EA’s answer to Destiny is finally upon us and even though it was technically out last week for gamers with access to EA Origins or EA Access. Even with other big releases this month Resident Evil 2, Metro: Exodus, and Far Cry: New Dawn, Anthem is arguably the biggest release this year so far in terms of hype and certainly budget.
The game has been developed by RPG veterans BioWare who have worked on titles like Dragon Age: Inquisition, Mass Effect, Baldur’s Gate, and arguably the greatest Star Wars game of all time The Knights of the Old Republic.
Even though they have dipped their toes into the multiplayer market with Mass Effect and the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, Anthem is their first real attempt at taking on the online shooter genre.
It’s quite the step in another direction for the studio by hoping to outdo the likes of Destiny and The Division. Just like Destiny, Anthem is a shared world action shooter that focuses on loot and team battles whilst making it enjoyable for solo players too.
BioWare has a lot to prove with Anthem and it is going to take a lot of work to knock Destiny from its perch. Let’s take a look at whether the studio has lived up to expectations or whether they should have stuck with doing what they do best: Developing single player RPGs.
30 Good: The Visuals Are Outstanding
Make no mistake, Anthem is one of the best looking games released this generation. BioWare’s new shared world action RPG is arguably the best looking game to use the Frostbite engine.
It has clearly been developed with next-generation consoles in mind and even looks astonishing on the base Xbox One.
BioWare has clearly put a lot of effort into creating one of the most beautiful open-world experiences available today. It’s truly an exhilarating feeling flying through waterfalls and taking in the breathtaking views Anthem has to offer.
29 Bad: The Main Campaign Can Be Completed In a Weekend
It is obvious that there will be more story content for Anthem players to get to grips with but for now, those looking for a substantial campaign experience should look elsewhere.
The game’s rinse and repeat nature will help pad things out for certain gamers but one could easily finish the main story in a weekend. Worse still, the story ends just as it starts to get interesting.
Sadly, Anthem’s campaign plays like a tacked on side-quest that you’d find in other BioWare titles like Mass Effect and even Dragon Age.
28 Good: Anthem Is The Best Iron Man Game You'll Ever Play
You’ve only got to take a look at the Javelin mech suits in Anthem to see that it has taken a lot of inspiration from Marvel’s Iron Man. There are four suits to choose from all with unique abilities: The all-rounder suit known as The Ranger, the tank class Colossus, the wizard-like Storm, and the fast rogue-like Interceptor.
The most noticeable nods to Marvel’s superheroes are The Ranger which looks and functions just like the normal Iron Man suit, the Interceptor is like Tony Stark’s Mark 40, and the Colossus which looks just like The Hulkbuster. You could also say that Storm shares similarities with Doctor Strange Iron Man-like suit from Doctor Strange #2 by Mark Waid and Jesus Saiz.
27 Bad: The Combat is Surprisingly Bland
Your character’s ability to maneuver around Anthem’s environment does provide some moments of pure brilliance during combat scenarios. The ability to hover and fly to any vantage point gives the illusion of tactical gunplay.
However, this illusion quickly fades when you realize that most firefights will boil down to you flying somewhere out of range and shooting your enemies until their health bar runs down to zero. It’s something of an anti-climax when you’re gifted with all these abilities but you rarely get to put them to good use.
26 Good: Anthem Captures That Epic Sci-fi Show Feel
If there’s one thing that Conviction – Neill Blomkamp’s short story for Anthem – proves is the EA really know how to promote a video game. The video looked like it could easily develop into another interesting science fiction TV series.
Anthem’s backdrop manages to capture this feeling incredibly well and it at times it feels like you have been transported into shows like Terra Nova and Defiance – a series that also had its own video game.
25 Bad: Anthem Doesn’t Feel Very Welcoming For New Players
If there’s one thing that the sudden surge in popular battle royale games like Fortnight, PUBG, and now Apex Legends tells us is that gamers love the drop-in and dropout quick fix multiplayer action. Shared-world action games like The Division and Destiny also offer this to an extent but Anthem seems to just drop you into a game without a tutorial or any real direction.
