Very soon, in fact. Friday 5th April.1 Tidal Basin — the last bastion of the Black Tusk opens.
Beating back the Black Tusk from the Tidal Basin stronghold will provide a little more than just World Tier 5. We will also:
Get to see a little more story, around why things are going the way they are and why Tidal Basin has unlocked to us at the moment it did.
Gain access to ‘Heroic’ difficulty missions, a step above the already aptly named ‘Challenging’ difficulty.
Start to see the first three full-sets with 5- and 6-piece set bonuses dropping. (Details of each in video at end of post)
The ability to play ‘meaningfully’ again with progress to gear we know will last a while, therefore making builds a worthwhile endeavour. :D
I’ll likely still only play when others are playing, as grouping with friends is still my primary draw to this game. But I’m still *super* excited by this coming to be, and so soon! I thought we would have to wait at least a little longer than this.
There is more story and stronghold content free to all players in the pipeline as well. In particular I cannot wait for ‘The Last Castle’ story DLC which will put players in a mission inside The Pentagon.
For now though, we got a fair bit to look forward to in the short term. And it coming out at the start of a weekend? Perfect. :)
(Aforementioned Link to Video with details of the sets coming April 5th.)
Learning the Scelos fight last night taught me something about Anthem. It’s difficulty shares some parallels to WoW. Anything below Grandmaster and the mechanics can be preeeetty much ignored (or at least not fully understood) just like in WoW’s normal dungeon or PUG Raid (LFR) difficulties.
Crank that switch up though and things start to matter.
In order to do this as a Stronghold, you need to have gone through the encounter as part of the Story so you would have seen it already. But as a bit of a recap The Monitor-ascended has three-major phases to it.
Phase 1: The ‘ow hothothot’ phase, where the floor, the sky, the boss the boss’s weapon (and sometimes your Javelin) are lava.
Phase 2: The ‘ow I’m melting’ phase, but this time it’s acid burn.
Phase 3: The ‘ow-‘ ZZzzzT! Lightning phase.
Of the three I think the first phase is the roughest to get through, especially if you’re not sure what’s going on or if enough of your party doesn’t know what’s going on.
So let’s fix that.
Phase 1: Fire
If you take only one thing away with you from these tips, take this:
Shoot the balls of fire on the ground.
The first time I encountered this mechanic, I assumed it was intended that we find a safe spot on the ground and run to to it. That’s a trick, a dirty- dirty- trick.
By the time they’re ready to go critical and explode, they’ll be covering about 95% of the arena floor. You can fly above and treat the floor like lava during this phase, but this is risky business if you get knocked out of the air before they’re finished turning everything at ground level to bacon.
There is a secondary bonus to destroying the Meteors before they can detonate as well. Destroying the meteors gives you a crazy amount of ultimate charge. Destroying even a couple each round of meteors will see you being able to get several Ultimates off before it pushes into Phase 2.
The expanding rings around each meteor are safe to be in before they explode, you can run right in close as you’re destroying one to make sure you don’t accidentally get hit by an explosion from another nearby meteor.
There are no adds to worry about in this phase either, so you can position yourselves as you see fit around the room. I’d suggest not stacking too tightly due to the leap attacks and fire orbs, but if you see someone who is struggling with clearing a patch of safety around them in the Meteor phase, it’d be better to hang out nearby and help them than to let them take that damage repeatedly. It’s intense.
Three other things to pay attention to in this phase though are:
Pay attention to the boss even while shooting the meteors. Use your abilities to get the meteors down quickly so that you don’t get blindsided by a leap attack. If The Monitor kneels down and is facing your general direction, jump, dash to the side and jump again. Your aim is as much horizontal distance as possible. If you’re a Colossus, err… die I guess? I suppose you could try out your shield. That might work. ;)1
If the fiery orb is floating above the ground — it’s a trap! You can’t destroy those ones, they just simply explode. Mechanically they’re very similar to the stationary fire-orb explosions that Titans do. Just back away from these and don’t let them explode on you.
