Anthem Review

Anthem Review

Failure to launch.

Release Date
February 22, 2019
Xbox, PS4, PC (Origin)
Reviewed on:
PC (Origin)

This review is hard for me to write. Anthem was a game that I was ready to like. Ready to love. I don’t remember an instance in which I had silently anticipated the release of a game like this. I was silent because I was hesitant… I didn’t want to jinx it. Bioware had to make things right with Anthem. They just had to.

Annnnnnnd they didn’t.

Listen. The original Mass Effect Trilogy is one of my absolute favorite game properties, and I have long considered myself a Bioware fan. That fandom was severely tested when Mass Effect Andromeda came out, a game that I eagerly spent my hard-earned money on just to discover that it was an absolute broken mess from the start. Andromeda represented a line in the sand for many Bioware fans, and although they had certainly lost some people forever, I tried to stay loyal. With Anthem, though, I might be done.

Wow, that got negative fast. Anyways, part of the reason why I am so frustrated with Anthem is that in my time with the game, the kernel of something special is there. You can see the great game buried beneath the load screens and uninspired loot system. You can feel it despite the ridiculous limitations on flight and the tedious quest design. It’s all there, but for some reason, Bioware has chosen to keep it buried. I’m not a game developer, so I cannot speak to why these things were implemented the way they are. As a gamer, however, I can tell you that playing Anthem is frustrating.

Anthem Review - Fire
Nothing takes care of waves of scorpions like fire. Lots of fire.

First off, the actual act of flying is one of the best elements of the game. Flying through the open air, soaring along the landscape is exhilarating. The problem? You can only fly for about ten seconds until you’re forced back onto the ground! Again, I am no game developer, by why would they decided to oppressively restrict what is by far the best part of the game? In a PVE experience, there really isn’t much of a reason I can think of in limiting the ability to fly. World of Warcraft managed years ago with their flying mounts, why can’t Anthem? Of course, I’m sure there are reasons, but the bottom line is that the limitation on flight in Anthem sucks. Having to constantly hunt for waterfalls (or the ground) is annoying, and hamstrings the best part of the game. Urg, I’m getting annoyed just thinking about it.

Anthem Review - Flying
The ability to fly in Anthem is truly spectacular. A lot of care went into crafting the world.

Then there’s the loot. The incredibly-generic loot that you cannot even equip during a mission. This is mind-boggling. While I understand that perhaps Bioware wanted the game to flow better and not have issues where teammates were engaged in battle while others sat around checking their inventories, this wasn’t the solution. All of the weapons and items you uncover are more less replicas of what you’ve already found with better stats. It’s repetitious, boring, and uninspired. Did anyone at Bioware not play Destiny? In Destiny, the weapons are the game. They are unique, varied, and meticulously designed. You replace your already cool gun with another cool gun. That is an essential component to the fun had in those games. In Anthem, you replace one boring gun for another boring gun with better stats. Urg. They’ve built a sci-fi universe and chosen not to leverage it in the way Destiny did in the way the weapons were designed. It’s just disappointing. Anthem is a loot shooter where you don’t care about the loot.

Anthem Review - Customization
The customization of your javelin is actually really good! Too bad none of the loot you pick up matters.

And then there’s the story. Believe it or not, I eventually warmed up to Anthem’s characters and its overarching plot. It took a while, but I got there. It is not nearly as engaging as the original Mass Effect trilogy, not even close, but it is enjoyable in its own right. Again, there’s a problem. First, as soon as the main questline starts to get going, you are forcibly sidetracked with what can only be described as perhaps the most egregious time-filler mission I have encountered since Elder Scrolls Oblivion.

“Challenges of the Legionnaires”, it is called, and it is essentially a 4-way checklist of non-narrative nonsense. For a company that prides itself on the narrative storytelling found in its games, this quest stands in fierce opposition to that reputation. The campaign progression is halted until you complete the quest, which takes a while, and the result is any urgency built throughout the campaign is evaporated. It was upon receiving this quest that my desire to continue playing Anthem had been utterly shattered, and I had to force myself through for the sake of this review. At that point, though, Bioware had lost me. This quest was inexcusable. Ultimately, the game is worse for it, and that’s unfortunate. And to make matters worse, it hit just as I was getting drawn into the story and its characters.

Anthem Review - Story
Yeah, get your coffee ready, because the story is about to come to a crashing halt.

While I clearly cannot recommend Anthem, there is hope that perhaps over time, Bioware can correct-course and improve on this experience. Its frustrating that it would appear as though they learned absolutely nothing from their competition, and have released an experience that is subpar in so many respects. The core of something great is there, but it is weighed down by bizarre design choices and poor quest design. The story works, for the most part, as long as you can ignore the outright obvious issue that you’re supposed to be one of the last freelancers, and yet you match with three others at every mission and stand with countless others in social spaces… Again, the entire game feels as though nothing was thought through in the slightest. Very disappointing.

Anthem Review
Review Summary
Anthem fails to deliver on so many levels that it is, for me, the most disappointing game since Mass Effect Andromeda. That fact that they are both Bioware games, back to back, is outright shocking. I hate to say it, but Anthem is hard to recommend, even for the most dedicated of Bioware fans.
The Good
Flight is fun.
Excellent javelin customization.
A good, cinematic story.
The Bad
Limits on flight is infuriating.
Repetitive mission design.
Uninspired loot.
'Challenge' quest is outright nonsense.

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