Experience Opinions posts are where I have a look at a beta period of an up and coming title and let you know my views/opinions of what happened.
Who else keeps forgetting than Anthem is made by BioWare? I know I do. I see the artwork, the footage, the shooting and focus on multiplayer exploring and it reminds me of Bungie. An Ironman suit flying sci-fi shooter in a Monster Hunter world all wrapped in a unique coop experience or just a generic scifi shooter that feels like BioWare should really be focusing elsewhere? Time to forget about the spreadsheet for the preorders and jump into the Beta and have a look.
First off is probably the strangest bug I’ve found in any PS4 title yet. Every time I go to save a screenshot the option takes ages to come up? It’s fine for video but screen shooting definitely hangs the system. It’s a strange bug and likely only effects very few people, just don’t expect to nab a kill shot in a screen, you’re best off taking a video. It also explains why there’s a lot more video footage than screenshots kicking about for Anthem. Anyways minor issue let’s get on with the main game.
No connection problems so far which is a good start given what I heard about the original start to the beta. You have the Pokemon games level of customisation to look forward to at the start for your freelancer player but that’s ok as the game is broken into two sections. The first is a slow first person mode where you walk through the hub like area. You talk to residents, progress the story and drink in the details never seeing anymore than your characters hands. The second you’ll spend in your Ironman suit (aka the Javelin) You’ll be pleased to know that unlike your human counterpart the Javelin has a Warframe level of insane customisation. There are only 4 classes but there are multiple sections, multiple types of material and multiple colours. There are plenty of options available from the get go as well and only patterns and vinyls so far appear blocked off from in-game currency purchases.
Walking around as a freelancer maybe slow but it is visually stunning. The middle eastern theme fits nicely and it’s a refreshing change in pace. Navigating the bazaar and experiencing what the NPCs have to offer is limited for the beta but there were some story chats to be had with simple dialogue options. The only problem with the dialogue is that it does feel quite limited and the language didn’t seem to quite fit unless you guessed the right option. Despite the occasional strange moment the characters were interesting and memorable enough to still stick around in my memory after the beta and really shined in cutscenes which had no options.
Once you’ve spent a few hours customising your Javelin and enjoyed the cutscene of it all coming together you’ll find there’s a Monster Hunter feeling of variety at play here with the options to scout around in a free play environment, take on missions at the hub that take you back into that environment to progress the story and larger raid like missions that load/warp you into specific areas. It’s all very reminiscent of Phantasy Star Online (yes I’m that old) where the focus will be on instances with 4 people all cooperating to a goal, while large set pieces and events occur around them.
The core gameplay is fun and that’s the main takeaway. Each Javelin feels different but for the beta you’re stuck in the assault suit for the first few hours of Anthem. The flying feels quite slow and weighty, It’s easy to control though and soon you’ll be whizzing around hovering and managing your heat meter to pop some headshots. The shooting and melee attacks are good and it does feel a little Destiny-like, it’s just a shame the weapons use ammo and not infinite heat based systems like the original Mass Effect guns as running to grab ammo during combat is a regular tedium with most early guns barely holding more than 3 to 4 clips.
Almost everything you do in Anthem earns you experience and leveling up unlocks stuff in a by the numbers way with more colours and options unlocked as you go. You do need to progress to swap to new Javelins and it is frustrating you can’t “try before you buy” each class. It’s not hard to look online to see what each Javelin plays like but the best way to figure out what’s right for you is to keep an eye on other players and pick one that fits your style. I switched to the speedy one just for a chance to go faster. It’ll be interesting if further into the lifetime of Anthem, the default Assault class simply becomes a Novice class for trainees and obsolete or a Super Novice class that fills a role similar to the Assault in other shooter titles.
The further I got into Anthem the slower the first person exploring felt like it needed a faster run mode. Getting around can be a little tedious (especially without fast travel when you’re in a hurry) but it’s all very visually wow and polished to such a high sheen it seems strange the title wasn’t saved for a next generation launch. The PS4 is clearly struggling on this, it feels like it’s pushing the system and it would have been a next-gen system seller had it ran without loading or any slowdown on day one.
Multiplayer in general reminds me of the original Destiny beta (not Destiny 2) Being forced into a lot of hit and run situations where you spend most of the time trying to not die from waves of enemies, occasionally rushing from place to place trying to keep your allies alive enough to keep you alive to. The boss bug in one instance was a ridiculous tank of bullets that would take longer than it felt was necessary to die and flame attacking minions who had large red canisters on their backs wouldn’t blow up when the tanks were shot for some reason. It’s so strange how you can be flying, exploring and taking out an amazingly structured instance one minute and hoping to be resurrected the next.
Anthem was such an amazingly mixed experience for me. The matchmaking was incredibly well worth it and the netcode was solid. Teaming up with a friend was simple enough and we got paired with others into missions without a hitch. The combat when it nailed it was fantastic but to start with the enemies were a bit spongy. The flying was a blast once mastered and skimming water to stay cool was a great mechanic to have but the under water sections were horrible absolute trash bags of slow confusing mess. It’s a game with huge potential but feels like it’s being restricted by its own scope and goals. Is it fun? Yes and then some. Is it still fun after a few hours of grind? Hmm not so sure. I can tell you now I still want to play it after launch so it can’t be all bad. Seems BioWare can do anything they set their minds to. Let’s hope they get the ok for KOTOR3 after this.
Anthem launches on the 22nd February