I'm really feeling it!

On First Impressions Anthem Is Turning Out To Be Exactly What I Feared It Would Be, A Dull Repetitive Loot-Shooter

This is how the first mission of the Anthem demo, the mission they’re using to sell you on this game, goes:

You start in Fort Tarsis, being told nothing about it other than having a conversation with some person where you have no real choices. After this you’re told to depart in your Javelin to go on a mission.

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You sit in a matchmaking screen for 30 seconds (you can’t play and search).

As soon as it starts you fly for 10 seconds only to enter another 30 second loading screen.

You walk down a tunnel, trigger an audio cue, and are then told to leave the way you came, causing another 30 second loading screen.

After this you are told to fly to a “Dominion” (whoever they are, the game doesn’t tell you) camp. Here you shoot a few bullet spongey enemies. You then have to stand next to Item and defend it for an arbitrary amount of time from endlessly spawning bad guys.

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You then do the exact same thing again.

Once this is accomplished you go back to the tunnel and go through a door, kill three bad guys, to pick up a pole.

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You return to a post-game lobby which throws a bunch of XP and stuff at you, which it doesn’t tell you what it means so it could do anything, and then chucks you alone back into Fort Tarsis.

That’s it…

… And that’s Anthem in a nutshell.

After spending an hour and a half with this game, trying out a couple missions, the stronghold dungeon, and a slight bit of freeplay, I can’t even praise it as a solid experience because it isn’t, as technically it’s still a mess.

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Bit choppy but as can be seen towards the end two enemies get stuck against the side of a bridge

I’m not the sort to engage in the whole frame rate “debate” but here it struggles to maintain even 30FPS at the best of times as you watch it janking around both in Fort Tarsis and out in the world, game models literally appear or disappear in front of you even as part of scripted events, you can sit at a door for upwards of a minute waiting for the next area to load, and you don’t even respawn after it counts down. A claim by the devs that this is an older build isn’t enough to pave over cracks that should’ve been fixed months ago, especially when it’s the build they chose to advertise the game with.

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Outside this when the technical issues don’t make themselves known the gameplay loop still fails to exactly inspire. While its direct comparison Destiny tried to mix things up and try to keep the idea of progressing forward everything here boiled down to the exact same fetch quests and point-defence tasks. One aspect of the stronghold mission, in which you repeat the same fetch quest three times, is to literally stand still at the top of a ramp for 4-5 minutes and just shoot at an endless stream of enemies that appear. That’s it. This game also overly relies on simply spamming increasingly large groups of enemies at you in a poor attempt to mask their poor AI navigation and lack of interesting scenarios put together by the devs.

The most interesting aspect of the game, it’s USP, is of course the Javelins themselves and when you first get these it’s like your own Iron-Man suit, flying above the map untouchable to those below. Unfortunately even this aspect is made tedious with an “overheat” mechanic that means you have to frequently stop on the way to the next objective to simply wait for the cooldown to pass so you can actually make it to the objective. Also any real use of this to add some verticality to arenas is then deliberately stopped by the devs themselves by placing death zones around those areas. During the stronghold boss fight plenty of spots are made untouchable to the player because it’s so poorly-designed you could easily cheese the boss, who by the way can jump across the entire arena and kill you in one hit on standard…

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This is just one of the many “hold the point” sections that make up most of the gameplay here

As for the other aspect of the game, the story, I can’t talk about that… because there doesn’t appear to be one which is really a great idea for a Bioware game…

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In the end of this I can’t tell you who this game is meant to be for. It’s not a story-driven game and it’s place as a Loot Shooter places it as an easily lesser competitor to Destiny. Looking online the only thing people seem to be sharing are various colour combos for their mechsuits. Coming away from it the only thing I got was a sense of disappointment and dread about Bioware’s future…

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