Review

Anthem Review - Two Halves

  • First Released Feb 15, 2019
    released
  • PC
  • XONE
  • PS4

Stronger alone.

Launching upward off a jungle floor and bursting through a thick canopy of trees, bobbing and weaving your way under a waterfall as you take in the lush landscape below you, is one of the highlights of Anthem. Flight, in these moments, is freeing, serene and exhilarating all at once. But you will eventually have to come back down to earth. When you don't have a means to cool down in the air, you have to interrupt your flight to cool off on the ground--or else your suit will overheat and send you careening downward much more violently. This is what Anthem is like as a whole: a game where promising moments are bookended by frustration, where good ideas are undone before they can be fully realized.

It can take a while to warm up to Anthem in the first place. In its intro mission, you are a rookie Freelancer--a hero type who battles threats to humanity in mechanized combat suits called javelins. But that brief mission ends in failure, and after a two-year time skip, you're now an experienced Freelancer. As a result, everyone talks to you as if you know everything about the world, even though much of the game's space-fantasy jargon is explained only in codex entries. "Shapers," "Arcanists," to "silence" this or that "relic"--all the dialogue is structured as if you already know what all these things are, so there's not even an element of mystery to it. It's just hard to follow.

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The story and overall worldbuilding do a great disservice to the characters, which have elements of what you might think of as BioWare's pedigree. The main cast is well-acted and genuine, with complicated emotions and motivations that might have been interesting had they been given time to grow. Two characters are mad at you for the events of the tutorial, even though it's never quite clear why; that bad blood spills over into your relationship with your current partner-in-Freelancing, Owen, and there's enough believable awkwardness there to make you almost feel bad for him. But because the narrative is so poorly set up, the drama feels unearned, the "emotional" reveals robbed of their impact, and any connection you might have had to the characters just out of reach.

Exacerbating all of this is Anthem's loot game core, which is simple on paper. After every mission, you return to your base of operations, Fort Tarsis, to talk to people, get new missions, and tinker with your javelins using the loot you picked up from the previous mission. Missions themselves almost universally involve some quick narrative setup followed by flying, completing routine tasks, and plenty of combat (with more brief plot-related stuff thrown in via radio chatter).

But this general structure doesn't work well in practice. You're told up front that playing Anthem with others is the best way to play and that you'll get better rewards in a group, but this means asking your friends to be quiet every few minutes so you can hear a bit of dialogue or to wait patiently while you tweak your loadout. Playing solo is better if you want to take your time and talk to different characters, but doing so can make missions more difficult or tedious. Matchmaking with random people is the best option, since you'll have people with you for grindy parts but will leave you alone for the story--but even then, it's easy to lose track of what's going on, especially if someone in your team is ahead of you and triggering dialogue early.

And no matter what, you'll have to return to Fort Tarsis after each expedition, which makes for choppy pacing in both the story and the gameplay. There's no way to change your loadout on the go and no way to just continue on to another mission right away, and there are currently a number of loading screens in between leaving and returning to Fort Tarsis. It's hard to really get into any kind of flow.

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When I finally took the time to talk to NPCs in between missions, I found endearing characters and brief but interesting bits of story spread between them. There's one girl who just loves animals no matter how dangerous, and she'll happily tell you all about them; there's the oldest man in Fort Tarsis, who admits to doing some shady things to earn that title; there's an old woman whose daughter has been missing for years and might just need some kindness. Though it took some patience to do it, I was glad I stopped to listen to them.

Throughout all of this, combat is the main thing keeping Anthem afloat. There are four types of javelins--Ranger, Storm, Interceptor, and Colossus--that are essentially a soldier, mage, assassin, and tank, respectively. Each plays differently, with a different pool of abilities, and you aren't locked into the one you start with; you unlock them as you level up. That, combined with a handful of new weapons and abilities after each mission, means that you're almost always experimenting with new loadouts and playstyles.

