Anthem is the first major title of 2019: A brand new IP from Bioware after Mass Effect Andromeda, and this one has hit the stores after much waiting to mixed feelings from reviewers but many players lapping it up like a cat that got the cream!
I initially started out with the PC version as we were sent a two-week trial code, followed on launch day with a PS4 code.. which was confusing. After a good few hours on PC pre-launch, week-early access things weren’t looking good with constant crashes to desktop, crazy long load times, poor performance and loads of glitches. The Day 1 patch arrived a day early and I updated to the latest driver from AMD for my graphics card… and all seemed fine running in 4K and a high preset. In all fairness to Bioware, they fixed the biggest issues ready for launch much like many other developers do with Day 1 patches.
Then on the day of release, with the aforementioned PS4 code, I started the whole process again! I had got up to the missions where you have to do the challenges to enter the Legionaries tombs on PC, which took a while to get to, but had enjoyed every minute after the Day 1 patch.
Now I have over 30 hours in on PS4 and the campaign is getting closer to the end and many issues have been ironed out, and I have had nothing but fun playing.
The game starts with you joining other Lancers (Freelancers) heading into an area called The Heart of Rage. You have this area as a small tutorial as such combing fire with other NPC Javelins and pushing further into the storm. Once you reach your mentor, Haluk, a titan gets taken out and Haluk is wanting to head further in. Unfortunately, two more titans arrive and you pull Haluk out of the Heart of Rage, thus ending the tutorial.
You now find yourself in a lush part of Bastion, following orders from your Cypher Owen, who is essentially your handler and very reminiscent of the people onboard the Nebuchadnezzar on The Matrix.
The gameplay sees you flying about in your Javelin (and yes it is just like Iron Man!) to get from A to B in a timely fashion. Once you reach your objective, most cases it is guns-out and activate something by standing in an area defending, killing loads of enemies or keeping NPCs alive. In all cases, you are usually defending something, or an all out assault against an enemy encampment. The gunplay is solid third-person action without a cover system as you have a decent dodge.
There are a few different weapon classes like Light Machine Guns, Assault Rifles, Marksman Rifles, Sniper Rifles, Pistols and Shotguns: this group being for the Ranger Javelin, while the Colossus has auto-canons and the like, given its size. Now the weapons, unlike the other loot-shooter Destiny aren’t that varied. Each weapon is named, and you have two variations on the assault rifle as an example. One is fully automatic while the other is a short burst. Why they couldn’t just implement fire modes on said fully-automatic rifle is beyond me, but it is what it is. The same can be said for the Marksman Rifles, so there isn’t a great deal of variation available.
There are four Javelins to choose from after you complete the first mission on Bastion, and then the final three unlock at various levels as you play. Personally, I prefer the Ranger, but there is also Interceptor which is lightweight, fast and has deadly melee attacks, but the downside is light armour. Then you have Storm, which commands the elements but is essentially a glass cannon. Ranger is a good all-round Javelin with decent assault and support, and then finally you have the Colossus, which is a tank with heavy weapons and shields, but can be quite cumbersome. Each Javelin plays to it’s own strength and weaknesses and you can find one that suits your play style.
You can paint up your Javelin however you feel, as there is a large colour palette available with additional custom colour options. On top of that, you can select the type of material for each area to be painted, ranging from patterned material to bare metal, so you can get the look you want whether it being and more rough-looking, to really bright and standing out. Finally, you can also apply vinyls which can really make your Javelin stand out if you have a complimenting colour scheme.
There is an in-game store… so you can read that as micro transactions. However, you have the option to pay for items with real world money, or you can save up your in-game currency and buy the same stuff that way, which is really good, and there’s no sign of loot boxes or anything that would be pay to win. Literally, all the cosmetics and skins can be paid for with the in-game currency.
Between missions, you can talk to numerous people around the fort. Each of them have their own stories that get resolved by your actions. A great example of this is a store owner who is struggling in the bazaar. You can also talk to another store owner who is giving up as they can’t get the supplies needed for their bakery. After talking to both parties, depending on your choices (much like the paragon/rebel choices in Mass Effect Andromeda), you can get them working together for their own good and that of the people who live in the fort. You also have many side missions from numerous people round the fort, each with their own storylines. I have completed all but Matthias so far, and have noticed that the trophies attached to the completion says Part 1 of a certain NPC’s story, so I am looking forward to what Bioware have planned for this.
The world outside the walls of the fort is truly amazing. Anthem has to be one of the best looking games I have ever seen. You have birds in the sky, small critters roaming about the ground just living out their lives. There are also weather cycles and day/night cycles while out and about exploring. It reminds me of Pandora on James Cameron’s Avatar at times, given the look and feel of it.
Voice acting, I have to say, is superb and all conversations you have are fully-voiced and there is plenty of dialogue. Looking on IMDB, there aren’t any names that I recognise, but the talent hired has done an amazing job at capturing their characters. I have laughed at some of the goofy stuff Owen says to you early in the game and felt the plight of others looking for someone. This is what you want from voice acting in a game; You want it to move you and make you think about the choices and responses you make.
Now I do have to mention the issues I have encountered on PS4 as there are a few bugs but thankfully nothing really game-breaking as of now.
