Anthem (PS4) Review

Ever since the original Destiny, I have been looking for another game that offered the same great co-op experience and addictive gameplay. So far The Division and Elder Scrolls Online hasn’t really done the job of reuniting all my friends into one game, will Anthem be the one that succeeds?
Anthem 1
You start your story in Anthem as a heroic Freelancer going into the Heart of Rage, an unending violent Cataclysm created when the Dominion attempted to seize control of the Shaper Relic known as the Cenotaph. But its too powerful and many Freelancers and Cyphers lost their lives and the ensuing forces destroyed the city of Freemark. So, you may be wondering what a Cataclysm and Shaper Relic are… Well, a Cataclysm is a violent unpredictable disturbance created when the Anthem of Creation overwhelms a Shaper Instrument. It generates an intense storm of creation which creates bizarre new wildlife, can shake the ground, and even make a river flow backwards. The Shapers are humanities name for the supreme beings that created the world itself.

The Anthem of Creation is a source of pure creation that the Shapers used to create the world you will play in. The Anthem has existed since the beginning of time and permeates all aspects of existence. So its kind of like if God or the Big Bang (whichever you choose to believe), or a combination of both, were still present in our world and still making obvious adjustments; Busy changing things via creation and destruction that we could all witness, all while playing music (its Anthem) that only certain minds can hear, an Anthem which can drive them to madness if they get lost listening to it.

Anthem’s lore is rich and there is plenty to read if you want a deeper insight into the history of the world as you collect entries for your cortex via exploration. The Legion of Dawn (The Legion of Doom anyone?) are the Lancers who first created the Javelins (the suit you wear), who fought back against Urgoth oppressors and won humanities freedom. After this, they divided into three groups, the Sentinels that protect the cities inside the walls; The Paladins who we haven’t heard much about; and The Freelancers who go out into the world to battle the forces of evil and destruction – that’s you. Ok, that’s enough explaining the lore, what’s the game actually like?
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Starting out
The venture into the Heart of Rage was a massive failure and lots of people died. Freelancers have fallen from grace after this failure to stop the Cataclysm and are no longer looked up to as they once were. You have now moved to Fort Tarsis, which going forward, I will refer to as the Fort. You are starting fresh, putting it behind you, living the Freelancer life happily with your new Cypher Owen, still fighting the good fight. Cyphers are individuals with a sensitivity to the Anthem of Creation and are capable of telepathic communication and heightened mental calculation. He guides you on your missions as a navigator, if you will, using his special abilities via an amplifier chair. Ok, so that was a bit more lore…

However, once you get to level 2, which you will be at this point, you get to pick one Javelin to get you started. There are 4 to choose from, Storm, the Interceptor, Colossus and the Ranger (more on this later). Each has their own abilities and pros and cons, so choose whichever suits your style. As your level progresses, you will have the option to pick additional Javelins and eventually you will have all 4 – so don’t worry about worrying you’ve picked the wrong one.

Now you have your suit, you can go on story missions assigned by NPCs in the fort, do contracts and later free roam which has challenges to complete and also Strongholds which are a bit like Destiny strikes. However, these are quite limited as there is only one during the campaign and two more unlocked once you have completed it. You can also explore the fort and talk to people, pick up cortex entries and the like. There are 3 factions within the tower that you will rank up with, based on certain choices you make during conversations – this is a Bioware game, after all! So yeah, you often have to choose between two answers to questions which will affect future conversations and how the factions view you.

Also as you level up with factions you will notice the fort being restored to its former glory and becoming more populated, which is nice as it keeps exploring it relevant as new cortex entries will be scattered around. You will find daily, weekly and monthly trials to complete next to Lucky Jak if you fancy doing them, probably the closest thing to Destiny bounties. There is also a weekly alliance status here which shows what level you and your friend list have got to by completing activities, this grants you coins at the end of each week to spend in the shops depending on how much you have collectively achieved.
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As you level up and complete missions, you will receive items to improve your Javelin and customise its appearance. There are 5 different parts of each Javelin you can change components on, such as weapons and support systems. For the appearance, you can change the material look and colour of each section of the Javelin to make it your own unique style. Items will be sent straight to your Vault which has a capacity for 250 items, which seriously isn’t enough! Towards the end of the campaign, I was having to make regular visits to scrap items I didn’t want just so I could make room for new items – I would love to see its capacity expanded somehow.

