Anthem Preview Demo Review

January 30, 2019

I played (or at least tried to play) the Anthem Demo last weekend (25-27 January 2019), and finally, have a chance to record my thoughts. Anthem is a multiplayer action RPG where you fight enemy factions and beasts in an exoskeletal suit of armor the developer, BioWare, calls a javelin. While not an MMO, you can group up with 3 friends to take on the instanced missions or free play the map-on-rails. This is not an open world sandbox game, but rather a guided tour through ancient alien artifact missions.

 

First, I have to warn all my fellow PC game players - Anthem is a console game that has been ported to PC. /sigh. Take heart, dear PC game player, there are true PC games being developed as I write, and I promise I will review them on mythicgamers.com. 

 

In my experience, Anthem plays a lot like Destiny 2 and Warframe. However, if BioWare and publisher Electronic Arts want to capture audiences from either of those games, they have a lot of work to get done before the 22 February 2019 launch date. I realize that it was a demo, but it revealed a number of rookie mistakes that I did not expect from seasoned developers and publishers.  I feel like a broken record, but I have to say that Anthem suffers from the same ailments as other recent releases from other AAA developers and publishers; to wit, 
1) Server stability - many players could not connect to the demo servers, even after BioWare and EA fixed many of the server breaking bugs. Who would schedule a 3-day demo, with only 2 playable days? Why wasn't this tested before launch? I mean, if we only learn one thing in our lives, please let it be that we always always always test basic functionality before release. Like many players, I had connection problems, server lag problems (which absolutely kill the action in action RPG), and infinite loading screens while connecting to the servers.
2) Multiplayer stability - possibly due to all the game-breaking server crashes, many players would pop in and out of instanced missions. You never could tell if you or your team members were going to last through each fight, or just pop off to multiplayer limbo for the next 15 minutes while you or they re-load. The social menus are quirky and the user interface is obviously ported from console design. BioWare could learn a lot about UXD from Bungie and Digital Extremes. Like Fallout 76, there is no in-game text chat, so players are left to muse on the actions of their teammates in silence. There is an in-game voice client, but it's freakin' 2019 so I have all my friends, and even some frenemies, on Discord. Why is that so hard to understand?
3) Game element stability - while not as bad as Fallout 76, I endured several issues with loot and experience not being recorded or stored. Could be shoddy code or zero QA, but I definitely felt the kick of game element failure.

 

Okay, but other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? Well, I still have high hopes for Anthem, especially coming from a AAA developer/publisher combo like BioWare and EA. Maybe I should lower my expectations? I feel like many recent PC game releases fall very far from what I would consider a AAA game. Maybe indie and crowd-funded games are the future because they are more in touch with their gaming community? All I know is that BioWare and EA need to get their act together before they have one hot mess on their hands with Anthem at launch. There is another demo scheduled for 1-3 Feb 2019, and I will be there waiting to see if they have made any positive changes to Anthem. I really want Anthem to work well for my friends and I, at least until Borderlands 3 is released. 

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