For those who missed it, you can find my general impressions of Anthem through the lense of the VIP demo here. With the open demo for Anthem arriving this Friday I wanted to go more in-depth and discuss what I liked and didn’t like about my experience. There’s a lot to like, but what negatively stands-out is worth discussing before getting into the core positives of the game.
Easily the biggest concern throughout the VIP demo, connecting to the game was often a nightmare. The simple act getting into Fort Tarsis was a chore throughout the first day, and it was spotty for most of the second. Thankfully, Bioware eventually smoothed things out and logging-on wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately the biggest issue BioWare couldn’t fix is the dreaded “95% loading screen” bug. Essentially people would leave Fort Tarsis to go out into the world and the game would stop just short of 100% on the progress bar. Most of the time I was able to close the entire demo, reopen it, and be given the option to jump back into the world as intended. The problem with that is, of course, the mission structure. If you’re playing with matchmaking (a requirement for Stronghold missions) you may jump back in and have no idea where your teammates are. What’s concerning the most is that BioWare doesn’t appear to have been able to fix this issue for the open demo, nor have they experienced this issue in any of the more controlled demos. In other words, we don’t really know if this will be an issue at launch, and BioWare’s unwillingness to discuss it beyond being a demo issue may suggest they don’t know either.
While not quite as problematic as actually connecting to the game, there’s a design choice that could make it into the final build that was frustrating during the demo. Things are far too vague. The first mission in the demo was confusing to me multiple times.
Early on I was tasked with defeating all the enemies in an area. Easy enough to understand. But after about 10-15 minutes of defeating enemies I wondered if I was missing something. I would defeat a wave of enemies and the same exact quantity and diversity of enemies would spawn. So I’d defeat them, and it would happen again. This repeated so many times that I had forgotten how many waves I had done. Eventually I was kicked out of the demo, and when I came back I repeated the mission and cleared that part in maybe 5 minutes. Was it a glitch? I’ll never know, because the game doesn’t indicate number of waves nor which wave you’re on.
Later in that same mission I had to solve a puzzle by changing three dials on different walls of a temple to the correct colors/symbols. I searched the entire room for clues, and after about 10 minutes I found one. I never found any of the other clues. Between this and the constant kicking from the demo I gave up and looked up the answer online. Not only was finding the answers difficult, but even the person I eventually found it from admitted they had no idea where the other clues were either. They guessed. Thankfully I didn’t have this issue with any of the other missions, but I’m not going to be happy whenever the game grinds to a stop to go hunting for really obscure clues, or to complete an objective that’s not really explained.
Sadly the vagueness extends beyond that one mission. Both the tutorials and the options in the demo don’t help at all. The first time you do the most mundane things in the game you get a pop-up telling you how to do it. A lot of it is redundant (like telling you how to craft even though the crafting menu tells you which resources you need). What’s not a given is how to actually play the game, and this is where the lack of clarity hit me in the face. The first time I ever tried to jump into the world of Anthem I was hit with the 95% bug. Eventually I was able to get onto the map, but I was already on ground level instead of the launch bay, where I presumably would’ve gotten a pop-up telling me how to fly.
So I was on the ground, with a giant beast running at me, and no idea how to fly. Eventually I figured it out, but then I ran into another problem: I didn’t know how to hover. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Why not just pull up the control screen in the settings menu?” Funny thing about the controls: there’s nothing there. No big deal, I’ll just go to the tutorials tab, right? Wrong. There’s nothing there about it either. Instead what I eventually found was a way to get the game to open up the PlayStation browser and load a page from the Anthem website telling me the controls to the game. The whole thing was frustrating, and it was made worse by the constant connection issues.
Odd Design Choices
You could call these nitpicks, but they’re negatives all the same. There are very bizarre choices that I can’t quite understand. First, “dungeons” have load screens. I can wrap my head around this one. However, when the first step of your mission is to go to a dungeon it’s a little awkward having to fly around for a minute to the opening to the dungeon. I don’t know if it’s technically possible, but just starting players out in the dungeon makes the most sense to me.
Second, the public events that happen in the world don’t show up on your radar until you’re almost right on them. If I’m going to have to grind some events from time to time that’s fine, but then put it on a map for me. I don’t want to have to fly around trying to find where an event is starting.
And third, what is going on with the use of screen space? The menu layout is slanted. It’s a neat look, but it takes up just enough screen space to be really annoying to look at. This stands out the most when you’re customizing your javelins in the Forge. The menus in the Forge take up more than half the screen. This leads to less screen space for your javelin as well as scrolling text for item descriptions.
All-in-all I think this game will do well. Most of these are minor issues, but the connection issues still give me pause. It’s worth pointing out that the connection issues were case-by-case, and varied in severity, but still a problem nonetheless. As long as they can smooth that out by launch this game should be fine. Still, it helps to go into this game with some caution. If this post has you feeling nervous, just wait. In my next Anthem piece I’ll cover the pros of the game and what positives to expect at launch.