Iron Man meets Destiny: Anthem preview

Anthem, the first game from Bioware since Mass Effect: Andromeda, had two demo weekends recently that let players experience the game before its release on February 22.

The demo consisted of a free-play mode where players could roam around the Anthem world, a few story missions and one raid mission which took place at an enemy ‘Stronghold’.

The story missions all generally fell into the same loop of starting in the main hub city, Fort Tarsis, and having a short conversation with one or two NPCs before going back out into the main world in your javelin.

There were four javelins available during the demo, and these four will be released with the base game. If a player participated in both the VIP demo and the open demo, they had access to all four javelins to use; otherwise players were locked to the Ranger and one other javelin of their choice.

The Ranger is the javelin that everyone in the demo started out with, and is the most versatile of the four javelins. This every-man class is good for a wide variety of situations, and doesn’t have any positives or negatives counting towards it.

The three other javelins include the Colossus, Storm and Interceptor classes.

Colossus fills the role of a tank class in Anthem, coming equipped with a heavier weapons than the other classes as well as a shield that can block incoming attacks. While it is a lot slower than the other javelins, the Colossus is suited for protecting or reviving teammates, and is capable of dealing a lot of damage to foes, albeit slowly.

The Storm class is most similar to a mage in other classes, being able to cast multiple elemental attacks at enemies and having the unique ability to float indefinitely. This class in my experience was the best at comboing different abilities together, and the short cooldown times on the abilities made this class my favorite of the four.

One thing to note in Anthem is that gunplay definitely plays second fiddle when it comes to the abilities that each class has. The guns can do some damage, but the main damage that you will be dealing will come from your abilities and being able to combo them. If you don’t take advantage of both your and your teammate’s abilities, especially in the later difficulties, you won’t make it very far.

The final class available for the demo was the Interceptor, a fast melee-focused class. This class is definitely high risk, high reward, with low health and shields which is compensated by being able to move quickly through a fight.

Getting loot in game and customizing your javelin is one of the main draws of Anthem, and is the main gameplay loop keeping players engaged. New weapons and abilities are both found by random drops from enemies, and are given as end of mission rewards. Experimenting with different combinations of gear and finding what suits your playstyle best, and then maxing out every item slot is going to keep players coming back to Anthem for a while.

While the demo itself was a blast to play through, there were a lot of issues in both versions, especially during the VIP demo. Players reported getting stuck at the main menu screen, and when they did get in the loading bar for different areas would get stuck at 95% and never finish, forcing players to restart. Along with this, there were bugs littered throughout the demo, such as enemies disappearing mid-combat, or enemies not spawning at all during the ‘Stronghold’ raid.

Connection issues aside, the two main gameplay issues in my mind were both the revive system and a few of the button configurations. The revive system in areas that restrict respawning heavily relies on other players coming to pick you up, and if they don’t you have to sit there until either the party all dies or they move past that section. There were one or two sections during the demo where I would go down, and I could read a 250-page novel while waiting to be revived.

The other (albeit small) gripe that I have with the demo was some of the button configurations. I played the demo on the Xbox One, and some inputs, like holding X to switch weapons felt clunky during gameplay. Eventually I could get used to it, but during the demo it felt awkward.

Despite these small nitpicks, I thought that Anthem was a blast to play during the demo, and I’m looking forward to picking up my copy on the 22nd.