Anthem is a game I knew nothing about-other than it being developed by BioWare-prior to jumping into this past weekend’s VIP demo. While we were waiting to access the demo, TwitchGym members asked me what I wish it would be; I answered with something to the effect of: “Mass Effect combat in a Destiny world” and if you throw in a healthy dose of Halo style, that’s exactly what you get with Anthem. I went into this past weekend’s demo with no expectations and came out with a game at the top of my “must-have” list I never even knew anything about.
Anthem is a game where players control one of four assorted “Javelins”-think of them as body suits similar to the one worn by Isaac from Dead Space but wielding all the powers of Titans from Titanfall. These effectively serve as the players’ class a la Destiny; there are soldier specific classes, tanks, builds for those who favor speed over strength and my personal favorite, a build which wields elemental powers. While each of these have their own standard strengths and weaknesses, the player has the ability to build custom loadouts for each javelin: this means you can have a “range’ build for your soldier, armed with sniper rifles and DMRs along with distance-focused abilities, or an up close and personal set wielding shotguns, assault rifles and a variety of grenades. The heavy customization the player has over their different javelins-not only the weaponry and equipment, but over the all important aesthetics-is significant, and different weapons are gained by completing missions and dropped at a steady clip throughout the course of the demo.
One of the more peculiar frustrations I had with Destiny 2‘s subclasses is I always felt I could never build a character with the exact abilities I want-in Anthem, that’s not a problem. You can customize both weapons and your abilities to your heart’s content, and you can customize the exact material and color of your character’s look-just compare the first two photos in this post to view the “stock” Storm javelin and then my personal TruBros-inspired purple build.
While character customization is undoubtedly important, it’s irrelevant if the combat system and movement are sluggish. If you’re familiar with the combat of later entries in the Mass Effect series, Anthem plays quite similarly, albeit much faster and with some additional mechanics. You have a jetpack at your disposal which allows you to quickly evade shots, sprint, double jump and even fly-one of the most crucial elements of Anthem. While movement on the ground feels absolutely stellar, flying and navigating underwater feel quite slippery and took me much longer than I’d care to admit to get accustomed to. That being said, once you fully grasp the quirks of flying, there’s nothing quite like jetpacking in to a group of enemies and raining down bullets or grenades to quickly pacify them.
Admittedly, I found the story quite interesting, however much of the dialogue spoken by the NPCs was a bit hokey. However-and perhaps this is only a personal predilection-I haven’t plunged hours upon hours into The Division and Destiny because I was enamored with the intriguing narrative arcs (although some of the stories are quite interesting!) I continually jump into those worlds because the gameplay is unique, varied and the constant chase for loot is alluring. While Anthem shares many similarities with both of the aforementioned, the unique combat-in the screenshot above I was hovering to dole out sniper shots before releasing the ranger javelin’s homing missile barrage-and distinct Halo universe vibes set it firmly into a league of its own.
While I’m quite infatuated with Anthem, it’s not without it’s issues: the menu system is layered and cumbersome, the aforementioned flying (a crucial mechanic) and swimming are slippery and clunky and the server issues were easily the most talked about aspect of the VIP demo. That being said, once I got past the un-intuitive menus and mostly-mastered flying, I was swooping across the battlefield, reviving teammates, sniping from afar and raining down lighting and missiles in a completely unique experience. While I’ll undoubtedly wait until launch to confirm the server issues are rectified, Anthem (along with The Division 2) is going to be the main game of the TwitchGym upon it’s release. If you’d like to see everything we discussed here in action, watch the video below!