Anthem Quick Thoughts

This after 2 beta weekends, and the main story completed.  Not at max level.

General

  • Mechanically much more stable, but still a fair chunk of game breaking bugs (quests don’t complete, game crashes, sound goes out, infinite load screen)
  • The game looks amazing.  Hats off to the world builders and asset designers.
  • There is an absurd amount of rubber banding lag that causes:
    • Enemies to randomly appear
    • Shots to come from nowhere
    • Titan attacks to hit you even if you’ve clearly dodged.
  • I find myself spending far too much time waiting.  Waiting for a loading screen, waiting for a spawn, waiting for the flight to the waypoint to complete.
    • Note: Flying between waypoints is ok.  It’s the flying at the start of the mission that’s irritating.  Why give me a 60s load screen to then make me fly for 3 minutes?
  • Running in Tarsis feel much better.
  • Voice acting is ok.  There are 3 NPCs for the main quest, then 3 faction leaders.  Rest of the gang is better than most others.
  • There’s a ton of interesting lore and bits to be found, but damn does this game go to length to hide it, then make it a pain to sort through.
  • It is way too quiet in town.
  • The loading animation into the mech is cool
  • There appears to only be 4 enemy types.
    • Scar – everywhere scar.  Snipers, bombers, mechs, casters, grunts…oh and Escarii which are spider tanks.
    • Outlaw – Not a whole lot of these, but they are much simpler than Scar.
    • Bugs – Either they blow up, or they attack you.
    • Big Guys – Ursix & Titans.  Rare enough.  Former will physically attack 1 player.  Latter will use AE attacks and summon minor elements to attack.
  • Aside from the main story quest, and a few specific instances, every single mission boils down to the same routine
    • Fly through multiple waypoints (landing along the way to recharge thrusters) until you hit a point of interest (PoI)
    • Do one of four things (sometimes a combination of)
      • Kill all enemies, including spawn points
      • Play hot/cold to find objects
      • Place objects in a location
      • Defend a location
    • Repeat said 5 things up to 5 more times.  The variation has little to do with the game content, and more to do with the people with which you complete said content.
  • There are 3 dungeons, 2 of which are repeats of main quest events.

Story

  • Big baddie wants to become a god.  You try to stop him.  There’s one trick play in the middle that most people should see coming.  It’s relatively quick.
  • I found the faction leader quests much more interesting, story wise.  There’s some appreciable progress outside of the NPCs you interact with.
  • There’s a Tomb Quest that has you achievement hunt in order to progress.  It feels like artificial padding, because it is.  And the reward is an empty room with a chest.
    • Wasted opportunity for a lore piece on who the actual person was in this tomb… a quick cutscene, or just an image with some overlayed text/voice.
  • The setup for the next part makes it feel like I played the prologue.
  • Talking to people in town is ok. There are some interesting bits (Marelda, Cardea) but there are few cases of true interaction.  More like watching a cut-scene.

Mechanics

  • Flying is fun.  Combat is generally fun.  The javelins all feel different, and allow for some customization.
  • There’s no real difference between any of the guns in a given class.  Marksman rifles feel the same as assault rifles.  You end up just looking for highest damage.
  • Combat feels “floaty”, as the weapons don’t feel any impact or provide consistent feedback.  Skills do!  Guns don’t.
  • The inscriptions (random stats on items) are a real brain teaser, I can’t figure out what half of them do, and most don’t seem to do anything at all anyhow.
    • This feels a whole lot like the original launch of Diablo where awesome items are worse that common ones due to poor rolls.  (e.g. trade 8% pistol ammo for 25% skill damage.  Is that really a choice people have trouble with?)
  • Not being able to test skills/builds sucks.  It just plain sucks.
  • Mission length (~15 mins) is good.  Strongholds are good too, though some bosses are a bit more bullet sponge than I’d like.
  • The net effect is that the time spent preparing for a mission feels more important than the actual battle.
  • Combo system is neat.   Hard as hell to coordinate with other players.
  • Ice attacks feel mandatory due to the stun effect.  A well placed attack can lock down an entire spawn point, and makes the Scar mechs a joke.

