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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.