Anthem has seen its early-release launch for players with Origin Premium Access, and unfortunately it’s been a bumpy ride. Today, we’re taking a look at what’s going on and why a lot of players are unhappy.
Annoyingly, a lot of bugs and problems that were evident in the demo are still prevalent in gameplay. This tends to tarnish the overall enjoyment of the game, as there are only so many crashes, bugs, and issues a player can sit through before their momentum in the game is ruined.
The Good Bits are Great
First thing’s first. Anthem looks great. I’m a massive fan of the art style and the game runs extremely well on my rig (barring some unusual interactions with other programs like OBS). My experience of the gameplay has actually been extremely good, despite criticism from others about the gunplay. Anthem is a third-person game, with the focus on mobility and using abilities, so I don’t mind the guns being a little lackluster. There’s also nothing to say that we won’t see some really unique guns further towards Endgame too.
Flight has been massively improved on PC, too. In the demo, the controls simply felt wrong – which was almost certainly a relic of being ported over from console. With that issue (and a few other port-related issues) fixed, flying is now smooth and extremely satisfying. Even going into water is actually a nice experience with a radical change of scenery, as opposed to the nightmare it presented in the demo. There are other aspects of the port that aren’t so good, and I’ll get to those shortly.
Lastly, however, I have to take a moment to disagree with a lot of criticism surrounding the world-building and narrative. I’m obviously not that deep into the story yet, but I know that I’m really enjoying the character interactions already, where others have commented that they are not. I think the issue is twofold; some players want to get back to gameplay as quickly as possible (especially those with time-constraints), and equally players are finding their immersion ruined by bugs and crashes. Despite those factors, the characters are diverse, interesting, and feel surprisingly human. Excellent attention to detail with facial expressions and personality are really enhancing the experience for me, and despite the relatively predictable sci-fi plot, the world and environment are compelling and deeply thought out.
But the Bad Bits are Worse
That is not to say that I don’t understand where the criticism is coming from, either. Most of your dialogue options seem like meaningless pleasantries, with conversations acting as a means for characters to divulge their monologue without any really meaningful interactions. Where NPCs feel like personalities, the main character lacks the sense of direction and choice that we are familiar with in previous games. That’s more than likely due to the multiplayer nature of the game, but as the story is delivered in the single-player realm (Fort Tarsis and other zones), a lot more could have been expanded on in terms of the individual player. Perhaps there simply wasn’t time?
In fact, the feeling that much of the game was rushed out pervades through a lot of the content. It’s felt most prominently when bugs that should never have made it into the release version of the game do rear their ugly heads. Doors in missions that simply won’t open, strange disconnections from missions and parties, and even the return of the dreaded 95% bug, which seems not to have been completely purged after massive complaints in the demo. In my experience, gameplay was cut short, interrupted or broken roughly every hour or so – and that is absolutely unacceptable.
Hopefully a lot of these issues will be fixed with the patch coming in on the 22nd Feb, when the game officially launches. However, I can’t expect that they’re going to have fixed these issues completely within a week, so it’s probably safe to assume that we’re still going to see an element of instability even after that patch. I hope I’m proven wrong.
There are also some really strange things going on with gameplay, such as being removed from boss fights moments before they end (and thus missing out on finishing the mission). For me, the most annoying element of gameplay was the ‘pop-in’. Normally games with such a high fidelity and view-distance are bound to have at least some elements fading in and out of view, but Anthem seems not to manage that process very well at all. Numerous times, I would find myself flying somewhere on a mission and entering a relatively sparse area only to find around 10 seconds later that half the terrain is missing when it suddenly ‘pops’ onto my screen.
Buildings appear from nowhere, trees and vegetation sprout from the ground, and once I was even in a cave-structure that had no roof for a while. Most frustratingly, however, is that enemies themselves often don’t become visible for a number of seconds after reaching a zone. At the harder difficulties, that’s enough time to be killed by invisible enemies with invisible bullets, and multiple times I found myself instantly killed by enemies that I couldn’t even see yet.
