Anthem was supposed to be great. Remember the E3 trailer from two years ago? It was hard to find someone who had seen it and wasn't at least partially interested in what BioWare was cooking up. Hot off the heels of Destiny, it felt like the industry had found the next evolution in that sweet, addictive formula of gunplay, rare loot, and multiplayer.
The funny thing is, that greatness is plainly evident in Anthem even while it's bogged down by dozens of bugs, poor design choices, and missing features. There's a reason people keep coming back to the game even after it burns them multiple times. The world is gorgeous, the Javelins are a joy to pilot, and there's just enough dangled on a string just out of the player's reach to keep them chasing it, long after they should have departed for a more complete experience.
Still, this article wouldn't have a name like it does if it was going to tell you that Anthem is worth all the trouble it gives you. It isn't. Not yet. So here's our advice: don't play Anthem until it's a fully fleshed out, AAA-worthy game. The biggest secret regarding Anthem is that from its mid-February early release for Origin subscribers and on, it has been in an Early Access mode that EA and BioWare are just calling a full launch. We're all just QA testing the game before it launches again - the third time - but this time it'll be for real, and then critics will be allowed to talk about it instead of getting lambasted for having an opinion on a title that is, by any understanding of the word launched, launched already.
Let's give credit where it's due: BioWare is doing what it needs to in order to improve and stabilize the Anthem experience. The developer has already made strides in reducing load lag, and recently announced broad fixes to Anthem's loot system should make the end-game grind significantly less miserable. For those keeping score, though, that's one issue that has persisted for weeks almost fixed and a baffling design decision being adapted into something resembling sense. Other problems, like a Fort Tarsis so devoid of life it feels like a museum exhibit and a repetitive, unfulfilling end-game, still persist.
BioWare is a veteran developer that can turn things around in a hurry. Mass Effect: Andromeda wasn't really as bad as everyone said it was, but because that's the general perception, there's this new feeling that the studio has somehow lost its touch. People tend to forget Mass Effect: Andromeda really did fix a number of its issues after launch - there just weren't a lot of people around to notice. While a lot of veteran staff did leave during the development of Anthem, BioWare is still a collection of extremely talented individuals. Given how quickly issues are being addressed, there's no reason not to believe that Anthem will eventually shape up into the game everyone wanted it to be.
Until then, though, what's the point of playing? At this point everyone suffering through the game's major flaws has to realize that, if they just wait for a while, BioWare will fix it and they won't have wasted their time. The loot issue is fixed, but it isn't a retroactive repair. If someone picked up a bunch of commons, or missed out because rates were lowered, they're not getting their items back. The Tombs of the Legionnaires questline was fixed earlier, but that didn't recoup the hours groups of players wasted waiting for treasure chests so they could individually register them and then proceed as a squad. There's a cost that needs to be paid to access Anthem while BioWare is still working on it, and it might not be worth it.
There's already a timetable for when players should give Anthem another chance, too. BioWare outlined a 90-day roadmap of how the developer would like to implement updates in the short-term and new features, like the Cataclysm, more gradually into the game. Most people who have experienced Anthem can agree that there's a clear sense of what BioWare wanted to achieve with it, and that when the game executes on that, it's a great experience. Unless BioWare starts offering players incentives for sticking around during this rough patch - exclusive loot, for instance, or a commemorative decal or two - then why not wait until that experience is more pervasive?
Anthem could be a brilliant game. Right now? It's not even a complete one. Unless you're already enjoying Anthem for what it is, take a break from the grind, breathe, and come back in a month or two. Just repeat after us - don't play Anthem until it's complete. When BioWare is finished with all of its fixes, it'll feel like you're playing a brand new game, and maybe then we can put the game's troubling launch period behind us.