Bioware released Anthem early for those who have Origin Access Premiere, and offered a 10-hour trial to Xbox’s EA Access subscribers. I played Anthem on both platforms and here are my thoughts.
A quick disclaimer before we get going on the review: Most of this review was done before the day-one patch. I have played both pre and post day-one patch, and I will discuss both in this review. THERE ARE NOT ANY SPOILERS.
Anthem is a fast-paced looter shooter with some RPG elements mixed in. If I had to describe it, I’d say it is a hodgepodge of many things we love about games all thrown in together. The combat felt very good. Those who are familiar with the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect Andromeda will recognize a few familiar elements in the form of combos. There are both priming and detonating elements that are used in the game to create some massive explosions. There are some major pyrotechnics in this game.
Each javelin has two weapon slots, one of which you have to unlock as you level up, and a few extra abilities. You can equip better equipment to give you the ability to prime and detonate enemies, or utilize a support ability. You can prime enemies yourself and then use another ability to detonate. Or, you can set up builds where you are only priming enemies with your javelin and leave the detonating to other teammates. There is a lot of variety in the different ways you can make builds with each javelin. This allows you to tailor your javelin to your playing style – Play as the major damage dealer or more of a support role.
Much like multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect Andromeda, you will be using your abilities a lot. Once you get to higher levels however, the need for good gear on your guns becomes more of a necessity. While the guns do come into play, the combat is largely ability-driven. Guns are mostly used for cleaning up enemies or when you are trying to put some additional damage on a boss.
The world is very large and very vertical. There is a lot of discovery in this game, and the world feels full. The maps are pretty good sizes, although not as large as some other open world games. With plenty of activities in the freeplay areas, you won’t be flying from one end of the map to the other without encountering things to do, discover, or fight. We haven’t seen some of the other world events yet, but adding them into freeplay is going to give the game lots of replayability. It feels great to see an area on the map, and I know that I can fly to it to check it out. It makes the world feel massive. There is so much to discover and I could spend hours just roaming around in freeplay. The world is new, exciting, and full of mystery. I love that I am jumping into a whole new world with new lore and things to discover. That is another good thing about Anthem. It’s full of mystery, and it has some great lore.
The story is done in typical Bioware fashion and, while it is not over-the-top amazing, it’s still pretty darn good. So, don’t rob yourself by sprinting through the game and not talking to the NPCs, because it really does add depth and richness to the experience. If you want to fly through the story, you can do that, but you will miss some of the heart and soul of the game. Feeling connected to the NPCs through the relationships you build is typical of a Bioware game, so it felt counterproductive to do that. The dialog is witty and has some great one liners. “I smell burnt toast”. Take your time and enjoy all those interactions, because the story isn’t over when you reach the end of the critical path.
At times, I found myself with a big smile on my face and literally laughing out loud. My party chats were full of random squad mates just laughing with me. You feel so strong and powerful, and when you’re doing something epic, you can’t help but feel the enjoyment oozing out of everyone. We were having a ton of fun playing the game. Anthem is just that. FUN. I haven’t felt this powerful in a video game since Destiny 1. I felt like a bad ass walking around in a javelin suit that could take on anything. You got a problem? Don’t worry, I know a freelancer who will blow it up for you!
There are quite a few bugs, and some quality-of-life changes need to be made to the game. A lot of those were addressed in the day-one patch. So, keep that in mind as you read some of my thoughts on this.
The load times on my Xbox One X, although not horrible, did tend to break the immersion in some situations. It wasn’t as long as loading into the tower in Destiny, or grouping up in The Division, but it was enough to be noticed. On my PC the load times were slightly faster. This can be immersion-breaking for some gamers, and there are a lot of loading screens. Load into the Fort, load into the Forge, load into the mission, etc. This was one issue addressed in the day-one patch. Since playing after the patch, I did notice a slight decrease in load times, but it could still be improved. The developers did mention they will also be updating the social hub to help offset some of those quality-of-life changes that need to be made.
The other heart burn was tethering. Tethering occurs when in a mission if one of your squad mates gets too far ahead of you. You will get a prompt on the screen that you are about to get loaded into the area your mate is in. This then gives you another load screen. Again, this is addressed in the day one patch, but it’s still bothersome since there are already quite a few loading screens. Most gamers don’t want to spend precious game time staring at load screens.
My other complaint is more on the PC side of things. My PC struggled to play Anthem. I have an i5-8600K with a 1070 GTX and I was almost constantly at 95% or more usage on my CPU and GPU. I had tried everything with turning down the settings to the lowest minimum setting, and turning off other features but it didn’t seem to work. So, I had to play in chunks of time and monitor my PC temperature to make sure I didn’t overload my PC. I really don’t know how you fix that other than maybe more optimization? Or maybe I just need to upgrade my PC. But my specs were well within the minimum requirements posted by EA to play the game, so that was irritating.
There was also an assortment of bugs and glitches in the game. Falling through the map in the Fort, disconnecting while mid-mission, and not receiving loot when you pick it up are all things that need to be addressed. Many bugs were addressed in the day-one patch.
Despite all the issues and bugs with early release, I found myself having a ton of fun in Anthem. I couldn’t put the game down. The last time I was this excited for a game was Destiny 1. I just felt powerful, and the massive combo explosions made it very enjoyable. Seeing how fast the developers are improving the game as well as how open the dialog has been is very refreshing. They have addressed a laundry list of issues already before the official launch day. Most of the issues were easy for me to overlook since I was having so much fun, and the combat feels so good. That doesn’t excuse the issues however, and I’m happy to see BioWare being so proactive in improving the experience.
If you want to feel like a powerful bad ass protecting your new home by blowing up your problems, then I would suggest you pick this game up. Anthem is super fun and I can’t wait to see how the story will continue. With Anthem being a live service game, and the developers claiming they can change things by “flipping a switch,” it makes it very interesting to see how future events will unfold. I give Anthem a 8.5 out of 10. It’s not a perfect game, but super fun with lots of room to grow and keep getting better!