Anthem, a review

(Disclaimer: The following is a non-profit unprofessional blog post written by an unprofessional blog poster. All purported facts and statement are little more than the subjective, biased opinion of said blog poster. In other words, don't take anything I say too seriously.)

Just the facts 'Cause you're in a Hurry!

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Bioware

Platform Required: Origin

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP): 59.99 USD

How much I paid: 14.99 USD for Origin Premiere Access, a subscription service for Electronic Arts

Rated: Not Rated as of the writing of this review.

Can I play offline: No. Anthem requires a constant online connection to play.

Controller Support: Yes. It was compatible with my Rock-Candy Xbox 360 controller. Keyboard and Mouse controls are also available.

How long I played: 16 Hours to complete the main story mode on Easy mode while watching the (skippable) cutscenes.

Microtransactions: An in-game Store to purchase skins, individual paint jobs or emotes for various Javelins, suits in the game. Purchases can cost up to 20 USD.

What I played on: My PC.

Performance Issues: I would use many words to describe Anthem, but "optimized" is not one of them. With V-Sync turned on, the Framerate dips wildly between 30-60 FPS. Several instances of clipping and pop-in textures. 3 Game crashes requiring me to restart the game. One instance of the game not loading the forge yet and me walking into the bottom pit while the forge spawed up ahead and I got stuck so I had to reset the game. But hey, the facial animations are pretty passable this time around.

My Personal Biases: I am a Biodrone/Bioware apologist. I've played every Bioware game since Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. However, I've been having doubts on the company since the buggy release of Mass Effect: Andromeda.

My Verdict: Less like a complete game and more like a prologue to hook early adopters in, Anthem feels like the first time in a long time that doesn't have Bioware's roleplaying there. With no romance options, very few conversations with side characters with limited choices and a ho-hum story, Anthem feels sorely lacking in several areas. Wait until Bioware puts in more content and a price cut before picking this one up.

Anthem, a review

And so it's finally here.

After years of Development, Bioware finally releases its new IP: Anthem. After the critical and financial flop that was Mass Effect: Andromeda from even hardcore Bioware fans, will the developer be able to get back into the good graces of their fanbase? Let's find out. This is a review of "Anthem".

You are a Freelancer. Riding around in your mechanical jet suit, a Javelin, you adventure outside the world collecting artifacts of, what else, the remains of an ancient and mysterious race of creators that shaped the world through the Anthem. Alongside your friends, a veteran Javelin pilot Haluk and a Cypher (psychics who can listen and understand the Anthem), Faye, you adventure into the Heart of Rage, a dangerous location where even the most hardened of veterans fall. But when the expedition goes horribly wrong and most of the other Freelancers have been killed, you pull Haluk out of the Heart of Rage and retreat to Fort Tarsis.

While I can safely say that Anthem isn't nearly the disaster Mass Effect: Andromeda was, it leaves a lot to be desired. It's less of a full game than it is a prologue to something else.

Then again, in the age of the ongoing dumpster fire that is Fallout 76, I suppose a less than optimized game isn't nearly as terrible as a continuing PR disaster.

Two years pass and you are finding any sort of work given to you. People have begun to lose faith in Freelancers and you and your new friend, Owen, try to make ends meet. However, Tassyn, an informant from the Capital, comes with you with a job offer. However, as you continue your adventure, you meet up with the enemy faction, the Dominion (those who believe they can control the Anthem and reshape the world) as well as its bloodthirsty leader, Monitor. In order to defeat the Monitor, you'll have to reunite with your estranged friends, Haluk and Faye, improve your Javelin, pass trials and re-enter the Heart of Rage. Can you finish the mission you ran away from two years ago?

Anthem is a third-person shooter in which you complete quests to earn gear. As you level up and do more difficult missions, you'll recieve better gear. This is where Anthem shines: the level of customizing your Javeline is immense and there's a lot of room for originality. There are 4 classes of Javelins: the Ranger, an all-around, versitile mech, the Interceptor, a light mech focusing on Melee attacks, the Storm, a mage type class that can fire elemential attacks and the Colossus, the tank class capable of soaking up damage. While each of the 4 Javelins can equip any weapon, specific Javelins are limited to certain parts. You'll gather and accumliate parts and salvage the parts to get components. You can use components to craft new parts ranging from Common to Uncommon to Rare to Legendary. If you earn a blueprint, you can craft some Legendary gear.

Earning items can be done by playing story missions, doing side-quests, participating in Strongholds (this game's version of Dungeons) or going into Freeplay, an open world element in which you fly around the vast world and look for 'World Events' random missions that have specific objectives and reward a treasure chest full of loot.

Flying around in the mech is a highlight. Being able to soar through the air and water while watching for overheating is probably the best we'll get to an Iron Man experience. Combat and mission objectives aren't quite as compelling. It's mostly doing the same thing over and over again: defeat waves of enemies, collect echos or fragments, wait until the Signal is decrypted, etc. And while the Javelins have different playstyles, abilities and Ultimate attacks, it does little to change defeating wave after wave of enemies for the umpteeth time.

While Customizing your Javelin is vast, customizing your player avatar is sorely lacking. There's no character creator as the game only gives you preset faces to pick from. Worst yet, the majority of the game while in Fort Tarsis is set in first-person, meaning you'll almost never see your character for the majority of the game.

