Anthem Public Demo Shows Promise, But Is It Enough?
The public can finally see whether BioWare’s newest offering gets to be worth the while. And with last week’s VIP demo left Anthem players terribly grunting, gamers remain unoptimistic. With good reason! VIP players reported server disconnections, login issues, and “infinite loading screens,” among others.
I got a taste of adventure for the first time on the public demo on Feb. 1st. And y’all can still play until Sunday, Feb. 3, at 7 PM GMT+8! So, how did I find it? Anthem inevitably remains a bit of a so-so.
Anthem: Still A Demo
Before jumping into the feedback, do keep in mind that this comes from a public demo. There will be problems that players will encounter just like in any other public beta games. Problems like server connection issues, headless Javelins, and “endless” loading times can be expected.
Admittedly, this remains a cause for concern: this isn’t a beta, it’s a demo for a product slated for release by the end of the month. Here’s to hoping BioWare gets to hash these out soon, as they pointed out in their statements on the demo state.
With that out of the way: below is a summary of my first impressions after approximately eight (8) hours into the demo. I’ve played two (2) classes, tried several weapons, and completed what’s available of the “Story” content in the game. So, how’s Anthem?
#1: Anthem is Beautiful
Simply put, Anthem makes no waste showcasing Bioware’s talent and the strength of the Frostbite engine. The environment remains nothing short of stunning. The town, which serves as the in-game hub, is full of small, random piles of junk in alleywalls. Engineers working on their knick-knacks have tools and scrap metal laying on the ground around them. All of these add to the immersion in the game.
To top it all off, the feeling of your character climbing into the Javelin gives you that sense of “ownership” to your Javelin. Unlike in other MMOs, Anthem makes you feel both awesome and responsible with your own armor. You having a Javelin is representative of your responsibility to help save the world.
Although, and while things remain beautiful as they are, things can get slightly overwhelming. Elemental effects like explosions, fireballs, and thunderbolts can obscure all of the action.
#2: Anthem is built for a full squad
You can feel the game’s co-op focus oozing during matchmaking. You can have up to three (3) wacko friends play the game with you. Or, if you’re feeling brave enough, go into a match solo… and still get paired up with strangers.
BioWare seems to have designed Anthem really with a full squad in mind. It makes sense, though: being able to pull off sick combos with friends and strangers can make the action much more fulfilling.
Unfortunately, this does mean players who want to go in solo may not get the kind of experience they want. Matchmaking with players all over the world means lag and other server issues may be risks gamers will face throughout the experience.
#3: Anthem‘s gun-play is tight, but might be lacking long-term
Anthem features a large variety of gun archetypes to cater to almost any playstyle. And its sci-fi focus does make it look like the game’s shaping up to be a Destiny rival. Players have access to the usual assault rifle, sniper rifle, shotgun, and hand cannons. Interestingly, pleasant additions such as machine pistols, marksman rifles, and grenade launchers ensure everybody can find a gun that “feels right” to their playstyle.
From the looks of it, BioWare built the gameplay this way to ensure gamers can find their “sweet spot.” You’ll find something you’ll like: whether you enjoy being up-close and in the middle of the action, or if you prefer melting enemies with a sniper.
That said, most guns visually look the same. It doesn’t help that the same gun actually drops in different “tiers” of Common, Uncommon, and Rare types. While stat variations do exist, guns still look and shoot the same. We’ve yet to see how deep the loot pool is, and how “different” the weapons feel, and hopefully the full game gets to deliver.
Adding to that is the fact that you can’t currently customize your guns in the game. So while different gun tiers give bonuses to damage or ammo pickup, you can’t customize aesthetics. This is something The Division accomplished with great success. Your gun feel “yours” because you’re capable of tailoring it with how you like to play. Do you need a scope with that machine gun? Do you need that polka dot decoration? Go right ahead. Hopefully, we get to see this in Anthem as well.
#4: Anthem is all about abilities, skills and movement
Gameplay centers around your Javelin, which in itself has different skills and abilities. So while you can essentially go Rambo on your enemies, you also have the option of raising a hand and have an assortment of weapons at your disposal. Yeah, like Iron Man.
If you’ve followed news on the game before, you may be aware that the game comes with four (4) kinds of Javelins (so far):
- Ranger Javelins remain the most popular, as they’re pegged to “adapt” to “any” situation. They have a myriad of grenades at their disposal, and their assault capabilities can get them out of sticky situations.
