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Anthem first impressions: Levels 1-10

We give our thoughts after a weekend with the game.

Anthem
© EA / BioWare

Anthem is a new online multiplayer RPG/Shooter from EA and BioWare. It’s most similar to games such as Destiny 2 and Warframe.

I must start my Anthem first impressions with an apology. I’d hoped to have them out yesterday but I’ve found it hard to pull myself away from the game. From the first minutes with Anthem it feels special and it’s been a long while since a game kept me hooked well into the small hours.

For these impressions I’ve been playing the PC build of Anthem. I’d class my PC as a mid-range machine which comes in above the recommended specs for the game. My brief specs are – Intel Core i5-8600K CPU running at 3.6GHz, 16GB RAM with a 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. This is capable of running the game at 60FPS with most settings at High or Ultra at a resolution of 1080p. With an uncapped framerate I notice that the game often runs at over 200FPS but when in the thick of the action it does occasionally dip a little under 60FPS.

Watch the Anthem launch trailer below:

The game can be played with a controller but having played in the recent demo sessions on Xbox One, I decided to see how the game felt with mouse and keyboard. Initially it felt like there were too many different buttons to press but after some practice it become much easier.

As you’d expect from a BioWare title, Anthem is heavy on the story and the introduction to the world of Bastion was initially a little overwhelming. The game throws plenty at you from the off and it takes a bit of time to make sense.

Players take the role of a Freelancer and one of the early decisions lets you choose your gender. Currently this seems a permanent choice so if you pick the wrong one you’re stuck with it for this character. You do get to pick a face for your character but gender is the most important to get right because your character speaks a lot.

Freelancers pilot mechanised suits called Javelins and there are four different classes to choose from – Ranger, Colossus, Interceptor and Storm. Ranger is balanced between offence and defence. Colossus is the Tank class that can take more damage and taunt enemies. Interceptor is the most agile and plays like a Rogue with devastating melee-combat. Finally Storm is like a Mage and can deal damage from a distance.

Everyone begins the game with the Ranger to learn the basic controls. Movement is done with standard WASD keys while using the mouse to look around. Spacebar jumps or double-jumps. Right mouse aims down the sights of your weapon while left fires. Mouse wheel lets you switch between your primary and secondary weapons. Most interesting is tapping Shift while in the air which activates your jets and lets you fly around and right mouse lets you hover. The best way to describe the movement is that it’s like Iron Man in the Marvel films and the Javelins are absolutely brilliant fun to control. If your jets overheat then you plummet but you can cool them by performing steep dives or flying through waterfalls.

At level 2 you get to choose your first Javelin. The other three are given to you at levels 8, 16 and 26 as you make your way to the current level cap of 30. When I play RPG games I usually go for the Tank class so naturally I began with the Colossus. It moves similar to the Ranger but it’s heavier and bulkier. This translates to slower movement but also has its advantages. The most obvious one is that the Colossus can take a serious amount of punishment. Each Javelin has its own set of abilities and an ultimate attack.

Watch the Anthem Tips and Tricks on the Basics of Javelin Combat video below:

The combat is incredibly polished and features superb gunplay coupled with near limitless freedom of movement. You’re constantly mobile and need to be aware of your environment to get the most out of it. Enemies come in all shapes and sizes from simple scorpions to soldiers and giant beasts. Killing enemies has a chance to drop health, ammo and loot which you collect by running over.

A large part of your time in Anthem is spent in the hub of Fort Tarsis. The areas open to you are limited at first but gradually open up over as you progress. Fort Tarsis is home to many brilliant characters that you’ll be interacting with. One thing I found a little strange is that most of the time you’re alone in Fort Tarsis except for the NPCs as each player seems to get their own instance.

Fort Tarsis is a confusing place to learn your way around. This is helped by a simple compass at the top of the screen that shows you the direction to head for points of interest. You also have access to an overhead map and the game shows waypoints to get you to where you need to be. I must admit getting around Fort Taris does become rather tedious after a while.

Anthem

Credit: EA / BioWare

The NPC characters look stunning and very lifelike but best of all is how good the voice acting is. The voice actors have done a brilliant job and they bring each character to life with plenty of personality.

One of the most important areas of Fort Tarsis is the Forge. Here you get to change between your different Javelins, create loadouts and swap or craft your gear. I absolutely loved that Anthem lets you own each of the Javelins so you’re not stuck with the same one. The loadout feature is also neat because there is an option to clone each Javelin to save multiple loadouts.

Once you’re ready to head outside the walls of Fort Tarsis there’s a cool animation of you climbing in your Javelin suit. Much of your time outside of Fort Tarsis is spent tackling Expeditions which are missions that are given to you by the NPCs. These usually involve following waypoints and then collecting something, protecting something or killing waves of enemies.

Anthem

© EA / BioWare

In addition to Expeditions are Contracts, Freeplay, Strongholds and Cataclysms. Contracts are tough side missions for NPCs, Strongholds are like dungeon runs where you have bosses to defeat, Cataclysms will be the more challenging endgame content. Freeplay lets you leave Fort Tarsis behind and just go exploring. It’s useful for collecting crafting materials and also for tackling random world events.

Almost everything you do in Anthem is open to matchmaking. Here you and up to three friends (or random strangers) can come together to tackle the content together. Flying around in a group and taking down tough enemies together is a lot of fun.

After the problems with the recent VIP demo I was concerned with how Anthem was going to be playing during the early access launch period. However I’ve been very surprised that I’ve been able to get straight into the game and had no connectivity issues at all. The game plays incredibly well and feels very polished.

Anthem

Credit: EA / BioWare

I have a a few minor issues so far. The first is that there are very long loading times between missions. This is made worse by having to constantly go back to Fort Tarsis after each one ends which gives another loading screen. When you’re out on a mission in a group the game also expects you to stay close together. If you fall behind then you get 25 seconds to get back to the team. If you don’t make it back then you’re kicked out to a loading screen while the game puts you closer to your teammates.

So far I’ve been really enjoying my time with Anthem and still eager to push on towards the level 30 cap. Having access to all the Javelins and multiple loadouts lets you change things up for more variety. As much as I’ve enjoyed the game so far I’m keen to see how the game feels once I reach the end game. EA and BioWare are promising regular updates and they’ll need to deliver on these to stop the game feeling stale.

EF Games will be bringing you a full Anthem review around the launch on February 22nd.

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