I’ve been asked this question in various forms over the last little while. Some just want to know what about Anthem excites me full stop, for others they’ve been legitimately curious why I would be more hyped for Anthem than I am for The Division 2.
And my knee-jerk reaction in my head was, ‘Well duh- just look at ’em!’–but then when it came to actually articulate these oh-so-clearly-self-evident reasons, I drew a blank.
I couldn’t really say why I had such a strong preference for Anthem.
Not to worry if your preferences lean the other way–there is little doubt that I’ll ultimately cover both. I’m not really going to be trying to change your mind with this either, rather just give some insight into why I lean this way.
Going back to the Announcements
When the titles were announced, Anthem left me with a sense of ‘Eh. We’ll see.’ Mass Effect: Andromeda was still fresh in the mind, so my usual enthusiasm for all things BioWare was tempered. Nonetheless, it looked interesting and I made a mental note to check on it again when it was a bit further along.
The Division 2 announcement, however, actively irked me. It felt to me that
The Division 1 had been left to stagnate, stuck in stasis, opportunity wasted. And then along comes The Division 2, seeming to me as nothing more than a rather cynical cash grab.
I’ve since tempered my view a little – I recognise that there were some fundamental problems with the way stats and itemisation worked in The Division 1. And sure, they could have done a Loot 2.0 patch but not without risk of pissing off at least some of the remaining player base who liked things the way they were.
Second, like it or not–I also recognise that Ubisoft is a business. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be treating consumers well of course, but they are not a charity. They do not carry any obligation to continue delivering against The Division 1 if the business case doesn’t stack up.
But I want to see full on expansions with level cap increases, new areas, new stories and new shinies to chase. I would have joyously paid for this for The Division 1. No amount of logic has been able to completely remove the sting of lost opportunity that The Division 1 represents, especially in light of Anthem claiming a 10-year plan.
The story and mission structure of The Division 1 was some of the best leveling content I’ve ever had the pleasure to play through. There was a sense of mystery around the First Wave agents, how or who spread the virus and more.
The Division 2’s story trailer by contrast leaves me a bit cold. The reality may be that the story is just as good and builds on Division 1’s — but if that’s true they’ve done a terrible job of conveying it.
Granted with Anthem, BioWare has been very close to the chest with the story. But even from what little has been shown and spoken about, there is mystery, forces bigger than ourselves, a misguided bad-guy with a pinch of Thanos and pinch of Darth Vadar in the mix. Reality manipulation is a thing. Forces of creation can and will go wild. Perhaps a pinch of The Dark Tower in there too.
I expect it will closely follow the BioWare tried and true template (albeit with 100% less sexy-times this time around, which personally I’m good with) but it’s been… quite a while… since I’ve been through a BioWare story in full, so I’m ready!1
But… But… EA!
Alright, let’s clear the air on this one a little.
I’m well aware of the grievances against EA. They have certainly not been any kind of consumer advocate. ;) The issues were covered in excruciating detail, after all. But the resolutions and post launch improvements? Hardly a boo spoken.
Nonetheless, I don’t have any illusions that they’ve somehow overnight come up with a customer-first policy. I’m well aware that they may end up stinging us with something unwanted in Anthem.
But two points on this:
I think EA has been sufficiently frightened off being too obnoxious for a time by the fallout over lootboxes and the intense backlash they’ve received; not only by their customers but by legislators and as a result their shareholders.
And secondly, perhaps a bit more controversially — I think anyone holding the view that EA is evil but Ubisoft is good is being willfully ignorant or perhaps stuck in denial.
Ubisoft has not been a saint either, through adding microtransactions to titles (even The Division 1, in fact) post the review cycle. Even when adding them in at the game’s launch — including somewhat scummy items such as an XP Booster for a SP game (AC: Odyssey, which full disclosure I loved the game in spite of this).
They’re also a firm believer in creating a half-dozen editions of a game, and for Division 2 this has crossed from simple cosmetics or short-lived starter gear to a permanent stash-space increase only available with the super-duper uber-rich-person edition.
And in conclusion…
Anthem lets you play as fricken Iron Man, man. Case closed. Booyah. ;)
More seriously; I’d be happiest of all if both games were successful. I don’t buy into an ‘us or them’ mentality over the two. If I had unlimited time, I’d cover both from the get-go.
But since I don’t have unlimited time, and must choose — it’s Anthem for me to start with.
When my team and I run through all available content and are hankering for more, I believe The Division 2 will be there for us in our time of need. Switching between the two, allowing for content to develop in one whilst we play the other is going to be excellent.
There is more I could talk to over the relative transparency of the Devs and their community interactions, but the more I dove into my own motivations and thought processes the more I realised the centre of it for me was mostly around Ubisoft’s lack of long-term support for Div 1.
I’m willing to forgive and forget, providing a chance to Div 2 to be better. But if in a couple of years from now we’re talking about the announcement for Div 3 — I think we’re done!