You can use materials you harvest in the world to craft additional components and weapons for your Javelin as long as you have found the blueprint for it, all this is done at the forge where your javelin sits when not in use. If you don’t have enough materials then you can buy them from the two market shops, though they both seem to sell the same items from what I can tell, so not sure why you need two near to each other. Here you can buy items using coins you earn or shards if you want to spend actual money on microtransactions.

The microtransactions are typically overpriced ranging from £3.99 for 500 shards to £79.99 for 12000! However, there is really no need to buy them if you don’t want to, they don’t buy you anything that you can’t get with the coins you earn. It’s mainly just vanity items or if you are feeling lazy and can’t be bothered to go gather materials for crafting items. I haven’t seen any sign of a season pass yet though, so at least that won’t cost you more money to keep playing.
Anthem 4
Now, Anthem is a game you can play co-operatively with friends if you like or if you don’t have any friends it will matchmake all activities except when you’re in the fort or free roaming. If you are feeling really unsociable though, you can make your session private so it doesn’t match you up with anyone. However, I think you are just making life difficult for yourself if you do this as the game was clearly made for multiple people, plus it’s not like you have to talk to people you are matched with.

Did I mention you can fly?? Your Javelin can fly, so you can soar through the sky just like Iron Man, although only for a limited time or you will overheat and crash down, did Tony Stark have these problems? You can cool your suit down by flying through waterfalls, skimming rivers or doing a steep nosedive. The world of Anthem is not what you would call flat, there are plenty of places you can only get to by flying and many steep drop-offs to fly down to cool yourself via. It’s a very pretty world which is mainly lush and green.

My only complaint is it’s a bit samey, it would have been nice to have snowy mountains or sandy beaches for a bit of landscape variety. Although maybe in the future they will add different areas on the map as the story unfolds and hopefully a new town to explore since other cities are often referred to!
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Is it like Destiny?

I’ve seen a lot of debate on social media on whether Anthem is like Destiny or not. I can see similarities for sure. You have the fort, just like how you have the tower, although the fort is your own personal space, unlike the tower. If you want a social space to go to with your friends then you are limited to the launch bay, where you can go between missions, rather than keep breaking up the team to do any Javelin upgrades and pick up contracts. Its co-op play, like Destiny, yet there feels less emphasis on it here right now. With Destiny, you can also play solo with match making but you are a bit screwed when it comes to the larger end game content if you don’t have a team to play with, yet Anthem is possible to progress alone but it is quite hard.

Now, where it seems glaringly obvious how similar it is to Destiny, is with the Javelins… The Interceptor is basically a blade dancer Hunter, the Colossus is a fist of Havoc Titan that can put up ice walls, the Ranger has a Titan bubble, and Storm is very much a Warlock with elemental control that glides about in the air. Other things I noticed, there is one enemy that is very much a Destiny Fallen Walker, you shoot its legs to make it collapse and then shoot the downed head… The Scars drop down on you to attack from pods, just like the Cabal does, although here they remain and you have to shoot them to stop more enemies appearing. Even the Scars armour is all spikey like the Spiders Vandals in Destiny 2.

There are more than a few coincidences here on how things look a bit too much like Destiny clones. Also, the Striders, which are these huge transport machines, look like Walkers from Star Wars and as I mentioned before, the Legion of Dawn/Legion of Doom similarity. Oh, and there appear to be some similarities with Pacific Rim too in regards to the Javelins, albeit on a smaller scale. It feels a bit like the creators at Bioware took all their favourite things and put them into a game then tweaked them a little, rather than coming up with their own unique ideas. They do have a lot of large original bug creatures, but they can keep those!!
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Endgame
Upon reaching the end of the campaign you will unlock two more strongholds to participate in, along with new challenges and people to receive missions from. I still have to max out my level and unlock my last Javelin so that will keep me busy for a few more days while we awaiting the next lot of content. EA have announced their 90-day roadmap which starts in March and is named Act 01: Echoes of Reality, which will culminate in a Cataclysm, a world-changing time-limited event that comes with extreme weather. I’m hoping this will be similar to a Destiny raid as that was my favourite end game content that kept me keep playing. No details have been released yet on act 2 and 3 but they go up till the end of May so we don’t have long to wait. It’s important to keep the content coming to keep players interested and it seems they have a plan to do that. Oh, and Guild support will be coming in the future so you can unite your friends under the same banner, which I will look forward to.

