Anthem: Review

Dear BioWare,

I wanted to love Anthem. I wanted to spend countless hours in the world you spent so long building. But, I just can’t. It’s not you. It’s me. Okay, that isn’t true, it’s you. You’ve changed and not for the better. You tried doing something new and frankly it didn’t work out. You were fun for a long, long time, until you weren’t. I think its time to move on and leave the past in the past. I wish you the best in the future and I truly hope that you can learn from your mistakes.

Sincerely,

A huge fan.

Alright, jokes aside. I beat Anthem in around 30 hours and played about 45 hours total before I called it quits. I enjoyed the game for about a week or so and I can’t force myself to keep playing. The gameplay is tons of fun, but the terrible loot, constant bugs, and difficulty grouping up with my friends makes me want to play something else.

TL, DR: At the end, as per usual.

No spoilers.

Graphics:

I am impressed with the overall graphics of Anthem. The world of Bastion looks incredible down to the smallest detail. At the same time, I was blown away by the nuts and bolts details of the Javelin and felt like each of them looked great. The blue-sometimes-green water felt real. The lush trees and vegetation looked great but didn’t really change that much from region to region of the map. The main base, where you spend too much time, doesn’t look as nice or as detailed as the outside world. I am a bit disappointed by how boring Fort Tarsis looks compared to the exciting outside areas.

Fort Tarsis, the main area in which you interact with your world, leaves some to be desired. I can really only remember the color brown. Besides my obnoxiously bright Javelin in the center of the city, I felt like everything looked the same with lighting only slightly changing from area to area. To be fair, Fort Tarsis is incredibly small but I expected more from BioWare.

As mentioned a paragraph up, the Javelins look great. But, and this is a big but, there isn’t enough armor and weapon variety to differentiate yourself from others besides color. For a game focused on loot, the loot doesn’t inspire creative armor usage. The limited number of armor does allow for a ton of variation in the color department. Some people can create some amazing looking Javelins while others fly around in amazing dirt brown. You can color your Javelin to suit your fancy, you just can’t change the physical components much.

I am disappointed by the lack of enemy diversity as well. Apparently there are three different factions of enemy. I only ever saw “bad guys” with red dots over there head. That might be my fault as well as the pace of the game. Alright I am not being entirely fair, I can think of three different enemies for reach faction with some significant differences between them but three doesn’t feel like enough.

Sound:

Is there even music in the game? I have no clue. Nothing, and I mean nothing, stood out in the musical department. Supposedly there is a sound track but I couldn’t be bothered to listen to it since I can’t recall any music from the game directly.

The gun types offer enough for me to know what I’m shooting without looking at the in-game HUD for clarification but I have no idea what weapons my squad was using. I also couldn’t tell you what their abilities sound like, if they make sound at all. I know that the abilities in the game look different but I couldn’t differentiate between different teammates and who was using what.

The  world and Fort Tarsis didn’t really leave a lasting impression in the sound department either. Fort Torsis sounded as empty as it looked, which might be a good thing. The world where you actually played didn’t sound as cool as it looked. Some wild animals made noise and the enemies made noise but I wasn’t wowed by any of it.

I will say that I think the voice acting was alright overall. Some better than others. Some characters were voiced well and you could tell the voice actors got really into the character and gave them some life. For other characters, I felt like the voice actors were simply reading off the page and not offering much past that. I think you can expect that from any game, but I am disappointed by some of the major characters and their lack of life. Some may as well have been robots.

Technical:

Some of the technical aspects are horrible at worst and okay at best. The game crashed all the time for both myself and my friends. The sound cut out all the time. The loading screens are way too long. Sometimes you couldn’t launch from Fort Tarsis at all and had to the quit the game. The menus are vague. The text tells far too much of the story. I would say about 25% of the missions I played were bugged and had to be restarted from the beginning or the entire group had to respawn.

In my review of AC: Odyssey I said that “I don’t think I had this many issues with a game in a long time,” and that was true at the time. Anthem now holds the crown of worst technical aspects of a game that I’ve played in recent memory. I noticed issues while playing before release in Origin Access Premiere and then even still when the full release happened. The poor technical aspects really lessened my enjoyment of the game. Either I was crashing or my friends were crashing or we couldn’t start missions with one person as the leader and it just wasn’t fun at times.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is the saving grace for the game. I love the minute to minute gameplay of Anthem. I felt like Iron Man and couldn’t get enough of it. I loved blasting my way through the game as the Colossus with either shield or gun. I loved being able to do that with my friends.

I didn’t love the gameplay loop or the amount of time spend actual playing versus time spent in menus or slowed down in Fort Tarsis talking to people I didn’t care about. I also didn’t feel rewarded for playing. The loot drops are poorly implemented. I could play for ten hours and not get any stronger at this point. I have maxed my overall power. And I didn’t get into the harder difficulties. You can take on mission at 6 different difficulties and I stopped at the 4th hardest because the drops in the harder difficulties don’t really offer anything new. The time investment on harder difficulties made worse the loot problem.

The variety of missions or gameplay events doesn’t keep me interested either. I spend less time playing daily and that will likely be the case until some major changes come into play.

Story:

For a BioWare game, the creators and developers of the original Mass Effect trilogy, this game severely lacks in story. Some characters are cool and some moments in the game are fun, but the story at large is fairly generic. I think I’m most disappointed by the lack of story, even more so than abhorrent technical aspects of the game. I understand this game is different from the original Mass Effect trilogy, but this BioWare team has built themselves on story telling. They failed to do what made them great in the past.

The lore itself is fairly deep and intriguing but the presentation is what gets me. There is a Cortex, which is exactly like Mass Effect’s Codex, that tells a ton of background, but you have to go search for that information. The lore is vastly better than the story and it makes the story worse. BioWare has all this cool stuff going on the the world, but they failed to tell us an interesting story.

Overall:

I felt like I kept my expectations in check for Anthem and even then I was let down. I was excited but didn’t expect anything amazing. I expected a good story, knowing full well this was a switch for the studio. I didn’t get a good story. I did get some good gameplay with some fun times with friends, but I would be hard pressed to recommended Anthem for single player gamers or people expecting a BioWare quality game. I will definitely keep Anthem in mind after it gets some time to get better, but there far too many great games to play to keep playing something just because I want it to be good.

TL,DR;

Fun game, for a bit. Bad design and bugs don’t inspire continuous play.

 

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