I initially picked the Ranger, thinking it would be a good all-around class while I was learning the basics. But the guns alone aren't enough to make Anthem combat's exciting; I found a lot of the weapons, especially shotguns, to feel ineffectual. The Ranger's abilities are pretty straightforward, too--you get grenades and missiles and the like--which left me largely unimpressed with combat in the beginning. But then I unlocked the speedy Interceptor, whose gymnastic jumps and swift melee strikes are incredibly satisfying, and I started to get excited about trying new things in each successive mission.

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The Storm javelin became my favorite, though, because it both has interesting elemental abilities and can hover for minutes, not seconds, at a time before overheating. Its assortment of powers lends itself well to getting combos, which result in a satisfying explosion of sorts and a more chaotic battlefield. But more importantly, it's the only javelin that doesn't require frequent stops on the ground, and as a result it provides the most dynamic combat--you can go from shooting basic enemies in a hallway to floating above the battlefield, raining down lightning to wipe out five at once while scoping out the area for your team.

Generally, all of the javelins can easily jet out of sticky situations in a pinch or briefly hover in the air to gain the upper hand, and combining movement with your abilities is consistently a good time. But when fighting titans and certain other bosses, there's a catch; a lot of them use fire attacks that overheat your suit and ground you instantly, robbing the fight of much of what makes combat interesting. You can still use your abilities, but they don't do much in these fights, and they fall flat compared to the often bombastic impact they have on regular enemies. This extends to the final fight, which is especially underwhelming.

The endgame thus far is to complete high numbers of the various mission types, which amounts to repeating many individual missions. The draw is better gear, but without compelling high-level fights, you don't have anything to build toward with all that grinding. A post-credits cutscene has the most intriguing plot point in the game and serves as a preview of what might come later on--but right now it's just a promise, rather than a true incentive to keep going.

It's worth noting that the early access period saw a number of technical hiccups. Dropped audio, server issues, long loading times, missions not registering as complete--I didn't have a single session without some sort of problem. A day-one patch aims to iron much of this out, but overall, the poor structure and pacing are a more frustrating problem. [Editor's note: We have now tried Anthem on PS4 Pro, Xbox One, and Xbox One X. The Pro and X versions generally run decently, with some technical hiccups and occasional frame rate drops, while we encountered more stuttering and strain on the standard Xbox One.]

Anthem has good ideas, but it struggles significantly with the execution. It's a co-op game that works best with no one talking; it buries genuinely interesting character moments and puts its most incomprehensible story bits at the forefront; its combat is exciting until you get to the boss fights and find your wings have been clipped. Even the simple, exhilarating act of flying is frequently interrupted by the limitations of your javelin, and you never quite shake that feeling of disappointment--of knowing, throughout the good parts of Anthem, that you'll inevitably come crashing back down.

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Now Playing: Anthem Quick Video Review

Back To Top
The Good
Flying is exhilarating, and the views are beautiful
Experimenting with new loadouts each mission keeps combat fun and satisfying
Some side characters and their stories are endearing and interesting
The Bad
You're frequently forced to land or stay on the ground
The main story is incredibly difficult to follow
Playing with others causes pacing issues, while playing solo can be tedious
Boss fights are underwhelming and lack the excitement found in other combat situations
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Kallie played Anthem for 27 hours during the Origin Access Premier pre-release period on PC. She also played for a few hours on a PS4 Pro, with Xbox One and Xbox One X testing by other GameSpot staff. Review code was provided by EA.
562 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Batusai4Ever

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I need a free copy of this game or they should put it on the PS Plus lineup...cannot see myself paying for it.

I accept donations!

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JimBob345

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Hmmm... Is 6 fair? Haven't played it, nor probably will, but the amount of streams of Gamespot staff playing this game and having a blast surely implies something other than a 6? Why keep broadcasting streams of a "fair" game???

