I’ve been eagerly awaiting the moment I get my hands on Anthem for some time now. Impressions from other team members have always been really positive in the sense that the Javelin suits (mech suits that your character jumps into) really empower your character, and the ability to fly around the map is massive game changer.
After spending about 6-7 hours with the game (split into beginning content and end game content), I’m very eager to jump into the final release. I definitely have a few concerns, but there’s enough potential there to the point that I’m very confident that Bioware can keep fine-tuning and adding content to keep an engaged player-base.
The earlier demo wasn’t too exciting, and if you’ve played the VIP Demo (or play the open demo this weekend) or have seen almost any gameplay released to date, it’s fairly run of the mill. After my time with the game, these were my key takeaways.
FLYING FEELS GREAT ONCE MASTERED
As soon as my Javelin took off, I knew I was in for a treat. Gliding around the map is something special as you weave in and out of cleverly placed obstacles. It’s definitely a little harder to control (with mouse and keyboard especially), but I felt myself getting better a few hours.
This is largely thanks to the game’s brilliant tutorial, which slowly introduces you to all of the mechanics that you need to succeed. It also limits your flight and allows you to go further and further with your character, which forces you to take the time to learn movement, rather than go all out from the get-go.
Something I felt (and it didn’t improve with the end game) is that something seems to be off with the amount of time you can stay in the air before overpowering. I understand why there needs to be a limit (it’d make the game much easier in battle) but it definitely felt on the shorter side. Especially when you’re just trying to zip from point to point, overheating and falling to the ground really kills the groove and fast-paced movement.
CUSTOMISATION IS KING
If there’s one thing players will be happy with it’s the customisation. From a cosmetic point of view, you can customise every little texture and colour on each of your Javelins. You can literally customise everything down to how worn your suit is (which makes a massive difference).
Cosmetics are only the beginning though. Each of the four Javelin have their own interchangeable power-ups called Assault System and Strike Systems. You’ve also got up to six component slots which will allow you to add power-ups such as increasing your melee damage or your armour stability.
If there’s one thing I learned during my time with Anthem, it’s that finding the perfect load out is going to be key to mastering most of the end game content. Not only do you have to get your Javelin right (in comparison to your team), you’ve got to also make sure that the weapons equipped as well as the abilities and components that you have attached work well with the other players on your team.
STRONGHOLDS FEEL SATISFYINGLY HARD
The earlier game content had me worried. Enemies were going down easily and I wasn’t really being faced with too many challenges, but once we were loaded into the end game content, with our level 30 Javelins, we were set to take on three Strongholds.
Strongholds are basically what you should strive to take on during your Anthem journey. It’s where you’ll find the best loot and also take on some epic bosses. You can’t respawn during your time in a Stronghold (you can be revived by teammates) and you can only take it on with a team (for good reason).
The combat in Anthem feels really satisfying. Enemies can feel a little spongey at certain times, but as I’ve already mentioned, there’s a lot of variety within the four Javelin and weapons/abilities that they each possess,
The hard difficulty felt like a good balance. We were able to get through two out of three with a team of three/four, but it was still extremely challenging (in a good way).
Grandmaster 1 is a whole other kettle of fish, though. Once you reach level 30, you can take on the first Grandmaster difficulty. We couldn’t get passed the first section and opted to drop back to the lower levels. You can take on Grandmaster 2 and 3 for each Stronghold once you’ve completed the first, but we couldn’t make it to that, and I doubt you’ll be able to until you perfect your squad load-out (and have had a lot of practise).
I had an absolute blast with the end game sections of the game. My only reservation will be around how much there is at launch. Apparently there’s only three Strongholds, which we couldn’t smashed through in a few hours. I don’t doubt that Bioware will keep adding content, and it’s probably better to have it drip-fed through rather than delivered all at once.
THE GAME’S HUB (FORT TARSIS) FEELS A LITTLE ODD
Anthem’s hub is called Fort Tarsis and it does a great job of housing everything that you need during the game without clumping it all within a menu. Running between daily challenges to customising your Javelin to accepting missions are all things you need to do in Fort Tarsis. If you’re not in a mission or roaming a freeplay map, you’ll most likely be here.
It’s a little jarring though and this is thanks to the fact that you’re placed in a First-person perspective and can only walk incredibly sluggishly. Now granted, Bioware is apparently aware of this and are changing it, I can’t help but feel it was an odd design decision. The game is all about fast movement and feeling super human, and movement within the hub feels slow and clunky.
THE GAME LOOKS FANTASTIC
Anthem might just be one of the nicest looking games that I’ve ever played. Especially when playing as the Storm Javelin, who can hurly spells at enemies at a rapid pace, the game is constantly full of bursts of light and colour. There’s so much detail in this game and this is noticed the first time you take off, only to see little flames blast through your jets.
From the little slice of gameplay I got to play through, Bioware has done a really good job at balancing vast landscapes, to underground claustrophobic areas to underwater sequences which all give off different moods and feelings.
Similarly, the character animations are absolutely phenomenal, which is no easy job considering your character can go from walking, to running, to hovering to being in the air in moments. Similarly, the motion capture and voice acting are actually superb and make the characters that much more believable.
THERE’S LOTS DEPTH TO EVERYTHING ELSE
Once we were set free into the world of Anthem, I was fairly overwhelmed. There’s a tonne of menus both within Fort Tarsis and your regular pause menu and lots of little bits of content within them.
Daily, Weekly and Monthly challenges will ensure that you’re making your way through little challenges in order to gain rewards. You’ll need to complete Freelancer Missions for your reputation in order to get special loot as well. There’s also a number of challenges based on each Javelin, as well as combat and exploration challenges.
Outside of these things, you’ll spend a lot of time sorting through your components in order to craft new items and obviously working out the perfect load out.
There’s also a bunch of little lore throughout the world of Anthem. You’ll collect items as you play through the game to continue to learn about the environment, locations, the technology of Anthem.
All in all, I’m really excited to get my hands on Anthem on February 22nd. I’m not fully sold that we’ll see a perfectly realised world full to the brim of content, but Bioware has done a great job to create a base that they can hopefully continue to build on for years to come.
THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE FLEW TO JAPAN AS A GUEST OF EA FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS EVENT.