Feature Article

Anthem Early Review Impressions

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Seems familiar.

After several hours with Anthem, I can't say I'm particularly interested in it yet. I've completed some missions, upgraded my loadout, and gone on some more missions, but I'm not yet invested in anything I'm doing. I will, of course, keep playing, and I'll be posting a full review in the coming days. There's just nothing here so far that's driving me forward. I'm curious, but only to see if my first impression--that this is a somewhat generic, Destiny-like experience--will be proven wrong.

Anthem starts, well, kind of like Destiny 2. The Freelancers, who fight off threats using mechanized combat suits called Javelins, have fallen out of favor with humanity after a significant loss in the game's tutorial mission. It's not clear why this one failure is enough to discredit the Freelancers, but after a two-year time skip, they are scattered to the winds, now underdogs who must climb back up the ladder to "hero" status. This means starting with basic weaponry, even though you were a rookie two years prior and presumably have more experience since then. Your life revolves around taking contract missions from people in the downtrodden citadel that is your base, Tarsis, which you return to after each excursion.

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There's a lot of jargon thrown around throughout the opening minutes with little explanation--it kind of feels like you're listening to a conversation about people you don't know, so none of it carries much weight. There's also a long cutscene that consists of an NPC narrating background details for you, so it's also not clear how much your character is supposed to know and about what. I did gather that there's an ancient mystery at the heart of everything, but I'm not yet sure what exactly is intriguing about it. The story so far feels like a justification for why I need to level up and find new loot, rather than the groundwork for a vibrant sci-fi world that's enticing to explore.

Mission structure doesn't help this much; so far it's been going from point A to point B, shooting some enemies, and then heading to the next waypoint. If you play solo, you can take this at your own pace and presumably stop to take in the sights, but playing co-op with friends or by matchmaking--which the game recommends as the best way to play, and which nets you better rewards--means you'll have to keep up with everyone else. It also makes it easier and faster to complete missions, which is welcome, since they mostly consist of fighting waves of enemies while your NPC partner back at Tarsis scans something nearby (much like Destiny's Ghost).

It is moderately satisfying to find new loot even if the missions themselves aren't thrilling, and I am having fun experimenting with loadouts. You get an assortment of weapons and upgrades after each mission, so you can constantly change up your equipment between contracts and try out new combinations. I'm playing the Ranger class currently, and I've established a good flow of using my guns, grenades, and missiles in rotation.

Anthem's mech-powered flying keeps missions from being completely one-note. It's my favorite part of the game so far; you have to keep your suit from overheating while you fly, which means you can get creative (or at least add flourishes as you go). The main cooling methods are water and literally cooling your jets by descending. It's exciting to nosedive only to pull up at the last second, and there's something serene about flying under a waterfall and into a strange cave. The most exciting thing to happen to me in Anthem so far is finding an upgrade for my suit that increased its heat resistance, letting me fly longer. I'm hoping I find more reason to explore than I currently have, if only to have more reason to be in the air.

I'm currently treating Anthem's disparate missions as an excuse to try a new weapon or special attack, which, combined with flight, gives me incentive to keep going. I'm hoping that I get more out of the story as I go on, but so far it's too generic to get its hooks in me. I'll keep playing on PC--I've luckily only been kicked due to server issues twice--so look out for the full review in the next few days.

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Kallie Plagge

Kallie Plagge was GameSpot's reviews editor from August 2018 to March 2021. She loves Pokemon, inventory management, and Grunt Birthday Party.



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