New Art! #2

So earlier in the month was the first reveal of work Alli1 had completed for me on commission. I promised more was on the way! Today, I deliver! … Well OK, OK, Alli delivers. Although actually Alli delivered earlier in the week. … Nope, not sure where I’m taking this, let’s move on. ;) Take a squiz!

The Warrior

First up is the Warrior profile pic! Alli couldn’t reuse too much of the base profile for this with the pose being so different to accommodate the sword and shield. I reaaaally love this one.

It’s sort of a throwback to when I almost exclusively tanked in MMOs. That is going back quite a ways indeed, as I switched to almost exclusively healing for quite a long time. Druid healing in particular. Although I did flirt with Priest for a single expansion of WoW.

Possibly there is something here too, for future art… Possibly…

The Ranger

Second is the Ranger. Fortunately, Alli was able to re-use much of the ‘base’ Naithin portrait, adding over the top quite a different look in costume and equipment.

This one is also sort of a throwback, as my oldest of old Naithin ‘characters’ in D&D and other roleplay was as a Ranger who primarily used a staff to fight with.

Right now my main MMO character is of course a Bard in Final Fantasy XIV. And Bards in FFXIV very much use a bow.

So… Possibly there is something here for future art also… :D

Also, the Site Banner!

Alli worked in the site logo to create a bit of a banner for me, too. Original concept had included the character art as well but the compositions didn’t quite look right at this sort of size.

Alli has been amazing to work with, so if you’re looking for any art of your own, I’d heartily recommend getting in touch with her!

The only real problem I have now is deciding which profile image to use. I’m quite enamored with each of the three options I now have, and I already have more that I’d be interested in having created! xD

Anthem Early Access is Live — Experience So Far

The land of Bastion is ours to explore at last.

Actually it has been live for about 14 hours now. Of which I’ve been able to spend a good number playing. It has been glorious. Don’t ask me for a review or anything terribly coherent right now, as I have no doubt that the honeymoon effect is in full force.

What I can say though, is that asides from the first 40 minutes or so of the game being live where everyone was trying to flood in at the same time, it has been incredibly stable — both server and client.

You might also recall that in my VIP demo impressions, I became quite adjusted to the mouse controls and was worried at the changes coming for live. Well, I shouldn’t have worried. Yes — it feels quite different, but undeniably for the better. The automatic centering of the flight reticle in particular was a change I thought I’d be turning off immediately, but it feels great.

So if you didn’t get on with the M+KB controls during the demos and had resigned yourself to (at least flying with) a controller; give them a go again and you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised.

Microtransactions

Origin will sell the shards in your local currency if it is a currency they normally support, but in US Dollars1 the pricing of Shards are as follows:

  • 500 Shards – $4.99
  • 1050 Shards – $9.99
  • 2200 Shards – $19.99
  • 4600 Shards – $39.99

Note that if you have an Origin subscription, you will get 10% off those listed prices.

If you saw the earlier MTX leak, you’ll recognise the items for sale, if not the pricing.

Depending on the size of the pack you buy, the price of the Epic Armor Sets (incl. helm, chest, arms and legs) will cost between $7.39 to $8.48 each.

The Rare materials and Uncommon graphics cost between $2.61 to $2.99 each, and an Epic emote will cost between $3.48 to $3.99 each.

What is the Coin income like, if I’d like to not spend real money?

Early impressions are positive. In my time today I’ve made almost 12k 24k coin2 just by playing, on top of the 40k coin you start with. However, that is with the benefit of completing the daily challenges and the weekly challenge in amongst that which would have bolstered my early rates.

On the other hand, I believe that in the end game when you get Masterworks or Legendary drops (not positive on Epic) you also get a coin drop alongside.

It’s quite something being here ‘in person’ after seeing this mission in so many pre-release videos.

So be sure — I’ll come back to this later with a better view of how things stack up with the challenges completed and a view of what a typical coin income might look like.

