Anthem (2019) Review

This game was reviewed on a Xbox One S.

Anthem, Bioware’s latest, has been out for nearly a month now and after clocking in 68 hours and completing the campaign and contracts and strongholds, I wanted to finally add my own two cents on it.

Anthem can be satisfying to play – from the flying in the air in your favourite colour design to blasting enemies away with your gun of choice. It brings to mind the gunplay in Mass Effect, just in how smooth it all feels in general. There is a bit of lag about, sometimes when I’m hit, I’m stuck in an endless loop of recoil, but that’s few and far between.

Beyond that, the presentation of the world can be gorgeous. Even now, I’m still whizzing past areas that catch my eye – little corners I haven’t seen even after all these hours.

In extension to all that, the lore of the world, while feeling familiar at times, has this high-fantasy feel that comes across as a labour of love – made by the geekiest to hand down to the geekiest.

Though the campaign is frustratingly vague in parts – presumably stripped back to throw in content later on – it has an air of mystery to the proceedings that callback to Mass Effect 2’s central mystery. I’m reminded of Bioware’s strength in writing – and also of their weaknesses. It’s really strong at times and then really weak in other areas.

I think the best part of all of this are the secondary characters. They’re what makes me run around Fort Tarsis after every mission because the interaction can be a lot of fun and can add some depth to the world that’s missing in the campaign.

That being said, Anthem is far from perfect. Some of the design choices are baffling – why can’t you swap weapons on the fly? Why can’t you set a custom waypoint in freeplay? Why can’t we see other freelancers in the world, instead of being crammed into the one small space that is the launch bay? What’s the point of customising a character?

It’s these errors that make me think of Destiny 1 at launch all those years ago now. I find it strange that Bioware didn’t pay attention to what works and what doesn’t in the world of Anthem.

Then there’s the lack of endgame content. There’s a few contracts you can do but that’s really all there is to it. Out of the three strongholds you can do, one becomes available during the campaign and the other is the last mission of the campaign – which feels like a really weak thing to do.

There needed to be more content – more endgame content, more choice of unique gear within factions, more varied mission structure beyond what there currently is, which feels monotonous despite the fun of killing things.

Anthem can be a solid experience, but it feels unfinished and coarse and unrefined. It needed work, lots of work. It needed testing, thorough testing, and it needed to be delayed so that reflection could take place.

What is at launch is still fun and I still soar through the skies because I am enjoying the experience but I’m currently level 25. What happens when I hit 30 – the limit now – and feel like there’s not much to do besides finding the best gear? What then?

If you’re reading this and you’re on the fence about it, my advice to you would be to wait six months to a year so that things are ironed out and more content is added. Mayyyyybe – if you’re a huge Bioware fan – get it, because if you’re like me you will enjoy the hours you can get out of it – but everyone else should wait till it’s…well…complete.

J’s Verdict: ☆☆☆

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