At the midpoint of The Monitor’s second pip of health, watch out. You’ll also hear a voice-queue from your Freelancer, ‘Chase him down!’ to signal this is about to happen. You’ll get a wave of Meteors with a lot more health. You probably cannot kill these fast enough alone to avoid them detonating. If you’re nearby allies (or are on voice and can co-ordinate coming together as you near this point in his health) you might be able to focus fire one and carve yourself out a safe spot. If not, every person for themselves! Fly up immediately and aim for an outer edge of the arena. You should be able to find a safe spot to land and wait out the detonation, possibly ressing the less fortunate after it goes off. ;)
#3 signals the end of this phase — you’ll have time to regroup before flying to the next arena if needed and bring up your fallen if needed.
Phase 2: Acid
After all that for Phase 1, Phase 2 and Acid will probably feel like a cakewalk.
The main new addition here is Mordant Elementals who will be a near constant companion during this phase. Like any other elemental you’re likely to encounter in Anthem, they would love dearly to come up to you and give you a hug.
It’s just a shame that their hugs come in the form of an acidic shower.
Work on killing these rather than letting them build up, but you can achieve that simply through pretending to want a hug and walking up to them — to jump and dash away right after if you’re one of the more agile Javelins.
Meanwhile, The Monitor won’t be jumping around as much any more and slamming halberds through your party, but he will Teleport around the place. You’re generally most safe to stay positioned on the platforms in the room, although despite appearances the liquid at ground level will not innately damage you.
As well as offering splatter-hugs, Mordant Elementals who you gain sufficient distance from will instead spit acid at you. Yes, rather unpleasant.
The Monitor will do this too, but it will come in quite a wide torrent. For this reason it’s best to keep some distance from him. If he teleports nearby your platform, relocate to another.
On top of this, The Monitor will occasionally bring back his explosive orb trick — of course, this time attuned to Acid.
Once The Monitor is down 3 pips of health (50%), this phase will be over and he will teleport away again. Know that the elementals will not stop spawning. You should just leave as soon as the next waypoint marker appears on screen; not keep fighting the elementals in the room like I did for a while. ;)
Phase 3: Lightning
The final phase, and the second most difficult in my opinion.
The main new mechanic here to watch for is domes of exploding electric energy, which then course a wave across the entire arena floor. These can come from any direction and often overlap each other.
It does damage at ground level, so staying above it — either by hovering as much as possible, standing on the various pieces of machinery in the area, or timing your jumps to pass it by harmlessly beneath you is up to you. Learn the sound it makes though as the wave starts, as it may save your life.
Taking a single wave probably isn’t going to kill you, but taking one followed by a sequence of homing electro balls might.
Now, YMMV on this — but I found with my latency2 I had to jump a bit before what was visually suggested to me. In the video I’ll include below, you’ll see a few instances where I jumped over and still took the damage, and a few more where it appears I landed ON the effect and got by unscathed.
As you approach the final 1.5 pips of health, he will go berserk — crouched in the centre sending continual shock waves out. It is my belief that the orbs of light in the barriers in the arena are meant to protect you from the wave attacks.
But I found this to be somewhat unreliable. Watching the video back though, here’s what I think the situation is — I’ll be testing this further on future runs, but also happy to hear from any of you on it:
The barrier cannot protect you from the initial explosion that sources the energy waves,
The barrier also cannot protect you from the homing lightning balls.
But it seems that the barrier can protect you from just the waves of energy. I think when I take damage from a wave, I have juuuust inched my way out the back end of the barrier and therefore lost it’s protection.
If this is true, it might be an easier means of avoiding damage from that mechanic, but it isn’t infallible so keeping mobile except in times of dire need might work just as well and is probaaaably what I’ll continue to do.
Shortly after he goes berserk, he will fade out of existance. (No grand strider entrance this time.)
Well done, you’ve beat it! :D
If you want to see this in video form, you may. But note it is completely unedited and not narrated. On the plus side, that means the bloopers are also intact. ;)
I benny hill an elemental around a platform for a while in, launch a grenade at a different unsuspecting platform and fire a devastator round into an equally unsuspecting wall. Fun times.
Nonetheless, the attempt was successful and it might help in visualising some of what I’ve talked about.
Went into Scelos fight tonight on Grandmaster 1 after previously only having done Scar Temple on hard. To start with, Scelos was an exercise in frustration. “Oh for Fart’s Sake,” or perhaps something, um, similar, was heard over our Discord on more than one occasion.
