Bioware’s latest game, Anthem, is a loot shooter in the same vein of games such as Destiny and Tom Clancy’s The Division. And because the EA owned studio is better known for story-heavy RPGs like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, Anthem represents an unprecedented journey into new territory.
At its official reveal back at E3 2017, Anthem was a visual spectacle. Moreover, the idea of exploring a brand new world geared up in Iron-Man-like suits called Javelins under the auspice of a studio best known for unforgettable characters and memorable plots, has made Anthem one of the most anticipated titles in Bioware and EA history.
And now release day has come. Some have already been playing the game for a full week, thanks to the Origin Access Premier program on PC and via EA Access on Xbox One. And what do critics have to say about Anthem? Well, the reception seems to be a mixed bag.
Most critics agree that the game’s combat is at best, thrilling and exhilarating, and at worst, simply competent. The visual splendor of the game is generally celebrated all around, though some dismay has been had over the frequency of loading screens. Where critics are divided tends to be in the game’s story, mechanics and quality of overall gameplay.
Destructoid’s Chris Carter gave Anthem a 7/10 and had a good time with the game, and mentions that Bioware needs to stay on top of the game in order to keep players interested. “BioWare will need to build quickly on top of its shimmering jet-fueled foundation to hold people's interest, but folks looking for a new neighborhood to move into might want to give Anthem a try -- either now or after fixes and updates,” Carter opines.
Polygon’s Russ Frushtick expressed reservations about the quality of Anthem’s downtime in the game’s town hub, Fort Tarsis, where one talks to NPCs to get a sense of the world. “Exploring Fort Tarsis is slow. Gobsmackingly slow,” he writes. “Walking around feels like I’m wading through an invisible tar. I can run, but the increase in speed is negligible and seems to merely add a head bob to my plodding pace. This makes every trip to Fort Tarsis a chore.”
USGamer’s Mike Williams praised Anthem’s visuals and player movement when inside a javelin, but said that it reminds him of another game that had similar issues upon release, saying “It feels like the first Destiny: it's an intriguing start, but there are several problems that need to be ironed out. What's frustrating is that many of these problems have already been solved by other MMOs. “
The video game channel Skill up released a lengthy part 1 review of his thoughts on the game and starts his video by saying that Anthem “is a colossal disappointment”. Yikes.
Everyone who has played Anthem concedes it’s the best looking game to come from Bioware, but for Kirk McKeand of VG247, his praise ends there. “I went into Anthem with an open mind. It’s a game I wanted to succeed from a studio I’ve always been fond of. Unfortunately, it’s everything everyone feared at reveal. It’s a hollow experience that’s been designed to appeal to the widest market possible while squeezing more money out of those who are hooked in by its doggy treat design.”
GameSpot’s Kallie Plagge sums it up best: "[Anthem is] a co-op game that works best with no one talking; it buries genuinely interesting character moments and puts its most incomprehensible story bits at the forefront; its combat is exciting until you get to the boss fights and find your wings have been clipped. You never quite shake that feeling of disappointment – of knowing, throughout the good parts of Anthem, that you'll inevitably come crashing back down.”
When I played Anthem’s demo, I was bothered by a few things: the constant loading screens, the complicated UI menus, and the cumbersome flight controls on PC. It’s been reported that the controls have been addressed on release, but the remaining problems persist. And between what everyone has to say about Anthem, it’s plain to see that Bioware’s big new lifestyle shooter is off to a rough start.
Anthem is out now on Xbox One, Origin PC and PlayStation 4. .