Anthem Screen 9

Early EAccess

Anthem sounds like a dream game on paper. You’ve got a massive world to dig into, chunky exoskeletons to keep your safari from turning into a bloodbath and a story that happens to be crafted by one of the most influential studios in the industry today, Bioware. Sounds like a recipe for success, doesn’t it? What should be and what is, are quite often two very different things.

Anthem is many things to many people, but what it is right now is not the mechanised messiah that it made itself out to be. It’s a hot mess of good ideas and some staggeringly poor design choices, a collection of decisions which squanders its potential and devolves it into a soul-crushingly boring grind for greater numbers and diminished emotional investment in the world around you.

Anthem Art 1

Anthem’s tale even sounds remarkably similar to a certain other game that has been rocking around since 2014. In a far-off future, humanity seeks to establish itself amongst the stars and reclaim a golden era of enlightenment and exploration, only to find itself under siege from various alien forces and local wildlife that exists to protect the secrets of the almighty MacGuffin known as the Anthem.

Beyond life, beyond death itself, the Anthem is everything to everyone, the key to ultimate power and understanding that has resulted in numerous factions launching crusades that would deliver that power to them. At least, that’s what I think Anthem is about, as Bioware’s fumble of the narrative ball here is stunning in its failure.

Anthem Screen 2

Here is a story, rich with Arthurian legends and medieval undertones, that just doesn’t make sense in the slightest. While Anthem sidesteps the vague nature of its nearest contemporary game, having entire books of lore to read through while the game does little to establish its world, characters and motivations makes for a disjointed mess of narrative missteps and fragile connections with the people who share this world with you.

Make no mistake, Anthem has some of the most stunning facial capture, acting and voice talent on offer. Talent that is unfortunately saddled with some of the cheesiest one-liners, overly-dramatic nonsensical story and inconsequential dialogue choices heaped on top of it. Fort Tarsis feels less like a digital home space and more like a punishment, a bastion of NPCs who deliver cringe conversations that takes forever to cycle through and offer close to zero emotional investment no matter just how unnervingly well the Frostbite engine manages to capture their subtle facial ticks.

Anthem Screen 7

Anthem doesn’t help sell its story when you’re out in the wild either, as constant radio chatter while you’re thrown into the thick of a mission is easy to tune out, oftentimes resulting in players missing out on valuable exposition that sets up the plot. With around 15 hours of story to blast through, I kind of feel like I’ve stepped into a parallel universe as I try to make sense of just how Bioware managed to turn in a game where the story is barely present, dangerous to anyone who happens to be lactose intolerant and already looking at setting itself up for a sequel by the time you reach the end credits.

Narrative missteps aside, Anthem’s other core appeal is still its power fantasy. Here, the game has an unbelievably solid foundation that it builds its experience on. Strapping into your Javelin, taking that first step off of a cliffside and plummeting to your doom just before you ignite your booster rockets and triumphantly soar above the landscape of Bastion will go down as one of the finest first impressions that a video game could ever make.

Anthem Screen 6

Anthem’s key appeal lies within that idea, spread across four unique Javelin suits which offer a lot of character and ideas within their construction: The Ranger is a Jack of all trades, the Colossus is a mob-clearing heavy hitter, the Storm is high-tech mage and the Interceptor is a lethal barrage of melee fury when used on the frontlines.

There’s so much that works here, especially when it comes to flight and the tools that Anthem gives you to wage a new kind of war where mobility and variety is the key to victory, even if the game never takes the time to actually explain its wonderfully deep combo system to you. There’s fire and fury in each attack, an ecstatic explosion of power in each special ability that makes you feel like a legend in armour.

Anthem Screen 1

Anthem plays well with this concept, making certain that Javelin players can make the most of their quick-recharge abilities and ultimate finishers when facing anything from out of control insectoid scorpions to even other rogue Freelancer pilots while out in the wild. Every Javelin has that little something extra, whether it be the Colossus that can charge into the fray with a shield and smash minor enemies out of the way or the Storm’s ability to teleport out of danger and call down a storm of revenge in response to any army before it.

