EA/Bioware’s Anthem – Flop or Not?
Anthem has the makings of Game of the Year 2019
If you love ‘Crazy Train’ and Iron Man type mechs blowing stuff up with amazing in game cinematics watch this first!
I’ve genuinely been excited for this game for a long long time and today is finally the day where people can purchase and play the game (poor PS4 sobs). I have really mixed feelings on my experience and have never had such a love/hate relationship in my 40+ years of playing video games. Anthemism is what I’m going to call it. I’m addicted, although I know it doesn’t taste great, isn’t good (or great) for me, and causes me a lack of sleep. I’ve been rushing over the last week to hit the level cap by the game’s official launch today, and here has been my experience so far.
Overall gameplay is amazing. The balance of being able to play as a casual gamer right alongside a hardcore gamer is a huge credit to EA/Bioware. The matchmaking system is probably the best I’ve ever seen. You don’t have to have an established set of friends to play with (although you can) through any portion of the story, side missions (contracts), or end-game content (strongholds). Gameplay is fast and throughout the main story arc doesn’t seem like you are part of a typical level grind. I’ve now reached the level cap and still feel compelled to play to get better weapons and play harder versions of the game content. This is another credit to EA/Bioware as I’m typically a one-and-done type of player who, once I’ve completed the story or a particular character, has no interest in going back and playing it again. The gameplay/missions are that well designed.
Bioware is known for great detailed stories and character development. I found myself engaged throughout the main story arc because the side characters are very well rounded and at times comical. The dialogue choices are limited to only two. However, the choices gave me pause several times as to which path to choose (how can you be mean to this dead pilot’s Mom?).
As I mentioned in my last article, the visuals are almost as amazing as the game-play. Flying around in an Iron Man type suit with all the tricks over an Avatar landscape is incredible. From the first jump off the cliff at Fort Tarsis (your home-base), flying up massive waterfalls, to cinematic vistas perched atop some forgotten tomb are desktop worthy screenshots frame by frame.
As with most looter type games (progress through the game while trying to collect more powerful gear to help access harder content) Anthem does not disappoint with a slew of items to collect. In addition to collecting these items (around 100 to customize your play-style) there are 6 tiers of quality (common, uncommon, rare, epic, masterwork, and legendary) of these items to upgrade along the way. I stuck to playing just one of the 4 Javelins (classes/suits), the “Storm,” throughout which I’m glad I did since juggling all that loot amongst 3 other Javelins before reaching the level cap (30) would have had me spending more time on conservation of available space (250 slots for all of your acquired gear). Creating customized gear is a simple process, far less complicated than Anthem’s rivals (Diablo 3 and Path of Exile), and at this point no need for complicated spreadsheets or having a 2nd monitor to figure out how to craft the best gear. There are some sub stats on gear that are not very intuitive out of the gate. However, I believe they will iron this out shortly with some type of tool-tips embedded in the game somewhere.
PVE vs PVP
(Player Versus Environment vs Player Versus Player). First, there is no PVP. Kudos to EA/Bioware for going this route. So many games struggle with splitting their game in two and having to balance content and game-play (I’m looking at you, Destiny) and destroying both sides in the process. Placing a capture the flag or Fortnite/Apex mode in this game would just be silly.
Top Ten Gameplay Tips
- Setup: Don’t waste time customizing your facial features. I did and not once have seen my face again.
- If you’re on a PC setup the game on an SSD drive. Given the amount of loading you will do in this game it will speed up the process immensely.
- Don’t rush through the game like I did. Literally stop and smell the roses. The environment is gorgeous enough to bump up your settings to ULTRA and take in the spectacular views. I’ll admit I had the Destiny 2 fear of feeling like I’d be left behind. One of the perks of this game is that you can casually work your way through it at YOUR pace not the #1 Twitch Streamer’s pace. You’re not getting paid to play, are you?
