Anthem is the newest shoot and loot game to hit the gaming scene, developed by Mass Effect juggernauts BioWare and published by EA. With so much hatred thrown at both companies for some bad practices or unpolished games they seemingly crashed through that high ceiling with trailers for this game back in 2014. Following a freelancer as they work to save the world from a cataclysmic event, like most other looters, we will be flying through vast areas to fight back against the evil that plagues the land.
Set on an undisclosed planet, within an undisclosed time period, we find ourselves within control of a nameless freelancer currently on their most perilous mission yet. Alongside veteran freelancer Haluk and our team we are delving into the Heart of Rage to deactivate the Cenotaph and stop the encroaching monsters. Sadly the large team were not prepared, with the vast majority being killed throughout the missions and forcing both Haluk and the protagonist to escape.
Fast forward 2 years, we are now one of the last freelancers to still be in employment, taking up contracts wherever we can to scrape by. It isn’t long until a big mission lands on our lap as a local agent hires us to do some spying that leads into preparing to attack the Heart of Rage once more as evil forces are preparing to go there to take control of the powers within.
The main story will last you around 11-15 hours depending on difficulty setting, team makeup and overall aptitude at shooters. There are plenty of side quests to pick up, alongside challenges as well as 3 strongholds to clear, increasing your playtime to easily over 35 hours. With planned content updates, fully geared javelins and more you can spend even more time within the walls of Anthem.
With the influx of shooter looters, 3rd person shooters and action games, you will more than likely have played a similar game to Anthem. Plenty of people have likened the experience to a combination of Warframe and Destiny, which isn’t too far off the mark. You aim your weapons with left trigger and fire with the right trigger, special attacks are mapped to the left and right buttons with a combination activating your defensive ability. One of the most unique features in this release is the flying that is mapped to pressing in the left thumbstick and hover on the right thumbstick.
As I have stated before, Anthem is designed very similar to games that like to throw loot at you around every corner, though sadly the loot is somewhat lacklustre. Defeating enemies has a chance to drop new gear, along with chests rewarding around 2-4 different items at a time, the quality of these items is determined randomly in a tier list akin to MMOs. While their stats are changed with rarity, the guns themselves are very boring with only 3 different styles per weapon class, and those 3 types are sometimes indistinguishable from one another.
As you defeat enemies and complete missions you will gain experience, which in turn increases your level, though levelling doesn’t do too much for your character on its own. As your level increases you will unlock new slots for components, which add bonuses to your damage, health, defence etc, along with allowing you to equip higher level weapons that deal more damage. When you reach levels 2, 8, 16 and 26 you will be given the choice to unlock 1 of 4 different javelins to use within missions.
Javelins are the base with which you create a loadout, from the Storm that specialises in elemental damage abilities to the Colossus that has high armour but lower speed. Each Javelin has their own area of expertise, however, due to the design of enemies and encounters some Javelins are just straight up better than others. Colossus lacks a dodge, replacing it with a held shield that has a separate health bar, whereas scouts’ increased speed allows them to move around enemies with ease.
Anthem has a very unimpressive soundtrack, to the point that I cannot remember any song in particular. For the majority of gameplay the OST is overshadowed by the sheer amount of explosions or bullet fire going on during combat. Coupled with the fact that the music will sometimes just not play, or have both it and sounds become distorted or full of static due to some overwhelming scenes causing the game to glitch out. There are even times where sounds are overly delayed, like doors playing their opening sound clip 5 seconds after it had slammed against the wall.
Like many other online games Anthem is full of bugs, glitches and general disconnects, but to the point where mission progress is lost, even more so when players miss cutscenes due to a crash. My friend was constantly kicked from out party as we played, 2 missions bugged out and we had to restart, my head was often invisible, my gun would fire whilst reloading and much more. The multitude of glitches really pulled me out of the experience, especially when missions needed to be restarted.
The difficulty throughout Anthem is rather solid, though too easy for a good portion. We swapped to Hard after the first 2 missions and still found it relatively easy. However, while the game was mostly easy there are some instances of utter unfairness, there are a few bosses who start attacking during the load-in, causing me to die before I am allowed to move, combined with some bosses that can 1-shot you without warning. Rolling the dice to even get into a fight is not fun in the slightest, nor is having to defend a generator for the 5th time.
Fans of MMOs may feel at home with Anthem as it is incredibly grindy, with repeated mission structures and an end-game that tells you to complete 100 missions and 25 strongholds, when a stronghold can take around 30 minutes. For those who appreciate a mindless grind, Anthem may be up your alley, but if you want unique content that keeps you engaged with varied gameplay, you will more than likely find the game too dull.
Story flow feels incredibly tiresome at times, with 1 portion feeling heavily rushed and unpolished. You have to complete 4 sets of challenges, like killing x amount of enemies with a melee or ultimate attacks or even gathering collectables. These challenges can take a good hour or 2 to do, and your reward is touching a sarcophagus within a small room to complete the mission. This unenthusiastic, anti-climactic ending to such a long mission just fills you with disappointment and doesn’t shine at all against the rest of the uninspired story missions on offer. This is made even worse when the best way to complete these challenges is within freeplay, which is just aimless flying until an event occurs.
Overall, Anthem gets a 6/10, the story feels rushed and unengaging, to the point that a cutscene had more impact than the entire storyline. Gameplay is smooth but progression has no feeling behind it, with almost all guns looking the same, combined with the fact you will be doing 1 of 3 mission types that require you to fly around for several minutes before and after. The number of bugs will pull you out of the game far too often, alongside a glitchy sound design causing you even more infuriation. Anthem could be good with some updates, but it will take a long time until I would suggest anyone to purchase it.