Video game

What Reviewers Are Saying About ‘Anthem,’ the New Videogame From Electronic Arts – Barron’s

Anthem, the robot-suit shooter released Friday by
Electronic Arts

(ticker: EA), is among the more notable videogames to land in early 2019. For the company, widely (though not exclusively) known for sports titles, it could be a financially important performer.

Early reviews, however, have been mixed-to-poor. Many have focused on technical achievements, such as gorgeous scenery and the joy of flying, a la Tony Stark, in a metal body packed with weaponry—but then criticized aspects of gameplay and story, among other things.

As with many games today, Anthem can (and will) be expanded and updated, offering players more options and fixing bugs. Since major games are expected to have long shelf-lives, inducing players to continue to pay for various bits of add-on content, that’s crucial—and expected.

Still, the tone of many reviewers thus far, collected below by Barron’s, is markedly downbeat.

“Anthem has been built to serve its audience long-term, so it is probable that the game will improve in the coming months,” wrote the Guardian’s Rick Lane. “An exhaustive list of technical hitches are due to be fixed imminently, for instance. But even where it is strongest, Anthem rarely stretches beyond the derivative.”

• At its core, the game is about flying around like a deep space Iron Man. Here, according to Ars Technica’s Sam Machkovech, Anthem succeeds.

“Almost everything about Anthem’s flight system is awesome. The sheer act of lifting off looks, sounds, and feels great, no matter how many times you do it. There’s a timing chain for the required jump-then-boost combo, coupled with a light-and-sound reaction of blasting off. The combined effect implies enough torque to make your real-life head rock back instinctually,” he wrote. “Once you’re airborne, the default speed is slow-and-maneuverable for newbies (aided all the more by a useful ‘hover in place’ button), while pressing ‘forward’ delivers a juicy amount of controllable velocity.”

• And it’s often beautiful to look at, Eurogamer’s Martin Robinson wrote.

“The world you explore is achingly gorgeous, as if the impossible geology of Guilin has been transposed and amplified on some exotic off-world,” according to Robinson. “Caves give out to outcrops and jutting rock-faces, all complete with a sense of verticality that is entirely Anthem’s own.”

• The studio that made the game, BioWare, is known for creating worlds filled with characters about which players come to care. It does so, but not perfectly, in this case, according to GameSpot’s Kallie Plagge, who says Anthem doesn’t set the table well enough.

“The main cast is well-acted and genuine, with complicated emotions and motivations that might have been interesting had they been given time to grow. Two characters are mad at you for the events of the tutorial, even though it’s never quite clear why; that bad blood spills over into your relationship with your current partner-in-Freelancing, Owen, and there’s enough believable awkwardness there to make you almost feel bad for him,” Plagge wrote. “But because the narrative is so poorly set up, the drama feels unearned, the ‘emotional’ reveals robbed of their impact, and any connection you might have had to the characters just out of reach.”

• Polygon’s Russ Frushtick loves the feel of flying around in metal suits and using them to battle baddies. Unfortunately, he wrote, the trappings—like the goal-oriented missions—are lacking.

“The combat of Anthem is marvelous. Unfortunately, the missions don’t flatter that combat,” wrote Frushtick. “They don’t subvert it, expand upon it, or ask me to use combat in creative ways. What should feel like a surprising world mostly feels like target practice and Easter egg hunts.”

• Some reviewers have criticized a system that requires players to return to base, so to speak, before swapping out gear—not something those who may be used to carrying around five swords and changing them on the fly are accustomed to.

“I’m not sure how I feel about it,” wrote Chris Carter for Destructoid. “Whether it’s a technical limitation or a design choice, clearly not being able to swap gear mid-mission is preposterous and just not done. But…I kind of got used to it? What I found is that on every mission, all of my squad mates were always in the moment; always blasting things or boosting around. I’m not certain it’ll last (or if it should really), but within the context of Anthem, I’m at peace with it.”

• For many gamers, what matters isn’t the journey through the game’s story line, but the destination—the so-called “endgame” during which skilled players perfect their characters as they prepare to take on extra-difficult content. Mashable’s Adam Rosenberg says that, at present, fails.

“If you manage to persevere through all of the story’s headaches and all of the pointless obstacles to progression—probably a 30-hour commitment, at minimum—you’re rewarded with Anthem’s endgame,” he wrote. “There are new contracts to chase, plus the highest-level Masterwork and Legendary loot that you’ll mostly get from the newly unlocked Grandmaster difficulty settings. This is where everything really falls apart.”

• Some players’ complaints may be fixable in updates, as is relatively common for digitally distributed, online games these days. That may be a must.

“The road map of future content sounds genuinely exciting, as Bioware has plans to introduce new events, systems and more mission variety over the coming months,” wrote CGM’s Cole Watson. “As a base experience however, this world lacks a sense of identity and life despite being visually impressive.”

Email David Marino-Nachison at Follow him at @marinonachison and follow Barron’s Next at @barronsnext.


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