Anthem, Anthem, Anthem… Where do we begin? Alright, let’s break it down. Anthem has been getting some decent buzz for a while now, and it’s finally out. Problem is, a lot of people are wondering if Anthem can actually bring anything new to the table. A lot of people have compared it to loot shooters like Destiny and Division, while others argue it has a lot of classic Bioware DNA. So what does Anthem end up being? And is it a good mix?
Welp, the first problem is that Anthem isn’t 100% sure itself. While it’s highly multiplayer oriented, Anthem still has a relatively important narrative component. Bioware, long known for crafting elaborate stories with wild and fantastical worlds, have crafted a whole universe that borrows from both science fiction and fantasy. The world is populated by a rather original cast of organic creatures and offers natural scenery (jungles, cliffs, waterfalls …), which counteracts the appearance of weird looking robot-dudes in power armor.
I think not enough people have discussed just how pretty a game Anthem can be. It’s got this really creative mix of visual influences. This mix works pretty well, and the game manages to digest multiple influences, from Marvel comics and Star Wars to Arabesque vibes. On the other hand, the premise of Anthem itself really does not break the mold. In a bit of clever marketing, Anthem manages to present itself as something fresh and new, but under the surface, we see a ton of classic tropes. We’re treated to an avalanche of exotic terms, which are tossed around without any care to the player as if they are already supposed to know what he is talking about. The ‘hymn of creation’, the surveyors, Javelins, Urgoths, my god it’s like its own lexicon. The game has a lot of diverse and varied terms, and it usually helps to consult the Cortex, an in-game guide.
Now, if Anthem were a single player RPG one could almost consider all this as a selling point, but Anthem is still fundamentally a multiplayer game. Any time spent in Fort Tarshish, the city that serves as the hub, appears here more like a waste of time than anything else. Moving around are is slow, NPCs are scattered from one end to the other of the city, most of the dialogue has no interest and drags on unnecessarily, and the few interactive dialogue moments you encounter offer only some binary choices that hardly constitute ‘player choice.
The game tries a few twists to break the dated dichotomy of “nice vs bad guys” but it’s a half-hearted effort. Moreover, it is very difficult to attach to characters who never accompany us in the gameplay. Even the most scripted missions cannot really involve the player 100% since playing with a group of three other people forces to keep pace with others. And it’s hard to believe that we are really the hero of the adventure when we systematically complete basic and formulaic MMO-esque quests
It is extremely difficult to reconcile solo and multi, and Bioware has not been able to work miracles on this subject. Forget right now the idea of playing exclusively solo, you will necessarily team with other people at one time or another. The game also encourages you strongly to invite a buddy, offering you more experience points if you play as a team. And fortresses (the equivalent of dungeons or raids in an MMO) are absolutely infeasible solo. Fortunately, matchmaking is as fast as it is efficient. This makes it very easy to find partners for scripted missions. Moreover, it is possible to evolve in the open world in “free part”, in order to gather resources, to travel freely in environments, to come across random events, and to meet other players who are going also to their occupations. The cooperation is then done in a completely organic way, and one can fill small objectives with several on the thumb. In general, I had some fun moments after leaving Fort Tarsis.
Now, while the narrative aspect of the game can be rather tedious, the phases of combat and exploration are on the other hand starts off extremely exciting. However, before long you’ve seen most of what the game can offer. Despite all the issues with the control, the flight mechanics are worthy of high praise. Zipping around aerially is just plain fun, and you feel loads of power and speed. It’s practical as well; it helps you if you take the fight to the sky and hover about battlefields.
On the whole, however, the game doesn’t want you to rely too much on one ability, so you get balance mechanics. Flying is limited, which makes sense because otherwise, players could avoid most threats. Now, they could have made a simple time limitation system, but that would have clearly been dull. The solution they end up with is a setup where you have to manage the overheating of Javelins (the official term for exoskeleton). It gives you a chance to go through regular short breaks in the scenery or immersing dive before recovering once cooled engines or passing under waterfall’ water, grazing the aquatic expanses, which requires a little more dexterity. In any case, we move with great pleasure.
The actual shooting works okay, but it’s really nothing special. Don’t expect any type of dazzle in this department, because Bioware’s devs know a lot more about RPG’s than they do about shooters.
Anthem was reviewed using a PC digital version of the game provided by EA Games. The game was tested on a machine running Windows 10, with an 8GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM. Anthem is also available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 via digital and retail store releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published (click here for more information about our review policy).
• Unique, vivid aesthetic
• Fun flight system
• Intuitive combat
• Boring story
• Unfair to solo players