Ooh boy how has Electronic Arts manage to stir the pot with Anthem. What was supposed to be THE game of 2018 first got delayed to this year. That happens, often I agree a game should be delayed if it needs polishing. But EA has delivered a game ripe with bugs, long loading times and a grind system that fails its players. It there anything that can be salvaged from Anthem?
On paper Anthem should be able to succeed thanks to the pedigree of its developer – BioWare. The studio behind games such as Knight of the old Republic and Mass Effect were once considered masters of the RPG genre. EA has managed to diminish BioWare’s status as most probably feared. Games such as The Old Republic and Mass Effect Andromeda disappointed or were outright failures.
EA is trying to focus more on games with MMO aspects, preferably also involving micro-transactions. That would mitigate the otherwise hit-or-miss nature of single-player games. Online games can evolve and perhaps even attract a new audience a year after its initial release. Yet this theory fails to take into account the good aspects of what BioWare has delivered in the past: hand-crafted worlds, fantastic stories and excellent RPG systems.
A failure on most aspects
Anthem fails on almost all of those accounts. Sure the world of Bastion looks impressive, but I felt it was also repetitive after a while. Anthem is a grind game, and it proofs BioWare is not really up to the challenge. The story of being a bounty hunter based Fort Tarsis is interesting, but it only proofs I do not want to grind.
Flying around the world of Bastion is a delight to be sure, initially there is plenty to discover. It also becomes obvious the RPG system is based on the luck-of-the-draw. Which is not always bad, plenty of other games do it. But if the otherwise excellent combat becomes repetitive after a few hours you feel less inclined to continue.
The story of Anthem can be beaten in around 15 hours. It can be engaging, but Anthem deserves to be a single player game to truly flesh out the story – something EA has deliberately avoided. Often while flying around in Bastion I try to get a feel if there is anything from Knight of the Old Republic or Mass Effect that I recognize. I came to the sad conclusion there isn’t. Anthem is EA’s attempt to keep up with games such as Destiny – which is pretty much a failure on it own.
Games can of course change. The Division changed from above average to something superb over the course of its first year. But I feel Anthem is closer to Battlefront 2. As much I want to like it, and even respect parts of it I just don’t come back to it. I played Battlefront 2 a lot to try and discover if there was some kind of interesting end-game. There isn’t. And I suspect Anthem has the same flaw.
A short verdict
To put it succinctly, Anthem fails to capture me as a player. It has some good parts: flying and shooting, but it is not enough. This weekend I will be playing more Metro Exodus.