Bioware announced Anthem, and I immediately turned sour with my thoughts on their new project, mostly because of its relation to games like Destiny and The Division. Seeing gameplay I thought the Iron Man-like flying looked awesome and the graphics looked stunning, but still was not sold on the idea. After playing the open demo this past weekend, I can say that Anthem is a worthy purchase, but I still have my doubts despite these positive feelings.
The demo took me three missions with some talking to NPCs around the hub world, Fort Tarsis. The Fort offers a market, a storage area, and places to talk to NPCs for expeditions, the term the game uses for missions/quests. A bland area that requires a painfully slow walk to speak with a few people then get into the Javelin, the exosuit used in the core gameplay, to start off on some adventures, the real meat of Anthem.
To give Bioware credit, Fort Tarsis as the center hub will be different in the full release. I hope they take consideration in its purpose and usefulness to players by letting other plays be apart of this experience and give some activities in the area. Also, please allow sprinting here.
A glimpse into the story was shown within these three quests, but the story felt confusing by being thrown into this world with no context. An intriguing narrative about retrieving an artifact that distorts reality. Some dialog was chosen, but those choices were pointless. Hopefully the characters, decisions, and narrative can reach the heights that these developers have achieved in the past and not another Andromeda.
Before starting a mission, a screen pops up to allow choosing an expedition, getting friends in your squad, and setting up your suit for combat. The UI needs some maintenance but is easy enough to navigate. The invite system for friends needs some attention due to some struggle my friends and I had trying to get everyone, but it was a brief struggle.
The Javelin class everyone starts off with is the Ranger, the balanced exosuit that lends itself as the introduction to how the game works. At level 12 you get to choose one additional suit, I decided on the heavy class titled Colossus. The unlocking system might change in full release, but obtaining one every few levels seems to work well since leveling up feels fair as of now.
Customizing the loadout and Javelin has plenty of depth to explore. Javelins can be altered with their plating, style, and colors. Some of which can be bought, crafted, or found in missions, same goes for weapons and equipment. Before getting into the action, this is one of the best elements that Anthem has to offer, I hope the extension of the customization does not feel too limited on release.
Once in a mission, a lot has to be taken in from combat to traversing the world. Initially, I hated the flying due to how clunky it felt, but after a while, I fell in love. The mechanic takes time to get used to and does need some improvement, especially when using a mouse, but a skill that can be mastered to fully enjoy it. Combat feels balanced with excellent gunplay, powerful equipment, and the right amount of challenge without feeling overwhelming.
Enemies found in the world range from alien creatures to robots. Every enemy felt unique in their looks and strategies. I hope this diversity is seen throughout my journey with Bioware’s sci-fi adventure because I am floored by the little I have seen already.
While playing this sci-fi RPG alone is an option, playing with two to three other friends makes the adventure that much better. Everyone using different Javelins and using teamwork to defeat giant enemies with smaller minions makes for epic battles that give satisfying rewards by the end.
Strongholds, Anthem‘s version of a raid, hold as a challenging, yet rewarding option outside of main story quests. Meant for end game content, the one featured here gave me a positive impression that makes me excited to go through each stronghold with my friends.
Expeditions have enough variety for a story that will not get old. From puzzles, only one was shown within the three missions, to boss battles, I found something to scratch every itch I felt for my time in this breathtaking world. Once completed, your squad earns medals for experience points and obtain any equipment or weapons found in combat that can be used or scrapped for resources to utilized for crafting.
Crafting is an in-depth, but simple system. Use resources to make different rarity levels of items from Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic, and Masterwork. Each level requires more assets to create but delivers a better weapon or piece of equipment. Consumables can also be made to enhance specific attributes during a mission. An easy to use mechanic that dramatically benefits those times where finding things does not work out as well as creating.
The economy will work on coins to buy new gear or players can use shards, the money that can be purchased as a microtransaction. Whether purchasing items with or without microtransactions will be unfair cannot be determined from the demo. In this time with the game, everything was marked 25 coins to buy. Thankfully any microtransactions sold will only contain a cosmetic item.
While many people complained about technical issues during the closed demo and some of those seeping into this weekend, I had little to no problems. Besides one crash and a few times, my frames dropped significantly, an overall smooth ride.
Bioware’s latest creation has a lot of promise and plenty of surprises up its sleeve. However, my worries still remain due to other titles similar to Anthem. Hopefully, the gameplay stays balanced enough for a challenge that does not punish players. If the loot system can continue its worthiness along with a compelling story, then this could be one of the best games of the year or one of the most disappointing. As of now, I am sold on one of the most beautiful and fun games I have played cooperatively with my friends.
Anthem launches Feb. 22 and you can pre-order it below:
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