So this weekend I was lucky enough to get access to the Anthem VIP demo, along with a few of my friends. It was a crazy weekend for us gamers as well as the Bioware and EA support teams, but there are some very important takeaways that we have put together for you.

The Demo Situation

The VIP demo launched to a cascade of issues right from the start. Players struggled with server connection issues, infinite menu loops and repeated game crashes. Those that did manage to get in were hit with extreme rubber-banding reminiscent of time travel from Quantum Break, although totally unintentional. There were also many strange bugs that overly taxed system resources even when in menus. Not a great start at all.

Fortunately, the team at Bioware were quick to respond and made fixes which greatly improved the experience for most players the following day, allowing for many of us to actually get in and experience the game. The Bioware team were fully transparent and in constant communication which was highly commendable, but ultimately unforgivable for a VIP demo experience. If this was labeled a Beta this would have been expected, but the way it was presented was very much a glimpse of what to expect in the game, which is launching in just a few weeks.

With a game that is said to run for a long time with ongoing free content updates, the feedback from the development team does bode well for the future. We have seen the success of games like Warframe for this very reason, so fingers crossed that this continues.

The Gaming Experience

So how was the actual game? The game itself is beautiful, with breathtaking visuals throughout the open world, crisp player models and some epic visual effects during fights. I often stopped to admire the state of my Javelin (the mech suit you fly around in) when covered in steaming green poison or other organic material, in the middle of a fight.

The map has a lot of verticality to it which makes flying around in your Javelin a serious amount of fun. The gameplay itself felt great with the freeplay getting most of my attention, zooming around to random world events with friends was definitely a highlight. The different Javelins feel and play very differently and this adds up to some great team gaming experiences. The most fun I had was when teamed up with my buddies and throwing down combos together with alternating freeze/exploding effects. It adds an element of teamwork that felt different to anything I have experienced before. After finishing up a long session with my friends last night I really am excited to play more Anthem.

Sorry PC players

The biggest disappointment for myself and my squad was the poor state of the PC experience. The entire game from the controls through to the menus and UI is designed for console and just dropped into PC. The flying is difficult to control and swimming underwater is a near impossible task of smashing into dark walls totally disorientated. This sucks out a lot of fun from the game and shifted the experience significantly. Our squad often joked about the swimming sections being harder than any of the boss fights – far from ideal.

The UI is particularly slap dash, with menus that show you dials and buttons that you can’t access unless you go deeper into the menus (why show it to us then), making for a very clumsy experience and left me confused as to why a button wasn’t working multiple times. The PC visuals are amazing, but with a AAA title I expected more attention to detail for the PC enthusiast crowd.

What does this mean for Anthem?

Well this is the tricky bit, the game itself is a lot of fun and has what it takes to be a great experience. Right now, there is too much technical work to be done before anyone should be paying for this. I’m still excited to play more, but I would advise caution. I don’t think there is enough time for the Bioware team to make any major fixes from Anthem VIP Demo to make their way into the upcoming Open Demo this weekend, so I would expect more of the same.

Having said that, I will certainly push through the bugs to get some more gameplay in this weekend, regardless of the demo’s shortcomings. That makes me feel there is something really solid underneath. So I would keep a close eye on how the launch goes and make a call once the full game is out and the teething issues are well and truly fixed. This will likely be a great game someday, but a healthy dose of patience would serve you well.