron Man suit, that it feels like it could be the main pillar of what Anthem should be about. I would be tempted to revisit BioWare's looter-shooter if I knew that I would spend more time exploring a strange sky than fighting waves of bland enemies on the ground or facing an even tougher wave of loading screens. Ben Tyrer  

Beam sabers

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I only played Anthem for a bit, but I never took to the idea of hovering around in the air and shooting at enemies on the ground. Anybody who watches mecha anime or tokusatsu productions knows that climatic robo-suit clashes always come down to melee combat - it doesn't matter how many high-powered Vulcan cannons and buster rifles they come equipped with. Mechs are an inherently practical concept, so you might as well go all the way, right? Give them beam sabers, and heat axes, and all the other sci-fi versions of assorted medieval weaponry you can think of. Let me boost straight through my enemies and leave a glowing line of wreckage in my laser sword's wake. It'll be great! Connor Sheridan

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