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Review: Anthem (PlayStation 4)By Sasari At 04.03.2019 15:33

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Coming from Bioware, the story set in the game should make it stand head and shoulders above its contemporaries, sadly, it doesn't. Just like Destiny, most of the story is hidden away. Instead of being told during cut-scenes and via interactions with NPCs, a mammoth amount of information is put into codex entries, emails, and a mammoth amount of text to read. The basic premise sees a force of warriors known as the 'Freelancers' flying around a fantasy sci-fi world, that has been shaped by a god-like race known as the Shapers. The Shapers are long gone, but they've left relics on the world, which harness the power of 'Anthem;' a power that can shape the world, causing terraforming events and bring life to an area or cause a cataclysm, resulting in an extinction level event.

The Freelancers protect the people from these relics, but there are other forces trying to use them for their own benefit. A dictator-led force known as The Dominion are working to unite the rest of the world under their boot, while the Scars are a bug-humanoid race of warlike creatures with their own agenda and link to the Shapers. Playing as a Freelancer in the frontier city of Fort Tarsis, the main story consists battling against a mysterious leader of the Dominion known as The Monitor, while helping out various factions in the city, gaining reputation with each, and becoming a prominent figure to the people of Fort Tarsis. The Monitor has found a relic known as the Cenotaph, which would possibly let him channel Anthem's power of creation.

A decent enough premise, crafting a world, giving it distinct factions, each with their own missions to undertake, NPC characters to get to know, and rewards to earn. But it's hardly of the scope that made Bioware famous - this is no Mass Effect. Therefore, the main selling point of Anthem is not the storytelling, instead, it's the Javelins. Javelins are the Iron Man-style suits that are piloted by the Freelancers. There are 4 to choose from, each falling into familiar archetypes from gaming history. There is the Ranger, Interceptor, Colossus, and Storm. The Ranger is the all-rounder. The Mark 3. The iconic face of the series, able to fit into every role. Next is the Colossus. This is the Hulk Buster of the team, a walking tank that can take huge amounts of damage, as well as dishing it out. Then there's the Interceptor. Iron Man fans can equate this to the Shotgun, otherwise known as the Mark 40. This is the fastest Javelin available, the rogue of the group. The Interceptor gets up close with melee damage. The Storm comparison is a little more tricky. It's the glass cannon mage of the group, probably just the Sorcerer Supreme armor from the 'What If?' story, or perhaps the showcased Mark L from Infinity War, thanks to its wide array of different attacks. Anyways! The Storm has a host of elemental attacks to play with, working well as a solo damage dealer, but also as the one setting up combos attacks with the rest of the team.

These Javelins are customisable both in utility and in cosmetics. Each has equipment slots to unlock which can give grenade type attacks, special attacks, and an ultimate attack. Cosmetically, of course, there is a system of in-game currency that can be used to buy "materials" and paints to pimp your Javelin. This can be done by mass grinding in-game, or just throwing cash at it as has come to be expected in every AAA game now. Javelin engaged, what is there to actually do? There's a huge open area to explore - eventually, after the huge loading screens - and this area is used for every element of the gameplay. But it's just one area and regardless of whether taking on story-based missions, exploring Freeplay, or taking on the true challenges of the Strongholds, the team based raids of the game.

Freeplay means just wandering around that area alongside three other players who are randomly matched. This small amount of players in the large zone means that often when playing in Freeplay other players are never even going to be seen. Go collect some items, shoot some enemies, explore the area, and take part in world events. These are randomly appearing events which are horribly dull. An example would be using a small radar to find items in a small area, then picking them up; or flying around gathering up some lights and returning to a set spot; or just consisting of horde type attacks from enemies. They're fine at first. It's unbelievable that's all there is though - it feels like that should just be the introduction, and that there's more to come. Perhaps there is, this is a "Games as a service" style game, of course, so the developers could add plenty of new content and address issues. But there's a lot to address.

There are three Strongholds to challenge thus far, and they basically are the endgame for those who have completed the story and have seen all they want in the Freeplay missions. It's the place to get the best weapons and equipment. Sadly, right now, they're not too enjoyable. Filled with damage sponges and insta-kill attack. Even when they are overcome, the gear is too diverse, with too many modifiers, making it difficult to establish if the gear is actually good or not.

None of these gameplay styles are original. What is original with the game though is how the leveling up works. The experience system is tricky to get used to at first, but it's easy to see where it's ripe for min-maxing. Killing enemies does not reward experience, instead, when stepping into Freeplay a series of 'Feats' are tracked. These can consist of killing Legendary enemies, completing world events, hitting weak points, killing with melee strikes. Each Feat has three levels, bronze, silver, and gold. Getting as many feats up to gold as possible then closing out Freeplay is the best way to rack up the experience points. The method of resetting them between each works very well, it's just a shame the activities themselves while out in the world of Freeplay are so lacking in depth.

Regardless of which mode is being played, the core mechanics certainly look impressive. Checking out videos show the Javelins flying in stunning looking sequences, blasting out combo attacks, unloading explosive munitions and elemental attacks on towering giants. It looks great. Sometimes it plays great. Sometimes. The flying is absolutely wonderful, and the basics of the combat are fine. But the complex mechanics suck. There is a promise of combo systems, utilising the Storm's ice attack to freeze a wave of attackers, then having the Colossus out of the sky, causing a shockwave that tears the wave apart. There are a few moments like that, but mostly the combat consists of pointing weapons that really don't stand out from each other at enemies and making numbers appear. The weapons lack any real meaty feeling or punch of impact. The mechanics lack the complexity they require to really excel.

One of the biggest issues with Anthem is that it's difficult to actually play the damn thing. Perhaps it's due to EA's completely idiotic release structure which saw multiple versions of the coming out at different times, almost as if while it was still in beta. Logically, this should have made the servers more stable. Fewer players and all. However, the servers crash on such a regular basis that it makes it hard to stay interested. Even when the servers are staying up, the lag when playing in public mode, combined with a horrific amount of loading screens - slightly better than the beta, but still simply not acceptable - make enjoying this a chore. This is even further evidenced when forced to explore Fort Tarsis itself between missions, a clunky, slow, first-person perspective plod through a dull little zone. It all just drags so much.

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Final Score
First and foremost, [i]Anthem[/i] is [i]not[/i] a bad game; it's just forgettable. The constant comparisons to [i]Destiny[/i] are utterly fitting, and in more than one way. [i]Anthem[/i] may get better; it has a roadmap and since it's another of the… "Games as a Service" style releases, it is planned to develop over an extended period. The problem is, though, that the game has to be looked at [i]now[/i]; at how it plays right now… and, right now, it feels unfinished - unpolished; buggy; something that deserved another round of beta testing and another six months. Perhaps it will get better, but whether the audience is still there when it does is questionable. Cool flying mechanics can only keep the interest of the masses for so long.

6

/10

User Comments
#1 Insanoflex - on 05.03.2019 at 02:25

when they first revealed this, i just didnt get it. it felt like it came out like 4 or 5 years too late. like this game is really late to the "looter shooter" party. 


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