I played a good deal of the Anthem “demo” when the servers would let me this weekend, and I’m ready to share my impressions of the game.
The TLDR here if you want to get in, out, and on with your life is that Anthem is a lot of fun and you should consider purchasing it.
Oh what? You would like me to write more about it.
Sigh….ok. I guess I am a writer and stuff.
Anthem has quite a ways to go to clean up some issues before its proper day one launch, and like any games as service you can anticipate it changing quite a lot in the next year. That being said Anthem has nailed the gameplay in places where it really counts–it feels incredibly good to play for the most part. Let us break it down into the good and bad stuff I noticed during the demo shall we?
Ok so let’s get this out of the way up front, the servers were a train wreck this weekend, but especially on the day of launch on Friday. For the first 13 hours most people couldn’t log on to the game at all, and when they did they were met with infinite loading screens. I struggled with this, unable to log in for the first time until 11PM CST. I also had constant issues with loading where it would get to the very end and just freeze, never to move forward again. As the weekend went on this problem got a little better, but never went away entirely. There were also rubber banding issues, where you would move forward a bit and snap back to your previous location, and I had several issues with not being awarded XP for a team up with my brother in freeplay.
Obviously some very real issues, and it was these issues that gave Anthem a bit of a black eye this weekend PR wise. That being said I’m really not that worried as most games struggle with their first real server load. The game has almost a full month before it is released in full, and it has one more widely available beta coming this weekend. My hope is obviously that these issues are taken care of before launch day, and that it is 100% smooth come them, but a part of me highly doubts it.
XP, Loot System, & Locked Loadout
This is more of an annoyance than anything else, but it was bad enough that I would point it out even next to the server issues. There is a real problem with the way Anthem shares the data about what loot you’ve received as well as XP, as neither of these show up until after the mission or freeplay session is over. What this means is that say you want to hit a certain level before heading back to HQ, well you will have no idea what level you’ve reached or how much XP until after you close out of that session. The loot also doesn’t show up until this point, and it somewhat lessens that cool drive to see what new thing you have during the mission. On top of this whatever weapons you do choose are locked in from the start of that mission, so if you try out something you don’t like you either need to go back to base, or just live with it. Not being able to swap out on the fly for a different weapon feels extremely restrictive when compared to Destiny.
Bioware, for the love of all that is good, please speed up the walking in Fort Tarsis. I know it is probably to hide loading, but it feels brutally slow.
One of my biggest gripes about Destiny is that unless you are firing off an ultimate move the classes didn’t really feel different. Sure, there were differences when you look at stats, jumps, and other such moves, but for the most part you are just staring down the barrel of a gun like every other class. Though you certainly are still firing weaponry in Anthem, I really felt like both of the Javelins I played felt entirely different. The Interceptor was a lightning quick class with a triple jump, pulse weapons, and an ultimate that turned it into a twirling dervish of death. Dodges were different, animations were different, and the aesthetic is completely different. In this case the third person camera really does Anthem favors, and helped each class feel unique.
This is hands down the best flying I’ve ever experienced in a video game, though admittedly that isn’t a really high bar. I dare you to jump off of the ledge in front of Tarsis, power up your thrusters, and free fly across the landscape without smiling ear to ear. Even in combat it was fluid and easy, with a hover starting when you engage weaponry, and blasting through waterfalls and under water itself was such an epic experience. By the time I stopped playing this weekend taking to the sky was a secondary nature, and I can’t wait to get more time with it this upcoming weekend.
There might be another name to call this section, but ultimately the game just felt very good to play. Thanks to extremely solid visual, audio, and feedback design every thump of an ultimate, weapon discharge, or plunging underwater just felt right. Everything had a weight to it that partnered well with the audio cues, and made every action in the world feel more real.
Even with just the base level available from the start, the customization of your individual Javelin is astounding. You can change color of every single piece of it while also changing the texture of it. Custom emotes, animations, and purely aesthetic armor pieces can also be purchased with in-game (and presumably microtransactions) to further define your character. Vinyls can be awarded as well throughout the game, in fact you’ll receive one if you took part in the Beta, and they can provide a unique look to your Javelin. Overall I imagine we will be looking at some phenomenally garish characters, and that degree of choice is going to carry Anthem far.
It is obviously quite early to call this one, but what I saw I really enjoyed. You play what is essentially a narrative arc of a certain character, and by the end I really found myself liking what they did with him (or them for those that played as well). The voice work ranges from solid to passable with the characters I met feeling likable enough. The story right now seems like it could be quite epic, and with Bioware at the helm it probably will be.
Well, what did you think of the demo? Did you have things you liked or maybe things you didn’t? Planning to buy the full release?
Let me know in the comments below.
One thought on “Anthem “Demo” Impressions”
I mostly liked it, when I could get it to work, the XP and Loot delivery system was a bit weird though and seems to do the opposite of what you’d want a loot based game to do. At the time of playing the loot just didn’t seem important, although it does make post mission briefing a bit more exciting. The XP piece is also weird, I wouldn’t mind if the game didn’t level you up until after the mission but I do want to know what I’m earning in mission.