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Anthem
Game Reviews

Anthem

Delight in flight, but BioWare’s multiplayer space epic is grounded by bugs.

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Many people said gaming started going downhill when publishers started getting greedy. I say that the hobby of gaming started going downhill when people started saying things like that. The every-man has two choices: buy a game or don’t buy it, and there’s noisy competing financial forces at work for pretty much every new game that pull in both directions. That’s why I tend to just stay away from the more vocal elements of the hobby altogether, but it’s hard to avoid all of it.

Like when it comes to a game like Anthem, the latest from developer BioWare (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect), and published by Electronic Arts. It’s getting a lot of flack from the usual suspects – and even some who usually show more restraint. But is Anthem really that bad? Well…it’s got some problems, that’s for sure.

The world has been ravaged by the creations of the Shapers, a precursor race that was great at science but maybe not so great at safety. By manipulating the power of the Anthem of Creation, their Relics once did great things. Now they mostly just break down, producing mutated creatures, warping reality and causing problems. When it comes to fixing those problems, it’s up to the Freelancers, mercenaries who pilot aerial combat suits called Javelins. As a Freelancer, you’ll explore the mysteries of the Relics, battle the villainous Dominion and take out a whole lot of baddies along the way.

On paper it’s a pretty good concept. In fact, if you don’t think about it too hard, Anthem actually does work out pretty well! Flying around in a Javelin is a great time, blasting enemies is enjoyable, collecting loot is as addictive as ever. Your suit controls well and has an appropriate level of heft ranging from the light and quick Interceptor to the bulky Colossus. You’re basically Iron Man, especially in some of the more power-focused suits like the Storm. What could possibly go wrong? I wonder. Let’s continue.

Your Javelin feels powerful. Your guns feel powerful. There’s a variety of both to check out and you’re going to feel like a badass pretty much all the time while doing so. You can customize your Javelin from an aesthetic and statistic perspective with various kinds of mods and gear. Quests tend to be on the interesting side conceptually, even if they tend to fall into the Destiny trap of point-defense. Indeed, what could go wrong? Well…

Lots, as it turns out. The litany of bugs surrounding Anthem is legion. Yes, you’ve probably heard this before, and so did I – but given as I am to ignore any sites specifically described as being for gamers, I ignored it. Well, they were right this time around; Anthem is a bit of a mess. Right from the get-go there have been plenty of complaints regarding the game’s stability, but for what it’s worth I had no real problems here. Still, there have been enough complaints of this nature that buyers ought to beware – especially on the PS4, which apparently tends to get hit pretty hard with crashes.

That’s not to say the gameplay is bug-free, no sir. My favorite bugs included the possibility that an item would generate with a special property but no numerical value for that property, resulting in something that would do, say, 0% additional damage. You’ve got another one where the game’s scaling was a little bit awkward, meaning that you could drastically boost your damage by unequipping items and therefore increasing the average level of your gear…insofar as your damage actually matters, because those numbers are apparently fake anyway!

That’s a shame, really, because Anthem does play pretty well, especially with friends. There’s a fair amount to do, assuming you’re not too focused on endgame content which is a bit sparse. It also looks absolutely fantastic, especially on PC – which you should probably be playing it on if you value your PS4’s file structure integrity. There’s not a lot to complain about presentation-wise, there’s just enough to complain about elsewhere.

As a cheap (thanks to Origin Access, where you can play for $10-15 per month rather than dropping full price) multiplayer shooter, Anthem works well enough, but it’s not going to be the only game anyone plays thanks to its myriad bugs and generally unfinished feel. I expect EA will squash the most egregious bugs over time, if at all, until the game becomes worthy of your precious dollar. That’s how these things tend to go, I guess. Sometimes even the peanut gallery is right.