Review: Anthem

About this Game

Anthem

Publisher

Electronic Arts

Developer

Bioware

Release Date

25 January 2019

Console

PlayStation 4

Time to Plat

40h+

Platinum Difficulty

Easy

Online Trophies?

Yes

Difficulty Trophies?

Yes

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I Wish I Hadn’t Platted This.

The year is 2017. It’s June and E3 is happening. With foggy eyes I catch up on all the events via a mile-long list of YouTube links MrZhangetsu sent to me overnight. 

Excitingly, Bioware have a new game coming out. I hope it’s good. They were gods last gen but Mass Effect Andromeda and Dragon Age Inquisition were painfully disappointing signs of their demise. 

The trailer kicks in. The graphics are gorgeous and the mood is tense. A large alien beast steps into frame with a chilling rumble and growl. Birds fly off in the distance. A flash of lightning later we’re looking at a mech suit. Like Iron Man but more sci-fi. Excitement finds its way up my spine.

It seemed like the revival of Bioware. In the coming years we are treated to more exciting clips including a most memorable scene where a Javelin soars through the sky, dives into the water, and bursts back out again. We see a bustling and dynamic market, exciting and unique environments and truly incredible lighting and textures.

Cut to present day and the sheer amount of lies which were told back then is incredible. Exploring and Traversal is rigid and limited, the market is lifeless and empty, the environments are uninspired, boring and repetitive and the graphics (when they’re not glitching out) are okay at best.

Luckily, I got this game for a mere £4, but for some stupid reason MrZhangetsu and I decided we were going to plat it…

Anthem Review

Teacher! Teacher! Bioware are copying Bungie’s work!

When playing Anthem it’s hard not to compare it to Destiny. They took so many of the concepts seen in Destiny (which I am sure were taken from other games, but this is my frame of reference) yet they just couldn’t get it right. To begin here, I’d like to take a moment to look at what these things are, and talk about how the two compare.

Legendary Gear vs Exotic Gear

In Anthem, you can get gear called “Masterwork” gear, which are the most powerful weapons and abilities. These are improved upon with their “Legendary” versions, which are rarer, more powerful and have additional bonus effects. Their designs are pretty boring, usually just a basic gun with a bit of cloth on it or a unique colour scheme but they don’t really stand out. 

A Legendary Marksman Rifle
A Legendary Marksman Rifle

Their abilities are fairly cool, such as a rifle which calls lightning down on the opponent when you hit them, or a ground-smash melee which sends out a repeating shockwave on the ground in-front of you. But the pool of available weapons is so small that you’re likely to get the same Legendary (and even Masterwork) item extremely frequently. I can’t tell you how many “Thunderbolt of Yvenia” weapons we pulled but it was definitely over 20. Each.

In Destiny, “Exotic” items are beautifully designed and totally unique pieces of equipment which also have very useful or just downright cool abilities tied to them. The pool of available exotic weapons is so vast that I remember collecting them all was a huge part of the motivation to keep playing the game. And I did, I collected them all, I was excited about most of them, I worked hard to upgrade them all so I could frequently mix and match my equipment for different Raids and Strikes. 

That excitement just isn’t there in Anthem. 

Strongholds vs Strikes

In Anthem there are events called “Strongholds” which are slightly longer missions, with a few puzzles and bosses along the way. An average player might get through a Stronghold in about 10-15 minutes and collect plenty of loot along the way. 

However, the puzzles in the stronghold are the exact same kind of crap you see in every other mission in the game. Following a radar around (which MrZhangetsu aptly named the “Migraine Locator”), collecting 12 “Echoes” three at a time and bringing them to a central point, collecting “Shaper” shards and bringing them to a central point, stopping a rotating disc at the right time, solving a rotating symbol puzzle with the answer on the wall literally a foot away, etc. 

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My favourite thing about the radar is how awful it is at telling you where something is.

These events are just awful, they’re stupidly repetitive and you’d have to be literally four years old to find them either challenging or fun. It’s just a thing to do. And Anthem is filled with pointless and boring things to do. On top of all this, there are only about 4 strongholds to take on.