It’s almost as if it expects you to know what you’re doing from the outset.
Although part of a game’s fun is learning the mechanics on the go, those looking to jump straight into the action while finding nothing but frustration in Anthem.
24 Good: A Good Alternative To Destiny
The multiplayer market is absolutely dominated by the Battle Royale scene at the moment. However, the likes of Fortnite, PUBG, and EA’s own Apex Legends don’t offer the same kind of depth as shared-universe games like Destiny and The Division.
Players enjoy games like Destiny because they are more rewarding when it comes to collecting loot and progression. Anthem offers a great alternative to both The Division and Destiny and is different enough to offer players a rewarding alternative to catch up with the biggest games in the market.
23 Bad: The Weapons Are Terrible
Anthem, when compared to the likes of Destiny and The Division, is the weapons. The Division had seemingly endless ways to upgrade and modify your real-world weapons and to be frank Destiny’s incredible weapons are what saved what may have been just another generic online shooter.
Sadly, Anthem’s weapons are incredibly average to play with in comparison.
It seems all the effort went into the Javelin’s special abilities instead of the weapons. This is meant to be a futuristic science fiction game so can’t help but wonder why BioWare didn’t get a little creative instead of giving players another game with machine guns.
22 Good: The Flying Makes Anthem Stand Out From The Crowd
The Division series has a real-world post-apocalyptic backdrop to its conventional yet addictive RPG mechanics and the Destiny series has amazing weaponry to set them apart from other shooters.
In Anthem it’s your character’s agility and flying mechanics that set it apart from just about every other game in the genre.
The 360-degree flight mechanics are so good that you’ll lose yourself for hours just playing around in the game’s environment. Taking to the skies, diving into lakes, and hitting that all-important superhero landing gives the player an incredible feeling of empowerment. It’s so good one has to wonder what BioWare could have done with an Iron Man license instead.
21 Bad: Navigating Fort Tarsis Is A Chore
The most interesting part of Anthem is the ability to fly around with the agility of Marvel and DC’s best. However, the same can’t be said when it comes to navigating the game’s main hub world Fort Tarsis.
Bafflingly, the game forces you into a first-person perspective and wander around interacting with non-playable characters at a snails pace. It’s infuriatingly slow and something needs to be addressed as soon as possible because less patient gamers will walk away from the game with no regrets.
20 Good: Anthem Works Well In Single Player
Anthem is a shared-world action RPG that shares many similarities with The Division and Destiny. Just like those two games, you need to be connected online but it can be played as a single player, which is great for those who aren’t keen on playing with others.
There has been quite a lot of effort put into the game’s story and character interaction. Due to the game’s design, taking in the game’s story is best played alone. This is because when playing with others the party chat can interfere with the game’s dialogue.
19 Bad: There Aren’t Enough Enemy Types
Aside from flying, exploring and collecting loot, you’ll be engaged in a lot of combat for most of the game. While it feels satisfying in the early stages it won't be long until you realize just how dull the enemies that you encounter really are.
Every foe you encounter follows a predictable scripted pattern.
As a result, even the more intimidating giants lose their sense of awe when they’re just hitting you with the same attacks over and over again. Anthem looks like a game that’s at the top of its generation but its scripted enemies perform like they’re from the SNES era.
18 Good: The Soundtrack is Fantastic
The musical score for Anthem is very impressive and is absolutely up there with the best in the industry. Composed by Ted Reedy whose other work includes Dragon Age: Inquisition, Maze Runner: Death Cure and the television series Vikings.
Reedy’s work on Anthem is easily up there with some of Hollywood’s best and it provides the same goosebump-inducing level of excitement that you’d find in a Marvel production. Reedy is a composer to watch for the future and his work on Anthem is any indication we’ll be hearing a lot more from him.
17 Bad: The Story Isn't On Par With Previous BioWare Titles
Even though Anthem’s narrative provides your character with the motivation to keep working through the game’s missions. The plot is more in line with your usual generic science fiction shooter featuring space marines rather than another Mass Effect.
