Feature Article

Anthem Early Review Impressions

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

Kallie Plagge

Kallie Plagge is GameSpot's Reviews Editor. She loves Pokemon, anime, and Grunt Birthday Party.
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jenovaschilld

Bioware- please, please, please go back to making RPG's again.

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XenomorphAlien

Another mediocre EA game. RIP Bioware, it was nice knowing you.

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kargion

So Far I am really enjoying this game. I like all the little side stories. The main story could have been better though. I am interested where they take it. I enjoy that the game is load in hub, get contracts, run missions. Reminds me of a better looking warframe.

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gkof76

I bought EA access for this game. Soooo not worth it. Keep doing the same stuff all over again. Squad missions are broken. Not recommended.

Avatar image for Vodoo
Vodoo

Seems like EA forcing Bioware to do a game out of their wheel house, or their strengths. You can't just take a dev that excels in one area, single player story driven rpg's, and think that they'll be great making a different type of game in another genre. Anthem actually seems the furthest away from what Bioware is good at.

Avatar image for LVT_PTA_PB
LVT_PTA_PB

@Vodoo: It has nothing to do with "being good it". It's all about restraints and what they cannot to do fulfil EA's demand. If they had total liberty, they would've done an authentic game. But EA wanted an online FPS looter, that's all. Nothing to do with what the studio can or cannot do. God of War has nothing to do with the beat 'em all we all know but excelled anyway.

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Vodoo

@LVT_PTA_PB: That's exactly my point! Everything you just wrote is in line with what I said. They were forced to do this game, whether they excel at this type of material or not. EA probably should've had Dice do a game like this instead of Battlefield 25. None of Bioware's previous games were built around always online multiplayer games with monetization.

From what I've read, there's basically a shell of a story here, and that's what Bioware excels at, story. So they were clearly pushed out of their zone where they excel. Now EA will probably say the game underperformed, as usual, and blame Bioware.

And the GoW studio was not pushed in a completely different direction like Bioware. It's still a beat em up, just more evolved from the same old formula.

Bioware has always been about intricacy and detail to story and player choice. This has none of that, which is probably why it feels to most people like a derivative game. But they have to do what EA says.

It's obvious that EA doesn't know how to best utilize a great dev like Bioware. And another Mass Effect isn't it either.

Avatar image for LVT_PTA_PB
LVT_PTA_PB

@Vodoo: Wait but, what I mean is that Anthem WILL be good for what it is. The gameplay will be tight, the sound amazing, the graphics amazing... it's just that the game design in itself doesn't lend itself to narrative progression. The way EA want the game isn't the way you can tell a good story from. BECAUSE they want almost like an MMO, and loot base game, your character first of all cannot fail. The idea of the game is to keep killing to get stronger. I don't believe you can ever write a good story with an un-flawed... well 4 un-flawed characters for multiplayer. It's just impossible to write something gripping when at the same time you have to be able to play the whole game with buddies.

Basically, the game WILL excel at mimicking Destiny, it will be good in that sense. And I, personally, will enjoy it. But it's sad because Bioware could've gone on a single player path with much more depth with a similar universe. But for those constraints you cannot have a good story from that.

But the thing is, maybe Bioware was the only studio owned by EA that could produce such a game.

But I do not believe Bioware was completely uninterested in exploring this genre. After 3 games of the same universe (just like GoW), it felt right for them to explore a different kind of game, different universe.

But y'know, I get it : when the only aspect that set Anthem appart is the fact that you have iron-manesque suits to fly around, it's surely a bummer when you're used to the ME trilogy.

But, y'know, they will eventually go back to Mass Effect. Everybody knows that. Andromeda wasn't a complete failure. I enjoyed it (without all the expectations because I just finished it last month almost 2 years after its release)

But I understand the disappointment many people will feel when playing Anthem. But for me I'm glad that it exist and I can't wait to try it. I just love playing games haha

Avatar image for Vodoo
Vodoo

@LVT_PTA_PB: I agree, and I don't want to give the impression that I want Bioware to go back to Mass Effect. I want them to go back to rpg's, but something new.

I wasn't saying the game itself would turn out bad, just that Bioware probably wasn't the best studio choice for this type of game.

