Our Anthem review reflects the nature of the game being a live service and as such will be updated as we spend more time with the game. Our first thoughts come courtesy of Greg Newbegin and Kizito Katawonga who’ve both played the beta and significant portions of the game in early access.
Look for updates to our Anthem review as we spend more time with the game.
Following the recent Anthem demo, there was a lot of noise about the game. There were those hating on it for simply being a product of EA and those decrying the various issues that plagued the demo.
With Anthem now in early access, we have had the chance to play the final release, and while we aren’t quite ready to provide a final review, here are our thoughts after around 10 or so hours with Anthem.
Greg – The first thing I noticed was that the mechanics and feel of the gunplay have been tightened up somehow. Perhaps this is the result of playing the game with the intended balance. I’m not sure, but the weapons seem to feel like they have more of an appropriate punch to them.
As the difficulty level is lower (in terms of enemy level) than the demo I also feel that the gaining of XP is slower but the early weapons seem to feel like they are doing more damage.
Kizzy – A quick tip; play on hard difficulty. I was able to climb to level nine in just under five hours of play. Unfortunately, that means you absolutely have to play with friends because the game is quite difficult at that setting.
Fortunately, every activity in the game has matchmaking and it’s working so much better than in the demo. Annoyingly, there doesn’t seem to be an in-game chat for random matchups and with no text chat either, it’s pretty impossible to coordinate.
Greg – In my opinion, this improved balance makes for a more enjoyable feel overall. I felt more excited to be receiving slightly more powerful loot and really noticed as my power increased. However, it all felt so slow. After 10 hours, my character still feels underpowered and while I’ve slowly gained enough weaponry to level my Javelin (I chose Interceptor) to “uncommon”, I haven’t really gotten excited by any of the drops.
Perhaps I’m jumping the gun (so to speak), but 10 hours in, everything has felt a bit “wash, rinse, repeat” and I could see that some people might start to get bored.
Shoot, Loot, Repeat
Kizzy – This goes without saying that a looter shooter would be all about that wash, rinse, repeat. However, I do find the “hit a switch, stand in one place and shoot enemies endlessly” mechanic that Anthem uses frequently to be very dull.
Greg – Given the possibilities of having a flying mechanical suit, Bioware could surely have come up with some better mechanics for the missions.
I’m enjoying the game a hell, despite these early reservations. There are plenty of cutscenes to enjoy that tell the backstory of the world you inhabit, plus there are plenty of codex entries to find throughout the world, which fleshes out every little aspect.
If you like your lore, there is plenty to find in Anthem. Still, some of the voice acting is underwhelming for a AAA title, which can be off-putting at times. Strangely, there is often the chance to choose your response in conversations.
Perhaps this is intended to immerse the player in the conversation and feel as if they are playing a part, but in some ways, it feels unnecessary. I’d like to think at this stage that your conversation choices will affect NPC interaction down the line, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Kizzy – Anthem’s first few hours have been immensely enjoyable especially because of the NPCs phenomenal acting. Owen is hands down the best-performed character yet in his goofy, slightly maniacal persona. I can’t wait to know him more.
Thankfully, a lot of dialogue can be skipped through by hitting the B button on Xbox. However, I do disagree here. The conversations actually do improve your faction loyalty depending on your conversational choices. Talking to one NPC who seemed to be slandering our Cypher Owen, when I responded in defence, I earned loyalty points which go towards my reputation.
It’s a jungle out there
Greg – When it comes to environmental variation, I’m a little divided. The design of the environment is gorgeous and some of the larger vistas are awe-inspiring.
Running through the jungle areas is highly detailed and impressive too. There are even sound cues that add further immersion. However, the areas look and feel very much the same across all of the missions I’ve experienced thus far.
You’re either in a jungle area, an open field, or a cave, and that’s about it. Of course, time of day and weather does factor in, changing the environments significantly at times, but I do hope that there are other more varied areas to explore later in the game.
Sadly, there are also plenty of bugs still plaguing the game. I understand there is another patch planned for Feb 22 (release day), so some of these may be fixed for general release, but it’s sad to experience crashes, sound glitches (occasionally dropping out completely and requiring a restart), and graphical glitches so frequently. These aren’t frequent enough to be game breaking, but frequent enough to be very noticeable at the very least.
However, the biggest issue that Anthem has is in loading times.
They are horrendous.
It MIGHT be tolerable if it only took so long to load into missions, but the issue is that the loading screens are everywhere. Before and after missions, loading into the Forge (which is a place you’ll spend quite a bit of tie), and into and out of cutscenes. I very much hope some optimisation is focused here very soon.
Kizzy – A quick and obvious solution to the problem of loading screens would be allowing players to access the games codex menus to read up on some lore, check challenges and in-game mail. Simply having something to do while in the long loading screens would be a boon.
The other HUGE problem with the game besides the loading screens is the Red Orb of death screen. When you die, you are left watching a gigantic red orb announcing how your Javelin is malfunctioning. You can’t do anything on that screen, not switch camera view to watch other players, not navigate your menu codex, nothing.
It’s incredibly frustrating, especially when playing with randoms to just sit there and watch that screen for 10 minutes while your teammates ignore you. [Editor’s Note – You can choose to respawn at this screen, but if you don’t, you’re literally stuck]
Greg – Lastly, there’s Fort Tarsis. I want to like it, I really do.
It’s highly detailed, and there are some really fun and interesting characters inhabiting different areas but it just takes so much time to traverse between them all!
Movement here needs to be increased considerably, and please give us a jump button. At least that will give players something to do. Or better yet, a fast travel option. I expect moving about Fort Tarsis will get dull after a while and I may already be bored only 10-hours in.
Fort Tarsis – A Slow Walk
Kizzy – Movement in Fort Tarsis is significantly faster than in the demos but yes, it’s still a pain to get around. Some fast travel points would be quite welcome. Also, it’s quite clear that Fort Tarsis is going to evolve as you progress in the story. As your pilot’s reputation increases and faith is restored in the freelancers, more of the Fort will open up and become populated.
Overall, Anthem is really enjoyable.
There’s quite a lot to like if you enjoy this style of grindy looter-shooter. However, it’s far from perfect. Then again, it’s in much better shape (from a gameplay perspective) than some other titles have been on release, even given its technical issues.
Not all will agree with my perspective our Editor Leo, for example, is not as impressed by the gunplay as I have been, so your experience may vary.
Still, I must say I very much look forward to what else Anthem has to offer and particularly to uncovering some more of the juicy lore aspects.
Anthem is being reviewed on PC, PS4 and Xbox One using review code provided by EA and copies purchased by the reviewers.
Game Title: Anthem
As Anthem is a live game that will change over time, we’re reserving a review score until we’ve had more time with the game.
Check back as we update this review to reflect our ongoing experience with Anthem.