Anthem — My Biggest Takeaways After About 5 Hours of Play
Great gameplay, a fantastic customization system, and a story that seems to have more promise than I anticipated has me looking forward to Anthem more than ever before.
Earlier this week, I went out to EA and played BioWare’s upcoming release Anthem all day long. It was the first extended period of time that I’ve been able to spend with the game and it gave me a lot more insight into what I should expect when the full game finally launches later next month.
Overall, Anthem turned out to pretty much be what I expected. It’s definitely a shared-world shooter that has a similar structure to games within that sub-genre, but the execution and gameplay are what it made stand out to me more than others. BioWare has crafted a gorgeous world that’s a ton of fun to play in and while I still have some concerns about the final product, I’m more excited for the game and the thought of playing with friends after this event than I ever have been before.
So with all of that being said, here are my five biggest takeaways after playing roughly five hours or so of Anthem.
All Four Javelins Feel Great to Play
Knowing that Anthem is phenomenal on the gameplay front is nothing new. This is one aspect of the game that we’ve been praising here at DualShockers since we first went hands-on with it back at E3 2018. That said, this event I attended finally allowed me to play a fair amount of time as all four Javelin models, and I can now safely say that they’re all pretty great in their own way.
The Ranger model is the jack-of-all-trades suit and is honestly the one I found least compelling of the bunch. While it has a fair amount of fun abilities, it failed to stand out to me like the others because it lacked an identity. Still, it has a really satisfying ultimate ability that allows you to take down a bunch of enemies all at once.
The Colossus is the tank of the bunch and boy, do you really feel like a monster in that thing. While you lack any sort of speed or mobility–which somewhat bothered me as a player who likes to be very mobile–the Colossus allows you to stand on the front line and draw enemy fire towards you. I think the Colossus will be less enjoyable if you’re playing Anthem by yourself, but if you play with others then I think it’s a vital part of a four-man team.
By far my two favorite Javelins though were that of the Storm and Interceptor. The Storm, which acts as the sort of mage/warlock class of the bunch, sees you utilizing a ton of elemental abilities to take down foes. It also boasts likely the most busted ultimate of the bunch and essentially allows you to drop three consecutive elemental bombs in a row, wiping out essentially everything in a wide area. The Storm is a ton of fun to play as but it also just looks the coolest, in my opinion. I like that cape a lot.
And lastly, the Interceptor is by far the most fun of the four to use. The Interceptor was the final Javelin that I actually played with and was the one I was least interested in coming into this session. I couldn’t have been more wrong about it though. With a triple jump and a triple dash at your disposal, you zip around the battlefield with the Interceptor like you’re the Flash. While this added speed means you have a lower defense, more often than not I found that it didn’t matter because I was wiping out everything in sight so quickly. As far us pure fun-factor goes, the Interceptor was the most enjoyable Javelin of the bunch and I have a feeling many other players will gravitate towards this model once they get their hands on the game.
Regardless of which Javelin you play as though, I really don’t think you can go wrong. Plus, if you decide you want to mix things up, Anthem doesn’t lock you into one suit for the entirety of the game. As you level up, you’ll begin to unlock all the other Javelin models which means that once you get later into the experience, you’ll be able to swap out between all four at any given time.
The Story Actually Seems Promising
I’ve made it widely known that the throughline narrative of Anthem was by far that one aspect of the game that I expected to suffer. Even though BioWare as a studio is known for its storytelling prowess, everything I have seen and heard of Anthem when it comes to narrative left me with more concerns and questions rather than optimism.
So with this being said, I was actually a bit surprised at how the story started to grip me the more that I played of Anthem. In the grand scheme of things I didn’t get to see much of Anthem‘s narrative arc, but the bits and pieces that I was exposed to seemed intriguing. Once the main conflict of the game became a bit more fleshed out via an early flashback sequence and the game’s main baddie–known as The Monitor–was formally introduced, I started really getting interested in seeing where things were headed.
I still have my doubts about Anthem’s story mainly because I think it’s a bit too difficult for me to be engaged when my character is simply a blank slate within the world, but I’m definitely more hopeful than I once was. I’m looking forward to seeing BioWare try to prove my doubts wrong when the full game releases next month.
Leveling Seems Like It Could Take Awhile
Do you like games where you need to grind a bit to level up? Well, Anthem seems like it could be for you.
At the end of every mission you finish in Anthem, you’ll be given your XP for finishing the quest along with bonuses for certain feats you may have earned throughout as well. The first few missions that I completed saw me leveling up pretty much every time, but this quickly plateaued. After a while, missions were only filling up my XP bar by about half or so.
This is worth mentioning because missions in Anthem weren’t all that short. About every mission that I played seemed to be in the neighborhood of 30 minutes or so in length. So in order to get a big dump of XP to work your levels up, you’ll have to seemingly invest a good amount of time. Don’t expect to level up every few minutes in Anthem.
There are few caveats to this, though. For starters, the XP scaling could have been different in this preview build of the game that I played compared to what we’ll see in the final version of Anthem. Also, Anthem seems like a very large game. With the amount of content that BioWare has seemingly packed into this world, it would make sense if leveling took a bit longer. You don’t want to hit the max level before you’ve barely finished half of the game.
It remains to be seen how long it takes to reach a max level character in Anthem, but it definitely seemed to be something you might have to commit to doing rather than just hitting it naturally. I could be completely wrong here though since I only was able to see how things play out in the game’s opening hours.
Guns Don’t Feel Unique Enough
This was perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Anthem the longer that I played the game: the guns just weren’t all that fun to use. You had a fair mix of shotguns, pistols, assault rifles, snipers, and so on to utilize from your arsenal, but none of them really stood out compared to other third-person games on the market. The different abilities that each Javelin can utilize seems to be where Anthem is finding the majority of its diversity in playstyle rather than such stemming from the guns.
In fairness though, most of my time with Anthem was spent in the game’s early hours which meant that all of my guns were mainly of the common/uncommon variety. I’m hoping that the more you progress through the game, the better your guns will become, not just in terms of stats, but with the unique features that they offer. As it stands though, there were a lot of different weapons to use, but none of them felt very unique.
Character Customization is Dope
Look at me, I made myself into an Iron Man.
In all seriousness, the Javelin customization is one aspect of Anthem that I really fell in love with during my time playing it. Even though I had a short amount of time to play the game and knew that all my progress would never carry over at the end of my session, I still spent so much time fine-tuning my own Javelins. Not only does Anthem allow you to choose every single color that you’d like to put on your Javelin (rather than being locked into specific shaders), but you can also even choose the material that your armor is made up of. This includes the kind of metal, fabric, and other features that make up your suit. It’s a really cool feature and I was honestly shocked by how much depth there was.
When you’re playing a game like Anthem that is meant to keep you coming back time and time again, it’s nice to know that you can constantly change up your look whenever you like. I imagine that when the full game releases I’ll spend more than a few hours tinkering with my own many suit designs.
Anthem is due out next month on February 22 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. A VIP demo for the game is set to occur this weekend, with the same demo becoming available to everyone next weekend.