Anthem “Launched” on Friday and I spent my weekend having a blast playing the game for real. However unfortunately the bulk of the people who pre-ordered the game will not be able to experience the game until this coming Friday the 22nd. This is what I would call a spreadsheet launch, and I talked a bit about it on Friday because if you purchased a month of either the $5 or $15 flavor of EA Access then you were able to play this weekend. The $5 price point gave you 10 hours of gameplay… and then I was a sucker and went with the $15 dollar double special secret access that just gave me the game one week early. At this point according to Origin I have spent 17 hours playing, and the majority of why I went with that version over the $5 variant is it allows me to just not care about how much time I happened to be spending.
The challenge this morning is how do I condense the feelings I am having about the game into something resembling a proper blog post. The quick summary is that I like the game an awful lot, so much so that I went to sleep each night dreaming about playing more of the game. I am good and properly hooked and for the moment it is an equivalent experience to how I felt about Destiny when I first got my hands on it. The world is insanely intricate and all of the concerns that I had from the Demo about Freeplay being fragmented with invisible walls… turned out to be misguided. From what I can tell all of those barriers that were thrown up during the Demo were to simply keep us out of the content that they did not want us to visit. Roaming around Freeplay in the final game provides a seamless experience that lets me traverse from one side of the map to the other.
First off lets talk about the map, because I have heard concerns about it seeming like it is very small. I am not able to zoom out far enough to get it all in one screenshot, but I can get a fair amount of it… which makes it seem on the small end. However exploring it…. feels completely different because the map has a lot of verticality to it that is not often there in similar style games. The same area may have a high path, a middle path and an underwater or cave based path all traversing the same ground giving you a lot of fenestration and cramming more detail into a square of map than you would normally have. This is awesome when you are freely roaming the map… and less awesome at times when you need to find an objective and have no clue at all what level of the infrastructure it might be on. At least one of the Tombs that you end up having to track down a ways into the game will frustrate you as you try and find the opening to an underground cave system that contains it.
The next piece that I want to talk a bit about is the Story… which is exceptionally good… but something I cannot really talk about in detail for fear of spoiling the game play experience. I’ve said the game is “very Bioware” which apparently means different things to different people… in response I have gotten Glitch Memes and Romance questions. What I ultimately mean by that is that it presents a really interesting world with a level of depth rivaling the Mass Effect series and is populated with a bunch of characters that I already care about. Through the conversation dialog… I am asked to make a series of decisions similar to the Paragon/Renegade system and I have a feeling that these change what happens in the world. There are definitely story paths that I have seen that seem as though they would not have occurred were it not for the previous choices I made. Additionally the characters are aware of each other… and choices made with Character A end up creating options for Character B… which again creates that “Bioware Feel”.
The gunplay is enjoyable, but I will say that the weapons do not feel as memorable as they do in Destiny for example. What is memorable however is the way that you move through combat and the various options that you have to embellish your play style. You are given a dodge… but why dodge when you can just double jump into the air and engage your thrusters to jet over to a safe distance from whatever attack is just about to land. The demo had significant issues with Mouse and Keyboard movement, but these have all largely been ironed out for the release and the more I play it… the more addictive the freedom of movement has become. If I want to get somewhere the game gives me the means to do it… and it feels completely different than a traditional MMO where you are mostly just flying high above the content and avoiding it entirely. There are lots of things in the air that can ruin your day and force you to deal with them, and instead your flight capabilities seem as a method of augmenting your other means of traversal.
All of these combined make the gameplay experience addictive, and make me want to keep climbing back into that suit and going out on another adventure. There is something about the launch sequence that is just enjoyable… seeing your javelin waiting for you to hop in. The fact that you cannot view your loot or swap gear in the world ends up with a gameplay loop that sees you going back to the Fort every so often, just to fiddle with your equipment before heading back out into the wilds again. I loved playing Patrol mode in Destiny, and as such Freeplay is very much my jam if I just want a solo experience. Thankfully most of the world events seem to be doable solo, which allows me to roam around collecting loot and doing objectives until I decide to get more serious about progression. If I want to play with other people there is the delightful freeplay option which mimics how I play Monster Hunter World with what I call “SOS Roulette”, where it dumps you into a random group that isn’t full and from what I can tell… it could be pretty much any activity.
Another thing that I am deeply thankful for is the fact that the game does not appear to care at all about levels when it comes to grouping. I’ve been paired with level 20s while at level 5… and I still felt viable and that higher level character didn’t feel like a ringer. This is a good thing given that those of us who were willing to spend that extra $15 are going to have a full week of play time on the folks that will be joining us on Friday. Right now among my friends you can see that Naithin is leading the charge with what I can only assume is bordering endgame item level, with Lex not very far behind. My only real complaint right now is I would have liked there to be a clan or guild system at launch, but I am at least happy that it is apparently on the near radar system wise. Grouping seems fairly seamless and there were moments this weekend when I happened to be running a mission and did not realize until after the fact that someone from my friends list had joined. It isn’t like there is much in the way of player to player interaction, and as a result that makes the whole grouping experience feel awesome for folks that end up preferring solo game play.
The only bit of a advice that I will throw out there is that if you played a lot of the demo like many of us did… your first Javelin choice is legitimately that… your first and ONLY Javelin choice for 8 levels. As such this mean’t I incorrectly thought I was picking my first spare Javelin and wound up playing the first 8 levels of the game as a Storm… which is fun but not really my jam. I am a Ranger through and through and once I got to level 8 the game started to feel very much like home again. All in all I am hooked and enjoying the experience greatly. It seems to be a game that splits the difference between many of the different looter shooter titles out there, and as a result has a style of play for pretty much everyone. As a long time Destiny Titan player… the Ranger appeals to me greatly because it feels like a similar game play style. However if you want to survey the battlefield from a distance… the Storm does an awesome job of that. Basically… I heartily recommend this game when the ACTUAL launch happens on Friday.
Some parting links for players… firstly I have a Roster that I have been collecting names on since Origin doesn’t have a way of importing users from other more popular gaming services.
Also Namaslays/Jewel has started up a Discord Community called The Anthem Collective so there is that if you are wanting another way to meet players. I have joined but I am also super bad at keeping track with Discords so I will probably be a super infrequent user, and mostly rely on it if other grouping opportunities peter out in the end game. I am super happy with what I am seeing so far, and am curious what my other friends that are playing think. I am hoping we see a bunch more Monday morning posts about experiences.