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Biowares high-flying Anthem falls flat

Anthem is the first attempt by Bioware (of Mass Effect and Dragon Age fame) to tap into the well of cash supposedly to be found in the game as platform trend that has grown over the last few years, with Destiny, Warframe and Fortnite as preeminent exemplars. After a botched demo weekend dampened fan expectations, the final game is here and while its a lot better than the broken mess we saw a few weeks ago, its still very hard to recommend.
I delayed my review to evaluate the games progress after an enormous day-one patch. While it is always premature to judge a game meant to grow and evolve by how it is immediately after launch, there are serious problems here that anyone thinking of dropping the $60 or more on it should be aware of. Perhaps theyll all be fixed eventually, but you better believe its going to take a while.
Id estimate this is about half the game its clearly intended to be; it seems to me we must soon find out that most of Anthem, supposedly in development for five years or more, was scrapped not long ago and this shell substituted on short notice.
The basic idea of Anthem is that you, a freelancer who pilots a mechanized suit called a javelin, fly around a big, beautiful world and blast the hell out of anything with a red hostility indicator over its head, which in practice is damn near everything. Once youre done, you collect your new guns and gadgets and head back to base to improve your javelin, take on new missions, and so on.
If it sounds familiar, its basically an extremely shiny version of Diablo, which established this gameplay loop more than 20 years ago; its sequels and the innumerable imitators it spawned have refined the concept, bolstering it with MMO-style online integration, seasons of gameplay, and of course the inevitable microtransactions. People play them simply because its fun to kill monsters and see your character grow more powerful.
Biowares high-flying Anthem falls flat
So Anthem is in good company, though of course for every success there are probably two or three failures and mediocre titles. Destiny has thrived in a way only because of its fluid and satisfying gunplay, while a game like Path of Exile leans on bulk, with skill trees and content one may never reach the ends of.
Anthem, on the other hand, lacks the charms of either. It is wildly short on content and its moment-to-moment gameplay, while competent and in some ways unique, rarely has you on the edge of your seat. Its a very mixed bag of interesting concepts and disappointing execution, coupled with some truly baffling user experience issues.
Ill cover the good parts first: the basics of flying around and shooting guys are for the most part solid. Theres a good variety of weapons, from hand cannons to shotguns and sniper rifles, with meaningful variations within those groups (though they usually boil down to rate of fire). You feel very cool during engagements, picking off enemies, dodging behind cover, flying to a new vantage point, and so on.
Each of the four javelins has a good pile of themed special abilities that significantly affect how you play; for instance, the Storm starts out with (basically) non-damaging ice shards that freeze enemies, setting them up for a damaging combo from its lightning strike but soon you can swap those out for fiery explosions and a charge-up blast of cold, and so on. The synergies are somewhat limited in that some abilities clearly only work with some others, but theres fun to be had experimenting. I played with three of the four javelins available (more to come, apparently) and they were all very distinct styles.
Biowares high-flying Anthem falls flat
Damn.
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