Anthem is a really fun game … I got hooked on this from the looter shooters with the first Destiny . Afternoon, some will say; all good, many others will think. And since then I have enjoyed a lot with games like The Division, Destiny 2 and now with Anthem. I’ve been playing the new Bioware for about 45 hours. And I keep going for a while every day.
Relax, I will also talk about your failures, but let me start the analysis with something positive. More than anything because the negative has been said so much everywhere that it seems that the game has nothing good. And it is not like that at all.
Following the release of Apex Legends, its producer, Drew McCoy, stated the following …
Trying to convince a skeptical audience for months with trailers and articles with impressions about the game … we preferred to go in plan “let the game speak for itself”, it is the most powerful antidote against possible problems.
We are developing a free to play game with boxes of loot after being bought by EA and above is not Titanfall 3. It is the perfect recipe to get a marketing plan go wrong, so why: let’s launch the game and let the players play.
With Anthem, the opposite has happened …
The bombing of videos, streams and messages of all kinds in social networks during the weeks prior to its launch was brutal. To that we must add a lot of factors that have played against him: the delay of the game, the Bioware jump from developing narrative experiences focused on a player to a looter shooter, all the technical problems we live with VIP demo (and to a lesser extent with its demo open), the bad reception that Mass Effect Andromeda had, the problems of Star Wars: Battlefront II with loot boxes and micro transactions, the arrival of a Battlefield Va bit lacking in content … Not to mention that, two weeks before Anthem, EA decided to launch a battle royale by surprise: that Apex Legends that for the moment is being a hit.
Anthem needed more time
A new delay would have suited this title. It sounds contradictory when a paragraph above I said that delaying it was one of the factors that played against him, but has an explanation: when it is correctly transmitted that a delay is given by the will to launch the game in the best conditions, the community usually take it well. When, on the other hand, the feeling left by the news of a delay is that the development is being very problematic and that they have to get out of the quagmire as it is, the thing is twisted. With Anthem the second happened. I think a new delay thanks to which the game could have been more polished and, above all, with more content at the level of endgame activities, would have made us see everyone with different eyes.
Anthem, as I said at the beginning, is a looter shooter. A game whose proposal is based on going out to shoot and collect both materials and new equipment, always in search of the best weapon and the best skills. And that’s it. But Anthem is also a game as a service. That is, a title designed to last for years thanks to constant updates and new content that manages to attract players to enter daily.
What then needs a looter shooter that is also a game as a service to be a good video game? That’s where the thing, however much the ultimate goal is as basic and simple as leveling up and getting the best equipment, can be complicated to infinity. From what we have seen over the last few years with other similar games, developing a looter shooter as a service is not a simple task at all.
The halberds and mobility as a playable key
Anthem has very well resolved all the part related to the shooter. Shooting and throwing all kinds of skills (ice, fire, lightning and more) is extremely satisfying. To all this we must add the main novelty with respect to games like Destiny or The Division: a mechanized suits called halberds that allow you to fly. In fact, Anthem is a game based mainly on the mobility options offered by these halberds, which differentiates it completely from the rest of similar proposals.
Here we do not have different classes with different characters for each of them, but a single character with personality and voice that can put on a halberd or another depending on the preferred game style (although in the end they do the class function, obviously). And the way to face the confrontations changes very sharply with each of these halberds.
Best of all, it’s fun to play with any of them. And flying is as simple as it is wonderful. Personally I think the Colossus, which is the slowest and heaviest of the four, as a tank, is the one I least enjoy. Of the other three I would not know what to really stay with: the Command is very balanced and offers polished and comfortable control, the Interceptor is the fastest of all, ideal for hand-to-hand combat, and the Storm is the most vacile, with that layer that it carries, and is thought to face the combats from the air. And eye, you can customize it with a lot of detail.
They are not unlocked, they will have to go up in order to obtain them, and they are not unlocked in any predetermined order: you choose the one you want next and from there you will have to continue advancing with what you have until the next unlocking. This is ideal not only to have the incentive to try them all little by little, but to make the game feel new and fresh with each change of halberd.
And that is important both during the story and once the endgame is reached. In fact, there lies the true key of Anthem: the endgame opens a new range of possibilities that returns to the way of playing. I explain. And to do it I’m going to have to detonate the operation of the objects (weapons, components and abilities), which may seem boring, but it is necessary. Let’s see.