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rulzgamers

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Thinking about to buying for PS4 pro and thinking about to buying the keyboard and mouse too for pS4 :D

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rulzgamers

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Any tips about the game are always welcome!

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fkguy300

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In its current state I'd say $10 is all it's worth...... 6 is far to high for this mess of a game.

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Bubba_666

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There isn't much of a game here to review, but damn it's pretty. I guess that's why graphics matter SO much to people (sarcasm)

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TruSake

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Gamespot has gotten as lazy with these quick video reviews, as me having to read the review.

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Bamda

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I played the beta twice and I always came away not impressed. So when the ship date came, I waited for the reviews. Now I feel justified in waiting, this looks like another bargain bin game from EA.

3 • 
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Parker39

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To be honest I think you were generous with your score for this game.

4 • 
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fkguy300

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@parker39: yaaasss far too generous I'd say.. I rate the game a 3 in it's current state.

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yeknomdab

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Edited By yeknomdab

Seems accurate--and fair... (Dunno if this has already been pointed out, but the use of Primers and Detonators in combat were used in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the more recent Mass Effect: Andromeda.)

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5tu88sy

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Edited By 5tu88sy

6!!!? This well deserves a 6.5. Get your act together GS!

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yeknomdab

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@5tu88sy: lolz

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ecs33

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By the sounds of it, I think i'll stay away until it's $20

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kiloman_74

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@ecs33: and pounds too! (wait a minute, $20 in England's currency is less than 15 quid? i'll buy the American version then huh!) lol

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yeknomdab

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@ecs33: Same here...maybe. A buddy was playing it on launch day, and his commentary went from "ooh" and "ahh" to what sounded like a bad case of Tourette's. Frequent disconnects were to blame, but so far, I haven't witnessed anything that screams "BUY ME."

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Scalds

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Just another update after another night of play:

The good: The interceptor is absolutely a blast to play. Give him a Fulcrum machine pistol and Whirlwind (sniper/AR combo), and then forget them 90% of the time. Knives. I really do feel like a space ninja. Really really fun to play.

The bad: Out of all of the load screens that are annoying - there is actually ONE that I would like to see each time - your Javelin when you first launch a mission. And the sad part is - its the ONE that never finishes. All I know is my super-cool javelin that I spent a lot of time on has really badass calf armor. Instead I get the same still photo of the Ranger. At the very least, they should fix the javelin animation, AND add about 100 other stills. If we are going to see them so much, there should be some variety.

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Drake213

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Why am I reading a video review?

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kiloman_74

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Edited By kiloman_74

@Drake213: same reason why i'm talking to a moniter? we're both nuts! ( well, not sure about you but I certainly bloody am! lol kidding)

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fkguy300

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the game gets so boring after a while i'd rather watch paint dry on my wall.... i won't go into all the other things other people have already pointed out. Bioware has turned to crap.

5 • 
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Fergiefire1

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Edited By Fergiefire1

Anthem is rubbish when will ea learn that while they aretrying to rip off gamers with cheap online only games they will lose millions and go bust.

9 • 
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proceeder

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Edited By proceeder

So, as of today, I can no longer play Anthem.

The game shoots up the CPU and GPU usage so high that the LSU turns off the power to the motherboard.

The only other instant that something simillar had happened, in the past, was with Denuevo DRMs. Those I could fix by controlling the affinity.

This, this is way worse!

I don't understand! The game was running before the day 1 patch. Now...

Maybe it's all for the better.

6 • 
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Scalds

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Load screens are the only complaint I have so far. World is beautiful. Like the Colossus and Ranger so far. Game is fun. I like the fact that you have to land. If you didnt, you would just fly around the whole time and miss the cool stuff on the ground. Once you mix in flight into some of the boss fights and mass attacks, it really adds a 3rd dimension.

Didnt Destiny get a 6 or so when it first came out? Games like this will grow over the release. Not saying that releasing unfinished is ok, but the game is fun. I can see myself playing this just as much as I did Destiny - which is a lot.

