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Posted by GG Goblin On March - 7 - 2019

A looter shooter with potential.

I am sure that I am not the only one who was sold on the idea of flying exo-suits when Anthem was first revealed by Bioware. The early glimpses that we got of these Javelins flying around a jungle-like setting and raining down hell on alien adversaries really sparked the imagination. Now, after what seems like a long wait, Anthem has finally arrived and puts the player into one of these suits as they fight enemies, collect ever more loot to improve their Javelin, and follow a detailed and interesting story.

anthem1 (Copy)

However, there were also plenty of people who became concerned the closer to launch the game got. Being presented as a live service, a game that would improve and add more content over time, would the launch difficulties of previous live service games also present themselves in Anthem? And could the game possibly live up to the hype it had created, as more and more players become jaded to the marketing methods of the big publishing companies? Well, Anthem has certainly launched with the potential, but not without its fair share of issues and a big question mark over the future.

In Anthem, players will set up base on the world of Bastion, and take on the role of a Freelancer. Through the tutorial and a vast amount of optional blocks of back story that the player will find literally everywhere, the player will learn what they need to know about the world, including why the Freelancers, who were once a highly regarded organisation of heroes, have lost favour with the people. It all comes down to the Anthem of Creation, an energy source used by a race known as Shapers to mold the world to their vision. Although the Shapers are long gone, the relics that made use of the Anthem of Creation remain and, when used, can have catastrophic affects. It is one of these relics that, at the beginning of the game, created a cataclysm that the freelancers simply couldn’t control, with the result of many Freelancers losing their lives and the resulting disaster causing the regular people to lose faith in the organisation.

As a rookie Freelancer at the time of this event, the player will be given a crash course in operating their Javelin before time jumps forward to a world where, still working as a Freelancer, the player is having to scrape together contracts just to survive.

anthem2 (Copy)

Bioware do a great job, once again, of creating a living, breathing world in which to play. With most of the interaction taking place in the hub town of Fort Tarsis, players are able to learn so much about this violent world and the various factions that inhabit it. Players will learn about the Dominion, the big bad for the game, and their motivations. They will also form relationships with various other main characters, all of which are nicely fleshed out and real, and a whole bunch of secondary characters who each have their own stories to tell, not all of which will be of any use to the player, but all go towards creating this living world.

However, it is when heading out into the wilds of Bastion that the action really kicks in. Players will pick up different contracts, missions with distinct objectives, from within the Fort, along with story missions. There are also Stronghold missions, which are similar to Destiny’s Strikes, and a Freeplay mode in which the player can simply go off and explore. If not in freeplay, the player will struggle to explore their surroundings as the game makes efforts to keep the group together, and as every other player I have joined seems intent on simply getting the missions over and done with as quickly as possible, that will mean being forced to stay with the group.

There are four different Javelins for players to choose from in Anthem, and these really are the stars of the show. Each Javelin comes with a different play style, and players will be able to unlock further Javelins as they level up. The Ranger is perhaps the most standard Javelin, but a great choice for starting out. The Interceptor is a fast Javelin with low armour that specialises in melee attacks, while the Colossus goes the other way with massive armour and heavy weapons. Finally, the Storm offers almost magical elemental abilities. Whichever Javelin the player chooses to use, all of them are able to take to the skies.

Flying in a Javelin is the coolest thing ever. There is a slight learning curve to getting the most out of your flying time, and the use of flying is arguably limited to moving from one objective to the next rather than any kind of dogfighting. Anyway, after a little practice, most players will be zipping through the jungle with ease. The only problem is that flying causes overheating, which limits how long the player can fly for. Swooping down quickly, or flying through water, can cool the suit and allow more air time, but it is still frustrating to have such as awesome action limited.

anthem3 (Copy)

The flying wouldn’t be half as much fun without a rich and beautiful world to fly in. Is the world of Bastion as pretty as we were made to believe in the early gameplay footage? No, probably not, but did we really expect that? It still manages to be very nice to look at, with huge cliffs, massive waterfalls, jungle-covered mountains and the occasional ruin dotted around. It’s not a massive world at launch, and the lack of diversity can leave the player with the feeling of going to the same places over and over again. But still, it is pretty.

The combat is quite satisfying. Each type of Javelin has its own special attacks that are universally fun to use and very powerful. They also carry guns, but these come in various standard forms that players will recognise and, even when getting into the higher tier of weapons, are not that interesting. Things get very chaotic on screen, and it can be difficult to follow where objectives move to. There is a poorly explained, as in not explained at all, combo system in Anthem which will see certain attacks set up a combo and other attacks to continue it for extra damage and other bonuses. When it comes to the enemies themselves, they are quite varied but all seem to suffer from either stupidity or an excess of bravery, as they will spend most of their time, big and small, just standing and shooting at the player rather than any type of involved tactics.

There are a fair number of problems with Anthem at launch, such as being kicked off the server or the incredibly long and frequent loading screens. However, a lot of Anthem’s issues come down to design, which is something that will probably change dramatically over time. Things like the quality of the loot, which plays such a big role in the game, and the variety of the missions, which is severely lacking at the moment, are all things that need to be addressed, especially for the endgame that will keep players engaged once they finish the main story.

It is easy to complain about the state of the game at the moment. But the chances are that Anthem will be a very different game in one years time to what it is at the moment. Whether players will hang around for this evolution is another matter, but it is fun to play, so there is that.

anthem4 (Copy)

Reviewing Anthem at the moment feels pointless, as so much will likely change over the next few months. Right now, it has plenty going for it, such as solid combat, awesome flying and a great world with a great story. Moment to moment gameplay though struggles to inspire, with lacklustre loot and boring missions. There needs to be more as well, lots more, of everything, if players are expected to hang around. Anthem has the potential to be a great loot and shoot game, but feels at the moment more like an early access title. I personally hold out hope for an awesome game in the near future, so if you are an optimist like me, hop on and enjoy the Anthem ride now. Otherwise, wait and see how it evolves.




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