The eagerly awaited BioWare developed game, Anthem, had an initial VIP demo available over the weekend. Anthem is a third person action RPG that sees you take the role of a Freelancer, a warrior tasked to protect, scavenge and explore the world. Each Freelancer uses a powered, Iron Man like exosuit known as Javelins, to explore the world and battle enemies. Javelins can also be fitted with offensive and defensive upgrades, vanity items and even different layouts. Anthem also has elements of first person interaction in a safe hub world, known as Fort Tarsis. Here you can upgrade your Javelins, talk to NPCs, receive missions or shop for and craft additional items for use.
So what was shown in the demo? Well we got a cross section of both Fort Tarsis and several open-world missions set outside the hub world of Fort Tarsis. Controls are explained to you after you do some basic character selection (no full creator was included). You explore Fort Tarsis in first person and you can only explore a small amount of the overall hub world in the demo. Movement is slower to the action gameplay, as you can’t run, fly or jump around. Missions are given to you by NPCs dotted around shops, workshops or even bars. Once a mission has been found, you had to your Javelin launchpad. A mission menu allows you to pick from heading to a story mission target, head to strongholds for looting or even enter a free play session, which allows you to hone your skills and play your own way.
Load Up And Let’s Go
Once you choose your mission (in this case a story based mission to locate a requested object) you venture to an open-world. The missions I played, were based in a somewhat lush jungle environment, packed with outposts, a variety of enemies and dungeons. From here, some issues arouse during the demo. When transitioning from Fort Tarsis to the mission area, the demo was plagued with long loading times. I often had to reset the PlayStation 4 demo in order to be able to head to a mission, due to a stuck loading screen. Unfortunately, this happened throughout the demo session and was reported on other platforms too. Although this is only a cross-section demo of a game, Anthem is aiming to be a squad based shooter that may rely on online play with others. This did hamper my length of playtime, but how was the game when it did load up?
After getting into the missions, gameplay reminded my of a mix of Warframe and Destiny. You are tasked to hit up checkpoints, where you battle a horde of enemies, achieve a goal and move to next checkpoint. There are some variants to the checkpoints, in that you have to defend a point to upload a signal, search for clues to find allies or search for objects. After a number of checkpoints hit, you will hit an endgame point for the mission, which is akin to the end of a dungeon with a multi boss battle. You can explore the area by using short range rocket flight. You can also use the rockets to help in dodge moves and as a quick getaway from attacks. Depending on which of the four types of Javelin you have chosen, you have a number of unique abilities. I played as a Ranger (good all rounder, multi lock-on targeting & agile) and a Colossus (large, slower tank like suit, with powerful weapons & health), but having a mix of Javelins will help defeat enemies. Loadouts are fully customisable, where you can tailor your weapons, suit upgrades and even add elemental attacks or defense buffs.
Movement is fluid, once you get used to exploring on-foot, leaping to flight and eventually hovering over enemies to attack. Ammo is plentiful because enemies drop loot, health and ammo. Some harder enemies act like bullet sponges, as they have elemental buffs, shields, devastating attacks or fast movement. Even with a full team of four players, enemies can gang up and wipe you out, if you don’t take note of their position or attack patterns. If you die over the mission, the respawn wait time is long, especially if you don’t have a player to heel you. Although this is an open-world, entering caves or dungeons added another loading screen. This somewhat slows momentum of the mission, causes huge lag issues or even splits up the party. An awards screen eventually appears after a successful mission and displays loot, experienced gained and achievements reached. You head back to the hub world, pick a new mission, then rinse & repeat.
So did I enjoy the demo? When it worked, gameplay was fluid and fun. The world was somewhat varied, while the Frostbite engine allows for good animations, graphics and lighting. Customisation seemed fairly robust from what was included, as a range of amour types, paint patterns and designs were available to mix & match. With many more worlds, environments, mission types, weapons and a role-playing mechanic to delve into, I hope Anthem has longevity. The online component is a worry for day one users, but things like vanity items seem not to be locked behind loot crates or pay walls. Plenty of loot is dropped during missions and although only level ten to fifteen were available to unlock, it didn’t seem a grind. It will come down to the balance of enemies, how deep the RPG mechanics will affect the story and the team you play with, that will determine your enjoyment.
Open Demo Availability
Although this demo was open to a limited number of people, an open demo will commence on February 1st-3rd across all platforms. For more info head over to the official website.
Anthem is available in a full release on PC, Xbox One and PS4 February 22nd.