"Anthem," the next big IP for Bioware Edmonton, was teased as long ago as EA 2014 and displayed in a demo at EA 2017. It is currently scheduled for release in the 4th quarter of 2018 (about one year away). Unlike the last release from Bioware, "Mass Effect: Andromeda," which was widely panned for its facial animations and other technical issues, and which generally was not felt to have lived up to the reputation of the IP to which it belonged, "anthem" is being developed by Bioware’s main studio in Edmonton, the studio renowned for such classics as the "Dragon Age" series and "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic."

Worrying parallels

Though the reputation of the studio developing it bodes well for "Anthem," and though the gameplay footage released at EA has excited many fans, there are worrying parallels between the development of "Anthem" and that of "Mass Effect: Andromeda." First, Bioware is continuing to leak talent: Aaryn Flynn, Bioware’s long-time general director, and the original director of "Anthem," stepped down in July of 2017.

Lead animator Steven Gilmour has also left the team. Finally, in October, it was announced that the director of "Dragon Age," Mike Laidlaw, would also be leaving. Gaming journalists have already discussed the deleterious effect of big-name departures on the development of "Mass Effect: Andromeda" -- the continuation of this trend is certainly worrying for those looking forward to "Anthem."

To some the comparison of "Anthem" to its currently released rival, "Destiny 2," is also cause for concern. Those who were dissatisfied with Bungee’s “10 year commitment” to the development of "Destiny" are unlikely to have been happy to read similar language in the announcement of "Anthem." The “game-as-service” model, which many developers are now adopting, continues to be controversial.

Will there be loot boxes?

More significant than all of these other worries, however, are worries surrounding EA’s business practices, which came to the fore in the "Star Wars: Battlefront II" loot box scandal.

Many players of that game felt exploited by content that was hidden behind a paywall – a problem all the more significant because the missing content was not simply available for purchase but rather randomly released upon acquisition of a loot-box. Players might have had to pay $10 or $100 before being able to use advanced weapons or play favorite characters, and the psychology of these transactions was declared by many (including the state of Hawaii) to be analogous to that of gambling. EA’s response to these worries as represented by EA director Chris Matthews did little to allay these concerns. Matthews said that EA had worked hard to attain the proper balance in designing "Battlefront’s" loot boxes, but his message, in light of player experiences, was not convincing, and his words poorly chosen.

Many gamers are much more sympathetic to the complaints of Manveer Heir, another departed Bioware employee, who warns that Bioware’s new “open world” model is specifically geared towards monetization of gameplay and that EA, the owner of Bioware, pushes more for profit than quality gaming.

"Anthem’s" current creative director, Brenon Holmes, has responded that these worries are represented by the team developing "Anthem," most of whom are themselves gamers, but the question still remains: How well represented and influential such a view can be in light of EA’s history and priorities.

In sum, apparent parallels between the development of "Anthem" and "Mass Effect: Andromeda," as well as continuing suspicion of and outrage against EA, are real causes for concern about the quality of the game. Bioware did not have much room for error with the release of "Mass Effect: Andromeda," and news coming from the studio has not allayed players’ concerns.