• Matt Williams

Anthem of a Generation

Updated: Feb 17, 2019



Anthem is the latest release from developer Bioware; famous for games such as Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, Dragon Age and the Baldur's Gate series.


This isn’t the first time that Bioware has tried their hand at a third person shooter; reflecting back to MDK2 and the later parts of the Mass Effect series. It is however their first foray into an open world cooperative experience along the lines of Warframe, The Division or Destiny.


Anthem is a third person, open world, cooperative, loot based shooter where yourself and a group of up to three others take on the role of Freelancers.


Piloting your Javelin exosuits, your team venture forth into an expansive and richly detailed sci-fi world.


Here you will face the remnants of an ancient race who ceased their operations mid way through creating a new world; leaving behind the titular “Anthem of Creation.”


Left in their wake are scavenging natives, gigantic titans and the ever nefarious ‘Dominion.’


Impressions


The past two weekends have seen a set of demos published for the game. The VIP demo for those who pre-ordered Anthem followed by another for the general public.


After some serious backlash against both Bioware and the publisher EA, due to the state of the demo, some serious concerns seem to have been raised by the gaming community relating to the overall experience. However, one can’t help but feel that if the demo had be marked as a beta this backlash could have been mitigated if not altogether ignored.


The greatest impact relating to server issues revealed itself during the VIP demo. The number of testers would have been partially known at this stage and therefore the lack of mediating or mitigating measure for potential server issues seemed a little short sighted. As a result, many who had pre-ordered the game saw massive downtime on the first day of play.


However, It has been implied from various sources that the demo was working on 8-10 week old code and that most of the bugs, issues and concerns from the demos have already been addressed for the full release.


This seems in no short part due to the very open and cooperative nature of the developer with the community at this time. This has included extensive conversations on Reddit, Discord and social media such at Twitter; leading many to believe Bioware’s employees don’t sleep.


So, does Anthem deliver? Well, we all set out to investigate this as a group here at Mosaic Gaming Network as it seemed unfair to play solo in a game designed for four players. Here is what we thought…


"fast, sneaky, and altogether svelte"


Seditious01 - As a relatively new recruit to the MMOFPS genre I very recently cut my teeth playing Bungie’s Destiny 2 and initially expected Bioware’s Anthem to be more or less the same.


I can now openly report that I was entirely and delightfully wrong. The two games share many similarities but my short experience with Anthem certainly captured me in a way that Destiny never has; or possibly ever could.


From an intrigued and enthusiastic newbie’s perspective, I thought movement and controls were intuitive and easy to master and the game was aesthetically stunning; even on an original Xbox One.


Mission and challenges were entertaining, even if fairly predictable, with good use of verticality.


However, the most joy I experienced was easily from the piloting and heavy customisation of the Javelins (powered exosuits) themselves.


In a world of essentially four choices you felt entirely unique and I never saw two suits look, act or were generally geared the same way; a fairly impressive feat of game design.


My natural affinity for all things, fast, sneaky, and altogether svelte lead me to the Interceptor Javelin which was love at first flight.

Ridiculously maneuverable, dexterous and packs one hell of a melee punch, the Javelin Interceptor it is the get in, get out, everybody gets hurt kind of suit.


Playing as a duo and a team, our group found the Interceptor has powerful and intricate synergy with the Storm Javelin but also with its own kind. A swarm of angry, vengeful and coordinated Interceptors was a devastating force and fairly awe inspiring to witness.

Finally I was torn away from my Interceptor at the end of the demo, kicking a screaming. Since then, I’ve found maneuvering other game avatars make me feel like Jabba the Hutt by comparison.


Bring on February 22nd!



"Fun but frustrating"


Khal Ynnoth - Fun but frustrating, however I enjoyed the demo enough to stay up way passed my bedtime and was left wishing that I could have devoted more time to it but let's get the bad points out the way first.


The infinite loading bug was prevalent and very frustrating, more so up until the point I realised that manually quitting the game and coming back in to it was the most efficient workaround. Bioware seems to have since corrected this in the public demo release and are working hard to resolve for launch.


I also had to go AFK during the dungeon to do Dad stuff - unfortunately this completely and unintentionally trashed the rest of the groups attempt. They got stuck, unable to progress and unable to boot me from the group - even though the game had realised I was AFK.