Dice makes great Battlefield games (now to the point of gamer fatigue) and, imo, because they're good at doing online shooters that have no story, I think they could've been a better choice to do a game like this. I think the graphics would've been better and I don't think they would've had as many online issues and the long loading problems. Because THAT'S what they're good at.

Again... I wasn't saying Anthem will turn out badly at all. But most of the feedback so far is that it's a mediocre Destiny clone and the flying novelty wears off quick. There's still enjoyment there, but it could've been better is all.

I'm also not saying Bioware did a bad job. I'm saying that EA doesn't know how to best use their studios to play to their strengths. They think every studio is capable of doing any game. While they may be able to churn it out, it may not be the best it could've been if another, more appropriate studio handled it. For example... If you have a transmission problem with your car, you could take it to a regular mechanic and he could fix it, but maybe not the best job. Instead you have a transmission shop do it because that's what they do. Follow?

Any other EA studio probably could've made Battlefield V because the technical blueprint was already there from Battlefield 1. If Dice would've made Anthem I have no doubt it would've been better and Bioware could've been making something else great.

I just remember all the great games Bioware made before Mass Effect Andromeda. The KotOR games, Jade Empire, and yes, the ME trilogy. But who knows if that talent is even still working for Bioware and we know EA thinks single player is dead, so...

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itchyflop

6 months from now it may improve, but now its buggy.

The repetitive fetch quests or guard the area are too mundane.

It looks great and can be fun at times but not for long imo at this stage.

I hope it does improve with patch's.

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Ivan_bil

I played the demo when it first came out, uninstalled after 1 hour. Played Origin early access for 3 hours, uninstalled as it's too generic and repetitive. Maybe I will give it another try if I see high score reviews from Gamespot or later on.

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Oldgun

So Bioware, how's the grave looking?

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tombrown788

Does anyone that is playing Anthem - Legion of Dawn Edition (via Ea Access Premier) know if the included cosmetics are worth the extra $20 on top of the standard edition? I just read that the LoD items are only helpful up to about Level 10 or so and would be available to everyone at some point?

Edit: Just learned that the LoD Javelin skins are pre-order exclusives. Unsure about the other included gear...

Edit: Here's a look at the LoD armor pack by Ben Irving (Lead Producer) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1nQiyie8RU

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Leeric420

@tombrown788:Im using premier on PC, and I would say no they arent worth 20 dollars. Not even close. The armor itself doesnt help you its just cosmetic and the weapons etc are okay but youll find better and it doesnt take much to get past their item level.

I mean the armor looks cool but not 20 dollars cool.

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Luvu01469

@tombrown788: Playing Anthem through Origin early access and no I don't think the skins aren't worth the $20.

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Pongman75

Has anyone noticed that the latest update on this review was posted 3 days ago? Kind of dumb to judge a reviewers opinion with so little info given. This review seems to be taking longer than the usual 20 hour games that get reviewed on release day. I wonder why? Oh ya, I know why, because the game has a LOT of content. Im 30 hours in and let me tell you, its great. Most of the negativity is coming from tweens who havent, or never will have played it. Gamers looking for an honest opinion for purchase I say this: Its good. Its fun, and the story might seem meh at first, but it justifies itself as it escalates on a grand scale. Im having a blast playing on pc Origin Premier access. Mistakes will get you killed quickly, so if yourre looking for a game to race to the end and beat, this isnt for you. I find myself and other players I play with discussing our plan of execution for most missions. You cant just jump in and go like Destiny. It takes coordinating teamwork and communication to effectively beat objectives and missions. Everyone who has taken off and left the team to be "first", learns very quickly that its not the way its done. You will die. Im enjoying this one, and I dont think a "proper" review can be done as fast as usual. Im enjoying this game much more than I thought I would.

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DETfaninATL

This article seems to confirm what the demo hinted at : Generic, been there done that, shoot and loot, Destiny clone. Thanks but I'll pass....

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DETfaninATL

@DETfaninATL: And now that all the reviews are out (and are all largely uniform), it's official. This is a pretty mediocre game as I suspected and gleaned from my time with the demo. Again, thanks but I'll pass. More power to those of you who enjoy this for the money.