Trophies
The Anthem trophies are a mixture of story & side quest related and then challenge trophies. For example, complete 3 Assault Rifle challenges and repeat for every gun type, complete 12 Interceptor gear challenges and repeat for all Javelins, discover all districts, landmarks and hidden places in Monument Watch and repeat for all locations, and complete all factions up to level 3. There isn’t anything here that is too exciting as they all seem to involve exploration and grinding – I feel the developers should have added some more creative ones. On the plus side though, there are no difficulty related trophies.

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Visual and Audio
The star of Anthem in my eyes is clearly Owen, voiced by actor T.J. Ramini. Owen is full of personality and energy in his dialogues, the emotions on his face during his scenes are so perfect and appropriate and really make him shine as a main character within the game, rather than being just another NPC. The way he raises his eyebrows, his cheeky grin and hand gestures are all brought to life with superb motion capture and really make him stand out above the other characters, T.J. Ramini did a fantastic job here.

Other characters worth noting are Haluk played by Nick E Tarabay from The Expanse and Faye played by Rochelle Neil. Both have done a great job with their characters, helping bring Bioware’s story alive. Sentinel Dax played by Jee Young Han has some great comic moments, especially when you first meet her in the bar. Anthem definitely has some really strong characters, that’s for sure, and yes there are a few not so good ones that can be a bit annoying, but overall it’s a very good showing.

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion
I really hate having to review and score Anthem so early on as I know that a game like Anthem isn’t about what you see at launch, it’s about the evolving endgame that comes with time and is what will make or break whether you keep coming back – this isn’t available for me to review right now. When the original Destiny launched it scored poorly for the same reason. Yet, I know first-hand what a totally successful and addictive game that became! My friends were obsessed, we weren’t eating, we weren’t sleeping, it was all we could think about while we were waiting to get home and play it. It totally took over our lives for 2 years! I’m excited and a little scared that Anthem will do the same. The storytelling is great and there was a moment in the story where I was totally heartbroken by what occurred. Bioware can tell a great story, there is no doubting that. The after game cinematic gives you a sneak peek of what’s to come, so the story is far from over at the end of the campaign.

In short, Anthem is a great game which has had some bad reviews based on what is on offer right now and the fact that it’s not quite sure of its identity. While promoted as a multiplayer game, its deep storytelling makes it more an experience I wanted to discover alone. Playing with friends would have made me miss the story whilst people talked to each other in the party chat. There are a lot of cut scenes and chatter throughout missions that made me glad I was playing with matchmade teams that I couldn’t hear and who disappeared once I hit a cut scene or wanting to wander around the fort talking to NPCs. There would be too much waiting around for a lot of people I know who play multiplayer games and this would have led to me feeling rushed into the next mission rather than explore the story.

That being said, once the campaign is finished, it’s great to be able to play end game content with friends as that’s part of what keeps you coming back, playing with people you know. To me, Anthem is a single player game with some co-op experiences, there is no PVP for the hard-core shooter fans out there and that will put some people off. Sadly, the fact it’s being labelled as multiplayer has also put off people that enjoy single player games, people who I think would enjoy this game very much.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Anthem

£59.99
8

Final Score

8.0/10

The Good:

  • - Looks amazing!
  • - The actors did a superb job of telling the story
  • - Endless lore and story detail
  • - Can play alone or with friends
  • - Potential to keep you coming back as long as the content is there

The Bad:

  • - So many loading screens
  • - Not really a true multiplayer or single player game, a hybrid with an identity issue
  • - Endgame content a bit light right now
  • - Still a few minor bugs but nothing major or game breaking
  • - It would have been nice to see more diverse landscapes e.g. snowy mountains
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