Final Score 6.5/10
Wow, I didn’t see this coming. If you may recall, I put Anthem at the top of the Game Infinite “Most Anticipated 2019” list. I swore it was going to be good. I would have bet money Anthem was going to be the game that broke EA’s losing streak. All EA had to do was sit back, throw money at Bioware and a new hit was all but guaranteed. I wasn’t worried because this was the A-Team Bioware we should have gotten for Mass Effect Andromeda, the geniuses behind the original Mass Effect trilogy. If anyone could build a new sci-fi universe and make it epic, it was Bioware.
What the hell happened? Why is Anthem so bad? Usually when I review I list some pro’s and cons and leave a score I feel is justified based on that. I really wrestled with how to review Anthem, because some games just defy traditional review systems. Most games are pretty similar across their different aspects for review: Story, Gameplay, Art, Audio, Fun factor, etc… Every now and then a game comes along that defies that. Anthem reminds me of PUBG or Warface. Warface particularly caused me pause because while its low budget graphics and buggy gameplay warranted a lower score, it was still pretty fun. Fun can be a weird X factor that can skew a score.
(Anthem Launch Trailer)
I AM IRON MAN...
What I mean by this is that Anthem does have really fun gameplay. The flight mechanics allow you to fly around like Iron Man with ease, and the combat is polished and action packed. If all you had was 20 minutes to play a single demo mission, you could be fooled into thinking this game was 9/10. The combat is so smooth, polished, and fun. This also explains while short gameplay trailers, and mission clips fooled many of us into thinking this game was going to be great. From the start you can access flashy and destructive abilities, and the map can be flooded with dozens of enemies. This is some of the best combat I have seen, not just from Bioware but really awesome in general. Even though the combat missions are extremely repetitive, “go here, kill that, grab this, kill them, go there, end”, It still manages to still be fun on the 87th go around.
(Game Infinite Plays Anthem)
LOADING SCREEN HELL
Unfortunately that’s where it all goes to hell. Everything else about this game is embarrassing. The story, the map, the game UI, the characters, the dialogue, and my GOD THE LOADING SCREENS.
If you’ve played games like God of War (2018) or flown around the city in Spider-Man (PS4) you could be forgiven for thinking that the days of loading screens and delays are relics of the past, you would be wrong. Anthem has an embarrassing loading screen problem. Start a mission? End a Mission? Not flying fast enough to keep up with your team mates? Just need to enter a room or a cave? LOADING SCREEN LOADING SCREEN LOADING SCREEN LOADING. The loading screens in this game are some of the worst I have ever seen so much so that it breaks immersion. You have this big (albeit empty) world and coming to and from and traveling just feels like a maze of loading screens. What adds even more insult to injury is these loading screens often interrupt the beautiful cinematic that could have made it tolerable. When you first enter a javelin to leave for a mission, for a half a second you see the beginning of a cool high quality suit up cinematic that it is interrupted by the same static wallpaper. The loading screens aren’t even high quality, its a flat wallpaper. They couldn’t even bother for something more.
THOSE GOD AWFUL TOMBS…
When you do get to play the game, you will start excited. Like I said, the gameplay is very polished and fun, and the opening cinematic and mission is very exciting! Two hours in I didn’t understand all the negative reviews. This game was fun! Then the wall of trash hits you. The worst thing about the game. The BLOODY SOMEONE NEEDS TO BE FIRED OVER THIS awful Tombs… The freaking TOMBS! The Tombs are enough to cause a spine tingling cringe to go down the backs of Anthem players that know what I’m talking about. Imagine instead of having quality side missions, quality filler missions, instead players are sent on the worst scavenger hunt ever. Players are tasked with first finding four tombs scattered across this lifeless map. Once you do, you are tasked with fulfilling 4 tasks for each tomb that are all busy work. Rack up 90 melee kills. Collect 27 nameless pointless “collectibles” Imagine if the entire Spiderman game was to find the damn backpacks! What made it truly a new level of awful was the fact that the map has no direction pointer outside of missions, so in a bland lifeless map, with a blurry 2D effect on the map, navigating is awful. You can’t plot a path to a point. When was the last time an open world game didn’t have a custom waypoint? Just flying from A to B was a chore because you would constantly have to pause and check where you are and which direction you are going. Try to focus on the busy work you have to do to get the tombs to open? Well good luck because not only can you not plot paths on the map, the MAP DOESN'T SHOW ANYTHING? The map is empty of events, items, or anything interesting. You are forces to fly around aimlessly for hours trying to find things on the map to show up. It takes hours of boring running around to get the tombs to open. What happens when you finally finally decipher the cryptic instructions and finally do enough to open them? A cool underground cave to explore? A big UNIQUE boss battle? NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. You guessed it. You hit another LOADING SCREEN! You enter a tiny room, click a button, and BAM Loading Screen, and then you are done. Frankly I am surprised I even beat the game. Flying around like Iron Man somehow made up for those bloody TOMBS.
Such a amazing combat system is wasted on poor enemies. Whether you are level 1 or 30, you will fight the same damn giant spider things the entire game. By the end I feel like a tenured exterminator. And don’t get me started on the “bosses” There is one boss in this game. One. A giant ogre looking monstrosity. The first time you beat this bullet sponge you will feel accomplished because he’s about as cheap as the worst Dark Souls bosses, but after the 37th time you are forced to face the same boss you will groan when you see it. Oh and the boss in the final end mission you work to “be ready for” the ENTIRE GAME? Guess what…its the same bloody Giant. There is a “Final Final” boss where you fight the game’s Villain. Honestly he’s so boring that I already forgot his name. You get no backstory, no motivation, he’s just a generic bad guy in mask. His defeat is so anti-anti-climatic you will not enjoy the ending at all.
The characters in this game! Oh my are these the same people who made the amazing characters in Mass Effect and Dragon Age?? They are so forgettable and boring. You can’t build friendships, grow relationships. They appear so lifeless. Gun to head I couldn’t tell you any of their names without looking it up. The conversations are so boring and they talk about nothing. There is one main side character that is so awkward when she talks. She moves her hands and talks like robot. It felt like they were trying to mimic someone with social issues in a way that was just bad and insulting. At one point a random NPC walks up to someone you are talking to to give them flowers to hit on her and its so unfunny and cringe.
There is also so little exposition in this game! They talk about all this heavy lore specific stuff and none of it is explained on screen to the player. Maybe there was written lore or stuff to find but I didn’t care enough to go looking for it. Having finished the game I still don’t know what the “Anthem” really is (except space magic), I don’t know what Cyphers are and what their purpose is. So little is explained the entire game feels like jumping straight into Season 5 of a scifi show.
The UI is confusing and over complicated. The level system, loot system, and weapons are all a mess. Honestly I do not know how this game got green-lit for release. It needed another year assuming there is anyone left at EA that knows how to make a game.
I struggled on what final score to give because honestly if you removed the flight and combat, I would give this game a solid 3/10. Which is why I said that the fun factor of the combat itself heavily skews its score. Despite all its negatives I still enjoyed it significantly. 6.5 is what I landed on because if you just want to sit for 20 minutes and blast enemies while flying like Iron Man, this game is awesome. Honestly If BioWare just deleted the entire Fort Tarsis, added boss variety, and joined the modern era with loading screens, it could be significant better. Wait til it is in the bargain bin or received a year of updates.