Anthem – First Impressions
The good, the bad, the ugly, and the timeline to fix it all.
A first look during the VIP demo weekend and perhaps a big word of caution for next weekend’s open demo for XBOX, PS4, and PC.
What is it?
BioWare™ and EA bill this as an Action RPG which would put it in the genre of Path of Exile and Diablo. I think Anthem™ is better categorized as a looter/shooter that is a cross between Star Wars and the Old Republic, Warframe, Diablo 3, Mechwarrior, and it’s closest sibling Destiny 2.
“On a world left unfinished by the gods, a shadowy faction threatens all of humankind. The only thing that stands between these villains and the ancient technology they covet are the Freelancers.
Join with up to three other players and assemble high-tech, hand-crafted, uniquely powerful suits of armor. Explore vast ruins, battle deadly enemies, and claim otherworldly artifacts. With every mission, you and your Javelin grow in power. Fight the dangers of an ever-changing world. Rise united to defeat evil. Triumph as one.”
The demo starts you at level ten and plops you in the middle of story of a Freelancer (pilot) and one of the four Javelins available throughout the game, the Ranger. The Ranger is your starter suit and is probably most well rounded of the bunch. Think Iron Man including the Jericho Missile system. The three others suits that you ‘unlock’ at level 12 (more on this later) include the Colossus (standard Tank with more firepower than normal), Interceptor (the melee ninja type), and the Storm (Jedi Consular Sage/Sith Inquisitor Sorcerer using fire, ice, and lightning abilities). While there are lots of combinations of weaponry for your Javelin, I think there is more of a balance between the abilities you can use and just straight gunplay. In the Demo you can play a portion of the missions (the story arc), strongholds (dungeons), and freeplay in the open world where you may run into other players. This is a 100% Player Vs. Environment (PVE) game.
What it’s not
This is not Player Vs. Player (PVP). Anywhere. There are no plans to add it into the game in the future either. I know I lost a portion of the potential players and readers here. This will be a pivotal point between the most competitive players and casual ones.
The visuals and environments in this game are absolutely gorgeous. Fort Tarsis (your home base) sits on the edge of a huge cliff. When you embark into freeplay in the open world you can fly off or drop off (my preferred method) into an Avatar type environment littered with tech and ruins long left behind and covered in vegetation. Flying (once you get the hang of it) is amazing and you feel like you’re piloting Tony’s Iron Man suit with a twinge of guilty pleasure that you stole some of his tech. The AI is good and difficulty is finely balanced even with maxed out gear. Matchmaking is really decent. Customization: The materials, colors, shaders are quite impressive in the demo. This is the only area in the game that will have a cash option associated with it. If you absolutely positively need that chest piece or camo skin for your Javelin to make it stand out, well that’s up to you. There are no pay to win options to ship with this title, which is a relief to most.
The controls, especially on the PC, version are not what you’re used to. Without a doubt the controls take alot to get used to. This might be less of a learning curve in the full game as there are no tutorials available. It seems to most PC gamers, including myself, that the flight system is using almost a virtual joystick type setup that messes with your brain as your keyboard/mouse don’t auto-center the sticks once you’ve stopped pressing/moving them. I think this is the biggest complaint I have about the game in the demo. I changed the sensitivity of the flight controls and it took me about an hour to figure out that once flying you have better control if you’re not bursting (hitting your directional keys). I still run into cliffs and things constantly. ‘Flying’ underwater is even worse. It’s so sensitive that I almost drown because I couldn’t get through the underground tunnels in time as part of the stronghold mission. I’ve heard that plugging a controller into your PC rig solves this and that a player can switch between controller/keyboard/mouse depending on what they are doing. I sincerely hope they have this sorted out in the final game.
The interface. As with many cross-platform titles this is clearly a console first, PC second, game. The menus are clunky and using Y and U to move forward and back through screens is very odd at best. Again, hopefully in the final version of the game it will allow you to remap these keys and many others as the V key for a melee strike is also a very weird placement.
This is a demo, not a beta test, and has the entire community wondering what the future holds for this AAA title and the stability of the final game at launch. Problems are expected at this point with every PC major launch I’ve seen. The common set of major problems: authentication systems being overloaded, game crashes, non-optimized graphics, and the list goes on. I recently wiped my computer and needed to re-install the Origin launcher to download the demo. Installing the launcher took two hours and had all sorts of problems requiring work-arounds. After installing the demo, which went very smooth, the major errors that I experienced were two loading screens that hung up multiple times after a mission not receiving XP, rubber-banding which made it impossible to play and required a full restart to solve, and one total crash. This experience is minor compared to seven or more hours not being able to log in, servers being full, and worse. The unfortunate part of all of this, is that these items were not platform specific.
The VIP demo was only for a select few of pre-order users this weekend. Next weekend opens up the demo to the general public as an enticement to purchase the full game which launches on the 22nd of February. The big question is: Does the team focus on fixing the major problems encountered in the launch of the demo this weekend so there are less problems and more potential sales for next weekend? Or does EA/BioWare™ focus on the final version of the game pre-release?
The demo has enough positive elements to make me crave the full game and know I will be suffering from withdrawal over the next couple of weeks while it’s on the workbench getting polished. The lack off PVP will turn some off however this is a huge plus for me as I hate feeling forced to play PVP matches in games like Destiny 2. I would load it up for FREE February 1-3 on XBOX, PS4, or PC to try it out for yourself.