This title was reviewed on PC, but is also available on Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
We’re well aware this review is later than others, but we don’t release a review till its complete and for a game like Anthem, you need to sink many hours into it and play with a wrange of people to ensure a fair verdict.
BioWare’s latest creation, Anthem, has been nothing but hyped up since it’s announcement back at E3 in 2017. The past couple weeks, I have had the opportunity to experience first hand what BioWare has been cooking up. Let’s see what all the fuss was about, shall we?
Overview and Story
Anthem is situated in the wild and rugged terrain of Bastion. Situated within this expanse of towering trees and bellowing waterfalls, is Fort Taris. Fort Taris was once a beautiful sanctuary for all people. Now, many years later, after the events of, and the events that lead up to, the ‘Heart of Rage’, it is now home to only a few. Among these few are the freelancers, of whom you play the game as. Freelancers are a group of individuals that get contracted to assist in various dangerous missions in and around Bastion.
These aren’t just your run of the mill mercenaries however, each freelancer has their own Javelin. Javelins are exo suits that, when put on, provide the wearer with astonishing superhero like powers. When a contract pops up, you do not tackle these undertakings alone. Anthem is built on top a solid foundation of cooperation and is extensively multiplayer focused. So almost every contract you get, can and will be played with your own party or a party made of other online players who are performing the same contract. After a successful contract, you get paid, and you get experience points, pretty standard. With these level ups and upgrades, you can make your way down to the Forge. The Forge is the in game upgrade center, item shop and appearance customiser, located in Fort Taris. From there, it’s pretty much rinse and repeat for the entirety of the game. This constant reusing of the same old building blocks is what makes it comfortable, but it also kinda irks me. But we’ll get to that.
If we take a look at visual content, we start to see some form of redemption for lack of originality. Firstly, the whole experience playing the game was complimented nicely by the graphics. The textures, colours, and overall visual quality really made this feel like a semi-realistic modern day title. Are there better graphics out there? Yes, definitely. But, that being said, I never thought to myself, “I need more”, when it came to the graphics. The expanses of forest and brush didn’t exactly come to life right in front of my very eyes, and the towering walls of Fort Tarsis, lacked a certain finesse. They weren’t perfect, but they were almost there, and, you know what? That’s good enough for me.
While fumbling my way through the intimacies of early game, I got quite familiar with the mechanics fairly fast. The walking, running, jumping all felt good and came as second nature to me. The only hurdle I struggled to jump was the flying. The flying mechanic feels drunk. To be direct. It feels a little left behind. Let me elaborate. You move your Javelin during flight, and it takes a little bit for your Javelin to catch up to where you are aiming. Now I know this may be for realism’s sake, but it definitely takes some getting used to. I found myself crashing into walls numerous times.
The in game combat felt, for the most part, fluid and somewhat refined. In saying that, there is room for improvement in future updates, especially for the flying and hovering. I’d like to see those made a bit more responsive. Overall, I felt the mechanics satisfied my thirst for fluidity and cohesiveness, and I also quite liked how each javelin had its own unique feel to its movement. For example, the hunking Colossus was heavy and tank like, whilst the Interceptor was light and maneuverable. I really do feel like gamers appreciate little attentive details like this.
Now we arrive at a point where the in game experience both lost and gained points for me. Gameplay. The biggest egg to crack. My first hours were invested into a somewhat familiar experience. An experience any player of ARPG’s will be acquainted with. Finding out who you are, creating you character, choosing your class (or in this case a Javelin) to start with, and then going on to save the world blah blah blah.. Yes, repetition is not a deal breaker, because, well, there is something to be said about not fixing what isn’t broken. But no one ever said you couldn’t upgrade right? And there lies the problem, where they lose points for me is on, like I said, originality. I’m not saying that Anthem is a rip off of any other MMO or ARPG by any means. But, in saying that, I, myself, craved a bit more depth, a bit more uniquity in a game that has been hyped up for so long. I found I was searching for that one morsel of content that was fundamentally different to anything I’ve played before, but I just couldn’t.
Now i’d like to get into some of the comings and goings of the game that I actually enjoyed. Expeditions and contracts are things that you’ll find yourself spending a majority of your time on. They offer so much time to really hone in on each javelins skill set. Soon after you immerse yourself in one of these expeditions, you’ll find out that each suit really has its own place on the battlefield. Therefore, you need to have a fundamental understanding of each one’s capabilities. Each expedition usually has its fair share of challenging opposition, which I love, because it forces you to think. If you just run in without any thought, you’ll find you won’t be as effective, and in worst cases, you’ll die repeatedly, often becoming a liability for your team mates. Knowing the abilities that are available to you at any specific moment, is crucial to a successful expedition.
So yes the game was fun, there are certainly things to love, especially when it comes to the combat during expeditions and the upgrades that follow. However, I am not going to lie and say that the ‘fun’ factor of the game made up for where it is obviously lacking. Anthem had so much potential to be an amazing game. It has the graphics, it has the customisation capabilities and it has the combat. It’s just such a shame it fell short where it matters most, gameplay and originality.
If I am being honest, Anthem surprised me, just not in the ways I wanted to be surprised. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot fun, but I wanted more then fun. I wanted depth, new ideas, a story that kept me hanging on till the dear end, but we didn’t. However, even though we didn’t get exactly what we wanted, after it has few updates under its belt, i’m sure that it will be a game you’ll want to check out for yourself.