Compare that then to Destiny’s “Strikes” and you have a whole different experience. These longer missions weren’t filled with puzzles, but there was a lot of challenging combat, a few minibosses along the way and maybe yeah a puzzle or two, but they were fun and challenging and had a level of replayability. They were slightly shorter than a Stronghold is but there were far more of them. So many in-fact that you could jump into a randomly shuffled playlist of them and lose a whole day just farming new gear and resources.

As well as this, Destiny also had Raids. Huge missions which required a full fireteam of competent people. Challenging conquests with brain-squeezing puzzles and really difficult fights, Raids were the cream of the crop and they gave you the best gear. There’s nothing like that in Anthem but it feels like Strongholds were actually meant to be Raids… They’re not. Not even close.

Flying vs Sparrows

Flying around in Anthem is the closest you’ll come to having fun. But they really really don’t seem to want you to have any fun at all. You can’t fly too high or the clouds will attack you. You can’t fly upwards or you’ll overheat, you can’t get shot or you’ll overheat, you can’t fly for too long or you’ll overheat… It’s so FRUSTRATING. You just want to fly around, have some fun, maybe do some stunts but you can’t. 

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A Nice Airborne trip, ruined by the game shitting itself and not loading anything in.

The whole system is rigid and awkward and it grows stale so quickly. The first time you dive from the fort, with the ground speeding towards you, is an exciting and beautiful moment which quickly loses it’s magic as the game sputters and lags. Entire cliff sides and structures pop in only when you’re mere feet away, causing you to have to try and quickly maneuver around it, which is impossible given the rigidity of the flight system.

But, in a large world, it’s important we have a good way to get around, so how did Bungie do it? What did Destiny have for us?

Sparrows. These clear rip-offs of the Star Wars Speeder saw you blasting your way through environments, hitting enemies, dodging obstacles, leaping off ramps, even doing flips and stunts. 

The environments in Destiny were made to be explored on a speeder. In-between the large areas where story and combat and farming happened, there were narrow canyons and corridor-like paths filled with natural ramps and small jumps which were just screaming to be explored on the Sparrow and it was almost always fun. 

Plus, when you’re driving around on your Sparrow you never have to worry about whether a building is going to literally appear two feet in-front of you.

Anthem Location vs Destiny Locations

Anthem has one single locale. The jungle where the Fort is. I don’t even know what it’s called. Is Anthem based on an alternate universe Earth? Who knows? I certainly don’t.

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While the environments in Anthem do have some interesting elements. Murky lighting and dull textures refuse to let them stand out.

This area is the same through and through. Wet mud, grey cliffs, green grass. There are a few structures tied to each faction or having some sort of historical significance, but they’re bland and uninteresting and blend into the already dull and uninteresting backdrop of the game’s one environment.

In the forty+ hours I spent exploring this world I never once began to learn my way around. It’s near impossible to navigate because every damn thing just looks exactly the same. So, obviously, I’d want to check the map quite frequently. But all the game gives you is a really awful compass at the top of the screen which 99% of the time won’t load in any of the icons it’s supposed to display. 

Luckily I can press the touchpad and open a map. Which takes a while to load every single time you open it and is just an inconvenience on the whole.

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By all rights this view should be beautiful but it’s just… not. It falls seriously flat.

Destiny’s environments were more linear, which helped when trying to find your way around, it was broken up into small hubs where the action would take place, each of which were connected by paths you could Sparrow through. Each hub area was distinct and contained a very stand-out and identifiable landmark. The strongly varying architecture and cultures of each alien race also helped to distinguish between them and their equipment so you always knew where you were and what you were up against. 

Plus there was so much variety. You could go to multiple different planets. The one planet in Anthem becomes stale within a couple of hours, but in Destiny you can spend days on Earth before getting tired enough of the environments that you’d need to go off to Venus or Mars for a change of scenery. Which is what you would get.

Fort vs Tower

One of my least favourite things about Anthem is the “Fort”. A hub area which you’d revisit between missions to talk to NPCs, collect new quests, buy equipment, etc.

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A screenshot MrZhangetsu snapped a while back of the Fort actually looking quite nice during a Christmas event.

