Not So Massively: Cataclysm looks cool, but it’s not what Anthem needs right now

We never claimed to be saints.

I am an unapologetic Anthem apologist. I think it’s a great game, and I’m more than a little frustrated by the constant barrage of criticism directed toward it, as I feel much of it is undeserved.

But I’m not blind. Rightly or wrongly, I know the game is struggling. That puts a lot of expectations on its first major update, and as much as it pains me to say it, I’m worried Cataclysm isn’t what Anthem needs right now.

Don’t get me wrong. Cataclysm looks great. It’s introducing new story missions, a new area with rotating buffs to modify your play style, and new loot. All of that sounds fun, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

My main concern around Cataclysm itself is that your expedition within the new area will be on a time limit. Your rewards are based on how high of a score you can earn before the time runs out. That could be fun, or it could just make things super stressful. I could especially see that being a problem in PUGs.

That doesn’t much temper my enthusiasm, though. I still think Cataclysm is going to be a good ride. My concern is that it’s not going to be the update Anthem needs to turn things around.

The problem is Cataclysm is a temporary event. It will last for eight weeks (the first two of which are a “pre-event” sans most of the content), and then it’s gone. Anthem doesn’t need a temporary event. It needs real, meaty content updates.

If there is one criticism of Anthem I do agree with, it’s that it’s content light. What’s there is good, but there’s just not enough of it. The world is small, the number of Strongholds is downright paltry, and once you finish the story content, the game starts to feel very limited in scope.

Now, most online games struggle with content depth at launch. It’s very hard for any developer to build enough content to keep people satisfied; we players are like locusts, ravenous and insatiable. So I don’t think that launching a bit light on content is the worst sin a game can commit by any stretch of the imagination, but it does mean that the following patches are crucial to shoring things up.

And that brings us right back to Cataclysm because I don’t think Cataclysm is doing that. A temporary event is just putting a bandaid on the problem, at best. Once it wraps up, we’ll be right back where we started, with a thin game and grumpy players.

Also worrying is the fact Cataclysm is going to be dropping gear that is more powerful than anything in the game right now. I don’t believe BioWare is dumb enough to let people who participated in Cataclysm have a permanent advantage over everyone else, but even if equally powerful gear is patched into the base game later, just having a few months where the Cataclysm players have an advantage over those who missed it is still going to upset a lot of people.

Temporary events can work in games like this. Used sparingly, I think they’re one of the most exciting things you can do with an online game and one of the greatest advantages MMOs and their ilk have over single-player titles. But I don’t think now is the time for one.

Clearly Bioware didn’t expect to find Anthem struggling as it has been. The studio expected a more well-received launch and for the post-launch content to roll out more quickly than it has. In that reality, going straight to Cataclysm off the bat might have made more sense, but that’s not the reality we live in.

And the thing is, I do have have sympathy for BioWare because I’m sure this has been in development for months, and it may well be too late to change those plans. In a perfect world I’d like to see Cataclysm delayed a few months so the developers can focus on fleshing out the base game, but I also know that’s probably just not feasible.

I do still think there are some ways the company could salvage this. The first that comes to mind is to immediately follow Cataclysm with another event, though that is my least favorite option. If this game is to rely on temporary events for all its content, we’re essentially back to season one of Guild Wars 2‘s Living World, and I don’t think anyone wants a repeat of that.

Another option is to make Cataclysm a repeating event that rolls around every few months. I think that would work pretty well and solve most problems, but it still does leave an awkward patch where we’re left with no event and no new content.

Finally, BioWare could just make Cataclysm a permanent addition rather than a temporary event. They seem pretty keen to sell this as a limited time event, so I don’t know how likely that is, but it’s another option that solves most issues. The one downside there is that they would need to pivot from Cataclysm loot being more powerful, because otherwise it would become the only content anyone cares about and invalidate the rest of the game.

At the very least, I hope that BioWare keeps the new story missions around when the event ends. Lack of content issues notwithstanding, preventing people from catching up on the story is a great way to keep players away. Again, the Living World comes to mind. One of the reasons I’ve never been able to get back into GW2 since my initial departure is that I have no idea what’s going on anymore and no reasonable way of catching up. That is not a road I want to see Anthem go down.

Failing all that, our best hope is that Anthem quickly follows Cataclysm up with a meaty, permanent content update, but waiting that long will further damage the game’s brand if the issues with Cataclysm are not addressed. I’m not ready to say the situation would be unrecoverable, but it would be even more of an uphill battle than it already is.

The world of online gaming is changing. As the gray area between single-player and MMO becomes ever wider, Massively OP’s Tyler Edwards delves into this new and expanding frontier biweekly in Not So Massively, our column on battle royales, OARPGs, looter-shooters, and other multiplayer online titles that aren’t quite MMORPGs.

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Steve Gossman

Its not as temporarily as you think

John Mynard

If Bioware wanted the game to do well, they should’ve put a proper MANAGER at the top of the game and had 3 or 4 solid years of development out of the TEN that the idea of Anthem has been floating around. Instead, they circlejerked around for nearly 9 years, burning God knows how much money, until 18 months before they had to have something out and it shows.