The core problem was that we were over-cocky bastids at this point. Even Legendary Contracts on GM1 were starting to give us that feeling of super-human power again. Take that attitude into Scelos’ lair though, and he ain’t having a bar of it.
In case you’ve not yet seen or done this fight full-stop; the basic mechanics of it are that Scelos has fused himself into the form of a very large Escari shell, with all the fun and games that entails. Waves of devastating missiles and withering machine gun fire being the specials of the day.
Add to this though that every so often three giant shield generators around the room will power up and render Scelos invulnerable. Each generator must be taken down before Scelos can be damaged again, but also during this phase additional Scar support units will spawn in, with increasing intensity each time this phase is activated. Note that even while shielded, Scelos would love nothing more than to ruin your day with an unasked for Missile-enema.
Queue the tips — aka: The things we did wrong on the first two attempts that we corrected for the third.
Be mindful of where the fans are — they will hurt you if you’re taking their blades to the backside. They also activate with very little warning. Fan activation appears to be boss HP based rather than time alone, but it isn’t directly related to passing from one ‘pip’ of Scelos’ health into the next. Nonetheless, crossing that threshold is when we started to be extra alert for the fans starting, and making sure the cover we were currently using wasn’t right in front of one.
The scar waves with the activation of the fans are finite — kill them. Don’t feel pressured into doing the fans quickly in order to reduce Scar spawns. They do stop on their own without taking the fans down and should be dealt with accordingly. The first fan phase or two is not that scary, but if you ignore them they will hang around until dealt with, on top of the less friendly waves that come later.1
Moving in a group (or at least pairs) from cover to cover is good during the shielded phase. Pack mentality for handling the scars is the way to go. Focus fire the threats (Hunters, Scouts) then take out the little guys. If Scars spawn right into your cover, fly low and fast to another clear cover. You can barrel role (or shield) your way through this cleanly most of the time. Move around the room in a circle, clearing fans as you go and is safe. If there are Scars up in another part of the room, have someone not focus the shield to keep watch on what’s happening on the ground rather than in the air on the generator beams.
Opposite is true for the damage phase — spread out for this. Assuming you’ve cleared the Scar reinforcements out before downing the final fan beam, you can and should safely spread to different sets of cover around the room. Scelos’ turret tracks very quickly but still must aim to fire. The current target of Scelos’ ire would ideally notify rest of the team that it is (briefly) safe for them peek and poke with prejudice. Bonus points if you can get that poke on ol’ Scelos’ bad knee (a common weakpoint for Escari).
And that’s basically it. Scelos hits hard and fast, but isn’t as unfair as first impressions may seem. An example: His missile waves do incredible damage and have a force component meaning you can be knocked about if hit. But they do have a fair travel-time component, and there is always time to react between the first salvo and the second salvo, even if the first pummels you.
Taking that first salvo isn’t too bad, but the second as well? Definitely no bueno.
And that should be about that. This level of co-ordination is likely going to be difficult with PUGs to start with while people learn what is required of them. If you’re playing in this scenario I think the best you can do is to attach to one of the group while in the fan phase, keeping the Scar population around them to a minimum, and keep working on the Scar if for some reason your group leaves them up into the next boss damage phase.
You really don’t want to have to be dealing with your cover spots from the boss becoming increasingly dangerous with Scar swarming around as well.
Otherwise, keen to hear how people are finding this encounter on the higher difficulties. I went from making grumpy faces at it to having a newfound respect for the mechanics after managed to shift out of the mindset that current gearing has allowed for in other content.
BioWare told us that Strongholds would be the pinnacle of challenge for the launch game content — and it seems they meant it!
The February 22ndDay 1Day -1?patch came out yesterday, in advance of the launch for all comers today.
It has a wide array of changes and fixes, with the official list of changes from BioWare here. It seems an incredibly positive list overall, and my experience with it so far would back that up. A PSA though: If you’re using nVidia drivers 418.91 (The latest as of Feb 22nd), this version of Anthem does not like it.
I personally had issues with the game hanging on quit with a black screen until force-terminating the game. Others though have reported jittery framerates and micro-freezes that reverting back to 418.811 seems to resolve.
Besides that, I also found a few changes not in the patch notes! I’m sure there are others, but here are some of the big ones I found not covered in the notes.
