Anthem Review: A Rocky Start That Shows Potential

Bioware's new live service shooter, Anthem, may be off to a rough start, but the core gameplay is still fantastic, and there is definitely hope for the future.

Anthem, BioWare's latest live service game, allows players to pilot large mech suits, called Javelins, through a beautiful and vibrant world. If this idea is exciting to you, it is worth knowing that it gets even better when it is brought to life and you are actively progressing through the new title.

Indeed there are several things that Anthem really does right, but there are also a number of undeniable issues with the game. While some of these problems may be addressed by the very promising post-launch content that has been revealed, they have also caused the title to have a rough start ever since it launched in early access.

In this review, I will lay out both of these sides of Anthem: its great aspects as well as its core issues. Ultimately, this should help you decide if Anthem is a game worth getting now, waiting on, or passing on altogether.

What I Liked

Exploration And Combat

anthem storm combat

Exploration and combat are, by far, the best parts of Anthem.

Exploring the game's world is accomplished by flying through it in a Javelin, and the flight mechanic is extremely well done. Going airborne still feels great every time I launch a mission, which, I think, says a lot after over 130 hours of game time. It is even fun to just roam around and see the world in Freeplay, due to Anthem's excellent flying.

I also love the game's combat — so much so that I sometimes just wander around in Freeplay looking for people to fight. The Javelin's overheat mechanic also contributes to the excitement of combat, as it prevents you from being able to fly endlessly. Instead, you have to actively plan how you will fight in, or flee from, every hostile encounter.

Overall, you simply have to pilot a Javelin to really grasp how great it feels to fight and fly in one. If I was rating Anthem solely on these aspects, it would be a 9 or 10.

Javelin Play Style Customization

Another thing Anthem really nails is how different each of the Javelins feel. They function as their own unique classes and offer players a range of gameplay experiences.

Players that want to hover above the battlefield and rain down elemental destruction can do so with the Storm Javelin, and the Interceptor covers those that want to use swift attacks and agile movements to get up close and personal with the enemy. If you'd prefer to tank, protect your team, and cause nothing but destruction, the Colossus is the pick, and the Ranger gives you the classic soldier experience and makes you feel like you are playing as Iron Man.

That's just the beginning though, because each Javelin also has a myriad of skills that can be combined to create many different builds. As you progress through Anthem, it becomes very satisfying to find different abilities and passive effects to make unique builds around. In fact, most of why I enjoy the game, and have played it so much, is for this reason.

Guns

anthem masterwork and legendary guns

The weapons in Anthem deserve their own section, as I was absolutely blown away after hitting level 30 and begging to receive masterwork weapons. These high rarity items grant special, unique bonuses for each weapon, component, or gear ability. For guns, this changes them from being average to amazing, and I started using weapons a lot once I began getting masterworks.

Furthermore, there are plenty of cool effects that can be applied by weapon. This includes elemental statuses, combo detonations, lightning strikes, and more.

I also think most of the guns actually do feel great to to shoot. I know some people may disagree, but it is all personal preference.

What I Didn't Like

There are some things in Anthem that should absolutely not have made it into the release version of the game. I'm going to go over those here as well as a few smaller annoyances.

No Stat Screen Or Ability To Look At Gear In Combat

Anthem is a loot game where the primary source of fun is getting cool item drops, checking what bonuses are on them, and seeing how they alter your stats overall. However, this is somewhat difficult to do, as there is no screen that details a player's stats after all bonus effects are applied.

There is also no explanation for what any of the stats mean. While some are easy to determine, others are not, and the game really needs to explain each one of them in detail.

Additionally, players can only look at their gear at the forge, where loadouts are selected and Javelins are customized, which is a real shame. I'm fine with not being able to freely change gear, but I should not have to make a spreadsheet and Word document when testing out new masterwork items.

Broken Contracts

Contracts are a way to earn loot in Anthem, and, sometimes, these missions break. This gets a bit of a pass because they are a random assortment of locations and events, and you might simply get a configuration that does not work.

The good news is that, after recent changes, I have not run into nearly as many broken Contracts, but there are still some. This gives some hope to the idea that BioWare will eventually fix most, if not all, of the broken ones.

Light On Content And Loot

anthem strongholds

Personally, I'm still having fun with Anthem, and there's plenty of gear that I can still get. However, the content and loot that is available at the time of writing is somewhat low.

For example, completing Strongholds, multiplayer missions, is a great way to farm for loot, but there are currently only three. There is also no benefit for running one Stronghold over another, so most people simply farm Tyrant Mine, which is the fastest and easiest. As a result, many player will get tired of Strongholds fairly quickly. 

With respect to loot, the amount of items currently available is fine with me, and there will be more added in the future. However, the drop rate for high rarity items, like legendaries and masterworks, is pretty low. 

Simply, masterworks don't drop enough. This is especially true since the bonuses on these items are completely random, meaning that there is a significant gap in their quality. If legendaries are the true end-game grind anyway (I've only gotten one in all my time playing), Anthem should be more generous with masterwork drops.

Final Verdict

Pros:
  • Fantastic combat system
  • Fun abilities and guns
  • Beautiful world
Cons:
  • Light on content
  • No stat screen or description
  • Not enough loot drops

There have already been changes to Anthem that improve some of the issues listed above, such as loot drops and the tethering system that is responsible for broken Contracts. This is comforting, as it shows that BioWare is listening and will get around to the serious problems that currently plague the game.

The overall game is fun, even with the issues, and I think that people should not dismiss it just yet. As to whether or not you should buy the game right now, I would say it depends on how often you plan on playing.

If you play casually, spending a limited amount of time with the game each week, you will probably enjoy what it currently has to offer, and there will be more added over time. However, if you want to dive deeper, it would be better to wait a month or two for content updates, and then jump into the game for a much better experience.

Our Rating
7
Bioware's new live service shooter, Anthem, may be off to a rough start, but the core gameplay is still fantastic, and there is definitely hope for the future.
Reviewed On: PC

Guide Editor

After gaming for 25 years, Synzer leveraged his vast knowledge of RPGs and MMOs into a job as a games journalist, covering the games he loves. Five years later, he's still writing about Kingdom Hearts, Pokemon, and Knights of the Old Republic. Synzer has a bachelor's degree in English and creative writing. You can see him in action on his YouTube channel (https://bit.ly/2F97BrR) and Twitch (https://www.twitch.tv/synzergaming).

Published Mar. 2nd 2019

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