Review

Developed by:BioWare Published by:EA Genre(s):
  • Action RPG
  • Third Person Shooter
  • Platform:
  • Microsoft
  • PC
  • Sony
  • Cost:$59.99 ESRB Rating:RATING PENDING Players:1 (2-4 Online) Release date:February 22, 2019 Reviewed on:XBox One
    5.5

    Anthem

    Publishers and developers have a hard time being honest when showcasing a new game. Not in the sense of a snazzy E3 trailer or exaggerated claims – we’ve learned to take what’s shown during major events with a grain of salt – but in the basic promise of delivering a complete product. Nowadays, gamers are presented with (what feels like) a portion of the final game, with the rest of it to be divvied out over multiple updates. This is especially true with titles that sit firmly in the “games as a service” category.

    Anthem was met with excitement when it was revealed at E3 years ago, despite the skepticism brought about by its likeness to Destiny. That excitement started to wane as we got closer to the game’s launch, however. The gameplay videos were seen as boring and the closed/open beta had a laundry list of problems. Add in a convoluted release schedule – where some fans were able to play early if they subscribed to EA’s Origin Premier service – and you have a recipe for a rough launch. That said, thanks to a day one patch and BioWare’s encouraging promise to deliver a great experience, there were still plenty of people who anticipated joining the fun when the servers went live across the board. Unfortunately, they’d soon discover that BioWare’s Anthem is the latest big budget game to be released in an unfinished state.

    In Anthem, you play as a Freelancer – mercenaries who pilot Iron Man like suits of armor called Javelins – who’s tasked with defeating an evil military group called “The Dominion”. Their goal is to harness the power of an omnipresent energy forced called the Anthem; the Dominion’s new commander believes that he’ll be able to end human suffering (seemingly in the same vein as the MCU’s Thanos) with its power. The Freelancers and Dominion soldiers will clash, with the former trying their best to stop the latter from stealing relics tied to the Anthem. And…that’s pretty much it. Yeah, there are important characters with well voiced dialogue and interesting happenings sprinkled about. But for the most part, the Anthem’s plot is a confusing, bare bones affair. Proper nouns are abundant – instead of delivering a compelling story, the game throws a ton of lore at players in hopes that they’ll eventually understand/care about what’s going on.

    Considering that this isn’t a single player experience, one can let a weak story slide if the gameplay is entertaining. And it is at first. The moment to moment shooting and screen filling explosions allows for a bit of fun. An interesting combo system that allows players to “detonate” enemies using certain weapons or abilities in tandem – like when a teammate covers an enemy in fire or electricity and you follow up with an ability that causes them to explode, doing extra damage – often results in bombastic firefights. Controlling the different Javelins and playing to their strengths while working as team to bring down a large group of foes can be exhilarating.

    After a few hours though, Anthem’s repetitive nature will start to show its teeth. The missions are all built the same. Don a Javelin and fly to a location, before capturing and delivering echoes (a lore-based item), destroying turrets, or battling waves of enemies as a timer counts down. There may or may not be a giant bullet sponge of a boss battle to spice things up. Once you get off the high of flying around and doing combos with your teammates, the monotonous mission structure quickly saps away at the fun, sometimes engaging moments. And because the story is lackluster – it didn’t take long for me to stop caring about why our group was doing whatever it was we were doing – all that’s left is the grind for more loot. I can only do the same missions so many times before fatigue sets in.

    In this sense, Anthem is like Destiny. That said, Destiny fares a bit better given its PvP options; there was something to do after the story ended and the raids were conquered. In Anthem, we are just doing the same old stuff at different difficult levels (featuring more enemies with longer life bars) with the promise of more to come. There just isn’t enough here to hold my attention. A sad realization given how these types of games are designed; I’m not a fan of “games as a service” model where small amounts of content are stretched using grindy mechanics. It’s as if Anthem was rushed as it fails to be anything more than a time sink. I mean, I knew we weren’t getting a “Mass Effect” like experience, but I expected more than what’s presented here.

    My desire to permanently park my Javelin was exacerbated by a plethora of loading screens and game breaking bugs. Even with the day one patch, Anthem functions similarly to its beta; within minutes of launching the game, it would often start making buzzing sounds before causing my Xbox One X to crash to the dashboard. Worse are the times I was on a mission or in the middle of a raid and got dropped from my group. None of the previous games I’ve reviewed on console have crashed as much as Anthem. Which is saying something considering the state that Fallout 76 was released in.

    To be fair, Anthem would allow me to rejoin missions after being dropped in order to collect the rewards and such. The process of doing so proved painful though, given the game’s multiple loading screens. You must wait on Anthem to load your character into Fort Tarsis (the game’s hub), then load into your Javelin and then load back into the world or mission. If you want to change weapons (or to see what shiny piece of loot was recently obtained) before jumping back in, you’ll have to pull up your arsenal and watch another load screen. Actually, doing much of anything requires watching multiple loading screens.

    Getting back into the fight doesn’t mean everything was ok. There are times when key enemies got stuck in walls or were outright missing, making it impossible to complete that portion of the mission. Raids are worst off. To this day, you cannot restart one after everyone has died. Not because there isn’t the option, but because once you do, only the host of the room can revive downed enemies. That means that when the host dies, you’ll have to stay alive/complete the rest of the raid by yourselves or else start the whole thing over from the beginning. And for some reason after completing objectives, Anthem would take a while to bring up the next objective or display important dialogue. That awkward silence as you wait to learn where to go or what to do always alluded to how bad Anthem was running as a service.

    Anthem doesn’t bring anything new to the genre outside of an interesting combo system and brief moments of flight. There isn’t much of a story and the repetitive mission structure hinders the fun. There aren’t even that many items to unlock, cosmetic or otherwise; it doesn’t take long to experience everything the game has to offer. It’s also rather buggy. While I did have hours of nonstop shooting and looting, there were large segments that were plagued with crashes, glitches, and frustrating occurrences. BioWare’s promises don’t help things much; I don’t care about the 90-day plan when, hours in, I’ve already grown tired of the game’s content. Basically, Anthem is a totally different game from what we were shown at E3 – graphically, gameplay wise, everything. With more time, it’ll probably transform into something great. But with similar grindy titles (like The Division 2) dropping soon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the concurrent player base drop tremendously in the coming weeks.

    Gameplay:

    5

    Flying around with the Javelins is fun and the combo system produces some exciting moments. That said, the poor story, overly repetitive missions, and game halting bugs help to ruin the experience.

    Graphics:

    7

    Anthem looks good, for the most part.

    Sound:

    7

    When things are working as intended, the game’s explosions and voice acting sound great.

    Replay Value:

    3

    As of right now, there’s no reason to grind after the story ends. Sure, there are tougher missions, raids and challenges. But it’s all the same stuff players were doing before that point.

    Final Score:

    5.5

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