Anthem – An Introduction
Anthem is a looter shooter game in the same vein as the cell-shaded Borderlands series, Warframe, The Division series, and Destiny series. The core gameplay is usually free roaming, either in an open or instanced world, with gun combat featuring heavily. You complete missions that are either solo or team play, with the goal to follow the story, while picking up hundreds of weapons and armour to improve your combat ability.
The combat is fun, once you get through learning how to make use of combos and team combos. It’s really satisfying to take down a boss with teamwork. The graphics, the beautiful vistas, and scenery once you leave Fort Tarsus: cascading waterfalls, large forests, and the unique animals and plants, makes exploring fun. Flight, many games don’t do this well for some odd reason, devs think they have to limit flight. While Anthem does limit you via a heat gauge, it can be extended or mitigated by the way you move. Fly through rain or a waterfall, slows, or out right reduces it, as does diving down fast. The customisation system is unique in that you can also customise your Javeline’s materials as well as colours, which is a breath of fresh air compared to the likes of Warframe.
The facial animations are great, BioWare learned from their Mass Effect Andromeda debacle. Unfortunately, it also seems that they went overboard with the expressions, in what is an obvious attempt to overcompensate. The NPCs come off as overly creepy and cringeworthy at times.
I went in with an open mind. I really tried, but like so many others, I found more faults with the game than I did positives. The constant loading screens for everything is frustrating, immersion breaking, and frankly a distraction. Luckily the patch seemed to have fixed the infinite load screens that other reviewers had mentioned. So that is a marked improvement. Doing missions with a squad is tedious, and I felt like I had to always have a squad, otherwise I wouldn’t get optimum loot and XP rewards.
Which is compounded by the fact that if any of your teammates reach the objective first while your flying to it and you’re behind. The game starts a countdown, which forces you to teleport to your team after a countdown, and the only way to dismiss it is to fly faster and overheat, or crash into something. This is likely put in due to the complaints of teammates getting ahead of players during the infinite load screen bug. However, with the load screen bug fixed, this just became a good way to annoy, and even anger a player. Rather than engender a positive response.
Reviving is completely reliant on your teammates in main missions. If you die, you have no recourse to return to the mission. No chat, no menu, and no “leave mission” option on your own. And heaven forbid that your teammates forget about you, because the only way to get out is Crl+Alt+F4, or they leave the mission.
Loot still isn’t shared with the whole team when picked up, so it ends up a race, or a first come first serve situation, which quickly becomes old.
Fort Tarsis is boring. There’s no background music, and the NPCs spout trite one-liners, or sentences, that often make no sense as you pass them. The mission givers are boring, and while I haven’t experienced much of the storyline, what I have seen is poorly paced. One of the Big Bads shows up in the second mission. I have no attachment to the characters, or the home hub area, and thus have no wish to actually find out more. The story seems very generic, and bland. If the first couple parts of the story are failing to draw me in, I dread to see what the rest of the story is like. So far, the only missions have been fetch quests, or killing swarms of enemies. I don’t know if these are the only missions, but I am not holding out hope.
There’s also some ludo-narrative dissonance. We’re supposed to believe that Freelancers are shunned, no one trusts them anymore. Yet Freelancers still give out contracts, there’s still a cipher for us, the player is still approached by big shots, and this is only after one mission. Then there are still NPCs and mission givers that respect Freelancers. It just feels off to me, as I thought I would have to earn all that stuff. Which would have been fine, honestly realistic, and in keeping with the narrative that you have fallen from grace.
EA BioWare = Pathological Liars
Finally, the E3 demo stuff. The dynamic quest giving, the moving walkers in the open world and in Fort Tarsus, don’t exist. The Fort isn’t that busy, and from what I heard from other reviewers, the mission EA showed does not exist. Not to mention there was an overall graphics downgrade. Honestly, by now we shouldn’t be surprised.
This opening shot shows us just how much is cut. The NPCs have been reduced significantly, as has the actual area. There’s less hanging cloth, and they’ve taken a hit, not moving nearly as much in the retail version. There’s less global and volumetric lighting, and there are fewer cables. As a whole, the scene looks less cinematic.
The walker that was animated in the E3 demo, is now stationary, and further in the back. Also, the level of detail and complexity of the walker is reduced.
During this scene, Paxley, an NPC mission giver who does not exist in the retail game, dynamically walks over to you. This does not happen for every mission giver I have met, I had to go to them. As you can also see, NPC quality in the retail version is severely reduced. It makes me question if the guys who made the E3 demo weren’t BioWare, but another studio commissioned to do it. And BioWare tried to copy it, but failed miserably. The facial animations are also hugely different between the two versions, with Paxley being realistic, and the cash shop guy barely being animated.
The next major difference, your Javelin deck features no other Javeline’s, and the NPCs that worked on them moved to work on the Javeline’s clamps. The smoke effects also have done a runner, no longer being part of retail. The god rays are also MIA, and once again the area is shrunken from its original size.
Our mechanic’s outfit has received a downgrade. Although she does not speak in the E3 demo, she has so much more personality in her body language and her facial expressions, than the bland and boring NPC we got in retail. She doesn’t seem to have much, if any, personality. She’s so generic. I’d be suspicious if I met her in real life.
Here (above), we see an oddity. The scene here is crisper, and has higher detail than the demo. Did they just use a person who was specialised in clothing and fabrics to model everything? Because that would make explain the poor quality.
Once again, we see the dreaded shrinking of the world we inhabit. The birds replaced with ashes, and much of the landscape removed, or shrunken. For example, the river is now closer than it should have been.
The walker (above) in the demo mission no longer moves and isn’t part of a mission. It remains stationary and cannot be destroyed.
+ A flight system that doesn’t overly punish you for flying.
+ Fun combat.
+ Selection of materials in Javeline customisation.
+ The graphics are okay…
− …but pale in comparison to what was promised at E3, and the world has shrunk down.
− Forced teleportation if you fall behind missions in a team.
− Encounters, missions, and enemies get very repetitive.
− Revival system is flawed.
− Limited amount of powers.
− Uninteresting story.
The game is largely okay, it’s hardly anything like what was shown at E3’s reveal demo. Gameplay, outside of repetitive combat, is sparse. The cataclysms and other content isn’t even ready yet, and won’t be for months. The game seems unfinished, and likely would have benefited from an extra year in development. BioWare should have hired who ever did the E3 demo on permanently.
The world outside Fort Tarsus is still beautiful and diverse, if lacking fauna and dynamic events. The combat is fun, if repetitive. In the end, I wouldn’t buy it yet (even with the newest patch that apologists kept bringing up), or for full price. Get it when it’s on sale for £15-20, or get Origin Access Premier because at least you get many other games for the price.
Disclosure: I acquired the game via Origin Access Premier. I played post 23rd Feb’s day-one patch. I have seen other reviews, so this may color my own review.