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What We Learned During the Anthem Closed Alpha

We put Anthem to the test inside our own studios – here’s what we learned.

This is a big week for Anthem, and the hard-working team at BioWare. As you may have heard, the game is now in alpha! After years of work, all the critical parts are in place, and we finally get to see how they all work together – and, more importantly, how they play together. The first group of people we decided to test it on was ourselves: EA employees played the Anthem alpha build and gave feedback on everything from gun recoil, to cooldown animations, to the quality of our grabbit jokes (top notch, truly).

To give players a peek into how the game is shaping up, Anthem Lead Producers Mike Gamble and Ben Irving dove into the world of Anthem during their most recent livestream on November 1. They played through the closed alpha and discussed the feedback that they received, as well as the changes they’ll be making based on that feedback.

Watch Anthem Developer Livestream featuring Lead Producers, Ben Irving and Mike Gamble.

If you didn’t get to a chance to see it live, check out the video above, and read on for a recap of the closed alpha livestream.

COMBAT

We’ve previously been quiet on the Storm and Interceptor front, but we’ve finally pulled back the curtain to show how these exosuits move and fight. Mike took to the skies in the Storm (complete with a glorious checkered cape) and Ben hopped into the Interceptor to do some sightseeing. That ended once they found themselves in a stand-off with a group of Dominion enemies on one side, and a Shaper relic damaging them on the other.

Alpha players enjoyed the feel of the combat, especially things like recoil, grenade mechanics, and how flying and hovering work in battle. However, they wanted more fluidity in reloading and swapping weapons while moving, and we’ve already started tweaking weapon handling to make that possible. We’ll also make it clearer how Ultimates (the javelins’ most powerful abilities, as Mike and Ben showed) are used and provide more obvious cooldown markers. Some players weren’t clear on how to activate or use them, and we want to make sure you can use all your skills seamlessly – especially the most explosive ones.

FREEPLAY AND MISSIONS

Freeplay is Anthem’s free-roaming mode, where you can pick up missions, hunt for loot, or just go on a joy-flight through the world’s beautiful and deadly terrain. You can jump onto the map solo or with up to three friends; Mike and Ben had to do the work of four Freelancers in their stream, but when Anthem launches, matchmaking will be available to help you fill out your team.

Originally, we wanted to introduce players to the world slowly, starting them in an area with only a few different enemy types while they learned how to play. Our alpha players proved that they could handle way more than that, so we’ll be updating the game to add more ferocious beasts earlier on. As we approach launch, we’ll also be adding more features into the world – alpha players couldn’t retry missions and didn’t always have a lot to do, but missions will be fully re-playable in the final game, and it will have more content that wasn’t available during the closed alpha.

PLAYING WITH FRIENDS

While being attacked by a horde of powerful enemies and damaged by a nearby Shaper relic, Mike summed up the best way to play Anthem: “Gee golly, I sure wish I had two more friends.” Because teamwork is so critical, we want grouping up and going on missions as a team to be simple and seamless. Alpha players let us know that the process was bumpy in spots – they couldn’t always figure out how to create a party, weren’t sure if their friends had successfully joined a group, and didn’t feel like group controls were within easy reach.

We’re taking all that feedback and using it to update our UI and social tools. Notifications when a group member joins or leaves are being built into the game now, and we’ll be adding group-related options like Add, Kick, and Leave Group to the mission start screen. To make things even easier, we’re also exploring other places we can add these actions, so you don’t have to go hunting for them regardless of what you’re doing.

CONTROLS

Control mapping has been on our minds for a long time, because there’s a lot you can do with your javelin and only so many buttons on a controller. “One of the really interesting parts of the game is we have more buttons than many games,” said Ben, along with fifteen different actions in Anthem that have to be mapped to controls. As a result, some alpha players mentioned having trouble with the default layout, and we want to make sure they can choose a setup that works best for them.

To make that possible, we’ll have multiple controller layouts available at launch, and give PC players the option to completely remap all their key bindings. The result is some good news from Ben: “We’ve been doing a bunch of feedback testing, and one of the universal things that comes back is that the controls now feel really good.”

LOOT

The world of Anthem is full of mysteries, dangers, and a ton of loot. As you explore the world and fight enemies, you can find powerful pieces of gear, items, and other objects to improve your loadout. While Mike and Ben focused more on combat and exploration in their livestream, Ben made sure to clarify how much loot you can expect to find: “all the loot.”

At first, however, that loot was a bit too hidden. After player feedback, we’re exploring ways to make it more visible out in the world, and we’re already working to increase drop rates. There was also some confusion over whether loot was personal or shared, so we’re making tweaks to show that whatever loot you pick up is yours to keep.

TRAVERSAL

Flying controls were a big hit during our alpha. Your javelin is a powerhouse, and players got a chance to feel that for themselves while ducking and weaving through the environment. Plus, flying and hovering are equally useful in combat: “I use it especially on close-quarter characters,” Ben noted in the stream. “A lot of the time I’m flying around to flank people or get behind them.”

Our alpha players liked it so much they wanted to keep flying indefinitely and were a bit disappointed when they had to touch down. We already have plans to let players extend their air time: if you want to stay airborne, you can make it happen by building your loadout to favor flight.

Pre-order now and get VIP access to a pre-launch demo.*

Keep your eyes open for more as we’re ramping up to Anthem’s release. Make sure to not miss any of it by signing up for the Anthem newsletter for all the latest Anthem™ news, updates, behind-the-scenes content, offers, and more (including other EA news, products, events, and promotions) by email.

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Anthem launches February 22, 2019 for Xbox One, PlayStation® 4, and PC. Early Access begins on February 15 for Origin Access and EA Access members.**

*CONDITIONS AND RESTRICTIONS APPLY. SEE https://www.ea.com/games/anthem/pre-order-disclaimer FOR DETAILS.

**CONDITIONS, LIMITATIONS AND EXCLUSIONS APPLY. SEE ea.com/ea-access/terms AND origin.com/store/origin-access/terms FOR DETAILS.

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