Last week I had the opportunity to head over to EA studios and spend a whole day with Anthem at various stages of play. We started with a few hours of early game content, getting a feel for our Javelins and learning a little bit about the story. Then we were dropped into the Demo content that VIP players got to experience last weekend and the public will get to check out later today. Finally we were given level 30 characters and allowed to explore a bit of the endgame.
In a game like Anthem, the endgame will be what makes or breaks it after launch. Once the dust has settled and the story has been finished, what kind of content will keep players coming back and playing in the months to come? At first glance, many players were left asking the same question, ?Is this just 3rd person Destiny?? The answer is a muddled yes and no. There are so many features and aspects of Anthem that are exactly like Destiny, it will be impossible not to compare one to the other. The best way I could describe it is an amalgamation of Destiny mechanics with the tight gunplay from Mass Effect 3 and the environments from Dragon Age: Inquisition.
I understand that the comparison I just made is boiling an incredibly complex game with hundreds of thousands of man-hours behind it down to a single sentence, but I honestly feel it is the best way to explain it to someone who has not played it yet. Anthem constantly surprised me with how gorgeous it looked and how beautiful the environments were, but I kept getting hit with Destiny Deja Vu. The hub area, the NPC interaction for quests, the enemy spawns, it all just feels so similar. When you are in a mission, once you get into the real ?meat and potatoes? of it, you will get the same ?Respawning Restricted? message you get in Destiny until the enemies are all cleared out. Elite enemies are just named, or slightly larger versions of the regular enemies you encounter. The waves are even structured almost the same, with reinforcements popping in through rifts or dropping in from ships above. Javelin abilities closely resemble class abilities in Destiny, you have your fast assassin type, your big tanky/buff monster and your ?sorcerer? type class. Anthem also includes a base Javelin class that is a simple, starter type generalist.
The ?stronghold? missions are the Anthem equivalent of Raids. You clear through an area similar to other missions you have fought, but enemies are tougher and you find yourself up against an intense boss fight at the end. These offer the best loot and the ability to gather masterwork items. Loot is color tiered as well, you get new items in mission and after all is said and done you are shown what all you recovered. You can choose to keep the items or scrap them for spare parts. Is any of this sounding familiar to you Destiny veterans out there? It should. The color coded ?engrams?, the gun parts, it is all the same, but done in the Anthem style.
Ok, you?re probably tired of reading about how much like Destiny Anthem seems to be. Unfortunately, I do not have much more to go into that is not surface level. Graphically, Anthem is jaw-dropping. Our playtime at EA was done on PC with an RTX 2080ti powering the rig, which was astounding. At home I was playing on a more modest GTX 1080, but the game still looked thoroughly impressive, with no real noticeable difference. The combat is solid. Like I said above, it is very tight gunplay, reminiscent of Mass Effect 3. Javelin powers play a big role in combat, allowing your playstyle to adapt to your suit of choice.
The enemies you fight at level one are the exact same enemies you fight at level 30, just scaled up for difficulty. We were very limited in what we were able to get into in terms of story, so obviously I could be missing a huge chunk of what the game has to offer, but I was not blown away by the enemy variety or missions we completed. With the storied history at Bioware, I am holding hope that they held all of the best parts for launch and the story will blow players away.
After a full day of playing Anthem, I can?t really decide how I feel. I enjoyed Anthem, I really did, but I don?t know if there is enough to keep the game alive past the initial push. In addition to no real idea about the endgame, the constant similarities to Destiny kept popping up and pulling me out of this new experience. This is obviously not a final review, I have not spent the hours with the final product that it will no doubt deserve, but going into the launch I am skeptical.