To make matters worse, interactions with the non-playable characters can often be inconsistent with or after the events of completed missions. It’s a strange oversight coming from developers like BioWare who have shown such skill with branching conversations in the past with Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age and Mass Effect.
16 Good: The Special Abilities Keep Things Interesting
The Javelin classes each have the ability to equip up to three special abilities. These abilities and ultimate abilities can help you get out of a tight spot and look fantastic when you pull them off. Not only are the specials great to pull off but they help break the monotony of using the normal and very ordinary weapons.
Each class will unlock different abilities as you progress and level up and are open to experimentation with differing load outs.
15 Bad: Higher Difficulties Feel Artificial
As we’ve mentioned already, engaging in combat with the enemies quickly become repetitive because there seems to be a complete lack of real artificial intelligence. All enemies seem to follow a predetermined and predictable range of animations.
Those hoping for improvements to the AI by increasing the difficulty will be sorely disappointed to find out that this doesn’t really change anything. Instead, the game opts to artificially increase their difficulty by making them bullet sponges and increasing the volume of enemies to deal with at once.
14 Good: Multiplayer Can Be Enjoyable With A Teammate
BioWare needs to work on their balancing of the single player and multiplayer experience so they don’t conflict with each other. However, there is still a lot of fun to be had when playing in a team, which of course exactly how the game is meant to be played.
Team battles online are nothing new in online gaming but Anthem does offer an entertaining spin on the multiplayer mode. There’s something exhilarating about tackling enemies as part of a team whilst flying around and hitting special attacks like members of The Avengers.
13 Bad: Online Multiplayer With Friends Isn’t Encouraged
Anthem actively encourages players to tackle missions as part of a team. However, in a strange design decision, it’s encouraged through the use of matchmaking rather than with your own friends by offering better rewards for doing so.
Despite the differences in some of the mechanics, Anthem is for all intents and purposes a Destiny clone. Yet the developers failed to understand that fans of Destiny enjoyed playing with their friends more than they did with strangers.
12 Good: Designing Your Javelin
If you enjoy customizing your characters and their armor then you will definitely love designing your character’s Javelin exosuit. You can jump into your Forge from Fort Tarsis next to Zoe, the Launch Expedition screen, and the Javelin Launch Bay. Clearly, BioWare invested a lot of time in giving gamers as much choice as possible.
Many gamers love being able to make their character as distinct as possible when playing online because it gives them a sense of identity. Anthem offers near-endless ways to stand out from the crowd you can tweak and adjust the materials, colors, parts, and animations to your liking and you could spend hours doing it.
11 Bad: The Loot Isn’t Rewarding Enough
Being a Destiny clone, loot is at the heart of customizing your character, leveling up, and getting better weapons. The best loot is kept until you start making your way to towards the endgame this can be frustrating when working your way through the game’s repetitive mission design just to be rewarded with very unremarkable loot.
In addition, actually attaining your loot is another a stupid design decision that needs to be addressed quickly. After completing your missions you won’t find out what loot you’ve picked up until the end of a mission.
10 Good: The Grandmaster Difficulty Requires Good Teamwork
It is true that Anthem’s enemy design is lacking and each of your foes follows pretty old-school script patterns rather than use real artificial intelligence the higher difficulties. This doesn’t, however, mean you and your teammates will breeze through the endgame on the grandmaster difficulty setting.
So players will have to work together to coordinate their efforts in order to work past some of the game’s more challenging moments. It can be extremely satisfying when a group of players is working as a unit each sticking to their prospective roles on the battlefield to obtain the game’s best loot.
9 Bad: Communicating With Teammates Can Be Needlessly Difficult
If you’re in a communicative team that’s willing to work with you through voice chat then Anthem’s multiplayer is a blast to play. Unfortunately, it’s fair to say that not a lot of gamers like to talk when playing these days especially on the consoles
Yet, silent gamers aren’t the biggest issue, rather it is Anthem’s lack of text chat which makes it impossible to communicate at all. In addition, the social hub area has no means of communication at all – so no voice or text. Hopefully, this can be addressed in the near future.
