Ever since it was first announced at E3 2017, Bioware’s newest title “Anthem” caught people’s attention, and had many of them excited to fly around in the game’s Iron Man-esque mech suits. However after the years of delay and waiting, “Anthem” has finally hit shelves and the responses have been less than ideal.
“Anthem” places you in the shoes of a freelancer, a contract soldier equipped with their very own javelin (mech suit), as you stop the evil Dominion from harnessing the power of a mysterious, reality-changing force called the Anthem of Creation. To do so you must fight against scores of enemies that await outside of the walls of giant cities and silence giant machines capable of creating devastating storms and creatures. The opening of the game places you right in the middle of the action as you are tasked with silencing one of these machines, called the Heart of Rage, but it is quickly made apparent that this mission is beyond your capabilities as your crew is killed, forcing you to retreat. Following the short-lived excitement of the opening, the story more or less follows a predictable progression. Go from point A to point B while you dispatch waves of similar enemies and then watch a cutscene that does little to catch your interest. The story never does much to recapture the energy of the opening as the cutscenes do little to raise the stakes and character interactions in the hub world are drawn out and boring. The underwhelming nature of the plot is exemplified by a mediocre ending and a main villain who didn’t quite live up to all his hype.
Bugs and crashes that plagued the demos prior to launch are for the most part removed. However, several minor glitches still popped up throughout my gameplay that often required me to shut down the game and start over. These included randomly kicking me out of customizing my javelins, the screen remaining black long after a cutscene has ended, and the occasional disappearance of a weapon during shootouts. By no means are they as common as they were in the demo, but their continued existence is an annoyance that should’ve been removed prior to launch and should be totally resolved in the near future.
Additionally, even though javelin customization was heavily marketed alongside the game, I still found it rather lacking. Loot drops during the campaign and freeplay include dozens of enhancements and weapons, but when examined and used they almost all feel the same save for the minor stat boosts that higher level gear gives you. They never feel rewarding and at times the rarity levels just seem arbitrary rather than being indicative of usefulness. Furthermore, after having completed the game, I’m still left wearing the same armor that I began with; not once did I ever recieve a new helmet or chest piece other than being offered to purchase a single alternate in the game store. The only silver lining to the lack of gear offered at launch is that the game does provide substantial freedom to customize the color and wearstate of your javelin that would momentarily satisfy my craving to customize.
Luckily, however, in between lackluster story sections and occasional glitches are truly entertaining and thrilling gameplay sections. Though the missions are nothing innovative, mainly consisting of capturing points, killing hordes of enemies and an occasional boss, the gunplay and traversal is fun. After 10 hours of gameplay and counting, the simple act of flying throughout the beautifully designed wilderness of Bastion is thrilling. This is only heightened by the distinct nature of each of the four javelins you’ll be able to pilot through the game: Ranger, Colossus, Storm and Interceptor. Each suit serves a different function as the Colossus is built for brute strength, the Storm works best when dealing damage from a distance, the Interceptor benefits from its speed and the Ranger acts as the best all-around armor type. Luckily the game allows you to play as each and doesn’t punish you if you choose to switch javelins. The player is able to unlock a new javelin at specified levels. However, once you have them there is no need to upgrade the suit for increase damage or armor since each is balanced and only requires you to obtain new gear and weapons through gameplay.
Overall, the gameplay element of “Anthem” is where it truly shines. The novelty of playing inside an Iron Man-esque suit is certainly enjoyable, and the action does manage to entertain. The online open world which you’ll be able to explore inside your javelin and alongside friends is beautiful and filled with enemies to fight and areas to explore. Luckily, the open world never felt empty and the joy of piloting your suit never got old.
But despite fun and fluid gameplay, “Anthem” doesn’t feel like a finished product. With a lackluster story, limited customization and bare bones missions, this game is yet another title that will only be salvaged by the future DLC and updates its developer has already announced.
Verdict: “Anthem” fails to live up to the excitement that it generated following its announcement. An unimpressive story and mediocre loot system does little to capture the interest of its players and is only redeemed due to its entertaining, albeit repetitive, gameplay.