Anthem is fun. It really is. BioWare dropped the ball with Mass Effect: Andromeda last year, but it looks like they are starting to get back on the right track with next year's Anthem. The game has been described as a multiplayer action RPG, but not an MMO. Sound familiar? It should, because that's pretty much what Bungie was trying to do with Destiny, just without the RPG stuff. Instead, they wanted to bring the first-person shooter genre into an open world adventure that could be played with friends as an everlasting experience. But that's not exactly what happened.
Destiny and Destiny 2 are both incredibly fun games that are well designed with snappy gunplay, but that's not why gamers lament the titles. The problem is, there's nothing to do after a while. That's why players are skeptical about BioWare's Anthem, since it appears to be more of the same, just made by a different developer. Interestingly enough, that's not really an accurate representation of the game. After playing an approximately 15-minute long gameplay demo at E3 2018, Anthem looks less like a Destiny clone and more like an original title. However, that doesn't mean there aren't certainly similarities. But those similarities shouldn't detract from what's shaping up to be an entertaining new title.
We played a slightly extended version of the Anthem gameplay trailer that was shown during EA's press conference during E3 2018, though the mission was still truncated in order to save time and ensure that we got to fight the giant spider boss at the end. From the start, each player had a developer guiding them through the game's mechanics (starting with the controls) and briefly teaching them about BioWare's new world. Thankfully, getting used to the controls isn't all too difficult, seeing as the game works like any typical third-person shooter. Nowadays, some games tend to have overly difficult controls that go against what console players are used to, but Anthem is not like those games. The control system is easy to adopt and feels great - and the characters are easy to navigate, even while flying. It's important to note that because transitioning from running to flying and/or hovering and then fighting enemies is practically seamless.
Having a fluid movement system in Anthem is vital to its world being explorable, especially since the game's verticality is far-reaching and unlike anything other triple-A game that's currently out on consoles. We got to try out that movement system extensively by flying through vast corridors, through waterfalls, into caves, and then into the sea. Regardless of where players are flying or running, the movement feels tight, just like its shooting mechanics. BioWare isn't the best developer when it comes to shooters, but they've definitely improved their combat mechanics with Anthem. That's why EA has been focusing on promoting Anthem's combat in their trailers (and their gameplay demo) instead of the story, which is something BioWare has already mastered time and again.
As previously mentioned, BioWare's gunplay mechanics have never been as refined as some other third-person games, but Anthem's shooting is fun and rewarding, and it feels good. One thing of note is that the weapons that were showcased weren't anything special. The Ranger class Javelin has a regular assault rifle that doesn't do too much damage, but the special abilities are where each of the Javelin suits shine. Each of the four suits come with their own special equipment and ultimate abilities that deal quite of bit of direct and area damage. Of course, the thing that seems to have caught the most attention is the Borderlands-style damage numbers that pop up around the enemy; it actually isn't as distracting as it seems in the trailer, but it's certainly something that BioWare should look at tweaking or outright removing. As it stands, it does diminish the immersive experience and makes the game appear more cartoon-y than it should.
From the brief gameplay demo, BioWare's new world looks fun to explore and gamers may have fun diving deep into Anthem's strongholds. Unfortunately, while the demo was a decent representation of the gameplay, it offered little to nothing about the story and the rest of the open world. BioWare's games are always fun to play because they allow visceral storytelling experiences. None of that was evident in the demo, and the truncated mission barely allowed us to test out what the rest of the open world has to share. We could tell just by flying through the world, though, that there will be heaps of places to explore, but that could always change or simply be a facade. We've now reached the point in the gaming industry in which developers can promise the world and deliver something that doesn't even come close to what was advertised.
Overall, there is certainly potential for Anthem to become everything that Bungie wanted Destiny to be, but that will take lots of content and constant support from the developers. The fact is, while Anthem is certainly fun from a gameplay standpoint, BioWare is creating a game that they want to be everlasting, and something that will draw in players for years to come. That's not easy to do, and hopefully, they are up to achieving that goal.
Anthem releases on February 22, 2019.
- Anthem (2019 Video Game) release date: Dec 16, 2018