8 Good: There’s More To The World Than Meets The Eye
On face value, BioWare's new title doesn’t really give much away about Anthem’s back story and its world (Bastion) can feel a bit thrown together as a result. Obviously, EA and BioWare plan to release more content to fill out the blanks, but there is still a lot of lore discover for yourself.
Gamers who enjoy reading up on every piece of lore and backstory like the books and notes found scattered all over games like The Witcher and Skyrim will have a lot to discover in form of Codex entries. Of course, not every gamer will enjoy this form of storytelling, however, so it is really down to the individual.
7 Bad: Rubberbanding in Multiplayer Needs To Go
Anthem’s world is massive with lots to discover with chests full of materials and other collectibles. It’s one of the Anthem core gameplay and design features. Yet, BioWare has enforced a rubberbanding feature which means you’re forced to stay close to your teammates in multiplayer.
If you fall too far behind then you’re immediately hit a long loading screen until the teleports your character to your teammates. As a result, if you try and stop for too long to grab that chest you’ve just spotted you could suddenly get with a pop-up warning and/or a loading screen.
6 Good: The Performance Capture Is On Another Level
BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda was a stunning game to look at for the most part. The textures and visual effects and smaller details really helped the game look like something special.
Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said about the character’s facial animations and Mass Effect: Andromeda became the victim of unintentionally hilarious memes and gifs.
With Anthem BioWare has clearly worked hard to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The result is one of the most impressive examples of performance capture ever seen.
5 Bad: Great Visuals But Generic Art Style
Anthem’s environments, suits of armor and visual effects are fantastic and really look like they’ll stand the test of time for years to come. However, what the game has in style it really lacks in substance when it comes to its art style.
BioWare’s previous science fiction series Mass Effect had a wonderful art design, the varieties of enemies and alien species that you encountered were always interesting to look at. Unfortunately, Anthem’s art style is so unremarkable and generic it does nothing to separate itself from the crowded shared online world experience.
4 Good: The Narrative Helps Keep Things Moving
While Anthem’s story isn’t up there with the likes of Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect the game’s incredible looking characters, voice acting and story keep things moving quite well. It definitely maintains that Hollywood movie style that BioWare’s previous entries have.
It does take a while for the game’s story to get going and it isn’t until the second half that the game’s action really picks up momentum. It is at this point that you really start to connect with Anthem’s lore.
3 Bad: The Effects Are At Odds With The Gameplay
As stated, flying around Anthem’s stunning world is almost worth the price of admission alone. Boosting through the game’s gorgeous world is just so satisfying and at first, the splashes of water, stars, and exploding spores are a treat for the eyes.
However, the particle effects can get so crazy that it is at odds with the game’s combat mechanics. The particle effects will soon lose their appeal when you’re caught up in a firefight and you’re getting eliminated over and over again because you can’t see where the shots are coming from.
2 Good: Anthem Has The Potential To Develop Into Something Incredible
It is clear that EA really wanted Anthem to be as successful as Destiny and with Apex Legends doing very well in the Free to Play Battle Royale market that would mean that they have two of the most popular online multiplayer genres cornered in the same year.
Right now, Anthem has a long way to go and would need to find ways to restructure the game to at least make it feel more like the seamless experience we were promised. However, the foundations for something great is definitely there and if taken on its merits BioWare’s new entry in the science fiction action genre has a lot to offer for the future.
1 Bad: EA Doesn't Have Much Patience As a Publisher
One only has to look at what happened with BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda as an example of how quick EA is to drop franchises if they haven’t been well-received. There were big plans for the company's new entry in the Mass Effect series. Sadly, after a negative response from fans and reviewers, they were quick to cancel all future DLC and patches which would have gone a long way to make Andromeda a better game overall.
Unfortunately, EA’s lack of patience goes much further back than Mass Effect: Andromeda and they have quite the reputation for coming down hard its studios that fail to live up to expectations.
Hopefully, Anthem won’t meet the same fate as Andromeda and BioWare are given the opportunity to show what they are capable of once again but for your average gamer Anthem could prove to be a risky investment of time and money if EA shut it down.