The main issue for me is the loading… yes it improved, but it still isn’t particularly fast when leaving the fort into the open world. I am wondering if it has something to do with connecting to the other players, as it takes longer on the standard missions where you play Co-op. When loading into Freeplay, it is a fair bit quicker. Another issue which has loading is when a player gets too far ahead as it jumps you to their location. However, the problem with this is it puts up a loading screen and goes through the process to load you back in to another part of the world. Playing earlier today, it happened to me four times in quick succession as one player had gone really far ahead and while it was loading, another player passed and the first player was even further ahead, so as soon as I reappeared a few seconds later, it loaded again and then again as same thing happened with the third player.
Bioware REALLY need to do something about this. Fair enough, entering a cavern – which is essentially a dungeon in an old school sense – and loading is one thing, but you shouldn’t be forced onto a loading screen because a player has got really far ahead. The same thing happens on Destiny if someone dashes ahead, but it will transport you to the right area and no messing about. I do get it that some players just want to go running through levels, and the same issue is prevalent on Destiny with the Strikes, since when this puts way to much pressure on the other players in the team.
As for other bugs, Faye was missing after we returned from rescuing Haluk from the Fortress of Dawn, so in the cutscene he was shouting at thin air. At times, you get some bad texture pop-in but not as bad as it was pre-Day 1 patch. Then you have daft stuff like the curtains to the entrance to the bar area, which are solid with no give. Yarrow literally stands in the same stance with his hands on his upper torso pouches in different areas of his body, and it looks really out of place. Why not have him occasionally walk about and have different stances, instead of being a statue with just a moving head! The same can also be said for a lot of the NPCs around the fort; They are all in exactly the same position at different times of the day. It is like a bad movie set where someone is just moving through it, and they are just there in the background. This happens more so in the back part of the fort, so I think they need to have people moving about like they have a purpose and aren’t just ornaments. The main world outside the fort is a huge evolving living and breathing world, so I think they need to bring that into the fort itself.
There is a social area attached to the fort, but I can honestly say it kind of feels tacked on. Hopefully they will expand on this and maybe make it a larger interactive area in a future update. I am certainly hoping to see clans added in the future also, so you can get together with friends and like minded people easier (even though Anthem does have full matchmaking unlike Destiny).
If you play non-stop for hours on end, yeah, you may become bored of the similar mission structures. However, the same can be said for many other RPGs etc. out there. Destiny is the same when it comes to mission structures. Looking back when that one launched, it was messy with loads of bad press, but there was greatness just waiting to be unlocked after fixes and tweaks, and not forgetting plenty of player feedback, which is what Bioware are now acting upon with Anthem.
Apart from that, I have only had one crash with error code in all the hours I have played on PS4. I did have connection issues a few days ago after my broadband had been fixed, but it turned out that a micro filter attached to my master socket had become faulty and was partly to blame for the drop-outs!
To sum up, I honestly don’t think Anthem deserves the bad press it has been getting. I am just an everyday family man who loves gaming, and this one ticks all the right boxes for me and I can’t stop playing it. I don’t agree at all with the low review scores and bad press where a review has been put out on the day of launch without actually playing after the Day 1 patch. You then you also have all this hate thrown at EA over microtransactions, as well as the mess which was Star Wars: Battlefront II and the controversial loot boxes at launch. Then of course, EA being listed as one of the worst companies a few years back hasn’t helped their image. The thing is though, EA have been turning things around and they have become a very consumer-focused company. This cannot be said for another large publisher who has announced large lay offs and their microtransactions never get questioned, even though it happens yearly with a big-name game.
Yes, the mission structures can be a bit samey, and loading times with rubber-banding can be a bit tedious, but it is not game-breaking. If you like third-person shooters in the vein of Mass Effect Andromeda, then you will thoroughly enjoy what Anthem has to offer, and not forgetting there is more content planned already, along with world-changing events on the way. I am pleased to be part of this journey, so good on Bioware and EA for doing something different and launching a great new IP.
We have received some material, and have seen there is already a roadmap in place for future content for Anthem, starting this month (March 2019), with Act 01: Echoes of Reality, and another two in the coming months so you can see this is a project that is going to get bigger and better with time.
I can’t wait to see what is next for Bastion.
Anthem is out now with a ton of options
- Anthem Xbox One S 1TB Console Bundle
Anthem (Xbox One)
Anthem Glowing Steelbook (PS4)
Anthem Glowing Steelbook (Xbox One)
Anthem Legion of Dawn Edition (PS4)
Anthem Legion of Dawn Edition (Xbox One)
Anthem Legion of Dawn Edition with Glowing Steelbook (PS4)
Anthem Legion of Dawn Edition with Glowing Steelbook (Xbox One)
- Developer: Bioware/EA
- Publisher: Bioware/EA
- Players: Solo & Co-Op only (No competitive multiplayer)
Retro at heart and lover of all things ’80s, especially the computers, the music and the awesome movies and TV shows! Crazy huge retro gaming collection spanning the ’80s and ’90s with hundreds of tapes, discs and carts for various machines on top of a 600+ strong Steam library that is ever-growing. No I am not a serial hoarder, just a dedicated retro gamer!