As noted above though – early impressions are very positive. It appears to me that even starting from a 0 coin base, you could grind out the coins you needed to buy even an expensive armor set you wanted before the featured items cycled around to something else without throwing money into the game.

I believe this to be true with the 10+ day cycle we’re seeing, which would allow for 10 sets of dailies, 2 sets of weeklies, 2 sets of alliance coin incomes all on top of your normal play income. Depending on where you were with your monthlies, possibly a set of those as well.

Back into the Fray!

And with that, I’m back into it! My intent is to have a complete review out on or before the time the full-launch comes about on the 22nd Feb, so keep an eye out for that. :)

Over that time I should be able to complete the main story and get a fair taste for the end game, see what the final impressions of coin income is like, how much interest the loot and gear holds (already feels quite promising though, relative to the demos) and that sort of thing.

If there are any burning questions in your mind though, feel free to drop a comment or message me on Twitter. :)

Anthem VIP Demo Impressions

Anthem Demo - Naithin's Ranger exosuit Javelin in the background, coloured red, blue and gold. In the foreground are various engineer types working on other machinery items.

Hmm. Well, we know from the expectation setting done before the demo launch that the demo build of Anthem is without the benefit of ~6 weeks of bug fixes.

Still — I can’t help but wonder the impact the demo experience (or lack of it, for some) will ultimately have on the critical early sales period.

Personally I’ve been relatively lucky — I experienced the initial issues with server capacity and Origin going down in general like everyone did, but I did not run into the bug preventing people from unlocking their second Javelin, nor have I had to struggle too hard to actually load into missions vs. the infinite loading screen bug.

Some of my friends though have — and it has without any doubt dampened their enthusiasm. The experience delivered next weekend is going to be critical in winning at least one of this group back.

So how was it being able to play?

The foundational elements of Anthem are strong, and will support the load of long term play from its player base if allowed to. If BioWare can deliver a meaningful endgame with a good pacing on content releases the future for Anthem is bright.

You know how sometimes when playing a game, it simply reminds you of another similar thing, and then you get the urge to go play that other thing instead?

Well, I think the best shorthand compliment I can give Anthem, is that when playing — this didn’t happen. I was invested in the moment to moment gameplay and just wanted more Anthem.

Nowhere more was this true than in the Stronghold. I saved this for a bit of a demo endgame experience for myself and my team. We did it at level 15, pretty well geared, and cranked it to hard.

Hoo boy. We had been impressed with the game (when it let us) already, but the step up in the quality of the content and the degree of teamwork required was impressive. We were truly challenged, but in a way that felt good- it felt exhilarating. Will it ten runs from now? Twenty? Possibly not, but there is at least some hope in trying again through the Grandmaster difficulty ranks. Working out builds both as a team and as individuals to make it work I can imagine being great.

And yet, I was just watching the video I captured of my first outing into the world of Anthem (embedded below), and was reminded all over again just how satisfying and powerful even those early, most basic of skills felt.

I played with Mouse + Keyboard and while there was certainly a learning curve, particularly around mastering the transitions between ground, flight and hover modes — I honestly think it already controls well and feels good.

The live game has tweaks coming to the control model to make things a little less ‘twitchy’ — but I’m personally, at least, really hoping the feel isn’t too significantly changed!

It currently works in a way that will be familiar to anyone who has played Freelancer, or the X-series of games — where in flight control mode the cursor becomes as if a joystick onscreen. The further off-centre you move the cursor, the sharper your shift in that direction.

Swooping through the air — be it deep in the caverns of the earth or through the open air feels spectacular. Each Javelin seems to control very differently as well, adding to their sense of uniqueness.

Second half of the first mission, and my first hands on with the game. I went on normal difficulty and solo. (No puzzle solution spoiler)

The Ranger’s movement has a strong sense of physicality to it. Short, powerful boosts from your suits rockets propelling you into the double-jump or dash. The Storm by contrast lacked a double-jump but had total mastery over itself in the air, capable of slow-falling and adjusting direction at whim.

