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Anthem Review

"It Is Calling"

Campaign

February 21, 2019 at 2:53pm

Anthem is a social focused multiplayer experience that presents an action RPG style. It does so in what I'd consider to be a fairly standard presentation. When it comes to the general narrative, you get a clear showcase right at the start. You're basically part of this hot shot group called Freelancers. These special individuals are for hire and were treated like heroes until one big event caused a lot of problems for the group.

You get to see this particular event unfold right at the start which acts like a tutorial and an initial dive into the story. This part aims to be more of a cinematic delivery with minor gameplay, just to set the stage. There are these special relics within the world that shape and create, you were tasked with dealing with a fairly large one. Things go wrong, time has passed and now you're barely getting by as work is hard to come by for Freelancers.
Anthem coop Javelin squad
Everything eventually starts to kick up again and that's largely the time period where this game takes place. You're getting missions from various individuals and being sent out on these expeditions. With this having a focus on social elements you're always matched with a squad comprised of four players.

This can be of friends, or just random people through the quick matchmaking process. You can also adjust this, but it's designed to be for this set quantity of players. To be honest, you really don't interact with the others in your squad as you don't need to. The cooperative elements really don't come into play unless someone happens to get downed, which is rather rare in most situations. At least, that's what I came across while on the default normal difficulty setting. This is certainly a cooperative game, it just doesn't feel like it.

For the most part I generally enjoyed the world, and the quests. They were just enjoyable shooting situations where we went in, shot some things or interacted with a couple objects while shooting things. They're not exactly complex situations, yet varied in terms of setting and the story being told while you worked.

I do wish there was more depth in terms of the narrative for various quests, but like most games of this style you just go along with it. While I found most quests decent, there was a certain point of extreme laziness. The main quest I had come across after awhile required me to search for like fifteen treasure chests, find ten collectibles and a series of other random tasks in the overall world.

Anthem Javelin options
I sort of just stopped caring at that point, diverted my attention to side missions and the Stronghold that was present. I feel like forcing you to do boring side activities is just the downright laziest way to setup a main mission. It was also a huge stoppage point as everything flowed so smoothly prior to that. Talking the Stronghold, these are more challenging Strike-like missions where you battle in a focused area and then take on a large scale boss creature.

It was generally a solid time, like most of the game just being alright. Outside of the various mission types, there are two other key areas. The first is the main hub area, this is a place where you walk around in first person to chat with people. You get quests and other tasks in this area, while also being able to check on certain challenges. It's a bit slow here as you don't move fast, kind of a boring market to be honest.

This is also the area where you launch out, access the Forge or where one might enter the staging area which is a quick section for parties. The Forge is where you edit your gear, there's a wealth of customization here. You can adjust colors, the materials and the style of the Javelin you're using.

For a more practical set of items, you also adjust your weapon loadout. After each expedition or well, adventure out there you'll get gear that you've earned. You can scrap it, equip it or generally play around with the styles to see what works best. It's nothing too wild or special, mostly the same set of gear that you just pick better variations of over time.

The second, and the last area I wanted to mention was the freeplay section. This is the overall world you explore throughout missions, but you just get to visit it in this option. Some random world events will occasionally pop up and there are secrets to discover. I suggest ignoring this aspect until you're forced into it by missions. It's wondrous to just fly around for sure, but you basically explore it naturally through regular story progression.

Anthem Javelin Suit

Gameplay

The Javelins look rather badass in Anthem, they're really cool and very detailed. They have a nice sense of weight to them and there's a distinct variation when selecting which option to go with. I went for the more general style of suit, worked fine for me to have a balance for combat. From that point you fly around which was fun, an awesome experience actually. There's a full cooling system as you dip around waterfalls or chilled areas. It's important to balance out overheating as the sudden drop could prove deadly.

There's also a hovering mechanic present for a more controlled shooting experience from an aerial perspective. The actual shooting in this game is rather generic. You're blasting the same red colored enemies the entire time (called Scars), with basically the same unit types. They mix it up to a minor degree with certain outlaws, but they look like the same color of red as the Scars. You're just mowing down the same enemies over and over, basically little to no variation there. This wasn't particularly challenging, they drop plenty of glowing items you keep you going as well.

You'll get armor from them, a substance that keeps you alive after those shields get chewed away at. You also have other abilities aside from the two regular generic guns, these include blast type options. Something that feels like Mass Effect's concussion shot and there are of course minor variations available on that. You may also choose to have some sort of shield and finally there's a grenade option as well. You just cycle through these to blast any enemy away, some enemies sponge more than others though it doesn't ever take too long.

Most of the game is flying around, drop and shoot at enemies, then fly again. I'll make a quick mention about dialogue, prior to moving onto discussing the environments. You get minor two option choices that don't matter in any way when chatting with people in the hub area. It's like Mass Effect, minus decisions having any direct or altering effect within conversation. Anthem is Xbox One X enhanced and visually stunning there, the world is just gorgeous. Be prepared to wait a long time to get to that however.

The game loads slowly, loads often. You have to load to get anywhere, or to do anything. It's maddening honestly, especially with how seamless games are these days. You'll load if you're accessing the Forge in the hub, you'll load if you fall a few seconds behind teammates. That last part is seriously annoying, literally a second behind and load to catch up, wild. In the freeplay area I had to load into a tiny room that had a memorial area as part of that stupid treasure chest quest, then I had to load to leave it again.

While the game does deliver a native 4k resolution at 30fps with HDR on Xbox One X, you will notice performance drops. They're not terrible, but certainly present. It would have been nice to have visual options as I know many desire the choice for performance boosts. When it comes to the world, it's simply stunning. The amount of detail and realism is rather impressive. It's also a lively world, there are animals on the ground and birds in the sky.

You get to see a shift in the time of day, weather effects and a selection of distinct biomes to visit throughout. They way the story was initially setup before getting boring with generic exploration based questing, you actually saw a lot of this in dynamic ways. It felt fresh moving through it while engaging in the stories. There are unique structures, a sense of overgrowth with fancy structures from the current society lying overtop.

The caves are very detailed, and there's a nice sense of change within the places you visit. You get a vast area to explore, to then be thrown into a claustrophobic space. It's a nice mix-up and it'll have you adjusting your play style to be successful. The enemies aside from the generic red ones are actually really cool, this is mostly in a boss type of way.
Anthem Review Xbox Wallpaper Screenshot

The Conclusion

Anthem delivers a fairly solid experience, it has enjoyable elements but does also come across as rather generic. There's a wealth of content to work through, but it does get rather weak at times as well. I didn't like the freeplay forced main quests, that's just lazy. The Stronghold was neat, I wish there were more of them present. I feel like the lack of PVP in this sort of limits play and generally you'll work through this game, then be finished with it. That is, unless they had more compelling content to it quickly following release. It just seems limited for the type of experience they're trying to present.

It's basically a typical RPG, that has cooperative multiplayer tacked on to make it seem larger than it is. It's like a stripped back Mass Effect, removing the essence of choice and the sprawling story. I actually did have fun playing it though, the flying is so cool and the Javelins are awesome. This was one of the few times that I engaged heavily in side content, but mostly because I was looking for more to do. I burned through most of the story fast and just didn't have the heart to wander around looking for treasure chests. I definitely found the loading to be a problem in this one, but the visuals were gorgeous. Every area was filled to the brim with details, while combat felt largely similar throughout. There's a bit of substance to this one, they could have pushed it further.

Read our Mass Effect Andromeda Review
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Anthem Review on Xbox One X

Rating Overall: 7.2

Gamerheadquarters Reviewer Jason Stettner
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