Thoughts on the VIP demo are here if you want them. None of my feelings have really changed, but some new annoyances have come to light.
The Colossus does not feel tanky enough
It’s entirely possible that I’m not using the shield ability correctly, but the Colossus just does not feel powerful or tanky enough. The absence of a shield (as in, an energy shield like other Javelins) – the Colossus is health/armor only – is both noticable and extremely painful. Given that I can’t hold my shield up when I’m attacking or using my abilities, it feels like using the Colossus is setting myself up for failure.
By contrast, I did play very briefly as the Storm and I felt much safer when playing as Anthem’s squishiest class which is quite ridiculous. The Storm’s ability to sit a couple of miles outside of the battlefield and hurl giant meteors of death willy nilly feels like it has no real trade off. If I’m playing the squishiest Javelin and trading survivability for damage, I should at least occasionally feel threatened – and in that situation, a Colossus with its taunt ability would come into play. But I’ve never felt more powerful when playing as the Storm and never weaker than when playing as the Colossus.
The Colossus feels like it has very few tools with which to survive in the thick of combat, which is where that particular Javelin is supposed to live by design. Something needs to be done about the Colossus, either pre- or post-launch, because right now it just isn’t as cool or as useful or as valuable as other Javelins.
Just so you know, my first stronghold involved three Colossus (Colossi?) and one Storm. My second had three Storms and one Ranger. The second completion – and all combat in general – was infinitely easier than the first.
And speaking of Strongholds…
I really want to be able to solo them. I appreciate the inclusion of matchmaking but it needs to be optional, in much the same way that the story missions can be optionally played with other people.
A friend (the headless Ranger in the image up top) and I have a weekly ritual – in Destiny 2 (and previously in Rise of Iron) we’d log in on the weekends and attempt to two-man the Nightfall. It was rough initially, but over time we got better at the game in general and more comfortable with our individual roles, and the experience evolved into Weekly Nightfall Shenanigans which largely involve us running around and screaming for help while trying not to die. The plan, our original plan, was shenanigans in Anthem.
It isn’t that I don’t want to attempt Strongholds with other people. I love the idea. I’m 100% all for no mic Grandmaster 3 runs of Strongholds and the inevitable rage quitting that will follow. But I would like the ability to start one with a friend and for the two of us to recklessly take on a giant spider just because we can. Will we get our asses handed to us? Probably. Do I still want to do it? 100%.
(And honestly, if Esoterickk decides to play Anthem, how the hell is he going to solo all bosses with no guns no abilities just jetpacks if matchmaking is forced on him? C’mon Bioware, make stronghold matchmaking optional please.)
Freeplay is catastrophically boring
Very little happens there and unless Anthem’s equivalent of public events are more frequent and actually highlighted on the map, I see very little reason – from the two demos – to engage in Freeplay at all. In the hour or two that I spent in Freeplay, I ran into a grand total of one public event which I completed solo because, although there were three other people in the instance, they were off doing other things elsewhere on the map. Was it fun solo? Absolutely. But that is kinda not the point of an always online social experience that forces me to toggle public matchmaking on for Freeplay in order to group up with people.
This really needs fixing. Public events should show up on the map. People should be able to fast travel to them. Heck, I’d even be happy with the signal flare ability, a la Monster Hunter World, to flag my location on the map and allow other Javelins to group up with me. Withought these things, given the expected size of Anthem’s full map (the demos only had a small slice) I suspect that Freeplay, unless attempted with friends, will be a very solitary experience.
And speaking of the map…
I really don’t understand some of the design decisions made here. Waypoints cannot be set manually. For some godforsaken reason, it shows me my flight path and I’m like – why? What am I going to do with that entirely useless piece of information besides draw gargantuan space penises in Freeplay? Public events don’t seem to show up on the map. Players do, but I can’t flag a player with a waypoint either and fly to them.
There’s also no radar. If I want to make my way to a specific spot, I need to look at the map, make mental note of a landmark, fly in the general direction of said landmark, and keep opening and closing my map in order to course-correct. This is really, really, really awful. Yes, Anthem has that utterly useless bar at the top of the screen but, honestly, it desperately needs something better.
Overall, there’s a ton of quality of life stuff that needs to be done
Anthem is not a bad game. Far from it. Anthem is a great deal of fun, is enjoyable to play, is full of explosions, and allows me to dress up as a fabulous pink and yellow meteor and hurl myself at aliens. This is good stuff. But it feels like it’s lacking a great deal of polish and, more importantly, a lot of features that I expect to take for granted in a Bioware RPG. In my last article (on the VIP demo) I spoke about the absence of a character screen and in this one I’ve talked about the poor quality of a map. That should really not be happening. Anthem is a good game. But from Bioware, I expect significantly better.