Playing Anthem, loading screens and all is a normal experience. After the recent massive patch, I haven’t had one instance where the game seemed broken beyond repair despite what I had read online beforehand. A few hours in and I must say I’m actually enjoying it.
Before the game released it seemed to attract a stench of failure. Whether this was from a broken Demo, bias against EA or just people expecting something better. I wanted to try another looter-shooter, persistent game after my last experience with Destiny 2 and The Division. Anthem with its Ironman style suits seemed different enough to give a try. For once I’m glad I trusted my instincts and not the majority rules of the Internet.
Anthem has a number of excellent aspects for a game in this genre. The Ironman flying for one is thrilling. Hovering, barrelling around the beautifully rendered landscape and firing rockets at enemies is something that genuinely doesn’t get old. This is lucky because shooting enemies is something you will be doing a lot of over the course of the campaign and the endgame that presently exists. You jump in the air and with a click of the left stick you shoot off from rockets on your suit then it is up to you to control yourself. Like the excellent Spiderman, the traversal in this game is so good because of the imperfections it allows. You aren’t on rails as you jet through the air and a miscalculation sees you slamming into a cliff face. A click of the Right stick initiates a hover and if you have enough left in your overheat meter you can hover while reigning down fire on enemies. The cooldown meter can be increased with either steep dives or flying through waterfalls, a sensible solution when you see the setting of the game.
Bastion, the land you are on, is a lush landscape filled with plenty of flora and fauna. It doesn’t have the massive mechanical striders seen in the E3 demo. The only ones I’ve come across are stationary, other than that it is a nice place to be, explore and shoot enemies in. Canyons and rocky outcrops make flying the javelin akin to a wingsuit as you scrape close by rocks and fly through arches. They seem to have done all they can to make traversal enjoyable and entertaining.
Enemies are tough, especially on harder difficulties and can gang up on you and deplete your shields very quickly. End of mission/expedition bosses can kill in a single hit if you get melee damage from them while normal soldiers are enough of a crack shot to mean you can’t just go wading in without a plan, especially if you are one of the lighter javelins. After each mission, you find out what loot you have gathered and head back to the hub world Fort Tarsis, where after more loading screens you get to walk around in first-person and customise your gear and get missions from other people. All standard but enjoyable fare. But here’s the kicker. I am not the target audience for this game.
The target audience is the endgame Destiny player, the person who has a ready-made clan or group of friends ready to jump into these missions with, the professional streamers who have 10+ hours a day to plough into this game. For these people, Anthem is pretty much a mess. The loading times ruin any sense of flow, the loot despite being patched cannot be equipped and sorted on the fly. The missions can vary between dull and short to long and tedious in a group. As a single player if you get the difficulty right these missions are enjoyable enough if a little overwhelming when you have to manage a crowd. The problem with this game is the developer.
Bioware has made some of my favourite games of all time. KOTOR and Mass Effect 1-3. These weren’t just games at the time, they were the equivalent of a good book series. This is why Anthem still resonates with me. The story is decent and follows a lot of Bioware tropes both in cutscenes and character interaction, the gunplay and combo system echoes some of your bionics in Mass Effect and the alien world takes some of the best elements of Andromeda. I also like the way the game feels like it should be a single player game.
By definition, you should be doing this on your own. You are called a freelancer. You shouldn’t be doing this with friends, if you meet others while doing your missions then so be it but the game and tone are far more suited to the player like me. Single player, no team chat, limited hours to play and unfortunately too old for competitive multiplayer. The game only falls down when it tries too hard to lean into the Destiny model. Forcing you to team up, making hordes of enemies when you really want a one on one with a massive boss and the constant marketing and in-game challenges that make the freelancers out to be an order, rather than single mercenaries which the rest of the game is suited towards.
This contradiction is solely down to the developer and their previous expertise in single player games. It is hard to let go of what made you great. Had this game been single-player focussed with some multiplayer elements, perhaps only in the open world bits then it would be a great game. It is very similar to Spiderman when all the Destiny elements are stripped back and you could level some of the same criticisms at it with repetitive mission design saved by excellent traversal and a good storyline.
. As things stand it is a game that actively annoys its target audience and only finds a home with the niche that is the time limited non-competitive player. Hopefully, updates can bring more of the Destiny crowd over and the game can have some longevity. It would be a shame to lose the fantastic traversal and gunplay that Anthem gives you.
So there you have Anthem, a game that has been slated by the target audience yet has enough in there if you like the look of it.