I’m going straight off the bat here; I had a hard time being impressed by Anthem.
The Iron Man fan in me totally dug the whole armoured suit approach (i.e: the chicken-legged exosuits called Javelins here). The almost infinite ways to customize your look and approach is something to behold. Despite all that, Anthem lacks the originality and that “pull” -that X-factor- to entice folks who are already invested in other titles currently in the market.
I was asked midway through my demo play sessions last weekend what I am playing and in true Kenn Leandre fashion, I tried describing Anthem with references to several other titles in the past.
I struggled beyond “it’s like Destiny 2 but with flying Iron Man suits”.
Here belies the problem. Anthem is nowhere original – at least from what we’ve been served during the two limited-time demo sessions of it. BioWare and Electronic Arts’ decision to plonk players into a decent, Level 10 character in the demo was probably due to their intention to skip the boring, early game portions and throw us right into the thick of the action. However, I honestly believe this move unearthed more issues than actually solving them.
OK, I’ll bite: this is a looter shooter demo and it’s supposed to excite players enough that they’d want to pick up the title once the full release hits stores. But in a game which is supposed to be lore-heavy, I’d appreciate it more if I know who I am fighting against and trying to protect in the process. While I also certainly appreciate a lot more NPCs to interact with within the common area who drop some hints as to what’s happening, there’s this void of togetherness and camaraderie which comes from seeing other Guardians in Destiny 2’s Tower.
The BioWare DNA -of the (Mass Effect) Andromeda strain, sadly- was apparent the moment a dialogue wheel pops up during the conversations with the locals which felt stilted, insignificant to the whole story. Worst of all, I just couldn’t care. I hope the fact that players only get two options in conversations was purely due to the limits for the demo.
Destiny 2 was a vast improvement to its predecessor due to the much-improved storytelling and better development of the characters around the player. In some ways, it made players feel like they have a sense of purpose, that they have a reason for being in that universe.
In Anthem, you don’t see anyone else in the common area – which makes it hard for players to coordinate with their mates on what to do next. I tested the game on the PlayStation 4 and only by relying on the console’s built-in Party option was I able to coordinate properly with my squad mates. For a game that thrives on strangers to squad up, the in-game chat function is turned off by default which is mind-boggling.
Singing Some Praise
The gameplay and gun game isn’t bad even if I can’t seem to shake off the notion that the game is mimicking Destiny 2 with an Iron Man mod running on roids. On the plus side, movements felt efficiently mechanical (yay!) and thankfully there’s enough variety with the weapons and the way you approach combat situations. Here’s hoping the full game goes way beyond what I experienced loadout-wise.
The unique traversal method where players are able to fly is a breath of fresh air and I’m sure we’ll be seeing some cool air acrobatics coming from creative players sooner than later. These exosuits come in four variants to *cough* suit one’s play style and to stymie players from mindless spamming abilities, do overheat from various factors in game.
I do wish for more variety to the enemies and ways to take them down as once the shooting starts, it’s just about mowing down them minions and whittling down the health of bullet sponges before moving onto the next one marked in the map. Rinse and repeat until you hit your level cap of 15 for the demo. Then again, this is on-par with its source material anyway; kill mobs, level up, take on bigger endgame dungeons for better loot, and so forth. At least Anthem’s expansive world is wide enough to give players that flexible freedom they’ve wanted for their online loot-hoarding shooters.
The Anthem demo shows great potential of an incomplete game which I see as BioWare’s and Electronic Arts’ make-or-break title for 2019. Let’s not forget: gamers still haven’t forgiven them for Mass Effect: Andromeda. There are definitely many questions relating to the story in Anthem and concerns relating to the social space which if not addressed properly will be the downfall of this game.
An Oncoming Psalm? Or Dirge?
It surprises me that Anthem is just a few weeks from release yet the state of the game shows something that’s months away from a finished product. Of course, thanks to the hype generated and EA’s marketing budget, copies of this game will fly off the shelves.
At its present state and based on the current online feedback, however, I am curious to see if its player base will remain relevant and active beyond 2019. Again, here’s hoping Bioware’s keeping its proverbial ace in the hole come 22 February, because it truly needs it.