After a week of careful code-breaking, decrypting and other jokes about complex preorder charts, I was able to install and play the Anthem beta (demo? Who knows anymore?) and see what this game is really all about. At least that’s what I thought until I got in there.
It’s really hard to talk about Anthem and not constantly compare it to other loot shooters like Destiny and The Division, but I’ll try to keep it at a minimum and just say that Anthem fails on a fundamental level when juxtaposed with the others. Destiny and The Division, while they have their faults, they at least have combat that feels good. Anthem lacks any impact when it comes to combat. You’re just chipping away at health bars using your really unrewarding gun-play.
As for that Bioware charm that some people were hoping to see, this demo (beta?) didn’t really leave me with the impression that you’d actually be having any meaningful interactions with NPCs. The story seems like it could be interesting, but I barely was able to follow what was going on. Take that for what it’s worth.
I only spent enough time with the demo to use one of the suits, but it left me thinking they were easily the most fascinating things in Anthem. You get to fly around in an Iron Man-like fashion, which had a weight to it that felt pretty good. What was less fun was having to manage the overly aggressive overheating meter tied to your boosters. You have to constantly find some source of water to fly through or land in to literally cool your jets. Conceptually it’s a neat idea, but in practice it’s just tedious and keeps you from having too much fun. Also the suit I used had an ultimate ability which allows you to lock on to multiple targets, and fire some badass shoulder missiles at them.
I don’t know if Anthem is going to take the world by storm or not. Hell, I don’t even know if people are going to take to it considering how utterly average it feels combined with the fact that The Division 2 releases in a month or so. But who knows? Maybe the Anthem beta showed off some of the more underwhelming aspects of the full product, maybe it has a really compelling story. I only know one thing for sure, and it’s that we have the technology to make a badass Iron Man game, and for some reason we aren’t.