Anthem: VIP Demo

Anthem isn’t a game I’ve been particularly fussed about if I’m honest. Another online loot shooter with rpg elements…..it isn’t exactly breaking the mould, right?

Well, yes and no.

Thanks to a friend code, I was able to download the demo and jump in for a couple of hours over the weekend.

Having not really kept up with it in games press and avoiding videos and all the usual hype, I had no expectations at all.

What I came away with was a pre-order for the game on release, and a first class ticket on the hype-train.

 

Comparisons

Straight out the gates, Anthem was being painted as a clone of many other games, in one way or another. Destiny, Warframe & The Division in particular.

Each of these make sense when you look at it. Loot, online-only, multiplayer (co-op) missions make it Destiny-like straight away. Then the third-person perspective and shooting give it a Warframe and Division feel. I totally get it, but Anthem doesn’t really feel like a clone.

It does, of course share a lot of features. After all, there are massive world spaces, missions with teams that involve shooting and looting. But I’m not sure that there are any direct comparisons.

The different suits “Javelins” give a Warframe-esque vibe, I suppose?

Numbers popping off bodies when enemies are being shot, random drops for new gear. It’s all standard fare really.

That isn’t a bad thing at all. I love all of the above mentioned games. I’m just more interested in seeing what it is that Anthem can do differently and set it apart.

Comparisons will come and go, and hopefully over time it’ll stand out for itself. It makes sense, people want to know what else it’s like, so they have a frame of reference to understand what they’re looking at. It just isn’t accurate.

 

Expectations

One thing that Anthem does have hanging over it’s head, is a set of expectations, based on the developers.

BioWare are not a small, no-name company. This is a company with a rich heritage, and the producer of some of my favourite games. Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 (not Andromeda…..). What a foundation from which to build on!

Known for excellent stories and world building (again, minus Andromeda), there’s an expectation here that Anthem will have a deeper, richer world. Particularly moreso than the games it gets compared to.

This is hard, because other games have been out years and established their lore and universe. So Anthem is going to have to hit a high watermark straight out of the gates.

Unfortunately for BioWare and for Anthem, the publisher is EA (Electronic Arts). EA haven’t exactly ingratiated themselves with customers as of late, and people are flat-out against buying their products.

So expectations are high for BioWare, but low for EA to deliver a game that isn’t going to just try and scalp their playerbase. Will they push for stupid micro-transactions and milk everyone that has put their faith in Anthem?

If you ask me, this will be make or break for EA, and I think they may have just been burned enough in recent years to not be too terrible. Who knows, though?

 

Diving in

Enough about the background of the game. We all just want to know what it’s like, right?

Bearing in mind that this is a demo, and a build version that’s actually several weeks old, Anthem is pretty bloody good.

Hampered with network and scaling issues over the weekend, it wasn’t without flaws, but they weren’t actually in-game issues, as much as they were technical issues relating to the infrastructure in place. Perhaps they under-estimated the amount of players. Perhaps having so many players highlighted some missed issues in QA?

From what I saw, the developers were very open, apologetic and honest with everyone. Detailing the issues, the fixes and the reality of not getting everything fixed in time, over the weekend.

A wobbly start, but on what appears to be solid foundations.

The whining and very child-like tweets were an embarrassment to gaming in general. I saw one outlet basically throwing a tantrum via twitter. It was sad to see these “professionals” act like stroppy teenagers, and a little ridiculous. To think that I’d contacted them in the past for feedback on this site……thankfully, they never came back to me.

I definitely got hit with the “infinite load time” error a few times. No drama though, it’s a demo!

 

Anthem

Ok, so there were issues, we’re worried about EA and it’s being compared to other games in the same genre (ish).

Glad we got it out the way. Now to the good stuff.

Straight off-the-bat, Anthem looks incredible. Stunning isn’t overdoing it here. The first-person trundle around your home base is lovely. Super-polished and just a joy to be in.

Non-playable characters have great models and voice acting. The mouths move realistically, and they’re just bloody good!

I don’t understand the first-person perspective, when the combat and exploration out of this area is in third-person. You’ve got to assume it’s to do with delivering the narrative. Face-to-face conversations if you will. It’s slow to walk around and a little odd when compared to in-javelin movement, but ok…..

Now, think what it would be like to have basically a massive online game where you can fly around in what could be best described as an Iron Man suit. Add to it the slickness and polish of a triple-A title, and some really in-depth customisation, and you’re on the right track.

The combat feels great, shooting over the shoulder. Firing homing missiles, lobbing grenades, and having a blast (no pun intended). Sounds pretty standard, though, doesn’t it?

Add to that, the complete verticality of an area, because you can bloody fly! Hover or fly around, popping off enemies from above is super satisfying. Not being restricted to trying to flank around an enemy is great, just go above them!

Jumping into the air and then clicking the left-stick to go into flight is smooth, and incredibly satisfying. Then dashing around in these gorgeous, massive areas is wonderful.

 

Depth

Talking about depth in Anthem is multi-layered. Sure, there’s a deep and rewarding system for XP, upgrades, weapons and the like. But beyond that, and something that took me completely by surprise, is the depth of the actual maps.

I went into free-roaming mode to have a look around, as one does. Saw the opportunity to take a massive leap and test for fall damage (none as far as I can tell?). What happened, though, was that I landed in a body of water, and then proceeded to dive deeper, and swim through a series of underwater tunnels.

With no prior understanding or knowledge of Anthem, I just expected sand-box type areas with flying. Little did I realise that the verticality worked both upwards and downwards! What a treat.

Beyond, that though, I found myself just in awe at the view laid out in front of me. This is one good looking game.

No drops in framerates to my eye, and seamless movement. Flying, dropping down, flying out again and getting a vantage point. Very slick indeed.

 

Hitting that sweet-spot

Being so pleasantly surprised by these little things, and having loads of fun flying around and shooting bad guys. Alongside seeing great developer response, to even just a demo. I decided I would pre-order there an then.

The thing is, it’s not so much about what the game is about for me. It’s about finding that title that re-unites the VasDown boys in an online space where we can all play together.

Since the disappointment of Destiny 2, our raid nights have gone. Our excitement and clan runs through strikes etc, are done with. It’s sad, and I’ve been trying really hard to get everyone into something else.

This hasn’t happened. Trying Elder Scrolls Online was good, but there wasn’t full buy-in from everyone. I’ve played Warframe for hundreds of hours, but not everyone was interested.

Monster Hunter World has become my Destiny replacement, but with only one of the VasDown boys, it’s not meeting the need entirely.

Anthem appears to have the potential. Giving us the same gaming elements as Destiny, adding the new style and finish, and the prospect of a vast new universe to explore. Great!

Beyond that, though. People are interested, moreso than me. So I’m taking the plunge, because that’s where they’ll be. If I can get back on with the boys in a game that some already have an interest in, then that’s fine with me.

Thankfully, it seems like it’s going to be great anyway. But I’m not buying it for the hope of a great game. I’m investing in more potentially great times. End-game content that requires us to work together. Helping each other level-up and run missions for specific loot.

It isn’t about me, it isn’t about the cost of a new game (who on earth pre-orders and EA game?), it’s about playing with friends and getting back to doing what we do best……………reviving Vas.

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