NEEDS and arena option though.

3 • 
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skippert

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@Scalds: You are still in the honeymoon period. Give you a few more days.

5 • 
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jasonb520

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Its not terrible, its exactly how i thought it would be. It suffers from the same thing destiny did and that was lack of things to do to earn this high level loot. Wandering aimlessly in free mode is dreadful. Basically just flying around until some sort of event is triggered its over pretty quick and doesnt seem reward all that well unless you complete 3-4 during a free session and go back to the end of adventure screen. It has a lot of room for growth but as for now, i have no idea what im doing and not sure how to actually trigger some missions. Going to give it my attention for now but expect big things to come

2 • 
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mozzermonkey

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Playing this on Origin with the 10hr trail and probably uninstall it before the 10hrs as the game is as dull as dishwater. Looks wonderful but fancy graphics don't make a great game.

6 • 
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drinner

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IDK, man... this game still looks superhot! Plus, I feel like it stayed WAY more faithful to it's original representation as compared to some other stuff "such as the the Mass Effect: Andromeda disaster. It's too bad it's EA, but I do love most of Bioware's content. If it ever drops in price, I might get it...

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CraZkid37

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I'm sorry, but this review is ridiculous. It just comes off a bit whiney. Complaining you have to land once in awhile, abilities don't do anything, enemies actually hindering you and hard to follow?? Are we even playing the same game?

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@CraZkid37: The heat mechanic on flying really is a bummer though. There's no point to it. You fly (fun) for 10 seconds, and unless you're following a river or running through a bunch of waterfalls, you've got to land and run (not fun) to cool off before you can fly again.

Where's the fun gameplay in that?

2 • 
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CraZkid37

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@Mogan: It's a balance issue. You're not meant to be able to fly for an infinite amount of time, it doesn't make sense in the world to be able to do so. There is plenty to explore and see on the ground anyway. It would just be too much of an "easy street" to allow infinite flying. To me, managing my heat, dealing with enemies on the ground and getting around the world IS part of the fun. Do you just want the game to play for you?

2 • 
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Mogan

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Edited By Mogan  Moderator

@CraZkid37: Don't be ridiculous. What I want is to be able to fly around longer than 15-20 seconds without having to find water or land. Flying around like Iron Man is fun, crossing this huge map in short hops is not. You can't fight while flying, so it's not a balance issue; there's no advantage to longer flight beyond making traversal (which the game requires a lot of) easier.

They could have done so much more with the flying, but instead it's this weirdly gimped, kinda pointless mechanic that doesn't actually tie in with the gameplay much at all.

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drinner

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@CraZkid37: IKR?! What was it she said about the guns not being very satisfying or some crap?! Meanwhile, it looks fantastic on screen! C'mon

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dwjurgens

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I prefer the typical review format where you have a voice over against the game. It gets right to the point and I'm not getting as good a feel for the game as I'd like with the talk show/pod cast kind of format. Having said that, I think the talk show format would be okay as a secondary standalone format video where you can get more additional insight from the initial review

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jagdedge124

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Will EA beat Activision in the number of layoffs?

3 • 
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Sound_Demon

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@jagdedge124: I dont understand the layoffs thing. Getting laid off is never good BUT these hot air balloons are no longer industry kings so a relevant way for them to shrink as a company is to have less employees. EA and ACTIVISION haven't had frequently relevant releases in a while.

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ecs33

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Edited By ecs33

@Sound_Demon: Gotta feel bad for those developers. Decisions from up top in an attempt to make more profit resulted in uninspired game designs and has hurt their quality. The developers will suffer the most for decisions they were likely against. That's what this field entails though.

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Sound_Demon

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@ecs33: I sympathize with the dev's, dont get me wrong but their talents are better put to use elsewhere. I hope they find better jobs but I also hope these companies go away and better companies turn publishers.

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SaturatedButter

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"But first, what is Anthem?"

