Not So Massively: Anthem’s Cataclysm is actually a good ride

    
18

It may have taken a while, but the Cataclysm has at last come to Anthem. A rogue Dominion team is trying to control the Anthem to reshape reality, and it of course falls to us Freelancers to stop the world as we know it from being overwritten.

Let me first deal with the elephant in the room: Yes, it took too long for Cataclysm to launch. It’s been almost half a year since Anthem released; it should not have taken this long for a major content update.

The unfortunate thing about the wait time is that it places a level of expectation on Cataclysm that I don’t think it can really live up to. I’m mostly pretty happy with Cataclysm, as I will get into in this column, but as I said a few weeks ago, I’m not sure it’s going to be adequate to turn things around for people who aren’t satisfied with the current state of the game. But let’s not allow that to make us lose perspective. Taken on its own merits, Cataclysm is a pretty strong update.

Based on the previews, I had worried this would be a very story-light update, but I’m pleased to say this is not the case. Before delving into the new Echoes of Reality zone that is the heart of the update, I should note that there are several meaty new story missions setting things up.

Fair warning if you want to come into this fresh: While I won’t be sharing any detailed spoilers, I will be talking about my general impressions of the new story and the kinds of revelations it brings.

On paper, the premise of the new story feels like a retread of the base game’s main story, and all in all I would have preferred something more original, but there are enough things that are different this time to keep it from feeling totally repetitive, and it does raise some interesting possibilities for the future storyline.

Honestly, the most significant thing about this story is just one line. It’s a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment, but it’s a huge bombshell for the story, and it totally changes our perspective of why the Dominion are doing what they’re doing. They’re still the bad guys, but it’s now clear that their efforts to control the Anthem are about more than attaining power for the sake of power.

It’s a very robust experience, too. There are not only new missions and cutscenes but also new conversations, mail, and codex entries. Pretty much the whole cast is back in some form or another. It feels as if the developers just continued the base story without skipping a beat.

But of course the main attraction is Echoes of Reality, a large map where players race to complete events before beating a time limit. It’s fun. I like it. The new map is quite large and fairly pretty. It’s a bit hard to say much more than that; it’s not really that different from the content we’ve experienced before in Anthem, but that’s kind of par for the course with a game like this. It’s a shooter. You’re always going to spend most of your time shooting things.

The events in Echoes of Reality are a bit more involved than those in conventional freeplay. Some feature some relatively complex puzzles, which can be a bit of a double-edged sword. It helps lessen the feeling of repetitiveness, but they do require a fair degree of coordination, and that can be hard to find when you’re in a PUG.

On the plus side, the time limit proved less stressful than I feared it would. Maybe things are different at higher difficulties, but on normal or hard the clock is pretty generous.

Aside from saving Bastion from certain doom, the point of this new mode is to earn crystals, which can then be spent at a special seasonal vendor. In a nice touch, the vendor has his own backstory and conversation, and his attitude toward you can permanently change based on your dialogue choices.

The vendor offers masterwork items and a robust selection of cosmetics, including some impressive new Javelin skins. The crystals aren’t too hard to come by, and you can earn a lot of minor cosmetics like decals from achievements related to the event. You can even get guaranteed masterworks for each Javelin from daily quests. All in all, Cataclysm feels quite rewarding.

Sometimes I think Anthem is too generous for its own good. Most games would have packed this much new stuff behind a paywall, or else added all of the new cosmetics to the cash shop instead of making them earnable. That’s nice for us as players, but how is this game making money?

Beyond the new content, there are also some general gameplay changes in this update. By far the most notable is the new melee weapon slot. Instead of just having a standardized melee attack, each Javelin can now choose from one of two melee weapon types — one a combo primer, one a detonator — that drop as loot like any other weapon.

This is touted as an additional way to customize your playstyle. Personally I don’t feel choosing whether your melee is a primer or a detonator makes that much difference, but things do get more interesting when you start getting masterwork items for your melee slots.

Like any other weapon, masterwork melee have special effects beyond just improved stats. Shortly after the patch I acquired a new melee weapon for my Storm that recharges a whopping 40% of my shields on every single melee attack. This adds a powerful level of utility to my build I never had before.

I do still have some concerns over some of BioWare‘s decisions related to Cataclysm. I still think a limited time event is a questionable choice at best for a game that has issues with content starvation, and I very much hope that either Cataclysm will become a recurring event or that at least some elements of its content will remain after the main event.

The studio did also go ahead with making Cataclysm loot a higher item level than anything else in the game. Personally I don’t care about such things, but this is something I could see rustling more than a few jimmies.

But even if it’s not perfect and definitely not a game-changer, Cataclysm has been a pretty fun ride for me. If Anthem continues to add content of this quality, I’ll be happy.

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.
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
3dom
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Rees Racer

I played Anthem quite a lot during the first month or so, and sincerely believe there is a very solid base game in there somewhere that can be built upon if they want to put in the effort to expand the somewhat shallow experience it was 6 months ago.

I do intend to revisit it now that I’ve read just enough (barely) positive impressions of Cataclysm.

I know it’s been mentioned before, and it’s not at all a significant issue for some, but one of the things that bothered me the most is the lack of cosmetic variety with respect to both armour and (especially) weapon design…especially compared to Destiny 2 (which I still enjoy today), and for a looter shooter in general.

K38FishTacos
Reader
K38FishTacos

How are they making money?

To start with, by selling a complete game out of the box. Is that “generous” now?

Reader
rafael12104

Ah. I’ve been waiting to comment on Cataclysm.

