If you've never played "Destiny," the premise is simple: It's an online-only first-person shooter that puts players into a shared online world.
Sometimes there are public events in that world — a monster that needs to be taken down with combined firepower, for instance. And sometimes you choose to go on private events with friends or strangers — dedicated missions with specific goals.
It's not an MMO-style game, along the lines of "World of Warcraft," but it's not entirely different either. Players see each other and can interact in a shared online space, just like they did in "WoW."
The difference with games like "Destiny" and the upcoming "Anthem" is that the shared online space is only shared by a limited number of players. In games like "WoW," servers could hold hundreds of players who all existed in the same virtual world. In games like "Destiny" and "Anthem," the world houses far fewer human players.
Whereas "Destiny" is laser-focused on being a great first-person shooter, "Anthem" is seemingly focused on mobility. To that end, each of the game's suits has its own type of jet pack — the primary form of travel in "Anthem."
Those jet packs enable players to fly through the air, and also to fly through underwater sections of the world. If we're being honest, it looks delightful — there are even little flourishes to embellish your flying. And who doesn't want to embellish their flying?
The planet that "Anthem" is set on is a bizarre world of monsters, ancient gods, and a tiny contingent of humanity that's barely hanging on.
As a "Freelancer" — a human who wears a sweet, Iron Man-esque robot suit — you're in charge of keeping your fellow humans safe. And that means going out into the wild, taking on crazy monsters, and defeating them.
The overarching threat to the world is the monsters, but more specifically, that the monsters will get control of various "tools of the Gods" that were left behind. So the story of "Anthem" goes: The Gods set out to create the world in nine days, but stopped after three and disappeared. What they left behind is their tools — powerful artifacts that you, as a Freelancer, must keep from falling into the wrong hands.
What this means in practice, most likely, is you'll find lots of sweet stuff to power up your character with out in the wilderness.
The studio behind "Anthem," BioWare, is known for narrative-driven affairs — the "Dragon Age" series, the "Mass Effect" series, and more.
That's why "Anthem" is such a surprise. It's a gameplay-driven, online-only game. That's a first for BioWare, and it has some fans worried. Where is the story? Where are the characters?
The answer, it seems, is "in Fort Tarsis."
In humanity's last stronghold, you'll encounter characters who may or may not give you missions. You'll interact with the crew that maintains your crazy robot suit. Perhaps you'll visit a vendor or two and pick up some swanky gear upgrades?
The point is that the main "story" of the game plays out in Fort Tarsis — the missions you do outside of the fort are the same missions that everyone else will play, and they focus on combat more than narrative storytelling.
There are a few ways to play "Anthem" before it arrives on February 22.
The first way is to play the game's "VIP demo," which runs from January 25 – January 27. To get access to the "VIP demo," you'll need to have pre-ordered the game for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or PC. If you're already paying for EA Access or Origin Access, you're already all set.
The rest of us have to wait until February 1 to play "Anthem," when the public demo goes live on all platforms. It runs until February 3.