Entertainment

BioWare’s Anthem is, frankly, still loading…

Let us all collectively put on our tin foil hats for a moment and ponder over the industry today. Some of the most lucrative games are those massively multi-player online shooters, which require a lot of development time to get out the door finished. However, in the rush to get them out the door and capitalise, unfinished builds get launched. Empty worlds that are left to us, the gamers, to help the developers colour in the details. This was the case with Fallout 76, and this is the case with the much-hyped, much-awaited hot new online shooter Anthem, from storied game studio BioWare.

Anthem

  • Developer: BioWare
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Price: ₹3499 for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4

What’s it about?

The gods have left this planet unfinished and the machines of creation that they’ve left behind constantly cause cataclysms. These artefacts of power harness the Anthem of Creation to build life and shape this planet. To protect from these monolithic engines gone rogue, as well as protect these artefacts from falling into the wrong hands of the various factions, you play as one of the Freelancers, tasked with protecting humanity from the wrath of the gods. To do that, you jump into an Iron Man exosuit known as a Javelin and save the day.

The whole premise sounds fantastic, and frustratingly through the entire campaign, there is none of that spark the synopsis conjures up. Essentially, the story is just baked down to character interactions in Fort Tarsis, the main hub area, where you get a truckload of story exposition from very annoying characters with nice facial animations, presumably addressing BioWare’s last game Mass Effect: Andromeda’s disastrous facial animations. Besides that, you’re thrust into a beautiful world that is capable of so many stories and made to do waypoint quests in the most mundane of ways. There is none of that legendary BioWare storytelling in Anthem. Is this the same studio that made Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Origins?

How does it play?

Let us start off with the best part of Anthem, which is the sheer joy of jumping into a Javelin and boosting across the landscape. That addictive jolt you get when your exosuit transitions from a jump to a full-fledged burst of speed is exhilarating. Even the battle system is great, as you race around shooting, throwing powers and grenades. The agility is unparalleled and the realm is beautifully sculpted, as you fly into waterfalls and across lush landscapes into dark ruins.

Steam lost BioWare's Anthem packs some punches, which are short-lived ones special arrangement

Steam lost BioWare’s Anthem packs some punches, which are short-lived ones special arrangement
 

Sadly, the rest of the game loses power fast, starting with the annoying overheating of the suit that comes way too fast and leaves you helpless for way too long. The story is boring, as are the missions, which always have you going to activate some waypoint, defend the waypoint and then move to the next waypoint. The reward is a piece of loot that looks remarkably pedestrian with barely a stat increase. Only later in the game, you get the Masterwork and legendary weapons, and these too are doled out stingily in the loot drops. Plus, there is a whole lot of grind to go through, and midway, the game just gets lazy, buffing its playtime by making you go on a laundry list of a hunt.

A screencap from BioWare's Anthem 2019 video game, published by Electronic Arts

A screencap from BioWare’s Anthem 2019 video game, published by Electronic Arts  

There is almost no respect for time and it seems the game is designed to make you spend the maximum number of hours before you even see some good loot. Anthem is not a grind, it is a slog. You have to slog through missions, you have to slog through Fort Tarsis’ bad framerate and annoying dialogue. You have to slog through all the numerous loading screens which sometimes appear in the mission. If you happen to own a PC, the last patch seems to have completely tanked the framerate everywhere. You even have to slog through the interface with its myriad of actions and bad decisions. Like the fact that you can only change your loadout in Fort Tarsis, nowhere else, not even mid-mission. So if you forget something, it is several loading screens before you can actually edit your weapons. Just when the action gets good and you are getting into the zone with the action, the game suddenly throws up a help popup that does not pause the action behind you. Anthem will have you singing in frustration as you watch your life force ebbing away.

Instead of making use of its own world to its advantage, Anthem is more interested in being a Destiny or a Monster Hunter or a Warframe. Looking at what these games do best and then trying to force-fit into that.

The moment BioWare sits up and actually realises what they have in their hand, rather than being focused on copying the other successful games out there, Anthem will start becoming a better game. Though, thankfully, one thing they did get right is making you really feel like an Iron Man, albeit one that loses steam very, very fast.

A screencap from BioWare's Anthem 2019 video game, published by Electronic Arts

A screencap from BioWare’s Anthem 2019 video game, published by Electronic Arts  

Should you get it?

While technical issues can be fixed, and glitches can be patched, the core of the issue with Anthem is the mission structure. Which can be fixed, and BioWare does have a roadmap; it is not in the Fallout 76 territory of really bad as yet. No Man’s Sky is a prime example of a game that launched badly and has now completely turned around.

Now would not be the best time to get Anthem. It is tempting to jump into it now, but if you wait, EA will cut the price of this tremendously over the coming weeks or months. In the meanwhile, you can see if BioWare and EA are committed to fixing the game. Then by August, September, when they’ve fixed it to your liking, then, by all means, go for it. Else, it is not worth wasting money on, the way it is now. There are plenty of good games, like Metro Exodus or the upcoming Mortal Kombat 11 or The Division 2 to save up for.

The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel

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