As I first boot­ed up Anthem, I got that famil­iar feel­ing of eupho­ria when start­ing a new game. I was ready to get into my Javelin and take on what­ev­er evil I came across. How­ev­er, the unfor­tu­nate launch left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Espe­cial­ly since I set my expec­ta­tions a lit­tle too high, against my bet­ter judgement.

The sto­ry is inter­est­ing enough, you’re a Free­lancer who pro­tects what’s left of your world. The Anthem is an extreme­ly pow­er­ful source of cre­ation, spawn­ing all sorts of ter­rors, which you pro­tect your Fort from. An ene­my force, plan to con­trol the Anthem and rule over all of humanity.

Anthem Review: A Game With Almost Too Much Ambition

I don’t have a prob­lem with the sto­ry, but the exe­cu­tion rings sim­i­lar to that of Des­tiny. You learn only so much from the sto­ry mis­sions and NPC’s, with a large major­i­ty of back­sto­ry com­ing from col­lectibles or “Cor­tex” entries. 

Anthem Review: A Game With Almost Too Much Ambition
Col­lectibles are added to the Cortex

You can find plen­ty of them after enter­ing Fort Tar­sis (main , along with plen­ty of NPC’s that love speak­ing with you. There’s a lit­tle too much talk­ing for my taste, as I don’t like hear­ing use­less infor­ma­tion and small talk. It feels like every time I return to Tar­sis, there are sev­er­al peo­ple with con­ver­sa­tion bub­bles ready to inter­act. This wouldn’t be such a prob­lem if they didn’t give you rep­u­ta­tion towards your fac­tions. Obvi­ous­ly this will ben­e­fit you, but is time con­sum­ing and when you’re with friends, it becomes an incon­ve­nience. The voice act­ing sounds off at times, but that could be poor editing.

The cutscenes can be a lit­tle wind­ed and on a PS4 there is notice­able frame loss com­pared to the Pro. There are few issues, graph­i­cal­ly, with the game, but named areas out­side of Fort Tar­sis can be hard to dis­tin­guish from one anoth­er. How­ev­er, that doesn’t make the envi­ron­ment any less enjoy­able and the open world feels large, an illu­sion caused by the speed of your Javelin. 

Anthem Review: A Game With Almost Too Much Ambition

The sur­round­ings give off an “alien plan­et” vibe, which at least makes lengthy trips scenic. Anthem’s world is cov­ered in jun­gle-like foliage, with ruins from long ago strewn across it, wait­ing to be explored. Water­falls, shal­low pools and wide streams are every­where, so cool­ing your Javelin is typ­i­cal­ly not a prob­lem. Under­wa­ter area vis­i­bil­i­ty has great­ly improved since the demo, mak­ing div­ing a bet­ter expe­ri­ence. Deep­er water has vibrant plant and wildlife species, along with bright crys­tal formations.

Ter­rain typ­i­cal­ly pro­vides decent cov­er dur­ing com­bat. This makes extend­ed bat­tles eas­i­er to play through. Com­bat is made most­ly of your Sys­tem moves and Ulti­mate. Guns felt like a back up, I only real­ly used them on cooldowns. This is espe­cial­ly true when play with the Storm or the Interceptor. 

Javelins are hon­est­ly the stars of this game, with mul­ti­ple types of playstyles for each one. You can craft or roam in Freeplay to acquire gear, but keep in mind each piece craft­ed or found will have ran­dom perks. Craft­ing helps to cus­tomize your spe­cif­ic style, but it requires a fair amount of materials. 

Anthem Review: A Game With Almost Too Much Ambition

Find­ing gear that com­ple­ments each oth­er is rather tedious, but once found is extreme­ly effective.

Paint and suit cus­tomiza­tion are also very pop­u­lar. I’ve found myself spend­ing well over twen­ty min­utes on my own paint job. I actu­al­ly wasn’t able to cus­tomize until late night Sun­day, because of a serv­er side bug that wouldn’t allow any changes to be saved upon excit­ing the Forge.

Anthem Review: A Game With Almost Too Much Ambition
My first cus­tomized Javelin

Of course, there’s plen­ty of oth­er activ­i­ties to spend your time on. NPC’s all over Fort Tar­sis love to give you Con­tracts and World Events in Freeplay are quick and offer a chest upon com­ple­tion. Though the mis­sions are kind of dry, it’s not all too sur­pris­ing. After all, Anthem is the usu­al loot­er-shoot­er, but that’s part of its charm. Strong­holds are the cream of the crop. Going through one insures sev­er­al chests will be opened, con­tain­ing a large quan­ti­ty of loot. There are also numer­ous chal­lenges, includ­ing dai­ly, week­ly and month­ly ones.

