With the release date closing in for Anthem, players finally have a taste of what Bioware’s latest sci-fi epic has in store for them. The demo that went up recently lets you play the game from character levels 10-15 which hopefully means that the early story reveals won’t be impacted when the full game arrives. Thought it must be said that it’s hard to tell if what the demo gives you is an accurate idea of what the final game will be.
Your first experience in the game drops you into a hub area from a first person perspective and it’s an impressive sight with some great looking locations that change with the time of day. Characters you speak to are highly detailed and it makes you wish that Bioware would consider making a full first person RPG. People who’ve been following the game from the early announcements might notice that crowd density appears to have been cut back a lot from those early reveals – those busy marketplaces are a lot less so now. That is a shame as the crowds in those videos helped set an effective atmosphere and the reduction now leaves you with only a few NPCs beyond potential quest givers.
Once you take on a mission and jump into a Javelin you arrive in the real meat of the game world and your view switches to a Mass Effect style third person perspective that lets you see your custom suit in all its glory. Traversing the map is much like the early videos with you taking advantage of your Javelin’s flight capabilities. You can still cover a lot of ground on foot (and sprint too) but the amount of verticality in this world means that at some point you’re going to have to take to the skies. What may surprise compared to the early videos is that your flight time is quite limited and your Javelin will quickly overheat meaning you have to still be good at covering ground the old fashioned way (ie. by foot).
But when it comes to the actual combat I’ve got to say it feels really good. If you enjoyed the multiplayer modes from the Mass Effect series (a really fun distraction) you should be in familiar territory. The combat can be frantic and there’s no shortage of enemies being thrown at you. Being able to wade through all the chaos and somehow come out on top is a great feeling especially when taking on the larger enemies. The different Javelins and their abilities encourage team work in missions with everyone finding their role and working the objectives. Playing in a squad of two we had a Colossus (the “tank”) drawing the main forces with a Ranger (the “all-rounder”) picking off the exposed enemies from a distance. My impression is there looks like there are enough variation to let players to experiment a lot and pick the appropriate Javelin to fit the situation and team. It also seems there won’t be any shortage of loot from the missions either and items that you don’t want can be broken down for parts.
Customisation of your Javelins seems to be where the game is at on the microtransaction front and there appears to be no shortage of ways that players can add their own unique styles. It’s neat seeing material and wear options too so if you want your “suit of armour” to look like beaten, polished metal you can do that easily. If you want your Ranger to look like War Machine from Iron Man/The Avengers it’s surprisingly easy. Vinyls add unique designs too and I can see this being an area which could get a lot of interest if the marketplace can produce plenty of content for a reasonable price.
I did enjoy my time with Anthem but if there’s one word that comes to mind in relation to the demo as a whole it’s “disjointed”. The hub world looks amazing and the characters are incredibly detailed during conversations (Bethesda could learn a thing or two because these are amazing) but it’s a first person experience which all but disappears once you jump into your Javelin… so why do it? When you’re in the main world tackling missions there’s load screens between some areas which really breaks up the feeling that this isn’t truly an open world. The Division really nailed the seamless world aspect with its safehouses and mission handling so it’s hard not to wish Anthem would have chosen to steer a little closer in that direction. The full game may be a different matter entirely… this is a demo after all… but still, there does look like enough here to keep the game on player’s radars.
Anthem launches on February 22nd for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.