During the campaign we only have access to objects of common rarity (white), rare (green) and rare (blue). Once the campaign is over, the epic objects (purple) begin to jump. And in the endgame the masterpieces (orange) and legendary (gold) are unlocked. White objects have no additional advantages. Greens have one, blues two and purples three. These advantages are random, so that, for example, we can have the same rifle several times but with different advantages. Some will give us more armor, others more speed or damage, etc.
The key, as I said, is in the masterpieces of endgame. Not only because their level of power is much higher than that of the epic objects, but because they have a very powerful specific advantage added to the random ones that, again, can change the way we play. I give a concrete example: there is a pistol that, in its masterful variant, deals 200% more damage when firing while suspended in the air. If until that moment your style of play had been based on the melee, maybe you want to try to play from the air or even change the halberd to maximize this advantage using the Storm. Especially since in the endgame there are also new levels of difficulty that turn enemies into real hard bones to crack.
The same happens with the components, which are objects that provide improvements to the halberd and also have associated additional random advantages. When you unlock a masterful component, you will most likely want to test its effects and modify the way you play. And even if it is not like that, the simple effect that all these new advantages have on the ground are palpable and they manage to offer the feeling of playable novelty even after 40 or 50 hours of play.
As an aside, if you are interested, the campaign lasts at least 15 or 16 hours. It took me about 19 hours to get to the end of it because on the way I did a few secondary missions and contracts. In Fort Tarsis, which is the main safe area of the game, there are many characters with whom to engage in conversations to obtain missions or just to chat. If someone wants to lore, there you will find several tons.
An endgame lacking in activities
And if I have praised what Bioware has been able to achieve at the level of gameplay both before the endgame and when it comes to it, this is where Anthem loses at the level of activities: there is not much to do beyond completing contracts, which end up being the same, carry out events in the free game mode and finally three different bulwarks (the bulwarks are longer and more difficult activities than the rest of missions and contracts, where there is also a final enemy of large dimensions and resistance).
I think that the average player in this type of title wants to be able to dedicate many hours a week. More than the current level of content of the endgame allows without getting bored. I have not reached that point (yet), but as Anthem has come to the market, and being the type of game that is, it is evident that it lacks contents in launch. Much.
While the campaign lasts there are no problems in this regard beyond some missions less inspired than others, something that in open-world games is usual, and the truth is that conversations with other important characters and their non-playable sequences are a marvel as a rule, but once it finishes, it’s time to farm. And there Anthem is very lucky to have a good gunplay, some funny confrontations and the novelties that the masterpieces bring, because the variety of activities is negligible.
Of course, the famous mission of the tombs of the legionaries, although it was revised in the release patch, is still a choice of the most risky as the main mission. Given its status as a shopping list (open chests, revive halberds, complete events, etc.), it makes more sense as a secondary mission than a primary one. It gives the feeling of being involved to extend the playing time artificially, which in a game like this is incompressible.
On the other hand, the option of being able to carry out any matchmaking activity is very interesting. In fact it is the one that comes by default, but if someone wants to play alone you can do it without problems. The bad thing about matchmaking is that it has a really annoying system that moves you to the position of the player who goes in the lead towards the objective of the mission when you fall behind. In the last patch this topic has been somewhat mitigated, but it is still a real nuisance because it is accompanied by a loading screen. And in Anthem there are too many load screens, most of them very long and even within the own open world when entering certain areas. Very absurd
Anthem does not have a competitive multiplayer in which to take refuge while new content arrives for the endgame, for example. On the other hand, the events of the world that take place in the Anthem free game mode are not indicated in any way on the map, so to carry them out you have to go from one side to the other until crossing with some by chance. That or pull the maps that the community itself is already assembling to, at least, know where these events are generated. In the first Destiny, the same situation occurred and, at that time, the community developed mobile applications with the location of the events on the map and when they were going to be active. In Destiny 2, Bungie solved it by integrating these events on the map. Surprising that Bioware has fallen into the trap at this point with Anthem.
And there is nothing more to do, as I said: free play events, contracts without too much variety and three bastions that are very short. According to Anthem’s road map, this same month of March should come new cosmetic items, new rewards, legendary missions (I guess it will be the missions of the campaign but with a higher level of difficulty) and new types of events for free play. But until April a new bulwark does not arrive, which in the end is the type of activity that encourages the most to play, and for the first cataclysm we have to wait until May.