From the creators of Mass Effect and Dragon Age comes a new sci-fi adventure in the online shooter genre that Destiny, Division, and Warframe occupy. Anthem, the highly anticipated game from Bioware, is now out in the wild and has been received to mixed reviews. Some love it and many abhor it while I sit somewhere in between. It’s not a bad game but it is deeply flawed and not what should pass as a finished triple A game in 2019.
As many call this genre, Anthem is a looter shooter where the intent is to play the game and obtain loot and this is where one of Anthem’s biggest problems lies. I did not acquire any loot in my more than 20 hours that had any meaning to me. None of it was anything but generic weaponry that offered no excitement or drive to get more. When compared to one of my favorite games Destiny, Anthem pales in comparison in many ways including the loot grind and it is ultimately a disappointment. Where other games offer an enticing carrot at the end of the stick and interesting gear, Anthem offers little in the way of sustainable loot.
Fortunately the poor loot doesn’t deter from the fact that Anthem is one of the most enjoyable combat experiences of any game I have ever played. The ability to fly around the map like Iron Man offers an endless stream of enjoyment. Firing into scars and scorpions was an absolute pleasure and mixing my gun play with melee attacks, special ability and combos was particularly enthralling. I cannot praise the combat enough and this alone makes it a game I will continue to play, even if on an extremely casual level. I had multiple experiences where I felt like a superhero and had an absolute blast. The world of Anthem is a vast, sprawling, multi level environment out of a fairy tale. Passing through a water fall offers a satisfying recharge of the jet pack allowing longer flight and a splashing sound that offers the feelings of paradise. From soaring high above land to diving into rivers, the Javelins in Anthem move with grace and poise that gamers everywhere can enjoy.
Sadly the combat and beautiful world is tarnished by the inability to equip new loot on the fly. Not only does the loot lack the appeal to chase it, the player can’t even equip or see what it is until the mission has concluded. One of the best experiences in a looter shooter is getting a fun drop and using it immediately. When a new gun or piece of armor drops, the player is often rewarded with endorphins and a case of excitement that leaves them wanting more. They can use the weapon immediately to see if it is something they want to keep or discard. Instead, Anthem refuses to allow its players the chance to see their weapons until the mission concludes. Further, a loading screen is required to get to “The Forge” where players can change load outs including special abilities, grenades, weapons, etc. This is a massive step backwards and absolutely unacceptable for a AAA game in 2019. Call it first world problems if you like but having to wait for a loading screen just to equip gear is such a step back that it annoyed me each time. Any excitement and fun I just had shooting monsters is instantly dampened by this immersion killing “feature”.
The story of Anthem is simply passable which is a major shame for a Bioware game. Any one who has played the original Mass Effect trilogy (and even Andromeda for that matter) and the Dragon Age games knows that Bioware can tell incredible stories. The choices they offer to players allow gamers to make the games their own and mold the story and character how they want to. In Mass Effect: Andromeda you can be a kind and noble leader or you can be a massive tool to all you meet. These choices have consequences and are something fans have come to expect. Now, to expect this level of treatment to Anthem would be problematic and unrealistic. A shared world cannot have such disparity in the story. You cannot have characters die for some and not for others in an experience like this but I expected a far better story.
What’s sad is that, in many regards, I don’t really understand what Anthem is even about. The Monitor is a one dimensional villain and the actual conflict never realizes its full potential. I knew it was important that I save the day but the threat was not explained well enough to give me a sense of urgency or feel connection to it now did the characters I met along my journey offer a reason to be their hero with the exception of Owen. Owen was the one character that was better developed and someone I cared about. His portion of the story was interesting and made me feel connected to the world of Anthem. The other characters are like able and fun but I never felt a real connection to them.
Bioware has sadly lost a step as can be evidenced by their last two games. I personally really enjoyed Mass Effect: Andromeda but most did not and now Anthem has been received poorly. The stellar combat is top notch and worth the time I have put into it so far but the lack of a loot grind, the inability to equip loot and lackluster story leave Anthem wanting greatly. It’s possible that Anthem will improve with time and updates will make the game more enjoyable but, for now, I recommend that gamers wait on a sale or play The Division 2 or Destiny 2 if you need a looter shooter fix. Anthem sadly is not what it was hyped up to be and great combat or not, the other issues are too hard to overlook. I hope to see future improvements to the game and bring me back but, for now, Anthem is not in a state where I can recommend it to many gamers.
2 out of 5 Couch Cushions and a throw pillow!!!