ANTHEM: Proof Beauty Can’t Hide EverythingMarch 11, 2019
A few weeks ago, we took an early look into the new Anthem game, which had been given lots of hype and expectations were high for this game. With the full game released and hours of game time put in, let’s dig a little deeper into the Anthem review.
Anthem is beautiful to look at with graphics and designs that look stunning. The characters looked and sounded life-like. Expressions were believable; you were able to interact with them and wanted to get to know them. That much didn’t change and throughout the whole game the visuals were spot on. Unfortunately, it’s almost as if that was the only thing good about it. It’s like the new car smell, except in this case new game smell which when you got past it, you started seeing everything it was trying to hide. It gets buggy, lack of depth, and the story is well not that great.
You are trying to save humanity with some efforts by a guild who wore exosuits, known as freelancers. This alien race had shaped this planet, then had left Anthem infused power tools still running, which is where the freelancers had to come in and prevent an apocalyptic accident. A story you may have heard or seen before sure, except with this story it felt half-finished. Tarsis, the place you return after missions starts to feel like a bland prison. The characters inside never move, you interact through glass, and they hardly interact with you nor do they accompany you on missions. It was a missed opportunity to create a more interactive “home” where you could get more out of the characters you meet on Tarsis, not just a charismatic NPC with no other purpose except standing in the same spot giving out quest.
The villains in Anthem are no better to be honest. What makes it hard to really understand the threat you are up against, is the lack of screen time they get. You do not see them enough to understand what their motives are. At the same time the people back on Tarsis, you don’t have enough about them either to get the feeling you should protect them. Anthem lacks character depth which hurts the story overall and as a player you might start to wonder why? What is the point of going through all this if I have no clue or understanding the motive behind the villains.
Anthems missions start to feel repetitive after a while, which also at the same time start to blend one after another. I started to lose sight of what was going on, then started to wonder why does any of this matter. I felt like with the relics, ancient suits of armor, and the mysterious rituals they forgot to think about the logic of their very own world. Anthem really tried to cover a lot of the bad up with excellent visuals and awesome gear which would work, if they didn’t make things feel so repetitive during the missions, they might have gotten away with it.
Fort Tarsis is filled with secondary characters who have their own stories that I begin to uncover bit by bit each time I visit. These talks with the residents sometimes are awkward, other times there just pointless. Talking to the Fort Tarsis locals doesn’t really bring anything to the games main story main story or really change how I interact with the settlement in any meaningful way. There are no consequences for any choices made, so you don’t have to worry about making any wrong choices since there is no impact.
It’s not something you can really ignore since you are forced to return to Tarsis after every mission. The characters who are there to give quests are scattered that force you to walk slowly through the streets, just to turn back around and get right back in the fight. The settlement to me was a waste of time and it included long load times every now and then. It was a huge missed opportunity to make it feel like something important, just not enough thought was put into this part of the game. The loading times started to become an issue as well. I started to catch myself in back to back load screens when trying to get toward my destination. Missions would get interrupted by loading screens, between zones and respawns. There is even a mini loading screen time just to change my gear at The Forge. It started to become frustrating since I would feel like I did more loading then I did playing the game.
Whether it was doing a story mission, a random contract, or one of Anthem’s Strongholds there are about half a dozen mission objectives that start to cycle themselves again and again and again. At some point I knew I was going to have to defend a specific point for 30 seconds or use the radar to find hidden objects and then bring them to another location. Almost every mission follows the exact same structure: fly a few minutes to a location, complete the objective, and repeat that process two more times until the mission is over. Anthems map seems large at first glance but starts to get smaller as you begin to realize you only worked in the same certain amount of areas hundreds of times. Of course, that’s if the missions didn’t glitch out and not work. That was said to have been fixed in the first patch but that turned out not to be the case at all. It was no fun reloading the game, having to start the mission over because the objective got stuck or an enemy would not spawn at all.
Anthems combat is probably the most enjoyable part of the game that you can control. Each javelin has a typical RPG class, with three types of abilities you can augment as you loot more gear. Every javelin is fun to play, and their abilities start to blast off some flashes bringing the scenery of pure carnage. The combo system to me was the heart of Anthems combat, which required teams to work together to first afflict enemies with a status effect from one ability, before hitting them with another ability that triggers a combo and deals massive damage. It’s probably the best thing to pull off as a squad and can be satisfying when you hear the ka-Ching noise if you do pull it off. It makes me wonder why Anthem would not point that out forcing players to learn other ways or even just stumble upon it by accident.
That lack of clarity extends to Anthem’s entire loot system. The gear had some boring stats to it, and at times hard to read especially when they were lacking details to certain abilities you were able to perform. The day one patch made stats slightly more readable, but still left guessing at their meaning. You also can not change the statuses through upgrades, so if you found a gun but it lacked power, you were forced to go look for the same exact gun except make sure it had better stats. It began to get annoying to where looting was not even fun anymore, as it already lacked depth. As you get closer to the end the loot becomes more exciting, which I say loosely. When it comes the end-game it’s just more of the same missions on higher difficulty, with enemies dishing out more damage. The Masterwork-tier items are awesome I will say that.
One thing I did not like about the Grandmaster ability is it took away the best part of the game which was the combat. You could not go at it the same way you would usually do it, which I see the point, but those sweet combos are less likely to happen, you could get one shot leaving it up to your teammates to revive you. The challenge is nice but sucks that it took away the best part of the game. It also shows the flaw the combat system has, Anthem doesn’t have that precision you need in a game to pull off the combat needed at the level of difficulty. Enemies would begin to vanish in and out, delays between shots that hit and the damage calculation. The ultimate ability bar will be showed it’s fully charged but it really wouldn’t be. In all the Masterwork tiers are just not what they should be, which again Anthem seems to have fallen flat on. What could have been great, just barely hits the average threshold.
The bright side to all these things is BioWare is listening to feedback and will be doing some live work every now and then. Anthem falls short of the hype with being at best an average game. There is so much potential sitting inside the game, but the developers could not deliver. The combat system was the best part of the game, the visuals are stunning through out but it’s not enough to make it the game it should have been. Could have been but some of it either felt rushed or it felt like not enough thought was put into it. The next few patches made will really show us how much they have listened and fix the things that bring the game down.