Overall, the foundational elements of Anthem are strong, and will support the load of long term play from its player base if allowed to. If BioWare can deliver a meaningful endgame with a good pacing on content releases the future for Anthem is bright.

Mtashed revealed1 that the embargo on the endgame content the ‘EA Game Changers’ saw and played through ends Feb 1st 2019. This will likely be the day then, when we start to get a more complete view of what not only Anthem will come with at launch, but what the post-launch support plans look like.

What are my main complaints or issues?

It’s not all roses though, and there are certainly some things I feel the game needs to add or adjust to improve upon the strong foundation the demo proves exists.

No Build / Stats Overview Screen — Itemisation may require data mining to effectively theorycraft.

Please BioWare, allow us an in-game way of viewing our overall build stats and effects. At least provide some transparency over what components are doing and the base values we’re working with.

More than anything else, this is my biggest gripe. There is no way to view your Javelin’s overall shield, health or armor. When you look at a component piece that provides a flat amount of health or armor, there is no way to gain context on what sort of change you’re looking at.

What is the base health of my Javelin? Is it 500 or 2500? Just how significant a buff is a flat 250 health increase?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

You can’t see what bonuses you’ve got applied, or how much damage mitigation you have, the final weapon or gear damage figures you have as a result of your gear inscriptions — nothing.

Missing this while always frustrating, might at least be able to be lived with if the itemisation on item drops was clearer. Shielding components — I’m looking at you.

The base lines on components always appears to be ‘Javelin Health’ and ‘Javelin Armor’ – how much of each depending on rarity, item level and type.

Components generally also have a white text description implying potential further increases beyond what is shown. Possibly. The Armor Upgrade components do tend to have higher armor values. But shielding components don’t show any flat numerical value.

So… What do they add?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Please BioWare, allow us an in-game way of viewing our overall build stats and effects. At least provide some transparency over what components are doing and the base values we’re working with.

Other Itemisation Issues

Two issues here, but one of them is likely to be entirely demo related and may not show in the live game. Possibly both, if we’re really lucky.

Impossible Stats

By which I mean — I saw multiple instances of inscriptions and item types having fundamental conflicts, rendering the inscription completely useless.

Still not with me? Here’s an example — a component specific for Interceptors, no other Javelin can equip it — that also provides a buff for the Ranger Javelin Assault Launcher gear slot.

This is one that may be a design intent rather than a bug. I hope not. But the philosophy might be one of keeping things entirely random making that ‘perfectly rolled’ drop that much more exciting.

This is a rather archaic view in my opinion, and while I don’t expect every drop to be useful or amazing — I would expect the combinations to at least make some degree of sense.

0% inscriptions

I expect this to be a demo-only issue in one form or another.

  1. If it is a true 0% value, it is possible the itemisation generation was still not finalised in this build of the game, and the capping on lower end rolls was not set.
  2. It may be a non-zero value with a rounding/display error

Menu / UI Interactions

Urgh. For the love of all things holy, please do two things for us PC users:

  1. Remove all instances of ‘hold Esc to exit’.
  2. Let us click into the sub-menu which is clearly displayed on screen already.

No-one is hitting the Esc key on accident. I get the concern for controller; but at least provide the option to turn this safeguard off for Mouse + KB players!

And while the menu’s actually look pretty good — the console design is written all over them. There are many instances of having a sub-menu clearly visible but utterly unable to be interacted with when clicked over.

You have to go back and click or otherwise confirm entry to that menu before you can do anything.

Makes total sense for a controller, far less sense with a mouse pointer. And it is actively horrible to work with.

If we can get these changes in – it would be a huge quality of life improvement!


Picking a Main in Anthem

I don’t know about you–but I always struggle with picking a main. It can become quite an ordeal. We now have a little less than a day to wait before the VIP Demo let’s us in for a peek. We’ll get the see first hand the Ranger and one other Javelin of our choice.

This is really good! Unless… Like me, all of them sound exciting to you for one reason or another.

