Anthem is finally here. It's usually rare to see this kind of polarization on a new title, but it's becoming more common place these days. Gamers are quick to choose a side to bash or support the popular game of the hour. Games like Anthem are what the industry has dubbed "live services" which generally means the game will be updated frequently with new content. In some cases, live service games require DLC (such as Destiny), but in the case of Anthem, we've been told the updates will be free. Time will tell.
After approximately 20 hours into Anthem, I can safely say I like the game. Usually forming an opinion like this requires an overall impression given all the positives and negatives of the game. I think a majority of the opinions on the internet are formed by hearsay and speculation. Sadly, those fuel what some gamers would call "facts", but at the end of the day, a lot of these people haven't played the game.
I'll try to make this as clear as possible: Anthem is flawed, has bugs, is unstable, and can be really frustrating. Here's another secret: I play Warframe. I'm pretty much used to all of the above. What makes a game worth my time is a simple concept that seems to perplex so many gamers these days: fun.
What are the flaws? Well, let's break this down:
- Loading screens destroy the overall flow of gameplay. There are WAY too many loading screens for slightest change in scenery or conditions. You fall a tad behind your team mates because you want to harvest a node? WELL YOU TOOK TOO LONG! You have 20 something seconds to catch up or you get another loading screen!! Some of these are insanely long, and are amplified by launch network conditions. Easily one of the biggest flaws in the game.
- Voice lines in mission communications feel "rushed". It's almost like the audio guy had to remove all pauses in the conversations. They often don't sound natural.
- The PC port is awful and Bioware should be ashamed. I talked about this when the demo was live, and it seems they are aware. I doubt these underlining issues can be addressed unless the completely revamp the whole user flow. It's clumsy, disjointed, and illogical.
- The audio bug (audio goes away) makes you want to Alt-F4 and uninstall the game. I've heard this will be addressed in the "day 1 patch" but let tell you that it's really frustrating when it happens during the story. You can't replay cutscenes, so if your audio goes out, you better hope Youtube has it later.
- The story ending felt rushed. I don't know if Bioware ran out of time or what, but the final scene left me with two words: "That's it?"
- Multiplayer is broken. It's kind of hard to summarize this one without just saying its broken. Here's an example: Let's say your squad loads into a story cutscene and for some reason you are stuck in the dreaded loading screens. Well, if your teammates don't wait for you, progress continues no matter what. It's not just a little bit either, I lost an ENTIRE QUEST at a very pivotable moment involving a main character.
- "Running" in town is a joke. Bioware claimed to fix this, but if you sprint, it's more like a brisk, power-walk. Very annoying.
- The open world is unstable and often exhibits unexpected behavior. Enemies disappear, will stand while dead, or simply teleport somewhere else. If you do a mission, sometimes they either don't progress or actions are extremely delayed. You'll kill a boss and won't get credit for a good 3-5 minutes. That's a lifetime if you're grinding.
- Swimming is still pretty awful even after fixes have been applied.
WOW! With all those flaws, how can I possibly enjoy this game. Let's see:
- The Javelins are awesome. Everything from the movement, the abilities, and their personalities are amazing. It's easy to become attached to your favorite suit.
- Flying around the open world and just "doing stuff" feels great. (sans bugs) This might be my favorite part of the game so far. I feel like I can explore this world for hours and not get bored.
- I love the strongholds! The length of each feels just right and the boss fights are well done.
- The story and characters are memorable and well made. The cutscenes throughout the story build these characters and it really adds to their role in this universe. I couldn't decide if I liked Owen, Matthias or Dax more, because they're all so good! Bioware showed why they're respected in the industry with these characters.
- The loot grind is addicting! This is the probably the most important part of a looter shooter. If there's nothing to keep you coming back for more loot, then the game is essentially done after you finish the story. I want to get more blues! I want to get more purples! I REALLY can't wait to hit level 30 and start getting masterworks! This is why looter shooters are so great!
- The challenges are a great way to progress through the loot grind! I love the system they've put in place where you must be complete challenges to open additional blueprints for crafting. I don't think I've played a game that has done it this way.
- The Javelin customization is well done! There's a ton of detail on which parts of the javelin can be changed and updated. I can see myself sinking many hours into unlocking skins and colors to make my Javelin stand out! My only minor complaint is that you can't change colors of the vinyls. Let's hope Bioware fixes that.
These findings are after about 20 hours so I imagine I'll find new things to love and hate about Anthem. Several members of my community are having a great time with the game and it really helps to have others to play with. I played these 20 hours essentially by myself and relied on public groups.
So what's next? Well, the biggest question mark about Anthem, is the end game. You probably noticed I said nothing of end game because I haven't done any of it yet. I'm barely level 18 and am still doing normal missions. Eventually I'll move to hard and finally grandmaster which will occur after level 30. On paper, end game looks a bit light on content, but I'll reserve judgement on that until I get to it.
I'll leave you with that thought: Sometimes the desire the play a game comes from what it does well rather than what it doesn't do well. Too many gamers focus on the negatives more than anything and dismiss any positive feedback as fanboyism or blind loyalty. It's ok to enjoy a game that the internet doesn't. Use your brain and determine what you like and don't let others opinions dictate how you truly feel about a game.
Anthem is flawed, but man am I enjoying it.