Anthem beta impressions: How does it stack up with less than a month before release?

Electronic Arts, BioWare
Electronic Arts, BioWare /

After jumping into the world of Anthem for the open demo, we are left with an overall good impression; but, there’s much to be improved ahead of launch.

When it was first announced at E3 2017, I can honestly say that I did not have high expectations for Anthem. After having played Destiny ad nauseam, I had gotten weary of the monotonous gameplay mechanic of “shoot at the bullet sponge until it eventually goes down and repeat for loot.”

Although that gameplay mechanic is the backbone of Anthem, there are some aspects that break the mold.

For example, having the ability to fly around the world in your customized exosuit (Javelin) is surprisingly fun. Even on older consoles, the game runs smoothly, and it’s entirely possible to spend hours just flying around the world, exploring the flora and fauna of the world with other Freelancers, the game’s phrase for player-controlled characters.

Speaking of which, Anthem has four Javelin classes that you can choose from: the Ranger, Colossus, Interceptor and Storm. Depending on your play style, each Javelin can be tailor-made to fit that specific style.

If you want to be a jack-of-all-trades type of player, choose the Ranger. Conversely, if you want to deal and take massive damage at the expense of speed, then the Colossus is the Javelin for you, and so on.

Each Javelin is unique, so no two are the same. You can also have up to five different setups per Javelin for a total of 20 different loadouts across the four Javelin types.

On top of that, how you implement certain gameplay mechanics could ultimately prove to be the deciding factor between success and failure during your expeditions. For instance, knowing how different elements damage your Javelin in Anthem is crucial.

If your Javelin is on fire, you will not be able to use your jetpack and fly away from combat as it is “overheated.” Should your Javelin be frozen, on the other hand, that leaves you immobile and vulnerable to attack for several seconds, leading to hectic button-mashing to unfreeze yourself. Subtle details like that make customizing your Javelin and choosing what consumable you use before each expedition that much more important.

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As such, the customization in Anthem is very deep. You can customize almost every aspect of your Javelin. From weapons, component slots and support gear to colors, vinyl and the amount of wear and tear it shows, almost every facet of your Javelin can be made just for you.

Though the latter three are strictly for aesthetic purposes, the former three are very important as the damage rating of those weapons and gear, either obtained through loot or crafting, dictate your Javelin’s rarity. These can range from Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic and Masterwork.

Moreover, once you’ve customized your Javelin to your liking, it is very easy to hop into missions. Once you enter your Javelin in Fort Tarsis, you can explore the world in free play, take on specific missions or attack a stronghold with other Freelancers. All of the aforementioned activities can be done with three other players as well, which help you gain Alliance XP for added bonuses at the end of each mission.

Credit: Bioware
Credit: Bioware /

If you were to be dropped from a session (which happened a lot to me during the demo), you could rejoin the same session once you reached the home screen. That is an invaluable anti-frustration tool that BioWare included, especially if you get dropped during a crucial moment in a mission or stronghold.

That said, that is something that BioWare needs to work on as the release date gets closer.

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Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of my Anthem experience can be summed up in five words: “The server has shut down.” Whether it was at the start of my expedition or towards the end, I would always be wary of what I was doing because, at any moment, I could be dropped from the session due to server issues. Worse, the game would just randomly crash and send me back to my console’s home screen, and this happened repeatedly.

Even though these issues are to be expected due to the heavy traffic and the fact that it’s a demo, it’s disappointing nonetheless to spend 30-plus minutes progressing through a stronghold, only to be dropped once the boss appears.

Additionally, with all the action and chaos appearing on-screen at any given time, it becomes difficult to determine what is going on. Large firefights are very confusing in that enemies could be attacking you from multiple positions, but there is no way to properly ascertain the situation due to all that is happening at any given moment.

There were also certain instances where the camera was more intrusive than helpful, especially in areas where the player has to swim underwater. Couple that with the fact there is no mini-map and the game is made infinitely more difficult.

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Furthermore, although it isn’t game-breaking, I found it interesting that you aren’t able to set a waypoint on the map during free play. It’s a minor gripe, but it’s something that stood out during gameplay.

Although my time playing Anthem was fraught with server issues and whatnot, I did enjoy my experience. The depth of the game takes a bit of getting used to; but, over time, it will be almost second nature. Hopefully, all the kinks will be ironed out and all the bugs squished when Anthem releases on February 22, 2019, for all the major platforms.