Anthem, now this is a game that needs no introduction due the vast amount of hype that’s surrounded it. I’ll get straight to it. I’ve had a blast playing the game, and I’m not at all afraid to go against the grain here. It’s got its issues. I’m not going to deny that, but even so, I’ve found much to like within. Now, as alluded to already, I know that that’s in contrast with popular belief, but, opinions, right? Moving on. Anthem comes from the very talented folks that delivered hits such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect, so there’s a good pedigree on show.
Some would argue that, by expectation alone, there’s some mighty big boots to fill. That certainly holds true, but, for me at least, Anthem hits the right mark. In Anthem, you take on the role of a Freelancer. In fact, it’s your first day on the job. Your first mission sees you following famed Freelancer Haluk, who has called upon an army of Freelancers to deactivate the Cenotaph within the Heart of Rage. Before too long, shit hits the proverbial fan and many Freelancers die during the assignment. It’s a fairly eye-opening intro to say the least.
Haluk is seriously wounded, his wife Faye is calling for a retreat, and all hope seems lost. Two years later, and due to the resounding failure of the mission, Freelancers aren’t taken as seriously as they once were. Your chosen Freelancer now rests in Fort Tarsis, a city that dwells between the aforementioned Heart of Rage, and Bastion’s capital, Antium. Here, you’ve found some peace and take on passable quests to get by. The heat of the action from two years prior serve as a distant memory; a far cry from your current generic status.
There’s a deeper backstory running through all of this. You see, during your first trek, you were in search of a relic that was left behind by the Shapers; an ancient force that housed some truly advanced and powerful technology. They’re also responsible for developing the Anthem of Creation, which in turn, created the planet. Though, for reasons unknown, the Shapers abandoned the planet and left behind all of their technology. Untouched, this machinery eventually awakens and begins to alter the very planet that you’re living on.
This ultimately causes some pretty devastating effects and cataclysmic changes. However, with great power, comes great, power hungry forces – otherwise known as the Dominion. Moving back to present day, a series of events sees your Freelancer thrown back alongside Haluk and Faye, and once more into the fray. It appears as though the Dominion are seeking out relics in an attempt to reach the Cenotaph, to which you’re employed to get there first. Then, from right here, your true adventure unfolds throughout the course of natural play.
It’s clear that Anthem’s story has been crafted in such a way to support a lengthy life plan. Questions lead to answers that then lead to more questions, that then lead to many more questions and fewer answers, and round and round it goes. It works as it stands, but the quality of its post launch support is clearly going to play a large role in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, as a Freelancer, you pilot a powerful suit known as a Javelin. There’s four different Javelin types to select from; Ranger, Colossus, Shadow, and the Interceptor.
The game does a good job of feeding you into the basics of play, as well as indeed of giving you missions and challengers that are specific to each suit. From the moment that you gain control of your Javelin, you’ll get a clear shot of the game’s vast world. There’s a plethora of exploration to do here, that much is immediately apparent. You’ll soon be taken to the frontier, which is where you’ll spend time out of your suit. This is where you’ll be gathering intel, taking on new missions, accessing storefronts for gear and weaponry, and so forth.
This area is tiny, and could have really benefited from some padding and exposure. Mercifully, the aspects of play outside of this area are not so much of an issue. Missions will come at you in all shapes and sizes throughout your time in the game. There’s plenty of quest givers and notice boards for various missions, as well as free-play mode that allows you to explore Bastion until you heart’s content. Speaking more specifically about Bastion, the game’s world is split into several areas, all of which can be explored and charted.
There’s many different locations to drop in, depending on where you wish to explore. The game’s world map does a fine job at relaying information to you, but areas such as cave systems and other similar interior structures are devoid here, meaning you’ll need to spend some time exploring to uncover a bulk of its gorgeous design. Time spent in Anthem is typically always rewarded. You’ll find something pretty much anywhere you go; from materials to craft gear, right up to new codex updates. There’s also many world events.
World events tend to differ quite nicely from one another, and they do occur frequently. Should you successfully complete an even, you’ll be gifted with a chest that houses that all important tasty loot. On the topic of look, the game is well structured around its clear focus on acquisition. Not too dissimilar to how Destiny’s light system works, in Anthem, you’ll need to up the power of your Javelin’s power level. Power levels increase when you apply better gear, and the higher your power level, the better ranked you are. Simple, and effective.
Throughout practically every mission or stretch of time spent in free-play, I found myself constantly bulking up at a decent pace. The pacing isn’t light years ahead of Destiny, for comparison’s sake, but it’s certainly less gradual. There’s multiple factions in the game, and none of them particularly like you. I think it’s safe to say that the human race is alone and without friends. This toys quite nicely with the game’s isolated character, lending further depth to its zero-to-hero concept. This is all pretty much a given when we look at enemies.
