A new Anthem update teases major Javelin design changes

(Image credit: EA, BioWare)

Somehow, improbably, the Anthem train continues to grind slowly forward: Electronic Arts posted a new update today that digs into some of the work that's gone into redesigning the game's Javelins, the flying power suits that players strap themselves into before heading off onto their adventures outside Fort Tarsis.

"As we’ve spent time engaging with all of you, and avidly playing the game, we’ve seen and heard a common theme: 'Anthem doesn’t offer satisfying Javelin Builds!'" studio director Christian Dailey wrote. "We want to improve this too, so we’re excited to hear what you think about the changes we are trialing around the concept of 'builds'."

Very broadly, that breaks down into four categories:

Choice and Experimentation in your Loadout

  • All items are categorized to one of the 11 available equipment slots
  • Weapons are either Primary or Secondary, allowing distinctiveness in their role
  • Mods and Artifact slots replace Components
  • Manage Equipment and Abilities in your Loadout Screen

Reliably Create Builds

  • Abilities are unlocks, not drops! Play with the Abilities you want, when you want
  • Empower your Abilities by equipping them with Mods
  • Builds are defined by the synergies of Specializations, Abilities, and Equipment
  • Inscriptions improve build synergies, but are no longer the primary factor

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

Provide Choice and Progression through Skill Trees

  • Each Javelin can level up, awarding Skill Points
  • Skill points can be spent to unlock Abilities, Passives, and Stat Boosts
  • Each Specialization has its own Advanced Skill Tree

Expand on the Fantasy and Playstyles of Each Javelin

  • Javelins have access to multiple specializations that cater to different styles of gameplay
  • Each Javelin now wields a powerful Artifact that can be customized

BioWare has also determined that pilot level isn't a "satisfying measure" of player progress, and so it's been testing a new skill tree system. Each Javelin has a basic skill tree under the system, with unlockable abilities, passives, triggered abilities, and stat boosts, as well as specializations that will make an advanced skill tree available once the basic tree is complete.

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

It's also experimenting with a new Artifacts system that's intended to replace the Component equipment type. "Artifacts are pieces of super powered tech that set your Javelin and Freelancer apart. Each Javelin type would have a distinct Artifact catering towards its class fantasy," Dailey wrote. "For instance, your Ranger’s rocket pod would be upgraded into the Skyfell Launcher Artifact, a pair of back-mounted pods that transform into powerful rocket launchers."

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

It's interesting, and frankly a little surprising, to see EA continuing to pour time and resources into Anthem. When Mass Effect: Andromeda tanked, for instance, EA buried it like Joe Pesci in a cornfield and snuffed out an entire studio, just to be sure. They're very different games, and Anthem's game-as-a-service design gives it potential as a long-term moneymaker that the singleplayer-focused Andromeda can't match. But Andromeda was a highly-anticipated reset of one of BioWare's biggest series (that looks pretty good by comparison), and it sure didn't get this kind of post-disaster cleanup.

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The simple explanation is that EA legitimately sees something in Anthem worth salvaging, and it's worth noting that the response to the update on Twitter is almost universally positive: There aren't a lot of replies, but there's real enthusiasm among what's there. I have to admit that I'm curious how it's all going to work, too—unfortunately, Dailey gave no indication as to when all these post-launch labors might bear fruit.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.