It’s awful to traverse. The insanely terrible compass at the top of the screen does a piss-poor job of pointing you in the right direction, the map is glitched out and broken more often than not, making it unusable, and the walking/”running” speed at Fort Tarsis is excruciatingly slow. 

Compare that with Destiny’s Tower, which let you run around, jump on nearby objects, really explore and look for secrets or just parkour your way around while you wait for a friend (who you would be able to see) to sort their gear, visit vendors, speak to NPCs, gather quests. All in one small, convenient, easily-traversed location. 

Sure, a lot of us would have preferred to not have to visit the tower at all, and most of us used an online app which allowed us to manage our vault contents without having to visit the Tower at all, but it is still such an outrageously preferable experience to using the Fort in Anthem.

I have only really begun to scratch the surface here on things which Anthem does similarly but so much worse than Destiny does, but I think I’ve got the point across well enough. Destiny came out in 2014 and is clearly such a better game than Anthem. So how did Bioware take 7 years building their world and fail so hard against something which was built in 4 years on last-gen technology?

It’s Not All Bad

I’ll level with you, this part of my review is very forced. I’m really trying my best to just scoop any semblance of fun or enjoyment out of the miserable over-40-hour experience I had platting this game and it is a struggle.

I recall that shortly after we were done with the game’s uninteresting and repetitive story missions and were free to explore as we liked to collect new gear and level up our characters, that was the first time we started to enjoy the game. It felt a bit more like Destiny or just an MMO in general, plus we could avoid the atrocious story missions.

But this lasted only a couple of hours before the true lack of diversity in gear as well as available activities became painfully apparent and we faded back into our monotonous droning and complaining at each other.

Apart from that, I did have fun flying around every now and then. I noticed recently in having to go back to the first 2 tutorial missions for some trophies, that the game was much better earlier on. Especially the first level before you could fly.

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The first time the game lets you fly in the second mission is very exciting.

The environment in that level was exciting and chaotic, traversing it without being able to just fly over everything was fun and the whole scope of the game felt tighter. The level design was linear and focused and there were exciting secondary events happening in the background. It was actually really good!

If only Bioware had made the rest of the game suit the feel and tone of this first mission, or even the second mission which had flying elements but was still very focused and more interesting…

But It’s Mostly Bad.

I’ve touched on the issues with Anthem… Well, when I say “touched on” I mean “slammed into submission with a titanium sledgehammer”, but I’m not done. 

There are three different ways in which Anthem’s poor optimisation affects the experience, so lets quickly touch on that before we move onto the Trophy Experience.

Graphical Glitches

A lot of bad things happened to the game while I was playing it, but the most striking of these were probably the graphical glitches. Such as:

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In some areas, all but one colour channel would get turned off in the shader so that everything would be harshly lit with a red, green or blue light.
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A couple of times when I was customising my Javelin’s colours, no matter what colour I chose, it became a bright blue colour instead.

Whenever you load into freeplay or a new mission things as simple as icons wouldn’t be loaded for a good 1-2 minutes after joining the session. Even icons on the HUD. The HUD, guys. Why?

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When I was choosing a new Javelin, the Interceptor had no head.

There was so much more that went wrong graphically but I don’t want to hold you here all day. And trust me, I could. It’s that bad.

Gameplay

Gameplay was frequently affected by the game’s poor performance;

One thing which happened with shocking frequency was that I’d arrive at an area and start being damaged out of nowhere, only to find that there has been a veritable army of enemies shooting at me for the past minute but the game hadn’t bothered to load them in.

More often than not, when we went into the menu to access our forge and change weaponry, the forge wouldn’t open so we’d have to quit and wait for it to load. But then once it has finally loaded, it opens itself while you’re in the middle of flying or fighting enemies and then won’t close again for a good long while. 

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The whole menu system in general is sluggish and broken, checking challenge progress is an absolute chore, and of course whenever you first open a menu the icons aren’t loaded. Even if you wait for the icons to load, close the menu and then open it again, you have to wait for the icons to load again.

