Whether you are soaring through the skies, bombarding lighting from above, or hovering like Iron Man, Anthem feels great during intense fights, and exploring its lush and dangerous locale is a sight to behold. Anthem is what people call a looter shooter that has the most similarities to Destiny 2 and a little bit of Monster Hunter. It’s just really unfortunate that the game is riddled with bugs, server issues, and dragging loading screens. Never mind the microtransaction as it does not affect any of its gameplay, Anthem’s most pressing issues are on its technical side and tidbits on its narrative.
Is Anthem really worth it? Did BioWare surpass expectations despite its critical reception across the media world? Majority of you will answer no, some say on social media Anthem is a great game even if it has issues since these can be fixed in a future patch. But in my opinion, it’s actually pretty good.
The narrative, at first, was pretty much confusing at best. You’re directly fast-forwarded two years after a critical expedition known as the Heart of Rage (the prologue) that resulted in the Freelancers’ reputation to go downhill. Freelancers were considered to be the protectors and heroes of its world. They take necessary risks to save other people, to lend a hand when people need it. But after the cataclysmic event, you’re simply a mercenary trying to survive on a day-to-day basis by getting contracts to put a meal on the plate. Then all of a sudden, you’re back into the fray after an infamous organization wanted an experienced Freelancer who survived the Heart of Rage to take a deadly contract that involves the Anthem of Creation.
The game tries to explain what is the Anthem of Creation, the Shapers who tried to finish the world in nine days but left at three, and its opposing factions like the Dominion, Outlaws, and Scars that want to take control of the Anthem of Creation. It expects you to understand them right after a short cinematic that vaguely explains what they are. The interesting world that BioWare created is, undoubtedly, riddled with questions that intimidates every casual player who wants to dive into the story. So going through Missions, Freeplay, Agent Contracts, and Strongholds wouldn’t suffice to fill in the narrative gaps.
If you’re a type of player who likes to read through walls of text, you get to fully understand Anthem’s world and its history. Fort Tarsis, the game’s main hub, and outside of its walls are littered with journals to pick up. I was never the kind of person who likes to read in-game diaries just to fully grasp the entire lore, it’s taxing; but the world of Anthem is just engrossing, filled with so many things to discover to connect each missing narrative altogether to get the bigger picture.
You initially start off in the prologue to customize your character’s face with pre-made selections without any ability to change the hair, mouth, eyes, or any facial features.
Instead of selecting a gender in a traditional RPG sense, BioWare knocked it down to just Male and Female voices as options. I’m not entirely sure what’s the real purpose of changing the option to “voices” instead of “gender”, this just does not make any sense at all. Why not stick with gender? At first, I thought there was an AI companion that speaks to you through your Javelin armor like Jarvis in Iron Man; this led me to assume during the VIP demo (which I certainly forgot to mention in my first impressions) that the “voice” is your AI companion. But take note, there are no differences between the two voices when it comes to dialogue.
Despite the inability to set the gender selection in a proper way, vanity strikes in a positive note in Anthem – it’s highly encouraged, even. We look at the mirror every day to assess how well we groom ourselves. We want to look dazzling or intimidating to make other people adore us, right? That’s pretty much the same thought you will have in the game. I have to admit, I’m amazed how flexible its customization feature is.
Some might spend more time in the Forge, the place where you get to customize your suits, to tinker every color combination, every texture, and mixing other armor parts to make your Javelin look cool, you can even choose how clean, dirty, and old your suit is. Even Prospero, the Featured Merchant you can to interact with, encourages you to at least design your Javelins to make it look intimidating (it’s a way to tell you indirectly to use his services or EA’s services) and fancier.
I’ve seen a lot of players going for the maroon and gold colors to capture that Iron Man feel. Since I got the day one edition with the pre-order bonus (since the code EA provided us didn’t have the add-ons like the Legion of Dawn armor and weapon sets), I went for a scarier, and legendary look: an old looking Ranger Javelin in silver with a mesh of gold. It’s equipped with a standard Ranger helmet with its lower body looking bulkier, due to how huge those leg armors from the Guardian pack I purchased from Prospero, as well as its arms. Then its torso showcasing a rather legendary armor from the Legion of Dawn with curved edges which gives that intimidating ancient touch.
Players are given the freedom to choose which Javelin to unlock first once you hit Level 2. In order for you to unlock other Javelins, to gain unlock points you have to reach Level 8, 16, and 26.