What can hopefully help put your mind at ease a little then is the knowledge that in Anthem it’s a fair bit more difficult to go wrong. In fact, the Javelin exosuits are less ‘class’ and more ‘build’.

Huh?

Your in-game persona is a human. A freelancer. A pilot. You level up as a pilot, picking talents as you go that buff things such as your flight time before overheating.

After the tutorial mission (played in the Ranger), you will be able to pick any of the 4 Javelin’s to unlock first.

Javelin’s unlock at:

  • Level 2 – This is your first pick immediately following the tutorial.
  • Level 8
  • Level 16
  • Level 24 / 261

So in essence? Don’t worry about it. Well, I mean… Worry a little bit. You should have an idea of what to try first! But just know there is no wrong decision that is going to lead to you rerolling if you find you don’t like a given class as much as you thought you would. :)

While playing with a given Javelin equipped, Anthem will use a ‘Smart Loot’ system which weights drops toward things useful for that Javelin. But you still will get the odd thing for the other Javelins from time to time — so should you ultimately decide, ‘Oh no… I’ve made a terrible mistake’ or heck, simply decide new day–new you one morning, you can get a running start at another pick.

OK! But… What do the Javelins actually do?

I’ve posted a series of profiles on each Javelin for you to look at if you’d like some help deciding. (Note: At the time of writing this, I’m pending a review on the Colossus and Storm to update them to the new format I put the Interceptor and Ranger into.)

These will be updated with more detailed information (such as which skills Prime or Detonate) after we get our hands on the game. :)

For now, here’s a quick overview of each!

The Ranger is being toted as the versatile, jack-of-all-trades Javelin. You have a medium amount of health and shields and a medium degree of mobility. The Ranger is also capable of dealing all elemental damage types — giving it a good range of options when it comes to dealing with heavily shielded (lightning, frost) or armored (acid, fire) enemies.

Consider the Ranger akin to a Soldier in playstyle, with grenades, rockets, and a good range of weaponry.

The Colossus is big, bulky and extremely tough despite the total lack of an energy shield like all other javelin’s enjoy. Also though? Slow. Slower at least. The concept of ‘dodging’ is utterly alien to the the Colossus. Making up for this lack the Colossus gains two things:

  1. It packs an actual physical shield which they can use to deflect damage and more enjoyably shield charge and slam the puny enemies out of the way… even while flying.
  2. It is the only Javelin at launch capable of wielding the heavy weapon class, including the likes of Grenade Launchers and Autocannons.

The Storm fulfills the ‘space mage’ role. Elemental fury–fire and ice with a side of lightning–is how the Storm likes to get things done. A real AoE and status building powerhouse. Lightly armored this is not a Javelin you want in the thick of things up close and personal if you can avoid it. To aid with that, the Storm forgoes a standard dash move and when dodging performs a short-range teleport (or ‘blink’).

You can also hover for longer than the other Javelins in the storm, gaining a bonus to your energy shield while you do. Just watch out–there’s no real cover up there.

Last but not least The Interceptor. This is your super agile, super nimble rogue or ninja type. With it, you can rapidly move about the play field cutting ribbons off your enemies with you dual-wielded, dual-bladed daggers. If you like zipping around with triple-jumps, regaining shield while you do, and all at top speed? Then getting up close and personal with the Interceptor could be for you.

Decided now?

Yeah… No… Me neither.

I mean, I’m becoming fairly certain I’ll start out with the Ranger, focus on becoming the single-target boss-killer powerhouse of the team. So that the demo is giving everyone the Ranger to start with doesn’t bother me terribly.

But what next? Even the Interceptor representing the rogue playstyle — not something I typically go for! — looks fresh and exciting.

The tanky Colossus would more closely align with my typical play style, as I nearly always go Healer or Tank.

But I’m quite hyped to try out the damage-dealing, status-spreading Storm, too. I think this will be the class I test out for our free choice during the demo.

So… What do I DO then?

If you really cannot decide–then nothing is going to beat first hand experience.

