Anthem Demo Review

Let me start off with a bit of full disclosure; I didn't intend to blog about this, but I had a fairly lengthy tweet thread that when finished just seemed like it would make a great blog post, so here we are.

A couple of my workmates have, like me, been looking forward to the upcoming online action shooter "Anthem" from EA & BioWare. We all had agreed that we would preorder (something we typically might not do for many reasons) to gain access to the preorder demo weekend to try it out. A couple of us managed to sync up over the weekend and run some missions together. This is a quick rundown of that experience and what you missed out on, as well as avoided.

The Issues

This one probably shouldn't be on the list because it's not a defect of the demo itself, but for those who are playing on PC, and are not already familiar with EA's game launcher, Origin, it should at least be mentioned. During the download, the launcher would routinely roll back the download, losing several gigabytes of progress. Eventually, after some googling around, I resorted to closing the launcher every 500MB so which seemed to help keep the download progress moving forward. Seems like this problem has been around for almost 5 years and it doesn't appear that the folks behind the launcher are doing anything to fix it.

If you make it past the quirks surrounding the download process, you're loaded into the game. And loaded into the game. And loaded into the game. It seems like unless you actively avoid the loading screen you're there for a lot of your time playing the demo. Reason being is because often times the loading process hangs at around 95% completion and just stops. The only thing you can do from this point is ALT+F4 out of the game. I also needed to end the task in the Window's task manager before I launch the game from Origin again. Got very used to this because it happened more times than it didn't.

Once you make it into a mission or free-play mode, everything might seem fine for a while but then your audio might cut out entirely. Sometimes the audio would fix itself and scare the piss out of you if you decide that you just want to continue playing, sound or not. I think we can all agree how this might affect a shooter since you can't really tell what's going on off-screen which is a huge disadvantage. In addition to the audio bug, you'd also find several gameplay bugs that just ruin any immersion you might have had while playing; enemies disappearing, and in some cases mission-breaking mechanics where someone on your team crashes out of the game while carrying mission objects that do not respawn so your mission is effectively over.

The Highlights

Barring all the bugs and flaws, the game is beautiful, and for a demo feels pretty big already. You start at level 10 and can progress to level 15, so this demo drops you mid-stream in the story where you're looking for a specific artifact that will boost your Javelin's power levels, which ends up causing issues in its own way, as you might expect from the plot.

There are resources you can gather, blueprints with varying levels of power, single-mission augmentations called consumables you can craft and deploy when you begin a mission. The game doesn't really offer anything groundbreaking in this way, but honestly, I'm okay with that because it's a system that doesn't need to be needlessly reworked to be innovative. Anthem finds what has worked well before in the past with other titles and seeks to bring those together under one roof.

Loading into the map can be done in multiple different ways. The method I had the most luck with was free-play mode, where you can just run around outside exploring and completing world events as they pop up, something you might already be familiar with from other well-known sandbox shooter games. The outdoor scenes are simply stunning, and it was amazing just getting to run around in a big mech taking it all in.

Starting off you get a balanced Javelin called the "Ranger". This frame would be considered your all-rounder class, not heavy, not light, okay offense, and okay defense; great for learning the ropes. There's a few things aside from customizing your loadout to personalize your Javelin including a pretty robust color system which I personally had a lot of fun with. I purchased all of the vanity pieces for the Ranger with the exception of the helm which had a style that I didn't really care for.

After you level up you'll be able to choose another Javelin to test out. I chose the "Colossus" which is your slow and heavy bruiser class. This frame doesn't get an energy shield, but instead has all those points thrown into its health pool. You get a physical wall-shield that you can raise using the CTRL key. Attacks are pretty slow, but they are pretty heavy hitting. Pressing V will cause you to slam the ground with your fist which does a good job getting through the heavier armored units that lighter frames have trouble taking down. This was my favorite Javelin and I had a TON of fun playing it.

Once you hit level 15 you get to unlock the other two Javelin, the Storm and the Interceptor. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to play either of these before the demo period expired, but I really liked the look of the Storm's abilities.

Summary

Overall, even though the demo was chock full of bugs and issues, I had a lot of fun playing it, and I can't wait to get back in and explore the world of Anthem. I know a lot of folks got really frustrated with the experience this weekend and while I don't think demos should feel this rough, I'm thankful for the time I was given to preview this amazing title.