After squandering a lot of their built-in fanbase’s goodwill with Mass Effect: Andromeda, BioWare has quite a bit riding on Anthem’s reception. They really need to kick out a winning title, and with their demonstrated capacity for excellence, it’s not something that is entirely beyond hope.
And really, Anthem isn’t looking half bad. It’s a third person loot-and-shoot romp with RPG elements being billed under the “game as a service” model, one that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the industry after the success of titles like Destiny and The Division. That move, along with some lingering resentment concerning BioWare’s mishandling of the Mass Effect universe, has generated a considerable amount of negative press.
But that hasn’t stopped a great many players from digging in and having a blast with Anthem’s intense, fast-paced combat, beautifully crafted open world and impressive graphical fidelity. And if the game’s piqued your interest, it shouldn’t stop you either. If you’re ready to hop into your Javelin and take off, here are things we think you should know before taking on Anthem. We’re shooting for an even mix of the good, the bad and the ugly here, so feel free to chime in with a comment if there’s anything you think we’ve missed.
20 How To Make The Most Of Your Jets
Flying is one of Anthem's big draws, so it makes sense to want to do it for as long as possible. Unfortunately, your afterburners will overheat eventually. In most circumstances, anyway. There are a few tricks you can use to keep them running almost indefinitely.
Pulling up causes heat build up, but taking plunges and flying near bodies of water will cool them off. Even rainy weather helps to combat heat buildup. Flying through, or over the crest of a waterfall will reset your heat buildup entirely. Utilizing all these tricks together, along with a well-timed dash or two, should keep you flying.
19 What The Loyalty System Does
While it's definitely desirable to increase your Loyalty ranks among the three current factions to unlock more blueprints and other neat stuff, as it is right now, that's pretty much the only reason to do so, apart from some minor aesthetic impacts on Fort Tarsis.
It's just another layer of progression that you'll probably manage to start racking up unlocks in without going out of your way to do so. They almost seem redundant alongside the challenges and feats. I mean hey, it adds to the already considerable pile of content, so I'll take it. But if they're going to bother with developing factions and the loyalty system, maybe there should be some more profound gameplay elements worked into them?
18 Ultimate Recovery
One thing you'll need to keep in mind during high stress combat situations is that your Javelin's ultimate will totally restore your health and shields. This can provide you with a strong second wind if things are going south, so it's wise to save it until you really need it.
Another tidbit you'll want to remember is that this also grants you invulnerability for a short time, so popping your ultimate while your enemies are really pouring on the pressure can cut you some much needed slack during particularly punishing encounters.
17 Combo Abilities
The game doesn't exactly tell you about it, but you can execute combos utilizing certain sets of your Javelin's abilities. They consist of a set-up, called a "Primer," and a finisher, called a "Detonator." If you execute a move that is a detonator on an enemy that has been hit by a primer, you can do extra damage or produce unique effects.
Primers are notated by a circular bullseye icon next to their name, while detonators have an icon resembling a throwing star.
You can set up and execute a combo by yourself, but it's much more practical if you finish combos that your teammates set up, and vice versa. Enemies that have been hit by a primer and are now vulnerable to a detonator are handily indicated by a red icon next to their name tag.
16 Forming An Alliance
Well, the thing is that you don't really need to form one. The game sort of does this for you, utilizing your friend list. If you're friends with someone, and they play, you're in an alliance together. Done.
It's pretty simple. The more friends you have, and the more they play, the more coin you get out of it. It's nice, and it's certainly unique, but it feels sort of thin and tacked-on. Adding pretty much any additional functionality or involvement to the alliance system would go a really long way here.
Crafting is pretty big in Anthem, so a brief breakdown is in order. To unlock crafting blueprints, you'll need to complete challenges related to the blueprint that you're after. You complete a challenge, you get the blueprint, And then you can complete the next tier of that challenge to get the next tier of blueprint, and it progresses like that until you've unlocked the "Masterwork" tier.
Materials for crafting these items can be bought with in-game currency, found and farmed, or salvaged from unneeded pieces of equipment. In practice, this feels pretty nice, and is a grindy, satisfying alternative to relying on the RNG for your loadout.
14 But We're Just Getting Started!
While it's really tempting to blast through the game's critical path and drum up your conclusions once you've managed to grind out some masterwork gear, Anthem's still got a lot of content up its sleeve.
Anthem's controversial game-as-a-service model is currently slated to roll out content over the course of three episodic "acts," with each pumping out new missions, Javelins, items and events. EA just released a roadmap detailing an impressive length of exciting content for act one, so even if you're a bit bummed out over the delay, you can at least rest assured that it looks like there's an awful lot to look forward to.
13 The UI & HUD Need Improvement
Anthem moves fast, and there's a lot going on during combat. With all of the graphical spectacles on display at any given time, it's really easy to lose important information and feedback in the mess. When a teammate is downed, for instance, it can be very difficult to notice.
The in-game menus are also pretty dense, and while fairly well organized for the most part, they aren't exactly user friendly. You might find yourself scratching your head over where to find the exact menu or information that you need a little too often.
12 No Real Choice
While Anthem is definitely a departure from your typical BioWare title in terms of gameplay, it really feels odd to have so little input during the lengthy cutscenes and character interactions.
On occasion you'll get some arbitrary response branches, but they don't have much if any impact on how the dialogue, story or game itself ends up playing out. Which is a shame, because there's plenty of lore and interpersonal character dynamics on the table to have fleshed out something a little more satisfying when it comes to how these interactions play out.