Even if you can’t make (or don’t want, for reasons of story spoilers, etc) to participate in the demos — know that in the live game, you’re going to have each of the 4 Javelin’s unlocked before the end game.

You’ll have had ample opportunity to test and learn and see what works best for you.

And if they’re all truly holding equal spot in your heart, then just blind pick one. If you’re disappointed with what you unlock at the time — at least you’ll have a clearer idea of what you really wanted. ;)


What to expect when you’re expecting… (an Anthem Demo)

There is a lot of information floating around about the upcoming Anthem demo–some of it not quite right. So I’m here to help distinguish between what we ‘know’–that is, we have it direct from an official source–vs. what has merely been speculated.

Little does this Grabbit know how soon, or how much, it’s peaceful existence is about to be disrupted by a horde of new Freelancers…

What we’ve been told:

BioWare’s Mark Darrah and Michael Gamble have been busy beavers on Twitter, providing information and answering questions on what we will get in the demos.1

The playable level range will be 10-15.2 You will be dropped into the thick of it at level 10, without the benefit of the tutorial, nor having had the ability to run through customisation of your pilot/human avatar like you will in the full game.

All demo players will start with the Ranger. At level 12 we will be able to select a second Javelin of our choice to test.3

The demo was branched from the final game code base ~6 weeks ago.4 This has a few distinct call-outs of its own. Namely, 6 weeks worth of bug fixes are missing from the demo build.

Tweaks to mouse and keyboard flight controls made since the branch for a more nuanced control experience are missing from the demo.

Some things have been renamed for additional clarity in the final build, that will still have their old names in the demo.

Balance in terms of the economy and the difficulty have not been updated to the final state either. Mark Darrah confirmed5 that in general, the demo build is easier than what we will experience in the final build.

This will be an important note if you, or your friends, are concerned about the seeming ease of the game. The demo is not going to be representative of the final game difficulty. More on this in the next section.

In a similar vein to the difficulty, the gear drop rates and overall economy of the game do not reflect final game state either.

Demo will be a 30gb download6 This proved to be incorrect! For PC at least–the Origin download for the Anthem Demo weighs in at 44GB.

Progress will carry over from VIP demo to the Open demo, but not live.7

So this is what we’ve been told–if I’m missing anything, please do let me know. Oh. Actually. There is one more thing. I guess. The preload is live right now. Also, VIP friend keys are available. Just a small detail. ;) Take a look at the official EA Anthem demo page for information on starting the preload on your platform of choice, or take a look at this Reddit Post for advice on grabbing your friend VIP keys.

Demo gets a trailer

This short (30 second) trailer popped up this morning. Little bit of a new scene and dialog from Matthias.

This way lies speculation!

…And information which might well be official that I read previously and cannot now put my hands on the source.

Either way–take this section with a healthy dose of salt.

It seems the demo build we’ll be getting our hands on is more or less the same build that certain content creators in the ‘EA Game Changers’ programme were given access to late last year.

This build we believe was optimised for ‘shorter play sessions’, to which I take the mean that the XP gain and loot drop rates will be inflated over what BioWare would consider ‘normal’ for the final product.

We will level faster, see more items and potentially items of a higher grade than we will see at the same levels of pilot and difficulty in the launch product.

What is also somewhat murky is how many Javelin picks we will get to test during the demo sessions. From this twitter thread, we can confirm that all four Javelins (i.e., Ranger, Colossus, Storm and Interceptor) will be available to choose from. But not how many we will have access to on a single account.

The level cap of 15 would suggest two, and two has been discussed in various twitter threads the devs are on without contradiction or correction. My advice here would be to expect only two, then if it ends up being four, bonus!

There has been some discussion that we might all be given the Ranger to start and then get to choose only one other Javelin. My suspicion is that this is confusion over the base game and getting the loaner Ranger in the tutorial before making a choice on your actual starting Javelin.

I predict therefore that we will have open choice of two Javelins. Just two days now til we can confirm ourselves!