The good: Legendary weapon drops have increased. The new content is fun. Rebalancing of classes gave everyone a little buff. Freeplay is improved. Event gear drops aka the new melee slot is great. The games strong point combat is even better than before. Oh, and there is a little phone app now that can be used for guild coordination. That was a nice surprise.

The bad: This all should have been part of the game before launch. The different game modes, the melee slot, and the improved drops are long overdue. But better late than never.

The ugly. I’m still seeing some of the old bugs from time to time. Pull up my map, select “Tracking” and 8 out of 10 times the game crashes. *shakes-head* Oh, and the story that is part of the new missions is hardly creative and looks more like lip service.

In general, this is a good update for Anthem. The game is slowly becoming what I hoped the game would have been at launch. The devs have worked hard and it shows. Now, with their heads above water, they can start delivering content that focuses less on solving old problems and evolve the game into a truly robust MMO with great story elements.

AnthemCatFree.jpg
Anthem Screenshot 2019.08.11 - 12.36.58.80.png
Reader
rafael12104

BTW, Anthem needs chat. It is essential if the complexity of group content continues to ramp up.

Reader
Sray

Have they fixed that part in the leveling where you had to repair a bunch of other freelancers? That was an absolute roadblock for so many including me. If they fixed that, I might be willing to give another shot since I can pick it up for 20 bucks Canadian on Amazon right now.

Reader
rafael12104

Yup. That was a big one. It is fixed. That is to say, you still have to fix friendlies but there are plenty and it is not bugged like before. The also fixed the free world challenges that blocked many people from continuing. They did that some time ago, but I know what you mean.

Reader
3dom

It’s hilarious how people feel obliged to comment how Anthem is bad even though they have no idea – how much it changed during last 3 months?

Cataclysm is the best update (and gameplay) I’ve seen during this decade in online games. None of others come even close. This is practically a new game type: competitive time trial against your team (and others – there is a ladder/rating) for “secret” points to get loot boxes (if the team has no clue what are they doing?) and/or achievements to unlock cosmetics (if the team knows what to do).

Not to mention post-patch loot rains turning this game into usual inventory management / trash hoarding simulator like other looter-shooters.

Reader
Dug From The Earth

the bar is super low, no game is in a good state “this year”

Raising the bar from 1 to 2, is still bad.

Saying Cata is the best update to online games this decade, may come across to many, including myself, as your experience with online games being pretty limited.

Reader
Bullet Teeth

Pretty limited? Try non-existent.

Cataclysm isn’t even the best fucking update this MONTH, let alone this decade, with No Man’s Sky: Beyond about to drop.

Best update this decade…holy mackerel.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Darthbawl

3dom, so those of us who have never played the game but have watched enough reviews and press about the game to know it’s been pretty much a fiasco since even before the official launch are not allowed to comment on it?

If this improves the game, yay, good for them. The damage was done even before this game launched. It’s hard to re-build all that lost faith.

Reader
Koshelkin

I don’t know about the press thing. I think Anthem failed as a service game(still no chat in the game), at least at launch, but never was a failure as a game itself. For all what it’s worth Anthem was one of the few games I felt satisfied with, considering the high box prices nowadays. Feel free to share your opinion but honestly, if you didn’t make the effort to take a look at the game yourself how serious could I take your opinion? e.g., In another press article I read the loot problem still isn’t patched, they’ve released several patches concering loot by now, though, and loot feels entirely different now than it did at launch. Take that has thou will.

Anthem gave me more playing time than Destiny 2 managed(the main campaign of Destiny 2 was laughably short) at launch, but with all the bad press Bioware had to work on other things first before pushing out serious content. In this case the smart and right thing to do, there were problems, they had to be fixed but did they make Anthem a bad game? The answer is subjective, of course, but Anthem got *far* too much flak imo. Not everything’s perfect now but miles ahead of were it was. You should invest the couple of dollars for the origin premier access thingie, or get a cheap copy of the game because it’s much better than it’s reputation. Who knows you might even have fun.

Reader
Ironwu

Sounds like this article is desperately trying to smear gobs of lipstick onto the pig.

It is still a pig.

Reader
Dug From The Earth

This is hilarious. I just got done reading the kotaku review that says it wasnt worth the wait.

I think the author of this article above might be in the minority here

Reader
Bruno Brito

Honest opinion? I never even read Kotaku, but considering the last three pieces i’ve read from Tyler here, i’m willing to bet his glass is always full.

April-Rain
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
April-Rain

Seriously this broken mess does not deserve another chance, I am pretty much done with EA and the rest of the AAA predatorily publishers.

looter, live action and loot box driven rubbish and until people stop supporting these trashy AAA game companies then it will only get worse.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

That’s nice for us as players, but how is this game making money?

The very limited cash shop. As great as it is for players, I question if they’ll be able to fund ongoing development with it being that meager.

I still question the wisdom of already bumping up the ilvl, especially for a temporary event. But I’m hoping it becomes a “temporary” even that they can tweak and bring back regularly so that folks at least still have something to do while waiting on the next drop.

By all accounts this is a pretty solid patch. And if it had come out shortly after launch, even with all the other problems, I think it would have been far, far, far more impactful. They’re just so far behind that they may need something far bigger and better than the solid Cataclysm update to keep people around.

I hope they have something big in the pipeline to keep folks excited after it ends.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Darthbawl

Kudos to you Tyler for writing this article about a game that I strongly consider a six-alarm fire of a disaster. I’m still amazed how many people are still holding on to hope for the game.