11 The Player Hub's Really Weird
Fort Tarsis is where you'll spend most of your time as a player, as it's where the vendors, missions and contracts are. However, it doesn't serve as the social hub - instead, we get a subsection within Fort Tarsis called the Launch Bay.
And being honest, there's really no reason to go there. It offers all the same amenities as Fort Tarsis, but in a more confined area, and can be populated by a paltry sixteen other players. The ways in which you can interact are limited, and with matchmaking in place for all of the game's multiplayer activities, we can only hope there are plans to spruce this place up and give it some sort of actual purpose in the works.
10 What’s A Javelin, Anyway?
It's power armor. I mean, come on. Let's just call it what it is. They're big metal exosuits built by mystical engineers called Arcanists, they can fly, and they make bullets feel like mosquito bites. Okay, that might be a slight oversimplification. Anyway, there are four different Javelins that you can choose from right now, each with their unique strengths and abilities.
Your choices boil down to the heavy, tank-like Colossus, the well-rounded Ranger, and then bringing up the glass cannon category we have the nimble Interceptor and element-channeling Storm. Now if they'd just give us a more support-oriented Javelin with a focus on healing, we'd actually have all of our group RPG essentials.
9 So Many Activities!
Don't let it be said that Anthem doesn't offer you anything to do. Apart from the main story missions, or the "critical path," there are tons of rewarding challenges, as well as a few types of side missions, and the contracts system. And if none of that sounds fun, you could always just hunt down collectibles and crafting materials.
And we haven't even touched on the endgame strongholds or the multiplayer functions yet, but those are both big enough to warrant their own entries elsewhere on this list.
8 About That Sweet Gear...
I mean, we've got to talk about the loot, don't we? It's a loot and shoot game. The drops are fairly random, but abundant in most activities. You get better stuff by running higher difficulties, and by progressing your pilot level. It's rated from common to uncommon, rare, legendary, and masterwork, in that order. You can, of course, bypass the RNG with the crafting system, but we'll get to that elsewhere.
You'll find weapons, grenades, and several different Javelin "components" that offer supplementary bonuses, and equipped items contribute to a familiar gear scoring system that rates your Javelin's overall strength.
7 The Endgame Strongholds
Anthem's biggest chunk of endgame content takes the form of "Strongholds," essentially long, loot filled dungeons with ramped up difficulty and tough boss encounters. They're a blast to play through with a team, and have turned out to be one of the most well-received aspects of the game.
While the initial offerings are sparse, with one of the currently three available strongholds practically being a repeat of the final story mission, there are undoubtedly more on the way with future content updates.
6 How The Multiplayer Works
Matchmaking is enabled by default, but you can shut it off if you prefer adventuring solo style. There's no text chat option, and though that's not really discouraging for most players, it can be frustrating when working with players that don't use a microphone.
Players can utilize the "quick play" mode to drop into squads with an open slot, conveniently matching up players that are just looking to grind with squads that might need help getting through a mission. You'll want to keep up though, since everyone else getting too far ahead of you will result in a countdown timer that will warp you to their location, putting you through an awkwardly placed and lengthy loading screen.
5 Combat Is Very Fast Paced
The combat itself is extremely visually satisfying, with flashy abilities and high impact gun play. It's probably less than surprising that one of Halo's lead combat designers poured some love into it.
There's a lot of emphasis on fast pacing, and the high mobility of Anthem's Javelin suits is put to excellent and frequent use. There's a lot of dodging, dashing and flying involved, so you definitely want to get familiar and comfortable practicing your Javelin's movement capabilities before diving into the harder bits of content.
4 The Plot & Characters Aren’t Great
Like me, you're probably going into this with relatively high expectations. And being perfectly honest, the writing that went into Anthem's story isn't particularly bad. But held to the standard that BioWare has developed over the course of its career, it doesn't do much to stand out.
The Monitor's a well designed villain, but the conflict doesn't really evoke any particular sense of urgency, and the other characters hop between having humanized, relatable personalities and producing unrealistic, forced banter for the sake of dated humor.
3 Enemy Weak Spots
Most enemies have a weak spot that can be taken advantage of for an incredibly juicy damage multiplier. Needless to say, this can be crucial for tough battles.
For the greater majority of opponents, this is the head. I know, big shocker, right? This isn't always the case though, so you'll want to play around and experiment with different enemy types in order to discover their weak points. But when in doubt? Definitely aim for the head first, and then experiment as needed.
2 AFK Players Are A Real Problem
One of Anthem's biggest design flaws is the handling of AFK players during multiplayer matchmaking. To put things simply, it doesn't. The multiplayer is so rampant with players that have gone AWOL that it necessitated a day one patch to improve the AFK timer, and no vote kick feature has been implemented to remove players from the session.
This can instantly render higher difficulty content, like strongholds, a total drag, often putting the present players into a frustrating position where they can't progress through it. If you're looking to avoid this issue entirely, it's best to play with friends.
1 Freeplay Mode Is Lacking
Freeplay is definitely gorgeous, and launching into it with a couple of friends is a guaranteed good time. However, for being billed as "free play," there really isn't a whole lot to do.
You can trigger events, but they're incredibly basic and most of them amount to objectives like, "capture this point by standing in it for a while, also fight some dudes." You can discover and explore "hidden places" for loot, but it's just a linear jaunt through a miniature dungeon with all the expected trappings, like bosses and loot chests. It's fun, and it's gorgeous, but it feels like a lot more could've and should've been done here.