Anthem – The Anthem of Mediocrity

“Anthem will be the absolute top hit” was the sound of our apartment at the end of 2017, after the E3 trailer of Anthem flickered across our screen. Now it is 2019 and a few days ago it finally happened: Anthem has appeared and with him another BioWare blockbuster found its way into our household. At least that was the idea. What has remained of it retrospectively and why Anthem, despite some frustration, still has its magic moments every now and then, you can now find out from me. I’m hanging in a loading screen again anyway and therefore have a lot of time for it!

Anthem – An unfinished and dangerous world

In a distant and strange world, the so-called shapers, or designers, once used the power of the anthem to create a place according to their own ideas. An artificially derived creative process that the shapers never completed at the time, leaving behind a world in which the now human inhabitants are constantly exposed to the dangers of nature, such as wild storms and other dangerous phenomena. So going outside is quite dangerous and as if a crispy death by lightning would not be bad enough, there are other inhabitants in the world of Anthem, like the Skars, with whom humans have to share their habitat more or less voluntarily. As you can see, despite the probably lowest land prices, life is not a walk in the park for the people there, and so it is not surprising that mankind withdrew to a few highly fortified settlements and has since defiantly resisted all the adversities that the outside world throws at it. Thus a certain status quo settled in, for which humans had to fight long and hard and which is more or less preserved since then by the so-called “Freelancers“, knights of fortune in highly developed battle armour. A fragile equilibrium emerged, which now threatens to disintegrate due to the emergence of a new threat, the Dominion.

The Sky is the limit

Regardless of the fact that I was already a little bit what to alch in osrs about the nevertheless quite generic looking setting of Anthem, the game could convince quite in the matter of exploring the extensive game world. The Javelins, your rocket suits, which strongly remind of a kind of suit by Tony Stark, are a funny thing. It was a lot of fun to race your character through overgrown gorges, valleys and mountain slopes. The freedom to explore the game world on the Z-axis gives Anthem a new dimension in many ways. Not only when it comes to exploring the game world, but especially in connection with Anthem’s combat system. Depending on what type of Javelin you have chosen (there are four different ones), you will get different abilities to use in your Javelin. It’s also good that each Javelin actually feels different and uses an appropriate playing style.

Individualized gaming experience

Personally, I preferred to play with the Storm, a relatively agile class that focuses primarily on devastating elemental attacks. Like Zeus, the father of the gods, I brought down a few thousand amperes here and there and crushed entire groups of opponents relatively easily. However, this more aggressive style of play only works on the easier difficulty levels. If you set the difficulty higher, for example, because you want better loot, then unfortunately the shortcomings of Anthem’s combat system show up quite quickly. Opponents become regular cartridge sponges and soak up hundreds of projectiles before they go to their knees. Who of you has played “The Division” knows exactly what I mean here. On the other hand, on the highest level of difficulty one salvo of the opponent is enough and your character already dissolves in red fog. If you don’t play with up to three other friends or if you like to fire only nanoseconds at a time out of the cover, then an anthem can be a flurry of rage in your face.

Why and for whom do I do all this anyway?

So here I am in Fort Tarsis, the Quest Hub of Anthem, wondering why I’m doing all this and for whom and why I’m so alone? The old suffering of Open World titles has brought me back, and if I thought anybody would change it here, it’s BioWare. But unfortunately that didn’t work somehow. On the one hand I have this big game world, which I can explore in Freeplay mode at any time, and on the other hand I have Fort Tarsis, my static quest hub, where I can run from NPC to NPC and always choose exactly between two different dialog options. Well, I’m serious. There are always only two options that you can choose between in conversations. So I took care of the local bakery supplies and distributed more or less helpful flirt tips to bartenders looking for help. For the latter I am of course at your disposal in the comment column following this article.

What happens in Tarsis…

In the end, however, I had to realize that everything that happened in Fort Tarsis remained in Fort Tarsis. I could only ever set the course between two different tracks and against the background that you can play Anthem with up to four players, I saw the threatening evil. In order for all of you to be able to do the same quest, the story has to take you somehow to the same point, and so it all became somehow irrelevant with regard to the main story. Especially since I haven’t been able to create a separate connection to any of the characters yet, as I only had radio messages with new work instructions in my ear except for a few cutscenes, and none of the characters were in the field with me even once.

As soon as I left Fort Tarsis, I was alone in a world where I’m still not sure if it will ever grab me. So I’m still flying from mineral A to mineral B, killing a lot of X of enemy type Y on the way there, and repeating all that to infinity until I’ve finally collected enough stuff to build rifle Z, which I’ll replace two levels later with a new version of rifle Z (with better stats only). Destiny says hello. Oof.

The Mantra of Incompleteness

If I found a constant in Anthem, it is the mantra of incompleteness. As unfinished as the shapers once left the world of Anthem behind, one could almost think that this must be an extended joke. I would have expected much more and above all much more coherence from the masters of their field, as BioWare could be called in connection with role-playing. I don’t know exactly where the whole story got out of hand, but somewhere something must have got lost in the conception of Anthem. Where do I start best? Let’s take firearms, for example. There are about a dozen different firearms, but in the end it doesn’t matter which one you use. Why? On low difficulty levels you’ll blow everything away with your individual Javelin skills in one attack anyway, and on higher difficulty levels you’ll just look at the damage and fire rate and maybe the size of the magazine – that’s it. There are no unique selling points in 95% of the weapons. No matter whether you make them yourself or find them by chance. Only the “Mastercrafted” variant of a weapon can have these special features, which can influence your playing style in any way. So Anthem devalues almost his entire loot system in no time at all and forces his players into the absolute death grind to find stuff that makes more than “0.5% better than the weapon from before three missions”. So there is simply no real fun to be had and even the great exploration flights through breathtaking landscapes don’t help much. BioWare, you can do better.

But I’m not angry with you – I’m disappointed.

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