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Anthem Demo Impressions: What We Love & Why We're Worried

Anthem's Demo Missions Are Generic and Uninspired

The gameplay animations and movements are incredibly detailed and well-animated, and flow really well from running, jumping, floating, and jetting off, or any combination of such movements. And the moments of underwater travel are visually exciting. But the flight system is limited by the Javelin's ability to control heat. Players can only really enjoy the Iron Man flight mechanics for less than a minute, unless they can cool down by making contact with water or flying downward. The coolest part of Anthem is therefore limited by this design choice (which is no doubt a gameplay balance decision) and by what feels like constricted environments. All of the combat areas, and even in free-play, are relegated by an invisible flight ceiling and a canyon-like system of valleys that look like they could fit into an Avatar movie. The game hits a home run on visual design choices but doesn't make good on the sense of open-world freedom or true flight.

As for combat, it's an equally mixed bag. Anthem does a wonderful job of making each Javelin useful for different scenarios, and they move and play very differently in terms of their gear and support functions, but the main gunplay - where every Javelin can use two from the same set of firearms - is mediocre. The primary guns are weak in damage output, sound, and feel, making combat extremely bullet-spongey. The feedback to weapons fire isn't quite there like it is for using the special abilities and it feels too generic and under-powered. It's just not fun to shoot the conventional weaponry. And most of the loot picked up is junk to be salvaged at the end of the mission. Note: players in Anthem literally pick up colored engrams just like in Destiny.

Destiny's trappings found it caught with issues of poor in-game rewards at times, too much grind, a weak and forgettable story, a world that didn't feel big enough, and worst of all, a lack of content. The Anthem marketing and demo fail to emphasize what Anthem is doing to address similar potential issues, but most of all, how it's going to differentiate itself against Destiny 2 and the upcoming Division sequel.

Anthem's Demo Had Too Many Problems

From a technical standpoint, it's alarming how bad the VIP demo rolled out. To be clear, it wasn't a beta. It was a paid-for demo just a few weeks from launch for the most loyal of EA and BioWare supporters who either pre-ordered the game or have a paid subscription to one of EA Origin's services. They were met with an unplayable game for a day and their reward wasn't more time, but an in-game skin.

Anthem Screenshot Stronghold Boss

Aside from that, the demo also highlighted a problematic interface which isn't built for PC users (it's clearly designed strictly for consoles) and that requires too much navigation - especially with the map and mission select screen. Toss in too many loading screens and game missions occasionally ending before loot can be collected at times or before all enemies are dispatched, and there's some work to be done. The Open Demo seems to work as intended however, and there are already some tweaks being made to the UI, but we fear the game is being rushed.

Anthem looks visually appealing, but its yet to prove itself from a story or gameplay longevity perspective, especially when it comes to the size of the game and the size of its world. It hasn't shown us a scale on par with expectations yet and we're not quite sure what there is to keep playing after finishing the story. And it's the mysterious story of Anthem (we don't even know the planet's name) where BioWare has the opportunity to make something special with this game, even if character interactions don't go deep like in Dragon Age and Mass Effect (there are no relationships for instance).

More: How Progression and Loot Work in BioWare's Anthem

Anthemdepending on a bunch of things releases February 15th and 22nd - - for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

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