Alliance Ranks Provide More Coin
Not an insignificant boost. In the old screenshot one of my friends was at the time Rank 9 (of a possible 10) and was providing 540 coin.
Now you earn more than double that amount from at least Rank 6 upward.
A very positive change, but one I had momentarily thought was in place of what were previously pretty good coin rewards from basically any daily/weekly/monthly challenge available.
Thankfully the missing/reduced coin from these challenges is a bug. Hopefully one we’ll see resolved soon!
Stronghold and Legendary Contract Completion Bonus
Completing a Stronghold or Legendary Contract on Grandmaster 1 or higher difficulty now guarantees a Masterwork (with I assume, chance at a Legendary).
So even if you’re incredibly unlucky during the mission itself and don’t manage to get any MW’s to drop for you — just know one will come in the end.
A positive change and one that should keep people sticking around to the end. :)
Grandmaster XP Buffed
If you made it to Grandmaster difficulty before the patch, you might’ve noticed that the XP gain was tiny compared to what you would get on any other difficulty.
I had wondered if this was perhaps intentional to prevent dragging lower level characters along with you and power leveling them. (No idea if this is viable btw, you can take lower people in with you, but not sure what their XP would be like now.)
Turns out not though, and GM xp has been buffed by a factor of 8-10x.
Ranger’s ‘Pulse Blast’ is Amaaazing now
OK, this one might’ve actually been in the patch notes. But it’s just too good not to mention.
Pulse Blast is an absolute shield destroyer now. Don’t leave Fort Tarsis without one of these in your party for near on instant knockdown of Scouts, Hunters, Elementalists or any other pesky shield-wielder you care to name.
How’s my Build Coming Along?
Alright so not exactly patch related, but the MW drop increase from Grandmaster Strongholds and Legendary Contracts helped… so…
OK, just a tease then. Separate post detailing it all later. But here’s a screenshot showing what I’m wielding at the moment. :)
I can push the gear level up into the ‘Masterwork’ tier, but while (slightly) more survivable, it’s far less damage. So until I can get a good enough component to replace the Epic Armor one, or even better, a Masterwork or Legendary Bulwark Point — I’ll be happy with an Epic Javelin rating. :)
…Although I miiight have pushed myself into Masterwork ranked Javelin and done a mission just to get the achievement. *cough*
Yesterday there was an early leak of the This is Anthem: Part 2 video via the Korean Playstation channel. When it became clear it was a breach of NDA (albeit not mine; I’m not under one) for it to be out already, out of respect for BioWare I took the content of this article down.
Welp, turns out the wait wasn’t all that long! This morning the video was officially released — I’m unsure whether this was the intended timeline or in response to the leak, but in either case — content of this post restored! :)
I shan’t hold it back from you — here you go:
I don’t normally do this, but I’m going to put in a break. Below the break is unavoidable spoiler territory, click only if you’re good with knowing what the third launch stronghold is, and the changes to Anthem’s difficulty!
Heart of Rage is the Third Stronghold
Difficulties Scaled Back
Ben Irving tweeted confirming more detail on this would be coming end of this week or perhaps early week.
But from the video the current figures (I say that, because I suspect they may change again given a few uneven percentages) it looks like:
Easy: Not shown in video
Damage / Health: 0%
Max Rarity: +50%
Damage / Health: +52%
Max Rarity: +100%
Damage / Health: +165%
Masterwork Chance: +150%
Damage / Health: +430%
Masterwork Chance: +200%
Damage / Health: +950%
Masterwork Chance: +250%
For some comparison, Grandmaster 3 was previously shown with 3100% damage and health scaling. That did seem a bit… excessive. It seemed out of line with what the Masterwork and Legendaries we were shown at the time would seemingly allow us to get up to, damage wise.
So I think the Grandmaster changes are possibly good. I’m less convinced on Hard, the demos had hard set to +100% life, and for the most part that felt good.
Possible exception there being legendary shielded enemies. But I think main part of the issue there was how fast they could regenerate the shield to full.
So it’s entirely possible that we’ll see some other difficulty tweaks apart from these simple number-levers when Ben spills the beans a bit later on.
Even if there isn’t though, I’m inclined to view this as a positive change. There were definitely some potential issues on the horizon with feelings of bullet-spongeyness, but guess we’ll see when we get a hands on in 9 days time!
