I’m not coming into Anthem as a fan of BioWare games, mainly because I wouldn’t really consider myself one. I come into Anthem as a fan of the looter-shooter genre, and as someone who has been generally disappointed with the launch versions of other entries in this genre throughout this platform generation.
While I don’t like to admit it, I may lean more toward the jaded end of the gamer spectrum, as Anthem’s initial reveal did little to excitement me, serving more as a primer for yet another disappointment. Expectations count for a lot, so its recent launch had an uphill battle to pull me into its corner. While it’s certainly not a perfect game, Anthem is so far one of the least disappointing games I’ve ever played, relative to the hype that was behind it. That’s a compliment… right?
This opinion may sound contradictory to all the coverage that has surfaced following the game’s early-access release, and it is. Being a game reviewer, I do my best to sequester myself from the opinions of other professionals until I’ve had time to formulate my own. Having not actively consumed the opinions of others on the game, I don’t know all the specifics of their grievances, nor can I fully appreciate the extent to which Anthem’s day-one update addressed these grievances. All I can do is play the game in front of me.
To that end, I must attest that the impressions I got from the general community about the game’s quality do not match up with my first several hours, although that’s not to say Anthem is without fault. I have encountered my own small handful of technical issues, the most nonsensical of which I’m compelled to share in full.
After arriving at a mission waypoint, I noticed no enemies were around me, but this didn’t stop my character from suddenly dying of an apparent heart attack. Before my confused “what the f***?!” was even out of my mouth, two dozen enemies all spontaneously spawned around me. The game’s respawn system then decided to add insult to injury. After an annoyingly long loading screen, the game spawned me too far away from my squad, prompting the overly aggressive squad-proximity check to despawn me and respawn me closer to the fight, meaning yet another loading screen.
If there’s one thing seemingly everyone can agree on, it’s that many of these loading screens need to go. References to the overly complicated process necessary to simply test out new gear in Anthem have been unavoidable online, and I agree the number of loading screens it involves is ridiculous. Lag has also been a prevalent issue, but whether or not it’s acceptable, I can’t say it’s entirely unexpected, given the amount of traffic undoubtedly going through those servers.
Aside from these issues, and a few smaller ones not worth mentioning, I have found myself genuinely enjoying my time with Anthem thus far. I decided to start with the Ranger Javelin (I try to pick classes in games that I expect will be the least popular), and while the class felt fairly uninspired out of the gate, upgrades I’m progressively unlocking for the suit are proving increasingly impressive. After getting some time in with the Colossus and Storm Javelins, however, the Ranger actually felt comparatively underwhelming, which ultimately sets a positive tone for the progression potential of the suits. Their ultimate abilities in particular are awesome to behold, but it remains to be seen how quickly the repetition will set in.
Speaking of repetition, story missions at this point have rarely deviated from a rudimentary structure. Fly to an area, clear enemies or find collectibles, repeat until you encounter a boss–which, for the first few missions, is almost exclusively a big yellow guy with a shield and gas tanks on his back. The enemy variety slowly broadens the further in you get, so while the mission tempo doesn’t seem to change much, a larger pool of hostile attack patterns does much to diversify the combat.
The mission pacing can become monotonous if you focus on it, but it’s easily ignored if you instead acknowledge the epic gameplay synergy on display. Flying is much more intuitive than I imagined it would be, and its seamless flow in and out of gunplay is exactly what this experiment required. Blasting away with Anthem’s satisfying weapons and abilities is a spectacle in and of itself, but when things get dicey, you can just take off. Use flight to relocate to another spot, hover in the air and rain fire from above, or unleash your ultimate, and then jump right back in without missing a beat. I can honestly say I’ve never been Iron Man, but I have to imagine this is kind of what it feels like.
Maybe it’s because the day-one update saved me from the slog that other reviewers had to suffer through, or maybe I just came in with different expectations, but Anthem is doing it for me so far. Flying around its beautiful open world instills an optimism in me that isn’t entirely common, and while I recognize the issues it faces, they seem manageable enough to be addressed given the time. For all I know, Anthem’s endgame could be a lethargic grind, or BioWare could totally bomb its post-launch support, but until those times come, I’m having fun.