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RadioactiveMah

@DETfaninATL: no we haven't been there or done that. Although the looting part is standard among any mmo, but the gameplay combinations and action this game provides is definitely no Destiny clone.

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skippert

@RadioactiveMah: It is, please dont defend this trash by beeing a whale and preordering it.

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kargion

@skippert: It's ok to like the game did you know that? lol I am enjoying it. There are issues but its fun to me.

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skippert

@kargion: no one said you are not allowed to enjoy a game. I also said literally more power to you if you do. But the game is a broken mess, you do not have to play the darn thing to know this, the issues are being talked about everywhere. So yes, do your thing, enjoy the game but please also realise that you spending money on lazy developers that cannot even bring out a working finished game is part of the problem

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itchyflop

@skippert: hey it depends on what you like, if you like flying around on a jet-pack aka dark void (ps3) style which was pretty mediocre too yeah.

Its certainly not destiny, totally different style and play.

Im not defending it either its buggy, mundane in areas and the repetitive fetch questing or protect the item can be samey but imo so can apex, or is that fortnite, oh hang on, pubg, cod,.... if we use your terms yes they're all the same, and yes i play them all and yes apex you cant build stuff etc

You generalise too much this game and you dont like it, or are you just trolling destiny and this?

:)

Avatar image for RadioactiveMah
RadioactiveMah

@skippert: I have a Premiere subscription since the BF5 launch, and I am "actually" playing Anthem, so I do know how it is. I've also played Destiny 1 and 2, so I know what I am comparing, I just don't like cool-to-hate bot opinions from some people who actually are not playing the game.

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skippert

@RadioactiveMah: Calling someone that is, like many others sick of the bs that EA are pulling on games that we are consumers are supposed to enjoy a bot when you yourself are dropping all that cash and funding them to keep doing so doesnt really work man. How can you just sit there and let yourself get screwed so badly. Its actually gamers like you that are the bots here. But hey if you enjoy the game more power to you but just know there is a good reason why I dont have a premiere subscription and stopped pre-ordering EA published games altogether. More people should be doing that so that EA can finally get their act together. This game is going to come out and get a solid 7 or 8 score but I can already tell you that gamers and not going to have it - its not going to be as bad as the latest BF but damn me if its not the same scenario as with Destiny.

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RadioactiveMah

@RadioactiveMah: Also, the story here saves some mystery but actually shows you and tells you about your enemy and the dangers in its world. Unlike Destiny, where the story revolves around a mysterious "Darkness" that we have yet to actually know it's nature, other than the alien factions that are currently trying kill us.

Also, the flying and movement in Anthem also sets it well apart from Destiny, cause the Colossus for example actually moves different and jumps different and his shield is different from Storm, so Classes also offer really different experiences.

Also, the world and the map has some impressive verticality to it, so the map and locations are not always linear and this also keeps movement and tactics during fights interesting.

Avatar image for skippert
skippert

@RadioactiveMah: the verticality is a nice addition and can serve as some inspiration for future titles. It is quite unfortunate that almost all the quests are identical fetch or point defend quests and bugs such as the one that lets your teammates compete against eachother for the same pickups could ruin experience. Talking about story it has already been reported a lot of users that the load times are too long and in some cases actually continue to load while main story cutscenes play in the background. Thus you as a player missing out on the story. These are only a really small part of the current problems but already gamebreaking. Quests wont be fixed but for some of the other issues Bioware promised a fix on the 15th, ofc that didn't happen and now supposedly the first day patch on the 22nd supposedly will fix many issues. I dont believe it for a second as the final built of this game was finished long ago. If I do end up buying this game it wont be in the first few months. Im not going to bugtest for lazy devs.

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Random_Matt

Hope the game fails, 50% of the game will probably be tied with micro transactions.

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Pongman1975

@Random_Matt: Cosmetic only. No pay to win. Its getting positive vibes. Im playing, and its great. Bioware is back in business. Like it or not. Peace.

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foozlefop

All that money spent for the sting of death: "generic." How pathetic. Literally borrowing off of lost time with concept art from eight years ago that is now tired and trite to say the least. Bioware, how could you fall so fast down the slope to mediocrity??? Oh yea, EA!

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linthenius

So a big world with nothing to do outside of repetitive misisons?