Way Forward

  • There are plenty of Quality of Life (QoL) changes that would really improve my enjoyment.  Simple things, like not hiding my heat level with popups when I’m flying.
  • There’s apparently a lot of new content coming, though a fair focus on freeplay.  The fact that freeplay has no “quick summon” mode, and no waypoints, it’s near impossible to play with another player.  Hard to compare, but as if in WoW you were in the Eastern Plaguelands and had to get to Ungoro to participate in an event with your friend.
  • I won’t comment much on the end game, and the search for “perfect rolls”.  If BioWare hasn’t learned any lessons from Destiny, Division, or hell, even Diablo 3 by this point, then I will go and make some popcorn.
  • For a game that’s supposed to be driven by social interaction, there’s a very large gap in terms of tools to help with that.  Anthem’s fun factor goes up to 11 if you’re able to play with friends.

Overall

  • It would be easy to sink 20 hours here, wrinkles and all, while still having a lot of fun.  This goes for many Early Access games.
  • People who paid to play a week early than others, thanks for doing more beta testing for me.
  • There’s a pile of potential here, more than I’ve seen in other games of this genre.
    • Division 1 had to completely rebuild the end game
    • Warframe has rebuilt every system from the ground up.  Barely recognizable today.
  • People buying Anthem today are buying an IOU from BioWare.  If you go in with that mindset, then odds are you’re going to have fun.
  • My gut is telling me that the actual player demographic for Anthem is the 35-50 age group, in terms of “is this fun”, and in terms of cadence of updates.  Not certain how sustainable that model is (or any other for that matter).
  • EDIT: This Reddit post from Travis Day covers a lot of the end-game thoughts.

Meta

I am going to step into the cesspool a minute.  Then take a shower.

  • The model of Games as a Service reached saturation when Fortnite launched.  Whatever business model was thought of back then… Anthem is competing against giants in a market with no growth.  And recall that Games as a Service works BEST when the players are the content (e.g. PvP).’
    • Monster Hunter is a notable exception here.  I’ve sunk 80 hours into that game.  It feels like the opposite of Anthem (and shooter-looters) – melee battles and strategic boss fights.
  • Anthem deserves a lot of (but not all of) the negative reaction.  This game was 6 years in the making, and has had ample examples to emulate.
  • After Fallout 76 launched with minimal content and a slew of bugs, someone should have taken a hard look at Anthem.  No one can honestly say that the content launched on Feb 15th was a “full game”, what with a 6gb patch 7 days later.  3 months in the cooker would have put this in May, and learned a whole pile of lessons from Division 2.
  • Early access players are the true fans.  Again a lesson from FO76.  They build momentum, one way or another.
  • The Ways to Play Anthem bingo card grid is a good example of how not to do it.
  • While true that it is launching in a better mechanical state that many of its competitors did when they launched… it is not competing against those versions of the game.  Given the choice between Warframe today and Anthem today…
  • In the end, Anthem’s success depends almost entirely on it’s ability to deliver on the content promise before the novelty of flying combat wears off.
    dyvqb7xxqaalyqm
    It clearly says “Full Game” Feb 15

 

4 thoughts on “Anthem Quick Thoughts

  1. Lots of good points here and I hope Bioware/EA keeps up the brisk pace of patches and feedback. Also curious what platform you’re playing on as I have had no rubberbanding and 1 crash (Xbox1X) so far. No idea where you’re getting 20hrs from though. I’m only halfway to 30 and have just 26hrs played with the same javelin the whole time. Been doing the story missions (lots of those left), contracts, messing with Javelin build between missions, and talking to all the random characters in Tarsis for lore bits, with only 8of46 achievements (not that I usually count those).

    Like

    • I’m on PC. Game says I’m under 20 hours and I’m at level 28. I’ve played nearly entirely on Hard, and always with a group, so that’s more experience per mission I guess. I skip the mission results page (since there’s no point and you can’t interact), and only used the forge every 5+ levels. Didn’t really see the point in that since all the gear gets replaced so quickly.

      Like

      • That is the million dollar question, isn’t it?

        Frankly, I’m in the honeymoon phase, and willing to look past a lot of the wrinkles that annoy me in other games. The novelty is still working for me.

        What I’ve seen so far was fun. Learning the bits of lore was neat. I found zero enjoyment exploring in Freeplay, quite the opposite. Thankfully the leveling process lets you skip Freeplay almost entirely (except for that Tomb quest).

        Liked by 1 person

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