Anthem VIP Demo Impressions – What is Anthem like to play?

If you’ve used the Internet over the last few days, I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of Anthem VIP Demo impressions. There are a tonne of pieces covering the apparent failures or successes of the demo, so I won’t bore you with more of that.

What I will do, though, is take the most common complaints and feedback and give you my thoughts. Perhaps I can bring a slightly different perspective to all the (let’s face it – extremely similar) popular opinions.

That said, I’ll also include the very positive responses I saw as well.

Anthem VIP Demo

It’s Broken

Can’t disagree here; the demo was broken.

For a bunch of people, it was so broken they weren’t even able to access anything. This did seem to be alleviated over the course of the weekend, but several issues persisted, including the extremely frustrating 95% loading screen; aka, the “endless loading screen.”

Rubber-banding was also a significant issue for some. I experienced both of these issues for much of my exposure to the demo, so I can echo the disappointment here.

It’s Derivative/Generic

Depends how you look at things here. In some ways, Anthem resembles several other titles that have come before it, namely Destiny, Warframe, The Division, and Mass Effect naturally. However, much of this is likely due to it being a primarily a shooter and a looter-shooter specifically.

By virtue of this, and by the fact it’s set on an alternate (future?) Earth, then, of course, it’s going to resemble other games with a similar premise.

The buck stops there, really. While the colour palettes are familiar, the world design is not, nor is the character design. The Scars (an enemy faction), for example, are actually swarms of insects working together to mimic a humanoid form.

That’s both horrific and entirely original to my knowledge, at least. Sure, this is a shooter at heart, so the engagement and battle mechanics are fairly standard, but I’m not sure what people expect from yet another looter-shooter.

If it were different, it wouldn’t be the game we were all expecting/hoping for. While there may have been some hoping Anthem wasn’t another looter-shooter, this was very evident from the first time any gameplay was shown publically.

The Enemies are Bullet Sponges

Yes, this is somewhat true, but again, I ask what people would expect?

If enemies were NOT bullet sponges, then thoughtful engagement would be unnecessary. I think the truth in Anthem is that it leans far more strongly towards the realisation of real role-playing elements within a shooter than similar titles do.

Where enemies have large, frustrating shields, for example, there is a different approach that may need to be taken. This may be a physical vector, or the use of elemental attacks, effectively priming enemies for explosive destruction.

In this way, engagements that may feel painful and dull on first exposure really open up on learning of elemental combinations. For example, an early engagement in the demo sees the player taking on three enemies that resemble the player’s Javelin.

At first, I pumped bullet after bullet into these guys and watched frustrated as their energy shields replenished time after time. On a subsequent attempt, I worked alongside a friend and we timed our attacks, making short work of the enemies and hardly using any bullets in the process.

The Hub (Fort Tarsis) is Dull

Again, I can’t argue with this statement – the strange use of first-person is slightly jarring and incredibly slow. More than that, the Fort is huge, so traversing from one place to another after a mission can take a painfully long time.

I understand the use of first-person is likely intended to promote a sense of immersion, but I only found myself annoyed that there wasn’t a fast travel option or even a jump button to keep me occupied.

On the other hand, there is a lot to see, and plenty of conversations to be had with NPCs if that’s your thing.

The Ranger was Boring

At first, yeah… The Ranger is a bit on the dull side. It doesn’t seem to have any real function besides being a bit of a damage dealer. At least the Storm and Interceptor have their own unique playstyle, and the Colossus is a mighty beast.

The Ranger is just… a soldier.

That said, the fact that you can swap out gear for items that suit your playstyle means that this will evolve over the course of the game. In fact, you will be able to build Rangers with different abilities for different purposes.

You might want to have a support Ranger and bring the bubble for the ride, or you might build it for some other purpose. A second note is that I really believe that Anthem is more heavily focused on the use of Abilities than on the use of weapons.

When I started to learn of effective combos (yes, even just using the base grenade and rocket that are equipped), I began to enjoy using the Ranger more.

Although it was nothing compared to the Interceptor, I have to admit.

The Weapons aren’t Satisfying

There’s some truth to this. I guess it can be hard to replicate weapon power, particularly in a third-person shooter. Couple that with the fact that enemies are so heavily armoured/shielded, and you can often feel like your weapon is a pea shooter.

Still, the variety of weapons is minimal in the demo, so I’m sure there will be weapons later in the game that will feel more badass. In the end, though, I didn’t find them dissatisfying enough to be noticeable, it was more on reflection.

The Missions were Uninspiring

There were only 3 missions in the demo, plus one Stronghold. Each mission was effectively a variation on “go here, shoot bad guys, then go here and shoot these bad guys” until the mission ended.

I don’t necessarily think this was a bad thing, and — let’s face it — it’s true of most shooters. Still, there were some enemies that were tough enough to warrant co-operation with teammates and even some basic puzzle elements.

The Stronghold did shake things up somewhat – with simple puzzles that needed to be solved at several points along the way, and a massive boss to confront at the end. Overall, though, I’m unsure if what was shown off in the demo is a good enough representation of what to expect in the final game.

The UI is at times poorly designed

Certain screens are poorly designed. For one, there’s the loot screen at the end of a mission.

While it does show you what you’ve found in your travels, it doesn’t explain what to press to take them. In fact, the only buttons are (from memory) – Salvage and Exit. Salvage means to destroy. Exit means to keep.

I’m sure there were several players that destroyed a bunch of weapons before realising the error of their ways.

Further, the Codex is somewhat bland, but this may have simply been due to the fact this was a demo. Perhaps Bioware didn’t want to populate all of the Codex pages with images in the interests of keeping certain things for the final release… I’m not sure.

Presentation-wise, Anthem is in fine form, but there were just a few issues here and there that I found perplexing.

Customisation is Fun

Hell yeah, it’s fun! There are so many options and the player has control over virtually every aspect of the look and feel of their Javelin. Not only that, but there are different designs for basic components (legs, arms, chest plate, and so on) so the customisation options are astounding.

I’d expect that the demo provides access to much more than will initially be available to players when they load up Anthem for the first time, but there is a lot to look forward to grinding for here.

It’s Amazing

From the time I had with Anthem, I’m inclined to agree; there is a lot to like here. The more you play and the more you experiment with movement and abilities, the more the game opens up to you.

I encourage anyone interested in trying the demo to give it much more than just one mission. There’s a lot of fun to be had here.

That said, I have my concerns. At present, we know next to nothing about the end game. What will players do every day/week once all the core missions are complete?

Will it all be worth grinding for?

How repetitive will the grind be?

Further, we know little about how abilities and weapons/gear scale, so it’s hard to tell what final builds will look like. Ideally, two Rangers at end game should be vastly different in order for it to really feel like a valid RPG and to imbue the player with real feelings of power fantasy.

Too many looter-shooters fail at this, with all players of a certain class/subclass feeling effectively identical to others, bar weapon choice.

Overall, I’m looking forward to Anthem. The bugs and server issues are certainly a concern and I harbour high hopes that these will be ironed out by launch. Hopefully, by the time the open demo starts this coming weekend.

However, all of that aside, there looks to be the potential of a great game hiding within Anthem. Only time will tell if Bioware can deliver on my hopes and expectations.

Related articles

Greg Newbegin
Gamer since the early '80s. Dad. May or may not be terrible at video games. Also a writer of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror - see what I'm working on at!

Share article