Genre: Action, Looter Shooter, RPG
Audience: PEGI 16 – Violence, In-Game Purchases
Release Date: 22/02/2019
Price: £59.99 Digitally – the game was purchased by the reviewer.
What the Developers say
Unleash Your Power. In a world left unfinished by the gods, a shadowy faction threatens all humankind. Only you stand between the Dominion and the ancient power they covet. Team up as heroes in this cooperative action-RPG from BioWare™ and EA.
• Forge Your Javelin Arsenal: Choose from four powerful Javelin exosuits each time you enter the world, customizing each to fit your playstyle and show off your achievements.
• Explore an Ever-Changing World: Powered by Frostbite, the Anthem™’s open world features unpredictable conditions and enemies which evolve over time throughout the live service.
• Meet Memorable Characters: Discover a gripping story filled with unique and memorable characters within the walls of Fort Tarsis.
• Take on Challenges as a Team: Join with up to three other players and venture into danger with combat that rewards teamwork.
By now, most people know of Anthem’s lofty expectations and troubled release, so why am I bothered to review it in April? Well, Anthem is – to the disdain of many – a Live Service title, so it’s continually undergoing patches and revisions. I think Anthem is currently in a different enough state to how it was at release to warrant another look.
After watching the early chaos unfold surrounding Anthem’s turbulent release, I waited until mid-March – about a month after the game’s initial release – to take the plunge. I spent roughly £30 to buy a preowned copy, but I also had to pay for one month’s PS+ subscription as it’s required to play Anthem at all.
I’ve been a fan of the ‘looter shooter’ genre for a long time now, pouring hundreds of hours into Borderlands 1 & 2, Destiny 1 & 2, The Division and so on. I’ve also loved Bioware’s story-telling and game design for over a decade, with the Mass Effect series still being among my all-time favourites. Everything pointed towards Anthem being the game for me, then, and though I enjoyed my time with it, there are still undeniably flaws in its exosuit armour.
Audio and Visual
The sights and sounds of Anthem are incredible, especially when playing on a high-end system. The weapons, abilities, soundtrack and voice acting all have the characteristic AAA quality and vigour. A common complaint to see is that the script is “too cheesy”, and while jokes are told throughout, I found there was also a reasonable degree of gravity in the fundamental story moments.
Visually, the game is delightful, although it’s true that gameplay can often turn into a bit of a fireworks show. When you have a full team of freelancers throwing abilities across the screen and blowing stuff up, it’s certainly a feast for the eyes, but it occasionally spills over into outright gluttony.
Having been burnt by Mass Effect Andromeda, I was pleased to see that the faces in Anthem are animated well this time, though it’s a shame the dialogue options now boil down to being slightly serious or a little jokey. The following screenshot has gained widespread meme status for featuring the option between “Nope.” and “No.” during one particular interaction, and that sums up the brevity of choice in this title.
Gameplay and Replayability
The minute-to-minute gameplay of Anthem is incredible. It’s genuinely some of the most fun I’ve ever had in an action game. When you’re getting started in Anthem, the flying is responsive, the guns are powerful, and you feel like a god with your destructive powers. Hearing the satisfying ping as you set off combos or wreaking havoc with your Ultimate leaves a real impression on you. It’s a shame, then, that these feelings are somewhat short-lived.
The main story will take somewhere around 12-20 hours to complete, after which there’s a little grind to level 30 – most people finish the campaign around level 21-25. Once you hit 30, you unlock extra end-game activities and the Grandmaster difficulty levels. Each of these 3 levels requires a higher overall power score, as the enemies get tougher and deal more damage to you as you ramp up the difficulty. The higher difficulty also gives you a better chance of unlocking better gear, though, as Legendary and Masterwork components, abilities and weapons are more likely to drop for you. These are the top 2 tiers of items in Anthem, and without them, you’re pretty much useless on anything above Hard.
It’s sad, then, that these aren’t dolled out to the players by the bucket-load, as we’ve come to expect from the looter shooter genre. If you return to Borderlands or The Division after playing Anthem, you’ll be shocked by how much loot there is to pick up, and this is the primary issue with Anthem.
In a vacuum, it’s an enjoyable game with engaging mechanics and the first 30-40 hours are full of meaningful improvement. Beyond that, there is very little end-game compared to its competitors, however, which is the primary reason for buying a looter shooter. People don’t play Warframe to race through the story and move onto something else – the design and appeal of the genre is to grind for rewarding improvements to your power level. Gamers want to feel like their time is worth something, and unfortunately, Anthem’s end game fails to deliver this at present.
There are only 3 factions of enemies to fight, 3 Stronghold missions – which serve as mini-raids that most of the community repeatedly run – and a handful of daily and Legendary missions. Once you reach a certain power level, the game stops rewarding you consistently, and the grind becomes more of a chore. There is a 90-day roadmap in place, which is meant to conclude in a Cataclysm event in May, but Anthem has been rife with controversy, bugs and community outrage since release. It’s difficult to see how far away the light is at the end of Anthem’s tunnel, or how long it will take to reach it. We can only hope EA doesn’t pull the plug before Bioware can turn Anthem into the “Bob Dylan of video games” that it was supposed to be.
Anthem has thoroughly enjoyable gameplay but lacks the rewarding loop that’s designed to keep you coming back. At present, the shotgun spread of RNG leaves the majority of players feeling underwhelmed with their loot, and the drop rates aren’t high enough to see consistent improvement of your power. It’s well worth playing for the first 30 hours or so, but beyond that, the lustre starts to wear off.
It may well be worth returning to in the future, and I hope it does make a recovery because they have something genuinely engaging at the core, but I’m not willing to renew my online subscription in the meantime. Play it, shelf it, and come back in May. Hopefully, the kinks will have been mostly worked out by then, and there will be more content to prop up the replayability.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Anthem on the PlayStation Store at the following link,https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP0006-CUSA05359_00-ANTHEM1000000000