The lack of roleplaying bleeds out into Fort Tarsis. Frankly, compared to the vast world to explore in Anthem, Fort Tarsis is claustrophobic. It makes Dragon Age 2's Kirkwall seem big by comparison. There's very little to explore and not helping matters is the snail's pace you're forced to walk while traveling around it.

For Tarsis is filled up with NPC's in which you can have conversations. To advance certain conversations, you'll either have to do missions or enter freeplay. Unfortunately, your dialogue options are VERY limited. The infamous Bioware Dialogue Wheel is nowhere to be found and you'll be left with two choices to respond. Not helping matters is that most of these conversations go nowhere and do very little to define your character. (Though there are some exceptions. For example, I liked listening to Zoe talk about her son and why her motherly instincts lead her to take extra care of Javelins or helping an old woman who confuses you for her dead child). While the results may differ depending on what choices you choose, all the major stuff is being done off-screen. It's one thing to have a veteran Javelin pilot reminisce about the old days but when other characters are having adventures and bringing you up to speed on taking your advice, you can't help but feel a disconnect.

The main story doesn't really help either. You don't even get to pick dialogue choices at all and you watch as your Player Character does all the acting. It truly feels like the first time the game is on-rails and you're not voicing any input at all on how to react.

Worst yet, certain points in the main questline FORCES you to do tedious grinding to advance. When Faye asks you to do trials, they can only be accomplished by doing in-game achievements (i.e. Kill X enemies with a Melee Attack or Revive X players). It feels needlessly tedious and only bogs the game down. This is (and I'm speculating here) only there to extend the playtime so that gamers who payed for the 10 hour trial do not blitz through the main storyline. After that, you need to craft the Dawn Sheild and must help either Matthias, an Archanist who might be seeing triple or Sentinel Dax, a princess turned guard who's recklessness might get you killed, in order to do so. Worst yet, even after helping one of them, the game insists you help the other one to lower the crafting cost of the shield.

The main questline is short and full of cliches. Not helping matters is that the Monitor is a completely generic big bad with no real personality and idiotic reasons for wanting to access the Anthem. I know Bioware is hardly the arbiter of original characters, but the Monitor is woefully lacking after the specific threats that were Mass Effect's Saren and Dragon Age's Loghain. And after it's done, the game 'teases' you with an after-credits scene that only exists so that Bioware can state "Don't worry; we have more content coming soon".

Even after you complete the story and unlock the two other Strongholds, there's a woeful lack of content. You can repeat missions and do quests on higher difficulty levels to gain better gear, but it quickly becomes repetitive.

Who is the audience for this game? In a world where Warframe is free to play, Borderlands 2 has a healthy player population and Destiny 2 has had its price cut, Anthem feels like a latecomer to the genre. But, even loyal Bioware fans (i.e. the people who bought Mass Effect: Andromeda on the first day and still defend said purchase), aren't feeling this game.

In fact, one of the Youtube creators I follow quit the game after he recieved a bug in which after unlocking his second Javelin, he was unable to access the account.

Why would Bioware change its formula now?

And it's not as if Anthem is a priority for Electronic Arts, either. With Apex Legends continuing to dominate Twitch ratings and Playerbase, Anthem will probably be pushed to the sidelines.

The game requires constant online connection and has an in-game store. Fortunately, said microtransactions are purely cosmetic and do not feature loot boxes plaguing the industry. And while it isn't as rediculous and allows you, the player, to buy the items with in-game currency, it's still a bad precedent.

But I could even forgive the game as a service model as long as I got to roleplay. For example, (and I'm aware this is a very subjective opinion that is not shared by other people), I really like Star Wars: The Old Republic. Even though many gamers criticized the game of being a World of Warcraft rip-off (and rightly so, I might add), there was a sense of roleplaying and seeing my character on screen. Plus, it was cool seeing how different the class stories differed from one another. I could tell you how my Twi'lek smuggler who romanced Akaavi differed from my Pureblood Sith Inquistor who romanced Ashara. If you asked me what differentiated my Male Javelin Pilot from my Female one, I couldn't possibly tell you.

(I suspect that the game will inevitably follow the footsteps of Star Wars: The Old Republic, go free to play when the playerbase dwindles while walling off things such as Strongholds for subscribers).

And it's very telling how developers and animators were pulled from Mass Effect: Andromeda to help work on Anthem.

CAVEAT: As a developer, Bioware has always put things like inclusion and diversity first and foremost, even at the cost of things such as quality assurance or facial animations. "Strong Alone, Stronger Together," says Haluk. And for a lot of consumers, myself included, they feel conflicted on criticizing something they view as a positive force for the games industry.

But whatever the consumer is, whomever they love, whatever the color of their skin or what they identify themselves as, Electronic Arts is pulling out scummy tactics to milk them out of their money.

There's still an ongoing debate of where things like representation, inclusion, exclusion, diversity and egalitarianism have in the industry. But wherever you find yourself on the culture war, the one thing we can agree on is that the last thing required are for giant publishers co-opting those social issues in order to scam its customers out of their money.

Verdict: Wait for a sale or Rental.

The trials weren't as bad as they sounded, and could have been done with pre-trial activities in previously done missions.

The trials weren't as bad as they sounded, and could have been done with pre-trial activities in previously done missions.

They patched the game so the trials could be done earlier.

The trials were initially there so that those with the 10 Hour early access pass wouldn't blitz through the main storyline.


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