There is nothing about Anthem’s combat that I don’t like, but it’s the world of Anthem itself that completely squanders how this combat is applied, that is utterly disappointing The chief complaint amongst anyone that has played a few stages within the game is that every Anthem level feels exactly the same. It all comes down to a rote formula of jetting off to a location, collecting some items and holding a position while you’re swarmed by enemies.

Anthem Screen 15

While there are some slight deviations to the formula, that’s the gist of it. Go there, grab this, stay there. Rinse and repeat for 15 hours and you’re done with the main campaign. While you could argue that every game is a series of repetitive actions, Anthem’s formula is blatantly obvious. Even then such a structure wouldn’t be too bad if Anthem at least managed to run decently.

But after dozens of hours of play, I can’t say that I’ve ever had a single mission where something hasn’t gone wrong. There’s a laundry list of problems within Anthem, that range from loading screens that double as piss-breaks to game-crashing glitches, server issues and even several occasions when my Javelin had its health mysteriously vacuumed out of it by what I can only assume was some sort of next-gen invisible vampire.

Anthem Screen 4

Almost ten gigs of patching later (I’m on version 1.0.2.01 on Xbox One X for the sake of reference), and I’m still running into problems regularly. Anthem doesn’t help sell its loot-rich gameplay either when it comes to collecting guns and power-ups that offer little incentive beyond a single increase in the digits. Weapons simply lack character and substance. Masterwork guns are meant to be the endgame bonuses worth pursuing, mighty exotic death-dealers that have the potential to deal all kinds of ludicrous damage onto enemies that they happen to be pointed at.

With an aggravating path to those famed guns however, I’m just not interested in simply increasing my damage-dealing numbers for the sake of it. That’s a road that is beset with irritation, as Anthem’s higher difficulty levels may offer higher chances at obtaining legendary guns but the chance that you’ll also need to hop to go buy a new game controller are also amplified.

Anthem Screen 5

Here, the faults begin to show more clearly as Anthem’s foes shrug off bullets as if you were trying to take down Godzilla by pelting it with kittens. They can easily wipe your team in a single attack and even mobs of regular enemies have the potential to one-shot your armour into oblivion. It’s a challenge that highlights just how broken Anthem’s enemy spawn rate is, and does nothing to offer players a chance to hone their skills to a razor’s edge.

At least Anthem looks pretty…right! Well, kind of. While the Frostbite engine offers some gorgeous vistas to explore, the tightest of particle effects and nary a jagged edge to be seen, it’s also used in a manner that feels like it’s trying too hard to sell its fancy technology. Battles routinely devolve into all-out explosions of various effects, bogging down the frame-rate and creating a confusing mess that most people will struggle to understand.

Anthem Screen 11

While there’s a beauty to be beheld in Anthem, there’s also pure chaos that could easily be scaled back. On the bright side, at least the game’s audio is crisp, carries an impact of note every time you squeeze the trigger and is backed up by one of the best original soundtracks in recent memory.

The list goes on, but honestly…I’m tired. I don’t like that out of the mere three Strongholds that Anthem offers, one of them happens to be a repeat of the final level. I don’t like that I had to look up on YouTube how to change my armour colour. I don’t like that in a game that has an A-list cast of talent giving life to characters, that I want to punch Brooklyn 99’S Joe Lo Truglio whenever I pass him in the corridor and hear yet again that he might have picked up an infection.

Anthem Screen 14

Hell, I haven’t even gotten into how Anthem’s power grind results in you only receiving earned experience points and weapons after you return to your homebase of Fort Tarsis instead of giving you a constant grind for power that you can see unfold in front of you, but at this point I feel like the proverbial stick that’s hitting a dead horse.

You really want to know what kind of game Anthem is? Picture that one moment in your life, where you’ve been busted for doing something that you weren’t supposed to, and your parents didn’t express anger at you…just disappointment. That stinging feeling of shame and apathy, that’s Anthem. It’s a game which feels like it was designed by a committee of grey-haired men in suits, seated around a table and harumphing over a glass of bourbon, remarking how “all the kids are into that Tom Clancy’s Destiny game right now” and that they should get in on that action.

