Although it was originally scheduled to release in May, Anthem finally unleashed its Cataclysm, a limited-time event that introduces new story missions, loot, and a scoring challenge mode, yesterday. While giving a content-starved player base something new to chew on, Cataclysm can be gobbled up in just a few hours; a fun yet flighty payoff that doesn’t last nearly long enough. As much as I appreciate getting more powerful guns, I again found myself questioning what I would use them for. A legitimate endgame is still nonexistent.
Cataclysm’s short three-mission campaign can be engaged by any player that has completed the Incursion mission, but don’t expect much in terms of fireworks from the story, environment designs, or combat encounters. BioWare follows the same script as before, making these missions feel like more of the same, just in slightly different looking areas.
We sometimes see developers cut corners when it comes to storytelling – perhaps delivering it through still-frame images or plain text – but BioWare kept Anthem’s production values intact for Cataclysm. Characters are nicely animated, the voice work is solid, and one big story moment is brought to life with a cutscene that shows a sacrifice that resulted in the storms that are currently ripping across the land.
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The most interesting addition that Cataclysm brings is a public expedition called Echoes of Reality. This mission plays out a bit like a stronghold, and pushes players to combat swarms of enemies, solve a few puzzles, and square off against a boss. The wrinkle that makes it different is a bit puzzling for a story-driven experience: It’s a timed scoring challenge. You and your crew of Freelancers have just 15 minutes to work your way through the this mission. The faster you are, and the better you perform, the higher your multiplier, which makes your score balloon. The higher the score, the better the loot payout.
The challenges range from strategically placing a handful of echoes in devices to lowering a force field to press seven switches as quickly as you can to accomplish the same feat. The first time through, just figuring out what needs to be accomplished will likely result in too much time being burned off of the clock, but it makes for a fun and intense experience as you race as quickly as you can. Once you figure things out, however, this event can be completed within minutes. BioWare says more challenges will be added to Echoes of Reality over time, but we don’t know what those will be or when. With this game, the “when” has been a more than a bit concerning. The Cataclysm content is also quite buggy right now, bringing up connection errors and save failures whenever I enter the Forge.
No matter how well you do in Echoes, BioWare isn’t shy about showering players with new loot, and a new crystal currency to buy more of it. The loot includes three new classes of weapons (pulse accelerators, blade slingers, and volt casters). BioWare also reworked the difficulty for the Grandmaster 2 and 3 difficulties to make them a little easier for players.
Anthem is a damn fun game, and I had a good time jumping back into my javelin for this short blast of new content. It just didn’t do enough to make me want to keep playing. New loot isn’t enough of a carrot. Playing through the same missions on higher difficulties and with new inversion modifiers doesn’t do it for me. Even with new content, Anthem still feels like a hollow experience.