These instability issues scream out that the game simply needed more time in the oven. I can only hope that issues like this are going to see fast fixes coming as soon as the 22nd, but I can’t shake the feeling that Anthem is going to be a mess for a good time to come.
Meanwhile, Outside of Your Javelin
There are, unfortunately, further complaints about some of the elements of Anthem that are exterior to gameplay. Most have taken issue with the in-game store’s pricing, but I actually think that the prices are fine. The issue is actually that the images don’t serve as a great guide for what you’re actually going to get. A flat image of a texture, or a picture of a skin seems really inadequate. A full preview would really help people to justify their spending, I feel, with the best system I’ve seen being that used by Fortnite and Apex Legends. Players should at the very least be able to see what the back of an armour-set looks like, as that’s what we’re actually going to spend most of our time looking at in-game.
Menus in Anthem are still a real pain, too. They are a clear relic of the ported-system, and a chore to navigate with the mouse. I’ve actually found it easier to use most of the menus with my keyboard inputs – especially when trying to invite friends to a party. There’s a bit of lag in the menus, too, which is simply unnecessary. A simple, snappy menu is much preferred compared to a flashy, slow, and over-complicated menu, every time. I’m not sure we’re really going to see much change on this front, however, so we best get used to it.
Loading screens are also way out of control. It quickly starts to feel like there is a loading screen for absolutely everything, sometimes even for other loading screens. I don’t think it would be as tiresome if it were not for the length of them, but even with a decent rig and settings turned down these screens can take upwards of 20-30 seconds at a time, and often even longer.
I’ve already mentioned the 95% bug earlier (and in my demo impressions), but I’ll take a moment here to emphasize how much it really kills the desire to play more. In one mission, which was actually really great, I was battling enemies to collect gifts to bring to the ‘Princess’. This was followed by an awesome cutscene meeting her and other characters (no spoilers, don’t worry). After that point, I was put into a loading screen which took around 30 seconds to reach 95%, and then promptly stopped.
I spent a good amount of time in disbelief, praying to the loading screens gods and reconsidering my life choices before I decided to Alt-Tab and kill Anthem. I then loaded back in (another loading screen to get in), was asked if I wanted to resume my mission, which led to another loading screen, and then resumed the mission only to find that there was only a few enemies more to kill before it was over (and there were more loading screens!). That suitably killed the hype for me, which is an enormous shame because that part of the story is really well put together.
A Beautiful Mess
It was at that point that Leo and I decided that loading screens were the real Endgame boss of Anthem. Crashes and bugs really exacerbated the issue, often requiring you to reload the game and therefore sit through a few more screens before you can resume. I think that this is the real issue when people are complaining about disengagement and boredom. It’s hard to really feel immersed in a world where you spend most of your time not actually playing. If those issues could be fixed, the game would be in a much better state, and that’s the real shame of it.
If the patch coming on Feb 22nd truly fixes these issues, then I’ll have no problem recommending Anthem as an absolutely stunning experience (albeit one with some growing pains). If these issues continue, however, Anthem is going to have an extremely hard time competing with other titles. Why would anyone sit through that many loading screens and crashes when they could simply fire up Warframe, or Destiny, or even Apex Legends?
Anthem is visually, thematically, and narratively an absolutely stunning realization of Bioware’s creative powers. The problem is that we are currently struggling to enjoy that creative ingenuity; we’re being held back by a host of trivial issues that are ruining the experience. As above, and to conclude, a lot hinges on the upcoming update. Should the game present a more stable front upon its ‘official launch date’ this week, then I think we can have really high hopes for Anthem. Unfortunately, however, I don’t think the fixes we need are going to arrive in time, and that could spell disaster.
Alright, that’s it for today’s Anthem update. I really want to put it out there that I sincerely hope the developers prove me wrong and turn around the changes in time for everybody to enjoy the experience later this week. Anthem still has the potential to be one of the most ambitious titles of gaming history, it just needs to work on solidifying its fundamental framework so that players can focus on enjoying the world Bioware has created.
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Thanks for stopping by. I’m FaultyOptics, and I’ll see you next time for more gaming guides and news.