Real Talk By: Brian DK
Anthem is a complicated game. At its core it’s a solid looter-shooter akin to Destiny, Warframe, or Borderlands, but the twist comes from each player piloting their own Iron Man-style power suit (called Javelins). Piloting your suit feels phenomenal, firing the guns is satisfying, and every class has a unique and balanced playstyle. But, the gameplay might not be enough to save this game from everything else that comes with it.
The game starts strong. The story is serviceable and the characters drip personality. You’re quickly given your choice of the four classes and unlock the rest as you progress in case your initial choice doesn’t quite jive with your style. The Ranger is an all around general character, wielding unique grenades and excelling at single-target damage. The Storm is a magic elemental-slinging space wizard that relies on their equipped abilities more than their guns. The Interceptor is a quick and agile beast that can dramatically increase its damage output by dashing in-and-out of danger and juggling their abilities and guns. Finally, the Colossus, is a walking tank that can take heavy damage through its retractable shield and stomps around the battlefield wielding heavy, devastating weaponry. I fell in love with the Colossus and finished the story using it almost exclusively.
After gearing up your Javelin you’re sent out into the world of Bastion to solve everyone’s problems. Generally you fly to your destination, complete an objective, and then fly off to the next objective. The flying mechanics are unmatched in modern gaming, and as you get a feel for the controls you start pulling off amazing aerial maneuvers that make you feel like Tony Stark himself. ~80 hours in and flight still hasn’t gotten old. Occasionally I’ll make a mistake and plow into a doorway or I’ll underestimate a turn and slam my Colossus into a wall, but recovery is quick and the game doesn’t really punish such mistakes unless you’re in the middle of a firefight. But here’s where Anthem starts to struggle and the cracks start showing.
The objectives you complete in every mission are limited to only a handful. You either shoot a bunch of enemies, stand in a circle while shooting enemies, or fetch and deliver nearby items while shooting enemies. Even before I started roaming the world in freeplay, or before even finishing the story I found myself thinking “Didn’t I just do this?” more and more. The enemies become more and more varied and dangerous, but the objectives never really change after you’ve seen them all in the first few missions.
The boss fights do throw some new mechanics into the mix, and they can be a lot of fun. Facing down giant insects or biological tanks that require smart use of cover feels engaging and challenging, but these bosses become chores on higher difficulties and some suffer from the game’s server side hit detection. One of the common world bosses, Titans, stand relatively still and pelt your squad with devastating, but avoidable, attacks. One such attack is a barrage of homing fireballs that can be blocked by terrain or dodged by the more agile Javelins, but the game often bugs out and still hits you. These attacks can often set you up for more attacks or outright kill you at times and it’s extremely frustrating to be hit by invisible or delayed attacks. Which brings us to the bugs.
Oh god the bugs. Anthem is filled with little issues that scratch and pick at your fun with the game. Attacks will visually miss you, but still effectively hit you. Some gear has its stats and effects disabled due to the bugs they create. Status effects create strange rubber band moments where you can’t move or escape despite the duration ending. Your Javelin’s health is in constant flux, bouncing between adequate and fragile depending on the mission inexplicably. Games crashes and disconnections are constant and infuriating. We’re more than a week into the official launch and it feels like many of these game-breaking issues should have been addressed by now. One of the most dangerous bugs, reported on the PS4 version of the game, can create hard system crashes that actually reboot the console. Some report that these hard crashes have resulted in corruption issues that require an extensive repair process.
On top of these crashes, Anthem is plagued with loading screens and slow arbitrary social interactions. It can take a minimum of four loading screens to get back into a new mission, and sometimes even more if you’re looking to upgrade or change your Javelin. The gameplay is fun and engaging, but it’s such a chore just to get back into it.
Anthem is a small diamond covered in layers upon layers of mud. Occasionally you catch a glimpse of that diamond, but you have to get your hands dirty and suffer just to see it. I cannot recommend picking this game up right now. Maybe in six months it’ll be worth your time, but right now Anthem just feels like a scheme to get you to pay $60 to beta test a game that’s been in development for six years.
2 out of 5
+So Much Potential
-Awful load times
-Unpolished Gameplay Overall