With all the noise around the staggered launch and roll-out of accessibility to Bioware’s newest RPG, we decided to let the dust settle on Anthem. First things first, as I’m sure many of you will know, Anthem has gotten off to what can be best described as a shaky start on the current gen consoles and P.C. From its first days of beta testing and right through launch until now, there has been trouble for nearly anyone who has gotten time to play it. In our review of the private and public betas we flagged some of these issues and the sad news is that some are still present in the final game. The question now is are there enough positives to outweigh the negatives.
The title of this game is a reference to the Anthem of Creation, a life-force that belongs to the planet and thus can affect virtually anything within that world. This force sometimes manifests as powerful storms, large enemies or strange phenomena that threaten the lives of those who live there.
You play as either a male or female character that belongs to a group of people called ‘Freelancers’. This almost vigilante group fights off the threats of the Anthem, often for rewards or payment which differs them from the law enforcers or Sentinels as they are known. The start of the game explains how a failed mission has resulted in many of the Freelancers either disbanding or being exiled and how, after a number of years, a certain few have tried to reclaim the pride once associated with being a Freelancer.
Without giving too much away, the story of Anthem is only okay. There are some interesting concepts but ultimately a boring enough narrative to follow. The live action trailer by Neill Blomkamp, which by the way was amazing, had many people excited for an engaging story, however this never materialised in the final product.
During the game, you will get the chance to experience four different exo-suits that the Freelancers use as both modes of transport and weapons; these are known as Javelins. The four options are The Ranger, The Colossus, The Interceptor and The Storm, with each offering a unique mixture of strengths and abilities. Most players start with the “jack of all trades” that is The Ranger Javelin, then progress onto the more specialised Javelins. The Colossus is the tank that takes the punishment, but also deals it out. The Interceptor is the choice of those who like a fast, nimble and agile playing style. Lastly The Storm Javelin has abilities best used at distance, along with being able to prolong flight during battles. It is interesting finding out which Javelins will suit your own style of play.
I’ll come right out and say that I am not the biggest fan of the Anthem’s gameplay. The gunplay is not as good as it should be when compared to similar titles such as Destiny 2. The missions quickly become repetitive and there are a whole lot of loading screens. This is an issue I thought may have been resolved or at least reduced, seeing as it was probably the main issue that arose during beta testing.
For a game that also encourages online multiplayer, it has a strange way of not encouraging online conversation between players. This is because the in-game dialogue provides enough direction during missions and this would conflict with player conversations. It leads to a disconnected feeling from your fellow online players and a kind of ‘every man for himself’ atmosphere when playing. If you are not in an online group playing with your friends, every mission will have you playing alongside random players.
I do however really enjoy simply flying around Anthem’s breathtaking world, the environments and level of detail in such a vast game are impressive. Tarsis, the home for our characters is a small enough space. It still carries the feel of a bustling city with many NPC’s (non playable characters) to talk with throughout the game.
Some of these conversations can be tedious but some are actually comedy gold which were not expected, but welcomed all the same, during the more mundane periods of the game. There is a small scene every time you enter your Javelin that is strangely addictive to watch and helps to make the connection between the Javelins and the Freelancers who operate them from within.
There are enough customisation options available to each Javelin class to keep it interesting and the number of colour combinations and vinyls to paint each with will let your creative side out. Although during my time I have seen my fair share of Iron-Man look alikes so maybe try something a bit more original if you do decide to play it.
Nowadays, gaming giants such as EA and Bioware have to be ready to respond to feedback in an instant. This is a result of the immediate nature of player feedback. If a game releases to negative feedback, it’s very hard for gaming companies to claw their way back. So when Anthem was released to a very mixed bag, EA and Bioware knew they had to act fast and within a week there was an update issued.
This was to contend with loot box drops not giving enough high value goods and the odds of getting these better items were increased. I’m glad they have taken some feedback on-board, however I still feel there is a lot more fine tuning to be done before we get the Anthem we all expected. This has been the case with similar online games where, after a number of updates, the game is improved greatly.
This game had so much going for it when it was first announced that it seemed to be a dead cert for success, sadly though, then followed the hype machine. Being heavily advertised by EA and billed as a potential GOTY (game of the year) is what I feel lead this game to being pushed out too soon and not being the polished article we were promised.
It is still an enjoyable experience at times and is definitely on the path to something great if EA and Bioware continue with the title updates. Too much negative press reviews and not living up to expectations will ultimately be what caused Anthem to not reach the heights expected of it. I fear that it may already have had a chance to make a significant impact on the gaming market and possibly missed its opportunity. It’s a solid game but just no world beater.
Anthem was review by TheEffect.Net contributor, Mark Reilly, who reviewed the game using a code supplied by Electronic Arts.