All things considered, you’ve gotta give Anthem some credit; I mean the game looks absolutely spectacular!
In BioWare and EA’s new-ish game Anthem, you get to tear around such a gorgeous environment in frickin’ mech suits. I mean what’s not cool about that?
With an Iron Man-like suit of armour, it’s fluid, and it is super satisfying cruising through the lush forests and past the many wacky creatures, traversing massive waterfalls that trail off into gaping holes in the earth makes for challenging verticality gameplay and gazing upon monstrous man-made structures looming off in the distance makes you feel so tiny.
Unfortunately, that’s about the extent of positive things I can say for this game. It doesn’t have too many things going for it; the standouts being the lush environment it’s set in, and the sheer originality and overall design are what truly stood out for me here.
In the five months since release, Anthem has had an absolutely terrible run of it. This is incredibly similar to the downward spiral Fallout 76 suffered post-launch, and while both titles cannot seem to push any real sales, the games are both available at a dirt-cheap price.
The Nightmare Begins
So, I picked up a hard copy of Anthem for under 20 bucks, which was a steal in my opinion (having missed it on sale in the PlayStation Store a couple weeks prior). I was interested to see what all the negative fuss was about. And now I know.
I should have trusted my initial thoughts way back in February when the open beta was available (to which you can have a read here), but like a moth to a light, I was drawn in by the price and just wanting to find out for myself why the game had flopped.
The first few hours of Anthem were enjoyable – simply because of the gorgeous setting, the weaponry available on your mech suits (named Javelins) and the cool customisation features of the Javelins themselves, to which there are four to [progressively grind] towards.
They are cool looking things, the Javelins, and you can make them even cooler just by having a play with the paint jobs on offer. Gameplaywise, the Ranger is the vanilla suit, balanced and isn’t that appealing. The Colossus is the tank, which is super bulky (actually feels slow to fly) and soaks up heaps of damage. I enjoyed the Interceptor, which is agile and sexy, fast as hell and concentrates on up-close melee encounters. And finally, the wizard mech, Storm, which hovers way back, using devastating AOE effects from a distance.
I mean yeah, they all offer quite different play styles, which is good and what you want. With them all having their own special abilities and ordinance available, there is no doubting the different play styles that can be on offer here.
By around hour 4, I was bored as hell. I tried my hand at a different Javelin, but the game was just bland, repetitive and lacked any real character or flair. Not to mention the male protagonist was a massive dick and spoke mostly in un-humorous retorts.
I tried to soldier on for a few more hours, dealing with the horrible voice of my character and the slow progression of the game. Coming off the back of playing 80+ hours in The Division 2, the two games are quite similar in how they handle narrative (or lack of), missions, loot drops, enemies and weapons, but Anthem really isn’t anywhere near comparable.
Like the many RPG looter shooters before it, Anthem just doesn’t execute enough aspect of a video game well enough. There’s your typical hub space called Fort Tarsis, which acts as the area where you begin each mission, accept quests and contracts, dabble in useless conversations with bland, hollow-eyed NPC’s – ignore cosmetic microtransactions – and the most important place, The Forge. Here you make modifications to your Javelin and sort through various claimed weapons and abilities.
You collect contracts from a handful of select NPC’s, or acquire them off the notice board, but essentially you end up just acquiring a mission, loading it up (with up to three other players I might add), go out and do said fetch quest, killing a few grunts while you’re at it. There’ll be a boss battle, then you come back to the fort and finally view a post-mission screen with all your rewards.
Now that’s a pretty shitty game loop when the missions are boring, but it feels so structured and limited. Not to mention my number one gripe with this game: you can’t actually swap out weapons when outside the walls of Fort Tarsis. You’re stuck with the same two guns and abilities until you head back.
There isn’t much variety or immersion in the game world either, and while yes, unlocking new Javelins and trying out different combinations is how you spice it up, there is just no real point to it, I felt.
Developers have stated they won't give up on the game, vowing to make improvements, but once you’ve actually experienced something negative, it doesn’t really make you want to go back and do it again.
So, I say, do yourself a favour, and actually trust the reviews already released about Anthem, and DON’T GET IT!
Cover image credit to: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/anthem/bp9jqbjm0fnw?activetab=pivot:overviewtab
Copyright © Will Boddy 2019