- Watch what others are doing. I had the benefit of playing hours of the game before it’s official release and had the opportunity to see which Javelins suited my play-style the best. I also watched many hours of Twitch streams and YouTube videos of people playing. Follow the most experienced members of your team when encountering a puzzle challenge the first time. How about doing some of this while waiting for your game to load and install?
- Choose one Javelin type and get really good at it. I’ll go back and play the tank-type Colossus, eventually. For the story I just wanted to concentrate on and get really good at playing just one type.
- Try before you buy. You can try the full game for $14.99 for one month of Premier EA access (Unless you’re on the PS4). You still come out ahead about $50 and have all the perks for buying the Legion of Dawn most expensive version of the full game. If you really like it, purchase the whole game at the end of the month. Expansions for the game will be FREE so you don’t have to worry about spending extra on DLC (downloadable content) at a later date.
- Playing on Hard. For most of the game you should play it on Hard (with the exception of Strongholds). The benefits of XP and loot of playing on Hard outweighs playing on Normal. Yes, you probably will never get downed (as you never really die) but there is no real penalty unless your whole squad is defeated. Only then you will have to restart that section of the mission over. Plus, you get the benefits of reviving other downed players.
- At level 30. Now that your Masterworks and Legendaries are dropping, do your strongholds on Easy. Yes, you have more of a chance to better items on Hard and above however the offset of time per run is probably better running it easy. After 4 runs I had picked up 4 masterworks and at least 20 epics. Worth it? I think so. This might get patched, not sure as it’s not really breaking the gameplay dynamic. If you decide to run strongholds before 30 run them on normal.
- Salvage often. As you progress throughout the game the tiers of equipment (common, uncommon, etc) will be become useless scrap. Plus, it keeps your inventory tidy. Salvage those pieces and craft new gear in it’s place, but only the types of gear that you use most often. As an example I mainly used a rifle or light machine gun for my primary weapon and sniper rifle for my secondary. I scrapped all my pistols and crafted those to weapon types as I went along.
- Stronger together. Communicate with your team. It is faster and easier to all concentrate on a single boss than to go over in 4 separate directions.
The PRE/VIP Experience
If you are thinking about playing or just starting playing you can skip this whole section. I’m including it here though as I think EA/Bioware may have stumbled upon a smart way of rolling out/marketing a new game with this complicated process. As any experienced online gamer will tell you the launch of a game is ALWAYS rocky and filled with lament and pain. Anthem has taken a different approach this time and may have found a genius way to to publish a game by delaying the launch over many weeks. We’ll have to wait and see how sales shake out of course to see if this experiment paid off for EA/Bioware.
First came the VIP demo where you could play if you pre-ordered the game. Yes, I’m a sucker and did it, and had a frenzied weekend of playing as much of the 5 levels of demo content as I could. 95% loading screens of death and other glitches made this experience almost unplayable. Then came the open demo weekend the following weekend. I had almost forgot the experience of previous demo (they really should have just called both of these beta weekends). I had almost a worse experience with bugs but something about the look and play-style had me coming back for more. Unlike my console compatriots the flying/swimming modes were still broken.
Early access launches. So after pre-ordering the game to play the VIP demo, EA offered those with the basic ($5/mo membership 10 hours of game-play) and premier ($14.99/mo full unlimited access) to again play the ‘final’ version of the game starting a full week before the official launch. I justified another purchase by telling myself I didn’t pre-purchase the extra special version and I’ll pay just one month for the premier access, get all of the ‘extras’ and go play EA’s catalog in the dead week before early access which I’m glad I did . This early access of the last week has been a MUCH better experience. The PC controls and menus actually began to feel more like a PC experience vs. a quick and dirty console port of the game, which it definitely is. To summarize the PRE experience I was so sick last Friday when early access came out that I maybe played 2 hours as I was so burnt by the previous ‘demo’ weeks that to just spent most of the day in bed.
Lastly if you want to friend me or team-up on PC my EA tag is: TheCOBatman or catch me on my Twitch stream at: https://www.twitch.tv/cobatman