Sunday, February 17, 2019

Anthem First Impressions

In the end I picked up Origin Access Premium to try out Bioware's Anthem. Origin Access got to play the game starting on Friday, though the full launch is on Feb 22. I'm not very far in, I'm about level 13 and I have unlocked two Javelins: the Ranger and the Colossus. Here are my impressions:

  • Javelin game play - this is just superb. It feels great, and is a ton of fun. In particular, flying in a Javelin is outstanding. The javelin heats up in flight, and you have to land if it gets overheated. But you can do things like fly through waterfalls, skim the surfaces of rivers, or dive straight down to reduce heat. So managing heat and flight time is a mini-game in and of itself.
  • Combat is fun. You have guns and two "powers", which depend on your Javelin type and equipment. You can equip many different powers, and the guns also play differently.
  • Different Javelins play differently. The Ranger is more long-ranged with a shield that regenerates. The Colossus meanwhile charges in with lots of health and armor.
  • Gearing is good so far. There looks like a wide variety of gear and options. One interesting thing is that you only see loot at the end of a mission. I kind of like it, as you don't really need to worry about loot during game play.
  • "Multiplayer-by-default" - Whenever you start a mission, you are matched with 3 others working on the same mission. Anthem in small groups is a lot of fun, especially seeing all four of you flying towards a destination. You can change the setting to Private, and play by yourself if you wish. Though you might want to dial the difficulty down in that case.
  • Performance is pretty good. Some people are reporting lots of trouble, but Anthem has been rock-solid for me. It looks good as well, but I don't have very high standards for graphics.
  • Story and Writing - It's decent, but not as good as I would have expected from Bioware. In some respects it's making me wonder if I'm looking back at Mass Effect and SWTOR with rose-colored glasses. Maybe ME and SWTOR writing wasn't as good as I remember. It feels like Bioware focused on improving game play significantly, as that was the weakness of ME, but in the process they let their writing team and practices degrade a bit. Now, it's not terrible or anything, but so far I'd give the story and writing a B, not an A.
  • Real Money Transactions - the store is entirely cosmetics at this point, and you can earn Coins to buy stuff on it through gameplay. I generally ignore cosmetics though, so I'm not really someone to give advice here. All I can say is that so far, I've been able to ignore the system entirely.
  • Load times. You absolutely must install Anthem on an SSD. Load times are long even on an SSD, and there are fair amount of load screens. This is especially important because you can start missions as soon as you load in, even before the others have loaded. So if you're on a older HDD, it's very likely you'll miss the beginning of every mission.
  • Keep group together mechanic - During missions, if you fall behind too much, you'll get a warning and a countdown timer. If you don't catch up, you'll get ported to the group. Now, this is a good idea in general to help people who get lost, but the mechanic is very aggressive. You look around for five seconds, and the timer pops up. As well, failing the timer triggers a load screen, which hurts given the previous point. More than once I've been two seconds away from catching up to the group, when the timer expired and I got thrown into a 20 second load screen.
  • Menus - there are a lot of nested menus. The control scheme is pretty clearly made for consoles, and it is a bit of a pain to navigate.
  • Mechanics are opaque. For the most part you can muddle through, but if you're the type who needs to know exactly how stats and mechanics work, you're probably going to get frustrated. Even the basic damage mechanic of how Combos work, with Primers and Detonators, is extremely poorly explained. I found the following chart on Reddit, and the game mechanics and gearing make a lot more sense now:

Anthem is pretty good. The core game with Javelins is lots of fun so far. The story and writing is a bit disappointing, but really only because we have such high expectations of Bioware.

I have no idea about the longevity of the game, though. I'm still just leveling up. If you're on the fence, consider getting a month of Origin Access and trying out the game first.


  1. The basic origins pass gives 10 hours of play. If you upgrade to premier, it splits the difference as a credit.

    I would think that 10 hours is enough to get a solid feel for any game. At least in terms of "do I want to pay to play more".

    Glad you're having fun!

    1. Yes, that's true. I forgot about the Basic version. Though, 10 hours will get you far, but at about the 12 hour mark (for me) the game sends into "free-play" for earnest. Up until that point, the game had been very mission-based.

  2. I take it that the buggy nightmare some people predicted didn't come to pass?

    1. Well, it's been perfectly fine for me. There are a few bugs here and there, like a visual glitch with your javelin in Fort Tarsis that sometimes happens. Or that issue with opening chests I mentioned in the next post.

      Some people, though, are reporting it crashes on them a lot. I don't know how common that is though.

    2. I wonder just how many of those crashes are related to some of the newest RTX graphics cards from Nvidia, because Raedeon's VII has only just gotten released and hasn't been in the wild long enough to have widespread impact yet.