A whole new world to explore.
It’s time to review the biggest game at the start of the year. Anthem has split all gamers into two specific groups. If you’re in the first group, you love Anthem for everything it has to offer from its Javelin to its story. Or you’re in the second group, and you hate everything that is Anthem. So let’s dig in and see if the love and hate that the game is receiving is actually justified.
What is Anthem?
Let’s begin with the story and its characters.
Anthem’s story is short and it’s pretty simple to get through it. You could probably clear it over a whole weekend just by taking your time but that doesn’t include the additional side quests available. The side quests do not affect the main storyline but it helps you to learn more about the world, its settings and lore.
As for the length of the main plot, I don’t blame the developers. It’s the current trend that most games are following in this age. Even Destiny had a short main quest. I feel that everyone’s too focused on the endgame content and not actually enjoying the journey in game anymore.
However, in Anthem, it’s not the story that makes the plot interesting but its characters. Every character is unique and their voice acting is amazing. Even your Freelancer (you can choose to be a male or female) feels like a real person that you can relate to, one who doesn’t feel like he’s the hero the world deserves but just the one it got stuck with. That’s perfect for this setting.
Bioware really stepped up their game in terms of dialogues and facial expressions after the Mass Effect: Andromeda fiasco. Simply put, Andromeda dialogues felt a chore to get through with the speech wheel but Anthem handled the conversations perfectly by splitting it up.
Now you’ll just have an icon on your map if someone wants to talk to you and it’s just a single conversation. If you want more, you’ll have to go out into the world then come back to see if there’s anything else.
The dialogues with the various NPCs are down to earth, funny and very snappy. I actually enjoyed listening to my character and the NPCs conversing and always looked forward to more of it. The conversations are usually pretty interesting, always finding a way to expand on the lore of the world without forcing it all down your throat.
As for the facial expressions, the NPCs all look really good and felt like real people compared to how terrible Andromeda facial expressions were. When the voice acting and facial expressions come together, you can really see and hear their emotions working in unison beautifully. It’s still a tad short from the quality Netherrealm achieved in Injustice 2, but it certainly is a MAJOR improvement from Andromeda.
The gameplay of Anthem is broken up into two different types; first person exploration in Fort Tarsis and third person when you’re exploring the world.
Fort Tarsis serves as the hub for your Freelancer. Here you can talk to certain NPCs, get quests and outfit your Javelin at the Forge. There’s also a shared social space called The Launch Bay, where you can hang out with other human players but I felt that the space was much too small and limited to be enjoyable. I just wished that you can interact with people in the main fort instead of just that single space.
Once you’re out exploring the world in your Javelin, everything is fluid and fast-paced. You can freely explore the map if you choose to, or do missions and contracts you’ve picked up. Strongholds also become available once you reach a certain level. These are special dungeons where you’ll need to team up with other Freelancers. They’re MUCH harder than normal missions, but also give you the best loot.
There’s not a lot of them (yet) but what is already in the game is incredibly tough. You can jump into an enemy stronghold and be fired upon from all directions and die without even realizing what just happened. It feels very realistic, especially once you start amping up the difficulty. The badass Javelin you decimate stuff with in solo player? It’s nothing in Strongholds. If you want to survive, you’ll need to work with the others as team.
Missions and contracts you get are fun but Bioware REALLY needs to learn how to add in mission variety. Right now, all of the missions basically devolve into go to Point A, then either kill everything, find a couple of hidden items, stand on a certain point long enough to ‘capture’ it or a combination of them.
It honestly feels INCREDIBLY repetitive, but the awesome shooting mechanics help smooth out the issues somewhat. That, and the urge to get bigger and better loot to improve my Javelin.
There are a couple of different types of Javelins you can equip, but you only get one to pick from in the beginning. I chose the Interceptor, while Sal chose the hulking Colossus armor. The Javelins are all geared towards a particular playstyle and are supposed to be balanced. However, it hardly feels the case in the game.
For example, the Interceptor has a range of skills that honestly feels underwhelming when you compare to what the Storm or Colossus is capable of. Interceptor focuses on dealing more damage with melee by combing it with the auras of elements.
It works well until you realize that the most useful element is Ice which helps you to freeze up the enemy so you don’t get fired upon while you’re in close combat especially with larger enemies that can take out your shield in a single hit. Then just when you get a hang of it and feel like you’re doing well in terms of taking out the enemy while surviving at the same time, you get introduced to the Titan battles.
You start to realize how little you can actually contribute to the fight in terms of damage. Your skills are pretty much useless and you can forget about combos because you’re dead if you get too close.
The Interceptor’s Ultimate makes you invulnerable and allows you to melee everything non-stop. However, it doesn’t do anything to the Titan because the legs take no damage and the parts that do take damage only appear when it’s attacking but it’s too high unless you’re constantly doing jump attacks. In the end, all you can do is just shoot from a distance or use some of the ranged skills that you have and try not to die so your team doesn’t have to constantly resurrect you.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy playing the Interceptor a lot for its speed and it is actually the main Javelin I’m using. There are various skill combinations that you can try and mix it up to enjoy the gameplay but it feels weak when dealing with the larger threats of the Anthem world. Hopefully, Bioware will introduce some balancing to its skills so it is more reliable to be used in most of its content in the game.
After you’re done with the story and side quests, you’re in the endgame of Anthem. In terms of content, you’ve got a couple of things that you can do right now.
First up, you’ve got the free play option that allows you to roam around and complete world events like defeating Titans and silencing shaper relics.
Next, you’ve got three stronghold missions (these are basically your Destiny strike missions that you have to complete in a group) that can be repeated over with various difficulty to gain better loot.
Lastly, you’ve got your daily legendary contracts that are available for completion and has a higher chance of granting high-end loot to increase your Javelin power levels. If you find these endgame contents lacking, fret not as more content from the developers are coming soon according to Anthem’s road map.
Anthem’s in a much better state right now than it was when it was in Beta. The major frame rate issues have been ironed out (mostly) and the game generally feels much smoother and responsive.
That doesn’t mean that the game is all rosy. There are a TON of bugs that somehow slipped through. Here are a couple of examples I personally encountered; missing health bar on enemies, no sound, crashes to the Xbox One home menu. Bioware’s already put out two patches, but thus far, they’ve still not fixed the missing health bar and crashing issues.
On top of that, there are also some minor pop-in issues, even on the Xbox One X. Foliage, and other environmental objects sometimes just fades into view as you near, especially if you’re landing from the air. It doesn’t affect the gameplay but it does ruin the immersion somewhat.
The bottom line.
Now it boils down to the biggest question of this review, should you give Anthem a shot and see if it’s worth your money?
My suggestion is to go for it.
Anthem is not perfect and honestly, most games nowadays aren’t but as of now Anthem standard edition costs 80 SGD dollars with a lot of content to go through and it isn’t trying to sell you a season pass like most games do.
The lead producer of Anthem has also confirmed that there won’t be any paid DLC in the future and everything will be available for free as long as you own the game.
Even in-game, everything is purchasable without having the need of taking out money from your wallet but just by playing the game and earning the in-game currency.
So in the end, you’re paying for a full game that requires nothing from you anymore except for you to enjoy it on your own pace.
See you in the game, Freelancers!
Lots of value and fun but the buggy and repetitive nature of the game might put some people off.
– Great writing for character dialogue.
– Free content incoming.
– Short main questline.
– Noticeable pop-in.