When Bioware first announced its newest franchise, Anthem, during 2017’s E3 conference the one thing they said to describe the game was that it was unlike anything they had ever done before. And if nothing else, Anthem is certainly living up to that particular description.
Anthem is just not a game that hardcore Bioware fans would ever say is typical of the studio. Known for its stellar storytelling and its single-player franchises like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, players of Bioware games anticipate story-driven adventures along with companion characters who provide friendly banter and light-hearted romances. And hey, Anthem does provide a decent-enough story plot, with interesting and amusing characters and some good conversation opportunities, too. But the story is only a single part of the over-arching adventure that is Anthem (and hey, there’s no romances, either).
Anthem is described by its creators and by its growing fanbase as a co-op action and role-playing game, rather. In fact, its very best features can not be truly enjoyed without gathering a group of friends to embark into the gorgeous backdrop of the world of Anthem.
There is nothing of Earth, here. This is a strange, new planet to explore, where every creature and bit of life comes from the Anthem of Creation – a powerful and mystical force that literally and even disastrously produces creatures, technology, and natural phenomena throughout the world. Everyone fights to survive and some to control the Anthem, and right there in the middle are the Freelancers, the heroes who embark past the walls of human cities to gather whatever resources they can find and to tame the myriad threats that the Anthem provides.
Freelancers survive outside the walls wearing armored suits, called Javelins. So far, the game’s four classes are encapsulated in whatever Javelin the player opts to suit up in, and each one of the four Javelins offers uniquely independent playstyles for the player’s gaming experience. There is no standard trinity that players of more traditional multiplayer games may try looking for, but this just keeps matched teams from insisting on any kind of perfect build, too. Any Javelin the player chooses will provide chances to cause damage to enemies or to save team-mates who have come under fire, in fact.
Still, exploring the different Javelins will give players an opportunity to decide which style of gameplay is their own personal cup of tea, so to speak. The Colossus, for instance, provides a heavy armored approach to the game, actually soaking up damage even as it unleashes massive firepower on the Freelancer’s enemies. The Storm, on the other hand, maximizes its time in the skies overhead to shield team members and rain down powerful lightning attacks on groups of enemies down below, too. The Interceptor is a more ground-based Javelin, zooming down onto enemies to zip and zap them swiftly with flashing blades and poison grenades. The final Javelin is the Ranger, which is also the first Javelin every beginning player will experience. The Ranger relies upon a steadied mix of abilities from all the classes, providing a well-rounded chance to inflict fast, intense damage to large numbers of enemies and combo attacks that obliterate threats in even wide areas.
But it is the wide world of Anthem that truly sets the adventure apart from other games involving massive armored suits. Well, that and the whole flying around the world, too. In fact, the flying and swimming controls on the final released version of the game on February 22, 2019 were tuned in advance of the release through several test and demo sessions, where players pointed to issues on the varied platforms the game would be available. While there are still some players complaining the Javelins ability to maintain flight over an extended period of time simply is not great enough, the chance to navigate Anthem through the skies and even deep underwater offers opportunities for some purely amazing scenery and just plain, massive fun all at the same time.
There were some buggy moments during the final days leading up to the release of the game, as well. Some players experienced issues with the game’s audio, actually losing sound in the middle of combat motions while moving around the world and battling enemies. A larger issue, however, was in the load times that quite a few players endured, where team-mates zoomed ahead and through the mission while they were still agonizingly lagging on the loading page. The game’s developers were quick to respond to the various issues and gameplay bugs that players reported, though. They welcomed comments on Anthem’s Twitter and Reddit pages, providing fast, public responses that the issues were noted and being addressed. The day one launch of the game then included a patch to try squashing the bugs, too.
But still, the game’s official launch was not completely void of problem or issue. Some players experienced terrible crashes of their consoles while playing Anthem, even. But overall, gameplay is remarkably smooth, even when the game is set to its highest graphic and audio settings. Each player’s game includes a chance to experience the story and get to know the various characters in Anthem, making dialogue choices that can help form their personal Freelancer. But the story is told through a first-person perspective of the walled city called Fort Tarsis, which creates a sense of disconnection with the individual player-character. Individuality comes from the amazingly complex personalization of the player’s Javelins, rather, and the Anthem fanbase has thrown itself into incredible renditions of paint and vinyls applied onto their suits.
Anthem is definitely a new experience, and those players who’ve adventured in other multiplayers are already asking for features common to such online multiplayer games. For instance, there’s currently no player-versus-player in the world of Anthem, and no real “raids” in the classical sense of multiplayer gameplay. There’s also a serious lack of clan or guild structures for players to rely upon. These are potential additions set aside for later patches to the game, is what the game’s developers are quick to assure.
What Anthem provides, rather, is a four-man team structure to explore the world through missions, expeditions, strongholds, and freeplay. The match-making tool in Anthem will quickly place players into random teams. Or players can create their own teams by inviting potential team-mates off their Origin friends list.
Covenant of the Phoenix has set aside Chapter space for the community’s Anthem explorers, providing forums where guides and advice can be bantered over and shared. Also share some pictures and funny stories, too. But the Discord channels that COTP has established for the Anthem chapter of the community are even more useful, with potential team-mates gather together to help each other through the adventure.
What is definitely true, though, is that embarking into the wider world of Anthem is most fun when you have a team to help back you up. The threats can be intensely challenging sometimes. The Freelancer can happily slaughter thousands of scorpions and Grabbits alike, only to turn a corner and run into a Titan. Hulk smash takes on a whole new meaning, then. So Anthem practically demands a team approach in order to succeed. As players and developers alike say, anyone can solo the game, sure. But it is far better to play with friends. Only, do not hesitate to explore the Anthem with Covenant of the Phoenix! This is only the start!