"The game right? Not... the anthem?"

Oof. Starting this new format off with a bad joke that everyone will think is lame. Bold move there, Kallie.

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brenton_332211_

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The truth is, this game is awesome. Been gaming for over 30 years and this game is totally engrossing and addictive. The gameplay is so much fun darting around, for me using my ranger to mix up guns, grenades and launchers. Playing freeplay I stumble onto interesting things and events constantly, completing world events, seeing more of the interesting world and theres quite a range of different enemy types. The feeling of combat is so much fun, and as a longtime bioware fan too (since the original baldur's gate) the story is interesting enough.

If like me you were reading all the reviews around 6/10, I reckon give it a try, I'm having an absolute blast. Should note I'm playing on a good pc though, and I'd recommend that, plays smooth and gorgeous.

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brenton_332211_

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@brenton_332211_: Thought I'd update this - I finished the game awhile ago, taking my time, doing pretty much all the missions and all the conversations (ugh have to force myself to talk to Neeson and that cleaning guy). I've stopped playing it since. I see what people were saying - there's nothing to do at the end of the game but repeat 3 missions which is already kind of tedious, and its just a grind. (Not to mention I finished the game at level 19, and supposedly the end game begins at 30) So yea while it was fun while it lasted, I've already kinda moved on. (It does get old). The game desperately needed some cooler, more dynamic missions and interesting setups, and the story was soo short. So yea its a bit mediocre in all. They have a good framework to add many interesting missions from here, but yea its up to where they go from here, and while I might come back and try to grind up to 30, I think I'm done for a little while.

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kenundrum7

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Edited By kenundrum7

@brenton_332211_: It is fun for a while, but it gets old fast, and the problems become more annoying.

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stupiddimbulb

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@brenton_332211_: Oh look, another Bioware employee hysterically attempting damage control. Try not to be such a cliche next time :)

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Zoron

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I am sort of not on same page with Review here. I spent close to 40 hours of play on Anthem. This is completely just addicting and super fun. Gameplay is really engrossing and enjoyable to start with. Yes there are a few bugs, which game does not have it? First of all, Anthem is not a story based Genre Game so lets not even talk about campaign here. Its in the same Genre as Division and Destiny is and I have given 100s of hours to both of them since their inception. Anthem Stands far better and polished than both Division and Destiny in its gameplay at its launch than other two. It took both of them 2 years before they became what they are today and still got their underlined criticism of grinding and sponginess.

Coming back to Anthem. Anthem's combat is simply addicting to start with. The new dimensions of flying and strategically approaching the bosses with different gameplay options just simply makes it extremely good and way better than any other combat experience. Game play is just super smooth on both PS4 Pro and PC. New patch yesterday during launch addressed quite a few bugs and incidentally i did not ran across any audio issues. 40 hours of gameplay and just two crashes. I dont recall any game that has never crashed in 2 day marathon gaming. Anthem's story expedition is not at its finest as we were expecting out of Bioware. But, again, game is not meant for campaign experience, it is a MMO RPG. We simply CANNOT judge Anthem or Division or destiny on its Story lines. These are not Mass Effect or RedDeads or Witcher Games. So lets please stop talking about campaigns here. It has enough story to it get everyone going just like other games and lays down a base. I am very satisfied with Gameplay experience as no other game in this Genre has this sort of smooth and super great Javelin flying and ground based fighting system.

The biggest and the only two annoyances i have had are the load screens between gear changes and load outs cannot be altered on the go. Would love to see this coming in future.

Fort Tarssis is slow.. Yes, but, it because its Huge! Not because it moves slow. What i am finding again and again in reviews at IGN and Gamespot is slowness and lack of depth in story. If you compare it to division base of operations and destiny tower, tarsis is huge, and offcourse it will take time to go around it. And if you spend good time exploring Tarsis, you will find great many codex giving huge depth to story line. yes.. You have to explore tarsis good to dig through Anthem's story. It is not served on plate to just come and review in 40 hours.