There are four Javelins to choose from: the Ranger, Colossus, Storm, and the Interceptor. However, during the prologue, you’re directly assigned to a Ranger Javelin for the tutorial.
Each Javelin offers differently playstyles, upgrades, and looks. So if you want to be the ‘jack of all trade’ then choosing the Ranger will suit you best. If you choose to be the tank, a stronger and bulkier Javelin such as the Colossus is available for you initiators. Being the Storm can rack up tons of elemental damage but can be defensively weak at the same time. While the Interceptor can become invincible when its ultimate ability is activated making it the deadliest Javelin there is – small but terrible.
While most players use the Storm and Colossus Javelins, I, on the other hand, main the Ranger Javelin. I like being the balanced class out there on the battlefield. I can provide support by activating a dome shield or provide weapon damage buff to my squadmates. However, I sometimes feel that the Ranger lacks better defensive capabilities.
The Ranger’s Bulwark Point Support Gear, a dome shield that protects any of your squad members inside it, is rather weak and useless in Grandmaster difficulties. Which makes me think that the Bulwark gear can only provide you a very short time for a breather (or protect you when you revive a downed teammate) then quickly fly out to a place where enemies can’t hit you. This is probably one of the reasons why I rarely see players use the Ranger when I get into Quickplay for Random expeditions.
Regardless of its cons, the Ranger can pack a lot of damage and can be really satisfying when you get to mow down Elites and Legendary with just a Heavy Pistol inside a Muster Point sphere. It takes a lot of skill to master the Ranger Javelin which makes it really fun to pilot, and I think I’m already at a point that I’ve built one of the most powerful, cool looking suits.
As for the other three Javelins, they’re fairly balanced out with their abilities which makes the Ranger appear weak for players who want to do more damage and have tougher armors. Overall, the Javelins offer different playstyles for different kinds of players, which encourages a group of friends to prepare efficiently before they head out for an expedition.
Bastion is a huge place to explore. Each area gives out a sense of how unstable Anthem’s world is after the Shapers left its creation to fulfill life of its own. Each area is unique and filled with lush environments, ruins, and swamps filled with cute critters and deadly spider-like enemies, flying through and running like a pro doesn’t quickly feel old.
Flying is the most entertaining factor of Anthem. Its flight mechanic is so smooth that you wish that it could go on forever because your Javelin suit overheats. Meaning, you have to land to cool your engines or immediately solve this by going through a waterfall. With such a beautiful animation when your Javelin rolls to evade incoming enemy fire, including the vibration of the controller when you press the jump button and hit that L3, just makes everything so satisfying.
While flying isn’t everything in Anthem, combat is also enjoyable and solid. Gunning enemies down with a Relentless light machine gun keeps the adrenaline pumping and eradicating a group of enemy with a Devastator sniper rifle is so fun to watch. The added combo feature gives the game a tactical approach as you have to coordinate with your fellow squad members.
Triggering the combo is easy. You simply have to know which grenades, elemental attacks, and which assault launchers are the primers and detonators. For example, the Inferno is an incendiary grenade that deals fire damage to an enemy over time, it’s also considered to be a primer for a combo. If another player attacks the affected enemy with a lightning strike or throws Frag grenade, it will trigger the combo which inflicts more damage to the targeted enemy. It’s tremendously rewarding that it makes you look out for elemental attacks that can be detonated into a combo attack.
Knowing this is a looter-shooter game, Anthem is all about Javelin progression and lots and lots of looting. Enemies you defeat drops loot items for you to pick up. There are six different rarities of loot: Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic, Masterwork, and Legendary. The drops depend on the difficulty level you choose for your expeditions. So if you choose Normal and Easy, Uncommon and Common loots are easy to come by, however, if you directly go for Hard you will get better drops. My advice is that you go directly for Hard mode, as Agent Contracts and main Missions are not as difficult as you think it is except for Stronghold. It gives you better loots and tons of experience points and can level you up faster.
The loot system in Anthem is, by far, the most generous than other looter shooter games I’ve played. Doing Quickplay in Hard mode had me easily get Epic and Masterwork drops after I reached Level 27. This is because I’ve got inscriptions from my gears to help me out with that. Once you have weapons, gears, and components that give you more chances of getting great loots, it won’t be that difficult to grind.
