Anthem will prove a massive departure from the typical games BioWare is known to produce in recent memory, in more ways than one. But one of the more significant, but not necessarily surprising ways Anthem is diverging is that it will not feature romances. Confirmed today as part of the big Anthem showcase at E3, BioWare revealed that romances would not be included in the game -- but something better might be retained instead.
Speaking to Game Informer, Anthem lead producer Mike Gamble spoke about BioWare's decision briefly, saying, "The romantic stuff, we're moving away from that for Anthem." Instead, Gable says BioWare will focus on something like will likely fit better into the online world of Anthem much more naturally: friendships.
"There are no romances. There are friendships. Some of the stuff we did with Mass Effect – the Citadel DLC specifically – there was a lot of friendship moments. You and Garrus sitting up, shooting – that kind of stuff, we want to lean into that."
It's funny that in describing friendships they mention the Garrus scene, which was a key part of FemShep's romance with Garrus. Still, the messaging is clear. BioWare wants players to establish relationships with the characters they interact with, in Anthem. But it'd just prefer if those relationships remained somewhat ephemeral and impermanent.
As sensible as it may be to remove romances and replace them with friendships in a Games-as-a-Service title that never "ends," so to speak, the BioWare fanbase is certain to be disappointed. Mass Effect, in the end, became as much about the romances as the epic storyline towards the end. Fans recall their relationships with Garrus, Liara, Tali, and Kaiden fondly and the trilogy's ending with disdain. Without those relationships, BioWare is putting the pressure on themselves to create compelling content in other ways.
There's also value in acknowledging that there's meaning in tradition. Romance has been a part of all four Mass Effect games, all Dragon Age games, and other games besides. Anthem will mark the end of an era of romance, which is sad. Maybe Anthem's friendships will prove a worthwhile change, but it's a sad change nonetheless.
David Gaider, once a writer and game designer for BioWare who has since moved on, once wrote a post on social media regarding the topic of romances within BioWare games. His words seem especially pertinent today:
"To me, the thing that BioWare does best is not story but characters—I think our characters are done to a level that few other games even attempt, with an element of agency that strikes a chord in our players…and romances have been a natural outgrowth of that. Sure we could stop, but that would be turning our backs on something we do which almost no-one else does. The question would be: “why?” And what do we replace it with?
It’s possible we could answer that question. We’ve made a few games without romances before, and we could do it again. Perhaps, if we made a new IP, we might decide it’s best not to open that particular Pandora’s Box (which, yes, romances have always been) and go with something else…but that “something else” better be something damned good, as there are a lot of people who enjoy that part of our games immensely and who might not be willing to buy into a new series which didn’t have it. Some folks might be eager to write those fans off, but I’m not really sure that BioWare feels the same."
Anthem releases on February 22, 2019 for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Source: Game Informer