Multiple Combinations But Limited Variation: BioWare’s Anthem Free Demo Went Live Over The Weekend
Updated: Feb 5, 2019
February’s set to be a massive month for video game releases, and none more so than the online multiplayer action RPG Anthem. Gamers were given free access to a rather sizable demo over the weekend, showcasing the four Javelins – your power suit – you’ll be controlling, a short storyline mission introducing you to the basics of the game and a vast array of weapons and ordnance at your disposal. Here’s what I could make of it.
In a month full of AAA game releases like Far Cry New Dawn (15th), Metro Exodus (15th) and Anthem (22nd), February is not looking to disappoint. So it makes sense that BioWare would want to let people have a chance to test their newest IP Anthem before it hits the shelves in three weeks.
They ran a closed beta towards the end of January for people who pre-ordered the game or have an Origin subscription, but I just jumped on the free-train and tried out the weekend demo.
Now I’m not a “game all day, all night” kind of guy. Playing video games isn’t my job. I enjoy playing as a hobby, but not to the extent of other people who play for mad hours on end. It was a busy weekend for me, so I got a few hours in over the demos available hours, not grinding for that loot as much I would have liked.
So what you’re going to get in the demo is limited access to the main hub area Fort Tarsis, which will quickly become an uninteresting place when exploring and chatting with NPCs. It constantly gives you the same popups stating how the content is not included in the demo. Alternatively, it may indicate that a large number of quests and explorable activities are hidden away for the full version.
Fort Tarsis, I felt was much like the Tower from Destiny, just without all the other real-time players littered throughout. Plenty of lifeless NPCs roam the area, while some are there to enter into optional dialogue with. The inclusion of multiple reply options presumably gives that element of consequence in dialogue, which is a nice touch in my opinion.
The area looks nice, the motion capture works pretty well (from what/who I saw), and the voices are all pretty unique at this stage. As far as hubs go, it’s pretty good. At the Forge, you’ll tinker with your Javelin before heading out on missions, customising the appearance of your suit, its class, as well as its weapons, upgrades and secondary artillery.
The weapon loadouts see you bringing two primary guns out on expeditions with you. An array of mid-tier assault rifles, large magazine LMGs, shotguns, heavy pistols and high rate of fire SMGs, heavy-hitting sniper rifles, marksman rifles, and, exclusive to the Colossus power suit, grenade launchers and miniguns. Enough variety to keep yourself entertained.
And so onto the power suits you’ll be tearing around the world of Anthem in. Because this is only a demo, you get instant access to the all-rounded Ranger suit, and after a couple of hours of play you can unlock but one more of your choice – for a total of two Javelins. All four of the suits come with similar grenades, ranged and support abilities, coupled with unique play styles and an exclusive cooldown special ability called an Ultimate.
The suit I spent my unlock on was the Interceptor. The most agile in terms of movement speed and melee attacks, focussing on quick get-in-get-out tactics – which I paired with a shotgun for massive close-range damage. Its unique ability was basically an enhancement of its bladed melee weapon, where you furiously strike enemies for a short period of time without sustaining any damage; effective against a small horde of low-level enemies.
The Ranger is what you begin the demo with. So it was basically a balanced suit which I ran with frag grenades and a pretty decent homing wrist missile; just your typical all-round character really. The Ranger’s Ultimate targets multiple enemies in an area and bombards each one with guided rockets for huge damage output.
For the final two Javelins, the Storm and Colossus – which I wasn’t able to try out – I’ll elaborate on them purely from the research I’ve read elsewhere.
Storm hovers above the battlefield for most of the engagements, using its offensive elemental attacks and devastating AOE special ability, much likened to the Warlock class in Destiny. It’s quick but lacks defence, so paired with a decent weapon loadout, this is supposedly the most enjoyable Javelin out of the four.
And the Colossus is the tank. It can sustain large amounts of damage while being the only suit able to wield those heavier weapons mentioned before. With its Ultimate projecting a mortar strike (more like three mini nukes) into an area and laying waste to all in the vicinity, this heavily armoured suit is slow, but can dish out as much as it gives.
The three-part story mission on offer was nothing to be excited about. You chat to a bloke, he tells you what he needs from outside the walls of Fort Tarsis, you kill a few enemies (referred to as The Dominion), grab a bit of loot on the way, bring the thing back, and that’s about it.
I didn’t bother getting too involved in the story itself, I can’t help but wonder how these missions will vary as the game goes on. There will probably be other areas available to explore outside Fort Tarsis, and maybe smaller side quests along the way. It’s Destiny meets Warframe with a bit of The Division in there, where you just keep coming back purely for the grind; that possible better gear drop must be just around the corner.
There are dungeon-like areas called Strongholds (named Tyrant Mine in the demo) where you’ll face harder enemies and bosses while at the same time acquiring better gear and loot. I keep wondering what kind of PvP multiplayer they’ll include in the final version of the game, not just this matchmaking PvE against mediocre AI experienced in this demo.
Now I won’t lie, the game looks gorgeous. Just flying around the world, hugging the massive waterfalls and taking in the dense vegetation when you’re dabbling in freeplay mode. Walking around on-foot reminded me of Monster Hunter: World and the lush greenery found throughout, so it will be exciting to see more areas when the game is released.
I was playing this on a PS4 Pro, and this demo, just like the weekend before it in the closed beta, was not short of bugs and crashes. Sometime the screen would freeze up if there were too many enemies on the screen at once. It was common to be pulled right out of the game area and into a loading screen back to the hub area which was frustrating. And on some occasions, the sound dropped out or didn’t match the weapons I was using.
In conclusion, the combat was kind of fun. The enemies were 100% bullet sponges. And I can see it becoming repetitive quite quickly. BUUUT, I mean the minute-to-minute gunplay was enjoyable. Messing around with weapon combinations and the grenade and secondary weapon abilities set the game up for a fun time discovering what you like. Also trying out all the Javelins and their unique play styles and Ultimate abilities will be engaging for some time.
The demo was only a tiny snippet of what’s to come, that needs to be made aware of. I hope the best for BioWare and EA, considering the murmurs of microtransactions. Destiny-lovers will enjoy this. MMO fans might as well. Endgame content supposedly opens things up wider, and I can see later in the future the addition of new Javelins could be possible.
With its release later this month, I personally won’t be buying fresh off the shelves, but it would definitely be worth a look once some decent patches come through, and more footage of end game content emerges.
Demo was available from 2/2/19 - 4/2/19
Cover image credit to: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7000436/mediaviewer/rm3137959168
Copyright © Will Boddy 2019