Anthem Screen 16

Anthem isn’t the game that I was expecting, and that’s about the nicest thing that I can say about it. Its ideas are half-baked, its broken on a fundamental level and its quest to become the next big game as a service results in the grindiest of RPG experiences on the market today. Anthem has a long road ahead of it, if it wants to establish itself as a contender amongst the biggest games and names in the live service genre of co-op action RPG games that are already out there and established.

I’m not exactly certain if that’s a ride that I want to be a part of.

Last Updated: February 25, 2019

Anthem
Anthem may look like a slick blend of action and exploration all wrapped up in some shiny armour, but beneath its surface lies a game that is riddled with bugs, shallow world-building and a paint by numbers approach to its design.
6.0
Anthem was reviewed on Xbox One
65 / 100

118 Comments

  1. I’ve only just started playing it. Got about 10 hours in so far and I’m enjoying it. Everyone keeps warning me about the game and the endgame being non-existent. I’ll see when I get there but for now I’m having fun

    Reply

    • Pariah

      February 25, 2019 at 12:12

      I’m 35 hours in and I can’t wait to dive in some more. And, to top it off, I’ve literally only played 1 Javelin. I’ve not even taken the other 3 out on a single mission or freeplay, so there’s a bunch of gearing up and learning I still have left to do. With all the content they have planned for the next 3 months, I’m looking forward to it.

      Reply

      • For the Emperor!

        February 25, 2019 at 15:47

        How much of it is spent loading? Not going to bash a game I have no interest in (online pfff), but I hear sometimes it takes longer to load the mission than to complete it. Having a similar issue with Soul Calibut 6 though…

        Reply

        • Pariah

          February 25, 2019 at 16:20

          It’s mostly an HDD issue. On the SSD I don’t really have loading issues. I’m on the SSD because my HDD basically packed up on the day I installed Anthem though. In some ways, I got lucky.

          Reply

          • For the Emperor!

            February 25, 2019 at 16:40

            Good to hear. Hope you enjoy it!

          • For the Emperor!

            February 25, 2019 at 16:40

            Good to hear. Hope you enjoy it!

  2. jimz0r

    February 25, 2019 at 12:11

    After my 10 hour trial, I have just one thing to say:

    This game should have come out in May.

    Reply

  3. G8crasha

    February 25, 2019 at 12:11

    For me, the game is a mixed bag of good and bad. Neither one seems to overpower the other – the very definition of MEDIOCRE. Once I finish the storyline, chances are I’ll put it on my gaming shelf to gather dust. I really hope the future content will pick it up. I am seeing something of a pattern here though with Destiny. Destiny was also soso on release, but things did pick up. I am hoping Bioware can do this, because right now, they are losing favour in the eyes of many gamers who are used to amazing titles leaving the studio.

    Reply

    • Matthew Holliday

      February 25, 2019 at 15:32

      EA/Bioware havent had much in the way of post release support recently, Mass effect Andromeda had nothing and Dragon age inquitisions DLC was completely unnoticed.

      Reply

  4. Alessandro Barbosa

    February 25, 2019 at 12:12

    I’ve been playing on and off trying to reach the 10 hour limit on the Origin Access pass and I serioulsy can’t bring myself to carry on. The missions are so boring, the loot is uninteresting and I find the story really bland. This is in a worse state than Destiny 1 was back at launch, but I’ll be interested to see if EA and BioWare stick with it.

    Reply

    • Alessandro Barbosa

      February 25, 2019 at 12:25

      As an aside, I think Darryn nails it here. Anthem isn’t a bad game, it’s just a really boring one.

      Reply

      • The Banana Knight ♞

        February 25, 2019 at 12:39

        That’s what I’m afraid of. I love games that have a decent amount of length to them. I love ploughing tens of hours into an rpg (be it Japanese or otherwise), but I just don’t know whether I could do 20 hours of this game.