You’ll tackle a host of foes throughout Bastion, both alien and domestic. With Scars, Outlaws, and Dominion all out for blood, as well as the game’s varied wildlife, you can bet you’ll always find a reason to go ADS. Repetition is held at bay by the fact that most of your enemies have unique movement and attack patterns. They also have their own distinct troops and back-up that ranges in rarity; common, elite, and legendary. Much to be expected, enemy strength and weakness is tethered to this system in one form or another.
They’re quite smart too. If you’re coming from Destiny to this, in search of your next favorite loot-shooter, don’t expect an easy ride. You’ll need to work hard for your loot, against even the standard grunts. Whilst many of them get close and personal, several will drop back and snipe you from afar if they see an opening. Regardless as to their choice in method, I was quite impressed with their reactions and responses. They put up a tactical fight for the most part, encouraging you to use the full depth of your Javelin’s capabilities.
They also house some very powerful attacks, such as spewing ice blasts from their mouths. General rule of thumb? Find a good team of Javelins to make life a bit easier. Anthem leans on a very simplified system as far as multiplayer goes. The game sports seamless drop in/drop out online functionality, complete with some accessible tools to ally up with other players more swiftly. When you begin a mission, you’re able to invite your buddies from the get-go, or, invite recent players that you have favorited. It’s a very straightforward tool-set.
Whilst you can indeed play the game alone (online is always necessary) the game encourages group play. Playing with others is easily the best way to experience Anthem, especially when playing the harder missions. This is where those Javelin types come into view. Each suit has its own characteristics, pros, and cons. You’re only able to select one at the beginning of the game, so make your choice wisely. That said, as you progress further into the game, you’ll earn unlock tokens that grant you the ability to use a second suit, and so on and so forth.
The suits vary quite nicely, and as touched upon above, arrive with distinct differences. They all house their own upgrade paths, with some Javelin’s capable of wielding very specific weaponry, such as grenade launchers and flamethrowers. Each suit also brings with it its own ultimate attack, which comes in handy when backed into a corner – more so when you attempt the raid-like forts. It’s a good job, then, that the controls back up the game’s combat magnificently. There’s nothing to fault about the game’s handling whatsoever.
Everything from the gunplay, right up to the flying, is sensationally fluid and robust. Much like Mass Effect, BioWare have nailed this component of the game remarkably. There’s a smooth and responsive feel to Anthem no matter what you’re doing. It truly makes you feel like Iron Man as you soar through the air unleashing carnage upon unsuspecting foes beneath you. Even maneuvering through gut-wrenching tight passages makes you feel like a mech-powered Superman, and it’s all the more gratifying thanks to its outstanding feedback.
That’s the overall crux of play. You’ll take to your Javelin and participate in a host of missions and activities, improve your faction loyalty, explore, grind, gradually bulk up your capabilities, rinse, repeat, and move onto the tough stuff. The game is chock-full of lore to keep you grounded with its backstory, and indeed, to push forward the plot at a brisk pace. There’s enough content in the main event, and heaps in the endgame, to keep you going for hours on end. That all being said, Anthem isn’t quite as refined on a more technical level.
Unfortunate, Anthem comes with a number of drawbacks. Chief among these sit with the game’s unbearably lengthy loading times. Even when moving between areas, a bulky loading restriction sits in wait. It simply needs addressing, and quickly. Outside of that, there’s a few bugs to be mindful of. The most dominant one I faced was that I found myself unable to interact with anything in free-play, forcing a restart to fix the error. There’s more besides, though minor, but nothing a healthy patch cant sort out if BioWare act swiftly enough.
Anthem’s audio and visual design gets a thumbs up from me. Bastion is a fascinating and diverse world. One that’s full of wonder and danger of equal measure. The level of detail, although not exceptional, remains varied, sharp, and well presented throughout. To BioWare’s credit, this is upheld throughout the entirety of Bastion’s landmass. Rarely do I play a game that has me wanting to totally explore it through its beauty of design alone. I can say the same about its audio design, relaying crisp cues regardless as to your activity.
I’ve put several hours into the game so far and I’m having an absolute blast. Whilst I appreciate that goes against popular opinion, Anthem ticks all of the boxes that it needed to for me; a fan of loot-shooters. The heart of Anthem’s lifespan is clearly resting on post launch support, and as such, BioWare will need to respectfully address community feedback and balance that with inserting new content if Anthem is to enjoy a permanent position among its peers. That said, and in my opinion, this is worthy of your time and attention.
Anthem is one hell of a decent loot-shooter that boasts some ambitious mechanics. Its massively engaging combat and its flow of movement takes center stage, with its several activities, its deep lore, and its diverse and interesting world following closely behind. That said, Anthem isn’t without fault, and BioWare will need to carefully address the game’s issues alongside its community feedback to ensure they maintain player interest.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.