Anthem EA Play Impression

One of the things that struck me about the Anthem demo at EA Play was the consistently epic scale of the environment designs. Whether mountainous cliffs and rock formations, gigantic and mysterious machines, or underground caves with high ceilings, everywhere I looked I saw landmarks that were visually appealing and had a presence that felt very solid with an incredible sense of scale. It’s quite a unique and wondrous aesthetic where massive natural forces seem to be in active conflict with equally massive mechanical ones. The Javelins, large mechanical suits players wear, featured flight and movement that felt heavy and natural, and complemented the game’s environments very well.

The closed door demo covered much of what was shown in the public demo, but highlighted how the variety of encounters can be handled with numerous different approaches based on the players’ play styles and the party’s class makeup. There are also some nice touches that add both to gameplay and immersion, such as being able to run into water sources in order to cool overheating engines. We explored an underground cave system infested with insect- and fungus-like creatures, culminating in a boss fight.

The boss fight was action-packed and intense, and players had to use all of the abilities available to them to take it down. And taking it down took a while. Players relied not only on standard attacks and abilities, but also on combo moves that did additional damage needed to dent the boss’s health bar.

The fight did seem like a bit too much of a shooter-fest rather than a tactically- and strategically-driven fight, which was worrisome. The presentation also raised concerns about Anthem‘s story. The demo mentioned very little about it, and EA noted a lack of a romance mechanic, suggesting that character development may not be as strong of a focus as in other BioWare games. The gameplay is mission-based, and players can take on the missions they choose, making a paced narrative difficult, if not impossible, to execute. While Anthem is visually beautiful and the demo showcased some very interesting mechanics, it left me with a worrying fear that this will be yet further removed from the type of immersive games made by the BioWare of old. This could be for the better, but could easily also be for the worse. Anthem is due to be released for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on January 22, 2019.

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