Cataclysms and Post Launch
As mentioned in my Demo 2 impressions — the ‘event’ we saw at the end of the open demo was a tiny taster.
Cataclysms are still a thing, and intended to be the, “…most ambitious and challenging of events”.
It’s also worth noting that Shaper Storms as a concept have been wrapped up under the broader umbrella of Cataclysms, which Jonathan Warner says are a, “larger and more dynamic concept”.
The Demo also explicitly makes promises of new characters, new missions and social improvements (including guild capability), “…in the coming weeks and months…” of launch.
Now, “weeks” could still mean more than a month out, but I feel that if it was too much more than that there simply wouldn’t be a timeframe mentioned at all.
This post is more difficult than I imagined. And it’s due to more than just experience with the demo itself. There has also been a fair number of information drops since the VIP Demo.
Not all of that news has been good. I’ve experienced something of a mental tonal shift in regards to Anthem too. Don’t get me wrong — I’m still all in and wish this game absolute success.
But there is a significant difference between constructive criticism vs. an irrational degree of cynicism. Or perhaps less charitably — driving clicks through sensationalist moral outrage or jumping on the current hate-bandwagon.
Despite what the internet by and large would have us believe these days – it’s actually OK to like something. That doesn’t however excuse blind faith or rationalising away legitimate concerns. Unwarranted positivity can be just as damaging as unwarranted negativity.
So here’s an attempt at rendering more of a balanced view. Based on both the information released since my last write-up, and another weekend of play.
With a couple pretty key exceptions: They fixed the infinite loading / 95% stuck bug. And the servers launched in a much more stable condition.
Otherwise though — the bugs remained. Enemies still vanished, sound still cut out, key parts required to complete events could depart with a disconnecting player, rendering events (and even the Stronghold) unable to be completed. Luckily, this is confirmed fixed in live game build.
There are a few things that I either didn’t cover or feel needs more attention now though. For example, Pete reminded me in his impressions post of the annoying insistence to second guess the players choice to go into Private play mode. If you want to play a mission in private, even though you literally just dug several menu’s to change it… When you go to launch the mission it will ask, ‘Are you sure?’ with a patronising message about the game being better with other players.
For your first time through a mission, other than with friends? Vehemently disagree. Having a random blaze off ahead, forcing you into a teleport after them without the time to take things in or find things yourself is the worst. Stop it Anthem, stop it!
Mouse and Keyboard Controls
I mentioned before I quite liked the controls – to the point of hoping the fixes talked about for the live build didn’t change things too dramatically.
This is still true. But I’ve done a little more research on the topic of mouse control and at least understand the problem others are experiencing a little better now.
This article gave me a much better understanding of issues around mouse acceleration and the like. Turns out I’ve been amongst the scrubbiest of scrubs, with Windows mouse acceleration turned on (the ‘Enhance Pointer Precision’ option).
And I mean, that sucker has been on for years. Probably since the option turned up in Windows XP.
So dealing with Mouse Acceleration is 100% normal to me. I’ve turned it off now and increased the DPI used on my mouse. It has taken a wee bit of adjustment, but has helped highlight for me the problems people have discussed with the flight model. So I hope the planned fix assists us all in that respect.
There is still an element of ‘git gud’ to picking up Anthem’s flight as well though. The practice effect is strong, but it kicks in after a relatively short amount of sustained play.
Menu and UI
I think… Painful might be the right word to use here.
We are getting some good fixes coming through for launch, but it is clear that the interface was a console first design. That needn’t necessarily be a death knell for a UI even on PC.
But layer on that lacking (in the demo, at least) the simple ability to click through to elements clearly displayed on the screen just because they’re one level down, and this really odd laggy, delayed sensation to the menu interactions? And yeah.. Painful.
The console method of confirming actions by requiring a key to be held down has jumped to this PC interface as well. In some instances, I’m OK with it, e.g. when requesting to leave a mission early or leaving freeplay. But other times it is ridiculous, e.g. when it asks you to hold ‘Esc’ to simply leave a menu, as if it is a key that commonly gets mispressed!
Honestly speaking — unlike controls where issues can actively diminish the play experience — a painful UI is rarely a deal breaker, and it isn’t here either.
