Conceptually, Anthem sounds like the result of a massive collaboration between the most prolific sci-fi properties in existence. It’s the offspring of a marriage between Halo and Mass Effect with a bit of Iron Man thrown in. Even that fails to capture exactly what Anthem is. The more snarky among us could also say that Anthem is a Destiny clone with power armor and better gameplay. It would be hard to completely refute such a statement.
The world of Anthem is one of exploration and discovery. Unlike many similar games, some super advanced alien race isn’t about to wipe out humanity (that we know of). In fact, the world here feels untamed. It’s filled with lush vegetation, massive cave systems, and a fairly diverse array of local wildlife. As such, you’re not going to be playing as the chosen savior of humanity. Instead, you’re a Freelancer, a highly trained operator of the Javelin power armor. While part of your job description is to protect one of the strongholds of humanity (Fort Tarsis), you will also be tasked with retrieving tech from a long lost alien civilization. The factions that are actively hostile to the citizens of Fort Tarsis are trying to do the same, though their goals are undoubtedly far from noble.
Given such a narrative, it only makes sense that Anthem features a more open world gameplay structure. As one would expect, Fort Tarsis serves as your home base. From there, you can equip your Javelin with all sorts of weaponry, do some shopping in the marketplace, and even talk to NPCs. In typical BioWare fashion, you can choose how you respond to the NPCs, presumably to affect your relationship with them. Unfortunately, your only dialogue options include one playful and one professional response. In any case, Fort Tarsis is where you accept and embark on missions from. Regardless of whether you want to do story missions, free roam, or attempt to tackle Strongholds (mid to endgame tier content), matchmaking and harder difficulty options will always be available.
While Anthem is a multiplayer looter-shooter, the main story missions appear to be quite doable by solo players without being so easy as to be boring. From what can be seen from the demo, you will occasionally encounter friendly NPCs in missions, but they are of the “stand in one place and shoot wildly” variety. Fortunately, hostile NPCs are far more interesting. The humanoid factions have decently good AI in that they will reposition themselves, flank you, and stay reasonably far enough from each other so that a single grenade doesn’t kill 10 people at once.
Such factions also possess unique enemy archetypes. For instance, the Dominion have their own Storm Javelins which can manipulate the elements to inflict status effects. The Scars favor a more brute force approach. Their heavily armored special units can take a lot of damage from the front and not nearly as much damage from behind. Wildlife factions have specialized units as well, though they are understandably less flashy by comparison. You certainly needn’t worry that all enemies devolve into either the shooty or stabby variant of cannon fodder. At least not yet anyway.
To help you fight such enemies, you can equip a wide variety of firearms onto your Javelin. You have your standard assortment of assault rifles and machine guns. In addition, you can mount micro-missiles, shield generators, and no shortage of armor upgrades onto the Javelin itself. More specialized Javelins, such as the Colossus Javelin, can use heavy weapons like full-size grenade launchers and flamethrowers and mount things like mortars onto the armor. Others, like the aforementioned Storm Javelin, can deal with all sorts of elemental damage to take advantage of status effect combos.
As fans of the Mass Effect series might recall, status effect combos occur when two abilities interact, dealing massive amounts of damage. For example, you can throw an incendiary grenade into a group of enemies to ignite them. You can then fire a micro-missile to create a combo detonation that would do more damage than either ability can do individually. Given that some of the enemies in Anthem have rather large health pools and or attack in huge swarms, combo detonators are an incredibly satisfying way to tip the scales back in your favor.
While Anthem’s core gameplay mechanics are quite solid, the demo only shows so much. As a result, it’s almost impossible to determine whether the loot will have reasonable drop rates. For that matter, no one knows what kind of endgame content Anthem will have. If the last few years of gaming are any indicator, looter shooters live and die by their endgame content.
Anthem’s demo shows that BioWare took notes from the successes and failures of similar games. They clearly got the message that having beautiful audiovisuals is not enough to make a shallow game good. Though Anthem has both in spades, it’s about more than that. In a looter-shooter, people need some kind of actual, comprehensible story to keep them hooked. That seems to be here.
Frankly, it would be excessively reckless to go out and pre-order Anthem right now based on the relatively strong demo. However, the fact that there aren’t any glaringly obvious problems (technical demo issues aside) with the core gameplay is a good sign for BioWare.
TechRaptor previewed Anthem on Xbox One via the VIP demo. Anthem will release on PC via Origin, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on February 22, 2019.More About This Game