        Reply

  5. Admiral Chief

    February 25, 2019 at 12:24

    Don’t support EA
    Cyberpunk is coming

    Reply

    • Mark Treloar

      February 25, 2019 at 13:29

      Not if the consoles don’t release this year

      Reply

    • Brian

      February 25, 2019 at 14:34

      Game = bad, publishers fault
      Game = good, developers hard work and vision

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief

        February 25, 2019 at 14:46

        Truedat

        Reply

  6. Gavin Mannion

    February 25, 2019 at 12:24

    It’s so weird, some people are loving this game but I HATED the demo and by the sound of it the full game is the same.

    Reply

    • Pariah

      February 25, 2019 at 12:24

      The full game is more of the demo. A lot more. But yeah if you didn’t enjoy the demo, then you’re not going to enjoy the main game.

      Reply

    • Matthew Holliday

      February 25, 2019 at 15:33

      The only people Ive seen that LOVE the game, are those youtubers that were involved in testing and making the game.

      Reply

  7. Caveshen Rajman

    February 25, 2019 at 12:25

    6/10 is the absolute no man’s land of game scores lol

    Narrator: “He hasn’t actually read the review yet.”

    Reply

    • The D

      February 25, 2019 at 12:25

      Lulz, I’m in my 5/10 game score bunker waiting for the backlash on this.

      Reply

  8. S. B. and m. g.

    February 25, 2019 at 12:40

    You had to look up on how to change the armour colour? Man you shouldn’t be aloud to make a review of any game. . Lol you are an idiot. Go play with lego… sorry better Duplo, Lego might be a bit to difficult for you.

    Reply

    • GooseZA

      February 25, 2019 at 12:40

      *allowed
      *too

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief

        February 25, 2019 at 12:40

        Yeah, if you wanna insult someone, make sure spelling is on point

        Reply

        • S. B. and m. g.

          February 25, 2019 at 13:05

          1st I got a massive hangover
          2nd I was on the bus and on my mobile
          3rd English is not my 1st language

          Have a good day and by the way… I’m enjoying the game, If this guy had to check on youtube on how to change the armour colour how can he make a review of the game? I was playing the game all day yesterday with my son and didn’t had any crash like people keep saying, there are the same amount of loading screens that are in Destiny, the Division and Warframe, the difference from destiny for example is that they show a ship going somewhere instead of a loading bar but it’s the same time if not less in Anthem to get to the mission and it’s actually quicker to load Anthem then all these 3. The missions? All loot shooters are the same, go here kill that, defend this, get this thing and put it over there… lol really ? This game is better then Destiny and The Division when they lunched ! If you want to make e review of a game at least play it for a decent amount of time and din;t just spew what ever you see on you tube or… I don’t know where you get this information from.

          PS: Lego is great !

          41 year old gamer here with many, many years of gaming experience that does not need to look on YouTube on how to change the colour of the armour SMH

          Reply

          • Mark Treloar

            February 25, 2019 at 13:15

            So the game ran fairly well well at launch on the 15th, however after Fridays launch the game has become an entomology thesis.

          • Admiral Chief

            February 25, 2019 at 13:15

            Great, 41 year old gamer. Hangover, yeah, can’t help you there, not my (or the reviewer’s) fault. English not my 1st language, yep, same here.

            Now, back up the d-bag truck just a weeeeee bit and realize that you are insulting someone whose job it is to review multiple games, and he’s done epic work over the years I’ve been reading his review. Now just because he made ONE comment you go on and insult him and you base your reaction by climbing into his character.

            41yo that has a 12yo reaction?

            Come now, even if you haven’t had the need to check YT for something like changing armour colour, SURELY you’ve used YT to check something, ANYTHING else (something for work, news, history, etc etc)

            Surely a 41yo gamer with many, many years of gaming experience can react a little better than you did?

            I’m glad you are enjoying the game, but I’m not glad you are reacting this way towards someone you don’t know, and whose fine work you have not been following for almost a decade.

            THINK before you say something hurtful, especially since you have a son you are gaming with (epic, I love that you can do this). You need to set a better example to your son, as he will look to you as his primary source of building his character and behaviour.

