Home Features An afternoon with Anthem

An afternoon with Anthem

4 min read
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By the time you read this, the doors will have closed on the Anthem VIP demo. Doors that presumably have plenty of spoilt fruit stuck on them, thanks to some… shall we say…teething problems. No matter the developer, the infrastructure or the team behind it, nothing can prepare a game for a few million simultaneous logins as most players were greeted by a load screen that usually timed out with the following message:

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And honestly, that’s to be expected. Destiny suffered from this, The Division was no different and Anthem is keeping that tradition alive. Once in the game however? There was a ton of stuff that I loved and plenty that had me scratching my head at some of the design decisions present. Stuff I like: Fort Tharsis, and its motley collection of characters who feel like they have actual personalities attached to them.

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The hub is a buzzing hive of activity, everyone has a story to tell and there’s some properly solid acting in their digital faces that helps sell the narrative. What I didn’t like, is the slog that players have to go through every time they want to do some maintenance on their personal Javelin. With your character moving at roughly the same speed as a snail that happens to be high on Absinthe, that journey back and forth got quickly tiring.

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Once you were in the engineering bay however? Oh man, I could spend hours pouring over lore, checking out stats and fiddling with my Javelin. Bioware knows that these suits are the key selling point of Anthem, and having the options to not only fiddle with every aspect of their aesthetic design but also admire them? A nice touch.

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When it came down to the actual core gameplay of Anthem, there was even more to love. I adored flying around, cooling my Javelin jets in waterfalls and extending my air time. I freakin’ loved how the suits feel like there’s an actual heft to their movement and how they handled on the ground. Gunplay is solid enough as well, split across multiple weapons and feels wonderfully meaty as well, thanks to some phenomenal sound design that hammers home every bullet fired.

There’s a lot of charm in the basic foundation of Anthem’s action, thanks to varied enemy types and bigger bruisers whose weak points are designed to be exploited by a team of Freelancers utilising tactics that turn them in a gang of hyper-energetic flies with high-calibre weapons, but it’s also an action that feels completely undone by a user interface that does the game no service at all.

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On the surface, you’ve got plenty of systems to keep track of. There’s your overall shields and health bar, ammo, weapons and a trio of rechargeable special abilities to keep an eye on, but you’d need to have the ocular capacity of a chameleon to fluidly monitor all of that while in the middle of a firefight. Make no mistake, fights in Anthem get quickly chaotic thanks to every single possible special effect exploding right in your face, the end result of this being a turbulent visual cacophony that can quickly overwhelm your senses.

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It’s a problem that Anthem’s predecessors Destiny and The Division managed to solve, with each game providing their own subtle series of prompts and UI decisions to help players keep accurate score of their chosen avatar. Anthem is going to have its work cut out for it in streamlining its own UI, because while it looks sleek, in practice its a dog’s breakfast of poor design overall.

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And yet, I still like Anthem and its ideas. The power fantasy feels fantastic, taking down a difficult boss with a team of Freelancers feels as fresh as ever and there is some definite potential to EA’s biggest non-FIFA game of the year. It’s a game that I want to invest some time into…but not that much if the demo is an accurate indicator of the current state of the Bioware game.

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I’ve only got so many hours during the day, and I’m just not feeling Anthem as the kind of game that I’d pour hundreds of chrono-units into. I think it’ll be a great 20-30 hour game, and that’s no small feat in this day and age of reduced attention spans and other games vying for your recurrent chronal expenditure.

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Maybe the next demo, provided that it doesn’t make me fight the dreaded 95% loading screen boss, will change my mind. Because currently, I like Anthem. I just don’t love it…yet. Also and again, f*** this screen in particular:

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You know what you did. You know.

Last Updated: January 28, 2019

35 Comments

  1. Geoffrey Tim

    January 28, 2019 at 11:39

    “I could spend hours…fiddling with my Javelin”

    Me at 13

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief

      January 28, 2019 at 12:01

      …thin and sharp?

      Reply

    • Original Heretic

      January 28, 2019 at 12:01

      Damn, you, uh…beat me to this comment.

      Reply

    • Guz

      January 28, 2019 at 15:56

      You and every teenage boy(maybe girls) in history xD

      Reply

  2. RinceThis

    January 28, 2019 at 11:45

    I love this game! It made me start to play Warframe again! Woot!

    Reply

    • Guz

      January 28, 2019 at 16:04

      Always wanted to play warframe, downloaded it and everything, its just so…..daunting. none of my mates play so ya maybe oneday

      Reply

  3. Admiral Chief

    January 28, 2019 at 12:01

  4. Guz

    January 28, 2019 at 15:56

    • Pariah

      January 28, 2019 at 19:42

      LOL

      Reply

  5. Caveshen Rajman

    January 28, 2019 at 11:19

    I think all my time in Overwatch adequately prepared me for the choas of firefights in Anthem. It wasn’t particularly hard to keep track of health and cooldowns, but I do admit the verticality of the combat does make it tricky at times to figure out where you’re getting shot from.

    Reply

    • The D

      January 28, 2019 at 11:33

      That’s neat for the seasoned Overwatch player I reckon, but different kind of arena. There’s far too much going on at any one time in an Anthem firefight for my tastes. I compare that to how Destiny managed to make tackling a gigantic space-satan from another universe with five other players, and I want to see Bioware rise to the occassion.

