The last time Bioware released a game, it was the highly anticipated Mass Effect: Andromeda. Unfortunately for them, the game was met with a rather lukewarm reception from critics and fans alike, and ever since, fans have been a bit apprehensive over the studio’s next release. Cue Anthem, a brand new IP for the company that seems to step away from their typical game style. With Anthem out now, fans once again are left wondering if Bioware has the ability to regain its spot as one of the best developers in gaming.
The first thing you’ll notice when you jump into Anthem is just how different a game it is for Bioware. For a studio known for lengthy, story-driven titles like Mass Effect and Baldur’s Gate, Anthem seems to be a completely new direction for the studio. An action game that looks to take aim at other MMO-lite titles like Destiny and Tom Clancy’s The Division, Anthem puts players in the shoes of Freelancers, a group of mercenaries whose main job seems to be exploring various dangerous phenomena across the game’s world.
When you start up Anthem, you’ll find yourself on Fort Tartis, a main base acting as the hub of the world. While there, you’ll be treated to a first-person perspective of the game, and can interact with NPCs, customize your character and mech, and pick up and depart for missions. Not much of the hub was shown in the demo experiences for the game, but it looks to be a typical main hub, though it does feel a bit more alive than in most games like Anthem. Not only will NPCs interact with you, but they’ll also acknowledge you as you move about, making you feel like a crucial part of the world.
From the moment a mission begins, players find themselves inside one of four incredible -looking mechs (called Javelins), free to run and fly about as they please. Not only does the movement have a very free-flowing feel to it, but the way players can go from running, to flying, to landing on a perch is extremely seamless. Flying close enough to water will keep your Javelin cool, allowing you to continue flying about a surprisingly expansive map that looks just as beautiful as you’d hope a foreign planet to look.
For many open-world games, moving about is the most tedious aspect of things, but it seems to be the exact opposite for Anthem; getting from Point A to Point B is not only really fun, it might be the best thing Anthem has to offer. When it comes to combat, Anthem often falls short in the gunplay category. Instead of feeling like you’re dealing damage to enemies, you often end up feeling as if you’re watching an enemies health bar drain. There are some fun weapons to try out, and as you and the weapons you get level up, things become a bit better, but the real meat of Anthem’s combat comes in the form of each Javelin’s abilities.
Similar to other games of its kind, each Javelin in Anthem comes equipped with its own set of skills, with players being able to experiment with what kind of class they’ll play. Much like Destiny, each Javelin class comes equipped with a set of special moves and an ability, which can be strung together with your team to form some devastating combos. The Storm Javelin, for instance, deals with strictly elemental attacks, and can deliver chaotic ice blasts or concentrated fire bursts onto enemies. Finding the right pairing of Javelins is crucial for some of the harder fights in the game, and will be a big part of how teams plan to attack certain situations. Better yet, players don’t have to worry about sticking with one class, as you can choose from any of the Javelins at will and switch them about in the game’s hub, which is something titles like Destiny have yet to allow.
Only time will tell if Anthem is able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its other action-MMO peers, but early reports seem to speak to the opposite. Although Bioware seems to have a strong enough foundation for something good on their hands, it seems as if the smaller issues within the game (various loading screens, weak gun action) have all compounded into making Anthem’s early reactions very negative. There might still be hope for Anthem’s future, however, as Bioware has been able to craft a solid gameplay experience, and will need to get to work immediately at fine-tuning exactly what went wrong with the game at launch. For now, though, Anthem seems to be a promising title that perhaps launched just a bit too early.