It largely gets out of your way when it matters, but makes what should be simple tasks such as inviting squad mates and launching a mission much less intuitive than it should be.
How was the end of Demo event?
Eh. It was OK.
It was overhyped for what it ended up being. To be fair — this was a community action rather than anything BioWare did. There was a small teaser to hang around for the final hours of the event, and from this videos were spawned speculating we were to see a Shaper Storm or a Cataclysm event.
But while BioWare themselves never promised any of this — managing player expectations is a key aspect of managing a fan community, and this was nowhere to be seen.
So when it turned out to be an orange patch of storm in the sky, with a few particle effects representing fiery fallout from it and an abundance of Ash Titans around the place… And that was all… ‘Eh’ is about right.
In fact before I went back in and found the Ancient Ash Titan myself — I was getting to ready to leave this demo on a detached and very down note.
I almost didn’t bother going looking. I had heard already that people were suffering from the despawning-monster bug prevalent in the demo build of the game and losing their progress against it.1
I’m glad I did, because watching this fight and taking part in this fight are dramatically different things.
As the Ancient Ash Titan’s health gets lower, it starts using more abilities and in different sequences, increasing in tempo and variance the further in you get. All before berserking out, firing everything it possibly has at you for a while before self-destructing.
It was wild, exhilarating even. More of this, please.
Still — as an event, it was fairly lack-lustre over all. But from all indications, we should only consider this to be the ‘Phase 1’ of such an event roll-out. In live the expectation is that this would continue to build into bigger and better things.
OK, that’s fair — I can buy that. I don’t buy that it was necessarily a good idea to showcase a ‘Phase 1’ event with no follow-up, in a demo you’re putting out to help sell the product though.
Strongholds are not the only endgame content, but from what we can tell, for those serious about endgame play – they will be the main activity immediately following launch. They are more than a Strike in Destiny 2, but perhaps a little less than an MMO’s dungeon where multiple boss encounters are expected. They culminate in a boss battle at the end, and have events and mini bosses throughout.
One of the three will unlock during the main story path, but the remaining two will only unlock after reaching maximum level (30).
We’ll also have Legendary Contracts occupying a similar difficulty level as the Strongholds, but it seems only one a day. A legendary contract is a set mission but generated from a random selection of three events which escalate in difficulty from one to the next.
Outside of these we’ll also have the difficulty scaling into Grandmaster 1-3, similar to Diablo 3’s Torment levels. We will have full access to freeroam, other non-Legendary-contracts and the open world mini-dungeons (e.g., the demo had The Mandible and The Necropolis) to get through at these difficulties.
Even so, I get the concern. Only three strongholds for launch is an incredibly weak offering. I feel like even if they’d bumped it to five, while still weak, the outcry would not be so vehement. Hell, I’d be a lot more accepting of five.
I understand that it’s fairly common practice for the looter-shooter genre titles to launch without anything in the way of an endgame. But have they not learned from the outcry and player-base bleeding that goes along with it each time?
BioWare have been suggesting that they will be providing some clarity over the post-launch roadmap soon. I’m looking forward to seeing this and how quickly we can expect additions to what is currently sounding rather thin on the ground.
BioWare has also said that there have been multiple live-content teams at work on post-launch content for the past several weeks, so there is still potential for a quick turn around… But, in the absence of that information?
Here’s my current conclusion…
I’m still very much looking forward to Anthem’s full release. The core of the game is excellent, the skills (if not all the weapons) feel impactful and great to use.
The loot while not yet showing signs of living up to the great examples set in Blizzard’s titles and other ARPGs, is certainly a hell of a lot more interesting than anything Destiny 2 offers in this area.
But! I am tempering my immediate long-term expectations for the game. That isn’t a contradiction, I swear! What I mean is — if at launch, I can get somewhere in the region of 50-80 hours of it, accounting for going through the story, finishing up with the reputations and challenges I care about, perhaps getting into a decent set of Masterwork gear (with some legendaries scattered in) to such a point I can get into and do the Grandmaster difficulties? Then I’ll be happy that it was money well spent.
At that point I could comfortably put Anthem on the shelf and give it time to develop more of an endgame — likely giving The Division 2 a try while it does so.
I’m no longer expecting to get hundreds of hours out of the title immediately. Eventually, yes. But not immediately.3