            Hope I gave you some food for thought. We are all gamers in the end, with each having unique opinion.

            Also, perhaps ease up on the booze if you want to set example for your son, but that is just my personal opinion on the matter

          • Pariah

            February 25, 2019 at 13:15

            tl;dr

          • The D

            February 25, 2019 at 13:28

            And comments like this are why I value you guys when you give me constructive criticism.

          • Admiral Chief

            February 25, 2019 at 13:28

            I GOT YOUR BACK BRENDA!

          • RinceThis

            February 26, 2019 at 11:56

            shut it Mr can’t even paint.

          • S. B. and m. g.

            February 25, 2019 at 13:41

            My son is a wonderful kid with really good values same has me, don’t go judging something like that, specially if you don’t have kids. Yes I like playing video games been playing them for a long time but I like to relax and take my mind of work can’t be a full on photographer 24 hours a day 7 days a week and is there something wrong in going out with your mates and have a drink at the pub to finish off the week ? I’m sorry if I insulted your beloved friend but really ? had to go on youtube to check how to change the colour ? How does he go about all the other game mechanics ? I have to go now got work to do bye 😉

          • Admiral Chief

            February 25, 2019 at 13:42

            The sheer amount of time needed to write reviews (playing game, writing review, etc) as well as other articles take up a lot of time, so out of the whole review, you chose to pick out ONE singular thing that offended you.

            Time is not always a luxury the reviewers have, so would you rather have a half-assed review, or have him save time, check on YT how to change the colour and provide a proper review?

            I never judged you on the hangover thing, merely gave you some food for thought. I have a 10 year old daughter so my ‘advice’ comes from a personal place

          • PoisonedBelial

            February 25, 2019 at 13:42

            How about a proper apology to @Darryn_Bonthuys:disqus?

            That would show some good values…

          • PoisonedBelial

            February 25, 2019 at 13:28

            Na, I don’t buy that.

            A 41 year old who writes attack comments like a 12 year old?

            Something doesn’t quite add up here.

    • The D

      February 25, 2019 at 12:41

    • PoisonedBelial

      February 25, 2019 at 12:53

      Wow.

      That’s a fantastically thought out comment.

      Aren’t you just a ray of god damn sunshine?

      https://media.giphy.com/media/2xIOiAPXonois/giphy.gif

      Reply

    • Skoobaz

      February 25, 2019 at 12:41

      My kids play with lego and duplo. What exactly are you saying…about my kids??

      Reply

      • S. B. and m. g.

        February 25, 2019 at 13:05

        They are great! my son has a ton of lego too! keep up the good work fellow Dad 😉

        Reply

    • PoisonedBelial

      February 25, 2019 at 12:53

      Wow.

      That’s a fantastically thought out comment.

      Aren’t you just a ray of god damn sunshine?

      https://media.giphy.com/media/2xIOiAPXonois/giphy.gif

      Reply

      • S. B. and m. g.

        February 25, 2019 at 13:05

        Oh ! thank you so much, now how about leaving the flock and see what’s behind the fence?

        Reply

        • PoisonedBelial

          February 25, 2019 at 13:15

          How about you get out from under the bridge?

          Reply

  9. S. B. and m. g.

    February 25, 2019 at 12:40

    You had to look up on how to change the armour colour? Man you shouldn’t be aloud to make a review of any game. . Lol you are an idiot. Go play with lego… sorry better Duplo, Lego might be a bit to difficult for you.

    Reply

  10. GooseZA

    February 25, 2019 at 12:41

    I’ll pick this up on sale in a year or so maybe. I was really disappointed with the demo so I’m glad I waited to see how the final product turned out instead of buying it anyway.

    My friend is absolutely loving it though, so who knows. For now I’m too busy playing Apex.

    Reply

  11. geel slang

    February 25, 2019 at 12:41

    Got this ‘free’ with my graphics card. Played like 1.5 hours friday. Im not exactly counting down the hours to get back home to play. About what I expected, looks nice graphically.

