Forthcoming multiplayer sci-fi shooter Anthem represents a puzzling change of pace for its developer, BioWare. But when you play, it starts to make sense …

Forty years after Space Invaders, video games are still coming up with new ways to shoot aliens. Anthem is a multiplayer game set on a planet whose gods abandoned it mid-creation, leaving a pantheon of mutated creatures to ravage the beautiful environment and threaten the humans who share it. Clad in a nimble mech-suit with flying jets and a portable arsenal of guns, you soar out over the gorgeous overgrown planet with three other players and hold off the aliens, discovering majestic ruins from the dawn of creation.

Anthem is one of many online games competing for players’ long-term attention, designed to be played every day or every week by groups of friends together. But it is made by BioWare, a developer known for role-playing games that immerse a lone player in a rich fantasy that they alone control. Why has the studio decided to make something so different? It is undeniably a risk: the strengths of good single-player games – an absorbing narrative, player choice, the ability to take your time and explore at your own place – do not transfer well to the shared world of multiplayer games.

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