We have had access to the full retail release of Anthem since the Early Access version went live on February 15th and we also played both the VIP Demo and the Open Demo before that. Although ever evolving games like this continually improve and adapt, we have comfortably spent enough time to review this game in its current full release form.
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Let’s start with the Anthem story and missions. The game starts off with a bang with a scripted cutscene-filled starting mission that sets the tone for the initial story. This beginning really did get me excited and fired up to crack open the world of Anthem. Once completed you can access Fort Tarsis and get going with individual missions and activities.
The structure of missions is fairly similar but due to the enjoyable combat and interesting backstory, they don’t feel like too much of a grind. There is no doubting that this is a Bioware game with deep character stories and plenty of dialogue for you to explore thoroughly. It sometimes feels like every NPC in the city wants to have a 10-minute conversation with you, which can make this a bit of a chore if these conversations aren’t your style. Fortunately, Bioware has added a very fast and effective skipping mechanic to these conversations allowing you to easily skip the delivery of a few lines to speed up the process.
Anthem is an incredibly breathtaking visual feast with the perfect blend of environmental detail, gorgeous lighting, and powerful audio experience. The battles feel furious and explosive due to this and really are a treat on the senses. As you dive into underwater caverns or snow-filled landscapes you really do get a feeling of crisp natural beauty.
The game started off being a bit heavy on your systems hardware and resources but with a few game and driver updates this seems to have improved performance quite a bit.
The gameplay in Anthem is really fun, layering up combos with a pack of friends is a blast. The weapons feel great (especially the rockets and grenades) providing a rewarding shooting experience. Of course one of the biggest elements is the jetpack-powered, Iron Man style flying and this doesn’t disappoint. No boring running from location to location in Anthem, just fire up the thrusters and you can soar into the sky.
While there is no doubt that these controls were made for console controllers, the experience does translate fairly well to mouse and keyboard on PC. Less so in the early demo builds but with some adjustments, the control is greatly improved and pretty quick to get the hang of. Although you can still expect to see a Javelin or two spiraling into a cliff face for no apparent reason.
My biggest pain point with Anthem is the inventory and loot system. Anthem doesn’t allow you to access inventory or loadouts while in a mission, locking this all off in a specific section within Fort Tarsis. This means you can’t switch weapons or armour let alone take a look at what you may have just picked up when you killed a high-level enemy. I’m not sure if this was done to build anticipation for seeing what loot you have received but it really takes a lot of the fun out of looting. There is a significant amount of improvements that need to be made to the loot system (take a look at the Anthem Subreddit for an endless list of suggested improvements) which is really key to adding depth and replayability to this game. We saw a similar issue with Diablo 3 and the Blizzard team managed to get that ship pointed in the right direction eventually.
We are happy to note that the full release version had a lot of fixes from the demo versions and the comments made by the Bioware teams that many of the demo issues would be resolved were true. There are however a significant amount of things that need fixing from the User Interface through to the endless stream of loading screens.
I have no doubt the Bioware team will update and fix over the next couple of months. However, this leaves us in a tricky position for this review. Ultimately it’s not a game we would recommend you run out and buy, rather keep an eye on the community sentiment and wait a couple of months before picking it up. Anthem has all the makings of a truly amazing game, it just needs some tweaking and polishing before it can get there.
Are you playing Anthem? Let us know in the comments section below.