I’ve been playing Anthem this weekend, despite some frustration I’ve had with its design choices. The moment to moment action of Anthem is top-notch. They’ve nailed the combat, and the verticality of the world is as interesting as they posit. I love what I’ve seen of the characters and learned of the world, but there are fundamental issues I have with the UI and some design choices. Here are a few high level good and the bad bits of Anthem so far, as I see it.
The Acting in Anthem is fantastic. Coming off the lows of Mass Effect Andromeda, it’s clear BioWare wanted to make sure the same mistakes weren’t made twice with Anthem. The mo-cap for its actors has really brought cutscenes to life in a whole new way, and the cast is just fantastic. Finding comedic relief in Joe Lo Truglio’s Neeson and Jack McBrayer’s Amal and then pure heart in Haluk and Yarrow, it’s easy to get involved with the people of Fort Tarsis.
The Combat and general flow of the action is something they’ve clearly nailed. What worked in ME: Andromeda is taken to a new level here with great gunplay, melee, and flight. Each Javelin feels unique, and though my personal favorite is the Interceptor, the others have their own strengths too. The Storm is a true badass, for instance.
Loot and its progression is also solid. I’m also enjoying that main weapons and components can be shared between Javelins. So while your pilot levels and you may use one Javelin more than others, switching to a different one doesn’t mean you have a ton more grinding to do to get the others up to par. There will be some parts you need to acquire maybe, but it’s not like Destiny or Warframe where you’re underpowered and have to level up all over again.
Customization is fantastic. I could spend hours making my Javelins look just the way I like, and I love that the only added transactions are cosmetic. I’ll happily by Shards and spend them on emotes, paint, patterns, and epic looking skins. I’ll do it all day and never complain. There’s no RNG involved, no loot boxes, and no power for purchase. Thank GOD.
Why is there so much disconnect between the action and the UI and character loadout? I get that Fort Tarsis is its own “thing” – sort of the single player character interaction area of the game, where the player progresses his or her relationships. I am also aware that the patch coming this week is supposed to decrease load times. But why does it take a load to view my Javelin and mess with its loadout? Why can’t I check my inventory without being at the Forge? Why is it all so disconnected? It’s like three separate games – the world, Tarsis, and the Javelin loadout (Forge). It seems like such an odd thing for BioWare to miss, given how relatively solid the UI or DAI and even MEA were.
Are there only three enemy factions? The Scar, the Outlaws, and the Dominion? Minus some wildlife, it feels like a shallow level of enemies to fight, though the fighting is fun. Similarly, while the world is drop-dead gorgeous, it feels like it could use a few more biomes to make it feel truly diverse. Where’s the snow, the desert, the swamps, and so forth? I’m only level 11, so maybe some regions like those come later, but right now it all feels a little too samey.
No Guilds and No Text Chat seem like such a missed opportunity. I believe BioWare has stated they’re coming, but it reminds me of Destiny 2 and it reeks oversight from EA saying “those are features you don’t need at launch”. Meanwhile, online gamers (especially on PC) are here sporting the CONFUSEDGUY.gif face.
Still, a weekend has gone by, and I’m drawn to keep playing Anthem. I like it, even if I can’t say I love it yet. It reminds me a lot of Destiny 1 and by extension Destiny 2. It feels like the core game is there and strong, even if it’s clear that a publisher got itchy and forced the game out before it was truly ready. A more prolonged beta and months of additional polish could have eradicated my above-mentioned issues. I’ll be curious to see how it all feels after this week’s patch, and how the game’s content and events roll out in the coming weeks and months. Hopefully it pulls a Bungie and makes short work of the issues the game has early on.