    Reply

  12. Admiral Chief

    February 25, 2019 at 13:04

  13. Admiral Chief

    February 25, 2019 at 13:04

  14. Pariah

    February 25, 2019 at 13:28

    I just want to say: as much as I thoroughly enjoy the game, I can see why many people have issues. There are moments that just feel hollow, and there’s not a plethora of content, yet. Game systems can be confusing. Missions bugging out are annoying. I’d give it around a 7.2 in its current state myself. We’ll see how that changes in a few months, but I’m still loving every minute of it.

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief

      February 25, 2019 at 13:28

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m really keen to give this a go, one day. Saving for wedding just severely limits my disposable randelas, so instead I write troll comments about games I secretly wish I could play 😛

      Reply

    • The D

      February 25, 2019 at 13:28

      That’s a good description there: Hollow. Hopefully EA and Bioware fills this Easter Egg up with some decent sweetness, because I’d love to see Anthem actually succeed.

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief

        February 25, 2019 at 13:28

        Hopefully EA do nothing but allow Bioware to fill up the goodness

        Reply

      • Pariah

        February 25, 2019 at 13:29

        Likewise. If they’re allowed to stick to their guns, keep listening to fans, and produce more content, I think this game’s a winner.

        Some of the conversations, some of the side story -> I found myself wondering why I wasted those minutes of my life on them. And yet, some others I found I was totally in love with the characters. Interestingly, it’s the later stuff that felt more hollow. Perhaps they were a little rushed there?

        Reply

        • The D

          February 25, 2019 at 13:29

          Maybe! But I will say that Faye and Haluk are my fave characters by a wide margin. Love how they were developed.

          Reply

          • Pariah

            February 25, 2019 at 13:41

            Faye is so cool! And I really love Dax too. She’s ditsy, and clumsy and determined. Reminds me of my sister.

  15. CrAiGiSh

    February 25, 2019 at 13:29

    Could tell from the BETA this was not as polished as they thought it would be.

    Reply

  16. Mielies the Magnificent

    February 25, 2019 at 13:42

    While I was waiting for the newest patch to download and it taking approx. 11 hours due to shitty Telkom connectivity, I booted up Mass Effect 2 again to kill some time. Though I really am enjoying Anthem, man they regressed by some distance.

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief

      February 25, 2019 at 13:42

      ME2 was one of the best games I’ve played

      Reply

    • HvR

      February 25, 2019 at 13:54

      Who is this imposter? We only have place for only one priapic fruit or vegetable.

      Reply

      • Mielies the Magnificent

        February 25, 2019 at 14:07

        Been sneaking around here since 2011 LG days. Never had a change of avatar or name. Are you new? 🙂

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief

          February 25, 2019 at 14:46

          xD

          Reply

  17. GooseZA

    February 25, 2019 at 12:41

    I’ll pick this up on sale in a year or so maybe. I was really disappointed with the demo so I’m glad I waited to see how the final product turned out instead of buying it anyway.

    My friend is absolutely loving it though, so who knows. For now I’m too busy playing Apex.

    Reply

  18. geel slang

    February 25, 2019 at 12:41

    Got this ‘free’ with my graphics card. Played like 1.5 hours friday. Im not exactly counting down the hours to get back home to play. About what I expected, looks nice graphically.

    Reply

  19. Llama In The Rift

    February 25, 2019 at 12:41

    Wide as an anthem shallow as an nursery rhyme….

    Reply

  20. Nikola

    February 25, 2019 at 14:08

    Sooo disapointing wanted a new Destiny game that I can play with my friends.

    Good review @Darryn_Bonthuys:disqus got my approval it pretty much matches all the ones I have watched and seen online, think the game is an epic fail and this was probably for me one of the most anticipated games for this year! Anyways I will be getting Division 2 as I feel like they sorted one thing that I had an issue with and that was end game content think they learned a lesson from the first one which was a good game!!

    My biggest issue here is end game content which apparently is so non existent and the way guns feel think one thing Destiny nailed is gun gameplay and how guns feel you would have two auto rifles but they felt completely different think there was a LOT of potential here but after playing the demo you qucikly realise its a waste of time.

    Reply

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