- Colossus Javelins get you up close and personal with your enemies. They’re the largest and strongest of the Javelin models. While they can’t use SMGs and Pistols, they do compensate with powerful mortars and cannons.
- Interceptors make up for their small size with sheer speed and agility. They have double-bladed daggers, and their abilities are designed to let them clock out of any situation in no time. Yeah, definitely rogues.
- Storm Javelins deal a ton of damage from a distance. While they have minimal armor, their elemental affinity allows them to burn, shock, and freeze their enemies from a mile away.
Imagine using any one of these Javelins with your friends, and you can do awesome combinations for a ton of damage. You can wipe critters with ease, and get on the big monsters much faster.
And have I told you how awesome it is to fly? The game’s unique selling point really gets tied to how good it feels to fly. The system feels intuitive, and no game has quite captured that feeling of lying like the game does. Give it a couple of hours and you’ll be flying in and out of combat like a pro. Most importantly? Superhero landing!
#5: Anthem’s has a story – although not everyone is going to be interested
If you’ve ever handled an MMO, you’ll like meet someone who’s in it for the endgame. Those are the players who want the best loot, to min-max the best stats, and chase the “best” build. These will be the same people who will likely find a lot of fun with this game, and there’s really no issue with that.
However, that said, this game is built by BioWare. This is a company build on great storytelling, which Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and other titles proved and demonstrated.
So, does Anthem have a story mode? It does. You’ll mostly experience it in first-person view, and in cutscenes. It’s very likely that the game will be fully-scripted, and “choices” may end up being harmless banter, given its multiplayer nature.
Anthem does have interesting lore. The game takes place in a world far from ours. In this world, it’s believed gods called Shapers have created the world in nine (9) days but vanished on the third. In their wake were powerful relics or tools that could tap into the Anthem of Creation, a form of energy that permeates throughout the universe.
Unfortunately, the Anthem of Creation proved to be volatile and hard to control. This resulted in the world becoming a harsh and violent wasteland. Local flora and fauna have transformed into powerful and menacing beasts. And the only way humanity got to survive came in the form of Javelins, or armors they use to navigate the harsh world.
Humanity in Anthem split into two (2) factions. The Dominion, led by The Monitor, is a militaristic organization hell-bent on controlling humanity “for the greater good.” Against him are Freelancers, of which the player is a part of, who simply want to survive the world of Anthem.
6: Anthem has the potential for a great-endgame progression
To be honest, I’m one of those people who gets fed up with a game if it starts to feel “grindy.” A game becomes “grindy” for me if it doesn’t feel as rewarding anymore. As in, weapon and armor upgrades you look forward to become looking like bleak fantasies you may never get to obtain from a distance.
Anthem is quite unlike this (so far). The missions actually reward you with reasonable loot on the get go. Harder difficulty modes also open opportunities for better loot drops, which means the game has got potential for good balance. Hopefully this remains throughout the entire game.
#7: Anthem has (cosmetic) micro-transactions
Almost all recent AAA-games nowadays have microtransactions. This also came with a whole host of issues, some proving fatal for some games, or even companies. Anthem remains no stranger with microtransactions, with these appearing to be a staple in the game.
Microtransactions so far come in the form of cosmetic items, though BioWare has yet to disclose their cost value. On the (tiny) plus side, they aren’t loot boxes. Meaning, you get exactly what you purchase without any shady random number generators. On the other hand, we have yet to see the full extent of this microtransaction system.
So, is it worth a purchase?
Although it needs more polish, I must say I really had a blast playing Anthem with my husband and friends. I’m in love with the feeling of taking out enemies with friends, and feeling like Iron Man with the Javelins.
You will definitely enjoy beating the more difficult encounters. The game’s multiple ability and skill offerings make you and your friends come up with better and stronger tactics against opponents.
However, if you’re someone scratching their heads after reading this, I don’t advise basing the purchase decision on the demo alone. BioWare still got a few weeks to improve the game based on what fans and critics have stated. BioWare did state the demo they released was finalized six (6) weeks prior, which means a lot of things may hopefully have been addressed.
Anthem releases first for EA/Origin Premier subscribers on Feb. 15, and then for everyone to enjoy on Feb. 22! I’ll be seeing you then – so suit up, rookie!