I was wrong with that prediction, and this has now been cleared up in full! BioCamden has posted on Reddit in the past hour that the Ranger will be the first unlock for everyone. At level 12 we will be able to pick another Javelin to try.

As a parting note: I am still likely to have another VIP friend key or two to giveaway–if you’re still needing one, let me know in the comments!

Anthem Javelin Profile: Ranger

This series of posts is aimed mostly at those dipping their feet into the waters of Anthem for the first time. If that’s you – welcome! If that’s not you… well, also welcome! But more in-depth content to come once we get our hands on the game. :)

Bioware's Anthem: Line up of the four classes, left-to-right, Ranger, Colossus, Storm and Interceptor. The Ranger is in colour as the focus of the image, with the other three in greyscale.

Play Style: The Ranger is being toted as the versatile, jack-of-all-trades Javelin. You have a medium amount of health and shields and a medium degree of mobility. The Ranger is also capable of dealing all elemental damage types — giving it a good range of options when it comes to dealing with heavily shielded (lightning, frost) or armored (acid, fire) enemies. Consider the Ranger akin to a Soldier in playstyle, with grenades, rockets, and a good range of weaponry.

Movement / Dodge: The Ranger is capable of double-jumping, and can dash quickly in any direction to avoid danger.

Special: The only Javelin capable of priming enemies with a melee attack. The Ranger’s Shock Mace is capable of priming with the Lightning effect. Also the only Javelin capable of activating and firing their Ultimate while flying (not just hovering like the Storm, but proper travel-mode flight).

Combo Effect: Detonating a combo as the Ranger deals a good portion of bonus single target damage, making them ideal for taking out the heavy hitters of the game.

Weapons CAN Equip: Heavy Pistols, Shotguns, Assault Rifles, Marksman Rifles, Machine Pistols, Light Machine Guns, Sniper Rifles.

Weapons CANNOT Equip: Autocannons, Grenade Launchers.

Armor: Heavy

Melee Attack: Shock Mace — Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening…Er, yes. As noted above, the Ranger’s Shock Mace can prime enemies with the Lightning status effect.

The Skills

Grenade Gear

  • Frag Grenade: Throw and trigger an explosion on impact with a moderate radius.
  • Inferno Grenade: Throw and trigger fire damage both immediately and over time.
  • Frost Grenade: Throw and apply frost status, freezing enemies in place.
  • Seeker Grenades: Throw a single grenade which then splits into multiple grenades that will seek out nearby enemies.
  • Sticky Grenade: Latches to the first surface hit, be that the ground, a rock your enemy is about to pop around, or heck, the enemy’s face. Then it explodes. Ouch.

Assault Gear

  • Seeking Missile: Launch a missile that will home in on a single nearby enemy, exploding on impact and dealing damage in a small radius.
  • Pulse Blast: Fire an energy burst at a single target.
  • Spark Beam: Deals continuous damage to your target, you can sweep it around to touch multiple targets while your charge holds.
  • Venom Darts: Fire a volley of three acid darts, dealing damage and applying the acid status effect.
  • Blast Missile: Dumb fire missile, but with a large area of effect compared to other Ranger abilities.

Support Gear

  • Bulwark Point: Places a dome of energy around you which deflects enemy projectiles. Allies can enter the radius for protection also.
  • Muster Point: Places a dome of energy around you which buffs your weapon damage. Allies may also enter the dome to have their weapon damage buffed.

Ultimate Ability: Multi-Target Missile Battery

A swarm of missiles erupt from your shoulder launcher after a period of locking on to anything around.

As the name suggests, it will target multiple targets if they’re available–but if you’re against say a boss without any trash about, all missiles are also capable of hitting the same target for some pretty, pretty, hefty damage.

As with all ultimate abilities in Anthem–heal yourself to full upon activation and become invulnerable for the duration. As the Ranger though, you can also be in full flight-mode with your Ultimate firing off. No other Javelin can do this, although the Storm can hover.

Official Skills Video

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