Just like destiny.

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untouchables111

@linthenius: no you can enjoy the load screens outside the fort as well...

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siarhei

This game's loading screens make me miss Mass Effect elevators... At least they had fun banter...

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DETfaninATL

@siarhei: Personally, I loved Bayonetta's load screens where you could do combos with the character and it would show you the button combinations off to the side that you were pressing. Was preety cool and allowed for you to work on executing the more difficult combos.......

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uninspiredcup

Yea, from reading this, it's what I suspected it would be.

"meh".

Online
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untouchables111

soo im also about 10 hours in and i gotta say..game feels just unfinished. its open world is very beautiful but thats about it. the way mission are done is very boring. there is little to be desired after. i mean the game is designed around the fort... you got through these LONG load times to be abruptly loaded into the fort to walk at a snails pace to have a brief talk with a NPC to just walk back to load again...

Missions: I mean again the loading...takes away from the entire experience. onde loaded in.. you have to wait around for a few seconds while the game has small convos with a person who then hold your hand to guild u to a location where there are enemies or a small puzzle. you then kill all the stuff, maybe get loot...then the missions over...heck i played a few where the other team killed everything while i was on the way..mission over back to loading...

These resemble Destiny strikes a lot, except without a major boss fight at the end.

gun play and gear is kool, but outside of grandmaster2-3...what is there to play for. getting higher tired loot just to be able to get through GM3 once is not really content.

I wanted an more immersive world. one where i could run in the staging area and immediately jump off the wall into the open world. missions throughout instead of only enabled in the fort. side stories to follow. Hidden world puzzles to give rare gear...

as i see it, its only offering a months worth of content...campaign and then bust

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RadioactiveMah

@untouchables111: like any mmo or looter game, the games expand with time. After finishing current available content the loot and grind are enough for some people in these generes. Look at Diablo 3, what new content does it have, yet people still play it, I still play it from time to time, the game literally has nothing more to offer than new loot and gear and grinds. in Destiny, once you have finished all story missions, strikes, raids, then what? you have people stick around and still play and have fun. As I see it, right now people are comparing this game on release versus Destiny which had years to become what it is now, and if you've played Destiny from the start, it was no different in terms of content.

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untouchables111

@RadioactiveMah: for me Destiny had a lot of content though. you grinded for max light and forever 29 was a real thing. anthem kinda has that but my issue is all top tier loot is obtainable in GM1 so there is no need to play GM3, other than it has higher drop chances.. something like exclusive drops would have been a better choice. thats content. it would 100% drive me to grind out GM 3 builds. right now thats not endgame for me. nothing is in place to make that worth the time.

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Pongman1975

@untouchables111: As I see it, your 10 hour trial isnt the entire game. Im 30 hours in, and its awesome fun. My load times arent bad at all on PC. Endgame content exists in many forms, and more is coming in the next couple of weeks.

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untouchables111

@pongman1975: explain your PC load times.. i run my game off a 970 pro NVMe drive.... it dont get better than what i got. yes there are many forms of endgame and as far as i see it the 10 hours as well as the hours of demo play ive had have revealed enough about the games endgame.... we have seen it all... its grinding for the same items you start with but higher power and a few perks... the question is being asked..... whats the grind for. people play looter shooters with the intent top achieve top tier loot. to be able to complete end game activities... or to beat those top tier end game challenges to get said gear... you can get alll loot variant from GM 1....so why even do GM3

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Pongman1975

@untouchables111: My load times could be good due to the fact I live in an area with a low population. I wasnt considering folks who live in a city having trouble. Makes sense.

I'll play thru GM3 because the game is flat out fun imo. I like long games because I like to build the characters I'm playing as, rather than just get everything for simply completing a game. These 20 hour games just dont do it for me, unless its one of the rare "greats" we see once in a while. I understand that some folks dont have as much time, so theres absolutely nothing wrong with liking those games. Heck, maybe youre onto something now that I think about it. Maybe I should catch up on the likes of Uncharted, and that crazy awesome God of War from last year. I secretly kick myself for not playing that one yet lol.

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drod0756

Please someone take these flying mechanics and make into into an Iron Man game. Please

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93ChevyNut

@drod0756: Preach!!