Performance

Frame drops. Dramatic pop-in. Rubber-banding. Game crashes. Name any thing that could go wrong in a poorly optimised video game and Anthem has completed the collection except for maybe save corruption or data loss, but I wouldn’t be shocked if that’s happened to a few people somewhere.

Hell, even using the XMB while Anthem is running is a slow and jittery process. It makes my PS4 Pro sound like a Jet Engine. The only other game to set my console off like that was DOOM 2016 and that performed perfectly fine! 

I don’t understand what Anthem is doing to cause my console to struggle when it doesn’t even load half of its assets!

Our Anthem Trophy Experience

Story? What Story?

Our Journey began exactly where you’d think it would. 

As we worked our way through the game’s story we followed along with genuine interest, which turned to boredom, which turned to complaining, which eventually became us fervently skipping any dialogue or cutscene the game threw at us. We’d made our minds up. We didn’t care and we just wanted to finish the damn game.

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It was clear in many cutscenes that they had not considered the size of the Colossus Javelin, which often blocked scenes or clipped the camera.

Every story mission was the same. Fly from point A to point B, kill some enemies, Fly to point C, solve a simple puzzle or follow the “Migraine Locator” radar, Fly to point D just to do absolutely nothing before being told to fly to point E. That’s it. Flying around, killing enemies, and being bored.

Throughout this process we focused on a secondary and tertiary goal; Reach level 30 to unlock Grandmaster Difficulty and complete as many weapon and gear challenges as we could along the way.

With each weapon challenge you need to get 50 kills with a weapon. So for each of the game’s weapons we’d get 50 kills and then try to use something else. If we had anything else to use.

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Completing one of the Weapon Challenge trophies

The weapon challenges and the story trophies were some of the first we acquired. But even when we were done with the main quest we had to complete a few side-questlines and bounties for a few more trophies. 

This proved infinitely frustrating because tracking these questlines was a pain in the ass, sometimes a quest wouldn’t show up in the map, sometimes we had to talk to several NPCs to unlock the next quest without any idea which NPCs or when the mission would become available. And even more irritating than all that was the fact that completing a mission together would only complete it for one of us. So the missions would then show up again because the game was refusing to register that one of us had already completed it.

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Bizarrely, this NPC is voiced by Joe Lo Truglio (great name), who you may know as Boyle from Brooklyn 99

It was just chaos. Eventually MrZhangetsu sat down to do some research about which missions were needed, what their unlock requirements were and why some of them were glitching out. It’s just ridiculous, that shouldn’t have been necessary, the game should have been giving us all the information we needed but it was just such a confusing mess.

Master Talent

When we finally had the story trophies it was time to focus on reaching Masterwork rank. Essentially, equip enough high-level masterwork or legendary gear and your Javelin acquires “Masterwork” rating. But the level and amount of masterwork gear you can get on Hard is limited and we had to reach level 30 to unlock Grandmaster Difficulty which was the only way we could earn more powerful gear. 

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Master Talent Trophy Popping

Once we were level 30 and had the right gear to improve our Javelin rating, completing a single bounty was all it took to unlock the “Master Talent” trophy. Leaving us with two final things to do; Gear challenges for the other 3 types of Javelin as well as the dreaded Collectible trophies.

Gearing Up

Each Javelin type has 12 pieces of gear each with a challenge tied to it. 5 pieces of gear are for one slot and 5 for another with 2 pieces of gear going in a support gear slot. This meant you could complete up to three at once, until the two support gear challenges are done, leaving you only able to complete two challenges simultaneously.

To complete a gear challenge you just have to complete 4 missions with that piece of gear equipped. This means the absolute minimum number of missions you would need to do (provided you manage to get all the gear you need without too much trouble) is around 20 per Javelin.

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MrZhangetsu completing the Storm Javelin’s Gear Trophy

Missions took on average 10-20 minutes which means that completing the gear challenges for all 4 javelins would take a minimum of 13 hours, not including the time spent waiting for missions to load and messing around in the Fort.

So, naturally, an awful lot of time was spent on this part of the Trophy Journey and it was incredibly repetitive and stale. 