I don’t know what’s sadder, the fact that Anthem got a proper release or the fact that its trajectory is looking EXACTLY like Firefall’s and we all see where that ended up.

Yes, I’m still bitter. ;P

Brent Greatens

I too wanted Anthem to do well. It had all the right ideas, some fresh concepts and a solid premise but the execution at launch failed horribly! If you are familiar with the story behind its 6 years of development then you are aware this game was failed before it even got off the ground, and now it’s too little too late for Bioware to salvage Anthem as a bonifid Destiny competitor. This is what both Bioware and the market needed in the gaming community, though it is only a mere pipe dream now. For the individual Anthem fan you will be able to have your fun but for those more committed gamers who need to go hard or not at all, well Anthem will never be “that game” which is a shame. For me Anthem looked like a potential “Destiny Killer” for lack of a better phrase but now Anthem will be a cautionary tale centered around “what could have been…”


I thought it was a decent game. My wife and I played it and stopped when we ran out of things to do.


Exactly. I’m still playing but grouping is getting difficult….


Another thing speaking against Anthem at the moment is that player interaction is at a minimum. It’s hard to meet people as there isn’t even any text chat. You can randomly add people you do strongholds with but yeah.. if there’s no good ways for a community to form, the game will have less staying power because games like Anthem ultimately live from a strong community. The guild update is nice but won’t help much as long as more basic tools aren’t in place.

Anyhow I hope Bioware keeps working on the game because Anthem *is* great and deserves much better.


Good point. I would love a text chat. It is needed as long as their in-game VoIP is garbage which isn’t even getting a look right now.

Kickstarter Donor
Legend Of Vinny T

tl;dr: “Why are you putting out THEIR fire instead of MY fire?” Which has never, ever been productive to any development team.


No, Cataclysm isn’t what the game needs.

Man… I’m not sure how to reiterate again what is needed first and foremost because English doesn’t seem to work.

A loot revamp! Please! I don’t care about the colors used. Legendary or no, your gear score means a great deal right now and unless there is value in getting drops that increases that score, then this looter will continue to go down the drain.

Content. Yes, meaningful content is needed and not an 8-week event.


What Anthem really need is to remove yellow color from legendary equipment to remove “trash” stigma from masterwork items and make people whine less about lack of “yellow” drops – because instead they’ll have a lot of “orange” drops (masterwork level). Just like those super-rare items in Path of Exile have the same color as the base tier legendaries dropping left and right every day.

btw there are new weapon types on PTS – at least in vault menu. Mayhaps they are somehow linked to Cataclysm event but I seriously doubt new gear levels are event-related, most likely it’s just to ease programming (i.e. adding new gear layer without removing / changing previous legendary code). They are basically doing what I’ve said in the first paragraph. Except for the part there max “color” tier equipment shouldn’t be terribly rare since people prefer to tinker with inventory instead of trashing all loot after missions.

Kickstarter Donor

It’s temporary, except for BW CM’s poorly “teasing” that it wouldn’t be totally temporary and that some stuff would be returning at some point in some fashion somehow. Because they’re excellent at clear communications.

I keep seeing more tidbits, like guilds coming, that BW has been largely silent about. Which confuses the hell outta me, because they’re massively underselling this update based on what I’m seeing. That’s not to say it’s AMAZING, but it’s a lot more solid than what they showed off during that sad 30 minute livestream.

I don’t believe BioWare is dumb enough to let people who participated in Cataclysm have a permanent advantage over everyone else

…have you seen the quality of their decision making, especially when it comes to gear, so far? Because this is completely, totally, 100% within the realm of possibility. That being said, I think they mentioned that higher level gear would be dropping elsewhere too, but hot-damn is it WAY too soon for an ilvl bump, this is a shortsighted decision on their part.

Clearly Bioware didn’t expect to find Anthem struggling as it has been.

And this is a big part of why I wrote what I did above. In no reality would this have launched and received even a lukewarm reception. Maybe if this launched against the first Destiny many years ago, no way in hell would it do well now. If they thought this was “good enough” internally (granted, I know they were on deadline) then they’re drowning in their own kool-aid.

follow Cataclysm with another event

How though? It seems like they’re already WAY behind with Cataclysm, an event that everyone thought would come shortly after launch but in reality is 5 months out. I can’t see them whipping up another event that isn’t essentially a repeat of Cataclysm or a slightly tweaked freeplay event. But even then, none of that really addresses the loot issues (still don’t think removing luck will fix it, and they haven’t announced any other plans yet despite saying they would months ago) or other problems : /

I’m curious as to what they’re planning for the future, but based off of everything they’ve said and done so far (that EA Play presence was pretty depressing) I can’t say I’m terribly optimistic right now.

At least outside of the LS S1 events you can buy the LS S2/4 updates you missed pretty cheap.