Our team did notice while in Freeplay, the Titans seem to be a tad strong. For close to ten min­utes, we were stuck in a revive cycle. Two of us would go down due to his con­stant spam­ming of moves towards the end of the fight. The oth­er two killing ads and rush­ing to aid their team­mates. Dur­ing this time, the Titan is con­tin­u­ing to throw out his moves. One which seeks you out and fol­lows until you dodge or it hits a block­ade. So when team­mates are attempt­ing to revive, they’re still get­ting smashed by a nev­er end­ing flow of attacks.

Anthem Review: A Game With Almost Too Much Ambition
Less­er Ash Titan sight­ed in Freeplay

So once you’ve revived anoth­er, attack is incom­ing. With no shield upon revive, you’re get­ting hit again. Some­times this caus­es the team­mate who brought you back to go down, where the cir­cle of revives starts all over again.

Hon­est­ly, Anthem has many amaz­ing qual­i­ties. The game­play is excel­lent, the sto­ry isn’t com­plet­ley lack­ing, cus­tomiza­tion can be tai­lored to what you wish to use or look like and team­mates play­ing to the strengths of their Javelins is a beau­ti­ful thing.

How­ev­er, it does falls short in some cat­e­gories. The entire menu sys­tem is a mess. It’s unor­ga­nized and full of unnec­es­sary sec­tions. For some rea­son, there is a “Mark All Read” but­ton, but no way to sal­vage mul­ti­ple pieces of unwant­ed gear at a time. The menus col­or scheme is rather unap­peal­ing, with gear icons remind­ing me of game menus from the ear­ly 2000’s.

Anthem Review: A Game With Almost Too Much Ambition

I would pre­fer to nev­er set foot in Fort Tar­sis again. Every­thing you do there takes a tremen­dous amount of time. NPC’s are scat­tered all over, so if they wish to talk, you’re look­ing at an irri­tat­ing walk through a maze-like base where the map doesn’t actu­al­ly help to direct you. 

The map in gen­er­al is sub­par. It doesn’t load up fast enough while out­side of the Fort and it has very lit­tle detail. You can’t even set a waypoint. 

Anthem Review: A Game With Almost Too Much Ambition
The Leg­end only has three iden­ti­fy­ing mark­ers, and one of them is you

There is also a huge skill gap between Hard and Nor­mal when it comes to Strong­holds. Our team attempt­ed to do the first one on Hard, only to real­ize that each of us at lev­el 12 just wasn’t enough. Mov­ing to Nor­mal was like a piece of cake. We beat the entire Strong­hold is a lit­tle over thir­ty min­utes. We may have downed three or four times between us at the very end. It’s far to big of a gap. 

We also need to address the ele­phant in the room. A mas­sive elephant. 

Launch day was com­plete dis­as­ter. The day one patch appeared to break more than it fixed. A sec­ond patch released on Sat­ur­day, still didn’t fix enough. A serv­er side fix imple­ment­ed on Sun­day actu­al­ly made a huge dif­fer­ence and com­plete­ly changed some of the major issues plagu­ing this game.

Among our crew, we’ve expe­ri­enced mul­ti­ple bugs and have crashed sev­er­al times. After patch num­ber two, I crashed twice with­in half an hour. My team­mate blue screened on the way to a Titan bat­tle, set­ting off a chain of events which end­ed with him not get­ting a Titan checked off his chal­lenge list. If you are down while the Titan is destroyed, 

Some­times respaw­ing would cause the square but­ton to dis­ap­pear on col­lectible items, chests, mate­ri­als and even to revive your team mem­bers. Press­ing square does noth­ing and respawn­ing doesn’t always fix it. 

Bottom Line

In the end, Anthem suf­fered from a failed launch, not enough devel­op­ment time and an over­ly ambi­tious new IP. How­ev­er, it’s a great game to play with friends. The mis­sions, activ­i­ties and Strong­holds are not over­ly time con­sum­ing and are enjoy­able. Find­ing a Javel­ing and a playstyle that fits you is a fun part of the jour­ney. Once you get past the day one dis­as­ter , a sig­nif­i­cant amount of load­ing screens and a skill gap as wide as the Grand Canyon, you just might find Anthem is a gem. More like a dia­mond in the rough that just needs a lot of polishing.