As a fan of both BioWare and shooters, I have been tentatively excited about Anthem since it was first announced. I went into it with few expectations, but hoped to have an enjoyable game with a good story, that I could share with my friends. I offered my first thoughts during the trial, but now that it has been out for almost a week I have been able to put a significant number of hours into it, and I’m ready to share my thoughts.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
The World of Anthem
Fort Tarsis is the in game anthem hub for the individual player to explore, work on their javelin, speak to NPCs, and get quests. What I really like about it is how it expands as the game progresses. There are a bunch of areas that still aren’t accessible, so I hope they aren’t just for show and will open up in the future. The game world outside of Fort Tarsis is beautiful, and fun to navigate, but so far isn’t all that varied. However I know this will change and expand as time goes on, so this isn’t much of an issue for me. One issue I do have with the world and the map is that there aren’t really any differing landmarks I can get accustomed to. When I’m flying around, without the quest markers I really have no clue where I am, and have to keep looking at the map. It would be nice to have enough landscape variation that allowed me to learn the regions a bit more intuitively.
NPCs in Anthem are visually lovely, and as the game progresses you meet a number of them who are quirky and fun to interact with outside of giving quests and advancing the story. Pirndel and his efforts to make Fort Tarsis a safe place, Sayrna and her desire to pet baby animals that could probably kill her, and Brin and her plant collection give the game more heart, and help mould the world into something believable. There are also a lot of emotional stories and exciting side missions connected to the various NPCs, so every time I come back to Fort Tarsis I feel like I am busy exploring and talking to people. The main story is interesting enough, though not as fleshed out as those who know the storytelling capabilities of BioWare might have wanted. However, stories are still there for those who want them. It just takes a bit more digging. The humour, heart, and little details are what make me love it and appreciate it as a BioWare game – the debate between which radio drama is best (it’s Crimson Lancer), the busybody Neeson Giles who really just wants to be the Freelancer’s friend and have someone to talk to, and the Chronicler with her mistrust and fear all showcase the care and love put into the world beneath the surface of the main story. It’s available , but it takes a bit of digging to get it.
I’ll go through the types of gameplay and highlight what I think is good and bad for each. First of all, freeplay. Freeplay for me needs a good balance between available activities and room to explore. Flying around in my javelin is fun, and having the space to do that on my own terms is great. There’s also a decent amount to do, though sometimes it’s hard to find when you want it. Still, I’ve enjoyed completing challenges and collecting materials in freeplay far more than I expected I would.
The actual quests and contracts in the game are relatively varied, and take long enough to make them satisfying without taking up too much time. The main questline had enough of a story to get me hooked, an emotional plot line that made me excited to jump in and keep going, and a variation of quest types. I did most of the main quests in private mode, on normal, and found that challenging enough to be fun but not too challenging that I felt discouraged by it. For the quests I did with others, there was enough to keep everyone busy. My one gripe for multiplayer quests was that during fetch quests, sometimes only one player was needed to get stuff done and the others were standing around because enemies weren’t spawning. I didn’t mind the fetch quests as long as enough things to shoot were interspersed within it. I REALLY enjoyed the Trial of Resolve in the Fortress of Dawn quest, and it made me desperately want a horde mode or challenge for this game. Please. I need it. That brings me to the Strongholds, which have aspects that feel a bit like a horde mode at points, but also include lots of other challenging quest elements. I found the strongholds to be more difficult, but also more exciting than the normal quests. They included different tasks that necessitate playing with others and working as a team. While normally not a fan of dungeons and similar challenges in MMORPGs, I really enjoy the strongholds. Overall I think the game modes are fun as well as challenging. I do see some repetition, particularly in the fetch heavy quests that can get dull in groups. This could be easily remedied by adding in a few extra quest elements that varied and made them more engaging for everyone.
Wow, the javelins are awesome. This is the selling point of this game for me. The exosuits give players 4 options depending on their play style. I like to play tank, so I main Colossus. Storm is for people who prefer long distance and keeping away from the danger, the Interceptor is more like a rogue class built for quick attack, and the Ranger is a good choice for anyone who can’t quite decide. The suits themselves are customizable, from weapons and special abilities, to the appearance of the armour and the colour schemes. The Forge is the place to customize your javelin, and my fellow GameSavvy writer Steven says you should always go to the Forge after every mission. I tend to agree. Even if there aren’t any big changes I want to make, it’s a good place to look at what new weapons and parts I’ve picked up. I’ve seen everyone sharing their customized javelins on social media, which has been a great way for all of us to engage as a community.
Overall, Anthem did not disappoint me. I think that any critiques I have would be related to the game trying to please two very different groups of gamers with one game – the hardcore BioWare fans who value the immersive storytelling aspects of their single player games, and the people who are hot for multiplayer shooters and want variety in a multiplayer experience that they can pour time into without it getting tiresome or dull. For either of those groups, Anthem won’t make them 100% happy. BioWare fans still want romance, companions, and a bit more narrative. The multiplayer fans want engaging gameplay with longevity. The people that the game is well suited for are ones who are fans of both, like me.