Striving to dominate the MMO console-shooter world, EA‘s newest title, Anthem, has landed. Anthem puts you in the driver’s seat of ‘Iron Man’ style mech suits that you fly around in to dispatch hordes of enemies. However, as tends to happen when a game receives an abundance of pre-release hype (did you too receive dozens of ads on Twitch and YouTube for this game? I sure did!), the community has quickly revolted on Anthem and its creators. This begs the question, does Anthem really deserve all the hate? Or the hype it garnered before that? Let’s take a look!
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a Javelin!
One of the hardest things to manage in the world of gaming is creating an authentic flight combat experience. Another is expectations. Unfortunately, Anthem only managed one of those well. And it wasn’t expectations. The cloud of hype surround this game was so dense it was nearly impossible to see the game itself. That is, until the open beta was live. It was at that point that the game was eviscerated by a sea of unhappy players.
It seemed that the concept of your own Iron Man suit to fly around in while using specialized abilities and raining down a hailstorm of bullets was not enough on its own to keep fans content. And if that concept can’t stand by itself, we should learn the lesson that no concept can survive without a well fleshed-out game to support it.
As happens all too often these days, it appears Anthem was released just a little too early. And maybe, maybe, was hyped just a little too much. The problem with being a big publisher is that your fanbase’s expectations will become just as big. It is the developer’s responsibility to filter out all of the buzz on social media and even to keep their own marketing in check to maximize the quality and enjoyment of the games they release.
Here, Anthem falls short.
Time to play the waiting game.
One of the biggest critiques of this game is the load times. And let me tell you, they are legitimate. Using an original Xbox One (not S or X), my load times were painstakingly slow. Now, I understand that many players will be using newer, faster systems and even more will be playing on PCs utilizing their SSDs to speed up these times. Putting the onus on players to optimize the game’s performance, however, is simply not acceptable.
The worst part about this, the part that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, is how much potential this game has. While the story itself feels very generic and almost as though it was implemented solely as an afterthought, the game play will be one of the pillars that keeps this game from toppling over.
Fans of Destiny will immediately recognize the layout of the home base in Anthem, as much of the feel and style of the game seems to be a direct inspiration from that series. You have a couple of NPCs to interact with, missions to collect, factions to gain reputation with, daily, weekly and monthly missions to collect, a PvP arena to enter and finally, the Javelin Forge (Iron Man-suit would have probably created copyright issues).
Rinse and repeat. And repeat.
While all of what is available at Fort Tarsis can be overwhelming at the beginning, players really needn’t worry about most things at the start. Simply collect your mission, head over to your Javelin, and head out. This pattern can be repeated for roughly 90% of Anthem‘s gameplay, and does tend to get quite tedious. The missions start to feel very similar, and soon you will find yourself on auto-pilot just gliding through the map and sending countless enemies to their doom.
The biggest diversity that can be found between missions is that the objectives within them rotate between a short list of options: Fly around to collect things, run around to collect things and stand in the circle while fighting enemies. These three basic actions, combined with slaughtering your foes, comprise most if not all of Anthem‘s gameplay.
Currently, strongholds offer the greatest challenge, pitting you and your team against a ruthless group of baddies, topped with a big ol’ boss. Except that in most cases, you will have a much harder time killing the minions to reach the boss than to kill the boss itself, especially at lower levels.
While it may seem like there are just too many issues with Anthem to get any enjoyment out of it, that certain is not the case. The Javelin classes, for example, are designed brilliantly. Instead of games like Destiny that require you to level each class independently, each player will have the option to unlock a new class as they level. This means that by level 26, you will be able to swap between all four classes whenever you want. This seriously cuts down the amount of leveling and grinding that is required to have access to whichever class is needed at the moment.
Another plus (at least for me), is that every aspect of Anthem has been created with squads in mind. This means you do not play any aspect of the game by yourself, unless of course you want to! Too many times have I put a game aside because it didn’t properly support multiplayer, and Anthem addresses that issue masterfully.
Also in the ‘Pro’ column lie the graphics and animations. Truly indicative of next-gen graphics, Anthem boasts details and landscapes that are enviable. The actual animations around flying and combat are flawless. A quick double-jump into the air followed by a short flight upwards, transitioning into a hover so that you can take a view of the battlefield and either rain death from above or dive-bomb into the fray is accomplished in the most satisfying way imaginable.
Overall, Anthem is not a bad game. The actual gameplay mechanics are the shining star that they need to be for a successful MMO shooter, it is simply the story and game modes around that need to be fleshed out a little more. In the world of content patches, DLC and constant updates, I am certain players who stick with this game will be rewarded long-term with a host of new content that will freshen up game play and address a few of the glaring QoL issues.
For now, however, I must call it as I see it. This game, in its current state, is only fun until the wonders of flying and learning aerial combat wear off. After that, it is a repetitive shooter that is just begging for more content.