Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Anthem Review

Anthem started out as a great game with plenty of things to do, places to explore, enemies to take down, weapons to discover, a story of decent length, and an endless possibility for the future. A brand new IP that could rival Destiny or The Division that immediately fell apart after the first patch wherein weapon and loot levels were adjusted. Suddenly it was difficult to find new weapons, and the ones in a player's possession were no longer as powerful as they once were.
Then another patch, and low-level weapons were too powerful, and the better loot moved to the after-campaign missions.
Then another patch and the weapons evened out and the loot was given freely to everyone.
Then another patch and suddenly part of the loot disappeared.
Then another and another and another and now no one has any idea just how powerful their weapons actually are.

Despite the overwhelming near-constant release of patches, Anthem is a good game. Plain and simple.
The currently unnamed planet that the game takes place on features amazing scenery divided into locales that unfortunately get tiresome after the 10th hour or so when every nook and cranny has been explored. Caves that lead to dungeons which house hidden missions are sparse and are merely tantamount to hidden side quests. An invisible roof barrier and walls that time the player out keep anyone from truly exploring what at first looks like an open jungle. Fort Tarsis is vibrant and feels alive but barren with a lack of NPCs that were abundant in the first trailer shown at E3 2017. It may be improved upon if there are future expansions but only time will tell. Each dungeon and Cataclysm are unique and never copy-paste jobs of pre-made layouts. Strongholds, Cataclysm events, agent quests and contracts, and legendary contracts at first seem like they would offer a wide variety of mission types but most are seek-and-destroy, item collection, or task the player with fending off an attacking group of enemies.
It's not all hindered by BioWare's indecision though. The main saving grace is the action itself: there are plenty of fights to get into in the overworld during Freeplay and each one can last several minutes, some may lead into a side quest wherein enemies must be defeated or an object must be located. Freeplay offers up the entire map for the player to explore with four others. You can group with random people and head out to cause trouble or simply hunt things down on your own. There are hundreds of lore items to find throughout the game that build on the depth of the world that detail the various factions, creatures, and history. These appear in random places but are so rare and insignificant to the overall game that only someone looking to complete things 100% might care to find. 

There are six(!) different currencies within the game (unless you count two of them separately). Gold, weapon/javelin parts, compounds/alloys, embers, crystals, and shards that must be bought with real money. Gold and shards are used to buy emotes, armor packs, textures, and decals but gold must be grinded for which can potentially take hours and sometimes days to attain. Weapon and Javelin parts are used for crafting blueprints which are obtained by finding new weapons. Compounds and alloys are used with shards to craft mods for weapons and Javelin parts. Crystals were introduced in the cataclysm update and may disappear, much like another past currency did.
There are four Javelin types to choose from: Ranger offers the most balance, Colossus brings heavy armor and shields, Storm can attack enemies with elemental powers, and Interceptor being the fastest but most frail. Each part of these can be visually customized to the players choosing, from armor sets to paint and decals. One of the main attractions to Anthem is the ability to fly; each Javelin can go a considerable distance on it's own and when cooled by flying through a waterfall, making an immediate descent, or flying low to a water source can prolong the overheating.
Customization options for the Javelins are lackluster and, as I said, gold must be grinded for days to have enough for a decal, a pack of armor, or even an emote. Weapons must also be grinded for in all areas with the best appearing at complete random (I received a Legendary pistol from Free Play) and are not guaranteed after completing a high-level mission. After the main campaign, the contracts become repetitive and, aside from strongholds and Cataclysm, are one of the few things to do to keep players interested for just a little bit longer.

Audio quality is top notch with the main star being the guns and explosions. From the lowly pistols to the heavy machine guns, each one packs a punch and feels powerful. The sounds of the Javelin are clear as day when running through the jungle or flying. The jungle creatures, waterfalls, the ambience of Anthem tech, and even the enemies have all been given special attention. NPC interactions in Fort Tarsis sound like natural conversations and the voice actors perform excellently (Sentinel Bren is adorable, fight me). There are many characters to meet and all of them offer different context choices when speaking with them, there is no right or wrong way and they all lead to a mission.

I was an Anthem apologist for a long time, I only looked at the good parts of this game and tried to tell people to only focus on those, but those good parts only go so far and after each patch has further twisted the overall gameplay, I can no longer tell people to focus on just that. It clocks in around 50 hours of play time and easily recommendable to anyone who loves the the shoot-and-loot trend.
Anthem isn't a bad game by any stretch, it's just hindered by some initial poor design choices that have since been repaired while others have been made more complicated. Until BioWare releases an expansion the audience for this title shrinks daily and that is unfortunate since there is a massive amount of potential that would keep people coming back for years.

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