Anthem isn't a bad game. While the press coverage leading up to launch (including our somewhat lukewarm preview) might not have got you hyped for the latest offering from EA and BioWare, the game itself deserves a chance, so let's get into it.
There's also a social space known as the Launch Bay, home to elements like the Forge, where you can customise your Javelin. This hub is one of the areas where the comparisons with a little game called Destiny most prominently rear their head. At this very moment, though, there are no dance contests, impromptu football matches or equivalent to speak of, making for a comparative dearth of sociability.
While the game being “like Destiny” isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's clear that this is a first attempt at something similar. The reality is that this style of game (a live service, if you will) remains fairly new territory for both EA and BioWare compared to publishers like Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft, who’ve seen multiple games and franchises trying their best to tread water in an increasingly busy marketplace filled with microtransactions and loot boxes.
There's none of the latter here, though the cosmetic upgrades on offer (which only subtly customise the look of your Javelin) are fairly pricey - in the realm of 60,000 in-game Coin for an armour set, to be exact. You can skip the 6-8 hour grind required to amass that for 850 premium Shards, which will set you back in the region of £8, since you can only buy them in excess.
Annoyingly, you can then only apply your wears to any one of the four specific classes of Javelin. On that note, you'll start out as the well-balanced Ranger, the all-rounder’s choice, akin to a nerfed War Machine from Iron Man. The Storm suit, our personal favourite, makes for your archetypal mage, boasting elemental attacks which look particularly impressive and often prove more effective than firearms.
Storm is a particularly good choice for taking advantage of Anthem’s combo system, open to all classes, which deals bonus damage when you combine different types of attacks. It's never explained in any real depth, you’re just left to experiment with it, which works well enough in the end.
If diving straight into the fray is more your thing, you'll probably want to try the nimble Interceptor, which sports twin blades to look extra cool when engaging in melee bouts. If that sounds a faff and you'd rather sit back and pummel foes into submission with a barrage of bullets, then the lumbering Colossus should do the trick.
Whichever you opt for, all of the Javelins sport identical flight modes which made us pine to see them implemented in a licenced Iron Man game. Your jets are prone to overheating, remedied by nose diving or taking a refreshing dip, but the limited air time is sufficient to survey Anthem's beautifully idyllic and highly vertical locales with ease. Don't try to go too high though, or you'll hit some turbulence concealing the invisible glass ceiling…
Traversal during missions can be further limited at times, as the action centres around the player closest to the next objective marker, meaning that if you leave the main path to explore a little - or even when you remain shockingly close to them on occasion - you'll be told you've strayed from the mission marker before being respawned back with the group after only 25 seconds.
If this made for a brief disruption it’d just about be a bearable irritation, but, unfortunately, it’ll require you to sit through another of the many incredibly lengthy load screens that clutter the entire game. Improvements have been made over the demo build, but there are still far too many lengthy periods of downtime between performing even basic tasks, such as customising your character, making loading a constant pain and disruption to the otherwise largely smooth flow of gameplay.
It's particularly telling that Destiny manages to call up your loadout in a few seconds just by pressing start, whereas Anthem forces you to go to a specific area, though you can at least fasttrack straight there at the end of missions.
BioWare’s post launch plans for Anthem seem promising, and, as corny as it sounds, it feels like the game is destined to blossom into an acceptably meaty product after a year or so. The problem therein is that they’re asking full price for it right now, while offering an experience which provides only fleeting moments of satisfaction.
There’s simple joy in the act of soaring around a thoroughly beautiful (if quite empty) setting, especially when venturing online to recruit teammates and devastate the hostile natives with visually impressive combos. However, these pleasures are at risk of being lost amongst the forgettable story, repetitive mission structure and uninspiring weaponry, which drops far too sparsely considering we’re dealing with a ‘looter shooter’.
Those in the market for this brand of service game are already well catered to by continual support for Destiny 2, Warframe and Ubisoft’s upcoming Division 2, which looks set to refine an acceptable first iteration. As such, many players may want to hold off on exploring the colourful world of Anthem for now; but, if you really must fulfil your wild Tony Stark fantasies, there is fleeting fun to be had today.