Grinding. Anthem is grinding, but far less grinding than both Division and Destiny. Gamers like me spent 100s of hours on both grinding in hop of finding something better. Anthem is far more rewarding than both of them. It looks like reviewer was in too much of a hurry to probably find legendary items in 2 days rather than spend some time and effort like other titles in genre. PS: MMOs are grinding by design. Thats how players stick to it for end game content. Strangely i find review saying end Game content is too far into the game. Were we expecting end game content to be served earlier?

Anthem already have a great upcoming plan for next 3 months and fixes. am looking forward to it.

Ending My Review: And Easy 8 on score.

Pros:

- Absolutely best addicting combat gameplay. Each Javelin provides great amount of flexibility and avenues to explore and unique

- Crafting is quite great and interesting

- Tonnes of End Game Content already present, and a lot more planned in coming months

- Super smooth Multiplayer experience. Multiple system works great! Never saw any balancing issues during match making

- Experience in each Javelin is just GREAT! True Iron Man with Hulk Like strength in Colossus. And they feel Good ti pilot

- Enemies are not spongy. If tackled and planned good, some of the most challenging and best bosses to beat. Truly Dynamic and mechanical. Hit at weak points, you can bring them down in 2 mins. Keep Hitting armor, fight can even last 30mins. It all depends upon you play style. Precision or Raw Firepower.

Cons:

- Load Screens between loadout changes and going back to Tarsis. Would be better to have cut scenes

- Movement Speed in Tarsis needs to be increased as its a huge fort and takes time to explore

- Tarsis has huge amount of opportunity areas to expand. Not fully utilized

- Reward system needs to be tweaked to difficulty level.

- Legendary and Masterwork items should have interesting glitter and Exotic like strengths to them. Currently they feel dull in presentation.

5 • 
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stupiddimbulb

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@zoron: How many more Bioware employees are going to post fake reactions to this review?

6 • 
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jenovaschilld

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Edited By jenovaschilld

@zoron: And if you spend good time exploring Tarsis, you will find great many codex giving huge depth to story line. ...

No! NO! Just fukking No. I am glad this game does it for you, but I (and many others) want the master story tellers this studio is known for. And I am tired of the FPS/RPGmmo genre that forget the RPG part.

11 • 
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supergamerbot

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@jenovaschilld: Iyeah, I kind of agree with you here. I, for one, am loving Anthem, however, being a big RPG fan I too would prefer Bioware went back to their golden era of amazing story telling like Dragon's Age and Mass Effect.

It's a real shame they took such a downturn and just can't seem to recover from it. So I'm happy that at least Anthem is pretty good, even if, yes, it's just another action with light RPG elements to give it enough depth rather than a proper meaty good RPG.

2 • 
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Sound_Demon

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Edited By Sound_Demon

@zoron: Watching Skill Ups review, a whopping 45 minute dissection, and playing the demo:

Combat is shallow and unexciting, please dont say it is.

"Balancing" is not something rewarded, its expected. It's like saying "oh wow the game works as intended in this area! +1"

The map and mission structures are just so pathetic and boring that it siphons any spirit the game may or may not have had.

The game forces you to go through story points often making useless decisions, you cant just say "let's not talk about it".

Shooting something for 2 minutes straight ISNT grindy?

You're allowed to like the game but you're really sympathizing for some reason. the game owes you nothing and only wants to grab your wallet. You're like a tiny gold mine for EA.

4 • 
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cejay0813

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6 is accurate

9 • 

Anthem

First Released Feb 15, 2019
released
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

In Anthem, a new game from EA's BioWare studio, explore a landscape of primeval beauty, confront the dangers you find, and grow in power with every step.

6
Fair

Average Rating

374 Rating(s)

7.1

Developed by:

Published by:

Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Teen
Alcohol Reference, Language, Mild Blood, Use of Tobacco, Violence