As for acquiring better weapons, gears, and components to craft, you need to unlock its blueprints first. There are a couple of ways to do this. During your early levels, doing challenges and faction loyalties are the easiest ways to unlock them, but that will eventually change once you begin to grind for Masterwork items.
Aside from the blueprints, you need to gather other materials like compounds and embers to successfully craft those items. While this isn’t rocket science, my only gripe about this is even if you gather 100 Masterwork and Legendary embers, you still can’t craft weapon items until you get to complete its challenges.
These Challenges include defeating a certain number of specific enemies like, let’s say, Legendary or Elites. In order for you to get these Challenges, you have to get the weapon first. Meaning, you have to grind for it until you get it as a loot drop. There’s no other way of getting the blueprints aside from doing Challenges. It’s disappointing, really, because you can buy embers from the shop but it’s useless until you get a hold of the weapon through a loot drop.
Anthem is a visual marvel. It showcases how powerful DICE’s engine, making a game look phenomenal in so many ways. When you get up close to your Javelin, every texture, little details don’t easily go unnoticed. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t have any technical issues.
Graphically demanding games are usually the victims of bugs and glitches. Frostbite, the game engine used to develop Anthem, is created solely for first-person shooters like Battlefield. While it does not limit studios from creating an action role-playing game like Anthem, problems indeed surface causing tons of glitches and game-breaking bugs to appear in a game. This is the source of all Anthem’s negative critical reception – horrible optimization and the lack of polish.
I have to admit, Anthem is gorgeous no doubt, but its bugs and glitches ruin the entire experience. One of which is the huge amount of loading screens.
In modern open-world games, such limitations should be minimized to keep the game’s pace normal. Every time you go back to Fort Tarsis from the Forge, a loading screen appears. When you get too far away from your squad, a prompt says you’ll be teleported to the mission area in a couple of seconds then a loading screen appears. You get inside a tiny cave, you get another loading screen. It goes on and on until it becomes a nuisance.
It’s not just the loading screens, I tell you. I’ve encountered tons of issues that involve losing a lot of loot. In one particular moment, I was in Freeplay mode, I did a couple of World Events, read through a lot of journals, opened loot boxes, gathered a lot of weapon parts for crafting, then all of a sudden a box prompted stating that the server is shutting down in 2 hours. The prompt stayed on the screen while the countdown timer was running. Even if the timer didn’t run out, it still booted me out from the game and back to the main screen. I didn’t get an option to rejoin the Freeplay session and was transported back into Fort Tarsis. I had to check my loots hoping that all of them were there, but sadly, they weren’t in my vault. It was disheartening, all the efforts I’ve made just disappeared in the endless void for nothing. Nothing.
But it’s not just that, The Fortress of Dawn mission is bugged. After the third trial, I got stuck at a section where I can see my squad members’ names at the left side of the screen stating they’re not ready. I’ve waited for a couple of minutes before I had to reboot the entire game. However, after I was able to connect to the session since there was a prompt that I can, I got into a loading screen stating that a “Cinematic is in progress” rather than showing me the actual cinematic, I had to disappointingly wait for it to finish. Right after that, I was brought to the rewards screen but it was also glitched where I can hear both the main menu and the completion music all mixed up. I missed an entire plot twist and it’s not something to laugh about.
I had to force a friend of mine to end his Fortress of Dawn expedition just for my sake of watching the scene again. I did, fortunately, get to watch the scene but my friend got the same bug I had after the third trial. What’s discouraging was that it appears that the game didn’t even save his progress that he had to re-do the mission all over again.
There were also times when I joined other players through Quickplay mode and the session appeared to have issues. It doesn’t give out a marker to point us where we have to go. We tried to explore every bit of Bastion just to trigger the mission to start, but we were unlucky. It was a big waste of time for the four of us.
Anthem is far from perfect, it’s covered with numerous technical issues and server problems, and its narrative can be a long stretch to understand. Regardless of its issues, Anthem’s world can still keep you engaged with tons of activities to do, combat is enjoyable, helping low level players can give you awesome rewards, and its exhilarating flight mechanics is something that must be experienced. Overall, Anthem is still a fun game to play, especially with your friends.
Disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by Electronic Arts. Legion of Dawn – Ranger Pre-order Bonus came from the retail copy of the game that the author bought. Currently at 431 Power, Level 30, Finished the Main Story, Played Expeditions in Grandmaster Level 36 hours. Read our review policy to know how we go with our game reviews.
Tested on: PS4 Pro