Thanks to a good friend of mine, I was able to play through the Anthem VIP Demo on PC this past weekend. Anthem is the upcoming online multiplayer action role-playing video game developed by BioWare and published by EA. For reference, think Destiny in genre but with Mass Effect gameplay (not exactly Mass Effect of course, but similar). In the game you play as a freelancer who suits up in a combat mech called a Javelin. The game is played primarily in third-person and one of the most interesting aspects of it is the ability to fly. While flying you can stop and hover top shoot enemies or simply zip around to your objective with speed. The one downside is that you do eventually overheat, so you have to keep an eye on your heat meter and either land or fly into water to cool down or else you will drop out of the air.
As of now, there are four types of Javelins to choose from. You don’t have to stick to just one though, as you progress and level up your character you can unlock all of them so that you can pick and choose how you play with every adventure. Each Javelin has a style of play that differentiates them from one another. The Colossus is a tank-like Javelin with heavy armor and crowd control abilities. The Interceptor is a rogue-like Javelin with less health but more dexterity and speed. The Storm is like a mage with elemental abilities. Last but not least is the Ranger, a standard soldier type of Javelin that is well-balanced.
In the demo you begin with the Ranger Javelin and are soon able to unlock a new Javelin to try out. I choose the Interceptor as my friend had already chosen a Storm and those were the two Javelins I was most interested in testing out. I was having a great time playing a Javelin that is agile, quick and fun, allowing me to play fast and kill the enemy faster.
Many of the things you’ll be able to do in the full release of the game were locked for the demo, but it still gives you a feel for the gameplay and overall style of Anthem. It also gives you a little taste of the narrative and what to expect from the game as a whole. To put it plainly it definitely left me wanting more, which is what a demo should do.
It wasn’t all fun and games though, as the demo had a pretty decent amount of bugs and glitches. One in particular that I, and many others, found irritating was a bug that basically froze the game on a loading screen even though the loading bar continued to move so that you are basically stuck in an infinite loading screen until you tab out and close the game. Another standard bug is a game crash in the middle of playing. It happens nowhere specifically and at random. On the first day of the demo, it was nearly impossible to get in and play which caused a lot of strife among those wishing to get their hands on the game. However, by the end of the first night and especially by the second day of the three day demo it was easy enough to get in and play. It’s also noteworthy that the demo will be live next weekend to for everyone, not just the VIP’s.
While playing I was able to list some specific pros and cons that I hope anyone wanting to know about the game/demo may find helpful.
- When you catch on fire from enemy attacks there is no way to extinguish the fire (at least not that I could find). I think that given the ability to fly through water to cool down your Javelin, you should be able to extinguish the fire by going into water. Not just completely underwater, but jumping into rivers and puddles should be able to at least expedite the time it takes for the fire to go away.
- One of my biggest frustrations is that I couldn’t switch my loadout while playing. At Fort Tarsis (the main hub in the demo in which you can talk to NPC’s and acquire quests) you can enter the Forge and adjust your abilities, your weapon loadout and appearance. As you play through the game you collect loot which includes new abilities and new weapons. However, you cannot switch your weapon once you enter the playable area. So if you equipped yourself with an assault rifle and a pistol in the Forge, but find yourself needing a sniper rifle or a shotgun, you’re out of luck. Coming from Destiny 2, a game in which I can switch weapons at any point in the game, I found this very restrictive and frustrating.
- Speaking of Fort Tarsis, I was a bit irked by the fact that while in the Fort you play in first-person and walk extremely slow. Coming back in from playing in the open world as an Interceptor in third-person where I can run fast, fly and jump to a place where I can barely walk really felt bad to me. I think the first-person aspect wouldn’t bother me so much if I was at least able to walk faster or run.
- The load screen bug and crashing bug I mentioned above are things that definitely need to be addressed before launch, however I fully expect they will be.
- Flying in the Javelin feels really amazing. This aspect of the game is so well done and I’m heartily enjoying it.
- I appreciate the fact that you can use any of the Javelins while playing. Most games allow you to pick one class that you must play throughout the game but in Anthem you can switch around and play as all four Javelins. This is a good thing because playing as only one class and having to make a whole new character from scratch to play other classes can be bothersome, to say the least.
- Anthem’s combat feels amazing; it’s very fluid and shooting is responsive. With the addition of abilities and Javelin styles, the combat and gameplay as a whole is really entertaining.
- I was lucky enough to be able to play the demo with friends and it was really nice to be able to rely on people I know and can talk to, however playing solo isn’t too much of a detriment. You can also easily find random teammates when entering the playable environment for missions and whatnot so that you never really have to play alone, even if you aren’t playing with people you know.
As I stated previously, I’m left wanting more when I exit the demo. One thing in particular that I’m looking forward to is the crafting system. I’m also looking forward to more lore and story elements. In general, I’m just really looking forward to playing the full game once it releases.
When I look back at my time with the Anthem VIP Demo I definitely have to say that the positives far outweighed the negatives for me. Sure, some of the bugs were annoying and not being able to play at all on the first day the demo went live was frustrating, however this is what demos for online multiplayer games like this are for. Once I was able to play I was really just awestruck at how great the game looks and feels. I will be the first to call myself a BioWare fangirl, however I don’t think my opinion on the matter is particularly bias. As far as games in this genre go, I truly feel like Anthem will be top of the line and I look forward to playing it on release.
Anthem is expected to release on February 22, 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.