Game Demo 'Review' | Anthem
Game summary: Upon an unfinished world, humanity struggles to survive in a savage environment full of diverse threats. Equipped with incredible Javelin exosuits, a faction known as the Freelancers seeks to tip the balance in mankind's favor. (IMDb)
I wouldn't normally write a post for a demo, but it's been a while since I last posted anything about any game and Anthem is the only thing other than Assassin's Creed Odyssey that I've played so far in 2019. I also think it's worth writing about because... I definitely won't be buying Anthem after the demo weekend.
That's not so say that it was a bad experience, but it wasn't anything special either - certainly nothing I'd want to pay any significant amount for. I wouldn't mind playing Anthem at some point in the future, but I am more than happy to wait for the price to drop significantly first.
The main reason for this is that nothing here feels new. It controls a lot like Mass Effect Andromeda, but with sustained flight as a movement option rather than short bursts of aerial action. It's solid, but unspectacular - and for a game that puts action at the core of the experience, it's not really good enough.
It might not have mattered as much if the story, characters or world are interesting enough, but they feel a lot like the combat - good, but nothing special. There was no stand-out, key 'hook' to keep me interested or wanting to come back regularly enough to justify a purchase.
And I have to admit that I'm not a fan of the aesthetic either; Mass Effect combined form and function really well - which is why so many people compare other sci-fi to it so often - but Anthem's visuals appear to follow a 'more is more' design philosophy.
It doesn't really matter too much in combat, but the 'javelins' that you use to fight in and move around the game world are just too busy for me and feel very 'videogamey' in design. All this advanced technology and the people of this setting couldn't smooth out a few surfaces to make everything look a little more elegant?
There were a couple of issues I had with the game play - including equivalents to invisible walls barring access to certain areas - but I don't want to criticise the demo for this because they might not exist in the full release and players are allowed to go where they want.
However, I will note that BioWare haven't got guiding players through a 3D environment figured out just yet. On one mission with a group of other demo players, two managed to find their way to the next way-point, while another player and I were left wandering aimlessly until the game teleported us to the others.
The main reason for this? Once a way-point has been reached and the next part of a mission has been triggered, the way-point vanishes. We tried to head in the direction of the other players, but had no idea where they were in relation to us vertically, with the game map offering no help either.
It might be nice that the game will sort things out by automatically moving you to where you need to be, but it reeks very much of a solution to a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place. And this was the very first group mission that I tried - how bad will later, more complicated missions fare?
If I had to rate my (limited) experience with Anthem so far, it'd be a [6/10], maybe pushing for a [7/10] at best. There's certainly a solid foundation here - although I will admit that I suffered no loading or connectivity issues lots of others apparently did - but those foundations to be built on with something that will grab your attention.
Maybe the story and characters in the full release will liven up the experience and invest you in going out and getting actively involved in the world, but - in its current state - Anthem is the uber-example of 'good, but not great'.