We found that completing Legendary Bounties and Legendary Missions was the quickest way to earn a decent amount of gear, so we played through those on Normal difficulty to try and ensure we acquired all of the gear we needed to complete the challenges. But, since you only get 2 Legendary Bounties a day and the Legendary Mission only changes every 24 hours, we spent around 3 hours per day playing the same Legendary Mission over and over again.

Once we had all of the gear we needed (we each kept a list and tally since checking challenge progress is a huge chore) we would play regular bounties instead as they were quicker and less repetitive.

Collection Time

The final hurdle. The first collection trophies we went for were the “Explore” trophies. For each of these, you had to visit every district in every region as well as accessing every Overlook point and activating some weird semi-spheres on the ground and I don’t even know what they’re called. 

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Posing for the Trophy Screenshot

Luckily we’d collected the vast majority of these as we played through the game so we were missing only 1-3 things per region, so cleaning up those trophies wasn’t too much of a chore. 

And then it was time to part ways. The rest of the collectibles we needed could only be collected by one person, so if we went farming together, the item would disappear for one of us when the other picked it up, so it was up to us to head off and find our own decent farming routes.

MrZhangetsu went before me and platted the game first while I was at work. He sent over as much helpful info as he could about his farming routes but what seemed to work for him didn’t work for me and was fairly inconsistent.

After literally 3 hours of getting next-to-nothing, I found my own farming routes which worked extremely well, very consistently, and meant that I was done farming intel within a couple of hours. I’m honestly so excited about that that I have included video guides for these routes down below.

There were just two more challenges left before I’d have the “No Stone Unturned” collection trophy and then the plat. I had to find some Runes which were not farmable as well as some more “Writings” which were also static and not farmable.

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A Rune Collectible.

Luckily, challenge progress persists between characters. So I could start a new character , complete the tutorials, and then go off and collect some collectibles which I’d already collected before. This was a cheap way of avoiding looking for collectibles but the game is so poorly optimised that they don’t show up half the time and the compass which is supposed to show you where they are only works a very small percentage of the time.

With that in mind I’m extremely glad there was a way to finish this trophy off with ease, and just 2-3 hours later I was finally done.

Don’t plat this game.

Time Breakdown

Completing Gear & Weapon Challenges

Farming Gear/Levelling Up

Completing Story

Farming Collectibles

Anthem Collectible Farming Routes

It took me a while to find the perfect intel farming routes for the “No Stone Unturned” trophy. I went from finding 1-2 every 10 minutes to getting one every minute, and I wanted to share these routes with you. 

If you just so happen to make the same regretful decision as us, I hope that these video guides can help ease your pain as you near the Platinum at the end of the tunnel.

Scar, Outlaw, Arcanist, and Sentinel Intel Farming Route

Dominion Intel Farming Route

That concludes my Anthem Platinum Trophy Review. If you enjoyed reading this review, please do let us know, it means the world to us when we hear feedback and we love engaging with people over the game we just platted. It’s basically the only thing motivating us at the moment!

You can follow us on Twitter @GetPlat and Instagram @platget where we’ll be sharing updates, upcoming reviews and general gripes about the games we’re working on so feel free to follow us or use it as another channel for feedback!

Verdict

Pass

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Just don’t even play it. It’s honestly really not worth it. If you’re itching to play something similar go and play Destiny. As much flak as Bungie gets for the mistakes they make in Destiny, it’s so much better than the chaotic, unoptimised mess that is Anthem.

Pros

  • Flying around has its moments.

Cons

  • Extremely repetitive gameplay
  • Poorly optimised - performs horrendously
  • Constant lighting and environment glitching
  • Bland and uninteresting story
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No Trophy

I award Anthem the lowest possible rating. I hated platting it. I hated playing it. Sure, there were a couple of hours here and there where I actually enjoyed myself, but that was purely down to the fact that I was playing it with a friend.

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About the Author

More fond of single-player experiences and story-driven games than anything else, TheDblTap has a keen eye for secrets and collectables, a skill which serves him well as a Trophy Hunter. However, with little patience and poor timing, he can struggle where MrZhangetsu would succeed.

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