Anthem – The reviews

It’s almost cool to hate on Anthem at the minute. Not without good cause, for some of it. But in my first few hours I’ve found myself pretty happy flying around, talking to people and unlocking new Javelins.

I’m maybe 20 hours total since the February 22nd release (not the initial release……..but the non-official “proper release”, or something like that?). But it’s good so far.

Even if I could, I’m not sure I’d be slinging myself at it head-first, to get 50+ hours in, in the first week. Of course “professional” (a loose term) reviewers need to get in and get their content out asap. So they have to grind it out and give their opinion based on an adequate amount of gameplay.

The average user is less likely to hit the “content drought” quite so swiftly, and is likely to have a slightly better experience, if you ask me.

Anthem has issues, but it seems to me that it isn’t any worse than Destiny was upon release. I even feel like I have more of an idea about what’s going on than I did then.


The yardstick has changed

The biggest issue that Anthem has when it comes to reviews, is that the expectations were higher than ever.

Anthem isn’t just being reviewed as a stand-alone game, but as a member of a peer group. A group that has seen a lot of issues over the past 5 or so years (Destiny, The Division, Warframe etc).

There are so many lessons that should have been learnt. Loot drops, micro transactions, loot variety, matchmaking, menus, user experience and on and on and on.

All of the aforementioned had rocky starts. All have improved significantly (or taken a massive step-back……. see: Destiny 2) over time. With these improvements, affection for a game comes back and people remember things fondly. Great!

We have a plethora of solid loot-shooters now, and they all do things well.

Anthem should have used all of this to its advantage. Seeing Bungie and Ubisoft work tirelessly over years to iterate and improve. Bioware should have been taking notes, and it looks like they didn’t.

That’s the biggest problem, for me.

I’m having a really good time playing Anthem, I really am. But this (ignorance?) is what rubs people the wrong way.


Desperate to be heard

Before I get into the problems, we’ve got to remember that people are burning through the core content at a rate that’s surely only achievable by a small percentage of the player base?

This is for many reasons, but let’s be honest, like I said before you have people desperate for views and clicks.

Some make considered, thought-out cases for things both good and bad. But in a world of hype and trying to force people to look at what you have to say, you’ve gotta smash through it. This is arguably at a pace in which the game wasn’t designed to be played-through at.

There should be more stuff in the end-game, but with content maps for the next 90 days. Patches being sent out rapidly. It isn’t that this game isn’t being improved upon. It’s that people expect everything immediately.

Content will be there, and I’d guess that within 6 months, there will be plenty for everyone to do. We’ll always have people rush through, and then complain that there’s nothing to do, but that’s a smaller, albeit more vocal part of the player base.

You’ve really got to take everything with a pinch of salt. There are absolutely issues to be resolved. But being a dick because people want to hear it, and watch it, doesn’t mean you’re right.

Forcing through content so quickly because you’ve got the time to do so is great, but that isn’t a reflection of the wider audience is it?

The pace in which content has to be produced is ridiculous, to keep up on YouTube and Google rankings etc. I get it, it’s a cycle that’s getting tighter and tighter, and it’s essentially a race now.

Isn’t this actually reducing the whole review process to a nasty little rat race?. Seeing reviewers overworking, consumers jumping onto the most extreme views based on a narrow perspective, and studios being left in the dust?

The old days are gone, everyone’s a critic and an online superstar……’s not a healthy scene at all.


Grateful for those forerunners

It isn’t all bad, is it?

We have people who make it their livelihood that want to make sure we, as consumers are getting the best deal. Making sure our money isn’t wasted.

It means those that have ploughed through a game and given it 80+ hours already are able to feedback to the developers, and start the feedback cycle.

We absolutely benefit from their hard work and we should be grateful.

In fact, we’re seeing swift changes to the very ecosystem of the game, thanks to the feedback of all of these outlets. Sure, the updates are massive (in terms of data), but they’re coming pretty swiftly.

Thanking developers for listening seems a little misplaced at this early stage of the game’s release. Yes, the turn-around time on updates and fixes is great. But they shouldn’t have released the game in this state.

Those (few) sincere, hard-working reviewers with broad non-personal perspectives. They’re the ones that should be thanked for the rate of progress. Anthem is improving all the time (I’ve been writing this on and off for over a week).

It’s a decent stab at the genre, with room to improve.


The bad bits

I started writing this a few days after the 22nd February release date. in that time, some of the original gripes have improved. Mostly for the end-game players (I’m only level 22….).

Things are getting better, but here are the few things that need to be addressed as Anthem moves forwards.

  1. Loading Screens between inventory management and picking a mission, or going to a hub space. What?! That should be seamless. None of the others do this. It’s a loot-based game. You’re changing gear all the time. How is this even a thing?

  2. The freeroam map isn’t very useful. Sure you can see where you are and where you’ve been. But it’s not great. You can’t set waypoints and get on-screen navigation points. So trying to get back to place you discovered is a little more manual than we’re all used to.

  3. It’d be really helpful to drop a pin, or marker for you and your squad when you find something, or when you need to get back into the action after re-spawning.

  4. Kick-time for people that are clearly not playing, is a bit too long. Doing missions and being a man-down is no fun. Especially with no “kick” or “vote to kick” options.

  5. Glitches – a bit broad, but I’ve experienced a couple of different issues where I can’t finish a mission. Either a non-playing cinematic or endlessly spawning enemies. Not being able to finish a mission is never a good time, especially when my time is limited. These are known problems, too.

  6. Disconnects/connection issues – Again, broad, but stability has been an issue for a lot of people. I’ve been kicked from a session, or not connected at all. It’s never fun….

  7. Mission variety – A true sign of being a loot-shooter……The two or three quest types. Go here, kill those. Go here, defend this space, or hey, go there and collect those things to take back to the thing.

I could go on, but to be honest I’m having a great time overall in Anthem.


Good stuff

It isn’t all bad, either. Despite the current status quo.

Anthem is a stunning-looking game, even on my original Xbox One. The amount of action on-screen doesn’t cause massive amounts of framrate drop (although there is a little bit).

Movement and combat is varied and fluid. The variety of Javelins and the roles you play are excellent. I’ve got 3 of the 4 and use them all situationally, depending on who I play with and the type of mission.

Even with the lack of quest variety, I’m always having fun. And to be honest, fun is kind of the point, isn’t it?

There’s a lot to be improved, but I’m playing a loot-shooter where I’m excited about the grind and playing with my friends. As it stands, that’s enough for me.

When I hit the end-game, and find myself struggling to hit max-level. It might be a different story.

Anthem has been released in a time where the developers should know better, and the review market is more ferocious than ever. It’s a high-pressure cycle, with everyone clamouring to be heard.

We’re in a mess.

It was never going to get the best reviews. With so much disdain towards EA (deserved), and really high standards and expectations of Bioware.

Let’s see what it becomes, eh? After all, reviewing a game with an ever-changing world is a little moot, isn’t it? How can you? A year from now it’ll be a different game, and it’ll need re-reviewing.

These live service games are a beast unto themselves, and I don’t think anyone is getting this right straight out of the gates. Developers and reviewers alike.

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