      Reply

  6. Morne Nell

    January 28, 2019 at 11:33

    Both Destiny and division had a better introduction to the game. I remember playing Destiny Alpha and Beta and both were solid in terms of stability.
    Anthem has a lot of problems, loading screens, sound issues, environmental bugs (Can’t resurrect or mission bombs at the end with zero rewards). It meant that we could not even finish the demo or play on higher difficulties.
    It still feels like a game that focus to much on the things that Destiny and Division do badly, and to little on the things that people love about those games.
    I found the HUB an issue since you can’t run or walk faster. Also going between environments while you are in a mission via those loading screens is just not on.

    The game has potential will see if they fix things for the open demo

    Reply

  7. Kervyn Cloete

    January 28, 2019 at 11:39

    I had a grand total of 3 times I was only able to actually make it into a game. Besides for the torturously bad performance and super slow movement outside of my suit in Fort Tarsis, once I launched a mission it was… okay. And then it crashed.

    It took me hours to get back into a game the second time and this time I was able to finish a mission. Great flying and feel, but still pretty average gameplay to me. Nothing really wowed me.

    Hours later I was able to get in again. This time though, I joined a fireteam that was much further along and now the difficulty had ramped up nicely. And all of a sudden it became one seriously fun game to play. Firefights got intense, combat felt nice and visceral and the variation in movement and fully vertical and horizontal level design was great. And then the game crashed again as soon as we extracted from the mission.

    That instability and performance issues coupled with some truly terrible UI and menu design choices (YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT TOOK ME TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO CHANGE THE COLOUR PALETTE ON MY JAVELIN!) puts Anthem squarely in the “It has potential so I’ll wait until I can get a year 1 bundle for cheap” category.

    Reply

    • RinceThis

      January 28, 2019 at 11:53

      this!

      Reply

    • CrAiGiSh

      January 28, 2019 at 12:08

      Couldn’t have said it better.

      Reply

  8. Sageville

    January 28, 2019 at 12:08

    My view:

    I struggled to get in like most people, that infinite load bug could be a deal breaker.

    Eventually, I managed to get into expeditions and it was pretty good, running around solo was ok, a good Destiny clone. Early on the game was rubber banding badly, but I think something was done about this as the next day it was smooth and lag free.

    As with Destiny, the game gets infinitely better with friends, I played that stronghold mission with the huge assed spider and absolutely loved it, it gave me that same initial feel I had playing with mates when Destiny 1 first came out.

    If they can fix the bugs, primarily the loading issue, I think it would be a reasonable replacement for Destiny. Here’s hoping….

    Reply

  9. Pariah

    January 28, 2019 at 12:57

    I’m 95% sure I enjoy the game.

    Reply

  10. Pariah

    January 28, 2019 at 13:04

    The few times I got in I stayed in for a few hours at a time. It was great fun exploring and taking on elites at random and stuff. It all felt really good. I only did the first story mission as I don’t want spoilers, and I didn’t do a stronghold because fuck that loading screen to hell and back.

    But man I want more time with it. I want to play the main game, the meat and bones. I want to experience the progression, the story, etc. Even if the end game doesn’t hold me for too long (that’s an IF, we don’t know what end game will be yet), man everything else feels great.

    Reply

  11. Purple_Dragon

    January 29, 2019 at 06:21

    Sounding middle of the road.

    Reply

  12. Gavin Mannion

    January 29, 2019 at 09:12

    I tried the PC demo and my feelings
    – Flying sucks ass
    – Shooting felt a little too floaty
    – omg how slow are the loading screens and UI in general
    – Which developer walked to his titan after the second time thinking “yeah this is fun”

    Honestly it’s far far away from a buy for me right now. I can’t see how they are going to fix the tons of bugs in the DEMO in time for launch, and even if they did. Is there really a great game underneath? I’ll wait for Division 2 I think

    Reply

  13. PestControl

    January 29, 2019 at 10:06

    I played the VIP demo on PC:

    – Aside from the login issues that first evening, I experienced little to no crashes and a grand total of 1 x 95% bug
    – Performance was decent and graphics looked good, however I do have quite a powerful system
    – The world felt a bit scarcely populated
    – Flying felt better than it did in the alpha
    – Swimming still felt like utter shit, if you get disoriented – good luck finding your way out
    – Combat was enjoyable once you familiarized yourself with how it works.
    – Fort Tarsis looked very pretty, yet felt under utilized and kinda pointless. I think movement speed should be increased / or the option of sprinting at a considerable speed should be added (will probably make more sense in the final game though)
    – Bad decision on their part to only grant access to a total of 2 javelins as it limited your choices, I’d be perfectly happy to grind it out on the final release, yet for a demo you ideally want to entice people to buy the game and in my opinion access to all javelins would have been better.
    – The strike or whatever it’s called in Anthem was fun, however if they don’t have quite a few of those in the final game I think it might get a bit repetitive and thus will negatively impact the game’s longevity.
    – Lack of communication was a serious issue (as VOIP wasn’t working) – I was grouped with the biggest idiots that would pick up echoes and then would never take them back to the crystal thingies so you can’t progress further in the ‘strike’. After standing on the crystals for 10-15 min I would just quit and start a new run. This happened about 5-7 times.
    – The looting system is nice, definitely an interesting spin on the norm. I was skeptical at first, yet was pleasantly surprised with the myriad of possibilities.

    Overall…. my recommendation would be:

    – Wait for reviews, and even then,
    – Wait for a month or even more after the game has been released. At this point it will become apparent as to whether the game will reach a “content drought” (which I think it will)

    Reply

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