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Feature Article

BioWare's Anthem Is Best Played On Your Own--Sort Of

You may be stronger together, but you're better off alone.

The multiplayer focus in Anthem represents a massive change of pace for BioWare. The developer's newest game reminds you to play with others whenever it can, claiming it's the ideal way to play. That said, you're going to get a much better experience if you play the game by yourself. At least initially.

In Anthem, you'll experience the story via a repetitive cycle. You'll talk to some NPCs in Fort Tarsis, get your story mission, head out in your javelin, hear some more narrative details over your radio, complete the quest, and be forced back to Tarsis to talk to some more people and get your next story mission. It's actually not all that different from how you complete the story in Mass Effect: Andromeda or Dragon Age: Inquisition, aside from being forced back to your hub area upon completing a quest. In theory, experiencing Anthem's story piece by piece with your friends is a cool idea, but in practice it usually results with you missing crucial details.

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If you decide to play Anthem with others, you're going to find yourself regularly shushing your companions or muting them entirely lest they speak over an important conversation. You're probably also going to be yelling at them to wait for you. If your allies get too far ahead of you, the game informs you that you're being left behind and will teleport you so that you can catch up. Getting teleported throws you into one of Anthem's many loading screens, during which you can miss out on a portion of an important in-game conversation or cutscene. This means it's not in your best interest to explore Anthem's world while playing the story if you're with others. Journeying into a mysterious cave or reading a text log typically results in being left behind and missing out on story beats as a consequence.

As said before, you also can't start your next story mission until you return to Fort Tarsis and speak to the NPC who has your next quest. However, plenty of other minor characters populate Fort Tarsis--some carry side quests, while others are just fun to talk to. Some of the stories you hear from the NPCs in Fort Tarsis represent the best bits of narrative in Anthem. But again, it's hard to hear them when you have friends chatting in your ear--especially if they're egging you on to hurry up and just unlock the next mission so you can all get back to taking down enemy hordes and soaring through the skies. Every part of Anthem's story just becomes so rushed when you're with others.

Where playing with friends does help, though, is when you're ready to tackle the endgame content. Destroying a titan with devastating combos composed of various primers and detonators set up by a team of Ranger, Colossus, Interceptor, and Storm javelins or tackling one of the more lengthy Stronghold missions are some of Anthem's best instances of gameplay. Although there are moments of idle radio chatter between your freelancer and some NPCs during the endgame missions, none of them have any major impact on understanding or appreciating Anthem's story. By the time you've completed the story and unlocked most of Anthem's endgame content, you should be close to level 30 as well, which allows you to tackle the more challenging Grandmaster difficulties where you can find the best loot and weapons in the game.

So if you're set on jumping into Anthem, consider playing through the campaign the first time on your own. Playing the game on Easy or Normal makes combat a breeze--even Hard isn't all that difficult solo, but you'll have to be more strategic with how you play. Once you've gotten through the story at your own pace, then invite your friends to join you in tackling any leftover side missions you haven't completed, or jump into the Grandmaster difficulties and start grinding freeplay world events and Strongholds for loot with your fellow freelancers. It's not the way BioWare wants you to play Anthem, but, for now, it's the best way.

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If you're still on the fence about picking up the game, check out our Anthem review. Kallie Plagge gave the game a 6/10, writing "Anthem has good ideas, but it struggles significantly with the execution" and remarking how it's "a co-op game that works best with no one talking."

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