I only resolved this by managing to turn off my console (whilst holding a sleeping baby) which left both me and the rest of the group pretty peeved at the game. I’ve since been informed that the stronghold door that barred our progress was a known issue and has been fixed.


Going unintentionally off piste and out of the game area is easy to do and the reset mechanism doesn't give you enough time to rectify it and dumps you to a loading screen too quickly. From what I understand this was purely related to the freeplay zone being restricted for the demo.


On a more positive note, the gameplay was, for the most part, polished, the gunplay fun, the controls fairly intuitive, the world compelling and the game mechanics consistent and not intrusive.


I'll admit I didn't bother with any sort of tutorial, I just jumped in and still managed to figure out how to fly without any explicit instruction. Anyone that is used to an online shooter or shooter RPG from recent years won't have a problem with the controls.


I managed to have a quick go in each of the Javelins; apart from the Storm (caster archetype).


The Ranger was by far my favourite. I managed to acquire a mix of crowd control, sniping and heavy weaponry which made me feel powerful, useful and able to play the way I wanted to.


The multi-seeker grenade and default Ranger Ultimate (long recharge big-boom ability) were a highlight for me.The other suits felt distinctive and fun, just not my preferred tactical style.


All in all I had loads of fun flying around pretending to be Ironman / Warmachine and blasting enemies to goop and getting to do that with friends was highly entertaining.


"Content will be key to success or failure of the game"


Izekiel Fel - Stepping into the VIP demo wasn’t something new for me personally, I’d had some time with the alpha test and I’ve been following Anthem ever since it’s reveal back at E3 2017; after the influx of issues following on from Mass Effect: Andromeda.


As it turned out, Bioware’s main team at Edmonton had passed the development of Andromeda to their Montreal division and started work on something entirely new around 6 years ago.


The fruit of their endeavour is Anthem.


My own impressions of the game so far are, as it stands, that Anthem has everything to gain if the development and live teams can keep the game progressing smoothly and with a good flow of content.


Content will be key to success or failure of the game and so far with limited knowledge of the end game content (other than the initial three strongholds, legendary contracts - think daily bounty missions and freeplay), it seems content may be thin on the ground at launch without a lot of repetition taking place.


Bioware have promised a content roadmap either just before launch or at launch with what players can expect and there are some wonderful memes of developers having to resist revealing more on the prestige content coming.


This content is apparently and categorically not being called raid like content as it is limited to the four player group size.


From a gameplay perspective I’ve found that every iteration of the game I’ve played so far has further refined and updated the games controls. The sheer freedom of movement with some of the Javelins is very refreshing and, as others have mentioned, make many other games of this type feel slow and unwieldy by comparison (with perhaps the exception of Warframe).


"Flight controls in particular are smooth, crisp and intuitive on console"

Controls feel like they are moving towards a good point, although I would like to see how the final layouts are on launch and if there are some rebindings that can be done. Otherwise, I will probably make some changes to move my ultimate ability away from the D-pad as this is really my only gripe currently. Flight controls in particular are smooth, crisp and intuitive on console and I’ve not witnessed any issue (other than rubber banding) to give me cause for concern with these. Transitioning from standing to flight and then to combat all feels very natural.


I’ve seen others comment on combat and that the enemies seem quite bullet spongey; something ‘The Division’ was also criticised for. From what I’ve seen, this is generally when players are not using abilities and combos to their full potential and relying on standard weapons.


Overall, I’m happy where the game is right now and I have (potentially misguided and dreamy eyed) faith in Bioware Edmonton.


Final Thoughts


As it stands right now it feels like Anthem could potentially deliver big for Bioware or be the final nail in the coffin for the aging developer


The developers have been very open and honest in their engagement with the community and with the constant influx of changes and updates they’ve made I’m willing to believe in them right now.


Time will tell for Anthem. If the content flow is solid and the live service remains vibrant, active and hopefully free, then the game will likely flourish with an already dedicated community.


If the content doesn’t come, then I would be skeptical on the future of Bioware and the once loved brand name they hold.


We’ll see you all on the 22nd February for our live stream and playthrough on Twitch when the game launches.



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