Bioware’s latest game is definitely one to remember, but not for the reasons anyone would want to remember a game for.
The open-world third person shooter attempts to emulate the great stories that Bioware games are known for (i.e. the Mass Effect series) as well as step into the realm of Destiny with impressive action combat and bountiful amounts of customization. Sadly though, it fails miserably at accomplishing either of those goals and instead comes off as one of the most soulless games this generation.
Anthem sees you playing as a Freelancer, a group has-been heroes that had the freelancer name squandered after falling to your foes.
Freelancers pilot their mech-suits called Javelins in order to roam the world and take down enemies. There are a variety of Javelins with different abilities, but we’ll get into that later on. For now, let’s look at where Anthem starts you off.
Anthem begins on a strong note. You’re thrown right into the action after picking a male or female voice. The tutorial level is a solid one, and it gives a good first impression for the action and a decent first impression for the characters.
As you blast your war through an exiting mission full of chaos, fire, and action you start to believe that the worries you had about Anthem are going to be put to rest. Gunplay feels good, the game looks pretty, and most importantly it’s pretty fun.
Too bad the game begins to fall off immediately after the tutorial.
Right after completing the initial tutorial you’ll enter Fort Tarsis.
Fort Tarsis acts as your main base of operations during your game, kind of like The Tower in Destiny. The only difference here is unlike Destiny’s multiplayer Tower, Fort Tarsis is solely your own.
There isn’t anyone to interact with other than NPC characters. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I have no idea what kind of atmosphere Bioware was going for here because it just ends up feeling like walking around an empty warehouse.
Every single time I had to enter Fort Tarsis I knew I was about to re-enter the most boring areas in all of modern gaming. As you walk around you’ll hear the almost muted murmur of the crowds of people standing around, you’ll see the barely moving mouths doing a horrible job of acting like they’re talking, and most importantly you’ll talk with the various NPCs that will give you missions, sell you things in the shop, etc.
Those NPCs are horrible to talk to, making me question what Bioware has been doing all these years. Bioware’s popular Mass Effect franchise is known for the deep conversations you’ll have with other characters. Here though, it’s like talking to planks of wood with the echo filter turned up to max. Every character feels robotic in conversations and all the dialogue choices at hand are useless and mean absolutely nothing. They don’t change your story or relations with the characters. It’s all just there for sure, probably to give Mass Effect fans some familiarity despite how bad it is.
My biggest issue though when talking to players wasn’t the poor voice acting or robotic emotions though, it was the horrible echo every character has.
When talking with NPCs in Fort Tarsis every character sounds as if they’re trapped in a metal box. I can’t even fathom how someone thought this was okay in a multi-million dollar game. I’ve hear amateur voice acting in free browser-based games with better sounding voices.
There are some other annoyances with Fort Tarsis. You can’t run, you can’t jump, you can’t do anything but walk at a slow speed to find the other characters to talk to. It’s an entire area dedicated to sucking all the fun out of the game.
A shallow puddle
After escaping Fort No Fun, you’ll finally get to be set free in the huge open world. The world is definitely pretty to look at while standing on the starting perch from which you begin each mission. But right after you’re done sight seeing, another issues shows its ugly face. The “open world” game is begins to feel like slot car racing.
Every checkpoint along the way of each mission has a ton of rings to fly through making the open world useless. You have to fly through a predetermined path while playing the missions. There are no options to explore along the way.
The fun with open world games’ missions is trying to find your own way of going about things.
Let’s take Far Cry for example. If an enemy has a base in the middle of the wilderness it’s up to you to figure out how you want to take out the enemies and liberate the base. Do you want to go about it stealthily, or do you want to walk in with an LMG guns blazing.
Having an open world gives a huge amount of choice to the player, making every playthrough unique. Everyone can play the game the way they want for the most part, but not with Anthem.
Anthem gives you plenty to do when it comes to boring repetitive missions such as standing inside a circle and holding off enemies or collecting glowing orbs to deposit into a spire that will essentially become an enemy spawner after you collect enough orbs, but when it comes to real content outside of that the game falls completely short.
Particle effects galore
When fighting enemies I found myself in a state of awe at just how spectacular large battle could be. Explosions whirled around me and sparks and magical energy flew from the abilities of my Javelin and my friends’ around me, however once I experienced one of these large battles in a confines space all those Micheal Bay level explosions turned from awe inspiring into a colorful mess.
Once you’re squeezed into smaller dungeon-like areas the game feels like a shell of what it set out to be. Explosions cloud the screen, making visibility a nightmare, and flying becomes extremely difficult and frustrating to do.
It makes the game claustrophobic.
I usually love small intimate areas that bring me in closer to the action. I usually feel more connected and more entwined with what’s at stake, but Anthem made me hate these small areas. I knew that every time I entered a temple I was going to be met with frustrating flight attempts and the glitter vomit of explosions and particle effects.
Grinding for nothing
Completing challenges in Anthem rewards you with the normal loot shooter items. Better gear like guns, armor, etc. Usually items like this should be exciting, but this loot shooters aren’t a new concept and Anthem doesn’t do anything to energize the formula.
I’ve grown tired of this system as of late, and playing through another game that does absolutely nothing special adds some more boredom into Anthem’s formula as everything you grind for just ends up being to get some bigger numbers from your bullets.
Loot here feels so uninspired. The guns you grind hours for usually looks like the guns you already have, but with a skin, and the armor customization is already great from the start meaning that there isn’t much to aim for in that category.
Games too often nowadays either hold items back to put them into the microtransactions shop or they decide to give it to you all at once. I enjoy earning things, and giving everything I want to me right from the beginning takes a lot of incentive to the play the game away.
After grinding through the game for a good amount of hours, better more game changing weapons are unlocked, but again, they aren’t anything we haven’t seen before. And this just ends up feeling like something you say throughout Anthem. Everything is like something you’ve seen before. It’s not original or inspired at all.
Strongholds are the one thing I enjoyed in Anthem. Sadly, you’ll have to play in the empty free play mode, but these bosses are the real deal.
Without going too much into the endgame’s details, the Strongholds contain some of the best content in Anthem. The bosses within Anthem are what the campaign needed throughout it, but instead, you’ll only get to experience these far into the game.
Each boss has fun, learnable move sets, and they are all extremely fun to fight against with a catch.
That catch is that sometimes hit detection can be infuriating. Many bosses have large area attacks that you’ll need to dodge, and much of the time I ended up frustrated that I obviously hadn’t been hit by something even though the game said I had been.
This issue persisted fairly enough to get in the say of the bigger enemies I faced, and for many could be enough of an issue to ignore that bigger enemies all together.
Though, without these enemies Anthem doesn’t have much in the content department.
As much as Anthem wanted to be a Destiny killer it ended up being what I consider to be even worse than Destiny 2 was at launch. There’s just about as much content, if not less, it feels even more uninspired, and loot is even more boring.
As bad as Destiny 2’s campaign was I at least had some fun shooting through its giant set pieces, but Anthem cant even give me that. Too often I found myself just bored with Anthem. At no point did I get excited to do a mission and at no point did I want to keep playing.
Anthem is a disappointment, and it plays like it was never going to be anything but that.